Small town girl. Joins Navy. Sees the world. Flies in planes. Hunts submarines. Gets out of military and has 3 kids. Rejoins Air National Guard as an "old lady" of 38.

A humorous compilation of stories and lessons learned. Usually the hard way.

Monday, November 28, 2011

An Innocent Phone Call Quickly Turns Bad...

The other day I was instructed to call to confirm my benefit enrollment package at my current job.  Using my work phone, and being the efficient worker that I like to think I am, I decided to multi-task and dial the number using my speaker without missing a beat and continuing to work at my computer.

It was then that I became acutely aware that perhaps multi-tasking isn't always the effective process that it claims to be.  Of course I've learned this years ago, as the majority of my most embarrassing moments have occurred during a less-than-distracted state of mind. And yet, I continue to try.

Lesson learned:  Do not multi-task when dialing the phone.  It is extremely easy but can appear incredibly motive-altering to confuse the ‘866’ preface with ‘888’.  It just so happens in this story that's what I did.  I then was redirected.  At this point, I was still unaware of my '2-digit mistake'.   I actually became quite “excited” that I "was about to have live talk" as opposed to the routinely expected automated services that these benefit providers often entail.  However, it was not exactly the ‘live talk’ I was expecting.  

While I think she would have been interested in discussing a package- I soon realized the smoky voice on the other end of the line was not speaking of my benefits package.  My eyes grew wide, as I searched for the speaker button as fast as I could.  I picked up the reciever and slammed it down stopping the voice.  I felt dirty. Had anyone else heard?  I listened from my desk.  All that I could hear was the quiet hum of my computer.  Then some talking in the distance.  I waited.  I was fully expecting the IT department to come running down the hall and into my office at any second.  Surely I was to be arrested.  I knew they knew everything we did.  How was I to explain calling a 'dirty' number from work??

I ran down the hall to find someone.  Anyone.  After much discussion next door to me, I was finally reassured by my co-workers that they had not heard the call, and as long as it was an 800 number, and no charge yet- I would be fine.  I was flooded with relief.  Could it be true?  I wasn't going to lose my job after all- or go to jail!  I wasn't sure how they handled this.  I just remembered the warnings from HR.  No surfing porn.  No calling dirty numbers.  No wearing flip-flops.  The rules and expectations were endless.

Of course I'm not sure I should always believe a bunch of retired Navy sailors; however, I still haven't heard anything from the scary IT department- so that's always a good sign.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Lessons From a Flight Physical

About a week ago, I had to get my flight physical.  (Yay- after many years on the deck, I finally get to fly again- as a civilian this time which means no pisser-dumping.  Double-yay!)  Being that it was a such a specific physical that I had to get, I was instructed to choose a doctor from a very refined list and make an apt. ASAP.  Having no references to go by, I began calling down the list. 

The first was extremely friendly however, would not be able to get me in for 2 months.  3 months wait for the second person I called.  Then a number that was no longer in service. This was  getting painful.  Finally, on my fourth try, I was elated to hear that they could get me in by next week.  Sweet.  Bring $95 in cash.  Hmmm.  Always strange these days to find a professional business that doesn’t accept credit cards.  But I needed my ‘up-chit’ so I didn’t ask too many questions.

So I when the magical day arrived, I went to my appointment, arriving the standard ten minutes early.  Then I waited.  And waited some more. 

Before too long, I knew the entire waiting room, their grandchildren’s names, & their pets names.  I learned stuff about those patients I didn’t want to know.  Then the realization hit me that everyone in the room except for me seemed to be over the age of 60.  Well, I thought, it is the middle of the day on a Wednesday.  People of pre-retirement age are probably working. Finally, after an hour and a half wait, the nurse came into the waiting room again, not realizing her power.  We all held our breath as she announced the winning ticket. 

Nurse:  Ms. Ma-kai?

YES! I had won!  Even if she mispronounced it- close enough. It was finally my turn.  I felt as though everyone was waiting for a speech, so I turned and smiled and gave a quick wave instead and darted quickly after the nurse.  I feared if I was not fast enough- I did not want the nurse to leave me and I’d have to wait for the next available appointment.  Who knows when that could be!?

