We Met Way Back In 2005 ...

... they were the first friends I made when we moved to Tel Aviv. They had both just moved from Kuwait. We bonded over hummus and living in the Middle East.

Back then there were only 5 kids between us.

Of course, LOTS more boys were born since then. Including this special one who took a heck of a long time to get here. Remember this post about his adoption? It still makes me cry!

We've been through a lot together. Babies. Miscarriages. Moves. Unaccompanied tours. Family stresses. New jobs. Depression. Late night phone calls and Skype sessions. Lots and lots of tears ... both of sorrow and joy.

They all came over for dinner last night. And in just a few months, we'll all be reunited again here in the Northern Virginia area. Gatherings like these will happen far more regularly than every 4 years.

I talk so much about community ... and finding my village. Hot darn if these aren't exactly the kinds of friends that I base it all on!

Words can't even describe how blessed I feel today...


I Really Do Wonder ...

... what the &$@*#%! goes through her head?


I downloaded these from her iTouch today.

Damn that girl is funny!



Last Saturday from 11 am - 2 pm, thirty women traipsed through my house snacking on nibbles and trying on jewelry.

Neighbors and dear friends from near and far came over to see what the buzz of Stella & Dot is all about.

I sold ... A LOT ... and I loved every minute of it. I forgot what the feeling of accomplishment felt like. Pretty. Darn. Good.

Schmoozing. Entertaining. Sparkly jewels? I think I found my calling!


The FS BRU ... With Whine AND Cheese

On a cloudy Monday morning, about a month ago, I took to Facebook for a mini pity party. We had just finished a busy weekend, celebrated Riley's birthday, and yet I was still feeling "off".

I wrote ... "Struggling with my inner pity party ... and the feeling that I'm just a fish out of water. After 6 months of living here, this social butterfly is not really adjusting to having many acquaintances, but VERY few friends."

Within minutes, the comments started rolling in on Facebook. My phone didn't stop ringing. The texts and emails had my iPhone pinging with messages all day long. Some were as brief as, "I'm your friend." Many said, "it took me awhile when I moved too." But most of them were beautifully written notes from friends all over the world telling me, "I relate. I feel the same way. I'm often lonely as well."

As I sat and read all the correspondence I realized that a majority of them had one thing in common. They were written by friends in the Foreign Service. Acquaintances who I know through Facebook who've felt a common kinship. Dearest friends who've moved far away and haven't found that special someone or someone's with whom they've clicked. Bloggers alike who know exactly what to say at just the right time.

And it brings me back full circle to what I've been talking about since I rekindled this FS BRU. Community. We ARE a community. A slightly dysfunctional family of sorts. But one I wouldn't trade for the world.

Like moths to a flame, we foreign service bloggers are attracted to each others words and wisdom. We seek out writing that speaks to us because its personal, or professional, because it's witty, or well known. We build friendships. And overtime, close bonds. We "get" each other. We get "it."

Which is why, when you get to finally meet someone in real life, who you've been following and corresponding and laughing with over many, many years, you jump at the chance. When she is only in town for a few short days, but makes the time to see you, you drop everything and go. And when you see each other across the hotel lobby, you laugh and hug, and both exclaim, "you look exactly like your picture." Because they do. She does. Only you get the sound of her voice with her smile. You hear the intonation and inflection of her words. You understand the meaning behind her stories. And for the four and a half hours you're together, you're truly comfortable.

Donna is just as beautiful and skinny in real life as she is in her pictures. A seasoned DS spouse, she's lived all over the world with her family. She's a Russian speaking guru. She's wicked smaht with a witty sense of humor. She's a wealth of knowledge. Donna loves a good challenge. Remember when we packed out from Chennai almost two years ago? With an extra kid, she STILL came in with less than 500 pounds than we did on her packout from Beijing. And who can forget when Matt had the little issue with his plane ticket on his second R&R from Iraq? Donna was there to help me out when I frantically emailed her from the airport here in Virginia.

It's these kinds of bonds that we make in the foreign service which keep us energized. Excited. At home. It's why I spend the hours upon hours doing this FS BRU. Because after 12+ years in this lifestyle, I understand the importance of our community. Of staying connected, despite living here in D.C. now rather than in some exotic location. Of sharing stories and ideas, complaints and heartaches. Of being honest. And real. And a wee bit mouthy.

These associations are our building blocks. Our foundation. And if cultivated just right, turn into meaningful relationships. Where the virtual hugs you receive from your pity party on Facebook mean more than you'd ever begin to describe. And the people who merely started as blogging buddies, turned from acquaintances to dear friends.

This week's Round Up was a wee bit light on the submissions, which I'm sure is partly due to my refusal to nag ... but hey! By now I know that people have the email address and know that all it takes is a few seconds to send me a link to thefsroundup@me.com, with a brief description of your latest posting. Easy peasy, right?

