Monday, September 10, 2012


No doubt, by now, you may have seen the glorious dog shaming website. This site allows you to take pictures of your naughty dogs and try to shame them into submission. It never actually works, but it allows pet owners to laugh and commiserate.  If you haven't, check it out, STAT:

A few nights ago I was reading the website for, admittedly, way longer than I should've been (Just one more page... No, really, Just one more page now... I mean it this time, this is the last page!...), when I started thinking-- I should totally submit my dogs to this thing! I mean, the dogs accepted by the website eat underwear, steal food from babies and fart, while mine can open the door, knock on the neighbors' doors, get neighbors' kids to come outside to play/give treats and destroy an entire bedroom's worth of carpet all in one day-- I win! I hope they accept me!

And then I kept thinking... oh my god. I have my own web page! I'll accept me! I do what I want!

And then I realized I hadn't posted anything for a long time and that it was finally time for a PUPDATE! Drumrolllllll please....

After the carpet was destroyed by our dogs in an effort to escape our apartment, we knew we needed a new plan, so we started by doing some internet research. The internets assured us that the only way a dog could open a lever handle was by jumping up, pulling down on the lever, and pulling back. Surely, this was how our dogs were escaping! So, we did this:
No way you're escaping now, you naughty dogs!
The wire shown above is attached from the edge of the handle to the screw towards the top of the handle mount, making it impossible to pull down on the handle and in essence, locking our dogs in the apartment. That evening, as we were at dinner with some old friends, at the very moment of explaining our newly "fixed" door, proudly basking in the glow of our genius, and raising our glasses in a toast for finally outsmarting our dogs, Mr. Kate's phone rang.  

It was our neighbor. The dogs just knocked on her door, she said. They apparently decided they wanted to play with her children. Don't worry about a thing, she said. They were rolling around on her living room floor right now and having a blast. After we regained our composure and rediscovered our humility, we put our wine glasses down, finished our meals and rushed home.  

 24 hours, a trip to Target and multiple apologies to neighbors later, we had a NEW plan. 

That's right, 3 different locking measures. We kept the original wire that prohibited the handle from being pulled down. Then we tied a peice of rope to the handle that was just longer than the distance to the floor. At the end of the rope we put an empty medicine bottle. Now, every time we leave the apartment, we pull the bottle out of the apartment, under the door, preventing the handle from being pushed up. For good measure, we added an additional device around the handle itself that provides extra resistance if the dogs manage to get through the first two locks (which we decided they inevitably would).

While the dogs didn't get out the next few nights, the final test of the door locks occurred during the visit of our very dear friends, Celina and Gavin. 

After a fun-filled weekend at the beach, our friends took a cab to the airport very, very early Sunday morning. To be nice, they engaged all the locks so the dogs wouldn't get out while we slept. Unfortunately, engaging all the locks also meant that we couldn't get out. Sure enough, we woke to find that we had been imprisoned alongside our dogs, who looked at us with ironic amusement as we spent the next 20 minutes clumsily removing the doorknob to make our own escape.

We had become the hapless victims of our own creativity, but we knew, in that moment, that we had finally won.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Mr. Kate goes to Delaware

Mr. Kate and I went to Delaware last weekend. This should really be both the beginning and the end of the post, because that's how boring Delaware was. A LOT of time was spent bird watching. There is only so much "birding" a girl can handle. Seriously.

Much like any other person (most of you, I'm sure), when bored, I dress up my dogs. Below is the result of this boredom and the accompanying dialogue.

I may have had an accomplice...

Mr. Kate: Is the dog wearing my underwear again?

Me: No! He's DELAWEARING your underwear!! HAHAHA!!** Good dog!!

Mr. Kate: You know I'm allergic to the dogs! And that was my last clean pair!

Me: I DelaLOVE you!

Mr. Kate: That wasn't even a pun.

**Mr. Kate included a special part in his wedding vows just for my jokes.
It went something like this " I promise to always laugh at your jokes... even when they are not as funny as you think they are."
I certainly make him live up to this promise.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

French or foe?

I started my French class a few weeks ago. I am in a class with some really fun people, and we have an awesome time. Some of us are newbies, some have been around the FSI block a few times, and many of us are headed towards West Africa.

For our first full week of French, we were told we would focus on health, and we should learn as much pertinent vocabulary as possible. The professor asked for examples.
"HIV," said one student.
"Hospital," shouted another.
"...And one that will be très important for us," I added. "Stool sample!"
"Ugh!" the student to my right said with a groan. "We just ate lunch! That's gross!"
The classroom fell silent as we all looked at him, amused and stifling our laughter.
"Tell me again where you think you're going..." I began.
"Dude, you're going to poop your pants within a week of getting to your post, guaranteed!" chimed in another classmate.
The look of horror and disgust that washed over the face of our disenchanted classmate made all of us howl with laughter. To his chagrin, we decided then and there that we would refer to him from now on as "Poopy Pants."

Unfortunately, Poopy Pants was not alone in eliciting uncomfortable laughter during our class. In an unfortunate demonstration of my feeble attempts at French pronunciation, I would soon inadvertently introduce my class to several inappropriate words.

The first incident occurred when I misspelled a common word while trying to explain something to my class. I was confident that I was spelling it the correct way, and asked my instructor to write it on the board to assess my pronunciation. He resisted and tried to change my spelling several times, before giving in to my insistence and writing it on the board. Proud of my obvious linguistic progress, I emphatically explained the definition of the word and the pronunciation (the way I understood them) to the class.

He erased it dramatically, said "non!," and would not discuss it further.

Remember when your parents used to say "end of discussion," when you were old enough to understand that you had apparently crossed the line, but still too young to know exactly why? That's how I felt. I knew my teacher wasn't mad, he was just disappointed in me. And the shame that accompanied that disappointment was so great, I shut up for the remainder of class and hung my head while recalling memories of having to sit at home, grounded, while all my friends were hanging out without me. Thanks a lot, mom.

Of course, after class we all immediately rushed to pull out our dictionaries. We turned to the correct page and found... "boobies." Yes. "Slang for breasts." In our first full week of French, I had taught my entire class of diplomatic professionals how to say "boobies."  Hi five, guys!

The second incident was my introduction of a verb that roughly translates as "to benefit," which I came across in an article about malaria. Apparently, this verb has many uses, and some of them are graphically sexual. I found this out by saying the word in a very loud manner while practicing pronunciation with Mr. Kate in a restaurant that many FSO's frequent for lunch. After being on the receiving end of several uncomfortable glances, we looked up the word in my online dictionary and were astonished to learn that "benefit" was far from the only definition of this seemingly innocuous word. Thus, we assumed the glances in our direction were solely the result of our impressive mastery of the French language.

As we were reviewing the same article in class, I emphasized that there were several X-rated ways to use this verb and to make sure you were using it in the appropriate manner, lest you receive dirty stares in a restaurant. But I told everyone they would have to look up the specifics themselves, because I wasn't going to be the cause of another boobie incident. The teacher looked at me with a grimace and shook his head in what I can only guess was an attempt to convey his disapproval. Nevertheless, I suspect he was at least somewhat relieved that I had not involved him by asking him to write it on the board this time. You're welcome, Monsieur le professeur. You're welcome.

A few days later, our professor asked us to write and bring in sentences for the class. Most of us had simple sentences with simplistic translations along the lines of the following:

Hello, my name is Kate.
I wake up, shower, and dress myself in the morning.
I have two naughty dogs. 

