joanna irl

Two for a Tuesday

Well, look at that! I managed to not wait three months to update the blog again. Amazing! For this (I would say “lovely” but it’s snowing again and about 13 degrees outside so it’s just “this”) Tuesday, I’ve got two small stories for you from the last week. We’ll start with what happened today so everyone can end this adventure on a high note.

Winter and I are not friends. The fact that I have two actual friends named Summer is purely coincidental and amusing, but the point remains that I have no friends named Winter, seasonally-based or otherwise. In an effort to make Winter in Chicago (which is a brand new experience and providing a whole host of other “entertainment” including frozen windows and slogging through brownish-gray “snow”) more bearable, I am trying to embrace a few winter traditions. Last night I made hot apple cider in my percolator so that the house would smell wonderfully like apples and cinnamon and cloves and allspice with the ADDED BONUS of hot cider. Win-win, right? It was lovely sitting in front of the fire with a big, steaming mug of cider.

Today I set the percolator on the counter with the basket full of still-damp spices (cinnamon sticks, whole cloves, and whole allspice) exposed for drying and then disposing. I did the daily kitchen-floor-sweeping (who on earth thinks it’s a good idea to put a back door directly into a kitchen??) and set the broom against the counter….where it slid and knocked into the percolator which knocked into other things which all went bouncing across the white tile of the freshly-cleaned kitchen floor in a veritable explosion of drippy spices. Between the cloves and allspice and remnants of cinnamon-infused apple drips, it looked like an army of incontinent rabbits had just charged through the place. You’re welcome for THAT image.

So now the floor is swept (again) and steam-mopped (again) and the kitchen rug is in the washing machine (again) and I’m going to try and eat lunch at some point, I suppose.

In the meantime, here’s the other story. Snow walking away from Outback

Yesterday I had an appointment downtown and on the drive back home I noticed a park. I’ve done this drive a few times, but it’s the first time I’ve been confident enough in where I was to notice things other than traffic, street signs, etc. The park was buried in snow, but the roads were clear (thank you, infrastructure) so I detoured.

Lake Michigan snow beach trees

And found myself looking at water through the trees. So out of the car I trudged and toward the water because, after all, a determined Jo will eventually find her way to a beach. And oh what a beach I found.

Lake Michigan snow beach

The ice floating on the water, the snow piled up in banks like sand dunes… It was pretty for about five minutes. Then I trudged my way back to Harriet (Jones, Subaru Outback) and headed home as the flakes got bigger and more accumulation announced itself.

Lake Michigan, snow stripes on trees

I do think it’s interesting the way snow sticks to trees in patterns depending on the wind and the shapes of the branches and things. I don’t think that Winter and I will ever be friends, but we might be able to find a truce. As long as there aren’t any more incontinent rabbits wreaking havoc in my kitchen.

joanna irl

Milk Fail

Today I fail at milk.

This morning I made tea and put it in my travel mug and drove to the zoo and was gone 8 hours… and when I got home I found the brand new carton of milk that I opened for the tea this morning sitting on the counter. Expanded. And warm.

I fail at milk.

And now I have to go back to the store to get more and it’s payday and I hate going to the store anywhere near payday (unless it’s before payday, then I like going to the store). This is because the commissary on payday (and for about 4 days afterward) is kind of like an insane military spouse holding pit. It’s almost like having to do battle with the forces of darkness, except it’s a bunch of women with bad attitudes, poor budgeting skills and three to five kids a piece. Pushing two carts in many cases. Taking up the aisles. Yelling at their screaming kids.

It’s a nightmare.

Okay, maybe not a nightmare, but it’s not fun for little shopping-by-myself me.

Maybe I won’t worry about the milk for a bit. Maybe. I still have another carton, this was just the one that I opened this morning. As long as I don’t fail at milk again for a little while, I should be fine. Should be. I’m optimistic.

And I guess the sour milk is where we end this BEDA thing. It’s hard thinking of stuff to say every day! That’s why sometimes you don’t get much. I don’t lead an exciting life.

Let’s face it; I just rambled for several paragraphs about milk.

joanna irl

The Wildlife is Winning!

But not for long…

I made a nasty discovery today. Well, two of them. The first was that I went to check my plants, as I do every morning, and one of my container gardens now contains a large number of round, bright yellow mushrooms. They’re the kind that seem to grow from a sort of slime along the rim of the container.