Narra at Five G's in Guadalajara, Mexico is actually a friend of a friend ... and is new to the BRU this time. She posts here about things that make her happy at her first overseas locale.

Sadie in Saudi Arabia has taken some fantastic trips and has really made the most of her current assignment. She recently went to Madain Saleh and the Hejaz Railway, one of Saudi's most treasured historic sights.

Like the other commenters on this post, I have no idea how this photo was taken. But Nomads by Nature in Maputo always has great ones like this on their blog!

Kolbi gives us a fabulous reminder.

Ever wanted to trade places with another FS family for a few weeks? Well Oh The Many Places We Will Go is doing JUST that. They're heading to Tijuana and swapping houses with another A-100 classmate. Sound fun? Heck-to-the-yeah!

They went from snow to collecting seashells and almost surfing in just two days! This is what's been cooking with Melissa in Jerusalem!

Oh the money pit of owning a dog ... especially if you're going to be flying to post with one soon. Claudia at Many Hemispheres has an upcoming surgery to pay for AND an airline ticket to Saudi in a few months. Wish her luck!

Sarah at by the where? just got their next assignment. Check out where they're going next! Holy cow ... no pun intended!

James in Chennai shows us one place you wouldn't think of dumping garbage. Unless you live in India.

Emily at Our Life is just as adorable in person as she is here...

Erica in Iceland introduces us to a local Icelandic designer, and tells us what true northern fashion is all about.

Kelly at Well, That Was Different takes us on a hike and nature walk through Austria. She even shows us what "Extra Hell" looks like.

Alex has been thinking a lot about this past posting ... and what it's like to be An American Abroad.

Jen's daughter just celebrated the BIG birthday ... you know, the one that finally puts her in double digits!

As someone who's lived in India, it's good to prepare your checklist early. Like Daniela has done! Need some ideas on what to do prior to moving ... check this out.

Digger at Life After Jerusalem reminds us about the issues pet owners in the Foreign Service are dealing with on United Airlines, and urges everyone to speak out about these inequities.

You just have to laugh out loud at Shannon in Malawi's sons and the gross bugs they play with. Or you'd cry.

And Kate, at Pulling Stakes shows us how Karma is a truly b*tch!

The next edition of the FS BRU will be out on Friday, April 6th. Just prior to Easter. And for those of us who have kids, towards the tail end of spring break. SO, the optional talking point this week is ... vacations!

Tell me about a recent trip. Link to one of your favorite vacation destinations. Make us all drool with envy. You don't need to re-write anything ... simply send me a link, with a blurb about where you went, and I'll do the rest. Pictures posts are always best. Let us all see where we should be going on our next R&R.

Send me your links to thefsroundup@me.com by Monday, April 2nd.

Until next time ...

There's Never A Dull Moment Here ...

... at Casa de Chaos. Though, with my thyroid out of whack for the past few weeks, coupled with the minor stress of last Thursday's doctor's visit, I haven't quite been up to blogging about all of it.

Until now. Here's what's been happening in our neck of the woods.

Grady started swim lessons

Riley went ice skating with her Girl Scout Troop. And the girls had a "Dress Up As Your Favorite Book Character" day at school. Can you guess who they are?

We went on an excursion to the US Naval Academy in Annapolis with some friends.

Sheridan went a little crazy sending me texts from her iTouch

One of Matt's dearest college friends came to visit us while on a business trip from Mexico. The last time we saw him was 9 years ago in New York City!

Self portraits ... from the radiology office just prior to my mammogram.
And after I dyed my own hair. Look ma, no more grays!

Matt's birthday celebrations. Homemade cookie cake. And another dear friend in town who we haven't seen since Grady was just a few weeks old!

Riley started softball. Here she is at her first practice.

And Grady proved that he really does have a hard head ... especially when he bonks it with another kid in his class. Hello bruise!

Stay tuned ... there's more chaos to come now that we have Sheridan's soccer schedule, Matt's Afghanistan training schedule, the kids spring break schedule, and of course, my new job!


Are You Calling My Boob Fat?

I just returned from my morning of medical appointments. You know ... the one we've all been waiting for. My mammogram. Where they smushed my boobies flat like pancakes. Or to be more 'haute cuisine', like crepes.

It was a long visit. From waiting an additional half-hour due to technician training in one exam room, to needing additional imaging.

I tried to keep Matt in the loop by texting him every so often letting him know what was going on. He was fine for the first hour, reading his magazine and people watching. But by the end of the second hour I received a message from him saying he was about to resort to violence if he had to listen to any more soft rock ballads.

The mammogram went fine. I mean, as fine as standing in a gown with your boobs exposed to a stranger wearing plastic gloves can be. The technician took two images of each breast, placing me in positions that no woman should ever have to be subjected without getting paid.

