Thursday, December 30, 2010

"Oh good! My dog found the chainsaw! " - Lilo

I love the movie Lilo & Stitch. I remember when it came out in 2002 and it was a (sort of) big deal that it was hand-drawn animation. At that point Pixar and such were taking over animated movies and many people had sounded the death knell for old-fashioned animation. For a while when I was younger I wanted to be an animator. Painting cells seemed like the coolest job out there. So the fact that Lilo & Stitch was hand-drawn appealed to me when I saw it advertised for the first time.

Most people that know me know that I can be very sentimental when watching kids' movies. I tend to cry. A lot. I don't care if it's Benji or Finding Nemo, I'm getting choked up. Lilo & Stitch was no different. There was something that just touched me about this little girl and her older sister, trying their best to make their family work. There's a scene at the beginning of the movie where Lilo's hand-stitched doll is made fun of by her "friends". After they leave she throws the doll to the ground in disgust and stomps off. But a couple seconds later she runs back to her doll, picks it up in a sad, tight hug and takes it home. It's not a good doll, but it's hers. That gets me. Every time. Lilo is tough and spunky, but she is also sensitive and dramatic. She's one of my favorite characters.

The story really takes off when a funny little alien falls from the sky and joins Lilo and her sister, Nani, who adopt the alien thinking it is a dog. After naming him Stitch, chaos and hijinks ensue. Along the way they all try their best to make things work, even though everything they touch seems to crumble. In the end they find that even though sometimes life is difficult their ohana is strong. As Stitch says, "This is my family. I found it, all on my own. Is little, and broken, but still good. Yeah, still good."

Lilo & Stitch is set in Hawaii. I remember seeing the movie and thinking how beautiful the watercolor backdrops were. Little did I know that I'd be living here one day. The sun and surfing and lingo was all pretty exotic to me then. Lilo & Stitch was where I first learned the word "ohana" - and it is so true that ohana means everything out here. Watching the movie again a few months ago I appreciated and enjoyed the Hawaiian setting even more than the first few times I watched it. The slang, the accents, the lifestyle. It's all very familiar now.

This is the background that you need to understand why I was so tickled the other night at the frozen yogurt stand. Zac and I were sitting outside, eating our frozen treats, when I caught sight of a little girl inside the shop. She was about four, maybe five years old, and looked exactly like Lilo. Pretty brown skin with long black hair and bangs. And she was dancing. Boy howdy was she dancing. Spinning and jumping and moving about, just having a grand time. She saw me through the window and gave me a thumbs-up. I busted out laughing. She smiled and continued to dance, now knowing that she had an audience.

Zac asked me what was so funny. I pointed at the little girl through the window. She had stopped dancing and had turned to her mom who was pouring her some yogurt. Zac looked at me like I was nuts but when he turned back to the window the little girl looked up and saw that she now had TWO people watching her. She started dancing all over again, throwing a thumbs-up to us every now and again, which we returned. I couldn't help but laugh. She clearly had personality to spare and I admired her youthful exuberance. She was a total and utter hoot to watch. When the yogurt was paid for, she stopped her performance and headed out with her mom. She smiled at us as she left. She had made my day and she was the closest thing to a real-live Lilo I think I'll ever see.

As I finished my yogurt I thought, life is good, and sometimes that means you've just got to dance.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas wrap-up

It was an odd Christmas this year. As the 25th approached neither Zac nor I were feeling much of the holiday spirit. This marks our third Christmas in Hawaii. The first year we had only been on the island for a couple of months and I was homesick, but decorating the house and technology made it easier to overcome the sadness. The second year (last year) we went out to California to spend the holiday at Zac's sister's home. From there I was able to continue on to Minnesota and celebrate a late Christmas with my family. This year we celebrated an early Christmas with parts of Zac's family in Nebraska and Colorado during our mainland visit but we found ourselves on the island for the actual holiday.

Though the house was decorated as usual, it just didn't feel like Christmas this year. I think it had to do with the flurry of activity that occurred in the two weeks between when we got back from the mainland and the big day. We got back, had to to clean the house for arriving guests, put together a Christmas card, write the accompanying year-end letter, cram in as many work hours as possible so I could have at least a couple of hours of paid work for the month, do the Christmas present shopping, spend time at the post office mailing said presents, and take care of a bunch of other little things that seemed to crop up. By the time Christmas weekend actually arrived I was tired, irritated and downright crabby and Zac's wasn't much different.

A couple of months ago some friends of ours invited us to go to a luau with them on Christmas day, per their tradition. Zac and I held off on making a decision until Dec. 24th. It has been raining here in Hawaii over the last couple of weeks, and not just the occasional, brief showers that pop up usually. I'd say that over the last 14 days, 11 of them have been totally overcast all day with consistent rain including bursts where we're getting 1.5-2 inches of rain per hour. It's wet and soggy out here with the ground so saturated that when the sun does pop out it gets incredibly muggy. I know most people on the mainland are dealing with lots of snow and cold temperatures, so maybe my gripes sound minor but day after day of rain (which traps you in your house) does take a toll.

Anyhow, Zac and I decided to wait until the last minute to get tickets to the luau because we were concerned that the weather might be bad on the 25th. We checked the forecast and as usual, it called for occasional showers. Luaus will take place even in gentle rain, despite the fact that almost the entire event takes place outside - include the seating for eating and the show which is uncovered. It takes a serious kind of weather to get them to cancel a luau. We decided that it was worth the risk (mostly because we were tired of sitting inside the house for the last week) and bought tickets. Our friends that are staying with us decided to come to, so between them, us, the other couple and a couple other people our group numbered eight as we lined up on Christmas Day outside the gate to Paradise Cove, one of the local luau establishments.

When the gates opened at 5pm, it was partly cloudy and muggy, but not bad. Paradise Cove is located on the Leeward side of Oahu and most often if there is one place on the island that isn't getting rained on, it's on that coast. I held out hope that the evening might work out. Our group walked around, drinking mai tais, enjoying the pre-dinner/show events. I dipped my toes in the ocean just so I could say that I was at the beach and in the water on Christmas at least once while I lived here. As the sun set the clouds started to fill in a little more. A few sprinkles started to fall. Pretty soon it was a pretty heavy sprinkle.

Around 7:00 it was time for supper. As they called everyone over to the buffet tents (at least they protected the food from the rain) the heavens opened and it started to POUR. It was the kind of rain where you were instantly soaked. Zac and I made it to the tent grabbed some food and ran over to the gift shop to try and eat in some relative dryness. On the way we heard from people that the luau had been canceled and that people were being escorted back to their buses to take them back to Waikiki. (Most attendees at a luau are tourists that are shuttled in from their hotels. Since we're "local" we drove ourselves.) Zac and I finished up some of our kalua pig and macaroni salad and headed out towards the entrance to meet up with the rest of our group.

We drove home, soaked, but pretty happy despite the sogginess. Once we got home we changed into drier clothes and headed out to a local bar where the guys threw darts and us gals played songs on the jukebox. It wasn't a perfect Christmas, but it was memorable. I am looking forward to the day when Zac and I can begin to develop consistent holiday traditions, but in the meantime I guess I'm content to accumulate these amusing how-I-spent-Christmas stories.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Back by popular request!

I've heard from a couple of people that I need to get a new blog post up. I agree.

