A little of THIS and a little of THAT

Initially I started this blog as a way of sharing my experiences overseas with those that were interested...however so much has happened over the last two years, including more travelling to foreign destinations, revelations of some kind or other, and experiences I thought others could learn from that I decided to mix it all up.

I hope that somewhere you'll find something that interests you and that you'll be able to learn from.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

One Year Later - Russia Update

Ok well here’s a short update for those of you back home who are always wondering what is going on with us. It’s quick and to the point. I haven’t felt much like writing lately; hence why my overseas journal hasn’t been posted in well over a few months, not much work has gone into it. I had thought about seeing if I could get it published over the summer in a magazine, piece by piece, but I have no desire right now to right up a proposal. HELP anyone. So here’s our Russian update, not well thought out, not well written out, but none the less done.

It has officially been one year since our posting to Moscow and I think it’s safe to say that we’re starting, yes just starting to settle in nicely.

We know enough of the language to get by. The basics that allow us to get what we want from the grocery store, from a restaurant or at the hairdresser. We can enjoy recreational activities with ease outside the home. This summer we had the pleasure of visiting Victory Park, Gorky Park, and the Sculpture Park, a small amusement park of sorts with rides, games, and walking trails, and the Zoo. Ron and I also got some time alone to see the Russian National Dance show and Elton John in concert. Next on our list is Riverdance.

Russia was never a spot I would have thought to come to for a vacation. After being here the last year though, I can say that if you like architecture, old European charm and culture, Russia has it all and not seeing it means you’re missing out.
We have eaten at a few restaurants in Moscow, a couple different ethnic restaurants which were tasty and priced well, our all time go to’s like Pizza Hut (well priced enough), Hard Rock Cafe (overpriced), and TGI Fridays (overpriced and wow does the service suck big time). We also have found our favourite restaurant, Chinese, super good, non greasy, but SUPER and I mean SUPER expensive. This is a once a year, maybe twice a year treat, and WITHOUT the kids.

Being here is all about knowing where to go, and what to buy. Some things are more expensive, others are cheaper. Some of the food is better than back home, some of it is not quite the same, and some of it is just worse. Between the good food here, Stockmen’s, PJ’s and good friends back home (thank you Shannon) I can get whatever I want or need within reason. There really isn’t much I can’t find or that we miss.
The people here well it’s hard to explain. When we first got here, I thought they were grumpy and mean; but the more Russian I learn and try to speak, and the more the sun shines, the nicer they become. We will see in a few weeks when winter hits if I still feel the same or not.

Being in Russia is like an extended overseas tour. You’re all excited when you get here to meet new people, excited when you’ve been here and new people come in, but then that excitement wears off and you just don’t want to be around them anymore. Thank goodness for vacations. We’ve taken three so far, Rome and Pompei, Egypt and Poland and Prague. In August we had planned to go on another vacation to Turkey, but we thought it best to go home. My grandma has not been doing well and the kids really missed Canada.

We had a great time visiting family, and taking the kids to all the places we visited when we were children. Our favourite places were Canada’s Wonderland and Marine Land. Anthony has in all his glory meeting new cousins for the first time and seeing old ones again. Robbie was just glad being able to understand people around him again, walk a few inches without mom calling him back, and going on his first real rollercoaster.

Coming back was actually easy though, and it’s kinda odd to say that we missed “home”. Yes Russia is now home for us. It’s where we live and where we are a family.

The kids this year are doing better in school. Robbie has brought home a couple lower than expected marks, his math though is doing remarkably well, and we have bribed him with a Mac Book for Christmas if he gets straight B’s on his next report card. Anthony’s teacher this year is nothing short of amazing, and I feel really good that she is the one that is around my son daily. Anthony himself is showing such an increase in his liking for school, for writing and for reading. He wants to be involved and is asking to do things like writing out words, or doing his school projects (yes even in Kindergarten they have projects to do, two so far this year), and is more confident in what he does. He is a little leader and always wants to help, no change there. Also no change is his lack of energy if that is even the right word. So far he is doing better this year, but he doesn’t like to raise his hand, and always needs to be encouraged for his work.

First break is quick approaching, ok, to be honest, it’s here. We leave in one day for Canary Islands. I’m pretty sure this is where I started off last year with our first trip. So I think this is a good place to end off for now. Update to follow.

We miss you all back home.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

I don't wanna be fat no more

Ok so apparently for once my brain has fallen flat and I can't even think of a creative title for this blog. I would like to steal a friends Blog title and use "Fat No More", but didn't for three reasons. Number 1, it's his. Number 2, although it's not plagerising, it's 2 words away from plagerising, and Number 3, it's not very fitting, cause I'm still fat.

Anyway, as I was saying.

I always said I would kill myself if I my weight reached 160 lbs, of course that was when I was 18, and weighing no more than a feather. After having Robbie I was 140 lbs, twenty pounds more than when I got pregnant, and about 7 of that was post pregnancy weight as I gained no more than fifteen while carrying him to 35 weeks. I was healthy, healthier than I’d been all my life, and looking my best. My twenties suited me well.

When I got pregnant with Anthony I was still in good condition, but pregnancy didn’t suit me so well the second time around and even though I worked five days a week, and was on my feet running tables for eight to twelve hour shifts, when I wasn’t working I was exhausted and fatigued, and all I did was sleep. Over were the days of going to the gym and working out, I had even signed onto a new gym membership where I had briefly worked upon arriving to Edmonton shortly before finding out we were expecting a new baby. The first year was tough, Post Partum hit hard and the exhaustion and fatigue didn’t go away, by the time Anthony’s first birthday arrived I had well surpassed that dreaded 160 lbs, topping in at 208 – 212 as he blew out his birthday candle, most of that new found weight was put on during the his first year.

Before going overseas, (and a little more than 3 years after Anthony’s first birthday) I weighed not much less, just under 200, but I was eating healthier and going to the gym religiously. I had started running, and was enjoying it, and was feeling better than I’d felt in years, even managing to volunteer some of my free time.

Upon coming home from KAF, having watched what I ate, partly because I wanted to be more aware of what was going into my body and partly because the food wasn't very good and was quite mundane after 6 months of the same thing, and due to the midnight runs I put myself through while overseas, and the high temperatures, I went back to Canada having lost close to 30 lbs. I was sitting around the high 160's to mid 170’s. Feeling great, I continued running for the next couple months, although not as frequent.

I knew I initially gained some weight my first month in Russia, and it was quite early on when I first became pregnant. It was also during the Christmas celebrations when we expected our joyful news. I packed on a little bit more than your average Christmas party goer. We had party after party; six in total, and in anticipation that we would be expecting a baby I didn’t worry too much about the weight the holidays were beholding upon me. Well I was a little wrong and baby after baby and miscarriage after miscarriage I was naive enough to think that this would be the one and here I was a little extra cushion each time. After my first miscarriage in December I vowed to go back to the gym, but as the weather got colder (cause I'm not a real Canadian and I become a hibernating bear in the winter wanting to stay curled up where it's warm, I dared not venture outside the 5 minute walk to the gym). It is now almost 3 months since my last miscarriage and I am tired of being fat again. I go home in less than 3 weeks and the first thing I want to hear when I get off the plane in Canada from my family is NOT how much weight I've gained, and trust me when I say it has been said before.

I am starting this time at GASP............as if I’m going to say. Ok seriously in the 80’s, and I’m not talking Bon Jovi or Michael Jackson.

My task is simple; go to the gym twice a day Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, and once on Wednesday and whatever I can do on the weekend. I have ick, just two weeks to loss fifteen pounds. I’m thinking maybe this is going to be harder done than said.

Looking back on some past weight loss journals I’ve kept I know that I’m capable of living a healthier lifestyle. I can eat healthy while still indulging and I can exercise and see results. I no longer have the same goal as I did two years ago when I was preparing to enlist in the military as a reservist. I’m 32 now, not 30, and with another two years still left in Russia, I can’t see myself joining and training at 34. I don’t need to do push ups anymore, an exercise which I always hated, and I don’t need to train my feet and legs for long gruelling runs. I’d still like to be able to run long distances, and even (and I’m dreaming in saying this), run a marathon or a half marathon, but what I can do for the moment and what I know I am capable is getting fit again, fit and healthy so there’s no excuses as to why I’m feeling sluggish or lazy on any given day.

So yet again here is something you can keep track of me on. I will NOT post pictures as I wouldn’t want to completely embarrass myself more than I already have or make my friends ill fated and hate me.

I think I enjoy blogging too much.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Russia Upddate - Part 3

Singing in the Rain – Russia Update, Part 3

Hello from Rainy Russia and Miserable Moscow. Ok it’s not so miserable here. It seems that since summer has hit Moscow people here smile a bit more and are much more friendly, helpful and open. I guess when you’re use to the rain though, it’s easy. Man does it ever rain here. It started about three weeks ago. June was a sunny and hot month, I couldn’t wait for the end of school and it was quickly approaching. I wanted to explore the city with the kids, and explore the parks and tourist attractions when Ron had time off. The plan was going good, until the end of school got here. All of a sudden the skies got dark and grey, the wind grey with intensity, and the rain started. Not a lot, but enough to ruin any outdoor plans far from home.

