Sunday, March 30, 2008

For My Milspouse Friends

I could not watch this without tearing up. It brought back all those times on the pier, kissing my submariner goodbye. The sun is usually just barely peeking through the horizon when we get there. I always get out of the car and follow him around while he gets his sea bag and other last minute things out of the trunk. Then, we get to hang on to each other one last time before he has to walk away. There is nothing lonelier than the drive home, and the day following, knowing he is slipping out to sea as you go about your business; not knowing when you'll hear from him, or if he'll actually come home the day they say he will. But you know what's the worst part of it? Watching him say goodbye to his sons. The older they get, the harder this all is. I am so dreading the next time Oliver goes out to sea. It's one thing to get yourself through it; it's another thing entirely to get your children through it. In light of that, I wanted to share something I ran across today. There is an organization that is making quilts and pillows for military kids. It's goal is to comfort them when they are gone. If I remember correctly, children under 7 get a quilt, and those older receive a pillow. You send in 7-9 pictures of your child with their parent, and they put them on the quilt or pillow. I'm totally going to get one made for Wyatt. He has a "Daddy book" (a photo album I put together for him with pictures of him and his dad), and a "Daddy bear" (a build-a-bear his grandparents bought him with a voicebox Oliver recorded a message on). If I get him this, he will also have a "Daddy blanket"! I know it will be something he carries around a lot. He's a blankie boy. I'd want one for Oscar, too, but I have to think about it. We don't have as many good pictures to choose from because he's so little, and, really, it won't mean much to him now. But, if I wait, I might not be able to get one at all, so, hrm, we'll see about that. If you want to look into getting one for your kids, here is the website: Operation Kid Comfort.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Those Baggers at the Commissary

Ok, I've been resisting writing this post, but I have two kids asleep on the living room couches and another one in my lap, so I'm stuck at the computer for awhile and I need something to do! I have a pet peeve about military life. I don't know why this drives me nuts, but it totally does. Here at the commissary (that's our grocery store for my non-military readers), they have baggers who work for free. Oh, wait, not actually for free, if you read the nice big sign up on the wall: "Warning, Baggers Work for Tips Only! They will give you dirty looks if you don't comply. Don't even think about taking your groceries out yourself! This will be awkward and we will all look at you like you are cheating us." Ok, so I added a little bit there, but that's how it should read in my opinion. I love, love the commissary. Aside from the free health care, it's one of my favorite perks being married to guy in the military. When I was first married, I used to comparison shop at the other grocery stores in town. That is, until I discovered the little bit more I could save by going out to get a few random things on sale was quickly blown on gas getting there. So, I only shop at the commissary now. Which means I need to deal with baggers. Now, I should preface this by saying the baggers are generally very polite, and I've never had anyone be openly rude to me. But, it's incredibly awkward to reach the check out line, watch them bag your stuff and put on their little cart, and know they are going to go out with you to your car and you can't let them walk away without giving them some indiscriminate amount of cash. We have asked them to just put it back in our cart, but it's awkward to do this, and then I feel like I need to run from the building just to stop the guilty stares aimed at my back. The biggest part of this problem is definitely what do you pay these people?! I've heard so many different methods people use. The 25 cents a bag tip I refuse to follow. Why? Because most of the baggers have perfected the art of bagging two things to a bag. It's ridiculous how many bags we end up with. I read a random blog post on Spousebuzz a while back (if you link there, make sure you read the comments - yikes!) that had a lot of people posting they pay the baggers 5-6 dollars for the trip. Say what? That means these people can easily make 15 or so dollars an hour there. That's more than I made working at my first real job with benefits out of college. Someone also posted on that same blog post that they thought a person should pay the difference between what they spent at the commissary and what they could have spent at the store. Say what?! So, because the military allows us to save at the commissary, what they are really doing is trying to find a way to avoid paying their baggers. Ok. Now that that is all cleared up, I should do my duty is pay these people what they deserve. Except, I'm really not on board. They bag my groceries, yes. And sometimes I even have a full cart. And they do walk it out to the car. Sometimes in the rain. And they even load it - or they start to. Veeeerrrryyyy slowly. So I have the time to buckle two kids into the car, fish around in the console for some loose change, and then load more than half the groceries myself. So, they get a $1.00, often $2, and if it's Christmas or something, maybe even some loose change or an extra dollar, too. That's it. The only time I paid someone more than that, the guy didn't even say thank you. He just walked away, and then I turned around to discover my trunk had been packed in such a way I couldn't even close it. Mm, yeah, not giving anyone $5 again. I do appreciate the effort they expend on my behalf, especially when I'm pregnant. And it's nice not to have to walk a cart back at the end. But, to be totally honest, I would happily do this just to avoid the awkwardness of this experience. They just installed self-checkout lanes at our commissary. I hate these things with a passion and refuse to use them unless absolutely necessary. But, there are times when I look at them and think, "Hey, no baggers over there! Maybe there is a reason to use them....maybe." And then I look at all the groceries in my cart and decide that paying someone $2 and dealing with a bit of weirdness is definitely not worse than trying to scan everything on my own. They really do need to change that sign, though.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

No Right to Complain?

Ok, I keep running into all these comments that miltary wives have "no right to complain" when things get tough because "we chose this life". This is really starting to irritate me. When I hear a civilian complain about his or her job, or their spouse complain about long hours or business trips or whatever, I have never heard anyone tell them to shut up and put up because they "chose that life". Really, what is the difference here? We've struggled at times because Oliver's command has gone through a bunch of really lousy officer and chief-types that have made life more difficult than it has to be. Morale on the boat has suffered as much as ours. That was not what we signed up for. We didn't "choose" to have to deal with incompetent people who waste others' time, or leaders who are concerned only with earning awards and not with being fair to their people. We "chose" to live a life that would entail separations and difficulty, with the goal being it would help the country as well as ourselves (yes, the paycheck does matter!). Those of you telling army wives they have no right to complain because their husbands' tours were extended by 3 months - to a whopping 15 months - are probably the same ones who think an overnight business trip is a hardship. And you probably complain about it to your friends. But, didn't you choose this life when you married the guy? Everyone has the right to voice their frustration with a situation. The only time I would turn my irritation on someone who is complaining about their spouse's military job is if they are doing it over, and over, and over again without ever trying to solve their problems or deal with it in a meaningful way. That is complaining - and that statement is true for civilians, too, by the way.