Saturday, December 1, 2012

Baggage

A few months ago, I asked a good friend (we'll call him Coyote, mostly because it will amuse him) what was the difference between lessons learned and baggage. I was going through a bit of a relationship crisis, and feeling the weight of trying to make good choices instead of falling into the same old trap of bad decisions spawned from parts of myself I had yet to fully acknowledge and accept. Coyote responded, baggage weighs you down and lessons learned help you move forward.

And that's why I asked him...because I knew he'd have an excellent answer. Stated so simply, it made some basic sense.

So now I'm in the fits of realizing that I have some baggage left over from KISKA's drydock, and the trials and tribulations of being berthed in Waikiki, a couple of islands away from home, with extremely limited means by which my crew could affordable-y feed themselves, having to commute more than 30 miles each way out to Barbers Point which was an acceptable 45 minutes on the way to the drydock, but could take an exhausting two hours on the way back to the hotel through Waikiki traffic...and on and on and on about all the bad things from that five month period. I'm still mad that our situation was so poorly planned. And a little chagrined that I was so proud of myself for getting some solution (the crew ended up getting the subsistence allowance for about three months-worth of the drydock...and the HQ office responsible for the policy changed the policy specifically to disallow the use of the allowance in that manner in the future), instead of being a squeakier wheel, finding the right advocate and running a full court press for the full five months-worth I thought they deserved.

This past week was hard. I think it was really the first week in the office I carried my expected weight as the Body Shop Reviewer. Crazy complicated issues that if I get them right, the Service chugs along without major disruption; but if I get them wrong, bad, bad things are likelier to happen -- multi-hundred million dollar things or things that cause chaos in the workforce. The reason I say it was really the first week I carried my expected weight is that I knew enough about the issues that I couldn't play the stupid new Girl card and weasel out with a slack-ass half effort.

One of the issues was similar enough to my experience on KISKA that all those old feelings of anger, injustice, lack of a voice came bubbling up to nearly choke the sensibility out of me...or at least squeeze a few tears of frustration out of me (thank goodness I made it to the privacy of a stall in the women's head before they leaked out...I hate crying in front of bosses -- especially when it's the kind from being pissed off that I just can't control) and prod me to call my sister one evening on my way home and spew vitriol and resentment in the form of enough f-bombs to make the attack on Dresden look like a small-town fireworks show.

So it became clear to me I'm carrying some baggage about KISKA's drydock.

The questions I find I must ask myself are how do I set aside the weight of the baggage and open it up so I might find the lessons to be learned within? What are those lessons? The majority of the insights to be gained are likely to be highly personal...how I perceive myself, what I think are my strengths and weaknesses, how I define success and failure, how I want to be perceived by others. Did I use getting the crew monetary compensation for their meals as a substitute to cover for my leadership shortcomings? Or were my motivations more in line with how I originally spun them..."It's my job to make sure they've got what they need to do theirs." Yeah -- don't know I'll be able to come to resolution on that one anytime soon. But at least I've defined the scope of the question.

And as much as I don't like admitting to such pettiness, I find I am not yet willing to let go of my resentment that nearly five months of my time assigned to KISKA was spent in a cold-iron maintenance status with no chance of cruising the great blue sea around the islands under the countless stars, dodging whales, ducking into lees to hide from the incessant trade wind chop, finally sailing into Hilo Bay past Coconut Island to our cozy little finger pier in Radio Bay and tripping merrily home to my Big Island bungalow. After taking difficult assignments (somewhat unwillingly in the case of orders to HAMILTON) and turning them into relative successes, I felt like I worked hard to get it and earned my time on KISKA -- the boat I had dreamed of being assigned to ever since I learned there was a patrol boat on the Big Island, eight years prior.

Did I really make the most of my time onboard? Wring every last bit of enjoyment and satisfaction to be had out of those short fourteen months? Or do I feel like I let some of it slip through my fingers? I will never be in that place, in that time, with those people again. I have some minor regrets about a few of the details, but the truth remains that my time on KISKA was my favorite tour (so far, anyway :) I have high hopes for my next tours afloat). I had an excellent crew, some difficult conditions, leadership challenges to keep me on my toes, and an amazing op area. I did the best I could based on what I knew at the time. I can't go back and do any of it over, so I better make damn sure I get it as close to right as I possibly can the first time.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving (a day late)!! It’s been a great holiday for me so far. I flew down to Alabama on Wednesday after an early departure (officially sanctioned – Thanks, DCMS!) from work. I left from Reagan International from the terminal that has TSA Pre-Check lines…active duty military and others (I don’t know all the rules) get a special line. I walked past about a 45-minute wait, right up to the front with only six people in front of me. *And* I didn’t have to take off my boots, belt or take all the crap out of my bag. Loved it!

Yesterday was a feast with the Rocket Scientist and his family. So much food, wonderful people, a beautiful day and lots of laughter and fun contributed to a picture perfect holiday, touched with a tinge of sadness that I didn’t get to see my family, just talk with them for a few minutes on the phone. It firms my resolve to make a concerted effort to see them at Christmastime.

And today, I am *making* time to write a post. I haven’t for a very long time, and I kind of feel it in my head. Lots of post thoughts rattling around, making a bunch of racket in my skull. I don’t think I really have anything in particular to write about…or, no, that’s not quite it…I have a *ton* of things to write about. I just can’t. Predecisional, political both in the grand “federal government” sense (think fiscal cliff, Sequestration, etc., etc.) and in the internal CG sense, I just can’t write about a lot of the stuff I do on a daily basis.

It’s *frustrating!* I’ve said before that I don’t always start out with knowing where I’m going with a post. The process of getting the words out of my head helps figure out how to articulate exactly what I’m wrestling with and define the scope, underlying difficulties and potential solutions.

For example, I recently submitted my application to be a TRACEN Cape May Company Mentor. It’s something I’ve thought about doing for a while now, and since I’m a little closer to New Jersey than I have been for a long time, I decided to go for it. The application was fairly straight forward (sadly, the question I struggled with the most was, “What eight weeks over the next year are you most available?” Umm, none of them, but this is important to me, so I’ll make the time if you tell me when I need to be there). The meat of the application was the question, “Why do you want to be a Company Mentor?” or something to that effect. Huh, I hadn’t ever thought it through; I just knew it was something I wanted to do.

I wish I had access to my response while I write this post, because I’d take the easy way out and just cut and paste. But I’m still having difficulties with RAS, and I didn’t think ahead to what I was going to write about this weekend, so there ya go. Basically my answer was that one of the things I miss most about being a Commanding Officer (being on a ship in any capacity, really) is the interaction with my fellow crewmembers, especially the junior folks. There is something about their enthusiasm for all the new experiences that is inspiring and motivating. My current job that is so demanding, I need all the motivation I can find, and hanging out with new recruits sounds like a great opportunity to be reminded that the wonky budget work I do has real consequences to real people out doing real work in real dangerous conditions. I think I added that I stood to gain more from being a Company Mentor than the mentees might get from me.

In drafting my answer, though, it really started to make sense not only some of what I’ve been missing from not being underway but also why that sense of connection to field operations is so critical to my ability to make my best effort with program review duties. I wouldn’t have taken the time to go through the mental exercise of figuring out my motivational needs without the requirement of having to articulate why I want to be a Company Mentor. And that’s just good information for me to have about myself.

And it’s kind of funny that I feel such accountability from my blog. I mean, I *could* idk, journal about those things I can’t write publically about, but I just don’t have the forcing mechanism to make myself – being basically lazy and all. But because I’ve got such loyal readers, I feel obligated to continue writing for them…even if it is less frequently than before.

A quick side story about my readers: I’ve had a couple of recent encounters with people who read this bit of maundering. One was about two months ago: I cold-called somebody from one of my programs with a question. He’s something of a talkative sort who was newly reported and queried me about my background during the conversation. I gave him the last few years of my bio and at that point he asked me, hey, do you write a blog? Once I admitted that I did he told me he had run across it at his last job when he was searching online for resources about writing OERs to give to his JOs. I was a little embarrassed (but delighted) when he said he referenced my post to his JOs. I can only hope that one or two of them got something useful out of my thoughts on writing OER input.

And then just two or three weeks ago, I ran into a fellow blogger as I was making the trek between the two Headquarters buildings after a meeting. I hadn’t seen him for quite a while and stopped to chat with him for a moment. He said he was still reading my blog, it comes up on his RSS feed, and very kindly told me about how one of my posts about riding motorcycles had reminded him how much he enjoyed riding a motorcycle himself. He had a crash a couple of years ago, and hadn’t gotten around to replacing his bike. But after reading about my two-wheeled adventures, he remembered what fun he had and got a new motorcycle. Wow! I mean, Wow!! I guess I get a lot of satisfaction out of knowing that what I write resonates with other people and they find what I say useful. Hedging my bets against my mortality, maybe.

Regardless, I’m thankful for the forum.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Unexpected Time

The phone rang yesterday morning when I was about halfway through my bowl of cereal (Honey Nut Cheerios (yes, rather plebian, I know, but a comfort-food throwback to breakfasts at my grandparents' house) topped with thawed peaches, chia seeds and cocao nibs). It was Lynn from The Farm, telling me she didn't think they were going to be particularly busy and they wouldn't need my help.

An unexpected Day Off! How glorious a prospect! I immediately changed into yoga clothes and planned to leave the house by 0920 to walk up the street to Joe's. In the interim coupla hours, I did some laundry, cleaned the litter box, folded clothes, and generally puttered around the house. After yoga, I admit I mostly squandered my day, lounging on the couch, reading a book, watching football and then some backlogged tv shows.