Aside from the ice storm upon our arrival in Minneapolis, our trip to the mainland was fantastic. (And let's face it, the ice storm wasn't really a major detraction - it's a great part of the story.) We spent the first part of our trip in Minnesota visiting my family. We had a traditional Thanksgiving dinner with the whole family so Zac got to experience the chaos and noise of a holiday at my parent's house. We also got a chance to go back to the Como Conservatory where we got married almost three years ago.After our trip to Minneapolis, we flew to Denver, rented a car and drove to Zac's home in Nebraska. We happened to be traveling on a Husker football game day, so we ended up stopping in Ogallala for some food so we could watch at least part of the game. Once Zac was confident that a Husker win was pretty much guaranteed, we continued on to his parent's house. It was good to see Zac back on the farm in his work clothes, driving his pickup. He was very content.

Zac spent a number of days helping his dad put together a new corral for the cattle. This involved digging post holes, putting in the posts, tamping them to get them to stay put, and then attaching large metal panels. It was dirty, heavy work and Zac loved every minute of it. I "helped" too sometimes. And by "help" I mean that I stayed out of the way most of the time. I did get to add some buckets of water to concrete mix, so I contributed something to the project.

We played cards and marbles and watched football over the 10 days we were there. We were also able to visit Zac's uncles and aunts, grandpa and grandma. I think we did a pretty good job of seeing as many family as possible. Zac's mom fed us a ton of great food so I felt compelled to run a couple of times while I was out there. I ran through the cow pasture one time, making sure to check over my shoulder every now and again to see if I was being pursued by a herd of cattle or a coyote - a wee bit different than running in my neighborhood in Hawaii.

After our stay in Nebraska we drove back to Colorado and headed to Zac's brother's home in Colorado Springs. Zac and his brother went up to Winter Park to ski for a couple of days while my sister-in-law and I spent some quality time hanging out. I really like my sister-in-law and this was a great opportunity to get to know each other better. We talked about everything under the sun, and hanging out with their kids was a blast. When the guys got back from skiing we celebrated Christmas and had a fun time watching the kids playing with their new toys. We had a great time visiting everyone, but after three weeks of traveling I think Zac and I were both ready to get home.

So now we're back in Hawaii and I'm all out of sorts. A few days after we got back to our home, a friend of ours and his wife moved in with us. So I spent the first couple days back desperately trying to get the house up to guest-status. I was balancing cleaning with trying to get some work done. My invoice for December work is due on the 22nd because of all the end-of-the-year holidays, meaning that I only have about 10 days to get some hours in for the month. No hours worked = no pay. And not getting paid for the month of December is not okay.

So now that our friends are here I'm trying to balance entertaining, working and Christmas prep which leaves little time (or energy) for me to run. I'm not sure you all realize how much effort it takes for me to go run - it's like being forced to go to the dentist for fillings three times a week. I find running to be just awful. Some of my friends find that they do their best thinking while they run. My only thoughts are, "Am I done yet? How much further/longer do I have to go? I've heard this song on my mp3 player too many times. I'm really not any closer to being done??? Has time stopped?" I don't know how people find clarity when they run. I only find boredom and suffering. But I like to eat dessert, so run I must. Cheesecake is cruel mistress.

Anyhow, we're home. The dogs are happy to see us, we are happy to see them and we're looking forward to some rest and relaxation over the next couple of weeks. (Well, except for the work bit. I've still got five days to bust my butt on that. But then rest and relaxation.)

Monday, November 22, 2010

Sitting on a jet plane, Don't know when we'll get off again

Traveling in the winter is always an adventure. When Zac and I booked our flights we found that it was cheapest to have two layovers instead of just one, so our route to the mainland took us from Honolulu to San Francisco to Denver to Minneapolis. Of course the weather in Hononlulu was flawless upon departure. When we landed in San Francisco, it was a little overcast, but no "weather" to speak of. When we landed in Denver there was a little precipitation so we had get de-iced before we could take off. For the number of times I've flown, it was the first time I had ever been on a plane as it got de-iced. After a quick bath of what I'm sure are highly toxic chemicals we were airborne and heading to Minneapolis. The pilot came on the intercom and told us the flight would be about an hour and 27 minutes long. We had been on planes for more than seven hours at that point. Oh, sweet relief was so close.

The pilot quickly announced that we were starting our descent into Minneapolis. He noted that there was some precipitation. Soon we were under the cloud deck and I could see the orange glow of the Metro Area. I grinned like an idiot as I tried to figure out which runway we were heading for. I could see the residual snow from last week's storm and was looking forward to taking a good, deep breath of cold air in a matter of moments. The pilot set us down and we slowed to turn off the runway and onto the taxiway. Then we stopped.

People began firing up their mobiles and unbuckling their seat belts, because, really, who actually keeps their seat belt fastened until they stop at the gate? A few people started to gather their carry-on from under the seat in front of them. But we still weren't moving. We waited a few more minutes. Finally the captain came on the intercom to tell us why we essentially parked 200 yards from the terminal - ice.

Our flight landed at 11:15pm on Saturday night, right after a nasty, unexpected ice storm coated the region. According to the captain we were able to land safely because of the ridges that are incorporated into the runways. However, the taxiways were smooth and now, essentially, ice rinks. Since the storm wasn't anticipated, and it was late Saturday night, there were no sanding and salting personnel at the airport. The captain couldn't drive the plane to the gate, and the United towing crew couldn't come out to get us. We were stranded until the salter/sanders arrived. And that could take more than an hour. (Because, after all, the workers were trying to drive on the ice to get to work.)

People groaned. Most people expressed a certain amount of skepticism at the severity of the ice, but as more people started making phone calls to their Minnesota connections they started hearing stories of how bad it really was out there. Someone said that they heard that there had already been 140 car accidents that night. The captain came back on the intercom and told us that the buckle-your-seat-belt light had been turned off and that we were free to mill about until further notice. The flight attendants came around with more beverages and tried to keep the mood light.

And honestly, most everyone took the situation in stride. What other choice did we have? We were stuck. Now, if this had happened after the almost six hour flight from Honolulu to San Francisco, people might have been crabbier. But we had only been in the air for 90 minutes. We were doing fine. 30 minutes came and went.

Then an hour.

Then 90 minutes.

As I realized we had been on the tarmac as long as in the air, I got up to use the restroom towards the rear of the plane. A group of guys was hanging out back there socializing about stuff and talking with a couple flight attendants. I think they even weaseled a couple of free beers out of them. That was kind of the mood of the plane - whatever it takes to keep everyone happy. I spent most of my time corresponding with Paul who had planned on picking us up from the airport. Paul reported that getting to the airport was practically impossible. Some of the bridges had been closed, the freeway was a parking lot, and travel was just all the way around near impossible. We crafted a plan where, assuming we ever got out of the plane, Zac and I would take the light rail to the nearby VA Hospital were Paul could pick us up and then we'd drive back to his house.

2 hours.

At this point the captain came on the intercom to relay that he could personally see the salter/sanders through the front window. (I think he added that last part to emphasize that the end really was near.) He also mentioned that though our flight was supposed to taxi to a gate on the far side of the terminal, the folks at MSP Int'l decided to get us to the gate closest to our current location. The baggage folks and ground crew were on their way to take care of us too. People heaved a collective sigh of relief and in a few more minutes we were moving towards our gate.

As I got off the plane I got a blast of cold air in the face and smiled. Invigorating. (Which was helpful as it was now 1:45am.) We realized we could still make the 2:19 train to the VA so Zac and high-tailed it to the baggage claim to get our bags. We then hustled to the light rail station, purchased our tickets and finally decided to dig out our winter coats from our bags as we waited in the 26 degree weather for the train. The train arrived, I do love the light rail, and we took the five minute ride to the VA. We debarked the train and almost fell flat on our butts. It was slick. This ice was no joke. We shuffled our feet as we skated down the sidewalk to Paul's waiting vehicle.

