Monday, October 17, 2016

She Said: Iceland, you're breaking my heart

PSA:  The blog is in the process of getting a makeover.  I don't know yet what it will look like, public or private, etc., but I have wanted to get back to writing for a long time and am finally finding some moments to do so. Also, I promise not all of my posts in the future will be sad and reflective, but today's is.  If you prefer to wait for the happy post, just hang tight.  

This post is a simple story that illustrates how I've fallen head over heels in love with Iceland, and now it is breaking my heart. There are so many things we have loved about being here, and this post will not begin to attempt to capture and describe all of those things.   This is just a simple reflection that hit me as we walked home from school today.  

Today my oldest son said something out loud that made me simultaneously realize the challenges that lie ahead, but also one of the many things that I have loved about Iceland.  Iceland is thoughtful, kind, loving, and most of all, Iceland cares about children.  Iceland cares about children in a way that I have never experienced elsewhere.  The way that Iceland engages with children and helps them to grow into strong, confident beings has changed me as a mother, an auntie, a friend, a person.  Today as we were walking home from preschool, my oldest son said to me that they took a field trip to the playground of the school he will go to next year.  He said that all of the kids who will be moving to that school went together and they met the lady who works on the playground.  It seems like such a small thing, but it is one in a list of many things they are doing to begin to integrate the children into the school they will graduate to next year.  There's no anxiety for him about the school, but rather he's excited and comfortable there already in October of this year because they've already been to the school to visit and play on multiple occasions.  And this is where foreign service life can sometimes stop you in your tracks.  

Most of you know of course that he won't be going to that school.  We will be leaving next summer. He doesn't realize that yet and it seems like a bridge we don't need to cross yet, but my heart broke when he said those words out loud.  Iceland, I love you, and in that moment, I also  despised you.  Why do you have to do kids so well?  It would be so much easier if we could just say it has been mediocre and move on to the next thing, but you have been so good to us and especially to my kids, and that is truly one of the things that has made our time here so magnificent.  I know that whatever lies ahead (still uncertain) will be great in its own way and will also have its ups and downs, but for better or worse, it will not be Iceland.  I can only hope it does children as well as Iceland, that it treats them like equal members of society and nurtures them in the same way, but I have my doubts.  I am grateful for what we  have experienced so far here and for the months that we have left  I am grateful for what Iceland has given us and I am sad to think about what it will be like to leave it behind. 

Saturday, September 15, 2012

She Said: The Exceptional Work of Our FSOs

Particularly after this morning's news on the state of the world, I feel compelled to write.  Shock, Sadness, Disgust, Anger, Fear, Pride...all emotions I experienced this week after hearing the bad news.  This has been a difficult week for the foreign service community.  On Tuesday, the anniversary of 09/11 we lost four incredible men carrying out the work of diplomacy in Libya.  Today the violence has spread and 65 embassies and consulates have issued emergency messages about violence.  When the news first came about Ambassador Stevens (before I had even heard that we had lost 4 men) I felt personally very saddened.  It's a hard feeling to describe, but there is a closeness that comes with joining foreign service.  I think it's partially because from the outside our lifestyles seem so strange that we instantly bond with one another sharing in the commonalities we have without having to explain a thing. My parents both called the morning of the 12th to check in and express their sadness and anger at the news.  My dad even mentioned to me how it felt different having such a personal connection the state department than if he had heard the same news without that.  It is a strange feeling.  You feel like you've lost a family member and probably in the backs of our minds we are all thinking about those we know serving overseas right now and those who are here who will be overseas again at some point.  That danger is always there, although we're not always as aware of it.  This week has certainly highlighted that.

There have been several op-eds and articles written in light of these events that have highlighted the work of US diplomats overseas.  I think it is important for people to see these to grasp that one small opportunity that can come with this terrible tragedy and highlight the importance of the work these public servants do.  I have heard people say that diplomats just attend parties or that it's a glamorous lifestyle, but that's simply not the case and while it's unfortunate that it takes a terrible tragedy for people to grasp this, I think this is an opportunity to share about the work they do.  I could attempt to write it in my own words, but there are so many good articles floating around I am just going to repost two recent favorites:

NY Times Op-Ed:

Foreign Policy Article:

I am proud of the work that my husband and his colleagues carry out on a daily basis.  They too often forget that it is extraordinary work.   Even with the danger, I know we all believe (families and diplomats alike) that the work is extremely important and it must continue.  Thank you to anyone reading this who is in public service and to those of you who don't know exactly what diplomats do and are taking the time to learn.   My heart goes out to the families of Ambassador Stevens, Sean Smith, Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty.

"So we will wipe away our tears, stiffen our spines, and face the future undaunted. And we will do it together, protecting and helping one another, just like Sean, Tyrone, Glen, and Chris always did. May God bless them and grant their families peace and solace, and may God continue to bless the United States of America."-Secretary Clinton, Sep. 14, 2012

Sunday, January 8, 2012

She Said: So much to be thankful for part 2...

Happy New Year!  I can't believe it has been over a year since either of us posted, which tells you what kind of a year it has been.  With the dust settling a bit in our lives I am once again back at blogging and am really looking forward to it.  Brian and I had really hoped to do a Christmas letter this year, but it just didn't happen.  We still have hopes of getting a Valentine's day letter out...time will tell.

