Tuesday, March 30, 2010

In need of rephrasing

Ok, apparently I shouldn't disparage the tropical uniforms. Because I made fun of them, Zac has now officially refused to EVER wear the tropical uniform if the opportunity arose.

So let me rephrase: I will not laugh at the tropical uniforms.

I will, instead, celebrate the fashion-forward, equatorial joy that are the tropical uniforms. :)

COMPASS class in review

The COMPASS class I took last week went pretty well.

That's the short version.

If you want the longer version, here it is:

First off, I'm still not sure why COMPASS is in all capital letters. Usually when something is in all caps it's an acronym for something. For example, MIDPAC stands for Middle Pacific, or RHIB stands for Rigid-Hulled Inflatable Boat (simply pronounced, 'rib'). COMPASS apparently doesn't stand for anything but it is named with all capital letters. The leaders of the class said the name comes from the idea that the class is designed to help spouses navigate the Navy, hence the directional instrument. But that doesn't really warrant all caps in my book. If it's not an acronym I think it should be "Compass". After all, we don't go around typing SEXTANT. (Especially in a digital world where all caps usually indicate yelling. COMPASS!!! SEXTANT!!!)

The class ran for three nights, three and a half hours per night. We covered a number of topics including Naval history and traditions, benefits, finance, moving, deployment and communication in relationships. Each topic was taught by a different volunteer. The class had 12 spouses in it, and by 'spouses' I mean 'wives'. There were two women who had only been married for three months to their sailors and some who were in the double-digit years. Most of us fell into the middle. It was a nice range. As the instructors periodically pointed out, even spouses that have been with the Navy for a long time can learn something new at COMPASS. (For example, this time around we learned that chaplains were not mandatory reporters - even the instructors didn't know that one.) I'd say I already knew about 60% of what they taught us. I was quite pleased with myself for having acquired much of that knowledge on my own over the last couple of years. I actually felt a little bad for the recently-married gals in the class because often times they looked a little dazed and confused by everything that was being thrown at them. Perhaps taking this class a few years on into the marriage isn't so bad.

One interesting aspect of the class was that we all called each other by our first names and we were not allowed to disclose our husband's rank. No officers, senior or junior enlisted in this class. Just wives. That was kind of refreshing, and particularly necessary really. I'm not sure you'd get the same kind of candor or friendliness between the wives if we all knew where our husbands were in the pecking order. Instead of focusing on just what you have in common with other officer wives or other junior enlisted wives, you got to focus on what you had in common with someone else who is married to a sailor - period. Because at the end of the day, they're all sailors and they all deploy.

I had more than a few good chuckles listening to the wives swap stories about their time in the Navy. It was like listening to Zac talk to his Navy buddies, except the wives aren't in charge of nuclear reactors or firing missiles or performing a non-compliant ship boarding. We all have our types war stories it seems.

There were a few low points to the class. Not really low points, more like disappointments. I was mostly disappointed in the segment of the class that dealt with Naval history and traditions. This included things like uniforms, rank structure, rates, etc. This is the topic I was most looking forward to. I was completely amped up for this topic. If I were volunteering for COMPASS, this is the topic I would beg to teach. It is so darn interesting. But, alas, the presenter didn't project much enthusiasm for the subject. How is that possible? Naval history is fascinating! There is so much neat stuff you could talk about. We didn't even listen to (or sing) "Anchors Aweigh"! And uniforms? I could talk about uniforms for days! Now maybe not everyone thinks history and traditions are as neat as I do, but, boy howdy, if I was teaching that subject you would know that I loved it.

If I taught that section of the class I would have a full size cut out of a sailor in a tropical uniform, just for giggles.

I laugh until I almost cry every time I see the tropical uniforms. Especially the Dinner Dress tropical uniform on the right. Look at that gold cummerbund shimmer! Why the guys don't wear these in Hawaii, I do not know. (After all, isn't Hawaii 'tropical'?) I really wish they would wear these. Zac, on the other hand, scowls every time I mention tropical uniforms.