Oh, and cooking. Apparently, I cook when I have downtime...who'da thunk. It started with mac&cheese, polluted with chicken sausage and one of the last garden tomatoes from the summer. Followed by brownies with pecans. Followed by a melange-mess of a stew...sweet potato, onion, barley, poblano pepper, more of the chicken sausage, veggie stock, lentils, worchestershire sauce and a bottle of pilsner that had been lingering in my fridge for umm, longer than I can remember. Most of the stew has already been transferred to the freezer, back up meals for when I get home after a twelve or fourteen hour day. But the leftover mac&cheese joined the leftover quiche (bacon, spinach and feta...from when the freezer came unplugged a coupla months ago), salad fixings, apples, cheese, mole accoutrements, chestnuts and smoothie-makings in the already full refrigerator.

Speaking of smoothies, the subject of them came up during the office fun-run this Thursday. The XO finally took the opportunity to query me on just what was in them. I rattled off the list: frozen pineapple, peaches, strawberries or whatever else happened to be on hand, lately Swiss chard, but sometimes kale and/or avocado, oatmeal, fresh ginger, sometimes spirulina (a green algae superfood) and/or beets (though the combo of the deep green spirulina and bright red beets does mix into a disturbingly unappetizing purple-brown, somewhat reminiscent of radioactive pond-scum), tumeric, cayenne, chia seeds and cocoa nibs, yogurt and juice. I think I lost his interest soon after "frozen fruit." But the smoothies do pique interest in the office, and I have a standing request from a couple of folks who want to try them. Will take in samples shortly.

The brownies are wrapped up, still on the counter, singing their siren song to me. I don't know that they'll last through the day.

I made some preparations for the arrival of Hurricane Sandy yesterday also. Like putting odds and ends from the yard away, bringing the outdoor trash cans into the laundry room, bringing in some extra kindling (shoulda brought in more firewood than I did...how cozy would a nice cheery fire be to ward off the skittery feeling of the impending storm), plugging in the rechargeable lantern and finding extra flashlights, filling a couple of largish containers with water...just in case. I rode the fence for a while about going to the grocery store, but finally leveraged my lazy ass off the couch with the thought of just how aggravatedpissedannoyedfrustrated I'd be with myself if I ended up not having to go into work but not having any milk for my tea.

And this morning, I made apple-walnut pancakes.

The funny-ironic thing about all this food is that it's not really the type of food that is fit to share with other people. It's good enough for me, because when it gets down to it, I'll eat damn near anything I make as long as I'm hungry enough. But I have sufficient sensibility to realize pond-scum smoothies and melange stew do not appeal to most anyone else. I am gonna make some cranberry-apple bread pudding to take into the office when the storm is over though.

But now I'm rather at odds. What happened to all those things I've always said I'd do when "I got the time?" I've got the time now, and I can't remember a single darn one of them. I think this is actually one of my greatest fears...to become so involved in my work, regardless of whether it's due to demanding hours, long deployments, or inescapable responsibility, that I lose the rest of myself...my interests, my abilities, my sense of fun.

Now, granted, the circumstances of today (unknown amount of downtime, **crappy** weather conditions outside) limit my ability or desire to pursue a lot of what I like to do...The Old Man would probably permanently *revolt!* if I tried going for a ride today, and the garden/yard is a soggy mess that tampering with in these conditions would only make worse. Where are my inside interests though?

I've got bookshelves full of books to read (am saving them for when the power inevitably goes out and I don't have internet access anymore). I could clean house...hahaha -- well, I typed it with a straight face, anyway. Why isn't my loom set up? Oh yeah, no space and weaving definitely takes more of a time commitment, what with planning, set up and finishing, than I will have for at least a decade. Should I pick up knitting or crocheting? The Rocket Scientist recommended remote control boats.

I know...I'll practice writing, ya know, for when I start to write a book as so many people tell me I should. And plan homemade Christmas presents like when I was a poor college student. And, idk, just *wallow* in not having anything to do!

Stay safe, everyone!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

My Sixth October

Ahem. Yes, I know it's been six weeks since my last post (or is it seven weeks?). Yes, I know I'm an absolute slacker. My litany of excuses includes: OMB roll-out, the Rocket Scientist's safe return from Afghanistan, a brief spate of fomenting minor revolution, a two-week motorcycle vacation in Florida, a backlog of household chores, and volunteering at Larriland Farm for their October weekend madness. And it's not that I haven't been thinking about writing, but I'm definitely feeling the difficulty of being limited in what I can talk about with regards to my job, and, well, a self-imposed limitation about sharing tmi about my personal relationships.

I know I've procrastinated too long when I get a text from FR, "Hey I think you are due for a blog post!" Nothing like getting tasking from an ex-XO...(his comment when I shared that thought with him, "Payback"...tee hee).

So here I am, mid-way through a quiet Sunday afternoon, with a cheery fire in the fireplace (just because I can and there's just a hint of a chill in the house), with the football game keeping me company, finally sitting down to get some of this noise out of my head.

And disappointingly, I'm going to start with a whine session. (No, I don't want any cheese with that whine...the cheesy post is going to be the one I write about the vacation -- two weeks on a motorcycle with my boyfriend cruising through southern Florida -- yes, it was all that. Definitely going to be sappy). But my job is hard. And kinda sucks. The hours are long, the problems difficult, the budget environment is...umm, challenging?, programs are in various states of acceptance, and the stakes are high.

Now, don't get me wrong. I like a challenge. And I don't need my hand held, or constant pats on the back or  atta-boys or public recognition of  how hard I work. But a win for the good guys, every now and again goes a *long* way to making a difficult situation more tenable. Instead, it's been contentious arguments, obstructionist behavior, obdurate attitudes, and even sometimes, unproductive castigations about insufficient contributions.

I'm a little embarrassed about that last one, because that was me. I could have handled the situation much better, but I was *FRUSTRATED!* I didn't say anything that wasn't true; there was just no way that what I said was a positive and supportive addition to the discussion. Especially since I couldn't bring myself to apologize for it. The best I could manage was to acknowledge how unproductive my comment was to accomplishing the goals of the meeting. Unfortunately, it put the receiving individual on the defensive to the point where s/he won't deal with me directly anymore, deliberately removing me from email replies. Dang.

Oh, and I said it in a public forum, with an audience of about half a dozen other people, so there's really no way to allow the recipient to gracefully recover. Double dang.

So yeah, I'm feeling a little beat up. Or maybe beat down. I can't decide.

But after working 60 hours a week in the office, I've been going to the farm one weekend day to help out with their October weekend festivities. Add another nine hours of demanding labor to my work week. I've been wondering why, oh why, I chose to spend my precious weekend hours busting my ass, being polite and helpful to customers, manhandling pumpkins, wrangling bushels of apples, dead-lifting gallons upon gallons of cider, herding teenagers in the packing area and making endless rounds to gather up abandoned baskets and carts.

The Farm has changed a little bit since I first started working there in 1987. I was a puny 14 year-old, at my first job; kinda shy, not much self-confidence, no idea of what work ethic was, nervous, wanting to do a good job, but not sure what all that entailed. Huh, 25 years ago...over the span of four decades (the 80s, 90s, 2000s and 20-teens). I counted it up, and I think this is my sixth October working weekends on the Farm.

My memories of the first few Octobers are covered in powdered sugar. From head to toe. In my hair, in my ears, up my nose. I spent 10 hours in the apple fritter booth, usually both Saturday and Sunday (that's back when The Farm ran the booth internally...somewhere along the way, they got smart and outsourced it to a local church group (?)/non-profit). I was the front-Girl...taking orders and payment, and putting the finishing touch of a dusting of powdered sugar on the fritters hot from the deep fryer. One day it was windy, and I ended the day looking like a ghost. I had more sugar on me than I think got on the fritters. I can eat fritters again now, 25 years later. But the smell of them still takes me back to those first few weekends.

I really enjoy going back to The Farm. Maybe it's an attempt to hold onto my younger days. I can't be old if I can still lift two half-bushels of apples at the same time (I've always been too short to try for three at a time). But, in particular these days, I think I enjoy it because I can contribute to the good guys winning without much effort on my part. I can walk into the market, back into the packing area and pack a peck of apples without thinking about it, look at the display tables and know what needs to be done next, jump onto a register and help whittle down the long lines, back up the clerks by bagging two lines at a time, answer endless questions from customers with a smile on my face. It's all stuff that I did so long ago and for long enough that it is fairly well ingrained in me. I can be good at it without trying too hard. And in these days, when I need the good guys to win one every so often, going to The Farm restores me a little.

It didn't hurt that the ride home was right at sunset, through the rural area of Montgomery County. The golden pink rays of the sun soaked into all the fall colors of the leaves changing, and just *lit up* the countryside. There were some solitary trees that were in full glory that were unbelievable...it seemed like all the goodness of the day was shining out through those brilliant shades.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

A Little Break

You're all gonna think that I don't ever work, between this post and the last. But rest assured, I do put in some hours. The week where I realized I had put in a 40 hour week already by 10 am on Thursday was the one that really got to me. There were a couple 2200 nights that week. Thank goodness that's not all the time.

However, this post is not about work, it's about taking a little break. I've been doing pretty good with taking a day off here and there throughout the week for various and sundry reasons...friends and/or family coming into town, getting my registration renewed. And I've sort of gotten over feeling awkward when I come in late or leave early to take care of personal business like physical therapy appointments or meeting workmen coming to the house for improvement projects. Sort of. It still feels like I should be able to clone myself on those days and be in two places at once.

But this week I took Monday off, and...went to The Beach. I've been meaning to, talking about it all summer long. Realizing that summer was almost over, time was running out, and weekends are going to start to get booked up here shortly, I decided two weeks ago (that was the 60 hour week...huh, funny how that works) that I just had to do it.

