Category Archives: Texas

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, Mexico, Paperwork, Texas, 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. 😛 ) 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, NASA, 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

Busy little bee

Hola!  Sorry for the lack of updates.  It’s been busy!  First, the parental units came for a visit.  They were here for about a week and we got to do a lot of sightseeing.  We went to Parliament Hill, Rideau Hall, The War Museum, The Aviation and Space Museum, the RCMP Musical Ride Training Centre, the Diefenbunker, and of course I took them in to see the embassy!

Then I was back in the office for a day before going to Montreal to help with some visitors at the Conference of Montreal.  It was a great visit and a great event, and I even got to catch up with J, a friend from Ciudad Juarez, who’s now posted in Montreal.

Now, I’ve been back in the office for about a week, trying to wrap up loose ends, get things ready for my successor, organize things for my move, etc.  Oh yeah, and new things keep popping up!  So, it’s been a busy few weeks.

However, things keep moving along.  My packout is scheduled.  I’m where I should be with the checkout list.  I’ve made arrangements for most of the things I need to do with my apartment since this is an LQA post, like scheduling my electric and internet account for cancellation when I move out, etc.  And, yesterday, I officially got paneled for the job in Frankfurt.  It’s a long story, but a series of hiccups pushed the paneling this long, but all’s well that ends well. 🙂  I’ve also made hotel reservations for my trip down to Texas for home leave.

So, I now have less than a month left here in Ottawa.  It’s a shame I’m leaving in the middle of the summer, when Ottawa’s so nice.  Summer and fall in Ottawa ALMOST make up for the winters.  Almost. 😉

So, that’s the news here.  Next up, packout, Canada Day, and the 4th of July!

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Filed under 4th of July, Austin, Canada, Canada Day, Family, Frankfurt, Friends, Germany, Home, Home Leave, LQA, Montreal, Moving, Ottawa, Paperwork, Quebec, RCMP, Texas, Travel

Blog slacker

I’ve really been slacking on any kind of substantive updates.  No real excuse, unfortunately.  Things here have been busy, but not so busy that I couldn’t update my blog from time to time.  As I’ve posted, I’ve made it to Toronto and Quebec City for fun in the last couple of months.

Spring has finally arrived in Ottawa.  The snow’s been gone for a bit and sometime in the last two weeks all the leaves started to come out and everything’s all nice and green now.  It’s a very, very welcome change after what even local Ottawans say was an awful winter.

My EER (State Department-speak for annual evaluation) is now in to Washington.

We’ve had a number of official visitors, events, etc. to manage and such.  Canada Day and the 4th of July party are coming up in just over a month.

The wheels are starting to spin toward my departure from Ottawa.  I’ve had my packout survey, the dates are set, and I’ve given notice to my landlord.  I’ve got an appointment to take the Diplocat in for her vaccinations, so there won’t be any problems bringing her back in to the United States. There are still more things to do before I can actually leave, but despite occasional feelings of panic that I’m behind on where I should be with my departure stuff, I do seem to be on track.

I’ve also made reservations for my drive from Ottawa back to Texas for Home Leave.  I’ve signed up for the Hometown Diplomats program and will at the very least talk to students at my old grad school, and possibly some other groups at home.  I’ll also plan to visit friends in Austin and maybe Houston.  I don’t really have plans past that, though.

I have a reservation for where I’m going to stay for my first 60 days at FSI.  I don’t know where I’ll live for the other 8 months I’ll be in DC, but I have some ideas and I have time after I get there to figure it out.  I’ll be assigned to DC, so will have to take possession of all of my stuff, but at least I don’t have to decide what to take to Frankfurt more than a year before I’d actually get there.

I’m paneled for the FSI economics course and have also taken a distance German course to refresh some of my German in preparation for entering German class after the econ course.

And, the Texparents are coming to visit next week!  I’m excited to see them and show them Ottawa.  Then, later in June, L&S, friends from CDJ, will visit Ottawa.

So, it’s shaping up to be a busy last two months!  I’ll try to be a bit better about blogging, but no promises. 😉  I should be able to catch up a bit over home leave though.

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Filed under Canada, Diplocat, EER, Family, Frankfurt, FSI, Germany, Home, Home Leave, LQA, Moving, Ottawa, Paperwork, Snow, Spring, Texas, Transfer, Travel, Vacation, Washington DC, Winter

Dare I say…signs of spring?

There’s still plenty of snow on the ground here, but I’m starting to see a few signs that spring might be coming around, finally.  The temperatures are starting to get in to the 40s (Fahrenheit) and yesterday we had rain instead of snow.  It’ll take awhile for all of the snow to melt, and we could have a few relapses, but it’s heartening that we seem to be done with the worst of it.   Now, we’re just stuck in the awkward shoulder season where’s it’s no longer winter but not quite really spring.

After such a long winter (even the native Ottawans have said how long and bad this winter has been!) I’m looking forward to spring, and then eventually summer here.  It’s pretty amazing how much Ottawa wakes up once the weather starts getting better.  I’m looking forward to enjoying a more vibrant Ottawa.

