2.29.2012

I Have A Lump

I have a small, pebble sized lump in my right breast, that was confirmed yesterday at my way-overdue annual exam.

And I am nervous.

I've known about this lump for a few months, having found it during one of my monthly breast exams. But with my background of breast reductions seventeen years ago, I never gave it much thought. Scar tissue was what I chalked it up to be. Maybe a cyst. Nothing more.

The reality though is that I'm at "that age." That mystical number that suddenly has you microscopically examining every nook and cranny of your body ... all while envisioning your mortality ... and contemplating Botox and Restylane to help you look the age you feel.

Unlike my past medical history, where I never mentioned anything until after I got the confirmation that all was okay, I want to talk about this.

Despite feeling, (and dare I say knowing), that in my heart of hearts all is going to be just fine. That it's probably nothing. I got spooked when the nurse told me within mere seconds of my exam, that she absolutely felt where and what I was talking about. It surely doesn't negate my anxiety of waiting to get my mammogram. It certainly won't stop the "what-if" fairy from making a daily pit-stop in my head.

So until I have my mammogram, (incidentally scheduled on Matt's birthday), when finally I take the films from my previous one and have them compared to this new one, I'll be breathing a little heavier. For patience is NOT my long suit ...

I'll also be reminding you to check your boobs. Because despite how youthful we all feel and look. I'm just 38 years young.

And I found a lump.

2.23.2012

Filed Under "Things You Never Thought You'd Hear Yourself Say" ...

... to your SON.


"Grady!" "SIT STILL and let your nails dry." "I do NOT want you getting yellow nail polish on the carpet."

Whatever. At least he didn't ask for red ...





2.22.2012

When I Say "THAT CHILD" ...

We ALL know who I'm talking about.

The spicy one. Who always provide me with gray hair and blog fodder.

The one, who as you can see below, ensures that my nails will forever stay clipped short, so when I grab her arm tightly when she throws fits like she details below ...

... will never pierce the skin.



2.20.2012

Modern Family

With a very busy Saturday planned, I decided to hop into the shower while Matt was monitoring Grady playing on my iPhone in our bed.

However, this is what I saw when I walked back into our bedroom. The rest of the clan was now there, and they were all so engrossed they DIDN'T EVEN NOTICE when I walked right by them and snapped a few photos ... or that I had been gone for twenty minutes showering!


2.17.2012

The FS BRU ... You Ought To Be In Pictures

It didn’t take but a few seconds to decide which picture I wanted to showcase in this week’s FS Round Up. It is actually our favorite photo ever taken ... with such an incredible story behind it.

Oman offers some of the most hair-raising cave exploration in the world. One of the famous caves is the Majlis al Jinn (Meeting place of the Spirits), of which Matt and four of his friends had the most exciting and challenging adventures of their lives, as they repelled down it on March 10 - 11, 2005.

This cave is difficult to negotiate and involves two drops, one of 160 meters and the second of 120 meters. To enter the cave, one must be lowered down on a free-hanging rappel. The find at the end of these drops is well worth the effort as the Majlis Al Jinn is a half-domed cave measuring 60,000 square meters -- the second largest cave in the world after the Sarawak Chamber in Malaysia's Borneo region. To get a better idea of its size, imagine that the Majlis al Jinn could easily accommodate the Great Pyramid of Giza.

Preparing for this cave trip was no easy matter. The guys had four separate training sessions before the guide would "allow" them to go. During these training sessions they learned how to strap themselves into their safety harnesses , how to change ropes, and how to ascend and descend on the ropes using technique rather than muscle. The training sessions lasted approximately 2 hours, and Matt came home each time exhausted and bruised.

Majlis al Jinn is located in a remote region of the Eastern Hajar Mountains, and is a 3 hour drive outside of Muscat, over some rough terrain. They got there by 5 pm, they set up camp, unpacked the car, and had their first glance at the cave. Looking at this small hole in the ground you wouldn't have any idea that what lies beneath is a cavern SO large that it could accommodate five 747 airplanes standing from tail to nose on top of each other, or that it goes as far down as a 50-story building.

