Saturday, December 24, 2011

Mele Kalikimaka!

The calendar says it's Christmas Eve today, but I'm not totally feeling it this year.  The move, the house hunting, the lack of holiday decor at our house, the weather, the absence of family and friends, it all adds up to it kind of a "meh" Christmas.  We do have a pile of brightly wrapped presents that came from various family members.  It will be fun to open those up tonight or tomorrow.  I'm sure there will be some phone calls and Skyping, but that's  not much different than any other weekend.  Really, it's just another weekend around here.  I did manage to whip up some Christmas cookies earlier this week, which was kind of fun.  I have no cookie sheets so I used the bottom part of our broiler pan, which worked pretty well.  (The lack of cookie sheets has also delayed my ability to make peanut brittle.  Luckily Mom sent some for us in the Christmas box.)

I hope everyone is having a merry holiday season, whatever holiday you may observe.  I also hope that everyone has someone to enjoy the season with.    Whether you're celebrating with friends or family, I hope you are surrounded by love, laughter and joy.  Mele Kalikimaka!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Marine etiquette

I was up at Marine Air Corps Station (MCAS) Miramar today and stopped at one of the convenience stores.  As I was coming down an aisle, a Marine was coming down the same aisle towards me.  He didn't see me at first so we ended up doing that "dance" that people sometimes do - you both step to the left, oops, both to the right, back to the left again.  I said, "'Excuse me," as we finally passed each other.  He nodded and said simply, "Oorah."  I was glad we continued walking away from one another, because I didn't want the Marine to see me giggling to myself.  Really?  Oorah?  Not, "Excuse me" or "sorry" or just a smile of resignation, but the famous battle cry of the Corps?

When I told Zac about the encounter, he laughed and noted that for most Marines oorah is probably the first word they think of in any given situation.  One of Zac's friends worked extensively with Marines and he said Marines use oorah it in many contexts, not just when they're being given instructions on how to storm a beach.  But even Zac couldn't help but chuckle that this Marine used oorah as his means of conveying "excuse me" to a 5'2" female in civilian clothes and pigtails.  (It was a bad hair day.)  Even now, a couple of hours later, I can't help but laugh, thinking about the possible contexts in which that Marine has used oorah.  I'm picturing some awkward flirting in bars.

Sunday, December 11, 2011


I was looking at the calendar for this upcoming week and mentioned to Zac, "I don't have yoga classes the next couple of weeks because they're redoing the floors at the gym.  I guess I'm going to have to figure out a couple other workouts to do in place of it for awhile."

30 minutes later he brings me a dish of ice cream.  Chocolate.  *sigh*

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Slabs, Christmas shopping and units of measurement

Because most of our household goods are still in storage, I am without most of my kitchen appliances and cookware.  I will never take my toaster for granted again.  I've gotten pretty good at using the broiler to make toast but the time and attention it takes makes me marvel at just how wonderful toasters are.  I also miss the Kitchen Aid mixer, blender, food processor and crockpots.  (I miss just about all of my kitchen implements.)  The other day I found a recipe that I wanted to try that involved some butternut squash and a pork loin.  It was designed for a crockpot, but I figured I could just roast it at a low heat in a covered pot in the oven to the same effect.  I followed all the instructions and after about two hours at about 250 degrees I grabbed the instant-read thermometer and stuck the 2.5 lb loin, just to get a sense of where it was at.  I glanced at the reading: 48.  "Huh," I thought to myself, "the oven must run really cold."  (We haven't used the oven much since we moved in.)  I turned the temperature dial up another 25 degrees, replaced the lid, and tossed it back into the oven.  

[In my, albeit weak, defense I was working this afternoon and was more focused on getting my project done than spending time in the kitchen.]

About an hour and a half later I checked the meat again.  As I turned the thermometer I just happened to notice the "C" to the far right of the display.  Oh crap.  The thermometer was set to Celsius, not Fahrenheit.  I toggled over to Fahrenheit and stuck the meat again.  I pulled out the thermometer in disgust as it soared past 160.  Apparently 48 Celsius is about 118 Fahrenheit.  My meat was actually pretty close to done when I had checked it the first time.  (Were you aware that the USDA revised it's cooking temperatures back in May and now solid cuts of pork only have to be cooked to an internal temp of 145?)  Luckily for me the pork was halfway submerged in a broth of onion soup and it was still surprisingly tender when I sliced it up.  I guess the moisture and the low heat kept if from drying out too much.  Why does the thermometer even HAVE a Celsius setting?  I am not a scientist.  I don't like units of measurement based on 100.  Get out of my kitchen, Celsius!

I've done very little Christmas shopping yet this season.  I chalk this up to three major reasons:

  1. After three Decembers in Hawaii, I am once again in a warm(ish) climate and it's hard to remember that it's winter.
  2. My Christmas decorations are all in storage so there is no festivity around the house.
  3. We've been house hunting every weekend for hours at a time.
I finally ordered my Christmas cards the other day, only to realize afterwards that my Christmas card address book is in storage.  (This is a recurring theme in my daily life.)  I think I remembered everyone we wanted to send a card to, but I'm sure I'm missing people.  One of these nights I'm going to have to sit down and do some serious online shopping so gifts can arrive to our families on time.  I'm terrible at giving gifts.  I have one friend in particular who is amazing at giving gifts.  She remembers off-hand things you said six months ago and gets you that item for your birthday, or she gives you something saying, "I thought you might like this" and she's totally right - you absolutely love it, even if you never knew you did.  I don't have that ability.  I need lists.  I'm not a creative or skilled gift-giver, but if you want those Isotoner slippers from Kohl's, I will get you those Isotoner slippers from Kohl's.

Like I mentioned above, we've been house hunting like crazy.  We found THE house on Sunday, complete with a glowing aura and a chorus of angels singing in the background.  (Ok, maybe a bit of an exaggeration.)  Zac and I looked at each other and we just knew.  This house was it.  The house was awesome, the yard was fantastic, it had recently been renovated and required no upgrading on our part - it was perfect.  It had been on the market for about four days and our real estate agent told us that she had heard from the seller that they already had a couple of offers in on it.  We weren't surprised - we're finding that houses are either on the market for a week or two out here, or they've been on the market for months.  There isn't much in between.  If you see a house you want, you had better get your offer in quick.  Zac and I filled out the paperwork to put in an offer that afternoon.

The next day we got a call from our real estate agent.  She said that when she was going over some of the information about the renovations to the house, she noticed that there had been a crack in the slab that had been repaired.  Houses out here don't have basements, and many of them are built on concrete slabs.  Apparently prior to 1970 slabs were not reinforced with rebar making them more vulnerable to cracking when the soil is disrupted below it.  In this case, a broken underground water pipe caused the slab to crack in a couple of places and the cracks were pretty substantial.  The seller had hired a engineer and contractor to repair the cracks.  The engineer devised the repair plan and oversaw the contractor's work.  At the end of the work, the engineer issued a report that the contractor had indeed performed the work correctly.  (The repaired parts of the slab are now reinforced with rebar.)  

Zac talked to his cousin (an engineer) and some of the Seabees that he works with (the construction guys in the Navy) and all of them gave a thumbs up to the work, but a thumbs down to the idea of buying it.  That reinforced what Zac and I were already thinking: If Zac and I were going to be living in this house for the next 10-30 years, we'd have no qualms about buying it.  But we will be selling our house in San Diego in (possibly) as little as three years.  Cracked slabs are not attractive to buyers, and we might end up taking a loss on the house.  It's just too much of a financial risk for us to take right now.

Our realtor called us to let us know that the seller counter-offered all of the offers on the house.  That sealed the deal as far as we were concerned.  Zac and I have decided to pull out of the race.  Our realtor has a suspicion that more of the prospective buyers will also back out once they find out about the slab issue.  If it ends up that the house has no interested buyers, and the seller is willing to drop the price enough, we might consider re-submitting an offer but for now we're moving on to looking at more houses tomorrow.  

