Friday, July 30, 2010

My Nearsighted Life

It's not just my eyes; I think my whole brain is nearsighted. When we got here, we complained loudly about not being able to find the commissary, not realizing it was two minutes from the house. Now, after being here most of seven months, and driving twenty minutes through downtown Monterey to get to Lover's Point every time I wanted some sand and sun, I was tipped off by the neighbors about Fort Ord Dunes State Park. I went to check it out this morning, and it's pretty awesome. Oh, and it's just five minutes from the house.

I had to drive through the ruins of Fort Ord to get there. Something about those buildings make them creepy even in broad daylight. It must be all the overgrown bushes, graffiti, boarded-up doors and broken windows. Just when you think you're hopelessly lost, there are signs posted pointing the way to the park. Not a very picturesque drive, but the beach itself makes up for it.

If Lover's Point is the pretty little beach for moms and kids, Ford Ord Dunes is the he-man beach with sand cliffs, canyons, and roaring waves. I definitely classify it as a "shoes on" beach, just because of all the crap that washes ashore, mostly seaweed tangles and copious quantities of deceased crustaceans. But it does yield a greater quantity of shells for picking, and even more exciting, sand dollars! Finally, after years of wishful thinking, I've finally acquired a sand dollar that has never seen the inside of a tourist souvenir shop. It's a little small, and a little dirty, but I don't care. There were also a few more unorthodox finds today, such as a child's plastic pail and shovel, some of the usual offensive garbage, and . . . broccoli. I'm guessing a seagull made off with someone's health-conscious picnic lunch.

The best part about it by far is that the beaches go on for miles in both directions, and almost NOBODY bothers to go out there. For a few hours, I was the only person on earth. I brought Dave out to see it this evening; there were more cars (three) but it was just as deserted as before. Just us and one solitary otter just offshore, riding the waves and beating a clam.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Beach Bum

I really do like visiting the beaches around here, but I have to say the appeal of being there alone is fading. At first it was practically a religious retreat, but now I once again have the desire to socialize. But, while all my friends and family are still far away, I have a new reason to frequent the shoreline.

All these pitifully ugly military houses have a few flower beds for their occupants to play with. Most of them understandably go untended, probably because the transitory residents have many better things to do than worry about the curb appeal of the shanty they're borrowing from the government. I hate ugliness, but I'm not sure I could grow anything in the sandy soil out here if I tried. And if it sprouted, the gophers would dig it up. I considered making them rock beds, but oddly enough rocks cost money. I have heard that poverty breeds resourcefulness, and my latest brilliant idea is to make them shell beds. After all, I seem to be visiting the beach several times a week.

The beaches I've seen don't yield much in the way of the big shells you want to take pictures of and write home about. The rocky ones, however, have large populations of those little sea mussels, and there are broken bits of shell everywhere. Even whole half shells are practically common as dirt; purple, black and white on the outside, pearly on the inside. I still think they're pretty, but after a while they're unremarkable. In any case, they would make our weed beds more attractive. The trouble arises when it seems the other visitors notice that I'm not there for the scenery, but rather that I'm walking up and down combing the sand for large quantities of worthless shells that all look alike and putting them in baggies.

But who cares what the neighbors say? I have a considerable collection already for one day's efforts. Dave thinks I should put some design into our shell bed, that it will look haphazard and chaotic without some creative effort. I think picking each individual one out of the sand and carrying them home is effort enough.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Local Wildlife

The beach trip yesterday was probably the most fun I've had by myself since I arrived on this coast. Dave's a great guy who can be lots of fun in his own way, but he always gets bored and tired at the beach. Besides, he doesn't like precarious places, and I was running around all over rocks and cliffs and overhangs having a grand old time. That distinctive salty beach smell always reminds me of being a kid on vacation in Florida. These beaches aren't nearly as big as Florida beaches, but they are more interesting with all the rocks lying around.

The stale bread was quite a hit with the locals. The gulls were a bit standoffish and grabby, very territorial. The little black birds were just trying to get a crumb in edgewise. Eventually I looked down, and one of the squirrels from the rock pile was right by my foot, waiting for his share. I gave him a decent piece, which he took right from my hand, and then ran off before the gulls could notice.

