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.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Yes, Owen. There is a Santa Claus.

As I spend this Christmas with my husband away in Iraq, I try to stay focused on the positive.  The kids.  Our future. Our family and friends who have been so supportive.  But I admit, it's hard.  There are moments of loneliness that seem unbearable, especially at this time of year.  I didn't think it would feel this way; I have worked most major holidays in the ER, including Christmas.  But I simply didn't factor in all the "other".  The days leading up to Christmas, the crafty projects, the baking, the Christmas tree.  All the other stuff we do together during the holidays.

I am constantly dazzled by our children.  They miss their dad so much!  But they are still so excited for Christmas.  Somehow they manage not to dwell on Dad not being her, but on the season.  Each has lovingly made me Christmas tree ornaments.  Each has unselfishly shopped for the other.  My little Abby skips through the house singing 'Rudolf the Rednose Reindeer' incessantly.  Her version starts out with "You know Dasher and ummm Dasher and Comet and Dasher.  La la and la la and ummm la la and Dasher"....doesn't matter how many times we sing it together, she never remembers the other reindeer!

Both wrote their wishlists and put them in our (unused) fireplace.  We started this last year in California; I don't remember why, but that's where the wishlist for Santa goes.

Last week I planned to take the kids to see Santa at Toys R Us.  I wanted to avoid the hassle of the mall Santa. Buy OUR photos only!  Buy a special button ornament with your child's pictures!  No personal cameras allowed!  Lines form here! (at other end of mall, of course)  Screaming babies everywhere! (including mine?)

When I told the kids of the plan, Abby was excited.  Couldn't wait to see Santa!

However, Owen was concerned.  He pulled me aside.
OWEN:  "Mom.  You know that's NOT Santa."

*Insert frazzled Mom here*  Does he KNOW?

ME:  (nonchalant) "What honey?"  (smooth!)

OWEN:  "That's not the real Santa.  The REAL Santa can't be everywhere.  Even those guys at the mall aren't Santa."


ME:  (in a hushed voice) "Ok, Owen.  You're right.  But I am going to tell you a secret.  And you can't tell Abby!  The Santa you see today is actually one of Santa's helpers.  Since Santa can't be everywhere at once and he still has so much work to do, he relies on Santa helpers.  Everything you tell this Santa will get back to Santa.  He'll know what you'd like for Christmas.  But really, you can't tell your sister.  She still thinks it's the real Santa and I don't want her to be upset."

*Insert lightbulb image above Owen's head here*

OWEN:  "Oh!  That makes sense!  I won't tell Abby.  I promise."

When we finally went to Toys R Us, Santa was there and he was perfect.  Jolly, round, rosy-cheeked, kind.  Abby was enamored with Jeffrey the Giraffe who was also there.  Owen hugged Santa.  I saw him whisper into Santa's ear and then look at me.  Owen gave me a wink.  I knew our 'secret' was safe.

One more year of magic for Owen with the belief of Santa.  When you know that the idea of Santa seems unlikely but you want so badly to believe.  When reality and magic don't necessarily have to be enemies.  My heart breaks when I realize that next year he most likely won't believe, but I know he'll wish it were real.  I know I do.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Career Moves?

When I calculate it out, I have spent eight years full-time and one year part-time as an undergrad to get where I am.  First degree?  BA Political Science.  Second degree?  BS Nursing.  I have actually completed enough time in school to have finished my undergrad AND medical school AND have started a residency.  Financially, I often regret not having just taken the medical school leap.  Emotionally I am so glad I didn't.  Not to mention, life would have likely taken us in a different direction, and I am so excited by the path we are currently traveling.

Anyway, six years ago, I was pregnant with Abby when I started the part-time coursework at Kent State to get into the accelerated nursing program.  When she was 1 week old, I returned to class; when she was 6 weeks, I started the accelerated nursing coursework.  The equivalent of an entire first year of nursing classes was completed in the summer session.  Jason was working at a different job at the time and had to deal with the kids on his days off while I was in biweekly 12-hour nursing clinicals in Cleveland.  It was a wretched summer, although I made some lifelong friends, kindred spirits!, that year.  On the positive side for me, Owen was a terrible toddler (poop finger painting!) and Jason got to deal with THAT most of the summer.  Ah, memories.

It was quite a jump, politics to nursing, but I love it.  And as crazy as those days were getting through nursing school, it would have been far more emotionally draining trying to get through residency (90-hour weeks!) post-medical school; I sometimes regret how much of Abby's infancy and Owen's toddlerhood I missed out on because I chose that junction in life to change careers.  Medical school would have taken all of those years away.  Actually, I would just now be completing my residency.

Which brings me to my next thought: what am I going to do next?  I have been an ER RN for 4 years.  What is my next move?  I always envisioned myself as a Nurse Practitioner.  Oh, but the schooling involved!  More courses!  More clinicals!  Another board exam!!!!  And how would (will?) it fit into our Foreign Service plans?  I am already lucky enough to have an incredibly flexible career.  In the States, I have never had difficulty finding a nursing job.  I wonder if I will be so lucky overseas?  And going a step further, if I were a Nurse Practitioner, would I be able market those skills overseas?  What happens when we move every few years?  How hard will it be to find a new position?  Questions, questions, questions.  I suppose like all things involved with this lifestyle the answer is:  It depends.