The early sunrise and excitement of the next day had the guys up and around by 6:30 am. By 8 am they were all dressed, and by 9 am they were ready to begin their descent. Matt said that while the training classes prepared you to comfortably maneuver up and down on the ropes, it doesn't prepare you for the utter shock and awe you have once you're lowered into the cave and suddenly realize how damn high up you are. It is so high that you can't tell that the little pebbles seen below are actually large boulders. Matt's life briefly flashed before him as he realized that the only thing between life and death was the one thin rope hammered into the rocks above. It took everyone about 1/2 hour to descend into the cave. As Matt and his friend John went down at the same time, they passed the camera back and forth and took photos of each other. Matt also took several photos both above and below to show the volume and magnitude of the cave chamber.

The inside of the Majlis al Jinn is spectacular, so much so that National Geographic Magazine did a piece on it in March, 2004. Once you arrive in the cave, there's a book for everyone to sign and a place to leave a piece of memorabilia behind. The guys spent about 1 1/2 hours in the cave taking in the tranquility and admiring the scenery, and shooting lots of photos before they began their long ascent back to the top.

While it took them only 20 minutes to descend, it took each climber over an hour to ascend back to the top. Matt likened it to performing a succession of squats and pull-ups for over an hour. At times it felt like he was not making much progress. However, by 3 pm everyone was up at the top, a little bruised, bloodied, and battered, but glad to be alive. The SUV's were repacked, and the guys wound their way back to Muscat for a much needed rest .

A few additional interesting facts about the Majlis al Jinn. In the book at the bottom of the cave for everyone to sign, there are only about 100 names or so. Additionally, no Omani has ever been down in the cave as they fear the spirits (or Jinn) that are believed to haunt the chamber. The term "Genie" is derived from the Arabic word Jinn... You can check out a compilation of photos of his trip on Shutterfly at http://tinyurl.com/7jnwnxk




I chose this optional topic because those who know me in real life know I never EVER leave home without my camera. I either have my iPhone, my little point and shoot, or my Canon SLR on me at all times. I document everything. My kids. Funny signs around town. Hysterical outfits. My pictures are my life. And as you can see from the massive number of FS bloggers who submitted posts to me this week ... it looks to be their lives too!



The Saunders Family shows us that The Royal Ascot Goat Race is the biggest “who’s who” social event of the year in Kampala, Uganda. Everyone is dressed to the nines and in their most outrageous hats. It is definitely an African version of the Kentucky Derby!

Heather in Zimbabwe has some amazing animal photos ... which is obviously what happens when you do back to back tours in Africa!

There are SO many crafty people in the FS. The Committed Stitcher is a newcomer in Chisinau to the FS BRU and her blog all about Stitching.

Tabbies In Tow has some funny street signs in Colombia. Can you figure out what this is?



Denise in Dhaka is a woman after my own heart, always carrying her camera with her too! With tons of opportunities each day to snap photos ... here are a few around town.

Daniela’s recent trip to the Newseum in DC brought back floods of memories from her life back in Bulgaria ... and saw a picture that wasn’t meant to be.

Nothing like the insanity of shopping for a consumables posting to brighten up your day. Go take a look at the Sherwood Family Nonsense’s pantry in Azerbaijan. Wow!!!



Hello Talalay is in my old stomping grounds in India! Here’s a sign taken on vacation ... with clearly no explanation needed!



Sadie continues her travels in Jordan with a trip to Wadi Rum and Aqaba. After seeing these I’m so bummed we didn’t get a chance to make it there while living in Israel.

Alix shows us how amazing her daughter is at Tae Kwon Do, recently testing for her white belt. She also lets us in on a little secret ... that she kicked a** at the same age ... with a picture of herself cutting a watermelon with a sword to prove it!



Kelly in Vienna will never disappoint us with her pictures. Make us jealous ... absolutely. Here she re-visits her old haunts in Prague. Dredging up memories while snapping away!

Lisa in Tijuana has a lot of thing she wishes for ... including a pony. Doesn’t she look good sitting on a pony?



Families get to do some pretty exciting things at post. Melissa’s son at was recently baptized in the Sea of Galilee. How many of his friends can say that?



Have you ever noticed the absurdly large cameras and glamour photography culture of China? Well Danielle at Hot Pot sure has ...

Digger, at Life After Jerusalem, who authors probably THE most popular blog within the FS, with THE most expansive blogroll, shares with us just how creative she has to be with editing her lists. Can someone please send her more hats and mittens because it’s flipping freezing in Estonia right now!

