Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Because who can resist peacock glitter?

Sooo much has happened since we moved to India that it's hard to find time to write about it.  Or to choose what is most important. Do I write about how we almost served raw turkey to our friends on Thanksgiving? Or how everyone at the Marine Corps Ball got food poisoning? Or my cough that won't go away? I can't decide! So here are some pictures of camels.

This one is actually a horse if you couldn't tell the difference.

We went to the Camel Fair in Pushkar and it was amazing. Husband wasn't impressed because of all the dirt and Child 3 hated the smell. But here is a picture of me and Child 2 riding a camel and having a blast. You can tell who the adventurous people are in the family. Once on vacation Child 2 ate snails at a restaurant, just because she had never tried them. When we said hop up on that camel, she said OK! So we rode happily singing all the songs we know about bandits which is exactly one but has the awesome line "Give your ID card to the border guard, your alias says you're Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the United Federation of Planets, cause they don't speak English anyway." Don't we look like bandits? OK, fashionable bandits.

And this one is of a Bodo Pre-Christmas festival that Bentley invited us to attend. It was awesome, even though they made me try the dance, which was embarrassing but fun.

The other thing that happened is the Amcham Ball. Yes, another ball. I never thought I would ever go to so many balls! When I was a very little girl, my mother had a magic walk-in closet. OK, it wasn't magic, but it had ball gowns and silver shoes! My mother and father would dress up and go out to parties and the occasional ball and she would wear her hair up and I couldn't wait to grow up and go to balls. And then I grew up and had my own little girls and the only dress in my closet was denim and there was not a silver shoe to be see anywhere and sometimes when I wanted to dress up I would put on mascara and wear my clogs without socks. I know! So fancy.

So when we joined the Foreign Service and started going to the Marine Corps Ball every year, which generally doesn't involve the worst food poisoning I've had in years, I started collecting ball gowns. So now, I actually have choices! I have more than one gown! AND lots of sparkly shoes, although that didn't stop me from buying some peacock blue ones at the mall last week. And when the Amcham (American Chamber of Commerce) Ball popped up at the last minute, I actually had something to wear that fit and looked nice and wasn't denim. My life has changed so, so much. And you know what? Owning peacock blue sparkly shoes is better than a brownie, even if they make your feet hurt really super bad so that you can't dance more than one song which is a bonus if they keep playing things like "The Macarena." Balls are not what you think they are, or at least what I thought they were. Still, my shoes!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Red, yellow, green, whatever. I still don't like them.

One of the lovely things about working for the federal government is convincing the federal government that white is white and green is green and blue is blue. If you let them, some people will tell you that white is orange and blue is magenta and there is no such thing as green. For example, I had the following conversation over and over again for two entire weeks straight.

Washington federal worker: We want you to run down that path as fast as possible in a straight line.
Me: That path there? The one with the big brick wall across it?
WFW: Yes. That path. Run down it as fast as you can for 10 minutes straight and then come back.
Me: What about the wall?
WFW: What wall?
Me: The big brick one right across the middle of the path that is 10 feet high.
WFW: There is no wall. It's your imagination. Get running.
Me: OK. I ran up to the wall, now what do I do?
WFW: There is no wall. Keep running.
Me: Here is a photo of the wall. It is 10 feet tall. I cannot go over it, or through it, or around it. I cannot run any farther.
WFW: OK. We see the wall. We removed it. Keep running.
Me: What do you mean by "removed"? The wall is still there.
WFW: No, it's not. We removed it. Keep running.
Me: By "removed" do you mean you chipped a tiny little hole in it?
WFW: The hole is big enough for you to fit through. Keep running.
Me: By "big enough" do you mean for my pinkie? Because that's all that fits.
WFW: You are being obstinate and difficult. First you said there was a wall, so we removed it and now you refuse to keep running.
Me: I need a brownie so bad right now.
WFW: Whatever. Just go through the non-existant wall and keep running.
Me: I'm going to sic The Dog on you!

OK, that last line was just in my head, because unless WFW is a bird or a baby, The Dog would just bark at them. She is useless as an attack dog. Anyway, I got really tired of being told the wall was all in my head so last weekend, I went on vacation to Sri Lanka with two of my friends for a girls' weekend. I highly recommend Sri Lanka as therapy. It was amazingly beautiful. How can you not relax just looking at this!

Granted, it did take us hours to get to this waterfall in Horton Plains and some of the hike was on a "path" and by path they mean some boulders mixed in with mud and really sharp rocks. But still, it was worth it and I didn't break my ankle even once. We got wet from being rained on which turned out to be the theme of our weekend because when you go to Sri Lanka during the rainy season, they aren't kidding. It was full on monsoon rain with lots of thunder and lightning and we got soaked more than once. But we also saw this:

Sri Lanka has LOTS of waterfalls. And then we went on safari and saw this!

I didn't use a zoom--the elephants were this close! Can you see the baby underneath her mother's legs? The photo is so grainy because it was super dark during the thunderstorm that was soaking us. We also saw lots of peacocks in trees, which was interesting because I didn't know they could fly. We also saw water buffalo, lots of storks, and some logs we were pretty sure were crocodiles. But the elephants were the best, because, well, they are elephants. And there were babies!

We also ate some really delicious food. We went to a spice garden and got an herbal back rub, bought delicious cashews on the side of the road, and stopped for coconut water fresh out of a coconut. Sri Lanka is also home to many species of bananas which all taste just like bananas, so that wasn't my favorite. My favorite discovery about Sri Lankan food was that curry comes with incredibly delicious side dishes, a lot like Korean food does. So when you order curry, you also get beets, eggplant, green beans, etc.


We did a lot of driving and eating and about the driving in Sri Lanka, the roads are amazing! They are well kept with rest stops and landscaping. And there are peacocks and monitor lizards crossing the road that you have to watch out for.

I won't bore you with details about our whale watching ride which started out exciting with a boat rescue and then turned into a boring odyssey where the only thing we saw was flying fish. But on our last day, we went to a resort and just relaxed and it was so amazing that for the first time ever, I will post a photo of myself on this blog!

I'm the one in the hat. And just in case you were wondering, traveling to Sri Lanka with my friends was way better than a brownie.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

At least they were my fancy jammies

I am exhausted after a long day of shopping in my living room. OK, I'm not really exhausted. It's rather nice shopping in your living room, and I'm not talking about internet shopping, which I am also a pro at. This is India, and although they have Amazon.in which delivers the next day to your door, and you can call and have groceries delivered by the market down the street, they also have vendors who will come to your house and bring things for you to look at and purchase. So far, I have bough Buddha's wife, two pots--one bronze and one brass, and an elephant statue.

