Wednesday, October 26, 2011

NYR 10-26-11 - it's the little things that will make you crazy

1. People listen to their iPods entirely too loud. Like they are going to be deaf from how loud they listen to their iPods. And Susan, how do you know this, you might ask? Well, my dear reader friend, I know this because when somebody sits down next to me on the shuttle going to the training facility, I can hear the words of the songs that they're listening to. Surely that is too loud.

2. I am very sensitive to noises. Not just any noise but there are some noises that will drive me crazy. A few months ago, I saw a tv feature on a disorder where noises make people go nuts. Based on what I saw, it's entirely possibly I have this disorder, but there's no cure for it, so I figure there's no need to join the support group. (And these people really were crazy from the noises to the point where they had to be by themselves and I'm not that bad yet.)

Anyway, the noises that can drive me crazy are things like people eating popcorn in the movie theater. Or people eating bananas if the banana goes all squishy in their mouths and they make squishy noises while they're eating. Or people crunching ice. OR THE GIRL WHO SITS NEXT TO ME IN CLASS WHO CHEWS GUM AND MAKES TOO MUCH NOISE WHILE SHE'S CHEWING.

Seriously, she is going to make me lose my ever-loving mind. It's a good thing she's such a really nice young woman because otherwise I probably wouldn't be able to handle the chewing noise and I'd lose all civility and have to say something, which would be rude.

For knowing that I won't have to live with these daily pet peeves forever, I am truly thankful.

NYR 10-25-11 - a perfect fall afternoon

This afternoon when I got out of class at 4pm, I decided to walk the 3 or 4 blocks from my hotel to the shopping area in my hotel's neighborhood. And it was like heaven on earth. I went from Pottery Barn to Williams Sonoma to Loft to Barnes & Noble to Ann Taylor to Crate and Barrel to The Container Store to Baja Fresh for dinner.

'Nuff said?

Yeah, I thought so.

For some pretty amazing window shopping (which I never do in Bogota), I am truly thankful.

Oh, and it was perfect fall weather which made my window shopping even better!

NYR 10-24-11 - first day of class

This will sound juvenile and immature, but I hate being in situations when I don't know how things work. You know what I'm talking about?

For instance, today, I needed to catch a shuttle from a location about a mile from my hotel that would take me to the training facility. Sound easy in theory, but I wasn't really sure where I was going to catch the shuttle and then I was nervous about whether I'd recognize the shuttle as being the shuttle I needed (what if I got on the wrong one and ended up at the airport or something?), and then how would it work when I got to the training facility and then what would happen if they didn't accept my embassy badge, blah, blah, blah.

I am a Nervous Nellie worrier. Mac's teacher last year said that I suffered from what he termed Neurotic American Disorder, and it's totally true. I am a class A, numero uno, primo worrywart. These worries keep me up at night and make me stress beyond what is surely normal for a regular human being.

It probably goes without saying, but I managed to walk to the location where I was to catch the shuttle (using the very detailed map I'd printed from Google Maps), I caught what was the only shuttle that stops at that location, I got off at the right place at the training facility and I managed to get through security.

All that time I spent worrying was for naught and for that, I am truly thankful.

(But I possibly should look into tranquilizer usage.)

NYR 10-23-11 - a trip to DC

Today I flew to DC for a month of training. I had to leave Mac and Jimmy behind and that was really, really sad. I could hear Mac telling me "goodbye" as our apartment building elevator descended. That pulls at the heartstrings.

I made it to DC with no problems and got checked into my hotel about 8pm. I chose to stay in a hotel in the neighborhood we used to live in when Jimmy first joined the foreign service (which is my favorite area of Northern Virginia). I was feeling a teensy bit sorry for myself, being here all by myself for such a long time, so I decided ordering from what used to be our favorite Thai restaurant when we lived here would make me feel better.

It was good, and I over-indulged, but it was definitely better before.

Or maybe it was definitely better shared with Jimmy and friends.

Regardless, for eating pretty decent Thai when there's no Thai to be had in Bogota, I am truly thankful.

