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.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

In Which I Finally Admit I'm Not Doing So Awesome

It's been a bit of a roller coaster for me, personally, these past few months.

I hate to be a downer in my writing, and I keep trying to look at things in the positive, but in less than a month, I'll be leaving our Cairo post to return to the U.S., without my family.  For six months.  And while it is definitely the best choice for us, it is still heartbreaking.

Just a sweet moment with my favorite toddler.
Sure, I've outlined it all before.  My speciality RN certifications are expiring in April and I can't get them all renewed outside of the U.S.  My elusive arthritis diagnosis - received in November - means I need a specialist.  And time.  Time to get on the right meds,  time for follow-up appointments, time for additional testing. But what I don't have here is time.  The longer I wait, the worse it gets.  I need to sort through the diagnosis with a specialist and make decisions about the treatments sooner rather than later.  And of course, my Army Reserve annual training needs to be completed before we move to D.C. in August (the fab hubby's next assignment is in D.C.).

As an added bonus, my early return to the U.S. creates a financial safety net for our family.  Most of us in the Foreign Service know what a money suck the D.C. area can be for families.  My returning solo to the U.S. to accomplish the above also allows me the opportunity to accept a pretty lucrative RN contract assignment.  Which means we'll be able to pad up the savings account for the costs associated with our upcoming move, home leave time, and the impending cost of living in D.C.  We need some furniture.  We need another vehicle.  Cell phones, winter clothes, all sorts of things that we've not needed overseas. We've all be in this predicament, right?  Every move - EVERY move - means $$$ out the door, hand over fist, no matter how much of it is covered by our travel orders.  Our family is just lucky enough to be able to proactively do something about it.

It's all awesome, right, how things are just coming together?  Kids and the fab hubby will finish up the assignment here.  The big kids will have completed two full continuous years at the same school, a first for them (we moved every single year 2008-2010).  We have amazing friends here to help out.  We have household help.  It will still be hard for the hubby, but manageable.  And in August, we all hook back up in D.C.

All I have to do is just get through six months.  Working a job I love (ER).  In my favoritist place in the world (I totally love L.A. more than anywhere else I've been.).

But I have to do it alone.

See?  Once you throw that itty bitty, seemingly harmless word out in the mix, the whole entire thing seems awful.  Alone.

It's not that I don't have the support to do this, because I definitely do.  The fab hubby, the kids, our family, and our friends - especially our very understanding FS and military friends - are completely supportive.  I even have some friends who live in L.A. who have been amazingly supportive, and friends who plan to visit me while I'm there.

But I just can't shake this awful aching feeling that for six months, six very long months, I won't see the kids or my amazing husband.  That no matter how great the entire situation is - how lucky we are to even have this kind of option - I'm still sad about it.  Heartbroken.

I hate that doing the right thing right now means that I have to leave them for a bit.  I try not to focus on it - but it's hard.  I know I can do it, and I know that we'll all get through it.  But it doesn't change the fact that it will be hard - and not just for me.  The kids are resilient - they've been through this kind of shindig before.  But I know it's tough for them.  I especially worry about our toddler -because he's just a bit too young to understand really what's going on.  As for me and the hubby?  We've done this before, and we know how incredibly strong we are.  We also know all too well how painful - but not impossible - this is.

And so I'm struggling with it - trying to come to terms, acceptance, of all it.   In the end, we'll all be better off for it.  And our time in D.C. (two whole years together as a family!) will certainly be easier because of it.  But it doesn't change how hard this is going to be.

I've got just a bit over three weeks before I leave.  I've signed an RN contact with an agency and I'll be working for the same hospital I worked at when we last lived in L.A.  I've got some leads on a vehicle and an apartment.  All the organizing minutia of this move is going well - Embassy HR has been awesome at working to get me orders and hopefully soon, I'll have plane tickets.  That kind of stuff is coming together just fine.  (Thankfully, because every one in the FS knows how easy it is for that kind of stuff to go awry.  Truthfully, until I'm holding airline tickets in my hand, I'll still waiting for it to do so...)

This morning, the fab hubby and I took the big kids to see "The Hobbit" at the theater.  Owen was particularly excited because at the concession stand, you could buy slushies.  He said: "Mom! Egypt is getting more modern!  They sell slushies!"  I had no idea that slushies were a sign of modernity, but whatever.  It was a great moment and time with my kid.  Abby clung on to me during the scary parts of the movie and shared some popcorn with me.  The fab hubby was a bit cheeky and held my hand.  I totally love that we've been married 14 years, and we still hold hands.

