Sunday, July 25, 2010

Single Digits

We are nine days away from getting on the plane. Holy cow!

Parties have continued with our return to Flagstaff. Monday night (Joe's actual birthday) found us at our favorite haunt, La Fonda, for a party with some of our FUSD colleagues, plus Bruce and Mira, Shirl and Bob. We were another party of 13 and we skipped the speech this time, but we managed to make little postcards with our new email addresses and our blog site, so everyone can go read all about it. Joe's Cromer colleague Carole brought us small travel gifts including Tush Wipes, much to the amusement of all. Oh yes, we also got to admire Faun's latest broken extremity, her left foot, which she broke stepping off a curb while on vacation in Colorado. She called us to tell us the news, but only told Joe, fearing a wild rant from me, so I just posted an oblique reference on Facebook. Saturday was a big party at Faun's house with friends coming from all over and lots of fun. We visited with the Shaws, the Cooks, the Schwartzes, the Horowitzes, the Juliens, Cindy and Jimmy, Paul, Leslie, Jill, Nancy, Bret, and of course, Faun and Randy. The burgers were great, the weather was perfect, and we took enough pictures to plaster our walls. We gave the speech and then Mr. Shaw asked if we could do it again, but this time with Joe speaking and me interjecting. Everybody's a comedian!

We also had a great visit on Tuesday with our friend Rick and his gorgeous wife Darla, coming through town on their way back to Mesa from their Montana hideaway. Rick flies to Korea on Tuesday, so he gave us his Vonage number and got us caught up on his progress, which is pretty good. His school has been in very close touch with him and he knows a lot more about what will happen when he lands in Suwon (southwest of Seoul). Also, we heard from our friends Paul and Jing (the couple from Kansas City who we met at the fair and were hoping to get a job in China to be near Jing's family), with the good news that Paul got a job in Tianjin, on the coast near Beijing, so we will have more UNI job fair friends somewhere near.

Our SCIS email appears to be offline at the moment, but we did receive an interesting email a week ago regarding new administrative changes. Nancy Stubbs (no relation to our dear stalker Jeff) has retired from her position as director of curriculum, so Tammy Rodabaugh, who was to be our new principal, has taken that position, moving the assistant principal (whose name I can't remember, but it's nothing like mine) to principal of the Lower School. I will miss working directly with Tammy, but I am relieved that little first graders aren't going to have to distinguish between Rodabaugh and Rauschenbach. I wonder if that's why she left? Also in SCIS news, my Aussie email buddy Steve (the orchestra director) announced that he and his wife Nicole are expecting their second child, which doesn't affect us that much, but it feels like we're making friends.

The primary packing for storage purposes has begun in earnest. Anticipating a visit from Jill, her grandson Bret, and our friend Nancy, we got the office cleared out enough to put a twin bed on the floor for Bret. We have bedrails also, but discovered that we have no box spring, causing the mattress to sag pitifully, so we just ditched the rails for now. However, that sparked an email to Dan, our renter-in-chief, to ask about whether the twin mattress would be part of a bunk bed arrangement (thus eliminating the need for a box spring). He wrote back the astonishing news that they were planning to put an extra bed in the guest room and oh yes, could Jane use the fourth bedroom (you know, our storage room)? I nearly had a stroke! Joe suggested adding some extra money to the rent for the fourth bedroom, so Dan said he'd talk to Jane and let us know. I also suggested that the office would be the only place big enough for a second bed, so we'll see what we hear tomorrow (our deadline for fourth bedroom notification). We also got our rental checking account set up, Joe found the way to clean our popcorn ceilings with the Shop Vac (and they were disgusting!), and we have an appointment with our CPA friend Gerry to determine how our finances (primarily tax matters) will be handled in our absence. I went to a continuing ed tax seminar on Friday and had my eyes opened quite a bit, so I have a list of questions for poor Gerry.