*sigh*  Oh well.  At least now Zac and I are optimistic that there are, indeed, houses that we both like and that we'll find something that makes both of us happy.  I just hope that it happens sooner rather than later.  I miss my crockpot.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Thanksgiving, house hunting and bespectacled again

We were lucky enough to celebrate two Thanksgivings this year.  And by "lucky" I mean, "Holy moly, I need to live at the gym next week."  So.  Much.   Food.

On Thursday we celebrated with a Navy friend of Zac's.  Zac and this guy went to "A" school together back in the day.  ("A" school is where most sailors go after boot camp.)  They are both originally from rural Nebraska and they're both gunner's mates.  While they've spoken to each other a couple of times, they haven't actually seen each other in more than 10 years.  They seemed to pick up right where they left off, however, chatting and laughing like they'd been close buddies for years.  Zac's friend is married and I really enjoyed getting to know her.  They're similarly situated to us - mid 30s, no kids, she works.  I'm hoping that we'll get the chance to hang out with them again in the future.  They've been here for a few years and really enjoy it, so hopefully they'll be able to impart some of their San Diego knowledge to us.

On Saturday night we had our second Thanksgiving at the house of some of our Navy friends from Hawaii.  The sailor and his wife PCSed to San Diego a little more than a year ago.  We weren't really that close in Hawaii (our relationship was "friends of friends") but we were happy to get an invitation from them.  We spent the night catching up and talking about what all has been happening in the last year or so.  We were glad to spend some time with them and I think we'll hang out with them in the future.  The only low spot of the evening was when, for the second time in three nights, I waddled back to the car wondering if the buttons on my jeans were going to pop off.

The house hunting is still ongoing.  We spent four hours today checking out about 12 homes.  It's nice that Zac and I are finally getting in to a grove with each other, and our realtor.  If we're not feeling good vibes from a house (or neighborhood) we've gotten pretty good at telling each other within the first few minutes of walking through the place.  I'm trying to not let the stress of house hunting get to me, but I know it is.  I told our realtor that I was getting stressed out with the process as we were leaving one of the first houses this morning.  We drove separately to the next listing and when we got out she walked with me up the sidewalk and said, "You said you were stressing out.  Why?  Is there something that I can do to make it better?"  She asked with genuine concern which caught me off guard.  (I'm not sure why, but I was surprised at her concern.)  I explained that I was worried that maybe we were looking at too many houses and asking her to go to too many different neighborhoods.  She laughed and assured me that, no, we weren't looking at too many houses and that she was perfectly happy showing us different places in San Diego.  She said that it's perfectly normal that home buyers that are new to an area take a while to find the neighborhoods that they like best.  *exhale*  Ok.  Needless to say, while I'm still a little stressed about finding the right house, I'm not stressed about my relationship with my realtor/therapist.

The only other major development around here lately is  . . . deep breath . . . I got glasses.  I'm beyond devastated.  I hate that I need them again.  Quick eyesight recap: 

-Got glasses for the first time when I was in first grade.
-Endured a decade of worsening eyesight, thickening lenses and terrible 1980s frames (some frames from the early 90s weren't too hot either).
-Got gas-permeable, hard contacts in college (prescription didn't allow for soft contacts) which were impossibly uncomfortable.
-Underwent Lasik surgery about six years ago, causing me to no longer need corrective lenses of any type.
-Six years of sheer happiness being able to read the shampoo bottle in the shower and reading the clock on the nightstand if I woke up in the middle of the night.  

I'm not exactly when I noticed that my sight wasn't as sharp as it used to be, but I'm guessing it was probably about a year ago.  I noticed it mainly at night, when I was tired, and tried to read things like street signs or license plates as I drove.  During the day, I had no issues.  But then a few months ago Zac pointed out that I was starting to squint at street signs during the day as well.  I finally broke down and went to the optometrist who gave me my first eye exam since I had the Lasik performed.  She noted that yes, indeed, my sight wasn't as good as it used to be.  She said I was still find to drive without corrective lenses, but that I should probably have them at night.  She wrote me out a prescription and I decided that I'd wait until I got back to the mainland to get a pair.

As Zac and I drove around San Diego, looking for houses and getting to know the area, we both noted that it was time for me to get a pair of glasses.  A couple of weeks ago we were up at the Marine Corps Exchange and I walked into the optical shop.  I tried on probably 40 pairs of glasses, making cranky faces in the mirror with each pair.  I was heartbroken that I needed to do this.  I figured that once I got older that I would need reading glasses, but six years after Lasik and 34 years old is not "older".  It didn't help that I found most of the current, hip styles to be ghastly.  I finally settled on a pair, and while I was sad that I had to buy them at least the frames and lenses were discounted.  Paying full price would have been an indignity to much to bear.

The optical shop called me yesterday morning to let me know that my glasses were in.  I went to pick them up and sat down in the chair across from the glasses-fitting-person.  (Clerk?  I'm not sure what their official title would be.)  I was still fairly arrogant as I sat there.  I was confident that even when I put the glasses on, that I wouldn't be able to see any better than I could without them.  How much of a difference could it make, really?  Before she handed me the glasses, the clerk asked me to look across the room at the exit sign above the door.  Ok.  I can read that, no problem.  See?  I don't need glasses.  Then she handed me the glasses and I slid them on.  "Let me know if it's more clear," she said.


It was like looking at an exit sign in High Definition.  Everything was sharp, clear.  A surprised, and disappointed, "Wow!" slipped out of my mouth.  The clerk was pleased, we tweaked the fit of the frames a little, and I was on my way out the door.  Once outside I folded the glasses up and put them in their protective case and tossed them in my purse.  I was heartbroken.  I did need glasses.  Seeing was better with them.  I didn't wear them that day, but I did wear them that night and it really was amazing.  High Def is really the best way to describe it.  When you're watching a regular tv with a regular signal, it looks fine.  You don't notice that anything is off.  But when you put that tv along side a HD tv with an HD signal you're dumbfounded at how much clearer the HD picture is, and how much detail was lost watching the regular tv.

I don't want to wear glasses again.  I'm not sure why it is such a crushing blow to my self esteem, but it is.  I suppose I could see if I can get contacts or if maybe I could get Lasik again.  I was just so happy to not have to deal with my eyes anymore, to not have to spend money every month or year on new glasses, contacts, cleaning and soaking solutions.  And while some people look great in glasses, I am not feeling like a sexy librarian right now.  I am feeling like an awkward 12 year old.  

Dumb, stupid glasses.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Rain, prime time football and Thanksgiving

It's 55 degrees and raining right now.  A far cry from 85 and sunny in Pearl City.  Oh well.  I am comfortably cuddled up on the couch with a cup of hot chocolate watching football, so I'm not complaining too much.  We've had a couple of rainy days since we've been here and I've forgotten how much the grayness of those days sucks the vitality out of you.  I guess I'll have to get back into the habit of paying attention to weather forecasts now that I'm experiencing weather again.  (Hawaii has very little weather - it is 85 and mostly sunny 99% of the time.)

Another big difference between Hawaii and California is driving.  Hawaii drivers (for the most part) are slow as molasses.  They're in no hurry to get anywhere.  Side streets, the highway, it doesn't matter.  They're on island time and are in no rush.  I think the highest speed limit I saw on Oahu was 55, maybe 60 for a small stretch of H-1.  Yesterday I was driving on a road near my house where the posted speed limit was 65.  I was in the right-most lane, going 72 and getting passed by everyone.  Just getting blown off the road.  It's definitely a different pace out here.  As a matter of fact, our gas mileage in our Ford Escape Hybrid has decreased by almost 2.5 gallons/mile due to the increased need to accelerate quickly.  Despite the warp speeds people drive at, I'm enjoying having multiple interstates, highways and freeways to get around town.  If there's an accident on one, there's always two or three other ways to get to the same location.  On Oahu, if H-1 is backed up, you're just out of luck.

