Hawk Eyes are Mine, At Last!

No lotion or face cream. No make-up. No hairspray or mousse. No jewelry.  No perfume.

So, let’s get this straight. You want me to not only leave the mo-partment in this condition, but to actually venture out into public?!? As if enduring five weeks of my geek-tastic glasses wasn’t torture enough, the last set of preparations for LASIK included a long list things to not do or wear. (The no jewelry is obvious to me, as it could get in the way during the procedure, but I had to ask about the lotion/hairspray/perfume edict.  Apparently, the smells can somehow affect the way the laser works (??). A few days ago I would have written this off as medical drivel, but after inadvertently discovering that several of my required eye drops taste badly enough that I want to drink mouthwash, even though they’ve never touched my tongue, I am willing to believe nearly anything when it comes to this process.)

LASIK day started early, with a fresh-faced exit out the door by a little after 6AM. We were in Rockville within the hour. Upon check-in, I had to provide my date of birth and in turn I was given a name tag that was to be prominently displayed at all times.  While I sat fidgeting nervously in the waiting room, Thad took the opportunity to check out the snack basket and inspect the mini-fridge for goodies, while at the same time pointing out the appropriateness of the commercial for blinds (as in curtains) that played several times on the TV.

Soon enough my name was called.  Thad and I went to a small exam room at the back of the office where I again had to give my date of birth.  This time, rather than an official looking sticker to adorn my outfit, I was given something much better- Valium!  (It seemed like a good idea, but I am not sure it kicked in until the ride home.  Two might have been a better way to go.)

After a few more minutes of sitting around, the surgeon came in and promptly asked for my date of birth. Verifying that the chart in front of him and the person in his chair were one and the same,  we then went over last minute details and walked through the steps of the procedure.  I was given some classy blue covers to go over my shoes (making me feel like I was back in the Chengdu dentist’s office) and a lovely matching cap to cover my hair. (Just wait- these surgical accessories are going to be all the rage on the spring runway in Paris!)

With these various steps out of the way, Thad and I were taken to the waiting room right outside the surgical suite. (I like the way they refer to it as a suite. It sounds so soothing and comforting and not like somewhere I am going to meet my Final Destination demise.)

Soon enough, it was time to head in.  Thad couldn’t come in with me, but instead was at the window to the surgical suite, watching all the juicy goodness as it took place. With little preamble (other than once again stating my date of birth), I laid down on a medical bed and things started happening all around me. My fashionable blue cap doubled as a tissue holder, being stuffed with Kleenex to soak up the massive amount of liquid that was soon to be squirted into my eyes.  I spent the next few minutes looking at various green dots with my right eye, trying not to freak out as a speculum was placed around my eye and then attempting to keep my squawks of discomfort to a minimum as the surgeon put a suction cup on my eye and proceeded to cut a flap into the corneal tissue. Several times throughout this procedure the doctor asked if I was breathing.  At one point I think I replied with a very polite “No thank you.” Breathing required movement and there was no way I was going to make the slightest twitch while a laser was pointed at my eyeball! As he released the speculum from my right eye, I felt my whole body relax for just a second and I had the chance to fill my lungs with oxygen briefly, until I realized we now go to go through the whole process again, this time on my left eye.

Having successfully survived the corneal flap cutting stage, I then stood up and walked/was walked a few feet away to a second bed in the suite.  This was where the real sizzling action took place!  Starting again with Ol’ Righty, I watched the pretty green, flickering light, as red ones danced around the edges of my vision.  During the seventeen seconds of laser-ing, the room filled with a lovely scent that one of the nurses had told me to expect and which she chalked up to the gasses used by the machine, but I am pretty sure it was the scent of my eye being seared by the laser! This laser reshaping of my eye was much less uncomfortable than the flap-cutting portion of the day, so with a bit more breathing, I made it through the fifteen seconds needed to then correct my left eye.

With the laser put away, the surgeon placed the flaps back over my eyes with what appeared to be a Q-tip, gushed my eyes with liquid once more and it was over!  As I stood up, ready to be led into the recovery room, not in pain, but a little disoriented, I was greeted with a camera!  Apparently, the staff at the medical clinic think that directly post-procedure is the best time for a photo op with the surgeon. ( I was promised a copy of this picture via email, so if/when it comes, I will add it here. I am terrified to imagine what it looks like, as I was on Valium, just had my eyes repaired via laser and was more than a bit disoriented at the moment.)

