Home is where Eva is

New song I love: Home. What does the word mean for people who live vaguely nomadic lives (e.g., FSOs)?

For me, home is always where Eva is....

(now, if only that darn security clearance can come through ;) )

One more vid just for fun:

Yee Haw!

Last weekend Cyn and I attended a rodeo in Castro Valley (her first and my third). We were there to support a friend interning for the American Cancer Society to track smokers around the arena and see if they were smoking in designated areas. Our job was basically to stand around with a clipboard and mark any deviant or suspicious activity.

We saw lots of wayward behavior and took our job very seriously.

If an old cowboy took snuff out of his overall pocket and looked like he was going to chomp down, we would say "tobacco 6 o'clock! older man, plaid cut-off flannel". If a woman was trying to enhance the enjoyment of her late morning Coors Light with a menthol we would say "prohibited smoking 2:30! 45, female, daisy dukes and wife beater". I'm pretty sure we were totally incognito and wholly appreciated as our giggling echoed throughout the valley.

Actually I felt utterly at home at the rodeo. For many years I was an avid 4-H member, owned much Western attire, and can muck out a stall quicker than you can say "yee haw". The smell of manure, the sound of country music and braying farm animals, the dust in your shoes and eyes - I love it all. I especially love the opportunity to wear my "wild thing" shirt that boasts a cartoonish horse rearing up with 'wild thing' written in glittery cursive on a bright red background. I enjoyed many comments on my shirt that day and was almost carried away into buying a matching felt cowboy hat.

Bill could extend benefits to same-sex partners

Eva and I are legally married under CA law (we were one of those lucky couples that married after the California Supreme Court decision and before the passage of Proposition 8).  We are fortunate enough to reside in San Francisco, where it's very seldom that we face any type of homophobia, and certainly never in the workplace.  All my prior employers in the public and private sector have thus far afforded the same benefits to opposite and same sex spouses/domestic partners of their employees.

Sadly, this is not true of the federal government.  One major source of concern for us when contemplating joining the FS was the disparate treatment of same-sex couples.  Before Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Obama extended specified benefits to domestic partners in 2009, same-sex partners/spouses had to be listed as Members of Household (MOH), one class below that of an Eligible Family Member (EFM).  This meant that same-sex spouses & partners of Foreign Service Officers were ineligible for diplomatic passports, use of medical facilities at overseas posts, medical and other emergency evacuation (note: pets were authorized to be evacuated in emergencies with the FSO, even if same-sex partners were not), transportation between posts, and training in security and languages.

President Obama justly issued an Executive Memorandum (not an Executive Order, meaning it could expire with his office) to recognize same-sex partners as EFMs and extend the aforementioned benefits to them.   However, due to statutory restrictions placed by the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), same-sex partners and spouses of FSOs remained precluded from qualification for a range of other benefits, including federally-provided health insurance and pension benefits.

Digger over at Life After Jerusalem  recently posted an update re: the 2009 Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act (S. 1102).  If passed, this would allow Eva to receive the same benefits that spouses of my future heterosexual colleagues would receive.  I've cut and pasted the Washington Post article below:

Senate vote on same-sex benefits 'within weeks'

The Senate could vote on a bill extending fringe benefits to the same-sex partners of gay federal employees "within weeks" and well before July 4, according to aides to Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.).

The Nutmeg State senator is lead sponsor of the measure, which would cost an estimated $310 million through 2020, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

That's a notable, but not terribly hefty price tag by Washington standards, and Lieberman is fine with the anticipated cost.

“This legislation would cost about two-hundredths of a percent of the federal government’s overall costs for the civilian workforce," Lieberman said Tuesday. "That is a very small price to pay for the improvements we would see in recruitment, retention, and morale. OPM has committed to provide an offset for the legislation before it is enacted, making it that much more reasonable.”

Indeed those offsets -- first requested by Lieberman and Senate Republicans in December -- aren't ready yet and won't be until Lieberman is ready to introduce the bill to the full Senate, according to an OPM spokesman.

Lieberman's bill may win some Republican votes, but a House version passed last year with no GOP support. The House bill also covers eligible federal retirees, giving it a heftier price tag that the GOP considers unacceptable.

"At a time when unemployment is at 9.9 percent, it’s absurd that Democrats would push a costly new benefit for federal employees when so many Americans in the private sector are out of work," said Frederick Hill, a spokesman for Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), the ranking Republican on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which first approved the benefits bill. "This legislation is a good example of how this Congress and administration have neglected efforts to rein-in spending and create jobs in favor of an agenda to satisfy their political base." 

Eva's 3 rules

My lovely wife just announced the following:

If we get posted to Laos* or S.E. Asia, I am:
  1. Not wearing make-up
  2. Not wearing a bra
  3. Swimming every day
Then she looked very proud of herself.

(Eva and I were talking about Laos because of an entertaining blog written by another FSO called Life on the Mekong, chronicling their experiences there.)

Cavallo Point

We hiked Cavallo Point last weekend with our good friends Rasha, Palav, and Sanjay. All three of them are medical residents at UCSF, so we're pretty lucky to spend the very little leisure time they have in their company. We basked in the sunshine and the magnificent views of San Francisco Bay, Alcatraz, Golden Gate Bridge from our vantage point @ Fort Baker. We even spotted two porpoises and several sea lions!

Even if I do end up being appointed to join the Foreign Service (fingers crossed!), leaving San Francisco will be bittersweet. It's pretty clear why people leave their hearts in our fair city. It's progressive, open-minded, culturally literate, queer-friendly, beautiful, and surrounded by vineyards/wine country, hikes, rivers, waterfalls, and views.

San Francisco will always be home to me.