I moved from the beach to the rock pile because the squirrels seemed like more fun and the gulls had already had quite enough. The older squirrels were the soul of politeness. I got some pictures on my phone, but of course I have no idea how to do anything with them. They would all stand on the rock with their little paws up, each waiting his turn, being very careful not to scratch me when they took their bread bites. They practically said thank you. But the younger ones were so nervous that they crunched down on whatever they grabbed first, which on one occasion was my finger. The resulting wound wasn't any deeper than a paper cut, but due to the circumstances I was quite thorough in disinfecting it. One of the older crowd was really fat, so I suspect they're old hands at this begging thing. It was all peachy until the gulls figured out what was going on and started attacking the squirrels. No manners at all.

There weren't many people there yesterday, being a weekday. I'm thinking of going back this morning while it's still cloudy. It's so much more peaceful without all the screaming kids and the "ching-ching" of the tourist rent-a-bikes.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

New Addiction

They're absolutely diabolical, but so darn good. Very few things treat mild depression as well as chocolate, peanut butter and refined sugar. However, after July 25, my month of self-indulgent mourning will be concluded and I'll have to abandon this relationship for the foreseeable future. In the meantime, I'm enjoying a bag of them right now. I've been tempted to dive into the Nutella craze again, but that monster is best left undisturbed.

I'm thinking about heading off to the beach today and feeding all our old heels of bread to the seagulls. There are probably rules against that, since there are rules against everything fun, but maybe nobody will notice. Hopefully I won't be mauled by a feeding frenzy, either. I gave David advance warning that if he gets a call that his wife is beating geese to death, it is purely a case of self defense.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Elusive Sleep

Good sleep is not hard to get on an air mattress. Honestly, after seven months on one, I have no complaints about the way a good air mattress feels. The problem arises when the air bed decides it will no longer hold air, because the floor isn't such a great place for good sleep. I found that out the first night I stayed in the house with an air pump and a dead battery. We woke up this morning with that familiar sagging feeling, bringing our total up to three casualties. That's an average of one every two months or so, which is still cheaper than renting a clothes washer and dryer, but is still frustrating since each air mattress allegedly comes with a one year warranty.

I bothered to read the fine print the second time it happened, and of course it's not as easy as returning the flat air bed to the retailer; you have to have the original packaging and the original receipt and drive it down to the manufacturer's warehouse (or mail it at your own expense if you don't live close to such a warehouse) and then they will decide whether or not the item was in fact defective. Even flat, these things are so heavy and hard to pack up again that it seems easier to just buy a new one than to try cashing in on the warranty. Maybe they only expect these air beds to be used for camping five times a year. Maybe 375 pounds of people is exceeding some intrinsic weight limit. Maybe we can get them on some kind of rotation schedule, so that when the new one poops out, another will be on its way back from the warehouse.

I wish we could just buy a real mattress and be done, but that would be better than twenty times the price and until the move happens we have no means by which to integrate a new mattress into the rest of our possessions or transport it from here to Point B. Even if the price tag was our only concern, I never have liked the idea of a used mattress, especially now that the new age of the bedbug is dawning.

Just to shake things up a little more, there's a strange wrong number that keeps calling David's cell phone at 4 AM. Nothing quite gets the adrenaline flowing like the phone ringing in the dead of night, especially when the only people who call that early are naval authority figures who want your @$$ out of bed. If Mr. Nobody calls again tonight, so help me, somebody is going to answer or call him back.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Red Tape

I know I'm still new to this lifestyle of the military dependent, but I can't help but wonder whether I'm not alone in feeling something like a paroled felon. Rules, regulations, addenda, fine print. I'm not an anarchist, I believe in maintaining order in the community, and I understand that the need to manage a standing military force of hundreds of thousands of individuals and their families will require certain additional constraints. I suppose the problem arises with those of us who are not active duty and still feel like "normal people," but who are no longer allowed to be normal people.

