Great American Western Road Trip: Summer 2018

4 weeks, 3 kids, 1 van, 16 different lodgings, 5400+ miles, 12+ National or State Parks and Monuments adds up to 1 Epic Adventure.

American Southwest Family Vacation 2017

We followed historic Route 66 on our way to see the Grand Canyon, the Petrified Forest, the Painted Desert, plus much more in New Mexico and Arizona.

End of Tour Summary: Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

Here are our stories from two and a half years of living in Saudi Arabia while exploring the region.

Excursions to Oman

On two different trips, we strolled Muscat, hiked Wadi Shab, and sailed a dhow through the fjords of Musandam.

Our Expedition to Jordan

Highlights included tracing the steps of Indiana Jones into Petra, following Lawrence of Arabia into Wadi Rum, and floating in the Dead Sea.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

A Toddler's birthday party: Organized Chaos

This weekend we celebrated our daughter's second birthday. It was a pool party, with an aquatic theme. You'd think this would be pretty straight-forward to decorate with, since everyone knows Nemo. But finding Nemo nowadays is nearly impossible, as Cars have run them out of the toy stores, party shops, and balloon stands. But after many hours of searching, we found some large balloons shaped like colorful fish AND got a discount on them...because the store was trying to clear them out to make room for something more popular.

In keeping with the theme, we had a clownfish-shaped cake, cupcakes decorated with various sea creatures, fish bowls filled with blue jello and gummy fish suspended within them, and even aquatic animal-shaped beachballs floating in the pool.

The cake
The birthday feast
Gummi fish in blue jello
By the way...if you're planning on suspending anything in jello, make sure the fluid has enough gelatin and the refrigerator is cold enough. Otherwise, you might find yourself up at midnight trying to figure out a way to keep the gummy fish from sinking to the bottom, like ours did.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Backstop 76 applications submitted

So, in an effort to hedge my future employment bets, I've also applied for two Crisis, Stabilization and Governance Officer (Backstop 76) positions with USAID. I think what drew me in was this section of the job description:

As an Officer in USAID's Foreign Service, s/he serves most of his/her career overseas in less developed countries affected by conflict, complex emergencies, natural disasters, and transitions in governance. S/he manages U.S. Government resources, implementation teams, contractors and grantees to achieve specific program objectives and results. If selected to serve as a BS-76 officer, s/he will be expected to develop the required competencies and skills across the full range of technical and program areas associated with the variety of functions within this backstop. However, the officer will be assigned initially in one of the two main focal areas of the backstop, namely governance (democracy, political processes and transitions, stabilization) OR response (disaster and complex emergencies, food aid and humanitarian assistance) based on prior experience and demonstrated competencies/skill sets. The officer will then be provided opportunities to develop expertise in the related sub-skill specialties that encompass this rather broad backstop through training and subsequent assignments.
Yeah, live overseas (with family), help people in need, and make the world a better place...and get paid for it? Here's hoping.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Future Career Path Discussions with the Colonel (4 of 11)

My Foreign Service Oral Assessment invitation arrived today! 107 days since I took the Foreign Service Officer Test (FSOT) 66 days since I submitted the PNQs. I saw the email on my phone as I was headed for lunch, and wouldn't you know it, I couldn't download the file. And while it took a great deal of self-discipline not to rush to the nearest computer to find out the results, I decided that win or lose, it was better to find out on a full stomach. The butterflies aren't nearly as frantic when they are sated.

As I drove to the library to check my test results, the last song playing on the radio was the Black Eyed Peas "Tonight's gonna be a good night." Call it the power of positive thinking (even if you don't like the song), but I opened the letter with guarded optimism. Like most people, I stopped processing what I read after reading "Congratulations!" It's still not guaranteed that I'll pass the OA, but at least I'm still in contention. I'm currently deciding when to schedule my OA, as my job is looking to start getting busier as time goes by.

Concurrently, the paperwork for the second military promotion board has started to flow. I should point out that my career field is considered “mission support”, one that lacks the glamour and fraternity of being a ‘flier’ or the 'practical necessity' of several other career fields (medical, special operations, etc). This is a polite way of stating that the promotion opportunity for me “above the zone” was virtually non-existent.  Which led to a fun interchange between my boss and me during the career path discussion he's having with each of his subordinants:

Me: "Sir, I'm here for my appointment to discuss my career options with you."
Boss: ", given your situation, have you looked at what opportunities are available to you?"
Me: "I have. And very few of them involve staying in the military."
As for the extended metaphor: To me, it feels like I’m watching the engine oil temperature dial for my one remaining engine slowly rising and knowing that if the engine gets too hot, it’s going to seize up. You, my friend, are about to watch me become a very heavy glider.

To read my Military to Civilian Transition mini-series in chronological order, Click Here.
To read my Entering the Foreign Service mini-series in chronological order, Click Here.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Quote of the Day

Here's a comforting thought for anyone facing the unknown:

"You need to start getting comfortable with being uncomfortable."

Blog Archive

Honest Post Reports