2017 Marine Corps Birthday Ball

Turns out we have zero good lighting spots in our house for pictures. Which means I should have gotten out my real camera…

So we did a selfie and hope that our actual ball photo will be better (they took professional pics but they were free so we have no idea when we will get them).

Doh! The first time ever we could bring our own wine and I forgot.


It’s always fun to get dressed up and go out but I never know anyone so it’s honestly kind of awkward. We ended up leaving early because we were both tired…

2016 USMC Birthday Ball

Lunch with friends beforehand at Succotash in National Harbor. It was DELICIOUS and we highly recommend it. (We had fried green tomatoes; pimento cheese fundido; bacon mac and cheese; collards, kimchi, and country ham; Belle’s punch and a gochujang infused bloody mary.)


My super fancy home manicure (yeah, it’s just glitter polish):


Us, before:


Before & After


And this is what it takes to get ready for the ball. :p


A few fun pics trying to get THE PERFECT shot:


And the best shot:


And my favorite fun shot:


So as we were starting to get dressed, Tom had a uniform snafu—he realized he forgot a major piece. The exchange was closest (about 45 minutes round trip)…but they were out. Home was next closest (about an hour round trip) but that wasn’t appealing, either. A few furious texts found a buddy who lived somewhat close that had extras and could bring them to him…but that took almost an hour as well! So, while he was downstairs waiting for the delivery, I was finishing getting ready and hanging out with our friends in their room and then we came back to our room to wait for Tom. Our friend Tom was having a FIT because Tom’s uniform wasn’t even prepped to start dressing…so he got everything ready for him.


Waiting longingly for his buddy:


The group shot without Tom:



It was getting to be time to be seated for dinner (we’d already missed the entire cocktail hour) so Karen and I headed down while Tom waited for Tom. They made it with a few minutes to spare.

After the ceremony was over, we booked it out to the photo line while it was still short:




Random shots of us:





And the official photo which was emailed to us before we even left the event:


We actually had other friends at the table (plus her parents!), but we somehow managed to go the entire night without taking a big group photo OR a photo of us with them! So, here’s one I snagged off Facebook (that I actually took on her phone):


And lastly, to give you an idea of the scope of the event, here’s the seating chart: 288 tables of 10.


Overall, it was a fun evening, but unfortunately, it was once again a big ol’ waste of money—we should NOT have spent the night again. Last year we had decided it had been a mistake because we didn’t NEED to spend the night—we didn’t drink enough to need to stay and we were tired and wanting to head out by 10 so we could have easily just came home. But this year we thought we’d all stay (all three couples) and have this epic night…but we were all petering out come 10:00 so we all just went our separate ways LOL. We could have actually been home by 11 and saved the $350 we spent on the room and sitter! Lesson REALLY learned. :)

2015 USMC Birthday Ball

2015-11-17 09.56.15-1

The evening didn’t start off on the right foot—Tom had requested a King room and we didn’t get it, even though we reserved the room way back in June. And no one along the way let us know, either, so it was QUITE the shock walking into a room with two Queen beds. ESPECIALLY at the price we were paying…

We had been planning on going out with friends for a quick bite at a nearby restaurant before the ball since we knew dinner wasn’t going to be until probably 8 or 8:30 (it comes at the end of the program)…but that got nixed when A) both guys realized they forgot their cover (which meant they couldn’t walk outside in their uniform) and B) the other couple was stuck in traffic (it only took us 25 minutes to get there because it was earlier in the day). So…Tom and I just hung out, stewed a bit about the room, and then we started getting ready.



We clean up well!




Going back to watching football. :)


Wearing Marsha’s jewelry!


And then our friends arrived! As I said on Facebook: Fourteen years in the Corps, best friends with these guys for 12…FINALLY getting to attend a ball together! Priceless!





The list of events:


The walkway in:


As luck (?) would have it, the National Harbor Tree Lighting ceremony was the same evening right down the street (with many events, booths, live music, movie screenings, etc., on the waterfront). It was bad for us because it created the traffic jam…but we got to watch the fireworks during happy hour! Happy Jenny!