"You can help watch your friends' children, but not for more than X hours a week. You can have visitors, but not for more than X days each month. If you're pregnant, sick and need help, go home or learn to take care of yourself by yourself." I had more freedom of movement when I was living with my parents.

I can't help but think my particular military experience has been soured by other extenuating circumstances. The botched move which never happened, and being so far away from the majority of my family and friends, certainly hasn't helped give me a favorable impression so far. But I can't complain too much, because I know many military families have endured more frustrating arrangements than this. At least we're not overseas and dealing with a language barrier. Still, sometimes it's hard to get far enough away from the problem to put it in perspective.

The facts of the matter are that my husband is awesome, and I'm not sorry I married him. I don't hate the military, I'm not sorry he joined, and I wouldn't dissuade him from making it a career if he so chooses. I'm not even begging to move out of this state, although it's an attractive prospect. I don't care that our new hometown is a dump, or that our house is crap from the seventies that smells damp, grows mold, has warped walls, asbestos in the ceiling, lead in the water, and skunks in the ventilation. We knew it would be a difficult situation when we signed up for it, but we were determined to work the problems as they arose. Ultimately, the real frustrations come of not being able or allowed to work those problems, and they just stack up to taunt us. "Sorry, deal with it." "That's life." "Who told you that?" "Welcome to the real world." "What mold?"

I was prepared for reasonable difficulties (straightforward waiting periods, deployments, frequent moves, acquisition of copious paperwork, etc.); at least I could have entertained some measure of martyr's nobility for all the hardships we had to endure. Apparently I need to recalibrate my tolerance levels for unreasonable and/or petty difficulties like misdirection, the "merry-go-round" of misinformation, chronically poor cell phone signal, cancelled appointments, sneaky fine print on lease agreements, directories full of disconnected phone numbers, inability to qualify for any sort of moving plan, and all the issues that arise out of having two legal addresses. Those sorts of things just make us feel like we've been had.

Maybe it's because this base is so small and everyone is so temporary that we're not seeing the close-knit community we were told we could expect. There isn't even the level of accountability and personal responsibility we assumed would exist among servicemen behind all the fences and wire and ID checkpoints. Last weekend we had a small disaster to deal with because David's debit card was stolen - on base, mind you - and also fraudulently used on base. Human nature never ceases to disappoint.

My issues with the slow-pokes at the IRS have nothing whatsoever to do with our military situation, but it's just another one of those little things that get under my skin. It's always about the little things. At least my check finally came. The miscarriage had nothing to do with the military, but it certainly didn't help our outlook. The fact that we have no idea how long we'll be here isn't so much the military's fault as it is the nature of this place; we're here until the job is done. Everything else is essentially fallout.

Despite all that, I have to say there isn't anything I would have changed that was within our power to change. Most of what I would like to change would require an act of God, or congress. Nor is there anyone else I'd rather tough it out with. I'm guessing that if we can make it through this first year or so, our marriage will be practically indestructible. After all, adversity builds character, right? (Don't we have enough yet?) I often wish we had fewer crises that demanded our attention, but we seem to work well together when we do resolve them.

We had another of our timeless moments at the WiFi hotspot yesterday, endeavoring with much teamwork to cancel the missing debit card. I must have had a look that would have melted glass, navigating the website and automated phone menu multiple times in search of a real person. Once the issue was resolved, he told me I was beautiful. "It must be the Spaniard in you. They always look so regal when they're p*ssed as hell." Reminds me why I married him in the first place. ^_^

Friday, July 16, 2010


We suspect David might not be allergic to dogs after all. He never had a problem the whole week we watched the dogs at the neighbors' house. Maybe it's just cats that are to blame. We've considered getting a dog, mostly because it would be some consolation in an empty house and every military family out here seems to have at least one, but the mere thought of vet bills outweigh the cute and cuddly factor. Maybe in another ten years . . .

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Getting Some Traction

I think I've finally made a full phycological recovery. I can actually get up and make a dent in the list of long overdue house chores, scrub the bathroom, clean the kitchen, sweep and mop the floor and keep the dishes done, all instead of lying around in a sweatshirt with my hair in a knot watching crap on YouTube. I can look at Gerber commercials without going to pieces, and I don't hate the sight of mothers walking through the neighborhood with strollers. I can even visit Facebook once in a while to read about my friends and their new kids.

