Jersey Girl?

Living on a military post, I get the question, “Where are you from?” more often than when I lived in the “real world.”

Well, except for the times when my midwest or American accent made me stand out.

This is a tough question. Here’s the breakdown:

Born in Cleveland, Ohio and lived in Ohio until age 9.
Moved to Richmond, Virginia and lived there until age 18.
Attended college in Pennsylvania and then lived there for two years after college until age 24 (my parents moved back to Ohio when I was 19).
Got married and moved to New Jersey to share a home with my husband until last March (total time served: 9 1/2 years).
Back in Virginia now for over a year.

That’s Ohio: 9 years; Virginia: 10 years and counting; PA: 6 years; and NJ: 9 1/2 years.

They say “home is where the heart is” and my heart is clearly here in VA with my nearest and dearest, and the time factor is weighing in its favor too.

But my recent trip to NJ has me sighing with the realization that I just may have to claim that state as my home state.

egads.

Why do I like New Jersey?

  • I own a home there. It’s not a house; it’s my home. It was our first (and only) house. There’s a lot of my sweat and tears poured into that fixer-upper. Things I planted are growing in that front yard.
  • Most of my children were conceived there (not Katie).
  • Most of my children were born and baptized there (not Pete).
  • Most of my closest friends live there (and Lena used to live there; she only just moved across the river to PA).
  • I found God in New Jersey.
  • I learned 90% of what I know about Catholicism in New Jersey.
  • There’s actually quite a bit of farmland in NJ – parts of it remind me of the rolling hills of Eastern Ohio, except the fields have horses instead of cows. And the farmland isn’t in designated spots only. Open Space laws have preserved farms in such a way that you could be in bumper to bumper traffic one minute and flying down a rural road the next.
  • Most residents drive with a purpose in NJ (except on Sundays when some of the old folks take their cars for a walk).
  • You don’t have to pump your gas in NJ, and you don’t pay any more for having somebody do it for you.
  • There are a plethora of restaurants and other eating establishments in NJ, including, but not limited to, The Jersey Diner. You like bagels, they got bagels. You like pasta, they got pasta. Bill, on his first visit to Ohio, could not understand how two roads could interesect and be devoid of buildings. “Why is there even a stop sign?” he would ask. “You’d have to be blind to get hit – you can see for a mile.” He explained to me that in New Jersey, every intersection has 3 delis and a bar, except Kearny which has 3 bars and a deli. When Bill was TDY here in Arlington and we still lived in Jersey, I brought the kids down to visit. Bill was working late, so we got into the car to find a place to eat. We drove and drove and drove. Fritz asked where the restaurants were. I suggested that the people in VA don’t eat out. In Jersey, you trip over places to eat.
  • The grocery stores (the mega-super-duper ones) offer such a fabulous selection of fresh meats and veggies and cheeses: organic, international, Kosher…you want it, you got it. I never, ever had trouble finding a special ingredient, even for the most ethnic of dishes. And if you have the time and energy, there are an abundance of options to the mega-grocery stores from health food stores to ethnic stores and from farmer’s markets to roadside stands of home-grown produce.
  • I’m not a big fan of the shore and Six Flags is nothing compared to Cedar Point, but for overall access to a wide variety of activities and places to go, things to see and people to meet, New Jersey has a lot to offer (even if you have to go to a neighboring state to do stuff).

And finally, I must now admit to the biggest thing I miss about New Jersey: pizza. Before Bill, I was a fan of Pizza Hut and Dominos. I loved the thick crust and the toppings. But after nearly a decade of Jersey pizza (at one point, Bill put his foot down and forbid me to order from Dominos ever), I have become a convert. Jersey pizza is yummy, and I miss it so.

And when you miss some things (like friends and pizza) this much, you have to start to think that perhaps your home – your heart – is there.

Oh, just don’t tell Bill. He’ll never let me live it down.

budgetary priorities

As of Dec 25, 2005, consumers spent over $232 billion on holiday shopping.

The regular non-emergency defense budget is $420 billion.

Congress is quibbling over a $50 billion emergency budget to cover operating expenses, including efforts in Katrina-devastated Louisiana and Mississippi (yes, we’re still there).

National Journal’s CongressDailyPM

May 31, 2006

Lacking Needed Funds, Army Begins To Cut Back Spending

With House and Senate negotiations on the FY06 emergency supplemental spending bill still unresolved, the Army has started pinching pennies to make its funding for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan last until at least early July. The plan, according to an internal e-mail from Army Vice Chief of Staff
Richard Cody, is to gradually restrict spending over the next few weeks, with options growing as dire as suspending recruitment efforts and postponing promotions if Congress does not send the supplemental to President Bush for signing before the July 4 congressional recess.

“These are painful actions but they are absolutely necessary in order to continue operations during the month of June,” Cody wrote in an e-mail circulated last week, a copy of which was obtained by CongressDaily. “This measured response will provide appropriate controls on our spending of [operations and maintenance] resources and will minimize the impact on our mission.” Resources, he said, should be spent on the “highest priority missions.”