Which reminds me that the children have decided that I have an elephant problem. They might be right. In our living room, we have three elephant pillows, an elephant painting, one brass elephant, one bronze elephant family, one soapstone elephant, and two wood elephant bookends. There is a sandalwood elephant upstairs in our bedroom and I have a rosewood elephant bookmark. I promise I'm not a crazy elephant lady. I don't collect elephants, I just like them and so when I am somewhere that has elephants, I get a souvenir. For example, the pillows are from a visit to Bangkok and the painting is from Phuket, Thailand. The soapstone one is from Gabon and the book ends are from Nigeria, and the bronze family I bought from a guy who came to my house and really who wouldn't buy a family of bronze elephants for $10? My bookends are a little more subtle than this, but you get the idea. Nice, no?

So when the bronze guy came back to the house and said he had lovely matching elephant statues, I resisted because "crazy elephant lady" is not the moniker I'm aiming for. So I bought Buddha's dancing wife instead. I wasn't aware that Buddha had a wife or that she liked to dance, but the statue is lovely and it's not an elephant. I also bought a pot that I don't know what to do with, but I'll find a place to put it. It doesn't have any elephants on it, so it should go just fine in the living room.

Today's adventure in home shopping, however, was for carpets. The carpet man, who has been buying and selling carpets since age 10, brought about 20 carpets to show us of all shapes and sizes. What we really want is a runner to hide the ugly brown carpeting on our stairs, and we saw lots of runners, but it was a little like Goldilocks and the 20 carpets and I'm not sure that we found the right one. Husband loves the carpet we are fostering to see if we want to buy it. And it's nice, but it's kind of brown and every time I look at it, I think, why are we buying a brown rug to hide a brown carpet? So we'll see.

The one I really wanted was a beautiful antique Persian paisley rug that the carpet guy said he could probably auction at Sotheby's for $50,000. It was so beautiful that when he unrolled it, it made me want to cry. So of course we didn't buy it. It looked a little like this rug, but with more of a paisley design. I was sad to see it go, but Child 1 would be really upset if she found out that we had spent her college tuition on a carpet. So Child 1, I apologize. You'll have to keep going to school and I'll have to keep looking at brown carpeted stairs.

So to sum up, shopping in your pajamas in your living room not on the internet is totally better than a brownie. Next up, the wicker man! No, not the one from the really bad Neil LaBute movie--the one who sells something like this.

Friday, October 2, 2015

An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind.

Today is Gandhi's birthday, so the Embassy is closed. That is one of the best things about life overseas is that you get to celebrate local holidays as well as US ones, and Gandhi's life is definitely worth celebrating, especially while we are in India. 

For the long weekend, and because I'm tired of looking at boxes we need to unpack still after a month, we decided to drive out to Rajasthan and stay in an ancient fort that is also a hotel. Our room is literally on the side of the mountain because one wall is actually the mountain. Child 2 and Child 3 are really enjoying the novelty of a rock wall in the room and Child 3 was ready to climb up it until she noticed that it was a little dirty, because mountains are made of rocks and dirt. So we're just enjoying looking at the rock wall rather than scaling it. She's going on a zip-line down the mountain tomorrow, so that will have to do. The hotel, in case you are wondering, looks like this:

That is not my photo, although it's pretty much what the view from our room looks like. I would post my own pics, but I can't get my iPod to connect to the internet because apparently I cannot figure out how they spelled my name which is the wifi password which I need for my iPod, but not my computer, which is pretty typical for India. I'm learning to not ask why because there is no why, it just is what it is. I used to hate that phrase for being trite and circular, but it describes life in India so well--it is as it has always been and will always be.

Accepting that fact has made some of the differences and challenges of life here easier to take. For example, I've learned to download videos to my hard drive so that when the internet is out for days, I still have something to do. I don't even blink when the lights go out and then on and then out and then on. I eat what is offered that I can eat, and I don't really mind that it's the same thing over and over or is sometimes just rice. After about a month of the same order every time, when I come into the restaurant on the compound, they see me and say "mediterranean chicken with no pita, french fries on the side?" And I nod yes. I walk into the canteen at 9:45 every morning and they automatically get out two Diet Cokes because it's what I order every day. I'm fond of routine, so I don't mind it. India agrees with me in that way.

Driving in India does not agree with me, so I have refused to get a license and why should I when I have a thing called a wallet and it can pay for my taxi? Granted, taxis are sometimes dodgey, so we have hired a driver whom I shall call Bentley and who is rapidly becoming my favorite person in the world besides Husband and the children. Driving, or rather riding, with Bentley is a treat because he has been driving for Embassy families for 19 years and oh does he have some good stories! Like the time he was driving down from Shimla which is on a mountain and the breaks went out and he didn't want to say anything because he thought it would make madam nervous. Um, I'm thinking he was correct there. And about how he grew up next to the Corbett National Park and used to see tigers on his way to school early in the morning. Bentley is a treasure. He is also a very good driver because he constantly has to avoid other cars, scooters, rickshaws, cows, dogs, small children, and the occasional elephant. Also cars like this that tend to meander all over the road like a slow flowing river just placidly going along oblivious to the rest of the traffic around it.

Now, about the food in India, I think it is actually good for me. I have been healthier here than I was back in the US and I made it 10 weeks without a single sick day, which for me is a record. Although the sick day was yesterday and it was a doozy and I was really worried I would not be able to come on the trip to the fort which is called a non-hotel hotel and I guess refers to the fact that people's rooms are made of mountain. I booked and paid for the hotel in advance, so if I wasn't well enough to go, that really would have sucked, and although I'm sure Husband and the children would have enjoyed it anyway, I would have been stuck at home alone with The Dog. The Dog, if you were wondering, has adjusted well to life in India and has stopped barking at every single thing and only barks at about every third thing. The guards and Bentley have figured out that she is all bark and no bite and Bentley agreed to look after her while we were gone since Husband would be driving us. The Dog tolerates Bentley, mostly, and he says things like "Dog, I am coming, so you can begin barking now!" So when I woke up this morning without a fever and didn't fall over when I tried to stand up, I decided I could leave The Dog and go as long as we did nothing, and that is what I plan to do for the rest of the weekend. This blog post will be as productive as I get.

Worrying about your children is not better than a brownie, and sending them off to college and worrying that some crazy person with a gun will shoot them is even worse. I can only imagine the heartache that the parents in Oregon whose children were killed are going through--and in my imagination it is bad enough. To Child 1, I am glad you are safe and that this hasn't happened at your school. But the thing that makes my heart clench is the word I left off of that last sentence: yet. Because until America figures out that the death of children by someone with a gun is unacceptable, it could happen anywhere and that terrifies me. So for Gandhi's birthday, I am praying for peace and sanity and that my fellow countrymen might find the courage and strength to fix this problem before someone else loses yet another child to senseless, preventable violence.