I decided to title this post the same as the last post I wrote because that really is the theme in our lives right now.   Blog entries are meant to be short, so I won't go through the list of things I'm thankful for right now, but I will tell you that our life has changed in a big way over the last year.  Since I last wrote we are back stateside (in DC for a tour), have purchased a house and welcomed our bundle of joy Colin Richard into this world.  While there are so many things I could write about in this post, there is one timely story that I feel compelled to share and seems to be a good one to kick off the blogging on the theme "So much to be thankful for".

On the night of December 3rd Brian and I put Colin to sleep as usual around 8:00 pm.  We were excited to be in our new house that we had just moved into before Thanksgiving.  Around 1:00 am, Colin woke up and was very fussy.  He was crying and crying which is very unlike him.  Being the weekend (and that Brian is such a wonderful husband) Brian was up with him rocking him and walking with him to calm him off and on.  At about 2:15 we made the decision to bring Colin in bed with us because he had been so upset.  It's just so unlike him that we were worried about him and thought it would help us all get some sleep.

At 3:30 I decided I was going to feed Colin.  He usually gets up to eat around 4:00 anyway and since he had been so upset I decided feeding him a little early might help him.  He had switched from all out crying to more of a lethargic moan, but still seemed irritable.  When I sat up to feed him I nearly fell over and felt very faint.  "What's wrong?", Brian asked.  "Did you sit up too fast?"  "I don't know"  I told him.  "I feel really take Colin and let me just lay back down for a minute while I pull myself together to feed him".  Brian walked with Colin while he cried for  a few minutes and then I tried to take him again.  I sat up and again was immediately dizzy.  This time I also felt sick to my stomach.  I wanted to try and feed Colin, so I took him and Brian walked around the bed to lay down.  "I feel dizzy too" he said.  Within 30 seconds of him telling me he was dizzy his knees gave out and he hit the bed.  I couldn't believe it.  What was happening?  It's so unlike Brian to be sick.  "We're tired" Brian said.  "Maybe we have food poisoning" we said to each other.  Brian laid down and tried to get comfortable while I attempted to feed Colin, but Colin wouldn't eat and that's what prompted me to realize there was something much bigger going on...that all three of us were affected.

 By some miracle of God I was reminded of a story my dad told me about a woman that works at his office, Lori.  Her family was affected by carbon monoxide poisoning a couple of years ago and I remember my dad saying how they had passed out, had headaches, were throwing up.  "Could this be carbon monoxide?"  I said to Brian.  So, Brian ran downstairs to do a quick google search and within moments hollered up to me that he thought it could very well be carbon monoxide.  The webpage said to get any air possible, so Brian opened a couple of windows and took a few deep breaths before heading back upstairs for us. As Brian came back in the bedroom I panicked.  I was worried about Colin.  I remember thinking that if Brian and I were as sick as we were that Colin must have been much worse.  I took him in my arms and left the bedroom and that's the last thing I remember.  Somewhere between there and the bottom of the stairs I lost consciousness.  Brian heard me fall and came out to find me at the bottom of the steps.  Colin was beside me, face up in his swaddle looking stunned.  Brian says that I was still responding, that I said I was ok and to take Colin.  He took Colin and went to the entry of our house where he propped open the door and sat with Colin to recover.  I regained consciousness at the bottom of the steps.  I remember waking up wondering why I was where I was, but remembering that I needed to get out. I got up and headed for the door, but I lost consciousness again in the entryway.  At that point Brian decided it was too risky to leave me.  He came in with Colin in one arm, grabbed me with his other and used all his strength to pull me out of the house.  Once we were out and getting fresh air we began to talk about what to do.  Because the CO made us so stupid, we considered driving to the emergency room and finally settled on calling 911.  I had been able to grab a jacket and Brian's cell phone just after I gained consciousness on the steps.  We called 911 and then we waited...for what seemed like an eternity, but was only 3 minutes.  I am ever grateful to the firemen and ems teams that responded to our call that cold winter night.  We were huddled together on the boulevard with my fleece wrapped around the 3 of us and I've never been so happy to hear sirens.  I had made a phone call to each of our families during the time we were waiting to touch base.  I really didn't know what was going to happen. When the firemen arrived I asked one of them to take Colin and get him warm and as soon as they lifted him out of Brian's arms, Brian collapsed.

The details of what ensued after are not really important.  What is important is that we are all ok and we all made it out alive.  Colin having an ear infection that night saved our lives and I really have to believe that there was someone much greater than us running the show that night.  Colin came out the best of the three of us with no bumps or bruises from the fall.  I have never been more aware of what it means to have life, have each other and appreciate one another.

So, this post is about saying thanks to each and every one of you that has been a part of our lives and that is so special to us.  We can't tell you how much we appreciate you.  If you don't have carbon monoxide detectors in your house/apartment/rental property/fs housing, please please go out and buy a couple and tell our story to others so that this doesn't have to happen again.  The source of the CO turned out to be a gas boiler next door to us and because we share a wall the gas was able to seep through the walls, so please don't say "we don't need those because we have nothing that could give off CO."

As I'm finishing this post I am sitting here literally laughing out loud at the giggles my 5 month old is putting out.  The company of his soft cookie monster toy brings him so much joy and he has brought so much joy to our lives.  I hope you take a moment today to remember the important things and take a step back from the small things in life to enjoy each moment that you can.

More blogs to follow soon and I promise they won't all be this serious!

Hugs to all,