Thad met me in the recovery room, where we spent a total of about five minutes. I downed a couple Tylenol PMs, took my goodie bag of eye drops and bedtime eye covers and we were done.

(Here is a video, not of my surgery, but of one very much like mine.  It is a bit juicy and not for those with weak stomachs.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qoH0VHrOM9A )

Leaving the building, I felt pretty good, but it didn’t take long for the burning to emerge. By the time we got home, my eyes felt like a Thailand sunburn after months of overcast Chengxian skies. Thad filled my eyes with “comfort drops” (I have no idea what was in them, possibly puppy tears,  but they were liquid bliss, instantly relieving the burning sensation in my eyes.) With my ridiculously dorky eye covers taped to my face, I gently hit the pillow, only waking to re-“comfort drop” a couple of times, until mid-afternoon.

With a reading ban in place, (only once did I try to get away with it, tempted by a catalog that came in the mail, for which Thad promptly reprimanded me) I spent my waking hours watching a marathon of Cops on TV and blinking my way  through my assigned regimen of eye drops.

Twenty-four hours post-op, I tested at nearly 20/20 vision, with my left eye just a bit behind my right in the healing process. My crazy eye drop schedule will continue for a few more weeks, I have to tape the plastic goggles to my head each night for the next five days and the eye make-up prohibition continues to be in place for another week, which may kill me since I start Chinese classes on Monday (eye shadow, eye liner, mascara, oh my!) but otherwise, I am pretty good to go.

No contacts. No saline solution. No glasses.  No more four-eyed blindness!

The eyes of a hawk have finally become mine.  Success!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Hallowmas or Christween?

Seriously Target?  It is a well-known fact that there is no holiday I like less than Halloween, but still…have you no festive soul?

As proud owners of a silver Nissan Sentra for the next twenty-four hours (LASIK transportation), Thad and I decided to use our short-term mobility for such exciting adventures as dinner off the Metro line and a trip to Target that didn’t require crossing our fingers and hoping the bus doesn’t blow right by us.

After a tasty (and quite onion-y on Thad’s part) dinner at Lost Dog Café, we headed out to Potomac Yard to get candy for the costumed critters sure to ring our doorbell on Monday evening.  Heading to the back of the store to where the specialty aisles are usually located, I expected to be confronted with rows of Halloween costumes littering the ground in utter chaos.  (Halloween aisles resurrect nightmares from my teenage job as a clerk at ShopKo. I don’t know what it is about costumes, maybe it is part of the creepiness of the holiday, but the hangers seem to be invisible to the shoppers.  Why hang something back up when it can go in a pile of glittery, sparkly, wig filled refuse?)

Before we reached those ridiculous aisles, we stumbled upon something even more absurd- Christmas! Stockings to hang by the chimney with care, bells to jingle all the way, Dashers and Dancers and Comets and Vixens. It was all there.

The Halloween aisles and the burgeoning Christmas aisles have merged into one large holiday conglomerate. I could easily reach out and grab a pumpkin emblazoned bag of orange and black M&M’s with my left hand and simultaneously choose some adorable sledding penguin wrapping paper with my right.

As I pondered the corporate greed that might be blamed for this holiday insanity,  I realized that the possibility of a conspiracy exists, but it isn’t on the part of big-business.  The immediate jump from Halloween to Christmas really profits one group more than any other- the turkeys!  They are more than ugly (yet yummy), wattle-bearing birds- they might just be the brilliant minds behind the skipping of Thanksgiving. Much like the Chick-Fil-A cows and their campaign for us to eat more chicken, the birds have caught on and figure they’ll pull the same stunt by capitalizing on the consumerism of America. Target seems to be happy to comply with this devious plan, as the orange and black and red and green have mixed into a muddy gray of holiday ludicrousness.

Like it or not, Halloween is Monday night.  Let’s give our slowly sagging jack o’lanterns and spider-web covered bushes their chance to shine in the eerie strobe lights.  Santa and his elves can wait in the wings for just one more week before they make their first magical appearance and parents have to begin to explain how Mr. Claus can be at  both the mall and the parade a at the same time.

Pick a Park- Culture or Amusement?

Last weekend, Thad and I decided that this weekend we would take in some of Washington’s cultural magnificence.  Not far from the Rosslyn Metro station (which is just a few stops  up from us on the blue line) is the footbridge that leads to the Theodore Roosevelt Island National Memorial. We figured with the fall foliage out in full force, it would be a beautiful way to spend an afternoon.

But then option #2 came up: Six Flags with John and Erin!

Well, there was little debate to be had- if rides are an option, decision making is unnecessary.

The weather has definitely cooled off here lately, which created a bit of a conundrum in my mind.  I associate amusements parks with broiling summer days, finding a balance between comfortable yet cool clothing and the constant need for gallons of liquid refreshment. Pulling into a parking lot with brightly colored roller coasters on an overcast horizon and getting out of the car while pulling on a hoodie all felt a bit perplexing.

The day may not have been filled with a cacophony of fall colors, but it was filled with rainbow-hued roller coasters christened after super heroes.  (That, and one ridiculously dizzying spin on the teacups!)

John and Erin are well aware of my fear of heights. This became much glaringly obvious after they watched me crab-crawl, terrified,  across the glass floor of the 1,109 foot high Macau Tower a few years ago.  What they didn’t know is that my terror translates into a running scream/dialogue on rides.  It usually starts on the uphill climb with an announcement about the mistakes that have been made and then quickly morphs into a series of “Oh no!”’s and “I think I’m going to die”’s and a few “Oh my gosh!”’s.  The cries of fright are always G-rated, as I wouldn’t want to offend those eight year olds that are gleefully enjoying the ride of their lives. (Standing in line, waiting to willingly enter into these death defying situations, I always try to convince myself that it can’t be that bad when kids who only meet the height requirement by mere centimeters are blithely hopping on for a round of fear and fun.)

John, Erin, Thad and I spent the day, making the rounds to each of the roller coasters, making our way to a few spinning rides as well.  From Joker’s Jinx (terrifying start!) to Batwing (longest line ever!), rides were ridden and death was defied. (Disclaimer: I didn’t attempt all of them. I spent part of the day as a happy viewer, allowing the others to experience the terror without me.)

When the mercury hits sixty, I don’t normally think of amusement parks, but it turned out to be great, until the sun went down, when it quickly cooled off.  It wasn’t the rapidly chilling air that made me ready to call it a day though.  With Halloween just a week away, Six Flags is right in the middle of their Fright Night season, which means with the setting of the sun comes the appearance of costumed creatures, many of them wielding chainsaws!  I will nervously get on a speeding hunk of metal that shoots me into the air, turns upside down, twirls in corkscrews and then comes to a whiplash inducing, screeching halt, but I can’t handle the costumed creatures.  It was time to bid adieu to the park and head home and soothe the frazzled nerves created by perilous rides and creepy creatures.

Culture-smulture! Maybe next weekend we’ll make that trip to the Theodore Roosevelt Island Memorial and the lovely dancing leaves of fall!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

An Open Letter to My Eyeballs

Dear eyeballs,

We’ve been together for a little over three decades now. You played nice for the first half of those years, but about the mid-way point you decided that you weren’t going to put the full effort in any more.  I am not sure exactly when this choice was made, but it became glaringly obvious when I was in 10th grade and decided to take drivers’ ed.  To get my permit for the class, the DMV required that I take a vision test.  You failed me in that moment!  Apparently, not being able to read the gigantic letters on the first line was a problem for the ever-pleasant women who run the permit department.

Letting me down at that moment was a huge disappointment.  What is more important to a fifteen year old than getting a driver’s license and gaining a semblance of freedom?  (Okay, in my family that meant getting to drive the couple of miles to Marsing for milk or hauling my little brother to innumerable baseball practices.  It wasn’t exactly the total anarchy I had hoped for, but at least the Ford Taurus had a radio that would play Clay Walker at levels that I now realize NO country music should be played at.)

With your DMV failure, while initially seeming like a huge obstacle to overcome, I did gain one thing- a new fashion accessory.  Thanks to you, eyeballs, I spent the next three years of high school rocking a rainbow of colored contacts.  Being naturally light blue, I could easily change you up to nearly anything I wanted.  I think at one point I had four different contact containers on the bathroom counter, each with a different color of contact inside.  While the emerald ones were a stunning jewel-green, by far my favorites were the violet ones.  They by no means represented an eye color found anywhere in nature, but, they were amazing!  My pasty white skin made an excellent backdrop for those pansy purple contacts.  For that, I thank you!

The fact that you decided to not work up to your full potential, thereby forcing me into contacts (I have always refused to give in to wearing glasses- you may wish to make my life nerdier, but I have always attempted resistance!), has, at times, led to some problems.  There was the time in Oregon, while on vacation, that I lost a single contact.  The trip was a bit of a last minute deal and I hadn’t packed spare contacts.  I was miserable as we explored the Rouge River, me with one of you squeezed shut the entire time, totally throwing off my depth perception, causing me to trip over boulders that were closer than they appeared.  Or what about the time we  got a lovely case of pink-eye from my darling middle school students- do you remember being stuck to the contact like super glue?  I woke up in the middle of the night, knowing instantly from the swollen, eye-gunk feel of you that conjunctivitis and I would be taking a sick day together.  Since I wore thirty day contacts, that meant prying you open and fishing around until you finally released your eye-booger grip on my contact. That was not one of your more shining moments.

So, eyeballs of mine, you may have had the last fifteen years to slack off, and I hope you have enjoyed it, because your couch potato days are coming to an end. Next week you will be forced back to work.  A nice little laser, we’ll call him LASIK, is going to come for a visit, to force you back into shape, making you once again work the way you were intended.  Your long summer vacation is almost over, so enjoy the next couple of days. A week from now you will no longer be relying on contacts or glasses to do your job for you.

No more slacking. No more contact mishaps. No more unglamorous glasses. You, me and LASIK have a date.  Be ready, the laser is picking you up at 7:30 in the morning.



Are You Ready for Some Football?

The quickly creeping up end of October also means Thad’s birthday is just around the corner. Since he is slightly traumatized from his childhood days of birthday gifts wrapped in black and orange and filled with miniature candy bars, I figured I had better not get him anything with cute pumpkins or witches on it. I thought about adorable bat-covered goods, but decided a winged gift of another kind was more in order- tickets to the Eagles/Redskins game. Long a fan of the Philly team, this was the perfect opportunity for him to see them in person with just a jaunt up the blue line.

This was not Thad’s first Eagles game (he and Jeremy went to one in Seattle a few years ago, during which Shannon and I opted to partake of the downtown shopping opportunities instead), but it was mine. I have watched countless hours of pigskin frolicking on TV over the years, but this was my first live NFL experience.

The game itself was a success.  The Eagles had several interceptions and enough points to come out on top as the final seconds of the game ticked away. Although the game was at FedEx field, home of the Washington Redskins (how is this an appropriate mascot?!?), I was surprised by the large number of Eagles fans in attendance.  It was the makings of a massive flock to say the least! Our seats were in a section that was pretty even as far as red and green jerseys, so it seemed like every big play garnered both a standing ovation and a groan of despair.

Out of all the experiences at an NFL stadium, I was most astounded by the noise levels! When we watch football on TV, the announcers are always yammering on about the “12th Man” and its impact on the game. I guess I always assumed they were full of bologna and just liked to hear the sound of their own voices, but after sitting through it, I think they may actually know what they are talking about. The Redskins fans sitting directly in front of us were next to a column that had a metal grating around it.  The lovely man, whom I nicknamed “Kicky” for obvious reasons, took every possible opportunity to stand up and slam the heck out of that grate with his foot. That poor hunk of metal endured abuse when the defense needed to take a stand, when the offense made a fabulous play or just whenever Kicky felt some pent up rage. There was A LOT of that.

