joanna irl

Advertising: YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG.

Well, doing it badly, in any case.

I was going to write about our MUCH belated holiday party from this weekend today, but NO.

If you know me well, you know I don’t think much of most ads, especially when I can tell I am the target audience and feel that THEY are pandering to me.┬áThis is not one of those cases.

While watching a recorded TV show tonight (I don’t watch live TV other than sports if I can help it, mostly because of the aforementioned ad-induced-irritation), I happened to catch the last ten seconds of an ad at the end of a commercial break.

Of a woman leaning back into a pool.

AFTER TAKING STOOL SOFTENER.

Let this sink in for just a moment.

Are you with me yet?

…..

WHO LET THIS WOMAN IN THE POOL???

I had to go back and watch it again (twice) to make sure.

PRO TIP: If you’re going to ADVERTISE something like STOOL SOFTENER, maybe using a POOL isn’t the best IMAGE.

Just a thought.

Want to see for yourself? I couldn’t find the ad on a video streaming site to embed it here, but you can see it at the company’s website. Click the tab marked “Video” and watch. You’re welcome.

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

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

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. ^_^