Well I didn’t realize my last update came from February; back than I was just starting a new job at the Embassy, and that was pretty much on my list of exciting things. The temperatures sucked, but really in actuality and reality it really wasn’t that cold, I’m just a wuss and as many people say, I shouldn’t be Canadian; I hate the cold.

My job at the Embassy lasted a mere four months, in that time we took two vacations, and I was off for extended periods of time due to some bad luck which if you scroll back in my blogs you will easily find why. I ended up leaving my cushy position for a number of reasons, number one being my kids, with summer and no one around to be there with them, and a busy and stressful second year at the Anglo American School for the two of them (mostly Robbie), it was the best decision I could make for my boys.

Easter in Moscow was not much different than any other Easter back home. My mom sent a box of chocolate Easter eggs for us to hide, and egg colouring. Little did we know, that like so much Easter is also celebrated here in Russia a week after the North American Easter and is the second biggest holiday in this country. It is not celebrated as westerners do with fancy baskets, tons of chocolate and bunnies, and candy, but instead fancy breads are made, dark chocolate eggs handed out, and traditional Russian eggs decorated. We have yet to decorate with our Russian Easter egg kit, but this will be a summer task for something to do on a typical rainy day.

Both the boys were excited for school to be finished, although Anthony was a little less excited. How did they do? Anthony, still young according to the school’s standards at the beginning of the year and put in a class with kids who are almost a year ahead of him lagged behind his peers and will be staying back in Kindergarten next year to perfect his writing and reading skills. Robbie barely finished middle school but graduated with the rest of his grade 8 classes. He will move on to high school in August.

It’s now summer and the first batch of Canadians have moved out, and a new group is ready to move where they left off in the coming weeks. We’re all looking forward to seeing and meeting the new faces. Our group here is so small and we are all so diverse that it’s sometimes hard to find a connector that fits us all together besides being posted to the same Embassy. For those that have been on an overseas tour to KAF, Bosnia, whatever, think of it as a six month tour extended for a three year period. You know how at the end of your tour or even before your leave you can’t wait to go home and see someone’s face besides the person that sits next to you or houses with you etc...That’s what it gets like here sometimes. We’re in the small community; we live on the same street, pretty much all of us one next to each other, we work with each other, and we all go to the same parties; the same faces day in and day out.

Summer is suppose to be the time when we explore the city that we are living in for the next three years (hey make that two more years only; I can’t believe how fast it’s gone already). We’ve already gone to Victory Park, a park built by the Russian’s to celebrate their victory over the Nazi’s in WWII. We’ve also learnt that Monday’s is not a good day to do anything in Moscow; Monday’s in Moscow are virtually a holiday, no museums are open, hence why we need to make another trip to Victory Park. It took us three hours to go through the outside of the park and the outdoor Naval museum, but there are two other military museums which we need to check out as well.

Some other attractions we plan on checking out include the Sculpture Gardens, Gorky Park, the zoo, a couple of circuses, The dolphinarium, the Planatarium, The Russian National Dance Show, and a ballet ( I know it sounds so cliché, but when in Russia, it’s a must). I’m sure as our time goes on we will find other things to do, as well there are tons of museums that need to be seen, and now that I’m writing onwards here, there is so much more I can think of.

We had contemplated going away at the end of the summer on a vacation somewhere warm, however upon a feeling it was decided that a trip home would be in order this year. A couple weeks after that decision was made I learned that my grandma has been ill and in hospital. The feeling is that things do not look good, and going home at least one last time is best for us right now. I will leave just over two weeks before school starts, spend some time with my family, than Ron will join us a week later so we can spend time with his family, do some shopping, and take the boys to discover what our home, what Ron and I grew up with is all about, including a trip to Canada’s Wonderland for Robbie’s first “real” rollercoaster ride and the Science Centre.

So once again that is all. In general, our time, well my time in some ways, in dealing with the general population is getting easier. My Russian, choo choo by choo choo (little by little) is becoming good enough to get me by day by day, and sometimes surprisingly enough, sometimes more.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Still a Woman??? Part 2

It’s like actually going through the process of having a baby. Everything is the same; waiting for the milk to dry up, waiting for hormones to go back to normal, waiting for the dizziness and fatigue to go away, and mostly waiting for my sex drive to return. It took 4 weeks for my HCG levels, otherwise known as the pregnancy hormone to those that aren’t aware to return to 0; they went from whatever they were Pre-Op (I never did want to know the numbers than. Thinking my pregnancy was Molar at that time, I thought that if I knew what the numbers were that seeing an increase in them, or just a small decrease it would scare me into thinking the unthinkable and unimaginable), to 483 one week Post-Op, to 83 the next week, and finally down to normal. I waited a week to get my “normal” results. I went in for my usual “blood donation” on the Monday, and waited the usual two days, Thursday I called the doctors as I hadn’t heard anything, and was told not to worry, the doctor would call me back with the results. Imagine that, don’t worry. At this point I’m still in “Molar Mode”, what if the pathologists made a mistake? What if the results were wrong? Friday came and went, and so did the weekend. Monday came, I called again. Eight hours later I got a call back from Daria, the assistant to my doctor and in some senses my angel. Daria was there through the last two miscarriages every step of the way. She watched me cry, and felt my pain. My HCG levels were back to “normal”, AND not only that, but we could start trying again, trying again after only 5 weeks. Trying went from one year, to three months, and now almost right away. All of a sudden things were moving too fast. I don’t know why, well I do, but I was scared.

The news wasn’t as happy as I had wanted or thought it would be. In essence it was over, there was no miracle waiting, negative numbers meant that there really wasn’t a more baby anymore. The loss of this pregnancy has hit me harder, and I am having a harder time getting over it, it’s been six weeks now, and I still feel anger and I still cry, although not as frequent. I know that I wasn’t at the time of the call, and am not now ready to try again; although that doesn’t mean that my dream is over yet, it just means that for the next few months, the initial few months will be a time for recovery, a time to get healthy, a time to spend with my family without the worries of becoming and staying pregnant.

Ok men, it may be time for you to turn the page as the talk has turned to ugly “Aunt Flo” returning for her monthly visit.

I bled from my second d/c for 19 days, mostly spotting, but none the less I wore a diaper for 19 days. On day 19 I started cramping and I knew that something big was about to happen. Within a couple hours I felt a small leakage, and upon using the bathroom noticed a small clot…..after that, It was all over, 19 days of reminders of what my body was recovering from. On day 22 I started dreaded Aunt Flo. At first I thought she was going to be late, she came the second day into my pill, no real warning, I hadn’t got any major cramps, no breast tenderness, and I was no more a bitch, no more moody, and no more impatient with people’s stupidness than I have been in recent weeks. This should have been another joyous moment for one that wants to start trying for a baby again, it meant that my body was working normally again and doing what it should be doing. Instead though, having my menstrual cycle brought back memories of my first miscarriage. I don’t know why, but all of a sudden I felt like I was reliving the pain and shock of losing my baby the first time. I felt cold and angry, resentment towards everyone that had a baby, was expecting a baby, or spoke of baby. I’m left here wondering what is a normal amount of time for one to live with the grief of losing a baby? When should one expect to be back to normal? Doctor’s sometimes caution against trying for at least six months, until one has fully grieved and recovered from the loss. I’ve moved on, and

I feel normal, but I cannot forget, never. Losing apart of one’s self, something that you planned for, named, something that was a part of you can never be forgotten. Instead I plant flowers; Forget Me Nots to remember my Dumpling, my Perogee, and my newly named; it just came to me writing this, Snowflake as all that appeared on the screen was a snowstorm. 

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Still a Woman???

Still a woman?

In December 2008 I experienced one of the greatest horrors a woman can experience. People say that it happens sometimes or that it just wasn’t meant to be, they try and find the words to express their sorrow and their grief of the situation, but nothing no matter what anyone says can heal the hurt that is caused when a woman loses her baby, if even only by miscarriage. I was only 5 weeks along when I started bleeding, at first it wasn’t a sign of alarm for me. I had bled briefly with my first son early on, and besides his arrival being 5 weeks early, my pregnancy as with my second was typical, healthy and uneventful. I never in a million years would have thought that I would or could have a miscarriage. I after all was healthy, a tad overweight, but I ate fairly well, took my prenatals, rarely drank (certainly not after I found out I was pregnant), didn’t smoke, and was barely yet 32, still quite young. I took for granted that sometimes things just happen, and what I do has no say and no control over the situation. It was confirmed nearly two weeks after my visit to the doctor, and 18 days after I initially started bleeding that indeed I had miscarried early on, before a heart could even form. I was crushed, especially since it was the Christmas holidays and we had already told the boys and all our friends, but I recovered rather quickly, taking it as a sign that this was not the one we were meant to have.

