Welcome to our unaccompanied tours (UT) blog, Foggy Bottom Rambles! We can share information, programs, and resources quickly with you and since blogs are a two way street, we (and the other readers) can hear from you. What's in a name you say? This blog reflects how we (back here in DC, Foggy Bottom area) provide information (rambles) to you. Find tips from the field, websites and information, home is where the hooch is suggestions, upcoming programs and events and follow our book club. Let us know what you think: contribute to the blog or email us at FLOaskUT@state.gov.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

FSI Announces: Encouraging Resilience in the Foreign Service Child (MQ500)

Wednesday, May 6, 2015
6:00 pm - 8:30 pm

Raising resilient children is a common goal of parents, doing so in the Foreign Service context poses unique challenges and opportunities.  Join us and other nomadic parents to explore means to foster resilience in your child(ren).

This workshop will include:
·         A panel of Foreign Service Third Culture Kids (TCKs)
·         A wide variety of tools parents can use to model and nurture resilience presented by a psychotherapist who herself is an EFM and parent
·         Tips and ideas for mitigating the challenges of raising transient children

Who May Attend:
Open to all Foreign Affairs agency employees (FS and CS) and adult eligible family members (EFMs).

Where and When:
At the Foreign Service Institute, George P. Shultz National Foreign Affairs Training Center, Arlington, VA on Wednesday, May 6, 2015 from 6:00 pm- 8:30 pm in room C3116.

How to Register:
To register please email the name of participant(s), agency affiliation, and preferred email contact to FSITCTraining@state.gov.

Tuition: No Charge


For questions about this workshop please contact coordinators at FSITCTraining@state.gov.

For more information about other Transition Center programs and training classes for personnel, family members and members of household, see our website at http://tc.fsi.state.gov/

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Passport Acceptance Day at Washington Passport Agency

On Saturday, April 25, the Department is hosting a Passport Acceptance Day at the Washington Passport Agency from 9:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m.  This event will offer appointment and walk-in services for applicants using Form DS-11 (all first-time applicants, all minors, and applicants who are not eligible to use Form DS-82) who want to apply ahead of the summer travel rush.  

Applicants must be eligible to complete, execute, and submit Form DS-11, and have no immediate travel plans.  Passport processing time is four to six weeks.  Expedited processing, will call service, and same-day passport issuance will not be available.  Individuals who want to renew a passport using Form DS-82 should apply via U.S. mail. 

Event:                 Passport Acceptance Day

Date:                   Saturday, April 25, 2015

Time:                   9:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. 

Washington Passport Agency
600 19th St, N.W., Sidewalk Level
                            Washington, DC 20006

Appointments:   Please call 1-877-487-2778  

Payment:             Check or money order only

For more information on how to apply for a U.S. passport, including necessary documents and fees, please visit Travel.State.Gov.  U.S. citizens may also obtain passport information by phone, in English and Spanish, by calling the National Passport Information Center toll-free at 1-877-487-2778. 

Friday, April 17, 2015

Family Member Employment Forum

                 May 14, 2015
                 9:00am - 1:00pm
                U.S. Department of State
                George Marshall Center
                21st Street and Virginia Avenue NW

                Washington, DC

               Event Information and to Register:


Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Coping with stress

On April 14, 2015 FLO& MHN presented an excellent session on 

Coping with the Stress of Change

If you missed the session but would like a workbook please write us at FLOaskUT@state.gov

If you would like more information on resiliency please visit Beth Payne’s blog Fostering Resiliencehttp://wordpress.state.gov/fosteringresilience/

Handout D. from MHN's Coping with Stress of Change Workbook
                               Active Relaxation Techniques.
Progressive Relaxation
This technique is often most useful when you tape the instructions beforehand. You can tape these instructions, reading them slowly and leaving a short pause after each one.
Lie on your back, close your eyes.
Feel your feet. Sense their weight. Consciously relax them and sink into the bed. Start with your toes and progress to your ankles.
Feel your knees. Sense their weight. Consciously relax them and feel them sink into the bed.
Feel you upper legs and thighs. Fell their weight. Consciously relax them and feel them sink into the bed.
Feel your abdomen and chest. Sense your breathing. Consciously will them to relax. Deepen your breathing slightly and feel your abdomen and chest sink into the bed.
Feel your buttocks. Sense their weight. Consciously relax them and feel them sink into the bed.
Feel your hands. Sense their weight. Consciously relax them and feel them sink into the bed.
Feel your upper arms. Sense their weight. Consciously relax them and feel them sink into the bed.
Feel your shoulders. Sense their weight. Consciously relax them and feel them sink into the bed.
Feel your neck. Sense its weight. Consciously relax it and feel it sink into the bed.
Feel your head and skull. Sense its weight. Consciously relax it and feel it sink into the bed.
Feel your mouth and jaw. Consciously relax them. Pay particular attention to your jaw muscles and unclench them if you need to. Feel your mouth and jaw relax and sink into the bed.
Feel your eyes. Sense if there is tension in your eyes. Sense if you are forcibly closing your eyelids. Consciously relax your eyelids and feel the tension slide off the eyes.
Feel your face and cheeks. Consciously relax them and feel the tension slide off into the bed.

