I put up my Christmas tree tonight. I didn’t get around to it last year, but this year, I had time this weekend, and with the snowy weather today and not much else on my to-do list, I felt motivated to get the tree and decorations out of the storage unit downstairs and put them all up. 🙂
I normally enjoy decorating my Christmas tree, but partway through decorating it this evening, a wave of sadness passed over me. Many happy memories of decorating the tree with Mom and Dad, and of many Christmas road trips to visit family in other states flooded back. Normally, that would be happy, right? But, at that moment, all I could think about was how Dad wouldn’t be part of any future memories and that I was halfway around the world from Mom. Most days, I’m fine. Even though he often crosses my mind, most of the time, I don’t get too sad anymore when I think of Dad. And, modern technology is such that I can stay in close contact with Mom, and we’ve seen each other twice in the last six months. So, most days, that’s not that hard either. But, sometimes, it hits you like a ton of bricks. Or a Christmas tree.
Filed under Cancer, Christmas, Family, Frankfurt, FS Life, Funeral, Germany, Holidays, Home, Homesick, Observation of the Day, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oklahoma City, Snow, Technology, Texas, Texpat, Winter
I’ve been lousy about updating. And, I can’t promise that I’ll be much better in the future. But, a lot has happened over the last year and a bit, so I’ll at least do a quick run-down of some of the highlights.
- Spent seven weeks in Berlin as part of a really cool program organized by the German Foreign Office for “young” diplomats.
- Traveled to Istanbul, Bucharest, Amsterdam, Luxembourg City, Madrid, and Split for fun.
- Traveled to Berlin, Hamburg, Stuttgart, and Munich for work.
- Covered for my boss for three months while she was out on maternity leave.
- Also covered for two of our locally engaged staff who were out for significant parts of that time.
- Got promoted (finally).
- Visited my host families in Belgium.
- Worked my first Secretary of State visit.
- Worked the Vice President’s first trip overseas as VP.
- Worked a ridiculous number of other visits.
- Wrote some cables.
- Went home to Texas twice.
Looking forward, I have a couple of trips planned in the next couple of months and some thoughts about some other travel goals for my last year or so here. My boss will rotate back to DC and her successor will arrive this summer. I’ll bid on my next assignment this fall. And, I’m sure plenty of other stuff will pop up.
If the motivation strikes, I may write up some of what’s happened over the last year in more detail, but sadly can’t guarantee I’ll get around to it. But I’ll at least try not to wait another year to update this thing. 😛
Filed under Amsterdam, Belgium, Berlin, Bidding, Bucharest, Croatia, Family, Frankfurt, Germany, Hamburg, Holidays, Home, Istanbul, Luxembourg, Luxembourg City, Madrid, Munich, Pictures, Romania, Spain, Split, Stuttgart, Texas, Texpat, The Netherlands, Travel, Turkey, Vacation
Well, true to form, I’ve been bad about updating my blog. The last three months have been pretty busy and I’ve had a chance to do some traveling, too. And, I had my first visitors!
October continued to be quite busy with official U.S. government visitors, primarily from DC, but also from Berlin. In November, the consulate’s Marine Security Guards held their annual ball and I went to Brussels, Belgium for training. December was a bit slower, as both U.S. and German contacts were on vacation for much of the time.
Christmas was really, really nice. My mom came to visit for about 10 days and we made it to three different Christmas markets, did some sightseeing in and around Frankfurt, and also visited Munich for a couple of days. My aunt also came for a couple of days.
And, on New Years’ weekend, a friend of mine from Ciudad Juarez, who is now posted in Berlin, came to visit and we did some sightseeing in and around Frankfurt.
So, it’s been a busy few months and I’m still very much enjoying my tour here in Frankfurt.
Without further ado, here are some pictures from the last couple of months.
Munich’s Christmas Market
Frankfurt’s Christmas Market
Brussels City Hall
USMC Birthday Ball
Downtown Frankfurt at Night
Filed under Belgium, Berlin, Brussels, Christmas, Ciudad Juarez, Family, Frankfurt, Friends, Germany, Holidays, Mexico, Moving, Munich, Pictures, Thanksgiving, Winter
The Christmas to New Years week is one of the few times that students at FSI are actually allowed to take annual leave, so I decided to avail myself of this option and went home to Texas for a little over a week. It was really nice to be home and spend time with my mom, friends, and other relatives.
