we drove

Yes, Sunday after Joey returned from his unsuccessful trip to the airport we decided to make a run for it.  I packed up my stuff and Dad drove us to the airport for the third time that day to pick up a rental car.  We got on the road about 2 pm and pulled into DC 15 and 1/2 hours later (16 with the time change).  You would think that with a blizzard so bad flights were cancelled for two days there'd be snow on the ground...but we arrived to a beautiful, albeit windy, sunny morning in DC.  Seriously the roads in Iowa, Illinois, Indiana and Maryland were totally dry.  There was a little snow in Ohio and Pennsylvania which slowed us down slightly, but neither of us saw anything that could warrant such delays and cancellations.  I guess the airlines won again.

Some highlights from the drive include the gas station attendant who upon ringing me up for two coffees and three Five Hour Energies suggested "sleep is cheaper," and cheap therapy in the form of Chumbawumba singing "I Get Knocked Down," followed by Hansen's "Mmm Bop" and then Toto's "Africa" song.  In true Melissa fashion I somehow managed to drop all of Joey's cards from his wallet outside the rest stop in Pennsylvania which blew every which way while he was off getting gas.  When he found me inside I asked him to check and make sure all his cards were there, which resulted in us in a panicked search for his American Express (we found it).  We're still reeling from the $15 toll in Ohio though and another $13.90 in Pennsylvania. 

So we got home at 6:30 am, and once we got situated with the dog sitter (and the dogs), we had about two hours to spare before the movers arrived.  Joey and I both passed out for an hour and then started preparing for the move.  Thank God the movers were professional and competent because we were so unorganized and out of it.  I wish that I had been able to pack my suitcases more deliberately because what's in them is all I'm going to see for at least six weeks but probably more like two to three months until our UAB (unaccompanied air baggage) arrives and probably five to six months before we see our HHE (household effects).  But I only had to have the movers go through three packed boxes for things I forgot to put in my suitcase - malaria pills and sunscreen - you think those might come in handy?  I'm also pretty sure we're going to get charged a boatload of cash for overweight baggage because both Joey and I packed our suitcases way beyond 50 lbs but whatever, I know I don't need fifteen sundresses to get me through six weeks but I want fifteen sundresses and if that's what makes me feel sane in our move to what feels like the final frontier so be it. 

The movers left right about five o'clock which gave Joey and me just enough time to pile the dogs in the car (who had been in their kennels all day and were beyond wired) and take them to the vet for their 48 hour pre-travel health certification.  For some reason the act of taking their temperatures, listening to their hearts and filling out the paperwork took almost two hours and cost $500 but whatever, we're finally freaking done.  Well no, there's actually about a million last minute errands to run today that we would have run Sunday but at least the dogs should be good to go. 

So after arranging for the transfer of our first-born to the vet, we were finally done for the day.  Our friends Lee and James came over for a few hours with pizza and prosecco and wine and beer and wished us a really heartfelt farewell.  It was the first time in the last few days we'd really actually reflected on leaving, rather than on the scramble to be able to leave, and I have to say I'm glad for the bottle of prosecco they brought me as well as the great company.  We passed out around ten but for some reason I am up now - nerves, probably.  Truly the last 60 hours or so have been so frenetic that its just registering now that we will be at the airport in less than twelve hours.  I'm sad that my goodbye to my parents and sisters was overshadowed by the daunting drive, but almost grateful for it as well.  I really had hoped to spend our last night in Des Moines playing games and drinking wine but at least it didn't turn into the hard, tearful farewell that I worried about.

I suppose I should at least go try to lie in bed for a while, seeing as when the alarm goes off at 7 we have to sell the car, finish packing our carry-ons (I have no idea how I'm going to fit my jewelry case.  Seriously no idea.), clean the apartment, arrange transportation to the airport, check out with our landlord and go to FSI to make photocopies of the vet documents and get a Typhoid shot.  And be at the airport no later than 3.  Nothing like the last minute.  But we still can't believe that we pulled off the packout in the first place, so tomorrow's nothing compared to today.

Anyway, thanks to everybody for the well wishes, both on the holidays and in the last few days.  We'll miss you all so much and your support really means the world as we embark on the craziest journey of our lives.  I really can't believe we're actually moving to Africa.  Today.  Here goes nothing!


a harbinger?

Today is December 26th.  Our packout is tomorrow morning, December 27th, at 8 am.  Our flight to Abuja leaves on Tuesday, December 28th.  And we are stranded in Des Moines.

My flight was originally scheduled this morning at 7 am.  Joey's was scheduled at 10.  Last night I received a late Christmas gift of coal from Delta who called to inform me that my flight had been cancelled and I had been reassigned to a flight leaving here at 3 pm and getting into DC almost twelve hours after my original flight was due to land.  Pain in the ass enough if all you have to do is go to work Monday morning - giant fing catastrophe if you're scheduled to be packed out Monday morning to move to Nigeria for two years! 

Obviously I am freaking out.  Saying goodbye to my family to move to BFE is bad enough and now we are adding travel delays starting in Des Moines - I can only imagine what the next few days are going to be like.  I took Joey to the airport an hour ago.  As soon as I got back to my parents' house the phone rang: Joey.  His flight is cancelled.  The earliest American Airlines thinks he'll be able to get into DC is 10 pm.  TOMORROW.  No big deal, we're not moving to Africa or anything.

Oh, and by the way, if we don't get to Nigeria before the first of the year we have to spend an extra month there.  Our two days in December count for the whole month of December.  So if we don't get there in December, that month doesn't count.

So Lizz and Ashley are on their way to the airport to pick up Joey.  Who is currently working the American Airlines counter on his ticket and making sure with the Delta counter that my ticket is still a go.  Because the people at American told him that no flights are landing on the East Coast today and that mine will probably be cancelled as well.  So I guess we'll see.  When I took Joey to the airport he said that as we begin our life of international travel we should probably just learn to roll with the punches but quite frankly I feel more like I dropped the soap.


crap, etc.

