Monday, February 25, 2013

Eid Mubarak

So I have some friends, a couple I'll call Trixie and Tony. They are a lovely couple, truly, and one of those stereotypical foreign service couples in which the wife is chatty and friendly and funny while the husband is serious and frowny and kind of terrifying until you get to know him and discover that he's just as awesome as she is.

They live not far from me, in a multi-storeyed apartment building much like mine, except apparently their boab - a sort of maintenance man for the building, if you recall - is superhot.

Unfortunately for them, their hot boab is also a thief.

One of the main jobs of the boab is to monitor the fuel and water levels for each of the residents and to alert them when the levels are low so they can buy more.

Trixie and Tony were constantly running out of fuel and water, which annoyed them, no doubt, because the boab was supposed to be telling them before they turned on the water and discovered it was icy-cold and down to just a trickle. Eventually, though, they realized the problem was bigger than mere incompetence. It turns out hot boab was siphoning off their water and fuel and reselling it - reselling thousands of gallons of heating oil every month and assuming they'd be too dumb (those silly Americans!) to notice.

But notice they did, and they alerted the Embassy, which sent some folks to talk to the landlord. Clearly, the Embassy told the landlord, hot boab has to go.

The landlord was not convinced. I'll only fire the boab if all of the tenants agree, he said. But the tenants did not agree, and that is how it was determined that all of the tenants were joining forces to steal fuel from Trixie and Tony.

It's the not-so-little things like this that can drive a person crazy. I mean, seriously: they were all banding together to steal from the foreigners, the presumably rich Americans, and not one of them felt bad enough to say this is wrong. These people are not poor. If they live in this part of town, they have plenty of money and no need to steal to survive. And the boab! Taking his paycheck from them each month but stealing from them as well.

So now Trixie and Tony are moving to a new apartment, hopefully with an honest boab, and hopefully with honest neighbors as well. But in talking to them about the continuing saga of hot boab, I realized I'd never told you Chapter One in the boab story. And because I'm no longer worried about whether it is wrong to "out" hot boab and his neighbors, I'm going to tell this sordid little tale now.

Ramadan, 2012. Devout Muslims fast from sun-up til sundown for an entire month. They gather each evening as the sun sets to break their fasts, wishing one another Eid Mubarak - Blessed Holiday. One Ramadan evening, well after dark, my pal Tony decided to go up on the roof with a flashlight to check on the water level in the rooftop tank.

Now Tony, you'll recall, is kind of a scary guy at first glance. Not someone I'd necessarily want to try to steal from, or lie to. He's spent a lot of time in some of the not-so-nice parts of the world. He gives off a kind of don't-eff-with-me vibe. So up he goes to check on the tank, flashlight in hand. On his way back down, he hears a noise off in the corner somewhere, in the dark.

Tony shines his flashlight in the direction of the noise, expecting trouble. But there is no burgler, no murderer, not even a pickpocket. No: his beam of light catches the hot boab, who is - how can I put this delicately? - boinking the neighbor's daughter, and rather vigorously at that.

Tony is, of course, startled to find this happy couple locked in an embrace. He shines his flashlight on them - I was surprised at first, he told us later, because the girl covered her face, but didn't even try to cover her body. Of course, this makes sense here in the middle east, where it is entirely plausible that her dad would kill her - literally kill her - if he caught her screwing anybody at all, and the boab in particular.

Tony took in the scene: naked boab, naked girl, dark scary corner of building. And, being a man of few words, he said what anyone might say upon encountering such a scene late one Ramadan night.

Eid Mubarak, he told the amorous couple. Blessed Holiday. And he continued on his way, back to his cold, water-less apartment.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Half His Life

If I've done the math correctly (and admittedly, math isn't my strongest subject), then it is safe to say that as of this birthday, my husband has officially spent half his life with me.

I looked and looked for my favorite picture of him, taken at the beginning of my first year of grad school, right when I met him but before we'd started dating. Somehow, and sadly, it has disappeared. So instead I'll share this one, taken a little over a year after we met. Apparently he was thirteen at the time. Seriously, was he really ever that young? Was I? We were already engaged when this photo was taken but damn - we were so young. I don't remember either of us ever being quite so babyish.

Anyway, he's on the other side of the globe right now, as you know, so I'll have to eat all of his cake for him. I'll probably open his presents, too.

Happy birthday, Z.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Not exactly an extrovert...