Poopy Pants was having a hard time coming up with original ideas, but happened to be listening to the radio while doing his homework. His sentences ended up like this:

Hello. I just met you.
And this is crazy.
But here is my number.
So call me maybe. 

Our French teacher had no idea what was going on, but it was certainly the highlight of our day. In reward for his hilariousness, we allowed Poopy Pants to pick a different nickname- one he didn't hate quite so much... as long as he promised to keep using song lyrics for his sentences.

So far "Scooter" has performed spectacularly (sometimes with the assistance of some superb suggestions from our other classmates). Thus far, we've been treated to several fantastic sentences such as:

I wear my sunglasses at night.
I have 99 problems, but a female dog is not one. 
The roof, the roof, the roof is on fire.
Apple bottom jeans, boots with the fur. 

Unfortunately, despite his general lack of familiarity with bad song lyrics, it appears our teacher might be starting to catch on.... What is "le jean de pomme derriere"?

Monday, July 23, 2012


"Let's join a dodge ball team," Mr. Kate suggested. "It'll be fun," he said.

I am not known as well for my athletic skills as I am for my many other amazing talents, but Mr. Kate tried to coerce me by telling me how wonderful, versatile and naturally athletic I am. After which he compared a dodge ball game to a game that my siblings and I might play together. I have to admit, between the compliments and the fact that he thought that my siblings and I ever engaged in any physical activity other than beating the crap out of each other, I was flattered.

When we arrived, a woman in front of us with a broken hand was signing in and explaining to the lady behind the desk that she broke her hand at the last dodge ball game.
They laughed.
I looked at Mr. Kate. He winced and glanced away, avoiding my glare.

Seconds later, a boy walked into the room from the gym where a different dodge ball game was currently taking place. He walked up to the lady behind the desk.
"Mom!" He exclaimed, interrupting the laughter over the the broken hand.
"Daammmn! Those white dudes are throwing those balls HARRRD!"
As she scolded him for swearing, I turned around and darted for the front door. Mr. Kate grabbed me at the last second and pulled me back in, insisting that everything would be fine. "And besides," he said, "I've already paid for this."
"You PAID for this? You PAID to be decapitated by balls thrown by some crazy dudes?!? Have you forgotten that we share a bank account??!!"

As I laid into him, explaining that now I get to buy the dogs some dog costumes without consulting him the next time the urge strikes me, our teammates approached, handed me a shirt, game me a pat on the back and a high five and, moments later, I found myself in a dark, scary little gymnasium, filled with large, full-grown men who were using ball-throwing as an anger management outlet. Then the fun began.

That's me at the left edge of the photo. The pigeon-toed one.
Moments after this picture was taken, I was slammed in the stomach with a speeding ball, at which point my slightly raised pigeon toe caught on the back of my grounded foot, causing me to face plant into the floor. Yes, I tripped over my own pigeon-toed foot.

I became the "back-up" player shortly thereafter. Weird?

So, yeah, I'll definitely get MVP.

On the other hand, it turns out I'm pretty good at playing flip cup after the games, and I was proud to lead my team to our first victory of the evening. Redemption.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Hairy Houdinis

So, what are dogs scared of? Any responsible dog owner can tell you: loud, abnormal, shocking things such as thunder, fireworks, or the K-Fed wannabe who rolls down all his windows and bumps gangsta rap in the parking lot below our apartment on Saturdays. Therefore, good dog parents wouldn't normally leave their doggy offspring alone at home on a night full of loud scary things... Like perhaps, the 4th of July?  

But Mr. Kate was hungry that night, and insisted we walk to dinner. Despite my best arguments, pleas, and threats to call doggy protection services, we drew the shades and turned on the TV to shield the dogs from the horrifyingly-loud explosions of light & color that, inevitably, would soon fill the night sky.

About a mile into our walk, as I was guilt-tripping and lecturing Mr. Kate about the responsibilities of dog parenthood, we stopped for a sweet moment on an overpass to watch the grand finale of the DC fireworks show explode above the traffic on the interstate. Suddenly, Mr. Kate's cell phone started ringing incessantly. After ignoring the first few calls from the unknown caller, he answered. A frantic caller was on the line, insisting we return home immediately-- our dogs had somehow escaped and were roaming the halls of our apartment complex.

Mr. Kate looked at me, wide-eyed, and said, "What are we going to do?"

I looked up at him, gave him a kiss, and wished him a wonderful run home: "Told you so."

Mr Kate found the dogs in the lobby of our floor, waiting for the mysterious electric doors of the elevator to open, so they could walk in and be magically transported to the ground floor. During their adventures through the hallway they apparently had garnered some attention from the neighbors, by wagging their tails next to front doors, making a knocking sound. Some neighbors answered their doors and came out to pet them, and at least one was conspicuously frozen in fear, hiding in the stairwells with her chihuahuas.

When I got home, I asked Mr. Kate how he thought they had opened the door. He was sure that we (I) hadn't shut the door all the way, because they were clearly not smart enough to figure out how to open the front door. Silly Mr. Kate.

The next three nights, our dogs got out. Each night we received frantic calls, and each night we had to apologize profusely to multiple terrified chihuahua ladies.

Me: "Too dumb, huh?"

Mr. Kate: "Well, there must be some explanation. Maybe something is wrong with the door. Maybe maintenance came by and accidentally left it ajar.  Maybe..."

Me: "Maybe now is when you should stop talking."

Mr. Kate had to admit it. Our (gifted) dogs knew how to open the front door. He also had to admit how awesome and smart I am.

To fix the problem, we built a barricade of chairs in front of the door when we left the next morning. This process took a good 15 minutes, with us (me) lying in the floor of the hallway, reaching our (my) hands through the slightly cracked door to pull all four chairs as flush with the front door as possible.

Wait, Mom! You're blocking the door! How will we get out?

That day, we made it until about noon before receiving a phone call.

That's how. 
Next, we took the doorknob off of the bedroom door and turned it around so that it could be locked from the outside. The dogs would just have to stay in the bedroom while we were out. We figured this plan was foolproof, at least until the next time my family visits and we all start locking each other in the bedroom.

Alas, our dogs were not to be outsmarted. And we were not to go unpunished.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen: for their final magic doggy trick, they made the carpet disappear!

Maybe we can sell them to the circus?

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Urine for a treat

First things first. M is boring. The name, not the man (most of the time). M lacks depth, character and creativity, and I consider it an oversight on my part that I even started referring to him in that way. From now on, I will refer to him as "Mr. Kate," a much more accurate title. I on the other hand, will dispense with such formalities and remain, simply, Kate.

This weekend the temperature in DC was about 106, with about a million percent humidity, so Mr. Kate and I decided to head out of town for the weekend and play in Shenandoah National Park, where it was a little cooler.

Saturday morning, we started the day by driving along the breathtakingly beautiful Skyline Drive. Mr. Kate was driving, I was reclined with my feet and hand hanging just outside of the open window, and slobber was splashing around and along the back of the car as the dogs' tongues were blown around by the rush of the cool mountain air pouring into the car.

Suddenly something smacked the bottom of the toes on my right foot. I immediately thought of the time the vet told me not to let the dogs stick their heads out the window, so they wouldn't get hit in the eye with a bug and go blind. Yeah, right, like that happens. But it was a big bug that hit me, and maybe I was beginning to see his point. As I reached to pull the bug out from behind my toes, my entire foot started pulsating with pain. I panicked. I grabbed my foot and pulled it into the car, screaming. Mr. Kate had no idea what was going on, and I did not have the willpower or motivation to stop screaming, so upon his third inquiry I thrust my foot in his face to help him understand my predicament.

