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, January 22, 2015

Staying in Touch While Separated

Use all communication avenues open between you and post. These days we rely on electronic mail and telephones to provide speedy connections; with added equipment one can easily add photos, videos, and even real-time communication via web cameras. If your family does not already own a digital camera, computer, or web cam, this would be a very good time to get one, or better yet, two. However, good old “snail mail” is still a very viable option and most people appreciate a             hand-written note or drawing, especially from children. Buy greetings cards and presents ahead of departure; stock up on ‘Forever’ stamps if post has U.S. mail capabilities; make sure the computer, phones, cameras are in functioning order; set family ground rules for communications: e.g., length of calls; sharing air-time when Dad/Mom is on the line with one person; agree to not draw negative conclusions if one party misses a phone date; decide together which dates are the most important not to miss: e.g., birthdays, anniversary, and set up a family calendar showing schedule of calls, R&Rs, etc.

For more information request our Separated by Service guide from FLOaskUT@state.gov or visit our Resources for Parents and Children site

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Fitness:  Tips for Staying Motivated
Have you ever started a fitness program and then quit? If you answered yes, you’re not alone. Many people start fitness programs but stop when they get bored or results come too slowly. Here are seven tips to help you stay motivated.
1. Set goals. Start with simple goals and then progress to longer range goals. Remember to make your goals realistic and achievable. It’s easy to get frustrated and give up if your goals are too ambitious.
For example, if you haven’t exercised in a while, a short-term goal might be to walk 10 minutes a day three days a week. An intermediate goal might be to walk 30 minutes five days a week. A long-term goal might be to complete a 5K walk.
2. Make it fun. Find sports or activities that you enjoy, then vary the routine to keep you on your toes. If you’re not enjoying your workouts, try something different. Join a volleyball or softball league. Take a ballroom dancing class. Check out a health club or martial arts center. Discover your hidden athletic talent. Remember, exercise doesn’t have to be drudgery — and you’re more likely to stick with a fitness program if you’re having fun.
3. Make physical activity part of your daily routine. If it’s hard to find time for exercise, don’t fall back on excuses. Schedule workouts as you would any other important activity. You can also slip in physical activity throughout the day. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Walk up and down sidelines while watching the kids play sports. Pedal a stationary bike or do strength training exercises while you watch TV at night.
4. Put it on paper. Are you hoping to lose weight? Boost your energy? Sleep better? Manage a chronic condition? Write it down. Seeing the benefits of regular exercise on paper may help you stay motivated.
You may also find it helps to keep an exercise diary. Record what you did during each exercise session, how long you exercised and how you felt afterward. Recording your efforts can help you work toward your goals — and remind you that you’re making progress.
5. Join forces with friends, neighbors or others. You’re not in this alone. Invite friends or co-workers to join you when you exercise. Work out with your partner or other loved ones. Play soccer with your kids. Organize a group of neighbors to take fitness classes at a local health club.
6. Reward yourself. After each exercise session, take a few minutes to savor the good feelings that exercise gives you. This type of internal reward can help you make a long-term commitment to regular exercise. External rewards can help, too. When you reach a longer range goal, treat yourself to a new pair of walking shoes or new tunes to enjoy while you exercise.
 7. Be flexible. If you’re too busy to work out or simply don’t feel up to it, take a day or two off. Be gentle with yourself if you need a break. The important thing is to get back on track as soon as you can.
Now that you’ve regained your enthusiasm, get moving! Set your goals, make it fun and pat yourself on the back from time to time. Remember, physical activity is for life. Review these tips whenever you feel your motivation slipping.
By MHN Member Pulse