Monday, September 7, 2015

What's so great about a bandwagon anyway?

If you follow any other Foreign Service bloggers, then you know that they very often blog about the amazing places they go visit near their overseas posts. These blogs make me so very envious because I could never compete with them. I mean, who wants to read about a trip to the mall, or those three day-weekends when Child 2 made us drive out to the Cracker Barrel in Manassas? (She really, really likes the fried apples and root beer barrels there.)

I've thought often about blogging about my trips to Africa, but those trips were really all about work and I got to see very little. I did manage to take one or two awesome photos, though. Like this one I took in Senegal of a guy shucking oysters he had just pulled from the Atlantic Ocean. Do Pringles go with oysters?

Or this one which I love so much of some girls in Cote d'Ivoire who sold me some mangoes. I asked if I could take a picture of the fruit, but they wanted to be in it, too. And I must admit that it's a way more interesting photo with them at the center. After I snapped it, they all crowded around me to have a look and said "tres jolie!"

But mostly my trips were far to technical to be of any interest to anyone and I mostly saw the inside of the embassies and my hotel and occasional restaurants. But now, I am in India and I live here! I live in India! So I get to travel around and see really amazing places and I went to one this weekend and I promise I will blog about it. 

But first, I want to talk about fashion and State Department workplace attire. I know you are wondering what in the world fashion has to do with workplace attire in the Department and the answer would be nothing at all. Because as people in the Department have proven time and time again, nobody has any idea about what is appropriate work attire, and because no one does, people fight about it all the time and we all end up in a uniform of black pantsuits and flag pins (mine is made of rhinestones.)

The reason I have been thinking about workplace attire so much is that it is very different overseas than in the Department. In The Building, people are always dressed up--suits, ties, wingtips, and extremely high heels. Pencil skirts and jackets, always jackets. You can wear slacks or a skirt or a dress, but you must have a jacket because apparently it is the jacket that makes you look professional. But in embassies and consulates, it's a little different and it's different still in India. The other day, our office had a training day so the dress was business casual. I put on a really cute, full maxi-skirt that I bought in a store here in New Delhi and I wore a T-shirt with gold beads embroidered around the neck. I also put on jeweled thong sandals which ARE NOT FLIP-FLOPS and I felt very casual yet put together. And Husband said to me I thought it was casual day? And I said I am casual can't you tell by the not flip-flops? And he said no, he thought I looked ready for work. And then I got to my office and my staff said to me oh, you look so relaxed! And so there you have the problem in a nutshell which is that Husband has no idea what women should wear to work. 

To his credit, Husband knows that he is not an expert in women's fashion and freely admits such. He also doesn't feel it is his place to tell women what they should wear after the Great Sweater Incident at the very beginning of our marriage when I firmly let him know I would not be taking his fashion advice, ever. And, also to his credit, he has never really given any since. Other people in the Department aren't so self-aware and without fail complain every summer about attire being too casual, very often beginning with a statement that the Department ought to have a dress code and that there is a deplorable lack of respect of the non-existent dress code at the training center and can't we please have a dress code because they are tired of looking at women in capri pants and flip-flops. No. Seriously, every. single. discussion. When you get down to the bottom of it, it's that they don't like women wearing comfortable clothing in the summer and they want us all to be in the black pantsuit club. And no, sadly they don't mean like this one from Donna Karan, although that would be awesome and I would totally pay attention to any woman wearing that in a meeting.

Can I please just say once and for all that dress codes for diplomats are ridiculous?! I mean, for crying out loud, the last time our nation's leaders got together and decided on a uniform for diplomats, this is what they came up with.

I'm not saying I wouldn't rock that feathered chapeu, and the sword would be really fun to play with during lunch breaks and think how awesome it would be to point at a presentation with a sword! But how would I know that would be in a color that suited me and also there are no darts! I cannot do a single breasted jacket without darts.

OK, here is really the thing. The thing is, that work appropriate means different things to different people at different times and in different places--and that it is an especially thorny ground to be on when you are judging women's performance by what they wear. You would think that a Department that sends people all over the world would get that, but so many of them don't. So here, ladies and gentlemen, is what you are permitted to tell me and other women about the appropriateness of our clothing for work:                (crickets chirping)                     (leaves blowing in the wind)                 (an air conditioner kicking on).  Did you catch that? If not, let me spell it out for you. N.O.T.H.I.N.G.

If my wardrobe is actually malfunctioning, then please mention that my hem is ripped, or I have a button on my sleeve that is about to fall off, or I am missing an earring. If you love my shoes so much that you are dying to know where I bought them, ask and I will tell you. If you think that green and purple don't go together and you are appalled by my pairing them together, I don't care, and also you are wrong on two counts--it's inappropriate to mention it and you are wrong. Green and purple are lovely together. And if you think capri pants aren't appropriate for work, then you are sadly lacking in both fashion sense and people skills and I pity you. Capri pants can be very work appropriate. In fact, I just bought a new pair not unlike the ones below and I just might wear them tomorrow. (OK, I know, those are actually cropped pants, but I swear to you that the people writing these complaints don't know the difference.)

Oh, and guess what I wore on my last visit to The Building before I left for India? Yep. Capri pants and (not) flip-flops. But with an adorable white jacket because I am a professional after all. You're welcome.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Where did all these scrunchies come from?

I am tired. Dog tired. More tired than The Dog who went to the vet to have her teeth cleaned today. Husband was a trooper and took her over his lunch hour because my lunch hour was taken up by People Who Want Something From Me, which apparently is everyone in the entire Embassy and they usually want it yesterday. In fact, one PWWSFM got upset because I didn't do the thing he wanted on Friday because I couldn't because he didn't give it to me until Monday. I know Foreign Service Officers are supposed to be able to do the impossible, but time travel isn't one of my talents at the moment, and if it were I wouldn't waste it on work. There are way more important things to do than to go back in time and ask someone to give you something to work on that they want and should be taking care of on their own. Just saying.

Like if I could time travel, I could go back to the moment in high school when I won the argument with my math teacher about the utility of learning about imaginary numbers and whisper in my ear you're right! You will never need imaginary numbers but please pay attention in geometry because it will help you pack your suitcase better. I could also tell my 15 year old self not to get my hair cut like Joan Jett. And I could wipe out a whole decade of too large turtleneck sweaters. See! The humanity! 
Then I would see if I could do something about Hitler and Osama Bin Laden and Air Supply. There really would be so much to do. Can time travelers run out of time? Or can you always just make more like popcorn?

