Meetings, delays and details, oh my!

Hey there, everyone!

I feel like it has been ages since I blogged, but it has only been a week.

A crazy, busy, fun, intense week!

The number of things that have to get sorted out to take advantage of my international assignment is sizable.

  • Immigration applications
  • Tax implications in Ireland
  • Tax implications in the US
  • Housing in Ireland
  • Coverage for my work in the US
  • The scope of my Ireland work.
  • How to enroll in virtual education in the US while living abroad.  (Turns out, this is not going to happen.  The boys will be coming back to Jacksonville at the start of the school year, so that we don’t lose their spots at their school.  They’ll be traveling with me only for the first month.)

We now know that we are going to be living in Dublin 8, near St. Patrick’s Cathedral.  The apartment is a 20 minute commute (against traffic) to my office, and near a ton of stores, restaurants and pubs.

We had an amazing friend offer to take the dog for the month we are all gone (How amazing is that?!?), and my mom is going to take the fish tanks.  Josh’s dad is noodling coming for a visit while we are there and I hope we can make it happen.

As for Dorothy…

  • I’d hoped to have pictures of our new roof, but the rain has kept the roofers away.
  • I had hoped to have pictures of the newly framed rooms, but we have had delays in getting the space laid out.
  • I had hoped to see the front of the house ripped off, but we haven’t got the permit approved.

Dorothy is a bit lighter, as we removed damaged wood, old insulation in the attic and any remaining ceilings in the house.  The dumpster has been delivered and we are ready to start putting her back together, at least on the inside.

I have picked most of the finishes for the house, including oil-rubbed bronze faucets and white subway tile for the baths, as well as white quartz counters and gray cabinets for the kitchen. (Still no decision on exterior paint colors, though.)

We met Jim and George, the two guys who bought the 1900’s Greek Revival house next to ours.  It has not been occupied in 20 years!  They just drove cross-country from Seattle to take on their complete renovation. We are going to head over the house on Sunday to hopefully take pictures of the new framing and meet our new neighbors.  What a difference it will be to our little part of Springfield in the coming months!

There is so much to look forward to in the next few weeks.  (I haven’t even begun to consider the quick trips to Raleigh, Austin and Dallas/Ft. Worth that all take place before we leave in July.)  From getting rain gear to setting up my international cell phone plan, the list of details keeps getting longer, but it will be SO worth it.

Thanks for reading.

~Jennifer

 

 

 

Detour

I renamed this blog Mid-life Reno because Josh and I had just taken the plunge on renovating a totally gutted, 113-year old home. And we were both in our early 40’s. Straightforward, right?

As far as major life events were concerned, we assumed that the renovation of Dorothy, and the subsequent transition from resort living to Springfield, would be big enough. As of March, we thought we knew how the rest of 2017 would look.

We were wrong.

It turns out that Dorothy was Chapter 1.  The plot twist comes in Chapter 2: Off to Dublin!

Yes, THAT Dublin.  It began with a conversation with my Big Big Boss during his visit to Jacksonville this past Spring.  Professional development is a big priority at my firm (thank goodness).  However, when I mentioned my aspiration to work internationally, I never figured it would materialize into anything.

Fast forward to May, when I learned that my company offers a Global Rotation Program (GRP).  It’s an opportunity for associates to partner with teams worldwide, and also a proving ground for more global work in the future.  My bosses nominated me.

I had been told not to get my hopes up.  Only a dozen or so people get picked for each session and nominees are not only from the US, but China, India, and Ireland. But then…

I got an email. 

“Congratulations!  You have been chosen to do a GRP rotation in 2017 in Dublin, Ireland.”

Professionally, the timing is uncanny.  It is wedged between the down slope of my volunteer season and the ramp up of the legislative season.  Although there are things I will miss, my boss and colleagues have assured me the world will not end and that they can pitch in to support me.   How amazing is that!?

For now, we are scrambling to get paperwork, housing and travel plans in order.  Josh and the boys will be going with me for at least the first month, and we hope to leave in mid-July.  I will be back no more than 89 days after I leave.  (Eighty-nine days is the maximum amount of time that I can stay without special dispensation from the government.)  My sleepless nights have quickly shifted from decisions about paint colors and door knobs to pet sitting (anyone want to try out a really cute dog or a low-maintenance cat for a month? Seriously.) and rainy weather attire, not to mention the pressure of being flown to another continent to prove your professional worth.

It is all every exciting and somewhat scary.