Now, I *hate* traffic, and there's nothing worse for me to be stuck in traffic with all the rest of the yahoos heading out to the shore. I played with the schedule a little bit, and decided to leave Saturday morning, stay Saturday and Sunday nights, and come back Monday. Not to brag, but it was a *brilliant* plan! It was great! Not hardly any traffic when The Old Man and I finally cruised out at about 1000 on Saturday (no reason to rush, and get up early or anything). We headed out on Rt 50, and were quickly over the Bay Bridge.

I looked at the weather forecast before I went (confession time: no, I did *NOT* GAR this evolution before I started it...maybe I should have. Or maybe not...would have gone even though I was close to Red. Weather and Equipment woulda been the high scores). So I knew there was a 60 percent chance of thunderstorms, but I figured, hey, passing summer thunderstorms...No Big Deal.

I stopped for lunch in Cambridge, MD, at Ocean Odyssey...very tasty! Fish tacos and local oysters. With one eye on a darkening sky, I got back underway, figuring I could stop for cover at a gas station if I needed to.

Ten minutes out of Cambridge, I needed to and there wasn't a single damn gas station to be found. I finally ducked under cover in Vienna, but by that point, I was already wet. The Rocket Scientist was very helpful in asking where my rain gear was. Why, oh why did I forget, and leave my rain gear at home in the shed where it was doing me exactly *no good?!* Equipment and environment spike up another point or two.

I stayed in Vienna for about half an hour, using my time wisely and chatting with my sister, who had just wrapped up her very own adventure in the form of a cross-country drive from Michigan to LA with her step-daughter in a car with 167,000 miles on it. Sounded like an ok idea when they started out; thank goodness they made it safely across without any major incidents. But eventually, I just wanted to keep going and get to my destination. I headed out again. And ran into some of the heaviest rain I have ever seen in my life! Even from when I was in Hilo.

Ya know what? Big fat driving rain drops HURT at 60 miles per hour. They sting even through denim. And it's hard to see through a rain-spotted windshield and a helmet's face shield. It stopped raining five miles from my turn off onto VA 175...eastbound to Chincoteague.

My first memories of the beach are at Assateague Island. We may have gone somewhere else first when I was young, but that's where I remember going for week-long camping trips when I was in grade school. I will forever and always associate Celestial Seasonings almond tea with those trips. I think there must have been a box of it in the camping kitchen gear...it's the only time I can remember drinking it. And I have to assume that the charring on the old percolator coffee pot (the only coffee pot I have in the house) must have come from Mom putting it on the campfire for her morning coffee that she would take to the beach for sunrise.

Assateague Island is a National Park. They've got the wild ponies there, and good lord, is it beautiful. I hadn't been back in probably close to...well, a *really* long time. And I don't know that we ever made it to Chincoteague when I was a kid. But based on a recommendation from JZ, one of the senior Reviewers, I chose to go there instead of a party town like Ocean City or Rehobeth Beach. Nothing against either one of them...just not my scene.

I didn't actually make it to the beach on Saturday. I got to my hotel right after check in time, soggy and a little road weary. The skies were threatening more rain, so I relaxed in the room and scoped out places for dinner. The best recommendation for what I was looking for was the Chincoteague Inn Restaurant, so I moseyed on over there, checking out some of the shops along the way. But, I was not done with getting rained on. It *poured* on me as I dashed from shop awning to shop awning.

The restaurant/bar was in convivial swing when I finally dripped through the door. The pre-season Redskins game was on the tv, until a bolt of lightening shot the signal. The gracious bartender was able to quickly resurrect it though, preventing a riotous mutiny by the crowd of enthusiasts. I intended to only stay for a beer or two with dinner, but each time I was about to the end of a bottle, it started raining even harder. Finally, though, I had my fill of smoke, empty calories and inane conversation, and made my way back out into the night. The hotel was only four blocks from the restaurant, but I waded through nearly knee-deep puddles all the way back. Lotsa, lotsa rain.

I paused for a moment before entering my room. The Old Man, poor thing, was stoically parked outside with no cover, fully exposed to the deluge. If only I could have rolled it into my room! But there was a specific house rule about no bikes in the room...and steps up to the porch. The Old Man was stuck out in the elements.

At this point, I was a little concerned about my prospects for any beach time at all due to the rain. But I woke up to a bright, sunny day on Sunday morning, and set out to make my way to the beach. Chincoteague is a perfect place for a bicycle, so first item on the agenda (well, *after* breakfast) was procuring two pedal-powered wheels. There are lotsa places to rent scooters, motorized trikes and bikes on the island, so I stopped by the closest vendor and then merrily pointed my hot-pink beach cruiser eastward...with a little wobble or two along the way as I got used to the old-school pedal activated brakes.

It was a gorgeous morning; a few clouds in the sky, a light breeze, birds *everywhere!* I don't know birds very well, but there were egrets, herons, seagulls, plovers, pipers, and I don't know what all else. There were a few other early rising people out, mostly friendly types, but some with that surly central Eastern-seaboard pugnacity that I did not miss living on the West Coast.

One of the very best things about having a bicycle on Assateague is that you can get to beaches where there's no parking for cars. It was about a three mile ride, mostly flat with a slight rise over a small bridge crossing the sound, through the marshes, straight up to the beach. I heard the surf long before I saw it, and smelled the salt in the air quite a way out. I locked the bike on one of the racks, and walked the last hundred yards over the dunes to the open stretch of sand leading to the waves.

There were a handful of people already on the beach, so I made a sharp turn to port and headed north for a little ways to my own stretch of empty sand. Spread my blanket, finished sunscreen application and moseyed  forward to test the water. And realized just how spoiled I've gotten being at beaches with crystal clear water for the last decade. I got used to seeing my feet on the bottom, even when I'm in neck-deep water. Not so much here. My feet disappeared into the murky waters when I was barely up to my calves. But it was still salt water, which is good for the soul. I ducked under the waves and played in the surf.

The sun came and went behind some clouds, threatening to dampen my day. I have been accused of having a curse of clouds at the beach. It can be bright and sunny before I get there, and as soon as I step on the shore, the skies darken and rain clouds threaten. But I was already wet, so what was a little fresh water washdown? I flopped on my blanket, covered my right arm (despite 45 SPF I'm still overprotective of the artwork) and dozed pleasantly. I woke a few minutes later to turn over, and saw the brightest, bluest sky with nary a trace of cloud on the horizon. Good for the soul, good for the skin, good for the mind and heart and all those other parts that don't get much attention during long weeks under florescent lights.

I only brought one smallish water bottle with me, though, so I was chased off the beach by a looming thirst after a couple of hours. The closest water fountain was at the visitors' center, so I cruised over there to fill 'er up, and then kept going to the beach access you can drive a car to. Umm -- madhouse! I found a relatively open spot to lay my blanket, but only stayed for a little while. The people watching was fun.

I was feeling peckish on the way home (translation: was madly ravenous), and stopped at a little cafe along the way. The crab cake was superb and gave the fuel necessary to finish the ride back to my room. After a long morning and afternoon in the sun and on the bicycle, I relaxed for a little while before heading out to get some ice cream...which turned out to be dinner because I was too lazy later to go back out. A little National Treasure and Sherlock Holmes later, and I turned out the light for the night.

My plan for the next day was to get up early and pedal back to the beach for sunrise. While it's always good to have a plan, it didn't quite work out that way. I slept in past sunrise, but took the bike to the beach and then ran on the beach. I saw one person when I very first got there, and one person as I was leaving -- and no one else. Was divine! I stayed long enough to go for a quick swim and then headed back to the hotel to get my stuff together to leave.

I didn't want to leave. Well, I wanted to ride the bike, but not back to the city. I'm kind of amazed I've lasted as long in the city as I have. Granted, I've had some nice long breaks, like last summer and this past winter when I went back to Hawaii. So there's been some respite. I just don't like all the people, and traffic, and buildings and hubbub and stuff. I swear I'm not counting the days, but I definitely am looking forward to Assignment Year 2014.

The sun was beating down by the time I was ready to leave, and putting on that leather jacket was not something I wanted to do...humid air pressed densely around me. And black leather, on a hot summer day...whose stupid idea was that? But I got on the road, and well, the air isn't so hot at 50 mph.

The gas light had just come on to let me know I needed to refuel when the skies opened up and I found myself in a downpour. Thankfully, I spied a gas station just ahead and pulled quickly under the shelter. I filled up, groused about the delay to the Rocket Scientist, and sat there for a while until I thought it might be less risky to get back on the road. I made it 1.4 miles before I ran back up on the storm. I found another shelter, this time at an abandoned gas station, and sat there for another quarter-hour, staring at the radar picture on my phone and calculating that I had another 20 miles or so to go in the path of the storm before my trackline took me out of its way.

The rest of the trip was mostly uneventful. Not much traffic, a little windy at the top of the Bay Bridge, and I was home by 1600. I needed the break, and I'm so glad I took it.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

WOD

Must finish this post...it has been languishing for weeks! But if I ever needed proof of my own nerdiness, this post will be it.

I am a word-nerd; kinda like a food-nerd, but with words. I like finding *exactly* the right word that conveys just what I mean, down to the correctly shaded subtleties. Not any word will always do. Sometimes the word I want comes bounding into my head, rolling blithely off my tongue, while other times I know it's out there, but I can't for the life of me bring it forth.

There is a certain amount of ridicule associated with being a word-nerd, gentle fun poked at having a large vocabulary. Many people think I use big words just to show off how smart I am (hahaha...if they *only* knew -- definitely one of those "fake it until you make it" instances, when it comes to me being overly smart). But really, it's not that at all. It's the communication of the thing that is important to me...the getting it *just* right.

