Inspired by a little-known picture book from the pen of Bethany Tudor, this is a diary, of sorts, where I document some of my thoughts, activities, and ideas as I explore the challenges met by the characters in the story: hard work, the care and nurture of others, housekeeping skills, life changes, charity, community, and cooperation, among others. Like Samuel and Samantha, the ducks in the tale, I struggle and succeed, cope and celebrate, work and play, handling the tasks that come my way. I invite you to join me on my journey.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Shop On The Base, Honey

This blog entry was approved by my good friend and fellow retired Navy wife, Koalagirl15, and was prompted by her most recent ordeal of being trapped in the base entry traffic just as the front gate was closed for a terrorist drill.

Being the wife of a retired Navy man, I am regularly encouraged by my husband to take maximum advantage of our military benefits, one of which is shopping at the base commissary*. Now, I don’t have anything against going on base to shop at the commissary; after all, I shopped there on a weekly basis for over fifteen years while my husband was on active duty. However, now that I am a retired Navy wife, I would much rather purchase my groceries at Big Y or Stop and Shop. Yes, I know the commissary has cheaper prices on most food and non-food items, but it really is the non-food costs that push my decision to avoid on-base shopping.

What kind of non-food costs, you ask? The kind that have to do with the valuable nature of my time as a busy homeschool mom. You see, almost without fail, if I make the decision to shop at the base commissary, the Navy makes the decision to run a force protection drill on the same day, at the same time. I decide to save a little cash; the Navy decides to simulate terrorists attacking submarines. For the non-military types who may be reading this blog entry, allow me to paint a picture of what this might look like:
It is 9:00 AM on a Wednesday. You have just dropped your four-year-old daughter at preschool and have decided to go grocery shopping while she is in class. You have two hours, just enough time to shop and head home to unload your purchases before the strictly enforced preschool pickup time expires like Cinderella’s pumpkin. You rose early in the day to prepare a shopping list so that you can move quickly through the store.

It is now 9:45 AM. All is going well (in fact, life is humming along almost too perfectly). Preschool drop-off went like clockwork; you are reaching the end of your grocery list; and the commissary actually had most of your desired items in stock, eliminating the need for additional visits to “civilian” supermarkets. You are ecstatic! You reach the checkout line in record time and begin unloading your purchases for payment when, out of the corner of your eye, you see base security pass by the front of the building. Almost immediately, the announcement is made that a base-wide drill has commenced and everyone should leave the building. You exit through the front doors to stand in the parking lot, leaving your groceries in the cart and on the checkout conveyor belt. It is chilly outside and a northeast breeze cuts through the light windbreaker you grabbed, thinking it would be sufficient for the day, never imagining that you would find yourself spending any more time outside than the seconds it takes to run from your car to your house. No one says how long the drill will last. Being nothing more than a spouse, and a retired spouse at that, you have no need to know that information (from a military standpoint), so you wait. Realizing that time is running short and your original plan of the day has been foiled, you phone the preschool to inform them that you are trapped on base for an indefinite period of time and that you will, in fact, be late to retrieve your daughter from preschool. Ending that call, you begin the long vigil until the all-clear sirens emit their blaring wail, notifying all within hearing distance (and then some) that life can now return to normal. The imaginary terrorist attacked has been successfully repulsed. Hurrah!

You re-enter the commissary, pay for your groceries, pick up your daughter from preschool (not forgetting to pay the fine for late retrieval), and skip the rest of your morning errands in favor of lunch because, by now, your child is starving and you could use a chocolate fix to de-stress from such a relaxing trip to the base. :-)
Now, doesn’t that sound like the adventure of a lifetime, an adventure that any busy wife and mother would gladly select from the cornucopia of grocery shopping experiences, especially since it will save you ~$6.00/week (cost savings based on personal shopping list of blog author; results not typical and may vary)? Let me help you here --- ah, probably not.

My solution: send the husband. A grocery list is small, usually only the size of an index card. When added to the weight of his tools and backpack, it is barely noticeable. Not only that, he drives right past the commissary on his way off base. Surely, a short stop isn’t too much to ask; after all, he can use that time to unwind before he comes home. He can also hand pick those granny smith apples he likes to munch on, or that granola he adores (the really disgusting kind with only healthy stuff like dried apricots and nuts, but no chocolate chips). Sounds like a plan to me.

My challenge: convincing him this is a good idea. :-)

* For those readers who are unfamiliar with military life, the commissary is a grocery store.

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