One other thing I don't have time for, just like work that PWWSFMs forget to give me, is unpack boxes. I so had a plan to do that this weekend and then I went shopping and then I got a migraine so I unpacked three and called it good. That leaves about 8 left in my bedroom that need to be emptied before the rest of the stuff gets here. Because stuff is coming.
Winter is Coming - Brace yourselves! HHE is coming.

I know you thought we got our HHE already, but remember when I said that was only part of it? Well, it was actually the smallest part and more is coming and I have to find places to put it. But I am so, so very tired at the end of the day, it is all I can do to make it up the stairs and into my pajamas. I'm going to end up like Child 2 and just sleep in my clothes because I'm too exhausted to change and the boxes will never, ever be unpacked. You know that scene in The Incredibles where Helen calls Bob all excited because they are finally moved in and then Bob goes and throws his supervisor through a wall?

 Image result for the incredibles unpacking the last box

I know, you're right! It's totally not believable at all because the thing about being in the Foreign Service is you never, ever get that last box unpacked. Punching through walls could happen, but the last box is always there, staring at you until you hide it under a plant. I have boxes in storage that haven't been unpacked since 1996. At this point, they probably shouldn't be. I'll save them for posterity and my great-grandchildren will inherit them and they will look at the turtlenecks and say what on earth made her think that was attractive?!

So I can't decide if the comment card below is better than a brownie or not. On the one hand, it's the dumbest idea ever, which makes it soooo much better than your average brownie--just for the entertainment value. And on the other hand, it's the dumbest idea ever and what has America come to? You decide. I'm going to bed and not unpacking boxes. You know, if I could time travel, I could take naps! Gotta get on that time traveling thing.

My friend works at Yellowstone and some guests actually left this with the front desk upon checkout this morning

Thursday, August 20, 2015

I don't care if I get detention!

Years ago, Staples had the best back to school commercial ever.  It was a dad dancing around joyously buying school supplies while his kids moped. If you're a parent, you can relate. I love back to school time! After months of whining about how boring our house is and how come everyone else is going to Canada for summer vacation and why don't we have a pool membership and there is nothing to do! After months of that, the kids finally go back to school and you can breathe, at least until homework is due.

But as much as I love back to school time, the one thing I hate is Back to School Night. Or as I like to call it--humiliate the parents and make them feel stupid night. Because no matter how many times I do this, I can never, ever figure out the schedule correctly. This year was not as bad as the year Husband was in Afghanistan and I had to split myself in two and go to half and half at the high school. But it was still so bad I made sure to thank Child 1 for graduating and going to college in Hawaii so I only had to go to two BTSNs. Seriously, they make you run up the stairs and down the stairs and across the campus and then back and up the stairs and down the hall and by the time you find the stupid class, the bell rings and you move to the next one.

Last night at the high school BTSN, I got lost on the way to the band room and totally missed band which was the only class in which I knew anybody. Luckily, I wasn't the only parent lost. There were three of us wandering around in the dark. Then tonight, I lost Husband who forgot which floor was the first floor and was wandering around the second floor looking for the first. And the very worst part of all was the introduction of something called "social hour" which apparently is everyone standing outside in the heat eating foods I can't eat like cookies and sandwiches and socializing because they all know each other from last year except me because I'm new. So I hid inside the auditorium and messaged my friends pretending to be super busy and important so I wouldn't have to talk to anyone. It totally worked. Only I told the children about it, so tonight, Child 3 left me a note sending me on a scavenger hunt and admonished me to get out there and meet people for heaven's sake and how did she ever get such shy parents!!? So I showed her! I finished the scavenger hunt without talking to a single parent, and I even skipped gym and hid in the bathroom. So. There!

We also got a lecture from her language arts teacher on the improper use of run-on sentences and sentence fragments and I completely chose not to pay attention because I am an adult and I can do what I want. Whenever I want. Just because. Hmph! (Just kidding, Child 3. Listen to your teacher. Only grown-ups are allowed to write run on sentences.)

So going to BTSN isn't better than a brownie, but watching super fierce women break barriers is. Two women, Capt. Kristen Griest and Lt. Shaye Haver will graduate from Ranger school--something no woman has ever done before. And something many men have failed at. And they did it all with about a billion cameras taking their photo. So ladies, I salute you. I have carried many a person on my shoulders, but most of them weighed less than 30 pounds and they certainly weren't six feet tall. You are amazing and I hope many little girls will see you and realize they can be all they can be, whether it be in the army or the Foreign Service, or the classroom, or the boardroom. Rangers lead the way! Now someone lead me to my bed because BTSN plum wore me out.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Where the streets have no name

On Friday, we moved into our new house, finally! And 1/2 our stuff came and it did NOT perish in the train wreck. In fact, it was in better shape than most of our moves, so our packers in the US at least did that part right. Note: these were NOT/NOT the same packers who ruined my high school yearbooks. Note: NOT/NOT is a stupid Department convention that likely stems from the time when cables were actually cables that got transmitted via telegraph wires. It is supposed to read "Not repeat Not" and only old fuddy duddies still use it, or people who like the way it looks for comic effect. I'll let you decide which one I am.

It is a lot of fun to be in a house with stuff. The only not fun part is the unpacking. Thankfully we had our awesome housekeeper and her niece to help out and the movers had a lot of fun sitting on the floor and unwrapping all our decorative things and kept offering to place them around. I kept turning them down, but maybe I shouldn't have because it might have been fun to see what they would have created. Husband is trying to help, but when he destroyed the Garden of Gethsemane that we've had on the cedar chest since we got married and moved into our own apartment, I banished him from decorating. He retaliated by putting two vases and a globe in the wrong spot on a shelf I can't reach without a ladder. That's what I get for being married to a tall garden destroyer. OK, it wasn't actually the Garden of Gethsemane. It's really only a statue of Jesus and a jade flower tree, but honestly they've literally been together on our table for over 20 years and how. could. he. not. know??! He has NO respect for tradition.

I know you are all on pins and needles about the washer situation. Our new washer in our new house is American, so we can actually read it and figure out what things mean. It will be a lot less exciting doing the laundry now, but our clothes might last longer. The GSO actually came and replaced the last washer because it turns out it's not supposed to have a pool of water in the bottom that smells bad. When they installed the new washer, it had words! Some words, anyway. What we thought was a pot of spaghetti with noodles sticking out was actually a hand reaching into a tub. So spaghetti was hand wash. Which makes me wonder what the butterfly was. Were we supposed to only put butterflies in the wash? Is a butterfly more delicate than a flower? For those of you who haven't experienced the joy of European washers, here is a chart for you to figure out.  The fast-moving snowflake is my favorite. Maybe that's for winter work-out wear? The loaf of bread is also incomprehensible. Come to think of it, these might be the symbols for a stove, which makes it even worse. Why would your stove make a snowflake cry?

