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.