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, August 16, 2015

Separated Frequently, but Never Really Apart

Nearly 20 years together.
Way back in March, 2008, I packed up my car and drove cross-country from Ohio to California.  I was in my early 30's, had been married for nine years, and had two young kids.  No one accompanied me on this trip, which would last four months.

The fab hubby had accepted a job with Department of State and was scheduled to begin his nine months of training in Washington DC in July 2008.  I'd been working as an ER nurse in a busy trauma center for a little over a year and had been offered a lucrative 14-week contract assignment in Bakersfield, California.  The contract assignment would finish just before he'd set off for training.

Many friends and family thought we were a touch crazy.  Me headed away from my family for a job for such a long time, only to be followed by the fab hubby setting off solo for an extended period of time to start a career with the Foreign Service.  Truthfully, maybe, *just maybe,* we also thought we were a bit crazy.  Neither I nor the fab hubby liked the idea of being separated for so long.  And we worried about the kids (who were only five and three; the idea of a third kid hadn't even entered our minds at the time).

We especially worried about the kiddos.  But when we sat down and crunched the financial numbers, my contract assignment brought us in the extra cash we needed, as well as the travel nurse experience I wanted to add to my resume for further job opportunities.  Jason's new job with the Foreign Service seemed like the adventure we wanted for our family, and the required training was just part of the package. It seemed MORE crazy for the kids and me to follow him to DC (and other various training sites) for the nine months of his required training, and so we hung back in Ohio until his first posted assignment.

First night home on R&R!
2008 was sort of the marker for the beginning of separations.  We were naive and didn't really realize how often it would happen.  Or maybe I should say I was naive and didn't realize how often it would happen.  Looking back, the fab hubby was honest and up-front about the job options overseas (and those posts we would be unable to accompany him to if assigned), the likelihood of frequent TDY's (temporary duty assignments), as well as the necessity of travel on his part.  I was crazy ready to see the world and in the big picture of this in my mind, it didn't really seem like we would spend all that much time apart.

But in reality, we've spent nearly 50% of our time so far in the Foreign Service physically separated.

Our time in the Foreign Service.

I never really thought that I would be one of those wives who would identify herself so strongly with her husband's job.  But the Foreign Service is really a family lifestyle choice as well as an individual career, as I've personally found.  At times, it's even been a career choice for me.  I honestly don't think I could pin down at what point I started using phrases like "we bid" and "we'd like to be assigned to..." I don't know at what point I considered myself "in the Foreign Service," but honestly it was a pretty natural transition.  When I meet other State employees or EFMs (Eligible Family Members), I always get weirdly giddy and say "We're in the Foreign Service, too!"

Someone missed his Daddy very much.
Today, I dropped the Fab Hubby off at the airport for his 36-hour journey back to Baghdad.  This is the sixth time in his career I've dropped him off at the airport for a flight to Baghdad.  I don't think I could accurately remember the number of times I've dropped him at the airport for his various TDY assignments, trainings, or other sundry travels.  Today's flight marks the end of his first R&R of our year's unaccompanied tour.

Yes, unaccompanied tours completely suck, as I've mentioned before.  No matter how many times you do them, it never really gets any easier.  But the R&R's are definitely one of those things that truly make an assignment like Baghdad more manageable.

We're often asked how our marriage can withstand the test of frequent separations; the stress of moving; our near future essentially unknown (seriously --- we have no idea where we'll be this time next year).  I think those are reasonable inquiries.  It IS hard on a family and a marriage when those things that many consider concrete ("home", time together, etc.) and fundamental to a couple are constantly in flux.

I'm not sure there are any easy answers to this.  Maybe, mostly, it comes down to us.  That we BOTH agree that what we're doing is important and meaningful.  That we BOTH agree that it is important to us to show our children the world, the beautiful differences and similarities of cultures, and for them to grow up understanding they they can make a difference in this world.  And of course, that we BOTH love and support each other in all this craziness.  It's an adventure that we're doing together, just as any other couple growing older together is doing each and every day.  Ours just happens to be a roving adventure.

Jason's had a whirlwind of an R&R.  He arrived home in mid-July and left just five days later with the kids to road trip to Ohio for some camping and to catch up with family and friends.  I stayed in Virginia (I have a full-time job, yo!) during this time.  However, he arrived back here in Virginia just a little over a week later, sans kids (thanks, grandparents!).  Which gave me and the fab hubby SEVEN FULL KID-FREE DAYS TOGETHER.

I was even able to take three days off work leading into this past weekend.  During which we hopped into the car and drove to Virginia Beach for some much-deserved time together.  Our hotel was directly on the beach and everything we needed was within walking distance.  It was completely glorious.

We've been married for nearly 17 years.  And yeah, a bunch of our "vacation" conversations revolved around the kids (we did miss those little boogers, even though we were so grateful to get some solo time) and bidding and where we'll be hoping to head to next.  [It's bidding season, yo!]

But we also talked about so much other stuff.  Of buying that perfect piece of paradise for our retirement (even though it's in 15 years or so!), of my little dream of opening a coffee shop when we *finally* settle down in retirement (ha!), of all the places we'd like to visit (not necessarily to live in), and of past happy memories.  I can't even count the number of times we said "remember when...?"  We talked of everything and of nothing.  And just basked in being together.

Honestly, looking back at all our years together, it's a little painful when I realize just how much time we spend separated.

And, I just achingly miss him. When he's gone, I kinda feel like a piece of me is missing.  I mean,  I don't spend all my time sorrowful and moody when we're separated.  But on days like this, when I've just spent a glorious seven amazing days with him, it is even more difficult saying goodbye.  Today was one of the worst airport drop-offs I've done.  I frankly just wasn't ready to give up more of our time.

I know we'll get through this separation.  Because we always do.  The days will turn to weeks and then the weeks to months.  And then it will be November, and suddenly he'll be home for his second R&R and (more importantly!) we'll be mid-point through the year of separation.

We're so good together, and even though we're frequently physically separated by distance, we are never really apart.  Maybe THAT is what truly makes all of this awesome craziness doable.

Balcony of our hotel on the BEACH!

It was so hard leaving this view!

Fireworks -- the view from our balcony!

Seriously, very awesome.

Together, as we should be.


  1. My heart is smiling for you in reading this. Hoping for a smooth and fast arrival of the next R&R. And you are right, physical distance is not the measure of emotional closeness.

  2. Hello,
    I am in the process of testing for the foreign service and the UT is one of the big issues that my wife and I have had to consider when looking at this line of work. Your blog has been really helpful. Do you mind if I ask what your husband does in the FS?