The Brave Little Toaster

Well, it’s been three weeks since Dad passed away.  I spent two weeks at home and have been back in DC for a week.  The first week was a blur.  There were so many emotions, so many decisions to make, and so many things to do that it all just ran together.  Mom and I would get several things done each day, but we’d eventually hit a wall and would just be too fried to do much else that involved thinking or deciding anything.

We held a visitation on Friday and the funeral was on Saturday.  It was so good to see so many people turn out for both and to hear so many stories from people who knew him from work, community service, etc.  I’d heard some of the stories, but heard a lot of new stories, too.  I was also impressed by the wide range of people who showed up, from the current mayor and a county judge, colleagues from all levels at the agency where Dad worked, friends from church and community service organizations, to a group of mentally handicapped residents from a group home of the agency Dad directed.

The second week was a bit less hectic but still plenty of work to do.  There was stuff to do around the house, administrative things to work on, and things like cleaning out Dad’s office at work.  It seemed like most of the things we set out to do ended up taking longer than expected, but we got a lot done.  It was also a chance for the loss to sink in a bit more and without as much chaos.

Then, Saturday, I headed back to DC and went back to class on Monday.  It’s been good to be back in to a routine, but it’s also weird to be in an environment where everything’s normal and no one else knew Dad or has been affected by Dad’s passing.  I also wish that I could be home and helping my mom with the things that she’s having to do, like finishing cleaning out my Dad’s office, some of the paperwork, etc.  But, everyone’s been very nice and very supportive.  The econ teachers and my classmates have been great about letting me copy notes, helping me catch up, etc.  Nicole at Kids with Diplomatic Immunity took wonderful care of the Diplocat while I was gone and Sadie at Sadie Abroad picked me up at the airport when I got back to DC.  And, many others have checked in on me and offered some type of help.

I’m also back to the unpacking.  My HHE arrived a little over a week before Dad passed away and I left town for two weeks, so there’s still most of it left to unpack and last night I tackled a few of the kitchen boxes.  In one of those boxes was my “Brave Little Toaster.”  When I moved in to my first apartment, my parents gave me some of their old kitchen items and I’ve replaced or upgraded some of them, but I still have a bunch of them.  One of the things that I still have is a metal toaster, not too different from the toaster in the Brave Little Toaster movie, that Dad bought at a garage sale when he was in graduate school.  I’m not sure when he got it, but it must have been in the 1960s, and it was used at that point, so who knows how old the thing is.  It’s a bit annoying to use it because, while the heating coils still work fine, sometimes the lever won’t stay down on its own and you have to stand there and hold it down if you want it to toast something.

But, even before Dad passed away, I couldn’t bring myself to get rid of it because of its history, even though I know a newer toaster would work better, and now I certainly can’t.  Realizing what was in the paper as I unwrapped it, I couldn’t help but tear up and eventually start to full-on cry.   So, even though I’m back to my normal routine and am doing pretty well for the most part, there are still things that trigger some memory or some thought about the permanence of Dad’s passing and result in tears, like finding the Brave Little Toaster that Dad had rescued from some garage sale probably somewhere around 50 years ago, repaired, used for many years, and then passed on to me.

So, the grieving process is a journey with ups and downs and will continue to be so for awhile, I’m sure.

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Filed under Austin, Cancer, Diplocat, Family, Friends, FS Life, FSI, Funeral, Home, Moving, Texas, Transfer, Travel, Unpacking, Washington DC

Gone

Well, in a fairly unexpected turn of events, Dad passed away early Sunday morning.  He had been out of the hospital for about a week and seemed to be recovering well. However, the combination of cancer, recovery from surgery, and other medical issues like diabetes and high blood pressure must have been too much for his body, and he passed away at home early Sunday morning.

I was fortunate to get a flight home Sunday evening and to have a wonderful support network here in Texas, in DC, and around the world who have helped make the process easier by helping where they can and alleviating some worries like cat-care, etc.

The econ course folks have also been wonderful and supportive of me being here at home where I need to be now, without worrying about the coursework.

