Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Not Really Just a Girl...Not Even Close

Pre-script (v. post-script) warning:This post is not my usual cheerful outlook buoyed by positivity. It's part confession, part catharsis, and mostly something I've needed to write for a very long time. But hadn't because I knew it would be very hard to write without it turning into an all out rant. And reading back through it, I realize I fail to offer concrete solutions to a number of the questions I raise. I'll keep working on that...

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I struggle with women's groups. There. I said it.

And I struggle with the fact that I struggle with it, especially the more senior I get, the more stories I hear, the more conversations I have about mentoring and leadership and all the rest.

My first order struggle is with my interpretation of many women's groups message, which I take to be "we focus on our being women to find common ground and provide support" or something like that. Here's my issue with that: I like to focus on my ability to get the job done, rather than relying on some vagary of genetics and biology. I like to find common ground with as many people as possible, which actually, lots of times, means I don't have anything in common with other women (especially at women's groups meetings) other than the fact that we *are* women. After about the second time a women's group function mentions child care as a fundamental concern, I lose interest. For me personally. Sure, I absolutely recognize it is an issue for many...FAMILIES! Not just women. And, oh, by the way, having children (in the largest majority of cases...I can see where it wouldn't be a choice if someone close to you died and asked you to be their children's legal guardian) is a personal choice. There. I said that too.

My second order struggle is that I know my opinion about this is not typical and that many of the issues raised by women's groups are critical to supporting people with the eventual goal of diversifying our workforce. I truly believe that we are better off with diverse perspectives, and the more we open any organization to different experiences of the world, the better our decisions are.

...but that goes for women's groups too. If all they talk about is child care, co-locating with spouses either in or out of the Service, and how men and the patriarchy and the system just don't understand their struggles, then I get the feeling that my experience, my world view is not valued. Do I have stories about being judged on my performance because I'm a woman? Yes, of course. And I'm fortunate enough to have truly blatant examples that I can say without a doubt, that's on them, not on me. Except the experiences did make me doubt, and still do, but I value them for making me who I am. You could say I'm a little conflicted about the whole thing.

For example, I had one truly, spectacularly bad boss. He got fired for it, eventually, but it took so long it made me wonder how the heck he got as far in the system as he did. And just because he was a bad boss didn't mean I didn't learn good things from him. Like, you don't know what you don't know, which I took to mean that it's important to question more than you think you need to. Anyway, enough defending him. I had a couple of unforgettable run-ins with him that make good sea stories.

One was a tiff we got into over weapons qualification requirements. We had about half a dozen people on the ship who couldn't qualify on the 9mm pistol no matter how many times they went to the range and how hard they tried. He wanted to eliminate the requirement for these individuals...most of whom were petite women. I wanted to change the requirement so they were still contributing, just in a different way, to the good of the ship, because it would have undermined their credibility on the ship if they were singled out for special treatment, especially if that special treatment got them out of a particular duty that everyone else was required to do. I shared my opinion, maybe a little too forcefully for the Department Head meeting setting, and he barked back, "Well, not everyone is Wonder Woman like you." Look up backhanded compliment in the dictionary and I'm pretty sure you'll find that as an example. Tears sprung to my eyes in front of three of my peers, my direct supervisor, and the command chief. I didn't say much for the rest of that meeting. But it was my first inkling that not everyone wanted me to be successful for being good at my job.

A few months later, our cutter boat was on a run into the closest foreign port to pick up CG Investigative Service (CGIS) forensic IT specialists to see if they could find any inappropriate emails on our server related to an ongoing investigation into my boss' conduct. He and I were standing on the bridge wing, watching the boat zoom off under a cloudless blue sky through azure waters, with only a hint of a breeze, and he (a minority in his own right) said to me, "the only way minorities will ever get ahead is if they help one another." I was *stunned.* I had just gotten my OER a few weeks before, and it was stupendously good. Like crazy, walk on water good. And I kinda thought it might have been inflated before he made that comment, but I was completely convinced it was overblown after that. And to this day, when I get a good OER, I wonder if it's because I'm really that good, or if my boss has his own agenda he's trying to further by giving me a good evaluation...like giving another minority a chance or promoting the office's stature and desirability by showing that good performers can be successful there.

