Monday, April 18, 2011


I wonder sometimes what this blog is really about. Is it about my Coast Guard career? Is it personal? What are the bounds of what I can or should write about? I know it's not totally professional, and there are some things I will never attempt to address.

As part of a conversation about a lot of different things, a friend (FR) and I recently examined our individual personal relationships to the Coast Guard. The relevant portion went like this:

FR: "I’m somewhat amazed that you enjoy thinking and talking about the CG as much as you do. I’m not casting aspersions on you, I just know that I love NOT talking about the CG, except for minor examples during some of the classes I take. My work this summer will be dealing with clean aquatic energy, something that fascinates me and that I truly think I can be passionate about, at least for a time."

ME: "What you said about me enjoying thinking about the CG so much really made me pause. Harumph. Guess I just need to face up to the fact that I'm a CG nerd. There's a couple of reasons I came up with for our different perspectives on CG interactions while we're at school. First is the nature of our programs. The only way I know how to relate to Big Policy Issues is through the context of the CG. All my classes on budgeting and contracting and all that, I view through what I know and have experienced during my CG tenure as a way to help me understand what is being taught, similar to how you use your DCA experience in your engineering stuff (not even gonna try getting more technical than that, lest I leave you guffawing my ignorance). Second, I have a forum. I still can't believe this blog thing. Crazy how it's made things different for me. And lastly, we came to the CG from very different places. You literally grew up in the organization since that's how your Dad raised you. You've always known it, and have viewed everything you are and do within that context. I came to the CG much later, and found it to be something that really stabilized me, gave me purpose and direction...never mind a living wage paycheck and health insurance. And a bit of stature in my family. (Scarily) my career is something they brag about now. Hell, I say take advantage of being away from it. I think it's great that you'll be working on clean aquatic energy this summer--sounds super innovative and fulfilling. Explore, grow, flourish."

FR: "I guess my comment on you being a CG nerd was more along the lines that I'm surprised bigger issues beyond the CG don't interest may be that they do, you're just cutting teeth with the CG stuff and applying it later to the larger picture? I just have a hard time personally, with my ever expanding big picture view, of getting inspired or excited by CG affairs."

There is a gauntlet thrown down in that last paragraph that I'm still pondering. Contemplating. Gnawing the edges of (to mix metaphors horribly). And I will get back to it during a later post (maybe much later). But I offer the discussion as an introduction to three things that are tangentially associated with my relationship with the Coast Guard.

First, I watched Disney's movie Oceans this weekend. I like movies, but I don't generally have strong feelings about them one way or another (well, besides the Pirates series...can't wait for May 20!). Oceans is different. I actually bought it (usually I figure, why bother...I've seen a movie once, I know what happens, and if I really want to see it again, I can get it from Netflix). Amazing photography. Like mind-blowingly amazing. I never realized just how large those humpback whales were until I saw the size of the photographer in the water next to the whale. The narrative is moving, but not overly emotional and (thank goodness) doesn't anthropomorphize the aquatic wildlife too much.

My favorite scene: I can't decide between a couple...
--the feasting scene towards the beginning when the cormorants are dive bombing a school of sardines, and the sharks are attacking from underneath, and it's like a fierce World War II battle scene.
--the footage of the humpback whales creating a mass of air bubbles to trap and stun fish in Alaskan waters. Half a dozen to a dozen whales all broaching at the same time, snouts come shooting out of the water almost simultaneously with snow-covered mountains and rocky shorelines in the background.
--watching the two ships get the snot kicked out of them in rough water. One is a Navy ship, and the other is some sort of commercial vessel, probably fishing, maybe 250 feet long. Don't know why that series tickles me so much, but it does.
--the leafy sea dragon...I love the graceful fronds this creature sports, and the fact that it just has these leettle-beetty fins to move it around. You really have to look to see its method of propulsion.

Tangent: I like the fact that my organization helps to protect these amazing and wondrous beings.

Second, my foster dogs. I signed up to foster animals through Operation Noble Foster. I'm still holding to the mindset that I don't want to take on full, lifelong responsibility for any more pets until I'm out of the Coast Guard and not getting underway, but I've really missed having a wagging tail and slobbering doggie kisses greet me when I get home. So back in January, I got a call from a lady in the Air National Guard who had two weeks before she was getting sent off for two months of training in preparation for a six-month deployment to Afghanistan. Two weeks to get all your affairs in order to leave for eight months...guh, what a PITA.

So, I am fostering her two Italian greyhounds, Bella and Pepe. She was a little hesitant to pass them off to someone else, I think because they're a little high-maintenance (I say as they're passed out on the couch next to me, snuggled into their blanket). Pepe has a Napoleanic know, small man's syndrome. He gets a little lippy/growly when he thinks he's being disrespected. But he's eight pounds, so I only take him so seriously.

I don't help the situation with him when I take funny pictures of him like this, so zonked that he's sleeping with his tongue sticking out.

And Bella looks particularly regal in this photo. She's a sweetheart, but is more impish than you'd expect. I'm very glad that I finally got the backyard fence repaired so there is no more sneaking through holes to go exploring the neighborhood. Mostly 'cause she's FAST!! It's fun watching her sprint from one end of the yard to the other at full speed. I just wish she'd stay out of the damn garden beds :0 I think once the plants get a little bigger she'll be less inclined to try to sail over the width of the bed in one leap.

So I get to have my cake and eat it too with fostering. I get temporary pets that I enjoy for a defined period of time, and help out someone who needs to focus on something besides whether their pets are being well taken care of while they're away. I wish I had known about Operation Noble Foster that first tour on BOUTWELL. Would have made things a lot easier for me and my cats. And neighbors.

Tangent: the whole helping out a fellow military-deployable member, while also satisfying my own preference for having pets in the house.

Third: I discovered mud runs, which are basically trail races with a bunch of man-made obstacles mixed in. A while back, my uncle Steve told me me about the Tough Mudder race, and suggested we should roust up a team and train for it. Looked like fun from the pictures, but I thought 10 miles might be a little much to start with. So I found a 5K mud run close by his house that we signed up for. 

Uncle Steve, Aunt Jan, Judy and me at the finish line
Weekend before last, four of us ran the Rugged Maniac in Asheboro, NC. I have to give my fellow teammates total props...Jan is the youngest of the three of them, and she's older than me by a couple decades. I thought I was a bad-ass, but they put me to shame! We all finished, tired, dirty and thrilled to have gotten through the barbed-wire mud pits, over the fire jumps, across the plank and down the slide into the mud pool. I felt like a heel for leaving my teammates as they slowed down and started to walk (some of them). They told me to go ahead and run my own race, and I did, but it doesn't mean I felt good about that part of it.

It was SO MUCH FUN!! I wanna do another one, maybe a 10k later this fall before tackling the 10 mile Tough Mudder next year, and maybe a half marathon one after that. I was telling a friend who is also a runner about it, and he said that his running group was getting bored with just running. Ex-ACT-ly! I like to run, but the obstacles provide more of a challenge, and the mud...well, that's just fun.

I did have to laugh at the poor girl in my heat who cut me off, nearly tripping me, to get from the middle of the course where it was really muddy (like suck-your-shoes-off muddy) over to the side where it was drier and a little cleaner. Seriously?!? My philosophy...gonna get dirty, might as well enjoy it, even revel in it!

Tangent: fitness is important in the Coast Guard, and I found something to help me stay fit. Oh, and the team-work aspect of the race was pretty cool, too. Almost had to be Spiderman to get over the seven-foot walls without a leg up from one of the other participants. A lot of people ran in teams.

Maybe I just wrote this post to prove to myself that I am more than just my Coast Guard persona.

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