Apparently my last blog post was depressing? I don't know, but I need to do that again. I got so many emails from people telling me to cheer up because I am super awesome and amazing and incredibly cool. Somebody even told me that I am "inspiring." Seriously. Me: inspiring. As I read that one, I was sitting on the bathroom floor in my oldest ripped-up tank top, with green dead sea mud slathered on my face and my hair in some kind of crazy pig tail situation. I would've laughed out loud at the irony but the mud was already dried to the point that I couldn't move my face muscles.

It's all gone straight to my head, of course, and if I was depressed before (I wasn't! Swear I wasn't! I was just thinking aloud and writing in code.), I certainly couldn't be sad now. I don't have time to be sad, people. I'm too busy being inspiring! And, in case you didn't know this - being an inspiration is downright exhausting. I feel certain I can't be inspiring while wearing my oldest jammies at noon, so I actually have to make an effort to get dressed and put on socks and stuff like that. Really a lot of work for a weekend.

I've said this before, but here it is: I write so that I'll remember. In other words, I write for me. I want to have a record of the things I'm thinking and doing, so I put it all here. Sometimes, yes, it's a bit coded, because apparently people read this thing. Who knew? And no offense, but there are some things I just don't want to share with you. I still find it odd when people tell me they are reading. Example: a friend just told me he was TDY'ed to somewhere-in-Europe, and when he mentioned that he's posted in Amman, people in his training class started talking about my blog. What the what?

So okay. You all know all sorts of stuff about me, but I don't even always know you're reading. That puts me at a disadvantage, don't you think? I consider myself to be a hard-core introvert, which means that I keep to myself and don't go out of my way to talk to most people. Yet here I am, telling you all sorts of stuff, "Dear Diary" style.

Now. About the introvert thing. The other day, over lunch, a few of us were talking about introverts and extroverts, and I got the impression that my friends disagreed with my self-assessment of myself as an introvert. I got that impression because they laughed uproariously at my insistence that I just don't like talking to people. Something about how I never shut up? Dunno. They were all laughing. And laughing. I was worried they might start choking on their chicken bones, that's how doubled over they all were.

So right there on the spot, I coined a new term. Somebody call the trademark office, quick, because I need to TM this baby. Are you ready? I'm not an introvert. And I'm not an extrovert.

I'm an ASStrovert.

Seriously. It's the perfect word for me. I get kind of uncomfortable out in the wide world, trying to talk to people, but instead of shutting down and putting an awkward smile on my silent face, I usually move in the opposite direction and start clowning around, acting like an ass. Everyone laughs, then I go home, put on my jammies and go to bed. Being an asstrovert is exhausting business.

I know I'm not alone here. I mean, really, doesn't everyone put on a fake public face sometimes? It's just that, for us asstroverts, the public face is the exact opposite of the private one. When I'm out and about, I keep my serious side under wraps. Then I come home and blog my serious side, and everyone thinks I'm depressed or something.

All of this is to say: I'm not depressed. I'm in a good place here. I'm already finding my single mom stride. I have a few close friends to keep me afloat, even one or two to whom I can spill my non-bloggable secrets. The sky is blue, the kids are (relatively) healthy, the job is interesting, the world is infinitely fascinating, and I am happyhappyhappy, to be here, still in my jammies, pretending to be inspirational despite the fact that I forgot to buy milk again and I'm planning to phone in dinner.

It's all good, truly. I'm a lucky sort of asstrovert, and I try never to forget it. That said, I did appreciate all of the emails and Facebook messages and texts I got after my last sort-of soul baring blog post. It's a good feeling, to know I have so many people looking out for me all across this globe, even though I truly don't deserve it.

Tell me, my friend: what are you? An introvert? An extrovert? Or an asstrovert like me? Hit me up in the comments. I really want to know.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The World Was Different Then

Six months ago, I was in California.

The world was different six months ago. My world.

We were talking, back then, about our bid list. We'd turned in the bid on Baghdad, but we still needed to turn in a complete list of bids.

We were talking, believe it or not, about curtailing - about leaving post early because of a few possibly insurmountable problems we were facing here in Amman.

We were talking about marriage, and the future, and the foreign service, and all of the big topics that we don't have time to discuss on an ordinary work day. And we were doing it all in the same little town where we'd been living when this whole crazy foreign service thing first came into our lives.

I don't know. It feels like a lot has changed in these past six months. I have a clearer picture now of where the next year-and-a-half is going to take me, of what sorts of storms I'll be weathering in the next few months. But beyond that? It's all a bit murky, in ways I hadn't anticipated. I guess, six months ago, I thought I'd be on a clear path by now. But all around me, things shift, things change, the path itself obscured by the dust of all these looming decisions.