Our stove has gas burners and I love it. Although I'm learning that they use a different kind of gas here that doesn't burn as hot because in order to cook anything, I have to turn the heat way, way up. Also, when you try to make chili without chili powder and substitute Tabasco sauce instead, go a little easy on it. Child 3 was fairly weeping at dinner from the pain and we used a LOT of sour cream and cheese to mitigate the heat. But still, finding almost all the ingredients for chili was a bonus and our kitchen really smells like home. 

The problem with only receiving half our stuff is that the important stuff is in the second half that hasn't arrived yet. So we have only six plates, and seven bowls, but our beer steins from several Marine Corps Balls are here. We have glassware galore, but only one small whisk. We have 5 cases of corned beef, and a LOT of maple syrup, but no hangers. I should have thought this out a little better. We also lack a toaster, iron, ironing board, trash  cans, and I REALLY want one of those electric kettles that boil water in seconds because a cup of peppermint tea in the morning is lovely. And bath mats and shower curtains for 5 bathrooms. Yes, you heard me. 5. Don't judge. We now have a bathroom for each teenage girl and it is glorious. I love my new house. 

Unpacking is definitely not better than a brownie, but streaming M*A*S*H on Netflix is, so guess what I'm going to do now? I think I may need to figure out how to make one of these for our house.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

It's a new kind of color blind

I live in India. I know this does not come as a shock to many of you because I wrote months and months ago about how I was moving to India. But it has actually happened! Really. No. Seriously. I'm in India. right. now. I'm writing this over and over again to convince myself that it has actually happened because there were definitely times when I was certain it would not. Like when I had to have my thyroid jammed with very long and thick needles by a frat boy pretending to be a doctor. Or when I thought the pack-out would never end. But it did end and now I am here. Only I'm still in temporary housing.

Now, a word about Foreign Service housing. It is free, so I don't complain about it much. Only when things go terribly wrong like there is a burst pipe in the bathroom at 3am or a typhoon drops a giant tree on top of it (both true stories.) So I'm not complaining that I'm in temporary housing that is decorated in "early circus tent" or that the washer is completely confusing and impossible to work. It has four settings--flower, upside-down ice cream cone, butterfly, and spaghetti. There are no words, just pictures. There are lots of snowflakes, but if you push a snowflake nothing happens. We've mostly been using the spaghetti setting, and sometimes butterfly. So far the clothes haven't disintegrated, so we're hoping that's the right approach because the average cycle takes 3 hours. And we're also hoping that when we finally get to move into our actual house, then we will have a washer that we can figure out. The dryer is awesome. It has two settings--high, low. You can turn it on or off. I love the dryer.

I'm not kidding about the circus tent, either. Each room in the house is a different color and some of the individual the walls as well. We have turquoise, saffron, magenta, slate blue, teal, and lime green. The furniture is gold and the rug is red. I hear that the previous occupant said he wanted something cheerful, but it's rather more grimace inducing. I think the living room gives me a headache. It's a little like this only less coordinated.

We may be moving into our house next week, which would be awesome. It is a charming house with lots of space for our things, which would look lovely in it. However, we're not sure we actually have any things anymore because we got an email from our shipping company saying there had been a train wreck and they would get back to us. Thankfully it was not this accident in which people died. That was an actual tragedy which helps me keep the possible loss of all our things in perspective.

They told us it was a different accident and the company had sent a photo showing part of the train sunk in water. The ground under the tracks gave way and the train just sunk. They have assured us that our things are not in the water. So we may have things still, if they're not taken off the train by "salvagers" and we may eventually get them if they figure out how to get the train out of the water and back onto a track that is intact. So to my friends who put a Christmas tree in our HHE, I'm sorry that your tree might have perished in a train wreck. Thankfully we have insurance, which I'm pretty sure we're going to need. And here's a trip for the future, if you live in India and are receiving your goods by train and they might have been in a wreck, do NOT Google "train river wreck India." It will give you nightmares.

So obviously living in India has its challenges, but exploring a new city with places like this is way better than a brownie.

We've been to markets with spices and jewelry and clothing, ridden in rickshaws, gone to eat at amazing restaurants, and even managed to find ingredients locally for taco night. So even if I never see my beautiful sweaters or my Chinese 100 Fu chest again, it will still have been worth it. I'm a little sad about the baby photos and the Christmas ornaments, though. Those are harder to replace than sweaters, which I'm already looking online for. Which reminds me--it's time to go shopping!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

I didn't say it was a good example

So our pack out is finished. In order to help anyone else out there who might be moving, I thought I would give a few tips on how to make your pack out go as well as ours did.

Image result for moving boxes

First you should avoid sorting things for as long as possible. This will make it much more fun when you're trying to decide what should go air freight, what should go via ship, and what should stay in storage. You should also not pack any of your suitcases. More on that later.

Then you should listen to Husband when he says the moving company called him and told him they only needed two days to pack and won't arrive until Thursday. However, if you do doubt him a little and take off Wednesday anyway, that might be wise. But definitely don't start packing your suitcase until Wednesday.

Wednesday morning at 8am, do not answer the door! Definitely do not be dressed, and don't have your suitcases packed and try to be in the middle of washing dishes to put in UAB (the air freight) when you do open the door so that you have water spilled all down your shirt. Then call Husband in a panic and accuse him of lying and making things up! 

Listen to the movers when they tell you that you were right and Husband is wrong and they are supposed to start that morning, and then go upstairs and frantically throw everything blue into a suitcase and hope it's enough for a month. Then throw all the towels and sheets down the stairs, literally. It's good exercise and way faster than carrying them. Plus if you hit the annoying mover who is opening all your make-up and then saying she can't pack it because it's opened, so much the better. Yell at the mover to stop opening unopened bottles of lotion and pack. them. now. Then call Husband and beg him to come home. Burst into tears in front of the movers at every opportunity.

If possible, have Husband's completely unsympathetic boss make him travel to an island very far away during what is supposed to be your last day of pack out. Then have the movers send you an e-mail saying they need two more days to finish up your stuff. Call the movers and explain very carefully that there aren't two more days because the renters are moving in on Tuesday and you have to clean, paint, and clean the carpets by Monday. Have the snooty moving company manager tell you they won't do it. Refuse to listen to her and talk to the packers. Agree that they can put all of your things in the garage so they can finish up on Monday and you can still paint and clean. Agree to this just in time for it to flood the next day and ruin all your high school mementos. Try to salvage your yearbook by drying it out with the hotel blow-dryer. It won't work, but you'll feel like you made an effort.