We went and looked at houses for a few hours yesterday.  We saw a couple that we liked, but I think we're going to keep on looking for awhile.  I'm still feeling a little overwhelmed by the process and the concept of purchasing a house.  I thought my student loans were a lot of money - we're looking at houses that are four times as much as those!  I'm a little surprised at how much location really does matter when it comes to what your dollars will buy you.  $300K in one neighborhood gets you a run-down home in need of major repairs but in another neighborhood (less than five miles away) you can get a beautifully renovated home that has more square feet.  It's all a learning process for me.  I know Zac would like to get into a house before he has to leave for six weeks in January, so there is a little bit of pressure to find something, but I'm not freaking out quite yet.  

We're going to be going to be celebrating Thanksgiving with one of Zac's friends this year.  This guy and Zac went to gunnersmate school together when they both first joined the Navy.  Now, 12 years later, they're stationed in the same metropolitan area and they've decided to catch up.  When I asked Zac what we were supposed to bring to dinner, he said that his friend asked us to bring some wine.  Hooray for easy contributions!  Zac has been coming home talking about old and new friends that he's encountering each day, and it's a little confusing keeping it all straight right now.  It doesn't help that 75% of the guys he knows are named 'Chris'.  It also doesn't help that almost all of them are gunnersmates as well.  (That's Zac's role/job in the Navy - gunnersmate, or GM.)  As long as I've been with Zac he's worked with all sorts of sailors, but rarely other GMs.  Now I can swing a stick and hit a half dozen of them.  They're an odd bunch, but they're hard not to like.  Hopefully while we're here we'll be able to expand our circle of friends, and maintain the awesome friendships we've already established.  

Monday, November 14, 2011

Southern California living

Well, we made it. We've set up shop in military housing in the San Diego metro area.  I'm not sure if I'm living in the (619) or (858) area code at the moment, so I'm not sure what to title my blog.  I think I'm in the (858), which is very close to our former Hawaii area code of (808).  I would kind of like the symmetry of that if it's true.  But then I'd have developed a pattern and I'd only want the Navy to move us to places where the area code is (8x8).  So then I'd be stuck living near Los Angeles (818), Asheville, NC (828), someplace in New Jersey (848), Trinidad/Tobago (868), or someplace in Pennsylvania (878).  And then there's the fact that we're still going to buy a house, so our area code may end up changing again in a matter of months.  So stay tuned - I'm sure you're all clamoring to know what the title will be for the next three years.  Riveting stuff, I tell ya.

Over twenty days we flew about 4,400 miles and drove about 2,200 miles more.  We visited family in Minnesota, Nebraska, Colorado and got stop for a night in Albuquerque, NM and Yuma, AZ.  It was an amazingly stress free trip with no complications.  Maybe it was great planning on our part, maybe it was dumb luck - probably both - but it is certainly nice to be with your spouse for 24 hours a day for 20 days and come out of it still liking each other.  The southwestern United States has some amazing geography and this road trip was my first time experiencing it.  I'm hoping we get the opportunity to do some adventuring in the southwest at some point in the future when we have more time to explore.

We got to San Diego on Tuesday morning last week and were into our military housing by 1:00pm.  So far I have to say I am much more impressed with Lincoln Military Housing, the company that runs military housing out here, than I was with the housing company in Hawaii.  I'm sure hiccups could develop down the line but the application process was a lot more straightforward here and I felt like we were getting consistent, accurate information from the staff here.  (That didn't happen when we moved to Hawaii.)  Also, I called maintenance today to schedule some appointments to fix a few things around the house.  They'll be here in 24-48 hours.  Wha????  In Hawaii you'd be lucky to get an appointment a week later, even if it was something semi-serious like your hot water heater was leaking through a wall into your laundry room.  (That happened to us and the HI maintenance people weren't nearly as alarmed as we were.  Moist walls?  Tropical temperatures?  Mold anyone?)  So far I'm giving Lincoln a gold star for their service.  We'll see if that keeps up.

Our house is very nice.  It's a three bedroom, more than enough space for us.  I have no idea on the square footage - I'm terrible at estimating that stuff.  The yard is easily five times larger than our yard in Hawaii and the dogs love it.  (Yes, they're here too.  More on that in a second.)  The house feels even larger than it is since we have practically nothing in it.  We had our Unaccompanied Baggage shipment delivered the day after we moved in so we've got some clothes, an air mattress, a bean bag chair and some kitchen utensils.  It's amazing how much stuff you don't need when it's not around. 

We dropped $500 restocking the pantry the day after we moved in.  That was two shopping carts full of stuff.  I don't think I've ever spent that much money at a grocery store before in one outing.  But we had to buy just about all of our food anew, plus we had to get things like cleaning supplies, dog food, aluminum foil, etc.  It adds up.  We also did some major shopping this weekend and purchased a couch and washer and dryer set.  I didn't realize that housing didn't supply a washer and dryer, and we decided to get a set instead of using a laundromat until we potentially buy a house.  Of course the new house might come with a washer and dryer, but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.  We picked up the couch yesterday and it has been a welcome addition to the living room.  Two people sitting on the floor or sharing a bean bag chair was getting old.  We actually bought a matching chair and ottoman but that won't be in stock for a few weeks.

The dogs arrived with no problem, thanks to the coordinated effort of our friends back in Hawaii.  I was a little nervous that the airline wouldn't let Toivo on the flight because his crate is just an itsy-bitsy bit smaller than it should be per their guidelines.  Luckily they let him on the plane and we picked them up on Wednesday night.  They're loving SD so far, especially Toivo.  The weather has been in the low to mid 60s so he's been content to spend most of the day outside.  In Hawaii he would get too hot, especially in the afternoons when the sun would back our backyard.  He's loving life right now.  Zoe is just happy to see us again.  I was worried that she'd think we abandoned her.  She's flown half-way across the Pacific twice in less than two years.  She's a tough cookie.

Zac checked into his new job last week, but due to the Veteran's Day holiday weekend, he didn't have to go to work for real until today.  As a matter of fact, he just got home and I want to hear how his day went.  I'll try to put together my initial impressions of California for next time.  There are more than a few . . .

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Aloha 'Oe

We had a layover at San Francisco this afternoon on our way from Honolulu to San Diego.  It was about 3pm Pacific time and I turned to Zac and said, "It's no wonder I'm hungry, it's noon back home."  Zac looked at me for a moment and then I realized that Hawaii isn't our "home" anymore.  It gave me a lump in my throat, but I kept it together.  

Tonight we're crashed out in a Days Inn near the San Diego airport.  We're getting up tomorrow morning to meet with our realtor to go look at houses for a few hours in the morning and then tomorrow afternoon we're on a plane, heading to Minneapolis.  We'll spend the weekend there and then my father, Lincoln, Zac and I will drive down to Nebraska.  It will be good to see our families.  Zac and I were talking about it and we think the last time we saw our families was last November/December.  It doesn't seem like it has been a year, but it very well could be.  Time seems to fly by.

I'm pretty much running on fumes at this point.  It has been a week filled with restless sleep and poor eating habits.  I've got a nagging headache, knots in my neck and shoulders, recurrent nausea and an over-all sense of being stressed to the max.  (No, I'm not pregnant.)  Tonight is the first night that I'm thinking that I might be able to get a decent night's sleep.  The sleep deprivation really started on Sunday night, knowing that in the morning the moving company would be there to pack us out.  

Monday morning the movers arrived around 8:30.  There were four of them and the lead mover, "T", did a quick walk-through with us to see what he and his guys were working with.  He was a little stunned to see that we didn't have a dining room set or a couch.  Our dining room set had been deteriorating over the years to the point where there were only three remaining chairs and the legs were barely keeping the thing up.  We decided that it was okay to get rid of it.  We sold our couch to some friends of ours.  We liked our couch, but in hindsight we would have picked something different.  We got a few good years out of it and we know the new owners will enjoy falling asleep on it as much as we did.