"Well, flick it off!" he yelled. I stayed there, screaming and staring at him, frozen in fear. Why would a bug hurt so bad? Something was wrong. I was dying. It was a death bug.

"I can't do anything, I'm driving!" he yelled as we rounded another turn and the dogs started to try and climb in the front seat, since there was obviously a lot of fun and excitement happening up there.

"I can't either!" I managed to squeak out, in what I was sure was my last breath with a functional foot.

Then, while driving, my wonderful husband reached over, pushed the dogs out of the way and flicked the bug of death through my toes, freeing it from my contracted, pedial grasp.

We both exhaled, Mr. Kate resumed his grasp of the steering wheel and the dogs returned to the back of the car and into their slobber-spraying positions. As I started to express my deep love for my husband, my life and my foot, the top of my toes started to melt with pain. The insect of terror had made it through my toes, onto the top of my foot. Again, I began to scream. Surely this bug had given me toe ebola. It was spreading fast- and it HURT. This time Mr. Kate wasted no time, he leaned over and started slapping my foot like a sorority girl in a cat fight. You go girlfriend.

All of a sudden it was done. The insect was gone. Mr. Kate made a remark about how the perpetrator was probably just a deer fly as he pulled off to the side of the road and I pretended not to hear him. As he came to a stop, I opened the door, rolled out of the car and lay on the ground holding my foot in the air while groaning in pain. Mr. Kate called it dramatic. I called it necessary.

We are in a fight, wasp.
Mr. Kate retrieved the arthropod of destruction from the car floor. It was a yellow jacket wasp. It had stung me four times all together. I remained on the ground writhing in pain (still necessary), hoping the gods of wasp venom might have some pity on me soon.

Mr. Kate went to the car and sacrificed the last of his Mountain Dew to give me some ice. For those of you who know Mr. Kate, you know that that is true love. He started mumbling to himself about home remedies from when he was a kid. Suddenly he stopped. "If we put some meat tenderizer on it, it'll take the sting away!" he exclaimed, brilliantly.

"Okay, gimme some," I mumbled.

"Oh, I don't have any," he promptly replied.

"I know we don't, Mr. Kate! We are vegetarians in the middle of a national park! Why the hell would we have meat tenderizer?!"

He looked away, realizing that had not been his finest idea. 

We sat in silence, interjected by an occasional whimper from me, while I iced my foot.

"You know how urine helps jellyfish stings?" I began. "What if you peed on my foot?"

"I'm not sure if that will help, and why wouldn't you just pee on your own foot?" Mr. Kate responded.

"Because it's physics, Mr. Kate! I can't pee on my own foot! And you wouldn't let me buy a Go Girl the last time I saw them at REI, which would have completely facilitated the my-own-urine-on-my-own-foot situation. This is your fault. So start peeing."

Who wouldn't want this?

"There is something wrong with you. Are you serious? Do you actually want me to pee on your foot? You're kidding, right?"

"Yeah, I'm kidding. That'd be gross. Ew." But I wasn't kidding. I wanted some pee on my foot. Stat. For reals. Anything to help. It hurt that bad. 

We sat there in silence while I iced my foot a while longer. Eventually, Mr. Kate wandered off into the woods to pee. I wanted to follow him and plead with him, "Please pee on my foot! I'll do anything! Just a little bit, I'll never ask again!" But that would've been awkward.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

State of Emergency

When we woke up this Saturday morning, we woke up without power. So we lazed around, waiting for the power to come back on, not thinking much of it. Finally, in the afternoon we decided we should probably get out of the house and go see a movie and grab some food, since I guess the power's not coming back on for a little while. Also, the internet was out so I couldn't Facebook and M couldn't read political-junkie stuff, so we were bored.

When we walked outside, we were amazed at what had happened due to the storm the night before. Trees, phone lines and power lines were down all over the place. Not a single stop light was working. We decided we should drive to the surrounding areas and see if everywhere was hit as badly as we had been by the storm.
Oh, just a downed power line. No big. 

Remember when I told you that traffic was bad in DC? Well, traffic without stoplights and a bunch of panicked jerks is even worse. People were basically running over each other to get in line at the gas station and to try and get to grocery stores (which were all closed). The single open restaurant, a McDonald's, had a line of cars backed up a half a mile and a crowd of people falling out the door, trying desperately to get as much high-fructose-filled, artery-clogging food as they could during this time of turmoil. Priorities.

All of a sudden I got panicked. Why is everyone freaking out? Why is the gas line so long? Its actually the end of the world, isn't it? Thank god I bought all that food! Where can we get some water? We need to get some gas and a generator STAT! 

I didn't have to say anything. M just looked at me, saw my panicked face and my mind going a million miles a minute and said: "Stop."  I couldn't help but rub it in. "I TOLD you so!! Now you can never, ever, EVER get mad again about the amount of money I spent on our end-of-the-world kit! I saved our LIVES!!"

He turned on the radio and listened to the updates as I sent this email to my parents.

Dear Mom and Dad, 

There was a really big storm and DC is in shambles. This is why you can't get in touch with us. 
Basically, I think its the end of the world. It should be coming your way soon. Prepare yourselves. 
I love you all. Remember us fondly.

The radio confirmed my worst fears. The Governor of VA had declared a State of Emergency.* We were all doomed. I started taking a mental inventory of everything in our apartment, and how long we would last. Meanwhile, M was sure that if we kept driving, we would find somewhere with electricity and a movie theater. Movie popcorn is always M's priority.

No movie popcorn for M!
Because everyone but M was aware of the severity of upcoming apocalypse, all the movie theaters and restaurants were closed. So we went home and did what any normal person would do when faced with certain doom: we sat on the porch, ate PB&J's and drank.

* Apparently, I was wrong and state of emergency does not mean we are going to die. I had no idea.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

A (Long) Friday Story

 It happened. 

Thursday, after keeping myself in a continual, happy, not too busy state for 2 weeks, I finally got bored. After spending the morning glued to the Internet and radio because of the outstanding SCOTUS decision, I realized I had nothing to do. I actually started to do the boring things I had put on the back burner for a few weeks now. I even started looking for jobs in Togo. Someone, please, give me a job in Togo!  It was so horrible that I arranged for Friday to be a busy day so that I wouldn't have to be tied to my computer doing more boring stuff. Responsibilities are the worst! I made the dogs an appointment to go to the groomers because they are disgusting and they smell really bad and M totally bought it when I told him I couldn't do it myself because the bathroom is too small. I arranged for our UAB to finally be dropped off at our apartment. And I set up an appointment for an evaluation of the dogs for doggy day care. Yes. I said doggy day care. This is my life. 

The dog drop-off at the groomers went smoother than expected in the morning. I put the harnesses on them so that they could easily be dragged from place to place against their will. I heard the groomer try to put them in a kennel, and while I can tell it wasn't a very good experience for her, I contained my smile and mentally high-fived myself for not having to take on this horrible job myself. See you later suckers, oh, and, mommy loves you!

