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 . . .