We typically get photos done beforehand (when my makeup is still fresh!) but by the time we made it down to happy hour, the line was CRAZY long. So we were just wandering around, and stopped to take a picture with two of the “olden day” marines.





The event was supposed to officially start at 7:30, but as people were starting to file in to take their seats, they announced that there would be a 45-minute delay. We didn’t get a reason, but we were all pretty sure one of the guests of honor was late due to traffic. Not a big deal in the grand scheme of things, but that also meant dinner was pushed back another 45 minutes. Egads. Remember how we were going to eat but didn’t? Yeah. BUT! Since everyone had started walking in to the ballroom, the photo line was almost empty so we made a beeline! WOOHOO!

Since we don’t really ever display our ball photos (where we’d want just US in the picture) we decided we wanted to take them with our good friends! They thought it was a great idea, too! The bonus is that technology has advanced a lot since our first ball…and we got to pick the two best pictures and then the digital files were emailed and in my inbox before bed! LOVE IT!


So we were discussing how huge the ball was and how we couldn’t believe that we hadn’t seen anyone we knew…and that it was way too crowded for us (we’re guessing about 3000 people—the highest table number I saw was 268 and there were 10 people to a table) but it was the Commandant’s Ball and you never know who you’re going to run into…so while James L. Jones, Jr. (former Commandant of the USMC and United States National Security Advisor) was speaking, he introduced a marine congressman—the Honorable Seth Moulton. WAIT. WHAT?! Tom and I looked at each other. WE KNOW HIM! Tom went to TBS with him! We knew he had become a congressman, but of course we had no idea he was going to be here! And then yep, there he was, right next to the speaker! We knew that as soon as we had the chance, we’d beeline over there to see him!


Later during his speech, he mentioned Kyle Carpenter and I was like HEY! I KNOW THAT NAME, TOO! (He is the youngest living Medal of Honor recipient.) I saw him as we were approaching the congressman, so I surreptitiously snapped a photo.


And Seth (the congressman) and Tom…


And then I had to do this when we got home—if only we had them standing on opposite sides! Then (2002) and now:


And then as we were walking back to our table, I got a text from a neighbor, Christi, saying “I just saw you and Tom walk by! I didn’t know you were going to be here!” So we went back during dinner and chatted for a few minutes!


We finally got to eat dinner around 9:30 (!) so by the time all the courses were done, it was after 10:30! I had wanted to at least dance to one slow song, but there were SO many people and the dance floor was SO small we couldn’t even make it there (people were even dancing between the tables!). :( We had thought we’d have a night of dancing and partying with our friends, but since we were at two different tables half a room apart, we didn’t get to do any of that. At least we got to hang out beforehand and got our pictures taken together!

So overall, while this ball was nice, we agreed that it was NOT worth the cost ($200 room, $200 tickets, $150 sitter, $200 dress/our alterations/hair, and $50 for four stupid drinks)—and while a nice gesture, the token gift we received was not our favorite—a paperweight that didn’t even look like 240 (Owen even looked at it and asked why it said “210”):


We’re currently unsure what we’ll do next year.

Women’s clothes sizing drives me insane.

I’m trying to figure out what I’m wearing to the birthday ball this year. I figured since we haven’t gone in a few years and I’ll have lost almost 75#, I deserve a new dress. 

So, let me recap today:

  • I tried on a beautiful size 16 fancy dress at Nordstrom Rack. It almost fit. I couldn’t get it zipped but it was damn close. (I was kind of glad because it was $140…but I loved it and would probably have bought it if it had fit.)
  • I tried on a size 18 bridesmaid dress at David’s Bridal. It was a hair loose (and not really my style).
  • I tried a size 16 bridesmaid dress at David’s Bridal. It was too tight; I couldn’t even begin to get it zipped.
  • I came home, tried on an old bridesmaid dress, size 22, which I wore in a wedding 12 years ago when I weighed 10# more than I do now (!) and can’t get it zipped across my back!
  • I tried an old size 18 nice (fancy, but not ball fancy) dress and it’s loose. 
  • I tried two size 22 ball gowns (new with tags in my closet!) and they are both passable without alteration (though they’d be better with alterations).