At this point it was 2:30 in the morning. Between the late/early hour and poor weather there was no traffic so we slowed through stop signs and red lights as we slide home. I almost bought it a couple of time just walking through Megan and Paul's backyard. But finally, at 3:00am we were "home". It just took a little longer to get there than we had planned. :)

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The beach, 28 hour days and packing

For the third weekend in a row Zac and I went to the beach to catch some rays. It might come as a shock to some of you, but though we live in Hawaii we rarely go to the beach, especially just to lounge. Prior to these last few weeks I could count on one hand the number of times Zac and I had been to the beach in the last calendar year. (We haven't been diving in forever - back when we were diving we were at the beach every other weekend.) About a month ago Zac announced that he was a little too pale to be heading back to the mainland so we decided to catch some rays in hopes that our late-November midwestern-pale families would be jealous of our healthy Hawaiian glow. Of course I don't really tan. I get less white and add a few freckles. Zac tans. Jerk. So we've headed to a couple of beaches over the last three weekends, laying out and people watching.

As we get closer to our departure back home, I increasingly wish I had more hours in a day. There are a bunch of things I'd like to get done before we leave - arts and craft stuff, work, Christmas shopping, stuff around the house. Plus this week will also be busy as I've got a lunch date, I'm volunteering two evenings, I've got a meeting with the Captain one afternoon and I've got an ombudsman meeting another evening. This is really not the week that I wanted to cram all that into. If I could somehow lengthen my days, I'd be much more relaxed. I suppose I could try to get up a couple hours earlier, but my body is adamant in how much sleep it requires in a 24 hour period to function. If I pull myself out of bed earlier than usual, my body will flip the switch in late-afternoon and I will be worthless as I doze off for about the same amount of time I gained in the morning. I wish I could function on six hours of sleep like Zac does. I'd be insanely productive.

I'm starting to think about what all I'll need for three weeks in colder climes. Cold weather clothes take up a lot more room than warm weather ones. I'm excited at the thought of sweatshirts, sweaters, jeans, boots and scarfs. I'm sad that I no longer have corduroy pants that I can wear. Oh, how I do love corduroys! Since I'm going to be spending time in two very different settings (urban Minneapolis and rural Nebraska) I'm not entirely sure what all to bring. What I would wear casually around my parent's house is a little different that what I would wear if I was helping out with cattle at the farm, especially in the footwear category. I guess I'll just overpack and then decide I don't like any of my clothes any way when I get there. That's usually how it goes.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Grocery shopping, electricity bills and Halloween

Taking topics in reverse order:

Happy Halloween!

Halloween is a low-key affair for us this year. Because of the holiday's occurrence on Sunday, there were plenty of Halloween parties all around the island this weekend but Zac and I spent Friday evening watching Food Network and Saturday evening throwing darts in the garage. Some friends asked us to go down to Waikiki with them, but Waikiki is an absolute zoo for Halloween. Almost as bad (or maybe worse than) New Year's Eve. Not only do we object to Waikiki's $20 cover charges and $10 drinks, but Zac and I didn't take the time to come up with costumes which would probably be the only fun part of going out to a party or a bar. Maybe next year we'll come up with something and host a party of our own.

As far as passing out candy goes (don't hate me) but we're not doing it. We're hoping that if we turn off the lights and speak in hushed tones that the kids in the neighborhoods will think we're not at home. Because of the way Navy housing works, and who's entitled to what type of housing, everyone on our street has kids. (We got into this housing only because there was a shortage of housing for a sailor with a spouse and no kids. To get into our neighborhood you're usually supposed to have at least one child.) I don't mind living in a neighborhood full of kids. I just don't feel like partaking in passing out candy. I'm sure the trick-or-treaters will find plenty of sugary sweets to keep them happy without us. If the kids do ring our doorbell, they might find themselves getting a ziploc bad of steel-cut oats, some whole-grain pasta or the dreaded apple. Sorry kiddos - candy isn't something we keep on tap around here.

Speaking of turning the lights off and housing, a new electricity usage policy recently started for us. I'm thrilled. Up to this point people living in military housing out here on Oahu didn't have to pay for any utilities. The housing allowance that was given to service members living in housing covered the rent and all the electricity (and water). This meant that you could set your thermostat to 62 degrees, turn on all your lights and run hot water all day and you wouldn't incur any sort of cost.

Somewhere along the line the top Navy folks out here realized that the Navy is the number one consumer of energy on Oahu. Yes, the naval base was using a lot of electricity, but housing was using it like it was going out of style. The powers that be decided that something needed to be done. The company in charge of housing had already made some changes to try and be more energy-conscious. All of the housing built in the last couple of years have a couple of solar panels on the roof that are tied to the hot water heater and all of the light-bulbs that they supply to the houses are CFLs. But the Navy folks wanted the service members to take on more of the responsibility.

The new policy is fairly simple: Every month housing will calculate what the average energy usage is for houses that are about the same size. Then they'll create a buffer zone that extends 20% above and 20% below that average. If your energy usage falls in that buffer zone, you won't have to pay anything - just like it has always been. If you fall below the buffer zone you'll get a rebate of the amount you were below. If you fall above the buffer zone, you now have to pay for that extra energy use. Hooray!

Now personally I think that the 20% upper limit is too modest. I'd like to see them drop that to 15% or 10%, making more people responsible for paying for extra energy use. 20% is a pretty high bar. I'm a little amazed at how many people still exceed it even with that high barrier. For the next couple of months everyone in housing will be receiving "mock" bills to show us our usage. Starting January 1 the program goes into effect for real. I'm really hoping that this program will cause the people in housing to quit abusing the privilege of having our utilities (mostly) paid for and cause people to be more responsible.

Since I'm all riled up about energy consumption now, let me end on one quick other rant. I went to the grocery store yesterday and you know what I saw? Stacks of sugar, flour, chocolate chips, oil, Crisco, vanilla and assorted extracts, cinnamon by the bucket, every and all baking things I could ever want. I wanted to buy a cart-load and head home to bake up six different kinds of cookies, a few pies, a cake or two and whatever other November/December-type treats I could think of. I love to bake so much.

But I can't. Why? Because Zac and I can't eat all that sugary goodness by ourselves and we have no one to pass it off on! Arg! I suppose I could bake it all up and freeze it, but I've already got a cheesecake, three different kinds of cookies and two banana breads already in the freezer. I really don't want to eat the stuff, I just want to make it. I think I have a disorder of some sort. Anyhow, grocery shopping will be a painful experience for the next couple of months.

But the approaching holidays mean that butter will go on sale at least once. I am sooooooooooo looking forward to butter being on sale. (It's twice as much out here in Hawaii as it is in Minnesota.) *sigh* You can never have to much butter around, just in case you do need to bake something . . .

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Leave, Cirque, and fertility

Zac got his leave request approved this week, which is nice considering we already paid for the plane tickets home. So to all of our Minnesota and Nebraska family and friends, we'll be in town visiting you sometime in the latter part of November or beginning of December. I'm looking forward to Zac getting to spend some time with my family, but more importantly I'm glad that he'll be able to get back to the farm for awhile. Zac hasn't been back home since September of 2008. We did get to see his folks and sister last year for Christmas, but that was in San Francisco. Zac needs to put on his old Wranglers and get out there and do some work. It's the best way for him to recharge his batteries.

