The Countdown Has Begun

I received this e-mail from Matt early Monday morning, about twelve hours after his arrival into Iraq.

"Exiting the ramp of the C-130, my boots hit the dusty tarmac at BIAP (Baghdad International Airport) at approx 09:00 this morning. The weather is hot - like standing in front of a smelting furnace hot. Donned body armor and helmet for my individual motorcade down "Route Irish" to the Embassy compound. The compound resembles a prison with a series of nondescript beige buildings separated by dirt fields where grass may someday be planted. Nevertheless, it offers all of the creature comforts with a huge dining facility (DFAC) and several little snack (Grab & Go) shops - all free. There is a Pizza Hut and Subway as well. The compound has a rec center, complete with gym and swimming pool. We are completely self-sufficient with our own water treatment plant, fire station, and emergency ambulances. My newly furnished apartment looks directly over the Tigris river."

So far he's doing well. He says his apartment and roommate are both quite nice ... with newly upgraded furniture, hard wired internet, a US phone number, an iPod docking station / alarm clock, and flat screen TV.

The compound also has two gyms, a swimming pool, and more food than you could possibly imagine available 24/7. So aside from working, people spend the rest of their time doing one of two things ... working out or eating. And leaves Matt coming home one of two ways ... hunky or chunky. You know which one I'm rooting for.

Many people have asked how I'm doing. The truth is ... it doesn't feel any different right now. For the most part. Remember, for the past 7 years I've spent the summers in California at either his parent's house or mine without him. Since we're not in our own house yet, and we don't have our own stuff yet, it just feels like an extended summer break. However, I'm quite certain that once we move into our rental house, and a few days here and there, it will hit me that he's in Baghdad. For the year. Don't get me wrong, I miss him. Terribly. The kids miss him. The dog misses him... But we're holding our own.

Three days down ... and the countdown has begun.


The Benefits of Blogging

Though I have been documenting our chaotic lifestyle for over seven years, it took a day like today for me to remember how truly powerful the internet can be. For many years my email updates turned blog were solely written for our family and friends, and it wasn't until early 2008 when I started to branch out and get involved with other expats, other websites, and other bloggers. Needless to say, the ramp up to where I am today took time... energy... and dedication.

Blogging can be as time consuming as anyone wants it to be, with dare I say hundreds of thousands of blogs to chose from. I read all of my girlfriend's blogs. I find that I connect with State Department bloggers just due to the nature of the lifestyle. I enjoy writers who are witty. Crafty. Snarky. East Coasters. Stay at home moms. Dog owners. And those who travel. I read many of the blogs that are named on the sidebar of my blog, though in all honesty, I'm so far behind in updating it to reflect where I truly spend my time online. One of these days...

Which nowhere near brings me to my point, though I'll just jump back there lest I digress any longer. Today, Matt got a chance to enjoy the benefits of my blogging. Today, on his way to Baghdad (via a quick stop over in Kuwait), Matt spent several hours taking a windshield tour of Kuwait City followed by a Lebanese dinner with another foreign service family, with whom I've been in communication for the past year. Today when he got back to his hotel, he sent me an email about his wonderful encounter with the Briden family that totally validated why I continue to blog. It's all about the community.

As a stay-at-home mom, formerly living overseas as a diplomat's spouse, I have noticed that sometimes just finding a community where I can relate, is the biggest challenge of all. Sure, I'm linked in to several State Department websites. I participate in support groups for spouses who are on unaccompanied tours. I connect with others via Twitter, Facebook, and blogging. But now that I'm back in the States for an indefinite period of time, I have the ability to change the focus a little bit. To find myself again. To scratch that seven year itch and rediscover the piece of me I gave up when I quit my job and began this nomadic lifestyle.

In two weeks I'm doing something totally for me. I'm heading to New York City, by myself, to attend The BlogHer 2010 Conference. For two days I'm going to be in the Big Apple meeting 2000 bloggers ... including many of the people whose blogs I've been reading for several years. I'm going to be learning about creative writing... enhancing my photos... social media... and controlling my online footprint. I'll be going to cocktail parties and evening events. And rooming with Christy, a sassy chick from the East Coast whose rockin' blog I've been following for ages.

Though I have no plans on changing the tone or content of I write in my blog, I want to really spend this year owning it and enhancing it. To freshen up my communities.

I'm excited. I'm investing in myself. And as I'm discovering, I'm worth it.

Matt in Kuwait


And In The Blink Of An Eye ... He Was Gone

We loaded the car early this morning as the sun was rising. Far earlier than anyone should be awake on a Sunday. Matt went back inside to kiss the kids goodbye one last time, and then stalled in the doorway as he gave the dog a last pat on her head. We left the house just as the newspaper was being delivered.

We didn't talk too much on the drive. In fact, the silence in the air was deafening.

The ride to the airport seemed to take much less time than normal. Maybe it's because there wasn't a lick of traffic. Maybe it's because I was concentrating so hard on not tearing up that I didn't notice anything but the road in front of me. All I can remember was that I wanted time to linger. To go as slowly as possible. To enjoy my last few moments with my husband in the flesh ...