I have some favorite words...heuristic, even though I have to re-look it up in the dictionary every so often to remind myself of what it actually does mean -- I'm still not sure I've got a good handle on it; prevaricate, because it's not quite lying, more stretching the truth like a fish story...followed closely by obfuscate; perspicacity, I used this once in an OER (Officer Evaluation Report) for one of my JOs and was talking to the Afloat Assignment Officer about it -- he suggested I might use another word for clarity's sake...oh, the *irony!*; mercurial, peckish, pulchritude, fissure, and squidgey.

I think my word-nerdiness started pretty early on. One of my favorite authors as a kid, and still really today, was James Herriott, who told stories about his life as a World War II era Yorkshire vet sharing a countryside practice, working with small farmers, townspeople and the occasional horsey member of the aristocracy. What eleven-year-old really should know what "sonorous" is? Most of the time reading his books, I could figure out the meaning of the word by the context of the story...but I think I actually had to look that one up. L. M. Montgomery also contributed to my vocabulary; Anne of Green Gables was awesome with big words!

And then there was "The Jabberwocky," by Lewis Carroll. I love that poem. I chose to memorize it junior year of high school instead of the Bible verses (yes, I did go to public school) being taught as literature. "Twas brillig and the slithy toves / Did gyre and gimble in the wabe. / All mimsy were the borogoves / And the mome wraths outgrabe." How fantastic is that?! It totally paints a picture using words that aren't real words.

So all this background only serves the purpose of setting the stage for describing a little bit of fun at the office. I think it tells *a lot* about the caliber of people I work with that I can honestly say that a "Word of the Day" game is cause for hilarity and morale. There's really two main players of this WOD game, me and EC, one of the other reviewers. We leave sticky notes on each other's laptops in the morning with our choice for the day written down. The challenge is to use the word (correctly, of course) in a conversation or other communique sometime during the day. We've had some great words: polemic, banausic, obdurate (though that one has been grossly overused recently), phthsis.

I'm pretty sure EC is winning. He's worked extirpate into a Digest to the Vice Commandant, routinely includes WODs in emails, and even got a Jabberwocky word (yes, I gave him a sticky note one morning that said, "WOD: A JABBERWOCKY WORD." I had intended he make up a word defined by its context, like my own personal favorite, squidgey, but his use was So. Much. Better.) into an email to our Captain. Who knew that a vorpal blade could be used against a programmatic initiative with the same effectiveness as against the Jabberwocky himself?! The absolute final, Final, *FINAL* bonus round will be if one of us gets a WOD into the FY14 Congressional Justification...EC said he's already got one planted, so as long as it doesn't get edited out between now and the mid-February release of the President's Budget, he's definitely gonna skunk me. There's always FY15 though!

Today drove home one of the most important lessons about words that I'll ever learn, but seem to have to keep banging up against before I really get it: big, fancy words strung sweetly together mean *absolutely nothing,* and can in fact be deleterious, if you don't pay attention to what your audience is actually hearing.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Abundance

So much for a post every other week or so. I'm slacking. At least on blogging. There's a lot been going on otherwise. I just can't write about it here for one reason or another...pre-decisional stuff related to the budget (*way* more drama than that boring ol' snippet of a sentence makes it sound), too personally inappropriate for the blog (you're wondering, based on my previous posts, what on earth falls into that category, but there is stuff I'm not willing to share here), or not my story to tell. It's been pretty stressful, taken all together.

But, again, when I take a step back and look at what is stressing me out, it all stems from the abundance of wonderful things in my life. My job is a high grade stressor. Long hours, complicated problems, high-stakes outcomes, delicate negotiations...but also smart, incredible people to work with, the opportunity to make a real difference for an organization that I believe in and that has given me so much, daily challenges and lessons to learn. I love my job. I mean, it's not underway, but if I have to be a sand-peep, this is the job I want. Even when it makes me tear my hair out.

I've had a couple of conversations about this with fellow reviewers. The general consensus is that, the work is shitty, the hours are long, the problems knotty and difficult, and the processes overly bureaucratic and opaque...but that just means that when something does get solved, fixed or changed for the better somehow, all that hard work is so very, very worth it.

At the same time work is so busy, there's other stuff going on in my life. I've been doing some updating in my house (yes, still). But that requires *being here* to let workmen in, or having to remember to leave the back door unlocked and the security key hidden somewhere that's easy to explain. On the grateful up-side, though, I came home on Friday, after a ridiculously demanding week at work, and stepped into a freshly cleaned *AIR-CONDITIONED* house! It was *glorious!* The new mini-split a/c system is so quiet and works so well. I kinda wish I could just go on Google maps, and cut out my little house and yard, and take it with me wherever I get transferred to next, because I really like my house and yard and garden. Oh, and the garden is overrun with cucumbers and basil. Thanks to my sister's cuke salad recipe, I have been known to eat an entire cucumber by myself for dinner. Peel the cuke, slice as thin as possible (I use a mandoline), squeeze half a lime (she uses lemon) over the cucumber slices spread out on a plate, and sprinkle to taste with salt and pepper. De-LISH!

Another little story about the house/garden frustration/abundance...a couple of weekends ago, I noticed that my new chest freezer (a recent, fantastic addition) had become unplugged. I had no idea how or for how long, but it was long enough that most of the stuff inside had thawed. AAAARRRRRGGHHH!!! So much for my quiet, lazy weekend. Instead I had to cook, cook, cook to make sure I didn't waste a lot of food. But I came out Monday morning with the freezer (plugged back in, of course, and humming away) freshly full of chicken mole and quinoa, corn bread muffins (I had frozen corn to use), and spinach, bacon, feta quiche. And last weekend, I continued my cooking frenzy and deposited homemade, personal-sized pizzas (pesto, mushrooms, anchovies, salami, garlic, mozzarella, eggplant and red sauce -- though not all on the same pizzas) and raspberry-rhubarb pie in the freezer for future consumption. How *on earth* could I complain about *that!?!*

And I won't bore you, and prompt an involuntary eye-roll with details of how sweet, and wonderful, and amazing, and...see, I tend to get a little carried away...fabulous the Rocket Scientist is; I'll simply leave it with the statement that I am *so ready* for him to come home. It is with a well-honed sense of irony that I will complain for a moment about how crappy it is that his job is keeping him so busy. Before he went on R&R, we would chat on Skype in his mornings/my evenings and his evenings/my afternoons (on the weekends, anyway), and I got used to that. But he stepped into a new position when he got back into theatre after R&R, and now he is working from about 6 am solid through until sometimes 11 pm and later. And I must footnote this comment with the recognition that at least (though much to his chagrin, I think) he's not going out on patrol, and is relatively safe within the confines of the FOB. So he's not getting shot at regularly, like so many of the troops are. But it is a low grade, kind of background noise, that wears on me--his being gone. Not for too much longer though.

So, while I might bitch, whine and complain about how tough things are for me, I do it with complete awareness that, in a twisted sort of way, I'm actually expressing my gratitude that my life is so very, very full of wonderful abundance. Really need to figure out how to just express the gratitude and *get over* the grumbling.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Operational or Support

I found myself in a few conversations this last week centered on how to define an operational unit. Well, the question being asked was actually how to define support, but it turned out in order to do that, we had to define what operational was. I had a couple of partners in crime during these discussions...my new office-mate, Master Chief Hooligan (should really ask his permission to talk about him before mentioning his name, hence the moniker), a Maritime Enforcement-type and CDR B, a Sector Prevention-type.

One point I stumbled on along the way was the importance of this definition. The XO had stopped in The Body Shop (colloquialism for my office), probably to task me or MC, and got sucked into the conversation briefly. I was going on about why we were talking about the definition of operational in the first place, and got a skeptical look when I said that at this point it was more a theological discussion. I started to backtrack a little, but quickly realized that it really *is* almost theological, more than philosophical. How we define operational within our organization is sacred. It is fundamental to the  daily function of the Service and is really a key component of the glue that cements together all our disparate missions. It is how a Boatswain's Mate working buoys on the Mississippi River near Kentucky can share a sense of purpose with a pilot patrolling for drug runners in the middle of the Eastern Pacific Ocean can share a sense of purpose with a Marine Inspector in Boston Harbor, climbing around the bilges in a commercial bulk carrier.

The discussion went in predictable directions, of course. We used the "Operational Distinguishing Device" litmus test...though that one had a few problems for me: how did I get an "O" for my time at the D14 Command Center, but my MKC and FS2 on MAUI didn't? Well, I mean, I know how that happened, and it definitely informed the discussion...as a ridiculous outlyer. It was two different commands, obviously. And if I had to go back and change it -- make it make more sense -- I'd give up the "O" device from the Command Center and give it to the MKC and FS2. But the argument against them receiving the device was that they provided a support function on the ship. Read: They didn't do boardings. They only ran the boat deck crane, responded as part of the repair party in case of an emergency, handled lines and ran the focs'le or fantail during Special Sea Detail...nothing *all that* "operational" (really hoping the sarcasm is coming through here). Hell, neither did *I* as the CO, but I still got another "O" for that tour. Does Command and Control make a job operational? Maybe so...maybe that's why I got the device at the Command Center. Really, with the CC, though, I was just the mouthpiece...no different from a phone talker, passing communications from the leadership on the bridge to the operators on the flight deck. And I am still offended on behalf of my MKC and FS2 that they were not considered operational.