After T did his walk-through he told that even though we were scheduled for a two-day pack out that his crew could easily pack us up in one day.  We told him that we would like that as it would give us a little more time to clean the house and give our remaining food away.  During the packing , there were a few closets in the house that I affixed "Please do not pack" signs to.  Movers are notorious for packing everything they find.  Everything.  I have heard more than one story where they've packed up garbage cans - with the garbage still in them.  That must have smelled terrific two months down the road when the families opened them up.  I heard from another family that the movers started wrapping up a small dog kennel before they realized that the dog was actually inside of it.  So in the interest of good communication, I made signs to protect our stuff.  We had our packed luggage that needed to stay with us, plus some food in the pantry.  Apparently my signs did the job as everything that I marked stayed put.

They started at 8:30 and they were done by 3:30, which was really quite remarkable.  Then it was just Zac, me and the dogs left in a very naked house.  We spent a couple of hours cleaning the upstairs and then borrowed an air mattress from a friend to sleep on.  The Navy will actually pay for part of a hotel so those last few nights you have a place to stay, but almost all the hotels on Oahu are down in Waikiki and we didn't want to be driving back and forth getting the house cleaned out.  Looking back, we would have checked out of housing a couple of days earlier and stayed in the hotel for a night or two before leaving.  That would have meant our last couple of days in Hawaii would have been relaxing and enjoying paradise instead of vacuuming, mopping and running errands.  Eh, live and learn.  Monday night I was relieved that the pack out was done, but I knew we still had a lot to do.

Tuesday Zac and I cleaned the house some more and ran a few moving-out errands like turning in the cable box.  We decided that we were going to do a walk-away, where we just pay the flat fee to the housing company to clean the place when we leave, but there were still some things that needed to be done to get it up to a walk-away standard.  We also spent Tuesday distributing food from the pantry and fridge to our friends.  Food is so expensive in Hawaii that you really don't want to waste anything.  A pound of butter cost almost $3.50 at the commissary and it can be more than $5 at regular grocers. You don't waste $5 butter.  We also had to pack all of the bags we were going to be taking with us on the plane.  We were allowed four free bags per person since we were traveling on active duty PCS orders.  Since we may be living out of these bags for a couple of months, we wanted to make sure we had plenty of stuff with us.  A tired Zac

Wednesday morning we had to take the dogs over to our friend's house so we could have the house empty for the final inspection with the housing company.  They said that they would be there at some point between 8-noon.  It's really, really, really boring sitting in an empty house waiting for someone.  Finally the inspector arrived at 9:45.  We passed, headed over to the office to pay our final bill, and ran to the post office to mail some last packages back to the mainland.  Then we headed up to a different friend's house to drop off all of our luggage.  We were going to spend the night at her house so she could drive us to the airport the next morning.  Next we went to the harbor to drop off the car for shipment.  Then back to our friend's.  *sigh*  So much running around.  We took showers and hung out at her house for a couple of hours, trying to unwind.  We went to dinner with a group of friends one last time and crawled into bed, knowing that we'd have to be up at 4:15 the next morning to get to the airport on time.

Another was another restless, sleepless night but Thursday morning found us watching the sun rise as we took off from Honolulu International airport.  I couldn't help it - tears spilled out as I watched the island get smaller.  I loved my time on the island.  Four years ago, I never would have thought I would live in a place like Hawaii.  I never would have thought that I would have become a scuba diver and swim with manta rays and sea turtles.  I never would have thought I'd look at the stars from the top of a volcano.  I never would have thought I'd live close enough to Australia to make it a reasonable vacation destination.  I never would have thought I'd eat sushi and like it.  (Well, some of it.)  I never would have thought I would love the beach as much as I do.  As excited as I am about our new adventures, I was sad to be leaving.

I slept on and off on the flight to San Francisco, and then San Diego, but I'm still pretty wiped out.  I'm relieved that most of the heavy lifting is done at this point.  The purpose of the next three weeks is to relax and enjoy the company of our families.  I'm going to try and take this opportunity to de-stress.  Yes, I still have to get our dogs from Honolulu to San Diego, but I'm lucky that I've got great friends back on Oahu that are able to help me out with that.  It was sad to say goodbye to the pooches yesterday, but I know that I'll get to deal with all their dog hair soon enough.

And now, even though it's only 7:40pm back "home", it's time for bed.  Here's hoping for a restful night.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Biggest Loser induced anxiety

Zac and I were watching the Biggest Loser on tv the other night.  As I was watching the contestants working out and talking about nutrition, I could actually feel my stress level rise.  The next five weeks are going to be filled with socializing, eating out, alcohol, big meals with family and traveling.  Plus we're going to rarely be near a gym, not that we'd really have any time to go to one even if we were.  I hate this feeling of dread that's welling up inside me.

Zac and I try to be healthy.  I like to think we succeed more than we fail.  We try to eat balanced meals, we like to cook at home, we don't eat out too often, we try to exercise regularly and we have spent time learning about exercise and nutrition to help us make good choices.  Of course we're not militant about things - cheesecake is still Zac's birthday desert of choice and I'm never, ever going to turn down a glass of wine - but we're finding that as each year passes keeping those extra couple of pounds off is a little more work.

Part of Zac's job is to be physically fit.  Physical training (PT) is incorporated into part of his work day.  But even without command-led PT, Zac would be more dedicated to working out than I am.  He's plenty happy to go for a run or hit the gym.  Me?  I need someone to push me.  For awhile I had a workout buddy in  Bernadette.  Bernadette is a personal trainer so she had plenty of knowledge of what we should do each day and her personality made it fun to be at the gym, despite being sweaty and stinky and gross.  She'd tell me what to do and I'd do it.  When Bernadette and Ken moved I was lost as to what I should do at the gym.  I felt self-conscious going by myself.  I took a long break from the gym and just resigned myself to running as my primary (i.e. sole) form of exercise.  (I still hate running.  But that's for another time.)

I was in a rut and finally decided to call up one of Bernadette's personal trainer friends up at the gym where Bernadette used to work.  (Schofield - the Army base up the hill from where we live.)  I signed up for 11 sessions.  And then 11 more.  And then 11 more.  I would go once a week, so that's almost nine months of having a trainer.  And honestly?  I loved it.  I love the strength training.  I love how she'd mix in weights, TRX, Crossfit and other sorts of functional exercise.  I love not having to think about creating a workout and just following orders.  I love being challenged, knowing that I would have picked up a 15lb weight when she hands me a 20lb.  I love pushing out those last few reps, knowing that I would have stopped at 15 but I don't want to fail in front of my trainer so I push out the last five to get to 20.  That's just my mental make up - I won't (can't?) push myself when it comes to exercise.

My personal trainer up at Schofield gave me an awesome rate for our sessions and I highly doubt I'll find anything even close to that in San Diego.  I also don't know what gym I'll be going to.  Military gyms are free for me, but if we end up living 15-20 miles from one I'm not sure I'm going to get off my butt and go.  Paying for a gym membership might end up being the way I go, if it means that the gym just down the street.  But then again, I don't want to pay for a gym membership and then end up standing there in the middle of things, trying to figure out what the heck I need to be doing, getting frustrated and eventually giving up to go home.  You would think after months and months of working out with someone that I'd have a good idea of what to do.  You would be wrong.  I get that you're supposed to do legs, core, back (upper and lower), shoulders, biceps and triceps.  But so many of the exercises we did incorporated multiple muscle groups that I never really was sure if exercise X was an arm exercise or a core exercise.  And exercise Y?  Yeah, that could have been legs, but it could have been arms too.  With my luck I'd end up accidentally doing 10 arm exercises and only two legs.