And that completely offends me. I want to know my success is based on my ability to DO MY JOB and do it well, not because I'm getting extra credit simply for being female...or whatever the agenda may be. I have control over my performance, while I have no control over my gender...and for a control freak like me, you can guess which one I prefer to be judged for.

For the younger generation I wonder, how can we make their challenges more about leadership instead of having their energy drained fighting against someone else's narrow view of their capabilities and capacities? That goes for women, racial minorities, men, transgender, religious minorities...whatever. It needs to be about the *individuals,* their capabilities, their strengths, weaknesses, experiences, their professional choices.

My sister suggested I add in something about offering support to make sure we're all starting from essentially the same point. Because not everyone has the same access to good education, good opportunities, good mentorship, or time to work, frequently based on their situation...where they grew up, how involved their parents were, family obligations or whatever the case may be. I think that fits into my philosophy of individualism just fine. It's all about finding out an individual's story...how they got to where they are, what they value and what they need to succeed, why they're struggling. As a mentor, it's my job to help them delve into those questions and assist in finding clarity. As a leader, how do we aggregate the individuals into policy?

Everybody struggles. Everybody has challenges. Singles v. married with children...but who gets the extra support from the organization? BAH with dependents is the most obvious. And a lot of people have heard my soapbox rant about Family Separation Allowance (FSA). And woe betide the messenger if I ever hear of some single (in the sense of "without dependents") sailor at my unit being stuck with duty on a holiday because said sailor doesn't have a family on location with whom to spend the day.

I made a personal choice a long time ago that I didn't want kids (and have been called a monster for it...true story). But that personal choice has given me a different level of flexibility with which to approach my career. I've been able to get underway without having to worry about child care, or build my e-resume without having to worry about the quality of local school districts. So given that, why do I feel annoyed that other people get special consideration from our meritocratic organization for their differing personal choices?

And that's where it gets sticky, right? It's that interaction, that border ecology of professional choices and personal choices. My sister told me of a university that implemented a policy that stated that familial leave was required to be taken for the birth or adoption of a child, so that the women faculty wouldn't feel disadvantaged for taking the time off, because the men had to take it too. But what the university found was that, while the women used their time off for child care and adjusting to a new family reality...and probably recovering from the medical experience of childbirth, the men used the time off to write and publish more academic papers and advancing their careers.

Well, hell.

So after all that, I still got nuthin. No answers, no solutions. Just my experience. Just my complete unwillingness and utter rejection of being judged for being Just a Girl.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Hearts and Minds

I recently went up to the CG Academy for their 28th Annual Ethics Forum. It was such a great experience, starting from Dr Lenny Wong's keynote address about his article on lying in the Army, to the opening remarks by RADM Thomas Wetmore's son about the important contributions his father made to the Service, Academy, and pretty much everyone he came across, to the discussion after the sessions with the other presenters.

My talk's topic was "Difficult Conversations: Why They're Important and How to Have Them." It was maybe a stretch to the overall theme of the Forum which was Core Values and the Chain of Command. I think I made it work though.

After my second of two presentations, a young cadet approached me, asking if he could email me a question once he had an opportunity to formulate it a little better in his own mind. Here's what he sent me a few days later:

"I think it's best to start with a little explanation. There is clearly a need to balance emotion and reason in a professional setting, especially in the military. I've read and heard a lot about not letting emotions control your decisions as a leader, and that you have to lead with your mind. On the flipside, there's not as much talk about using your heart or emotions effectively as a leader, and I think it's something worth exploring. I understand this is all a little vague, but hope I get the gist of my thoughts across!
From your talk and your stories in leadership and followership positions, and from your demeanor and bearing, I got a significant impression that you seem to have that balance between mind and heart figured out well. I'm not sure if that's something that comes naturally to you, or if you had to work on finding a balance. Do you have any advice or words on the matter?"