She went through all the routine nurse stuff.  Temperature?  Check.  Blood pressure?  Check.  Weight?  Ugh.   Never where I’d like it to be.  I told myself I’d start working on that tomorrow.  (Until someone brings in free bagels to work… ) 

Then she brings me to a dark room and asks me to read the letters.  Darn!  I forgot my glasses that I wear on occasion at home.  I secretly despise wearing my glasses and avoid it whenever possible.  However; this would’ve been a good day to have them.  I think to myself, If I only would’ve worn black pants- I wouldn’t have had to change out my purses, thus, leaving them at home.  Ugh.  I cannot go through this 2 hr wait again!  I explain this to the nurse.  She is not sympathetic.  Her sock are brown and her shoes are black.  Just saying.

Nurse:  go ahead and read the bottom row.

Me:  There are letters on the bottom row?  It looks like squiggly lines.

Nurse:  Well, you need to have 20/20 correctable distance to fly.  You’re allowed to miss a few, so why don’t you go ahead and try.

Me:  Okay… [all I see are O’s]  Um… O?  [I look at her face, she wrinkles her forehead]  I mean, D.  [her wrinkles relax].  P?  [more wrinkles] Q?  S?  [the nurse relaxes]  H? [that one is for sure- I think]  R, N, M, Q. I mean, L  [surely some of them are right- I just keep spouting off numbers.]

Nurse:  [wrinkling forehead.]  You just… barely passed that. 

Me:  I did?  [maybe she is a nice nurse]  Well- I normally have glasses, so it should be okay.

Nurse:  Alright Ms. Maki- Time for your hearing test.  I’m going to stand in the back of the room and whisper numbers to you and you repeat what you hear to me.

Me:  [Seriously?  What kind of back alley…]  Okay…  [she reads the numbers and I repeat them.  I feel awkward.  I make a note to research this company when I get back to my office to ensure its legit]

Nurse:  Now I’m going to check your lung capacity.  [she whips out this machine that looks like it was used to send messages through Western Union back in the 1930’s.]  Just breathe into this tube as far and as fast as you can.  [I comply.  I still feel weird, but I continue to follow her instructions.  I start getting light headed.  I fight the urge to pass out.  I must not fail.  I do not want to come here again.]  Okay!  All done. 

[At last the exercises are done and she escorts me into another room and instructs me to undress down to underwear, throw some little hand towel over my shoulders and sit on the bed.  She leaves.  I look over on the bed and notice the stirrups. Oh god.  I hope she doesn’t think it is that kind of appointment.  What is happening here?? 

Soon the door opens (wide and I’m in plain view to the hallway) and a man that looks about 95 years old wearing a nice suit begins to enter the room.  It takes a while.  Finally, he makes his way over to me.  He reminds me of my grandpa.  I miss my grandpa.  I would never want my grandpa to see me like this.  I guess this guy is the Dr., which reassures me slightly- as it wasn’t a nice man just randomly roaming around the halls, but it also leads me to worry more.

He begins the exam.  Alone.  Don't they usually have a 2-person in the room rule?  Guess he's never been sued.  I guess that could be a good sign.  He opens a suitcase that is lined in a avocado green satin, full of medical-looking instruments.  Or torture devices.  It’s hard to distinguish.  I get nervous.  He pulls out the eye-examiner and turns to leave.  After a minute, he gets to the other side of the room and shuts out the lights.  He comes back.  I wait.  Finally, he is in front of me again and begins examining my eyes.  His face is uncomfortably close.  I hold my breath.  He doesn’t but I’m thankful it’s not stinky.  I do funny eye tests as he watches intently. 

Over the next ten or fifteen minutes, I take breaths, lie down, and involuntarily kick my leg out as instructed.  I listen to war stories.  He asks me about my stories.  It actually seems as though he’s paying attention too.  Somehow I find this surprising. He checks my glands.  He listens to my heart.