I don't know why this is so hard for me, or why it causes me so much stress.  I guess I'll just always be one of those people that has to dish out money to have someone tell me what to do.  And frankly, if it keeps me going to the gym and keeps me in shape, it's money well spent.  But these next few weeks are going to be tough.  There's no doubt about that.  I'm just hoping that I'll still fit into my jeans when we pull into San Diego.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

T-minus two weeks

I just looked at the calendar and we leave in two weeks.

Two weeks.  Yikes.

The last four weeks has flown by in a blur.  Every day a new item is added to the moving to-do list while another item is crossed off.  We're making progress, but there's always something else that we discover needs to be done.  Mix that with my sine wave-like emotional state and it's been exhausting.  I never seem to have the time I need to complete tasks but then I find myself occasionally paralyzed, trying to figure out why I have nothing to do in that moment.  So forgive the disjointed ramblings.  My brain is scattered.

Here are some things that have happened in the last four weeks.

--We sold the truck.  When we moved out to Hawaii the Navy would only ship over one vehicle.  Zac owns a F150 pickup (the true love of his life - which I'm ok with) and we also owned a Ford Escape hybrid.  We decided that the Escape was the better choice for getting around the island.  Of course we had been on the island for only a few months when both of us realized that we were going crazy only having one car.  Me?  I hated being stuck at home while Zac drove to and from work.  True, I work from home so I didn't really need to leave but the idea that I couldn't go places whenever I wanted to irritated me.  And Zac?  He missed his truck.  He went from driving a big, bad beast of a vehicle to a SUV that turns off while you drive around parking lots.  He was a man without a country, er, truck.  So he went out and bought another F150, which he promptly drove very little because he had gotten used to the fabulous gas mileage that the Escape gets.  (Although we did drive the truck a lot when we went diving - it was nice to toss all that salty, sandy gear into the bed instead of inside the Escape.)

Like coming to Oahu, the Navy will only ship one vehicle leaving Oahu as well.  It took a while and a couple of price drops, but we finally sold the truck about a month ago.  We've been very lucky that a few of our friends have been off island for the last three weeks and have let us use/watch their cars so we've been able to maintain a two-car status for awhile.  When we leave Oahu we'll ship our car to San Diego.  Our moving travels will take us from Honolulu to Minneapolis to Nebraska where we'll pick up Zac's beloved truck and drive her back to San Diego.  By that point, hopefully, the Escape will have arrived and we'll both be able to come and go as we need to.

--We've continued looking for a house but haven't put in any offers.  We've resigned ourselves to the fact that we really want to see the neighborhoods and houses in person before we start making any decisions.  To ensure that we weren't homeless upon our arrival in San Diego we signed up for military housing.  We've been assigned a house already so we'll be able to move in as soon as we get there.  Added bonus: there is no penalty for terminating the lease early if we buy a house.  SD is a large, urban area and there seem to be houses popping up all the time that are in our price range and desired locations.  The trick is trying to get to them quickly.  It seems that a lot of houses are only on the market for a few days or a couple of weeks and they're gone.  We're going to have to be fairly aggressive when we get there to purchase something.

--The movers came today to pack out our first shipment of goods.  The Navy provides two shipments - a small shipment of about 600 lbs and a larger shipment of everything else.  (Up to a certain weight limit based on rank and the number of dependents.)  The idea is that the small shipment gets packed out first and is delivered "quickly" to your next duty station so you're not living in a vacant apartment/house for any length of time.  You're supposed to send things like some pots and pans, dishes, linens and clothing in that first shipment.  The larger household goods (HHG) shipment follows and sometimes takes a little longer to transit to the new duty station.  

The Navy will allow one delivery of each type of shipment and will hold your goods for you for about 90 days before they start charging you for storage.  For us that means that we will have our smaller shipment delivered when we get to our military housing assignment, but we're going to wait to have our larger HHG delivered when we buy a house.  (Otherwise we'd be responsible for moving that smaller shipment and the larger shipment into the new house on our time and our dime.  I don't want to un-pack and re-pack everything we own within a couple of months and frankly, with Zac being on sea duty, who knows if he'd be around to help.)  The end result is Zac and I will have to live up to three months on the stuff we shipped out today.  It's really quite amazing how much 600lbs is, but I'm sure it won't look like much when we move into military housing.  I'm guessing that's going to be a pretty empty house while we're there.

--Zac re-enlisted in the Navy for three more years.  I was excited that I was able to be there for it.  Zac has re-enlisted once while we've been together, but that was while he was in El Salvador so I wasn't able to be there for it.  Usually when a sailor re-enlists he picks where he wants the ceremony to take place.  Sometimes sailors can be pretty creative.  A lot of sailors out here re-enlist on the USS Missouri, which is always cool.  Zac was debating where he wanted to do his and he finally settled on doing it out in Pearl Harbor, on a rigid hulled inflatable boat (RHIB) in front of the sunken USS Utah memorial.  (On the opposite side of Ford Island from the USS Arizona memorial.)
When Zac first mentioned it to me I thought, "That's awesome!  What a cool place to do it!"  But then it dawned on me that I probably wouldn't be able to go out with him on the RHIB due to safety issues or Navy regulations or some sort of protocol that would prohibit civilians such as myself from going with them.  Luckily for me, Zac's Commanding Officer was more than generous and let me accompany them on the RHIB for the ceremony.  I even got a certificate thanking me for being a supportive wife.  That was really neat.  I'm really grateful for the chance to be there.  It's a short ceremony.  Zac leaves the Navy, he's awarded a letter thanking him for his service, a couple of seconds pass and then they swear him back in.  Lots of photos and handshakes.  Once of Zac's favorite parts of his job is tooling around out there on the RHIBs, so it was only fitting that that's what chose for his location.  And doing it in front of the USS Utah just added to the day.

--I resigned as Zac's command ombudsman earlier this week.  While I was relieved to be taking that task off my plate, as I handed over the information and passwords to the newly appointed ombudsman I found myself sad to no longer be involved in Zac's command.  I know some spouses like to be involved and some don't - everyone needs to do what's right for them and their family - but I enjoyed helping out.  I like knowing what's going on and sharing that information with others.  I understand that at Zac's command here in Hawaii that the ombudsman wasn't called upon to do much but I felt like I tried to be available to people so I'm chalking it up as a successful experience.  Maybe I'll do it again someday.

--I also tried to volunteer with COMPASS in August and September.  I say "tried" because while the volunteers showed for the class none of the participants did (save one lovely woman who showed up for the September session).  The August session fell victim to some internet registration technical glitches and the September session was just a bust.  I wish I could come up with another way of putting it, but it really was just a bust.  We had something like nine people sign up and on the first day of class only one person showed, despite reminders the day before.  Two people had people in their family fall ill so they couldn't attend, some people had other things come up, a few we couldn't get a hold of and two of them just plumb forgot.  It was really frustrating for a number of us volunteers that had tried two months in a row to get the classes together only to have them fall apart the day of.  I'll hopefully be able to volunteer with COMPASS in San Diego so I'll have other opportunities to contribute and meet people, but I really like the people I volunteered with out here and I was really quite sad that I didn't get do the class one more time with them.

I've been pretty good so far at keeping my stress level in check, but I think it's going to be increasingly difficult as more and more things become the "last" time I do things out here.  The last time I drive over to the North Shore, the last time I go to the beach, the last time I go to our favorite Thai restaurant, the last time I see my friends.  Only two weeks left.  Eek.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The calendar is filling up fast

I'm looking at the calendar for the remainder of September and October.  Pretty soon every single day is going to have something scheduled on it.  Time seems to be moving more quickly as we approach the move.  Today the moving company sent someone over to do a walk-though of our house so he could get an idea of how much stuff we had.  The scheduling system originally had us scheduled for two days of packing at a third day for the pick up.  I had guessed that our stripped-down existence would only warrant one day of packing, and it turns out I was right.  So now it looks like we'll be packing on a Monday and vacating the house on a Tuesday and flying off the island very early Thursday morning.  Now that we know when we're moving, we also have to go over to the housing office and give them our notice.  After we give them notice, they'll schedule a walk-through as well and let us know what we'll need to do to get the house ready for the final check-out inspection.  

