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Friday, October 23, 2015

TGBKA Day 36: Coping Mechanisms

Sweet Baboo has learned the signs for when I need to cope. First, I get super involved. I sign up for every volunteer position I can get my hands on, and dive in head first with helping out. The calendar gets so full that I actually have to schedule sleep and showers in there... or else I'll forget both. I will make my way through my days with a determined twinkle in my eyes, and a pep in my step. I generally get this way when I feel like something major is happening, and I have absolutely no control. It's my way to feeling like I'm in control of something. And I get sidetracked with the awesomeness of giving back to my community in some way. Win!

I got super involved when Sweet Baboo got orders to Korea without us. I signed up for almost every volunteer opportunity I could find, and filled our calendar from July (when Sweet Baboo left) until January (when we were hoping he could take his mid-tour leave). I became a member of various Boards of Directors, Committees, and Executive Committees. I reached out to my friends who are Race Directors and verified that I could remain their Volunteer Coordinator, Packet Pickup Coordinator, and other various jobs. I was completely out of control, and I was absolutely in love with the full calendar we had!

Thank God for friends who understand priorities. As soon as I got word that we got our Exception to Policy I was elated! When I got our orders, and read the 60 day deadline, my heart sank. I hated feeling like I was letting my friends down by leaving. Thankfully Sweet Baboo knew that my heart wasn't torn; he understood that I was simply disappointed that I would not be able to fill the spots that I had volunteered for. And with each phone call/meeting/email that I sent out explaining the situation, the response was unanimous: "SpunkySoul, go! Do not worry about this position. We will fill it. You deserve to be with Sweet Baboo, so stop what you're doing and make that happen!" Okay, those aren't direct quotes... but those were the sentiments of every person I was working for. And my heart swelled.

My second coping mechanism is to organize. I cannot operate in a chaotic world without at least the most basic form of order in place. But even the most basic form of order can only hold me over until I can dig in and get things super organized. I have watched many movies where cowboys herd cows from one place to another, and I seriously cringe until every cow is in the new place. There's a reason why I'm no cowgirl: rather than branding the cows and prepping them for slaughter, I'd spend my days training the cows to walk in ranks with straight lines. That way I could keep an eye on each of them, making sure none wandered off. Nobody would eat steak because I would be too busy training their steak to stay in their ranks. Another reason why I so loved the order and discipline that came with being a Soldier!

After reading The Way They Learn, I have come to realize that I am a concrete sequential thinker. I do have abstract tendencies, and there are times when I have to intentionally make things random before I can organize them, but when Sweet Baboo and I read that book we laughed so hard our sides hurt when we read the description of the concrete sequential thinker:

"When presented with an abstract idea, Concrete Sequentials have a special talent for seeing the practical side of an issue" (p. 30).

"CS parents almost always have high expectations when it comes to their children's behavior and academic success" (p. 32).

"They are usually very organized, specific, and conscientious. They may ask repeatedly for clarification or more detailed instructions because of their need to be sure they are doing things right" (p. 34).

Seriously people... it's like the author wrote the entire chapter with me in mind. So when I start to feel like my world is becoming chaotic, the first thing I do is sit down and think out ways to organize it. You remember my notebook? That's just the beginning! In fact, that's only the concrete evidence of my sequential thinking. And that's only what I take the time to sit down and write out. If you only knew the storm of organizing that brews in my brain you'd dig yourselves a cellar, stock it well, and camp out indefinitely.

For the first time since we got married (10 years ago), I am going through every single room to organize our stuff. Long story short, Sweet Baboo kept getting deployed, or going to long schools away from home (or long TDYs). I didn't like the idea of sorting through his stuff and deciding what could stay and what needed to go without his being there. So when we moved into our tiny town home our idea of "merging" our lives was to open the boxes with the super important stuff in it and shove the boxes we didn't have an immediate need to open in the garage. That method got us through two duty stations and five houses. When we moved to RSA we made the conscious effort to get rid of stuff.

Guys... it was bad. For an entire year (our second year here) we had friends and neighbors stop by the house and ask if we were moving already. You can always tell who is about to PCS because theirs is the fullest garbage can at the curb, and they're making several trips to the "donation hole". Theirs is the house that is selling stuff. So when 3 out of 4 weeks per month had piles and piles of trash sitting at the curb, the neighbors started to think we were moving. But we weren't. We were simply donating what we had an abundance of (Army uniforms, furniture, etc.) and tossing what couldn't get donated (why did we keep every bill we paid from the first four years of our marriage???). We were in purge mode, but it seemed like every step forward in the organization efforts made us take several steps back. Inevitably, we would have to get a whole new set of uniforms (Sweet Baboo is about to purchase his fourth style of combat uniform in the 15 years of service he has!) or we would get involved in a new hobby (Goodbye golf clubs... and shoes... and cleaning gear. Hello triathlon swag!).

