Sunday, December 19, 2010

Thanksgiving: My Family

OMG, how did a whole month pass? I fully intended to post this the Sunday after Thanksgiving, so it had some hope of being timely. But it took me 9 hours to get home from North Carolina, eating up my entire Sunday evening. And then it was two weeks before finals, and I had three memos, a 20-page paper, two finals and a take home to get through. And now it's a month later, and I escaped frigid DC for tropical Waialua, Hawaii. And I *absolutely* am thankful for that!

But this post is about my family. I don't know how the heck they put up with me. For the past ten years, the first question most of them ask me when they talk to me on the phone is, "where are you?" And they don't mean it as in, are you at home or at school or at work or the grocery story or the library? No, it's more like, what continent are you on? Because sometimes I've been in South America, sometimes in Southwest Asia, sometimes on the East Coast of the US and sometimes in Hawaii. It is kinda fun to keep 'em guessing though :)

I'll never forget telling my brother that I had taken the ASVAB in preparation for joining the Coast Guard nearly twelve years ago. He was into his second decade in the Air Force, and I think I didn't talk to him for a year or two when I was a young, thoughtless pissant in high school because I was upset about his participation in the military industrial complex that was such a major stumbling block to the peaceful, sensible, rightful way that the world *should* work. So, needless to say, he was a little bit surprised to hear that I was pursuing a military career ten years later. I think it took him about 30 seconds to pick his lower jaw up off the floor from where it had dropped when he heard I was enlisting. And then he proceeded to give me very useful advice...stay operational. Well, Jay, I did (finally) take some of your advice, and you were SO right! We've had some great conversations since then about the military, leadership, current world news and life in general. Thanks, bro, for sticking it out with me while I pulled my head out of lalaland.

And my brother has a wonderful family who I had the chance to see for a couple of hours Thanksgiving weekend. His wife, Susan, is a great mother to their three kids, homeschooling them and teaching them to be thoughtful people. In Africa. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention...Jay is a bush pilot in Africa for a missionary group, doing lots of medevacs and transporting medicine, people, supplies and probably a chicken or two in his planes all throughout eastern Africa, Kenya, Uganda, Sudan...dangerous places where the runways sometimes have doglegs in the middle of them, guards with AKs and never mind the cows and giraffes blocking the way. So, Susan doesn't necessarily have all the conveniences of a regular suburban housewife. But she does an amazing job, keeping a bountiful garden and making beautiful quilts. Their kids are really sweet, but growing up so very, very fast. Alex is now taller than I am, and is starting to give his dad a run for his money in wrestling matches. Beth is beautiful, and will likely be completely stunning in a few years, never mind smart and talented. She crocheted me the coolest beanie for Christmas...awesome colors and it fits perfectly. And Sam is such a pixie, so impish and curious. I miss seeing them on a regular basis, but know they are growing up in an amazing place that will make them really cool people to get to know when (if) we ever live in close(r) proximity.

My dad and his wife visited on their way through Maryland enroute North Carolina to see my brother and his family the week before Thanksgiving. They were so patient with the kitchen under construction and other idiosyncrasies of my old house. I usually get to see Dad and Sandee on the Coast Guard's dime about every year or two. They live a couple hours from New London, CT, so I get to visit them whenever I go to a C school at the Academy. But I hadn't seen them since I got back from Bahrain, so it was really great to be able to host them for the night. They ran into some traffic and bad advice from their GPS that shortened the visit a little bit, but we got to chat over dinner, and they got to see where I live, for the first time since I left the east coast ten years ago.
Uncle Steve, Aunt Jan, Ally, Amy's mom Susan, and Amy
Thanksgiving itself was a wonderful day...exactly what the day is supposed to be. Tons of good food, a warm, crowded kitchen, great people and a fun time. I road-tripped down to my friend Amy's house in North Carolina to hang with her and her 9-year-old daughter, Ally. Her mom came over, and my Uncle Steve and his partner, Aunt Jan came in from Rockingham County for dinner.

Acrobat Ally and Jan, waiting her turn on the trampoline
Amy and I have been friends for nearly 20 years. I haven't kept in continuous touch with anybody else that I've known for that long, except for other family members, so I feel like I have every right to call her and Ally family. She has been there for me through all my stupid human tricks, ready to laugh at me, with me, for me and around me. We met in a political science class my first year at Berea College. In retrospect, I'm really surprised we never got kicked out of class. We laughed the entire semester...poor professor (he kinda looked like Ichabod Crane, which didn't help at all). And I don't know that the college farm was ever the same after we worked there for a summer. Work briefings took at least ten minutes longer but were so much more enjoyable for everybody because we joked around so much. Best line *EVER*: what happens if you don't wash sheep in cold water with Woolite? Do they look like this? (put palms on either side of your face by your ears and pull backwards so your face stretches tight). We tried to ask our boss that with straight faces, but could only get it about halfway out before we couldn't say any more words through the hilarity. She didn't think it was so funny. And meringue...that stuff kinda hurts coming out the nose. Just saying.

I don't know why Ally puts up with me...I'm kinda mean, pouring cold water over her in the shower after she threw some 'tude at me, and tickling her relentlessly. But she's known me as Crazy Aunt Charley for her whole life, and I hope to be there for her like her mom has been there for me. One of my favorite things about being back on the east coast is being closer to some of the people I love that I haven't seen enough of recently.

Mom always told us that family does anything they can for family. I took it for granted for a long time, but Uncle Steve has done so very, very much for me over the years that it's hard not to be thankful for my family. He put me, my dog and three cats up in his spare room while I looked for a place to live before my first stint in grad school...for two months. He pretty much single-handedly renovated the kitchen in my new house. And he's just a cool guy. We're both the youngest in our generations, and along with my cousin Cameron (also the youngest), we keep the rest of the family on their toes. We're our own flock of black sheep :) Just make sure to wash us in Woolite.

I'm staying with my Mom over Christmas and into the New Year. We've had our difficulties over the years. We're both really stubborn, alike in some ways, and different in ones that make it tough for us to get along sometimes. Well, difficult for me to get along with her sometimes...I admit, I'm not the easiest person to get along with. Too many years in charge I think: I don't like it when things don't go my way. But she's always been proud of me (embarrassingly so sometimes...you know moms). One of Mom and my sister's favorite stories about me is the time we were in the grocery store in Ellicott City, MD, getting some last minute supplies for dinner. Vicki and I were both home from college. The store was crowded, and we were walking in a little bit of a gaggle, politely making way for people and generally being conscious of the fact that we were not the only people in the store trying to finish errands. But there was this snooty woman with her grocery cart that pretty much plowed through us like we were invisible peasants in her own personal kingdom. Well, I don't mind being ignored...but for god's sake, don't disrespect me. I pushed my nose up in the air with my finger (not my middle one...my mom was there for heaven's sake) and snorted like a pig...loudly. The woman looked around, slightly mortified.

I'm glad that Mom's enjoying her retirement. And even though I'm still a punk sometimes, I love her a lot.

I've got a bunch more family members to be thankful for...Aunt Linda and Uncle Adam, cousins Karen, Jennie and Roy and family, Cameron, Nancy and Jim, Robin and Blaine and family, and Jane and Eddie. I don't talk to many of them often, and see them even less. But I know they care about me and support me.

I haven't mentioned my sister yet, though. She's joined conversations on the blog before, usually with insightful words of advice or thoughtful comments from a completely different perspective. The funny thing is that we used to *hate* each other. And that really is not too strong a word. When we were in grade school, and on into high school, I couldn't stand being around her. She was always such a damn goodie-two-shoes. She tattled on me for trying to learn how to spit when I was ten. She was way smarter than me (still is), and just complicated things unbearably. She kept her room neat, made her bed, had better handwriting (still does), didn't throw a fit about going to church, dated nice boys, and didn't wear holey jeans.

Aunt Linda told us both sometime, maybe about 20 years ago, that we'd end up really good friends once we got older. We both thought she was delusional. I was a snotty little punk, out to piss off the world, and Vicki made it clear she was so very, very far superior to me. In every way.

It's amazing the clarity gained from those 20 years. And thank goodness for it. Vicki was the first person I called during that kerfuffle over the Endangered Species Act last fall. And the first person I called when my boyfriend broke up with me. And the first person I called when I found out I was going to take command of a ship...in Bahrain. She edited my college application essay for me. She is always, always willing to listen and offer encouragement. I love the fact that she knew me as a punk kid, and saw me grow out most, but not all, of it. And I am so truly happy that she is happy.

So I am so very, very thankful for my family. All of them.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Thanksgiving; My House

One of the other students at school asked me how things were going a couple of weeks ago. It was three days after I had popped myself in the lip with a pry bar, putting a hole through and through (does it count as iron intake if you're swallowing your own blood?), trying to get a piece of molding down in the kitchen. My lip was still swollen and hurt, and I was a little embarrassed by the glaring scab on my face. So I made some mention of being busy with kitchen renovations in my new house. He commented disparagingly about owning a house and settling down not being his "bag" so he really couldn't understand what I was talking about. Even though I know he thinks I'm off my rocker, I felt a little sorry for him. Home is a special place.

I'm settling into my new house. Nick-knacks are up on the shelves, and while I haven't hung any pictures yet, I know where they're going to go (need to get more anchors). The china cabinets are finally out of the dining room. Though now I've got unfinished spots on the floor that need to be sanded down and polyurethaned and gaping holes in the baseboards. But I'm slowly filling in the holes in the wall...slowly because it takes some willingness to get dirty to mix up the plaster of paris for patching said holes.