Where was I? I got so distracted by the tropical uniforms . . .

Ah yes, so besides the history and traditions disappointment, overall the class was really well done. You could really tell that the volunteer enjoyed presenting the materials and were genuine in their desire to share information with people. In order to be a COMPASS mentor (the people that teach) you have to have been married to your sailor for at least three years and been around for at least one six month deployment with him (and take the mentor course). Zac and I haven't been married that long, and I'm not sure that El Salvador would count as a deployment, but I think I'll help them out with the support staff positions that they have. (For example, some people make food for each class session, others update materials.) Hopefully at some point I'll be able to be a COMPASS mentor, and maybe they'll let me teach the Navy History and Traditions Unit.

I even promise not to laugh at the tropical uniforms!


Nah. I'll continue to laugh at those.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

I'm B-O-R-E-D

I'm bored. I've nothing really worth blogging about. Since this blog has turned into a way for people in my life to keep up with me, as opposed to me complaining about one thing or another, it is hard to blog about the normal day-to-day goings on.

Here's my day: I wake up, I brush my teeth and make some coffee, I turn on the computer and check out my usual 10-15 websites to catch up on news, I drink the aforementioned coffee while I work for a few hours, I eat lunch, I crochet for an hour or maybe read, I go back to working for a couple hours, Zac gets home, we discuss his day, we make supper, we watch tv or something from Netflix, sometimes play a game of cribbage during the show, and then go to bed. That's pretty much it every day. My job is the same as it was a few months ago, so is Zac's. Toivo is the same. No, I'm not pregnant. The new dog, Zoe, arrives next month. And that's about it. With nothing new to report it gets to be a chore staring at a blank blog screen, waiting for inspiration to strike.

Next week I'll be taking a COMPASS class, which I hope will give me some topics worth blogging about. Here's the description of the class:

COMPASS is a standardized Team-Mentoring program developed by spouses for spouses. COMPASS focuses on spouses new to the Navy, however; ALL Navy spouses are welcome. COMPASS improves quality of life through education, enabling spouses to understand, experience and meet the challenges of the Navy lifestyle. With this knowledge and realistic expectations, their journeys can be successful and rewarding.

COMPASS is a 12-hour program taught in three four-hour sessions. With Mentors acting as discussion leaders, participants are encouraged to ask any questions they may have in a non-judgmental climate. Participants are introduced to many aspects of the Navy. The standardized curriculum includes need-to-know topics such as the Navy mission, history, organization, customs and traditions, rights and benefits, deployment, pay, moving, interpersonal communication, and investing in self and community.

Another important benefit of COMPASS is the opportunity for spouses to establish a peer network. Because experienced spouses pass on their Navy lifestyle insights, the concept of "helping others to help themselves" is clearly observable and becomes an on-going action-oriented process.

I'm looking forward to the class as it sounds like it might have some useful information. I am a little perturbed that I never would have heard of this class had Zac's CO's wife not mentioned it to me while I was being interviewed to be ombudsman, more than two years after I "joined" the Navy. This class is designed for new Navy spouses? Perhaps the Navy could have sent me some info on the class, oh, say, back when I married the Navy?

The Navy has a computer system that gets updated when a sailor gets married, so maybe, just maybe, the system could send the new spouse a post card with some information on it. Information like, "Welcome to the Navy, here are the top three phone numbers and websites that new spouses have found helpful", or, "We have a class specifically designed for people like you. Here's how to sign up." But no. That would be too complicated. The Navy would rather let Zac and his clueless spouse figure it out for themselves. If we miss out on information, benefits or educational opportunities that's our own fault.

