One of the things I expressed thanks for during November was the fact that we have the internet as a tool to keep in touch with loved ones.
Let me qualify that now by saying...it's just not enough!
This morning I was opening a stack of boxes containing Christmas presents from a dear loved one (who is blatantly ignoring our request to save money to visit us instead of sending presents, ha!). As I hid the brightly colored packages so lovingly wrapped, with season's greetings in familiar handwriting for each individual in our family, I couldn't help but feel a wave of sadness.
Colorado and Wisconsin are so very, very far away. They are a considerable distance away from Ohio, Nevada, Maryland, Idaho, and Texas, our previous duty stations. But they are a whole world away from our new home in Italy. None of us can pack up a vehicle and drive to an address in a different state to spend a holiday together. And as of yet none of us has been able to check a bag, hop on a plane, and greet family at baggage claim on the other end. While we anticipate visits from our close family members at some point during our tour in Naples, the simple truth is that it just isn't as easy (or cheap) to visit anymore.
I thought I was doing all right with the whole culture shock thing, but not being able to pick up the phone any time I want and call my mom just to chat is a lot harder than I expected. Not passing the phone around so the kids can talk to their grandparents and keep them updated on their various day-to-day priorities is a lot harder than I expected. Not getting together with friends I was used to "hanging with" is harder than I expected.
Taking out the trash is harder than I expected. (We have to make an effort to drop off our trash at any number of locations, some of which are full and overflowing so that we have to heave the bags and boxes across a sea of waste.)
Finding certain products is harder than I expected. (Thank God for Amazon with free shipping, but you'd better plan waaaaaaay ahead.)
Living in a place with a rainy season is harder than I expected. (I didn't realize how depressing it can be to see gray skies day after day after day.)
Not having the option to go out for a relatively quick meal is harder than I expected. (Eating out as a family here involves anywhere from $100-150 and 2-3 hours of time.)
Driving in a different country can be harder than I expected. (Driving in Naples lesson #64: In a traffic jam, 2 lanes of traffic can become 6. Or more.)
At the same time, I realize the amazing gift we have been given in the opportunity to live abroad. We have already experienced and seen incredible places. We've built relationships with some dear Italian people. We've eaten new and delicious foods and are learning (very, very slowly) to communicate in a new language.
But even though I love and treasure our life here in Italy, I love and treasure the part of our lives that is back in the States. So this morning, while children are still sleeping, I indulge the tears that spring to my eyes as I think of and pray for those whom I love so deeply whom I will not see in person during the Christmas season of 2012.
I love and miss you all!