Welcome to the Wandering Drays!

Not all who wander are lost...

Welcome to my blog dedicated to my family and our crazy foreign service life. Never content with staying in one place, we are excited to share our journey. We've survived two unaccompanied tour (Baghdad 2010-2011 and Baghdad again in 2015-2016), multiple TDYs, and enjoyed a two-year family assignment in Cairo, Egypt. The fab hubby is currently learning Turkish for our next assignment...Istanbul, Turkey! We leave for Turkey sometime in summer 2017. I write about what I know. Which is mainly kids, tween drama, gross pets, dealing with lots of government info, our moving adventures, being a nurse, yoga, running, living on too-little sleep, and an addiction to coffee lattes. I hope you'll enjoy this glimpse into our lives.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Turning Seven

Abby.  She's seven today.  I know, I say this EVERY Birthday...time goes by way too fast.
Budding fashionista.  Loves Hello Kitty.

 I swear that just yesterday she was a cherubic toddler singing *Twinkle Twinkle Little Star* and saying cutsy little things like "Seeping Booty iss my fwavorit pwincess" (That's 'Sleeping Beauty is my favorite princess' for all you non-parenty-types out there).

And now she's seven, a budding fashionista with a love for all things Hello Kitty.  Who writes plays for her friends to act in; who loves to take kung fu and gymnastics; who loves to read and do math problems.  

Our Abby.  Who asks crazy deep questions like "Mom, why is Egypt so sad?" when looking out the car window at vacant, garbage-filled lots, crumbling buildings, and people staring down at their feet while walking.  She's noticed the harshness of the depression that many Egyptians have felt since the Revolution and the uncertainty of the elections.  I had so hoped the kids were immune to this.  Abby proves me wrong.

She's always been Daddy's girl.
Abby, who's flanked by brothers.  One older, bossy brother who she manages to keep up with.  And one younger brother who's trying to keep up with her.  

She's Daddy's girl - always has been, always will be.  But her temper and stubbornness are all traits she got from Mommy.

Abby, who loves to run and swim and ride on her scooter.  She's a skippy little girl, always skipping instead of walking, with a habit of standing on her tippy toes.

Abby, who was so proud to show off her work at the school art show.

Our sweet seven-year-old.  Who loves tutus, playing with baby dolls and barbies, kicking her brother's butt on the Wii, hula-hooping, reading goodnight stories, and singing in the shower.

The girl with a hearty giggle and a wide toothy smile.  With deep blue eyes that see much, much more than you realize.

Happy Birthday, Abby!  We love you so very, very much.  

Ah, the requisite photo trip down memory lane...

Even at a very young age, she'd look at her older brother like he was cuckoo.

Little cherub.

Yup.  Loves Daddy.

First day of preschool.

Always fashion-forward.

She's always loved the beach.

Scooter from Santa, Christmas 2009.

Another fashion moment.

Loves her baby brother.

Sometimes, she's just like her mom.

Showing off her artwork - her painting is the
one just above her head.

Happy 7th Birthday!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Why Not Give It Up?

Running, that is.  I said this to my husband the other day:  "I might just have to give it up."  He looked at me like I was smoking crack.  "You can't give up running," he said to me.  "It's part of who you are."

But my hip.  My knee.  And the muscles between are killing me.  I had taken a hiatus from running a little over a week ago to recover from the pain.  Actual pain - not just muscle achiness from running and working out.  Not the kind of second-day sore that makes you realize that you did an awesome workout.  No.  This was actual pain.  The kind of pain that reminds you that you're not 18 years old any more, and that all of that pounding of pavement will catch up with you, and your knees, eventually.  Eventually, of course, being right now.

I fretted.  I frowned.  I stomped around the house a bit.  And I ate.  It's hard realizing how easy it is to fall back into the old bad habits of wallowing in chocolate and cookies to ease my troubled thoughts.  If I couldn't run, what would I do?

"Well, maybe you're just not the 1/2 Marathon kinda runner any more.  Maybe you need to be better to yourself and cut down the mileage and be a 5K kinda runner.  You love running.  It's part of who you are, and it shouldn't matter how far you run, so long as you run.  You run simply because you love to run."  That's the fab hubby again.  Being way too fabulous.  He's such a know-it-all I thought. And I was grumpy all day with him for being so right about it.

"Willpower is a Muscle," he said to me.  I thought I might scream.  Where was MY willpower?  Where was my "THIS IS NOT THE POINT THAT I QUIT" that I so breezily wrote about just a few weeks ago?

"You haven't even taken the two weeks off that you said you would."  Dude.  My husband is driving me nuts.  If he says one more that that is absolutely-spot-on-right, my head will explode off my shoulders.  "You need to stretch, you need to ease into it, you need to run the treadmill and terrain that causes less pain.  More elliptical, more stretching, elevate it, and take some ibuprofen.  Oh, and stop whining."


He's right.  I avoid looking him in the eyes.  I don't want to be the type that quits when it gets hard.  I do love running, but it's time to reevaluate how I run.  How much I run.  How far I run.  And all the things I need to do to be able to run.  I used to be able to just slip on the shoes and run out the door.  Stretching? Non-existant.  5 Miles, 10 miles.  It didn't matter.  I'd just go run it.  But I can't do that anymore.

