The List: Pared Down

This morning was S’s (and my) meeting with his branch manager (although, they are calling themselves something new. Assignment coordinator?) I was able to go and sit down with them, ask questions, and get a feel for the process, as well, which I very much appreciate! I dropped the girls off with a friend and met S for his early morning meeting (seriously. I had to get up by 7 am, which is no easy feat for me. Morning person I am not).

So, we went in with the list of positions/locations ranked 1-40, his last 3 officer evaluations, and a copy of his ORB (I have no idea what that stands for). The first thing the branch manager did was look over his evaluations and explain how a board will review them. I know S is good at his job and that he’s gotten very good reviews, but it was really nice hearing someone who knows what is actually going on say “wow, these are really good,” and then tell me that I should be very proud. Insert happy feeling here.

Next he went through whatever is in the ORB and made some suggestions on how to edit it or something. I really have no idea what that was all about, but S did, so… go him.

Next, the Branch manager looked at “the list.” He wrote down what S wants starting with his top choice (Fort Story, VA), and moving down. When he got to the 3rd position, he said that he wouldn’t suggest it for S because it isn’t a position that could lead to a command, which is the current goal. Apparently, there were several broadening positions (remember last year when he was selected for one for about 45 minutes?) that they haven’t filled yet, and that was one of them. He said he could keep it on there if we wanted, but advised against it. Obviously, career comes first, so we told him to nix it, but, unfortunately, it was a position in Germany.

We went down a few more slots, and we ran into another position that had the same issue, and one that he said need to be filled by an airborne officer. And while technically S could go to airborne school first and then go to the unit, he said he didn’t want to do that because the position was in Italy, and if for some reason S got injured during the course and had to be held back (said it happens all the time), our stuff would be sitting in Italy for months on end while we were hanging out in the US waiting for him to finish. Not ideal. So, we crossed those off the list, too.

We also had an opportunity to discuss Korea. Because S has such a high dwell time, Korea is a distinct possibility. S has said if it was a command position, he wouldn’t mind going because it essentially kills 2 birds with one stone: command and reset the dwell time. I’m trying very hard to focus on the positives of it now because the negatives are pretty obvious. If he were to go, though, the Army would PCS- move the girls and I home to GA if I wanted (which I would), and he would be there for at least 15 months (boo) due to the command component. The branch manager said that it’s a very high possibility unless someone else comes into one of the meetings and asks for that position as their top choice. But, there is only one Korea slot for which S is eligible, so… who knows.

Right now, the list looks something like this:

Fort Story, VA
Fort Stewart, GA
Germany
Aberdeen Proving Grounds, MD,
Germany
Korea
Fort Bragg, NC
Fort Bragg, NC
Fort Campbell, KY

We should know something no later than mid-September. This is going to be a long month.

The List

I was just giving up any hope of having the list before the branch managers arrived on Monday when it was finally sent out this evening. S was at the airport at the time, helping the allied officer he sponsors pick up his wife and baby, and I was home with the girls bemoaning the fact that it still wasn’t in hand (seriously–not exaggerating one bit). One of our friends who is also in the class was nice enough to forward it to me (as well as S at the airport) so I could calm down and stop being an anxious mass of nerves.

So, after 10 minutes of trying to figure out how to find the stupid list (the email came with a long list of instructions and attachments), I was finally able to feast my eyes on all 40 options. That’s right. Forty.

Now, some of the locations/bases are the same, but the units are different. S is able to kind of determine what he would be doing (in a round-about sort of way) based on the type of brigade, division, battalion, etc listed next to the locale. It really just looks like a bunch of alphabet soup to me, so until S came home, all I was looking at was location.