Off I went to the garden shop to get a fungicide (and a pot for the new orchid I got today, but that’s another story). I got help from a guy who works there and he went through all the different options before helping me find a sulfur-based fungicide that’s organic and won’t hurt any of my plants. In passing, I asked him if he knew of a yellow and brown striped beetle, as I’d seen one in my house this morning. It’s the second one I’ve seen– the last was a couple of weeks ago in the dishwasher and I smashed it and then ran the washer to clean it. This one was on the cabinet door where I keep my baking sheets and pans and skillets. It also got squished. Bugs are fine outside, but not allowed in my house.

We looked at a chart the guy had and none of the beetles looked right to me. He started describing something and I told him that what he described was exactly what I saw. That’s when he dropped the bomb:

That’s a variety of cockroach.

SHUDDER.

Sooooo the guy helped me buy a pack of really good bait traps and I’ve pulled everything out of that cabinet that had the cockroaches and I’m washing every last thing in there. I’m also checking the rest of the kitchen, but so far there’s no, shall we say, “evidence” of roaches in the other cabinets (small evidence was found in the back of the baking cabinet). At the moment I’m SO grateful that I haven’t baked cookies recently. Or anything else for that matter.

joanna irl

The Frocking Date

Today they held the frocking ceremony on J’s ship.

What is frocking? It sounds kind of… bad, doesn’t it? Like it might even be painful. Well, back in the old days, the sign of a Petty Officer or commissioned officer was that they wore a frock coat. When they got promoted, it sometimes happened at sea before the Navy could approve it, so they’d put on the frock coat and act as the new rank without getting paid yet. The same basic principle applies today.

Getting to the frocking ceremony turned out to be a bit of an adventure. We were told early in the week that it would be at 10:30 on Friday morning. Two days ago, it changed to 2:30 on Friday afternoon. Last night it became 8:30 Friday morning. They also changed the location a couple of times and finally settled on the pier, or so I was told. J confirmed that families were invited to come and let them know I would be there, so at 8:00 this morning, I left for the pier.

Background information: All this week, J has been getting home at 9:30 or later because of a clogged drain on the ship. I won’t go into too much detail (for your sake, dear reader, and you should thank me), but suffice to say I learned that the Navy owns a giant version of a plumbing snake, uses the fire main (i.e. big hose) for lots of things other than fires, and that stupid people tried to flush chicken pieces down the drains. This means J and I have both been exhausted since I wait up for him and we haven’t been having dinner until 10pm or so and then get up at 5am because they’ve insisted he be back by 6am every day. You’ve got all that? I’m tired. I’m frustrated with them keeping him all the time. They change the frocking ceremony repeatedly (and I canceled a possible interview, which I’ll get into later).

I got down to the area where the ship is, in the shipyard section, and started trying to find parking. Because it was at 8:30 in the morning, all of the lots were full. I had to drive about a quarter mile away to park and walk to the pier. I finally got there, already frustrated that I spent almost 30 minutes finding a place to park, and J met me at the gate to escort me back to the ship. It turned out that they moved the whole thing onto the flight deck of the ship. That’s right, the entire crew was packed onto the flight deck.

The other fun thing? I was the only spouse that came. I’m guessing that had something to do with the constantly changing schedule, but it’s just a guess. A hunch, even.

Anyway, J fell into place and I stood to one side, very frustrated by that point. The captain hadn’t arrived yet, but this other man I didn’t know came over and shook my hand. He told me his first name (though it’s escaping me at the moment) and I told him who I was.

“How are you today?” he asked.
“Oh, I could be better,” I said.
“Why is that?” he asked.
“Well, it was a really big pain to get here today. There’s no parking in this part of base and they kept changing the ceremony times.” At this point, I did what any smart, supportive military spouse would do: I started crying. I wanted to fall through the floor at that point, but I was hot and tired and fed up with the whole ship. Oh, and the only spouse there. There was that bit, too.
The guy looked at me and said, “I’m so sorry, that’s my fault. It’s a proud day for your husband, though. What would make it better?”
“Well, it would be nice to have him home for lunch,” I said. “And I’m so sorry, I’m not usually like this.”
“Oh, it’s all right, and I think I can have him home for lunch today. And thanks for the feedback, we need to hear things like that.”

That wasn’t so bad, right? Right?

Right. Well, the guy changed caps just then for the ceremony, which was about to start. The new cap was labeled. It said “XO.”

That’s right. I just bawled in front of the Commander of the ship and told him what a bad job he’d done coordinating the frocking. Like I said, I wanted to hide.

The outcome? Well, J got the rest of the morning off and I took him back after lunch, so that was good. I apologized to the XO for being rude, but he told me I had no reason to apologize. J told me later he probably doesn’t get much honest feedback so it might have done some good in the long run. I sure hope so. The XO was nothing but nice to me, and seems to be a decent guy overall according to what J’s said about him.