NYR 10-22-11 - Mac playing football

There's a guy at the embassy who played college football and who now coaches a little group of boys in football. Mac hasn't wanted to go up until his football-filled trip to SC a couple weeks ago. Jimmy took him to "play" today and he loved it.

They practiced and played for over 2.5 hours, and he still loved it even after all that exercise.

So now we've ordered all the gear so he doesn't have to use the sweaty, borrowed, smelly stuff, which means he'll probably hate it by next Saturday.

For a Saturday afternoon of football, I am truly thankful.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

NYR 10-21-11 - my husband in the news

In case you missed my Facebook post, click here to see my adorable and super-smart husband's entre into the international news scene.

Jimmy's part of this interview was filmed several weeks ago after a lot of debate. Could he do it?; would the Ambassador and Washington, DC approve his doing the interview?; what about the very high, very real risk of negative spin?; etc. There was enormous potential for disaster since the story's original bent was to favor the family whose lives were destroyed by aerial eradication.

Once everybody signed off on it, Jimmy taped the interview via Skype. And then we waited with that awful, uneasy feeling that if they cut and splice it, they could make him say anything and look awful.

Needless to say, when the interview aired this week on CNN-International, we were all very, very pleased. And the higher-ups must have been pleased as well because nobody called him to tell him he was being kicked out of the country (which could have happened had he screwed up).

For a happy ending to this story, I am truly thankful.

NYR 10-20-11 - a cocktail party

Tonight we hosted a cocktail party to "introduce" Jimmy's new deputy director to official contacts. Thankfully the office hired a caterer so my only real job was to make sure there were flowers in the house. To accomplish that task, and with no time to go to the big flower market with that pesky job that now consumes my entire days, we stopped at the funeral flower market on the way home. The vendors tried to sell me some gorgeous funeral sprays and arrangements but I declined those until one vendor offered to let me into her little warehouse of flowers where I could just buy stems to make my own arrangements.

As an aside, since Jimmy and I left work at the same time today, I rode home with him, his driver and bodyguard. The driver stayed with the car while the guard came with us to protect Jimmy. I looked like a VERY important person, however, because it appeared I had both a Colombian and an American guard protecting the senora while she shopped!

For fresh flowers and parties for which I don't have to cook, I am truly thankful.

NYR 10-19-11 - cooking ahead

This past weekend when I was home alone, I planned ahead and cooked various things to eat this week and also to freeze. You know us working girls have to be organized like that, because if we're not, it might be PB&Js for everybody. Or maybe that's just this working girl who feels like things, like a well-balanced dinner for the family, could seriously fall through the cracks after a long day at the office. Sigh.

I was so happy to not have to plan much in the way of dinner this week. For that small favor, I am truly thankful.

NYR 10-18-11 - another day, another dollar

As nerdy as it sounds, I love working in an office, especially with lots of activity like the one I'm currently in. There's just a lot of energy, a lot of movement, and I'm learning new things. And for all that, I am truly thankful.

NYR 10-17-11 - Monday holidays

For Monday holidays (this time a Colombian one) - especially now that I'm working and can really appreciate them again - and for a great day being with my boys and Bubby, I am truly thankful.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

NYR 10-16-11 - my boys come home today

After a 10-day vacation, my boys come back to Bogota today! The plane supposedly lands in another 20 minutes and they'll make their way home after clearing immigration, customs, and baggage claim. I am so excited to see them that I can hardly stand it!

My mother-in-law is also traveling with them as she has graciously agreed to stay here while I go to Washington for my month-long training even though Jimmy assured me that he could handle it on his own for four weeks.

Right. He obviously thinks I fell off the turnip truck yesterday.

So we are excited for Bubby to be here in general, but I am really grateful that she can stay so long to help me out. It's a huge concern lifted off of me to know that she's here for Jimmy and Mac.

For happy homecomings and big Bubby welcomes, I am truly thankful.

NYR 10-15-11 - baked potatoes

If you live in the US, you probably take for granted a good baked potato because you can get one just about anywhere. I'm talking big Russet potatoes that are baked to a perfect soft texture before you add all that deliciousness in the form of butter, sour cream, bacon, cheese, etc.