This is what we got (in no particular order):
Maryland
New York
Virginia
Kansas
Savannah, GA
Denver, CO
El Paso, TX
Killeen, TX
Minneapolis
St. Louis
Kentucky/Tennessee
Kentucky
Hawaii
Alaska
Washington (ha!)
CA
Korea
Middle East location
Italy
Germany (multiple locations)

Texas and Germany had the most options, with Fort Lewis close behind. What we do know, however, is that they will not send us back to Washington (thank you very much), nor will they send him to the same type of unit he was in before (he came from a Field Artillery unit, so that means he won’t go back to a field artillery unit). We know to expect him to go to a unit that is set to deploy or on an “unaccompanied” tour (Korea or that middle east location). But we have no way of knowing who is deploying, and there are only 3 of those unaccompanied tours, one of which he isn’t eligible for because of the unit type.

I sat down first and wrote out a rough draft of what sounded good to me, what I could live with, and where I absolutely did not want to go. After that, we went through and ranked those categories based on the jobs. There are a few things he REALLY wants to do, which meant they were higher on the list than I would have originally imagined, but all-in-all, I think it’s pretty close. Our top 5 locations (or top 7 on the list he will have to turn in) are:

  1. Virginia
  2. Georgia
  3. Germany
  4. Maryland
  5. Italy

And our bottom 5 are:

  1. California
  2. El Paso, TX
  3. Washington
  4. Virginia (he does not want to do the job)
  5. Alaska

Everything else is kind of random and broken up by job more than anything. Hawaii is very close to the bottom, as well, and, surprisingly, Kansas is in the top 10.

Next week he (and hopefully I will be invited) will get to sit down with his branch managed, explain his choices, talk about what he wants to do with his future, and then the branch manager will make recommendations to “them.” And then we wait.

The good news, is, however: I can delete some of my saved searches on Zillow because those locations just weren’t even options.

But until we know something more, it’s back to the waiting game.

 

The Plateaus of Army Life

We’ve officially started the downward slope of our time here at Fort Lee for the Combined Logistics Captain’s Career Course. We have less than 3 months left and we still–still–haven’t even an inkling of where we might be going next. As a serial-over-stresser, this is making me more than a little twitchy and sending those around me into fits of eye-rolling as they listen to me incessantly play through the myriad of possibilities we could be facing come November.

I think the plateaus are fairly short-lived periods of time. As S pursues his career, we have seen (and will see) a lot of stressors. From preparing to move, to moving, to unpacking, to trainings, and him getting new positions, taking commands, going on training, (possibly) deploying, etc. There is a lot of time that I feel like we are “going” (i.e. I am stressing). Our first couple of months here, I felt like we got some much needed plateau time (or down time). We went to the beach, explored, went to Colonial Williamsburg, took the girls to King’s Dominion, saw family, celebrated 4th of July, and just took the time to enjoy our current surroundings. But as we got closer to the middle of our time here at Fort Lee, the unknown has started to push out the calm of the plateau, and now I just feel like I am constantly on edge, trying to figure out all of the possible scenarios and how to prepare for them.

I won’t bore you with them, but let me just say: There are a lot.

We went for a walk earlier (while I had the oven on self-clean. More on that in a minute), and S told me I can stop freaking out because we should have a narrowed-down idea in a couple of weeks. That only served to remind me that half of his class already has orders (the half who have already had command of a unit), to include some of our friends, here. I am super excited for them that they know where they are going and got their top choice, but I also just feel like it is never going to happen for us, and I will be packing up the house in October with no earthly idea where our stuff will be ending up. At this rate, I am willing to bet our friends who just arrived here will know where they are going before we do.

See? I just can’t help myself. It’s like verbal (written?) diarrhea.