Mentally scan your body. If you find any place that is still tense, then consciously relax that place and let it sink into the bed. 

Friday, April 10, 2015

Don't Forget.......

Coping with the Stress of Change


Tuesday, April 14, 2015 at 8:00 a.m. (ET)

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Facing the unexpected emotions of grief

Edward T. Creagan, M.D.
As an oncologist, every day I see people who have cancer struggle with death and dying. Every day, I also see families struggle with the inevitable end of life — families who aren’t really prepared for the avalanche of emotions that sweep over them when the final moment comes, even if they knew death was imminent.
I know how challenging and devastating the raw, intense emotions of grief can be, because it’s happened to me.
I went for a run one frigid winter morning nearly 30 years ago. When I got home, my son, Ed, then 18, compassionately broke the news — my mother had died. Even though my mother had struggled with breast cancer and alcoholism, the news struck me like a two-by-four whipsawed across my abdomen. I felt drained of every ounce of vitality. It took all the energy I had to keep from slumping to the floor. As the hours evolved into days, it became exhausting — even physically painful — to make any decisions. Our family was completely unprepared for the feelings of confusion and disorganization following the news.
Easing the healing process of grief
Painful as my own grief was, my mother’s death gave me new insight on dealing with grief. Although there are no quick fixes for the anguish after a loved one’s death, I learned that you can take steps to make the coping easier. Here are my suggestions:
·        Actively grieve and mourn. Grief is an inner sense of loss, sadness and emptiness. Mourning is how you express those feelings. You might plan a funeral or memorial service, wear black, and carry a somber demeanor. Both grief and mourning are natural and necessary parts of the healing process after a loss.
·        Acknowledge your pain. If you don’t face your grief, your wounds might never quite go away. Accept that the pain you’re feeling is part of dealing with grief and moving toward a state of healing and acceptance.
·        Look to loved ones and others for support. Spending some time alone is fine, but isolation isn’t a healthy way to deal with grief. A friend, a confidant, a spiritual leader — all can help you along the journey of healing. Allow loved ones and other close contacts to share in your sorrow or simply be there when you cry.
·        Don’t make major decisions while grieving. Grief clouds the ability to make sound decisions. If possible, postpone big decisions — such as moving, taking a new job or making major financial changes. If you must make decisions right away, seek the input or guidance of trusted loved ones or other close contacts.
·        Take care of yourself. Grief consumes a significant amount of energy. Your will to live and ability to follow normal routines might quickly erode. To combat these problems, try to get adequate sleep, eat a healthy diet and include physical activity in your daily routine. Consider a medical checkup to make sure your grief isn’t adversely affecting your health — especially if you have any existing health conditions.
·        Remember that time helps, but it might not cure. Time has the ability to make that acute, searing pain of loss less intense and to make your red-hot emotions less painful — but your feelings of loss and emptiness might never completely go away. Accepting and embracing your new “normal” might help you reconcile your losses.
Losing a loved one is devastating. Someday, however, the sun will shine again. The day will seem brighter and your life will go on — even if it’ll never be quite the same.
Edward T. Creagan, M.D.
Division of Medical Oncology
Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn.
reprinted from MHN Member Pulse Digest March 2015 for more information on MHN please write FLOaskUT@state.gov 

Friday, April 3, 2015

Recognizing Depression

Depression is serious but can be treated. More than a blue mood, depression can change thoughts, feelings and actions, and also how your body feels. Depression is a disease, and it takes more than just “toughening up” to manage it. Without treatment, symptoms can last for months, years or one’s whole life.
Depression comes in many forms:
·         Depression can occur all of a sudden for no clear reason.
·         Stress can trigger depression.
·         Some people feel depressed once in their life; others feel that way often.
·         Some people’s symptoms are so strong they cannot function as usual.
·         Other people can still function but do not feel well.
·         Some people have bipolar disorder (also called manic-depressive illness). They feel “low” at times and “high” other times.