And the kitchen, whoa the kitchen! The kitchen used to have about eight square feet of poorly designed counter space. But with the exceedingly generous help of my uncle, I have a brand new kitchen with just a few more touch ups needed. This weekend we got all but the last cabinet installed...including a microwave!  Gotta move a gas line for the stove to get the very last cabinet in (yes, I'll be calling a plumber for that job), granite countertops need to be installed, and a tile backsplash and a coat of paint will finish the job. I'll have more than 30 square feet of counter space!! Whooo hooo! For right now, I don't even *care* that I've got contact paper-covered plywood for counters.

I should also have a working fireplace soon. I don't really want to go into the details of the ordeal that it's been to get it working again, but the chimney company has already sent out three crews, on four different occasions, and I've got at least one more visit from the owner of the company to look forward to before I can enjoy a crackling blaze behind the glass doors of the fireplace.

Every room needs to be painted, the drains for the shower and kitchen sink are slow to the point of frustration, the grass needs mowing (and has for the last two months), I've got at least one outlet that blows a circuit breaker if I use it, about half the windows need some sort of work and probably leak heat like they're open, and I still haven't seen into the crawl space because I can't get the access door open.

But I am thankful for my little house. It's comfortable. I won't say it's home yet, but I think it will be in another couple of months.

I've whined before about how much I've moved around in recent years. I know I'll be here for about four or five years, which is long enough to take my time with the needed improvements. So I'm not really stressed about the totality of the project before me, even if I get frustrated and overwhelmed sometimes by the details of any one portion of the overall task.

I can separate my satisfaction with my current situation into two parts, really. The first is just that I get to be in one place long enough to see more than one turn of the seasons here. I'm a big believer in a Wendell Berry-esque outlook that knowledge of a place is a good thing; knowing when the first leaves bud out on the trees in the yard, or when that particular window starts getting sun exposure, is important. It helps ground us, locate us on the planet, guide us when we're lost and give us perspective on things greater and lesser than our own individual outlook.

The second part is that I just really like the house. It's nothing very special, built in the 1930s and still standing. But with hardwood floors that finished up beautifully; a fireplace painted red; roses and peonies and a grape vine in the yard; radiators in each room; and a sun room that reminds me (very vaguely) of my grandparents' house. I don't know much about the last family that lived here, just that it was an elderly woman that must have passed away because her son was the executor that handled the sale. I've found random school pictures of relatives, maybe, tucked away forgotten in the back corners of closet shelves, and they left the coolest box-full of odds and ends, screws, nails, washers, hooks, pins, cords, just stuff, that have come in super-handy in the midst of so many projects. All the things they left for me was like a generous welcome into their home.

I've got grand plans for a garden and other yard projects, including lining the front walk with blueberry bushes, using the stump out back for growing culinary mushrooms, and pruning the grape vine to increase its productivity. I've already got pansies in the planter under the old Japanese maple in the front yard, rain barrels under each gutter, and a small herb garden outside the back door. Maybe, just maybe, I'll get an outdoor shower put in next summer. And my uncle just brought back my granddad's old push mower (thanks, Jan, for being willing to give it up). So when I do get around to mowing the yard, it'll be with a piece of equipment that's been around for a while and doesn't use anything but my own energy to make it work. I like that. And I'm thankful for it.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Thanksgiving: My Job

I  figured this was an appropriate time to be particularly thankful for my job since this past Thursday was Veterans' Day. I put my uniform on for the first time since 23 Jul, and went to the Brentwood Veterans' Day Celebration that my local little community put on. There's a Veterans' Memorial about three blocks away from my house that the City of Brentwood built a few years ago. About forty people showed up at the ceremony, some coming back in from where they currently live to honor their fathers and brothers who had grown up in Brentwood, and whose names are on the memorial. I talked to a former DC2 who served on the TAMAROA back in the Viet Nam War era. He was proudly wearing a Coast Guard cap, so he was easy to recognize. He was also very proud of his son who is currently a Marine. The ceremony lasted about an hour, and was nicely put on for a community of about 2000 households in a major metropolitan area.

The guest of honor, besides all the politicians that showed up, was a Councilwoman's father. Unfortunately I don't remember his name, but he served in World War II in the 92nd Infantry Division of the US Army. He was a Buffalo Soldier. He talked briefly about growing up in Goldsboro, NC and being in Washington, DC visiting his sister on December 7, 1941. He went home and enlisted in the Army, rather than waiting for his draft number to be called. He was very candid about the racial tensions that dictated the division of the 92nd among three locations for training, and he joked a little about their unit's destination being super-secret, except for the fact that they were all learning Italian. He said, maybe they were going to Ethiopia, since they spoke a little Italian there. But they were in fact deployed to Italy, I think he said in 1942. During his time in the Army, he earned the rank of 2nd Lieutenant, and made it "safely" through the war. He wrapped up his remarks with a powerful message of trust and belief in his country. He said we made it through all those troubled times, reflecting back to the discriminations he faced, and we can see it through these tough economic times as well. Because the United States is such a great nation, made up of great people.

As  he was speaking, I was doing some quick math in my head, and realized he was at least 85, and probably closer to 90 years old. The only medal of the four that he proudly wore above his left breast pocket that I recognized was the Purple Heart. I was glad I went to the celebration in my community, but his remarks made it a truly memorable experience.

The next day, I put my uniform on again and set off to CG Headquarters to get weighed-in. I admit, I completely spaced on the fact that I was supposed to do it in October, and ended up getting the nasty-gram from my Program Manager that I needed to come in "as soon as possible" to get it done. Whoops.

It was the first time I've ridden the Metro in uniform. And maybe it's just me, but I felt like people stared a little bit, or at least didn't brush their eyes over me like just another body in the crowd. And maybe it's different for other, bigger people in uniform, but for a 5'2" pip-squeak, that uniform can make me feel more like I'm ten feet tall and bullet proof (to use a favorite Company Commander quote from boot camp). It's hard not to swagger a little when I wear it (I think it might be the steel-toed boots...they require a touch more leg movement so I don't drag my feet 'cause they're kinda heavy). Maybe I'm not only Just a Girl when I'm in uniform. Maybe it reminds me that I'm Just a Girl with sea stories, Just a Girl with shipmates, Just a Girl who's part of something bigger than herself. Just a Girl who can drive a ship. Just a Girl who has battled gremlins. Just a Girl who got pepper-sprayed, can shoot a gun, and knocked a guy on his ass practicing defensive techniques (sorry Cookie, it's just too good a visual image not to use).

I think it was a well-timed reminder that what I'm doing in school is important and will give me more tools to bring back to my service hopefully for the benefit of the Coast Guard. It's hard to remember that sometimes, stuck in statistics or microeconomics.

And, on top of those two experiences, I recently finished reading The Caine Mutiny, by Herman Wouk (Back Bay Books, 2003). My Aunt Linda gave it to me at my Change of Command this summer, and I really enjoyed it. I'm pretty sure the first time I was introduced to The Caine Mutiny was at OCS; but I quickly became more familiar with it since instructors show it at every single CG leadership training I've attended ever since. I always thought that Captain Queegs was the main part of the story, since I've never seen the movie all the way through. The leadership classes always just show the typhoon part, or the strawberry scene. Turns out the story is really about Willie Keith and his growing up.

I felt plenty of sympathy for Willie when he showed up at his ship, not knowing really what was going on, stumbling through figuring out where he belonged and what he was supposed to be doing. And as the realization that dawns on him that Queegs is not the same as his predecessor, Captain De Vriess. One of the truest quotes comes after the verdict has come through on the Court Martial; the current Captain of the CAINE is talking to Willie about the burden of command, "You can't understand command till you've had it. It's the loneliest, most oppressive job in the whole world...You're forever tettering along a tiny path of correct decisions and good luck that meanders through an infinite gloom of possible mistakes." (pg 499) Oh my goodness, how true is that!?

But my favorite parts of the book are at the end, where the last captain of the CAINE is philosophizing about his time aboard:
"[He] experienced the strange sensations of the first days of a new captain: a shrinking of his personal identity, and a stretching of his nerve ends to all the spaces and machinery of his ship. He was less free than before. He developed the apprehensive listening ears of a young mother; the ears listened on in his sleep; he never quite slept, not the way he had before. He had the sense of being reduced from an individual to a sort of brain of a composite animal, the crew and ship combined. The reward for these disturbing sensations came when he walked the decks. Power seemed to flow out of the plates into his body. The respectful demeanor of the officers and crew thrust him into a loneliness he had never known, but it wasn't a frigid loneliness. Through the transparent barrier of manners came the warming unspoken word that his men liked him and believed in him." (pg 520)
And: 
"He spent long night hours on the bridge when there was no need of it. The stars and the sea and the ship were slipping from his life...All the patterns fixed in his muscles, like the ability to find the speed indicator buttons in utter blackness, would fade. This very wheelhouse itself, familiar to him as his own body, would soon cease to exist. It was a little death toward which he was steaming." (pg 522)
 Exactly!

It should come as no surprise to anyone that I miss being underway. I had a (non-Coast Guard) friend ask me today when I'd be getting back underway. We were talking about my getting a dog. I really want a dog, but I won't get any more pets until I'm out of the Coast Guard, and not deploying anymore. It's not fair to the pets to be shuffled all about when I get underway. I'll foster pets in the meantime, while I'm ashore. But I guess in the course of our conversation, I made it sound like I'd be going back out on a ship sometime in the near future. Imagine my chagrin at having to admit that it was actually going to be about four or five years before I get underway again.

And just so you guys don't think I'm just all about the underway thing...I am thankful for my job for a number of other reasons, many of them financial. The Coast Guard is sending me to school to learn something I probably should have majored in in the first place, back in the day. And I still get my salary. My job allows my mother to take advantage of the numerous and generous benefits of being a military dependent. And eventually I'll put on O4, and have something else to be thankful for. I've been hearing some stories from current CDRs that it took them 22 months to make LCDR from LT. I'm not there yet, but it's looking like it'll be pretty close for me.

