Didi Madloba

After four years JR is wrapping up his final week in Tbilisi. He packed out without me and had to deal with my never-ending messages telling him to move this item to this pile, to find this exact shirt I need right now and put it in his suitcase, and a prolonged back and forth about a jean jacket.

I can’t believe our tour in Georgia is over. Of course I knew it was coming, and we are excited for what lies ahead in Egypt. But this week my heart is in Tbilisi. And my heart is with the friends we made there, even those who departed long before us. It would be impossible to thank every person I’ve met or worked with or laughed with who helped make this such a memorable post for us. But I have to tell a few of you how grateful I am to know you!

To V and M, thanks for being there for us since the beginning. I’m not even sure you know this, but when we first arrived at post I was pregnant and would confirm two weeks later that I had miscarried. I traveled to London alone for a D&C and the day after I arrived back in Tbilisi, you invited us to attend a birthday party for your boys. I didn’t know either of you, I think you just invited JR because he was a new work colleague and also because that’s just the kind of welcoming people you are, always reaching out to someone new, always opening your home to people. I was sad and nervous when we showed up but wound up having a really wonderful time watching Abby and the kids play. I looked around at everyone laughing and having fun and realized we were going to be just fine in Tbilisi. So thank you for that, and for your friendship, parenting advice, trivia knowledge, group texts, and more.

My squad…my top-ham loving, wine-drinking, porch and sidewalk chalking, “JENNI I NEED MORE WINE” yelling, oversharing, hilarious, compassionate, smart and amazing group of women – I adore you. I didn’t know how much I needed you until you were just there and now I barely remember a time when you weren’t.

The really talented, smart and awesome people I had the pleasure of working with in Tbilisi – you taught me so much, and I found a job within the Embassy I truly loved. Cassandra and Paula, I loved being a part of a team with you. You made coming to work that much more enjoyable because of the time we spent together.

This part will make me cry, but I want to say thank you to Sopo and Nino. We were so fortunate to find two incredible nannies to take care of our children. They loved them like their own, and became a part of our family. You will always have a place in my heart!

Georgia…you are beautiful, windy, chaotic at times, but ultimately a wonderful place where our family grew from three to five and created lifelong memories along the way. For Mother’s Day, Abby’s class answered some questions about their moms. One question asked “what is something you wish your mom would do?” Abby replied “let me go to Georgia.”  Yesterday, when my mom asked the kids if they wanted anything special from the grocery store, they said khinkali. Georgia is always on their minds. I hope we can all go back some day.

Nakhvamdis.

Where I’m from

I grew up in a very small town in northeastern Ohio.  Very small.  When I was younger, I think we had about 8 stoplights total, and it was a huge deal when a Taco Bell opened (although we have always had a Dairy Queen, and thank goodness because it is one of my favorite places ever).  Growing up with 130 some kids in my graduating class, you knew everybody’s business and you could learn a lot just depending on who you ran into at Buehler’s or Bert’s.  To further complicate things, it often felt like I was related to half the town.

My friends and I complained – a LOT – about not having anything fun to do, how boring and small our town was, and how driving 40 minutes to get to a mall was a serious tragedy.   Once we all had our licenses (again, except for poor Allison) a Friday night football game and cruising around town became the highlight of our bustling social lives.  Looking back, I’m not entirely sure how this was fun or exciting, but in our minds, it was the only thing to do.  It wasn’t until I started college that I realized just how “small town” it is to cruise around for entertainment.

dazed and confused

I didn’t start to truly appreciate my hometown until I left it.  I suppose that’s not unusual.  But now, thousands of miles away, I’m very proud to talk about where I come from, and the fact that I’m still incredibly close with my group of friends from home.  These aren’t just high school friends –  out of our group of 5 girls, 4 of us have been friends since the first and second grade, and then we let Allison tag along when we met her in junior high. (Kidding, APN.  Love you!)

