Friday, January 23, 2015

I don't think we live in the same universe

Today I discovered that not only can you re-name a Kindle, you can name it whatever you want. Child 3 is the awesome discoverer of this feature. I actually heard her on the phone telling Child 1 how to do it.  Child 1 named her Kindle "Child 1." So today when I looked up Child 3's kindle on Amazon so I could buy a book for her, I saw what she had named it: Child 3's Kindle... OF DOOM! I love my children.

As Artemis reminded me tonight, It's Miss Universe time again! You know Miss Universe, it's where Donald Trump chooses the most beautiful woman in the whole universe, which pretty much fits with his ego. Although other planets are probably evolved enough that they don't judge a woman's worth based on how big her thigh gap is or how much cleavage she is showing. I don't watch the pageant, but I do love looking at the National Costume Show that is part of it. For this, women are supposed to dress up in something that represents their country. Now, that can be a little tough if you don't have a national costume. When my kids were in international schools and supposed to wear national costumes, I sent them in Old Navy Flag T-shirts and jeans. The Dutch kids usually wore orange, and one little British boy wore a three-piece suit once. With the National Costume Show, it's much the same. So we get lovely, beautiful dresses like these. This is Miss Lebanon and I would totally wear that dress.

This is Miss Slovakia. Beautiful and very evocative of porcelain, which I assume is what they were going for.


Miss Myanmar wore pants! And carried a bow! Best. Costume. Ever.

Miss Myanmar Sharr Htut Eaindra

Miss Ghana who looks like a queen.

Miss Ghana Abena Appiah

And then there was this. Because apparently Great Britain thought this was a Halloween Party and nothing says sexy like a fake bear fur hat.

Miss Great Britain Grace Levy

And our neighbors to the North will need to explain this travesty. I know y'all love hockey, but come on! You missed a penalty there.

Miss Universe : Chanel Beckenlehmer

But the USA won the preposterous award with this--really the worst costume possible. What happens in Vegas is supposed to stay in Vegas!

Miss USA Nia Sanchez

I suppose a Vegas showgirl is representative of my country, but it would have been way better if she just wore the Old Navy T. Feathers? Really? What about ostrich feathers says "America" to you? It just makes me very, very sad.  And it's actually not flattering at all. So here is my plea.

Dear Miss USA fashion people. Your boss lives in New York which is the fashion capital of America. You can do better. Just ask someone! Anyone in New York! Or take some inspiration from this dress Betsey Johnson sketched for the First Lady. Awesome, no? Something like that would totally work. I bet she would even let you add feathers.


But so that you don't leave off reading all depressed, I leave y'all with this. Miss South Africa. Beautiful, cultural, and did I say beautiful already? Definitely better than a brownie. That is sequined zebra print silk chiffon, and I might need some. That is a real dress, people. Miss USA--back to the drawing board!

Miss South Africa, Miss Universe, Costume

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Let me be clear

So today was a day where I was just not having it. Really. Done. Don't try that with me because it is not working and I see right through you. My day was full of people saying you know that thing you told me I had to do? Well, I decided not to do it and I did this other thing and now there is a big mess so fix it and it is all your fault. And then some other people said, you know that thing that you told me expressly not to do or bad things would happen? Well, I did it and bad things happened and fix it and it is all your fault. And by the way, can you do my job for me because I don't remember how to and I don't feel like figuring it out on my own.

I swear, if I were allowed to ground people at work, half the Department would have been sent to their rooms today. And I am just not having this. So I told the people who did the wrong thing to fix their own mess and the people who did the forbidden thing that they had put people's lives in danger and all for nothing and by the way, here is the e-mail chain that shows that none of it was my fault. Only I said it very nicely, and the people who asked me to do their job? I told them here is the link that explains how to do your job and when you have finished it, let me know. Hmmph.

OK, then here is the thing that really set me off. So I got this call from a number I didn't recognize and I answered the phone and stated my name and this person started talking really fast for a really long time about something I didn't understand and knew nothing about and I knew that he probably meant to call Husband, but mixed us up. It's OK. It happens. Our names are next to each other in the Global Address List, so it's understandable that someone flubs the number once in a while. I get e-mails for him occasionally which I duly forward. My name comes first, so it's usually not the other way around. Either that or Husband just never forwards me things and people think I'm very rude for not answering their questions. It might just be that last thing. But anyway, I tried to interrupt Mr. Fasttalker, but he wouldn't let me, and then I knew it was for Husband because he mentioned the name of a post that makes you think of coconut palms swaying in the breeze and views that look like this.

