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.