The house is still progressing, although I admit my attention has been totally diverted for the last few days.  I have much to share about Dorothy’s progress, and I hope to get a chance to write more soon.

I know that this is a once in a lifetime chance to experience another culture as a resident, to test my skills as a professional and to spend time examining where the second half of this amazing life takes me, especially if I end up being on my own for the second 2/3rds of the rotation.

My mid-life reno just got more personal. And I couldn’t be more excited.

As always, thanks for reading.

~ Jennifer

 

 

 

 

 

 

2016 Road Trip – The Logistics

Now that it has been a week since our return, I have had a little time to get perspective on our 11 day, 4 city trip to Washington DC, Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York City and I wanted to share my thoughts, good, bad and ugly. (But, mostly good.)

This is a quick summary of the transportation and accommodations on each of our 11 days and 10 nights.

We picked these cities because they are all poor for RV travel.  In the future, if we do a major trip around the US, I want to avoid places like DC and NYC. From tolls to traffic, bridges and tunnels to expensive parking, I have enough anxiety about driving a car, let alone a monster size towable or motor coach.  So the decision was made to fly into DCA, and after sightseeing in the nation’s capitol, rent a car and drive the days in between, before dropping the car in NYC.   This way, we get to see these important and interesting places, without the dread of having to drive and park an RV.

To kick things off, we chose to fly. Jet Blue was super affordable and made traveling with kids easy, as each kid gets their own TV and choice of snacks.  Our flights left on time out of JAX airport and arrive in DC without incident.

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Upon arrival at Reagan National Airport, we took the Metro to our hotel.  The Metro is really cheap and clean and we never had to wait more than a few minutes for a train. Truly, there is no need to rent a car to get around to see the sites in Washington DC.  Besides the subway, you can walk, rent a bike, or take a cab or Uber.  Parking is really expensive if you do have a car, so I recommend avoiding it.  (Our hotel garage was $30 per night!)

For lodging the DC, we chose the Embassy Suites in Alexandria, VA, perfectly located across the street from the Metro Station at King Street Station.   If you choose this hotel, you’ll also want to take advantage of sightseeing nearby in Olde Town. For that, the city of Alexandria provides a free round trip shuttle which also picks up in front of the hotel.  More on that later…  The hotel offers free breakfast and a happy hour with complementary snacks and drinks (including adult beverages!)  There is an indoor swimming pool, a fitness center and a very friendly staff.  We were there three nights.

After 4 days in DC,  HH picked up the car from Avis at DCA (again, using the Metro to get from our hotel to the airport.)   We loaded up the car, checked out of the hotel, and headed to Baltimore, a quick 1 hour drive from our place in VA.

In Baltimore, we wanted to experience the waterfront.  We decided to stay on a boat by booking a place through AirBnB.  It was a crazy thing to do with three boys, but I am glad we did it.  Not only was a famous Maryland crab restaurant just a few steps from where we were moored, but we were only a 20 minute walk to the Inner Harbor.  There was free overnight parking in the marina and the cost of the AirBnB was less than a hotel in the downtown corridor, with the added benefit of a waterfront sunrise.  If you can find an option like this, I recommend it.  No one in our family took showers on the boat, but for one night, who cares.

From MD to PA was another relatively short drive.  We found our Embassy Suites hotel on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway with ease.  Having not been in Philadelphia in years, I learned that there are two central areas that are good for tourists to stay. The Parkway puts you close to the Franklin Institute (more on that later), the Art Museum, the Natural History Museum, the Free Library, and more.   If you want to be close to the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall and other spots more closely aligned to the start of our nation’s history,  you’ll want to choose another hotel.  To get to these other sites, we took Uber rather than drive the car and fuss with parking.  It was only $6 each way, but it was an added step that we would have avoided if we picked a hotel in that part of Philly.  We also walked a lot.  Philly is a great city to walk around it.  I loved seeing the signs to not “Block the Box” at every intersection, reminding drivers to stay out of the pedestrian cross walks and give them the right of way.

Once again, we drove from PA to NYC.  The drive was the longest of our three jounts, but still less then 2 hours, with “exciting” moments as we crossed through Delaware and New Jersey.  We used the Holland Tunnel and popped up into the city on our 7th day.

For New York, we went bold with our NYC lodging.  Originally, we had planned a hotel in the middle of Times Square.  With no car, (HH returned it soon after we arrived), we thought it would be easy to get to the sites and be exciting for the boys. However, at the last-minute, I changed course.  Several friends had suggested the Times Square was akin to Disney World, with noise and crowds waiting for you at the entrance to every hotel and that stressed me out.  Instead, I went the AirBnB route again, choosing a spot in the East Village with a park across the street and a washer and dryer, along with a chance to pretend I lived in NYC for a few days.

