Monday, December 7, 2009

My Speech #4 for Toastmasters Tonight

Average Americans move every 5 years according to the General Population census of 2000. I have moved 17 times in 32 years. If you average that out it seems I have moved every 1.8 years of my life. Tonight I am not going to focus on why I can’t stay still, but instead share some of my views on making a move easier by Researching, Organizing, Preparing, and Adjusting.

First the Research! One of my favorite things to do when a new adventure presents itself is the research! This is especially helpful for moves that are months away. Research helps you feel in control of your move. It takes the mystery out of your new location and thus the fear that comes from the unknown. I always start with a Google search for people who are writing blogs in the new area. For instance when I was moving to Luxembourg I found that there was an American Association of Women that had a website and club in Luxembourg-ville. As part of their club they had a guide to living in Luxembourg as an expatriate. (An Expatriate or “Expat” is someone who chooses to live outside their mother country)This book became a treasure all the 5 years I lived there. The next research tool is to view real estate websites. Here you can get an idea of the cost of living, what the standard of living is and where you would like to live. With all of this background information you are ready to make a contact! By researching different clubs, churches, and sports activities you should be able to find an email address under the websites contact info. Before you know it you already have a friend in your new location! By researching those who already live there, the real estate market, and by making contact you already should start to feel in control of your own destiny!

The second step in making a move is to get organized! My husband and I have found a wonderful way to see the whole picture when planning a move. We call it the Master Plan. We take a dry erase marker and find a large window in a common area of the house, like the kitchen or living room. We start making lists of all the things we have to do to make the move happen. At first it may seem overwhelming to have all of those tasks before you, but then best part is crossing them off one by one. Being able to see those tasks checked off will assure you you are doing a good job and are actually getting things done. It’s like that old adage- how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time! Make sure you include a calendar within your master plan so your family can easily see deadlines for different tasks; make sure individual responsibility is assigned so it can be a team effort. Once you have your Master Plan in place start eating that Elephant!

Now you have researched and have become organized, it is time to prepare. Preparing your home for a move means making sure you are not moving junk from one house to the next. Get rid of all the trash, shred all the old documents. Give away all the non-fitting clothes. Make a pile for a yard sale. A move is a fresh slate! Plus by slimming down on what you have you will save money on your move. The less boxes you have the less the moving company charges. Next, prepare your new house. Call ahead and schedule utilities service for your new address. You will be happy you have cable and internet when you arrive! Now you are ready to prepare your household for living out of boxes for the first few weeks. Make sure all your important documents and move related information is accessible. I put mine into a binder that I keep with me. Prepare your family by having DVDs and toys in a suitcase that does not go on the truck. I also suggest having sleeping bags for everyone. It is so much easier than going through boxes in search of sheets that first night. Also of these things will make the transition so much nicer for your family.

Now you have arrived it is time to get adjusted to your new life. You already have an idea of what to expect because you have done your research, your move went smoothly because you were organized and prepared. Its time to start living your new life! It can be stressful to start all over and we all feel it in different ways. The trick is if you want to make new friends you have to be a friend. You can find opportunities to make friends by participating in clubs, church groups, volunteer organizations and by just opening your mouth to say hello. I have made friends in the grocery store! Don’t worry about finding your new best friend right away. I have found the in the beginning you make acquaintances that help fill that part of you that really misses your old friends, eventually you will click with someone. I have found that it is nearly impossible to have a new best friend in less than 6 months. Plan on it taking a good year to feel completely adjusted. But in the mean time embrace your new situation. Say yes, even to things you don’t normally do, stay in touch with your old friends but don’t hold on so tight you don’t have room for your new ones. Take this time to grow closer as a family, you can be eachothers friends. Explore your new town. When I moved to Lakeway we would unpack boxes in the morning and then just go an adventure in the afternoon. We found the playgrounds, the pools, the capitol building, the bats under the bridge, and the Chick Fil A.

Your life may have taken a new turn and it can be surprising, but you can minimalize your stress and awkwardness by Researching, Organizing, Preparing, and Adjusting. Take it from me, someone who has is continuously eating that Elephant called moving.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Christmas Newsletter

Since most of our friends and family are online I wanted to post our Christmas Letter here to save a little ink and paper. (We can say I am being sensitive to the environment but lets face it I am cheap and lazy) Most of you still still be receiving a card though don't worry! Here you go!

Dear Family and friends, 2009

As always life is unpredictable and I find myself writing to you from yet another location. Someday I will have an album of just Christmas Letters and pictures with a big map to sort out where we were!