Here's my response:

I don’t think I’d be comfortable saying I have the balance between heart and mind figured out…but I’m glad to know I come across that way. “Fake it ‘til you make it” works sometimes :) Your question definitely got me thinking about it though… which is always a good thing.
A couple thoughts:

-- Know yourself: I choke up when I talk about anything remotely emotional. It’s taken me *years* to accept that. It helped when my uncle said his dad (my grandfather) was the same way, and most of our family members have the same attribute. It’s like knowing I came by it honestly made it ok for me to be that way, instead of thinking it was a weakness or something to fight. It still can be a little…um, uncomfortable, especially when (for example) telling a heart-wrenching sea story in front of 100 cadets… But I’m human, and it’s part of who I am, so I decided recently to own it. I’m not sure I could have done it before, or without being confident in lots of other ways that I’m good at what I do. Vulnerability is hard.

-- Know yourself, part 2: I don’t have a poker face. Never have; don’t think I’ll get one anytime soon. What I think and feel is almost immediately communicated across my face. So, when I’m pissed, I give an evil eye (ask 1/C Labelle…he probably saw me give the evil eye to a JO at some point during his 1/C summer on DILIGENCE). When I’m excited and happy, I bounce and grin. I’m genuine, and people realize it pretty quickly. I try to use this to my advantage to build trust… which requires me to maintain a positive outlook so I’m contributing positively to a situation instead of negatively raining on everyone’s parade all the time. But the important thing is to be genuine; Coasties are smart enough to have pretty sensitive bullshit detectors.

-- Empathy: Upon reflection, I realized that the most common way I use emotions in a professional setting is to understand where someone else is coming from. If I can put myself in their shoes, think about how I’d feel if I was them, dealing with what they’re living with, it helps me empathize with them and maybe come up with a better solution than if I just looked at the surface of the problem. I took a great class during grad school on Conflict Resolution, and one of the main ideas behind negotiation is looking for common ground. Emotions can offer a path to common ground if you can see a situation from your negotiation partner’s point of view.

-- Know the policy: Go look up and read the governing policy for whatever decision you’re trying to make. Read a couple paragraphs before and after to see if there’s explanatory information that gives background to help understand why the policy is the way it is. Look up any references. This helps build the knowledge base to support the next thought…
-- Pay attention to your instincts: If the hairs are standing up on the back of your neck, there’s probably a reason for it. Trust that. Look into it. Go back and read the policy again to make sure someone isn’t trying to bullshit *you.* It may take you a while to build the knowledge base to have an instinct to trust, but you’ll develop it. Once you do, trust it. Ask questions, dig a little deeper, make your sailors show you the policy they followed with their work, don’t rely on templates or the unavoidable “this is the way we’ve always done it.” I’m not sure this is entirely emotional, but I’m not sure it’s not, so I decided to mention it.

You asked a great question. Thanks very much for the opportunity to think about it as I put together my answer. Also, I hope I actually answered your question! It’s always a little hard to tell with leadership questions like this. Please feel free to ask for clarification if you need it.
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During both sessions, I told different stories that caused me to choke up. I questioned myself as I was telling them. I mean, what the hell was I *doing?!?* Voice thick with emotion, deeper and tighter than normal, having to inhale deeply just to take in oxygen just to keep going, and pausing to collect myself so my voice didn't crack and unleash all the tears built up from years of seeming invulnerable... in front of 100 young cadets training to be the next generation of Coast Guard leaders. I definitely questioned what I was thinking. But the stories helped make my point, and apparently my delivery was meaningful also. 

And I really appreciated the thought exercise prompted by the question. It helped me consolidate my thoughts on the place of emotions in leadership. 

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Derby Weekend

This weekend ended up being just what I thought it would be...a total Derby weekend. Yesterday was the DC Rollergirls Season Opener. I went to volunteer, and stayed for a few minutes of the second, full match. So many people, so much fun, awesome! half time show by Batala!

And today was Boot Camp and Open Tryouts. I've been going to Boot Camp for a couple months now...since probably mid-October, maybe? I've missed a few weeks here and there, and December was a pretty light month because of the holidays. And I hadn't really been on roller skates since I was a terror at the Church Skate Nights when I was like, ten. My learning curve was steep.