Miss your good-bye party at work because the stupid pack-out isn't done. Miss a fourth day of work because the stupid pack-out isn't done. Finally get everything done and have Child 2 tell you that you forgot to pack her computer and her shoes so now she only has one pair and it is the pair with a hole in the sole. Tell Child 2 she can just avoid puddles until the air freight arrives and next time she should pack her own suitcase on time and not make it over 80 pounds so you don't have to take stuff out.

Shut the door to your hotel room and sob uncontrollably from stress. You're done! Now all you have to do is mail all the stuff that the stupid movers wouldn't ship. Too bad most of it can't go in the pouch. Ask all your friends if they would like bug spray or dry shampoo as a present.

Moving is not better than a brownie. But the US Women's Soccer team beating Germany is! GO USA! I believe that we will win! Plus I needed a win this week because I totally lost to the move.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

DC does too count as a Post!

Packout begins tomorrow, so of course I am blogging. I should be sorting dishes, packing my suitcase, and washing all the sheets. But I'm tired and I've had packing nightmares all week so I am avoiding the thing that scares me by thinking about the thing that terrifies me--actually leaving.

Lots of Foreign Service bloggers have been posting the Top and Bottom 5 Things about their posts. They talk about the culture and the food and the housing and the travel opportunities. So I have decided to join them by writing about my current post--Washington, DC. I know you are thinking that I am really trying hard to procrastinate packing my suitcase, and you are totally right. But indulge me a little. I deserve it after getting no sleep for the past 4 nights in a row. So let's start with the bottom 5 things, shall we? Because the worst is always funnier.

  1. The GSO at my post sucks. For those of you not in the Foreign Service, the GSO is the office in charge of choosing your housing and filling it with furniture. Now, admittedly, our GSO (me because there is no GSO when you are assigned to DC and you are totally on your own) has awesome taste in furniture and a lovely sense of decor, although she tends to buy too much green. Green is her favorite color and it goes so nicely with all the Korean celadon, so don't be too hard on her. But some of the furniture is very old and she has not replaced the kitchen table in years and it is stained pink with I think what must have been a Kool-aid spill and only seats 6 and isn't expandable. Also it is blond wood, so could someone please go back in time to the 1990s and tell the GSO that particular farm table will look really stupid in her house in the future? And also tell her Assistant GSO that the awful red rug he brought back from Afghanistan doesn't match anything and needs to go?
  2. Facilities is almost worse than the GSO. Facilities, again for the non-FSOs is the office in charge of fixing things in your house when they break and since we own our own house, that would be Husband. Facilities at our post left cracks in the bathroom floor tile and a broke faucet for four whole years and only now when we need to rent it out did he fix them. Oh AND he decided the perfect time to start this project was the weekend before the renters were coming to see the place and therefore instead of helping clean up, he gave the GSO a list of things to do to "make the house look nice" while he went to Home Depot and messed around replacing the bathroom floor. And then he tried to micro-manage the GSO's cleaning of the house. The GSO firmly reminded Facilities that she did not work for him and since when is he an expert on cleaning up the house and he had better get back in the bathroom and leave her alone or Facilities would be sleeping on the couch with The Dog for a very, very long time.
  3. And speaking of the list debacle, staff meetings between the GSO and Facilities are sometimes rather fraught with tension. I won't say there is always yelling, but sometimes Facilities needs to stop tasking other people with things. Just saying.
  4. The housekeeping staff (that would be the children) is completely unreliable and often pretend they don't hear requests and when they do hear them, they ignore them until the GSO gets very angry and starts yelling about why is the GSO the only person who can remember how to turn on the dishwasher and then everyone is grumpy. Seriously, housekeeping, why is doing the dishes so hard?
  5. The Community Liaison Officer is nowhere to be found, so whenever someone wants to do something fun, they have to set it all up themselves. And then everyone complains that this is the most boring thing ever and why are we making them go learn things on their day off and why can't we just go shopping at the mall instead? Seriously, there is a LOT of whining going on at this post. Morale is pretty low to begin with and gets worse anytime you say chore or help or it's your responsibility or check the chore chart.
So now, the top 5 things about Washington, DC.

  1. You do get to live in your own house with your own pretty things and people can actually see that you have a decorating scheme and if you don't like the old IKEA furniture, you can get new stuff!
  2. Speaking of new stuff, I have a beautiful bedroom and I love my bed so much, I'm bringing it to my next post. King-size memory foam means it's my favorite place to be at the end of the day.
  3. The travel. Now, when you're posted to DC, you would think that means you just stay in DC, but if you read this blog, you know that is wrong. I almost completely filled up my passport with visas and stamps, and I've traveled to 16 different countries--some of them more than once. I had no idea I would travel so much, but I've loved every trip and it's been amazing. I mean, how else would I get to Ouagadougou?
  4. Learning how the Department works. This was a big one. Knowing whom to contact is half the battle in getting something at the Department and there is no better way to do that than to come back here and work in it. I can not only find my way around HST, I made contacts and friends I hope will last throughout my career if not the rest of my life.
  5. Which leads me to the people. You really get a sense of family at post because you all stick together. You have to because sometimes there is no one else who understands your bad Chinese. It is true that it is harder to get that sense of family from your office in DC, but if you are extremely lucky, as I am, you do. I will miss my crazy, fun, brilliant office mates. There is no one on earth like them, and no one I'd rather work with. Thank goodness for technology so I can continually bug them after I leave or I'd be even sadder than I already am.
There are lots of other plusses I could name like the food trucks (oh deliciousness on wheels) and the sight seeing opportunities, and not worrying if Netflix will work with your VPN. Also the shopping and being able to find clothes that fit. And the shoes! Oh, how I will miss Off Broadway Shoes.

Going to dinner with friends is better than a brownie, but not when you have to say good-bye. Leaving really sucks. There is just no way to be happy about leaving people you've grown to love like family. So to my fellow monkeys and pirates, I will miss you with all my heart. Please come visit me in India! If you do, I will take you to see this. It's like the Capitol, only prettier and with less arguing.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Because I don't have to so I'm not going to

I'm in Africa in a hotel that has both air conditioning and WiFi. I think I'm dreaming. I might be dreaming because not only do I have air conditioning and WiFi, I have a whole day to myself with no commitments and nothing to do. So I'm not going to do anything. At. All. I'm going to waste an entire day on reading and napping and watching movies I've rented through iTunes. Yep. You read that right. Not only does this hotel have WiFi, but the connection is fast enough for me to download whole movies! It's like I've died and gone to TDY heaven. I might not ever leave this place.