When I became pregnant again only a month after my miscarriage, I was overjoyed and sure that this would be the one, my chance for a baby girl. We told no one this time, not wanting the same grief that came with a loss in case things didn’t work in our favour, and of course not wanting to break the kid’s hearts a second time. Unfortunately these things can’t be hidden for long, and slowly those closest to us found out one after another. Things seemed to be going well; besides the nausea and the fatigue that had overcome me, I was sure it was a good sign. At 8 weeks I called the doctor’s and was given an appointment for 2 weeks later. At 9 weeks, although the nausea was still present, I seemed to be getting my energy back. I was able to clean the house in the evenings, and could stay awake past 8:00pm. At 10 weeks I went into my doctor’s, and after an hour stay in the waiting room I was finally seen, same routine as usual, brief history and change into robe for an ultrasound, all this only to be told that the same thing had happened again. The baby had died approximately two weeks prior (around the same time I had made the appointment), and there was no longer a heartbeat. I was scheduled for surgery for the next day. It was a blow for me, it had happened so close to the Easter holidays, a time which brought renewal and new life, and I was so sure that this time I would carry a healthy baby, so sure I had even bought maternity clothes for my already swollen and bloated belly.

I researched all night the procedure I was to have the following afternoon. The next morning I could think of nothing more then what would take part that day. I was terrified of everything. Would I feel anything, would there be pain, what would it be like falling asleep with the anaesthetic, and would I wake up?

When we reached the hospital half an hour early I was taken in right away, brought up to my room, given my gown, an oversized bathrobe, and a pair of slippers. My medical history was taken right away by the anaesthesiologist, and I was given a sedative right away to help me rest, a welcome thing since I couldn’t think of anything other than what was soon to happen, and tears once again began to flow. I began to wonder if I was doing the right thing and if maybe my baby just hadn’t formed yet and it was too early. After a brief sleep, I was awoken to be taken to the surgery room. Lights flooded the room and people surrounded me. I could see my doctor behind his mask, and he gave me a gentle pat before the anaesthesiologist put me to sleep. After only a few short breathes, everything that happened from the moment I was wheeled into surgery and awake in my room is nonexistent for me. Tests on the fetus after the d/c revealed that the cause for miscarriage was chronological, the fetus just wasn’t healthy, and that was that.

Two days after surgery my family and I left for a scheduled trip to Poland and Prague. On the flight there I started bleeding heavy, apparently normal, but I had apparently been ill informed, sought less information regarding the procedure and after effects, and not asked enough questions before hand. I had thought that the d/c would alleviate the bleeding and cramping associated with the last miscarriage. When the day after surgery I was only spotting and felt fine, I thought that all was good. By Friday night, shortly after our flight I was in a world of pain and handicapped by cramps. Aspirin became my new best friend the following days after, helping to get by the bus rides and long tours. My oldest son I suspect knew something was up, his curiosity got the best of him and he asked me one day why I was taking so much Aspirin, my answer to him was only that I was having a lot of backaches. I hated lying to him.

Now a week later my mind is so full of everything. My self esteem has never been at such a great low in my life than it is right now. I feel fat, and although I know that I was in essence just pregnant and there is a reason for the weight gain, having no baby now makes it so not worth it. As if it, the extra weight is inexcusable. While in Prague, and really all of Europe I feel as if I can’t compete with all the women that don’t seem to have that extra inch body fat to spare. I feel that somehow I have let my body down, that even though it is not my fault that I somehow can no longer carry a baby.

We have a cleaner come in once a week to clean our house and although it’s easier to just tidy throughout the week and not worry about the stress of having everything perfect, I feel as if I no longer have any control over my surroundings and my home. I see the little things that make the house look that much better, like having a shiny sink, or pristine stove top and I feel like anything I have put into the house before hand was not good enough.

I feel for my youngest who is having a hard time adjusting to school and his new life in Moscow, like as a parent I haven’t been able to help him. I stayed home the first few months after arriving in Russia with the sense that hopefully he would be adjusted to mommy being home, and of course he has, how could he not, he’s still a mommy’s boy, and I sense always will be. However he has trouble focusing in school, staying on track, and making any solid friendships being so much younger than the rest of the students in his class and those he hangs around with. His maturity just isn’t the same as those that are a year older than he. His teacher sends notes home weekly on how he did this or that wrong, and I can’t help but ask myself what I’m doing wrong as a parent and how can I help him. When he’s home, I see some of what she’s doing, and admittedly I get frustrated as well, but I also see the side of him where he is smart, and can focus on something he truly enjoys. I see the side of him that gives up on things if he feels he can’t do it, or if he’s learning something new.

I feel a distance from my husband, who wasn’t there for the appointment with the first miscarriage, and again had to work and couldn’t make it to the appointment for the news of yet another miscarriage. I am annoyed with him for leaving me at the hospital only minutes after receiving my sedative before I could get some rest. His excuse was that he just couldn’t handle being there. I wonder how I was supposed to feel knowing what I was about to go through, knowing that I couldn’t run from it, or keep my head from it. I’m angry that his job has always taken focus and priority. He changed career goals back in 2001 so that he could be home more, instead it was much of the same, tour after tour and course after course, always gone. Coming to Russia was suppose to be yet another new start, when we could be together and when he could leave work if needed to make appointment if had be. Instead he has been left to take on more work, and again we are left to deal with the aftermath of an overworked and nonexistent family member, seeing him only when his calendar allows.

Do I want to try again? After all that my husband and I have been through, after all we have endured to get to the place where we are right now, it only seems right that add another member to our family.

I left off here, not really sure what to think of the question. After almost 2 months of posing it, here I am again.

I never really did get to answer this question, although Ron and I did have a discussion a couple days before I got some interesting news. He had decided that he was done trying; we had two healthy boys that we should be happy with, and he was heartbroken and didn’t know how he could handle another loss and me I decided I wasn’t quite done trying. I was beginning to settle into the idea that these things happen, and sometimes they happened more than once, I was ready to accept that. I was determined to add a third child into our family, boy or girl. I reminded him that I came to Russia to be with him, and did not like it as much as I thought, or at least did not like the inconveniences that came with it. We were making good money and had worked hard in our relationship to make it as good as it was at the time, and we had prepared and planned to have another baby. The timing of it could not have been more perfect. He had agreed, wanting to wait three months for my body to completely heal, but agreeing on the month the doctor had suggested was ok.

All I remember was going to the doctors for my post op check up and him telling me that I had ovulated a few days ago and should be expecting my period within the next few days. A few days came and went, and after a few days past and what I thought was my period starting right on the day the doctor had thought it would start, it didn’t. It was indeed just some spotting, barely even there. I started feeling dizzy and lightheaded, much the same way I had felt when I was pregnant last. A quick test confirmed my suspicions, the spotting had been implantation bleeding and I was very early on. I was sceptical and had a right to be. I told no one, except for my best friends back home; even now I regret that decision. An early doctor’s appointment for confirmation led to high levels of HCG in my body, something that I never would have thought twice about, most people believe that high levels are a sign of twins, but something led me to Google to do my own research. The results I found were scary and unreal, twins, maybe, but mostly, not. Everything I was reading had to do with Molar Pregnancies, so complicated that one would have to be on birth control for a year after d/c and may even develop a rare form of uterine cancer that can spread if not treated on time. After two blood tests, both of which came back with high levels, and two ultrasounds, one from the Russian doctor who couldn’t read the results and one from my regular gynaecologist, it was confirmed I had a molar pregnancy. The news, after reading up so much on it the last night before did not shock me much. We had known that no matter what, this pregnancy would be more difficult having only gotten pregnant a couple weeks after the last d/c. I had thought though, the difficulty would lay with a weakened uterus and more precaution would have to be taken. I never thought after all I had been through in my healthy body that I would be facing so much more of a challenge in front of me. Ron, again away on business had missed both doctor’s appointments and of course the d/c which had to be scheduled right away due to it spreading and the complications if left untreated. He made it back to drive me home from the hospital. I can barely face my doctor anymore, having had dreams of him being some mad scientist doctor and taking my healthy babies away. I know that is not the truth, after all I completely miscarried natural the first time, and saw the ultrasounds both other times.

Tomorrow is the start and a new and difficult year long road. It is the day I start my birth control and the end of trying to conceive until next spring. I begin regular blood tests and doctors appointments, waiting outside the waiting room looking at all the healthy pregnant moms with their bellies.

And after all this I wonder if Ron will even want to try again in a year, if we’ll have our baby that we actually try for when times are as good as we’ve taken care and worked so hard to make them. If he’ll again say that we should be happy for our two boys, that he can’t handle another loss, that we’re getting too old, and that the boys were old enough to do for themselves and we could finally start doing things on our own without having to worry about them so much.

I think about all this next year can bring health wise, what if my levels don’t drop the way they should, what if the d/c was incomplete and I have to go in for a repeat, and what if not all the mole was taken out and it metastasizes and becomes cancerous.

I wonder if I will ever enjoy sex the same way again, knowing what it has brought to me.

I think about this summer and how much we have to do with the boys, but also how at the end of the summer when the boys are a couple weeks away from being back in school we should be holding our first angel in our arms, and how that time will come and how I will feel when it does.

The due dates are etched in my mind, August 12, October 21, and January 27, and the dates of forever losing them, December 23, April 1, and May 18. I have a fear of losing them for fear of forgetting the babies I will never hold, and yet were the babies I planned for and yearned for.