It was relatively quick and painless, albeit slightly embarrassing, and within ten minutes I was sent back to my changing room waiting for the next steps. Twenty minutes later, the doctor reviewing my films said that she did see something on the screen, and I now needed to have an ultrasound. Off to the next room we went.

The ultrasound took much longer as the doctor spent a lot of time reviewing my previous mammogram images and comparing them to the lump she saw. She poked, fondled, grabbed and inspected and in the end felt sure that she had the correct diagnosis.

I have a Lipoma ... which is a slow-growing lump made up of fat cells. They are a common, benign, non-cancerous type of slow growing tumors. Usually detected in middle age.

And there's nothing I need to do except watch it and have yearly mammograms.

But wait, there's more!

After getting the good news about my "girls" ... we THEN went to see my Endocrinologist because my Thyroid has been out of whack again due to the increased dosage, and I switched again from hypothyroid to hyperthyroid. Oye! Moreover, the symptoms of the excess Synthroid were causing me to have anxiety, heart palpitations, EXCESSIVE fatigue, and AWFUL chest pain. I. am. getting. old.

So, after waiting for an hour in HIS office, reviewing my latest blood work, and readjusting my Synthroid dosage, I am finally able to exhale a huge sigh of relief.

I'm healthy.

But since my boobs are fatty, I'm going to put them on a strict diet.

Now let the celebrations of Matt's birthday begin!


Working 9 to 5 ...

So the exciting news on my front is ...


A REAL job that pays REAL money (unlike the mom-gig which for the last 9 years has been paying me with gray hair, stained clothes, and peanut butter kisses).

I recently signed on to be a Stylist with Stella & Dot, and I couldn't be more excited.

I'll be selling jewelry ... funky, fun, fresh jewelry. It's so me, right? And I can work from home, making my own hours. Which is almost too good to be true!!

Stella & Dot's boutique-style jewelry and accessories are available exclusive through in-home Trunk Shows by Independent Stylists and online. When I went to my first one back in January, it was love at first sight. I walked out of there with several pieces, but I wanted the entire collection.

So over the next few weeks I spoke with the Stylist from the party to discuss the job details, emailed a few friends who I knew could help me get this new endeavor going, and signed on. Seriously, the jewelry just sells itself!

I'm holding my launch show here in three weeks. And am already setting up Trunk Shows with friends all over the Northern Virginia area and beyond. Want to book one yourself to earn upwards of hundreds of dollars in free jewelry? It's EASY. And it costs nothing... I'll do most of the work!

Go take a peek. Get excited with me. And when you're thinking of that perfect piece of jewelry for your friend, your daughter, your mom, shop away. Items are wrapped and shipped in adorable orange and blue boxes that will delight even the pickiest of people!

Happy Shopping!


The FS BRU ... Don't Worry, Be Happy!

“Happiness often sneaks in through a door you didn’t know you left open.” ~ John Barrymore

Happy, an adjective described in the World English Dictionary, means feeling, showing, or expressing joy; pleased. It originates from the 1520s as “good fortune,” from happy + ness.

But what does happiness REALLY mean? How do we quantify or qualify it? More importantly, how does one really know when someone else is happy? Do they need an emoticon at the end of their sentence like ... :), :0, :0) ... or goodness forbid LOL to prove it?

As we move around frequently in the Foreign Service, I find it SO easy to become bogged down in the bureaucratic quagmire and complain about unhappiness ... rather than stay positive and revel in what’s going right. Misery loves company, eh?

But as we all settle in to this new year, into new posts, or finish up a mild winter like we’re having here in DC, I thought it was time to have a little kumbaya moment. Where we stop, look around, and take stock in that which is important. Something I’m very guilty of not doing very often ...

While reading everybody’s posts below, I am reminded why we decided to join the Foreign Service so many years ago. It takes an adventurous family to be able to pack up their belongings, say goodbye to those who are near and dear, and move all over the world, with kids and animals and chaos in tow. Sometimes we move to wonderful postings ... sometimes to third world dumps with amazing personnel. Like a box of chocolates, you never quite know what you’re going to get.

The one constant you’ll see in this edition of the FS BRU, is that no matter how or what anyone thinks about their current assignment, when asked to stop and smell the roses, we all can. And DO. For we always manage to find the diamonds in the rough.

"What we see depends mainly on what we look for" ~ Sir John Lubbock

Everyone seems to enjoy living in Manila. And Carla is no exception. Take a look at her long list of likes ... and pictures of her apartment.

Erica loves the autumn in Iceland. Take a look at her beautiful volcano photos!

Becky, a local FS’er is soaking up the mild-winter sun with the rest of us. And reveling in all that NoVa has to offer. Sometimes you forget just how much there really is!