Under this pile is a bed.  A queen size one.
We finally finished our consum- ables shop- ping.  And by we I mean I.  Except appar- ently I didn't get enough mayonnaise because Joey doesn't think the two jars will be enough to make tuna salad out of the 40 cans of tuna we bought or the 42 cans of salmon.  No, that is not hyperbole, we seriously bought 82 cans of meat which is currently sitting in our guest bedroom.  Or what used to be a guest bedroom.  The whole queen size bed is covered in food and paper products; there is a little tiny path for Joey to get to his closet and dresser.  In fact our consumables/supplies have spilled over to our living room; there are tires piled next to the toilet paper next to the dining table. After four trips to Costco, a trip to Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, Giant (like Hy-Vee), two trips to Target, two trips to Walmart, a trip to Marshall's, BareMinerals, and orders from six different stores online, we spent a grand total of $8,052 and the craziest part is we probably won't see any of this stuff for at least three months, because that is how long it will take for our HHE (household effects) to get to us.  Joey put it best: "When I imagined becoming a diplomat, loading the back of a truck with tires and toilet paper wasn't exactly what I pictured."
Trying to finagle the bags in the trunk of my tiny car in the snowstorm today was tons of fun.
In case you need 24 gallons of motor oil or a shelving unit, we have those, as well as three "hamster" water bottles for the dogs' kennels.
For perspective - just enough room to fit Joey



I figured before I posted about our insane weekend in NYC I should put up my stuff from the weekend before.  Lauren was so nice to come visit us and take our minds off the omnipresent craziness of our international move.   The weekend was a bit of a whirlwind, but we really enjoyed the company.  Lauren had been to DC before and let me take her to some less mainstream places I'd been wanting to visit.  And, since Lauren is a frequent traveler too, she even introduced me to a bar I wish I'd found before, because I know both my sisters would have loved it.

Friday night after a scrumptious dinner at Ray's Hell Burger (its sister restaurant, or maybe I should say brother, Ray's the Steaks, is a really swanky restaurant in town.  They take all the unused tenderloin and ground it into burgers.  Yum.), Lauren and I dropped Joey off (it was past his bedtime) and headed to the W Hotel right next to the White House.
Leaving the bar Friday night
She'd read about the bar on the roof, called POV, and its fabulous view of the White House and the Washington Monument.  Sure enough, we were not disappointed.  We even managed to find a table!  In addition to the fabulous conversation we were also entertained by a fight between several male patrons.  Lauren and I were more appalled by their throwing around $15 drinks than punches.

Saturday we went over to President Woodrow Wilson's house and took a very thorough tour.  The docent was very nice and exceptionally informed.  President Wilson's second wife, Edith, maintained almost everything original from the house, so it was really neat to see.  I especially loved the old, concert grand Steinway piano - I wish I'd played in the last few years so I could have played something on that when the docent asked.

After the Woodrow Wilson house we headed over to the Society of the Cincinnati Anderson House.  It was built in 1905 for something absurd like $7 million dollars and wow, was it incredible.  Before our tour we were lucky enough to stumble upon a free concert in the grand hall of the home; a famous Army opera singer (who earned Joey's respect upon reading in the program that he'd sung at Ronald Reagan's funeral) accompanied by a very talented pianist regaled us with Italian love songs and "Oh, Holy Night."

Just gorgeous - Joey said he thought it was prettier than the Sistene Chapel.
The fabulous stairwell with custom-made tapestry by Dega.
French drawing room - the English drawing room had the same beautiful gilt.
This is where the concert took place.  These pictures don't even being to do the Anderson House justice.
Saturday night we headed over to the Spy Museum for their "Spy at Night" interactive spy experience, which though exceptionally hokey, was pretty fun too.  Then we headed over to Potenza for a fabulous Italian dinner.  Sunday was pretty low-key, with a delicious lunch at 2 Amys' Pizza and just some driving around town, checking out the sites but staying warm in the car at the same time.  We'd planned to visit the Portrait Gallery but made the unfortunate assumption that we'd be able to find a parking space.  By the time we drove around the block four times and decided the closest parking spot would be at home, it was too late to drive home, walk to the gallery, peruse the collection, walk home and get Lauren to the airport in time.  We actually found a parking spot as soon as we got to the Portrait Gallery; there were about fifty cars, all parked in the back-in, angle parking and there was spot open.  Sweet!  So we backed the car in and right as Joey went to shut off the ignition a man came over to the car.  He pointed to the sign which said in the most confusing manner that back-in, angle parking ended at 2 pm only on Sundays and said if we found a different parking spot we'd be fifty dollars richer.  He said he comes down every Sunday at 1:45 to try and help people out.  Sure enough, as we drove around the block looking for a space to parallel park the car, we saw the meter maid back-in, angle park her car and then proceed to ticket every car parked the same way.  Nice.


what a bunch of crap

Wow time is winding down so fast now.  Tomorrow we leave for NYC for the weekend, then when we get back I only have five days here until I head home for Christmas.  Then its ten days at home, fly back here on the 26th, pack out on the 27th and leave on the 28th.   AAAAAGHHHHHHH!

We have been so busy with getting everything ready- and I really think we're going to use every last minute to do so.  We probably shouldn't go to New York this weekend, but we planned it back during our delusional phase, and now I think it will be kind of nice to not have to deal with it for the weekend.  A week from now when I'm up all night getting everything packed I'll probably be kicking myself in the ass, but I suppose that once I get to Abuja I'll won't regret spending one of my last weekends in the bustling, holiday fabulousness that is NYC.

Our cart - Costco visit #2
It feels like we've been doing nothing but shopping lately.  And not the fun kind.  Do you think I have any cute new outfits to wear to New York?  No.  Why?  Because all of our money is being spent on shampoo and ziplocs and giant boxes of instant oatmeal.  And because what is the point of getting some cute new sweater when you can't wear it again for two years and by then will probably be out of style.  Yesterday I spent all day shopping online for stuff for the move.  All day.  I really don't know how it took so long but I had a headache by the time I picked Joey up from work.  Heartworm and flea/tick prevention for the dogs, airline kits for the dogs, vitamins and supplements for us - none of this is fun stuff.  I did end up buying two new pairs of shoes...but they were only $15 dollars each so I'd hardly call it a splurge.  They're called Footzy Rolls and they roll up into a teeny little ball and you can store them in your purse for when you can't take your high heels any more.  I bought a pair of black ballet flats and black flip flops.  I think they'll come in handy quite frequently, even in Abuja.  Maybe in Abuja.  I digress... 

So before we started buying all of our consumables for two years (started - definitely have another trip or two to Costco, a trip to Target, a trip to Trader Joe's, Giant and hopefully then we're done....hmm looks like we're going to Costco tonight...) we hardly had room for everything in our house.  Actually we didn't have room for everything in our house.  A quarter of our guest room was boxes.  Well now its about three quarters.  Joey's poor friend, Bill, is coming the weekend I head to Des Moines and unfortunately he's going to have to camp out on our couch because half of the guest bed has turned into our moving staging area.  Here are some pictures: 
What was once a bed is now storage.  In the foreground is Joey's dresser which he now shares with the chocolate stash.  In the background you can see our new suitcases.

