joanna irl

Deployment Curse

I have it. Big time.

Other people do, too. It’s an actual military superstition. Well, among military spouses anyway. See this. And this. And this.

It’s like Murphy’s Law, except it only goes into effect when your active duty (or reservist) spouse deploys. And it can start in the week before they leave, but usually happens in the week or so after they leave.

In the last two weeks, I’ve had the following:

  • The a/c flooded the garage. Again.
  • The a/c also needs to be cleaned because we discovered (when checking to fix the flooding thing) that it’s covered in salt and corrosion.
  • The front porch lights went out. And needed whole new fixtures.
  • The tub drain backed up and had to be dismantled.
  • The cats had their vet appointments and have had to go on prescription things.
  • The computer has started being wonky. It’s four years old, which is about the lifespan, but still.
  • My cell phone has started being wonky, too.
  • I’ve been sick.
  • I’ve lost several important items, such as the pet fur attachment for my vacuum… my stairs are sort of awful right now.
  • And probably some other stuff, too, that I’ve already blocked from my memory.

Today it is in the form of a flat tire that I discovered at 5:30pm, so half an hour after repair shops close, and as I’m supposed to leave for my Wednesday night commitment. I haven’t been anywhere today, spending most of the day cleaning the house (which is an ongoing project this week since I finally have the time), and I was in a hurry to leave (so I could arrive on time), but as I pulled out of the driveway, I heard a scraping sound and noticed as I neared the mailbox (end of the block) that my car was pulling hard to the left…. so I got out and sure enough, the front left tire was on-the-ground-flat. I pumped it back up to turn around and pull back into the driveway, but now I’m worried… because I first noticed a slight pull to the left yesterday on the way home from the zoo… but it wasn’t bad so I was going to get an alignment on Friday… but if my tire was low yesterday (and clearly I didn’t notice, so what’s wrong with me that I’m that distracted?) then have I hurt my axle? I sure hope not. And I think this is one of my new tires, but I can’t find the receipt for it so I’m a little concerned… because if it’s new, then I could get it fixed for free.

At least I get free towing while J is deployed. Sigh.

joanna irl

4th of July Fun with 4 Second Exposures

I don’t know about you, but I had an outstanding 4th of July this year. Yesterday (during the day) I went with some friends on their 4 person catamaran out on Kaneohe Bay and we sailed for about four hours. It was wonderful to be so close to the water, skimming along the surface almost like we were flying. (No photos because I didn’t want to get the camera wet.)

We beat the rain coming in from the water, and I headed home to shower and change and then go back to a cookout on the Navy base with some other friends. We had the traditional fare– hotdogs and burgers, corn on the cob and baked beans, watermelon and potato salad– and then walked down to the big field where the base was hosting it’s huge 4th of July celebration.

Plain White T's

The field was full of people selling fair foods (I bought kettle corn!) and rides and bouncy houses for the kids, and earlier in the day there had been a petting zoo, pony rides, a classic car show, and other things, but the main attraction was the amphitheater they erected on one end of the field. At 8 o’clock, they brought out the main act– the Plain White T’s. I heard the start of the concert (which sounded pretty good) but we had a bunch of kids with our group so we wandered back to the place where we’d had the cookout.

Fireworks view 2011

At nine o’clock, the fireworks started and we had an amazing view; the people hosting the cookout are a couple that live near my friends, and the husband is a Coast Guard captain with a little boat in Pearl Harbor… so we sat on the bow of the boat and watched as the fireworks went off directly in front of us (though across the harbor). It was a fun show, and this year they had fireworks that even spelled “USA” in red, white, and blue.

USA fireworks

I got home around 10:30, exhausted but happy. All in all, it was a good 4th of July. I also realized it’s one of my favorite holidays because of all the tradition and patriotism and history associated with it. Sometimes it’s nice to just be proud of our country and have some corn on the cob and watermelon. ^_^

The title of this entry refers to the fact that I wound up using a 4 second exposure to capture a lot of the fireworks, though there are several photos with shorter exposure. If you want to see more of them, click here or the “Read More” button. ^_^

Continue reading “4th of July Fun with 4 Second Exposures”

joanna irl

Love in a Coffee Cup

So, this happened today.