It was definitely weird not to have Dad there. I think the best way to describe it is that he was conspicuous in his absence. Dad really liked to cook and saw holidays as a chance to really go all out in his cooking. If he had been there, there would have been lists, lots of different snacks, a fire in the fireplace, etc. Mom and I are both a little more low-key on those things, so it was just quieter overall. Going to church on Christmas eve was also hard, since that’s something that we’d always done as a family and it was the first time for me to be back in our church there since Dad’s funeral.
It was, however, just good to be home and spend some quality time there. Mom and I test drove a few cars, since she’s eventually in the market for a new (to her, at least) car sometime in the next few months or so. I had some good Tex-Mex and barbecue, and just generally enjoyed the break from the econ course, spending time with family, and being home.
In non-vacation news, I’ve worked out a tentative arrival date in Frankfurt, have reached out to a couple of the offices at post that are involved in the transfer office, and so on. So, things are moving along towards my departure in a little over five months. So, that’s exciting!
The econ course continues to march on. We’re working on money and banking now, and it’s interesting stuff. Next week, we’ll start on development economics, which should also be interesting. It continues to be a lot of work, and I was very grateful for the break around Christmas, but it’s interesting and I can see how a lot of it will be useful in future posts.
All in all, things here are going well. Hope all’s well out in the blogosphere.
Filed under Austin, Cancer, Christmas, Family, Frankfurt, FSI, Funeral, Germany, Holidays, Home, Shiner, Texas, Vacation, Washington DC, Winter
I’d originally planned on not going home for Thanksgiving since I could only take the Friday after Thanksgiving off due to FSI’s leave policy and flying on a holiday weekend for such a short amount of time just didn’t seem like a great idea. But, when Dad got diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in September, I decided to go home because who knew if it might be his last and certainly it was easier to get home to Texas from DC than it would be next year coming from Frankfurt. So, I booked my Thanksgiving flight to Austin in September.
While I was home after Dad passed away, we talked about our plans for Thanksgiving and ended up deciding to spend it with family in Oklahoma City, rather than my mom and I staying home and having Thanksgiving just the two of us. Staying home or even going to Thanksgiving dinner at our church there seemed like it would just exacerbate the feeling of loss. So, I changed my flight to fly in to Dallas Love Field, which was about halfway between home and Oklahoma City. It’s a nice little airport but I hadn’t used it until I flew back to DC after Dad’s funeral since, for quite a long time, the Wright amendment had limited flights out of Love Field to just a few states. However, that restriction was lifted in October, and there’s now a non-stop flight on Southwest between Love Field and Washington’s National airport. I was worried that snow on the east coast would cause problems with my flight, but it went smoothly and Mom picked me up there on the way to Oklahoma City and away we went.
We stayed at my grandmother’s house there in Oklahoma City, which had recently been nearly emptied out in an estate sale (my grandmother passed away in 2009), so sleeping arrangements were creative involving recliners, air mattresses, and such. In an unexpected wrinkle, my aunt and uncle who’d planned on hosting family for Thanksgiving dinner had just moved houses and unfortunately their oven self destructed instead of self-cleaned so we ended up going out for Thanksgiving dinner and then back to their house to visit afterward. It was still a little weird to me to not have Dad there, but it was really good to spend it with family and I’m glad we went.
The day after Thanksgiving, we joined my aunt and uncle, cousins and their kids at the horse race track in Oklahoma City and visited some more. I didn’t make any bets, but it was fun to watch the horses race. Then, on Saturday, we went to the Oklahoma City Science Center, which we used to go to frequently when I was younger. It was fun to see the new exhibits as well as some favorites from my childhood.
On Sunday, we packed back up and headed down to Dallas where Mom dropped me off for my flight home which fortunately also went smoothly. So, all in all a successful Thanksgiving! It was definitely a little difficult to not have Dad there but I had a good time and it was great to spend it with family. 🙂
Filed under Austin, Cancer, Dallas, Family, Frankfurt, FSI, Funeral, Germany, Holidays, Home, Oklahoma, Oklahoma City, Texas, Thanksgiving, Travel, Washington DC
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.