My mom and I have both been in a bit of a daze but between the two of us and our wonderful support network, we’ve muddled through and are making progress on the laundry list of things to do before the visitation and funeral.

We’ve had such a wonderful outpouring of condolences from friends and family, and it’s been truly touching to hear how many people are thinking of us and to hear from so many people who cared about my dad and who were impacted by his life and work.

There’s still a lot to do and a lot to process, but we’re so fortunate to have so many people who care and are helping us through this difficult time.

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Filed under Austin, Cancer, Diplocat, Family, Friends, FS Life, FSI, Funeral, Home, Texas, Washington DC

Discharged!

Well, Dad was discharged from the hospital on Saturday, which is good news.  He has appointments lined up with the surgeon, the oncologist, and who knows who all else to go over the follow up on his surgery and to discuss options for chemo and/or radiation.  And, he got some good news on Friday that the biopsies that they’d taken on his liver, nearby lymph nodes and other parts of his pancreas all came back negative, which is a good sign.  So, we’ll see how things work out from there.  I still wish I could be there to help out with things as he recovers, though.

My HHE came on Thursday and it went smoothly.  All of the boxes were accounted for and so far no damage, though I still have a lot of boxes to unpack.  It’s been amazing to sleep in my own bed, have my own couch, and just generally feel a bit more settled despite the unpacking to come.  The diplocat is also enjoying climbing on and rummaging through the boxes.

The econ course continues to econ.  It’s a lot of info to absorb and some days my eyes start to glaze over as my brain reaches its saturation point, but I’m learning a lot and keeping my head above water thus far.  So, so far, so good.  We’ll see if I still think that way later on, though.

I’ve also been fighting off a cold for the last week or so.  It hasn’t been awful, but it’s been persistent and has interfered with sleep and generally feeling well.  Friday evening, I almost had myself convinced to go to a clinic on Saturday, but I woke up feeling a lot better on Saturday, I think in part because the weather shifted from being damp and chilly to just chilly, without the dampness.

So, that’s what’s new here.  Hope all’s well in the blogosphere.

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Filed under Austin, Cancer, Diplocat, Family, FSI, Home, Homesick, Moving, Sick, Texas, Texpat, Transfer, Unpacking, Washington DC

The whipple that wasn’t

Well, Dad had surgery on Monday and they found that the tumor had invaded a major blood vessel and that it’s possible that the cancer has spread beyond the main tumor site to other parts of the pancreas.  Since the tumor had invaded blood vessels, they couldn’t safely remove it without risking him bleeding out on the table, so they just closed him back up again.  They’ll have the biopsy results back later this week to see whether it’s spread to other parts of the pancreas.  Obviously, this isn’t good news.

He’s recovering from the surgery now and the next steps will depend somewhat on what they find with the biopsies.  There may be some chemotherapy and radiation options that could reduce the size of the tumor to give him more time and possibly shrink it enough to make it operable.

So, we’ll see what the biopsy results say and what’s next.  I’m glad he made it through the surgery ok, but bummed that they couldn’t remove it and still sad that I can’t be closer to home while this is going on.

In happier news, my HHE comes tomorrow.  Yay for finally being able to sleep in my own bed!  Woot!  I’m sure that the Diplocat will also enjoy investigating the boxes.  :)

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Filed under Austin, Cancer, Diplocat, Family, FS Life, FSI, Home, Homesick, Moving, Texas, Unpacking, Washington DC

Sometimes, several days attack at once…

Well, this last week and a half has been a doozy.  It’s reminded me of a refrigerator magnet I once saw that said “I try to take one day at a time, but some times several days attack me at once.”

The promotion lists came out on Wednesday and unfortunately, I didn’t get promoted.  I can look around and see that I’m in some very good company with some excellent colleagues from my A-100 class and from Ciudad Juarez, and I think it’s likely in part due to the much lower promotion rates now than a few years ago due to the hiring surge.  It still stings, especially after taking one for the team and going to Ciudad Juarez at the height of the violence and doing good work there.  But, since I can look around and see that I’ve got a lot of good company and it was rough going for a lot of people, I feel a little less bummed.