I made the FREAKING TEAM!!!! And I feel Really. Freaking. Good about it! 

Now I'm going to do something that feels *very* out of character...I'm going to uh, brag.

Here's why: I'm 43 years old. There are any *number* of reasons why it's harder now.
--  Learning any new physical skill at this point in life isn't easy. I know...I tried to learn how to snowboard about half a dozen times over the last five years...and I still suck at it. I have since stopped trying and defaulted back to skiing so I can actually enjoy my limited time on the mountain. 

-- And it hurts. My legs ache right now. My left ankle is cranky, my thighs are gonna cramp up on me later when I'm sitting in my chair watching a movie despite all the stretching I've done and water I've drank, my hips are stupid tight, and my shins have splints. The first Tuesday after my first boot camp class, I could barely walk down stairs. Sitting down was torture. Thankfully the pain hasn't been quite so intense since that first week, but skating definitely uses muscles that aren't used by any other activity...and they make themselves loudly known. And falling...well, falling doesn't probably hurt any more now, but it definitely takes me longer to recover afterwards.

-- The other Boot Campers are, at the oldest, in their early 30s. Some are in their early 20s. They have resiliency that I don't. (I mean, I have knowledge and experience they don't, so there's a certain trade off). I'm not sure it's such a stretch for them to go out and learn new things...it's just the phase of life they're in. It was challenging for me to admit I wasn't going to be immediately awesome at this new thing (even though I had no reason to *expect* to be awesome), and still go do it anyway. I feel like I've lost the ability to not be good at something...or maybe that my recent experiences are based in things I already know how to do, so even if they're challenging, they're not completely new, and I can just rely on my instincts, instead of having to figure out each time how to react. 

-- Derby is very physical, and I can still **totally** hang with the younger crowd. I am strong, my core strength is great, I have endurance, my derby stance comes almost naturally. So maybe wondering whether those flight deck workouts were gonna kill me or make me stronger finally has an answer.

I'm just plain proud of myself. 

Or, maybe I'm just being a whiny little bee-yotch, thinking that everything should come easy to me. It's kinda hard to tell sometimes.

I'm not entirely sure what the next step is. We're supposed to get an email with more admin information. And I need a derby name. I was gonna use CDR Grayhem (like Mayhem, but Gray... well, for the obvious reasons), but there are already a couple Mayhem's in the group, and I didn't want to add any confusion. Keel-haulher and Ancient Scare-iner are options, but I'm not totally in love with those. Any suggestions???

Monday, February 20, 2017

Twelve Days In

I'm 12 days in...almost halfway through my little experiment. And it's been...almost easy? Except when it's not.

Observations so far: I'm cleaning out odds and ends that have been lingering in the back of cabinets for an embarrassingly long time. I don't have any more stale crackers, or cans of sardines from two years ago, or that last bit of Karo syrup I bought to make rum balls three Christmases ago. All used up. Which makes me feel good about using what I have instead of feeling driven to go out and get more of stuff I don't really need.

I'm eating fewer preservatives. Now that the crackers are gone -- especially those damn white cheddar Cheez-Its that I'm totally addicted to -- I'm finding other snacks to stave off my boredom. Usually it's been toast from my homemade bread. Or mixed nuts. I still have some microwave popcorn to fall back on, so I'm not totally out of preservatives, but my intake has definitely declined. I can't say I feel physically different, but I like the idea of less stuff that may or may not actually be good for my health.

I've almost made it through an entire bunch of kale and box of mushrooms before they start to go yellow or mushy. That hardly ever happens. I mean, I cook for one, I eat for one, and I'm convinced that grocery stores do not package much of anything fresh for one. It's almost like the food industry doesn't believe that single people exist, or should eat anything other than prepared foods in single servings, usually frozen. I'll try not to make this a soapbox rant on the trials of being single, but seriously, I'd have to eat broccoli every meal for three days to use up most heads sold in the grocery store before they go yellow and bitter. Ok, so that's an exaggeration. But still...

I guess if I have that much grief with grocery store sales tactics, I should be more dedicated and driven to shop at farmers markets where I can buy directly from the producers. Take responsibility for my own situation, as it were.