I think that line of argument originally came from discussions on larger cutters, WHECs/378s, where it was called into question if the Storekeepers (SKs - supply clerks), Yeomen (YNs), Health Service Technicians (HSs - corpsmen) and probably Food Service Specialists (FSs - cooks) were really operational, or more of a support function for operations underway. Again, they (typically) were not doing boardings. But, at least when I was on HAMILTON and BOUTWELL, they were phone talkers, tie downs, and part of the repair locker for flight ops and general emergencies, line handlers and line heavers during underway replenishments, and quarterdeck watchstanders, with guns, ready to defend the ship in ports, foreign and domestic against any threat...sounds pretty operational to me. Just because nothing happened that they had to react to, doesn't mean they weren't ready to react (if that was the case, most folks at MSSTs likely wouldn't deserve "O" devices, since they are in place to react to possible threats...but do their job so well that those threats very rarely manifest. How do you prove a negative again?). Well, and then there's that whole thing of, I don't know, just *being underway,* away from family, home, normal life.

So, it's more than just the "O" device. MC Hooligan, in typical MC fashion, attempted to simplify the definition to an easily understandable quantity. He said, If you have the possibility of being cold and wet, in the middle of the night, you're operational. I added that there has to be a level of associated risk, maybe of not coming back unscathed. This, then encompasses Marine Inspectors, Vessel Boarding and Security Teams (VBSTs) and probably the entire Incident Management division at Sectors. Most Sectors (I won't risk saying *all* Sectors, because I've been told, "you've seen one Sector...you've seen one Sector (instead of "you've seen one Sector, you've seen them all")) have Response, Prevention and Logistics Departments. The Response and Prevention Departments are the operational side of things...boardings, inspections, pollution investigation and clean-up, all those good things where people are exposed to bad weather, risky situations, dangerous conditions. The Logistics Department supports those functions.

I'm almost ready to suggest an "Operational" point system...you get so many points for being in uncomfortable situations: cold and wet, hot, sweaty and dehydrating (think off the coast of Panama), dirty and grimy (scrambling through bilges and engineering spaces); so many points for being in life-threatening situations (climbing the jacobs ladder to do an off shore boarding, going onboard an unknown vessel of any kind); so many points for being away from home (underway for two months, two weeks or, hell, even two days, or on a 2 days on-2 days off schedule at a station); so many points for busting your circadian rhythm all to hell (mid-night SAR cases, offshore boardings by the VBST that started out scheduled for 2200, but that get pushed back 'til 0200 because the ship being boarding is running a little behind PIM (path of intended movement...when you expect to be where underway), and do I even have to give an example from being underway on a cutter?); so many points for every time you have to do a GAR model risk analysis during the course of your day (my record for a day underway was probably around 15); so many points for...you get the gist of it.

But all that really does is prove that "Operational" is a spectrum...different things add to a person's operational-ness, depending on the unit they're at, the type of job they are assigned to do, the collateral duties they have. Someone will *always* be able to find that outlying example that goes against the general rule/guidance.

And it's funny the stated, unstated and unstate-able biases we each brought to the table during the course of our discussions. In the end, as a Program Reviewer, I had to concede that Sectors are, in fact, operational. As a cutterman, I'm not sure I'll ever get there. Just like I'm not sure I'll ever understand the justification of ACIP (Aviation Career Incentive Pay...ugh, don't get me started). Or fatigue standards for boat stations. I will always honor and respect the importance and contributions of other career paths...while reveling in the knowledge that *I* have the **coolest** job as a cutterman :)

Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Easy Button

I took this past Tuesday off. I needed to register my car. Maryland's MVA is only open on weekdays between 8 am and 4:30 pm for vehicle registration. Hence, I needed to take the day off to register my car. Gotta tell the truth...didn't really mind the excuse for taking a day off. I'm sticking with my personal goal to take a day off in the middle of the week about every three or four weeks just to stay even moderately balanced with this job.

So the car was my excuse. Problem was, I didn't really *want* to register my car in Maryland. The Honey Bee (as my coworkers call it), a mellow yellow Mini Cooper, has Hawaii plates...you know, the ones with the rainbow on them. I've had people take pictures of the plates here in DC. So--*way* cooler to keep my Hawaii plates than to get boring, old Maryland ones. But my Hawaii plates had expired (umm, in April...I kinda wasn't paying attention), as had the inspection sticker. I checked Honolulu City & County's website for guidance on what to do, even looked for a phone number to call, but it was *absolutely* unhelpful.

I resigned myself to Maryland plates. Reluctantly. But a day off...that helped ease the disappointment.

The day started with a regular physical therapy appointment (shoulder's still bugging me). I headed up Rt 1 to the Beltsville MVA, hoping to find a Maryland inspection station along the way. I stopped at one, two, three, four, five, six...eight, ten stations! before finding one that could fit me in. The inspector wasn't there, wouldn't be in for another hour, hour and a half; they didn't have any appointments that day; they didn't do inspections anymore; their inspector was out at the MVA getting more inspection slips...was getting a little frustrated.

*Finally* I found a place that could do it within an hour, and as luck had it, there was a diner right next door. An inspection *and* breakfast (had been craving biscuits and gravy for days!)...now *that's* what I'm talking about. I finished up with breakfast and still had some time left, so popped across the street to the bike shop to pick up some new grips, a pair of paniers and a mounting system for my bike to make the 15-mile round trip commute to and from work on the bike a little more comfortable.

Got back to the inspection station, only to find that the Honey Bee had failed. What?! The car is only three years old, still under warranty...what on earth could be wrong? Well, the passenger side headlight was mis-aligned, staring down at the street too steeply, and the assembly was broken and couldn't be adjusted. The inspector suggested I have the dealership replace it.

The day just got complicated.

The dealership is down in Alexandria. I was in College Park. Only about 12 miles away...through DC traffic.

I resigned myself to an unplanned trip to Virginia. By the grace of the PTB, I was able to get a service appointment with the dealership enroute, and pulled right into the bay when I got there. And there I sat...for an hour and a quarter. To replace a g-d headlight assembly?! Yes, to replace a g-d headlight assembly. I tried breathing deeply. I tried reading a book, a magazine, a newspaper. But I was just getting *frustrated!* I could feel my day off slipping through my fingers, with the possibility dangling that I wouldn't even be able to get accomplished my single goal for the day.

Thankfully!! the Rocket Scientist was keeping me company on Skype IM, sending encouraging messages and distracting me from my downward spiral. The single saving grace at this point in my day.

Eventually they got my car done...after pointing out that I had a nail in one of my tires...did I need them to fix that? Replace the tire? Wash the car?...Is the tire flat? Well, no, it's a run-flat...Is it low on air? No, but it's leaking...No? Well, good. Give me the damn car back. I've *got* to get it registered today.

'Long about this point, I realized it might be best for *everyone* involved if I stopped at home and got a bite to eat for lunch. Besides, if I timed it right, I could Skype with the Rocket Scientist for a few moments before he went to sleep...which really is the best part of a day off right now.

I said good night to him, and headed back to the inspection station. Where the car passed, and I got my paperwork. Continued on to the MVA. Got cut off by some *jackass* who sped up to merge when a lane ended due to construction. Nearly traded paint with the sumbitch before I realized he didn't give a *damn* if he scratched up his p.o.s. car, while the Honey Bee is much better loved than that. I blinked first, honked in disgust, and got flipped off for my troubles.

And started breathing deeply again, to remind myself that I truly am blessed. I have a nice car. I have a good job. I have a sweet little home. I have a family and friends that love me. I have free time, an education, options, hobbies and interests, good health, opportunities...so many things that lots of other people don't have. Deep breath. Don't sabotage the day with negativity. Deep breath.The day will be fine if you let it.

I resolved to maintain my calm at the MVA, no matter what, no matter how long I had to wait.

So I waited. Online, projected wait times were listed at less than 40 minutes.

I resigned myself to settling in for a wait. 40 minutes came and went for me. 50 minutes came and went. An hour. An hour and fifteen minutes...and finally my number was called. I took my paperwork to the counter, smiled serenely at the clerk and stood by patiently to answer any of her questions. Did I ever have a Maryland driver's license? Yes, a really long time ago and I registered my motorcycle in Maryland about a year ago, so I should have an ID number already in the system. Why didn't I have a Maryland license? Because I'm active duty military, and my Hawaii license is still good, so I didn't need to get a Maryland license.

She goes off to check the blue book value of the car, and comes back to tell me that I have to pay a six percent excise tax on the market value of the car in order to register it. I do some quick math in my head...well, my brain doesn't work that quickly, but it seemed like an awfully high number, so I broke out my phone and used the calculator. And nearly choked when I saw that they wanted me to pay over $1150 to register my car. OUT OF THEIR *FREAKING* MINDS!!

Long and short of it was: when I registered my motorcycle in Maryland (which I did not have the option of registering in Hawaii, since the bike had never *been* there...actually, I need to look into that again), that was a declaration to the state that I was establishing my residency there. Since I established my residency at that time, I had two months after that to register my car there without being subject to the six percent excise tax. Regardless of the fact that I'm active duty military. Regardless of the fact that I pay taxes in Hawaii and am a resident of Hawaii. Regardless of the fact that, damn it, I'm a good person, not a slacker trying to game the system...Ok, I think I might have lost my cool there for a bit while talking to the supervisor. He finally recommended I bring a copy of my transfer orders back in to the DMV so they could verify that I had orders into the state within the last year.

I made it out to the parking lot and the safety of the Honey Bee before the tears of frustration started leaking out of my eyes. I called my sister and asked how, HOW, *HOW* to deal with this level of frustration without giving up, getting negative and being absolutely *pissy* about the indignity of the bureaucracy? Sadly, she had no zen-inspired answer for me.