We all went off to different colleges, and then we started moving to different cities and states, and even different countries.  We got married and had babies.  It’s harder and harder to make time to stay in touch, and especially to get everyone together in the same place.  But we always make the effort.  We send each other e-mails about what’s happening in our lives, the big stuff and the small stuff, the happy and the sad.

But my favorite times are when we’re all able to be together.  It’s more and more infrequent, in fact our most recent gathering was a full 2 years after the last time we’d all been together, but from the laughs and the jokes, you’d have thought we did this weekly.  These are some of the kindest, funniest, and loyal women you could ever hope to know, and I’m so proud and thankful to call them my friends.

A photo trip down memory lane.  I had to pull out my photo albums for these first few, in the pre-digital/Facebook era.

Justhe5ofus

High school graduation – 2001

I can’t find any pictures of just the 5 of us all together from 2002-2006.  I’m sure they exisit, but I couldn’t find any!

bjorn 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bjorn’s wedding – summer 2007

spa day

 Spa/winery visit –  spring 2009

allison

Allison’s wedding – summer 2010

desktop kristen

Kristen’s wedding – summer 2011

our wedding

 My wedding – summer 2012

jerrys 2012

 Jerry’s – December 2012

2014

Jerry’s – December 2014

Despite the distance and crazy busy lives, I love that I can always count on them for anything, and our reunion in December was one of the highlights of my trip back home.  See you girls in Europe in 2017, right?

42 years of better

Two weeks ago my mother-in-law passed away following an 11-month battle with brain cancer.  It’s not easy to talk about how difficult this year has been for us, and JR’s entire family.

I’d rather talk about the first time I met her.  JR and I had been dating for several months, but we were both nervous for the ‘meet the parents’ step.  It didn’t help matters that I’m a very picky eater and she was preparing dinner for us at her home.  I remember her being very kind and welcoming, and eating the best lasagna I’d ever had.  She was so genuinely happy to meet me, and so pleased that JR had brought someone home to meet them.

Two years later, during the fall of our third year of law school, JR spent the semester interning in Vienna, Austria.  My grandfather passed away and I was heartbroken.  It was particularly hard that he was so far away during such a sad time.  The morning of his funeral as I was making the rounds saying hello to family and friends, and I saw JR’s parents approaching me.   I was so touched that they traveled more than 3 hours to be there for me, and for my family.  It spoke volumes of how they cared for me like I was family already, and my grandmother still talks about it to this day.

When we became engaged, JR arranged a surprise party of our closest friends and family to celebrate the occasion.  Judy was full of smiles and gave me the biggest hug.  She told me she was so happy for both of us, but especially for me – she knew how I had been waiting for that moment, and she was truly bursting with happiness for us and so glad to share in our special moment.

JR is the youngest of the family, so you might think she was reluctant to see another woman become his priority.  That wasn’t the case with her – she just made more room in her heart and home for me, and wanted to include me in all of the family functions.  All she ever wanted was more time with us, to know more about what we were doing, so she could proudly share it with everyone she knew.

Her children and her grandchildren were her greatest accomplishments and shared the spot with her husband as the loves of her life.  She was present for the births of all eight of them, including our Abby.  This past April, Judy had brain surgery which we hoped would remove the tumors.  It was a long, hard surgery and her recovery was slow and difficult.  In spite of that, less than 3 weeks later she was in the hospital waiting room the night Abby was born, and one of the first people to hold her several hours later.

My father-in-law spoke so eloquently at her funeral, I was amazed at his poise and strength.  He shared the story of how they met and fell in love and then he said something that will stick with me forever.  He said at their wedding, they vowed to stay together for better and for worse, and that they shared 42 years of better, and only 11 months of worse, and when you looked at it like that, he couldn’t complain.

I’m trying to focus on those positive things, to be grateful for the love she shared and the time we had with her.  We are very thankful that we were able to come home when we did and spend time with her before she passed.  It’s hard though, not to be angry and sad that Abby will miss out on having Judy as a grandmother, that my husband lost his mother, and that the world lost such a caring, beautiful person.  It does not seem fair, but Judy lived a life full of love, and for that we are grateful.