More food, sandwiched between the dresser and bed.  Now Joey and I can start that bean shelf, Mom!

The other corner of the room includes Christmas decorations that wasted weight in our UAB as well as dog kennels that are not airline approved.

More of that side of the room - our new TV, a multi-system or multi-region or something like that; several bags of coffee, dog bones, and the stack of boxes on the left is all of the new transformers Joey bought.

Just to give you a sense of the room - this was taken from the door.  Pretty full.   


i'm considering changing the title of my blog

to "FML Moments."  I thought I'd share one from today. 

Our suitcase collection needed some updating.  It consisted of several carry-on approved size suitcases (about 20"); one ten year-old, regular size suitcase that begs to be thrown away, as it has been all over Europe and the Western Hemisphere several times and looks that way, with its now gaping hole in the corner; and one gigantic, human-sized suitcase.  So today I took it upon myself to visit several stores to find some sturdy, functional luggage at a minimal price to safely transport many of our belongings to Abuja.  I ended up purchasing four suitcases at Marshall's, which my husband hasn't even seen but has already informed me two of which are considered oversized.  I bought a pink set of three: 28", 25", and 20", as well as another 28" in black.  So who knows the big black one will probably have to go back (I thought I was replacing the regular-sized one), but that's not even the point of my story.  Just a tertiary FML.  Anyway, I nested together the set of three suitcases and put them in the back of my car. 

So on Sunday night, after dropping Lauren off at the airport, Joey and I made another trip to Costco.  Our cart was so full and so heavy it took both of us to move it, and at least fifteen minutes to load into the trunk and back seat of our car.  Sunday was also the first day of some rather pleasant weather we've been having here.  Apparently the average in DC in December is 50 degrees, but lucky for us, the temperature is hovering around 35, with a wind chill of 25.  So after freezing our asses off in the parking lot of Costco, Joey and I were loathe to do it again in our little parking lot (not to mention the dogs were howling and its a pain to shuffle everything back and forth).  We decided to at least unload the back of the car, as our alley can get a little shady in the dark and we didn't want to provide any incentive to break in (not that three gallon bins of olive oil and cans of diced tomatoes incite me to break in cars but you never know).  So we left the trunk full of food. 

I had this brilliant idea that I would take the food and put it in the new suitcase.  In the parking lot of Marshall's.  Which was full of holiday traffic...Turns out not all of the food in the trunk fit in the suitcase (duh).  And so then the suitcase wouldn't fit in the trunk.  Which meant it had to go in the front seat.  Now you know how the doors on two-door cars swing pretty heavily?  So I'm trying to avoid dinging the car next to mine which means I can't open the door too far.  And now I've loaded this 28" suitcase full of jars of roasted red peppers, kalamata olives, honey, artichokes, as well as 7 - 2.5 lb bags of coffee beans and 2 - 6 lb bags of chocolate chips.  And its freaking heavy.  I can barely pick the thing up off the ground to roll over to the door and then lifting it into my car?  Not happening.  So I roll the suitcase back to the trunk where I unload half of it.  I figured taking out the 27 pounds of coffee and chocolate would make it light enough to pick up.  Nope.  Defeated, I unload the entire suitcase back into my trunk, pick up the suitcase, put it in my front seat, and drive home. FML.


i'm losing my mind

Truly, I am losing my mind.  I locked myself out today.  Again.  I locked myself out last Monday too.  You would think that after sitting outside for an hour with George last Monday and having to fork over $127, I'd be a little more careful next time.  Well I was, for exactly one week.

This morning, as soon as George and I stepped into the foyer and I heard the lock click behind me, I realized I had locked myself out again.  Last time I spent about 20 minutes trying to pick the lock.  I used the little wire connecting George's dog tag to his collar and was so miserably unsuccessful I broke the wire in the lock.  So seeing as I no longer had any device with which to even attempt to pick the lock, this time I tried sticking his leash under the door to trip the lock (seriously suburban white girl - why the hell would I have any idea how to break into things), also miserably unsuccessful.  I still waited like 45 minutes before venturing out for help because I knew it was going to cost so much.

So the phone books were delivered two weeks ago and both our neighbor upstairs and Joey and I have neglected to bring them off the front stoop as they are pretty obsolete nowadays.  Thank God for that.  I grabbed one of the soggy phone books and found an ad for a locksmith.  Then George and I walked down to the neighborhood doggy daycare, and asked to use the phone.

About 45 minutes later the shady looking locksmith pulled up in his old, faded, pale yellow Lincoln with the royal blue "Prestige Transportation" letters peeling off the sides.  He was number 904, which I noted because I was pretty much convinced this dude was going to rape me and I wanted to be able to tell the police.  So the six-feet tall man got out of the car in his baggy, black cargo sweatpants and baggy hooded sweatshirt.  He pulled a black stocking cap over his shaved head and stood at the foot of the stairs to my house.  Great.  He took one look at the lock and told me in his Middle Eastern accent its going to be $160.  I told him that I didn't have that much and that I would just call someone else.  Just because I'm freezing my ass off and this is the second time in two weeks that I've been locked out doesn't mean I'm going to be taken for a ride.

He said, "She (referring to the dispatcher I spoke with on the phone) told you about the service fee, right?"

Me (who by the way just rolled out of bed and is therefore wearing her pajama pants, which were thankfully black sweatpants, but because who seriously wears underwear to bed, my ass was eating my pants; my pajama shirt, under which I am obviously not wearing a bra; my black Northface jacket; and my black fuzzy slippers): "What service fee?"

Locksmith disguised as hoodlum: "Well there's a thirty dollar service fee just for coming out here."
Me: "Fine.  Send me a bill for the service fee and I'll find someone else to open the door."  (Duh I'm not going to pay that bill.)

"No, we can't do that.  You have to pay today"

Look dude, I don't have my freaking bra, let alone my phone - you think I'm just going to magically pull my cash or credit card out of my ass to pay you?  Guess what, you can tell me whatever you want but if I walk away and you continue to pick the lock I'm pretty sure you'll get arrested.  Obviously I don't say this and reply, "I got locked out last week.  He only charged me $120.  Your ad says you will beat any price" and I triumphantly pull it out of my pocket.  Thank God again for obsolete phone books.

He calls his dispatcher and tells her that I will not pay $160.  She tells him to charge $140 plus the service fee.

"That is still $160.  I don't have that."