That news came less than a week after I got another, and honestly much more serious, piece of bad news.  Last Thursday, I found out that my dad has pancreatic cancer.  Cancer is never good, but some are more treatable and less aggressive than others.  Pancreatic cancer, unfortunately, falls in the less treatable and more aggressive category.  From his scans, the tumor likely can be removed with surgery, but it’s a difficult operation involving multiple organs and a long recovery, and it’s still possible that they could find something that didn’t show up on the scans when they perform the surgery.  Even if things go as well as can be expected and they’re able to remove the entire tumor with surgery, the five-year survival rates for pancreatic cancer are still a lot lower than many other types of cancer.

So, it’s rough news.  I’m scared that he might not make it through the surgery and that he might not have much time left, even if everything goes very smoothly with the surgery.  It hurts to be so far away from my parents as they’re going through this.  I wish I could be closer to help with things and spend time with them.  But, I have a job that keeps me in DC.  At least I’m close enough that I’ll be able to go home for holidays, and will be able to make it home relatively quickly if the need arises.  Still, it does make me wish that I could live a little closer to home, at least for a while.

As a result of all of this, I’ve just wanted to hide under the covers and pretend that the last week and a half never happened.  Here’s hoping there’s no more bad news for awhile.

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Filed under Austin, Cancer, Ciudad Juarez, EER, Family, FS Life, FSI, Holidays, Home, Homesick, Paperwork, Texas, Washington DC

Pumpkin Spice Madness!

Is it just me, or has the United States gone nuts with pumpkin spice EVERYTHING?  In Juarez, I did most of my grocery shopping in El Paso and in Ottawa I did most of my grocery shopping there, but did go down to shop in upstate New York from time to time.  And, even though I did most of my Ottawa grocery shopping in Ottawa, Canadian grocery stores aren’t that different than U.S. grocery stores.  So, I haven’t really felt disconnected from the American shopping experience.

However, one of the things that really stands out to me now that I’m back in DC and doing all of my grocery shopping here is the proliferation of pumpkin spice everything.  I’m familiar with and enjoy Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice drinks and have seen other pumpkin spice foods, but this year it seems like I can’t walk two feet in the grocery store without encountering something else pumpkin spice.  Thus far, I’ve seen pumpkin spice flavored cookies, M&Ms, PopTarts, coffee, coffee creamer, tea, yogurt, ice cream, peanut butter, and goodness knows what all else.  It’s everywhere!

So, is it just me or have the grocery stores gone especially pumpkin spice crazy this year?

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Filed under Autumn, FSI, Observation of the Day, Shopping, Washington DC

Radio Silence

It’s been awhile since I last posted.  I fully expected to blog about my home leave adventures, but when I would sit down to write about it, I found I just didn’t want to write it up.  I think that, honestly, I didn’t want to admit that it was temporary and would be over soon.  It was just so great to be HOME.  Yes, HOME in all capital letters.  The Washington, DC area is great in many ways and I was definitely looking forward to the Econ Course and to Frankfurt, but neither DC nor Frankfurt is HOME, no matter how wonderful they may be and no matter how settled I may eventually get in my time in either place.  So, I just didn’t want to jinx it or admit that it was a temporary thing.

But, Home Leave was in fact temporary (shocking that the State Department won’t let me stay on vacation indefinitely and keep paying me, I know. :P ) and I’ve now made it back up to the DC area.  So, picking up where I left off almost two months ago, here we go.

The Diplocat and I continued on our road trip homeward and stopped in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma to visit some family there.  I got to see family and friends there, and also stayed in my Grandmother’s old house, which will likely be sold by the next time I go back to Oklahoma City.  My grandmother passed away just a few weeks before I started A-100 in 2009, so it seemed fitting to spend some time there in between assignments.  It was also good to catch up with family that I hadn’t seen while I was in Canada.