Cherishing every moment I can, no matter how small.  But then I realize it IS the small moments we cherish the most...

Crazy hair.  Crazy smile.  Dang, I love him.

Cold Stone Creamery in Cairo?  Yes, please!

And our almost- tween trying to look cool while
digging into his Cold Stone treat.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

12 in 2012 and I'm doing a TDY (Sorta)

Email from The Embassy's Donna, who's practically my neighbor (blogging out of Amman) gave me the coolest idea, which she swiped from somewhere else off the blogosphere.  Top 12 moments of 2012.  I've had major writer's block for the past few weeks (I hate to admit it, but I'm still sulking over my recent arthritis diagnosis), so I've decided that I will grab her idea and use it.

I don't know that I'd classify these as the TOP 12 (because they are NOT all awesome and happy) - but I think I would say they were 12 very influential moments in our household in 2012.  So here goes...

12) We spent the beginning of 2012 enjoying Luxor.   Puking our guts out the entire week preceding our journey, we all somehow managed to not only pull it together to fly, but to actually enjoy our trip to see the temples of Luxor and Karnak.  Karnak was my favorite site we've visited in Egypt.

11) Running and I went head-to-head in March.  I threatened to give it up entirely.  The fab hubby was ever so fabulous and told me I was stupid for even thinking I should do so.  I *heart* him.  He was (of course) right, so I signed up for...

10) A MARATHON!  Go big or go home, right?  Well, in my case, this meant leaving home (Cairo) and going to San Francisco for a long weekend and the Nike Women's Marathon.  And it was awesome.  I'm so proud to have (finally) checked this off my list.  I first thought about doing a marathon way back in 2009 when we lived in L.A.  Some dreams take years to fulfill, and this was definitely one of them.

9) We had a awesome R&R in the U.S., visiting Florida for the kiddos, and Ohio to see our families.  Abby lost her iPad in London's Heathrow Airport on the way to the U.S., but a very kind stranger found it and gave it to lost and found at Heathrow.  We actually got it back in time before we returned to Cairo! Random acts of kindness like this always restore my faith in humanity.

8) I learned how monstrously awful UNITED AIRLINES can be to its travelers.  And I will never forgive them.  They lost our luggage not once but twice, and lied to us about sending it back to us.  They cancelled/changed/delayed five (that's right --- FIVE) of our seven flights and attempted to rebook one of those flights two days later at 11:00PM, effectively leaving us stranded in Dulles Airport.  I cried.  And just when I thought it couldn't get worse, they canceled our tickets back to Cairo without telling us.  Yes, I'm bitter.  Yes, I cried again.  And, oh, as an update it took them FOUR MONTHS to reimburse us a lousy $200 for the items I had to buy while we waited for them to track down our lost luggage.  Do not fly UNITED AIRLINES.

7) The fab hubby and I had an amazing time at prom the Marine Ball this year (it was our 2nd Ball) AND we survived bidding season!  The day before the Ball, Jason accepted a handshake to D.C. for summer 2013.  Bring on the Starbucks.

6) Abby turned seven, Owen turned nine, and Kellen turned two.  And sometimes, all three of them make me feel older than I really am.  Blink and they are no longer babies.  Blink again and they are no longer toddlers.  Everyone says it because it is so true - time flies.  Kids grow way too fast.

5) I had the opportunity to go to Bangkok for the State Department this year, as part of the annual nurse continuing education conference.  It was amazing!  Especially since the only other country I've ever been to outside of the U.S. is Egypt.  I had an awesome week meeting nurses from other embassies and I got to explore Bangkok a bit as well.

4)  My Army Reserve career continues to flourish.  I performed well on my annual physical test (PT), acing the run (of course), and survived the sit-ups (barely) and push-ups testing.  In August, I completed my yearly required Annual Training in Ft. Carson, Colorado. I work there every year in the Emergency Department at Evans Army Community Hospital and I love it.  And in October, just one week after finishing my marathon, I found out I was promoted to Captain!