Filed under Austin, Cancer, Ciudad Juarez, EER, Family, FS Life, FSI, Holidays, Home, Homesick, Mexico, Paperwork, Texas, Washington DC
Mewy Christmas from Catnada!
I’m a bit late writing about it, but I went home to Texas for Thanksgiving and it was wonderful. I hadn’t been home since last Christmas and it was good to be home, to go to church, to see my family, to consume foods from several of the key Texas food groups, and to get some (slightly) warmer weather.
It was snowing as I left Ottawa, but I still managed to miss the really nice weather central Texas had the week before and the week after I was there. The weather hovered around freezing and was grey and rainy for the first few days I was there. It did get warmer in the last part of the week, but not quite warm enough to wear my flip flops.
I did take a couple of pictures while I was home, so here we go:
Lovely weather at the Ottawa Airport before I left
My parents’ dog is so shy! 😉
Mmmmm, Shiner Cheer!
Texas, where even the beer wears camo.
First reindeer car sighting of the season
Diet Dr Pepper from the fountain, as it should be.
Texas is prepared for zombie attacks
Sadly, this was too big to fit in my carry on.
All the pretty Shiners!
Santa also wears camo in Texas
My parents’ cat and I warmed our toes in front of the fire.
Aaaaand we’re back in toasty Ottawa.
Happy Easter, everybody! Hope everyone has a wonderful Easter.
Good Friday and Easter Monday are holidays here in Ottawa, so the embassy is closed for both of them, which makes for a four-day weekend for me. The weather has been really nice, so it’s been a nice break, but there’s still a lot of snow laying around and I really wish it would just go away so we could move on with spring and summer weather.
However, as part of the holiday weekend, a lot of stores were closed in Ottawa on Good Friday. After driving by four very obviously closed grocery stores, I went home and decided that I’d just go shopping on Saturday, even though there were a few things I really wanted on Friday. However, after awhile, I remembered that the rules were a bit different in Quebec and did a little googling and found grocery stores that were open over there. Success! So, I went over to Hull to go grocery shopping and got what I was after. 🙂
That makes two trips to Quebec this week, since I also went to Montreal for the day on Wednesday for a few work meetings. Montreal was really neat and I’ll have to go back on my own sometime when I can do some sightseeing and not just run from meeting to meeting.
I also took the train for the first time in Canada on my trip to Montreal. I’ve taken plenty of trains in Europe when I lived in Germany and Belgium, but this was my first time to take a train in North America. It worked really well and was a lot easier than dealing with parking, driving in an unfamiliar city, etc.
I went home to Texas for a week around Christmas and it was great to be home. I saw family and friends, ate Tex-Mex food, drank Shiner Bock and Shiner Cheer, ate Blue Bell ice cream, went shopping, and had an all around great time. It was 73F when I got off of the plane in Austin and I promptly stuffed my big down coat in to my suitcase and busted out my flip flips for most of the week.
I love it here in Ottawa, but there’s a certain ease about being at home where you don’t have to navigate a new and different city and culture. There are a lot of similarities between the United States and Canada, but there are also differences, and even within the United States, there are a lot of regional differences. Even with embassy colleagues from other parts of the United States, I still have to explain myself when I say things like “fixin’ to.” A little light bulb went off in my head when I said “fixin’ to” in a store in Austin and got no odd response from the store clerk. I’ve used the expression when talking to Foreign Service colleagues from other parts of the United States and gotten funny looks or responses and had to explain myself. So, it was nice to be back home where that explanation wasn’t necessary.
Anyhoo, now I’m back in snowy Ottawa. Before I went home to Texas and while I was there, Ottawa got a lot of snow and a decent chunk of it is still around. We’ve had some days above freezing which has melted some of it, but there’s still a lot left over. I’ve gotten quite good at bundling up and trudging through the snow and slush, and have even managed to get around to some fun winter activities like ice skating. So, while I’m still not a full winter convert, I’m making it through my first Canadian winter well enough so far. We’ll see what the next month or two brings in terms of winter though!