In January we thought we were headed one way but it wasn’t working out. So Jason decided to go back to his old career in Customer Service. For 6 weeks he diligently applied and interviewed full time. Eventually he was up for 6 different jobs. We got the first offer and then consulted the others. We really felt like the offer to work for EA Games in Austin was the best choice for us. The move was short and the kids got to finish the school year. Plus we were able to stay in America! It has been one of the best choices we have ever made. Jason LOVES his job and we love where we are living. The best part is that there is a lot of room to grow and they are already talking about future possibilities. By the summer we may have a dramatic change again but with the same company. We feel very blessed in this time of economic trial in our country. If you want to hear more about Jason’s job he is always willing to talk about it!

Beyond adjusting to a new area everyone in our household has grown by leaps and bounds.

Adam is doing so great. He made the honor roll, is his class’ student rep, is taking guitar lessons, boy scouts, and participates in a club called Destination Imagination. It’s amazing to watch him grow into a creative talented handsome young man!

Kat continues to be sunshine full of rainbows. She is taking ballet again and girl scouts. She also made the honor roll and soon will be starting Destination Imagination. She is the best at making people feel loved and easily made a lot of friends here.

Alex continues to hang out with me and make us laugh every day. He finally got potty trained and is super independent. So much so that he only does what he wants to do. The trick is to make everything sound like his idea. His favorite things are food and video games.

We also picked up another dog this year, a manly one for Jason. His name is Luke. He isn’t always perfect but he is one handsome boy!

I am busy as the ward activities chairman and taking part in the local chapter of Toastmasters International. I also took the kids on two extended road trips this year. It’s been fun updating Facebook and our blog with all the crazy things we have seen and visited.

Hopefully you have been part of those visits! Or would like to come visit us! Life is fleeting and relationships with family and friends are what make it so sweet. We hope this season finds you healthy and happy, and that if we haven’t talked in awhile we can find the time to do so.

With much love,

The Livingstons

November Re-cap

OK, I don't know why Blogger is giving me a hard time but I am going to write everything out on here and then you all can look at the other post and try to figure out which pictures go with which!

This year we decided to drive to Phoenix for Thanksgiving. It turns out it is only 14 hours away. Not too bad if you do it in two days. Me and the kids drove alone so Jason could work some more and we had our usual adventures along the way.

First we stopped in Tayohville TX to see the worlds largest swimming pool. It is built on a natural hot springs so the water stays 75 degrees all year. Somehow it still felt cold when the weather was 65. The water was very clear and there were lots of friendly fish. Alex never got around to getting in but after 30 minutes Adam at least gave it a real go. I wish we could go there in the summer- it must be great!

We stopped for the night in Van Horn Texas at a cheapo hotel Nothing much to it but in the morning we had saw a little bat sleeping in the rafters of the porch. It was so sweet and fuzzy and close I wanted to pet it but if that thing had taken off we would have been screaming like little girls! It definatly got the adrenilin pumping to be so close!

When we got to AZ it was wonderful to relax and see family we hadn't seen in so long. Especially Jason's sisters family, and cousin's family. They had each added a baby. So we spent a lot of time cuddling our new niece McKenzli and getting caught up with favorite cousins. The food was great but the company was the best.

The coolest part of the trip was that we got to be there for the blessing of little McKenzli. Jason was part of the circle and it felt so good to participate in family moments. It feels like we miss so many!

Soon the week was over and started the drive back. On the first day we stopped at Rooster Culburns Ostrich farm. We got to feed deer, goats, ostriches, and donkeys. But hte wildrest part is the lorakeet inclosure. You go in there with a cup of necter and they go wild perching all over you. I was really proud of the boys because they loved it. Kat would not come in. I was a little freaked out but decided to go with it.

As we drive along we kept seeing billboards for "The Thing", as the exit got closer we just HAD to know what it was. So inside a gas station gift shop is a 25 cent tour. Some guy a long time ago collected weird things and now you can look at them. There is no theme. The actual thing turns out to be a mummy with no information on it. They like to keep "the Thing" a secret but I am just going to go ahead and tell you cause that collection was weird and mildly disturbing. Curse you billboards! You got me!

That night we drive to El Paso and stayed at a La Quinta. I love those. You can always count on a decent bed. But as we got there it had started to SNOW. THat\s right, in TEXAS it was SNOWING. The next day we froze our Arizona clad behinds off as we drove off into the white. It was 4 hours of white knuckled driving until I could get the cruise back at 80. I relied a lot on prayer in making my choices. I am glad I drove through though because the storm was moving towards Austin and I would have just been stuck. As we got closer to home the GPS took us on some small roads with flooding. Again the Spirit guided me in taking care of my little ones. We were lost with no service on our cell, and I am glad I decided to turn around in stead of fording the flooded road.

What should have been 8 hours was 12 but we made it home last night. Jason had the Christmas decorations up and the holiday music playing. It was so good to be home. But once my head hit the pillow everything I have to do for the kids birthdays, Christmas, and the ward activity started bouncing in my head. If I survive this Christmas Party I promise I will enjoy the season! Hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving!