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May 16, 2012

Wanted: Stories of the 'Real' Foreign Service

All others need not apply.

You see, as I mentioned in my last post, this blog was recently deleted from a blog roll.  Never mind the fact that its presence on that site was specifically requested well over two years ago.  The online community specialist managing the page (at the time) was eager to list it, glad for my input and seemed grateful for my participation.  I always thought it was a rather arbitrary list, but it seemed like a work in progress and names were being added, not subtracted (at first).  Recently and without warning, that inexplicably changed.  Care to guess why? 

I used the "n" word:


Sunday evening, when I noticed the blog missing, I wrote to the online specialist who had contacted me way back when.  The next day I heard from a new community specialist.  I was told in no uncertain terms that my blog does not have "content relevant to the U.S. Foreign Service".  When I replied back with a description of the content that is more than related, I received a response from yet another new person.  The response from that person?  

Hopefully, you can understand that some topics covered in your blog are very personal in nature, e.g. nipple cozies, and wouldn’t necessarily resonate with the majority of potential candidates who are interested in learning about the FS life overseas. Through our years of recruitment experience, we found that FS prospects want to learn more about the work that’s conducted, the people and cultures with whom they will interact, the travel experiences, and the individual stories our employees* have to share.  

Oh! They want travel experiences and individual stories.  I'm sorry, have I not been providing that information?

So you mean describing stories about life after a diagnosis of breast cancer while your FS husband is serving in Iraq on an unaccompanied tour 6,219 miles away is not an individual story?  You mean detailing how you got through said issue, how you managed to pick yourself up off the floor each day despite feeling like your world had completely fallen apart (oh, wait, it had) and managed to somehow dust yourself off and keep going with your Foreign Service life is of no interest?  Guess that means I am the *only* one who will ever have to deal with such a thing.

The fact that we ended up doing a second unaccompanied tour?  Booooring.  Or that I had what, 4 surgeries in the past 18 months (scheduled AROUND my husband's most recent posting, so that he would be able to complete his obligations?)?  Um, hello, that's *too* personal, repugnant even!

You know, like life in the Foreign Service.  Unless my life is somehow different and everyone else is perfect.  Do others not have family issues, worries about elderly parents,  kids with special needs (medical or otherwise), curtailments, and  health or safety issues overseas?  Apparently, with the exception of our family, for the other 10,000 or so folks, FS life is charmed.  Right-O.  

Now, if I had received some remotely logical explanation that they decided to rotate blogs (which would be fine, except that they didn't), or something even a teeny bit diplomatic, I might not have thought twice about the situation.  However, there is no way on earth that I can be told by someone who works in recruiting (and, to my knowledge, is not actually in the FS) that my blog is not relevant for FS candidates or their families.  

In fact, today I have been told repeatedly how valuable it is to others, something that made me teary-eyed, but in a good way.  Quite a different response than I had when I read the email from the recruiter, particularly the above in italics, which just struck me to the core.  How could the person manage to pick the *one* issue that would stop me in my tracks and leave me shaken beyond belief?  How could my past illness and my desire to share what I went through (God forbid anyone else in the FS deal with it) be suddenly held against me? 

All because I used the word nipple.  And you thought the lack of world peace was scary?  That's got nothing on my nipple!  

So, want the *perfect* Foreign Service experience?  Well, avert your eyes, it's not to be found on this blog!

Want real life FS experiences?  Stay tuned....because if you thought all bets were off before, you haven't read anything yet.  


A huge debt of gratitude goes out to those who have supported me in this matter today, to include those currently on the *official* roll and those who are not or were also removed or, even more inexplicably, never asked.  Many, many thanks to those who have posted (everywhere) with support, including those who are linked below:

It's the Little Things

I Guess I'm Not As Important As I Once Assumed

You're Just Not Quite FS Enough...

What Makes a Blog an FS Blog?

*Yet not all blogs (to include mine) are those of employees, but somehow I'd guess that wasn't realized.  You know, what with the focus on my nipple and all!




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"So, want the *perfect* Foreign Service experience? Well, avert your eyes, it's not to be found on this blog!"

Or anywhere for that matter. Part of this life is that we roll with what comes anyway and that we support and help each other. That, in my humble, non-officer opinion is often one of the biggest strengths of the FS community. You've done a great deal to help that community.

oh girl ... say it... speak it ... !! Hallelujah and AMEN!

This was a great blog post! Shout it to the hilltops (and I'm not even FS!)

I love, love, LOVE this! How about this for your blog tag line: Come for the nipples, stay for real life foreign service experiences.

