Tuesday, October 7, 2014

On Reunion Porn: Some Word Vomit

A few months ago, a reporter asked for opinions on public surprise homecomings for military, and you know I couldn't keep my mouth shut. What I wrote to her was long and heartfelt, and what she chose to use for her article was definitely the good bits. But I still wanted the rest to be out there, too. Now that the article has come and gone, and nobody noticed (more's the pity - I had high hopes for a lot of entitled civilian wangst and an ensuing firestorm that might actually make a couple people stop and think), I've decided to offer what I sent to that reporter here.

I saw your Twitter request for opinions on publicized homecomings (aka reunion p0rn) of the surprise variety. I have so many opinions on this. I’ll try to be concise (and will probably fail).
 
First, I’m a milspouse of nearly 20 years. My husband was commissioned into the Navy in 1994, about two weeks before we were married. We met as midshipmen at the [college] NROTC. We’ve endured numerous lengthy underways, a geobachelor experience lasting about 18 months,  six ship deployments, and one IA deployment to Afghanistan.
 
I find reunion p0rn problematic on a few different levels, but making them a surprise only exacerbates the issues, especially when a child is the recipient of the shock. It’s annoying enough when you’re pier-side after an eight-month deployment, the service members are coming down the brow, but everything is delayed because of media blocking the exit route in an attempt to get those reunion shots. It’s so much worse to see men and women arriving home from war, where the sacrifices and fear have been amplified, and the long-term effects are so much more severe.
 
Reunion p0rn is exploitation that many military families unfortunately participate in willingly. These televised moments are a small snapshot of the psychological deployment cycle—a moment of exuberant joy, almost universally—used to give civilians a feel-good moment and a sense of having participated in our lives. It’s a reminder to them that they “support the troops” even when they don’t give a second thought to the milspouse neighbor struggling so hard she can barely keep the yard mowed. These moments don’t serve military families, though, except for a moment of squee when a family sees themselves on the local news. They certainly don’t serve the larger military community in any way.
 
Why?
 
They don’t offer a truthful look at deployment. At best, civilians will see a very short report with teary eyes and proud-patriot words at deployment. And then they will see on infinite loop the moment when families come together again. Their takeaway: military families are proud, patriotic, strong, and happy to sacrifice. That surface view of reality is insulting and ignores the highly emotional and wide ranging experiences that begin the moment you find out a deployment is coming and continue through reunion and into reintegration. How many civilians know that we milspouses have recently (thanks to the community we’ve formed in the blogosphere) realized we’re not crazy because we walk through how we’ll respond if the chaplain and command representatives show up at our door with dress uniforms and condolences? How many civilians have known the guilt we feel when we’re so relieved that IED didn’t hit *our* husband? How many civilians know how often we’re up late at night, unable to sleep because we haven’t heard from our spouse in days, and that’s unusual? They don’t know. They have no idea because their only view of the deployment experience is reunion. Happy, tear-filled reunions that have so many layers beneath that joy, civilians cannot possibly comprehend.
 
They inevitably segue into the next image the civilian world sees: PTSD and the sometimes violent results when it’s untreated. This also does us no favors, as combat veterans are immediately under suspicion. Will she snap and pull out a gun? Does he go into rages at home and beat his family? Is this person in front of me dangerous??
 
Reunion p0rn puts the surprised milchild or milspouse in a very awkward position. Children have it worse than adults in these situations. Again, civilians have no idea that these kids have struggled so hard. Parents keep secrets during wartime deployments, but kids see through this. They might not know details—might have no idea that Mom is outside the wire and regularly convoying down oft-targeted roads, no idea that Dad is living in a tent in an FOB with insurgents on every side—but they feel the stress. They worry, too, and they often act out. Night terrors and nightmares are common. Violent outbursts happen among many families. Tears, changes in personality, suffering grades—these are common responses during deployment when kids miss their deployed parents, when the spouse or grandparent still at home doesn’t fill the empty spot in their lives. Surprise reunions don’t just ignore the layers of emotion and psychology beneath this desire to see the missing parent again—they gloss over the resentment, the longing, the fear, the anger, the desperation.
 