Getting help
Depression can lower your ability or interest in getting help. You may feel tired, worthless, helpless, and hopeless. For that reason:
·         You may need help from family and friends to find treatment.
·         You may be so depressed that someone must take you for treatment.
·         Don’t ignore suicidal thoughts, words or acts.
·         Seek professional help for depression.

The signs of depression
The following are some of the symptoms you may feel.
·         Sadness for longer than two weeks
·         Irritability
·         Frequent crying
·         Fatigue
·         Guilt, worthlessness or helplessness
·         Thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts
·         Chronic aches and pains that don’t feel better with treatment
·         Eating problems (loss of appetite or weight, or weight gain)
·         Difficulty concentrating, remembering or making decisions
·         Loss of interest or pleasure in activities, including sex
·         Problems sleeping (insomnia, early-morning waking or oversleeping)

When should you seek help
Call your Employee Assistance Program (EAP) or talk to your primary care doctor if you have been feeling any of the above signs of depression for more than two weeks, or if they are hurting your work or family life. You can use the checklist as a starting point with your doctor or EAP for identifying depression. A good diagnosis involves a total physical checkup and a review of your family’s health history.
Depression often co-exists with other medical, psychiatric or substance abuse disorders. In those cases, depression is often not treated or even recognized. Even when depression occurs with other problems, it can usually be treated. The effective treatment of depression often seems to help other conditions to respond better to treatment as well.
This article is for informational and self-help purposes only. It should not be treated as a substitute for financial, medical, psychiatric, psychological, or behavioral health care advice, or as a substitute for consultation with a qualified professional.
 MHN Member Pulse Digest March 2015

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Breaking News             Breaking News
Coping with the Stress of Change
  Tuesday, April 14, 2015 at 8:00 a.m. (ET)

       In this session we will discuss the challenges of change, identify different aspects of the change process, describe ways to modify your stress responses to change, and present options for making the most of change. A participant workbook accompanies the session and individuals are encouraged to request a copy before the session by writing FLOaskUT@state.gov.

       New Format! Adobe Connect allows us to interactively communicate with you via the chat function anytime during the webinar. No training or experience necessary, just log on. A trainer from MHN (a Health Net Company) will facilitate the discussion.

      Participants may attend in person or virtually. Virtual participants will need a computer with a high-speed Internet connection and speakers.

     To participate in the webinar to:                                      Department of State Webinar: Enter as a guest, type your first name and your post or future post. The session will begin at 8:00 a.m. (ET) and will last one hour. It will be held in Room 1239 of the Harry S.Truman Building.   

To participate in-person: RSVP to FLOaskUT@state.gov. If you do not have a Department of State ID or diplomatic passport, please let us know so someone will be available to escort you.

Please direct questions or in-person RSVPs to FLO's Unaccompanied Tours office at     202-647-1076 or email FLOaskUT@state.gov.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Food and Mood

According to WebMD, growing research suggests that your diet may affect your mood.1 The following foods (and nutrients) may not only be good for your mood, they can also help your overall health:2
·        Omega-3s: Omega-3s may protect us from chronic stress damage. Canned light tuna, sardines, flaxseed, and chia seeds are all good sources of omega-3s.3
·        Complex carbs: Carbs trigger the brain to make more serotonin, a feel-good, calming chemical. Complex carbs provide a steady supply of serotonin. By keeping blood sugar levels stable, complex carbs can also help you feel balanced. Whole-grain breads, pastas and cereals (including oatmeal) are all good sources of complex carbs. Avoid simple carbs, such as sugary foods and drinks.2
·        Vitamin C: Oranges are packed with vitamin C. Studies suggest this vitamin can lower stress hormone levels while making the immune system stronger.2
·        Magnesium: Low magnesium can contribute to headaches, fatigue and premenstrual syndrome (PMS). Green, leafy vegetables, cooked soybeans, pumpkin seeds, and salmon are all good sources of magnesium.2
·        B vitamins: Vitamin B-12 and other B vitamins play a role in mood and other brain functions. Low levels of B-12 and other B vitamins such as vitamin B-6 and folate may be linked to depression.4 Vitamin B-12 can be found in animal products such as fish, lean meat, poultry, eggs, and low fat and fat-free milk. Fortified cereal is also a good source of B-12 and other B vitamins.
·        Polyphenols: Eating a diet rich in polyphenols (found in colorful fruits, vegetables, spices, teas and wines) may support brain health and help battle brain-related disorders. For example, green tea and turmeric have been associated with better brain function, better mood and protection against various brain diseases.5
·        Tryptophan: Tryptophan helps production of serotonin in the brain. Try to incorporate tryptophan-rich foods in your diet, such as pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds and kidney beans.6
·        Calcium: Calcium can ease tension, anxiety and mood swings linked to PMS. Try a glass of warm skimmed or low-fat milk before bed.7

Article thanks to:

MHN Members Pulse Digest 

Interested in receiving Members Pulse?  Please write FLOaskUT@state.gov

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

UT Book Club

Just read a good book?  Share it with the community!  Write FLOaskUT@state.gov

Below are some books you might enjoy!