The service’s operations and maintenance accounts for FY06 now stand at $5.6 billion, not including any budgetary
reprogramming efforts. The Army expects to receive more than $36 billion out of the $92 billion-plus spending package for military operations and hurricane recovery efforts.

This week, Army leaders have been ordered to hold orders of
any “non-critical” supply parts and postpone or cancel all non-essential travel, training and conferences. By Tuesday, the Army intends to put a freeze on all civilian hires. “You may continue recruiting efforts but cease all final offers of employment,” Cody’s e-mail said. If Congress does not pass the supplemental
by June 15, the Army plans to release all temporary civilian employees performing operations and maintenance work, including depot workers. The service also will freeze all contract awards and suspend the use of government purchase cards. The longer the time before the supplemental is approved, the more ominous Cody’s instructions become. Beginning June 26, the Army will have to release contract employees, including recruiters, “if doing so will not carry penalties or termination costs equal to or in excess of the cost of continuing the
contract,” according to the e-mail.

The service, Cody wrote, may retain “a minimum number of personnel performing mission-essential services.” That week,
Cody said he will demand a list of actions the Army would have to take in July to trim military personnel accounts. Those options should include delaying recruitments, deferring re-enlistments and freezing promotions.

“We are realists on the supplemental passing in June. [The] next backstop where Congress has to try to finish up is 4th [of] July,” a senior military official said. “We hope it’s in early June, but can’t count on that.” Last week, House Appropriations Chairman Lewis said the Pentagon would accept delaying passage of the supplemental to early June. House and Senate appropriators still have not scheduled a formal conference meeting amid concerns in the House over Gulf Coast
rebuilding and agriculture disaster aid sought by senators.

— by Megan Scully

Interesting to note that the people most likely to be affected by lack of funding are civilian and contract employees of the Department of Defense. Yes, some promotions may be delayed for a few months, but this isn’t a really big deal. At least not as big a deal as somebody losing his job for a few months.

So, keep things in perspective. The entire defense budget is twice what we spent on Christmas shopping. The emergency $50 billion is less than what Americans spent on alcohol in 2004 (http://www.bls.gov/cex/csxann04.pdf). Even if you disagree with the wars, can you honestly say that not funding defense is a good idea? Even if you think the military is too big, is laying off civilians the answer? Or should we leave New Orleans to its own devices? Or let the ethnic Albanians torch the Serbian churches in Kosovo?

But for now, since there’s no funding for non-essential travel, I’ll just look at the bright side: no TDY travel for my husband.

swingsets, gardens, and why I rarely have trouble sleeping

Bill has left for work. It’s been nice seeing him this past week.

My ticket cost me $200. OUCH.

Yesterday, we continued our insane push of physical and mental endurance as we attempted to put together the swingset we brought down from New Jersey. Last night, after many hours of labor, Bill announced, “It is now officially unsafe.” We have 2 platforms (one at ground level and one about 4 feet up) and a ladder, but no side rails. Should be fun trying to keep the kids off it. Perhaps I’ll work on it today.

It’s tough to put together something that was together once already. Many of the holes were field-drilled and duplicating the configuration is difficult. I’ve already made a mental note to use a marker to label some connections for next time.

And when all is said and done, the kids will be thrilled and I will be happy to let them swing and slide in the yard….except for one thing. Pete’s activity level is at that point where he is too dangerous for anybody’s good. He keeps me hopping. He’s already demonstrated prowess in climbing ladders at a friend’s swingset, so he’ll be eager to tackle this challenge as well.

{sigh}

Yesterday, I made it to a garden shop and picked up 3 tomato plants and 3 bell pepper plants. This is my first time doing container gardening, so it will be interesting to see how that works out. A friend who lives in housing that will be knocked down at the end of the year has suggested putting in a garden in her yard, since housing won’t care if there are vines growing every which way. I’m willing to plant and weed and help out there…but I still want to be able to walk outside and pick my salad.

Oh, lightbulb idea: I have 2 containers that are long and narrow and hadn’t figured out what to do with them: flowers? leave them empty? It just occured to me that I could use them for lettuce. I’d be able to move them to shade if I couldn’t find a spot that was shady all day. I only tried lettuce once, a few years ago. I was so proud and excited to see the little row beginning to grow. I couldn’t wait to have a totally home grown salad.

And then one day I went out to the garden to weed and I noticed that the entire row was gone: devoured by the fat groundhog or woodchuck pest that wandered in our neighborhood irritating gardeners. Had the thing walked into my garden at that very moment, I would have killed him with my bare hands.

Things are easing up: a little school today, watching my friend’s kids, baseball practice tonight (working on a swingset, planting some annuals, laundry, cleaning, grocery store, post office – the usual). Tomorrow’s schedule is empty (shhh, don’t tell anyone). Only 2 more soccer games, 5 more baseball games, and 2 birthday parties this month (so far).