If you live in Colombia, you probably do not take for granted a good baked potato, namely because you can't get one here.

They have lots of potatoes here that are suitable for other purposes, but you just can't get your hands on a big Russet potato substitute. Normally when we have Colombian baked potatoes, we have to use potatoes the size of a tennis ball and the texture is never right.

My friend got her hands on some Russet potatoes and I was the lucky recipient of a great baked potato at her house tonight. Y.U.M.

For pleasure in the little things in life and friends who are willing to share them, I am truly thankful!

NYR 10-14-11 - TGIF

For a renewed appreciation of Fridays after my first week back at work, I am so thankful.

NYR 10-13-11 -God bless the Swiss

At my last dental check-up, my dentist here suggested that I buy and use a very specific model of this toothbrush that was engineered by the Swiss. They only sell the toothbrush at very limited pharmacies and so it took me awhile to get one.

This toothbrush looks like a baby toothbrush. It has a very small head and very soft bristles.

Both of which I can't stand.

Which is why my gums have been brushed to the point that they're receding.

Which is why the dentist suggested this specific model of toothbrush.

This toothhbrush comes with a price tag that you might expect with it being Swiss and all. I mean, they don't give their chocolate away for free and neither do they give their toothbrushes away for free.

I opened up the package and in addition to the baby toothbrush, there was a toothbrush cover and instructions.

These are not your typical Oral-B instructions which if those even exist, probably just say something like "this is not a toy".

Those paltry directions just don't cut it for the Swiss.

Here are the instructions that came with my new toothbrush:

Skip over to Column B for the English (GB for Great Britain) instructions.

Who knew that you had lingual and buccal surfaces on your teeth? And that's before you get to the occlusal surfaces.

What does this even mean?

I don't really know except that I love Item #5 - After the buccal cleaning, lingual cleaning is on.

That sounds like a threat to me. The Soral Curaprox is telling the lingual teeth that it's bringing it after the buccal cleaning.

For those crazy Swiss, I am truly thankful.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

NYR 10-12-11 - a lost tooth

Mac lost a tooth today.

And I wasn't there.


This is the first tooth that he's lost for which I was not present and/or could not ensure the Tooth Fairy was present.


I really hope the Tooth Fairy comes tonight. I really, really hope for that.

For boys who grow up and don't need their moms so much anymore, I am truly thankful. I guess.

NYR 10-11-11 - first day on the job

Today I did something I haven't done in years (except for those couple weeks in August 2009 and except for years and years of child-rearing).

I started a new job.

YIKES. I was so nervous. It was like the first day of school all over again. I even had to lay my clothes out last night.

The day wasn't terribly exciting -just lots and lots of reading until I was bleary-eyed - but I did like being back in an office.

Sad, right?

For new jobs and feeling relevant again, I am truly thankful.

NYR 10-10-11 - and reality sets in

This afternoon I came home to a very sad, very quiet, very empty house. Jimmy and Mac have been gone for 4 days and that was fine when I was away with friends to keep me occupied. But coming home to an empty house that's normally loud and occupied stinks. Realizing that I still have 5.5 days to go does not make it any better.

I may have had a mini-meltdown. Or it may have been a quite large meltdown.

The thing that makes this all stink even worse is that this separation is a trial run for the month-long training I'm going to have to go to in Washington, DC in a couple weeks. I'm pretty sure I will not survive a month on my own. Jimmy's one thing, but we've gotten used to long separations with his travel and Afghanistan schedule. Mac is a different beast altogether. The longest I've been away from him is 4 or 5 days. I honestly feel like the lifeblood has been sucked out of me.


For my boys having some long overdue boys-only time, I am truly thankful. I guess.

NYR 10-9-11 - fresh air

I don't know what the altitude in Anapoima is, but it's lower than Bogota and much nicer in terms of weather. We got dramatic rainstorms each day during the weekend but it wasn't the dreaded all-day rain that's returned to Bogota in the last few days, and we definitely got plenty of sun. The vista in Anapoima is pretty amazing - there are mountains all around you while you're enjoying what feels like a very non-mountainous climate of sun and warmth.