As someone who was never on that blogroll, I'll say it once again, it's their loss to have removed you, Jen! We all love your blog and read it - in sickness and in health...

jen, oh my goodness! This is totally CRAZY. You're one of the best models of examplary foreign service spouses out there! FS employees and spouses take note, this is a family committed to the true mission of foreign service in every way.

I am new to your blog but I really appreciate everything you can do. I'm an FSO overseas with a family member back in the states with breast cancer and there is very little that is more relevant to my FS career right now than NIPPLES. Family comes first and one of the highlights of my career thus far has been how supportive my colleagues have been, allowing me to travel back to be home for surgeries and ect. You are now in my google reader under FS blogs, and I wish you and your family all the best.

This is just unbelievable Jen. Great post. I just wrote about it too, and I contacted an old high school friend of mine on FB. Linked to you. HUGS!

Madness! Their loss - you're going on my blogroll anyway! Nothing is more interesting than real life stories.

Just discovered your blog through Heather at "The Wandering Drays"

First, thank you for your courage. Even for us who deal with definitely less serious, but momentous (to us) events, reading your blog is encouraging and inspiring.

Secondly, Their blogroll is clearly not that relevant to my life as I'll be the accompanying spouse, don't expect "perfection" at all, and I too may use the word nipple. I am a breastfeeding mom after all.

Sorry you got bumped, but what a great discovery for me!

Your story struck me, and I just wanted you to know that as a fellow EFM (although brand-new), I am thinking of you. Clearly, this person(s) has never dealt with such issues and hopefully is regretting their decision and realizing the error of their ways. I don't fancy someone else telling me what I want or don't want to read or whether or not it's relevant to me. Especially since I find a closeness among us FS folks since we are a rare, but tight breed. Your blog just tells about how we not only deal with the challenges of the foreign life, but also with personal challenges as we and/or our spouses are abroad. All the best to you, nipples or not!

Jen - I hadn't seen your blog before but I've seen your name on Livelines. I find this response baffling, even if only in the cynical "umm, you're writing to a blogger, you know it will get posted, maybe say something generic like we ran out of space?" way, but more importantly the idea that your real FS life is somehow offensive or irrelevant to potential FS candidates is just crazy. I would personally rather they see some of the other sides to FS life before joining. Again, on the practical side it saves a lot of money in the long run for State than if they come in with stars in their eyes and then quit after first tour! Anyway, please keep blogging and now you've gotten published in the WP. :)

As of 12:08 your blog is back on the list

Jen, Oh my goodness, I cannot even believe they would remove you. Your blog has provided such insight and inspiration. They were fools and it appears they now know it. All the best to you and your family.

Your link is back on the blogroll - I just checked...

Hi, just wanted to say I heard the story of your "inappropriate" blog and came to check it out, you are a lovely writer and seem like a nice person. Sorry to hear about your cancer and this silliness with the FS. Sending positive energies!

UNBELIEVABLE..........Wow.... this is disGUSting..... I'm so pissed off right now..... YOUR family serves this country but the fact that you had to deal with breast cancer WHILE you were serving, makes you unsuitable.... SHAME ON THEM.

We can start a twit storm..... and watch the fallout... I'm going to tweet this right now...


I'm glad you are back on! Much love to you and your family.

As a woman in the Foreign Service -- I support you and salute you!! I have consistently found that we don't talk about the realities of this life. We are all supposed to be a sea of fresh-faced Americans, happily schlepping 5000 lbs of HHE to Congo with 2 babies and a neurotic poodle that we adopted from a shelter stuffed under a plane seat for 45 hours. We're not supposed to get sick, or talk about how hard it is to be separated from our families when we need them most, and HEAVEN FORBID we talk about NIPPLES. **Gasp!** Foreign Service families don't have NIPPLES!!!

Hang in there. You are not alone and you are respected, cared for, and admired. Big hugs from SE Asia.

The way you have been treated by the FS is not all that unusual considering who you work for -- the U.S. Government -- the most corrupt government in the World.

May I suggest you do as I did, move to a free country. Trust me, its well worth the expense and bother and once you get a taste of freedom, you probably will never return to living behind the American Iron curtain again.

Keep writing. Don't stop-you are an inspiration.

Oh gee. No thanks for the honesty. I'd much rather know about receptions and shoes and pretty people. The whole difficulty-and-how-I-dealt-with-it is just not what I was looking for. Those inspirational stories about people who survived hardship are just boring. (wiping drool of sarcasm off my chin now)

Give 'em hell. And keep saying nipple. :)

Very well written!!! You are amazing!!!

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