GAH!!!! What the hell? The one that amazes me the most is the dress that I wore for the wedding 12 years ago. It was for my best friend Angi’s wedding and I had just lost 60#. The dress fit perfectly. So when I was thinking about ball gowns, it was in the back of my head that worst case, I’d just wear that one because it would obviously fit. Ha. WTF body? What’s going on?

2012 USMC Birthday Ball

The ball tonight was…a ball. It’s fun to get dressed up and get out of the house, but I literally know no one there so it’s not actually much fun (not like hanging with our good friends). It’s me and Tom hanging out during cocktail hour and me being introduced to wives I’ll only see at next year’s ball (if even then), making small talk with the three other couples at our table during dinner, then coming right home because neither of us really wants to stay and dance with people we don’t know. (Well, Tom knows them but he’s their boss so it’s not like friends friends.) I do feel bad for not enjoying it more—or I guess I should say for not making more of the experience—but I figure it’s still worth it to go since it’s something that won’t last forever and not everyone can do.

2011 USMC Birthday Ball

It was back to the basics this year after three years of deluxe birthday balls during recruiting duty—no included open bar or hotel suite—but no $200+ for tickets, either. :D And, as usual, I didn’t know anyone (the Detroit years were the only time I’ve ever known anyone at a ball).

The official pictures didn’t go particularly well. The guy seemed somewhat knowledgeable, but he was too perfectionist and was all “Okay, lady tilt head left, lift chin up, move your arm to the left a bit, bend your elbow more, lean into him. Sir, chin towards me, no back a bit, look up, tilt your head sideways, take a tiny sidestep back.” But 10x worse. Oh my god it was tiring and distracting. Then he showed you the photos (digital, of course) and if you didn’t like it, he’d take more. Well, I hated all three he took of us, so I said “Can you just take a quick casual picture without all the direction?” Sure, and it ended up to be the best one but I still hated it (damn double chin—yeah, it’s me in all my glory but I hate to see it in a photo). So, it’s a $20 memory.

For whatever reason, the ceremony seemed to move more slowly than we’d remembered it, and we weren’t even starting dinner until 8:30—and we didn’t get cake until 9:45!! There was still no music or dancing by that point, and we honestly didn’t feel like staying and waiting for that to start…so we left at 10. Yeah, we’re apparently old fogies now. :o

2010 USMC Birthday Ball

The ball moved to a new location this year—the Atheneum Suite Hotel in downtown Detroit. The rooms were pretty nice, but read the linked review for the whole rundown.

We had been looking forward to a crazy time like we had last year—since we knew more people AND it was an open bar again. However, the alcohol wasn’t really settling well with me (it was giving me a headache), so I was done drinking by about 8. Tom was having no problems, though, and I didn’t see him most of the night (after the ceremony and dinner). And for whatever reason, the music just wasn’t anything I wanted to dance to, so I pretty much sat at the table with a friend of mine (her guy was also working the room) and then after she went back to her room, I sat alone and Tweeted and Facebooked and played Scrabble. Big whoop, eh?

The event was officially over at 11 so I went to find Tom to tell him I was going back to the room…and let’s just say that the rest of the night didn’t go well (I was upset, he was not himself, we fought, I was wide awake, and he was passed out within 10 minutes of getting back to the room). Then the A/C kept me up all night (again, read the review) and I couldn’t wait for morning to get the hell out of there and back home.

So, I got to dress up…and we did get our official picture taken, but that was about all the fun I had, unfortunately. And aside from one cell phone photo, the official pics which we don’t have yet, and a really blurry pic someone took of us, this is the only pic we have:

And the blurry pic, which looks like it would have been awesome if it was in focus!

2009 USMC Birthday Ball

The ball was a little different than last year…the tickets were a bit more (although still a good deal, considering they included dinner, an open bar, and the hotel room) and there were no giveaways because they lost a huge sponsor that they had last year. That said, we had an awesome time.

Of course, I was excited because I could drink this year—as last year I was pregnant! I wasn’t sure what my drink of choice would be, because typically a hotel open bar doesn’t have anything I really like, and get stuck drinking Vodka & Cranberry. But, this year they had Monster…which is similar to Red Bull…which I love with vodka…so I discovered a new drink and enjoyed them thoroughly all night! Probably a few too many, but damn it was fun.