Image result for hotel la licorne abidjan

You see, for those of you who are veteran travelers, you know that sometimes, staying in hotels overseas can be dicey. No, I know. The US has our fair share of sketchy motels, too. There was one we stayed in I think in Tennessee when Child 1 was a baby and the carpet was so gross, we couldn't let her roll around on the floor and she was so angry with us! Child 1 was very determined, even at 3 months. But back to the hotels, you see the problem with going TDY (temporary duty which usually means a business trip) is that you don't get to choose the hotel--the Regional Security Officer chooses the hotel and decides if it's "safe" which on this trip has meant one room with a door that didn't lock and a broken safe. Although this was the view from the room which I found fascinating and would have spent more time viewing if it weren't already 104 F outside and the air conditioning didn't work that well on account of the electricity always going off. And also there was no water.

And then in another country, there was one room that was so disgusting I was afraid to take off my shoes and I refused to sleep with the disgusting blankets. Seriously I just googled "bad hotel rooms in Africa" and none of the photos were as awful as my hotel. And I won't even mention the fact that they tried to get me to switch to a different room that was cheaper. I said "No. That is not happening." Ugh. This was the bathroom, so I can't imagine what the cheaper room looked like. The photo simply doesn't do justice to the mildew growing in the shower. It's OK, though because there was no hot water so instead of using the disgusting shower, I just took sponge baths in the sink. With my own wash cloth because the towels were filthy, too. I'm a veteran Africa traveler and I ALWAYS bring my own wash cloths. And pillow, and shawl/blanket.

I'm fairly certain the RSO didn't actually go into my room when choosing the hotel, because the window didn't lock and it was on the 2nd floor and was just over a portico which even an old lady like me could have climbed on top of to get into the window. 

But this particular hotel I'm in now is as lovely and charming as any bed and breakfast in Paris and it has a pool, a sweet little garden and good food. Also air conditioning that works and WiFi! So excuse me while I go take a nap because afternoon naps are the best thing ever and way, WAY better than a brownie. Even when I could eat brownies, if someone had asked me to choose, I would pick the nap every time. Really. Brownies are delicious, but a nap--a nap can save your life.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Finished until the next time

So I've taken a little bit of a break. OK, a little more than a little. See, the idea was that I wouldn't blog because then I would have time to write my EER because it is that time again. Except that it didn't really work and mostly I just trolled facebook and looked at Buzzfeed all the time and watched re-runs of Big Bang Theory. My favorite is the one where Penny gives Sheldon Leonard Nimoy's DNA for Christmas. Which brings me to this.

Leonard Nimoy passed away and I am and always shall be a big fan. I miss him. I really wish Sheldon would get on cloning the DNA already and make us another Spock.

Here are some other things you missed while I was not writing my EER:

I have orders! Husband still doesn't because our travel tech, who is the same person for both of us, didn't believe I was an officer and therefore wouldn't issue Husband's orders even though she had already issued mine. Even when he sent my already issued orders to her, she said it wasn't possible for me to have my own orders because his file clearly said I was not an officer. Sigh. I know. It totally doesn't make any sense, but this is the way the Department is--every time you move it's like the first time anyone has ever moved in the history of the Foreign Service. You would think we would be better at this by now, but you. would. be. so. wrong! But still, I have orders! So at least one of us will be moving to India in July. The other one gets to keep The Dog.

We went to Texas for Spring Break And Child 2 killed lots of clay pigeons and soda cans at Grandpa's shooting range in the garage. Child 3 looked around one day and said Texas isn't a stereotype at all because people actually live like that! Yep. We wear boots and listen to country music and say y'all a lot. And there is lots of good barbecue. We took The Dog with us because my dad actually really likes The Dog, and she's marginally better behaved than when we got her, if by marginally you mean she is less like Voldemort and more like Golem, which I do. She still hates birds. And babies.

Child 1 is done with her Freshman Year! She comes home on Sunday and I can't wait a minute longer. Sunday needs to get here soon. Did you know that apparently now instead of taking a final you can make a video about what you learned and post it on YouTube? I so wish they had that option when I was in college because I would have rocked video finals.

And of course the entire family being together means that I leave for Africa for three weeks on Monday. It's my last trip and to several countries I haven't been to before and I'm very excited because I actually really love traveling to Africa, even though I have to fly on airlines like Bob Air which I'm hoping this time has real planes that fly and I don't have to load my own luggage and doesn't look like this.

And also, my EER still isn't finished, but then you knew that. My supervisor is awesome and offered to write my area for improvement in Haiku. I returned the favor by writing him the least helpful welcome home notes ever. For those of you not in the Department, welcome home notes are basically a list of everything important that happened while your boss was away that you give him when he gets back from wherever he has been. So since nothing really important happened, our notes are filled with things like "Bob is hungry, Sarah had a sandwich for lunch, Victoria got a mosquito bite and thinks she has Ebola." He will love them. And he already finished his part of my EER, so it's too late anyway.

So you know what is better than a brownie? Fire tornados in your backyard! OK, not in my backyard, but still you have to admit that this guy was pretty ingenious. Those are fans, in case you want to try to replicate the effect which I am totally not suggesting you do unless the fire trucks are already on their way anyway.

Fiery Vortex | Impressive display of swirling flame.

No, Child 2, you may not make a fire tornado in the backyard. Save that for Grandpa's garage.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Is that "cha" the one that means car or tea?

Someone recently posted in a blog about how despicable it is that people at embassies overseas don't bother to learn the local language so that they can be prepared for emergencies. She said that when the RSO suggested in a meeting with American staff that they learn vocabulary that would help in in an emergency, there was scornful laughter. The blogger took this to mean that Americans can't be bothered to learn the local language. Excuse me while I stop laughing at that interpretation. It's not that we don't want to learn the local language, it's that the Foreign Service Institute in its wisdom insists on teaching words and phrases that are completely not useful in every day life.

As many of you might remember, my next post is in India and we are leaving in July. The Department has decided that neither of our jobs require language training since many people in India speak English. You might wonder if I am worried about not being able to communicate and the answer to that question is another question which is when has the Department ever sent me to a place with the ability to communicate in the local language? And the answer to that question is never. I have never had a full course of language training before leaving for Post, and I also suspect that even if I had, it probably wouldn't matter.


Here are some phrases and things I learned how to say from studying language through the official language programs both at FSI and at Post.

  • Nuclear non-proliferation
  • Education policy
  • Anti-terrorism programs
  • Economic development
  • proper greetings and salutations on letters
  • defense posture
  • free and fair elections
  • electoral process
  • historical context
  • cultural revolution
  • energy issues

Here are how many of those phrases I actually used in my job and/or life at Post: 0.

I had one friend on the visa line who insisted on asking applicants if they were terrorists because they had taught him that word at FSI and dang it, he was going to use it! The applicants mostly just stood there blinking because they couldn't figure out what he was asking. Because who talks about terrorism during a visa interview about going to see their new grandbaby?