At the beginning of every year, I make a plan, for myself and for my family. I look back at the last year, trying to figure out if I got where I intended to go, financially, emotionally, professionally. And then I plan out the next year in my head, and the next five years, and sometimes even the next ten. Where do I want to be in those time frames?

Usually this is a pretty basic exercise, and often my answers are similar from one year to the next. I find this comforting on some level: sure, I might not ever get where I'm going, but at least I know where it is I'm headed.

But now, this year, I'm struggling for reasons I can't exactly explain. Mid-life crisis? Perhaps, but I think that's overly simplistic. No, I think it's because the choices I'm facing right now are different from the usual. And of course, knowing that Baghdad looms large, and not being able, just yet, to peer beyond that, leaves me a bit unsettled. What's next, after Baghdad?

Yes. I'm aware that it may seem strange to be looking past Baghdad already, when it hasn't even started. But I'm used to planning my life in these chunks: one year, three years, five...

So I'm struggling, I guess, with the long-range plans, in a way I didn't think I'd be, just six months ago.

Am I even making sense here? Dunno. But I'm thinking on it, in my spare time - my piles and piles of spare time! And I'm trying hard to pick a future, for myself and for my family. I'll get there. I always do. But for now - I suppose I need to wait for the path ahead to clear, for the now to become the then, and for everything I'm living now to make sense.

I'll get there.

Monday, February 11, 2013

"So, you made it through the first week, Donna. How's the second week going so far?"

Funny you should ask.

The second week started off well enough - if by "well enough" you mean that one of your children woke you up at 2 am because he was vomiting uncontrollably.

I mean, there's nowhere but up from there, right?


Today 75% of my kids are home due to illness of one kind or another. Between them they have: a sore throat, a cough, a stomach ache, a head ache, a runny nose and a serious case of the whines.

It could be fatal.

For me, I mean.

I don't know what sort of medicine will cure what ails them. But I'm pretty sure all I need is some take-out sushi and a good night's sleep. At least one of those things is guaranteed to be mine tonight.

Friday, February 8, 2013

This is What Procrastination Looks Like

I made the mistake of asking an old editor friend of mine if she needed any content for her magazine, and yes, she said, it so happens that we do. Send something along ASAP, would you?

And that, my friends, is the surest way to bring on a crippling case of writer's block. Well, that, and finding yourself without a husband on a Friday night and discovering that there's still some wine in the bottom of that bottle, so you might as well polish it off, and then remembering that your best Beijing friends are currently having a reunion just down the road in Bahrain, but you are not there. And then you're just depressed, and it isn't going to be possible to come up with 700 upbeat words about the Foreign Service, but hey, you remember, I have a blog! I can write whatever I want there, upbeat or no!

And that's how you find yourself typing a blog post out of thin air on a Friday night when you could be getting paid to write, or at least you could be watching another episode of Downton Abbey and opening another bottle of wine.

So, you ask: what's new?

Well, for starters, there was my first (please also last) Jordanian fender bender this week. Yes, it was a terrific week for me. Really, really terrific. I was waiting to make a right-on-red, which is comical in itself, because Jordanians typically don't wait to turn right on red - they just pull right out there and assume you'll not be in the way. But I, as a red-blooded American, am determined to drive American-style, and so I wait to turn right into oncoming traffic, as God intended when he invented the horseless carriage.

Only in this case, I didn't wait long enough. The lady in front of me - who had already cut me off once and was really ticking me off - turned right. I looked left, saw that there was room for me to turn right as well, and so I turned. Only lady-in-front apparently changed her mind and stopped mid-turn to re-think her decision, causing me to plow into the back of her car.

Like I said: this week has been just fabulous. Terrific. Peachy, even.

We waited for a few minutes on the side of the road, and I learned that her name was Rana and she was a Syrian refugee. Nice enough lady, if somewhat under-schooled on turning techniques.

It wasn't a bad accident, as accidents go, and she was in a hurry to get her daughter to school, and I was in a hurry to get to work, and so we exchanged phone numbers and fled the scene. I don't think you're allowed to do that here. But whatever: she's Syrian, I'm American. Between the two of us, we don't even know how to turn right in this country, fergawdsake, so we both drove away. And now the whole matter is in the capable hands of Shukri the mechanic, who is going to fix up her car and charge me for it, since technically I'm probably at fault for not knowing that she was going to stop mid-turn. (Said Shukri indignantly, the next day, "She wanted me to get her a brand new bumper! But I told her no way. This bumper has been hit before. I will fix it, but I won't give her a new bumper." I love Shukri.)