They also put the child in a position where she has to perform. Whether televised or not, if you put a child in front of all her classmates and then spring her just-returned father on her... That’s more than just an ugly cry. That’s a genie you’ve released from a bottle, and now that child is in public, dealing with a bevy of emotions she might not be prepared to deal with, in front of her peers or strangers, asked to put all of that on display. I’m not saying parents don’t know their kids and are being irresponsible parents, but I do think, in our desire to do something great for kids who have suffered so much, we don’t always consider the wider-ranging effects of our actions. A surprise of this magnitude seems like a great idea, and boy howdy do the civilians just loooove to watch them. What’s one more sacrifice for the entertainment of America?
 
It’s even worse when the reunion isn’t at the end of a deployment but at an R&R homecoming. R&Rs are incredibly difficult to navigate, a time when the demands on a couple or family put more pressure on them than they might be ready to deal with...and then the service member has to head back. It might seem like an oasis of happiness and calm, but it’s fraught with more worry and another heart-wrenching goodbye at the other side. That’s always at the back of everyone’s minds — even the kids.
 
At the end of our Afghanistan experience, my family mentioned calling the local TV station to let them know we would be welcoming my husband home at the airport, but I obviously had opinions and said no. I was doubly glad I stood my ground because my young boys reacted in a heartbreaking manner to their father’s return. The older one, who remembered his father despite the three nearly back-to-back deployments we’d dealt with, hid behind me. He didn’t know how to deal with his emotions. He was happy to see his father, but he was also conflicted. My younger one didn’t recognize his father despite the photos we showed every day, so he clung to me and refused to be held by this strange man. They were young enough that they probably would not have realized the significance of a camera in their faces. But if they were older and dealing with similar emotions...just imagine how hard that would have been. The cameras would have been long gone by the time they warmed up to their father.
 
Long gone when my husband decided to try driving again and nearly ran an aggressive driver off the road because it was a convoy habit.
 
Long gone when he no longer could read the responses of the child with minimal verbal skills.
 
Long gone when, in the middle of a stressful reintegration, we were under orders to move and leave behind the support system I’d built up and relied on so heavily during the last few years.
 
Thanks to the portrayal of the military experience by the media, and thanks to the stress put on military families every time we see a publicized reunion (surprise or no), the military-civilian divide is widening. Considering less than 1% of Americans serve [bear the brunt of the sacrifice demanded by politicians, most of whom have never served] and considering the level of sacrifice required by both service member and military dependent, this cavernous divide is untenable.
 
I apologize for not rereading this tome and for basically word-vomiting in your inbox, but I have a lot of work to do before my last day on this job. We’re moving to a country that doesn’t allow military dependents to keep their self-employed positions (which we milspouses often rely on to support a portable career)...something else you’ll never see publicized. I hope there’s something useful in here, but I’m happy to clarify if needed.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Dining Out...Kinda

Back in the day, when I was a wee midshipman, I did a Dining Out with my battalion. It was...well, dress up as much as college kids can and go to a restaurant college kids can barely afford. And that was it. I've never experienced another Dining Out, and the Dining In description I got from the guys made it sound like a fucking stupid reason to ruin a uniform.

Cut to Bahrain. I was invited to a Dining Out, but I was at that stage of [unintended] pregnancy when you don't fit into regular clothes and you don't fit into maternity clothes, so you just look fat and dumpy and feel perpetually bloated and uncomfortable (because you haven't yet learned what pregnancy discomfort really is) and still take a chance at puking if you smell the wrong thing. Also, acne. Holy shit, the acne.

Needless to say, I didn't go. Instead, I went out with another like-minded milspouse for sandwiches and tea. In my jeans with a rubber band holding the button. Because of course. What I heard from YodaMan was confirmation of my excellent decision making skillz - it was a Dining In with all its reindeer games...and spouses. Beeeecause okay.