So he tells his dispatcher again, "She won't pay that."  So the dispatcher tells him to charge me $120 plus the service fee.  I again refer to their ad, which says they will beat any price.  Finally it is agreed that I will pay $120, and the locksmith went back to his car to get his tools.  He comes back with two pieces that look like blood pressure sleeves and some screwdrivers.  After a few minutes of pounding, he announces that he may have to drill it, and returns to his car to get another box of tools.

He picked and picked for another twenty minutes, informing me several times that I have a good lock.  Then he said he'd have to drill it.  I told him that I was not willing to let the door be drilled and he said it'd just be the lock he'd have to drill.  I asked him what I'd have to do to fix that and he said buy a new lock, which according to him, a good one like mine would cost another $170 to replace.  I began mentally gearing up for the inevitable argument that I would not let him drill the lock, and I would not pay him for a lock he couldn't pick without a drill and to begin the run around about the service fee when finally, the door popped open. 

He stepped back, because thankfully, when he first arrived the dogs went crazy.  Obviously all of the pounding and banging of the door and the lock sent Moe running for cover, but luckily for me the locksmith doesn't know the big dog barking inside is chicken shit.  So the locksmith went to his car while I grabbed my keys and wallet.  He tried to convince me over and over again to just pay him cash and something about that just made me nervous.  Plus I don't carry $5 cash, let alone $120, and I really didn't want to walk the block and a half to the ATM.  I told him that I could go get cash, but that my bank has a $100 limit on ATMs, so I could either pay him $100 cash or he could charge my card $120.  He then suggested charging my card $20 and me getting the cash.  After some back and forth he finally agreed to charge my card for the full amount, but then while using a pen to imprint the card, he asked if there was any way I could pay him a little more in cash.

So anyway, here I am two hours later and another $120 poorer.  I have plenty of stories from the weekend as my friend Lauren graced us with her presence, but those are for another post, another day.  Right now I am vacillating between a run and a very large glass of bourbon.



George was so happy to see his play buddy!
Joey and Lizz working on Thanksgiving dinner
We had a great visit with Lizzie.  George was so excited to see her.  I thoroughly exhausted her, with visits to as many sites in DC as there was time, including Arlington National Cemetery, the Iwo Jima Memorial, Smith- sonian Castle, Freer Gallery, Hirshorn Sculpture Garden and Adams Morgan for Ethiopian food (its growing on me) on Wednesday.  We covered all of the monuments and memorials on Thursday, as well as a trip to the Holocaust Museum.  Plus Joey made a delicious, huge, food-coma inducing Thanksgiving dinner.  Friday we started at 8 am with a tour of the Capitol, followed by a tour of the Library of Congress, over to Union Station, lunch in Chinatown followed by a visit to the Archives and the Smithsonian American History Museum, and a walk by the White House on the way home.  Then we went out for dinner and drinks, culminating with a 1:30am visit to Ben's Chili Bowl.  Saturday morning it was up early to the Eastern Market then over to Georgetown (including Joey's first time to a Dean and Deluca).  I think by the time noon hit and we left to take Lizz to Baltimore for her flight she was completely worn out, as she was asleep within minutes of getting in the car.
Thanksgiving appetizers
The delicious turkey

Saturday night Joey took me to a romantic dinner at the very fabulous Marcel's restaurant.  Then we were off to the Kennedy Center for the Nutcracker Ballet, which was just wonderful.  I love getting all dressed up and watching the ballerinas twirl so gracefully.  It was the perfect way to celebrate the sixth anniversary of our first date!  Crazy how time flies!

We made our first trip to Costco last night.  The final consumables spreadsheet contains 220 items, and I spent two hours yesterday afternoon estimating our monthly usage for each and every one of those items and multiplying by 23.  Three hours and $800 later, we'd filled our cart, which is about as much as fits in the back of my car.  Sadly, we believe this is probably the first of four or five trips.  We are hoping that since yesterday's purchase was almost entirely toiletries it will be the most expensive.  Razors (I wish I could use the cheap, disposable variety but I am Italian and that means a lot of thick, coarse hair.  This, coupled with moving to Africa where it is always hot means I am going to have to shave my legs a lot more often than I like.), eye cream and and toothbrush heads were among the priciest items.  We also bought a mattress topper (a little leary of the government issue mattresses) and new pillows. 

We also spent almost an hour at the car dealership again yesterday.   Thanks to many helpful comments on my blog, we avoided paying sales tax and seem to have a title or something like that, but as the manager of the dealership said, out of every thousand cars they sell, less than one is a diplomatic sale, and since most car dealers only last six to eight months, most have never completed this type of transaction, hence the time. 

Rabies shot #3 this morning.  Oh how I love getting shots.  And vaccinations for that matter.

And on a final note (let me warn my male readers that you may not want to continue), I belong to a Yahoo discussion board for Foreign Service members and their families.  I don't normally participate in the discussions, but every morning I get a digest of the conversations that took place the day before.  This morning i cam across a recommendation for this lovely little device: http://www.rei.com/product/407267 and all I have to say is I wish I had found this sooner!  It is going to come in very handy (no pun intended) in Nigeria.


Things for which I am Thankful

Since Lizzie is coming tomorrow (I am very thankful to have a family member here for Thanksgiving), I don't plan on blogging in the next few days.  And since Thanksgiving falls within the next few days, I figured now would be a good time to write down all of the things for which I am thankful.

First and foremost I am thankful for my amazing husband.  In addition to being incredibly handsome, intelligent, and driven, he is caring and generous and loving.  I am so proud of him for all that he has accomplished, from the foreign service to his master's degree to all the different roles he juggled while we lived in Des Moines.  I am so lucky that my husband is my best friend and thankful not only for him but for all of his support in everything I have ever wanted to do.

I am thankful for my babies - my dogs.  They make me laugh all day long and even though they are certainly challenging, I love them so much!  Each one has such a unique personality - some days I really find it hard to accomplish much else besides hang out with my boys - and I'm so thankful I have that opportunity.

I am thankful for my family.  Its hard being so far apart now, and although its going to be much harder when we're so many more miles and time zones apart in a few short weeks, I am so thankful to know how much you love and support me and my husband despite how crazy you may find his career choice.  I am especially thankful for the ten days I get to spend with you before we head to Africa.  I'm really looking forward to baking cookies and decorating the Christmas tree and making pasta together. 

I'm so thankful for my great friends.  From my oldest friends to my newest, you all bring such fun and perspective to my life.  So many of my different experiences have been shaped by my friendships at the time, and I am thankful for each and every one of you.