Finally, I realize, what initially seemed like a sketchy visit, actually ended up turning into a pleasant experience.  It was a visit in which the Dr. still had some old-fashion manners and really seemed to want to take his time and be thorough.  Not exactly a crazy concept, but I hadn’t seen anything like this since I lived back home.  It was the kind of doctor's office where the patients complain because they have to wait, but they keep coming back, because they know they’re being well taken care of.  The staff actually took the extra time to hear about how you were doing- and this is just so not what I had grown accustomed to.  I learned all about what he did in the Korean War.  He loved to hear about my stories flying over Kosovo.  We bonded.

After my exam was complete, the receptionist typed up my “up-chit” on a typewriter.  Yep.  They still had paper charts and their latest electronic was an electrical typewriter.  The Dr. waited patiently and narrated over her shoulder.  It wasn’t until she was finished and I had my ‘up-chit’ in my hand that he shook my hand goodbye and wished me luck in the new-old phase of my career.  He then proceeded to ask for the next patient.  It was uncannily fantastic.

I always seem to have this constant nagging in my stomach, gotta hurry, gotta hurry.  And for what?  It sure didn’t help me get out of there any earlier.  I’ve grown so accustomed to the in and out in 5 minutes that I forgot the pleasantness of actually having a doctor that tells you the stories of the 'good ol' days'.  So today I decided to let go of my sense of urgency and just accept time as it comes to me, knowing that no matter how much I stress being late- it won't change the fact that I'm still late.  Of course that could all change if I'm stuck in traffic tomorrow on my way to a meeting.  But, hey, I'll give it a shot anyways!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Some Unique Dogs of Deer River

Almost every family up north hunts.  I could give you a statistic, but I'd probably be making it up.  Therefore, I can say almost every family up north has a hunting dog.  These dogs are usually a good mix of Chesapeake’s, Labs, Springer’s, German Sheppard’s, a mix of all kinds of bird dogs, or just simply a mix of the neighbor's dog down the road a mile with the other neighbor's dog that's down two miles after a result of a naughty night between the two of them sneaking out after all the good little dogs had gone to bed.

Deer River dogs are not your typical pet-type of dogs.  They are usually tough dogs that can brave the 20 below (average) winter weather with just their thick coats.  They are trackers and protectors.  They are beyond intelligent.  Well, most of them, anyways.

I know my parents always felt safer letting us kids go off and play around the farm, knowing we always had a trail of two or three big dogs following us.  When we would go to play in the woods, these dogs have not only helped us find our way home again on a couple of occasions in which we got turned around, but we also knew that they would protect us from any wild animal that we could possibly encounter.  Yes, growing up on the farms in Deer River I never had to worry about pedophiles or rapist.  Instead, we had to worry about wolves, bears, and bobcats.  Our dogs would have defended us to the death if necessary.  Even when we would play in the fields and would lie on the grass making shapes in clouds, one of the dogs would come and stand over us- almost as if it was protecting us as we appeared vulnerable.  I always felt safe with a good hunting dog around. They were our Guardians.

They were also full of more personality than I’d ever seen in a dog before.  A few examples of what I mean:

Emma:  Emma is my dad’s latest dog.  She is an adorable black and white mix and has no idea how large she really is.  She has been known to affectionately knock my 5 yr old on the ground in attempt to jump into her arms.  As she navigates around the living room, her tail acts as a machete, either splitting things in half, or clearing off the tables in a single, delightful sweep.  Despite her huge appearance, she is still a baby at heart and will tote around her stuffed teddy bear after a long, tiring day. 

Water is her favorite and she cannot pass any body of water, no matter how big or small without resisting the urge to completely engulf herself in it.  She will then emerge, covered in a sticky, green swampy mass and naturally feel compelled to wait until she is right next to someone dry to shake her body free of the green particles and water.