I fear for the feelings of guilt, anger, sadness, helplessness, and loss of faith that I hold so close to me now and wonder if it will ever stop. If the tears will ever forever leave my eyes.

Tuesday, May 26, it is my Post Op appointment with my doctor and surgeon, and for once he holds for me a small piece of good news. The pathology on the placental tissue shows no molar, it was just another stroke of bad luck, and I held in me another chronologically unhealthy baby. Instead of the year long wait, we only have to wait 2-3 months, preferably 3. Only a week after our first baby’s due date is the day that we can try again, bitter sweet to know that this will be a journey that has taken us well over a year and have yet to complete.

Many years ago when I was a young mom, living in a new place far from what I had known as home for all my life I had a padre tell me that maybe God’s plan for me was to be a mom, to stay home and take care of my family. Since that time I have lived as a military wife, going through job after job at military base after military base, volunteering when I could, and even leaving home for six months to do something different, I worked outside the home whenever I could trying to find me and the person I felt I was meant to be, to earn my own money, and to contribute to the household in some way. Now here I am 10 years after seeing that Padre, a little bit older, a lot wiser, wanting to settle down, and work from home. Help my kids with school; be there to help with homework without the stresses of the day wearing on me and the tiredness of outside work resting on my shoulders. To make sure they have healthy meals and snacks to eat at the end of the day. I have realized that maybe; just maybe this is God’s plan for me, for us. Or at least it was.

Does God’s plan change as ours do in life? I scream to him and plead to him that I am ready, ready for him to behold me another child.

Another update in progress.......

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

A Civillian's Perspective - Part 6, Faces Change

Yes faces change. Those you thought you got along with, those you thought you were friends with suddenly have become someone you never knew existed. With only weeks and days left in their time in theatre, they have forgotten the reason they came in the first place, “Serving Those Who Serve”. Instead of providing morale and support to the soldiers and those of their own, they bring them down, complaining and becoming frustrated, impatient and over sensitive to those around them.
In training we were told of the amnesia that would set in. We all laughed, but seeing some of the things that go on now, only a month and two months into my tour, I realize it’s not so funny anymore, and there’s a sense of truth about it. Little things we were told in training, mainly regarding working the hours, people are forgetting about and complaining that we work too hard.
In reality, we really don’t work obscene hours. Some days are busier than others. The most we tend to work in a day here for the retail section is 13 hours. If we work an early morning shift, such as Tim Horton’s, which is the same as it would be back home, then we are off by early afternoon with a full day to yourself. I remember working the same shift when I worked Tim Horton’s in Petawawa, in by 5:30, 6:00 and off at 2:00. The afternoons are the same. The hardest shifts are when you are in around 9:00 and off at 6:30, or same with the 11:00 to close shifts, you don’t get to see the sun which can sometimes bring you down a bit. I have worked mostly closing shifts in my time here so far, and I have had plenty of time for socializing. There is no lack of time for getting to know people or hang out with friends for awhile, even if you’re not a night owl.
Those with the busiest and hardest hours are the bakers who are constantly changing shifts and up at all hours of the morning, sometimes as early as 4:00am.
I have lost a couple friends in their last weeks in KAF. I choose not to lay blame it on anyone, but rather now have come to a conclusion that at the time we each did not know how the other was feeling truly inside, whether one was truly torn about leaving friends and their work behind, or didn’t understand where the other was coming from.
Months after leaving KAF and returning I have been able to mend one of those broken fences, and am glad for it. Others I have left behind. It shows maturity in people when one can’t put the past behind them, and with all I have going on in my life, I have no time for it. I am ok to say that as Brian A “Drew” Chalker’s poem goes:
“People always come into your life for a reason, a season and a lifetime. When you figure out which it is, you know exactly what to do.

When someone is in your life for a REASON, it is usually to meet a need you have expressed outwardly or inwardly. They have come to assist you through a difficulty, or to provide you with guidance and support, to aid you physically, emotionally, or even spiritually.

They may seem like a godsend too you, and they are. They are there for a reason, you need them to be. Then, without any wrong doing on your part or at an inconvenient time, this person will say or do something to bring the relationship to an end.

Sometimes they die, Sometimes they just walk away. Sometimes they act up or out and force you to take a stand. What we must realize is that our need has been met, our desire fulfilleed; their work is done.

The prayer you sent up has been answered and it is now time to move on.

When people come into your life for a SEASON, it is because your turn has come to share, grow, or learn. They may bring you an experience of peace or make you laugh. They may teach you something you have never done. They usually give you an unbelievable amount of joy. Believe it! It is real! But, only for a season.

And like Spring turns to Summer and Summer to Fall, the season eventually ends.

LIFETIME relationships teach you a lifetime of lessons; those things you must build upon in order to have a solid emotional foundation.

Your job is to accept the lesson, love the person/people (anyway); and put what you have learned to use in all other relationships and areas in your life.
The friends we make while overseas in KAF and abroad show that we have friends for different times in our lives, and that even if they are not long lasting, everlasting and life lasting, that they serve a purpose for the time we have them. It doesn’t make them any less special or memorable, any less needed or important'".
I thank all those I met overseas, whether I knew them my whole tour, or if only for a minute, I came out of KAF with something from everyone I met.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Poland and Prague - Our Vacation

We thought in coming to Poland it would be much like Russia. We brought our regular four suitcases on my coaxing, wanting to keep everything and everyone’s things organized, Ron wanting to bring two big ones. We after all won’t find many souvenirs I’m sure, after all, the two cultures (Russian and Polish, along with others) are quite similar. In some respects that was true, both have the Matryoshka dolls (as did Prague), and both have the wooden decorated eggs, but Poland had so much more to offer as our wallets were soon to find out.

After two short plane rides, Ron decided that it was too early in the day and too nice out to spend the remainder in our tiny once again European hotel room, God help me with two wild boys and a room that’s barely the size of my bathroom. We called for a cab and headed to a couple of the downtown markets. And that’s where it all began.

I cannot say enough good things about Poland, maybe I was just missing home (Canada) so much and maybe it is that Russia is just very unique, take that as you please. However instead of running on for 10 pages on everything we did, seen, and experienced etc, which I probably could very easily do, I’ll give you a quick rundown of the highlights and say that I felt all our tours were well worth doing and I was very impressed with each of them. I wish we could have spent just one more day there under different circumstances to take the boys to the water park, indoor of course. I’m sure even two days would have found us something to do.

The weather in Poland was gorgeous, absolutely perfect, and nothing to complain about. Not a drop of rain, unlike our trip to Rome in October when all it did was rain. It was sunny and 22-24 degrees each and every day we were there. A nice change from the cold and late start to spring our home in Moscow was providing. Crocuses were in bloom and the buds on the trees were opening. Just looking around you knew that Krakow would be very pretty in the summer. Even on top of the mountain where snow still covered the ski hills in Zakopane did the sun shine warming up at 20 degrees. The locals who swore by the fresh mountain air for good health sunbathed topless in sun chairs perched ontop the white grass while skiers glided down the hills in t-shirts. Never before have I seen such a sight.

In total we spent a full three days in Krakow, taking tour bus from site to site, and one half day which presented to be successful. Our time there was everything but boring. We did our trip to the Carpathian Mountains, stopping along the way to enjoy the sights of an old village of wooden houses, typical to Poland, and managed to obtain our first decent, ok more than decent family picture ever. Our third day in Krakow we went on a heart wrenching tour of a former concentration camp; I can’t even begin to describe the horrors you felt while walking through and looking at some of the possessions that were found. It is beyond me how anyone can deny the horrors and atrocities that took place during that time.

It was unfortunate at the end of this day; we had an even bigger adventure on our hands, trying to find a doctor, half way through our tour of Auschwitz I mentioned to Ron that I thought Anthony had the beginning of pink eye, his one eye was looking a little red, a tiny bit swollen, but the big give away for me was the puss that was beginning to ooze from it. Him being him, and forgetting that I was a mom who dealt with this many times pushed it aside and didn’t take my word for it. I guess there was nothing we could do while there anyway, we were an hour or so from our hotel, so no matter what it would have to wait till we were back in town and at our hotel. Finally back, even Ron could tell that he had the familiar conjunctivitis.

Our taxi driver was our Polish God Sent. He spoke perfect English and was our driver / interpreter going from Pharmacy to Hospital, Hospital to Pediatric Hospital and back to Pharmacy. He stayed with us for three hours, and when we tried to leave him a substantial tip for his time (he was late and missed part of the football game with his fiancée) and patience, he wouldn’t take it. He was not of abnormality there. The people of Poland were friendly and polite our entire stay. Not only were they polite, they stopped for pedestrians crossing the street, and let cars into their lane when driving.

By end of next day, after a morning walking around Krakow visiting the sites, and the Krakow castle, than an afternoon at the famous Salt Mines, Anthony’s eye was beginning to look a tad better.