When the UAB delivery guy called to say he had arrived (after 2 weeks of blowing me off) I was overjoyed. I wasn't sure exactly what I'd find in there, but I knew it was stuff that "7am-me" and two completely indifferent packers must've thought I'd enjoy. When they arrived at my door I was dumbfounded.The boxes looked as though they had taken up residence in a ninja-warrior training center before arriving in VA. The corners were all bashed in and there was literally a hole the size of a foot in one of the boxes. Sweet security, guys. I opened the boxes to find a giant wreck.  On top of what must have been the most violent route to get to these boxes to VA, I realized the packers had literally just thrown stuff in from around my house. Oh my gosh! They managed to pack all my reusable shopping bags! That's so much better than something important! Yessssss! And, Fantastic, a decorative bowl! That makes so much sense to have in a tiny little apartment- who needs a bowl we can actually use when we can have one that's shaped like a turtle and sits in the closet!!

YES! Turtle bowl!!
The worst part is, they actually had "just thrown stuff in." I had set aside 2 plastic shoe boxes of pens, pencils and office supplies to be packed-which may seem crazy until you travel to West Africa and try to accomplish anything requiring a pen that works. They had not been wrapped or taped shut before being packed so they were dumped throughout the box- along with my jewelery box, our knife block and multiple games. I spent hours picking up game pieces, earrings, necklace-entangled knives, ink-covered reusable shopping bags, and trying to salvage what I could.

On the bright side, they did manage to wrap up a few things. They wrapped the 2 throw pillows. They wrapped my 1/2 a food processor. They wrapped the turtle bowl. They wrapped the racquetball racquet. They did not, however wrap the tennis racquets. Racquet discrimination. I'm sure of it.*

After unpacking everything, I went to pick up the dogs. As I paid, the woman went in the back to get the dogs. She came out with a look of horror on her face, dragging my unwilling dogs behind her. I looked them over. They looked clean-- until I got to see Kima's head, which looked like it had been dunked in a bucket of Loki's spit. "I'm so sorry!" she sputtered, almost in tears, "I can re-wash her!" At that moment I couldn't help but crack up. They put them in the same kennel as I had requested, of course they were going to slobber on each other! I wasn't sure the extent of the slobber would be so great, but voila! Loki was leaking like a faucet and Kima had a slobbery head. My fault. At least the rest of their bodies were clean...

From the groomers we went directly to the doggy day care evaluation. We initially looked into doggy day cares because our apartments provide housekeeping services once a week, and since I will never turn down someone wanting to come clean my house, we need the dogs to be out during that time. After researching doggy day cares in the area, I came across the winner. This facility was by far the best. Kima and Loki would be in the same room, there were couches to lay on, swimming pools to swim in and jungle gyms to play on. It was like puppy heaven. On top of that, you get a report card of your dogs behavior every day. It tells you how well they did with the other dogs, what they did, how much they ate and any other relevant information. When I found this place I knew it was the one. I called M immediately to tell him about it. After telling him the part about the report cards the other end of the phone went silent. After a few moments M responded “What is wrong with you? Why would we need a doggy report card?!? They are dogs!”  I got very angry with him, told him to take it up with my childless ovaries, and hung up the phone. 

So it was decided, we would use this day care facility.  But first, the dogs' behavior needed to be evaluated- they don’t just let any dogs into this doggy day care. 

Besides pooping on everything, our dogs did great! They behaved wonderfully and won the hearts of the staff within the first few minutes. I expect that they will be getting A+’s and gold stars everyday. 

As we left, Loki jumped in the front seat. I looked at him and told him if he wanted to be up front he was going to have to wear a seat belt. He looked back at me and said, “You wouldn’t dare. I’ll make this entire drive miserable.” So I did. I reached over and put the seat belt on him. I knew if I didn’t he would at some point or another go flying through the windshield. This can be attributed to both my driving and his sense of balance. 

After buckling him up, I looked back down at my GPS. The GPS was telling me to go a route that would take me back by way of Seven Corners, a very scary intersection I wanted to avoid. I also wanted to get over to the National Foreign Affairs Training Center to pick up M by 4:30. I looked at the map, found a “better way” and headed in that direction. After driving for about 15 minutes on windy, forested roads, my gas light started blinking and the car started beeping. I would’ve gone back the way I came, but I had already made a few turns in what I was sure must have been the “right direction.” The dogs both looked at me and frowned. 

I finally came across the smallest town in the world. It must’ve had 8 buildings. One of them had a Texaco sign. I pulled into the parking lot. As I passed the building I realized it wasn’t a Texaco. It was an antique shop. It was an antique Texaco sign. It’s how they get suckers like me to go in. It’s also the beginning of a horror movie (I’m no dummy). I got to the back of the parking lot, and turned my car around, trying to get out of there as soon as possible, when I noticed two fifteen-year-old girls behind the dumpster sneaking cigarettes. “Hey!” I yelled. They immediately looked panicked, threw their cigarettes down and popped up from behind the dumpster. “Can you guys tell me where I can get some gas, please?” I pleaded with them. They looked annoyed that I had interrupted their cigarettes, but as they approached the car they must’ve grown amused with the lost, panicked lady and her buckled-in dog, so they told me to take the next left and I’d come across a gas station in a few miles. I thanked them profusely and probably should’ve given them a few bucks to replace their cigarettes that I ruined, but I didn’t. 

After driving for another 15 minutes and having my gas-less car beep at me with greater and greater frequency every mile, I thought for sure the girls had lied to me in retaliation for my cigarette ruining. I had visions of me and my two dogs,  running through the forest away from the little antique-shop-of-horrors employees, who were certainly after us by now. 

A. Our house B. Doggy Day Care C. Me, lost at an Antique Horror Shop
Eventually, we came across the gas station. I liked the smoking girls again. I filled up the car with gas, went inside, asked directions, got some water for myself and the dogs, and got an apple and some potato chips, since I hadn’t eaten all day and at the rate things were going, didn’t know when I’d eat again. I jumped back in the car, opened the chips, placed them down on the passenger side floor for easy access, started my apple and drove towards the interstate. Finally we found the signs that told us we were going in the right direction, and we made it to the interstate just in time for rush hour traffic. As we sat in traffic, I finished my apple and reached down for some chips. I shoved a handful in my mouth and knew immediately something was wrong. They were soggy. I looked over. The way Loki was strapped in the seat next to me, his tongue dangled right over the edge of the seat. Right above my chips. Like Kima, my potato chips had also been baptized by mass amounts of Loki drool.

I got home 2 hours later than I had originally expected. I was hot, tired and I desperately needed to brush my teeth and gargle some Listerine. I walked in the door the same time M did, which allowed me the perfect opportunity to yell at him for not putting gas in the car. What a rude husband! He told me he’d make it up to me in margaritas, and to get ready because we had dinner plans with some of his friends from FSI. I obliged. Apologizes offered in margarita form are usually accepted. 

I was very excited to meet M’s friends from school. They were all very nice people and I wanted to make a good impression. As we received our first pitcher of margarita, M, always the gentleman, offered to fill my glass up. As he went to pour a drink into my glass, something happened and most of the apology margarita ended up in our laps. He now owed me several more apology margaritas. Shortly after that, I received my salad. There was a huge peperoncini on the side, and I couldn’t wait to eat it. As I bit into the pepper, the lady across the table stopped talking, and started wiping off the side of her face and looking around. In my haste, I didn’t realize the peperoncini had been FULL of juice. And I squirted the diplomat sitting across the table with it. She was wonderful and laughed about it as we all jokingly pondered the physics of pepper juice fluid dynamics. Next, I decided the best way to take on the pepper was to use a fork and knife, like a fancy person. As I cut, the three diplomats to my left were squirted by my peperoncini. The whole table stared at me. That’s when M took the pepper away from me. Thankfully, I managed to get through the rest of the meal without spilling any more food on anyone else. M might not have many friends that want to hang out with us as a couple after that dinner, but if they do, I assume they will probably come wearing protective gear.