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Are You Ready for Change?
Nobody’s perfect, so there’s probably something about your life, habits or routine that you’d like to change. Maybe you want to eat healthier or exercise more. To improve your chances of making a long-lasting change, try these tips.
1. List the benefits of healthy change. To increase your chance of success, remember to pick just one or two areas of your life that you want to change. Then write down exactly what you could gain by making a change. You might note that you’d have more energy if you exercised, for example, or lower your blood pressure if you ate healthier meals.
2. Evaluate your readiness for change. Behavior change happens over time, not overnight. Knowing where you are in the change process can help you develop a plan for moving forward – and ultimately achieving lifelong change. Which stage of change describes you?
             Considering making a change – You’re thinking about change, and see some of the benefits. You see a lot of roadblocks, too, though. You’re just not sure if change is possible or will be worth the effort.
             Planning or taking some action – Change now looks like a real possibility, and you believe that the benefits will be worth the work. You have a plan for overcoming roadblocks and you’re starting to lay the foundation for change.
             Making the change – You are making the change, and working hard to make it part of your routine. You are committed to your goal.
3. Move towards change by creating a S-M-A-R-T goal. A S-M-A-R-T goal is:
            Specific – You know exactly what you need to do.
            Measurable – You can track your progress easily and objectively.
            Attainable – You have a clear vision of the steps you’ll take.
             Realistic – You are honest with yourself about the challenges, and have a good plan for confronting them.
             Timely – You have a clear, reasonable timeline.
Example of a SMART goal: For the next three months (timely and measurable), I will go for a brisk walk (specific, realistic and attainable).
When creating your S-M-A-R-T goal, try to frame your goal in terms of what you can control.

4. Stay on track. It takes time for a healthy change to become a solid habit. In the meantime, you’re more likely to stay committed to your goal if you:

  By MHN –  for unaccompanied tour employees and family member to log on to MHN go to and use the company code:  unaccompaniedtour  

Monday, January 5, 2015

Are you experiencing the Post-Holiday let-down   Don’t be too hard on yourself; as many as 1 in 4 Americans suffer from low-grade depression after the holidays according to Marie Hartwell-Walker, ED.D. at Psych Central. The adrenaline was flowing with all the hype and excitement. It’s hard for even the most resilient not to feel a letdown. 

A few things you can do about it:

  • Take a meditative few minutes a couple time a day
  • Call a friend
  • Do something small, but positive for yourself every day
  • Do random acts of kindness

Friday, January 2, 2015

Best Trips 2015 by                          National Geographic Traveler
National Geographic Traveler presents the New Year's must-see places. Whether it’s India’s literary hub or Switzerland’s mountain majesty, these 20 go-now destinations will send you packing.

Monday, December 29, 2014


Q: My husband and I are a tandem couple and will both be assigned to Islamabad (an unaccompanied post) in the fall. Is our 19-year-old daughter eligible for ISMA (involuntary separate maintenance allowance) while she attends the University of Illinois?

A:  Yes, until she turns 21.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Memories from Home for the Holidays 2014

A fabulous time was had by all who attended the annual “Diplomacy at Home for the Holidays” reception. This year’s holiday reception included remarks by Secretary of State John Kerry. Children were entertained by Rudolph as they awaited to share the stage with the Secretary for a group photo.  This festive event concluded with all the assembled children of U.S. diplomats serving on unaccompanied tours receiving a tote bag filled with arts and crafts. 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Urgent - new arrival time for Home for the Holidays - 4:00p.m.

See you at Home for the Holidays reception, Wednesday, December 17th at the new time of 4:00p.m. 