It was a risky choice, and for the most part, it paid off.  We liked the coffee shops and pizza places nearby.  As predicted, there was less noise and fewer crowds and we had more room than a hotel, with less hidden fees and more reasonable prices for things like meals, snacks and souvenirs. However, we went a little too far off the path of convenience.  The 5 block walk from the subway after a full day of sightseeing was a slog for me, let alone for my 8 and 11 year olds.

As for getting around in the city, we hardly spent anything.  The subway was REALLY cheap and the only time we didn’t use it was when we had a tour that started at a specific time and we were running late. I guess they have to make something affordable in NYC and public transit is it.

For the return flights, were went with Jet Blue again and chose to leave out of JFK.  Our subway trip to the airport was long, but manageable.  The Jet Blue terminal was well-appointed and cheerful, but that was forgotten when we sat on the runway for over an hour and a half waiting our turn to depart.  JFK is a very crowded airport and unbeknownst to me, they often have delays on the tarmac.  Lesson learned.

We got home 11 days later, poorer in the pocket, but rich with memories and experience.

Travel because you can and be well.

Jennifer

 

 

Obsessed with RV life

Two places on the inter-web have been my obsession this week.

Full Time Families (FTF): This resources is for those who are curious about family life on the road or have already make RV living a reality. The Facebook page for the group has tons of information about the practical realities of RVing with kiddos and the membership is very active.

Rand McNally’s Trip Maker – Don’t get me wrong; I am a card-carrying member of the AAA, but this website is so user-friendly.  I was able to plot up to 25 cities on the travel plan, get mileage, estimated driving time and gas costs and even poke around for other stops in the area that might be interesting.   I have already designed 4 (more) iterations of our trip.

In addition, I have bulked up my Pinterest page with lots more content about RV renovations, stuff to do with kids in cities I think we’ll eventually visit, tips for how to handle life on the road, and more.

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The biggest “ah-ha” moment for me is how many people seem to be considering this every day? ! There are 5 or 10 new members of the FTF FB group page every time I log on and I am finding tons of blogs from couples with children of all ages who are already on the road.

While I have NO idea when we’ll do this, it is motivating to see others get going.  Are you on the road?  How long did it take you from idea to launch?  Any words of wisdom for me?

Insomnia is a tell-tale sign

I barely slept for the last two nights.

In between sending messages to my clients and business partners for my skin-care business, I read. I pinned.  I planned.  I tried to go to bed, but that didn’t work.

So then I read some more.  And pinned more.  I planned some more.  I need sleep, but my brain disagrees.

I learned about “boon-docking” and the websites that allow you to do that with other RV enthusiasts.

I read about converting old school buses into RVs.  And that those are called “Skoolies”. And you can convert coaches and city buses too.

I followed families on Facebook and Twitter who either completed journeys long ago and wrote books about it, or who are on the road now.

I thought about sleeping patterns, and how we’d get a space that everyone felt accommodated their needs (and did not force anyone to sleep next to Turtle, for fear of injury.)

I already changed the route.

Then I saw this…And then I changed it again.

I drafted a sample budget, determining what we might need to have in pocket, versus income coming (Thanks to Rodan + Fields) while on the road.  I tried to remember fixed expenses that we’d continue to have regardless of the trip like life insurance premiums and FL Prepaid payments.

At about 3:45 am both nights, I went upstairs, but only because I forgot to bring down the charger for my laptop and the battery was gone.

And then, I lay in bed and willed myself to sleep, albeit with visions of boys stomping through wooded national parks, starting wide-eyed at national monuments and playing with friends and family who live near and far across this great land.

Let the planning commence.

For the past 3 years, I have been saying that at some point, I want to travel for an extended period of time with my husband and three sons.  A few months ago, I created a Pinterest Board.  When we took our 10 day summer vacation earlier this month, I mentally logged how the boys did in a variety of situations.

The daydream grew some legs today.  I took the first crack at planning the darn thing.

And this is what the 8 to 9 week trip looks like in its first draft.