We're still house-hunting in San Diego.  We're working with a realtor and we've been pre-approved on a loan.  We spend at least a couple hours per day looking online at houses.  We just sent a list of houses we like to the realtor so she can get a better understanding of what we're looking for.  Zac purchased a house in Oklahoma so he has some familiarity with the process.  It's all new to me, however, and it's a bit overwhelming.  I think it would be less stressful if we were there and do more of the research in person.  We have a few good friends in San Diego that are willing to go out with our realtor and take a look at the houses we like.  We trust them to ask the right questions (they're homeowners) and give us their honest opinion about the places.  I'm nervous about putting in an offer on a house when I haven't seen it in person, but I like the idea of getting the paperwork moving so we have a place to live sooner, rather than later.

A note to all of my Minnesota peeps - we're only going to be in MN for about 54 hours this time around.  We probably won't catch most people, aside from family.  I'm hoping for a return visit to MN, hopefully in the winter, when we can spend some more time socializing.

On the job front, I applied for a job in San Diego a couple of weeks ago.  What was odd about this position is that they didn't accept any electronic submissions.  No e-mailing or faxing your resume/application.  They specifically stated paper only submissions.  Wha???  Paper?  What is this, 1987?  Plus, the job was only posted for about a week (encompassing Labor Day weekend) so they suggested you use FedEx to make sure it got there on time.  So I coughed up $30 to FedEx to get five pieces of paper out to the hiring manager out in Washington DC.  Great.  Now I'm paying for (probable) employment rejections.  Terrific.  At least I'm providing jobs to FedEx employees.

We've got the 2011 Khaki Ball on Saturday.  This will be our fourth one here in Hawaii.  I've got the dress, but still no shoes.  I'm not really that excited for it, to be honest.  None of the couples from our social group are going.  Zac and I invited a friend of ours whose husband is currently stationed overseas, however, so Zac will be the man with two hot dates that night.  It really doesn't seem like that long ago that we went to our first Khaki Ball here and I was meeting people, having a hard time keeping names straight.  And now some of those people have become my closest Navy friends and have moved on to new duty stations.  What a strange last three years.

It's not all doom and gloom around here.  Zac and I have been taking a digital photography class for a couple of weeks.  It's been well worth it.  There's really no point in having a DSLR if you don't know how to use all the bells and whistles.  You're paying for those features, you should use them.  I'm going to try to take some time on a couple of days to go take photos around island before we leave.  Actually, speaking of photos, Zac and I booked a portrait session in a couple of weeks.  They take photos at the beach at sunset.  I've been wanting a Hawaiian photo of Zac and I like that since we've got here.  I'm excited that we found the time (and will) to finally schedule one.  It will be a nice way to wrap up our time here, on the North Shore with the setting sun.  How very Hawaiian.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

PCS calculations

Moving requires all sort of numbers and computations for various units of measurements - days, weeks, months, dollars, pounds, etc.  Here is how basic math reared its ugly head today:

Zac: "Dog food is on sale next week.  It's a 40lb bag.  Is that going to be too much?"
Me: [blink blink] [pause]  "Yes?"
Zac: "Too little?"
Me: "I have no idea."

Zac and I head back to the mainland the third week of October, but Toivo and Zoe are going to stay back on Oahu a friend until we settle in San Diego.  Once we get situated, she will take the dogs to the vet for their health certificates and then send them on their way to us.  Based on our plans, this might not be until the second or third week in November. We want to make sure that we have enough food (and in Toivo's case, medications) to get them through their prolonged stay in Hawaii, but we also don't want to have so much food that it goes to waste.

Zac and I decided to figure out how much food the dogs were going to need.  This meant we needed to know how much they consume in a day, how much we have remaining and how much we'll need to get us til the middle of November.  We pulled out the kitchen scale and weighed out how much the dogs get in a day.  Two dogs, fed twice daily = about 10oz.  Ok.  How much food is left?  By scooping it all out we figured we have about 10 days right now.  Let's look at the calendar.  How many weeks will we need after the 10 day's worth of food we have now?  About seven weeks.  Ok, so 10 oz of food a day for seven days is 70oz per week.  Ten weeks of 70oz is 700oz.  700oz is a little less than 44lbs.  So it looks like we're going to be getting the 40lb bag, but we will probably have to get a smaller bag right before we leave to make sure we've got enough.  Yay math!

If you're wanting me to show my work, let me assure you we did, indeed, pull out a pencil and a piece of scrap paper and did the math manually with appropriate units of measurements labeled.  It's at moments like this that I realize that for most of the general population, math beyond basic algebra is unnecessary. Understanding how to solve real-life problems is important. Calculus?  Less so.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Harsh realities and missing pieces

By this point I'm sure most everyone has heard about the American Chinook helicopter that was shot down last Saturday and the military members (both American and Afghan) that lost their lives.  I've debated what to say, if anything.  There are about 330,000 active duty members of the Navy.  Some days the Navy seems big and faceless, and then there are days that it's unbearably small.  Like when 22 sailors lose their lives and everyone seems to have known one of them.  I subscribe to the Navy Times, and every week they publish the photos of service members (all branches) that have died since the last issue.  There's never a week where there isn't at least one.  Usually it's four or five, maybe six or seven.  Each one of them is a tragic loss to their families and friends.  Each one leaves behind a space, a gap.  A missing piece.

Zac and Paul served on the Port Royal with one of the SEALs that died.  They weren't great friends or anything, but it was one of those, "Hey, I know that guy" moments when his name came up.  Zac will be going to work with some SEALs for the next three years. As I thought about how an entire team of SEALs had vanished, I asked him, "How would you feel if the guys you worked with were killed?  And not just one of them, but all of them?"  Of course it's an impossible question and there is no answer.  As much as I feel for the families of the SEALs that died, I have a great deal of empathy for all of the support personnel that worked with those guys who have to face losing so many of their comrades.  Their job is to keep the SEALs equipped, informed and prepared.  But sometimes even that's not enough.  I hope Zac never has to know what it's like to lose one of his guys on a mission.

One of the other SEALs that died was from Minneapolis.  Turns out Megan and Paul were acquainted with him back in high school.  One of Megan's friends even went on a couple of dates with him, back in the day. I know that they were both shocked to hear his name as one of the casualties.   They remember him as a 17 or 18 year old kid and probably would have never really thought of him again after high school if he hadn't been killed.  It's a strange little world we live in.

In the midst of this sadness, the Monday after news broke of the chopper crash, there was a knock on our door.  One of our neighbors was going around the cul-de-sac getting signatures on a condolence card for the family two doors down for us.  The husband was Army and had been killed a few days earlier while on deployment by an IED.  We signed the card, but knew that nothing we could write would be adequate.  I found myself doing what Zac did when he heard about the SEAL from the Port Royal - I racked my brain, trying to remember more, but I could hardly remember what he looked like.

 Zac and I don't really know most of our neighbors.  The housing community we live in is reserved for people with multiple dependents (i.e. a spouse and at least one child).  We got placed here because there was shortage of housing for what we were entitled to.  So while most of the neighbors' children run around the cul-de-sac and the parents get to know each other, Zac and I mainly keep to ourselves.  All I can remember about the soldier that died a few doors down is him coming and going to work on a few days when I happened to be outside at the same time.  I'm not sure that I ever even waved.  They moved in about six months ago.  They have two little girls.  Maybe four and two years old.  The thing that is most distinct about their family is that the maternal grandparents live with them - I'm guessing they moved in to assist their daughter with childcare since her husband had a, then, upcoming deployment.  Now they're not just helping with childcare, but helping their daughter through the process of grieving for and burying her husband.  What an entirely absurd situation.

