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.