I am also very thankful for the opportunities that life in the Foreign Service has provided us.  I definitely haven't kept my thoughts to myself about certain aspects of this life that drive me crazy, but despite its challenges, I am really thankful to be in this position.  I am thankful for the opportunity to live and experience "big city life" in DC and I am thankful for the adventure on which Joey and I are about to embark.  Nigeria may not have been more first pick, but hey! We are young and get to go live a pretty nice life in a really neat place that not very many people ever have the opportunity to even visit, let alone experience.  We will have friends all over the globe who we can visit, and someday our kids are going to have the opportunity to grow up not just as citizens of the US, but citizens of the world!  I feel very fortunate to be accompanying Joey on this journey.

I am also thankful for all the helpful comments on my blog!  This is great - I air my grievances and frustration and voila! I have answers. You guys have saved Joey and me a ton of headaches and I just hope someday to be able to pay it forward.

I think one of the best things about Thanksgiving is that I notice all of the little things for which I am thankful too - like the most beautiful fall I have ever seen here in DC, dark chocolate ice cream, and the twinkling of the Christmas lights that are starting to go up around town.  I just finished a book about a man who left Microsoft and founded a charity that builds schools and libraries in developing countries - I am so thankful I grew up in America with access to great schools and great books and parents who encouraged me to read.  I'm thankful for the amazing yoga class I took this morning.  I am thankful for the people at Whole Foods who made shopping so easy by putting everything I need on the ends of the aisles and hiring extra people to help bag my turkey, unload my cart and help me park my car.  I am thankful for so much.  I am a lucky girl.

So Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!  Joey, Lizzie and I will miss you all but we look forward to seeing you at Christmas.  Love you!

On an entirely different note, we got some pictures of our housing compound.  They are considered sensitive, which means I can't put them on my blog, but if you want to see them I can email them to you.  Just let me know.  Also, Mom told me we are having Christmas at our house this year, so I can show them to you then too.


I can't think of a title

We bought our TV and DVD player today.  Not as if 1080p and all the other crap that goes along with buying a TV isn't confusing enough - let's add in that it must be a multi-region TV that will accept the signals in Africa (I have NO clue how this works but I am told that a regular old $500 TV purchased in the United States will not play in Africa).  We also had to buy a multi-region DVD player which costs a heck of a lot more than a regular DVD player, but when in Rome....(or Nigeria).

I was also told today that I use way too many commas in my writing.  My dear mother told me my grammatical skills are lacking and my husband told me I write like I talk - with way too many run-on sentences.  To them I say this is a blog, not a term paper.  GFY.

In addition to these purchases, we also have to buy transformers, converters, adapters, power continuation devices - apparently all in all this is going to cost another $600-$700.  What a crock of shit.  Oh, hey, you're moving to Africa, and if you want any of your electronic devices to work while you're there, you have to buy these transformers - on your own dime.  Not that the State Dept. doesn't pay for quite a bit of stuff to make our lives easier in Abuja, but as far as I'm concerned, three transformers for a whole house of electronic devices is beyond insufficient.  I mean just off the top of my head how many things do we own that need to be plugged in: coffee maker, toaster, vacuum, blow-dryer, toothbrush charger, phone chargers (2), computer, TV, DVD player, water boiler, alarm clock - and that's not all-inclusive.  So the three transformers provided by the State Dept are really going to go far.  So we have to buy more of those and we have to buy this power continuation device for all of the times when our power goes out and switches to our generator (which is thankfully provided but you'd think that since its so common for this to happen and it apparently ruins your electronics, they would provide this power continuation thingy) and we have to buy enough of these things to cover all of our electronic things and all of these things and things to keep our things nice are starting to cost a lot of freaking money!  I just really think that since they're sending us to live in Africa for two years it would be nice to equip us with everything we need to live there.  Thank God we saved money before we started this job, because if we hadn't, I really don't think a pay advance would be enough to cover all these little incidental expenses that are adding up to be quite a lot of money.  I mean its not like we already have to buy two years worth of consumables (I worked on our Excel spreadsheet today and it has 181 items.  Seriously every non-perishable (but still natural/non-processed) food item you can think of, every cleaning supply and every bit of toiletries you might need for two years - that's going to cost probably three or four grand - why not add another $600 or $700 of electronic conversion devices on top of it.  We're made of money. 

Anyway,  Lizzie is coming in two days and I can't wait to see her!  Also, she's never been to DC before so we have a ton of really cool things scheduled for her, including a tour of the Capitol (which I've never been inside either), the Archives, the Library of Congress, the Smithsonian, Arlington National Cemetery and much more.  We also have planned a small Thanksgiving dinner for the three of us.  Okay its not really small because not one of us is willing to compromise on our favorite Thanksgiving food, so we are probably going to be eating leftovers until we leave for Abuja since only three of us will be eating turkey, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, stuffing, corn casserole, green bean casserole, cranberries, pumpkin pie, and cranberry sorbet.  I wish I was exaggerating...

On a funny note, on Saturday while we were in etiquette class Joey volunteered to be the dining guinea pig.  He sat down at the imaginary dinner and our teacher told him to pretend to eat steak "American style."  With a quizzical look (do you know the difference between American and Continental styles of eating), he picked up the fork and knife and attempted to eat his imaginary steak.  Our teacher was horrified.

"No!" She exclaimed.

I thought that at this point in the class it would be hilarious to interject.  "Welcome to my life," I sarcastically said.  This elicited many laughs from the classroom.

Today, one of Joey's friends who also happened to be in our etiquette class told him that when I remarked on Joey's American style eating skills, another woman in the class leaned over to her and asked, "Do you think they have a good marriage?"  Hahahaha! Get a sense of humor.  Either that or if you can't joke about your spouse take a look at your own marriage.



Yesterday on my run around the mall, I ran by several people setting up for a large walk-a-thon to "Help the Homeless." Guess who was the sponsor?  Fannie Mae.  A little ironic, don't you think?  They must be feeling a little guilty about all the people they put out of their homes...