At least I'll get the opportunity to learn this stuff now. And as most people know, I do love learning things. Yay, school! I hope I have to take notes. I haven't taken notes in quite awhile. I bet I'd get a hand cramp, as I'm out of copious-note-taking practice. I'm excited at the prospect of the familiar pattern of scribble, scribble, scribble, pause to shake the hand out vigorously, scribble, scribble, shake. Hmmm, "learn", "love", "hope", "note-taking", "excited"? Sounds a great remedy for boredom.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Keeping up with friends

It finally feels like winter around here, right as the season is changing. Usually winter means rainy weather, but so far this season it has been abnormally dry. The last week or two has seen lots of showers, bringing some much needed precipitation. It's not like a steady day of gloomy skies and rain, but more like fits and spurts of rain. Sun for 20 minutes, rain for 15, sun for 40, rain for 10, sun for 10, rain for 30, etc. Essentially it's umbrella-toting weather. Also, it's been really gusty lately - winds from 30-50 mph. Since we have all the windows open we have to have any and all papers weighted down in order to prevent a total mess.

I finally called one of my MN friends the other day. Well, technically she's no longer a Minnesotan. She was in TN, now NC. She's still working for Thomson and moving up the corporate ladder. I'm very happy for her. It's nice to see the system actually work - where hard-working people are promoted and moving up the income bracket. I only talk to her every (very) few months which is a shame. Actually, that's true for most of my Minnesota friends. It's not that I don't think about them, not that I don't wonder how they're doing, but for some reason I have a hard time figuring a time to talk to them. It takes actual effort to coordinate time zones and schedules to accommodate a phone call. In a lot of ways Facebook is both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand it allows me to keep tabs on my friends through their postings, but on the other, I frequently use FB as a substitute for actual interaction be it e-mail or phone.

I have one good friend back in MN that I haven't talked to since . . . May? Maybe June. We talked on the phone once, I doubt it but maybe twice, since my trip back to MN last Memorial Day. We played a little bit of phone tag. Months passed and then she sent me an e-mail about getting together during my winter trip. I haven't called her since the holiday season since the holiday season was just a few weeks ago, right? Oh wait, you mean to tell me it's the middle of March? Yeah, I'm a terrible person. I get promotional e-mails from Tiffany's and Old Chicago which remind me every week or two that I need to call her. (Two places that we used to hang out regularly.) And most often whenever I want to talk sports, I think of her. She's one of the few female friends I have who likes and understands sports. I've spent more than a couple NFL drafts with her, eating pizza, drinking beer and commentating on the reaction of the athletes as their names are called. We took a road trip to Austin, TX to visit her folks and watch Longhorn baseball while the ground was still frozen in MN, and I was in her apartment watching the BCS national championship game when Vince Young led Texas to the national title. (She's a UT alumna. Not as nutty as some of them, but definitely proud of her school.)

She helped me through the break-up with my ex, when I was at my lowest. I was there for some things that occurred in her life too. I just don't understand some days how I've let it go this long without talking to her. How do you share a close friendship with someone for years and then fall out of contact because of distance in the 21 century? I think part of it is that I rely mainly on e-mail and Facebook as communication tools these days, and those aren't her primary tools for connecting. Although, it's been months since I've talked to her, so my information could be out of date. She could be checking her e-mail all the time, chatting on Facebook every evening, and I don't know because I haven't talked to her in forever. But then again, I guess it's a two-way street. She could reach out to me. I just feel like the ball is in my court.

I think this "issue" of maintaining friendships is just going to get more complicated as time goes on. Bernadette leaves next month and I know that I want to continue our friendship as she and Ken head back to the mainland. But, like my Longhorn friend, our friendship has been predicated on hanging out in person. We don't usually e-mail or Facebook. I wonder how our friendship will change as we go forward. And who knows how many close friends I'll make as Zac and I move with the Navy over the next 10 years? (Hopefully I'll make a few.) Then I'll have even more people that I want to keep tabs on. It's a bit overwhelming to think about. I guess I just have to hope that my friends understand that my love and affection for them continues, even when the communication doesn't.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

A weekend in Sin City, with minimum sin - vol. 2

As you may have heard, the tsunami turned out to be rather small and caused no damage. In my 17 months here I have avoided a direct-hit from a hurricane and large-scale tsunami. I'd chalk it up to good luck, but realistically the Pacific Ocean is a big, big place, and my house is a small, small, percentage of that space. Also, if I had good luck I would have won some money in Las Vegas, which I didn't. I guess my lack of natural disasters experience is due to statistics than luck.