And of course, there is the difficult task of not only trying to fit my career into this lifestyle with my husband, but also trying to make sure I fit the kids into my career plan (or vice versa?).  I missed out on a lot with the kiddos (Owen and Abby) when I made the career change.  Going back to school would eat up time with them again, and with little Kellen!  I don't know if I am willing to make that sacrifice again, at least not yet.  The great thing is, though, that I don't have to choose right at this moment.  What I have learned as an adult (and I can no longer claim to NOT be an adult...) is that you can actually go back to school at any time.  You don't have to know what you want to do or be right now.  I went back to school when I was 27 --- pregnant, with a crazy toddler in tow, and a full-time job (and thankfully, a very supportive husband).  How was that the right time to do that?  It just was.  And when I find the right time again, I'll know.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Snow Thoughts

I have never liked snow.  It's cold, it's wet, it's miserable.  Pretty?  Yes.  Creates a serene environment?  Sure.  Terrible to drive in?  Absolutely. There's an auto insurance commercial on TV that features a car fishtailing in slushy conditions with classical music playing in the background.  Makes me want to crawl out of my skin every time I see it; whoever made that commercial is a sick, sick person.

Toss me in a desert climate and I'm happy.  I'll take 115 degrees over 20 degrees anytime.  Even better send me to Southern California.  Warm, wonderful, perfect running conditions year round.  I don't need snow to enjoy Christmas.  I'm far happier at the beach.  Santa can come along with me in his swimsuit.  I'll enjoy a latte and go for a run.  The year we spent in Los Angeles was one of the best of my life.

Actually, my anger at the snow (and Ohio in general) is probably more related to running than anything else.  I am a fair-weather runner.  Optimal running temperatures range from 70 - 110 degrees for me.  In Ohio, that means I can run for like 2 1/2 months out of the year. During my OBLC (Officer's Basic) training for the Army Reserves in summer 2008 it was 115 degrees in San Antonio, TX.  Every afternoon, whenever possible, I would run with my M16 around the FOB, clocking in 4 or 5 miles a day.  Ignore the military lingo and just try to image me with rifle strapped to my back in 100+ degrees.  Sounds terrible to you?  It was great for me.

Running is my ultimate stress-relief.  And I am stressed here.  Newborn in tow, two older kids, trying to fit my job as an RN (my 'adult' time) back in...and a husband in Iraq.  Not the ideal situation.  But, it is what it is, and I deal with it as best as I can.  There is something like 8 inches of snow outside now, it's 17 degrees, more snow is pouring down, and I want nothing else right now than to lace up my sneakers and go for a heartfelt run.  Slip on my iPod and zone out in my music.  In Los Angeles, I'd do this everyday - grab a latte from my favorite Starbucks, park my car along the shore and just...run.  Feel the sun on my face; smell the ocean air.  Here in Ohio?  I'm lucky to get a run in every couple of weeks.  And the view?  Not as wonderful as my 10 miles of shore I used to pound pavement on.  I don't need the view though if the weather were only acceptable for running!  A treadmill doesn't cut it.  I don't feel like I'm going anywhere.

Deep breath.

Putting this all aside, I know I am lucky.  I have a strong marriage, beautiful children, family, a great (and flexible) career, and an adventurous lifestyle.  I have friends who check on me pretty much daily and I get to work with them as well.  My husband is gone right now, but we get to see him again soon (February!) and we'll be 1/2 way through this agonizing separation.  And as much as I complain incessantly about the cold here, we have roots in Ohio that we will remain forever connected to.  When we leave for Cairo (!!!!) at the end of next summer, I will miss it here.  My friends and family - I will miss them so much.

The kiddos reminded me today how much fun snow can actually be.  Snowball fights, snow forts, snow angels.  I may not be able to run right at at this moment, but I will get to run again.  Until then, I continue to try to live in the now, in the moment.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

First Blog. Ever.

Oh, man. I am about to blog. Never, ever would I have believed that I would someday sit down and write a blog. ANY kind of blog. Until recently, I was anti-blog. Truly, I was anti-technology. I refused to blog. I refused to make a space on myspace. I refused to place my face on facebook. I refused to make a peep on twitter.

Then, in March 2007, I took an RN contract position in Bakersfield, CA. My husband and two kids stayed in Ohio while I jaunted off for nearly 4 months. My dad and I drove cross-country to get me to my destination. Along the way, we stopped and touristed and I had some great photos I wanted to share with my loved ones so far away. Email? I spent a weekend in San Francisco and wanted to tell everyone about my trip. Mass email? I made new friends in the ER I worked but was sad that I was only going to see them for the duration of my contract assignment. How to keep up with my new friends? Hmmm...

Many of my new friends had myspace pages. I begrudgingly started a page. I was almost upset at how much easier it was to keep up with my friends, especially when I returned to Ohio. One year later, when we moved to Los Angles for my husband’s first new job assignment, I was glad I had given up on the anti-technology. I started a facebook page and have never regretted it. Now my mother no longer hounds me for photos of the kids (sorry, Mom!). I can keep up with all my old friends and new friends no matter where we go or move. In fact, I still keep in touch, through facebook now, with many of the friends I made in Bakersfield. Instead of feeling disconnected, which is why I was so anti-facebook-myspace-twitter, however you want to look at it, I feel more connected.

We’ve recently welcomed our son Kellen into the world. Unfortunately, I was flat on my back with a complication suffered from the epidural for the entire first week after giving birth. Now I look back, and I can honestly say that facebook (and my beloved iPhone) was one of the things that got me through that nightmare. I was able to share photos of our new little guy with our friends and family. I was able to keep up with what was going on elsewhere with our loved ones and friends. I was able to keep in touch with the outside world during a time in which I couldn’t be a part of it.

So, here I am starting my first blog. No idea how well this will go, but I am so much more open to it as an positive outlet than I was before. What a perfect way to wander with my thoughts as we wander around the world.