Monday, December 8, 2014

Six Tips for Managing Holiday Stress - from MHN 

Why, when the holiday season is supposed to be such a special time of year, do the words "holiday" and "stress" seem to go hand in hand? Some holiday stresses are unavoidable -- shopping malls are crowded, traffic is slow, schedules are packed. We may bring on some holiday stress ourselves, though. We so want the holidays to be perfect that we can be too hard on ourselves, and lose sight of what's most important. Try the following suggestions to fill your holidays -- and the rest of the year -- with less stress and more joy.
  1. Let it go.
    It's great to be in control. We all need to take responsibility for our actions and do our best to make the right choices. Sometimes, though, life happens. Your sister's plans change at the last minute, your 6-year-old gets the flu, or the roast you marinated for two days ends up burned on the outside and raw in the center. Remember that sometimes all you can control is your own reaction. Take a breath and do your best to handle the unexpected with grace.
  2. Keep your sense of humor.
    Think back to that road trip gone wrong -- the one where traffic was insane and the gas station restrooms were, to put it politely, not well maintained. With luck, your strongest memories of that trip are of the ridiculous joke that surfaced in hour three and seemed to keep getting funnier with each hour of traffic. Humor helps us look at stressful situations in a more positive way. Besides, it's just more fun to laugh than to complain.
  3. Take care of yourself.
    In the midst of a busy schedule, healthy habits often seem like too much trouble. You know, though, that you'll enjoy your holidays more if you eat right and keep up your exercise routine. Balance holiday treats with plenty of fresh fruit and veggies, and make time for walks with friends or workouts at the gym. You need downtime more than ever, so let yourself hide away with a great book or just take a nap.
  4. Look for ways to help others.
    You need all the help you can get, right? Helping others, though, will make you feel better than focusing on your own worries. Volunteering for a community project or helping a friend in need will put your problems in perspective. Besides, the friendships you nurture will support you through your own good and bad times.
  5. Remember the importance of family.
    The most important people in your life deserve your attention more than anything else. Share your family traditions with your kids, and start some new ones with parents and grandparents. This is a great time to move past old hurts and conflicts. Pick up the phone and just let family members know you care.
  6. Practice gratitude.
    Gratitude makes us feel better about our lives, our relationships and ourselves. Although some people seem to come by a grateful spirit naturally, we can all get better at it. Try spending a few minutes before bed, or with your family at dinner, taking stock of the day's kindnesses and unexpected pleasures. Or, just make it a habit to say thank you for those good deeds that make you smile.
A special note for parents: Children hold a special place in our holiday planning. We imagine the look of pure joy when our child opens the perfect gift, and worry about the disappointment of a lean holiday celebration. It may be hard to remember when you're faced with a multi-page wish list, but you can give your children a valuable gift by helping them to focus on what's truly important about the season, too. Model the values of humor, generosity and gratitude and you'll help your kids truly enjoy the holidays.
We can't promise you shorter lines, a cleaner house or a lower credit card bill this holiday season. We hope, though, that these simple suggestions will make it a little easier to savor special moments with the people you love.
MHN Resources  www.members.mhn.com

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Kids, Trying to Track Down Santa?
NORAD  Can Help!!

Every year NORAD  (North American Aerospace Defense Command) does a special mission of tracking Santa on December 24th.

Live updates are provided through the NORAD Tracks Santa Web site (in eight languages), over telephone lines, by e-mail, and through social media to keep curious children and their families informed about Santa’s whereabouts and if it’s time to get to bed.  

Use the links below to track Santa:
Website: www.NORADSANTA.org 
YouTube: www.youtube.com/noradsanta
Facebook:  www.facebook.com/noradsanta
Twitter: www.twitter.com/noradsanta #NORADSANTA; @NORADSANTA
NTS Apps – available for Android, iPhone & Windows phones and tablets 
OnStar – available Dec. 24 to OnStar subscribers to ask Santa’s location

Monday, December 1, 2014

Home for the Holiday

If you are currently experiencing an Unaccompanied Tour

Keep an eye on your inbox for an
early December email invitation to
Home for the Holidays
Wednesday, December 17th
3:00 PM
Hosted by Protocol and FLO

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Remember to Vote!

Shipping Holiday Packages?

 What You Need to Know...
October through January is the busiest time of the year for pouch and DPO mail. To ensure all your holiday packages arrive on time, Diplomatic Pouch and Mail (DPM) recommends that mail and parcels arrive at their facility by Friday, November 21. The U.S. Postal Service also wants DPO mail by the dates listed on their website.