  1. Jamestown, VA
  2. Washington D.C.
  3. New York, New York
  4. Boston, MA
  5. TBD, Maine
  6. Vernon, CT
  7. Philadelphia, PA
  8. Cincinnati, OH
  9. Chicago, IL
  10. Badlands National Park
  11. Mt. Rushmore National Memorial
  12. Yellowstone
  13. Seattle, WA
  14. Portland, OR
  15. Redwoods
  16. Pacific Coast highway
  17. San Francisco, CA
  18. Yosemite National Park
  19. Las Vegas, NV
  20. Albuquerque, NM
  21. Carlsbad Caverns, NM
  22. Dallas, TX
  23. Austin, TX
  24. New Orleans, LA
  25. Destin, FL
  26. Jacksonville, FL

I have nothing else for now.  I have no budget.  I have no idea which of these drives is a half day/ whole day/multi-day.  I am not sure if we’d rent or buy an RV, if we stay at camp sites or in hotels, or a combination of both.  I am not sure if there will be other cities added (Denver, Salt Lake and Los Angeles are the glaring ones I see missing at first blush.) I’d like to think we’d visit friends and family, but I am not sure who we’d see or where these folks will even be living by the time we take this trip.  And then there is the pesky part about WHEN WE take this trip.

But seeing it on a map, highlighted in that bright yellow/green color…even saying the names of the cities out loud or on the screen in this blog post makes it seem more real than ever before.

I am on the lookout for other travel bloggers who have some similar trips.  Have any advice? Know anyone that has done this? Any experiences you can share? Love to have your input.

Let the planning commence fun begin!

Happy new year (+11 days)

I have been on a road a bunch in the first 12 days of 2013.  From one end of the East coast to the other, I have been on planes, subways and in taxi cabs.

Perhaps that is why this video brought me to tears.

How cool would this type of homecoming be?

Giving thanks…that I was not here.

This past week, I went to the RNC in Tampa.  It was my first national convention for any political party and it was wild.  My company sent me, so I was not there as a delegate, alternate or card-carrying member.  It was very liberating to be more of an observer.  I met some very accomplished people: Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey, Governor Gary Herbert of Utah, and several smaller big shots in the Republican Party.  I had a great time.

At home, while I was hobnobbing with the GOP, HH was hosting his own convention.

A convention of chaos.  (Dorky, I know.)

From the moment I left the house at 5:30 am for a 7:00 am flight on Tuesday, the chaos began at home.

It started with Turtle.

Some nights, Turtle roams the house after we go to bed.  He is our little night owl.  We tuck him in and tell him he needs to stay in bed.  We try to wait him out.  Never the less, one night he might raid the fridge, another the pantry, another still, he might climb into bed with us or the cat.

But the night before I left, unbeknownst to us, he got up and scaled the hutch in the kitchen where we keep the candy dish…and the car keys.  Then, he retrieved both, ate the candy and hid the keys.

When HH was ready to pack up the boys hours later, well of course…no keys.  And that meant, no one could go anywhere.

No school for Vader, Turtle or Splash until they were found.

Had I been here, I could have taken the morning off, come to rescue HH, taken the boys to school, and been part of the drama, but I wasn’t here.

THANK GOODNESS, a very gracious neighbor was able to take Vader to school.

As soon Vader leaves, HH starts to tear the house apart because Turtle has no idea where he hid them and yelling at him is not making him remember any quicker.  In his search, he finds lots of other things.

Cash.

A ring pop stuck to the back of the couch.

A cup of lemonade on the floor just waiting to be spilled.

But wait.

It is warm lemonade.

HH realizes is not lemonade. Someone, one of my three potty trained kids, has peed in a cup and left it on the floor.

THANK GOODNESS that particular cup was found before it was spilled.

(At this point, you are already thinking THANK GOODNESS these are not my kids.)

As the clock is ticking down on the whopping 3 hours that HH has to do anything productive today, HH’s blood pressure is getting higher and higher.  He decides to focus on something else for a minute to calm down.  He starts to put dishes in the dishwasher where…you may see this coming…he finds the keys.

THANK GOODNESS, the dishwasher was not full and ready to be turned on.  Had I been here, I would have probably done that on my way out the door.

So now, with keys found, the day can now move forward.   Or so you think, because it is today that Splash forgets his lunch box that HH packed and placed in his hand on the way out the door.

HH has to go back and get it.

THANK GOODNESS, we moved to a school that is only 3 miles from the house for VPK, and no longer have the 20 minute drive to the boy’s old school.

Later, HH gets the short stick when I screw up and incorrectly tell him that Turtle has a dentist appointment.  It is really scheduled for next Wednesday.  And Turtle, who has an unnatural aversion to toothpaste, has recently been told that he has FIVE cavities.  (Vader and Splash have zero.)  HH has no choice but to leave and come back next week.