Judy our wedding

 

SOA is ruining my life

JR and I have very different taste in TV shows, so it’s very rare to find a show we both want to watch. I love reality shows – from the really good, like The Amazing Race and Survivor, to the really bad like Teen Mom and Real Housewives of Orange County. He prefers the History Channel and Archer. We’re always on the lookout for a new show we can watch together, and it’s especially nice if it’s a series that is complete or almost complete and we can binge watch the whole thing whenever we want. Thank goodness for Netflix and Hulu!

We’ve watched The Wire, Breaking Bad, Deadwood, and Dexter and quite a few others this way (out of all of them, we both agree that The Wire is one of the greatest ever.) Several friends and family members raved about the FX show Sons of Anarchy, so it’s been on our “to watch” list for a while now. We started it in December and it’s basically been ruining my life ever since.

I won’t post any spoilers, in case anyone wants to watch the series someday – but I highly recommend you skip it. I’ve come to hate every character on this show. Like, literally hate them and think about them long after I’ve turned off the TV, which maybe says more about me than the series. If we watch it just before bed, I usually have some awful violent nightmare (this was especially true when we watched the first few episodes of Season 5). I even hide my eyes (and sometimes my ears) during the worst scenes, but the entire show is just so, so violent. Except when they’re having a shootout, because for criminals, they are the worst shots in TV history. I probably have better aim than all of them, which is says a lot considering I’ve only shot a gun once. No one ever gets hit in these scenes, so when they come on JR and I are usually laughing because they’re that bad.

There is nothing believable about the show. I mean, I don’t know a lot about outlaw motorcycle gangs, but the storylines are totally absurd and with so many new gangs and bad guys introduced each season, it’s often hard to follow (and to care). The characters do and say the STUPIDEST things. Most episodes end with Jax promising the club, or his wife, that they are all safe and things are going to get better – which of course it NEVER does.

My friend Erika and my cousin Jolene both watch the show, so I frequently text them when I’m getting upset. Here are some of my recent texts:

“SOA is killing me.”
“I’m beyond stressed. This show is stressing me out.”
“I hate Gemma with a fiery passion.”
“My heart is racing. THIS CANNOT BE GOOD FOR THE BABY.”
“I seriously hate this show.”

Another reason this show has ruined my life is that I’ve loved the name Jackson for YEARS, and it’s one of the few names JR and I agreed on for the baby, partly because it’s a family name on his side. Thanks to the main character Jackson “Jax” Teller, we’ll never be able to use it now and keep a straight face. If it weren’t for my current condition, we’d make a drinking game out of watching and that might lighten things up. They say “bro” at least 10 times per episode and hug each other twice as much. JR and I have started asking each other “you need a hug, bro?”

Happy-sons-of-anarchy-23888082-500-235

You may be wondering why I’m talking about a show I hate. That’s the worst thing about it -at this point I’ve invested so much time and energy that I have to see it through to the end. JR left on a work trip yesterday and told me I could finish it without him because he’s over it. I’m so frustrated with myself for not being stronger and quitting earlier but I can’t now, I’ve given the show too much of my life. So now I’m trying to just power through – yesterday I watched 5 ridiculous episodes – and think happy thoughts when it’s over. Maybe I’ll put on a Disney movie later or something.

In completely unrelated news, Amy and I spent a wonderful morning yesterday away from the TV running a few errands around town. We stopped by her favorite jewelry store, and the owner was in a celebratory mood because it was International Women’s Day and the 10th anniversary of him opening his shop. In addition to offering us a discount on our purchases, he convinced Amy to partake in some rakia (the local homemade liquor that doubles as paint remover) with him. I don’t know what made me laugh more – that he kept his rakia in a water bottle, or that Amy went for it at 10am. When in Kosovo!

amy pic 1

amy pic 2