When Sweet Baboo went to Korea, he gave me carte blanche authority to get rid of anything I felt like, so long as I was respectful of the sentimental things he wished to keep. I know him well enough now (as opposed to in our first year of marriage) to make such decisions, but that doesn't stop me from taking a million photos and posting them on our organization page to make sure I can get rid of stuff. I'm so blessed to have a husband who gets that I need his participation in these matters. So when he says "I don't care", he isn't being uninvolved... he truly doesn't care.

In the past two days, I have accomplished the biggest feat yet: our garage. We have had a clean garage several times since we have moved here, but it was never organized. Everything was in "organized" piles... but the boxes needed to be gone through. I'll admit that I will probably not get the chance to go through every box before we move to Korea; but the boxes I won't be able to go through with the fine-tooth comb that I'd like to use are the ones with his (and my) official military records and documents. I have big plans to organize those documents, so they'll go to Korea and be a big project for me to undertake.

The Wee wanted to help. Here was her idea of "helping":
Her daddy taught her that sometimes it's more help when you "help by not helping". She opted to evoke the HBNH mentality today.
We will miss our lovely yard!
Here's what I started with:
So. Much. Stuff.

Why don't we throw anything away?

The kids have decided that the shelves are their personal grocery store... but they don't put anything back on the shelves!

I just do my best to avoid this section as much as possible. And this was taken after hours of clearing already!
I can't spend all of my time organizing. For some reason the sweet children desire entertainment, and food, and education, and... and... and... So here's what I balanced cleaning with:
The Wee is joining her big sister in the roller derby fun! She's rocking it.

The Elder needed to get some blood work done, and endured the procedure like a champ!

I sometimes wonder about these girls. Do they realize they're doing the scooter thing wrong?
After several posts to sell things, and an overflowing garbage can (again), and several trips to the donation hole, this is where I'm at for the garage now:
It doesn't look like much of a change, but things on this side of the garage will go to Korea.

And things on this side of the garage are either being sold or are going to non-temp storage. Except for the elliptical and the inversion table. Those are going to Korea!
I probably have another four or so hours in the garage to do. See those boxes in the back? Yeah... I want to go through those as well. I'd rather get rid of as much excess weight as possible. 13,500 pounds, remember? Or is it 6,750? Or 3,375? With all of this confusion, I can't afford to bring anything extra!

Saturday, October 17, 2015

TGBKA, Days 22 - 29: More Passport Fun

Remember Day 6, my no-fee passport apppointment? That was the day Sweet Baboo and I decided to file for our tourist passports. I didn't trust that our no-fee passport applications would get back to me in time, or that they were even filled out properly. So I spent Day 7 getting Sweet Baboo to get me the proper paperwork from him (he needed to send me the DS-3053: Statement of Consent since he wouldn't be there to give consent in person). $524.50 later (including expedite fees for each of our passports), we were able to file the applications at the post office quickly and with relatively few headaches.

I say relatively few because at least those headaches were absolutely excusable, or my own fault. First, I had to go to two post offices (on opposite sides of town) because the first one wasn't doing passports that day. Apparently, the employee who does them at that location fell ill. Okay, no problem. I went to the other passport office. When I made it to the other passport office, there was no line... no waiting! I walked right up, and the lady looked over my paperwork. I had everything... except for a printout of Sweet Baboo's military ID card. That needed to accompany the DS-3053. Of course, the post office didn't have any printers that I could use (he emailed me a scanned copy of his ID card for a different PCS duty of mine) so I had to head over to the local Staples to pay for copies. It was quicker than driving the 20 minutes back home (and then the 20 more minutes back to the post office) to print it out. When I got back to the post office there was, of course, a long line of people wanting to get passports.

