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.