And my job has introduced me to a lot of amazing people. One last recent episode: the day I was walking through the Metro in uniform, I happened to separately see two fellow Coasties I had served with previously. Now, it was at L'Enfant Station where the shuttle picks people up from the Metro FFT (for further transport) to the Headquarters Building, so it wasn't totally unusual to have plenny of Coasties wandering around. But, two? In one day? That's kinda cool. One was LT Beau Powers who I haven't seen since I left the D14 Command Center in 2006. We chatted for a few minutes as we walked to our respective trains. He's doing great things in the Command Center world. One more reason to be thankful for my job in the Coast Guard: it's such a small service, you can't help but run into the good people you served with again somewhere.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Thanksgiving: Friends

I run the risk of being ridiculously cheesy with this next series of posts, but it's my blog...I'll be cheesy if I want to.

As we all know, it's coming up on Thanksgiving. I love Thanksgiving. I mean, it's All About Food - what's not to love? Turkey, yum; stuffing, used to hate it when I was a kid, but think it's one of the best things about roasted turkey now; mashed potatoes, must have garlic in them; and pies, lots of pies. And cranberries. With walnuts.

Just a few days ago, I was wondering where I was the last couple of Thanksgivings. It's a little thing I do around holidays - think about what's changed since last year and where I was. It's usually kinda a tough little exercise since I move around so much. Last year, KISKA's ombudsman invited everyone over for dinner. Delish! And fun. Year before that...Bahrain, don't remember if we were underway or not.

Holidays are odd underway. Somebody has to stand the watch. Every day. All day. And night. But it's a little sad when it's you standing the watch, hanging out with people you wouldn't necessarily choose to be with on those special days, missing family and the football games and parades and all the little traditions that make holidays something to look forward to. I find this lingering sadness tinged with pride, though. Pride for doing a job that not everyone is willing or able to do, pride for serving in an amazing service for a great nation with a fascinating history, pride for being willing to make sacrifices in order to contribute to a "greater good." I was never so great a patriot before I joined the service and went overseas somehow, but there's more reflection on that than I want to do here. Holidays can suck underway, but I think it's something that helps bond shipmates...you're all suffering together. Though the cooks (and the command) usually try to make sure that "suffering" is tempered with some morale.

Anyway, this post wasn't really supposed to be about holidays underway. It's supposed to be about Thanksgiving. And the cheesy part is that I'm going to write the next few posts on things that I'm thankful for. I've got so much that is going, has gone, and will very likely continue to go well for me that I feel it's somehow necessary to acknowledge that I've got it *really* good.

So, friends...I am thankful for my friends. I don't have a ton of friends, mostly because I'm a pretty introverted person, and I move a lot. I volunteered a few weeks ago at the phone bank for the local public radio station's fund drive, and after the four of us at our table introduced ourselves and talked a little about what we did with our days, one of the women asked me how I dealt with moving around so much? How did I make friends at each new place? Did I already know people here? I hemmed and hawed a little bit because I didn't know how to answer her. Usually I'm so busy with learning my new job that making friends and having a social life is pushed to the side. And I like the people I work with, so it's easy to hang out with them. But one thing about not being able to make friends easily makes me really, really grateful for the ones I *do*have.

Another friend-related anecdote: in Friday's yoga class, the instructor had us do a forearm balance with a partner. It's like a handstand, but with your forearms flat on the deck. I had tried and tried to do these in class on the Big Island and never quite gotten it right. I'd always overpower through kicking up my feet and end up going over the other side, or banging my feet off the wall, if I was using the wall as a support. But this time, with fellow-yogi Jennie supporting one leg while I lifted the other, I was able to find some stability and hang out for a couple minutes. She had a couple of fingers on one of my little toes to remind me that she was there, but wasn't doing anything else to help me.

Naomi, the instructor, gave us the explanation: friends provide that bit of assistance to see us through our weaknesses...just that little bit of extra support and encouragement that we usually need to succeed in a challenge. And they accentuate our strengths.

I immediately thought of my friend Anne. We've got a few things in common, but she's way, way, way smarter than I am and has a lot, A LOT more professional motivation and chance for success (like big picture success) than I do. I truly value her opinion, and have been known to email or text or call her to whine, complain and bitch about whatever triviality has recently vexed me. She always commiserates with just the right amount of sympathy and understanding, and then provides some spot-on insightful recommendation for how to make the most of a bad or frustrating situation.

And she has never complained about my food-nerdiness :) Though she did think I was a little out of my mind to go to all seven grocery stores in the local area looking for different ingredients for a wardroom dinner. Or was it ten stores?

And a shout out to a couple other friends:
Craig, thanks for your patience with listening to my tales of woe when we were all so far away from home. I can't help but remember those card games and smile.

Frank can always, always make me laugh. I usually give him good material to work with ("more work to be done in the kitchen"), but he has a true gift for poking fun at the absurdities that surround us all.

I'm so glad I met Auntie Jane. She's a wonderful woman, so full of love and aloha. I wish so very, very much that her neighborhood was peaceful, and hopes she and husband Terry are able to find the peace and happiness they deserve from being great people and having helped and befriended so many others.

Rickey taught me a lot about myself. He showed me how to slow down and look at things differently. 

And Lili is always there for me, even when we don't talk for months and months. We can pick right back up like no time passed at all.

Amy, Vicki, and Steve...I'll deal with you guys in a separate post.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

More on Communications

I've been thinking about communication again. Or more specifically about what makes effective communication. I remember from all my training that communication comes in two parts, the message given and the message received. Both parts are important for the message to be effective. There have been a few events recently that reinforced the duality of communications for me.

First, I got back a couple papers from different classes. The first paper was a 7-page introduction on the importance of local food systems as a tool to help combat the many problems created by industrialized agriculture (not Coast Guard-related, I know, but something I'm really interested in). I was nervous about it. I thought I had turned in a piece of crap. I felt like it was rushed, that I really didn't have a clear goal and that I was just scatter-shotting, hoping I got something right. I could have done better with it.

I got an A-. Definitely not the disaster I was expecting. Breathe huge sigh of relief! Sure, it wasn't an A+, but it wasn't a C+ either. The professor's comments: "In the next installments I want to see more sense of [prioritization]. This is well-informed and well-written but the agenda is massive." (Well-written, really? Yay...but I think he was merely impressed that I had proof-read.)

So he totally caught me out that I wasn't sure what I was really writing about. I didn't mean to communicate that, but it apparently came through loud and clear.

The second paper, for the other class, was a 3-page paper on inherently governmental functions. I felt a little better about this one, but wasn't sure if I was really addressing the professor's question. She wanted an analysis of inherently governmental functions, including a comparison between the current and previous administrations' approach and how President Obama's renewed emphasis on inherently governmental functions might be affected by new austerity measures, particularly in DOD. I went off on a tangent of why it is necessary to consider particular governmental functions inherently governmental.

I got an A. But there were *no comments* whatsoever from this professor on the paper. Just the pencil-scribbled "A" at the top of the page...and nothing else! Not very helpful.

Second event: multiple occasions of confusion with a professor's syllabus. She apparently mentioned the first day of class that a group project also required a 3-page analytic paper, but it wasn't on the syllabus. So we turned it in late. And then, another reading assignment was so poorly explained in the syllabus that I didn't even know that I needed to do anything for it. Again, she said she mentioned it the first day of class (which I don't remember), but had not offered a reminder or further explanation.

Now, I know I will complain about anything I can...I'll complain about being treated like a kindergartner and in the next breath complain about being treated like I'm geriatric. I know there's a certain amount of autonomy and self-responsibility incumbent upon graduate students. But I'm NOT a freaking mind-reader!

Note to self: ensure your message is received, even if it requires multiple reminders.

A further irony...the class is a leadership and management class. Maybe she's using reverse psychology on us to teach us about effective communication.

And last, I sent what I thought was a sweet note to a friend expressing appreciation for a particular quality of our recent communications. I contrasted our on-going dialogue with the hectic and disruptive nature of ship-board communications (middle of the night phone calls, sometimes nothing, sometimes critical). What I didn't realize was the potential for him to receive the message that I was calling him boring. *NOT* what I meant!

And the message that he sent back...nothing. Silence on the line. Whoops, I guess he's pissed that I suggested he was dull. Which I didn't! But, in this case, it's all about the message that was received, not the message that was sent.

So I don't really have a summary conclusion about communications. Just further cogitation on the subject.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Transfer Season

Transfer season is finally over for me. Well, or close enough to call it anyway. Technically, I've still got 70 days left to file a claim on anything that was broken during the move. But I've *got* my stuff, and that's why I'm calling transfer season over. Jeez, it started back in May or something ridiculous like that. And that's only because I knew where I was going next.

I have a deeply rooted love-hate relationship with transfer season. I love the fact that I get to do different jobs, usually switching before I get bored and/or totally burned out. That part of the Coast Guard's transfer policy really enables my short attention span and itinerant nature. I hate the fact that transfer season starts the fall before, when the shopping list comes out, and doesn't end until, well, the following fall, when all the household goods get delivered. I submit an e-resume in October, but don't know where I'm going until February, March or April! That's six months of continual worry and cogitation over where I'm gonna live, how I'm gonna get there, what job I'll be doing, who I'll be working for. I like to plan, and I'll plan even when I don't have any details about what I'm planning for, though it does tend to make me a little crazy.