Me? I'm not a whole heck of a lot of help on the farm. (Please try to hide your shock and surprise.) I generally tag along and try to not get in the way. Zac's father did let me drive the combine during wheat harvest a couple years ago for about 100 yards or so. I didn't crash the combine into a sinkhole, so I counted the outing as a success. It's always funny to me how Zac sees the remoteness of the farm as freeing and relaxing. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy my time out on the farm. I just tend to always have the thought, being miles from your closest neighbor or emergency services, and no cell phone reception: "In rural Nebraska, no one can hear you scream." (My apologies to "Alien".)

Zac and I went to see Cirque du Soleil's Allegria last week. We don't get many traveling shows out here in Hawaii, so when I saw that Cirque was coming to town I decided that Zac and I should go. Zac had never seen a Cirque performance before and he was a little bit skeptical when I suggested the idea to him but he relented. It turns out he enjoyed the performance quite a bit. (Certainly it helped that one of the routines was two female contortionists who made his eyes pop out of his head. I gently whispered to him, "I will never bend that way, so don't get your hopes up.") I enjoyed the show too. I always wonder how people think up the costuming and make-up that goes into the Cirque shows. The music was very good. And the performers, as usual, do things that make you gape in amazement. It was certainly a good way to spend a random Wednesday evening.

The only other interesting thing to note lately is my lack of getting pregnant. (I know a lot of you are curious and it's easier to blog about it than to repeat the story again and again in person.) I've been on fertility drugs for the last few months, but so far - nada. This month my doctor, who really is quite lovely, put me on a different drug than I've been on. Both drugs are designed to get my body to over-do the progesterone-thing, making me Fertile Myrtle. But, alas, it hasn't happened yet. There are days that this bothers me immensely and I get really, really frustrated. But then there are days I gratefully thank the universe that I don't have children, and I toast the fact that I can do whatever I want whenever I please.

Truthfully, it's this teeter-tottering between wanting to be a mom and not wanting to be a mom that is the most stressful part of all of this. I thought I was completely bonkers for feeling this way but I've been talking to a few of my female friends who are also in their early 30s that are having the exact same feelings. I think part of the drawback of waiting to have kids is that you realize how good life can be without them. If you start having kids at 20, 22, even 24, you haven't finished school, haven't established your career, heck, you probably don't even know who you are yet. If you're 24, can you truly realize what kind of a life you're giving up by having kids? And then you get to your 30s, you've got a career, friends, hobbies, pursuits, and you realize that life can be very full and satisfying without children.

I'm not trying to be down on parenting. Parenting is not just responsibility, obligation and constriction. I understand that you get a whole separate, different life of richness and fulfillment by being a parent. But it is true that when you have kids, your life is suddenly not yours anymore. And maybe I've just become too selfish over the years. Yes, there are rewards for being child-free and different rewards from being a parent. It's just a matter of trying to figure out what rewards I want more.

I love kids. I do. And I think I'd like to have one. But if I don't have kids, I don't think I'm going to be crushed. I will be sad, to a point, but it won't be the end of me. I've got three nephews, a niece and a host of other children in my life that I would enjoy spending time with and spoiling over my lifetime. So I'll do a couple more rounds of fertility drugs and see what happens. I'll let Fate figure this one out.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

I'm an ombudsman

I interviewed for the position of ombudsman last year and didn't get the job. I wasn't surprised - I hadn't been an ombudsman before and I was still pretty new to the Navy. I figured that there would be a more qualified candidate that would get the position. But it was a good opportunity to put my name out there and make Zac's Captain aware of my willingness to help the command out. (It is a volunteer position.)

When the Captain let me know that I hadn't been selected for the position, he asked me if I'd be willing to attend the ombudsman training regardless, in case the position opened again. I jumped at the chance. Like when I took the
COMPASS class, I figured more Navy information could only be a good thing. The ombudsman training was an intense week of evening classes where we learned about our responsibilities and other Navy topics. I left the class grateful for the info, but a little overwhelmed. It was hard to put all that information into context when I wasn't actually an ombudsman.

Fast forward about six months and I get an e-mail from the Captain asking me if I'd be interested in taking over as co-ombudsman. (The Captain had ended up hiring two ombudsman the first time around.) One of the ombudsman was leaving and he wanted me to take her place. I was flattered that he asked and accepted the position. The person I'm taking over for did a great job and my main focus right now is not to screw up the system she developed for getting information to people.

So what does an ombudsman do? (At least in the context of the Navy.) They're the point of contact between families and the command. It's a much more demanding role when you're the ombudsman for a ship, especially when the ship is underway. Your main job is to be an information kiosk, of sorts, for family members. My car broke down, where can I get it repaired? My kid is having trouble in school, are there tutoring programs? My husband beat me last night, is there someplace I can stay? When is the ship coming back? I'm having a hard time with my sailor being gone, who can I talk to? Are there any summer camps available for the kids? And so on and so on. I don't need to know the answers myself, I just need to know where to direct people to get the answers.

Like I said, it's a more involved position when you're assigned to a ship. Zac's command is a shore duty and it's mostly senior sailors. Usually when you've been in the Navy for 10+ years you have accumulated a pretty good idea of what resources are available to you. Also, the sailors are home to help out with issues when they come up. It's a whole other ballgame when you've got sailors that are 18-24 years old and they're underway for six months, leaving their families behind. In either case, being an ombudsman is a significant responsibility.

So while I'm feeling a little anxious at the outset, I'm excited at the challenge that I'm undertaking. Hopefully the Captain will like my performance and let me continue on until we leave ATG next year. And who knows, maybe I'll get the chance to be an ombudsman at one of Zac's next commands as well.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Khaki Ball 2010, housemates, and a general update of life around here

I've been Oahu-home for three weeks now. We had the Khaki Ball two weeks ago, which marked the end of another induction season. To be honest, I didn't have nearly as much fun this year as I did at the last three. Bernadette and Ken are gone and Claudia and her husband, while still on the island, took part in a separate Khaki Ball celebration for Claudia's husband's new ship. (That is, her husband doesn't work with Zac any more.) We did have a couple friends to sit with, but the whole night felt a little . . . off. That wasn't just our lack of social circle though - the whole event felt a little soul-less. I loved my dress, but that was probably the high point of my evening.

Zac and I had a housemate for the last month or so, "Grant". Grant is/was one of Zac's co-workers, and he left for his new duty station in San Diego a couple days ago. Grant's wife (another friend who wasn't at the Khaki Ball this year) headed out to San Diego last month to get a head-start on getting their new home set up and finding employment. Grant and his wife are also selling their house, so by staying with us he was able to have the house vacant and available for viewing at all times. While Grant's wife took their cats with her to SD, Grant kept their dog here so for four weeks we had three canines underfoot.

Grant and I are great friends. He's my token conservative friend, and I'm his token liberal buddy. We have great conversations that never devolve into yelling matches. We disagree, on a lot, but more often than not we're able to find a middle ground where we both agree. It was a lot of fun having Grant around, and we're going to miss him a lot now that he's gone. (Although I am happy to have my bathroom back.) He and Zac are really close as Grant has been one of Zac's primary mentors for the last two years. It will be an adjustment having him gone.

I applied for a job a couple of weeks ago that I really, really wanted. I didn't get it. I was a little crushed. Ok, maybe a little more than "a little". I was in a pretty good funk about it all week. I'm happy to continue my telecommuting back to Minnesota with my legal editing gig as long as it lasts, because 1.) it's income and 2.) it's allowed me all sort of flexibility, but I am ready to move on when the opportunity presents itself. I'm resigned to the fact now that I'm going to have to do some/a lot of pro bono work if I'm ever going to be considered for a job practicing. I just don't think my job skills are appealing to prospective employers.