But during our conversation, I resolved myself to make more of an attempt to figure out how to keep my Hawaii registration. Taking advantage of the six hour time difference with Hawaii that I normally curse, I would find a phone number, work my way through the phone system, leave a message, find the information, and figure out how to renew my registration so I didn't have to pay Maryland a single, g-d *dime!*

I calmed down enough to drive home. And when I got there, I searched the Honolulu City & County website, found a likely phone number, and somewhat skeptically, called it. A very nice wahine answered. On the first ring. I explained my quandary. She very helpfully gave me another number to call, which I promptly did. And another very kind wahine answered. On the first ring. I explained my dilemma again. She told me where to go on the website for the two forms I needed, told me how much my registration bill was and gave me the mailing address to which to send all the paperwork. I nearly wept with relief and thanked her sincerely.

At some point during the abject frustration of the day, I texted to the Rocket Scientist, "There is no easy button," suggesting that I was okay with and fairly used to a certain level of resistance from the universe in getting things done. What I didn't realize until my phone calls with those two helpful souls halfway across the Pacific, was that sometimes, just sometimes, the easy button comes from listening to what the universe is trying to tell you. I didn't *want* to register my car in Maryland, and by forcing it, I ran into all kinds of resistance...at *every* turn, it felt like. But when I went to do what I wanted to do in the first place, the easy button kicked in, and the resistance disappeared. There's a bigger lesson in that, somewhere.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

A Sense of Urgency

I ran my first half-marathon this past weekend. It was a trail run, and a little muddy, so maybe a little more challenging than a regular road-race half-marathon...but I might only be telling myself that because my performance was [shame-facedly] pathetic. I finished. That's about as far as I'm willing to go with "bragging" about how I did.

Over the course of the 13.1 miles, though, I did think about a lot of stuff. What was for lunch (turned out to be a gatorade, bag of potato chips and a Mounds candy bar, post race). Whether, at mile 7.5 going steeply down hill, it was the seven years on ships, four of them on patrol boats, that had destroyed my knees to the point that I had to step to the side of the trail, bend forward and want to cry because going down hurt so freaking bad. Or was it just bad knees? Or complete lack of training (I'm going to use this excuse, because it's the only one I can control in the future)? And why the *hell* it felt like someone was bashing my calves with a baseball bat to make them cramp up and spasm so much? Guess I should have had that gatorade pre-race instead of post-race. It was about at that point that I started walking.

But I also thought about how my sense of urgency for things has changed since I left the operational fleet. I actually find myself asking the question, is anybody gonna *die* if I don't turn in this [report,  white paper, digest, panel, Q response, talking points] within the next 10 minutes like I'm supposed to? If the answer is "no," I absolutely will still try to get it in on time, but will take the extra 15 minutes I might need to make sure it is a worthy product. Because, underway, the "is someone gonna die?" question is completely legitimate. Sometimes, underway, any action is better than no action. If no action is taken, ships could collide, helicopters could run out of gas while still a long ways off from the closest flight deck, lines could part with such force as to break bones, and lookouts could miss spotting that survivor treading water with only their melon of a head sticking out to be seen. Sometimes the action I've taken might not have been exactly the right thing to do, but it was far better than doing nothing.

One of my favorite quotes is the bastardization of Voltaire's original, "don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good." Exactly! Sometimes, good enough is just that!

And I also thought about how tactical decisions are different than strategic decisions (I swear, I'm not making this up...this really is what I thought about while I was running. It was a long race. At least for me.). Tactical decisions are finite...or maybe better said, there is a definable span to their execution.
They are bound-able. They have a beginning and an end. Go-fast chases are over when the bad guys are caught; hopefully, search and rescue cases are over when the PIW is found, or they're over when ACTSUS is granted; boat detail is over when the boat is recovered, griped down and all gear stowed.

Strategic decisions are...different (I shared my brilliant insight with the Rocket Scientist, not realizing at the time that he teaches strategic planning in war-gaming scenarios when he's stateside. His response, "of course it is."). But despite the recognition that strategic decision-making is different than tactical decision-making, I'm still stuck with the inclination to understand how the difference affects my ability, as well as a collective's ability, to make, defend, execute, message, recover from and generally live with each type.

So strategic decisions are harder because there typically isn't a need to make them *RIGHT NOW!* like with tactical decisions. I've been thinking for months that I need to figure out how to cool my house this summer because I don't have central a/c, don't like window units, and am actually going to be in Maryland for the heat and humidity this year. For *months!* I've been thinking about this. Finally, last week, I started doing some market research, learned about high-velocity and mini-split systems, looked up some companies...all the strategic stuff related to solving my house's cooling problem. Once the process got tactical, things got easier. A list of companies, phone numbers to call, estimates to schedule. Much more clearly defined and tangible. And you know what I found out today when the first estimator came out to the house...because of my lame ass procrastination to make a decision, the earliest this company can do the install is six to eight weeks...the middle to end of JULY!! Um, silly Girl...summer is well on its way to being half over by then.

Of course, I'll still go ahead and have the system installed as soon as the company can do it...and call it strategic planning for next summer. That's called "messaging" in my world of work.

Another thing about strategic decisions -- they typically require major process evaluation and potential change. Long-range planning without looking at the underlying process is just an extended tactical view. Good strategy involves thorough understanding of tactics: how things are done, why they're done that way and an assessment of whether there is a better way to do them. I called my sister today, about mid-day. Nothing bad was happening (well, except maybe my attitude). But nothing good was going on either. I was just feeling Put Upon. Weight of the world on my shoulders kind of thing...juggling multiple seven-figure issues, schedule crunches, trying to be in two--hell, four places at once, doing six things at a time. Had to leave work early (or at least early for this office...still put in an eight-hour day) to get home to meet the a/c estimator. Lower priority events fell off the plate.

This really is all relevant: how things are done  -- I push myself, try to do too much at times, take on more than I really should; why they're done that way -- it's just my nature, I guess, don't know what the hell I'm trying to prove; a better way to do them -- quit making lists of all the crap I feel like I need to do...hire someone else to clean the house. And paint the house. And tile the floors. And install the a/c. In other words, prioritize better. Recognize, accept and move on from the fact that I can't do it all *and* I don't have to.

And this really is all relevant to work. Like critically, desperately relevant. Budget cuts don't ease the difficulty of strategic decisions. Less money means strategic decisions are so much more important (critically), but ridiculously (desperately) more difficult to actually make.

Welcome to my world. At least I'm not sore from the race anymore.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Other Side of a Deployment

"Now set the Special Sea Detail, set the Special Sea Detail."

"Now all visitors lay ashore."

"Fantail. Conn. Strike the brow."

"Now, stand clear of all mooring lines while the OOD rocks the shafts."

"Foc'sle. Conn. Take in Line One."

(one prolonged blast)

"Focsle, Fantail. Conn. Strike all lines below."

"Now, secure from Special Sea Detail. Set the at-sea watch, 0800 to 1200s on deck."

That's how most all of my deployments have started. Or at least that's the simplified version...god knows, there's a lot of other steps before and in between all those. But I'm the one standing on the bridge wing waving briefly at friends and family land-bound on shore, smack in the middle of all the excitement, chomping at the bit to go off and do great things for our nation, have grand adventures out in harm's way...

...not the one left behind to continue on with my daily routine, to muddle through bills and chores, waiting for messages, calls or emails. Trepidatiously listening to the radio for news of explosions, suicide bombers, coordinated attacks half-a-world away. Trying my damndest not to count the days until the deployment is over, and the Rocket Scientist is on his way home.

It's a different view of the world.

Sure, I'll get wrapped up in budgetary drama, program mischief and personnel foibles, and forget for a little while that he is far, far away, in very close proximity to people who want him and all his compatriots dead, dead, dead. There's always dinner, or lunch, or a snack to think about. A to-do list calling my name and enticing me to plan how to get it all done most efficiently...I still haven't gotten a replacement battery for The Old Man. Maybe I can get one at the local auto parts store, or do I need to go to the dealership? Really need to do that if I want to ride again anytime soon. Hopefully, it's just a dead battery, and not something more serious like a starter problem...but when I do get the bike fixed, I'll head out for a ride, doesn't matter where or how far. I mean, I know it won't be as long or as fun as the one the Rocket Scientist and I are gonna take when he gets back...and there I go again, wondering how he's doing, mixed with a low-grade level of worry that he's okay.

And that's how I expect it will go for the next three or four months. Thankfully, his deployment is not constrained by limited bandwidth or severe operational demands that preclude his regular access to the internet. Somehow he's allowed, omg, *Facebook* on his work computer, and wireless in his office which means he can take his tablet with him, and we can Skype throughout the day.  The constant and readily accessible communications mean that we get to continue our re-acquaintance despite the distance...which wouldn't necessarily be the case if I was underway. If I was the one who was deployed,  we'd be restricted to emails throughout the day and the occasional phone conversation during a port call, maybe a Skype call if I was lucky enough to find a hotel room with wi-fi.

Though even with that, communications are a lot easier now than when I was going out on my first deployments on BOUTWELL. Underway connectivity has come a long way in the last twelve years. No more TCs printing out hard copies of messages from the morale email account, and leaving them, folded in half to peek out of a mailbox accessible to anybody on the boat.

So things could be worse. But this other side of a deployment requires a different kind of strength, faith and ability to mentally compartmentalize than I realized. By strength, I mean the personal strength to not let the low-grade worries spiral out of control into a crippling angst that denies me the ability to go through days by myself. Faith...faith in this nascent but overdue and *exactly right* relationship that it can withstand the demands of time, distance and communication frustrations (like when the internet connection is bad on his end because he's on the same network as 600 other soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines all trying to talk to their sweeties waiting at home and the audio of our conversation gets all garbled and warped so that I can't understand a word he's saying and have to ask him to repeat himself half a dozen times before I realize he's asked me how dinner was...for example). And the ability to mentally compartmentalize the worries and fears away, separate from everyday stuff so that I can carry on a decent conversation with him without badgering him about conditions on the ground, when he's coming home, what the bad guys are doing, or if he's safe.