Visit DPM’s intranet site for current address and parcel size limit information. The site also has links for prohibited items (14 FAM 723.2) and Bulk Shipments (14 FAM 723.3). Check out their online Shipping Wizard tool that lists post-specific restrictions, provides personal/official (unclassified) pouch addresses, and has a calculator that can determine if your item is within the required size limits.

Remember: Make sure all items have registry/tracking numbers. Also, lithium batteries can only be shipped installed within electronic items, not separately, and must be done in accordance with 14 FAM 723.2.

You’ll find answers to many common questions on DPM’s intranet site. You may also email pouch-related questions directly to DPM-Answerperson@state.gov or DPO-Answerperson@state.gov for Diplomatic Postal Mail related questions.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Breaking News

The Family Liaison Office in partnership
with MHN(formerly Mananged Health Network)
presents an interactive workshop

“Coping with the Stress of Change”

Wednesday, November 5, 2014
9:30-10:30 A.M. EST

Department of State, FLO room 1239

Everyone is invited to attend!

How to participate:
Contact FLOaskUT@state.gov to participate in person.    

In order to participate in the web cast and conference call, dial 1-888-330-1716 on a US based phone line and enter 9316176 for the Conference Code when prompted.  

If you have questions: Please contact FLO's Unaccompanied Tours Support Officer at 202-647-1076 or 1-800-440-0397 or email FLOAskUT@state.gov.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

FSI announces Fall Employment Courses for Family Members!

Adult eligible family members (EFMs) in the Washington, D.C. area this fall are invited to attend the upcoming employment courses at the Foreign Service Institute (FSI) in Arlington, Virginia. The courses are designed for spouse/partners navigating both a career and a mobile lifestyle.

 September 11 - Basics for Overseas Employment (MQ703)
 October 21 - Employment Tools for Foreign Service Life (MQ704)
 November 4 - Portable Careers: Employment Options (MQ706)
 November 20 - International Development and NGOs: Employment Options (MQ705)

Courses are open to adult EFMs of all Foreign Affairs agencies (non-state tuition: $225.00). State Department EFMs can register through the employee’s CDO/Training Officer or by following the “Apply Now” link on each course page. All other agencies must submit a SF-182. 

For questions email FSITCTraining@state.gov.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Work in FLO!

                                      Crisis Management and Support Specialist Position Available in FLO

   Family members returning to the Washington area may be interested in applying for the available full-time Crisis Management and Support Specialist (Program Specialist, GS-09) position in the Family Liaison Office (FLO). The incumbent of this position reports to the Division Chief and receives day to day guidance from the Crisis Management Officer in providing programs and support services for employees and family members in the following areas: evacuations from overseas posts; security and crisis-related concerns; and separated family members (divorce, other separations). The position is located in Washington, DC, but may require some travel.

This is a full-time, two-year limited appointment, with potential to be extended up to a maximum of five years, Excepted Service, Schedule A - not in the Competitive Service. The selected candidate will receive a two-year Non-Career term appointment with benefits (FERS, TSP, FEGLI and FEHB).
The application deadline for this position is Friday, July 11, 2014. Please see the vacancy announcement for details and application instructions.

Monday, June 23, 2014


If you have children and are getting ready for an unaccompanied tour or any kind of separation; you might be interested in the workbooks available from FLO.  Below is an excerpt from one.  If you are interested in finding out more all the workbooks are available on our website or by writing FLOaskUT@state.gov. 