After a few days there, the Diplocat and I continued on home to Texas.  Again, it was good to be HOME.  It was good to be able to spend a solid chunk of time at home, to reconnect with friends and my parents, to attend church at my home church, to eat a lot of yummy foods that I’d missed like Tex-Mex, Mexican, BBQ, Blue Bell ice cream, Big Red soda, etc.  It was nice to shop in familiar stores that I’d missed.  It was nice to not need the GPS because I knew where I was going, etc.  In short, it was just good to be HOME.

Some of the more interesting things I did were speaking about the State Department and the Foreign Service at Rotary Clubs and to incoming students at my grad program.  Also, on the way back to DC, I stopped in Houston to visit some friends from when I spent a semester interning there.

The drive back up to DC went well, aside from the Diplocat’s incessant meowing.  She’s lucky she’s cute and cuddly, or else she miiiiight have been thrown out of the car.  Meowever, we both made it to DC and she seems to have forgiven me for putting her through all of the driving.  I shudder to think what flying to Frankfurt with her will be like, but at least it’s only one flight and only one day, and maybe the plane noise will drown out her yowling or freak her out enough that she stays quiet.  A girl can dream, right?

I’m now a week in to the Econ Course and so far it’s gone well.  The first week was mostly administrative things (timekeeping, laptop security, and travel vouchers, oh my!) and math that we’ll need when we get in to more of the econ topics.  My classmates have a variety of experiences, and I think it’ll be good to learn with and from them.  The schedule is also nice.  I’m in class from 9-4 most days, with homework each night.  It’s nice to have a little more flexible schedule, where I can do my homework right away after class, or go run an errand that needs to be done during business hours and then do my homework later in the evening.

It’s also nice to be back at FSI and see friends that I haven’t seen in a long time.  I’ve reconnected with grad school friends in the DC area and FS friends, too.  It’s sometimes hard to get things done at FSI because you keep bumping in to friends you haven’t seen in awhile and chatting with them about what they’ve been up to since last you saw them, instead of getting whatever task you set out to do done.  I’ve bumped in to Juarez friends who’ve gotten married and had kids since I last saw them!  People who had newborns in A-100 five years ago now have kindergarteners.  Craziness, I tell you!  So, it’s good to catch up with folks and see what’s new and exciting with them.

And, while the DC area may not be HOME, it’s still a nice place to spend a few months.  I’m looking forward to doing some sightseeing and enjoying some of the neat events that happen here.

So, that about catches us up with what’s happened since last I blogged in July.  Hope all’s well in the blogosphere.  :)

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Filed under Austin, Blue Bell, Canada, Diplocat, Family, Frankfurt, Friends, FSI, Germany, Home, Home Leave, Houston, Moving, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oklahoma City, Ottawa, Shiner, Texas, Texpat, Transfer, Travel, Unpacking, Vacation, Washington DC

And just like that, it was over

Well, Friday was my last day at Embassy Ottawa.  Just like that, my (not quite) two year tour is over.  It’s bittersweet, because there are a lot of things that I’ll miss about Canada, Ottawa, and my time there, but also exciting because I’m looking forward to reconnecting to friends, family, and Mexican food on home leave, the Econ course and reconnecting with friends in the DC area, and then eventually to Frankfurt.  So, there’s a lot to look forward to.

My last week at work was spent mostly wrapping up loose ends at work, working through the massive checkout list, and seeing friends one last time.  I also got to see Mosaika, a light show they do on Parliament Hill each summer.  I saw it when I first arrived, and now again right before I left.  Seems fitting.

It’s quite a bit to write out, but actually leaving Ottawa was not without some excitement.  The night before I left, the fire alarm at the hotel went off around midnight.  I was actually putting some things in my car in the parking garage when the alarm went off and had to dash up 14 flights of stairs to try to get to the cat, because the elevators were out of service due to the alarm.  Of course, with all the noise from the alarm, the cat had hidden herself and I couldn’t find her anywhere and so I worried that she’d left the room when I left with my hands full to take things ot the car.  Fortunately, she eventually came out of her hidey spot and they eventually said that the fire alarm was a false alarm.  And, on top of that, the elevator from the lobby down to the parking garage was out of service, so that made for many trips up and down those stairs to load the car.  But, Saturday morning, I eventually made it out of Ottawa.