We pulled into the airport at 6:30 am, and in no time I drove up to the curb at Terminal 7 so Matt could unload his bags. We slowly got out of the car. We shuffled our feet. We both put on our sunglasses.

Our goodbye was quick. Neither of us were ready to part ways, nor did we know what to say. So we hugged. We kissed. We cried. He whispered a few sweet words... He reminded me how much he loved me. He thanked me. He asked me to take care of his children.

And then we both turned and walked away.

DC this week. Onto Baghdad, Iraq next week.

Today begins our 53-week journey with my new role as a single mom. Continue along as I document the highs and lows of our life apart from daddy, and what it's like for the kids back in the US after seven years overseas. It may not always be rosy... but it'll definitely be real.


A Moving Experience

They were just two boxes. Nondescript. With the name even spelled wrong on one of them. Yet these two boxes carry more than just their 242 pounds of characterless contents... they carry the weight of the world. They are filled with memories. With meaning. With our heavy hearts.

The reality of these boxes being sent on to their next locale means that our last few days of being together as a family are coming to an end. A reality that just seemed to sneak up on us.


Respecting My Elder

Libby turned 9 today ... or as the girls like to say, she's now 63 in dog years. We didn't do anything special for her, except buy her a new dog toy and insist she wear a hat for a photo. Guess which one she preferred?

Libby is happier now than she's been in years. With regular walks and fresh air she has a new spring in her step.

Here she is in all her glory. Happy birthday little pooch!


This Week In iPhone Pictures ...

We've been out and about this entire week ... here's what I managed to capture on my iPhone.

Left: Some of the biggest waves seen this season down at "the wedge" in Newport Beach
Right: This is how they keep track of the camp kids when they go on field trips.

I finally had the chance to go to the salon and get my hair done. I had a Brazilian Blowout (insert all kinky comments here). It's actually a straightening procedure done for those with frizzy / curly hair. Same hairdo, same gray, same me. However, what once took me 50 minutes to dry / straighten, now takes me 5... and no brush required. Woo hoo!

Left: Date night. Ouch
Right: A woman carrying her dog ... and pushing the dog's stroller. Only in Newport...

Left: The beach house I almost rented for the year...
Right: The girls school playground. It's ON the beach. Pretty cool... if you like your kids coming home every.single.day with sand in EVERYTHING. Me? Not so much...

Left: Even babies sometimes sleep in the dog house.
Right: The kids goofing around with daddy.


Fourth of July in Pictures...

Holidays are cause for big celebrations down here in the tight knit community of Balboa Peninsula.... and the Fourth of July is definitely the biggest. The town provides decorations for the kids and dogs, a local band, a huge parade, and a fabulous hot dog lunch. What fun everyone had dressing up in red, white, and blue!

We finished up the day with a big party up in the Tustin Hills where the kids swam, ate, and ran around until the wee hours of the night. We had an amazing view of at least 10 different fireworks going off at the same time.

With Matt leaving soon to Iraq, we're starting to feel a wee bit more patriotic... Hope you all had a great 4th. We sure did.


Time Keeps On Slippin' Slippin' Slippin' ...

... into the future.

We've been in California for 2.5 weeks now, and we only have 2.5 weeks left before Matt leaves for Iraq. Insert the sounds of huge sighs, whines, and sniffles.

And there's been no rest for the weary.

As much as we're attempting to enjoy his 5 week vacation, we are also accomplishing a lot of things prior to his imminent departure. Things like securing the PO Box, shopping the sales at Old Navy, Gap & Banana Republic, visiting with my parents and brothers, haircuts and more haircuts, joining a Synagogue and signing the girls up for religious and Hebrew school, hanging with cousins, dealing with the State Department's incompetence regarding Matt's next 250 pound UAB shipment to Iraq, and even making a few trips up to LA for a little *ahem* jewelry shopping...

Somehow in all of this I managed to slip out last Saturday for a quick lunch with sorority sisters on our second annual get together. Of course, it'll probably be my first AND last solo outing until after Matt leaves. Priorities peeps.

This first day of the new month marked a day of new beginnings here in Newport Beach. Not only did Riley get a rockin' new hair do (because A. she was given a choice to either brush her hair or get it cut short, and she decided she wanted it cut ... and B. the first haircut from Supercuts was AWFUL and we needed to fix it), but Sheridan learned how to ride a bike without training wheels. Of course it would have been nice of me to have remembered my camera or video camera when I ran outside to watch Sheridan in all her glory, though by the time I got there she was losing steam and I was afraid that if I ran back inside that she'd then quit and all I'd have is a video of her screaming at me to turn off the camera. Been there before...

We are just coming up for air around here, so if you haven't received an e-mail back or a return phone call, please be patient ... and feel free to keep trying us! There's so much to do ... and time right now is dedicated to the family. As soon as Matt leaves I'll be doing a lot more reaching out, especially for support.

Until then, we're just flying...

It takes a sassy 7 year old to decide to be so bold as to cut her hair this short ...
... and a strong mom to handle watching her daughter's hair fall so quickly to the floor.
But it was priceless watching her face light up when her hair was dried straight
and she saw the end result. She LOVES it.

Sorority Sisters ... most of whom I've known since 1991

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