So that was my car crash.

What else is new?

Well, my husband is somewhere on the eastern seaboard, presumably spending all of his free time in Trader Joes, boxing up dark chocolate caramels (and maybe some dark chocolate almonds and dark chocolate anything at all really, hint-hint) to ship to me, the love of his life. And I, the love of his life, am here, in the middle east, crashing into Syrians and craving dark chocolate and ordering lots and lots of takeout for the kids.

And work. Of course: I'm working. Because why not work full-time on top of the rest of it?

We had a high-level visitor at post last week, and I was invited - or rather, summoned - to have lunch with her. But then I was uninvited. So I happily put on jeans instead of work clothes and went off to work that day, only to be reinvited at the last minute.

Drats, I said to a co-worker as we headed out to the luncheon, and I wore jeans today because I didn't have anyone to impress.

She gave me a casual once-over before replying Also? Your fly is unzipped.

Of course my fly was unzipped. Because that's exactly how my week was going.

In other news, on Thursday I taught a little "How to Write Better" class to some colleagues here at the Embassy. It was actually my third such lecture - and thankfully, the last one I have scheduled for now. Trying to teach people to write gave me an awful case of imposter syndrome, because what do I know? I can't even come up with 700 upbeat words on life in Jordan. (Though ironically I'd bet if I counted, I'd find that this post is at about 900 words already.)

Thus we come full circle. I have managed to procrastinate my way to the end of this blog post, with still not the vaguest idea of how to begin my 700 words.

And so I think I will go teach myself to make mozzarella cheese instead. My friend Noor found vegetable rennet for me somewhere in downtown Jordan, and today I bought citric acid and fresh milk, and nothing says cool like sitting at home by yourself on a Friday night learning to make cheese.

If anyone out there has a good idea for a topic, leave it for me in the comments, would you?

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Our New Boss

We have a new Secretary of State today. This won't affect me too much - I doubt he'll need to call upon me for advice any time soon. But I liked the speech he gave this morning at Main State. Gotta like a boss with a sense of humor. And did you know he was a Foreign Service kid?

So in lieu of telling you about my car accident (cliffhanger!), I thought I'd re-publish the speech he gave this morning.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Secretary John Kerry:

"Thank you very much. (Applause.) Thank you very much, Susan. Thank you very much for that welcome. Secretary Nides, who’s an old friend, I’m grateful to him. I told him that’s probably the first and only time he’s ever bowed to me and – (laughter) – I know I’ll never, ever get that again.

But anyway, thank God I had a couple of photo IDs so I could get in. (Laughter.) It was – happy for that. Secretary Kennedy, thank you very much for your leadership. Ambassador Marshall, I’m really looking forward to working with you, and with all of you.

I have to tell you, I liked my cubicle over there in transition corner. (Laughter.) But I cannot tell you how great it feels to sort of be liberated to know that I actually get to explore the whole building now. (Laughter.) So I’ve been freed. I’m the first person you guys freed today. This is pretty good. (Laughter.) And if I’m wandering around the building later, and I sort of wind up in your office, it’s not because I’m there for a meeting, it’s because I’m lost and I need directions. (Laughter.) So just tell me who you are, tell me what you do, and tell me where I am – (laughter) – and we’ll rely on that. So here’s the big question before the country and the world and the State Department after the last eight years: Can a man actually run the State Department? (Laughter.) I don’t know. (Applause.) As the saying goes, I have big heels to fill. (Laughter.) But this is beyond a pleasure. I’m going to utter five words that certainly no sitting senator, and probably a former senator, have ever uttered, and that is: These remarks will be brief. (Laughter.) And I promise you that, because I don’t know what we’re doing for the productivity of the building right now. (Laughter.) If this goes on too long, I may get a phone call from the President on a recall. (Laughter.)

I want to begin by thanking my predecessor, Secretary Clinton, and I want to thank her entire team. They tirelessly advocated the values of our country and pushed for the accomplishment of any number of things to advance the interests of our nation. I know from my conversations with Hillary how passionate she was about this undertaking and how much confidence and gratitude she had for the work that every single one of you do, and I just want to join with all of you today in saying to her: Job well done, the nation is grateful, the world is grateful. Thank you, Hillary Clinton, and thank you to her team. Thank you. (Applause.)