Danced a bit, drank a bit, made some new friends (which I am sooooo excited about), and was in bed by midnight! Unfortunately, I forgot to take my Tylenol PM before I fell asleep, so I woke up in the middle of the night with a smashing headache, but wasn’t about to take a Tylenol PM at that point, so I just laid there and suffered, hoping I would fall asleep again…wondering how I could get my hands on any type of pill to take. About 6:30 Tom finally woke up and told me he had packed Excedrin! Ugh! If only I had known that when I first woke up!! The rest of the day was a great reminder of why I don’t drink like that anymore. XX(

Here is the official pic, copied and pasted from the photographer’s website. I hate it, of course. He took three pics and this was the best, and I still hate it. Aside from the fact I look pregnant, LOL, I hate that you can see the flag stands. Oh well.

Official 2009 Ball Photo

2008 USMC Birthday Ball

Incredibly, this was probably the best birthday ball we’ve been to—and I say incredibly because neither of us originally wanted to go!

Tom was actually in charge of planning his ball (in Jacksonville) before his PCS orders—and, truth be told, we were actually a bit relieved at not having to go. Honestly, it’s a wonderful tradition and something neat to attend, but usually (in our experience) just not worth the money: tickets are usually upwards of $40-$50pp, drinks are extra, and if it’s outside your city, you have the added expense of a hotel (or you have to drive home at midnight).

So we got to Michigan and didn’t think much about it. Hell, we didn’t think ANYTHING about it. That is until Tom started his new job, and was told attendance was mandatory. And tickets were $40pp. Wonderful—$80 we didn’t really plan on spending. But then he found out that included the overnight hotel stay! Wow, okay, that was cool. And luckily I had dresses that still fit (see earlier post) so I didn’t have that expense. And it was an open bar—so we didn’t have that expense, either. So we thought maybe this ball wouldn’t be too bad.

Well, as it turns out, because it’s a Recruiting Station, apparently they aren’t under the same rules and regulations as normal Marine Corps balls, in the respect that they can have sponsors and/or donations…which is why the tickets were so inexpensive, why the hotel night was included, why there was an open bar, why there were door prizes, and why there were 4-page full-color programs. 88| They had two major sponsors, plus about 30 minor sponsors. Very cool!

But before I get to the ceremony, I have to tell you about the hotel room. First, it was the Crown Plaza which sounds really ritzy, but it was an airport hotel so we weren’t expecting that much. But the pictures on the website were nice, and it was impressive when we pulled up. So we get to our room and go in and wow, nice big room—nice closet, bathroom, king bed, and sitting area:

And then we noticed an open door at the back of the room and we had NO idea what it could be:

Well, turns out, we were attached to a huge conference room/suite! 88|

We obviously had no need for it, hadn’t asked for it, and had no idea why we got that room. There was another connecting room, but that side was locked. We only wished we had a need for that room, because it was awesome! We just kept saying Wow, really? Wow. All this included in our $80 ticket price! Wheeeee! Of course we never used that room for anything.

And then, here is the best of our pre-ball in-room self-portraits:

We did get professional pics taken, but I looked yucky (not that I even look pregnant, which would be okay—I just look fat). I will post that one when we get the online version in a few days.

There were some differences in the event, compared to previous balls we attended, which we found interesting. Aside from the obvious free hotel stay and open bar, the smaller marine population (attended from all of southeastern Michigan and northwestern Ohio, for a total of maybe 100 marines) played a noticable part: Typically at a ball on a marine base, you have a LARGE contingent of marines/ranks/ages in attendance. Your “host” is usually a General, the special guest is usually another General, and the oldest and youngest marines (part of the cake ceremony) are usually like 92 and 18. This year, the host was a Major (one rank above Tom!), the special guest was enlisted (he was the recruiter of the year for the district), and the oldest marine couldn’t have been more than 46 (they didn’t tell the age, but said she enlisted in 1991 and I think you have to be in by age 30) and the youngest marine was probably 20 or so.

