Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Survivin' Overseas

Our count down has begun for our trip back home for some summer fun to catch up with family and friends. I am looking forward to getting out of the heat for a bit...last week it was 118 degrees...and in Michigan it was 86 degrees. That is a 32 degree difference! I told the kids that they are NOT ALLOWED to say they are cold at any time this summer. We will embrace the 'cool' temperatures! As I have been looking forward to connecting {face to face!} with friends and family again, I recently was reflecting on the things we have in 2010 that have made living overseas a bit easier compared to our first move to the Middle East in 2004. Allow me to share...

1. Facebook: It goes without saying. I originally signed up for Facebook a few years back for the sole purpose of finding a long lost friend of mine from junior high. After 'stalking' for her on many {lame} high school reunion sites, Facebook came along. I found her! We had a reunion {it had been 17 years since we had last seen each other} and I got addicted to Facebook from there. Great way to keep in touch an ocean away!

2. Beach Club: Okay. I am being honest. There is an amazing beach-front development that offered memberships at an amazingly low price last year. We signed up and have not regretted it. It is our weekend escape. This is me...during one of my therapy sessions. I could not 'do' this life without it!

3. Kindle: Well, I don't actually have one of these yet! But, it is on my technology wish list. In 2004 each of our suitcases could weigh 75 lbs in 2010, 50 lbs. I love books, but I hate trying to figure out how to ship.fly.send.buy.keep up with the latest reads. 4,000 miles away from the nearest Amazon.com warehouse. Kindle? Brilliant! I want one.

4. Hybrid: We have had an interesting car history here. First, we owned a 18 year old BMW that was always on the fritz and rarely had AC. Then we got smart. We shipped our big American SUV {translated: GAS HOG} over, had it tax free for nine months and sold it right before the $20,000 tax was due (don't worry, the buyer knew about the taxes due!). Then we got even smarter. We bought a Toyata Hybrid. You would think living in the Middle East, gas would be really cheap. Nope. We pay more for gas here than we did in the States. {Unless you go to the boot-legged-Saudi-gas-station-in-an-unmarked-building-behind-a-big gate-in-which-you-have-to-know-the-secret-honk-to-get-it. Not.} So, getting rid of our gas guzzling big ole American SUV and switching to Hybrid has been a good stress relieving move. And the AC always works. Just charming!

5. Arabic: Wow, am I glad I took the time to learn Arabic. When I first arrived in the Middle East, the thought often running through my head was..."why is everyone yelling at each other" now the thought running through my head is "am I yelling loud enough to convey my passion for this subject?" Arabs are passionate people and I love talking loud...so we are a good match.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Picture for Today: Tools

I get a lot of questions about how I do the layouts for my Picture for Today project...here are some options for ya:

I use the Creative Memories digital software called Storybook Plus. I find it very easy to use with endless possibilities and I love it because I don't have to haul paper, tape, supplies, albums, etc. all around the world.

If you have Photoshop and know your way around pretty well or have some time to look at some tutorials on-line, you could do the same idea right in Photoshop. I have a friend from college who does this and her layouts are beautiful. I would say this option is more for the design-types who prefer to start from scratch.

One of my other friends is using Project Life to capture her picture a day project. There is a digital kit or regular scrapbooking kit version to choose from. The Project Life website has great ideas about what to take photos of each day and the layouts are really fresh and happy looking.

Or if you like just good old fashioned scrapbooking, it would be really easy to pick out an album, design a layout that you use each week and just plunk your photos in there, maybe changing the paper colors each week for variety. That would make a cute memory book and something the kids would probably enjoy helping with. The possibilities are endless. A friend of mine just emailed me about her photo of the day project that she has decided to do just for summer break. Fun! When I was doing traditional scrapbooking, I used this website a lot to get ideas and there are about a million others like it!

And an idea for those non-scrapbooking types. Make a blog. Ask some friends or siblings to contribute (a great gift for grandparents!), you each could post a picture and 'see' what the others are up to. Great way a preserve memories for the year. Here is a fun one to look at: these friends live on different continents and use the blog to keep up with each other.

Get creative. Find your apricot each day! And let me know if you do a picture of the day project.

Picture for Today: June 18 - 23

PIcture for Today: June 12 - 17

Monday, June 14, 2010

Burn Baby Burn

Safety is a bit of a misnomer here... we've regressed to just chuckling at what used to make us seethe. Just the other day I was driving down one of the busiest roads in the country, and happened to pull up next to a semi flat bed trailer with full tanks of a mysterious liquid. Upon closer inspection, I saw the letters in bold 'HCL' (suspenseful music please)... yes for those of you who flunked High School Chemistry, that's Hydrochloric Acid!
Yes, that truck has 38,000 liters of HCL sloshing down the highway for all to see, and no one seems to care. The thing that makes me chuckle (what used to make me seethe), is that the tanks aren't secured and the valves are easily accessible and unlocked. Just a simple twist of the valve opens a 2" outlet at the bottom of a 1000 liter tank. I thought I could maybe reach one from the passenger side of my car window! What if a child got curious, what if the truck got in an accident? Ahh, that'll never happen.

Then there's the incessant smoking. The other day I stopped at our local bakery, where apparently their gas fired oven ran out of fuel. The gas truck was parked outside filling up the tanks through a hose to the inside, while both of the gas truck dudes stood by and smoked. I could see and smell the fumes rising, while a dozen fire-ball explosions from movie scenes flashed before my eyes. Is there no concern for even your own safety, let alone all the pedestrians walking by? The only ones with worried faces were the crazy foreigners who stayed on the extreme other side of the sidewalk. Ahh, no big deal.
I won't pretend I'm better or think I have all the answers, but if common sense is so common, why don't more people have it? I'm back to my chuckling, Hehe.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Tight Security

Part of living in the Middle East involves getting used to security check points everywhere.
The highway. The grocery store. The hotels. The beach club. The airport. The school.
Today, I was a little surprised by some heightened security.
I was driving toward the airport and came up to one of the normal check points. The road was barricaded and traffic was forced to file through to the other side (wrong way) of the road. I wondered what was going on. Should I be concerned? Are they looking for someone, something? Did someone try to zoom through the check point? My mind had fun.
I slowly wound around all the barricades. As I rounded the corner the heightened security measures became very obvious to me.
The two guards were involved in an intense backgammon game. They had set their board up on the sidewalk on one side of the check point hut, then forced all the cars through to that one side so they didn't have to go back and forth and disrupt their game. Smart guys.