And yes, I do understand the whole OPM process for officer assignments, having to wait for promotion board results and slating from senior to junior. I know why it is this way, but it doesn't mean I have to like it. One bright spot is that it should get better from a timing perspective as I get more senior. But then there's a balance of limited position availabilities and strenuous competition for the best jobs on ships. Because that's where the best jobs are, of course :)

But the fun only really just starts when the assignment is made. I'm shifting from a personal outlook to a managerial perspective now. On a WPB 110, roughly half the crew transfers every summer, give or take a few non-rated personnel who are waiting on school lists. And it's usually the ones that are qualified at *everything* that go because they've been there two years and have seen and done lots. They know where all the charts are, where all the property is, how to drive the boat, do boardings, fight fires (literally and figuratively), set up P6 pumps, launch the boat, survive a channel crossing, what was done in infinite detail to fix the autopilot that quit working right before the dockside, and a million, zillion other bits of corporate knowledge that makes things run smoothly. And of course, their next unit wants them to report YESTERDAY, because they've been gapping the billet because their guy geobatched to Alaska and took 30 days of leave to spend with his family before going out to the wilderness, and a Second Class Petty Officer has been doing the job of a First Class Petty Officer, and how fast can he get here?

We all try to do the best for our people, but nobody wants to take the hit operationally.

Transfer season is rough on every unit, with qualified people going and unqualified people coming in. It is a balancing act of making sure you've got enough people to get the job done while giving them the time they need to get their lives in order. I mean, it *is* their lives. I still don't think I quite appreciate what it's like to deal with a full-scale transfer, with a family, kids, pets and all the assorted accompaniments. In some ways I've got it pretty easy. Ship the car, pack up and ship the household goods, and go. Well, okay, it was a little more complicated than that, but only because I chose to make it more interesting with the whole cross-country motorcycle trip thing, and buying a house, and doing some renovation work before receiving my furniture. But I was only ever dealing with just me...no negotiations and compromises with a spouse or kids, or gyrations for pets. What a huge mess of stress for a family! And every two or three or four years!

Back to the personal experience. So my household goods were packed up in Hilo on 28 Jul. They were ready to be delivered on 22 September, but I pushed it back by two weeks so I could get the floors refinished in my new house. Totally, completely, 100% worth it...the floors look glorious, and it was so much easier getting them done without all my stuff in the way, never mind the heavy coating of sawdust I avoided getting all over everything. My only real complaint towards the end was that it got chilly for a couple of days right before I got my stuff, and all I had with me for warm clothes was two pairs of jeans and a sweatshirt. I'm too cheap to go buy more stuff, knowing that I've got perfectly good stuff on its way. Ok, so most of my discomfort was due entirely to my own little idiosyncrasies.

My stuff was delivered last Wednesday. Finally! The moving guys showed up just after noon, and were gone by 3:30 (well, they were back by 4:00 to pick up the hand truck which they had forgotten to take with them). Unloading everything went smoothly for the most part. Only a few snafus...like the fact that the box springs for my queen bed didn't fit up the stairwell. Cuss, whine, bitch, moan, still didn't get the springs up the stairs. I'm still working out what I'm gonna do about that.

It's been like Christmas in every box. My toaster oven was packed in its original box, so it was easy to spot. But the packers had taken out the tray and put it in a separate box. Toaster was useless until I found the tray (which I did yesterday...sweet potato fries for lunch today!). I looked in all the boxes labeled "Kitchen - Pots & Pans" for my crock pot, so I could make some vegetable chili to see me through this week. Nope, not in the Kitchen - Pots & Pans boxes; it was in the "Kitchen - Bowls" box. Huh. And I went through the boxes looking for my three-hole punch so I could get my school work organized. I looked in the "Desk Drawers" boxes, and the knick-knack boxes, but found it in the last of twelve boxes of books!

And I know I've been a little manic about it, but I think what takes me the most time is smoothing out all the packing paper so that I can save it. I mean, it's perfectly good paper, with all kinds of useful uses. I saw this bit of gardening advice, to make a lasagna garden, layering paper, compost and leaves or grass clippings in the fall where you want a garden bed. By the spring the bed is ready, all the weeds smothered, and you can plant straight into the lasagna. Brilliant...and a perfect use for packing paper. It'll also make great fire starters for the fire place. And it's good for cleaning glass and mirrors. And I'll never need to worry about packing material for anything I ship to someone, ever again! You get the idea; I can't bear to throw out all that lovely, clean paper, so I spend a lot of time unkrinkle-ing it. Besides, it takes up way too much room all balled up to throw out.

Nothing is broken, only some minor scratches. And my house is starting to come together. Completely off topic, but I *really* like my house. It's just the perfect size, old enough to have character, and my stuff fits and looks good. It feels like home, like some place I will be happy. Sure, it's not perfectly perfect, but then again, neither am I, so we fit.

And lastly, I am So Very Grateful that I don't have to go through another transfer season for another few years.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Tying Up a Cyclone

I don't usually read the stories that get incessantly emailed to me by military.com, but something about the title of this one caught my eye.
The Navy has sidelined its fleet of coastal patrol boats operating out of Bahrain after inspections revealed "significant structural damage," and has limited the operations of five patrol boats homeported at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek.
Chris Johnson, a spokesman for Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington, said the Navy has ceased operating five Cyclone-class patrol vessels in Bahrain until they can be permanently repaired and restored, a process that may take months.
Inspections of the Little Creek boats are ongoing, and those patrol craft could be pulled from service, too. In the meantime, crews will operate them under certain restrictions.

The lightweight, 169-foot steel-hulled boats were built by Bollinger in the 1990s and expected to serve 15 years. With one exception, all have hit or exceeded that milestone.
Problems discovered in the boats' hulls -- warping and buckling of the steel frame, as well as corrosion in various tanks -- are a cumulative result of hard use and severe operating conditions, Johnson said. The extent of the damage was first discovered this spring, after two of the Little Creek boats, the Hurricane and the Thunderbolt, sustained some damage in a storm off Cape Hatteras in April while en route to Florida.
When engineers looked closer, they found pre-existing hull damage on those boats. A formal inspection process followed, which determined the damage potentially affected all the vessels in the class, including three that were transferred from the Navy to the Coast Guard.
Most of the repairs on the overseas ships will be done by shipyard personnel in Bahrain, Johnson said, although some U.S. specialists might be sent to help. Johnson said the work will take a couple of months, and said it was too soon to estimate how much the repairs will cost.
The 30-person crews of the Bahrain-based boats deploy from Little Creek and typically serve six month tours. The crews rotate, but the Cyclones stay in Bahrain.
Um, where do I start?

I guess I should start by saying that I'm no longer *on* a ship, and am not easily able to keep up with fleet news, not having access to my CG computer profile.  Last thing I really heard about the status of the Coast Guard's cutter fleet was that DALLAS and GALLATIN were in drydock for 18 months to repair significant structural damage. And honestly, I haven't heard if they actually made it out. Though reading GALLATIN's mishap about their drydock fire gave me the willies for the remainder of KISKA's time on the blocks. So, anything I say has the high likelihood of being out of date, if not out of touch.

But what does the Navy know that we don't? What is it about their Cyclone-class ships that is so significantly different from our Island-class cutters? I can immediately identify two things that are different, one which should help us, and one which might be worse.

First, and probably grossly simplifying some of the differences, the way the crews are managed between the Cyclones and Island-class ships are different. The Navy crews don't stick with one hull, they rotate between the various ships, serving six months on a ship in the NAG, and then rotating back to the states for 12-18 months (I think that's the right ratio) of training, etc. They remain together as a crew, but switch around on ships. From my perspective, that undermines the development of a sense of pride about their ship that encourages the crew to really care about what happens to the ship, spending those extra hours on maintenance, taking deep pride in doing what's right for the ship, because, hell, they're just gonna turn it over to someone else in a few months and then they won't have to deal with it. Like I said, gross simplification, but still significant.

On the other hand, the CG ships are already older than the Navy ships. Built in the 1990's and expected to serve 15 years, which they've already exceeded--sounds familiar...are we talking about WPBs or PCs? If I remember my dates right, USCGC MAUI (WPB 1304), second oldest currently operational hull in the WPB fleet, was commissioned in 1986. She's 24 years old. She was 23 years old when I served onboard.

I remember one patrol on MAUI, we were supposed to be going into drydock for a regular maintenance period, but because another ship (can't recall if it was WPB or PC) had a more immediate maintenance issue, our drydock was delayed by some number of days days to allow them time to complete repairs. No biggie, the schedule changed *all the time* out there, and we were all pretty used to it. But somewhere along the way, MAUI had picked up a small hole, maybe dime-sized, in the hull just below the exhaust port in the engine room on the starboard side. Below the water line...in the engine room. Nothing about that made me feel good.

The shoreside DCs patched us up, and away we went. I had been pretty diligent about specifying my concerns with the materiel condition of the ship in our daily status report. I felt that as long as the weather stayed good, and we weren't pounding into the seas, we should be able to limp along and just get through the patrol and safely into drydock for more permanent repairs. It was February, so while it wasn't FAC like the summer months in the NAG, we also weren't taking the 24-hour ass-beating we had during the late fall, early winter months. Until our last day in theatre, and a shamal came winding up from the southeast.

Within the span of about four hours, the winds shifted around to the southeast and sped to 35 kts sustained, gusting to 45 kts. Seas built to solid 10-12 footers. Our tasking had us on an upswell, downswell ride on a track about 1.5 miles long. So, 20 minutes of a nice downswell ride, followed by a sketchy, sketchy turn to come about, and then 30 minutes of complete, 100% snot.

We'd been doing this for about 2 hours, when our tasking group came over the radio, and told us to head 14 miles away because they had a report of a Kuwaiti fishing vessel taking on water. I threw down a but, sir, recommending that one of the PCs might just have better sea keeping abilities in current conditions, and OH YEAH...they didn't have a HOLE IN THEIR HULL!!! And by the way, we were only making 7 kts into the swell so it would take us over two hours to get on scene because there was no *way* I was gonna try to speed up in that shit.