And, as I sit here in my backyard, feeding a companionable little fire piece by piece of the brush from the pile that needs to go away, watching the first fireflies of the season (at least the first to me...I haven't been out in the backyard at this time of the evening for about three weeks) wink on and off, I realize that my discomfit is not simply worry for the Rocket Scientist's safety. I just plain miss him. I would like to share my evening with him, listen to him laugh, talk story and relax together into an easy comfortable place like we did while he was on R&R.

I didn't know about all that before. "Life is either a daring adventure or nothing." I'm going with daring adventure...as usual :)

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Juggling Priorities

It's not that I haven't *wanted* to write a blog post. I've got about a dozen ideas for posts rattling around in my little pea brain. None of them are particularly well fleshed-out though. Which shouldn't be surprising to me (but somehow is), given that the fleshing out doesn't usually happen until I'm halfway through writing the actual post. So, I guess I've been using that as an excuse.

Or, rather, I should say one of a few excuses so that I don't feel bad simply about not making the blog a priority where it belongs, up there with all the other *must-do* priorities I have right now. Needless to say, I haven't been doing a good job of managing my time, with the ramp up of time at work to about 60 hours a week.

I realized about half-way through last week that I was getting more sleep on KISKA, even when XO and I were port and starboard, standing six hours on/six hours off of watch, than I have been lately. But getting home at 7 pm, finding dinner, and getting everything ready for the next day, which kicks off a short time later, at 5 am, doesn't leave much time for oh, much of anything, never mind sleep.

Lots of things have suffered. I finally got around to cleaning the house yesterday. The dust bunnies I vacuumed up from underneath the bed had very nearly morphed into dust elephants. And thankfully, I was able to clean up the brush pile in the back yard before the city started charging me a $10/day fine for encouraging pests. And then there are the things I'm just not willing to let suffer...daily workouts (though I have started biking to work...call it multi-tasking) and reacquaintancing conversations, even if both cut into sleep. I've said it before -- I'll sleep when I'm dead.

Last week was particularly bad. There were a couple of largish projects due that I just didn't have any idea for the best way to proceed. I asked other people in the office how they were going about completing their portions of one specific tasker, and got some good advice. Nevertheless, I found myself procrastinating until the absolute last minute, and then staying until 7:30 pm to get the information together. Interestingly, once I actually sat down to add my contribution, I found that it didn't take me as long as I had expected. I think I got stuck in my own linearity...the first item on the list of things for which I was supposed to be providing analysis had me completely stumped. I never bothered to look beyond that first item to see if any of the other topics might have been easier. Someone else took over that first item, and I soared through the rest of the stuff. There's a lesson somewhere in that.

Once I got done with that project, I took another hour to clean up my email inbox. Good *lord* but do we get an insane amount of emails through that office. I've been gone from my desk for an hour long meeting, to come back to a couple dozen emails or more. Some are spam, some are FYSA (pronounced fye-sah, means "for your situational awareness"), some are taskers. Somehow the FYSA ones take more time than I think they should...one of the things I'm learning in this job is that the Big Picture matters. That random FYSA email talking about the House budget proposal actually does have relevance to what I do.

Which brings me to think about why this job is such a time suck right now for me, when things are supposed to be relatively mellow ("relative" being the operative term. I've heard things get quite a bit busier with longer hours in another month or so when we start getting into negotiations with the Department about our FY14 budget.). None of any of the issues I'm dealing with are particularly difficult by themselves. Some are very technical (oof, the things I'm learning about FTE, FTP, PPAs, CIFPs, and all the details of how they are reported in the budget), but none of them is rocket science (I actually know a rocket scientist, and he *is* wicked smart, so it always makes me smile to use that analogy.). They're just tedious and intricate and oh, yeah, *important.* And inter-related.

That's where I'm having the troubles. I'm still green enough with personnel issues that I've got an almost debilitating case of not knowing what I don't know. I'll ask a question, expecting to understand, and be able to bound the answer, but instead find that the answer just opens up a whole 'nother can of worms that I have to untangle and identify. I wish I could share a good example, but I have to leave this in very general terms. And then I'll ask another question about another topic, and find that it relates to the first one. I feel like I'm studying a road map, but missing all the intersections because I don't know what half the streets look like.

I know it will all come together with time and the experience which I am slowly gaining. I just have to hope it happens quickly enough so that there's not a major collision between issues I don't even know are issues.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

A Good Job

Only been in the job for two months and things have already changed. Sounds pretty typical for the Coast Guard. I'm switching accounts from stuff in the Capabilities world to stuff in the Personnel accounts. I think the XO is trying to level out responsibilities for a little more parity between the Reviewers. The current Reviewer for the Personnel accounts has a bunch of other stuff she's responsible for, all of which seems to come due at the same time, so she gets absolutely swamped at certain points in the budget cycle. It'll be a slow-ish relief process as we trade duties, but we've got the time since we're both in the office, just switching desks.

There's a couple of really cool things about taking over the new accounts. I'll learn more about pay, health care, hiring, the civilian work force, reserves, personnel policy in general (think hazing, equal opportunity, harassment, all that), promotions, insourcing, boards, bonuses, housing...than I probably ever wanted to know. I got in to some personnel issues as XO and CO, but this is a *whole* 'nother level. I might actually end up understanding the officer promotion process, which is almost completely opaque to me right now. Zones, year groups, deep selection, passed over, reordering...I know the words, but have no sense of how they get put together to make a workable system.

Also, personnel are involved in *everything!* The service wouldn't exist without its people. Programs are made up of people. Take the people away, and nothing gets done (well, except for CGBI (Coast Guard Business Intelligence)--I think there might be metrics in there that are completely automated.). So if I wanted a job that has the potential to have a major impact on the service, well, I've got it now.
I was talking to the most senior Personnel Reviewer earlier this week. He's getting ready to leave, transferring to Air Station Barbers Point (lucky buggah!!). So I've been trying to pick his brain as much as possible before he leaves. It was actually kind of funny. I went to him about two weeks ago about an issue with civilian employees, and he started going into all these *incredibly* technical budget processes with ease and confidence. I left his cubicle with my head spinning, thinking, omg, not only does he sound like such an expert, it's all so complicated, how the hell does he keep it all straight?! and thank gawd!! he's around with all that knowledge so I don't have to figure it out on my own. Haha...joke's on me...now I've got to learn it.

So anyway, I was talking with him, getting a brain dump about an insourcing issue, which is a good topic for getting into a lot of the technicalities. We broke out the FY13 CJ (Congressional Justification) to look at the FTP (full-time personnel) waterfall (stick with me here) and how technical adjustments correct previous years' vapor creates and go on-budget for mil-civ (military-civilian) conversions which straighten out the funding between PPAs (program, project and activity)...aaauughhghggghhhh!! **STOP!!** My brain hurts! I found myself fervently muttering to myself, "please don't let me ef this up, please don't let me ef this up."

One thing he said stuck out to me though. I don't remember exactly what he was talking about, it might have been the technical adjustment table, but he said it's one thing that no one else cares about. The Budget Coordinators don't really pay attention to it, it's not important to the Reviewers. The Personnel Reviewer is the only one who keeps track of it and makes sure it's correct.

Which made me wonder, if no one cares about it, why is it important to make sure it's right? Nobody pays attention to it, probably nobody even ever looks at it. So why all the freaking hassle and gyrations to make sure it's accurate, especially because it changes damn near daily? I know the colloquial definition of integrity is "doing the right thing even when no one is watching." But what about when no one even cares?

I say in my Philosophy, "...a job worth doing is worth doing to the best of my ability. At the end of my tour, I intend to look back and be able to honestly tell myself that I faced every task and challenge to the best of my ability. This is the only way the sacrifices I have made will have been worthwhile." I think what I meant by doing a good job in that sense was based on how it might impact other people. If I was lazy or slack or just didn't give a shit, someone else had to cover for me, whether it was my XO, my guys, my shipmates on another ship, the shoreside maintenance guys or other support folks...somebody still had to do the job to make sure things continued on smoothly. And pawning off responsibility like that is just *lame.*

Maybe there's some staff member somewhere, either in the Department, the Administration or on the Hill that might look at that table...and throw a fit if it doesn't jive with what we say somewhere else, and make lots of other people's lives miserable trying to figure out what the discrepancies are. Or maybe if it's not right this year, it might not be an issue, but it snowballs and becomes a nightmare in another couple of years for someone else to fix.

And then there's the fact that I'm just not sure I could let details that are well within my control and the scope of my responsibility to slide just because of a perceived lack of importance or visibility. It sort of offends my sense of rightness in the world. I prefer to add order and goodness, be a calming effect instead of offering chaos and bedlam. There is most definitely a time and a place for mayhem, shaking up the status quo, rocking the boat, you might say, but I don't think technical budget tables are quite the right forum. For some reason, it feels like being absolutely proficient with the technicalities provides much greater credibility for being able to offer out of the box thinking and creative solutions.

So I've convinced myself yet again that doing a good job for a good job's sake is the way to go.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Command Swagger v. Murphy-style Smack-down

I'm on the fence again about whether I still have anything to say in this forum. A lot of what I want to talk about, I can't for any number of reasons. Sensitive budget information, easily identifiable characteristics of involved individuals, predecisional (I didn't even know what that word *meant* until two months ago!) discussions about specific programs...all are making it kinda tough to tell stories and figure out how it all fits into the bigger, grander picture. 

