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. 

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Fare Thee Well, Boundless Deep

Unless craziness ensues, I have sailed my last on the mighty warship DILIGENCE.

We ended our patrol in the Florida Straits with six interdictions and 600 people onboard who were attempting to illegally immigrate to the United States. I had to give up on my goal of blogging every day underway. I felt like I was writing the same post over and over again -- all about how the AMIO (alien migrant interdiction operations) mission is hard. More on that in a moment.

On the way home, we got our asses kicked for about 18 hours by a strong system that was blowing from the northeast at 30 knots sustained winds and seven to nine foot seas (though the bridge watch swears they saw at least one 14-footer). We slid out of the Gulf Stream to see if that would settle the seas at all. It might have. Barely. I never "pulled the trigger" (i.e., gave in to the need to puke), but my belly ached like someone had punched me repeatedly. 

The weather finally settled, and we got the flight deck tent taken down and put away, a freshwater wash down done and AMIO supplies stowed in MAA stores (the most forward space on the ship, which can become an anti-gravity chamber when we're pitching in the seas). At our sunset Quarters, we recognized a number of people who were departing the ship when we got home, pinned Cutterman pins on our newest Cuttermen, and then followed the whole shebang with a cigar social on the fantail. I nearly missed my last sunset from sea trying to figure out how to pay for a van to take dependents down to Southport to catch a ride out to us the next day. I raced from the fantail, up to the flight deck and then the stack deck and the bridge deck and finally to the open bridge to see if I could catch the sun as it sunk below the horizon. Then I made my way back to the fantail to enjoy the Golden Hour.

Our river transit was smooth, if very windy. I took over the Conn a couple legs before we went under the power lines that cross the river. Slowed down to launch our cutter boat so they could trailer the boat and then be line handlers on the pier for us. Passed a light tanker just south of the State pier ("I'm light, he said; I'm pretty small, he said" as he took up most of the channel, and made us glad there wasn't another vessel moored at the State pier). The Cape Fear Memorial Bridge came up to welcome us home. We got a standing ovation some of the Riverfront restaurants' crowd. And I made a glorious starboard side to approach on the pier, had all lines over, and main diesel engines and the helm station secured within about 15 minutes (even with waiting for the line handlers to get back from trailering the cutter boat), And ended up *exactly* where I wanted, no shifting of lines needed. Mike drop.

Then there was a blur of families, entering port requirements and finally Quarters on the pier where we recognized more of the folks who were leaving when we got back from patrol. 

Another one in the books.

BT

About halfway through this patrol, I made a concerted effort to stop referring to the people on our flight deck as "migrants." They are *people.* Sure, a group of people who have a special circumstance in common (i.e., illegally migrating to the US from Cuba by way of handmade, not very sea-worthy vessels). But calling them migrants felt dehumanizing, for both them and me. 

And the night that four of them jumped overboard to try to swim the five miles to shore tested all our patience for their dedication to their dreams. We picked up two of them relatively quickly, but the other two evaded our boat crews for over an hour, until one of them got too tired to swim any more (duh -- FIVE MILES!!) and the other was brought reluctantly onboard the small boat and then restrained so he couldn't jump over again. At that point, it's a Safety of Life at Sea issue, and not so much an immigration issue. People DIE without the appropriate safety gear on the open ocean. Even if they jump overboard themselves. 

All this is said from my comfortable seat of privilege and First World problems. And that's why I couldn't come up with anything new to say for the last couple of weeks of the patrol. I had already said it, wasn't adding anything new, didn't have any good solutions for making things better for our guests or for our crew, and was on the verge of an excoriating rant on the futility of being on the pointy end of the spear tasked with enforcing failed public policies. Screaming into the gale.

And now the hardest bit. This is my last post. I hope I have brought enjoyment and insight into our underway world to my readers over the last seven years. Maybe a couple chuckles and fond remembrances of shared experiences. 

It's been a wild ride, and I truly appreciate every time someone clicked on one of my posts. You, my readers, never failed to bring a smile to my face when you reached out to tell me you spent your precious time with my thoughts and perspectives. And I have never stopped being surprised and delighted at the breadth of my readership.

It's time for me to move on. I hope to keep writing in a different (yet to be determined) forum. The last few months, I have felt constrained by the need to be mostly positive on this blog. The burden of positive leadership weighed heavily on my keyboard, limiting how fully I could paint the picture of my experiences. I will always strive to keep a positive outlook and not focus on all the things that are wrong, but most all times, life is more nuanced than I think is fair to share in this forum. The people who work for me rely on me to provide solutions and keep them in the tools to get their job done. Not whine and complain that those tools are hard to find and oh, by the way, might not be effective for getting us to the end goal anyway. 

If I had better tools to suggest, I would be writing a different post right now. I'm hoping that in freeing myself from (my admittedly self-imposed) constraints, I can move my thinking and writing in a different, more productive direction. 

Thank you all, again, for your support, comments, remembrances and thoughtfulness. I will cherish you always.

I shall never rid the salt water from my veins.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Outrunning a Storm

We had just met up with an FRC to transfer a couple dozen people they interdicted earlier in the day. The water was glass, silkily reflecting the colors from their stripe like a funhouse mirror. A green bar of storms blanked out the radar to the south. As we made the last few boat runs between ships, a glowing bolt of lightning carved a brilliant line through the clouds. A few moments later, a clash of thunder nearly startled me out of my skin as it crackled and sizzled around us.

We got both boats cradled and secured for sea, and sped up away to our next destination. A breeze freshened the water in front of the line of storms, rippling the glassy waters to opacity. Rain drops hitting the water defined the next line behind the breeze, and it marched boldly towards the ship. Standing on the bridge wing, I could hear the rain pounding down, fresh water protesting the obliteration of its purity into the salty seas. For a moment, it looked as if our stern would be caught in its drenching territory. We managed to pull away with about 50 feet to spare.

Now I'm staring out my window, marveling at the rainbow shades of grey and silver that carry the water surrounding our ship out to the far horizon that blends nearly seamlessly to the clouds and into the sky above.

LCDR Charlotte Mundy
Executive Officer
USCGC DILIGENCE (WMEC 616)
**UNDERWAY**