My departure from Ottawa seems to be sneaking up on me a bit.  I keep thinking about things that will happen here this fall and then realizing that I won’t be here for whatever the thing is.  There are a lot of administrative things I’ll have to do before I leave, so that’ll keep me pretty busy my last few months here.  Oh yeah, and we’ll have a new ambassador who will need us for a few things, too. 😉

I’ve got some housing secured for my first few weeks in DC and will have to see what I want to do for housing for the rest of the time.  I will be assigned to Washington for the FSI Econ Course which means that I won’t be able to participate in the housing program they run for FS folks on TDY between posts.  So, I’m totally on my own for housing this time around, but will be there for less than a year, since I have my onward assignment to Frankfurt lined up, so won’t be able to sign a full year’s lease.  I have some ideas for housing but don’t really want to sign a lease on anything that I haven’t seen personally.  So, I’ll sort out my housing after I get to DC, probably.

I also need to start working on my home leave plans.  I assume that I’ll spend some time in Texas, but I’m not sure if I’ll spend all of my home leave there or if I’ll do any side trips or maybe get to DC for the last week or two of it so that I can do some house hunting before the Econ Course starts.  So, I need to start mapping things out, especially if I want to book any flights anywhere.

So, that’s what’s going on here.  Think warm thoughts for Ottawa!

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Filed under Austin, Canada, Frankfurt, FSI, Germany, Home, Home Leave, Moving, Ottawa, Rain, Snow, Spring, Texas, Washington DC, Winter

Escaping the Ottawinter

I went home to Texas again to see family and to escape the cold, snow, and ice here in Ottawa.  I had a great time seeing my parents, spending some time in Austin, shopping, enjoying the awesome weather (I wore flip flops!), aaaaand going to see the Alamo!!  I went to the Alamo when I was about 10 but didn’t really remember much about the visit.  And, what kind of Texpat can I be if I can’t remember the Alamo?

My flights home went smoothly, but my flights back to Ottawa were a different story.  I was originally scheduled to fly back to Ottawa through Dulles airport in the Washington, DC area on the 21st, but got a notification on the evening of the 20th that my flight from Dulles to Ottawa had been cancelled.  I called the airline’s customer service line and the agent rebooked me on an earlier flight through Dulles that had not been cancelled.  However, that meant that my flight from Austin would leave at 7:20am.  Add in the extra time to drive down to Austin from my parents’ house, get through security, etc. and we had to leave at about 4:30am.  I made it down to Austin, through security, and was waiting for the flight when I got a notification that the new Dulles to Ottawa flight had been cancelled.  The agent rebooked me for a second time on a flight to Ottawa through Chicago…the next day.

So, we went back home to my parents’ and I crashed for a couple of hours.  The flight to Chicago left Austin even earlier, so we had to leave home around 3:30am.  Fortunately, all went well with that flight, and I got to Chicago on time.  However, the flight to Ottawa ended up delayed close to 3.5 hours.  It did, however, eventually get off the ground and I ended up in Ottawa about 30 hours later than intended.  I was exhausted and relieved to get home.  And the diplokitty was very glad to see me. 🙂

So, without further ado, here are a few pictures from the trip.

WiFi and Inspiration.  What more could you want?

WiFi and Inspiration. What more could you want?

The Alamo

The Alamo

Alamo Grounds

Alamo Grounds

Alamo Grounds

Alamo Grounds

Alamo Grounds

Alamo Grounds

Lovely Austin Weather

Lovely Austin Weather

Neat tunnel at the Chicago airport

Neat tunnel at the Chicago airport

Back in Ottawa!

Back in Ottawa!

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Filed under Alamo, Austin, Canada, Chicago, Diplocat, Home, Ottawa, Pictures, San Antonio, Texas, Texpat, Travel, Vacation, Washington DC

Sweet, sweet nectar of the Texpats

From time to time, I make the drive down to go shopping in New York.  Groceries are usually cheaper in New York and there are a few things that I haven’t been able to find here in Canada, though admittedly many U.S. grocery products are available here.

However, I had not been able to find Shiner beer in Watertown or Ogdensburg, NY, the two towns where I tend to shop.  After checking several places in both towns not too long after I got here and not having any luck, I did some research and discovered that Shiner didn’t have a distributor in New York.  Alas!  Then, I saw news that Shiner was coming to New York and got all excited.  However, disappointment struck again when I learned that their distributor only operated in New York City and surrounding areas.  So, imagine my surprise when I wandered in to a grocery store just across the border and saw this glorious sight:

Shiner!

Shiner!

It was amazing.  I am not a huge beer drinker, but Shiner is just one of those things that reminds me of home and is nice to have available when I get a craving every now and then.  It’s nice to know that I don’t have to stock up when I drive further south in to Shiner-land or to hoard it and ration it when I bring it back since it’s now easily accessible.

Happy Shiner Day to me!

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Filed under Canada, Home, Homesick, New York, Ogdensburg, Ottawa, Shiner, Shopping, Texas, Texpat