Usually by the time I'm sick of cooking, I get an invite to go out to dinner. Or invited to join someone for lunch. Which works out well. This weekend, I had two such invitations, that were So. Very. Welcome. On Saturday, I went to Rooting DC (which was **amazing!!**). I went knowing I didn't have a good meal plan, which usually isn't a good idea for me. After the two morning sessions (one by the folks from Good Foods Market talking about using mission driven social entrepreneurship to address food desert or food swamp issues (fascinating), and one by Arlington Food Assistance Center on making good meals out of food before it goes bad (good treats and ideas)), I went to check out the food trucks lined up, waiting to feed attendees. Dangerously Delicious Pies tempted me with their Hot Rod savory pie (cheese and potatoes in pie...what's *not* to love!). I found a nice spot in the sun to enjoy my feast. Before I had even opened up my takeout container, a lovely young woman sat down next to me and asked if I was waiting on anyone to join me. I said no, and we ended up having a great conversation while we enjoyed our lunches together. I explained my experiment to her, and thanked her from allowing me to abide by my own rules. Super fun.

Last night a friend was in town for a retirement, and invited me to join her and another friend for dinner. A delightful selection of tapas plates and two bottles of wine later, we parted ways and I'm set for another couple of days of my own cooking.

I made hummus and bread yesterday, granola this morning and have plans for pasta sauce with turkey, mushrooms and the ubiquitous kale for breakfasts, lunches, dinners and snacks this week. I do miss cheese.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Homemade Bread!!

I made it successfully through the rest of the week after Tuesday's little misunderstanding. In addition to a full breakfast and lunch each day, I took an apple on Wednesday, mixed nuts on Thursday, and left pretty much immediately after a 2 pm meeting on Friday, which obviated the need for a snack. I left "early-ish" on Friday, so I could ride my bike home, clean up and still make it to drinks during Happy Hour with two lovely sailor-ladies from the office. It was wonderful to catch up with them -- seems like we've all been running separate ways for the last few weeks, made only better by being out with people so I could enjoy the Original Daiquiris and happy hour *cheese!*

I also left work at a reasonable hour on Wednesday. I drove that day, so I could go to the Army's Institute of Heraldry at Fort Belvoir. Super cool field trip. The Institute works with our Prospective Commanding Officers (PCOs) of pre-commission ships to design the ship's crest based on the namesake. Since we're pretty much cranking out six Fast Response Cutters (FRCs) and one National Security Cutter (NSC) per year, they're doing a lot of work for us. The Coast Guard's Chief Historian arranged the visit, and I got to tag along. This is the office that makes all the Presidential and Vice Presidential seals. They hand paint them; the workshop was part of the tour. They also designed the Coast Guard Cross, the Medal of Honor Flag, and all the Director of National Intelligence's awards, devices, flag, badges, medallion and seal. Truly rich experience.

But, with the Institute being at Fort Belvoir, I drove. And then was able to drive to JBAB's commissary after work. I stocked up on fruits, veggies, meat and milk. Even got two small tenderloin steaks for under $5 because they had to be sold that day. The check-out lady actually commented on how all my stuff was so fresh. I told her about my little experiment while she was ringing up the jalapenos. She said she'd miss cheese too much, especially if it was in jalapeno poppers. I totally understand that.

With my refrigerator fully restocked, the rest of the week was easy. Tenderloin steak and veggie hash for dinner, with leftovers for lunch. And finished up the last of the mac & cheese from last weekend. Still made some forays into using up some supplies that have been lingering in my cabinets for far too long. Tuna salad for dinner one night when I was just too tired for anything else. I need to come up for a plan for when I run out of crackers...

I tackled bread this weekend too. My last attempt failed miserably when I set the dough to proof on top of the gas fireplace in the living room. I went back a couple hours later to check on it, only to find a series of kitty footprints plunked across it. Lucy likes to sit on the stove because it's nice and warm...guess she didn't count on a slug of bread dough to have usurped her spot. Needless to say, the punching down of the dough at that inopportune moment did not help it rise. I ended up with a hard brick of wheat flour that the neighborhood squirrels feasted on for a few days.