However, even though we are still in the dark about the near future, we did have a chance to celebrate this month: S finally pinned on captain, yesterday (remember this time last year when I was bemoaning the fact that they had tacked on an additional 6 months to his year group’s tenure as 1LTs?). The promotion was official on the first, but I had to provide lunch for 100 in honor of the promotion, and there was just no way to make that happen on a payday. I ended up spending a week preparing and cooking, and while it turned out great, it wasn’t without it’s problems. After spending 8 hours on the smoker, the pulled pork was still nowhere near being done, so I wrapped it in foil and stuck it in the oven on low heat Thursday night and Friday morning. Oh course I did a poor job of it, and meat juice leaked onto the bottom of the oven and caught fire. Right before I had to leave to pick up the cake. That was fun.  I sliced my hand open on a navy bean can. The lid came off the coleslaw, and as the contained fell out of the refrigerator (I did catch it!), half of it sloshed onto the floor. I started shucking the corn, only to find that some of it wasn’t any good. And E almost set the cake flying on three separate occasions. But, we made it, he now has some spiffy new railroad tracks on the front of his ACUs, and the food was a huge hit.

Impromptu Educational Field Trip

This morning we woke up to thunderstorms, and by the time we made it downstairs for noon-time brunch, the temperature was mild 72 degrees. We had nothing planned for the day, and since the weather was so nice, we decided to go to Petersburg National Battlefield. The battlefield backs right up to Fort Lee, so I see the land just about every day, but knew absolutely nothing about it.

Now, I grew up in the South, and I have been to a Civil War battlefield or two. In fact, I grew up pretty close to the Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield. A few weeks ago we visited the Battle of Cold Harbor site, and it was a little rinky-dink square mile in between corn fields. But Petersburg Battlefield is far more impressive. It goes on and on for miles, with all kinds of earthworks, cannon, and markers.

E was all about the whole thing, calling it “an adventure.” I don’t think she really picked up a whole lot of history, but I can hope she at least appreciated the experience.

A quick run-down:
Grant tried to take Richmond from Cold Harbor (I mentioned it up there), and when he failed, he came south to Petersburg to cut off the supply lines up to Richmond. Turns out, Petersburg used to be a pretty big transportation and industrial hub once upon a time (it’s now a dump). The Union was pretty much blocked at Petersburg for almost 10 months and suffered some pretty horrendous casualties. One of the most significant battles at Petersburg is known as the Battle at the Crater. Essentially, the northern troops dug mine-like tunnels under the Confederate gunpowder supplies and blew it up. However, they failed to advance because all of the Union troops stoop gawking at the crater, and the Confederates were able to come in and beat them back.

 

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The tunnel

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The crater (or what is left of it)

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The tunnel up close

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For reference, E is about 42 inches tall.

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Oh, and in case you were wondering…

Yes. The minute we stepped out of the car, the clouds disappeared, the sun came out, and the nice, temperate 72 degrees became 80 and the humidity made it feel like about 95.

Elimination Diet: Update

I wrote this post a couple of weeks ago, but never posted it because I was afraid of jinxing myself. Since then, I haven’t seen much change at all, so I am guessing I jinxed myself just by writing it. Others reading it be damned–my luck is just that shitty.

Anyway, we started our elimination diet a little less than a month ago (I think. Frankly, I lost count). My parents were in town last week, and so there were a few days “off” the diet, but since starting back on Tuesday, I am only a pound off of where I was when the Fourth swept through. The first week, I lost 8 lbs and the rest melted away little-by-little. I’ve been diligently keeping track of everything we eat in My Fitness Pal so I have a record of what we’ve been eating, when, and what the results were.  I’ve lost a few inches, as well, which is really what I’m after more than the random number on my scale. I am well-within my initial goal–pre-pregnancy weight; something I didn’t see after E was born until I finished breastfeeding 15 months later. In total, I have lost about 15 pounds since arriving at Fort Lee, 12 of those after starting the “diet.”

Now you know why I am nervous about sharing. This is big for me. Huge. The Hashimoto’s makes it hard enough for me to lose–the breastfeeding even harder.

We had originally thought we would do just a week on the all veggie, fruit, and meat diet, but a few days in, both S and I decided to keep it going through to 10 days. When I started to add things back in, we started out really conservatively–bell peppers were first and then some onions. We had chicken for dinner last night, and I didn’t notice anything different, which is good since chicken accounts for a lot of our meat.