We have already established that my posts look like this.

I love my posts, but they are not a tropical island. So when Mr. Fasttalker paused to take a breath after berating me for the thing I was supposed to send him which I knew nothing about, I told him I thought he meant to call Husband and did he need the number. And instead of listening to me, he told me I was wrong. Yep. I was the one he meant to call and he explained again all about the form and the post that isn't mine and said he had my name on an e-mail right there and. . . . Um, oops. Maybe it was Husband after all. He then apologized while still explaining it wasn't his fault and then he called me Jenny. If you do not feel icicles in your veins, then you do not know me very well.

There are a couple of things you should know. First, I have not answered the phone stating my name as Jenny since I was 12, if I ever did it then. I dropped that name as soon as I was old enough to decide what I wanted to be called because it is a diminutive. I know that it's what my Mother wanted me to be called, but it doesn't suit me because there is nothing diminutive about me. The second thing you should know, and if you haven't learned this by now then you are very obtuse, is that it is extremely rude to call someone by a nickname if they haven't told you that's what they want to be called. I have heard people say to someone named James that they'll just call him Jim. Well, that's only OK if he likes the name Jim and wants to be called that. It's just rude. Call him James until he tells you differently. You don't get to decide what someone else's name is unless you give birth to them. My Mother doesn't even call me Jenny because she realizes that's not me. Once, Sister 2 tried to call me Jenny as an adult by saying that's the name she knew me by when I was little. I set her straight pretty quick.

And here is the final thing you should know: even if you are obtuse enough to call people by nicknames without their permission, never, ever, ever do it to a woman in the workplace. Never. Don't. I mean it. As much as you want to call Susan "Susie" do. not. Or she might hurt you. It's disrespectful and belittling and only serves to show how little you know about office manners.

After I hung up very firmly, the day got better. I went to a really fascinating lecture about work Harvard is doing in the Congo to help victims of the civil war. I had a delicious kebab for lunch. And I had my bi-weekly meeting with my boss which invariably has me falling out of my chair with laughter and contains much talk about goats. (I know. It doesn't make sense, but I have never laughed as much as I do in this job. I so love my office mates!) Office meetings that end with hilarious laughter are better than a brownie. And so is this program and the work they do. Their work on the effects of rape on families in the Congo and their work helping former child soldiers in Africa re-integrate is especially important. Because this should be our goal.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

I never said I was a boy scout

This is why I love my children. Tonight at dinner, Child 3 announced that she has a bug collection that she keeps in the bathroom. She doesn't collect the bugs, they just come. I about choked I was laughing so hard. She doesn't really have a bug collection in the bathroom, I think. I hope. I'm not going to look, so I might never know.

Today at work I did everything I could to catch a cold. That is, I got caught outside without a coat during what was not a fire drill but a real fire incident. See, I popped downstairs to get some Pepsi because I was falling asleep and since I was only going to be a couple of minutes, I didn't bring my coat and of course, while I was buying the Pepsi, the fire alarm went off and they wouldn't let me back into the building to get my coat and I had to wait outside until they gave the all clear. My friend "Rebekah" reminded me that if my children had been that stupid, I would have grounded them. So maybe I'll ground myself this weekend and stay in bed. Like I did all last weekend because I had a cold.

But never fear! The A-100 class arrived to save the day! Actually, it was because my friend is in A-100 (the beginning Foreign Service class for new officers,) and he kindly loaned me his coat because he had a suit jacket and I had nothing. It was very nice of him and makes me hopeful for the future of the Foreign Service. This friend "Daniel" worked with me in Asia as an "eligible family member" which is a fancy way of saying Daniel's wife was a Foreign Service Officer. And like many very smart and talented spouses, he wanted a career of his own, so he took and passed the FSO exam and will now be a tandem. He'll be awesome and I'm very happy for him and for the Department.

I'm happy for the Department because we seem to have a crisis of the unmanageable Entry Level Officer. I have met some of them (remember the girl who called me up to whine about not getting into my workshop?) and they. scare. me. I mean, how do you test for "I'm always right and good luck getting me to do things your way"? I have heard rumors that many of them are being required to take the Fundamentals of Supervision course, not because they will supervise anyone, but because they are themselves difficult to supervise. We'll see how long I can resist before I pull out the Mom lecture and put my hands on my hips and tell them oh yes they will do what I say and they had better do it with a smile on their face or I will know the reason why! Can you ground employees? You--sit at your desk until you've written three cables and a BCL! That actually might just work. I think the ELOs are a little older than this, though.