After a record-hot day and a messy dinner, we rounded out the night with a huge, lightning-filled thunderstorm that took out our Internet and power. M and I got home, listened to the rain, and cuddled two very scared dogs in the dark. It was a healing, cleansing way to end such a hectic day. 

*The purpose of this blog was not to complain (although I must admit, it did feel good). It was to remind myself (and any other FSO spouses in my same position) not to be too nice. I just kinda let these guys do what they wanted without lurking over their shoulders because I didn't want to be that naggy lady who wouldn't just let them do their job. I know better now. While I will always be nice and tip too much, I will make sure that I am more in control of the situation. I should've made them unpack those boxes to show me what they had packed, and then made them repack them with the stuff I wanted in there. 

In reality, everything that was important was in my car with me. And even most of that stuff, I would've been fine with losing.  We are going to Togo, not outer space. Anything we actually need, we can get, and we'll be happy- as long as we have each other.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

So I live in DC

I've been in DC for awhile now and here are a few of my initial observations:

Traffic is the worst. Like, really. Like old ladies driving in a monsoon in Tucson crossed with Guinean cab drivers bad- although somehow with fewer accidents... In the first week I've been lost, honked at, flipped off and almost crashed into- several times. This girl comes from a city with one interstate (well, maybe two- but who goes to the south side, really?), so this is nuts. Thank god for the metro, which brings me to my next point...

Walking. It is HOT. Tucson hot plus humidity. Ouch. The metro is a great way to get around, but of course you have to walk to get to the stations. If you thought you looked cute when you left your house just go ahead and dump a bucket of sweat over your head before you leave so you know what you'll really look like in an hour. Not even close to cute. 

I wish you could make friends on the metro. The way you do in airplanes (yeah, sorry, I'm totally that person). Instead, people just insert iPod ear pieces into their ears and try not to get caught staring at the often absurd sights sitting across from them. Or, they make it very clear that they are super-fun, popular people, and you are not. For instance, while learning to use the metro, perhaps you are followed by a group of teenage girls who laugh and openly mock you every time you swipe your card the wrong way, or go to the wrong escalator and then have to sprint to the other side of the metro station to make your train, or try to get off the metro on the wrong side of the car. I haven't seen that viral video of the kids being mean to the bus monitor, but I image it was very similar to my experience on the metro. Except, as I was leaving I turned around and hissed "you're fatttt" and then ran as fast as I could. Hopefully they all have eating disorders now.

On the bright side, I had serious concerns I was going to be the untrendiest person in DC with my endless, boring tank-top-and-cardigan-and-flip-flop combinations. I even told M I was going to have to go shopping for some cool clothes when we got here, to which he responded "Honey, you look great in anything you wear." Obviously, this was code for "Honey, no matter how much money you spend trying, you'll never look trendy, so please, don't." While I am still mad at M for saying (not-saying) this, it turns out I may be okay! While I may not be dressed up all fashiony, I'm at least pragmatic. Have you ever seen a bunch of disgustingly sweaty, trendy, name-brand-suit-and-tie-wearing thirty-somethings trying to keep cool and calm while sitting on a hot metro surrounded by a bunch of ridiculously dressed tourists and their bratty children who are screaming, spilling and crawling all over? I have. My tank tops and flip-flops win. 

Ahhh, apartment living. I swore, after my first apartment with my first roommate and our first peeping tom incident, that I would never live in an apartment again. But alas, here I am. It's not bad here, although it'll certainly be better when my half-a-food-processor arrives. There's a pool, tennis courts and some other work-out stuff, but most importantly, there is a store on site that sells wine. I guess it'll be okay after all.

My second day here I went to the Safeway (as opposed to the unSafeway I tried to go to the first day- that didn't end well for anybody) and bought everything I need, plus some, for the kitchen. I have this feeling that if the kitchen is fully stocked, then I will be okay. There is no rationale behind this feeling, as my homemaker skills are nil, but it may have something to do with seeing The Road two years ago. If the world ends and we're in DC, there will be no food in ANY of the grocery stores, but guess what? There will be food at my house. You'd think I would have learned to stop hoarding food after moving out of the last house and spending two full days working on moving out of my last kitchen, or maybe my accumulation of the "road-trip 10" should've been enough of a deterrent, but no. I will not eat a hair-less cat.

(M has informed me that no one gets this. The cat hunt from the opening scene from The Road-- am I the only one who was disturbed enough to remember this?)

I've been spending a lot of time at Target as well. There are several reasons for this: a) I know how to get there; b) It's something to do; c) It's basically like watching Real Housewives of DC, LIVE. M would disagree, but it's also a great way for us to save money. As much as I would love to buy clothes at this Target, all the size S and M clothes are always sold out. I do not know how this is possible, because I know the real housewives of DC are not buying them- apparently Target brands don't go well with Louis Vitton. Until Target figures out that I lurk there for fun and they could make some money off me by simply stocking those sizes, I'll consider it their loss. Beyond that, watching screaming, obnoxious children go crazy all over their sleep-deprived mothers who are fighting on the phones with their husbands about who is going to pick the cat up from the kitty day spa is a great form of birth control. How's that for some savings, love?*

The dogs are adjusting. They still walk up to the car every time we go outside, expecting to begin the journey to our next destination, but they'll catch on eventually.

When we first arrived Loki was so terrified the balcony was going to fall (or that jerky Kima was going to push him off) that he never ventured out. He has only started to take the first steps onto the balcony. And that's only because we put his food out there. So, he spends most his time inside, hoping something will fall from one of the shelves in our overstocked kitchen or that I will leave the treats out and walk into the next room. This often works out in his favor.

Kima has a new-found confidence looking out from her fourth-floor perch. Anytime a human, dog, car, rabbit, bird or nothing moves underneath our apartment, the entire apartment complex is warned of the certain impending doom by a serious of ferocious barks and sing-songy howls that sound somewhat like what I would image a distressed sea-lion would sound like. And, of course, Loki stands a few feet behind her (inside the apartment) and accompanies her, alternating between barking and horribly pathetic whining that is reminiscent of a prepubescent boy trying to sing--since he knows he's not supposed to bark (good dog?)--lending himself to what turns into a beautiful cacophony of angry, dying sea mammals. I'm sure the coast guard (or a talent scout) will be here soon.

Here is a link to another person with interesting pets in an apartment complex:

The curling iron gets it next time, lady.
I start French soon and we are worried that during the day the dogs may get so angry about being locked in a one-bedroom apartment, they may throw their potty training and good dog reservations to the wind and just start peeing on and chewing up our things to extract their revenge. This is clearly the most obvious way to make their point, and they are well aware that we understand it. In fact, our lack of writing utensils, hair supplies, headlamps, shoes and nice flooring are fully attributable to the dogs being overwhelmingly disappointed by our performance as dog parents. Shame on us for going out to dinner and a movie!!

In an attempt to stop the violence against my hair accessories and M's shoes, we have decided to get a patio-potty station for our delightful (aka ridiculously spoiled) dogs. We found a few online, but M thinks they are ridiculously priced, and we can make one ourselves, so we are planning on doing this project this weekend!! I actually already ordered one online. I'm just playing along with the idea that we might actually make a design, go to Home Depot, spend money on both tools and supplies and spend our free time doing a labor intensive project that is destined to be a lopsided patch of dirt on our patio, when we could be eating tapas and drinking sangria. There's about a 0% chance of that actually happening. I'll tell M when we get to Home Depot, if he doesn't naturally come to that conclusion himself.