Nevertheless, I persisted. And tried again. This time, I left the dough to proof in the oven with the light on while I went to roller derby boot camp (tryouts are in **two weeks!!**), came home and stuck it in the oven. And it turned out pretty damn good. Not stupendously wonderful -- the crust is hard but not crusty -- but definitely better than any other bread I've made before. So I'm calling it success. I used about half whole white wheat and half high-gluten flour, maybe a little heavier on the whole wheat. And I didn't completely trash the kitchen...so maybe a bigger success than I first thought.

My roommate asked me what I hoped to get out of this little project. Damn good question. I hemmed and hawed for a minute or two before I came up with the following answer: Simplify, use what I have and what I can do, eat healthy and save some money (though those last two are more secondary, downstream effects). But definitely simplify. And after I thought about it some more, there may be some giving myself permission to enjoy being at home, revel in my space, rather than feeling like I should be out socializing and playing extrovert. And if I learn to make bread or even queso fresco...so much the better!

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Restart Required

So I made it through Monday with no troubles. Mostly because I made a massive batch of oatmeal on Sunday, and my very most favorite stove-top mac and cheese to see me through a few days. I was a little peckish about 3 pm, but dove back into the stunningly interesting issue paper on operational metrics I was writing, and forgot all about snacks until it was time to leave. Which meant that I was maniacally starving when I got home after physical therapy at 7:30. I slapped together a bit of a small block of Colby-Jack cheese left over from the mac and cheese, with some corn tortillas that have been lingering in the fridge since...um, I'm embarrassed to admit I don't know, but it's probably been about four months. No mold...they're still good. And opened a can of black beans. Wha-la! Quesadilla and beans for dinner. And apple pie for dessert.

The plan was pretty much the same for today. I ran to work, taking advantage of the relatively mild weather. Ate my oatmeal before I put my uniform on...so I'd *have* the energy to put my uniform on, and dove back into the next thrilling project on my task list: a strategic narrative about crew rotational concept (first draft complete, but I'm not sure it's even in English anymore after all the times I've read it). Leftover mac and cheese for lunch, as late as I could wait at about 11:45. And then the inevitable munchies at about 2 pm. It was a gorgeous afternoon out, so I made the quick walk up to the Exchange to see if they had some plain nuts, and picked up some dry cleaning. I thought I found just the thing...dry roasted peanuts, 2 for $1. I read the back of the package; "Contains: Peanuts." Oh, thank goodness, those will work perfectly.

Until I got back to my desk and opened them about 15 minutes later, and thought, hmm, those look like they have some...something on them. Yep, turns out I had read the allergy alert instead of the ingredients list. The peanuts had a whole *list* of ingredients. Foiled! So much for just peanuts. I ate them anyway...I mean, the package was opened. I didn't want to waste them. And I was peckish. And bored.

But that means I'm starting my 30 day clock over again. At least I only lost one day, while learning a valuable lesson about reading the entire! package. I put in an order with Nuts.com today...acceptable mixed nuts will be here tomorrow. As will my restock of walnuts, pecans, whole white wheat flour, oatmeal (I caved and am allowing oatmeal, but rolled oats, not that quick oats nonsense), and chia seeds.

I have two more days of mac and cheese left for lunch. I need to figure out what to do for lunch on Friday before Friday gets here.

And thanks, all, for the warm welcome back. Tons of love from my Facebook share, and ooh, all the comments from my last post were wonderful to read.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Rev 2.17 -- It's Enough

Is this really happening? Am I really gonna do this? Oh my, it appears as if I am. Daring adventure...!

I work in an office. Not at a desk on a ship. But in an office. Actually in a cubicle. In a cube farm. Surrounded by other cube farms...nine whole floors of cube farms. Pushing paper, holding meetings, sitting on conference calls, stressing about flag briefs, and bitching about concurrent clearance comments that may or may not contribute value to the issue. 

There's good work to be done, and I'm doing it to the best of my ability. But there's more to life than the overwhelming, mind-numbing and soul-sucking bureaucracy. 