When I finally got to the front of the line, the passport lady looked over all of our documents again and told me that one of my documents wouldn't be accepted. It was the court decree for my legal name change. You see in 2012, for reasons I'll discuss in a different blog post, I legally changed my name. I didn't get divorced; I didn't remarry. I just had had enough of my legal name and asked the probate judge to legally change it. He did, and something inside of me got brighter that day. But I digress. I had the court decree, but had to hand it over to Passport Lady on post for my official no-fee passports. She assured me that a photocopy of the same document would be acceptable for the tourist passports, and even made the copies for me. Post Office Passport Lady didn't think the photocopy version would fly. She made a phone call to the State Department and came back saying that they would, in fact, accept it. So we sent all of the paperwork in.

On Day 22, I got a letter from the Department of State saying this:

"Please submit a certified copy of the court ordered name change. Photocopies and notarized copies of these documents are not accepted for passport services."

Well dang.
Post-yoga: Welcome to my Namaste Hair. But this has (unfortunately) been my "yoga or not look" for the past 20 days.
There was a 1-800 number on the letter for me to use should I have any questions. I got the letter after 6pm on Friday before a federal holiday. I was just sure that I wouldn't get anywhere with the issue until the following Tuesday. I should have made the call right away. Turns out the State Department takes calls at all hours of the day or night! On Day 26 I called the 800 number and explained the situation. The nice fellah at the other end of the line told me that only original certified copies are accepted. I told him that the original is with my application for the no-fee passport... couldn't he just walk over to that department and check it out? He chuckled, but not in a condescending manner. He explained that "that department" is in a completely different state... so the walk would take a while. He recommended that since I'm still in the county that I got the name changed, I head over to the probate judge's office and ask for another certified copy and send it in. So I did.

Man, is our probate judge's office amazing! I think I'm going to spend my Sunday making something tasty and equally amazing to take back up to that office to give to the employees there. They were kind, informative, understanding, and one employee had a hug to give me when I told her that I was overly stressed, excessively caffeinated, and severely under rested. Within five minutes I had two fresh certified copies of my court decree, and a smile on my face. I wished the entire office a wonderfully blessed rest of their week, and headed out the door. Fabulous! I went directly home and mailed one of the certified copies to the Department of State. And then I waited.

So today... Day 29... I watched with excitement when our mail carrier approached the door with two priority mail envelopes. I just sent out my certified copy of the court decree two days ago, so I knew my passport wasn't in one of those envelopes. They had to the be envelopes for the girls. They were! But no passports were inside. Instead, I got two (almost) identical letters telling me that I needed to send the original DS-3053 that Sweet Baboo filled out. He scanned and emailed the forms to me because he wouldn't be able to get them in the mail, and in my hands in enough time for me to get them in the applications and on the way to the State Department with enough time for them to process the applications and send the passports back to me before we had to leave for Korea. (Whew! Run-on sentence, anybody?). The letters got to me at 5:03pm my time. I decided to call the 800 number anyway. Amazingly, I didn't get a message telling me to call back during business hours! Rather, I got a very friendly woman (Susan) on the phone who spent the next 40 minutes helping me with the girls' applications as well as mine. Then she went through the system and "linked" our applications so that they would all be processed together.

She made notes in the system about the situation, asked several questions that were pertinent and relevant, and then asked if she could call me back in about ten minutes. Impressed to find a federal employee who cares and was willing to do more than just point me elsewhere, I was giddy with excitement. After we hung up, I was visualizing becoming BFFs with this sweet lady. We would have mimosas during Sunday brunch, we would take girls-only weekend getaways annually, we would do the things BFFs do. All because for the first time since we got orders to Korea, I had a person who was going out of her way to ensure this would be the very last speed bump in the passport process for me. I felt like I was the second grader on the playground who was getting picked on by other passport people, and Susan was my big sister who could beat them all up. People, PCS-ing is stressful. It is not for the faint of heart when you have your service member there to help. It's really no joke when you're the only person handling it all.

Susan called back and recommended that I fill out the DS-5525 and overnight it to the State Department. This form is the Statement of Exigent/Special Family Circumstances.
I got off the phone with Susan feeling confident that once I turned in the DS-5525, we would be well on our way to passport-ownership. The post offices were closed, so I could put off filling out the form and sending it in until tomorrow morning. The girls had been so good this week as I navigated very frustrating waters, and our housing office was hosting a Resident Appreciation Week. Tonight was the last night of appreciating us, and they were celebrating by hosting a small fall festival. Pony rides, pumpkin painting, BBQ, bouncy house... the girls would get some good entertainment and I didn't have to cook dinner. Double win!
It was a beautiful evening for outdoor activities. I was glad to step away from the PCS craziness for a bit.