In the meantime, I try and keep the dogs active and healthy. There is a dog park nearby that we occasionally visit, and sometimes when I'm feeling particularly lazy (often), I just race them up and down the apartment hallways. This is a delightful way to zap their energy and leave them too tired to be obnoxious. Racing them this way is a precise science. There is a delicate balance between racing the dogs long enough to exhaust them and avoiding making people look away from their regularly scheduled HBO programs, get off the couch and investigate the circus of dying sea lions performing outside their doors. So far, my scientific calculations have been precise and we haven't been caught. However, I'm always scared someone is going to walk out with their kids, and a toddler will be doggy-head-butted down the hallway. I suppose I'm willing to take that risk. Kids heal quickly, right?

I haven't made many friends at the apartment complex. This can mostly be attributed to the fact that either my dogs are knocking over their kids or I'm missing opportunities to meet people because I'm spending so much time at Target. I do occasionally interact with some of the moms in the complex. This normally occurs as I walk by a group of them, oohing and ahhhing at their offspring on the playground, as I head to the convience store. While they don't look at me as I'm headed into the store, I can feel the pitiful glances towards me as I walk out of the store and back towards our apartment with a bottle of wine (for dinner). I can almost hear their sympathetic thoughts "Poor girl! She looks to be about child bearing age, and yet she has no babies, nothing to fulfill her life the way ours are fulfilled! She just has wine. She probably wishes she could have babies, so she could be happy like us, sitting here together and exchanging glances at the playground. What a sad, drunk lady." It's like doing the housewife walk of shame.

But yes, I am jealous! I would like to be a part of a club, or a clique, or have a friend. But, until I find another sarcastic 30-something that enjoys wine and making an ass of herself, I'm afraid my only hope is the playground moms. After days of contemplation, I think I have found the way to win a place in their circle, without immediately giving birth to a 2-year-old: flour baby! I will make sure my flour baby has a cute little button nose and big round blue eyes, with cute little rope arms so I can drag it from obstacle to obstacle on the playground. I will talk with all the other moms about how complete my life is now, how much more advanced my child is when compared to an average baby of the same age and how much I looooove poopy diapers and housework. I'd certainly make friends then.

My kid's cuter than yours.

Or maybe that's too much effort and I should just keep going to Target. Me and the lady at the Starbucks counter are getting pretty close.

* I just said all of that to keep M happy and lure him into a false sense of security regarding both the amount of money I spend at Target and wanting a baby. Momma totally wants a baby. And a nanny.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Sister Adventure!

I apologize in advance for how many pictures of my dogs there are in this blog post. I've always made fun of people who do nothing but post pictures of their children on Facebook (oh my gosh! Look! Suzi scribbled a line! Tony poo-pooed in the toilet like a big boy!!) but then, halfway through this trip as I turned around to take my 187th picture of my dogs in the backseat (seriously), I realized I AM one of those people. But at least it's with dogs, not kids. And in my defense, when there are two people and two dogs locked in a car rolling through Texas, one runs out of things to take pictures of, and sometimes even think about.
"Are we going to the park?"
We are so excited!

Coming across interesting things was few and far between, and we made sure every last ounce of laughter and break time was squeezed out of every unusually large metal chicken, gourd painting shop, giant peach and "worlds largest cross." I was also able to start a great collection of scary Christian billboards. Some of the doomsday ones were really horrifying! Thanks a lot, Jesus.

Brookie jumping for joy after finding giant metal chickens!

I made Brooke stop every time there was potentially-still-alive road kill. In my imagination, we would find a skunk or a raccoon with a hurt paw and we would nurse it back to health and we would all be best friends and sing together, like Sleeping Beauty. After our seventeenth dead animal I'm pretty sure Brooke started slipping me kava root in the mornings instead of vitamin B so I would just pass out. Very rude, Brookie. Think about all the animals we could've saved. Jerk.

(I did not take any pictures of roadkill, sorry).

We left on a Saturday morning (well, maybe it was afternoon), and made it to Juarez by dinnertime (well, maybe it was El Paso, but Juarez sounds so much more hardcore). When we got to the hotel, Brooke was not feeling well (aka reading 50 Shades of Grey), and sent me out to find some wine. Lucky for us, the hotel was situated right on top of a rockin' night club. So, I walked in to the nightclub wearing my super-trendy pajamas and ordered two glasses of wine. Actually, I tried to order the bottle, but the bartender looked at me like I was crazy, held up a huge jug of wine and told me: "no." So then I just settled for 2 glasses. On my way back to the room I got lost and wandered through a Mexican wedding reception in the hotel lobby. The men were all in white tuxes and a majority of the women may have been strippers. My pajama pants and wine double-fisting were noticed immediately. Had I been in my right mind I would have responded to the cat-calls and tried to take their booze, but instead I put my head down, pretended not to hear, and spilled half our wine sprinting outta there. They laughed. I went back to our room and laughed about their outfits with Brooke. I win.

At around 2 am, Kima woke me up, whimpering as though she needed to go out. I got the dogs all leashed up and ready to go and took them downstairs. Guess what happens at 2 am in Juarez? The bars close. As my dogs were pooping, I had the privilege of being hit on by every passing hooptie. Cuidado, M.

(For M:

The next few days were pretty uneventful. Texas is long and gross and boring (thatswhatshesaid?). We played a lot of gangsta rap. Kima fell in a ditch. Loki remained excited. Kima discovered she was terrified of construction. We prank-called our siblings. We told our mom we took a detour to Mexico and we would be staying there for awhile. She did not respond well. Brooke requested I use make-up and whitening strips for her wedding.* I did not respond well. At least she didn't ask me to get pec implants (Sorry Dil, that's gotta hurt, bro).

A terrified Kima crawled in our laps and watched with horror anytime there was construction.
Look ma! No hands!

We arrived in Mississippi to stay with M's parents around 4 pm on our third day of driving. It was glorious. We were all exhausted, hot, and sick of being flipped off because of my Planned Parenthood bumper-sticker. We played around the farm all day and drank wine and played games for the next 2 evenings.

Puppy Heaven

Our third evening on the farm Kima, the dog who is terrified of everything, ran away. After being out for about an hour, we came home to find Loki happily waiting for us, without his sidekick. We searched for several hours looking for the furry little beast, and finally someone saw her running through the neighbors' yard- away from us, because she was scared of her name being called. Thank god for technology. Someone called someone, who, in turn, found me and told me to go to the other side of the farm. We went to the other side of the farm and voila, there was my furry little petrified princess, running away. It only took her about 10 minutes until she realized the person chasing after her and calling her name was me, and she should come home. Once we finally got home, M's dad offered to make her into a pair of Ugg boots for me. I am still seriously contemplating this offer.

The next day we left the farm. As we stopped for our first pit stop, we noticed something under Loki's chin. It was a nice melange of blood and pus. While the fur was still there, something had happened to the skin around Loki's throat area, causing a pretty decent wound. We cleaned him up and tried to imagine the things that may have happened to the dogs the night before. We kept asking, hoping they would magically gain the ability to talk- if only for this important thing we needed to know. Was there an all-out brawl that Loki had fought in and Kima had run away from? Did aliens land near the pasture and get fought off by Loki while Kima ran away? Did Loki have a gnarly encounter with a prostitute that ended badly- while Kima ran away? (Notice that Kima is a jerk in every one of these scenarios and this will be taken into account for the Ugg boot decision). Until we can actually get one of those dog-talking-collar-devices from Up, we may never know what happened that night. Except fleas. We know both dogs got fleas that night. Hence, my money's on the prostitute.