Becky at Small bits is one positive chica and always manages to focus on the beauty in the experience.

She may have WANTED to do it, but since there was a sign there, Kristin from There Is Fun To Be Done!!, who was on vacation in Indonesia, decided against it ...



In honor of the upcoming presidential election, Anne, at adventures of a freckle faced girl, in Conakry, is pretty sure she knows who the Guinean people would vote for ... if only they could vote in the US.

I’m so glad I’m not the only one who loves documenting the experiences our kids have growing up in the FS lifestyle. Jackie at the Pryor Adventures in Laos sent in a photo of her daughter riding in an old boat down the Mekong River in Luang Prabang. Seriously, how many of us actually know where that is? A-ma-zing!



I’ve been an avid fan of Connie’s for years, and I’ve yet to come across anyone’s cats who are spunky as hers. So much so that she had to write a note to them!

Adrian in Wellington, New Zealand sent in a photo of the USA team and their cheerleaders for the Wellington Sevens rugby tournament. And dogs. It’s a Mardi-Gras like celebration that is quite off color. How much so? Well ... check out his latest posting!




Sarah at Verdant Voyages proves to us that we will do just about anything for our beloved pets. Including dressing them in snow gear to take him outside in the negative temps just to let him do his business.

Hats off to Melissa at V for VonHinken for sending in such a glorious photo from the Fourth of July here in DC.



You can always count on Shannon in Malawi to both WOW us with her incredible photos from her safaris ... and skeeve us out with her creepy crawly photos taken in her own back yard.

Heather in Cairo shows us one of her favorite family photos ... along with the joys of driving around Cairo. Her reminder? No matter what, you don’t have the right of way.



Crystal, of the Briden Bunch, an amazing lady who so generously schlepped my husband around Kuwait 1.5 years ago, sent in some photos that her dad took while recently visiting them in Mali.


As Jen prepares to send her husband off to Afghanistan in a few months, it brings back memories of her first attempted unaccompanied tour in Iraq... you all know the rest of the story. Jen’s favorite photo of Pete is where he's hugging her little guy in the airport. But my favorite is him kissing the iMac during a Skype session.




The B Files in the Dominican Republic is learning how to entertain in the FS. Stop on by and give her some tips for her future parties!

Nicole is packing out and leaving Brazil in a few weeks. Come check out her nifty count down calendar that she made for her son ... a useful tip for toddlers preparing for a big move!

Speaking of Brazil, my friend Kate at Pulling Stakes is really flirting with him lately. She even went so far as to pass a note to him in class and totally ask him if he’ll “go with her”. So Junior High school. So hilariously!

Kolbi, the queen of photography, left it up to me to decide which photo to post. Which gave me full authority to include my favorite. She's always so critical of herself in photos ... which, when you look at this photo can't quite understand why. I love this one of her not just because she's beautiful, but rather because she's genuinely happy.



Which leads me to the next FS Round Up to be published on Friday, March 2nd. The optional talking point is "Something that makes you happy at your CURRENT posting."

We know that it's not always peaches and cream here in the Foreign Service. Sometimes things happen that really have you shaking your fist in the air, or pulling out another box of kleenex. But there has to be something that you like. Something that makes you smile. Whether it's the ability to walk to your local coffee shop, ice cream shop, grocery store. Or having wonderful weather, the ability to go snow skiing, or to jetset to exotic locations.

Send me a posting where you can show us all a time that you and your family were truly happy. Don't bother writing a new entry unless you REALLY want to. I'm sure there's something in your archives that oozes with positivity. Of course, feel free to send me a link to just your blog if you just can't find anything happy to showcase. thefsroundup@me.com

Also, if you're an FS blogger and you're on Facebook but aren't in the FS blogger group, find me, friend me and I'll add you in. Many people post there regularly and I want to make sure that you get the notices.

Oh yeah, one last thing. If you're in DC, remember that there's an FS blogger meet-up happening Saturday evening from 4:30 pm - 7:30 pm at the Oakwood Falls Church. RSVP to Becky at smallbitsfs@yahoo.com if you can make it. I'll be there and I'm schlepping the family along ... come say hello and break bread with your fellow "family".

Until next time ... keep snapping away!

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