September Snuck Up

September’s arrival brought with it a refreshing drop in temperature, a breath of autumn that puts me in mind of new school supplies and apple-picking with Hillel.  Alas, I neither have need of new school supplies, nor am I any longer a member of Hillel’s target demographic.  (For the goyim, Hillel is an organization for Jewish college students; I was heavily involved in my college’s chapter back in the day.)  The lifting of summer’s lethargy that comes with the cooler weather is welcome even in my post-academic life, though, and I’m getting excited about the coming fall.

Rosh Hashanah is coming up, with its promises of apples and honey in hopes of a sweet new year.  In fact, friend of mine from college just sent me a link to a delectable-sounding apple and honey challah that might have to find its way into my baking rotation for the holiday.  It would be more fun, of course, if I could look forward to the annual apple-picking trip with a Jewish community of my peers, but we haven’t found a group in our area that evokes the same sort of camaraderie.  Part of it is that we’re stuck between ages or phases of life that have strong support groups.   Having graduated years ago, we’re too old for Hillel.  We’re married, so Jewish singles groups are out.  We don’t have children yet, so we aren’t networking with parents taking their kids to Hebrew school, either.  I know some synagogues have “Young Professionals” groups that cater to those in our situation, but our shul isn’t one of them.

Oh well.  It’s not like we’re stationed someplace with no Jewish community whatsoever, which could easily become the case if we wind up in Japan.  I just get a little sad thinking that for as long as we’re moving at least every three, we will perpetually be “the new couple” at whatever synagogue we attend (let’s face it: there are some shuls where you can be “the new couple” for ten years or more).  It would be nice to meet some local folks our age with whom we could exchange Shabbat dinner invitations from time to time.  It’s tough–some would say impossible–to be a Jew in a vacuum, but we don’t have the luxury of putting down roots in one community and letting relationships develop slowly over many years.  Couple that with the fact that both my husband and I are inclined towards introversion, and we’ve got ourselves a problem for which we haven’t yet found a solution.  But who knows?  Maybe the upcoming year 5770 holds some fresh insights for us.

Ah well, social maunderings can’t detract too much from my overall anticipation of the new season.  My baby (!) brother is turning twenty-one, my college roommate is getting married to my husband’s college roommate (sounds like a sit-com, huh?), and we are lucky enough to be spending this autumn in a part of the country filled with deciduous trees that will soon be turning glorious colors.  Life is good.

Decor in the Theme of Guilt

My husband and I find ourselves, at present, in a curious situation for a military family: that of living relatively near family.  Wonder of wonders, we are actually in a position to play host to family coming into town for my cousin’s wedding this weekend.  My mom, dad, and little brother (who has yet to see our house, having been busy finishing up undergrad for most of the time we’ve lived here) are descending upon us this Friday.  I suppose the courteous thing to do would be to have the guest room cleared of my beading and sewing paraphernalia and the floors free of the cat hair tumbleweeds that spring into existence when we turn our backs.  I swear we could make three more cats out of the fur they bestow upon this family like it’s fairy dust.

Luckily for me, while I am going to make an effort to get the house cleaned up, I don’t have to develop a case of OCD to do so.  My folks are wonderfully easygoing houseguests who don’t mind when a home looks a little more “lived in” than “museum-quality and dust-free,” and my brother lived until recently in a college apartment with five other dudes.  You do the math on that one; I should probably set out a pizza box and an arrangement of empty beer bottles to make him feel at home.  (Maybe not.  Lest you get the wrong impression about my brother, I should tell you that he is fastidious by nature and not inclined towards indulging in the usual 18-to-22-year-old male schlubbiness.  I understand that the six-dude apartment was far from the disaster area one might expect.)  In any case, while we’re going to clean up the place, we’re not living in fear that anyone is going to bust out the white glove treatment on us.

I tell you all that so you know that the domestic guilt I feel tugging at my nerves is of my own neurotic invention, not anything inflicted upon me by my extremely good-natured family.

I regret that I have not put up curtains anywhere in the house.  It didn’t particularly bother me not putting up curtains at our previous duty stations, because those places were temporary and so it was completely understandable that we wouldn’t want to waste time and money decorating that which wasn’t ours, not really.  But this is our house, bought in mortgage payments rather than rent checks, and I feel guilty that I wasn’t overcome by a new homeowner’s zeal to mark her territory with carefully chosen window treatments.  We don’t even have blinds or shades in our bedroom.  (Get your mind out of the gutter — we did have the decency to preserve our neighbors by blocking the windows first with cardboard boxes, then with marginally less trashy tea towels.)