"You run. Run until you can't run anymore, but you can't quit.  You're a runner."  There's a reason I've been married to this man for over 13 years. Sometimes, I think he knows me better than I know myself.

It's been just a bit over a year since he last had to give me a kick in the butt to run.  He always knows exactly what to say.

So here I am.  At a crossroads.  Fighting for my running survival.  If you're a runner, you understand.  You love it, you crave it, you need it.  There will be a point in my life where I will no longer be able to run --- next year? Five years from now?  Twenty years from now?  This, I don't know.  But I do know in my heart that right now is not the time.

At Jason's urging, we ran - choosing the kids' school track for it's nice, spongy kindness. I hit two miles before the pain started.  True pain.  Not just burning lungs, not lactic-acidy arms and legs.  But, true, shooting pain.  But I didn't just quit.  I DID however stop running and stretch.  I gave myself the time I needed to take care of the issue.  And you know what?  Six minutes.  That's what it took to walk it off, to do the stretches I needed to do to care for the hip/knee pain.  And then I started back up, slowing my pace, concentrating on my stride.  One more mile to that 5K point.  And then I stretched some more.  The hubby checked up on me and encouraged me, despite the fact that I'd been a raving psychopath to him the preceding two days.

The next day, I hopped on the elliptical and concentrated on the stride.  Working that knee and hip - stretching it out.  Wishing I could run, but knowing I had to care for the injury.  I did some free weights, and focused on some exercises specifically geared toward my injury.

I have so far to go, so much more to do - because this injury isn't over. It may take weeks, even months to fully heal.  And I may have recurring issues where I need to slow down, back up, and care for the hip/knee again.  But I DO know how to manage it and to treat myself right.  And I also know, that if I don't care for it right, it won't improve, whether I run or not.

 Looking back, I realize I was wallowing in the fact that I just wanted it to be better.  And I wanted it to be better right now.  That I was looking for the easy answer.  Give up running.

Thankfully, I have a fab hubby to put my head back on right.  He knew that this wasn't the answer.  And he kept after me until I realized it wasn't the answer, either.

What an idiot I've been.  Now, I don't know if I'll ever do a Half Marathon again.  I truly hope that I will.  But what I do know is that I can be a 5K/10K kinda runner. I can be a 2-mile kind of runner.  Because I am a runner.

This is not the point where I quit.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Enjoying Bangkok

Five glorious days.
Swanky hotel. No kids.
Slippers and trashy magazines!
I was in Bangkok last week.  I enjoyed five glorious (ahem, kid-free!) days, attending a continuing education RN conference (and earned enough credits to maintain my Ohio and California RN licenses!).

I love to travel, and I've traveled all throughout the U.S.  But the only country I've been to outside of the U.S. is Egypt.  That's right.  Just Egypt.  And this is a foreign service-focused blog!  But now I can add Thailand to my list.  In fact, the fab hubby is a wee bit jealous - it's one of the countries he'd like to visit but has yet to make it there.

Since the conferences were held during the day, and nearly all of the temples and touristy sights in Bangkok close at 4:30pm, I wasn't able to get out to do much sightseeing.  However, the hotel was located near beautiful Lumpini Park.  And it has a running trail around its perimeter!  I couldn't believe my luck.

Sure, it was incredibly hot and humid.  But the air is much cleaner than what we've had in Cairo and the noise level is much lower.  The park was also a nice break from the usual Wadi I go to in Cairo.  Not to mention there are street vendors selling the most delicious food just outside the park.

Inside the park, it was amazing.  Tons of people running, two outdoor fitness gyms, children's playgrounds, and water canals with people riding in paddle boats.  It's been awhile since I've seen such lush, greenery.  And I really enjoyed it.

At the end of a run in Lumpini Park.
Hot from the beginning of my runs that week until the very end, and sweating like crazy, I felt like I got a great workout without even trying very hard. I forgot how difficult it is to run in a humid environment.

Outside of running, I enjoyed many evenings of shopping (the malls are amazing there!).  I ate from street vendors, living on fresh pineapple and papaya, rode in a tuk tuk, almost got killed by a tuk tuk (looked the wrong way before crossing the street - they drive on the left in Bangkok), and I traveled by sky train to get around.

I also signed myself and some friends up for a river dinner cruise so we could see the sights just before leaving.  We figured even if it we only saw them from a distance at least we'd get to see them!  The cruise turned out to be awesome, although we almost missed it. The ship didn't see us at the dock and drove by us.  Not to worry --- I did a crazy American and yelped, jumping up and down while flailing my arms.  They turned around and came back for us.

Fun facts I learned in my short Bangkok stay:
*Always look both ways before crossing the street.
*Tuk tuks can be dangerous.
*Running in a humid climate is a great workout.
*I love drinking the water straight from a coconut.
*I will never get tired of Thai food.
*The mad bargaining skillz I've learned in Egypt will help me all throughout the world (I picked up a leather purse in a market for almost half of what they were asking!).