So on Sunday, we visited an old friend who is dating a new friend. This new friend, we'll call her "Curie"found out that I was gluten intolerant, so she made an entirely wheat-free meal just for me. It was amazing, and not just because it was delicious and I would have eaten every last one of the stuffed mushrooms if I'd had a chance and then there were the deviled eggs! Visiting with old friends is better than a brownie, but new friends who feed me delicious food that won't make me sick? Those are golden. Curie is definitely a keeper.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

The ghost in the dog

So I can hear someone walking around upstairs and I thought, oh, Child 1 must be home, except that she's not. And it wasn't her. It must have been a ghost, or more probably The Dog. If only Child 1 could take The Dog to Hawaii, my life would be a lot easier and there would be fewer worries about ghosts. Also, The Dog would keep all the men away and that's not so much of a bad thing.

So it was science project time again. Remember that beluga whale that Child 3 had to make with the fins that moved and Husband left it to me to figure out? Well, this time I left him in charge and it was a veritable nail biter. At 1 am last night, Child 3 still wasn't finished with the project which involved lighting things on fire, shooting them with a laser, and then roasting marshmallows. Seriously. That was the actual project. I bought her the laser. It's actually a thermometer, but laser sounds more fun and like Star Trek.

But in any case, the project is done and we know lots about setting things on fire.  No parents were harmed in the production of this science project, unless you count the fact that I was so tired this afternoon that my eyes were crossing. Now I am helping Child 2 with her English homework and I trying not to fall asleep sitting up. I am only succeeding because there is not enough room in the bed for me to lie down and Child 2 keeps threatening to sing the llama song. If you do not know what the llama song is, I envy you. Once experienced, it cannot be unheard. I really do not love the llama song.

So onto other things even more unpleasant. The world is continuing to fall apart and sending in small children to kill adults on video is not better than a brownie. It is evil and it is making me sad. So here is something that is better than a brownie and I hope it soothes you as it does me. I'm going to stare at it until I fall asleep and maybe I will dream of Venice and not missing Nigerian children or the ghosts of Paris or anything else horrible.

Monday, January 12, 2015

What's a little inconvenience compared to that?

First, I'm fine. The worst didn't happen and I'm completely grateful I don't ride the yellow line and very sad for those who did today. For those of you not in DC, you can read all about the metro commute today here:

Thankfully, I didn't have to ride home in that. I'm not even going to make any jokes because one person already died and two are in critical condition. And we have no idea what happened and why. It feels like the world has gone crazy because last week there was this.

And also this which no one appears to be discussing in the news because we're all so impressed that George Clooney wore a pin supporting France.

No that supporting France isn't important, but somewhere between 150-2,000 people were killed in Nigeria during the same time period, and the media isn't covering it because they are all too busy gushing over J-Lo's cleavage at the Golden Globes. I was so excited to find Americans supporting France and free speech and I changed my own facebook photo to say "Je Suis Charlie" but then I heard the news about Nigeria and my heart broke. Abuja is one of my favorite posts I've ever visited and the people of Nigeria have always been warm and welcoming to me and it is so very awful that they are facing terrorism on a daily basis and we are ignoring them.

So this week, I'm not only Charlie, I'm Nigerian. I am with you Nigeria and so are my prayers. Nothing about today is better than a brownie. Not even Emma Stone's Golden Globes pants. And they were awesome. I'm just too sad to compare them to brownies.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Cereal is not the only thing that goes snap, crackle, pop

Child 1 left this morning and my heart is breaking. She was sad to leave and I was cheering her on saying all the good mom things like you'll be fine, you'll have a great time, think of all the fun you'll have at the beach, and aren't you excited to be warm again? And all the while I was thinking don't go! Stay with me! You don't have to leave! But in fact, she does. It is her job to grow up and break my heart and it is my job to stay behind all heart-broken.