Cut to last weekend. YM told me to get a purty dress for a Dining Out, and I half-heartedly looked because dress shopping sucks sweaty, furry ballsack. And it sounded like an insane thing brewing--like a monster that only a bunch of chortling LTs could possibly come up with--with a schedule that looked more Dining In than Out and long, long, Jesus take the wheel, long hours. I found a sitter and, with the casually slut-shaming advice of certain SpouseBuzz authors in my head, found a dress I hoped would appropriately scandalize the SBers while still playing nice with that whole "this is a professional event, even if people are forced to make like F-14s landing on a carrier in front of the main table, which is totally professional, totally, sure, yeah" standard. I'm pretty sure I failed to show enough side boob to scandalize anyone, alas. But I totally took off a pair of failing Spanx in the parking garage, all ninja-like. Because I'm a badass and classy lady. I wonder if I'd get slut-shamed for hitching up my dress in the car in a dusky garage... One can dream.

The event didn't suck. The Vice needs to make better decisions in the future, though. IOW, he needs to not agree to take that position again. Ever. EVER. But then YM had some bourbon and decided to do the Vice's job of entertaining the crowd, and then it seemed like at least half of the room was drunk, and then things got interesting. But at that point, I'd had a pack of peanuts for dinner (because no food allergy modifications on that $65 plate of food, yo) and was, unbeknownst to me, getting sick. So I was tired, had a headache, was cold and trembly and foggy, and very much felt like one of a series of third wheels thanks to the WTF format.

It seems unfair to criticize when I was twelve hours out from full-on OMG I'M DYING END IT NOW and still four days from the puking portion of the fun, but I'mma say one thing anyway:

Please, for the love of all things holy and sacred and military, do not call a Dining In a Dining Out. Do not invite spouses. You end up dumbing down the fun for our sakes, and then nobody has fun. We all think you guys are acting like fucking clingleberries, and you guys think we're all fucking up the chi with our civilian lack of humor and indoctrination and perspective, and we're both right. So just...don't.

Times have definitely changed from the midshipman days of yore. If I'd lost $65 on a dinner and $55 for a dress (Macy's sale HOLLAH) back then, it would have meant Ramen for the rest of the quarter and maybe part of the next, too. Things could be worse.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

That was a salute?

Really, Mr. President? Don't get me wrong - I'll be the first to salute coffee, but to coffee salute a Marine...yeah, no. That's not cool, even if 90% of Marines tend toward the dickbag variety*. Don't do that.

I'm so fucking annoyed that this is even a news item right now. Really, Murrica? Don't we have better shit to worry about? Shit like, I dunno, going back to fucking Iraq? Boko Haram kidnappings? ISIS/ISIL killing innocent people and selling their daughters to a bunch of squicky fucks? Our own fucked up Congress, who've decided to vacay with pay while military are once again deployed to the Middle East? Come on, people. Let's get past this and remember there are things out there that actually fucking matter and will still fucking matter next year. This dill-fuck of a salute? Not so much.

I don't get why the president salutes back in the first place. A nod or other acknowledgement should suffice, as it does for any officer who is saluted when s/he's out of uniform. I've always felt uncomfortable that someone in civilian attire is rendering a salute, even if he is the highest ranking guy around. But, you know, Murrica!

Was this returned salute disrespectful? I doubt that was the intention, though that's how it's obviously been perceived. Isn't it also disrespectful to not know how to salute and yet still do that, out of uniform, and uncovered? Of course. But, you know, let's get butthurt when a civilian (even if he has a military role, he is a civilian) is doing it wrong despite not ever having been part of the the culture, indoctrination, or training the military has. Because in the grand scheme, this is what really matters, right?


* I speak from the experience of being a Marine brat and later being surrounded by universally dickbaggish Marine Options in ROTC, before I came to my senses and escaped with my soul intact. I'm pretty sure the dickbag is issued to them, and over time, most choose to merge rather than just wear it when they have to be particular hardasses. I saw something resembling a back of dick in a MO's seabag, so...