Dooger:  Dooger was rescued as a puppy as some nasty folks apparently thumped him and his brother on the head as puppies and left them in the woods for dead.  When my family discovered this, despite the fact they knew they didn’t need another dog; they had no choice but to rescue them.  The other puppy was found a home with other friends and Dooger was left with my family, and quickly learned how to become a real farm dog.
Dooger believed the herd of cattle was his.  With his herd, came great responsibility and Dooger never fell short of ensuring that each cow was safely transported back and forth across the road when needed.  If a calf escaped, he awaited the signal from my uncle and would swiftly round up the baby.  He never let the bulls intimidate him, and would stand nose to nose until they obeyed Dooger’s directions.  My uncle never had the need to speak a word and Dooger was so intuitive and a simple point was all that he needed.  To this day, Dooger still has his little lump on his head, but remains the smartest dog I’ve ever seen.

Millie:  As I sat around talking to family outside one recent crisp fall day, I couldn’t help but notice this big dark dog come settle near my feet that had lugged a chunk of firewood to gnaw on.  For some reason, she loved the taste of wood.
Her favorite pass-time was to cut down trees.  As soon as she heard her master get out the chainsaw, she would skip happily into the woods to begin helping cutting down trees.  Her job was the young saplings that would bend easily.  She would literally stand under one of these small leafy trees and jump up, grabbing as near the top as she could with her mouth and as she landed on the ground again, pull the top of the tree over until the thin trunk at last gave way and snapped off the top of the tree.  As you gazed out into ‘her’ forest, you would see a multitude of saplings that were snapped off at the height of Millie’s leaps. 

Like our own children, we all believe our dogs our the most unique and interesting of all the dogs out there.  But as any true dog lover could tell you- each dog comes to assume its individual role as a member of the family, and always with great pride.   What makes them unique is what wins a place in our heart for them.  It's why we fall in love with our animals and will take on another in need, despite the fact that we already have way too many animals! 

A pic of me & Emma- she's trying to give me a kiss.  I ever so subtlety pretend to look the other way turning my head, hoping she won't realize the truth and be offended, as it could forever drive a wedge in our relationship.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

What the Hell.

So once upon a time I had a little girl who asked me what the Navy was after I had referred to it one day.  This led to a big discussion full of big words.   Not the big words like the kind I use when she asks me questions that I don’t want to lie, but would just assume and avoid:

Daughter:  Mommy, what is Tampax?  

Me:  Well, you see, [putting forth my most scientific voice] every 28 days in order for suitable and essential reproduction efforts, a woman must menstruate.   Respectively, in order to maintain complete functionality, it is necessary to incorporate a barrier method during this process.

Soon the 5 year-olds mind tires and she moves on to her next thought.  Notice how I was honest and did answer the question?  Wham!  She can never grow up and accuse me of being dishonest.  I'm sure I'll unintentionally cause her to need therapy in other ways.

Back to the Navy conversation- I felt it near impossible not to use ‘big words’ to a 5 yr old such as Tactical Coordinator, and sonobuoy, and In-Flight Technician.  This got my wheels turning.  So, in turn, I decided to write a simple book to describe to her what a typical mom that does typical mom-like things may go off and do while her daughter goes to school.  Then just for the hell of it, I submitted the story to a publishing company that a friend had told me about.  Lo and behold, it shall be on bookshelves in popular stores such as Barnes and Nobles this January.  Who would’ve thought?  How is this possible?

More than the fulfillment of a dream that I’ve literally had people tell me it’s near impossible come true, the best part of it all is seeing the support of my friends and family in such an amazing way.  I cannot tell you how incredibly touched I am at the outpouring of support and genuine enthusiasm that has been showered upon my shoulders.  It touches my heart. 

I haven’t even seen my first copy yet, and I’ve already sold near 100 books to just friends and family that I have e-mailed.  How amazing is that?  They don’t even know if they will enjoy the book or not!  But to them, I don’t think that matters.  I think they just love the thought of someone saying why not give it a go?  Maybe it inspires them too?  If a farm girl from Deer River can make this happen- there isn’t anything that they can’t do. 

I have many quotes that I love from Marilyn Monroe.  One of my all-time favorites is, “Ever notice how ‘what the hell’ is always the right answer?”  I do believe the true test of one’s character is what they accomplish after saying, what the hell.   What would you do if you knew it were impossible to fail?  After you answer that question then answer the question why aren’t you doing it?  Today is YOUR day!