I'm in DC, living in a gorgeous old row house on Capitol Hill (thanks to my wonderful friend!), walkable to nearly everything I could ever want or need, history and daily civics lessons at my fingertips...or toe-tips since I walk most places. I bike or run to work; it only took me about six weeks to lose 10 pounds of boat-induced fat when I got here just making my way to and from work. I've been to see Wicked and The Ballet at the Kennedy Center, I'm a new Smithsonian Associate and will be attending my first event at the Smithsonian in a few weeks, and I've been going to the DC Roller Girls roller derby boot camp so I can hone my skating skills and try out for the local team. If I had to pick a city, DC's a pretty damn good one. 

But I'm not a city-girl at heart, and find myself at some odds with my current place in the world. I recently read an article about veterans at the Standing Rock protest on Task & Purpose that quoted Sebastion Junger, talking about his new book Tribe, "I think in the military you get a very intoxicating sense of urgency and being necessary to others,” Junger told [the article's author]. “One of the tragedies of coming home is that it’s possible to suddenly feel like you’re not necessary anymore to society or anyone else..." Um...well, um, yes. "Intoxicating sense of urgency" just about perfectly sums it up. 

So, at the risk of sounding too touchy-feely, too woo-woo-freaky, too vulnerable, I'm restarting this block to focus on my personal growth while I'm ashore...with apologies to any readers who started reading this, thinking it was gonna be more sea stories. It's not. It's gonna be about enough. 

I miss writing. I tried to write just for myself, you know, like in a journal. I just couldn't keep it up, couldn't make myself do it. There was no structure, and my handwriting is atrocious. Here's my structure...for the next 30 days at least.

I know the 30-day challenge is a little overdone. At first I thought about doing the Whole30 diet, but their website had too many options and it overwhelmed me so I couldn't figure out what I wanted to do. Which led me to think more about what I was trying to achieve. I wanted to eat healthier, have guidelines, something to fall back on when I had a tough decision to make -- like to eat delicious food out and spend too much money or snack at home, eating healthier and saving money. So here are my guidelines for the next 30 days: 
-- I will only buy primary food ingredients. No processed nuthin! That means yes to milk, veggies, fruits, meats, and grains in their original forms. That means no to cheese (O.M.G! what the hell do I think I'm doing?!?), sausage, no beer or wine or booze, yogurt, bread, crackers, bagels, sugar, nothing processed. I can make whatever I want from the primary ingredients, but I have to make it. If I want butter, I'll buy cream-top milk, and churn my own like I did in Montessori school forty years ago. Maybe I'll finally get good at making bread...or else I'll be eating a lot of wheat briquettes...
-- I'm allowed the following exceptions: flour (as long as it's whole grain), olive or coconut oil, and vinegar...though I'm on the fence about vinegar. I also don't know about honey. I think honey's going to be off limits. And oatmeal. Shit, I don't know about oatmeal either. 
-- I'm allowed to use what's already in the house as of this morning when I decided to do this, even if it breaks the above rule. So, the two beers in the house will be gone before the end of this Super Bowl game, the pickles and mayonnaise may last me through the 30 days of egg and tuna salad, I already finished the bread, and that boxed chile relleno in the freezer may be a meal of last resort one of these evenings when I'm absolutely famished with zero motivation to make anything after a long day of tilting at bureaucratic windmills. 
-- I may not buy stuff. Random junk. Things I think will make me satisfied, but then end up taking up space in the house after their novelty has worn off. I have enough stuff. I need to use what I have. I live within a *mile* of amazing historical sites that I can run or walk to, more museums than I could possibly wear out, the National Arboretum that looks different every day, delightful trails that lead to overlooked nooks of nature. I have enough. I need to enjoy what I have instead of bringing in more. 
-- The rules are suspended if I go out to eat with someone else. The rules are not suspended if I'm eating out by myself. Apparently I need some incentives to be sociable. 
-- I will share what I can here about what I learn, about myself, about making bread, about how to make myself happier out of my natural element. 

Like I said, touchy-feely, woo-woo kind of writing. But it's what I need right now, so I'm gonna own it. It's enough.