You may have noticed by now, that I have not once mentioned the food. Usually a highlight in my travels, this was the one area where we were very disappointed in. I’m unsure of whether it was because we were in a tourist area and didn’t get out, but no matter where we went, even the Mexican Restaurant (ya apparently we have a thing with Mexican food no matter where we go) the food was not to our liking. It certainly was not what I had become accustomed to growing up with grandma, and nowhere could I find Potato and Cheese filled perigees (it now comes to my attention from my Polish co-worker, that they may go under a different name, don’t ask me what it is now). Great!!!!!

Poland finished, and what did we bring home from that market, too much. Onto Prague.


Prague! What can you say about Prague? Prague seems to be the golden city for those who visit, everyone we talk to can’t say enough good things about it, how much they loved it, and how it was their favourite place to visit.

So I guess there’s only one burning question left. Do we agree? Well I can’t answer for Ron or the kids, but I will give my opinion. I will say that we had an amazing evening our second night in the Czech Republic during a medieval dinner and show. With appetizers, a three course meat dish consisting of Pork, Chicken and Beef, plus dessert, we just wanted to yell STOP!!!!!!! NO MORE PLEASE!!!!!!! We each stopped at the first course, thinking that there was pork and chicken on the same plate and not realizing that it was only the pork. Our courses came with baked potato and corn on the cob, although very little sides considering we were at a medieval dinner where meat was the main portion. The show put on was complete with belly dancers yielding their bright smiles and perfectly slender bellies and adorned with snakes and fire. Sword fights par took right in front of our eyes, as folk music played live for all performances. There was even a little dwarf who barely made the same height as our five year old. Starting just after 7:00pm, we didn’t get out of the restaurant until after 11:00; Anthony fell fast asleep on my legs soon after 10:00. It was a long day for everyone.

No matter where we ate in Prague we were pleased with the portions and quality of food. We found that dumplings are different depending where you go in the world. My grandma and I guess apparently England makes soft dumplings, where as Czech dumplings are like bread, meant for dipping in gravy or the sauce that covers your meat, usually pork in the Czech Republic. Either of course is good. As you can see, the food was good, and therefore this is where I started off with, much unlike Poland, now onto Prague.

For the city itself, I didn’t find Prague had a lot to offer. Maybe it had to do with our tours being more political and less historical (if that makes any sense), it could also be that our tours didn’t allow enough time for pictures, passing by one monument or building one after another., or maybe it could be there just wasn’t a lot to offer. Everything that was worth seeing was very close to each other, mostly in the town square, and could easily been seen within walking distance in a relatively short time. Our tours turned up pointless in the end as we didn’t stop to listen to guides and what they were saying, we were there for the pictures, and anything we wanted to learn about could easily be read in any tourist book.

Day 1 in Prague consisted of a very long six hour walking, boat, Trolley tour of the city, the river and the Prague Castle; which isn’t a castle at all, but a church. Too bad it started raining cats and dogs as we headed over Charles Bridge, one of the main attractions I was looking forward to, no pictures there. Later on in the evening consisted of another tour, thankfully only an hour long which was attached with the now famous medieval dinner.

We are fortunate to have such wonderful kids. Robbie, at 13 soaks up all the information, and Anthony, who is only 5 really was the best a child his age could be while on such a non child friendly vacation until we hit the airport, must have been something to do with all the roaring engines of the airplanes.

We had booked a tour for our second day, but after such a crazy and busy first day, we decided that we were going to sleep in late and do our won thing. We had brunch at TGIF’s, and took the boys to the top of the hill on the TRAM to a mirror maze thinking how great it would be. Not so much, we were out of the maze within 10 minutes. We took advantage of the nice weather and sat in the park for awhile eating ice cream and drinking some cold drinks.

After spending some time in the hotel room, the boys playing with some puppets / marionettes we had bought them, and me taking a nap J we caught some dinner at the square where we learned the only difference between a hot dog and a sausage is the bun. Now that I’ve snuck food in again, I can enlighten you with the variety of treats we enjoyed, from rolled baked dough with sugar, churos (which is a Spanish dessert), and a very similar version of a beaver tail. I should say we did not eat these all at once, but over the course of the two days we were there.
Our final outing in Prague was the ghost tour, I don’t know what we were thinking when we booked it, or what we were expecting, but it was an hour and a half and more money well wasted. Robbie enjoyed it; I guess that’s all that counts really.

Day 3: HOME, not too early, but thankfully this “vacation” is over. We’re all tired, cranky, and done with travelling for a bit, well at least I am. Ron has a business trip a little over a week after Prague, to Poland, Warsaw this time, and another business trip back home, to Canada a couple weeks after he returns from the first.

All we can think of right now though is getting to sleep in the next day. If only it were that easy. At 6:30 am our neighbours dogs were outside barking up a storm, quick hand me a gun.

Now after being back for a week my loving husband (I hope jokingly) asked me where our next vacation is going to be? I don’t know where he’s going, but I know I’m staying put, at least for now. Summers in Moscow are supposed to be quiet and nice. I think it’ll be a good time to explore what are new home for the next couple years has to offer.

Part 5 -Finally in KAF

Stepping off the bus that transported us from the plane to New Canada house was an experience I don’t wish on anyone, no one that I had gotten to know in Kingston was there to greet me. The greeting I received was less then thrilling. Thank goodness I soon met friendly faces who gave me greetings only a friend could offer. There are soon new people coming in, and although I’m not best friends with them, they deserve a reception that says welcome. This is their first impression for the next six months, and one that will be carried with them forever.
I don’t wish a first week in KAF on anyone. Talk about confusing, the camp is thirteen kilometres and trying to get to know everywhere you have to be is confusing in itself. You have the tent lines, the boardwalk which houses three of the shops that we work at, the American PX, a great place to go for things you may need or just some snacks that we don’t carry, Role 3, where you go when you’re sick; and you will be by your second week here, the gym, and MWR; everyone’s favourite hangout spot, as you will soon read below. Really, everything is close by; everything is within a 15 or 20 minute walk from point A to point B. The longest walk is from our tent lines to New Canada House. The only time you’ll walk longer here for something you really need is when you walk the flight line. The flight line is an 11 km walk, it takes anywhere from an hour and a half to two hours to complete. Unfortunately nothing happened like was said on training. I got here and had a tour my first day, got drove around or walked around my first day and after that, I was on my own. I learned my way around camp by trial and error. Taking wrong turns, exploring side streets, and asking everyone around me which way this was or which way that was.

My first night in camp was spent in the ever so wonderful BATS (Big Ass Tents). Basically this is a full size military tent, the ones we stayed in were partitioned off by cement walls. Not so lucky is the fact that three women had to stay in one room that was approximately 7 feet by 10 feet. Our room housed two bunk beds. I being either the most flexible, and the most unlucky got the top bunk. Now this wasn’t just an ordinary bunk bed, the top bunk was a good 6 feet in the air, inches from the ceiling and had no ladder. We did end up finding a small wooden contraption though; which resembled a ladder, but could only reach so high. I ended up somehow pulling myself over, but at the same time banging the inside of my legs every time I climbed up or down the bed. In the one night that I was there, my inner thighs were so bruised I was happy I wasn’t home for my husband to see the damage, because he surely would have wondered what was going on.

My first week in KAF I wanted to cry my feet hurt so badly, and I begged that the whole tour wouldn’t be so bad and I would get accustomed to it. The second week wasn’t as bad, but it still hurt like hell. By the third week, I was starting to settle in easily. My feet weren’t hurting as much, and I knew my way around the place just fine.

Seven weeks into my adventure I am happy, happier then I have ever been in my life. I can say with all honesty that THIS is what I am supposed to be doing at this time in my life. I have met so many amazing people. Many of my new friends have been Americans. They find it funny that we say "eh" all the time and say that we pronounce our “O” differently. I find it funny that they say "y'all" all the time. All kidding aside, before saying goodbye to our newest friends, we spend long hours in the local posh coffee shop drinking lattes and mochas, smoothies and good old bottled water, you drink a lot of that here. We took KAF tour bus rides till the wee hours of the morning, talking, laughing joking and eating pizza. By the end of my tour I have come out of KAF sounding Camerican, half American, half Canadian. I say, eh after all my sentences, aboot instead of about, yet oddly enough I have an accent unlike that of a Canadian, but rather like someone from the south, and I wear sweaters in temperatures Canadians should normally find warm, something that even now most people find odd.

Nearly two months into my tour, I don’t understand why those that are almost leaving are so irritable, and nasty. Nothing here should come as a surprise to anyone. We were told what our work hours were going to be like well before we got here, and really in all honesty, it’s not that bad. We work normal hours that one would work while in Canada, most of the time anyways. I should count myself lucky that I met a great friend that will be leaving a week after me. We have decided that we will keep each other in check and that if one of starts to get grumpy that we’ll let each other know. More to come on this since not both of us managed to keep our promise.

It’s the beginning of my ninth week and I think it’s finally hitting me, the tiredness, the long hours, the lack of sleep, and the nonstop work days. I swear some days it feels as if I’ve been hit been hit by a mack truck. Today was the last day of days at TH and I’m glad it’s over. The early mornings can only be done in short stints for me, I’m not a morning person, although somehow I’ve managed a smile to everyone even before I’ve had my time to wake up. I loved getting off early and being to have the rest of the day to sit in the sun, have a nap, attend the events around base, or just hang out with friends, but the early morning shifts seem to go by so slow even though you’re crazy busy for all but an hour and a half of the last part of your shift. The clock seems to move so slowly. I’m tired, and exhausted, but I’m still keeping my sanity, my cheerfulness about me, and I still have a smile on my face.