The only thing I can compare the stadium noise level to is an experience from a good many years back.  When I was in the sixth grade, like all tweens of the time (keeping in mind that this was before the term tween even existed), New Kids on the Block were just about the greatest things going.  I skated around the cement roller rink in Nampa innumerable times to catchy tunes like “Hanging Tough” and “The Right Stuff.” NKOTB posters covered the walls of the bedroom I shared with my older sister, Melyssa, and our cassette tape organizers always gave them top billing. The winter of that opening year of middle school, my Aunt Laurie decided to get my sister and I the most coveted gift for girls our age- tickets to the upcoming concert!  Not only did she get us tickets, but they were second row, floor seat tickets!!!  Melyssa and I couldn’t wait for the day of the concert to come and after an interminable wait, it arrived.  We were bundled off to the big city of Boise for our first live concert. After fending off the pleas of middle aged women wanting to buy our seats, we were there, front and center.  I remember little of the concert itself, but I do recall that the music was so loud that I could really only hear it by plugging my ears.  I think my little sixth grade self lost a bit of hearing that evening!  Although it probably wasn’t as bad as my memory recalls it, I remember the noise being excruciating.

New Kids on the Block and FedEx Field- more in common than one would imagine!

Game and noise level aside, there was one other thing that must be mentioned- the restrooms.  Like at most large events, there was always a line in the ladies’ bathroom.  The stadium had enough stalls though to keep things moving at a fairly decent clip.  The problem arose once the waiting was over.  The bathroom I went in had probably fifteen stalls in a row, but it quickly became clear that only maybe four of them were equipped with an all-important necessity- toilet paper!  At this point, the banter between red jerseys and green jerseys quickly stopped and a solution made everyone members of the same team.  A TP bucket brigade was formed!  The folks with paper in their stalls began tearing of sections and passing it under the stalls.  Each person passed it on until it reached the end, with another handful following it.  As the passing was happening, the women still in line figured out what was going on and took matters into their own hands as well. When I stepped out of my stall, having been both a participant and a beneficiary of the brigade, I noticed that all of the ladies in line had paper towels in hand.  (Paper towels are never a first choice, but there are worse options.) What an odd little happening in the middle of this crowded stadium…

Once the game came to an end, I gladly bid farewell to ol’ Kicky and silently wished him a sore foot in the morning.  We made our way back to the Metro and crammed in to a corner of a blue line train for the forty-five minute ride back to Crystal City.  Thad’s birthday gift ended up being a success- the Eagles came out with a win and he wasn’t inundated with orange and black covered knick-knacks!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Gourd Sculpting and Arachnid Treats

As many of you might know, Halloween is my least favorite of all holidays.  The aversion actually stems from several different routes, but the two major ones are my utter enmity towards the color orange and a high level of discomfort around costumed things.

On the costumed things tangent, let me demonstrate my issues with a short story:  A few years ago (okay, it was pre-Peace Corps, so more than just a few) Thad and I took a mini-vacation to Las Vegas with a few friends. Our group included Jeremy and Justin, two of his friends from high school, and Shannon, my best friend and fellow middle school teacher. After wandering the entire length of the Strip, several times, the day was drawing to a close, but there was one Vegas site that was high on a few people’s “Must See” lists- the Star Trek bar. Now, while this was not on a desirable side trip for me, I had hauled the entire group to the Excalibur so that I could get period pictures as a princess!  I owed them all an uncomplaining trip to nerd-dom. To be fair, the bar itself was pretty cool.  There were all these fancy, futuristic machines that poured drinks and lots of shiny and sparkly cocktail choices.  All was going well- for a short time.  Soon after we arrived, as Shannon and I sat giggling at the other bar patrons, suddenly a costumed creature appeared in front of us.  (I am still unsure if it was male or female.) As I have little Star Trek knowledge (other than trying to emulate Geordi LeForge by wearing my banana clips over my eyes) I didn’t know what character this things was supposed to be, but it was creeping me out.  S/he asked questions about where we were from and what we were doing, but all seemed to be aimed directly at me. After giving short, terse answers, I tried to look engrossed on whatever was playing on the TV at the time. The creature walked away, but soon it appeared again. (I later learned that my lovely husband was beckoning it over when I wasn’t looking.) Shannon, being nearly as filled with the heebie-jeebies as I was, agreed to skedaddle with me.  We quickly made plans to meet the others outside the hotel when they had finished their sci-fi concoctions and we made our hasty exit.  The only problem?  Apparently the costumed things are allowed to roam freely!  I figured if we got out of the bar itself, we would be safe, but no such luck.  Whatever this thing was continued to follow us through the hotel.  We had no choice but to beeline it for the closest building exit.  While we waited in the hotel’s driveway in Las Vegas’ slightly uncomfortable gazillion degree weather, we came to the conclusion that melting into the pavement like ice cream cones at a state fair was a better option that being tailed by whatever costumed creatures lurked in the comfort of the air conditioning.