Friday, September 19, 2014

All the great things!

We're not Belgium-bound. Also, we're months away from being able to retire.

Side note: I'M THAT FUCKING OLD, YO.

Aside from the fact that I can say shit like, "Twenty years ago, we didn't have this new-fangled technology called email and telephone when they were underway. No sirree! Talking to our menfolks only happened with a fucking Sprint card and a mythical beast called port calls*," things are looking up.

I quit my job. Belgium was going to take employment away from me, so I went ahead and cut ties so I could try to get ready to fill my time there with yet another degree. But this is all a blessing in disguise, since that job was slowly killing me. Also, it paid shit. So I'm much better off without it. And I'm even better off without it AND without Belgium. *jazz hands*

So now I need a job. Preferably one with an income.

In the meanwhile, since I have your attention, I want to know if you've accepted Espionage Cosmetics as your nerd enabler. If you back their Kickstarter part deux, you won't be disappointed. Opening your heart to nerd make-up (and particularly, in this case, nerd nail wraps) will bring you all kinds of squee and no-fuckin-way and shit. For realios. I'm wearing comic onomatopoeia wraps and holy shit are my fingers Pimped. Out.

Here's the thing about their Kickstarter: they're already funded. Two weeks in, bitches. Why? Because they fucking rock. So at this point, we're waiting to see them hit stretch goals so we can get Even Moar Nerdtastic Shit.

What kind of nerdtastic shit did they pull out before, you ask? How about shit like...

  • Star Trek uniforms, including [shut up] Wesley's weird gray stripey ensign thing. On your fucking fingers.
  • MST3K. On your fucking fingers.
  • Cthulhu. On your fucking fingers (not really - he's still slowly waking, so your fingers are safe...for now).
  • Steampunk. On your automaton's fingers. Or yours, if you fancy yourself an airship captain.
  • Binary. On your Perl-coding fingers. Or Java, if you're all new-fangled and shit.
  • And dice on your fingers you can shame. And space. And Science! And all kinds of great shit. See? See??
  • Plus! Jayne's hat on pretty colors. Jayne! Let's take a moment and purposely forget that Adam Baldwin is a walking bag of douched dicks and pretend like Jayne himself remains unsullied and awful and awesome with his hat.

So go check out their new designs at their Nailed It! But Wait...There's MOAR! campaign, geek out for a minute at all the fucking sweet literary shit, pine for some Red Sonja and Oracle (and no, the binary wraps don't count because Barbara would never use Windows and oh, hey, Blue Screen of Death) nails, hope that one day we might even see some Joe Hill and Neil Gaiman and Sheri Tepper and Scalzi and etc. Also, Battlestar Gallactica (the reboot because I will never get the vision of these dudes playing Triad in their 70s primetime tee vee version of a man-thong, and even if the original series didn't suck tit, that would have ruined the whole thing right there) and Stargate (especially SGU because *sob* I still can't believe they canceled it *sob*) and Farscape and The Tick!

Here, allow me to scald your brain with original BSG to prove my point above.



You're welcome.

Clearly there are many, many awesome things out there that should belong on your fingers. There are so many awesome 'verses to celebrate (on our nails), and everybody should want to team up with Espionage. Let us will this into existence with the power of our brains**!

Bee tee dubs, if you're out and about the Hampton Roads area tomorrow and see a short nerd with comics violence on her nails, hollah.


*No shit. But that was also counter-drug ops and underways the CO used because he hated his wife and preferred to volunteer the ship for every underway and also reserve weekends. And it was a frigate. And the email happened, but it was muy awkward and limited to 150 words and usually resulted in me accidentally reading other people's porny love letters, which ew.

**And dollars.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Military Medicine...Doesn't...Suck...As Much

Jesus, take the wheel.

It's hard to admit that military medicine might not universally suck, and yet yesterday, the best thing that could happen to our family happened. And it happened at the hands of an Air Force doctor.