So as a pick-me-up I'm going to go with Claudia to visit Bernadette in Washington later this week for a long weekend. Claudia will be taking a Space A flight for the first time. I'm kind of excited about that. When there are extra seats on military flights they sometimes open up those seats to service members and their families for free or inexpensive travel. There aren't usually any bells or whistles on these flights, but have you flied commercial lately? Let's just say the bar isn't high for my Space A experience to be a success in comparison.

Since I'm just tossing out random stuff that's going on lately, I've also been asked to be Zac's command's co-ombudman starting this next week. (I'll probably use another entry to talk about that responsibility.) That will be a new and interesting challenge. I am looking forward to the experience, but I'm a little anxious about it.

Friday, September 10, 2010

A collection of quick MN thoughts

Here are random things I thought about/observed/learned while I was home.
  • Jeans and a sweatshirt/sweater is the most comfortable outfit a person can wear. Much more comfortable than tank tops and shorts. Yay cozy!
  • I'm much more likely to wear makeup when it's not 80+ degrees because it doesn't melt off my face.
  • Jasper is one of the world's slowest eaters. But that means you get to hold him longer, which isn't a chore. He's got that good-smelling-baby-scent-thing going for him.
  • Lincoln is a great kid, 98% of the time. The other 2% of the time usually results from him missing his nap. And then you spend the second half of that no-nap day dreading what's coming down the pipe.
  • I love the south eastern quadrant of Minneapolis best, because it's where I spend 90% of my time.
  • East Lake Street makes me happy. So does the West River Road, the area around the airport and Ft. Snelling, 46th Street, 38th Street, Cedar Avenue, Chicago Avenue, the U of M campus and even a few pockets of St. Paul.
  • I would like to have Minnehaha Creek and the Mississippi River imported to Hawaii so I can enjoy either running, walking or biking on the trails everyday.
  • Where the Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers converge might be what heaven looks like.
  • I enjoy seeing kids wearing their high school letterman jackets. I've never seen someone wear one in Hawaii. Although that's probably because it would be uncomfortable to wear a wool jacket with leather sleeves in a tropical climate.
  • It was hard to drive past my Grandpa Clare's house and realize that it's not part of my family anymore. The current owner has put in some amazing flower beds and gardens. It looks beautiful, and it looks like she's taking really good care of the place. But I still cried.
  • I could eat out every night in the Twin Cities and never run out of someplace yummy to eat.
  • I'm concerned at the lack of Greek food available to me back in Hawaii.
  • Lincoln knows more about trucks than many construction workers. It's amusing to watch him name things off with such enthusiasm. "It's a FRONT LOADER!"
  • My parent's house is just about the right size for about 6-8 adults and four kids. It feels much smaller when there are almost a dozen adults and five kids. If I bring Zac (and potentially someday a kid of our own) the house may very well explode. I am currently advocating a plan to annex the neighbors house, potentially by force if need be.
  • As much as I miss many of the elm trees in the neighborhood, the maples really do provide some amazing colors in the fall. I'm very glad they're just starting to turn, so I could get my "fall" fix before heading back to my eternal summer home.
  • Target Field is an exceptional ballpark, and I got to see an exceptional home run hit there. (Thome's dinger off the flag poll.) Even in the rain, it was one of the highlights of my Minnesota sporting experiences.
  • Though I am not a mallrat, I enjoy having many, many malls at my disposal in the Twin City area.
  • Lincoln's head must be made of kevlar.
  • It's hard to see your grandparents' capacities diminish. I think it becomes more noticeable when you don't see them regularly.
  • I was surprised at how few cashiers/waitresses had seen a military ID before. I guess that's because Minnesota has no active duty military installation.
  • I am increasingly sentimental.
  • Dairy Queen is delicious. If we have one every two miles in Minneapolis, where at least a quarter of the year is not ice-cream friendly, why on earth do we not have more than a couple of them in Hawaii where it is eternally summer?
  • I like that my MN accent comes back when I'm home. I wish it was easier to hang on to when I'm not there.
  • Rooting for the Gopher football team is tough. Really, really tough. But yet I can't not.
  • I wish Zac and my family could spend more time together.
  • I love houses built before WWII. Even though the floors might creak and they aren't wired for lots of outlets and things might not be totally square, they make up for it in character.
  • I like power tools and wish I had more projects to work on around the house. I was particularly happy to play with my dad's new table saw and compressed air nail gun this time around.
  • Minneapolis really is one of the most bike-friendly places in the U.S. and should be damn proud of it.
  • Either I'm getting old or I have no fashion sense (and quite probably both) but a lot of the clothes out there for teenage girls are utterly ridiculous. I will enjoy 15-20 years from now when they cringe as they look at their old high school pictures. There is a price to pay for being too trendy, young ladies.
  • I'm beginning to think that the 35W/62 interchange might not ever be completed. I find it odd that they've been working on it longer than I've been married.
  • Listening to the rain is the best way to fall asleep.
  • Even though I'm not a huge fan of the guys calling the games, I loved listening to Twins baseball on the radio. And I love Hardware Hank commercials.
  • Minnesota has an abundance of riches when it comes to locally produced beer.
  • My friends are really remarkable people. I admire so many attributes of each of them.
  • I will always cry when I leave my family. And that's ok.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Friends, the Fair, Food

I really want to have a blog entry where all it contains is a list of short things I like/love/miss/note about Minnesota. As I've been spending time here something will come to mind and I'll think, "I'll need to remember that for the list," and then I will promptly forget it. I need a notepad to carry around with me for the last week I'm here. Hopefully I'll recall some of those ideas that have evaporated.

I've had a great trip so far. I've managed to see a number of friends without feeling like I'm over-scheduled. My friends are terrific. Really, truly great people. Facebook and text messages and phone calls are nice, but face-to-face time can't be beat.

My feet are nice and swollen right now from seven hours at the Minnesota State Fair. One of Paul's good friends from the Port Royal, and his friend's wife, came up to visit Megan and Paul for the Labor Day weekend. Since I'm the fifth wheel of sorts, I've been spending some time with them as well. Today we introduced them to the Great Minnesota Get Together. I love the Fair. It makes me happy. Some people complain that it's always the same, year after year, but that's my argument in favor of it. Consistency. With the only exceptions being a few new food items or a couple new displays, the Fair is the same experience every year. Every year it marks the end of summer (probably more so than even Labor Day for a lot of people) and the beginning of fall. I love the noises, the smells, the general chaos of moving through the people-clogged streets. And doggone it, piglets and other baby animals are always cute and must be cooed over.

I ate more food than I should have today, but I didn't feel like throwing up at any point so I'm counting the day as a sort of victory. I'll be glad to go run some of it off tomorrow morning. (One of the few times you might hear me say I'm "glad" to run.) Paul's friend's wife wants to run with me but I'm not sure I want to run with her. She runs a 9:30-10:00 minute mile. Let's just say, I do not. I am a slow moving object. Especially now that I'm running outside with inclines, declines and a headwind. I'm surprised that casual walkers don't blow past me. But regardless of my pace, it will help in some small way to erase the damage that the Fair did today.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Home, the Dome

My flights to Minneapolis took me from Honolulu to Phoenix (about six hours) and from Phoenix to Minneapolis (a little more than three). Throw in a two and a half hour lay over and five time zone changes and my body is still a little "off" from traveling. No matter. I'm back in Minnesota and plan on making the most of my time here. (Even if "making the most of my time" this afternoon involved a two hour nap.)