Thankfully, the taskers saw the wisdom in that logic, and make arrangements to send a PC. And fortunately, by the time the arrangements were made, another vessel had assisted the fishing vessel.

The weather stayed shamal-ly for the next 12 hours, and it was really weird once the winds did shift. Within 30 minutes, the winds shifted 180 degrees, but stayed up around 35-40 kts. The seas answered the winds, and for about two hours, it was a googly mess out there, as the northwest swell countered the southwest swell. But MAUI made it through, and we sailed safely back to Bahrain and drydock.

I did spend a significant amount of time second-guessing my reaction to the tasking. My operational commander had said the repairs were good enough to send us out to do the job. It's not a comfortable position to say that your ship is not safe enough to go out and potentially save lives. Are the lives of my crew more important than the lives of the unknown fishermen? Was there really a risk of us sinking? I assuaged my discomfort somewhat with the knowledge that there was another unit available and better suited to respond, but what if there hadn't been? Would I have turned down the tasking?

I think in some ways, a ship is more than just the ship. She's a triumvirate of the ship (the steel, the hull, the engines, the bridge), the crew, and the command. None can do without any of the others. And each has to implicitly and utterly without doubt, trust the others. I did not trust my ship in that case. I knew my crew would overcome whatever was thrown at them, but my poor, battered ship with a hole in her skin, she was having a hard time of it. And that undermined my confidence, which in turn undermined my effectiveness as the Captain.

So, is the Navy doing the right thing by tying up the ships? There's definitely an operational impact to what they're doing. I can only imagine what the scramble looks like to overcome the gap in coverage. And at least in the CG, we've got the FRCs on the way to replace the WPBs, so there is a long-term solution in the works.

But it's the meantime that worries me.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Limitations

I mean my own limitations. I've been trying to get the hard wood floors in my new (to me) house ready for refinishing. I pulled up the carpet, and pulled out as many of the nails and staples as I possibly could, with about 85% success. And the floor in the upstairs hallway, on the stairs and in the living room shone through with great potential (despite all the paint splatters that indicated some joker hadn't used a drop cloth for one of the paint coats). But when I got to the dining room, reality set in. There were two layers of gross old linoleum that had to come up.

Long story short, I'm finally done with getting up the old linoleum, including the glue that held the bottom layer down. The floor in the dining room now shines with that same great potential as the rest of the hard wood floors.

Except for underneath the two built in china cabinets, one on either side of the window. The cabinets were apparently put in some time after the second layer of linoleum, since both layers of linoleum are present underneath said cabinets.

Now, I don't need these cabinets there and I really want to take them out, not only to get at the floor underneath them, but also because taking them out will give me room for my dining room table and my bar in the dining room. There is some analysis behind the need/desire to get them out of the way.

And I'd really like to keep them mostly intact, if possible. They are in good shape, and I could take them to the Habitat Restore for someone else to use.

I tried my hammer. I'm limited on tools right now, not being in receipt of my household goods yet (waiting for the floors to be refinished before taking delivery...should be next weekend for the floors, so maybe two weeks for HHG - YAAY!). So I tried my hammer. I couldn't even get the angle on any of the nails.

I asked Lynn if I could borrow a pry bar, which she graciously supplied, while telling me that she wants to come down and help out on the house, but acknowledging that right now is *really* not a good time with October right around the corner. Totally understand, and think the offer is just so cool.

So this morning, I tried the pry bar. It was far more effective at getting at the support boards inside the cabinet. I took off the molding around the sides and top, so I could see better what I was dealing with. I pried, and I hammered, and I cussed, and I lifted, and I shifted, and I put a couple gouges in the wall trying to get the damn thing loose. There are nails going into the side wall that are huge and don't stick out enough to get an edge under. And they're in the corners, so I'm not sure I could get a good angle on them anyway.

And what I finally realized was that I couldn't.

At least not with my current limitations. If I had a sledge hammer, garrans I could get it out...might not be reusable, but I'd get it out. If I had another person with a little more strength, maybe we could get it out. But me, by myself, with my pry bar, I just can't do it.

What a weird thing to hear myself say.

But this isn't the first this week I've contemplated my own limitations. I'm taking a class called "Moral Dimensions in Public Policy." It's a really interesting class, a little grim at times, talking about just war theory and all the horrible things people do to each other. We're using the book Humanity: A Moral History of the Twentieth Century, by Jonathon Glover (Yale University Press, 1999). The discussion is interesting, if difficult for me to follow. For you see, I am not a thinker. Sure, I can think, but I rely far more on common sense to get me through the day. Logical thinking, though, not so much. I never did well at geometry proofs and logical reasoning baffles me. I can get a step or two down the path, but then I get all baffled, and go off to look at the leaves on the bushes lining the path. This is why some of my posts bring up thought-provoking topics, but only scratch the surface of them. I know they're good topics, but I don't know what to do with them, how to expand on them thoughtfully.

So this class is gonna be hard for me. We have weekly readings for which we have to summarize a particular point and develop an analytic question based off what was said. Gulp. And we have a 20 page paper to write about the moral dilemma of our choice, exploring the basis and reason behind our position. Gulp. Gulp.

Of all my classes, this is the one that has me worried. It's not statistics or the calculus in microeconomics. It's that I have to think about human nature and reason through an argument.

So, I've decided to go to the professor's office hours next week and ask for help. I'm gonna tell him that what he's asking me to do is very difficult for me, and while I will try as hard as I possibly can, I am not expecting stunning results. Maybe I'm setting myself up for failure by not expecting those stunning results, I don't know.

When I was wrenching on one of the china cabinets this morning, I originally thought this post was going to be about asking for help, and how hard that is for me. Any one of the last two crews I've served with knows well enough what I'm talking about. They all, at one time or another saw me carrying something kinda heavy, or struggling with carrying too much, and offered to help. They were mostly all told, "no thanks, I got it," as I fumbled and strained and tried not to trip over my own two feet. It's just my nature.

I know well enough where it comes from. I learned it from my mother. She is one of the most capable people I know, and I learned it from years and years of seeing her struggle to raise two daughters and keep in touch with her son who lived far away. I was brought up with it, and I cannot deny where it came from, even if I wanted to. Which I don't.

I'm used to being able to do most everything for myself. It reminds me of the back-handed compliment a previous boss threw at me once (unfortunately in front of the other Department Heads and the Command Senior Chief). He said, "Not everyone is Wonder Woman like you." We were talking about physical limitations affecting weapons qualifications. I disagreed with his assertion that some of the small women just couldn't shoot because of their size. Granted, I don't like to shoot the shotgun because being 5'2" on a small frame, I have a hard time fitting the butt of the stock into my shoulder where it should be so I don't knock myself out with the recoil, but I have done it, and well enough to qualify on the weapon. It took hard work, determination, patience and a lot of stubbornness, but I wasn't about to let something like not being able to shoot a damn gun keep me from doing what I wanted to do.

Just for the record, I have no delusions of being Wonder Woman, despite what my former supervisor said. Though I did buy a WW costume that year for Halloween :)

I'm hoping it's a sign of maturity that I'm able to better recognize my limitations, physical and mental. And I do have a back-up plan for getting the cabinets out. I'm gonna ask the guys that come in to refinish the floors if they can help me remove them. But for right now, the cabinets are going to stay right where they are, and remind me every time I look at them that I can't do it all by myself.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Back On The Farm

I've been neglecting the blog. There's a bunch of excuse why, but in the end, they are just all excuses.

Side note: I remember as OPS having an ENS tell me "No excuses, ma'am," after not coming up with a safe flight course for a second time in a row. The first time I thought my head would explode when the ENS asked for a "mulligan." I think I calmly explained that there *were* no "mulligans" allowed in the real world when people's lives and safety were at stake. Ok, maybe not so calmly.

That's what I'm reduced to...telling sea stories about my days underway. Sigh.

But one of the things I've been doing with my time is going back to the farm I worked on when I was in high school and college. Larriland Farm is a 285 acre, pick-your-own fruit and vegetable farm in Howard County, about an hour away from where I live (For those of you in the DC/Baltimore area, I highly recommend a visit...family friendly, beautiful setting, stunningly fresh and tasty fruits and vegetables). I've written before about Lynn Moore, the President of Larriland, and the influence she had on me. So one of the things I was really excited about coming to DC was the opportunity to visit the farm again.

I went the first weekend I got to town. It was either that or rattle around in my empty house and likely go to Target and spend another $150 on stuff I may or may not have needed. On the drive there, I did the math and realized it had been 17 years since I had worked there. 17 years!! I'm not supposed to be that old! I started at the farm a couple months after I turned 14, worked there for six summers and falls straight, took a summer off, and then went back for my last summer when I was 20. I had been back to visit the farm once or twice in the intervening years, but not very frequently.

I rolled up on the Old Man, the noise of the exhaust shattering the early morning stillness that speaks to the essence of every farm I've ever been on, and set about finding a place to park. I wanted to get there in time for the morning brief. I saw Lynn from a distance as I was putting my helmet away, and she gave me a tentative wave as I walked toward her. It wasn't until I was much closer that she realized who it was. She said she couldn't figure out who it was driving around the parking lot, only that she knew she knew me.

We didn't have much time to talk right then. The farm rolls on and opening time was just a few minutes away. I had made it in time for the morning brief.

The morning brief on the farm is when Lynn tells the workers what's available for pick-your-own, what's available in the market, what should be coming up next, discusses any issues (crop failures or disappointments, customer behavior, worker behavior) and assigns duties for the day. The morning brief hasn't changed much in 20 years.