I clearly would like to have curtains.  It does, in fact, bother me that we don’t have any up.  So why in the name of all that’s good and holy don’t I get off my tuchus and put up some curtains?  Good question, and I have a litany of excuses with which to answer it.

  1. Curtains are too expensive for the simple lengths of fabric that most of them are — you’re paying for the convenience of having pre-made panels.  I cannot bring myself to pay that much of a premium for something that isn’t perfect when I know I could spend a fraction of the money on fabric and thread for handmade custom pieces.
  2. I want to make curtains myself, as I know I have the skill to sew straight lines with my sewing machine.  When I go to the fabric store, though, I am overwhelmed by choice and pop mental circuit breakers when I try to divine exactly what this mythical “perfect” is.
  3. I know, I know, perfection doesn’t really exist, and for something as trivial as home decor I should just make something and try again later if it turns out I don’t care for it.  Curtains are not house tattoos.  Changing them does not involve painful and expensive laser treatments during which one wonders why in the hell their younger self thought a unicorn leaping through a heart of flames would represent their “true inner self” forever and ever.  (This is why I will never get a tattoo.)  Knowing perfection doesn’t exist doesn’t make the fruitless pursuit of it any less seductive, though.  It’s great: I can agonize and go back and forth and hem and haw ad infinitum without ever having to make a decision or do any work.  The excuse, “Oh, I’m still looking for the right fabric for my glorious home decor vision.  Boy, it will be fantastic when it’s done, you wait and see!” can be stretched out for years if you like.

The real biggie, though?  The real reason we’ve lived here in our own house for over a year and haven’t put up curtains?  I am scared that the instant we make this place too much our own, the second we get all our rooms set up the way we want them, someone will jump out at us from behind a tree with a set of orders  and a pack-out date of tomorrow.  I like living here.  I would love to find out that we’re staying here for my husband’s first fleet tour, because three years — three whole years compared to the three months we were at the last duty station and the bare year we were at the one before that — sounds like an eternity.  It sounds like time to get really settled in and worry about fussing with window treatments and maybe painting a room and gardening.

Yes, gardening.  I have guilt about that, too: a good-sized front and back yard all our own, and I haven’t planted a single flower.  That might have more to do with being too lazy to get out and water any plants I might choose than weird hang-ups about getting too attached to a house we might be leaving in a matter of months.

There is one home-related task I think we can cross off our to-do list before my folks and little brother get here on Friday, and that is to finish Rustoleum-ing the outdoor furniture my grandparents passed along to us when they got new stuff for their deck.  By Friday evening, I hope to be relaxing outside, gin and tonic in hand, on our shiny new-to-us chaise longue and laughing with my family at a low-key backyard party before the big bash my cousin’s wedding promises to be.  That’s pretty motivating, as is the fact that the grandparents who so sweetly gave us the furniture might drop by to see the house the morning after the wedding, and I don’t want them to see the paint job half-done.

All right, enough rambling.  I’m off to have breakfast so we can get going on what we need to get done in order to enjoy our time with family.  I’m really looking forward to it, because my family’s not going to care whether or not I have the perfectly coordinated curtains of which I feel I ought to dream.

Super Star

I’ve been up for over three hours already without any outside impetus such as my husband having to get up for a flight.  That’s just wrong.  On the plus side, it gave me plenty of opportunity to do online things like post pictures of my nieces on Facebook, tweet about my cats chewing on little plastic F6F Hellcat fuselages, and wander aimlessly through the milspouse blogosphere.  In my travels, I came across a new blog I want to read and something worthy of military quilt lust (milquiltlust?).

The Mrs. at Trying Our Best is giving away a quilted service star banner, and she’s endeavoring to get the word out to as many military family members as possible.  Head on over and take a look if you’re interested!

Okay, that took a lot of effort to write, because I would dearly love to have the charming banner all to myself, and logic dictates that the fewer people who enter, the better chance I have to win.  I’m really working on that selfishness thing, though, so please go check it out and, if you so desire, throw your name into the hat, as well.

Things I think about when doing laundry

A complete stranger could take one glance at our dirty clothes hamper and know we were a Navy family.  I’m not even talking uniform items, though the flightsuits are a giveaway in their own right — I’m talking T-shirts.  Piles of ’em.  It’s an impressive array of colors and designs, with four and five copies of a few notable ones.  Put them together and you have a washable, wearable timeline of my husband’s Navy career to date, from his plebe year at the Naval Academy to the USNA blue rims he wore throughout his time there to acting as a detailer himself to Aviation Preflight Indoctrination to the VTs (flight training squadrons) to his recent LT wetting down.  I swear the things must reproduce in the hamper, because there is just… no… end… to the Navy T-shirt parade.