Some background: Elder sprog has been through the medical system and California's First Five system since he was about three years old. We'd noticed he had delayed speech development, and he was also having difficulty with motor skills and sensory triggers--loud noises would overwhelm him, for example. When we had him evaluated, he qualified for services, but each state we landed in, each school system, and even each new person who saw him came up with a different answer. All agreed he was smart--even his pre-K teachers would constantly bring us over to show us the new pulley system he engineered to put toys away, etc.--but he just wouldn't engage with other kids and certainly couldn't engage in imaginative play.

Nobody could agree on what was wrong with him, so I started researching.

And what I found was Asperger's. It just seemed to fit. So we went to the primary care doctor in Monterey--a civilian, which meant he listened to us, ahem--and got a referral for sprog's evaluation for Asperger's. Tricare sent us to Stanford, which has a great developmental department for kids with autism. We were psyched. Answers, at last! Unfortunately, only one of us could go to the evaluation because we were told it would be an all-day thing and younger sprog had something going on. So husband left and I stayed home to be sure younger sprog got to his whatever-the-hell-it-was.

That night, husband returned home, completely dejected. "They said there's no way it's Asperger's because of his speech delay," he said. "But they said his IQ is 67, and he'll never be able to live on his own."

We were devastated. And confused. Our bright, inquisitive child who already grasped some awesome engineering concepts was intellectually disabled? It just didn't fit. It was during spring break of his homeschool kindergarten year that our request for an IEP for him finally made it to the district psychologist. She took one look at his test scores and the Stanford write-up, and called me. During spring break. She wanted to take her week off to come talk to the sprog and see if she could evaluate him. I agreed, and she spent the week at our house, even bringing another psychologist with her one day.

His IQ, when he was submitted to a language-based exam, was 67. His IQ, when he was submitted to other types of exams, was closer to 160. Imagine that! Language delay...and can't complete a language-based exam. Stunning!

His favorite pastime, mazes, resulted in a moment of ah-ha for all of us. He got a little overwhelmed on one maze, and he was about to spool, so I asked if he could be allowed to finish it with one bit of advice. I showed him where he'd made a wrong turn (about halfway through the maze), he went back to that point and completed it. "Do you know the age that maze was meant to test?" the psychologist asked me. "Fifteen."

Sprog was five.

Alas, they said his language and sensory issues gave a false positive on autism tests, and they didn't think he was autistic. This was largely because he checked off common autism and Asperger's traits, but was missing one or two on each list, disqualifying him.

Apparently, that was key.

Yesterday, sprog finally made it through Tricare's referral system and into a developmental pediatrician's office. We were there well over two hours while a pediatrician evaluated sprog. I was stunned for those two hours because he knew all the right questions to ask and the right ways to phrase them. He continually pulled all the issues sprog has and made them very evident. He was interested in sprog. He was engaged. He built up great rapport with sprog very quickly. He was fabulous...and a military doctor, at Portsmouth Naval.

What the fucking fuck, amirite?

He looked at our evaluations, the teacher evaluations, past tests, current tests, and asked me to complete one more parent evaluation. And when it was done, he gave us a diagnosis and a way forward.

No false positive, he said. Our son is high-functioning autistic, and we are able to nail that definitive diagnosis because the DSM moved all of these diagnoses under the autism umbrella last year. He would be Asperger's, the doc said, but for the speech delay.

Finally, our child, with his various issues that nobody would take seriously (oh, he doesn't require services - he functions just fine! except for these "behavior" problems; we seriously need to get him over that, so please talk to him about appropriate responses) because we didn't have a diagnosis that made sense, has a diagnosis. It makes sense. It fits. And it opens up a world of options for us that we didn't have mere hours before.

We have referrals incoming, and we're going to get EFMP status. We are going to get our sprog help. We have a diagnosis we can take to the school. We have options. It took seven years to get to this point, but by gods we have options.