The Wee loved riding Mystery. He was a gentle horse who handled her clumsy mount and dismount gracefully.

The Elder's horse seemed to be very happy to be there. Despite not wanting to walk any more.

Eventually he got moving again. And the Elder enjoyed her ride as well.

The BBQ was lovely. The girls were debating whether the object in the air was a rocket, an airplane, a meteor, or a falling star.

The Wee decided to not take any chances... she would "pray on her falling star" just in case.

The bouncy house was a big hit... until the Wee got a big hit in her face. A fat lip later, we went home.
Wanna know how I know that the State Department has people who tend the phone at all hours of the day? Because I got a phone call from Sharon at 9:04 pm! She called because she was trying to finish up our passports and wanted to know more about the exigent circumstances for the Wee. I explained the situation to her again, and added that the circumstances were the same for the Elder as well. She looked into both cases and ended up telling me that she would go ahead and process the passport applications without the Form 5525. The passports would be good for one year. My immediate thought: In one year, I'd have to fork out another $525 in fees to get the passports updated again. She assured me that I wouldn't have to pay another $525. The one year expiration date is given to allow me enough time to get to Korea, get Sweet Baboo to fill out the DS-3053, and send everything in all over again so we can get the 5 year passports. WHEW! Sharon was quickly moving to the State Department BFF list.

She asked if I had any setbacks in my own passport and I told her that it should be rectified since I turned in a certified copy of the court decree days ago. She looked into it, asked me more questions, typed a bunch of stuff in the computer, and told me that they didn't have the certified copy just yet. Not wanting to lose hope, I told her that I would check back in next week to see if it had arrived. I heard more typing, then she asked if she could call me back. When she did, she gave me the great news: they would process my passport now.

Despite the overly frustrating trip to the DEERS office, today was a GLORIOUS day. I needed today.

Friday, October 16, 2015



When service members get married, or have children, those humans become dependents and will be entered into the DEERS system as such. DEERS stands for Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System. DEERS is a database for service members, retirees, dependents, etc. who are entitled to Tricare and other services with the military. DEERS is so important that I cannot go make changes to my own record without having Sweet Baboo there with me, or having a special power of attorney authorizing me to do things within DEERS. The POA has to spell out the specific duties that I can do, and the employee who actually inputs the information cannot deviate from what the POA spells out.

Earlier this calendar year, I lost my dependent ID card. In 10 years, I have never lost my ID card... I've temporarily forgotten where it was placed, but I had found it again before I had to leave the house. But in January I lost the card and despite having several friends tear my home apart looking for it, we could not find the card. I went to the DEERS office to get a new ID card (I live on post... I can't even go home after running errands without my ID card). I couldn't get a new card. Why? Because Sweet Baboo was TDY and the five POAs that I had in my binder weren't good enough. My general POA? Nope. The four special POAs that dealt with financial and medical decisions? Not even close. I needed a POA that specifically authorized me to get a new ID card. Sweet Baboo was in an Army school at the time that started when the sun came up, and didn't end until after the sun went down. Getting him to head over to the JAG office to snag me a POA was not feasible. I had to get an ID card that was good for 30 days, and return to the DEERS office the day after Sweet Baboo returned from his school to get a permanent ID card. DEERS is that important.

The ID cards are issued to dependents who are 10 or older. The Elder and the Wee have a running count down for their 10th birthday... they just can't wait to get their own ID card! When Sweet Baboo got orders to Korea, I asked him to get me the Special POA that authorizes me to get the Elder an ID card since he won't be around to take her in to get it when she turns 10. He did. And then he went to Korea. And we hunkered down for the year-long unaccompanied tour.

But then we got orders to join him, and we got so excited! When military families are stationed overseas, all dependents need an ID card. It has something to do with the ration cards at the commissary, and the status with the Embassy, and getting on the airplane using Official Orders... etc. etc. Honestly, when we were stationed in Guam years ago I didn't pay much attention to why I needed to get the ID card for the Elder (the Wee hadn't joined the family yet), I just got the card for her. I was told that I needed to get the ID cards for the girls again for Korea so I asked Sweet Baboo to get me another POA for the Wee to get an ID card. He did.