I think I like the ice cream shop. Wait, did I just say that? I’ve only been there how many weeks already. Seriously, the time goes by so quick, and even though you don’t get off till closing you don’t start until two; you can sleep in, go to the gym, run errands such as I did many times, and it was a good time to get my eyebrows waxed, go to the market, and catch up on emails. You get all the benefits of a late start, but you can still make most of the late night events that go on. Two days into my new shift I’m feeling rested again. I’ve slept in till 11:00 and 10:00 am the past two days. I have every intention of getting up 8:00am to hit the gym early, but I can’t make any promises. That is always my plan, but as everyone knows, things don’t always go according to plan. I missed it this morning, and many mornings after, but made up for it by going for a run in the evening after work. Sometimes that’s just the way it is.

Monday, March 9, 2009

A Civillians Perspective in Afghanistan - Part 4


I can remember saying to myself and even to a couple of girls that were with me after stepping off the plane in “Host Nation” as we call it so the location is kept private and classified, "what the &^%$ am I doing here, why did I do this, and what the hell am I thinking", I think I said this many time in my six months. I was scared; nervous to even recite the speech that had been prepared for us for the passport control officer at the airport as to why I was there. I was scared I was going to screw it up. I couldn't have been more terrified of anything in my life then I was at that moment. Stepping into the terminal at “HN” was a sudden shock of reality that we had stepped into a whole other world.

Just thinking of all that was to come, all the possibilities, and surely what the next six months was to bring was beginning to become too overwhelming.

The two days in the "host nation", were just the beginning of our adventures, but it sure was some beginning. Walking down the main street already brought very obvious cultural differences when a man, who shall remain classified stopped me dead centre on the sidewalk and looked me up and down for what felt like forever. I was wearing what I deemed appropriate, my skin for the most part was covered, yet I was still dressed for the hot and humid weather that our host city employs. I wore short sleeves, capri pants, you know the pants that go to your knees, and flip flops, apparently not enough. I guess I was lucky when later a bird decided to leave his dinner on my pants, yes he flew by and pooped on me; apparently this in Newfoundland means that I will be lucky. I wonder for how long, and when does the luck run out?

I was finally seeing things from a different perspective then a typical Canadian. I was seeing a different part of the world that some people could only wish to see, and different parts that I didn’t care to see. I could now begin to relate to some of things that my husband spoke of so often after returning home. It was very different then what I was use to. Downtown was a big market, every street corner there was something different to see and buy, spices, jewellery and gold, blankets, trinkets, cookware. Can anyone say Prada, Gucci, Versace, Dolce and Gabbana, every corner you went to someone was trying to make a deal with you, calling you “my friend”, asking where you were from? Aside from the peddlers, the country in itself was quite interesting and even beautiful in a different way. The architecture was stunning and I got some great shots on the buildings, and downtown core. Aside from downtown, which like the rest of the country employs people from other nations trying to make a quick buck, the rest of the city was booming in infrastructure, creating new housing, tourist developments, and theme parks which were going up all over the place. When at the end of my six months I went back it was unrecognizable. It looked more like Canadian Mississauga then where we actually were.

Mirage itself was good for the first day. We signed in, got all our PPE and equipment that we’d need for the next six months. Our downtown experience was fun, we had our own personal tour guide and met a few new faces, ones I won’t remember next time we go through, and ones that probably won’t be there, but still an experience.

The food in Mirage was amazing. We were told in training that Mirage eats well, and did they ever. Fresh fruits of every kind, and not just typical oranges and apples and pears, every tropical fruit you can imagine; mangos, star fruit, and fruits I don’t even know the names of. They had Baskin Robbins ice cream, and the yogurt there, now there was something special about the yogurt, it was like none I had ever tasted before.

Mirage was only a one night stay on the way the first time, in total I stayed there four days. The camp itself was small, aside from their five star gym, and a basketball court there was nothing to do. There was nowhere to go if you needed to be alone, than again after six months in the sandbox, there weren’t many options there either. Everywhere you went someone knew you. You housed with 1-3 other ladies, so taking solace in the comfort of your room was out of the question, at least in KAF your space in the tent was yours, the blankets that hung around gave what little solace there was. Leaving the camp in CM was out of the question as there were strict curfews, and buses ran on a tight schedule throughout the day, in KAF you could take the KAF tour bus, but that went nowhere besides around the camp constantly.

Cairo, Egypt

It is the 15th of February, late in the morning, we’re on our second day in Egypt, just come back from a satisfying breakfast, Ron has got his feet up Egyptian style letting his food digest, the kids are watching ENGLISH TV, and here I am, trying to get my creative juices flowing. If only the balcony was a little warmer, I would be in heaven, but alas tomorrow we will be leaving for another short flight to Sharm El Sheikh, I’ll be sitting poolside only seconds from the Dead Sea, laptop in hand and will let my fingers do the talking for me.

We arrived in Cairo on Friday on a very uneventful and one of the best plane rides I have taken, I can almost say there was no turbulence, just a couple small bumps, the food was...well airplane food, but all in all not terrible, when we arrived, happily so did all our luggage and without waiting an hour for it, the drive to the hotel was uneventful and we settled in well, but wait a minute. Did we just break all the stereotypes of bad luck and Friday the 13th? Yes that’s right, we were travelling on the most unlucky day of the year, and yet somehow it seems as if everything was going right, and not just right, but near perfect. That is until we got the kids in the room and then all hell broke loose. Was it a full moon? Overtired, hungry, and excited makes for a very bad combination. All I wanted to do was sleep, and they wanted to do was explore the hotel room ...make that apartment we were staying at; it certainly did make up for the broom closet we stayed at in Rome. It was nearing on midnight, and food was on the agenda. After waiting a good 45 minutes for 4 sandwiches with 4 fries we learned that even in a busy tourist area, there is no pork, a club sandwich here consists of roast beef, chicken and egg, an interesting but still good combination. Nearly 1:00am, it was time for bed, up early for a very busy day exploring with our tour guide. We all let our dreams flee to Mr. Sandman in no time.

Our first full day in Egypt was just that FULL. It started with breakfast at 7:30 am after a shower, the museum where you learn to appreciate how intelligent, gifted, and artistic the Egyptians were, and a tour that could have lasted two days to view all the pieces that were adorned, a stop at the Papyrus museum to pick up some pictures, it was finally time to stop for lunch. On the menu was what I was meant to be eating, what I had come to Egypt for. Digging deep into my Lebanese roots were traditional appetizers from both Lebanon and Egypt, my meal, fresh fish from the Nile. All you could eat, and all natural foods. Oh and did I mention the view of the pyramids we had right outside our window. After our lunch break, it was time to get back on the road again, two minutes down the road we arrived at the main reason for our trip in the first place, and one of Ron’s dream. There are 119 pyramids in Egypt, all located along the Nile River and our journey had started with the biggest of them all, a wonder that even I was astonished with, as one could not even fathom the size, it was bigger and stood taller than one could ever imagine. Egypt was not one of my dreams, seeing the pyramids was not something I had wanted to do in my lifetime, but not doing so would be something I would have missed out on. Not as it was many years ago, the roads leading up to another stack of this worlds large wonders was paved, we hopped in our tour guides van and off we went to discover what the inside of what one of these marvels look liked. The climb down was steep, dark, and you could only imagine how one could work let alone build such a stucture.

I wanted the kids to experience everything they could while in this vast dessert land, including riding a camel with the pyramids in the background, little did I know that Ron was negotiating for all of us, myself included to hop onto one of these creatures who didn’t seem the most friendly. So $100, 4 people, 3 camels, pyramids in the background, a half hour later and with much screaming and pleading from me; I swear I thought the camel was going to drop me and Anthony on our ass; we had our own PRICELESS moment.

I almost wish I could say our day was finished at this point, but it still included a trip to the Egyptian cotton store, where I managed to persuade Ron that Wal-Mart brand really was good enough, a trip to the Sphinx, and a long drive to the market, or Souk, much like the one I attended while in Dubai. A half hour there though was not nearly enough, and I’m walking away from Cairo with nothing but a small set of perfume bottles, that I’m not really sure why I bought other than; they’re pretty. It is not until the next day that I am informed that there is an even better market at the resort that we’ll be staying at.

So sometimes plans just don’t go as planned as was the case our second day in Cairo. Our plan was to wake up, eat breakfast and go for a walk along the Nile, find somewhere to eat lunch, finish our day at the pool once it warmed up, and head to the Hard Rock for dinner. We made it about as far as just down the street from our hotel, barely along the Nile walk path when our adventurous plans for the day were foiled. Now I’ll try and be as diplomatic as possible, which is really hard for me to do at this point as I’m beginning to see certain things through eyes of experience rather than being naive, as I usually am, someone who’s never been anywhere before.