For today's hike in the mountains and for breathing all that fresh air, my soul and I are truly thankful.

NYR 10-8-11 - a weekend away

Yesterday Jimmy and Mac left for a boys-only trip to the US. Jimmy's been waiting for Mac to get to an age where they could go off on such a trip and finally, all the pieces fell into place and they went for 10 days. (Don't worry - we didn't pull Mac out of school; he's on the Colombia-wide mid-October break.)

Five other families/couples were going to Anapoima for the long Columbus Day weekend and they took pity on me and let me come.

For time in the sun, swimming in the pool and hanging out with friends, I am truly thankful.

NYR 10-7-11 - Girls' Night In

Today I hosted a Girls' Night In for a really great group of ladies here in Bogota. Everybody brought food, which was all delicious, and the conversation was also pretty delicious.

For girl power, I am truly thankful.

NYR 10-6-11 - tennis

Today was my last weekday tennis class before I start work next week.


For new beginnings, even when that means letting go of great things from the past, I am truly thankful.

NYR 10-5-11 - keeping your kids off drugs

Today I attended a seminar on keeping your kids off drugs and talking to your kids about drug use that was led by a DEA agent based in California. Let me tell you what: drug abuse is apparently a long way from what it was 20 years ago. Prescription drug abuse is rampant. This guy told stories and gave statistics that were A.LARM.ING. Lock your medicine cabinets up because even if your children wouldn't touch it, their friends might.

For learning some seriously frightening new information and tucking it in my parental arsenal, I am truly thankful.

NYR 10-4-11 - Italian cooking class

Today I took an Italian cooking class taught by a friend who is from Rome. We cooked (or really she cooked) and we ate the fruits of her labor.

Oh. my.

I give you the meal from start to finish:

Bruschetta (or what was left of it) for a little teaser during the class

Pasta alla Carbonara

Pollo alla Romana

Fragole con Mousse di Ricotta for dessert!

For a fabulous day of good friends and fabulous food, I am truly thankful.

NYR 10-3-11 - game changer

If you live at any altitude higher than 3000 feet, you must buy this cookbook.

Pie in the Sky Successful Baking at High Altitudes: 100 Cakes, Pies, Cookies, Breads, and Pastries Home-tested for Baking at Sea Level, 3,000, 5,000, 7,000, and 10,000 feet (and Anywhere in Between) - by Susan Gold Purdy

I am serious. Do not pass GO. Do not collect $200.

Buy this book.


(You really shouldn't even be reading more right now if you live above 3000 feet. You should be on or heading to your local Barnes & Noble to buy this book. Did I mention I was serious about this?)

I am telling you that it is a game changer in high-altitude baking. (Or at least the two recipes I have tried - oatmeal cookies and a 1-2-3-4 cake - turned out perfectly, which makes it a game changer for me!)

The author has tested and re-tested 100 recipes at different altitudes and has tweaked them so that they work anywhere from 3000 feet to 10,000 feet. It's like a huge science fair project that took her all over the country. She's even made it easy with columns for 3000, 5000, 7000, and 10,000 feet. The guesswork is totally gone because she tells you exactly what ingredients, what temperature, baking time, etc that you need to use at your particular altitude.

I read this book from cover to cover like a novel because it was so interesting. Bogota is approximately 8500 feet, and I needed to find out how to adapt when you fall between the 7000 and 10,000 feet columns. The author said that if you were above 8500 feet, you should go with the 10,000 feet column, and if you were between 7000-8500 feet, you need to stick with 7000 feet. When you're at "approximately 8500 feet", what does that mean? So I brought up our GPS, turned it on and stuck it out the window to pick up the satellite. Turns out our apartment is at 8564 feet, which I thought was really close enough to 8500 to stick with the 7000 feet column. And everything, okay the two things I've tried, turned out sooooo well.