The Wee stole my fake eyeglasses for the day. She wanted to wear them for her ID card. Denied.
Armed with two Special POAs to get ID cards, orders to Korea, and two adorable kids who were excited to get their cards early, I set out to the DEERS office to check this block off my to-do list. Before I could finish the first explanation of what I was doing in the office, the lady at the front desk cut me off and said that the girls were not authorized an ID card until they turned 10. Oh boy. The back and forth again. I explained that when we were stationed overseas before, I needed to get an ID card for the Elder. She didn't care. She said that it isn't done any more. We went back and forth for several minutes before I finally asked, "Are you the actual employee who works in the DEERS office, or are you the person who gets me the ticket to be in line to wait to go talk to the person who works in the DEERS office?" She assured me that she worked in the DEERS office. But I knew that I was right, and that I would be wasting my time if I left the office only to have to go back up there again in the future. So I dug in my heels and asked her to show me the regulation that said only dependents who are 10 and older are authorized an ID card. She stared hard at me, turned around, and asked another employee to come over and explain to me the only 10+ year olds could have an ID card.

Employee 2 came over, listened to what I had to say, and said that I was right: dependents who are stationed overseas need to have ID cards. I couldn't help it. I looked at Employee 1 and smiled. I looked over at Employee 2 and asked if I could please get the ID card. Misunderstandings would soon abound! Employee 2 told me that they couldn't issue the overseas ID card to the kids because we are not overseas now. The only thing they could do was issue an ID card that was good for 5 days; that would "get us on the plane", and I could get the "permanent" one when we got to Korea. This posed a problem because our travel plans are such that the girls will be spending a couple of weeks with their grandparents (not in the area) just before we leave, and we won't be able to travel back to the DEERS office to get the ID cards before we got on the plane. Employee 1 kept telling me that I didn't need to worry about it, and I should just wait until I get to Korea to get the cards. I did lose my cool with her; I said that she needed to stop telling me to not worry about things. I needed people on this installation to do their jobs rather than spending so much energy getting out of doing their jobs. She stopped interjecting herself in the conversation. Eventually, Employee 2 went to the actual DEERS employees and asked what to do. At the end of it all, we left the building with ID cards for each of the girls. What an unnecessary hassle!

We weren't going to let the day end in frustration. Instead, we took selfies at the Resident Appreciation Festival on post. And this will be how I remember today: me and my girls!

TGBKA, Day 27: Weight Allowances

Weight Allowances

Man, when it rains it really does pour! The Unaccompanied Baggage pack out was on Day 26, and if you'll remember from this post I have been very nervous about the weight allowances and how to estimate how much my stuff weighs. According to our PPO Counselor, I was to have not more than 350 pounds of stuff for myself and 175 for each of the kids for the UB shipment. And you'll also remember from the same post that our PPO Counselor and I had a disagreement on how much of our HHG allowance that I could ship. She said 25%, I read the regulations and saw 50%. She highlighted 50% and handed it to me, still saying that I could only ship 25%. It has been a big mess, people!

On Day 27, Sweet Baboo got an email telling us that our UB shipment weighed 715 pounds. The emails said, "DPS has detected the possibility you may have exceeded your authorized JTR weight allowance of 600. Please contact your destination Transportation Office and request a reweigh of your shipment prior to delivery and/or for additional assistance."

Packing all of our UB goods into the truck!
Did you read that math? The email said that I went over our 600 pound allowance, but according to the math the PPO Counselor gave me I should have had a 700 pound allowance. Sure... either way I went over. But when you're paying per pound for your stuff to get flown to Korea, 100 pounds is a big deal. I'd rather pay for 15 pounds over rather than 115.

Once the goods are in the crate, there's no unpacking it to make it lighter!
The crate gets sealed, and there is no going back.
That afternoon I called my PPO Counselor. Her voicemail was as helpful as she was in person. I intended to write a separate blog post about my experience in the Personal Property Office, but was busy running around trying to get accurate information. So I'll BLUF you: She. Was. Awful. She spent the entire time giving me no information, getting frustrated with my questions, and telling me that I shouldn't call her if I have any other questions. (She gave me three handouts with phone numbers for Jacksonville, Florida should I have any questions or problems.) When I insisted that I read the packs of papers that she handed over to me to sign, she was visibly irritated. I'll admit, I scanned a few of them and signed them because I was starting to let her behavior affect my confidence in my understanding on what should be happening.

To sum up her desire to help families get the information they need to ship their household goods to a new duty station, her voicemail says it all: "Hi, this is ______________. I'm unavailable at this time. If you need assistance you may call _______________ at ______________. Again, that's _______________. Have a blessed day." Does she encourage the caller to leave a message so she can get back with them? Nope. She passes the caller off to another person... by asking that person to call somebody else. She couldn't be bothered to be helpful when I was in her office... and that attitude is extended in her voicemail. But man, I'm glad she gave that name and number. Because the man I called next was over the top helpful!