3) I've struggled the past few months, dealing with a new diagnosis of arthritis. In fact, I only blogged once in December - and it was about my arthritis.  I'm still learning how to cope.  Mostly right now, I'm angry and hurt and I'm still working through the emotions.  It's most likely rheumatoid arthritis, but while my physical symptoms are consistent with the diagnosis, my lab work is not.  I'll be seeing a specialist soon (more info to follow on this - keep reading), so I'm hoping to get a more definitive answer.

2) September 11, 2012.  Benghazi.  Khartoum.  Sanaa.  Tunis.  How do you describe the heartache all of the Foreign Service feels?  The anger.  The sadness.  The fear.  For us, it was incredibly personal, as  our embassy here in Cairo was also attacked.  It's hard to feel safe when your walls have been breached.  It's hard to get back to "normal", wondering if it will happen again.

1) And now for some new news, that which was decided in 2012, but I haven't yet blogged about.

In February, I'll be doing a 6-month "TDY" in Los Angeles, California.  The fab hubby and the kids will finish out the assignment here in Cairo, and we'll all catch back up together in August in Virginia (where we'll be living for at least two years).

Here's the thing(s).  My ER RN certifications are expiring in April (that's right, a mere four months) and I can't renew them in Egypt.  If I don't renew them, then I can't work ER.  And those of you who know me, know I LOVE working in the ER.  It's my career 'home.' It's where I always return. I started as a new grad in trauma, and I always miss it when I'm gone from it.  Now, I absolutely LOVE working for the embassy Health Unit, too!  But if I don't get there certifications re-certified, I flat-out can't work ER when we return to the U.S. (at least until I get new certifications - which is a huge pain in the tuckus, of course).

And yes, it was incredibly hard to make this choice but there were other things involved in this decision, like...

My arthritis (see, I said I'd get back to this topic).  I need a specialist and I need follow-ups and more follow-ups.  It's not likely to be a quick fix.  And I can't get it taken care of in Cairo.  I considered a medevac as an alternative option, but a medevac is short and may not give me all the follow-up I need.  My left hand already has a permanent deformity and I don't want there to be any more.  I'm not taking any chances.  Plus...

My required Army Reserves Annual Training has to be completed no later than October 1, 2013.  And while I could possibly squeak it in there sometime in August or September, we would be full-on-crazy-in-the-middle-of-a-move-back-from-Cairo.  Not to mention both the fab hubby and I would be starting new jobs during this time frame.  AND the kids would be starting a new school.  Planning a trip to Colorado to complete my Army training is the crazy icing on a crazy cake during August/September.  Nope.  It would be near impossible to do if I waited to return to the U.S. in August.

For months, I'd been receiving recruiter emails to work a travel nursing contract.  And I once was a travel nurse (2008 - I went to Bakersfield, CA on a ER contract assignment), and I loved it.  So why not consider it?  The contracts are good in the ER, the timing is perfect, and it gets me back to the U.S. to accomplish all the above items I need to do before we arrive in Virginia in August.  Arthritis specialist.  Annual military training.  ER re-certifications.

Is it hard to leave my kids and hubby for six months?  Dude.  Don't even ask that question.  Because yes!  Yes, it is.  Will my heart ache while I'm missing them?  Yes.  Will I cry? Yes.  But is it best for our family?  YES.  And that is what ultimately drives me (well, actually US) to do it.

How many of us have lived through our spouse doing a TDY for their job, whether 90 days, 6 months, or a full year in AIP (Afghanistan/Iraq/Pakistan)?!  It's done all the time.  (And don't forget - we've actually done it.  The hubby was in Baghdad for a year 2010-2011.)  This is just, well, slightly different in that I'm not going someplace crappy for 6 months.  Really, if you ask me, the fab hubby has the very short end of this stick - he's going to end up doing pack-out all by himself AND flying solo from Cairo to the U.S. with three kids.  Not to mention the six months of solo-parenting he'll be doing.  Ouch.  He's going to have tough job.  Truly, tougher than mine.

But wouldn't you know it, he's on-board with it 100%.  Because we both sat down and talked about it and realized this is what's best for our family.  August will be here soon enough, and we'll be back together as a family, just like we belong.

So there you have it, folks.  2012 in nutshell for us.  Some of it was bad, some of it was good, and some of it was a mix of both.  Just like every other year, huh?  So welcome, 2013.  We're looking forward to a new year.  Lots of changes for us are coming up, but we are ready for them.