So, now I’m in a hotel in Ohio with the Diplocat and we’ll keep chugging along until we get home to Texas.  She’s been serenading me almost the whole way both days.  It’s so thoughtful of her to think that I might not like the music on the radio and to come up with her own mew-sic.  Anyone know if you can FedEx a cat from Ohio to Texas?  Asking for a friend, of course. ;)

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Filed under Austin, Canada, Diplocat, Family, Frankfurt, Friends, FSI, Germany, Home, Home Leave, Moving, Ohio, Ottawa, Texas, Transfer, Travel, Washington DC

Three strangers took my stuff!

Well, packout has come and gone.  Three strangers came and took 98% of my stuff and I was actually happy about it.  It all seemed to go smoothly enough and my preparation of putting a lot of things in to bags and totes seems to have speeded things along.  We’ll see how everything fares and how things turn up when I get my stuff in DC.  Whenever I start worrying about that, though, I repeat to myself “It’s just stuff and you got the good insurance.”

I didn’t do anything super-exciting for Canada Day, since I was in full-on packout prep mode, but a friend did invite me over and it was nice to relax for a bit and spend a couple hours with her and a few of her friends.

The 4th of July party went really well, as far as I could tell.  There was a great turnout and the weather was wonderful.  People seemed to have a really good time and I got to see a lot of the people I wanted to see, though it was such a big party, it was hard to find everyone.

I also neglected to mention in my previous entry that my friends L & S visited a couple of weeks ago.  We were all in Ciudad Juarez together, and now they’re posted in Northern Africa and were on an R&R trip to the U.S. and Canada.  It was really great to catch up with them and we did some fun things like see the actual RCMP Musical Ride performance and go to the Museum of Civilization.  Mostly though, it was just really great to catch up with them.  Going through an experience like CDJ forges some pretty close bonds and then it’s hard when your really good friends are spread out around the world and you see them so infrequently.  Fortunately, modern communication technologies make it easier to stay in touch than in the past, but they still don’t replace the face to face time.  So, anyhoo, it was great to see them.

And, since my apartment is now empty, I’ve moved in to a hotel for the rest of my time in Ottawa and will spend the next while sorting out things at work and getting everything ready to make the transition to my successor as easy as possible.   Then, I start the epic trip back to the Austin-area for home leave followed by another trek back to Washington, DC to start the econ course at FSI.  The Diplocat has handled the transition to the hotel well but little does she know about the epic road trip that awaits her. ;)

Hope all’s well in the blogosphere. :)

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Filed under 4th of July, Austin, Canada, Canada Day, Diplocat, Friends, FSI, Home, Home Leave, Moving, Ottawa, RCMP, Texas, Transfer, Washington DC

Burn it all!

I have officially reached the “burn all the belongings and start over again” phase of packout preparation.  The hassle of organizing all my stuff, the prospect of unpacking and reorganizing all of it in Washington, and the worry about something getting damaged or going missing en route has reached a point where I just want to burn it or toss it all out and start over.  Of course, I won’t do that.  It’d be too expensive for one thing.  And, it’d be hard to burn the stuff without setting the whole apartment on fire.  Still.  I’m ready for this whole move thing to be done.  I’m a little bummed that I’ll probably miss out on the fun Canada Day festivities since I’ll be busy with packing prep, but so it goes.

Other than that, things are going well.  I’ve gotten a bunch of giant ziploc bags and ziploc totes and they’re making the organization part of packing a bit easier.  Hopefully, they’ll both protect my stuff from dust and moisture, and also keep the things I want to stay together, together.  So, for example, the fitted sheet doesn’t end up in one box and the flat sheet and pillow cases in another.  We shall see.

And, there are plenty of things at work to sort out, too.  Lots of loose ends to tie up and lots of administrative hoops to jump through before I can make it out of here.  And preparations for the 4th of July party.  But, it’s moving along.

So, that’s what’s new here.  I think the next stage of packout preparation is the “wine” phase. ;)

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Filed under 4th of July, Canada, Canada Day, FSI, LQA, Moving, Ottawa, Transfer, Unpacking, Washington DC