So to help heal my broken heart, I faced my greatest fear and got my hair cut. Yes, I know, getting your hair done should not be so scary, but for me it is. You see, I always go in with such high hopes that I will find a stylist who listens to me and also does a good job, and I am always disappointed. I did find a great one once 25 years ago and I've been looking to replace him ever since I left Norway. I had one in Korea this last time who was great but never listened to me and so my hair was long and blonde. I'm not a blonde, I'm a redhead, but the hairdresser didn't like red hair, so I became a blonde. Ugh. She was the only person I could find who knew how to highlight straight caucasian hair, so I just let her do what I want. So far in DC, I've tried lots of different places, and I did find someone great who charged $200 and everyone else was just disappointing, so it's been 7 months since I last got my hair cut professionally and after the crooked bang incident in November after I burned my hand and chopped off the top of my thumb, I couldn't take it any longer. So I took the plunge and and let someone else cut my hair. It is supposed to look like this. Only not blonde. I still have red hair, mostly because I now color it myself with the help of Child 3 who is an excellent stylist.

Child 1 just called and she is safe in Hawaii and I so, so envy her. So now I can go to bed, but not before stating that "Call the Midwife" is the best! And way, way better than a brownie because it has no calories whatsoever, but is completely delightful and heartwarming and historical and set in post-war London, so what could be bad?

It's an awesome show about women supporting women, although Child 2 should not watch it due to her somewhat alarming tendency to vomit and then pass out while discussing medical issues. Some of the birth scenes might send her over the edge, but Child 1 will love it. Just don't tell Child 2. Seriously. I can't take the fainting.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Out with the old, in with exactly the same

My hair hurts. Also my earlobes and my cheeks. And my eyeballs. Even my fingers. I know some of you don't believe that is possible, but anyone who has ever suffered from migraines can assure you that it is. It starts with a throbbing pain behind my eyebrow and then spreads to the rest of my body. My feet don't hurt, but that's probably only because this one hasn't lasted long enough. Day two of migraines this time. Luckily, they are afternoon ones, so I managed to give the training class I was assigned to do in the morning, have lunch with Child 1, and then go with her to the National Gallery of Art in the afternoon because I was supposed to have the whole week off to spend with her, except I had forgotten about the stupid training. Then after a lovely afternoon of art, we took the metro home and by the time we got in the house, my head was threatening to explode. I took all the medicine, and no help this time. So excuse me if I get lost while writing. At least I'm not driving.

I imagine migraines are a lot like a hangover, at least they make me look like I'm hung over without the benefit of the fun night before. I get thirsty, and light is painful. I've never had a hangover, so I wouldn't know, but if they are anything like migraines, why would anyone drink ever? They must not be this bad, and probably they also go away after less than a day. Yep. This photo pretty much sums up how my head feels. My head is the concrete pillar, in case you're confused.

But all this brings me to what I really want to talk about which is the Fly America Act. You see, Congress, in its infinite wisdom, requires all government employees to fly on American owned airlines whenever possible. This actually does seem like a good idea, because if it's taxes that are paying for the flight, then we should use them to support American businesses. I don't dispute that idea at all. The problem is that like all government services, airline routes are put out and awarded to the lowest bidder, which means we get fares that require ridiculous routings that take up incredibly inordinate amounts of time and we have to put up with the worst customer service ever. Ever! More on that in a minute. It also means we can't book seats until we arrive at the airport, which means if you have a family, you can't book seats together and by the time you get to the airport, the only thing left is middle seats, and then your children are all spread out all over the plane and though that might be an awesome thing for you as a parent, no one else wants to sit next to a 5 year old screaming "I'm bored!!!" at the top of her lungs for 11 hours. I sometimes think that the OAG, which does not stand for "Only Awesome Gifts" but does award the routes to the airlines who bid, should have to fly these legs with three children and a dog in tow before they award them. I am betting no one in the OAG ever had to travel to New Delhi in coach in a middle seat. Just saying. Also panicking a little because I have time to stress about travel arrangements.

Anyway, even worse than the hassle of seat arrangements is trying to deal with customer service over the phone, which is apparently the only way to contact airlines these days since they don't respond to email. And United's customer service is enough to try the patience of a Saint. Literally. Remember when they told me I needed to provide my medical records in order to get a gluten-free meal? And they accused me of lying about my need for one? True story. Well, this actual monk got upset with them, too, when they accused him also of lying.

So United Airlines, you win for worst customer service ever. Why do you always assume it's your customer who is lying? I am not a business expert, but I would think that is not a great strategy to win loyalty. Your call center is not better than a brownie, and I really, really hope I never have cause to call it again. But given how lousy your service is in general, I probably will, and it will probably give me another migraine.