Or so I think.  Had I been the one to take Turtle, I would have pouted about the error and left in a huff.

But HH charms the office staff and they talk with the dentist and THANK GOODNESS, these good people agree to take Turtle back for the dental work anyway – which is little consolation because then HH has to listen to our son scream as they cart him away to poke and drill in his little mouth.

This is only day one of my trip.

Day two was better, but not without drama.   I won’t bore you with more long drawn out narratives though. Perhaps some basic math problems.

Question: Several hours of rain + one sliding car door inadvertently opened overnight by our little key thief = __________

Answer: One really stinky minivan.

Question: Sixteen second graders + one friend’s hat = __________

Answer: Head lice.

Oh…this is boring.

And pretty standard issue around Chez Boss Lady.

Yes, this is life at our house.  My presence does not quell the chaos.  It only alters our response to it.  It is not any better, just different.

When I travel, I do feel bad that HH has to endure these things alone.

Well.

I think I feel bad.

Ummmmm.

THANK GOODNESS, I was gone.

~Jennifer

A little Christmas surprise

Two weekends ago, we took the boys to the Magic Kingdom for the day.  It was one of those work-trips turned family get away and the boys were jazzed about seeing Mickey Mouse.

When we arrived at the park at 8:15, it appeared that they were setting up a parade and there were tons of people sitting on the curb waiting.

I asked a nice Disney person what time the parade was going to be held.

“Eleven.”

That’s weird.  I asked him why would they be setting it up so early? He did not know.  (Leave it to me to ask the one person at Disney who did not know about the day’s events…)

We walked up Main Street and that is when I heard what sounded like a familiar voice.

And it was.

Justin Gets Goofy photo | Justin Bieber

We listen to Justin Bieber a lot at Chez Boss Lady – probably more than I should admit.  I am 37 years old and I *heart* his little YouTube success story and miss his trademark hair-do.

When I heard him singing, I look up ahead.  The singing was coming from in front of Cinderella’s castle and there were about 500 people crowded around a large holiday display.

That’s when the fireworks start to go off.

At 8:30 in the morning.

It was a little disorienting, so the photos are not great.

Apparently, the fireworks and concert were part of the all day filming of the ABC Family Christmas Day Parade which was being filmed at the park over two days.

Later that day, other stars and emcee Mario Lopez would welcome Santa Claus and a host of balloons and floats.

But I did not care about that…

Justin Bieber was somewhere under that pyrotechnic show and we were going to be 100 yards or so from him.  I was giggling like a school girl and practically running to the castle!

And what to my wondering eyes should appear?

Can you see him?

My enjoyment of the concert was tempered by the three impatient kids who could not see and wanted to leave.

Still…I got to see Justin in concert for a little while. 🙂  It was awesome.

The added bonus to this little surprise was that when my boys tired of the show after about 5 minutes and we left, we headed into a relatively empty theme park for nearly 2 hours of no waiting for any ride!  Everyone was watching Justin.

That meant front row seats for the pirate show with Captain Jack Sparrow…who also was a hotty.

And three times around on the Buzz Lightyear ride with no wait at all.

And later, as we were leaving, a perfectly timed exit along side Jolly St. Nick.

We got to do so much that the kiddos were asleep before we got out of the WDW complex.

And the best part?

I get to relive it all over again when ABC airs the parade on Christmas Day!

Merry Christmas to me and thank you to Justin Bieber!

Breakers times two

As I mentioned last week, I attended an association annual meeting at The Breakers from Wednesday to Friday.  It was lovely.  I was even able to sit by the ocean for a spell and read a book.

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The other “breaker” was Vader.  On Sunday, we decided to pull up the large, formerly white-ish tile in the kitchen.  (When HH pulled up three tiles last year to install the wood floors in the living room, it took him three hours – one per tile.)

As it turns out (and much to our delight,) Vader is quite adept at tile demolition and because the rest of the tile in the kitchen was floated over the slab, it was easier than the tiles HH did last year.  Vader was eager to do ALL of the work – in fact, he insisted that no one help him.  And who am I to argue with that?  After he took out 30 or so tiles, we stopped the destruction and at least kept the tiles in the hallway and under the kitchen table.  Vader made sure that we both knew he was ready to go whenever we were ready to take on the rest.  It is a beautiful thing to see one of your own children find an enjoyable hobby.  🙂  Perhaps we can teach him plumbing next?