I occasionally want to throw up my hands and cry uncle, usually on a day like today, when I feel like I’ve fed a huge chunk of my waking hours to washing, drying, and folding Navy T-shirts in the specially prescribed fashion for which my husband acquired a taste at Boat School (and then passed on to me — hey, don’t knock it; it’s efficient).  It’s enough to make a girl seriously consider the merits of a dry-clean-only wardrobe.

Okay, okay, not seriously.  But there is a certain momentary appeal to hiring someone else to do the washing!

Really, though?  If I’m being totally honest with myself, I love those dang shirts.  I’ve even appropriated a couple of them for my personal pajama use.  Who wouldn’t want to drift off to dreamland clad in a Jewish Midshipman Club shirt with “OYRAH!” blazoned across the back?  They make me think of my husband and the circumstances under which each shirt was added to his wardrobe.  I can already tell that I’m going to be one of those wives who obsesses over her husband’s shirts when he’s away on det.  There’s a lot to be said for a physical reminder like that, especially one you can wear.

I have to wrap this up now, as the dryer just stopped so as to provide me with a further bounty of Navy shirts.  Luckily, their owner just got back home from the shooting range, so I can recruit some help for this round of folding.  Bwahahaha.

Confession

All right, Post #2 and I’m already making this blog my personal confessional booth!  (Of course, not being Catholic, my knowledge of actual confessional booths is cobbled together from movies and off-color jokes, but that’s neither here nor there.)  Before anyone gets all excited, this isn’t an earth-shattering revelation.

This is not my first blog.  Nor is it the only blog I currently keep.

It is the first one I have consciously devoted to a single subject.  My other ventures into the wonderful world of blogging (dating back to before the turn of the millennium, which makes me feel positively ancient) have been aimed primarily at keeping in touch with friends and family.  My intended audience was comprised largely of people I already knew in real life

My plans for To the Nth are deliberately tailored toward joining the “milblogging” community while retaining sufficient anonymity to let me feel comfortable writing for anyone in the world who cares to look.  I wonder, at this early stage, how successful I will be in maintaining that comfy distance without compromising the inherently personal nature of a blog whose content will be drawn from my own life as a Navy wife.  That is sort of the point: to share what it’s like being married to a Naval Aviator and living the Navy life.

The trouble is, I’m not married to “a” Naval Aviator, an archetype interchangeable with some set of generic squadronmates.  Do you think every Navy pilot would use the phrase “minty urgency” to describe a new lotion?  My husband just did.  I suspect that, being married to my particular Naval Aviator, my idea of “living the Navy life” will be significantly different than that of a friend married to her particular Naval Aviator.

Sometimes, civilians have an image in their heads of a monolithic military made up of cookie-cutter people.  Those of us close to the military are well aware that sharing a uniform doesn’t enforce mental conformity by any stretch of the imagination.  Even within the same community — same job, same aircraft, same squadron — people have different experiences.  I haven’t the foggiest what it’s like for SWO families, or the loved ones of those crazy submarine guys, or heck, even for the families of the enlisted aircrew my husband will be working with every day.

All I can write about is my own version of Navy life.  The trick will be not allowing myself to mistake my individual circumstances — even when others might be able to relate — for some imaginary Universal Truth of Navy Spousehood.

Hello World

This is a real “Hello World” post, not the one WordPress automatically generated for me; I promptly deleted that.  I can’t even count the number of “Hello World” programs I’ve written when learning new programming languages, so it doesn’t feel quite right to use that particular phrase in a WYSIWYG editor like this.  Oh well, I guess I can go to the HTML editor when I’m feeling hardcore.

Scratch that.  When I’m feeling hardcore, I’m going to rock out command line style on a Linux box.  I haven’t had the chance to do that in a while.  Ah, the glamorous life of an unemployed programmer… I mean, a stay-at-home Navy wife.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful that I don’t have to work, but I am looking forward to reaching a point where I wouldn’t feel disingenuous applying for a job when we could easily be moving in a few months.  I can’t wait until we will be staying put for three years instead of moving three times in about fifteen months.  We’ve been at our current duty station for over a year, and it already feels like a long time.  That could be due to the fact that we were expecting to know where we’ll be next, oh, right about now, but the current estimate is that we won’t find out about staying vs. going for at least another five months.  Good thing this isn’t a bad place to spend our time in limbo!