But I digress…

Without Mom’s backyard pumpkin patch to wander through and pick my own pumpkins from, I was constrained to choosing from the supermarket’s meager selection.  Knowing that I had to haul my pick home on the bus, all colossal and prodigious pumpkins were quickly taken out of the running to be this year’s Halloween star. After sorting the short, fat pumpkins from the tall, long ones, I proceeded to turn the lucky top picks in full circles to get a view from each angle.  (I use a similar process in December with Christmas trees.  Thad loves going along on these excursions!) As the culling process proceeded, I finally narrowed the field down to two.  One had a better color to it, but it was a bit small, so he (I always refer to my pumpkins as male)earned himself the runner-up spot. The tiara and sash went to a rather rotund gourd that had a great tilt to him, making the perfect canvas for my jack o’lantern. (Note to Shopper’s Supermarket: Do something about your harvest display located near the pumpkins. Those bales of straw are not hay, they are straw.  There is a huge difference. And  three bales does not a haystack make!)

With our gourd safely back home, it was time to finish getting ready for the carving party. (Yes, the pronoun “our” is correct.  Thad and I decided to share one pumpkin.  We would split the fun.  He would clean the guts out and I would carve.  Fair deal!!)  I soon finished decorating my spider cake- arachnids from Oreos (!) and got the house picked up and extra chairs hauled in from the patio.

John and Erin showed up, right on time, with apple cider, a couple more pumpkins and a carving kit.  It was time to get to it!

After covering the table with newspapers we had collected from the “free paper” boxes nearby, it carving commenced. Erin, our resident artist, carved an intricate design of bats flying around a sliver of moon, edged with clear marbles for stars. John, after painstakingly cleaning his pumpkin and sorting the seeds, carved his jack o’lantern in about three minutes flat. My effort fell somewhere in between the two with a clownish-faced Halloween friend.

Without the terror of costumed creatures lurking about, our evening of carving pumpkins and munching on spider cake made the thought of Halloween just a little easier to swallow. Celebrating pre-Halloween is the future of the holiday for me!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Ode to the Fresh Prince

Now this is a story all about how
My 3-day weekend got me right out of town
And I liked to take a minute just sit right there
And tell you how I spent the weekend in Pennsylvania’s care.

In West Philadelphia for Columbus Day
On the hunt for stamps is where I spent most of my days
Chillin out, maxin, relaxing all cool,
Staying at a Sheraton with Wi-Fi but no pool.
A few years back a couple of guys  were up to some good
Started making trouble in the neighborhood
With a Continental Congress their grievances they aired                                                                                                                                   And soon Hancock said, “I’ll sign big. I ain’t scared!”

I jumped on the SEPTA when it came near
Dream of new stamps afresh
And adventure coming nearer
If anything I could say that this town was swell
but I thought nah, forget it
yo on to the Liberty Bell!

I hopped off the train feeling super great
I yelled to Thad Ross “Yo the king was such a hater!”
I looked at Independence Hall, I was finally there
To witness history in this famous square.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Radioactive Bananas

As Thad continues, on a daily basis, to unravel the intricacies of Mandarin Chinese, occasionally making his teachers cringe with pronouncements such as “The puppy must depend on the bitch,” I have also occasionally ventured into the buildings that comprise FSI (the Foreign Service Institute). I can’t speak for generations of spouses before me, but one thing that the Foreign Service is really doing well now is making sure that the accompanying family members of the officers are well-educated.  They have an entire department set up for this purpose alone.  Through these offices, I have been able to sign-up for and attend an array of classes, including ones on what life is “really” like in the Foreign Service and one all about the details of the various allowances the government has set aside for diplomatic officers, but doesn’t necessarily hand out unless they are requested.  Good information to have in my back pocket.