So that was my adventure. J is now a First Class Petty Officer.

joanna irl

Adventures on the AFB Part Two!

In which our Brave Heroine ventures once again onto Hickam Air Force Base in search of a Craft Store.

Today I experienced the very best (I mean this both sarcastically and seriously) of military efficiency and helpfulness.

Our story begins after lunch with J. We had to go by the ITT office to get aquarium tickets for this weekend (more on that later) and if he’s there we get half off because his ship has an ITT budget. Good stuff. Anyway, we got the tickets, I dropped him back off at the ship, and told him I was going to head over to the AFB to look for the craft store.

Background Information That Will Help You Understand the Story: On February 1 Pearl Harbor and Hickam AFB became a “joint base.” According to the press release this will make everything SO much more efficient for everyone involved. Really, I think it’s just a matter of paperwork, as we could already use all of each others’ stuff (as in the NEX and BX, the gyms, the stores, the gas stations, the beaches, etc… everything) and could come and go on both bases whenever we wanted. Silly, really. Anyway, one of my friends told me this weekend about a small craft store on Hickam and roughly how to find it, so I decided to go look. I’ve been looking for a craft store since we got here, as there is no such thing as Michael’s on the island. Or Chickfila. Okay, back to the main story.

I drove to the main gate into Hickam and encountered a ridiculously long line of traffic. It took me over ten minutes to creep up to the officer checking IDs, but I finally got there and handed over my card. He looked at it, and at my car’s decals (which are good until 2012, I might add) and then told me I had to pull over and get a temporary pass at the visitor center. “Excuse me?” I said. He explained to me that they picked today to start enforcing the “joint base” thing and that the Navy was making them get everyone new base decals. SO I pulled into the visitor center parking lot, got my car’s info, and stood in line for a while to get a temporary tag, which is a piece of paper taped to my windshield.

Once I finally managed to get onto base, my gas light came on, so I drove to the mini-mart and gas station to fill my tank. The pay at the pump feature wasn’t working, so I had to go inside to pay for the gas. I asked the cashier where I could find the craft shop (since I hadn’t seen it yet) and she told me to go to the “little building across the street.” I thanked her and got back in my car. Upon driving across the street, I found a little building with no sign on it, but a parking lot with some cars and a main-door-looking entrance. I parked and walked inside….

…to find the veterinary clinic. I’m not kidding.

More Background Story: I have been trying since we got here to get ahold of the on-base vet clinic but they never ever answer their phones. Ever. They have no info online, just a phone number that you “have” to call to get an appointment. So I asked them how to get an appointment. Turns out you have to go to the office to make an appointment, then come back in three weeks. Just great.

So there I am at the vet clinic, which I needed anyway, so I asked about getting an appointment. I got the kitties in their system and then talked to the woman at the desk about what all they needed when I bring them back in March. She then lectured me about being late bringing them in. I pointed out to her that if they’d answer the phone, I would have found them months ago, but that I had no way to know where they were or when they were open if they didn’t answer the phone. She shrugged that off and acted mad that we’d been able to bring the cats into the state with their vaccines expired (though I’d explained to her that the vaccines have expired since we’ve been here and were valid when we traveled). Anyway, finally got the cats a vet appointment, and got back to the car… and realized that all of the paperwork she’d given me had both first AND last name misspelled. Now, neither J nor I have an “L” in our first name. Just so we’re clear. And there is no “R” in our last name, either. Isn’t that fantastic?

I finally got back in the car and drove around and around and around the area “across the street” from the mini-mart, looking for the craft store. No luck. In frustration, I pulled into the ITT office (the Hickam office, not the one I’d been to earlier) to ask them for help. The people in ITT where very helpful. They not only told me how to get to the craft store (which was a half a mile further down the road and not at all “across the street,” except that it was, in fact, on the other side of the road. Half a mile away.), but told me the best place to park when I got there and which door to use. Yay for helpfulness!

So. An hour and a half after venturing onto the base to find the store, I FOUND IT! I was very excited. I parked, walked across the street and to the door… to find the lights off and the door locked. They’re open six days a week and closed Monday. Of course. I leaned on the windows anyway trying to look inside and just see what all they had, and it looks like they’ve got a good collection of crafting materials, including scrapbooking stuff. As I moved down the windows, I found myself peering into an office with a woman peering back at me. I think we startled each other, because we both jumped, and then I laughed and called to her through the door to explain what I was I doing. She came to the door and was very friendly; she gave me several brochures and told me about their hours and their stock and the classes they hold during the month. I told her about my adventures looking for the place and about the vet clinic. Her response? “Well, if they’d answer the stupid phones once in a while, it would help!”