For (hopefully) worry-free, stress-free baking at altitude, I am so truly grateful.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

NYR 10-2-11 - homework

Let me start by telling you that I really hate homework. I used to love homework when I was in school, but I've done 12 years plus 4 college years' worth of homework. And I think that's enough.

Mac doesn't seem to have the same love of homework that I once had. He doesn't want to just buckle down and get it down. He's easily distracted and can come up with 72 things he'd rather be doing. All of this, of course, means that I feel like I have to sit there, breathing down his neck to keep him focused on the task at hand. Which, of course, makes me feel like I'm doing the homework myself. Which I hate because, you see, I already know the 8 times table and I don't care if I don't know anything about the Tudors (God bless the British and their history).

Because we knew (hoped!) that I was going to start work, a few weeks ago we instituted a rule where the weekly homework assignments (that come out on Friday and are due the following Friday) have to be pretty well executed over the weekend so the weekday afternoons aren't so chaotic and fraught with histrionics.

Jimmy also decided that Mac needed a desk of his own instead of doing his homework on the dining room table. So I cleaned out our multi-purpose room that held this ridiculous piece of exercise equipment that was primarily used for a coat rack and jungle gym for Mac and his visiting friends, the Wii tv, the filing cabinet, a desk that you couldn't see because it was covered in stuff that needed to go in the filing cabinet, a catch-all bookshelf and keyboard.

Now the room has the filing cabinet (because it's really ugly and that's the only good hiding spot in the house for it), the keyboard, the bookshelf which now has all Mac's art supplies on it, and the uncovered desk.

And I have to hand it to Jimmy - it is really nice for Mac to have a dedicated study area with all his supplies close at hand. He's still easily distracted, but at least he's not eating Doritos at the dining table while running around trying to find the colored pencils while trying to work on his learning log entry for the week.

For better study habits and such a smart husband, I am truly thankful.

NYR 10-1-11 - one for the L column but a bigger one for the W column

Sadly, the Gamecocks didn't pull it out today, thanks in large part (in my very humble opinion) to that Stephen Garcia. I think that boy's more trouble than he's worth. Jimmy was in such a foul mood that he almost didn't go to a dinner party to which we'd been invited. F.O.U.L. mood. To put it into perspective for you South Carolina folks, after the USC game ended, we switched to the Clemson game and he started doing Clemson cheers. I'm telling you, that was almost cause for me to call a psychiatrist to see if he'd make a house call.

But on this sad day in Gamecock land, we had a bright moment or two. Mac was playing "commando soldier" or some such thing and this is what he put together for his uniform.
It's a good look and incorporates so many different elements: pajamas, an "Indiana Jones" hat, Jimmy's goggles and headlamp from Afghanistan days, Mac's tae kwon do uniform belt, a Nerf gun, and miscellaneous camera cases and other bags on the belt for other weaponry storage.

But even commando soldiers get tired and have to take a break to play video games (with their goggles still on but you'll notice with the dark shade put in now - because you never know when there might an incoming)...

For really the most adorable kid in the world (that's the "W" in the post title), I am truly thankful.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

NYR 9-30-11 - the glass factory

Today I went with two new arrivals to "the glass factory". We embassy people call it "the glass factory" but nobody else calls it that. Colombians have no idea what we're talking about because it has a real name, but none of us knows it.

So we went to the glass factory where I got 2 vases that are each about 18" tall, 5 fish bowl-type bowls, and 2 adorable mini-milk bottles.

Guess how much I paid for all that?

No really, guess.

Okay, do you have your number in your head?

I got all that for about $25.

That place is a steal of a deal.

For "the glass factory", I am truly thankful.

NYR 9-29-11 - book club

I love book club because not only do you read books that might never cross your radar, you just learn a whole lot at the meeting.

You gain insight into your fellow members' lives, gather different perspectives on the book and author, sometimes learn some good dirt, and you most assuredly always laugh.

For all that, I am truly thankful.

NYR 9-28-11 - it's official...

... I'm going back to work.

For finally getting the approval from Washington (in terms of nepotism since I'm sharing a bed with the man who runs the office I'll be contracting for) to do this job, I am truly thankful (I think).