Finishing up the tale of our trip to Las Vegas, Mom, Megan and I spent Saturday walking around the other half of the strip. One thing about walking all day is that you become acutely aware of the surface that you're walking on. Walking on concrete for a few hours is tough work. When we'd cross something like the floor of a casino with it's cushioned, carpeted goodness or the wooden planks outside Treasure Island, the relief on our backs was readily discernible. Even walking across some of the granite floors (or whatever else the entries to casinos are floored with) was easier on my legs and back than the concrete. I don't know how people could stand to run on concrete for any length of time. Then again, I don't know how people run for any length of time.

That afternoon found us at Caesar's Palace where we had lunch at Mesa Grill. This was my idea. Mesa Grill is one of Bobby Flay's restaurants. Bobby Flay is one of Zac's favorite chefs from Food Network. I thought it would be neat to have lunch there and see if they had a t-shirt that I could get for Zac. The meal was very tasty, albeit with a very strange bread basket containing an assortment of breads ranging from blueberry coffee cake to mini jalapeno biscuits. I bought Zac a t-shirt and we headed back to our hotel ready to rest our feet for awhile.

The plan for the night was "Jersey Boys" at the Palazzo. We ended up getting tickets for the 9:30 showing but Mom, Megan and I weren't sure we'd be able to stay up that late. Luckily the show was terrific and there wasn't a moment to feel drowsy. (This also might have something to do with the fact that I we stopped for coffee about 30 minutes before the show. I have been strictly decaf for months now and I inadvertently ordered a regular. I could have run the strip by the time the caffeine kicked in. My mom and sister were lucky I was only swaying in my seat along with the songs, and not standing up belting out the songs with the cast.)

If you get the chance to see "Jersey Boys" you should. It's excellent. If you think you don't know who Frankie Valli or the Four Seasons are - you're wrong. You know their songs. You will bob your head along to the beat. And the story? Who doesn't love a rags to riches to taking on a million dollar debt narrative? Just go to the show. You'll enjoy yourself. Note that there is quite of bit of cursing. This may offend some people. Me? I'm married to a sailor. The only drawback that I could find from the show is that I had a medley of Four Seasons songs running through my head for days afterward. A small price to pay for an evening of entertainment. (Actually the price of the ticket was nowhere near "small price" now that I think about it. That's Vegas for you, I guess.)

We hopped a taxi back to the hotel and crashed. Well, I tried to sleep but I was equal parts exhausted and caffeine-driven so while my eyelids were heavy my mind was still racing a mile a minute. Finally I fell asleep. Sunday morning we got up and had breakfast one last time at the hotel. We checked out at 11am, but had a few hours til it was time to leave for the airport. We ended up giving the tables one last chance, but it was to no avail. Las Vegas felt we needed to donate more to its coffers. I think I ended up $250 down for the trip when it came to gambling. Not my best showing, by far. But I did put $20 down on the Twins to win the World Series. (The odds makers have us at 8-1.) So I still have a chance of making some of that money back but I won't know until November.

Finally we headed over to the airport, said our goodbyes and headed our separate ways. It was a great weekend. I miss spending time with my family, especially my immediate nuclear family. One thing I miss is when my Dad would go out of town on business my Mom, sister and I would always go out to supper at Perkins. So in some ways, Las Vegas was a long trip to Perkins. A really, really expensive trip Perkins. Laughter is the best medicine they say, and there was plenty of that on our trip so while I was tired from the weekend I felt happy and rejuvenated when I got home. Who knew that a weekend in Sin City would be good so for the soul?