Yesterday Joey and I also bought a car.  We ended up going with a 2004 white, Toyota Sequoia.  While test driving the car, Joey took a wrong turn and we got lost (dealer in tow) in rush hour traffic in Virginia.  About an hour later, the dealer requested we stop the car at the nearest gas station so he could go inside and get his bearings.  At the gas station the dealer got out of the car and Joey and I burst into giggles.  An hour later we were finally back at the dealership and another hour later we had signed the papers.  It was a long night, but now that's one less thing on the to-do list.  Joey is currently on the phone with the bank coordinating everything to take it out of the country - we will never actually take possession of the car in the US.  Someone from State will go to the dealer, pick up the car and drive it to the port.  We'll meet it in Nigeria.
--- We just learned that is false.  I guess we can't have it shipped without the title and it is going to take several weeks to get the title from Virginia.  So now we have to get the car, sell my car (God forbid we juggle two cars in this town again), ship the car as soon as we get the title (to minimize our time in Nigeria without a car), and then figure out how to get the dogs and ourselves around town gathering all of our consumables for two years without a car.  UGH. Why does everything have to be so difficult?  Such a process?!  Can't one thing go smoothly?  Once?  Stupid freaking cars. 

Today we attended a diplomatic protocol and etiquette class.  It was really interesting and at times, entertaining.  Our etiquette instructor was a petite, Latin version of Miss Manners and she was quite appalled with everyone's faux pas. But we did glean quite a bit of useful information today, like how to seat a dinner party, the difference between Continental and American styles of handling your silverware, and how to make introductions.  Our instructor traveled with her husband, who was in the foreign service, for 28 years, and she had quite a few stories to tell.  My favorite was how three or four times a week her husband's secretary would call her and say "your husband is bringing home six guests for lunch."  And she would prepare a three course meal.  Except for the one time that she cooked a chicken and her husband whispered to her as her guests arrived that 6 of the 8 were vegetarian.  She said she wanted to ring his neck right there. Hello?!  What is wrong with this picture?!  You got mad because you cooked a chicken and your husband didn't tell you your guests were vegetarian?  I'm sorry but if Joey had his secretary call me to tell me that he was bringing home six guests for lunch I would tell his secretary to tell him to jump off a cliff.  (Actually I'm pretty sure a certain four letter word would be used instead).  I don't give a damn whether your guests eat meat or beans or freaking pistachios because they aren't coming to my house for lunch on two hour's notice.  Ha!  Can you imagine?!

They gave us a little card when we left.  It read:

When you take your seat
Or excuse yourself at Thanksgiving Dinner
Remember to:
Enter and Exit your chair from the Right.
Leave your napkin on your chair if
You are returning for Seconds.
Pass the Turkey Platter to the Right.
Your dinner roll is to your Left.
If someone tries to beat you to the 
Last piece of Pumpkin Pie,
It's a JAB with the LEFT,
and HOOK with the RIGHT.

Happy Thanksgiving


People Don't Kill People, Guns Kill People

Joey, six other friends and I went to the NRA shooting range at the NRA Headquarters in Virginia last night.  The first thing I noticed when we pulled into the parking garage was the three burly soldiers leaving the range with their steel gun cases in tow.  As we made our way down the ramp, we spotted a "PHOTOGRAPHY IS STRICTLY PROHIBITED" sign, much to the chagrin of George and me, as we both really wanted our picture taken shooting the gun.  This was quickly forgotten as soon as the door opened and you could hear it.  I think Sujata put it best: "I thought they had raquetball courts here too until I realized those were guns firing."  Even behind the glass the sound of guns was so loud!  I winced every time one went off, and with 12 lanes of people firing guns, that was a lot.

We were greeted by two men with handlebar mustaches and shaved heads and one petite, twenty-something girl, all in their red "NRA Shooting Range" polos.  She gave us a safety test and ushered us off into a classroom; she told us "cheating is encouraged, because we want you to know the answers."  Twenty-five questions later, we were back at the desk.  While one of the handlebars checked us into two lanes, the girl made us NRA shooting range identification cards.  Then half of the group went to the waiting room, and I put on my headphones and goggles and headed into the range with Joey and Lee.

Lee was in the Navy, so he has some serious experience with shooting, and was nice enough to let us use his guns - a 9mm and a glock? - 42 caliber pistol maybe?  Anyway, Lee got us set up in the lane with the guns and the ammnuition and then left Joey to instruct me on the art of shooting.  The night before, all of us gathered at our friend Tom's house.  Lee brought his guns to Tom's house for an instructional session on how to safely use them.  So we'd practiced picking up the gun safely, not ever pointing it at anyone, even if its unloaded, putting the magazine in the gun, checking the chamber, etc.  Handling an unloaded gun is kind of cool.  Its like, wow, this is a gun.  This could kill someone.  But its still abstract when there are no bullets and when you are not surrounded by the sound of gunfire.

And oh my God, the sound of gunfire - I thought it was loud on the other side of the glass.  Once we entered the actual range - I don't even know how to adequately explain it.  It was like gunfire - everywhere - and every gun sounded like a canon - and the headphones made every other sound so muffled that it was like listening to people talk underwater, peppered every few seconds with a blast.  My earlier wincing turned into jumping and I can't even imagine what I must have looked like, dressed in my multi-color minidress, black cardigan, black tights and ballet flats, wearing bright blue headphones and safety goggles, cowering over my purse and jerking every time a gun went off.  Thankfully, I believe every man in there was completely engrossed in his gun(s), so no one was looking at me.

So once Joey put the magazine in the gun and handed it to me, I started sweating.  No longer was killing some abstract concept associated with the gun.  The reverberations of the guns firing so close on either side, coupled with the empty casings flying everywhere, and the weight of a loaded gun in my hand were a very stark reminder of just what deadly power I was holding and I did not like it.  First of all, I am clumsy as all hell and just the idea that if I accidentally dropped this thing it could kill me or Joey or some other unsuspecting fool was really overwhelming.  Then, when you are so close to all these other people firing their guns you can see the kickback from the gun when you shoot it.  I was so nervous that when I fired the gun I wouldn't be able to control the kickback and it would fly out of my hands and the gun would fire at me instead of down the lane.  (Nevermind that once I fired the gun the bullet would be long gone, even I did drop the damn thing, but when you've got gunfire all around you and this heavy killing machine in your hand rational thoughts aren't really available.)  Anyway, Joey patiently showed me again how to hold it and how to fire it and helped me get it in my hand right and so I aimed it at the target and thought "well, its now or never, you can stand here all night pointing the damn gun" so I fired it.

OHMYGODITWASSOSCARY!  The recoil from the gun is even worse than it looks and I thought my heart was going to beat out of my chest.  That thing is heavy and when it fires it really moves your whole upper body!  Also, I had one of my thumbs on the wrong side and the chamber hit it when it fired and that freaking hurt (didn't draw any blood unlike when Tom made the same mistake later).  So Joey helped me move my hand and one of the mustached guys came over and told me to really get a grip on the gun with my whole palm and so a little shaken but determined I firmly grasped the gun and fired again.