The flights were relatively uneventful. Pretty much sleep-a-thons. I did wake up with about 45 left until we landed in MSP. I could see all the farms out the window - the geographical squareness of plots and flatness of southern Minnesota. And then, after a few minutes and a hundred miles, I spotted more and more lakes, and the number of trees increased. Being that I grew up 15-20 minutes from the MSP airport in South Minneapolis, I tried guessing which route we were coming in on and which runway I was going to land on. Over the rivers and Hwy 5? No, not this time. I ended up on one that passes over Cedar/77 by the new(ish) Target and Home Depot. Yes, I'm such a Minnesotan that it's even important for me to know which route the plane took to land.

After I got my bags, Paul and Megan picked me up and we met my folks for an Ayers family tradition - post-flight pie at Bakers Square in Highland Park. (Do you know good it feels to let things like Highway 5, Bakers Square and Highland Park roll off my fingers?) I finally got to meet my newest nephew, Jasper. He's quite the little peanut. I'll provide my final assessment of him at the end of the two weeks, but his initial impression was positive. I think he'll make the cut and get added to the Dramatis Personae soon.

Because I'm here for three weekends and two of the other weekends are already planned, we ended up deciding to go to the Dome (the family cabin shaped like a geodesic dome) this first weekend. Dad, Megan, Lincoln, Jasper and I all headed up to the Dome on Friday evening, while Mom, Paul and the two dogs came up Saturday morning. I love the Dome so very much. I do not love mosquitoes, however, and this weekend they were not just pesky but plentiful. I have the welts to prove it. I can safely say that skeeters are the only thing I DON'T miss about MN.

The first night of sleeping was rough. (I don't sleep well on a good day, granted.) My internal clock was off and I couldn't fall asleep. Plus, my sister is breastfeeding Jasper, so she woke up at midnight, four and seven to feed him. The thing about the Dome is that everyone sleeps upstairs in the loft - there are no separate rooms. So when Jasper would start to fuss and Megan would wake up to feed him, I had already been "awoken" 10 minutes prior by Jasper's stirring. Which is to say, I had been roused from my drifting in and out of conscientiousness because I couldn't ever properly fall asleep. I got up the next morning feeling like a battery that had failed to be charged properly.

My lack of energy failed to stop me from helping mow the yard and play baseball with Lincoln. There was swinging on the tire swing and lounging on the deck, listening to the Twins play Seattle. There was construction of Lincoln-sized ladders and stacking logs that Dad has chainsawed up into firewood. We grilled burgers and I even went for a run around the 1.5 road that our cabin sits on. I figure I'm going to be eating a lot this trip - food is love, right? - and I need to make sure I don't abandon my exercise routine. I mean, c'mon. My family has things like post-flight pie for Pete's sake. Running will be necessary. I also figured that if I wore myself out by jogging while tired I would sleep better Saturday night.

After the kids went to bed, more traditions - playing Oh Hell and some cribbage. Finally it was time for bed, and while I still didn't sleep great I did sleep better, due to some drastic decisions by me. That particular story can stay exclusively with the family and in the annals of Dome lore. Today we headed back into town because it is HOT here. Hotter than Hawaii. And hot at the Dome isn't too much fun. But I feel that I got an adequate cabin fix and that I can leave here content with the time I did get to spend there.

Now it's on to planning time with friends and family. Let the great coordination of hanging out begin!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

So happy to be one of 150,000

For those that haven't heard, the military is probably going to repeal the Don't Ask, Don't Tell , (DADT) policy. As part of the repeal process, they sent out anonymous questionnaires to approximately 400,000 service members to see how they would feel about serving with openly gay and lesbian members. They also sent out 150,000 questionnaires to spouses to get their view on things. I was delighted to be one of the spouses that got to make her opinion heard.

The questionnaire wasn't very long and focused exclusively how openly gay members of the military would impact me, as a spouse. I was asked questions like, "If your family lived in military housing and a gay family moved in next door, what would you do?" My multiple-choice options to answer were something along the lines of "Get to know them more than your straight neighbors" "Get to know them the same way you would any other neighbors" "Ignore them" or "Move". I was also asked if I would be more or less likely to participate in various family support groups and social events if I knew there were gay family members also participating.

The main reason I was so happy to be one of the 70,000 active duty spouses that got to answer the DADT survey is because I'm sure there are spouses answering the survey that thought, "There's no way I'm going to the command picnic if a gay member's family is there." I want the Department of Defense to know that for some of us, having openly gay members and their families as part of our military family is NO BIG DEAL. I believe the repeal is a positive thing - it allows for honesty in the military. People could be who they are without compromise, secrecy or fear.

I think it's horribly unfair and wrong that Zac can have a photo of me on his desk at work, but a gay sailor can't have a picture of him and his partner. Something like 6% of the American public volunteers to serve in the military. This means we are counting on a very few to do a lot of the heavy lifting that freedom and security requires. So if a young man or woman, who happens to be gay, wants to join and serve us I think we should all say simply, "Thank you for your service."

Note that nowhere in the survey was I asked if gay members should be allowed to serve. I was also not asked what impact their service would have on my spouse's work (which, of course would be pure speculation on my part). However, there was a section for comments at the end of the survey, which I used as my opportunity to share that I whole-heartedly disagreed with DADT and that I was glad that it was being repealed. They didn't ask me, but I decided to tell. It's about time everyone got that chance.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Birthdays and an Admiral named Kate

It will be August 17th for a few more hours out here in the middle of the Pacific, so I'm still 32 for the moment. Yes, another year - another birthday. I think I'll cling to one last year of my "early 30s" before easing into my "mid 30s" next year. I talked to Megan and Paul this afternoon and Paul congratulated me on turning 27 this year. He got a gold star for the day.

Tomorrow morning I'm celebrating by going to the beach with Claudia. This may come as a shock to some of you, but just because I live in Hawaii doesn't mean that I spend all my time at the beach. In fact, I can't even think of the last time I had a swim suit on. (Wow. Even I'm a little stunned by that realization.) Last summer I was a beach regular, when Zac and I would go diving every other weekend, but we just haven't gotten into the rhythm of going this summer. Our weekends always seem to be busy with other plans, and also I've read that women that are pregnant (or trying to get pregnant) shouldn't be diving since researchers are not sure what effect the increase of nitrogen in the blood will have on a blastocyst/embryo/fetus. And while it's better to be safe than sorry, it is still with a bit of regret that I look back at almost a full summer of no diving.

Getting back to the celebration of my birth, I'm probably not going to be doing much tomorrow besides the beach. I think I've convinced Zac that maybe we should head into Honolulu or even Waikiki this weekend to have some fun. Maybe other folks will want to tag along. I'll have to send some feelers out to see if anyone else wants to go.

Not much else is new around here. Induction season is in full swing. Zac is routinely getting up earlier than usual to go PT with the selectees. Neither one of us is too excited when the alarm goes off at 0445. You can't really escape the CPO/induction madness. Today Zac and I headed over to the uniform shop so we could drop off one of his uniforms to get dry cleaned and to get some tailoring done on a shirt that I have. (They tailor civilian clothes there too.) I was standing in line for a few minutes, waiting for the seamstress to finish with the person ahead of me when I noticed a bunch of chiefs hanging around the fitting room. One guy had a camera. It dawned on me quickly that there must be a selectee in the changing room getting fitted for his new uniform. (Chiefs have different work and dress uniforms from the junior enlisted guys.)

The selectee finally came out in his new choker whites. He looked a little dazed. The chiefs snapped up photos of him. "This is all part of the transition," one chief chuckled. The seamstress had the selectee try on another coat and they talked about pants sizes. I smiled at how much the selectee and the chiefs were enjoying the moment.