Next week is the last blog post I know I can write, because I'm not sure how long it will take me to get set up in Shanghai with the VPN. I have some email groups set up to get notice that we landed, but I sure hope the communications will fall into place quickly. I still have people working on the Facebook issue, and it occurred to me today to actually send a note to the geniuses who run the site; hey, maybe they've put some thought into this!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


Joe turned 40 on July 19th, and we had a lot of fun with that during our weekend in Phoenix. We started down on Friday at noon, leaving Flagstaff with Joe, Jack, and our grandnephew Nathan, fresh from a week visiting his Flagstaff grandmother. About halfway down the hill (which is what we say when traveling from Flag to Phx), we realized that the Corolla's A/C is no longer working, and things got much warmer after that. Phoenix was having temps in the 110s plus monsoon humidity, so by the time we got to Rhonda's house, we were pretty warm and sweaty, especially Joe, who got to have Jack sitting on his lap most of the time. Fortunately for us, Rhonda and Andy were willing to let us borrow transportation with A/C, so we went to our first party on Friday night in fairly good style. Kim Marchbanks put together a party of 13 or so, plus assorted children, for friends who used to go to First Southern Baptist in Glendale. We ate and talked and laughed until well after 11:00 and Joe and I gave our little speech about how we arrived at this big decision, with lots of support and interest from all.

The second party was on Saturday, with just a few family members at the Miracle Mile Deli in the Arrowhead Mall. Joe and I took a little time to cruise the mall and Joe decided that all the clothes were either too old or too young for him, and that must be the problem with turning 40! We met Jill, her daughter-in-law Jaysen, Jill's grandson Logan, and our cousins Tib (newly naturalized after four tries and over 40 years living here), Julie, Debbie and Andrew. Miracle Mile does the only decent pastrami sandwich in this country (I tried them in NYC, no good), so we enjoyed both the food and the company quite a bit, and the cousins had lots of travel and Asian living advice.

The last party was on Sunday, when 33 people crowded into Rhonda's house for her fantastic green chile burros along with red and green tamales and everything else that goes with Mexican food. (Rhonda said we didn't need to have Chinese food, because that's not what we'd be missing.) We had Rhonda's family (children and grandchildren), David and Pam and all the children and grandchildren from their oldest son (we don't even know some of their names, there's so many), Jill and her youngest son's family, cousins Gene and Glenda, Dorothy and Maxine, friends Kay and Charlie and a couple of girls (Nicole and Mariah) who may or may not be related. We gave our speech (for those who don't read the blog), and we also had birthday cake and three family songs. In our family, we choose a tune and write alternative lyrics suited to whatever special occasion is at hand. I thought we were just going to do one song, mainly for Joe's birthday but with a bit of China thrown in. I wrote some quick lyrics to the tune of the Cincinnati Reds fight song (yes, they have one, and the Cincinnati Pops did a very nice version on an album called "Play Ball!" so look for that at whatever passes for a record store these days). However, Jill and Rhonda surprised us with a new version of "Chinatown, My Chinatown," and then Kelly's family came up with their new version of "Hey Jude" (creatively called, of course "Hey Joe). That song made it to Jill's Facebook page, if you can find it. It was a great party, and my dad would have enjoyed it as much as we did, but of course we imagine he's been busy this week lecturing the recently deceased George Steinbrenner on how much he messed up as the Yankees' owner. Sorry about that, Mr. Steinbrenner.

The plan for getting back to Flagstaff in the non-air conditioned Corolla was to leave late on Sunday night after all the festivities and drive in the (relatively) cooler night air. It was a great plan except for one thing: the Corolla's temperature gauge would not come down from the overheating position. We drove about ten miles, heater blasting (which was how we used to solve the problem in Joe's Cavalier), before we gave up and got back to Rhonda's about 12:30 Monday morning (when the temp was only 101 degrees). Joe joked that back when he was 39, he would have pushed on to Flag despite the gauge, but now that he was 40, he thought we should play it safe. Andy said we could borrow his van for the next couple of weeks, so we called AAA and had the Corolla towed to its new owner, my nephew Aaron, who is a very talented mechanic and promptly changed the faulty thermostat and will refit the A/C system for new freon. The tow truck driver (Jim) turned out to be a guy exactly my age who went to my rival high school, but not my grade school. He did a nice job taking away the first car I ever bought myself, and it will be missed. Also missing from our lives is Jack, who has moved to Rhonda's house, but I'm just not going to write about that.