When Helpful PPO Counselor called me the today, he stopped what he was doing to look up our situation in the computer. According to him, here is how the math should work out:

Sweet Baboo was given 600 pounds to ship his HHG back when the tour was supposed to be just him. When his orders were amended to authorize the girls and me to join him, we were authorized an additional 350 pounds for my UB shipment, 175 pounds for the Elder, and 175 for the Wee. That would allow for 700 pounds for the girls and me, on top of the 600 pounds that Sweet Baboo was authorized to pack (1,300 pounds total). His shipment ended up only being 250 pounds (he forgot a few things). I asked Helpful PPO Counselor if the remaining 350 pounds that he didn't use were use-lose, or if we could use some of that in the shipment that we're over on. He said that since our orders are amendments to his, and we had to do the shipments in two separate shipments, the weight allowances were not use-lose. So technically, I had up to 1,050 pounds to use on our UB shipment... not 700, not 600. He said that I should not be "over" on our weight allowance (since his shipment plus ours equals 965 pounds), and I shouldn't receive a statement of charges.

But that doesn't change my overall HHG weight allowance. Yes, we are authorized 13,500 pounds total (UB + HHG + NTS), but we can only take 50% of that 13,500 to Korea (UB + HHG). The other 50% has to either go to the trash, donation hole, sold, or NTS. What a relief! He looked it up, verified it for me, and when I told him that my original PPO Counselor quoted me 25% he said that she was wrong. (Sweet Baboo took time out of his duty day to head over to his PPO in Korea to ask why our PPO Counselor here would say 25% and they were at a loss as well). So after Sweet Baboo's 250 pound shipment in July, and our 715 pound UB shipment this week, we still have 5,785 pounds of HHG that we can ship to Korea. I think if I ship that much stuff, Sweet Baboo may have a few words to share with me about my definition of "packing light"... but it's nice to confidently know what my allowances are! Now we wait to see what the HHG shipment will weigh... and if we get a statement of charges.

During all of this, I was doing my best to research the regulations. But when my original PPO Counselor handed me the highlighted regulation (that told me I was authorized 50% of our total weight allowance), she also told me that she wasn't confident that she was handing me the most updated regulation (and informed me that it wasn't her job to keep me abreast of the most updated regulation). This caused me to ask what her purpose in the office was, but that didn't go over very well. My research did turn up this document dated October, 2014. It has so much information in it that I wish I had during the last four PCSs!

It lists weight allowances by rank:
Because this was so hard for my original PPO Counselor to get to me at first!
It discusses pro-gear:

Because my original PPO Counselor didn't tell me the weight limit for PBP&E.
It discusses pro-gear for the spouse:

This will make a huge difference in our weight allowance... all of my studio equipment needs to be stored.
It even discusses how to prepare for your appointment with the PPO Counselor:

As a person who reads regulations so I can be fully informed, this document is 31 pages of pure gold. The information it contains would have been supremely helpful had I had it before my PPO appointment, or even if the PPO Counselor gave it to me at the appointment. I have phone calls to make next week, now... but I'm glad I know this info now rather than later! I'm just hoping the information it contains isn't outdated now that we're in the new fiscal year.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

TGBKA: Staying Organized!

I'm afraid I suffer from "not enough syndrome". It's not a greed thing.... rather, it's a substantial thing. I don't walk through life saying to myself, "I don't have enough money". Nor do I think, "I don't have enough stuff." But I sure do spend much of my life saying things like this to myself:

"I'm not efficient enough"

"This isn't organized enough"

"I'm not effective enough"

"I'm not enough enough"

Seriously... it's a wonder how Sweet Baboo puts up with me so gracefully. He has definitely grown wise with age because he has agreed to use this brilliant (if I do say so myself) tool:

It's a secret "group" on Facebook that is for only myself and him! This has saved so many conversations for us. Seriously! Sweet Baboo is 14 hours ahead of us. So when it's 10:00 in the morning here, and I have a random thought that I need his opinion/input/wisdom for, picking up the phone and calling him at midnight (his time) makes for a Cranky Baboo. Mainly because he has morning formation that the higher powers expect him to cheerfully participate in. So I put a post on the page, and patiently wait for him to respond.
My plea for participation may have something to do with his immediate acceptance of this idea.
And guess what? We aren't using the private message function of Facebook to communicate as much. This is a huge bonus because I am not spending an insane amount of time scrolling back up through fifty bajillion messages to find one piece of information. The group allows us to have organized conversations about several topics at the same time with the reply option to each comment in the thread. For instance:

The most organized way to hold a conversation with a human who sprints through life with ADD. There are literally 11 conversations going on in this thread, and I left the thread feeling completely informed and not confused at all. GLORIOUS!
I had our first pack out today, and I spent much of my weekend feeling like I was forgetting most of the important things. So I started a thread specifically for the express shipment. I took photos of each room and asked Sweet Baboo to let me know if he saw anything that I was forgetting. Then I went to our storage unit and asked him to let me know if he needed anything there. (Most of his professional equipment is there, and I can't shake the feeling that he didn't take enough of it with him). Each thought is completely different from any other in the thread; if we were to have had this conversation in the private messages function in Facebook most of the thoughts would have been missed or misunderstood. Responses are given directly to the individual thought, allowing for answers that need few (if any) clarification. It's delightful!

This group may not get shut down when we move to Korea. I love having the ability to put down my random thoughts in an area that is only for Sweet Baboo and myself (since it's a secret group, others won't be able to find it, or join it, unless we invite them to do so). When he's on a trip, I can keep up the communication with him about our household needs. It's great! I'm not feeling like our communication isn't efficient enough any more. Why did it take me this long to come up with this idea?

TGBKA, Day 26: Express Shipment Pack Out

We're here: the first pack out! I've been avoiding most things in preparation for this day, yet I still feel under prepared. I found this image on Facebook a couple of weeks ago, and it very completely details how my brain works:

A visual for why a simple question seems to take an eternity for me to answer. 

So if my "thought", according to this visual, is "Express Shipment: What to Pack", then my "sub thoughts" would include things like

  • When will we get this shipment? (Estimated: December 17th)
  • What will we be able to live without until that shipment arrives? 
  • How many pounds does an office chair weigh?
  • How will I get clothes to Korea if I want them before December 17th? 
  • Just how many bags can I bring on the airplane per ticketed passenger? 
  • Will that number be enough?
  • How many bags can I arrive in Korea with and still have Sweet Baboo excited to see us? (I tend to "over pack")
  • What pots and pans should I send now so I have them for Christmas?
  • How in the world will I cook Thanksgiving dinner without my kitchen?
And the list goes on. All for me to make decisions on how to "spend" 750 pounds of my stuff for this shipment. Here's what I came up with: 

Towels, cooking tools, yoga mat, homeschool curriculum... you know, the basics.
Desktop, television, office chair, Wacom tablet, Big Al (my teddy bear) and Dog (my cat pillow). The freezer stays.

Christmas tree, lights, ornaments, punch bowl... I sliced it down to this.

Two of the very few things that I'm packing, knowing full well that I'll only use it for 4 months in the entire tour. But I love these bowls that much!

So here's hoping I didn't screw this decision up. And that when I get to Korea with 15 bags, each weighing under 100 pounds, I will still have an excited Sweet Baboo who will grin and load those suckers up in the tiny Korean vehicle to get us from the airport to our new apartment. 

Friday, October 2, 2015

TGBKA, Day 6: Passport Lady, Take 3!

The day came for us to go back to the passport office to finalize the process of applying for our Official Passports. Now, I do my best to have "average expectations", but Sweet Baboo is constantly telling me that my expectations (of both myself and of others) is far too high. You be the judge here:

When we arrived, Passport Lady greeted my children (ages 5 and 9 years old) by saying, "Okay, you can't come back here making a lot of noise. I have a lot of paperwork to do and need it quiet so we can focus." Up to this point, the girls had quite literally said nothing. Not one word was spoken out of either of their mouths because they had nothing to say. I, on the other hand, was gently (and in my "I'm in a working office" voice) guiding them to where they needed to go. When she started the visit with that greeting, I looked at her with my obvious, "Are you f-ing kidding me? Did you really just speak at my kids that way?" facial expression and she jumped to explain herself: 

Passport Lady: "There is a lot of paperwork, and I wanted to make sure they knew to keep it down."

Me: "I'm sure they'll be fine. I have good kids."

Passport Lady: "Do they have coloring books and toys to keep them occupied?"

Me: "Nope."

Passport Lady: "What? You didn't bring coloring books and toys?! Why not?"

Me: "I wasn't told to. Is it a requirement?"