Bottom line:  I had an awesome time in Bangkok!  Although I will admit, while I enjoyed the kid-free time, I really missed them (and the fab hubby) a lot.  Most of my suitcase ended up being filled with new toys and trinkets that I picked up for them!
After spending months of feeling like I was about to
be chased by Tuskin Raiders (Star Wars) at the
desert Wadi in Cairo, I was happy
to be chased by this gigantic lizard.
 He's cute, huh?

Shrine near the hotel.
Finally got to see the Grand Palace - from the cruise ship!
Wat Arun from the cruise ship.  Gorgeous.
Wondering why my face is so red?
It's because it's like a 1000% humidity in Bangkok.
Great cruise though!

I totally *heart* drinking out of a coconut.
The dudes that cut the skin off this one used
a huge butcher knife.  And then hacked it open.
I squealed in fright/delight.  I admit it.

Friday, March 2, 2012

This is NOT the Point Where I Quit

A friend ran with me at the Wadi this week.  Our initial plan had been for a 10K, but when we parked the car, we noticed it was overcast and windy - a sandstorm was definitely on the horizon.  So we talked about it, and decided we'd just go for 4 miles instead.  I wasn't overly saddened - to be honest, a 10K was sorta freaking me out.  I mean, I had just re-embraced running three-ish weeks ago.  Who was I to demand a 10K of my body?  And what if I couldn't do it?

As we took off, I found my stride.  It was chilly and windy, and the occasional puff of dust would whip through my body.  But otherwise, I was surprised to find that I wasn't struggling to keep up.  My friend has a similar run pace, and we were within eyesight of each other as we came to two miles, our preplanned half-way point.  We'd already been hit a few times with sand, so why not go it further?  How much worse could it get?  We decided to keep running - and go for the 10K (6 miles).  

Onward we ran.  My friend was slightly in front of me, and as we reached the 5K mark, she made the loop to turn back.  As we began the return journey, my heart pounded, my mind raced.  Who was I to do this?  I'd done a 4.5 mile run last week, but I had broken it up with some short bursts of walking throughout.  Today, I hadn't walked a single step yet.  I looked ahead of me, and the air was thicker, hazier, and it was obvious the sandstorm was coming in a bit quicker than we had thought.  I could see my friend off in the distance - her pace had picked up slightly, but we were still within eyesight of each other.  

I could quit.  Walk my butt back to the car.  Admit defeat.  Give up running.  A lot of people would do that, I thought.  Many of us have struggled with this.  It's so hard just to lose one single pound; it's so hard just to run one single mile.  But what is the alternative?

This is not the point where I quit!  I put this thought in my head and kept going.  I am a runner.

More thoughts streamed though my mind - This isn't just who I want to be.  This IS who I am.  A runner.  Someone who cares for her body.  I'm strong.  I can keep going.  This is not the point where I quit.  Forward, running, one foot in front of the other.  Focusing on my music, enjoying the run because I love the run.  I feel the pace, find my stride, feel the breathing.  

Another mile down.  My right knee was creaking.  My shoulders sag, I feel old.  I stumbled on a rock and nearly tweaked that knee.  The sand was blasting against my face and I needed a moment.  Two minutes - I gave myself two minutes of walking.  It's ok.  Gotta strrrrrretch-it-out.  But this is not the point where I quit.  Others would.  I don't.  I could still see my friend running.  Her silhouette moving forward, the sand whipping around.  The air was thick, but she was still moving forward.  I took a deep breath and began running again.  

One mile left to go.  I keep moving forward.  My lungs burn, my right knee seems to hate me, but I keep moving forward.  This is not the point where I quit!  I told myself over and over.  I am a runner.  I can do this.

I look up, and I am nearly to the end.  A wide smile across my face.  I catch up with my friend, who had finished just ahead of me.  My time?  1 hour 5 minutes.  Yes!  Who was I to do a 10K?  A runner, that's who.  My lungs still burned, and I hobbled a bit on that right knee, but I had proven something to the person who matters most in this:  myself.  

I wiped my face on my sleeve and it's covered in dirt.  I've done that 10K in a small sandstorm.  Oh, I'm feeling successful!

Four weeks done in the Biggest Loser competition.  I'm now down 10 pounds.  Of the 12 I've gained since arriving in Cairo.  It feels good.  I'm running, I'm working out, I'm eating healthier.  I still have some very rough days.  And some days where I slip.  But I keep moving forward.  Because this is NOT the point where I quit.

Keep moving forward.  Taking care of myself.  Improving myself.  It's a long journey and I'm committed.  Because as my friend Matt points out in his blog, there really is no other choice.   At least no other real choice with the only acceptable ending.

I'm headed to Bangkok this coming week for work, and I'm really excited.  I've never been there (to be honest - our move here to Egypt is the first time I've ever been outside the U.S.), and I have a medical conference to attend.  I'm pleased with my weight loss and improvement in running.  My goal for the next week is to maintain my weight (Since I'm traveling, I won't have a lot of time to workout, so I'm keeping my goals realistic!).  I'm also going to hit the gym at the hotel at least 3 times while I'm there (unless outdoor running turns out to be an option!).  

But no matter what, this is not the point where I quit.

Sandstorm rolling in!