Also, I want to thank President Obama for his trust in me to take on this awesome task, and for his trust in you, every single one of you, and what you do every single day. I think it is beyond fair to say that this President’s vision and what he has implemented through your efforts over the course of the last years, without any question, has restored America’s reputation and place in the world, and we thank you for what you have done to do that. (Applause.)

Now, I said the other day at the hearings, if any of you had a chance to see any of it, that – I said that the Senate was in my blood, and it is after 28-plus years. But it is also true that the Foreign Service is in my genes, and everything that we do here is. I have a sister who worked for most of her career in New York at the UN, and most recently at the UN Mission. My wife, who was born in Mozambique, and you will see here on Wednesday, speaks five languages; at some occasion did some translating, but mostly worked with the then-UN Trusteeship Council, and has powerful beliefs in the mission of this great Department and of USAID. And my father, as was mentioned, spent a number of years as a Foreign Service Officer, and I come here with these 28 years of stewardship of the Foreign Relations Committee and oversight of the foreign – of the Department, oversight of the budget, oversight of everything we do. And so I’m glad to represent your favorite committee among many favorite committees on the Hill. (Laughter.)

But I will tell you that I have things to learn, for sure, and I know that, and as much as I have to learn, I have learned some things. And some of what I’ve learned is how difficult life can be for people in the Foreign Service who have to uproot kids and uproot families and move from school to school and struggle with those difficulties. It’s not hard – not easy. It’s particularly not easy in this much more complicated and dangerous world. So I understand that. I also understand how critical it is that you have somebody there advocating for you. The dangers could not be more clear. We’re reminded by the stars and names on the wall, and we are particularly reminded by Chris Stevens and Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods and Sean Smith. And I know everybody here still mourns that loss, and we will. So I pledge to you this: I will not let their patriotism and their bravery be obscured by politics, number one. Number two, I guarantee you – (applause) – and I guarantee you that, beginning this morning when I report for duty upstairs, everything I do will be focused on the security and safety of our people. We have tough decisions to make, but I guarantee I’ll do everything I can to live up to the high standards that Secretary Clinton and her team put in place.

Now I mentioned earlier the sort of earlier part of my life. I will tell you, I was back in Boston two weeks ago and I was rummaging through some old stuff and I found the first evidence of my connection to this great diplomatic enterprise – my first diplomatic passport. (Applause.) There it is. Number 2927 – there weren’t a lot of people then. (Laughter.) And if you open it up, there’s a picture of a little 11-year-old John Kerry and no, you will not get to see it. (Laughter.) And then in the description it says, “Height: 4-foot-3.” (Laughter.) “Hair: Brown.” So as you can see, the only thing that’s changed is the height. (Laughter.)

And the first stamp in it, the first arrival, was 1954 in Le Havre. And back then the State Department, we went over – we spent six days at sea on the S.S. America and the State Department and the United States Government sent us over, the entire family, first class. Don’t get any ideas. (Laughter.) Anyway, I – we went to Berlin, and this was not too long after the war, and I used to ride my bicycle around Berlin, it was my pastime, my passion, and rode everywhere, the Grunewald, around the lakes, up and down the Kurfurstendamm, the church where the steeple burned down, past the Reichstag, burned out, past Brandenburg Gate, past Hitler’s tomb with these amazing, huge concrete slabs blown up. And I just roamed around. It was stunning how little control there was.

And one day – in my sense of 12-year-old adventure, I think it was then – I used this very passport to pass through into the East Sector, the Russian sector, and I bicycled around, and I’ll tell you, as a 12-year-old kid, I really did notice the starkness, the desolation. In fact, I was thinking about it the other day. If the tabloids today knew I had done that, I can see the headlines that say, “Kerry’s Early Communist Connections,” something like that. (Laughter.) That’s the world we live in, folks.

But I would reassure them by saying I really noticed the difference between the east and west. There were very few people. They were dressed in dark clothing. They kind of held their heads down. I noticed all this. There was no joy in those streets. And when I came back, I felt this remarkable sense of relief and a great lesson about the virtue of freedom and the virtue of the principles and ideals that we live by and that drive us. I was enthralled.

Now when my dad learned what I’d done, he was not enthralled. (Laughter.) And I got a tongue-lashing, I was told I could’ve been an international incident. He could’ve lost his job. And my passport, this very passport, was promptly yanked – (laughter) – and I was summarily grounded. Anyway, lessons learned.