Meredith came down for a visit yesterday while she was still in town. We went out for lunch and spent the rest of the afternoon on the beach and rocks at Lover's Point having long overdue candid conversation. We even spotted a few whales in the bay. I'll have to take my sister out there when she comes; she'll love the squirrels everywhere. But next time I'll actually remember to bring some sunscreen. Ouch.

David is taking his mock finals this week, and it's looking more and more like he'll actually get the rollback we've been waiting for. The paperwork in question seems to be making good time through the proper channels. We're not sure exactly how long that will extend our stay out here, but we should know more in a week or two.

Once he actually joins his new class, we'll move our things out here and make this house some semblance of a home. Just cleaning the floor and picking up all the crap that was piled in the corners made it feel less like living in a garage. I put the guest bedroom together for Bev, and it already looks cozy, or as much as it can with just the "bed" (air mattress) and three small pictures from the dollar store. It would be nice to just have a few posters in poster frames to lighten the monotony, but nobody sells posters of anything we'd bother to hang on our walls. I used to swear by, but now they're more about pricy art prints.

The IRS is still mucking around with my tax return, which I filed 16 weeks ago. The first time I called them they gave me some line about it taking eight weeks to process a paper return, which wasn't really relevant, because I filed electronically. The website told me they had deposited it a few weeks ago, but now they've changed their minds and say they might possibly mail it by Friday. I will believe it when I see $705.70 appear in the bank. Maybe this was an act of God, making sure we didn't spend it before we could put it toward hiring a moving truck.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Nitty Gritty

I did finally have my last appointment today. It took all of ten minutes. He was able to confirm my condition in surgery two weeks ago, but doesn't see any reason for that to have caused the miscarriage in these circumstances. He recommended against surgical correction because it just makes lots of scar tissue which could cause hemorrhaging, more miscarriages, infertility, etc. He also wants us on contraceptives for six months, which isn't happening.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

As You Were

Despite all the headaches it entails, I have complained my last about TriCare. We did well over $10,000 of damage in the hospital alone, not including the OB and the primary provider. It was a rough few months, and apparently all we have to show for it are bills and an enormous bruise on my arm.

At least we could enjoy our four-day weekend for Independence Day. On Tuesday we wandered around the farmer's market in town and ended up with an apple from the representatives of the DeBrito Chocolate Factory. It wasn't just a caramel apple, it was an "Outrageous Caramel Apple," more specifically a "Snicker Wrapple" with crushed Snickers bars and extra chocolate. Eventually you found the apple in the middle. Pretty darn good, but not something you would want to bite into every day, particularly since we keep forgetting to sign me up for dental insurance.

Apparently my tax return (outstanding since March) has finally vanished between the IRS and the bank. I'm waiting another week for it to turn up before I start filing claims. I've already called the people and the people are useless on both ends. None of them know any more than I do. We've also started the driver's license song and dance one more time; I was a few weeks too early to renew it when I actually took the trouble to FLY back home to the DMV, so now I'm trying to resolve that issue before it expires in October. The process online was surprisingly uncomplicated, but they warned me it may very well get lost in the mail.

No kidding this time, my last OB appointment is tomorrow. Hopefully there won't be any other emergencies to reschedule me. Then maybe we can resume life as normal.

Monday, July 5, 2010

"Your Cross"

"The everlasting God has in His wisdom foreseen from eternity
the cross that He now presents to you as a gift from His inmost
Heart. This cross He now sends you He has considered with His
all-knowing eyes, understood with His Divine mind, tested with
His wise justice, warmed with loving arms and weighed with His
own hands to see that it be not one inch too large and not one
ounce too heavy for you. He has blessed it with His holy Name,
anointed it with His grace, perfumed it with His consolation,
taken one last glance at you and your courage, and then sent it
to you from heaven, a special greeting from God to you, an alms
of the all-merciful love of God."

~ St. Francis de Sales