But what good is a challenge without a little bit of something to overcome? The blogging will continue until morale improves? (snicker)

I am a firm believer in balance. Whether it's work-play, sweet-salty, tree pose or light-dark, both sides of the coin are needed to make a whole piece. The balance that has me stymied right now is the one between self-confidence and humility. My reflex reaction to this spectrum is that I have a lot more experience with humility than self-confidence. Gawd knows, it feels like anytime I get a bit too cocky about something -- my driving skills (cussing another driver for doing something stupid), my professional abilities (thinking I know the whole story), my interpersonal suavity (haha, I actually typed that with a straight face) -- karma, life, Murphy, call it what you will, comes along and smacks some humility back into my little pea brain, usually with, well...humiliating force. So I feel like I'm well-versed in the modesty side of the equation.

But in the last month or so, I've had some conversations with a couple of people who knew me "back in the day." Like, seriously, back in the day...high school and undergrad days. I feel like I was a *mess* then; no sense of who I was, fumbling through each day hoping the next one would get a little easier, second-guessing every word out of my mouth and every gesture, conscious and unconscious. You know, the usual teenage shit. What's funny though is in these conversations both people said they noticed my self-confidence. "One thing that struck me immediately all [those] moons ago in the [Berea College] library - u have a lot more self-confidence 'than other girls.'" (obviously a text conversation) and (thank goodness for FB message archives):

Fellow Farm Worker: "That means you know what you are doing! You always did too back in the day."
Me: "Lynn was a good teacher."
FFW: "I know you to be a hard worker. A plus."
Me: "There is that...but there's also a lot of faking it. At least when it comes to looking like I know what I'm doing."
FFW: "Well, you fooled me."
Me: "Fooled lotsa people, that's what makes me laugh about it."
FFW: "But you always seemed to know what the heck you were doing..."

Really?!? Seriously?! BahahaHAHAahahaa!!

It is reinforced to me nearly every day how much that farm taught me about, hell, damn near everything...self-confidence, customer service, work ethic, follow through, attention to detail, so many of the things that I count as a core skill. Off-topic, but I don't think I say thank you enough to the people there, never mind tell them how grateful I am that I have gotten to re-experience the farm as a growed-up (or at least as close a proximity of a growed-up as I will ever be). It is *so cool* to go back there and see the basics I learned nearly 25 years ago are still taught and still work.

I remember going to PCO (Prospective Commanding Officers) School as a PCO for the first time before I went to Bahrain...so early 2008...and having one of the other students in the class comment on my "command swagger." I think that too had to do with acting like I knew what I was doing. 

Now that we've established that I really don't know what I'm doing, and most times it's all an act (which I've written about before), what does all that have to do with my situation now? Well, most all the other Reviewers and Budget Coordinators I've talked to about our job say basically the same thing...none of us know exactly how this job is supposed to go, what we're supposed to be doing or the best way to get it done. In a way that's very comforting, to know I'm not the only one who is just kind of stumbling through each day, hoping I'm getting it right. 

One part of this not-knowing-exactly-what's-going-on feeling that is finally starting to sink in with me is that if I think something needs to be done -- it probably *does* and I should just go ahead and do it before a) someone else tells me to do it or b) it doesn't get done because no one else notices it needs attention. But that's not the only part that's kind of weird. It's also that it's part of my job to be proactive. Shoot, no, that's not right...Is it that I have enough of a sense of things (from experience, smarts, or just common sense?) to recognize when something is going to be an issue? Maybe so, and maybe that's weird because the knowing it needs attention, combined with the autonomy to do what needs to be done without having to ask for permission every time...wow, that's just a different kind of job. And it requires a certain amount of ego-based self-possession and motivation to be that kind of proactive.

Yeah, so that's where the balance comes in. I saw a former CO at HQ a few weeks ago for the first time in a while. He knows what office I'm in and cautioned me to "not get caught up in the mystique of the job." Fantastically excellent advice. Because the self-confidence the job absolutely demands must be tempered with the humility to keep it all in perspective...lest Murphy (likely in the guise of an ADM or CAPT or XO) come along with a powerful smack-down.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Loyalty

My faithful reader, Azulao asked me to ponder loyalty in a comment a few weeks ago. So here I ponder...

I have worked for bosses before that I felt disloyal to for whatever reason. Different leadership styles, different personalities, perspectives, whatever, have made it difficult to work for them. So this is not my first time toeing a line which I would rather draw another way. And certainly, these days, I'm still living it on a daily basis. There is an issue being debated right now that goes to the very core of one of my hard-learned, deeply-rooted institutional beliefs. Do we pay for it or not? Every atom of every molecule of every cell of every muscle and organ and bone in my body screams, yes, we ABSOLUTELY *MUST* pay for it. But the Boss has a different priority. 

Gulp. 

"Aye, aye, sir."

And back I go to the drawing board for a stronger argument to use next time.

I think a lot of loyalty issues, both in my world and in academia, come down to altitude (tee hee...sorry). Or put another way by Chris McGoff in The Primes, "Big Hat-Little Hat." The Big Hat is worn by the Boss, looking at things from a 3,000 foot level (warning: I suck at aviation metaphors, so my apologies if I get the numbers wrong...you should get the point anyway). The Little Hat is worn by the individual projects/programs/departments, looking at things from, if not the flight deck, than at least a low hover (see, better if we include a shipboard reference). Detail versus big picture; scope versus intricacy. Neither one is wrong or right, just different. And both have their necessary place.

Amusingly, I have an anecdote on nearly this very issue from today. I was in a meeting (shocker), trying to lead a couple of programs to the trough of shared responsibility. I think I even got them to drink...after pushing their heads into the water and forcing their lips open, figuratively speaking (seriously though, did we have to go Slide.By.Slide to make a decision?). But as the thirst for resolution to a common problem was slaked, one of the program reps decided to make a snarky remark about being forced to share the trough with yet a third program. Now I always know at least a second or two beforehand, when I'm gonna to say something I'm likely to, if not regret, at least wonder what the hell made me say it out loud. I got that feeling, and then said, "Sir, one team, one fight...we're all on the same side here." There was a moment of awkward silence from the other O4s and O5s in the room, and then the conversation moved on. But *really,* we (collectively, me included) spend too much time hidebound in our own opinions and tiny little worlds. I think there's another entire post on this little concept of being stuck in our comfort zone...but I'll leave it for another time.

But referring back to The Primes, I'll quote Chris's recommendation (pg 145-146 in my 2011 version published by Victory Publishers, NYC, NY):
"1. It's a right-versus-right dilemma, as opposed to right-versus-wrong.
2. The implicit dichotomy of this PRIME can't be eliminated, only managed.
3. People need to be clear about which hat they're wearing when they speak.
4. It's fair to advocate for your LITTLE HAT but not to the detriment of the whole."
I think that there is a major difference between the military, especially the Coast Guard and the academic world. That is, the CG has a well-defined, concrete goal...whichever mission an individual joined to be a part of, search and rescue, law enforcement, national security, environmental protection...all we Coasties have a common goal. One Team, One Fight. 

I'm not sure the same can really be said of academia. What really is the goal of Universities? Is it teaching the students? The research being done? The prestige/reputation of the institution? Pleasing alumni with a popular sports program? Without that baseline commonality, people's interest diverge quickly and divisively into little kingdoms of influence which continually battle over the same resources.

A, I have no idea if I even came close to what you were talking about. I think it comes down to the fact that you have to believe in something to be loyal to it.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

A Very Good Day

I had A Very Good Day. It started with this morning's run (well, it actually started with a *looong* overdue conversation last night, but that...that story's just for the conversation's participants right now). I spent the entire drive in debating whether I should do the easy thing, and run on the treadmill, or take a chance, dare do something new and find my way outside to run along the waterfront. It looked like it would be warm enough and light enough to run outside. But I hadn't looked at a map of where to go, just had a general idea of where might offer a good trail. And oddly enough, I was a little intimidated by the idea of how the badge/building security thing worked going out the loading dock door. I decided that was a *lame* excuse for not taking advantage of light and temperate conditions. The guard looked a little annoyed at my uninformed fumblings, but I made my way out with minimal difficulties.

It was still pretty dark when I left the building, with the eastern sky barely shifting to deep purple. It occurred to me somewhere about half-way up 2nd St, that this really wasn't the best neighborhood and it probably wasn't the smartest thing I've ever done to be running in the barely-light by myself. I'll carry my knife next time. The waterfront was deserted, and the fish market quiet. I hung a left under the bridges, and took the path around to the Jefferson Memorial.

I haven't spent nearly enough time out in the history of this city, so I was gleefully delighted to find myself in the midst of three beautiful memorials on the banks of the Tidal Basin this morning. I paused for a moment to appreciate Jefferson, silhouetted against the sky streaked with the early pink and gold of dawn. Then I made my way, backwards through the FDR Memorial, so I saw Eleanor first in the "Fourth Term" section, then FDR in his wheelchair, and the fountain. I loved the weathered patina of this memorial. A little further on was the Martin Luther King, Jr Memorial, which I slowed to walk through because there were signs that said no running. And I wouldn't have wanted to run anyway...I would have missed the inspiring quotes along the marble sides that built to the mountain of despair, from which the stone of hope had separated.

As cheesy as it sounds, I walked out of that space refreshed and, (ugh, really?) rejuvenated.

The whole run was a good reminder that sometimes (lotsa times, I think -- many more than we usually realize), it's better just to dare.

The day in the office passed with a smile on my face. I even think I did a decent job on an analysis of a proposed initiative (though not without significant input from discussions with my sponsor and office-mate (two separate people) and the XO). And there was cake...from a birthday celebration for a couple of the ladies across the hall.

The only minor frustration with the day was leaving...lots of other folks in the office had huge worklists for a meeting planned for tomorrow afternoon. And as much as I wanted to and offered to help, there was really no way for me to usefully contribute. I finally decided the best way I could add to the effort was to get out of everybody's hair and go home...That made more sense when I said it to myself. Now it just sounds like a pathetic excuse to leave.

But, all in all, A Very Good Day.