Manning the rails

I’m doing okay, really. I think I am in complete denial about the whole thing, to be honest. We’ll see how I am two weeks from now. In the meantime, I have a little story about yesterday.

If you know my husband at all, you know that he is what I affectionately call a “coffee snob.” I am not kidding. He lived in Italy for 4 1/2 years and learned to make cappuccinos from a barista at the place down the street from his apartment. We buy Illy coffee (among others) and he has two grinders (a manual and an electric) and (I am not exaggerating) five coffee makers. He has temperature gauges, frothing cups and espresso spoons. And one of the things he does for me is that he makes the coffee.

J is the sort that expresses love more through small actions than through words or gifts. You have to know what to watch for sometimes. And every morning that he has time, he makes me coffee (if I want it) or tea (if I don’t). It’s one of his gifts for me, and I love that about him.

Well, he’s gone now for a while (thanks, US Navy!) and I am left with lots of coffee making equipment and no barista in the house. I do know how to use all of these things but when I just want a cup of coffee, a simple cup and not a whole pot, it’s an awful lot of trouble. It’s time consuming. It’s messy. This is why he does it for me.

And so yesterday while we were out enjoying our last free day together, he took me to an appliance store.

And he bought me a one-cup-brewer.

It’s one of those automated deals where all I have to do is fill the reservoir and choose the flavor I want and it automatically makes the drink for me. All I have to do is throw away the used coffee packet at the end.

While it may seem random (and strange for a coffee snob like mine to purchase), by giving me this little gadget, he has given me coffee for the entire time he’s away. No mess, no fuss. It’s a little way to still take care of me even when he can’t be here.

Dress whites on board

I have love in my coffee cup. What’s in yours? ^_^

———————-

If you want more info about the ship getting underway, here are some Navy photos and a video you can have.

joanna irl

Port Royal Change of Command

Last Thursday I was one of a few to attend the Change of Command ceremony on our ship, where we received a new Captain and said goodbye to the one that has been there for our entire time in Hawaii. Sitting in the front, I had a good view overall and took some photos which are now in my photo journal. Really, though, it’s hard to describe some Navy traditions without seeing them yourself. Pennants were lowered and raised, the Captains saluted the admiral and shook hands, new orders were read to the crew and assembled guests.

I had intended to write a lot more about it, but I think the photos really speak for it better than I could.

I will say that the outgoing Captain was given a piece of the ship’s hull, complete with repaired cracks, in a large frame. I know his family is ready to have him home for a while.

But even with a new commanding officer, much remains the same; Sailors have duty, the ship has to sail, and we keep moving forward, just with the possibility of a new tone and maybe the feeling of a fresh start.

[update]
Here is a link to the Navy’s article on the change of command, if you’re interested. ^_^

joanna irl

Seattle Tales

Space Needle

J is in Seattle right now, and while his photos tell his story a lot better, I’d like to tell one for him.

Last night was “Navy Night” at the Seattle Mariners game. The team invited a bunch of Sailors to attend in dress whites and get dinner, go to practice before the game, and sit in really good seats along the first base line. I encouraged J to go and to take a friend, so he and another guy got tickets and went to the stadium last night.

When I knew he’d been there for a bit, I messaged him to ask him how it was going.

“Great!” he replied. “I’m having a once in a lifetime experience!”

I thought to myself, Hm, I know he’s been to a Twins game, so it can’t be the baseball part that’s unique… Weird!”

I asked, “Oh? What’s happening?”

“Well, I got hit with a line drive.”

“You got what?”

“Hit with a line drive. In my shoulder. The staff has been very nice. I got Motrin and an ice pack and the player signed a ball for me….”

He was excited about this. Very excited. Telling me all about it excited.

Wow.

He’s also now been to the Starbucks (the first one) and to a few other places in SeattleĀ  that he wanted to go, but wants to go back when I can be there, too. It sounds good to me.

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

The Disenfranchisement of Military Spouses

I’m getting on a soapbox. You have been warned.

This has been brewing in the back of my head for a long time, but I wanted to wait until I was calm before writing about it. You see, every so often something happens that makes me really angry at the way military spouses get treated. Some of that is brought on by the way many military spouses act themselves, but I’ll get to that later. What bothers me the most is our government-given classification as “dependent.”