As I stood there listening, it was comforting to hear the same lectures on how to get customers to pick a ripe peach v. a green peach, how they have to lift the leaves of the raspberry brambles up to find the ripe berries underneath, and how corn will always have worms this time of year. And that customers can be frustrating at times, but they are what keep the farm going, so they must treated with respect. A few weeks later, I almost choked with trying not to laugh when Lynn did her signature customer puppet show, where she takes her left hand with her thumb between the first two fingers like a leeetle head, and then slaps it silly with her right hand...just like how you want to do to some customers sometimes when they are just not listening.

Don't get the wrong impression...Larriland is *all about* customer service. Some days it's just easier for the workers than others.

Another thing I realized during the morning brief is that I borrowed a lot of my public speaking mannerisms from Lynn. The broad, expansive hand gestures, the little quirpy (quirky + quip, it wasn't just a typ0) jokes, and the sense of purpose of getting through with the message.

I've had a delightful three weekends working there so far, and am completely looking forward to the madness that is October (hay rides, pumpkin fields, apple cider, straw bale maze, apple fritters, decorative gourds, scary cartoon figures on the pond). Some of the other workers wonder what on earth I'm doing there, though. I had one of the women who work there ask me, "so you're an officer in the Coast Guard, why are you working here?" And technically, I'm not working, I'm volunteering. I get free goodies (all the fruits and veggies I can pick for FREE!!).

I know it baffles the teenagers working there that anyone with a choice would go back, but there is a true sense of peace I find there. They are good people, with a beautiful farm, and delicious produce. After four years of fast-paced, high pressure jobs, going in and packing a 1/4 peck bag of peaches well is restful. I know the farm (or at least I remember the farm), I know Lynn's standards, and I know I can meet those standards without too much effort expended.

Lynn sent me out with her husband, Merle (see, the farm is totally a family affair), to update some signs in a field she didn't want people going into. Merle gave me a refresher tour of the farm, so I could brush off the dust about which fields were which. We got the signs placed where they needed to be, and then headed back to the market. I put the tools away, and filed the signs I took down where I thought they should go according to the labeling system on the bins. Lynn came in a few minutes later, looking for the signs we had taken down. She was ready to look everywhere but where they should be for them, and looked slightly surprised when they were put away, and I could find them quickly. We had a brief talk about expectations; how I knew what her expectations were, but how she had spoiled me by setting my expectations so high for what to expect from workers. It is *so cool* to be able to go back and have these conversations with someone who helped shape me as a manager.

Class is about to start, so I need to finish this up. I'll keep going back to Larriland as long as I'm welcome. Mostly because they're good people there and the farm is beautiful, but also some for that sense of ease, of knowing where I am in the world and that I can contribute to something I think is worthwhile.

Monday, August 30, 2010

First Impressions

And I thought I wasn't going to have anything Coast Guard-related to write about. Silly Girl.

Like a good new grad student, I went to the Orientation dinner last Wednesday (the "business casual" dress code almost threw me for a loop...I've only got biker chick clothes with me until my house hold goods get here. But luckily, there's a really good thrift store close by: for $10 I went from biker chick to business chic). I wasn't sure what to expect, but it was lots of people standing around, socializing, networking. I didn't know *anybody* and I hate just walking up to someone, "Hi, my name's Charlotte." Anyway, I made it through until people sat down at their respective tables, and the Dean started to speak.

Dean Kettl is Dean of the School of Public Policy, and he started out his welcome by telling us all how great we were, how this was the largest class they've ever had, but how it was also the most competitive class for entry. We, apparently, are the cream of the crop.

But then he asked if any of us knew who Tony Hayward is. A few hands raised here and there, and I knew I had heard the name, but just couldn't place it. Well, Tony Hayward is the former BP CEO who said, at the height of the Gulf oil spill crisis and in concert with his departure from BP, "I just want my life back."

That statement still sounds ridiculous.

But Dean Kettl quickly contrasted Mr Hayward with the individual who is in charge of the federal government's response to the oil spill...you got it, ADM Thad Allen, USCG (retired). Dean Kettl briefly discussed how things started happening after President Obama and ADM Allen sat down with BP execs to get the response effort moving along. He also mentioned some of ADM Allen's background, specifically his assumption of the federal government's response to the recovery efforts after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

His main point was that ADM Allen's brilliant leadership was the key to his success; he was able to motivate people, break down overwhelming problems into manageable bits, and generally approach any crisis with an attitude of effectiveness. In Dean Kettl's words, "You throw any problem at [ADM Allen] and he'll solve it."

How cool is *THAT*?!

I mean, in the Coast Guard, we all know ADM Allen is The OG Rock Star, but it was so amazing to hear the same thing from such an unexpected and completely unrelated source. I will selfishly bask in the glow, the associated cache, the credibility and coolness offered by being a part of the same organization as ADM Allen...and, of course, the thousands and thousands of other Coasties that made his Rock Star-ness possible.

The rest of the orientation events proceeded without any other CG-related fanfare. There were plenty of opportunities to meet the other first year Policy students, and some good sessions helpful to getting started with classes. Unfortunately, the one thing they didn't cover is the one thing I wish they would have. I haven't been in a higher education classroom since 1997. A *lot* has changed technologically in the last 13 years. There's this new thing called "Blackboard" which many of the professors use to post syllabi, reading assignments, discussion boards, etc. I fumbled my way through it, but definitely feel like I'm at a disadvantage being somewhat tech-unsavvy. I figured out my smartphone, though, so hopefully I'll be ok.

I'm halfway through the first reading assignment for my first class that starts tomorrow. Interestingly, one of the discussion points is about accountability and how public policy is really a compromise between politics and bureaucracy (crap, I really need to learn how to spell that word without looking it up every time). Bureaucracy is built on the need for accountability. We've got a couple of writing assignments in this class, and I'll probably try to find a way to write about the accountability issue.

One of those other questions I want to explore during school is the relationship between responsibility and accountability. As a CO, I heard and talked lots and lots about responsibility, for my ship, my crew, my mission, and accountability, and initially I thought the concepts were relatively interchangeable. Further consideration leads me to believe however, that accountability is the enforcement side of responsibility. Need to think about it more to be more coherent about it.

So, first impressions are that I'm glad I chose UMD. It's gonna be a great deal of work, but most everyone seems enthusiastic and engaged.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Notes From The Road: Finale

I made it...4651.3 miles, 14 states, 16 days. It was an amazing trip that I'm so glad I was able to make. I could have done more with it, but I decided somewhere along about day 5 that I was just going to survive it. I wasn't going to try to talk to X-number of people or meet any goals or have any purpose. Except to get there.

Though I would have liked to take pictures of the beautiful places I saw American flags; that would have been kinda cool. Maybe next time.

And I also thought, as I crossed into Indiana, a place I had been before (back in 1993ish, maybe, for a Metallica, Faith No More and Guns-n-Roses concert), that I was glad to be able to ease back into the East coast, rather than being spit out of an airplane, fait accompli. I saw roadside wildflowers that I remembered from 27 summers here; I drove over the hills and into the valleys of the Appalachians; I had amazing biscuits and gravy at a little roadside dinner called Granny's Kitchen somewhere in Indiana.

DC traffic, though...yikes! Send me out to plow through 60 knot winds and big seas, send me out to chase drug runners in the EPAC, even send me out to dance with the dhows, cowboys and dust storms in the NAG, but don't make me ride my motorcycle through DC traffic again for four hours while I try to pick up the house keys and get home. It was the last 50 miles that was by far the scariest of them all.

So now I'm settling into the new house, waiting (impatiently) for my household goods to arrive. And my car. The Old Man is still great transport, just not very practical for trips to the store to get those household essential items or groceries.

Orientation at school starts on Wednesday, and my first class is Tuesday. Every day is a new adventure.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Notes From The Road, Part II

Aloha from Sleepy Eye, MN...though I apologize for the mixing of regional, umm...dialects. I stopped in Sleepy Eye to use a library computer because I liked the name; sounds cooler than Rochester where I'll be later today. Happened to roll up to the library just as it opened...providence.

It's Day 11 of the trip, I've driven 3269 miles through seven states on too many roads to count. I've managed to stay off Interstates for the most part, though I do have about 175 miles on various I-routes. Because the bike is so loud, and the batteries on my phone really aren't designed for prolonged music-listening without constant recharging, I haven't been listening to music along the way. Just me and my thoughts. I'm not bored with myself yet, but I have found my solitary riding has made me more gregarious when I do stop. I'm more likely to chat with people.

Highlights follow:

--I stopped in Meridian, ID at the Sierra Trading Post outlet. One of my (many) failings as a traveler is a distinct and decided reluctance to go backwards. I *hate* turning around. But I turned around for the STP outlet. I've been shopping from their catalog and online stores for nearly 20 years now, and have always dreamed about being able to visit one of their stores. So when I saw the store from I-84, I went down to the next exit, and flipped a U-ey. It was a cool store, and the only reason I didn't spend nearly $1000 there was that I cannot carry anything more than I already have on the bike. But the real point of this story is that, while I was in the parking lot, I happened to take a close look at my rear tire, and found a nail in it. I have no idea where I picked it up. And I've been pretty diligent with daily safety checks (oil, tire pressure, etc) before I start out for the day, but I consider myself very lucky that I saw that nail at all. And one of the places I passed on my u-turn was the local Harley dealership, High Desert Harley Davidson. It was about 5:05 pm by now, so I was worried that they might not still be open. They were, though they were wrapping it up for the day. Thankfully, the technician agreed to stay a little late, after he heard my sob story about being on the road cross-country, and replace the tire. AND...the warranty that came with the bike covered tire repairs, so the whole thing cost me the $40 I gave the two guys who stayed late. High Desert HD ROCKS! And going backwards might not always be so bad.