Next week: we celebrate our 12th anniversary and try to clean out the office. Will we succeed?

Monday, July 12, 2010

Slimming Down

Well, not my body, but we are definitely a bit lighter in household goods. We took our grill and rain barrel over to our friends the Schroeders, who have just moved a street away and needed both things. This weekend, our friend Allison bought Joe's car and drove it away on Sunday afternoon. The garage looks strange with only my old Corolla, and I am now the official driver of the family. Yes, Joe knows how to drive a stick, but my car is a bit crochety in its old age and I know how to baby it. We also sold our push mower on Craigslist, and I took my wedding dress to the Salvation Army when I noticed several stains on the skirt. Maybe someone else has time to play with laundry magic!

I took a preliminary stab at packing my suitcases this week and met with surprising success, so maybe it won't be so hard to get everything there. We also talked to a school colleague who taught for a year outside of Beijing and she had both good and bad news. On the con side, she strongly suggested bringing all our hygiene products with us; soap, shampoo, even toothpaste. She says the products in China are just too harsh for us delicate Americans. However, she also said that we can ship things in personal boxes and they will get through customs without a hitch. She was less enthusiastic about direct Amazon shipping, though of course the company assures me that they ship to China all the time (but they couldn't tell me about customs). We figure we'll pack a box with some less important items, ship it off before we leave, and see if it makes it to Shanghai via the good old USPS.

The rest of the packing is rather slow, but we are trying to do a little bit every day. We found a wonderful local handyman who laid our flagstone patio in our backyard (see my first photo upload?), freeing us up to take a video production class through our former school district. We are learning all sorts of useful things and have great ideas for videos we could do at our new school. Jack will be moving out next weekend when we go to Phoenix for our farewell parties there, and that will certainly be tough, but I've probably waited too long already. My mother has scheduled her knee surgery for the day before we leave, and that will make for a very exciting week for my sister Rhonda, who will then have four dogs and two people needing a little extra care, not to mention her full-time job! I guess if I get grumpy about things on my to-do list, I can just think of her. Thanks, Rhonda!

Sunday, July 4, 2010


Happy Fourth of July! We missed the Flagstaff parade this year, but we figure that is one of those annual rituals that we can do when we come back in the summer. We also have lots of work to do in the house and quite a few farewell meetings scheduled. In other news, we have been ruled as acceptable risks by the Chinese consulate; our passports arrived this week with beautiful Chinese visas tucked right in. (Thanks Maureen and her unnamed colleague at TDS!) I put a picture of my visa on Facebook and my sister Jill started posting about how much she hates it. I told her to work on her attitude.

In preparation news, I finished two beaded necklaces, one with an Arizona theme and the other in black and silver for concerts. I have packed up the rest of my beads to stay in storage here. I'll take my tools to China, because I've found at least two bead shop addresses in Shanghai. We visited with our insurance agent this week, which was very productive, and the fellow who set up our Roth IRA, which was more of a "nice to see you." On his suggestion, I did some reading from IRS Publication 54, a fascinating look at tax rules for those living and earning income abroad. I think I'd rather just call our tax genius friend; call me lazy. We finalized the deal on Joe's car today and are hoping to turn it over to its new owner either next weekend or the following (when we will also leave Jack with his Aunt Rhonda for his new life of grooming fun, but that's another story; see the dog grooming section of

The "Facebook in China" controversy continues after our friend Merle successfully posted during his recent trip to China. He had a secret weapon that I'm probably not allowed to discuss, but he did give me an idea to try when I get there, so keep those fingers crossed. While I was doing some Amazon work, I found both a China page (in Chinese, so it didn't help much) and Amazon's assurance that they ship all over the world. Now that would be a big help, so I emailed my questions about getting things through customs and will await a response.