I'm not sure that there's any point to this post.  It's all too sad and frustrating and draining.  People can argue policy and strategy all day.  And, truthfully, it's not like service members are the only people that face danger at work or who die before their time (whatever that means) and leave broken families and friends behind.  But they are good, honorable people that are doing what they are told and just want to come home safely.  And amazingly even though they know they might not make it back, they go anyway.  I'm humbled by that.  All I can do is hope that my appreciation for what they do brings at least a sliver of consolation to those who have suffered the loss.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Pretty much all set

Our Permanent Change of Station (PCS) plans are pretty much solidified now. (PCS is fancy Navy-speak for moving.) We are going to be leaving Oahu towards the end of October. We've set up the day for the movers to pack up our belongings and we've received our travel orders to San Diego for a couple days after that. It's a strange process. Lots of hurry-up-and-wait. After we got our orders in hand we had a flurry of activity filling out paperwork and pouring over our calendar, picking dates for the various stages of the move. It felt a little rushed and overwhelming, trying to make sure that everything was filled out correctly knowing that an error on our part could delay or throw the whole move off track. And then you submit the paperwork and ... nothing. You wait. Then, when the time comes to pack up and fly to the mainland, there will be another mad rush of activity and stress. I'm trying not to think about the end of October and November because I think it might prematurely exhaust me.

I've probably already mentioned this, but I'm in the throws of various emotions about leaving. I'm going to try and keep most of at a simmer, but I know they'll boil over every now and again. Even as I was going to the gym yesterday I was thinking, "I'm going to miss the drive to the gym. I love the smell of those eucalyptus trees. I'm going to miss my gym. I'm going to miss my trainer. What gym am I going to go to in SD? I'm sure we won't live anywhere near base. Even if we did live near base, I don't know where anything is. And where am I going to find a cool trainer like her that I can afford in SD?" Pretty much the entire 20 minute drive went that way. Of course I know I'll find a gym, and I'll probably find a trainer. It's just a weirdly over-sensitive state to be in. Everything is a trigger at this point. Even rainbows make my mind race.

Many of our friends moved on from Oahu previously, but we will be leaving few good friends behind upon our departure. It will be sad to say goodbye to them. I remember when I was in junior high we had an Ojibwe elder come in and teach us about Ojibwe culture, including a few words. Of course I can't remember hardly any of the words at this point. I do remember a couple of things distinctly, though. 1.) The word for blueberry pie was extraordinarily long, and, 2.) He said that they didn't have a word for "good bye" in a permanent sense, they only had a word meaning something similar to "see you later." I like to think about that whenever I'm faced with separating from friends and family. It doesn't take away all the sting, but it does incorporate a sense of hope into an otherwise sad encounter. It's not goodbye - it's see you later.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Really? A month? Yeesh.

Sorry about the lengthy wait for a new entry. Time seems to be accelerating as we get closer to the end of our stay in Hawaii.

Speaking of the "the end of our stay in Hawaii", we finally got orders in hand and we know when we'll be leaving Hawaii - the end of October. The receipt of the orders has meant a great deal of time pouring over paperwork and dates, trying to coordinate the move. Navy forms are often poorly designed, to be generous. I've attended a moving class and a transfer brief in hopes of picking up tips and tricks to making the process as painless as possible. Of course, there will always be hiccups, but anticipating them and being able to deal with them is the key.

I'm also trying to make sure we have the right budgeting in place to pay for the move. The Navy pays for most of the move, but it doesn't pay for certain things. For example, they do not pay for the transportation of pets. (That alone will run us about $750-1,000 for our two dogs.) It's an expense that I gladly accept, however. We also would like to do some traveling to see family between duty stations which will involve some additional plane tickets. Then there will also be the driving of Zac's pickup truck from Nebraska to San Diego - money will be needed for gas, lodging and meals. Fear not - your tax dollars are not paying the military to reunite my husband with his beloved F150. :)

Our move in October put our fertility treatment plans on hold. As we got closer and closer to the day in my cycle where we would have to go into the doctor's office to learn how to inject the FSH hormone, the more and more our stress levels rose. Finally, about 12 hours before we were supposed to have the appointment, we decided to wait. I didn't want to spend the last four months on Oahu monitoring hormone levels and constantly thinking about fertility. I want to enjoy my time. Planning the move is stressful enough, I didn't need anymore in my life. It was just too overwhelming. When we get to San Diego we'll probably ask for a referral to a fertility doctor there and start some treatments. For now, I'm thrilled to not be thinking about it for the first time in two years.

Zac and I spent a weekend recently over on Kaua'i. It is an incredible island. I can see why the rich and famous like to hide out there. It's so much more low-key and relaxed than Oahu. I wish we would have visited the island earlier in our Hawaii tour so we could have taken a second trip over there. There are some beaches and hikes that we didn't get to on this trip. Oh well - we'll just have to hope we get back here on vacation someday. We spent the first morning horseback riding for a few hours, taking in the views and stopping for lunch near a freshwater swimming hole. We took a quick dip in the water to cool off from the heat and my body nearly went into shock from the temperature of the water (chilly!) to the fact that I almost sank like a rock (freshwater!). Clearly I have been spoiled by the warm ocean waters of Hawaii.

On our second morning in Kaua'i we took an hour-long helicopter tour around the island. I was really nervous about it. I'm know for getting motion sick fairly easily and I was mildly terrified of all the jostling and lurching that I anticipated went with a helicopter ride. I took some Dramamine the night before and the morning of, and I crossed my fingers hoping that it would do the trick. But even with the drugs, my anxiety levels were inching upwards as we checked in with the company, viewed the safety brief, took the shuttle to the helicopter pads at the airport and waited for our chopper to arrive. When the helicopter came in for its landing (it was concluding an earlier tour) I had to note how fast it looked like it was moving. All I could think of was all of those times I went to the Omni Theater at the old Science Museum in St. Paul and wanted to vomit.

Once all the passengers had exited the helicopter, they had our group of six pile into the craft. We had assigned seating, as they need to make sure that the weight is distributed as evenly as possible. I got the rear window seat on the right-side with Zac seated to my left. They strapped us in and gave us the obligatory thumbs-up sign. I tried to smile at Zac and squeezed his knee in dread. They closed the doors, and off we went. There was a split second as we rose into the air and started moving forward that I looked down at the ground and thought, "Oooooh, this is moving too fast," but that was quickly drown out by the calming, soothing tones of Enya pumping through our headphones. The pilot/tour guide talked to us through our head sets to let us know what we were looking at. Pretty soon I was having the time of my life.

The most amazing moment happened when we came around the corner to see the Na Pali Coast, located on the west side of the island. It actually made me tear up for a second. It was so beautiful. There is no development on this side of the island. The only way to see it is by boat or by helicopter. It's stunning. The water, the cliffs. It looks like nothing I've ever seen. There are times you see things in nature and you think, "How is this even possible? How can something this beautiful even exist?" This was one of those moments. For a brief second before we boarded the helicopter, I almost chickened out. But then I would have missed the Na Pali coast, and it reminded me that sometimes you have to go outside of your comfort zone to experience sometime memorable.

In the last month we've also gone to a Dining Out and celebrated Zac's birthday, which involved me making his birthday cheesecake. It's been a fun few weeks, which is exactly how I want to spend our remaining time here in Hawai'i. I know the next three months are going to fly by, so I'm going to soak up as much aloha as I can before we leave.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

My first San Diego job rejection

I applied for my first job in San Diego a few weeks ago. It was a Federal job, doing something with processing medical claims for some Navy legal outfit. I figured I might be a decent fit as I, 1.) have a legal background, and 2.) I've worked in a hospital laboratory entering billing information for tests, so I have a least some familiarity with insurances and medical terminology. There aren't many jobs that I think I qualify for, so I was rather excited to see this one posted.