I also found the cake ceremony a bit…head-shaking. It’s customary for the cake to be rolled out by four marines. At the other balls we’ve been to, they roll out these monstrous (albeit fake) cakes with one real layer to actually cut a piece from. Well, they aren’t surprise-stripper-jumping-from-inside-the-cake huge, but they are probably a good 3′ long by 2′ wide by 1′ tall. Somewhat impressive to see rolled in on a cart by four marines. So last night, I see the marines walking the rolling cart in, and…where’s the cake? I couldn’t see it. OH! It’s a tiny half sheet cake! Heh. It worked perfectly fine, it was just NOT what I had been expecting!

The actual ceremony and speakers went quickly, the food was pretty good, and then it was time for dancing. I wasn’t feeling great (by this time it was like 9pm—just about my bedtime!) and of course I wasn’t feeling very social—I knew no one, while Tom had to flit about and meet all the marines he will be dealing with. (He basically works at the recruiting station headquarters, so he deals with all the recruiters from the entire district, so it was in his best interest to meet and talk with all of them.) I stayed by his side for some of it, then finally just told him to go do his business while I sat at the table. He also made sure to use full use of the open bar. :)

I did manage to dance a few songs so I wasn’t a total stick in the mud. In a small-world scenario, I also spent a little time talking to an old Grayling chum… :) One of the guys that works closely with Tom graduated from GHS in 1987 and we knew each other. Granted, I probably knew him more than he knew me (he was a senior and I was in 8th grade) but of course he remembered my dad and knew he had a daughter. (We knew about the coincidence before the ball, but this was really the first time we had to chat.) It was just funny thinking that 20 years ago he was the hot senior football player/phys ed assistant for my gym class…and who would have guessed we’d someday be at a Marine Corps Ball together? Here is Tom with Scott:

At midnight when the shindig ended, it was all I could do to force Tom up to bed (he still wanted to “make contact” with all the marines). But I wasn’t about to take the chance of actually having to drag his drunk ass up to the room and get him into bed. ;)

Wow, all three fit!

So we are going to the USMC Birthday Ball this weekend.

No, we originally weren’t planning on it since we were moving up here, but apparently it’s almost a mandatory event for hubby’s new office, so we’re going…at $40 each. XX( We do get a hotel room included in that cost—which is nice since the hotel is an hour or so away—but it’s money we hadn’t planned on spending AND we had to get someone to watch the dog!


I was pretty sure at least one of my three dresses would still fit, since I was about the same size when I bought them five years ago.

The red one is my favorite, but I’ve worn it a lot—including each cruise and one or two balls.

The purple one I wore to my first ball, but the straps are annoying and it has a shawl that I never know how to hold or what to do with.

The champagne one I’ve never worn (and probably didn’t NEED to buy, but really HAD to buy because it was on clearance for like $35 and you don’t find nice dresses in my size on clearance too often—so it’s been in my closet for five years) but doesn’t look that great with my now-pasty-white skin. (I had been planning on wearing it THIS year, tanned…until I got pregnant and quit tanning.)

So I will probably end up in the red one, just because it’s my favorite. But it was nice knowing that all three fit!

2003 USMC Birthday Ball

Tom had to take part in the ceremony with one of his friends. Of course they gave me their serious marine face.

So then I made them smile. :)

The 228th Marine Corps Birthday Ball was a unique experience: it was 100% different than the first ball we went to in 2001. Instead of a fancy hotel with a gourmet sit-down meal, it was held in a gymnasium with hors d’oeuvres. The best part was getting all dressed up (it is fun when it’s only once a year); the worst part was being by myself almost the entire evening since Tom was part of the ceremony escort (so I was with 1000 people I didn’t know). We did get to dance one song—Lady In Red, which was highly appropriate…

2001 USMC Birthday Ball

Our very first USMC Birthday Ball was held in Richmond. It was quite the experience seeing probably 1,000 marines in dress blues!! Little did we know at the time (I am posting pictures and writing this entry 11 years later) this was the biggest ball we’d ever go to—it was held on two or three stories of the hotel! If you weren’t in the main room (which we weren’t) you got to view the entire ceremony on a huge video monitor. I don’t remember dancing, but Tom said we did dance to one or two songs… Afterwards we went to stay the night with Jim and Beth.