The Wasted Vigil by Nadeem Aslam
The End of Manners by Francesca Marciano
In the Shadow of the Prohet by Milton Viorst
Come Back to Afghanistan by Said Hyder Akbar
The Caged Virgin by Ayann Hirsi
Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi
Kabul in Winter by Ann Jones
Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseine
The Places in Between by Rory Stewart
My Forbidden Face by Latifa
Kabul Beauty School by Deborah Rodriquez
Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson & David Oliver Relin
Swallows of Kabul by Yasmina Khadra
The Bookseller of Kabul by Asne Seierstad
A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hasseine
Charlie Wilson’s War by George Crile
Caravans by James A Michener
Afghan Campaign by Steven Pressfield
The Warlord’s Son by Dan Fesperman
In Afghanistan by David Loyn

Youth Fiction Afghanistan

The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis
Parvana’s Journey by Deborah Ellis
Mud City by Deborah Ellis
A Bed of Red Roses by Nelofer Pazira


The Translator by Daoud Hari
The Number 1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith
Last King of Scotland by Giles Foden
Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight by Alexandra Fuller
The Sheltering Sky by Paul Bowles


Crescent by Diana Abu-Jaber
Arab Folktales by Inea Bushnaq
Nights and Horses and the Desert edited by Robert Irwin
The Prize by Daniel Yergin
Ghosts of War by Ryan Smithson
The Nightingale by Morgana Gallaway
Soft Spots by B. Van Winkle
Absent by Betool Khedairi
Land of Marvels by Barry Unsworth
Voices of the Desert by Nelida Pinon


Trespassing by Uzma Aslam Khan
 Moghul Buffett by Cheryl Benard
Train to Pakistan by Khushwant Singh
 Shadows by Kamila Shamsie
Passion and Peril on the Silk Road by Susan Barrett Price
Stones into Schools by Gregg Mortenson
Diplomatic Immunity by Grant Sutherland
In Other Rooms, Other Wonders by Daniyal Mueenuddin

Youth Fiction Pakistan

Shabanu, Daughter of the Wind by Suzanne Fisher Staples
Havali by Suzanne Fisher Staples
House of Djinn by Suzanne Fisher Staples
Under the Persimmon Tree by Suzanne Fisher Staples

Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Lebanon, Bosnia-Herzegovina

The Yacoubian Building by Alaa Al Aswany
8 Months on Ghazzah Street by Hilary Mantel
Finding  Noef  Zoe Ferraris
The Cairo Trilogy by Najib Mahfuz
Beneath a Sky of Porphyry by Aicha Lemsine
The Chrysalis Aicha Lemsine
The Dawning by Milka Bajic
The Media Relations Department of Hizbollah Wishes you a Happy Birthday by  Neil MacFarquhar

Thursday, February 26, 2015

MHN Workshop on Building Healthy Families - Excerpt from February 20 Webinar


Most important rule: Use statements that deal only with child’s efforts and accomplishments, not with his character or personality.
Be specific and concrete.

Questions place the child-on the defensive.

Look for strengths in child and opportunities to “stroke” desired behaviors. It’s very easy to become too focused on negative behaviors.

Feelings need to be identified and acknowledged; undesirable actions may have to be limited, stopped or redirected.

Make rules that are specific, behavioral and concrete.

State things positively.

After you have said what you want, if not forthcoming, do something.

In order to get the behavior you want, expect to enforce it!

If you say something will happen, e.g. a consequence, make it happen.
MHN: Family Communication Page 13

Make rules that you both believe in and feel okay about enforcing.

Provide nurturing at other times.

Make very clear and explicit.

“Don’t do as I do, do as I say” simply doesn’t work.
Avoid talking in global terms or using judgmental words.

Should be fairly immediate or close (in time) to specific behavior.

When you feel your continued presence will only reinforce the behavior and/or escalate into a power struggle.

Think about what you would normally do, then do something different, perhaps the opposite.