We quickly realized again that we were tourists, out of place. Even in a tourist trap that houses the pyramids, we are still in a Muslim country where they don’t welcome women aren’t fully covered, regardless of how little you’re showing. Men and women both stare, mock, laugh, and even occasionally whistle when a “westerner”, or more specifically a “western woman” walks by in capri’s and a t-shirt. Fine, I don’t really care so much about it, they’re not use to it and have their own beliefs; although my feelings are that we all have our differences and beliefs and I’m accepting of differences in other people and their cultures. The old saying goes if we were all the same it would be a pretty boring world, although it seems as always there is always someone who thinks they are better than everyone else. As this has turned into a little rant I will turn it back to our foiled plans, our walk ended early not because of the rudeness (opps there I go again) and indifference to some, but rather because of a few hood rats who were so closely eyeing Robbie’s camera and kept following us. Every time we stopped, they stopped, until Ron finally gave them a clear look that we knew what they were up to and they moved on, unfortunately at this point our plans were ruined, Ron was irritated, and we headed back to our hotel where we took a early and very cold dip in the pool. We thought we could escape some of the culture at lunch in the hotel, as breakfast the last couple days had been quiet, I put on a skort, and we headed down to the hotel restaurant only to find it filled to capacity minus one table with ...well let’s say less than enthusiastic opinions of western culture. Our time in Egypt although a learning experience with arts and architecture was less than impressive or comfortable in any other way. If a visit to the pyramids for one is a must, than one day is all you need.

Cairo had nothing to offer, pretty at night as the mosques were lit and Nile adorned with lighted boats, but once the sun rose, and the smog lifted it was dirty and dreary, the only good things I could personally find was the natural and fresh foods and the fact that tourists were well taken care of in all the major attractions as there are tourist police upon all entries and all the hotels have police and security with dogs, all cars are sniffed before being allowed to go past the gate, and all people must walk through metal detectors before entering the hotel.
Alas we still have a full week at the resort, more to come on that later.

A Poem

Helpless, so far from home

I feel so alone, no one understands

Wondering, where did I go wrong?

I fell for lies, broken promises of a new chance

I’m too tired to start all over again

To tired to make it work

Fallen out of love so long ago

Tried to fool myself, but even I can’t lie anymore

I’m falling again, falling into empty space

That black hole once void is filling again

I can’t hold on, can’t get control

I’m falling deeper, falling harder

Slowly I fill my chest crushing beneath me

I can’t breathe, my heart beats faster

Tears fall, tears fall harder

How long till I hit the bottom again? Only time will tell

Will there be someone there to catch me or will I land alone?

Russia Update 2

Russia –An update, Part 2

As with all adventures, Russia has come with its good and bad. I have been in Moscow for five months now, just under six and a lot has happened.
Last I updated, it was just after Rome, Halloween, and Remembrance Day (or lack thereof). I can say that Russia was very easy to settle into. I quickly became friends with one of our neighbours and over Christmas I got to know one of our other Canadian families quite well, true colours starting showing quickly after “the new person”, myself had worn out her welcome, and I choose wisely who my friends are here.

I am slowly learning the language; the Cyrillic is almost down, although sometimes letters are seen differently and can throw me for a loop. I can count to 7 which is good for ordering the maximum 5 pieces of chicken I usually get, and the 7 articles of clothing I brought into the dressing room a couple weeks ago, and when we head to McDonalds I can order what I need in Russian, ok so it’s almost pretty much English with the exception of a few items, , but still without the English tourist sheet, and can relay “Savoy” (excuse if the spelling is improper), which is take out or to go.

I also know the Moscow METRO system like the back of my hand, but that in itself is another story.

I know that I am painting a rosey picture but my settling in hasn’t come without its struggles; I am instead choosing to focus on the positive points of my process. Believe me when I say that there are some days when I was fed up and wished I was back home with the harshness of some here, but just as quickly, the rare friendly smiles that come my way make it worthwhile and quickly change my mood.

In December we learned that we were pregnant, but a couple weeks later there were complications and just days before Christmas it was confirmed that we had lost the baby. Christmas in Moscow was quite busy, we had six parties to be present at, most of them were must attend, and it was with a heavy heart that we were present at each with a smile on our face. Grieving didn’t come till after the New Year.

Temperatures in Moscow still weren’t reaching under -12, snow still not amounting to much, it was funny to speak to friends and family who were back home cold and buried under snow banks. The kids had three weeks off for break, and we stayed home most of the time. We did enjoy some quality time sledding on the hill just feet from our house, and skating with our new skates in the compound, always followed by a warm fire back home and a cup of hot chocolate. The break also included another visit to Red Square to see the lights and the inside of the “onion” with friends.

The Russians really love to celebrate the New Year, the 31st of December was a huge spectacle with fireworks in the park right outside our back door, and everywhere else, they could be heard over the river just seconds from our house till as early as 4:00 in the morning. The kids played with colourful Russian sparklers and managed to stay up well past midnight.

February is a very busy month and it comes with a whole new chapter. Two days into the new month as a way to distract me and keep me busy, I missed having the kids with me and quite frankly staying home all day was just beginning to get boring and monotonous, the boundaries of the compound are seclusive, and confining.

I started a new job at the Embassy. My new job is long and complicated to list out what has to be done, but I can say that there is a lot of responsibility, it’s my show, and I don’t have to report to anyone daily as long as I’m getting things done, which I have. In my first couple weeks I have already made a lot of progress and am almost finished preparing and organizing the first part of my job.

I work four days a week; Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Fridays, I leave home after the boys have gone to school, getting into work around 09:15, and I’m home by the time the kids get home after their after school programs. Wednesdays I take off as it’s a late start, it’s a free day to do shopping, and spend time with the boys. Wednesdays in our house is either the school late start, or breakfast at the school cafeteria. After school I pick Anthony up and we go to the cafeteria to have a snack or a treat. The very little time we get to spend with each other outside of the house as getting around is still proving to be difficult as I haven’t started driving the busy Moscow streets.

Being super mom is exhausting as any working mom will know, I get up early to get ready, get the kids ready in the morning, going to work all day and coming home to deal with cleaning, cooking dinner, more cleaning, and homework. Only two weeks into my job I am on my first vacation from it, a much needed one as working again is proving to be stressful and tiring.

I miss things back home, things you can’t get here. I miss chicken noodle soup, Campbell’s, and Kraft cheese slices for a proper grilled cheese, and with summer fast approaching I have an order in with my mom for salted sunflower seeds. It is when we go out to eat that I miss NO SMOKING in restaurants. I miss going out and about whenever I want, and taking the kids places without worrying about a language barrier. At the same time though I am growing from the experience, my resume will have grown after my time here, and my cooking is growing as well.

As with all experiences I take everything in stride, and learn from it, awaiting the next opportunity to arise.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

A Civillians Perspective in Afghanistan - Part 3


Like all deployments with the military, mine also had a bit or rather a lot of Pre Deployment preparations and frustrations. I had four months after training to prepare for my deployment overseas, but even days before leaving the four months preparation was not enough. Some of those chosen from our selection course only had days to prepare for KAF after leaving Kingston, I couldn’t imagine being able to prepare myself in such a little amount of time.

I was fortunate to have the expertise of my husband to help me out with things that I would need. Little by little my paperwork started coming in, my uniforms arrived, and little by little I started to get things I would need for six months away from home, suitcases, clothes, shoes, and other accessories, my credit card was loving me, and I had nearly maxed it up, my credit limit had been raised twice over the course of my preparations, at this point I was glad I was not heading over for the money because I had a nice little bill to pay when I returned home. What I did not get, my husband made sure I had at Christmas, bungee cords, which I could see as useful though I never used, a headlamp, which was quite handy in the middle of the night for visits to the porta potty or for my midnight jogs around camp, and my most used and loved item, and MP3 player. Nothing fancy, just enough to put my favourite workout music on, and go. I put aside a small space for myself in the laundry room and put all my things there as I got them. As time drew nearer, I started packing things in the suitcases making sure I had everything I would need and could not live without for my arrival in “the host nation” and KAF in my carry on.

The stress on me and my husband was alike any other deployment we had been on together. By that time he had been on four deployments overseas and a couple other “deployments” in Canadian departures, and just like his deployments, we had the same frustrations and anxiety’s while preparing for mine, same difficulties, and same stresses that any soldier going on deployments has before going away. It started about a month before I left, and carried well into my tour. We were in quintessence preparing ourselves for the next six months without each other, employing our own bubble for what life would be like.

All deployment preparations aside, when I arrived, it was quickly observed that I had forgotten a few items, items that weren’t key to my survival, but all the same would give me a comfort that was much like splurging desert style. It was obvious that even with four months to prepare; one can never be prepared enough for such a trip.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

A Civillians Perspective in Afghanistan - Part 2



PRIOR TO GOING: It’s rather funny, you would think that the prospect, well the reality now of going to a war torn country would put some kind of fear into me about war related things, things that we were taught in training, although slim chance of happening, there was still the possibility of happening; mines, hostage situations, and even the rockets which were a fairly regular occurrence.