My time of casually attending these classes is quickly drawing to a close though, as the last day of October is not only my least favorite holiday in the whole world, but also the start to my scheduled Chinese classes. (Seriously- I preferred getting smacked with a cow stomach blown up like a balloon during Carnival when I lived in the Dominican Republic to the abundance of costumed teenagers standing at my door looking for a candy handout and the ubiquitous “sexy” anything and everything. For women the country-over, this seems to be a holiday designed to let out any latent street-walker leanings.  As a side note- little trick-or-treaters are fabulous and cute!)

A couple of weeks and a huge list of possible classes to attend don’t mesh well, so I quickly signed up for the ones that I could squeeze into my remaining time.  Information gleaned off of building-mates in the elevator and other spouses lead me to believe that the one “must-have” class was the Security Overseas Seminar.  It is designed to be a two day course covering basic security concerns for posts worldwide.  It sounded important.  It sounded practical.  It sounded interesting.  I signed up.

It was all of those things and more.  It was terrifying.  It was paranoia-creating. It should be renamed “101 Ways to Die in the Foreign Service,” although I am not sure this would draw the same clientele that the current, mundane “Security Overseas Seminar” does.  (The course is required for all diplomats, so Thad does get the pleasure of attendance at some point this winter.)

Rather than going into great detail about all of the sessions and the possibilities for harm that await us abroad, I have compiled a short list of things I learned over my two days of attendance.

***In case of situation where decontamination is necessary, my clothes will be cut off of me by trained staff. I will then be soaped down in an effort to get all contamination off my body.  Contamination tends to cling to hair.  I will be given a sponge and told to take care of these areas myself.  If I do not do a sufficient job, I will be given a second chance.  If again this cleaning is not adequate, the staff will instruct me to take a wide stance and look at the sky (apparently this minimizes embarrassment) while they do the job for me. This is good to know.  I will make sure my first two attempts are quite thorough!

***Radiation is a daily part of life. Our TVs and microwaves give off radiation. We all travel and get doses of radiation from the airport.  People should not freak out each time FOX News goes on a 24-hour news cycle binge about cellphone radiation.  Even bananas contain radiation.  How many bananas would I need to eat to be harmed by it?  ALL of them!

***In case of an evacuation, I should always have a “Go-Bag” ready. This should be packed with basic items such as a change of clothes, some non-perishable snack items, and copies of important documents, as well as some American cash. We did not have one of these in Peace Corps and when we were told we were being evacuated post-earthquake, we had just a few minutes to grab what we would need for an indefinite stay away from our post. In that time of uncertainty, I grabbed my all-important stuffed monster, Zugly, that I have had since I was in about the second grade and somehow my Cleveland  Browns shirt, a lovely “gift” from friends at home,  made it into the backpack as well. (For those of you not aware, I HATE the Cleveland Browns.  The reasons why are long and a little complicated, but to sum it up, I can’t handle the fact that a team named the Browns uses orange as their main color and that they have a set of outfits that make them look just like a bunch of Tootsie Rolls when they don them.) If I remember correctly, Thad’s backpack carried the laptop, but also a crucial addition of Doritos that we had recently acquired from outside of town.  A pre-planned Go-Bag is probably a good thing for the Ross family!

***Many posts are extremely cold. I may not jerry-rig a brick with a heating element to create my own personal foot-warmer.  Apparently, the heat from this will be enjoyed by the fire inspection staff from Washington DC and once they are properly warmed, they will unplug it and take it away from me. (Yes, it happened.  Yes, the instructor had the brick with him.)

***When I move into my new home, if it is an apartment building, I should often take the stairs. This is not only good for my health. Knowing who lives (yes, you read that correctly!) in my stairwell and making acquaintances with these people can be to my advantage.  Good to know!

Is this an exhaustive list of what I learned at SOS this last week?  Nope, but it does give a taste of what the class is like. I now know where the best places to be in case of a possible bomb are (it naturally boils down to “as far away as possible”) and how to circumvent questions that seem to be a bit too inquisitive about embassy life (“Why did you ask me that?” apparently shuts things down pretty quickly).

With that under my belt, I’ve got just a bit of time off and then I’ll be joining Thad in his attempt to curtail the inadvertent swearing in Mandarin!