--Yellowstone National Park was incredible. And that doesn't really do it justice. I want to go back when I have more than a day to explore; maybe more like a week or a month, maybe a whole year. I saw elk, deer, and bison, including one that was rolling around in the dirt on a hillside dusting himself. The views were gorgeous. I felt like if I saw one more amazing vista, my eyes just might pop out of my head. One day was not enough. However, the one fly in the ointment was my bike. It's loud. Normally, that doesn't bother me at all. It helps keep me safer in traffic, 'cause other drivers hear me coming; it annoys the high-brow people in posh neighborhoods that take themselves *way* too seriously. But in the Park, I regretted all the noise it made. It was like a belch in church...one long 150-mile belch. It seemed sacrilegious to disturb the peace in that wilderness sanctuary. Funny how I don't mind annoying people, but I don't want to bother the wildlife.

--The people I've met have all been incredibly nice, interested and interesting. I met Mr and Mrs Rankin at Aro Restaurant in Sundance, WY. Mr Rankin was wearing a Coast Guard sweatshirt, and not having seen much CG propaganda, I stopped by their table and asked about his relation to the CG. Their son, SN Daniel Rankin is on USCGC KANKAKEE in Memphis, TN, and they are so proud of him. He wants to be an AST. I met Smiley at the Thelma & Louise Restaurant & Bar in Tracy, MN last night...he bought dinner for me. When the waitress told me my tab had been picked up, I almost told her that I'd pay for his dinner in reciprocation, kinda like buying the next round, but then realized that Smiley might not have understood, and possibly have been offended at that new women's lib thing. So I just said thank you instead. And I met a dairy farmer who retired after 47 years milking this morning. He told me about getting kicked so hard by one of his fractious cows that his leg took 10 days before it even bruised up. Everyone has wished me a safe trip...which usually brings to my mind the Helen Keller quote at the top of the blog.

--Peripherally related to meeting nice people, I've been getting random Facebook friend requests; people I have no idea who they are, asking to be my friend. Is this normal? Is it blog-related? I gotta say, I usually "Ignore" them, 'cause otherwise it's a little weird, being friends with someone who is a complete stranger to me. I'm not famous; I don't have fans. If you have submitted a friend request to me on FB, or are gonna, just add a little note to it, saying you read my blog. I guess I need context.

--Bugs...after seeing how many bugs have been splattered on my full-face helmet, I don't know why anyone would ever ride without a helmet. I've taken some hits that knock my head back, even with the helmet on. And my nice, beautiful leather jacket has so much bug guts on it, it squeaks now, and is a little sticky in some places. Guess I should wipe it down.

--And the cosmic comedy for the trip: last post I mentioned stopping by my friend Rickey's place in Big Sur, CA. He lives in a rustic camper about 500 yds from the closest restroom. So the easiest thing to do is to pee in the bushes, which I did that evening. But I forgot that poison oak is rather common in that area, and squatted without looking first. Well, let's just say that I understand how I got a few splotches of poison oak in the obvious spot on my bum, but how on earth did it end up on my belly and arm? All the little bits of it are no more than a baseball in diameter total, but jeez it itches!

I'm sure there was other stuff I meant to write about, things I've been thinking about along the way. Most are just random thoughts, like making sure to tell Mom to take the mango slicer out of the bag of stuff she's going to ship to me because I'm not likely to have as much use for a mango slicer in MD as she is in HI. And a lot of my time is spent thinking that I'm so incredibly lucky to live in this beautiful country, full of wonderful people (as long as we don't get into politics or religion), and with the time and flexibility to travel across it. I still can't believe this is my life sometimes!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Notes From The Road

It's day 5 of the trip. I'm in Redding, CA trying to get some computer work done. My smart phone is good, but sometimes a full size screen and harddrive is nice. Let me say...Redding, CA has a *super* nice library!

When I left my sister's house outside of LA, I had plans to get to Big Sur that night. Well, not so much. I stayed in Taft, CA, and continued on the next day. The weather has been very changeable, from stupid hot to bone-chilling cold. It's been cold on the coast and in the mornings in the shade in the mountains. I'll put in a shameless plug for Fox Creek Leather, the folks who made my jacket. Once I got all the zippers zipped up right and the liner in, my core stayed well, warmer. But my hands still froze.

Other observances in somewhat random order:

--I dropped my bike. Figured it had to happen sometime, and what better time than when there were friends around to help. I was trying to get it out of its covered parking at Treebones (another shameless plug, for a beautiful yurt camping spot on the Big Sur Coast) and didn't quite make it through the turn. It tipped on me. My friend Rickey and his friend Super Dave helped me get it up right. I think Rickey may have taken advantage of the situation to ride the bike for a second. But he got it back onto solid ground for me, and nothing, besides my oh-s0-fragile pride, was hurt.

--I got stung by a bee on my neck the second day out...Sorry for reposting a bit from Facebook, but I cussed the bee until I realized it wasn't his fault. I'm the one who ran into his butt at 60 mph. It's not like he was flying at 65 mph and ran into me.

--I left the key in the bike last night. I was parked in front of my hotel room in Weaverville, and came out this morning, patted my pockets and couldn't find the darn thing. My neighbor, who was with his wife, was working on his bike out front and told me I had left the keys in the bike last night. Guh! Shit! He very kindly had taken them out of the ignition and put them in the saddle bag so no one would be tempted. He replaced them in the ignition this morning so I could find them again. Ooooh, bikers are so big and mean and scary :)

--I laugh out loud everytime I catch sight of my shadow while riding. I've got two braids (my hair doesn't stay in one braid well enough), and my shadow looks like some crazy biker Pippy Longstockings, with the braids flying out behind me. Haa haha.

--Northern California is a beautiful place. Of course I had always heard that, but it really is amazing. If you'll indulge me in a moment of cosmic consideration, I was riding along in the fog and grey until I reached the Mendicino County line. I had traveled that area before, up to Petaluma and a little beyond...you know, riding down memory lane, especially on Hwy 1. But once I got to an area I hadn't been to yet, the fog cleared away and the sun came out. You think some crazy stuff after about four hours on the bike with no one to keep you company but yourself and the road.

--I renamed my bike. Rickey had asked me if I had named it, and I said yes, The Bitch. But then I decided that was a little too aggressive. I changed her name to Miss Daisy. You know, Driving Miss Daisy. I even drive like a granny :)

Alright, gotta get back on the road. At least to find a laundromat. And then, shooting for Lakeview, Oregon tonight.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

"Alright, Let's GAR It"

I'm officially starting my trip today, leaving from my sister's house outside of Pomona, CA enroute to a friend's place in Big Sur. The bike is all loaded (and looks kinda silly if you ask me...a Nightster was never meant to be a pack horse), I've got a box of stuff that I couldn't fit into my bags to be shipped to me once I get closer, and well, it's now or never. I've got three weeks to get to Maryland.

Before nearly every evolution on KISKA and MAUI, we would always GAR it. Before Special Sea Detail, Small Boat Detail, boardings, flight ops, training and drills, pretty much anything. I always felt like we were tempting fate when we didn't do a GAR, so I was pretty judicious about skipping it.

So what is this GAR thing? I can give you a working-sailor's definition of it, though I know I've heard the background story of how it was developed during at least once TCT (Team Coordination Training) course. GAR stands for Green, Amber, Red and is used as a discussion method for risk analysis. There are seven components:

-Planning: How well is the evolution defined? Does the team know what the final objective is? Does the team know what contingencies they could face, and what their reactions should be?

-Supervision: Is there at least one person with the "big picture" of what's going on that can see that "error chain" before it gets too long? Is "Safety" that person's only responsibility, or are they multi-tasking? Are they distracted with guests, training evaluators/riders, etc?

-Crew Selection: Does the crew know what they're doing? How many are qualified at the task they are performing? Who is breaking in on what position? What's the crew's experience level?

-Crew Fitness: How well rested is everyone? Who had the mid-watch? Has the ride been smooth or rough enough to beat people up? Have the last few days been stupid busy or is everyone pretty sharp still?

-Event/Evolution Complexity: What is the length and severity of risk exposure for the evolution? Is it really risky, but a quick one; or not so risky, but an eight-and-a-half-hour escort, with five of those hours within restricted waters?

-Environment: What are the outside conditions like? Is there lots of traffic? How's visibility? Is it blazing hot, with the risk of dehydration and sunburn, or is it raining and people need their rain gear? How close is shoal water or other hazards to navigation? Is it whale season?

-Equipment: What equipment is broken or in questionable condition? Are we op-testing (operationally testing) something? How critical is that equipment to what we're doing? And don't forget to take into account the bridge equipment...it's not just engineering stuff.

The way I liked to GAR was to have everyone chime in with numbers, from 1 to 10, and if there was an especially high number or concerns about any issue, we'd discuss whatever the concern was as a group. BM2 Bueno always had that "10" in equipment in his pocket if we ever needed it. The numbers are added up once the discussion is over, and based on the sum, you determine your overall risk exposure. 1-25 is in the Green (low risk); 26-48 is in the Amber (moderate risk); 49-70 is in the Red (high risk). Just because something is in the Red doesn't mean we don't do it...we just look for ways to mitigate or reduce the risk; and just because something is in the Green doesn't mean we take things for granted and don't follow procedures.

Most of KISKA's evolutions were usually low Amber, though we did have a few Reds...like coming out of drydock after 5 months with a mostly new crew, or getting underway from Radio Bay with only one functional MDE for the tsunami evacuation, or entering port on one shaft with the other one locked due to a shaft vibration. We still did them, but carefully and with plenty of discussion.