OHMYGODITWASSOSCARY!  Really not any better this time.  In fact I am pretty sure I hated it even more.  But I thought, "okay, maybe you just have to get used to this" and so, sweating through my cashmere cardigan, I shot one more time.  Same.  I put the gun down, looked at Joey and said "Okay, I'm done."

He looked at me, a little surprised and said "That's all?"

"Yes, I'm done."  So he picked up the gun and fired the rest of the magazine into the target, pulled the target toward us, handed it to me, and off I went into the waiting room to send another of our friends into the range for their turn.  My head was buzzing as I settled into one of the leather chairs and waited for everybody to take their turn.  After about an hour, somehow I got talked into trying it one more time (I think it was after watching Sujata march out there and shoot three freaking bullets right into the heart of the target her first time out that I was like, okay, Melissa, man up, go try again).  So I put my headphones and goggles back on and luckily this time there were less people in the range.  Only three other lanes were in use besides our two, so instead of twelve different guns firing at once, there were only five.  Joey quickly showed me how to hold the gun again and I pointed and fired and

OHMYGODITWASSOSCARY!  Seriously, I really don't know any other way to describe how freaking terrifying shooting that gun was.  I really thought that my second time in, after watching everybody else do it and survive, that it would be better but no, I'm pretty sure it was worse.  Joey looked at me and said "Calm down" but I really couldn't.  I fired three more times, each time completely terrified that the recoil was going to throw the gun out of my hands and then I put the gun down again.  The overwhelming knowledge that this weapon is deadly was just too much for me to handle in good conscience.  Joey told me later that everytime I picked up the gun my whole body started shaking.  I thought that was just on the inside!  So again, Joey finished the magazine, I took my target and went back to the waiting room and filed my nails until everyone was finished. 

While I watched everybody take their turn shooting the guns, I couldn't help but notice how out of place all of us yuppies looked.  One man to the right of our lane was dressed in a camel colored tee, white-washed jeans and hiking boots- he had a big gun in a holster on one hip and a little gun in a holster on the other hip and in between shooting those guns he shot his giant, laser-guided, M-14 air-rifle.  That puppy was LOUD.  Seriously every time he fired that it shook the room a little bit.  He was in there the whole time we cycled through and he shot from his feet, from a chair, laying down on the ground.  Intense.  And creepy.

A few lanes down from that guy was group of rednecks, outfitted in straggly long hair, tank tops, ripped jeans, flannel and trucker hats.  They took turns firing off their guns at paper plates (targets cost 50 cents each) about ten feet from their face.

Next to them was the most intense dude in the place.  He was wearing khaki cargo pants, a short sleeved khaki oxford, a khaki utility belt and military boots.  He had a shaved head and carried several guns, including one in a massive case.  He would get into a stance, quickly grab a gun from his holster, fire it a few times, grab another magazine from his utility belt, fire the gun a few more times, grab another magazine and fire the gun again.  He'd look over both shoulders and then fire and it was seriously like he was doing drills of some sort the whole time.  I'm pretty sure the emblem on his giant rifle case was Marines, and he definitely looked like a mercenary.

My target - most of those bullet holes were made by Joey.
Suffice it to say (8000 words later), while the NRA range was an exper- ience I will never forget, I don't think I ever want to go there again.



One of the neatest things about Joey's new job is all the different people I feel fortunate to have met.  For example, last night I met one of his classmates, Julie.  This is Julie's second time around in the Foreign Service.  Something like twenty years ago, she joined the foreign service for the first time and met a Spanish diplomat, whom she married.  She left the foreign service, became a dual citizen in Spain, and traveled around with her husband as the "trailing spouse," until a few years ago.  Now she is back in the US Foreign Service and headed to Luanda, Angola, in the next few days.  She had some really interesting insights, given that she's lived the life as both the officer and the spouse, and she suggested that for the first six months I get involved in everything I can.  She told me to join every book club, womens' club, international club, whatever is available, to meet as many people and make as many connections as possible.  She said that's the best way to make friends outside of the embassy, especially in a place like Abuja, where the diplomatic community is very tight.  She also raised her kids abroad - her daughter is 17 and a freshman in college - this is her first time living in the United States!  What a whole different perspective.

Our new friends speak so many different languages and have lead such interesting and unique lives - I really feel privileged to have gotten to know so many of them.  Take for example our friend Sujata, who is going to Paris.  She was born in India and moved to the US when she was five.  She speaks French, Hindu, Urdu, English (better than I do) and I think Russian too!  Our friend, George, was a game show host in China - apparently the Chinese equivalent of Bob Barker! 

Anyway, in an effort to keep busy in Abuja, I applied for a job.  Its a part-time accounting position (though I think its a lot more book-keeping than anything else) through the employee services association, which isn't affiliated with the Embassy.  They operate the commissary as well as a few other things to make life a little easier for all the diplomats living in Abuja.  Tuesday morning I spoke with Jordan, the general manager there, who is accompanying his wife on her first tour for the "High Commission."  I believe that means she is a British diplomat for the UN there.  Don't quote me on that, though; I'm still trying to figure out what everything means on the American end, let alone the international spectrum.  Anyway, he said that I had a leg up, given my EFM status (Eligible Family Member - aka on the travel orders of the diplomat and a US citizen), and because I actually have an accounting degree.  He said he'd get back to me by the end of this week or the beginning of the next, after speaking with the board of directors, so I guess we'll see.  I doubt it'll pay well but at least it'll give me something to do, an outlet to meet people and feel like I'm accomplishing something too.  Besides, retirement at 26 isn't all its cracked up to be.  Ha.

Today's dilemma is what kind of car to buy for Abuja.  We just received this info:

3D4.  A variety of Japanese, European, Korean and some US brand automobiles are in common use in Nigeria.  Embassy personnel will find that sedans are adequate for most movements within Abuja.  Some may prefer four-wheel drive vehicles/SUVs, despite their higher gas consumption, for their ability to tackle rougher road conditions (particularly those outside the capital ring road).  These vehicles also make it easier to see over smaller vehicles and extend your range of vision.  Please note, however, that armed carjacking is a problem in Nigeria, as it is in a number of other countries.  Carjackers prefer newer, high-end European or Japanese SUVs.  Incoming Mission personnel should consider these factors before deciding on the vehicle that will best suit their needs here.