Let me be clear about this: I do not mind, in and of itself, being dependent on my husband. With him as the main income-earner, I have been able to follow a lot of dreams that I would not otherwise be able to afford. I have worked fun jobs where I play outside, where I work with animals, where I have time to write and take photos and entertain any and all company that we have visit. I am not complaining about that freedom at all.

The problem lies in how the government treats me and others like me, simply because our spouses are in the military.

We are not individuals and cannot do anything for ourselves. Does this sound old fashioned? A little, you might be thinking. It’s more than a little; we seem to exist in a system that you’d think would not be tolerated in this day and age.

When I got married, J took me to various offices around the Navy base to register me as his “dependent.” He is called the “sponsor.” There is no “spouse” or anything as equal-partnership sounding as that. Oh, no. And that was when I discovered that I might as well kiss any individualism goodbye. I understood the idea of him getting me listed on his paperwork, since I needed to be connected to his benefits, his insurance, his pay, and other things. That was fine. What bothered me then were the little things: I couldn’t get an ID card without my “sponsor” present. In fact, the people at the ID office would not speak to me, except to ask me where my sponsor was. It took me three days (we also do the DMV-style thing for IDs where you show up when they open and hope they have time to see you) to get an ID because at the time, J could only get partial days off to help me with this stuff. He had to ferry me around everywhere. The ID finally allowed me to come onto base by myself and go to the Exchange and the Commissary, but that was about it.

When we moved here, the fun increased. We discovered that not only could I not be the one to authorize our belongings to be shipped (the government considers everything “we” own as belonging solely to J), but I couldn’t be the one to get them back on the other end without J filing a special power of attorney. When we got here and I tried to check into the hotel (J was bringing in the bags), the woman at the desk kept asking where my sponsor was. The moving company wouldn’t call me to give me information even though J was on the ship and had no cell phone use during the day. We had to get another power of attorney for me to set up utilities in our house. I could go on and on about this. The point is, every time I deal with anything to do with the government, I cannot even get someone to answer questions without permission from my “sponsor.” I can’t even plant flowers in the front yard without either a power of attorney or J filling out paperwork for me with the housing office.

Does it sound old fashioned now?

Most of that stuff I have learned to take in stride, but I have to admit that sometimes I get, shall we say, short with people who are rude about asking where my sponsor is. Somehow all military spouses are supposed to be able to function as the entire household (with a POA, of course) when their military members are deployed, and yet when they are here, it’s like we’re the tag-a-longs. The hangers-on.

It’s insulting.

Really, that’s all it is, though: insulting. We can work around it, we can manage, and J reminds me constantly that it’s just wording (though he isn’t the one getting ignored at desks and counters when he asks questions).

The latest thing that sent me over the edge happened when we filed our taxes this year. You see, there’s a new law to “help” military spouses. Under the new law, I am not legally allowed to be a resident (i.e. paying taxes and voting) in the state in which J is stationed.

In the past, the military spouse could (and usually did) move her state of residence as the family moved, or if going to another country, the state of residence would usually be the last one in which they lived. In theory, you could maintain a “home” state if you wanted to keep one. When we got married, I switched everything to my new state of residence because I changed my last name and it made the paperwork all nice and neat. I was living and working in the new state, so it made sense that I would vote and pay taxes there.

Not any more.

Our tax preparer told us that under a new law, again meant to “help” us, military spouses are now required to claim their sponsors’ state of residence, even if they have never lived in that state. We discovered this only after I’d cut ties with the state of Virginia and switched everything, from my driver’s license to my voting registration, to Hawaii. I am not legally allowed to be a resident of Hawaii. Under the new law, I am supposed to be a resident of Minnesota.

If you tallied the amount of time I’ve spent in Minnesota, it would be less than four months, I’d guess.

You may not think this is a big deal, except for this: if I work, my taxes get paid to Minnesota, a state in which I do not live. When I vote, I have to vote for politicians in Minnesota, a state in which I do not live. And think about this– if we had kids, I would have no power, no say whatsoever, in how their schools were run because we’d live in a state in which I cannot vote.

So yeah, I think it’s a big deal.

Military spouses give up a lot to follow their soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines around the world. Our careers take a beating, we have to move constantly, we’re not near our extended family, and we’re subject to the military’s schedule. Most of us knew that going in, so it’s not a big surprise (or shouldn’t be*). What is frustrating is to feel like all of that doesn’t matter, like we’re just another piece of furniture that has to get relocated when the military member transfers. They could at least make it easier to vote.
……….