But that was a great adventure and I will tell you: 57 years later today, this is another great adventure. I am so proud to enter into the Harry Truman building – the mothership, as I think you call it – and I’ll tell you. Harry Truman, whose office was just down the hall from mine in the United States Senate, within about a year of being president came and said the principles of American foreign policy are firmly the or the foundation is firmly rooted in righteousness and justice. We get to do great things here. This is a remarkable place. And I’m here today to ask you, on behalf of the country, I need your help. President Obama needs your help, to help us to do everything we can to strengthen our nation and to carry those ideals out into the world.

Here, we can do the best of things that you can do in government. That’s what excites me. We get to try to make our nation safer. We get to try to make peace in the world, a world where there is far too much conflict and far too much killing. There are alternatives. We get to lift people out of poverty. We get to try to cure disease. We get to try to empower people with human rights. We get to speak to those who have no voice. We get to talk about empowering people through our ideals, and through those ideals hopefully they can change their lives. That’s what’s happening in the world today. We get to live the ideals of our nation and in doing so I think we can make our country stronger and we can actually make the world more peaceful.

So I look forward to joining with you as we march down this road together living the ideals of our country, which is the best – imagine: What other job can you have where you get up every day and advance the cause of nation and also keep faith with the ideals of your country on which it is founded and most critically, meet our obligations to our fellow travelers on this planet? That’s as good as it gets. And I’m proud to be part of it with you. So now let’s get to work. Thank you very, very much. (Applause.)"

Saturday, February 2, 2013


We stayed up late on Thursday night, waiting for the phone to ring.

You see, Bart's training isn't supposed to start for another week. But there was another reason he was urgently needed in DC, maybe, possibly, and that's why we've been waiting on DC before we could determine when he'd fly out.

So on Thursday he closed out his office, picked up his plane tickets and came home. And we waited.

It was almost midnight when he got the call. And that's how we found out we'd have 24 hours left together before he needed to skip town.

Yesterday was a blur of packing and list making and how-could-you-not-know-your-credit-card-expired-six-months-ago? Just a wee bit stressful - though, truth be told, not the nightmare I'd been dreading. Mrs. P and her ever-patient husband dropped by with homemade cookies - one batch for the traveller and another for the kids. Other folks texted their goodbyes throughout the day and into the evening. We ordered takeout and watched movies and played board games til late into the night, as the kids dropped off to sleep one by one.

My husband is pretty badass, in the sense that he's never been felled by a crisis. He's handled shootings and suicides and fires and people who've lost appendages in shredder accidents and all manner of catastrophes, and let me tell you: this is a man you want by your side in a crisis. He'll respond in exactly the appropriate way at exactly the appropriate time, and he'll always choose the right thing to do.

But last week, when I delivered the news that his daughter had been hit in the face with a ball, knocking her two front teeth out in a river of blood, I thought he was going to cry, he was that upset at the thought that she'd been hurt. When it comes to his family, I guess he's not so badass after all.

So you can imagine that it was very, very hard for him to say goodbye to the kids and me. There was a lot of buyer's remorse in our house last night. A bucketload of sadness and tears at the realization that this is just the beginning of a year and a half long journey.

It's "just" two months until he comes back. That's nothing, right?

We were separated for six months when he first joined up, but of course we didn't have kids then, so it wasn't quite the same thing. We spent a month apart when Shay was born. We spent two months apart when Aidan was born, and another two months apart when he was medevaced 6 months later. We spent a month apart when I was medevaced to Hong Kong after I went deaf. But of course all of those separations were different, because they were thrust upon us for health reasons. This one we chose. We actively sought it out. That makes it, I don't know, less excusable somehow. Harder somehow.

So right now my best friend in this whole wide world is winging his way to the other side of the globe without me, and I am thinking about new routines and new schedules and new everything. For awhile at least. Meanwhile, it's good to be here, because here, this is normal. My friends in the States don't necessarily understand what we're doing. But here: my military friends, like Mrs. P and Major Winerack and STJ have either deployed or sent spouses off to parts unknown, or both. My State friends are doing it now, or have just finished their sentences: Jen and Jill and Laura and Tiffany and Mary and and and. So all around me I have examples of people who are doing the separation dance, or have done it, with style and grace. And all around me I have people who know - who really, really know - what we're going to be facing here. People who will bring cookies or help with car pools or just listen on the bad days.

I think these two months will fly by. We'll establish new routines and settle in - before you know it, he'll be back and we'll be bickering about who forgot to buy the milk or something silly like that.

And then - the real fun will begin, as we start the year-long Baghdad separation.

For now though: we miss him. Of course we do.

Please. Write your own stuff.