Passport Lady: "Well how are they going to stay occupied?"

Me: "I have good kids. I'm sure they'll be fine."

Passport Lady: "It's going to be, like, 45 minutes! Fine."

*For the record, we were there for 2 hours and not once did I have to tell them to behave.* 

We got started with the paperwork, and right away I had questions for her. She wanted to put in the application that we didn't already have passports. But I did. They were expired, but I had them. She said that since they are expired, I needed to put in that I don't have one. But we ended up turning in the passports that I just said on the application that I don't have as one of the official forms of identification.

Despite the several times I told her that The Elder and I had Official Passports (which were expired), and the The Wee never had an Official Passport, Passport Lady kept asking to see my no-fee passports. I would pick up mine and The Elder's passports and hand them to her, explaining that those were the no-fee ones. But they had blue jackets on them. Which apparently, in the eyes of Passport Lady, meant that they simply could not be no-fee passports. Despite the fact that the instructions for the no-fee passport was clearly printed in the correct spot at the back of the book. She still wouldn't listen.

She typed with her index fingers. And she looked for the keys as she typed. This slowed down the process substantially since I had to wait for her to ask me for the information, and she had to search for the keys to type it in. I'm surprised that with the ├╝ber-technological way we live, employers don't have an expectation that the employees they hire have, and maintain, a minimum typing skills assessment if their main duties in the workplace require that they use a computer. At the risk of judging her by her age (she started it with the way she spoke to and about my children), I'm sure she has been working in that office since typewriters were a luxury. But that doesn't excuse her from being able to provide services efficiently and effectively. 

At one point she stopped her painfully slow typing, turned to me, and said, "You're really lucky. I don't do this for anybody." F-bombs were being swallowed at this point. I didn't mind doing this paperwork at home. In fact, it would probably have been more efficient and it definitely would have been easier on the girls. They can handle boring errands, but they find ugliness very difficult to understand. The paperwork that she so generously filled out "for me" that day was online, via the State Department's website. It wasn't some super secret form. I just needed to know where to find it and I could have done it myself. But she insisted that she do it for me during our appointment. 

When it came time to sign the applications for the girls, I was told to give a copy of the POA that Sweet Baboo gave me so I could sign for him. I thought this was odd; can a POA authorize me to get my kids a passport? My mind went through all of the ugly things I've watched wives to do their husbands with a POA in their hands: cleaned out bank accounts, changed names on vehicle titles, take out big loans, etc. Then my mind raced through every creepy Lifetime Original Movie where one parent goes behind the other parent's back and runs off with the kids. No forwarding address... no way to figure out where they went. A passport would allow me to do just that, on an international level. Wouldn't our State Department have safeguards in place to keep things like that from happening?

Turns out, they do. But Passport Lady either didn't know about them, or she didn't want to bother with them. Either way, I find it hard to believe that she is still employed at her job because she really offered me no actual assistance of value throughout the entire process. The DS-3053, Statement of Consent Application Form, needs to be filled out and notarized by the non-attending parent(s) for a child under the age of 16 to get a passport. I learned that when I went to the post office to apply for our tourist passports. And for Sweet Baboo to get me the DS-3053, he had to hunt down a JAG Officer in the final hour of the duty day just before a Korean holiday. Then he had to scan and email it to me. But that happened for Day 8: Tourist Passports... because Passport Lady either didn't know that I needed it, or didn't care to bring it up. And when I did sign my name, she stopped and dramatically said, "That is your signature?"
Me: "Yes. Why?"

Passport Lady: "Really? That's how you sign your name?"

Me: "Do you want me to prove it? I have that same signature on three picture IDs."

Passport Lady: ~grunt~

After everything was signed, and I was just about to walk out of her office, I asked her how long the expedited process will take. She looked at me funny, and I reminded her that on Day 4 I mentioned possibly needing the passports to be expedited because 6-8 weeks would be cutting it really close. She said, "where's your memo signed by a 4-Star General?" Wait. What? Apparently, I need a General to approve applying for an expedited no-fee, and when I asked her about the expediting process two days earlier she failed to mention that. The list of information that I was lacking, despite my best efforts to gather it, was growing by the minute. 

So needless to say, I am not even sure I'll be getting my no-fee passports in time. They will process in 6-8 weeks. That would put them to me between Day 48 and Day 62... if they are even approved. Stressed, I told Sweet Baboo what happened. We decided that I would file for our tourist passports, and spend the money to get them expedited. This should be fun...