I was worried of how people would perceive me being over there. Those that were back in Canada, and my future co workers in KAF, would they think of me as crazy for leaving my children behind to pursue somewhat of a selfish opportunity? It turned out I was not the only one in KAF who had young children, although I was one of very few. My co workers were from all walks in life, retired military, retired civil service, military wives, older, younger, students, and those that are just there for the money, which is a whole other issue.

My biggest fear in going though had nothing to do with Afghanistan at all. My greatest fear was that of my family at home. I was scared that my husband who had next to no clue about family life, how to raise the kids, doctors, and cooking especially (sorry honey) would resent me when I got home, or well before. For me, there was no choice in going though. I remember speaking to a social worker a couple years ago, and he had told me that I did for everyone else and not for myself, that I worried too much what other people thought of me. This for me would make or break the rest of our lives together no matter what the decision and the outcome was. If I choose not to go, it meant me giving up a piece of me, a dream to do something with myself other than being a mom , other than the dedicated military wife that faithfully follows her husband from base to base, and an opportunity to make a difference, or so I had hoped. Going also provided me partial insight into what tours posed for him previously, and what home life posed for me on a daily basis when he was absent. If I did go, and he did resent me, then that was something I would have to live with, for me though, it was a show of character and what our relationship could withstand, and if not than it would fall through.

My husband wasn’t the only one I was worried about though. Robbie was 12, and at first I wasn’t really worried so much about him. He was growing up, and fast; I knew, or at least thought that he would have no problem or issues with mom going away for such a long period of time. I thought he was getting to old for his mom, and didn’t need me. He had started hanging out with his friends more and more, stopped giving us hugs and kisses, and in general was maturing very fast. It wasn’t long before I learned how much my 12 year old still needed his mom, and my heart broke when my husband would tell me of how he would talk to me on the phone and go to his room after for a private cry before coming out to rejoin whatever was going on at the time. Robbie had taken on a ton of responsibility during my deployment, more so then I had anticipated. He made sure his brother was up in the mornings for school, gave him breakfast, and made sure he was dressed in the mornings so that when dad returned from PT, he could come home change himself for work and take Anthony to daycare. When they reached Moscow, he has made sure that not only is Anthony ready in the mornings, but is also off to school, not much change since they head in the same direction, but he also gets him after school and watches him till dad arrives home. If Ron was to work on the weekend, than Robbie watched Anthony in the TV room at the Embassy until it was time to go home. It was a give in that Robbie deserved a big ticket for all his dedication to my cause. He came out of it with a new WII. Something we now all enjoy as a family.

Anthony on the other hand was only 5, and I knew he would have a problem with me being away for so long. The first two years of Anthony’s life it was pretty much just him, Robbie and me. Ron was away a lot either on tours or on exercises. He had been breastfed for the first 14 months, and the only other people he saw during that time was my best friend Shannon. We did everything from shopping together, which was almost constant as Shannon and I had somewhat of an addiction to Wal-Mart, watching Robbie every week at cadets, and most days he even shared my bed. He was glued to me. It was for me though, a now or never opportunity, and I thought that Anthony, my youngest who had always been a mamma’s boy could do with a little loosening, and some quality time with his dad, who he hadn’t had a chance to bond with. Although I wanted him to be not so dependent on me, at the same time I was fearful that when I did get back, he would no longer want to cuddle with his mom, either because he was now too old to snuggle, or resentful to me for leaving him for so long. I remember watching the news one day and a clip of Afghanistan came on, I called Anthony over and told him that that was where mommy was going. He instantly cried, it was obviously that even at his young age, he remembered when daddy was there, and how long he had been away. My promise to Anthony was a vacation when mommy got back. I’d say that we’ve had our share of those since my return with many more in the future. All he could say during my leave while “on vacation” was see mom you said we were going to go on vacation. During my HLTA my fears lessened when as usual, my husband became the target of my young ones hostility and I became the mom that never left, the benefit of all his copious amounts of snuggles and affection. As I sat in Toronto waiting to be reunited with my kids once again, my little guy anxiously awaits also, pestering his dad on a daily basis as to the return of his mom, and assuring me on the phone that when I get home all he wants to do is “read Green Eggs and Ham, and cuddle”. My fears put aside.

Now being reunited with my family a month after returning from overseas, we still haven’t read Green Eggs and Ham, but we’ve read many other books, and had plenty of snuggles. My little guy is still a mamma’s boy, only changing in that I have to kiss him goodbye or hello at the gate before we get to the school so his friends don’t see and make fun of him, and instead of his usual aggressive ways towards his dad as before I left, he is loving to him, including him in hugs and goodnight kisses. My six months away, no matter how hard for all us at one time or another secured a bond between him and his dad that I’m sure would have taken much longer to achieve otherwise.

MY FEARS THERE: My fears about being in a war torn country started the moment I stepped off the plane onto the Kandahar Air Field. It was in that moment I realized that I was in Afghanistan, a place where our soldiers were dying, where the Taliban did not want us, yet the everyday citizens and the government welcomed us with open arms. This was the place I knew nothing about, where I would be living in a tent for six months, using communal bathrooms and showers, and where I would have to learn my job quickly, quicker than I’d ever trained for a job before. I would have to put my fears aside when it came to communicating and socializing and learn to open up, start conversations, and hold a conversation. I was no longer allowed to be shy, timid, or apprehensive. It was time for me to put any fears aside.

A big fear became the rockets, the first coming in after I’d been on the ground only a few days. I was surprised to see how laid back everyone was. It was like it was a regular occurrence for them. Most nights the rockets were nothing more than annoyance, sometimes coming in at odd hours of the night, when you had a shift early in the morning. There were a couple times that I realized the severity of damage a rocket could cause, or how close it could hit. Most nights rockets would only come in one, maybe two at a time. There was one night though I remember being in the bunker, PPE on, and wondering when they would stop. The constant warning over the sirens of the JDOC announcing us that we were under rocket attack had begun to wear on me. We had been in and out of the bunker and back to work a few times before we were really “all clear”. Most times in the bunker, it was like a little party, something we didn’t often take seriously and often you could see more people hanging outside the bunker smoking and hanging out than inside. This night I was with a couple close friends and we made our jokes from inside the bunker sitting on a couple as close to porn magazines that were left behind. Our visit didn’t last much longer than any other night, but it sure woke us up to the reality once again what could be. Something we all needed once in awhile.

My greatest fear while in KAF was that I would have to stand ramp for someone that I knew, someone I recognized, someone I had become friends with, or someone that I had a conversation with. I worried for our troops, and I worried for the troops of other nations that I got to know, as I didn’t think I would ever find out if something had happened to them as we only got word of Canadian casualties. I thought I was in the clear until the week before I left, that’s when my tour changed.

IN COMING HOME: My six months overseas is over now and I quickly realized that the fears I had in going and being there were quite liberating. I had come close on a couple occasions to coming home, but after speaking with a good friend, I realized that it was something I wouldn’t forgive myself for. Like all fears we have, I didn’t let mine conquer me. I didn’t let them get in the way of a truly unique experience that only comes around once in a lifetime. My situation in going home is exceptional. I am not back to Gagetown, the military base where my husband was posted upon my departure, but rather I am in Russia, news my husband received only a month after my deployment to Afghanistan was underway. Russia was something that came up a couple months prior to me leaving, but upon my departure out of Canada we were given a clear “no”, that a posting overseas to Moscow would not be in our immediate future due to many logistical issues with it, and so I left Canada thinking that I would see it once again in six months time. I was one month into my tour when I got an emergency phone call overseas saying that I needed to call home right away. Somehow, some way we had managed to get the posting and my husband needed a quick response if I was in for it. Reluctantly I responded with a yes, but not at the cost of my deployment, and so with much aggravation back home and many turned in favours I finished my tour, waited a month in Toronto on my VISA, and joined my family in our new home overseas just over a month subsequent to my return. It was now time to not readjust to family life and marriage, but customize myself with a new country, new culture and so many other “news”.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

My Little Angel

It is once again that my faith has been hardened. It is during times like these when I wonder if there is a God, or a greater good. I lend my faith into hands I can’t see and hope that the choices made for me are for the best. I pray to Him to do as He sees fit, that no matter what He decides I know He has His reasons, and that whatever He chooses for me, it is because He knows I can handle it with grace.

I held in me a new life, a tiny life no bigger than a speck of rice, but one that I ultimately cherished all the same. I immediately nourished my body and held shelter, for that little life’s dependence on me was apparent. My little life was my hope, and my dream. I was to carry that little miracle until it bloomed, able to stand life on its own outside of me.

It was seen fit that now was not the time and slowly and with much torment you fled from me. You were merely in sight a speck of rice, no life of your own yet, nothing to distinguish you, barely even there with so much time still to grow.

I asked Him, if it was not to be, why not make it quick, why must it be drawn out? How could He be so cruel? Was He once again testing my faith, or lack thereof? How could He create such a miracle, a life and so cruelly take it away?

Answers to these questions I’ll without doubt never have, and so I say goodbye to you, and hold you up, to the heavens to be with those that have also made their way. You’re with the heroes now, may they hold you in their gentle arms until I can hold you in mine.

My little angel.