Today is a beautiful day!  Monday and Tuesday were really rainy and dreary here and this morning the sun is shining.  Today is also great because I don't have to haul anybody anywhere or sit in traffic for hours on end.  Last Tuesday I had to ride with Joey to work to get my first rabies shot and then sit in traffic for an hour on the way home.  Then last Wednesday George and I dropped Joey off at work and then went to the vet and then sat in traffic for an hour on the way home.  Thursday we had a mini-reprieve with our day trip to Annapolis but then Friday I had to fight traffic to drop the car off at the shop (stupid convertible top broken again) and then wait for an hour to catch the shuttle to the metro stop which is another half hour from my house.  Then Friday afternoon I had to take the metro to the shuttle pick-up, wait 45 minutes for that and then fight traffic on the way home from the dealership.  Monday Max went to the vet so we dropped Joey off at work and then fought traffic for an hour on the way home from his appointment.  Yesterday I had to go with Joey to get my second rabies shot, but first we had to pick up our friend James since his car was in the shop, which took an extra 45 minutes, then fight traffic for an hour on the way home, pick up Moe and immediately turn back around to take him for his rabies shot, which meant another half hour on the way there and half hour on the way back (traffic had thankfully dissipated by 11 am).  So today, when Joey's left for work alone it was wonderful!  I curled up with George and Moe under my warm covers and went back to sleep.

Tonight is the first send-off happy hour.  Our friend, Sujata, leaves Monday for post!  Even though she is the first to leave, none of us feel too badly for her, as she is headed to Paris.  And you should see the pictures of her 3 bedroom, 3 bathroom, gorgeous apartment with marble and crown-molding right smack dab between the Eiffel Tower and the Champs-Elysees.   I think that her rent is something like $5000 a month (not that she has to pay it, but that gives you an idea of how fabulous her new place is).  After the happy hour we are gathering at our friend Tom's house to learn how to shoot guns because tomorrow we're all going to the shooting range, which should really be an experience.  Especially since only two out of the eight of us has ever even touched a gun before (that would be Joey and Lee, who was in the Navy).  Stories to come...



Picasa is frustrating me.  I don't know how to get it to do what I want it to.  But if you click on the picture, it'll take you to my web album of all the pictures I took the other day at Dumbarton Oaks Park.  Its just of leaves -
but they were incredible.


We are moving to Malibu!

The Malibu housing complex in Abuja, that is.  Pictures to come.
On the balcony of the Newseum

We had a great time this last weekend with Mallory and Steve - I think the highlight was our use of the Capital Bike Share program - we biked all around the city - from the Eastern Market past the Supreme Court and Capitol to the Newseum to the White House to the Washington Monument to the Jefferson Memorial to the Lincoln Memorial  - we saw a ton and it was a lot of fun too!  Plus I know Mallory and Steve wanted to see my mad skills on the segway but I'm pretty sure my graceful way of riding a bike sufficed.
At Arlington National Cemetery
Mal and me at The Gibson for drinks Sunday night

So much going on right now!  We have a little over a month left in town and it already feels like we are running out of time!  Busy busy busy!  Fun things to look forward to:

1. Lizz is coming for Thanksgiving!

2. Just bought tickets to the Joffrey Ballet's performance of The Nutcracker at the Kennedy Center!

3. Lauren is coming the first weekend in December!

4. A tentative trip to New York City with some friends, including a possible visit to our friend Tom's family home, which given his fabulous New-Yorker accent and attitude should be an experience in and of itself.

5. Bought my ticket home for Christmas!  Flying home the 17th so I imagine that by the time the 26th rolls around my family and I will be ready for me to move to Nigeria.

Not so fun things to look forward to:

1. Rabies #s 2 and 3, Meningitis, and Polio vaccinations (Last Tuesday I got Yellow Fever and this Tuesday I got Rabies #1).  I did get Polio as a child, but since Nigeria is like one of two countries where Polio is rampant I have to get a booster.  And while I got the Meningitis vaccine before college, it only lasts for 4 years so I have to get another.  And this doesn't count the Typhoid pills that I have to take next week (apparently they make you sick as a dog but are worth trying to get through because they last for five years and the shot is only good for two), or the Malaria pills that Joey and I will have to take every week in Nigeria.

2.  Multiple vet visits wit the dogs.  George got his new Rabies vaccination Wednesday, Max gets his Monday and Moe gets his Tuesday.  Each dog also has to be seen in December too, 48 hours prior to our departure.  Not sure how that's going to work, what with Joey and me both returning from Des Moines the 26th, packing out the 27th and flying the 28th, and we probably won't even have a car then - but we'll figure it out. 

3. Spending money like its going out of style.  Oh my God, seriously.  We had dinner on Tuesday night with John and his wife, who just returned from Abuja.  John was the GSO there and now they are moving to Colombia (their first choice).  John told us we will save a ton of money living in Abuja (they saved enough for their son's college in two years), but we have to plan it right because everything there is so expensive.  This means we have to buy every consumable we think we will use for the next two years now and the government will ship it over for us.  So huge outlay of cash now (think all the shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, paper towels, toilet paper, cleaning products, beer, dog food, the list goes on forever, that you use in two years), but that is basically all there is to spend your money on in Abuja.  Not many restaurants, not much shopp
ing, so I guess it is what it is.  Not to mention that we had to buy the dogs new kennels (airline approved for each of them) and the new car (because my Eos just isn't going to cut it in Nigeria) and about a million other things...

Anyway, back to our dinner the other night with the couple that just got back from Abuja - they said they really liked it there.  That they knew the guy who wrote all the nasty post reports and that he went in with a bad attitude and really didn't make friends.  They said they had a great experience and that sometimes they actually miss it.  So that was very reassuring!  They also offered answers to our million questions, which was so helpful. 

Since Joey got yesterday off for Veteran's Day (got to love working for the government), we decided to take a day trip to Annapolis.  The weather was crisp and sunny and the trees were in their full fall splendor - bright, candy apple red, burgundy, pumpkin orange and warm gold, yellow mixed in with pine trees - it was just gorgeous.  We wandered around town all day, explored the Naval Academy, and even met some of our friends for a lunch of fresh blue crabs.  All in all I would say it was a perfect day.  Thanks to all you Veterans, especially you, Papa, for your sacrifice so that we all can enjoy days like that.

The darling row of Captains' houses at the Naval Academy

Joey and his crabs at lunch

The Fleet Reserve put on a little ceremony yesterday at 11 AM (the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month) for Veteran's Day.  I didn't realize it when I took this picture but that poor Marine marched around a whole traffic circle with his face accidentally enshrouded in the flag.  A testament to his marching skills I suppose.