The joy of applying for jobs in the 21st century, especially through, is that you almost always have to apply electronically, meaning that your application goes off into the ether, perhaps never knowing if anyone received it or looked at it. I've applied for at least six or seven Federal jobs out here in Hawaii and aside from the "we received your application" e-mail, which is at least some sort of welcome communication, I haven't heard anything back from any of them. Not even rejections. I know the great machine of bureaucracy moves slowly, but I'm assuming that I didn't get those jobs.

So it was much to my frustration, and bizarre pleasure, that I got a rejection e-mail this morning. I didn't get the job, but at least I heard back from them within a month(!!!) and don't have to sit around wondering what became of the application.

With the economy and job market as they are right now, I know I'm going to face an uphill battle finding employment in San Diego. With the number of people that apply for any given vacancy, I have to believe that employers are probably able to pick people who have exactly the job experience and skill set needed for a particular opening. For example, the job I just applied for: I'm guessing there were at least a few people that applied for that job who have specifically processed medical claims before. Employers are going to go with a known product that is almost a sure bet of a fit -- they're not going to take the time to pour over resumes, evaluating them, looking for people that they think might be able to do the job based on other job experience.

I'm still working as a contractor for a legal publisher, so I'm not too freaked out about employment until maybe the end of the year, but it would be nice to get back into an office-type setting working 40hrs/week. I miss having coworkers and it's been three years since I've worn some of the items in my closet since working from my living room doesn't require "work casual".

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Getting the band back together

I'm tired from cleaning the house and chasing Zoe through the neighborhood, so I think I'll take a few moments to churn out a post.

On the baby front - no, not pregnant. Truthfully, I can't remember when I last mentioned the whole infertility-thing, so forgive me if I end up repeating myself. After doing six or seven months of fertility drugs with no success, my doctor gave me a referral to a fertility specialist out in town. ("Out in town" means a non-military provider.) We met with him a few months back and, after reviewing my medical record, he had Zac and me submit to a few more tests. Of course, all of the tests that I have to take require specific timing, so it took us a couple of months to get the tests run. Of course, everything came back normal.

The fertility doctor prescribed me a drug called Follistim. Short version: another fertility drug. We would use it in conjunction with IUI, which most people refer to as "artificial insemination". The process is I have to wait for the right time in a cycle, notify the doctor, go to his office, and learn how to inject myself with the drug. Then, when the stars align, Zac and I would go back to the clinic, he'd give his sample, they'd put it in me and we'd cross our fingers. Sounds like a grand ol' time.

Honestly, we still haven't decided if we're going to go through with this or not. It's pretty taxing emotionally. Not just the strain of not getting pregnant, but the strain of, "Is this really what we want? Why are we putting ourselves through all this when we're not even sure if we want to be parents? Are we questioning whether to be parents because we really don't want kids, or is it just the stress talking? How can we be sure?" We've got a few weeks until we'd need to decide whether or not we want to proceed. After talking in circles for a couple of weeks, Zac and I have decided to just let the situation be for awhile. When the time comes, we'll see where we're at.

Since I've started going through all this infertility stuff I've become much more aware of other people's struggles with it. Facebook, in particular, has been valuable in giving me some insight to what friends of mine, both male and female, are going through/have gone through. Some friends have adopted (both locally and abroad), some friends were successful with their treatments. I'm sure others are still struggling with it and choose not to share. I can't say I blame them. There's hardly any middle ground when it comes to disclosing your reproductive life to family, friends and strangers. Either you don't share anything with anyone - e.g. that you're trying, that you're not trying, that you do/don't want kids - or you have to share everything. Because once you disclose the fact that you're even considering having kids, people ask and ask and ask and ask and ask and ask and ask and ask . . . . People are genuinely curious and supportive, I get that, but still, it gets a little tiresome explaining intimate details of my health, my husband's health, and our sex life. (Really, how would you feel if people asked you about what you and your spouse do in the bedroom?)

Wow, that's starting to sound a little rant-like. It's not meant to be venomous, just exasperated. I guess I would just this advice to people out there: Even though you're curious, try to refrain from asking and wait until information is shared. If people want to tell you, they will. Also, as a pseudo-Public Service Announcement, please refrain from using the statements, "It will happen when you least expect it," "It will happen if you just relax/don't think about it," "As soon as you stop trying, it will happen," or any variation thereof. It gets old and, honestly, those statements are not necessarily true. Instead, try something like, "That must be incredibly frustrating. I hope everything works out for you."

So while the above paragraphs make it sound like I'm upset, I'm actually not. June has been an awesome month so far. Two of Zac's former ATG co-workers are back in town and it's been a lot of fun spending time with them. One of the guys is here on leave because his wife, a good friend of mine, is expecting their first child any day now. (Actually, she's a couple of days overdue, much to her frustration.) The other guy is here because his ship is in port for a few weeks. It's been great having them back around. Zac's office hasn't been the same since they left. We've spent a lot time the last couple of weeks, sitting around, having a few beers, talking, laughing, eating and having a great time. We're excited that both of these guys and their wives are going to be in San Diego with us come fall and winter.

Today we're having a BBQ at our house. We weren't sure if we were going to have it or not, since my friend hasn't had her baby yet, but since she's not in labor we're having a party. It should be a good-sized group. Maybe a dozen people. That meant Zac and I spent most of the morning cleaning the house. Zac was outside, cleaning off the lanai when he popped his head in to ask for the car keys. Apparently he had left the gate open while he was working back there and Zoe slipped out. Usually she sticks around, too chicken to get very far from Toivo, but this time she was AWOL.

I let Zac drive around looking for her and when I finished mopping I joined in the search. I found her not too far away, but across the main street in our neighborhood. I managed to get her to follow me home, so no harm, no foul. I think Zac was relieved, knowing that I would have been pretty pissed off at him if we hadn't found her. (He claims that he wouldn't have missed her. I think he's lying. This is the guy who lets her curl up in his lap on the couch.)

Anyhow, time to start prepping some food. Zac's got the smoker going and some racks of ribs are going on in a few minutes. Just another beautiful afternoon in paradise with friends!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Special Olympics

Special Olympics Mission Statement:
The mission of Special Olympics is to provide year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, giving them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills, and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics athletes and the community.

Zac and I spent part of our long holiday weekend on Friday at Central Oahu Regional Park volunteering with Special Olympics of Hawaii (SOHI). We spent Friday helping out with the softball tournament with a group of people from Zac's office. This is the second time Zac and I have helped out with SOHI softball, but this was our first time helping with the tee-ball tournament. I was put in charge of keeping the official score book, as I was the only one who knew how. (I'd like to point out that I was the only female in our group. Moral of the story: Dads who teach their daughters to keep book rule.) We also had a PA system set up so we could announce the players as they came up to bat. It was quite the production, and you could tell that the Olympians loved the big stage.

The weather was just perfect to spend a whole day outside. Fortunately SOHI had tents set up at each field so I didn't get fried by the sun. It was Lahaina Noon on Friday too, so the sun was pretty intense at mid-day. I have to say that all of the coaches were really well behaved. Last time we volunteered we had a couple of coaches that were much too competitive and belligerent. This year's teams and coaches were much more fun to work with. You could tell that while they all wanted to win, sportsmanship and trying their best was much more important to everyone. That, in and of itself, made it a great way to spend a day.

There were four teams in the tee-ball tournament, one from Oahu, one from Maui and two from the Big Island, so we had four games. All of the Olympians received medals for their participation. The medal ceremony is always a pretty big deal for the everyone involved. There is a CD of the Olympic Fanfare on a loop that we play while we call out each athlete and present them with their medals. As another long-time SOHI volunteer and I waited to present medals to the champions, she smiled at me and said, "Isn't this just great? Isn't this the best?" I looked out at the smiling and laughing Olympians, lined up on the field, waiting to hear their names called over the PA system. I couldn't help but get a lump in my throat. It was great. Mission (Statement) accomplished.