Probably the best thing about it (other than my lost pounds) is my rekindled love affair with fruit. Feeling a little hungry? Grab an apple. Or a mango. A bowl of watermelon. And as much as I would love an icy cold rootbeer float right now, I’ve been able to brush that yearning aside and have a fresh peach, instead.

After the first few days (and the headaches that came with the lack of processed sugars), I was pretty much well into a lifestyle change. I’m fairly disinterested in adding a bunch of dairy and grains back into my diet (and I know the grains affect me after I ventured into going gluten free at the beginning of the year). They will probably go back to being occasional treats rather than everyday foods.

I was hoping for more of a fat dump, but I guess I can be pretty happy with a 12 pound drop in a month. I’m not expecting to see any more, at least not until I find the motivation to go back to running (it’s been a week and a half–I’ve had a horrible cold, and my face hurts). That pretty much explains why I decided to publish this, now. No jinxing feared, anymore–I’m now just resigned to the fact that it’s going to be another uphill battle from here.

 

Can We Talk About Kids’ Clothes?

I have a really good friend back in Washington who helped cultivate my Gymboree habit. She is the mother of E’s two very best friends at Fort Lewis, and as you may have guessed, her kids are also decked out in Gymboree. However, where we originally deviated was the year stamped on our kids’ clothing–she is big into Gymbo resale (both buying and reselling), and introduced me to a few pages that deal with just that. While I have a few “vintage” Gymboree pieces that I picked up here or there, I haven’t really gotten into the selling of what we do have because I fully intend for F to wear all of it, first.

However, before we left Fort Lewis, I remember looking at her kids’ clothes and then at E’s clothes and thinking “how is it that their clothes look so much newer than E’s, yet they have been around for years–if not a decade!–longer?” It was particularly noticeable with one line, Glamour Ballerina, which featured a lot of black (it was pink, black, and white/silver). I just kept looking at the clothes I had bought new in the store and thinking “why are they so dingy looking?!”

She gave me her secret: do not put the clothes in the dryer.

And let me tell you, that was the best bit of advice I have ever gotten.

And before you scoff…

I started hanging the girls’ clothes up to dry after that, and the difference has been amazing, and not just for the Gymboree clothes. If it belongs to one of the girls’, it goes straight on a hanger and gets hung up to dry. In Washington, that meant I hung them on the shower rod in my guest bathroom. Here, by some sort of happy accident, there is actually a rod built into the laundry room for the express purpose of hanging clothes!

It’s fabulous.

And sure, it’s a little more work on the front end–I bring down all of the hangers and hang the clothes up as I pull them from the wash rather than later after they are dry–and it takes a little longer for their clothes to be ready to wear, but otherwise, the pros far outweigh that little inconvenience.

  1. Their clothes look like new even after they have been washed and worn multiple times.
  2. If they stain something, I never have to worry about it getting set in from the dryer. If I find the stain later, I just throw it back into the wash wish some magic stain-removing concoction.
  3. I now have fewer clothes that are deemed play clothes, will get donated, or thrown out. Which means if I decide I want to sell them later on or just pass them on to a friend, they don’t look like they have been worn while rolling around in a mud puddle (which they were. More than once).

To further sway you, I have visuals.

I’m not sure how well you can tell in these pictures, but the first is a Frozen night shirt we got in January (ish) at The Disney Store. It is one of E’s favorites because it has both Elsa and Anna. We bought it right before I stopped putting their clothes through the dryer, and so it has seen the “tumble dry low” setting a time or two. It is noticeably pilling, the fabric seems worn, and the color is slightly faded (some of her older Disney nightshirts look far, far worse, but I wanted to illustrate what just a few times in the dryer could do, not a floppity billion).

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We got this Rapunzel night shirt in March (I think). Also at the Disney Store. It was bought right after the great dryer boycott of 2014. It looks and feels exactly as it did the day I brought it home from the store.
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It’s like magic. Or, lack thereof.