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.