I rest my case.

She gave me directions to the gym on base and to the Hickam Pass & ID office and suggested I try there to get my base decals updated. I thanked her and drove to the opposite side of the base and (eventually) found the Pass & ID office. I went inside and was relieved to find a very short wait. At the Pearl Harbor Pass & ID office there’s usually a 2 hour wait; I think this one took five minutes. Anyway, I talked to the airmen there, and they looked at my current decals and told me they’d help me out, so I filled out a piece of paper and they handed me new decals, which will get me onto any base in the state. But the funny part of it all?

My car is now registered with the Air Force.

My only concern at this point is that the decals only say “Hickam AFB” and I might have to re-do them at some point so they say “Joint Base” or something. I dunno. But it works for now and that’s what matters.

[update]
In case you missed the tweet, I added photos from this weekend to the photo journal. Mostly Chinese New Year celebrations. I might blog about that later, but I think the photos are self-explanatory. ^_^

joanna irl

The Gecko Conundrum

House Gecko

The gecko.

The gecko perfectly embodies the strangeness that is Hawai’i. To understand what I mean, you need some background information about these small creatures and my experiences with them.

First, you need to know that I have cats. Two of them. One of them is content to spend her days sleeping on my bed and occasionally gracing us with her presence when she wants food or to have her head scratched. The other one doesn’t like me to get too far out of his sight. He follows me around the house when I’m home, talking to me (the way cats do) and periodically poking me to make sure I’m still looking at him. He’ll lounge on the floor, showing off his belly, and look back over his shoulder, again to make sure I’m looking. He’s a ham, to put it nicely.

He has also discovered the fun of bringing me presents.

Ah, cat presents. You never know what they might bring, be it the lovely piece of string or the lovely piece of bug.

Caspian isn’t too bad in this regard, mostly because if he brings a string, it’s because he wants to play, and if he brings something he, well, found in the house, it’s because he doesn’t know what it is and he wants me to see it. Everything comes down to me paying attention, you see.

In the past week alone, Caspian has presented me with a caterpillar, a beetle and lizard. The caterpillar was especially interesting because the only things he ever found in Virginia were spiders and crickets, which both have legs. He liked pulling the legs off of them and leaving the body. Confronted with a legless thing, he didn’t know what to make of it, so there was a lot of poking at the poor caterpillar and yelling at it to make it move.

(As a side note, I would like you to know that all Caspian-findings are released back into the “wild” of the back porch.)

Caspian was especially excited about the lizard, and he didn’t so much offer it to me as a present as race me to see who could get to it first. I won, the lizard (a terrified brown anole) went back outside, and Caspian was sulky for a good solid hour.

This brings us back to the geckos.

Caspian found his first gecko tonight. He didn’t bring it to me, but  he sent an entire shelf of stuff (that I needed to put away anyway) crashing to the floor near the stairs, so I went to investigate. Caspian looked a little poofy (i.e. startled), but kept going for the thing that he was chasing: a tiny gecko.

I’ve been trying for weeks now to keep the geckos out of my house. When I find them, they are carefully taken outside (after much chasing and scooping the tiny things into my hands). I’ve been told not to do this.

Why?

Well, geckos are considered very good luck in Hawai’i. Not only do they feature in Polynesian folklore, but they eat the large, nasty cockroaches we have here. Yay for geckos right?

Well, it’s also considered extreme bad luck to kill a gecko. Not that I’m hung up on good luck and bad luck, but it’s one of those cultural taboos. Plus, I wouldn’t hurt the geckos anyway, especially since they eat the roaches.

But that brings me to the conundrum: Geckos in the house are lucky. You’re not supposed to turn them out of your house. It’s bad to kill them. The cat will find them and he will eat them (or Princess Leena upstairs will take it from him and eat it– she’s more of the hunter than he is). This will obviously kill the gecko.

How is this supposed to work?

I’m not sure, either.

I’ve decided that just putting them outside is the safest thing for everyone involved, and then hope that they eat the roaches before the insects come into the house. So far it’s working, but seriously, I’ve probably had to catch a gecko every couple of days since moving here.

I’ve learned that there are 7 (or 8, depending on where you look) species of gecko in Hawai’i. So far I’ve seen the common house gecko and the stump-toed or four-clawed gecko (pictured above in J’s hands). These two species are very, very small. Hard to catch. And they jump kamikaze-style from things so you can’t get them cornered. Oh, the fun of it all.

If you want to read someone else’s experiences, or about some of the local folklore about them, try this guy. It’s decent reading.