My broken, exhausted dogs.
Two days later we arrived in Nags Head, North Carolina. We got there right at sunset and frolicked around in the ocean for the few remaining daylight minutes. Loki was overjoyed. Kima was seriously perplexed. It is a giant, salty, moving bath- should I be terrified or excited? Loki's enthusiasm eventually overshadowed Kima's fears, and soon we were all running and jumping and rolling around in the sand.

Unbeknownst to me, M had left DC several hours earlier than we had planned to surprise me and meet us in Nags Head when we arrived. Unfortunately, several other husbands must've had that same idea, because what should have been a 5-hour trip turned into a 10-hour traffic bonanza. In the meantime, Brooke and I unpacked the car, stripped the blood-splattered comforters from our seedy motel beds (seriously), and settled in.

M walked in the room around 10 pm. The dogs hadn't seen him in almost 4 months. Loki went crazy immediately. Kima was taken aback for a moment before realizing who had just walked through the door. Upon her realization she flung herself across the room and repeatedly tried to throw herself in M's arms while crying loud enough to wake the neighbors. It was the most adorable thing ever.

Beach frolicking with dad!

The next day we walked out to the beach and hung out for awhile. The weather was horrible and the wind whipped the sand into our eyes and our faces, but we had come to play on the beach and so we stayed- as long as we could. After about 30 minutes we gave in and headed to the pool. At the pool we met a bunch of other people in the same situation, so we played in the pool the rest of the day with them. Since the hotel was so seedy, we felt perfectly comfortable bringing in the dogs and letting them play in the pool as well. We got hepatitis and they got dog hair and fleas in their pool filters. Even Stevens.

Hey look! We're at the pool... while visiting the beach...
 On Sunday we grudgingly loaded up our car for one last day of driving. As is the going trend, the trip from Nags Head to DC, which should've taken us about 5 or 6 hours, took closer to 8. We arrived home Sunday night, happy, exhausted, and prepared for a busy week of moving in, de-fleaing our dogs (and our car) and teaching the dogs to "hold it" for hours on end.

For another great blog about a road trip and two dogs, one simple and one scared, look here:

*Disclaimer: While Brooke is totally a bridezilla, in reality she looked at me and said, "For my wedding could you please buy some make-up and whitening strips... and bring them to me in Costa Rica." I just thought maybe it was a little too long of a pause...

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Packing and Leaving

There is a common theme that runs through every day from Flag Day until, well, I don't know when it'll stop... The theme is anxiety. After returning from Flag Day, every day was spent thinking about things to come. I spent hours daydreaming. I woke up every day with butterflies in my stomach (my mother was convinced I was pregnant). I don't know how I managed to finish classes, submit a thesis, work and pack up my house.

My last few weeks in Tucson were CRAZY. Beyond the tying up the normal day-to-day stuff, my mother and I had the privilege of being roomies again for the first time in years, my friends who lead bird tours came in and out of town, my beautiful little sister graduated with her B.S., I ran into people I hadn't seen in forever, and I savored every moment with the people I loved.

My sanity during all of this can be attributed to my wonderful friends and family. My mom and siblings were a constant source of amusement, entertainment and love. Kelly graduated and immediately helped me pack out and pick up for days- the girl even picked up dog poop for me- that's love.  Nadja and her family had me over for lively game nights and great food. Corey and Jake supplied numerous laughs and mustaches- even from afar. Melanie was always around for a ladies night. Jesse and Meaghan kept a steady supply of tacos flowing into my diet. Saskia bombarded me relentlessly with absurd  text messages and ridiculously titled emails (DID YOU GET RID OF THOSE HERPES?- always a fun email to come across at work in front of others). Beth, and her ability to calm me down over the phone from wherever in the world she may be, was one of my main pillars of support, as she will always be. Rich and Gavin were in and out of town, and when they were in town they provided me with love, support and good food. And Celina. I'm not sure I would've pulled it off without Celina. Every night, for a week before the movers came, Celina came over to my house, bottle of wine in hand, and helped me clean and organize. Every morning she called me and yelled at me to wake up and do the things I needed to do. Often, I would offhandedly mention something I needed to put on my "to do list," and she would respond- "Oh, I already did that for you, I put it here." I will never be able to begin to express the extent of my gratitude to Celina. We will have babies and they will be best friends. Done.

Loki loves packing! 

Packing for the Foreign Service is, again, one of those things I don't really get, but I just kinda did. There is one shipment (UAB) that goes directly to your apartment in D.C.- (this shipment is limited to about 200 lbs per person) and the rest (HHE) goes to storage in D.C. and you will have access to it again someday. I'm still not sure exactly when "someday" is. So, I went through our house and organized. There was a ton of junk from multiple roommates and siblings that I got to sift through and throw away, not to mention all the stuff M and I had accumulated both together and individually throughout the years (sorry about all the stuff that the "movers lost," dear). I can say with confidence that Goodwill of Tucson had a good year this year. I started a pile in the middle of the living room that I designated the UAB pile. By my approximation it was about 400 pounds. Apparently, I should not be allowed to approximate.

When the packers showed up the morning of our move date, they looked at my pile and did a not-so-good job of hiding their amusement. Not only was I not even close to 400 pounds, I was only authorized for 200 pounds. Since M had left more than 60 days before me, his portion of the UAB (200 lbs.), was no longer valid. This piece of information was not a very fun thing to find out at 7 am, after spending all week cleaning, sorting, organizing and deciding what goes into, and doesn't go into, "the pile." M may have gotten a few frantic phone calls that morning. As I called, the movers packed without discretion. When they hit 200 pounds, they stopped. I can now expect to unpack 1/2 a food processor, 1/2 an ice cream maker, and an odd assortment of pictures, magnets, books and pillows in a few weeks. I am excited to see all of what made it in the shipment!

We packed all day. The very grumpy driver showed up around 1 pm and started loading all of our stuff into a truck. As excited as I was, I couldn't help but wonder when I would next take a nap on my sofa, spill wine on my rug, or have a dance party on my coffee table. I must admit that watching the moving van drive away left me somewhat brokenhearted and allowed the reality of the situation to finally set in. I didn't need to leave, I already missed Tucson.

Kima's worst nightmare, coming home to a house full of men with nothing to hide behind- they moved all our stuff!

That night, we had a dinner and a movie at our house- one last hurrah. Jesse made lasagna that wasn't quite as good as mine, and Rich made me an AMAZING "Go Away" pie. We pulled out yoga mats, camping pads and a tablecloth for dinner, and set the projector and a computer up on the front porch for a movie. I will always be sad we didn't do movies on the front porch as often as we could've, and I will always look forward to doing it again.
Some of the dinner participants

Rich, what kind of pie was this again?
 The next night we went out to one of my favorite restaurants- the one M and I were planning on having our stateside wedding reception at, but never could since he had to pack up and leave for FSI. It has a beautiful little courtyard and there is always a great local band up on stage. 30 of my friends gathered for "The Last Dinner," and I wish we could've stayed long enough for me to have a decent conversation with everyone at the table. To compensate for the long table which was not conducive to having intimate conversations with everyone, we decided it was best to go back to our house and finish off the rest of the booze. Always the appropriate way to handle a left-over booze situation, right? We drank and played Cards Against Humanity (which is a game that is truly only for horrible people) until early in the morning.
Read bottom card to top card. Poem credit to Jesse Disco.
 The next morning we picked up my other lovely sister, Brooke, from the airport. She was lucky enough to have the privilege of driving across the country with me. For the first time since my wedding, all the ladies (except Dillon) were together again. We had a great breakfast at our favorite place, and then went home and packed up the car.