It may have taken some time, but Naoma has truly found her happiness in Kenya.

Camille discovered that chewing on a pile of penises (or is the plural peni?) will make anybody happy in Djibouti.

Kelly is happy in Vienna. But not necessarily for the reasons you’d think ...

If I could eat Chinese food every single day for the rest of my life, I’d be totally content. Chelsea in Shenyang thankfully likes it too! But there’s a whole lot more to this town to read about. Who’d want to bid out after this ringing endorsement ...

Zoe is completely in her element in Milan. Just look at all the amazing links she included here. Sure she has the occasional bad day ... but it can be negated with this type of scenery. Hello gorgeous!

Caitlin in Bogota has five ‘nice surprises’ about Bogota that everybody should know!

James is able to point out several things showing the beauty of Chennai. One of them being jasmine in the hair ... a daily ritual for most women!

Oh the things that you will see in Recife, Brazil. Ogles and Observations shows us the Frevo dancers in the city center. There’s even a video to watch it. WOW!

Crystal is able to find the good in just about anything! While people may complain that they have a shower smack dab in the middle of their bathroom, Crystal can tell you why it’s such a godsend to have in Mali.

Sadie is one well-traveled lady. Who has made the absolute most of her time in Riyadh. Thinking of a post in the Middle East? It definitely sounds like it could be for you!

Taking time for ourselves is never easy, but it’s something we should do every once in awhile! Heather in Cairo is doing just that by focusing on her goals of running more and eating less. Watch out ... she just may become The Biggest Loser.

It’s a small world after all ... and Sara loves that about Costa Rica.

Another one of my peeps here in Northern Virginia tells us why she is having a ball. Claudia is soaking it up too knowing that she’s heading out to their first overseas post later this summer.

Emily in Romania shows us one of her best delightful finds while in Bucharest. Mmmmm...

After a year at post, Lisa is able to detail what she has learned so far about Tijuana. Oh the food alone would have me there in minutes!

I read a lot of blogs. A LOT of them. And there are very few who has been this excited and positive about a posting from the very first day they landed. Life After Jerusalem is in LOVE with Tallinn, and I’m sure you can see why!

Shannon has a hell of a lot of creepy crawlies at her post, which would NOT make me happy. But when you look at her garden ... her AMAZING garden ... it almost makes up for it!

If you’ve ever wanted to travel to or live in Moscow, looking at these pictures and laundry list from Verdant Voyages about why it's so fantastic, will have you bidding on it next cycle!

Eve’s table settings and gorgeous party menu make her a woman after my own heart! She is definitely making the most of her time in Luanda ...

Like most of us, Bfiles loves the beaches in the Dominican Republic. But that’s not all that makes her happy.

David is studying French at FSI, and anxiously awaiting his upcoming tour in Togo. Here’s what keeping him busy these next few months.

Some of the nicest things about living in the Northern Virginia area are the opportunities to share where we’ve lived and what we’ve done with our new friends. Jen and her family did just that at Thinking Day.

Nothing makes me happier than reading about people loving where they live and more importantly, their neighbors. Thank goodness the Sherwood family in Azerbaijan does both!

You’ll always hear me talk about community because I feel that it is the single most important thing we bloggers can provide to each other. And as you can see from Catherine, who is dealing with a bit of a medical issue, she agrees too!

It was love at first sight for spectrummymummy and South Africa, and that feeling just keeps growing!

I miss Israel. And reading about how Melissa loves Jerusalem, makes me miss it even more!

Okay, I’ll admit that I had to look up where The Marshall Islands were. But I’m so glad I did. Because just like Jamie, I’m quite sure I'd be happy to live there too!

When you think about Brussels, what’s the first thing that comes to your mind? I would have said rain ... but that’s not what Sunny mentions. It’s the chocolates. Of COURSE it’s the chocolates ...

Safaris makes Nomads by Nature happy. FREE ones make her even happier! Just don’t call anyone stupid ... *wink*

Kolbi has been a content little bee since she arrived in Chengdu. From venturing out into the community and documenting all that's going on about town. To going back to school and actually enjoying all her classes!

"If you search the world for happiness, you may find it in the end, for the world is round and will lead you back to your door." ~ Robert Brault

Number of times I used Happy in this post: 20

Number of Synonyms I used for the word Happy: 30

Number of times I used thesaurus.com to find another word for Happy: at least 15

Number of times I re-read this posting to see how corny it sounded that I over-used the words Happy, Amazing, Enjoy and Love: too many to admit

The next FS Round Up will be published on Friday, March 16th. We're taking a break and there will be no optional talking point for the next edition. So just send me your links to any posting, with a quick blurb about what it is, by Monday, the 12th. thefsroundup@me.com.

Until then. Stay fantastic amazing enjoyable lovely. Stay happy.

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