Talk as a family before separation: Before she/he leaves, the employee is usually
preoccupied with many preparatory activities for both the releasing and receiving jobs, often
requiring extended hours and increased workload. Consequently, employees may come
home tired and reluctant to address painful concerns related to the separation. Family
members often join in this resistance in order to keep things peaceful for their remaining
time. However, planning and coordination are essential for coping well with the separation.
The Family Meeting sheets provided in each of the UT Family manuals are designed to help
all members make plans as far ahead as possible.
Delegate rather than “dump” responsibilities on family members: Although everyone is
called to take up the slack after the employee leaves, children in particular balk at having to
do “everything.” Positive reframing of the re-distribution of household chores and duties
will help them see the mutual benefits of helping out. That is, while acknowledging their
complaints about increased work and doubts in their ability to carry it out, also point out how
valuable their contributions are to the family as well as your confidence in them. The more
they help the at-home parent, the more energy that parent has to spend on them.
Parents Manual 8
Commit to consistent and active contact: This involves both the at-home parent’s
committing to the mechanics of the distance bonding activities as well as the employee’s
committing to making the activities a priority in the midst of a stressful work situation at
post. Some parents (especially of young children) might complain that the tasks suggested in
the manuals are tedious, made more laborious by overseas technological pitfalls. However,
keep in mind that you would be having the same kinds of interactions with your children if
you were all at home, and if you want to stay connected, the extra time and work you put in
to making the interactions happen will definitely be rewarded.
Maintain family routine and discipline: A steady family structure with respect to routines
and discipline provides children with order and predictability in life. It is particularly
important to maintain structure (e.g., meal and bedtimes, etc.) so children have a sense of
normalcy rather than chaos in the midst of the changes brought on by the separation. Expect
children to test your limits as the family adjusts. Be firm about expectations related to
bedtime, morning routines, cleaning up, chores, homework, and accountability. Follow
through with clear and predictable consequences, both rewards and discipline to keep the
structure intact.
Listen to children’s worries; answer questions as truthfully as possible: Do not assume
you know what your child is asking or feeling. Explore their thoughts with open–ended
questions until you reach their real concern. Using age appropriate language, give as truthful
and encouraging an answer as possible without giving false assurances as to the employee’s
safety or return. When your child appears “done” or is satisfied, do not pursue the issue
Talk to your children: Because they are with you at home and they rely on you, children are
prone to show more immediate worry over you than the away parent. Not only will they pick
up on your signals if you are troubled, inaccessible, preoccupied, tired, irritable, or
depressed, they will likely interpret it to mean something negative about themselves. Often a child’s fantasies about what’s wrong are much worse than reality. Even though you
may not be able to lift yourself out of a mood, simply acknowledging the mood and “owning” (i.e., that it’s about you, not them) it will help your children a great deal. It tells
them that although you’re down, you’re still in control and you can function. Be relatively open in explaining things to your children.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Save the Date! Please share!

The Family Liaison Office
The Foreign Service Youth Foundation
cordially invite you to the

2014 Youth Awards Ceremony

as we honor our
FSYF Contest & Award Winners,
AAFSW Scholarship Merit Award Winners,
Children with Parents Serving at Unaccompanied Posts

Friday, June 27, 2014
12:30 to 2:00 pm

Please arrive early!  Doors open at 12:00 pm.  
The ceremony will begin promptly at 12:30 pm.

Light refreshments will be served following the ceremony.

Location of Event  
Department of State's George C. Marshall Auditorium
2201 C Street NW,  Washington, DC 20520
Use East Entrance on 21st Street  

Friday, May 23, 2014

Resources to Help You Prepare for Leaving Post

Transition season is upon us and now is a good time to tap into the many resources the Family Liaison Office’s (FLO) Crisis Management and Support Services team provides to all employees and families under Chief of Mission authority. The following links can help you prepare for your next move.

· The Personal Preparedness Plan – helps with organizing your personal documents; remember to hand-carry important documents that you will need when you land at your final destination.
· Eldercare Issues – resources to assist you with adding parents to orders, insurance, housing options in the U.S., and more.
· Living Apart - includes information on Separate Maintenance Allowances (SMA).
· Members of Household (MOH) - information for family members who are not on official travel orders.
· Guidance to Foreign-Born Spouses - Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) for spouses who are not U.S. citizens and information on expeditious naturalization and dual citizenship.
· The Foreign Affairs Assignment Notebook - published by the Overseas Briefing Center (OBC) at the Foreign Service Institute (FSI), this is a great resource for tips on packing.

You can contact the Crisis Management team at FLOAskSupportServices@state.gov.