At this point an officer came up and asked me if I was the line for the tailor. We started to chit chat as we waited. She was a fit, petite woman, probably in her late 40s. She had an warm energy about her that I liked. I noticed she had a name tag on - her first name was Kate. A clear indicator of coolness.

I glanced at her collar devices to see what rank she was and saw that she had a star. Holy moly, she was an admiral. It actually took me a second to realize that she was an admiral because, honestly, I've never met someone with a star before. I tried not to stare at her too much, but she was really interesting. Since she was in uniform I offered her the position in front of me in line, which she politely declined. (We were both in no hurry - both of us were trying to avoid traffic on the way home.) I told her there was a selectee in the fitting room, getting fitting for his chokers. She smiled broadly and said, "There are two things in the Navy that I've always wanted to do but I've never gotten to do - serve on an aircraft carrier and be a chief." That stunned me a little. She went on to talk about how much she admired chiefs and the induction process, and how special it was.

We talked a little more about chiefs and Zac in particular when Zac decided to join us in line. He was wearing his Oklahoma City marathon t-shirt so the Admiral asked him about the race. They started to talk about running as I was called into the fitting room. I excused myself and went to get fitted. On the way out, the Admiral was getting fitted for a jacket. I thanked her for helping me pass the time in line, which she returned. Zac and I went to the checkout where he questioned, "Do you realize she's an admiral?" I said, with big eyes and a nod, "Yes." Zac was a little amazed because he didn't think he had ever spoken that many words to an Admiral before. Also, he was surprised that she had her Seabee warfare pin. A female admiral who is in construction? A rare find, indeed.

I got home and Googled the Admiral, of course. Rear Admiral Kate Gregory. (I know it's silly, but I think it's neat that we spell "Katherine" the same way.) She put on Admiral this summer. Part of me is glad I didn't know her resume before we met. I'm pretty sure I would have been more intimidated by her had I known she was was the Navy’s first female Civil Engineer Corps flag officer and that she is in charge of NAVFAC Pacific. That's no small feat. But on the other hand, it would be pretty neat to pick the brain of someone who has been so successful in the Navy. Who knows? Maybe we'll pick up our tailoring at the same time.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

It's induction season again

The Navy released the names of the sailors who have been selected to become Chief Petty Officers today. They are now Chief Selects (a.k.a. Selectees) and will go through about six weeks of induction to bring them into the CPO fold. It can be a taxing process for the selectees, but it is an important opportunity to learn some history, build camaraderie, and work on their leadership skills. Or so I'm told. A lot of what goes on with induction is between the existing chiefs and the selectees, and isn't open for public consumption. I do know that there is a lot of studying and memorization that selectees have to do. They run fundraisers like car washes and eateries for the Khaki Ball. There are events like a golf tournament and other outings they have to participate in. They will exercise a lot and have to endure a fair amount of mental stress, but at least they don't beat the selectees like they did 20+ years ago. Apparently the Navy figured out that physical assault doesn't have a role in developing leaders.

I have either been dating or married to Zac for four induction seasons but they've all been different so I'm still learning about what induction season brings. The first season was when Zac was going through his induction (by himself) in El Salvador. The next year we were in the middle of moving to Hawaii while it was happening, and Zac missed out on participating. Last year was the first "normal" induction season I've been around with lots of selectees going through it together at a major Navy installation. This year should be similar to last, with Zac being even more involved this time. Zac especially enjoys the physical training part of induction season, but he's weird that way.

What's different about this year is that Zac and I have a good friend who is a first class (E-6) that didn't make it. (I guess I'll dub him "Max".) It was Max's first year up for chief, and while it's not uncommon to not make it your first time, he's still very disappointed. Max is really the first guy who isn't a chief that I've become good friends with. That's not because I'm some sort of elitist wife who refuses to socialize with junior sailors - it's because the sailors that I've met so far (and befriended) have all been guys that Zac works with at ATG where almost everyone is a chief. And when I do occasionally meet some of Zac's old Port Royal friends (that are still in the Navy) most of them have been in longer than Zac and therefore they, too, all tend to be chiefs.

Despite the fact that Zac and Max have been friends for eight years, their difference in rank has caused a hiccup a couple of times since they've been back on the island together again. They both know that it's just the way things go when a system is structured like the Navy, but that doesn't make it easier. The Navy puts such a point of emphasis on the difference between being an E-6 and a chief that it makes for some tough situations that wouldn't exist in other branches, where the difference between being an E-6 and an E-7 is much less important. I know that Zac and Max will be able to handle this next induction season with understanding of each other's position, but I do expect a little awkwardness along the way. I'm not looking forward to that.

Perhaps I'm just too sensitive about stuff like this. Making chief is a lot like getting promoted anywhere else in life - the powers that be make a decision based on unknown variables and standards and you're left wondering why some people got promoted and why others didn't. It's not like an exam where there's a number you need to achieve to advance, like "You scored 75, which is above the required 72. You're being promoted!" The chiefs that I've talked to say that there are certain things that sailors can do to put themselves in the best position to be promoted, but then I hear about certain people that make it and I'm left wondering how in the world their "resume" looked better than those of some guys who didn't make it. Add in the fact that the Navy also advances people based on quotas, meaning that some years the numbers are just against you, and it can be a frustrating system.

So while I congratulate all of those that made it today, I have a lot of empathy for those that worked hard but didn't see their name on the list.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Busy weekend recap and heading home

Uff da, what a weekend. This was one of those times I was happy to see Monday roll around, just so we could get back into a normal sleeping/eating cycle. Friday morning/afternoon was the ATG command picnic. Zac was in charge of running some of the competitive events (canoe races, horseshoes, tug-of-war) so he had to be there pretty much all day. (Which also meant that I was there most of the time.) It was a long, hot day, but fun. After the picnic wrapped up we rushed home so we could shower and get ready for another event that evening: the Chief Petty Officer Dining Out.

A Dining Out is a formal dinner that has established rules and traditions. While some regions have well-established, long-standing Dining Outs, Hawaii does not. In fact, this was only the second year that they've held one. As a result, everyone is still feeling their way through the process of making it as successful as possible. Some things that we will need to brush up on for next year's Dining Out: giving toasts and reciting limericks. (It's a dinner for sailors - don't tell me you're surprised that the event involves alcohol and bawdy language.)

On Saturday Zac and I spent the morning doing some chores and then headed out to see a movie. We decided to continue our date-night over on base where we could play some pool. We were expecting a relatively quiet, early night. But then we ran into one of Zac's Navy buddies and, well, that plan went out the window. This guy had just arrived back in Pearl to report to a ship later this week. He and Zac hadn't seen each other in years, so the quiet, early night turned into a energetic, late night of catching up. We finally decided it was time to head home around 2am, which is ungodly late for us. But it was a lot of fun getting to meet his buddy and we had a great time. There was always time for sleeping in on Sunday.

(Which is not entirely true because the dogs have no idea what a "weekend" is and demand to go outside by 6:30am no matter what day it is. Evil pooches.)

Sunday we did sleep in, some, and then did laundry. After lunch we met up with Claudia and her husband to help them get ready for Claudia's husband's advancement party. (Claudia's husband just got promoted to E-8, so they were throwing a party to celebrate.) We helped get the food and the keg over to the boathouse where the party was being held and stayed there all afternoon and into the evening. Yet another day of eating a lot of food, drinking a few drinks, and being out in the hot Hawaiian afternoons. While we love spending time with our friends, Zac and I were both beat by the time we got home Sunday evening. Apparently we need to somehow distribute events over multiple weekends instead of cramming them all into one.