Here are phrases I wish I had learned at FSI but which they do not teach.

  • I fell off a curb and I think my ankle is broken.
  • The car battery is dead.
  • The pipe burst and there is water pouring everywhere.
  • My daughter does not want you to take her picture.
  • I would like to order spicy eggplant and marinated cucumbers.
  • How much can I get these for if I buy 10?
  • She has had a fever for three days and now she has a rash and I'm worried.
  • I slipped on the ice and fell and twisted my ankle. It feels broken.
  • My oven won't stay lit when the stove burners are on.
  • Yes I need both the oven and the stove burners to work at the same time.
  • Does this have any wheat or gluten in it?
  • Do you have a list of ingredients so I can see what is in it?
  • Yes, I've broken both ankles at different times. Is it sprained or what?
  • Our furnace is broken and there is oil leaking all over the floor and it's cold. 
  • Do you have any purses that are not IPR violations?
  • I need something that will cure a headache but not make me sleepy.
  • Did you clean these vegetables with bleach?
On the morning that our pipes burst at 4am, husband heard them and woke up first. It was like a fire hydrant went off in our bathroom and it was the hot water pipe. He was trying to find a way to turn off the water and yelled for me to go call maintenance. It was while I was on the phone with the night guard that I realized I couldn't say pipe or burst or flood. So I just yelled water lots of water come quick! Then five minutes later I called back and yelled now! Come now! Water everywhere! And finally when the guard came, I dragged him into the house by the arm and showed him the waterfall down our staircase. Then he moved pretty quickly and got the maintenance crew to come shut off the water and fix the pipe. And no, I still don't know how to explain any of that in Chinese and it's not something I would ever learn in language training. 

You know what is not better than a brownie? All this freezing weather and snow. If you're in the US, then you've probably seen Boston on the news. It looks like this.

Now, DC, is not Boston by any stretch, but I am getting really tired of slipping on the ice every time I go out to walk The Dog. So, if the weather gods are listening, please bring us spring. Now. Soon. Because I keep having to wear my ugly mushroom coat which is really warm but ugly. Please, I need to wear the pretty green short sleeved sweater I just bought. No more snow! Or ice! Honestly, I can't wait for India. This move can't come soon enough. Now, somebody tell me how to say "how much are these and can I have two" in Hindi.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Because I didn't buy a card and you never eat the chocolate I give you

Child 3 asked me a question today that I gave the best answer for and made me seem like a parent who completely has it all together. OK, actually I flubbed it. Stuttered and did that stupid parent thing where you say what do you think the answer is honey? And the question was what is it like to be married. And I answered first that it's exactly what you think it is, and then I said what do you think it's like because I thought for a minute she might say it was like this.

But she said she thought it was like being with the love of your life every moment of every day. Yep. Nailed it. Except that you don't spend every moment of every day together. And it's not like this all the time. Or actually even some of the time or ever at all. Husband and I never waltz, not even at the Marine Corps Ball where mostly they line dance and do the Electric Slide. And I don't own any ball gowns that sparkle and if Husband ever wore epaulets, I would not be able to make it to the ball because I would be laughing so hard I would cry all my makeup off.

So now that we've debunked the Happily Ever After myth, what is it like being married? And the answer is I don't know. I can only try to describe what it's like to be married to Husband which is I hope what you meant because I don't know what it is like for anyone else to be married. I only have my own experience to draw from. So here I go.

You know that montage scene in Up that makes you cry and shows Carl and Ellie's life together and it's lovely and touching and makes you want to be friends with cartoon characters because they had an awesome marriage and Ellie seems like so much fun? You know, this one?

Image result for montage from up

Yep. It's like that. Only I don't wear yellow and we never go on picnics and life is waaaaay slower than a montage and they don't show the parts about stomach flu and hospital tests and car crashes and there is no soundtrack  unless you count NPR constantly playing in the background and our house is totally not as clean as theirs and we don't have armchairs. So, it's not really like that at all. But if you took all the beautiful and fun and exciting parts of our marriage, they would make a lovely montage. And you could set it to "It Had to Be You" by Harry Connick Jr. which is our song. So, Husband, here are some of the moments I would pick to show what it's like to be married to you.

The time when we had just met and went ice-skating with friends and Husband held my hand and swung me around in a circle.

That drive up the canyon when Husband said he loved me for the first time.

Watching Sister 2 catch the bouquet.

When I almost died in Korea and Husband carried me to the hospital in his arms.

That time when we found out we lost the baby and Husband held me all night while I cried. And Husband cried, too.

When I yelled at Husband for watching the NBA playoffs while I was in the hospital in labor with Child 1, after 40 hours. Of labor. Just saying.

When I yelled at Husband for chatting with his dad on the phone while I was in the hospital in labor with Child 2 and he was supposed to be counting while I pushed and instead talked to his dad.

When we had the best. birth. ever! with Child 3 and nobody yelled even once.

The day we moved into our first house.

And then the day when we moved out of it 8 months later and drove across the country to our new home.

When we found Child 2 inside the Christmas tree and she knocked it down and broke every single ornament and we laughed and laughed.

When Husband taught Child 1 to ride a bike.

That time when the sweet potatoes in Asia were yellow and the casserole for Thanksgiving looked like snot and the children loved it.

That time we lost Child 3 for a minute when she was 1 and we searched all over the house and found her playing in the bathtub in her Sunday dress and tights and shoes completely happy. Oh, and the bathtub was full of water.

Husband eating lasagna for every single birthday for 22 years. (Except for the one he was in Afghanistan.)

When we brought The Dog home and she hated Husband and tried to eat him.

When Husband passed the Foreign Service Exam and then I did.

All those times Husband tried to give my visa applicants advice and they looked at him like he was crazy.

The most romantic dinner ever in Bali that also included the children in our private villa with the pool. (Can we add that one in twice? That was awesome.)

The cruise where Child 3 got freaked out by the child care employees because they went on an alien hunt and Child 3 was scared of aliens under her bed for years.

When Husband and Child 2 used to sing karaoke together--usually Queen songs.

That time Husband left for Afghanistan.

That time Husband came home from Afghanistan.

The day Child 1 graduated from high school.

There is way more to come later because we're not done and life isn't a movie.

So there you have it, Child 3. 22 years is a lot to put in a montage. I'm sure I'm forgetting some things. I deliberately left out some things. What it's like to be married to Husband is sometimes fun, sometimes hard, sometimes joyful, and sometimes scary, but always, always good and I wouldn't trade a minute of it for everything. Except the Afghanistan explosion incident. That I would give up freely. And maybe The Dog. We could cut her out of the montage altogether, although then Child 1 would never forgive me.

But the honest answer is, being married to Husband is better than a brownie. Does that answer your question?