*I would like to insert here that I think the stickers and shirts and such that say “Navy Wife: The Toughest Job in the Navy” (or fill in your branch as need be) are asinine. I hate to be the one to tell you this, but even though it’s tough having to move around a lot and worrying about your spouse, your spouse has a much tougher job than you. They have to be away from their family, too; they move just as much (if not more) than you do; they don’t get to see their kids grow up (while you do); and their jobs, in and of themselves, are hard and dangerous and sometimes downright scary. Case in point: my husband is a welder and yet some of his training involves how to make judgment calls, like “if toxic gas is leaking into the ship, how to you choose the person to go in and seal it up, knowing that person will probably not come back out alive?” I’m not making this up. He had an entire week’s training about gas leaks and such things, and that was a serious part of it. I do not envy him in the least, having to know he might someday weigh that decision. Again, he’s a welder. Not a SEAL, not a SeaBee, not a sniper, not anything remotely worry-inducing, and he still has a tougher job than me.

joanna irl

Christmas Eve in the Navy

The stockings were hung by the, well by the TV with care (after all, let’s be honest, shall we?),
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon will be there.

It is still Christmas Eve for me, though for almost everyone who reads this it’s already Christmas morning or even solidly into the day. That’s okay, though; I’ll get to enjoy Christmas a little later than you tomorrow. ^_^

This evening has been interesting, since J has duty today and tonight. I went and had dinner on the ship with him (which involves lots of carbs, always, and yet they worry about too many sailors being overweight… hmm), which was nice. Apparently I’m allowed to do that any day that he has duty and they’re not swamped with drills or jobs or anything, which is good to know. I can also take him dinner and still eat on the mess deck with him, too. The “dining room” (this is not its real name, but “mess deck” just sounds odd) reminds me of the cafeteria in elementary school, with the sectioned trays and the buffet-style serving. The food is even similar, though someone in there knows how to make some yummy macaroni and cheese. We sit at diner-style tables in a little room surrounded by TVs, usually with sports shows playing, and which was decorated for Christmas tonight. There weren’t many people there, as it’s a holiday and only the people with duty had to stay, so it wasn’t too crowded. We sat with the four other people in his shop who were there for a while, and then he took me on a little tour of part of the ship I hadn’t seen.

After that, I went home and got him a change of clothes because he had gotten permission to come across the street with me to the base chapel and go to Christmas Eve service with me. It was so nice of them to let him go, though I suspect he may have been the only person to ask. We walked over there and had a Lessons and Carols service with plenty of music and even a hula performance to “Silent Night.” Then we walked back to the ship and said goodnight. I’ll pick him up in the morning.

This is one of the ways the Navy makes life interesting; holidays are sort of scheduled, and you have to make the best of them. I’m spending Christmas Eve mostly by myself, but I’m okay with that. I have the cats and I have music and plenty of good movies to watch, and I’ve got a nice big mug of hot chocolate, so it’s going to be a relaxing night. And I think that might be exactly what I need tonight.

Silent night, holy night, all is calm all is bright.

Merry Christmas, Mele Kalikimaka, and all the best to you and yours. ^_^

joanna irl

Welcome to Hawai’i

Well, we made it. We’re in Honolulu at a Best Western near the Navy base. And the best news: We have the kitties!

The trip yesterday was long and exhausting. We had to be at the airport at 4am to drop off the cats for their 6am flight, then we boarded at 6:30 and arrive in HI around 7:30pm Eastern time.

First impressions? The base is much prettier than the one in Virginia. Hands down, it’s the prettiest Navy base I’ve seen yet. There are flowers everywhere and the water (as we flew in yesterday) looks gorgeous. It’s hard to say much more than that, though, because everything is very… crowded. Congested, I guess. The hotel is near the base and the airport. Everything is “near” everything else because it’s all crammed into one area, along with all the people, and it’s hard to see anything really. I guess it’ll get better after we get our car…

Anyway, that’s about it. No photos yet, but I’ll get them up as I can.

OH! We definitely saw the Grand Canyon yesterday as we flew over the country. Way cool.

Call me if you wish, but remember that I am now six hours behind Eastern time. ^_^