On the topic of my return to Minneapolis: I'll be home for the last part of August and the beginning of September. I don't have a schedule of what all I plan to do, yet, but I do think I'd like to have some sort of grill-out for friends when I get back. Maybe over at the Wabun Picnic area by Minnehaha Falls? Or maybe some place with more shelter . . . still debating. If getting to see my shining face isn't enough of an incentive, maybe I can bribe attendance with burgers, beer and pop. I'm hoping to see as many people as I can while I'm back, so this is one of my attempts to achieve that.

Stay tuned for additional details!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Cheesecake is good

Ah, cheesecake. How can something that makes my mouth so happy make my thighs so sad? Behold my latest creation:

For the last couple of years I have taken it upon myself to make Zac a cheesecake for his birthday. This year I modeled it after the kind of cheesecake we had at our wedding. It is a chocolate swirl Bailey's Irish Cream cheesecake, with a chocolate ganache topping. And yes, it is as good as it looks. (Much to my utter delight. Pretty and tasty? Success!)

Now that we've had our birthday pieces we come to the difficult part of slicing up the remainder and freezing the slices for later consumption. Hmmm. Maybe "later" could be after the evening news today . . .

So while I think I need to come up with a shorter name for it for the recipe card, for now I shall simply call it DELICIOUS.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Shake, rattle and roll . . . sort of

I got to experience my first earthquake today. It was so minor that I didn't know I had experienced it until I watched the evening news, three hours later. A small, 3.5 earthquake went off a few miles south of Oahu around 3:30pm. Zac and I were both sitting in the living room; he was talking to his parents on the phone and I was getting some work done on the laptop. Suddenly it felt like (and sounded like) a huge gust of wind slammed into the house. It's not uncommon for us to get big gusts of wind, especially when the trade winds are blowing. When those winds get going you can hear the wind howling through the house, and if a big enough gust comes a long, the house creaks under the pressure. This afternoon's experience was different enough from the usual wind that both Zac and I looked at each other immediately and asked, "What the hell was that?"

But it only lasted a split second. Then it was gone. We figured it had been the wind. After all, there was no shaking, no rattling, no pictures falling from walls, nothing that said "earthquake". I didn't really give it much more thought until we were watching the 6 o'clock news and they reported the news that, indeed, it was an earthquake. It must have been just one brief, small wave of energy that swept through the neighborhood. Earthquakes on the Big Island are fairly common - Kilauea, the active volcano on the Big Island, causes small tremors every now and again. Earthquakes on the other islands are much less common. If I'm going to experience an earthquake I guess a little one is the way to go.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Baby Jasper and strep throat

First the happy news - I'm an aunt again! Baby Jasper made his entrance into the world on the 7th. Congratulations to Megan, Paul and Lincoln! I was fortunate enough to be with Megan in Minneapolis for her pregnancy with Lincoln. I was there in the hospital, waiting for Lincoln to be born, and I got to see him grow up-close and in person for the first eight months of his life. Then I moved out to Hawaii and now, aside from the few trips home, I've been watching Lincoln grow up via Skype. I thank my lucky stars every day that the technology exists that I can spend face time with Lincoln and my family. It was tough missing out on Megan's second pregnancy and the arrival of Jasper, though. There are times you just want to hug people and, well, technology hasn't evolved that far yet. I had my first Skype session with Jasper, Megan and Paul 24 hours after he was born. How cool is that?

He's adorable, of course. Look at all of that dark hair! Makes me wonder how much he'll look like his fair-haired big brother. I'm really looking forward to getting home and being able to hold Jasper and playing t-ball with Lincoln. Since I don't have a photo of me and Jasper yet, and I'm all excited about my nephews tonight, here's one of my favorite photos of me and Lincoln from December:

On the down side of things, I started getting a sore throat yesterday that continued to get worse as the day/night went. For background here, a few years ago I got strep throat. It was one of those sore throats that I ignored, thinking that it was just a regular sore throat and would go away in a couple days. I woke up in the middle of the third night because of the pain. My throat was so constricted that I had a hard time breathing and swallowing actually made me tear up, it was so painful. I went into the doctor to have it checked. The nurse had me open and say "ahhhhh" to swab my throat and gasped. She said she could hardly get the swab to the back of my throat to take the culture. She said that she hadn't seen a throat like that in a long time, if ever. I was somewhat comforted that I wasn't making up my situation. (This whole time I was spitting into a cup because I couldn't bear to swallow.) Of course, the test came back positive for strep. I was given Tylenol with Codeine and some antibiotics.

After a couple of days I was back to normal, but ever since that incident I have a lingering fear that every sore throat will devolve into something like that strep incident. Like I said, my sore throat started out yesterday and got progressively worse over the next 24 hours. I chided myself for being paranoid, but I called the doctor's office this morning to ask to come in. They didn't have any appointments available but, maybe it was my mentioning that I had had strep before, the nurse managed to squeeze me in for a quick strep test. By the time I got to the clinic for the test my throat was pretty much on fire - it wasn't as bad as my last strep bout. That time I actually felt like I swallowing shards of glass that were shredding my throat. This time it just felt like I was being stabbed in the throat with a millions pins. Believe me, that is actually an improvement over last time.

It took about 15 minutes for the test to come back positive. Honestly, I was surprised that it was strep. I would have bet money that I was overreacting and just had a regular ol' sore throat. Anyhow, I've got my arsenal of Motrin and penicillin to get me through the next few days. So on the downside, while technology couldn't let me hold Baby Jasper, on the upside it also couldn't expose him to my strep when I got to see him yesterday. Here's one more photos, just because he's so sweet:

Monday, July 5, 2010

I need something to do, but I'm not sure what

I'm bored. I think I need to meet some new people. At the very least I need to get out the house.

I spent a good chunk of time searching online last night for something to do. I first thought to look up some community ed classes. (I guess they call it adult education out here.) I think back to the very cool community ed class that Megan and I took a couple of years ago where we learned to make krumkake, a type of cookie, and some strange Norweigan cheese (its name escapes me at the moment). The cheese involved heating milk to separate the whey from the curds and mixing it with something else and, well, it was a strange concoction. But it was fun to make. I love community ed classes. If you haven't taken one in awhile you really should take advantage of them. I figured there would be something out here that would pique my interest. I checked out the class listings for the two closest locations, but didn't see anything exciting or motivating. I was kind of hoping that there might be a writing course, or a Thai cooking course, or some sort of beginning art class, but there wasn't.

I also spent some time looking at the community college catalog from up the street. Again, not much caught my eye. I'm not looking for another degree, just a class or two to keep the neurons firing. I could go big-time and head over to University of Hawaii and get another degree, maybe a MLIS (Master of Library & Information Science), but right now I feel like that would be getting another degree just for the sake of getting another degree. Of course tuition is always a concern. Heaven knows I have plenty of student loans remaining from my law degree. I'm just not interested in taking on another 2-3 years of school with no real reason to.

As far as employment goes as potential activity, I've applied for a few full-time jobs over the last few weeks, but no news yet. I suppose I could see if there is some part-time work out there. Maybe I should just wait til summer break is over (so the teenagers are back in school) and go see if there's anything that strikes my fancy at the mall. Borders never seems to be hiring, but that would be great. I still find organizing tables relaxing when I'm in there, even as a customer. They really should thank me for straightening up a few shelves in their cooking section the other day. Yes, I suffer a mild case of OCD when I'm in a bookstore. Anyone who has spent time working in one knows what I'm talking about.

This is quickly devolving into and entry of nothing but whining, so I should probably just stop while I'm I'm ahead. I'll figure it all out. Maybe I'll just spend a whole lot of time crocheting for the next year and a half.