Our attempt at a nice "lady picture." Delightful.  I'm pretty sure there was a "wormy" involved.

After packing the Prius FULL of our stuff and running a few errands, Brooke and I were off on our cross-country adventure, but that is a blog post for another day...

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Bid List and Flag Day

M and I quickly learned the secret to a long distance relationship: make sure you have a lot of frequent flier miles saved up. I flew out to meet M 4 days after he arrived in D.C. During this time we explored the city, met up with some friends and set up our new home (apparently M was unaware that one could not survive on ketchup and beer alone).

We got to meet up several more times, once for a Mini-Peace Corps reunion for a weekend and the other for Flag Day. There are multiple blogs on all the logistics behind Flag Day, and I couldn't really tell you much about them, but I can tell you about that day from my point of view.

A week into M's class he was given a list of available jobs in embassies all over the world.  We knew we wanted to be posted in sub-Sahahran Africa, for several reasons: a) it would be great for M's career b) it would (hopefully) be great for my career, and c) we both love it there. We knew from our first date that we each had a desire to return to Africa, since we had both previously worked and lived there, and we knew very soon after that first date that we would be returning together. So it worked out well that, while others were scrambling to compete for posts in European capitals, we focused primarily on remote outposts in West and Central Africa.

The instructions from the bid list, as I understood them, were: divide the list of countries into 3 sections- places you would love to be (bid high), places you were "meh" about (bid medium), and places you don't want to go (bid low). Warnings included: don't get your heart set on a post. Most people get places they bid as medium posts, and sometimes even low posts. M and I went through the list every night for weeks, discussing how we should "bid" each of the countries. The number of allowable low bids was limited to less than 20, and I wanted to make sure those low bids were filled with the Middle Eastern and Mexico posts. Our high bids were limited to several in Africa, and several in Brazil (because, what girl is going to turn down living in Rio de Janerio on the beach for a couple years? Hey- I can be flexible!).

While I was visiting M in DC we got to meet with his Career Development Officer (CDO) and discuss the posts. We told her all about our preferences and why we bid certain posts the way we did. We told her that our long term goals are to work in Africa and that we had three African posts we were especially fond of, one of which seemed to be especially perfect for us: Togo. The job in Togo was in M's cone, it allowed us to take French courses at FSI, it had several Lome-based health-centered NGOs, and we could bring our puppies!! Our CDO took some notes, smiled and reminded me not to get too excited over any post. We assured her we would be happy if we got any post from either our high or medium bids, and hey, if we got a low bid, we'd make that work, too.

A few months later, on Flag Day, we sat in a room at the National Foreign Affairs Training Center, anxiously awaiting our results. To pass the time and relieve anxiety during the ceremony there are a few games that people play. The first is Flag Bingo, and the second is just simply yelling out the name of the country as the flag of the post is being projected. We settled into our seats knowing we might have a long wait- names and posts are not called in any particular order.

The first flag was projected. It looked familiar. Was that one of the ones we wanted? I looked at my list just as the entire room yelled out "TOGO!" My heart sank. The very first post was the one we wanted. There was no way. I sat back and tried to make my mind stop running. There were a lot of other good posts that we wanted. We would be happy anywhere. I looked up. M was standing up. He was walking toward the podium! They had called his name! His mother and I jumped to our feet, screaming and hugging and bouncing with excitement, and I'm sure, shocking the people around us.

And then it was done. So many blogs talk about how painful it is to wait until the end of the ceremony to find out where they are going. Knowing where we were going and not being able to run down the aisle, tackle M and smother him in kisses and happy tears may have been more painful! In short, waiting patiently and behaving like an adult is a real bummer.

And so it begins...

I probably should have started blogging long ago. When we first started this process I was so desperate for any information that I scanned every blog that had anything to do with the Foreign Service. I kept wondering why no one was talking about the things I felt I needed to know! How long will this take? What should I do? How can we plan for something so life-altering while knowing the chances of it actually happening are so slim? Am I going to have to wear high heels and take etiquette classes (oh god, I hope not).

I guess the answer is: you don’t really start blogging until you figure out that you have no idea what is going on, and then you just go with it. (Well, that and the fact that you soon find you’re grateful for any excuse to take a break from packing up your house...).  

M and I returned from our amazing East African wedding/honeymoon trip in mid-January. Before we left, M had completed the application process, taken the written test, passed the ridiculously hard and highly anticipated oral test (!!!) and was able to complete everything he needed for his security clearance. Each of these was probably worth it's own blog post, but it's always hard to write with confidence when facing so much uncertainty. We were thrilled that, within days of our return, the security investigator called and told us he had submitted M’s name for clearance. This marked one of the final stages before M could be added to “the Register,” a list of scores or hundreds of names who had received provisional offers of employment, passed security and medical clearances, and checked all of the “suitability” boxes deemed necessary for a career in the Foreign Service.

We got the news about the final stage of the security process within a week of returning from our honeymoon, and spent the next few days dreaming even more of being so close to living the life we had always talked about. Visions of living overseas, experiencing different cultures, learning new languages, eating new foods, having children who appreciate all life, everywhere, and each of us being able to pursue and obtain meaningful careers that (hopefully) contribute to the good stuff in the world, swirled through our heads. We tried not to be too optimistic, however, since many people who get on the Register never actually get an offer, and M had applied to one of the most difficult cones to get into. I had, for that very reason, tacked on a year-long biomedical sciences certificate program onto my MPH studies just before we left for our wedding. We knew this process could take up to two years- if it happened at all. Regardless, we must have called each other ten times that morning, sometimes for no other reason than to just scream with excitement, and then talk each other back down to reality.

A week later, around lunchtime, M received an extraordinarily brief email from the State Department. In 2 short sentences, the messenger delivered the news that M had cleared security, cleared “final suitability review,” and been added to the Register. And, oh by the way, could he be available to start training on March 12? “We need a response by Monday.” It was Friday. March 12th was 5 weeks away.

Although some may have deliberated over the next 3 days, we were telling our families the news, celebrating and toasting champagne by dinnertime. This was actually happening!!

Over the next week, reality started to sink in. M had to be in D.C., but my program didn't end until July and I wanted to stay and finish up one of our biggest programs at work. I still hadn't submitted my master's thesis. If I moved to D.C. I would be leaving school, leaving work, and living in a one-bedroom apartment with two dogs and no job. And, let’s just say, I've never played the role of housewife well. Our decision soon became clear: though we had just been married, we now had no real choice but to live apart for several months.

 The next few weeks were filled with chaos. Between work obligations, mid-terms, boring political and lawyer functions, celebratory happy hours, family dinners and wonderful evenings with our wonderful friends, time was sucked away from us. We managed to drain every last drop of fun and love out of every passing minute. Saturday morning, March 10th, M woke me up by softly singing Leaving on a Jet Plane. While crying, I kissed him and smiled for him, told him that I'd wait for him, and held him like I'd never let him go.