A while back, I think it may have been when ADM Allen came out with the Guardian Ethos message, we were exhorted and encouraged to use GAR in our daily lives to be better shipmates on and off the job. So here's my GAR for this first day:

Planning: 5; I've looked at maps and I've got a decent idea of where I'm going, but I neglected to get anything to post on my tank to give me an easy reference for my next turn...I don't have easy access to an electronic navigation system. And I've thought about alot of different contingencies, and have tried to mitigate them as best I can. I'll be wearing my PPE (personal protective equipment=helmet, leather jacket, boots, gloves, sunglasses, sunscreen). I've op-tested most everything. I took a break-in ride down to visit a friend in Orange County. It was great to see BJ and Laura Miles (Beej is an OCS classmate), and he gave me a great recommendation for the route to Big Sur. I'll be camping at a friend's place tonight, and if I've forgotten some camping equipment, he should be able to help out. My next stop after that is in Alameda with another set of friends, and it'll be good to make sure everything is good before heading out with no certain destination for the day.

Supervision: 4; I've got someone (plenty of someones) who know when to expect me someplace. I'll post on FB when I get where I'm going. If I don't get there, my friend will call out the cavalry to start looking for me.

Crew Selection: 7; Umm, I only learned to ride a motorcycle in February. I feel like I know kinda what I'm doing, but I definitely don't have a lot of experience with it.

Crew Fitness: 4; I've not been sleeping all that well. And it's going to be a hard ride. My gawd, the suspension on that bike is not meant for touring long distances.

Event/Evolution Complexity: 7; today's ride is pretty long and I'm taking a rather circuitous route. And what's the worst that could happen? Well, it's not pretty.

Environment: 4; it may be sunny when I start out, but I was warned by my friend that it's been cold on the coast. Lots of twisty, curvy roads with plenny potholes.

Equipment: 4; the bike is in good shape, but it runs hot. And I've got all my gear on the bike now. I took it out for a quick test ride yesterday with everything on it, and I think it actually handles a little better with the extra weight. But the saddlebags ride a little high and bump the backs of my legs when I've got my feet on the ground; not intrusively so, but enough to know it's there.

If my math is right (always a point of contention), that adds up to 36, mid-Aamber. But that's ok. I've thought things through as best I can, mitigated what risks I can, and am aware of what I need to pay attention to for those things that I can't mitigate. I'd say it's an accurate reflection of my readiness.

Now I've got to get those last few things on the bike, in the bags. It always seems there are one or two things that "oh, I'll just cram that on top." But that has added up to five or six things now and I'm wondering if I actually will be able to fit it all.

One last thing...so many, many thanks to my family and friends for their support and encouragement. I know you guys are worried about me, and for that I'm really sorry to cause you anxiety. But you also are excited for me and see the grand adventure I'm on. A hui hou!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Oh. Emm. Gee.

I thought I knew what it was like to have things rather hectic, with a million things going on at once.

The last two and a half weeks taught me that I was WronG. With a capital "W." And "G." Now, this post is likely to sound kinda whiny, but it was all so very, very worth it. I just feel a little bad for my friends and family who had to deal with me as a stressed mess.

It all started, oh, I guess when we got back from our last patrol, so the middle of July. I had two and half days of being in Hilo to get things organized before my sister and her husband, Suketu, showed up in the first wave of visitors. They are truly wonderful people, easy to be with, and we had a great time. They got in on Friday evening, after riding the local bus, HeleOn from Kona to Hilo. I picked them up and we went to New Chiang Mai for dinner. On Saturday, we hung around Richardson's Beach Park in Hilo, after a Saturday morning yoga class and visit to the Hilo Farmer's Market. Sunday we visited the Volcano Farmer's Market (yes, Farmer's Markets are a theme for the two weeks), enroute to a snorkel session at Honaunau. It was a longish drive, but totally worth it.

Monday, I had to work. It was the first day of the relief week. Craig had gotten the relief binder on Thursday and had a chance to look at it, so the first day went pretty smoothly. Still pretty low stress at this point.

Tuesday, Craig and I flew to Honolulu to meet people on Sand Island. Still pretty low stress.

I knew Wednesday was likely to be a different story. Mom flew in at 12-noon; Aunt Linda and Uncle Adam flew in at 5 pm, and Uncle Steven and Aunt Jan flew in at 7 pm. Vicki and Suketu were going to pick up Mom, then stop by the office to get directions to the rental/vacation house in Kapoho, then they were going to head out that way to check the place out and call me if there was anything we needed to pick up. I was meeting Linda and Adam at the airport, taking them back to my Hilo house for a quick minute to pack up a few necessities, and then we were going to drive back to the airport to pick up Steve and Jan, and then caravan (I was on my motorcycle) down to the Kapoho house.

Whew!

But it didn't entirely work out like that.

Unbeknownst to me, Mom had a little surprise in store for me. She had made arrangements for my best friend, Amy, and her 9 year-old daughter, Ally, to come out for the COC. I've been after Amy to visit me in Hawaii since 2002, when I first got stationed here. She always had a good excuse (being not too fond of planes, especially when ticket prices were so high). But Mom had worked her Mom-magic, and convinced Amy and Ally to come.

Vicki walked into my office, I handed her the directions to the house, and then she asked me if I could come out to the car for a minute. Sure; I plopped my hat on my head, and strolled out the office door into a crowd of people just standing around. I recognized Mom and Suketu, but these other two blond strangers were so out of context that it took me a couple seconds to figure out that it was Amy and Ally. I'm not quite sure what I said, but I said it in a reeeeaaally high, squeaky voice, a pitch I'm certain none of my crew had ever heard from me before. Thank goodness there were only a few of them in the office at the time. Mom captured my surprise on her camera. Awesome, amazing, great, wonderful surprise.

I got through the rest of the afternoon and got everyone safely out to the house.

Thursday morning we got underway to conduct drills as part of the relief process. Most guests stayed out at the house for a leisurely morning to help overcome the jet lag from North Carolina. But Mom came in with me to take her ride on the ship. I'd been promising to take her out on the ship for, well, since I took command, and this was her last, absolute last opportunity. The weather wasn't great, but it wasn't totally snotty either, so I figured we'd be ok. SN Mike McKinstry's mother and brother were also in town, and they came along also.

We transited out of Radio Bay with XO driving, and we started the drills with an easy Man Overboard. BM2 Neal Bueno did a stellar job driving the ship to recover Oscar, and we deployed SN Ryan Andres as the rescue swimmer to bring Oscar back onboard...mostly becuase I didn't want to suffer through reproachful looks if I hadn't let him get into the water.

Unfortunately by this time, our guests weren't feeling too good, though they all hung in there like champs. So I reconsidered staying underway to conduct all the drills, and decided instead that we could get the same training/relief value doing the drills at the pier as we could underway. We launched and recovered the small boat, ate lunch (well, the crew ate lunch; the guests...not so much), and then headed back to the pier. I had planned to drive the ship to the pier for the last time, but felt bad that no one else had pulled into Radio Bay because I was being greedy. So XO drove us in.

It was only his second time seeing the transit and pier approach to Radio Bay, and he did a good job. I'm sure as he drives that transit more, he will become more and more confident with it. He did say that the backing-up part of it took some getting used to.

We finished up our drills at the pier, and by then Linda and Adam, Steve and Jan were waiting patiently at the office for their tour of the ship. They took lots of pictures (from left to right: Steve, Adam, me and Linda), asked lots of great questions, and were suitably impressed with how cool the ship is.

We all headed back home, after yet another stop at the grocery store.

Friday, whew Friday. I got up early, and headed in to meet my friend and Mom's neighbor, Auntie Jane at Ken's House of Pancakes for breakfast. Thank goodness I did, too, because I didn't get anything else to eat until the reception, around 4:30 that afternoon. Jane flew in for the COC, and so sweetly blogged about it on her own blog.

Fortified with a yummy breakfast, Jane ran me on a few errands that being on the motorcycle made difficult (I didn't think the fondant for the cakes would fare so well in my backpack during the ride from the grocery store to the bakery), and then dropped me off at Coconut Island where preps were already in progress.

Lots of back and forth between the office and the park, stressing over logs that weren't signed yet, and tying up a million details ate up most of the morning. Long about 1:30 pm, I went up to the changing room to put on the dress whites.

And at 2:15 pm (yea, the ceremony was supposed to start at 2:30 pm) I realized we were missing something...and sent 1/C Gookin on a mad dash back to the office for the flags! Yikes!

We started a little late.

One of my favorite parts of the ceremony was giving out lei to the crew. I know it's not totally traditional, but it just seemed like the right way to show my respect and admiration for them.

And the other favorite part of the ceremony was having it at Coconut Island. Since it was a Friday afternoon, there were lots of people in the park, just hanging out.

There were tons of pictures taken. This is one of the best, by far, of me, Mom and Vicki.This one is of the family/friends crew that came from off island/far away. From left to right in the back row: Suketu, Vicki, Uncle Steve, Aunt Jan and Uncle Adam. Front row: Linda, Mom, me, Ally and Amy.And this is of me and the ladies that work Security at the gate at the pier facility. It was sooo cool they could come.

Hanging out by the water with crew and friends.
And at the end of the evening, Ally and I prepared to jump off the rock into the harbor. Ally was brave enough to jump off the middle ledge.
That was Friday.

The rest of the time was a flurry of time spent with family and friends, until the movers showed up on Thursday, and then it was a flurry of minutaie. All I can say is, thank goodness that part of this whole thing is over. Just another reason why transfer season is no fun at all. I meant to write a post on why transfer season is so painful, but I never got to it. I also never got around to the post of KISKA crew's tattoos.

But now I'm in California, prepping for my ride across country. I will likely not be blogging much during the next three weeks...it will depend entirely on the availability of computers, so if I get to an internet cafe or a local public library, I might be able to get an update posted. I will be back to it, though. My daily GAR score for the ride will be on Facebook each morning, though :)