And we owe this treasure trove of winningness and awesome to an Air Force developmental pediatrician who listened, who gave a shit, who wanted our sprog to be able to find ways around and over his challenges so he can be and do anything he wants in life.

So it is with great regret that I rescind my statement that all military doctors suck. Not all military doctors suck. Apparently, the Air Force has some really specfuckingtacular ones.

Thank you, Air Force doctor. You have turned 2014 into an automagically amazing year. This is the year we felt hope.

Friday, June 27, 2014

The Sad State of Military Medicine

It looks like the Army and the Navy are recapturing Tricare Prime members and forcing them back to MTFs. I can't say I'm surprised to read this since there's so much wanking about health care costs for service members and dependents. But still. This is fucking infuriating.

The article touches on one reason -- despite the claim that a significant percentage of appointments go unfilled, it's nearly impossible to get an appointment, especially not a same-day.

I've encountered this issue at the Boone clinic in Virginia Beach. I call the appointment line to ask for an appointment today or tomorrow - first available, please, because a sprog or I cannot breathe/eat/get a temp down/stop screaming from pain and haven't been able to for X many days/hours. Each time, I'm transferred (usually unsuccessfully) to the clinic's direct line.

And nobody picks up.

So I call back to the appointment line, and they say I should call at 7am tomorrow because that's when the openings will be filled. So we wait out another several hours of coughing/puking, fever hallucinations/screaming, and straight up at 7am, I call the clinic.

And nobody picks up.

So I call back. And call back. And call back. And nobody picks up. I get the husband to call the appointment line. And voila. We get an appointment. In three days.

The point is there are no appointments. Since we moved from Champus to Tricare, it's been impossible to get a timely appointment. In most places we've lived, we're told to head to the MTF's ER if we have same-day needs. Now I'm curious about these "unfilled appointments" they're apparently paying double for. How many of those were no-shows? How many of those were set aside for same-days that were somehow unneeded? How many were left empty for late patients or emergencies or long appointments? How many of these appointments are truly unfilled for lack of patients?

The other issue the article doesn't touch on is the fact that MTFs exist to treat service members. Families aren't just secondary priorities. We're considered a burden on the system. We get appointments only if no service member needs one. We get treatment only if there's room and time and money. And this makes sense. The military can't function if all their medical staff is focused on family when service members need attention. But at the same time, we rely on the insurance covering our family, and if our only option under that coverage is to be seen at an MTF whose command doesn't include us as anything more than a tertiary morale issue for the service member, how valuable is this insurance?

I remember when Tricare was born, and Champus died, and Balboa in San Diego was trying to convince everyone to go Prime. All the "prime" appointment times went to Prime members, even if we were dependents. They had special parking close to the entrance for Prime. Even dependents. But nowadays, that's gone. Standard members have freedom Prime members don't--they have to pay a small copay, but they can be seen by civilian doctors (though, to be fair, the number of docs is dwindling because Tricare doesn't pay for shit, and doctors have bills to pay) and still take their civilian prescriptions to the MTF pharmacy, which means their meds are free. They aren't part of the MTF cattle call, and they don't get the shit medical care that Prime members pay extra to be subjected to.

I'm starting to wonder if this isn't how the Pentagon slides the bulk of its healthcare burden into the service members' hands. Prime seems to cost them money, considering the restrictions and the aim for 100% appointment fill and the increasing cost passed to the service members. So are they trying to incentivize Standard?

One of the interviewees in the article mentioned she was losing a doctor she'd had for six years and would now have to start over with a new doctor who doesn't know her. What isn't mentioned is that doctor will have max 2 years with her. And then s/he will PCS. So continuity of care and a healthy patient-doctor relationship don't exist when you're treated at a MTF.

And we won't even get into the standard of care that MTFs have. For more information regarding my feelings on that issue, just look under the "navy medicine" label on this blog and check out my experiences at Pendleton's hospital.

This is sad news for all dependents, and it bodes ill for our medical future.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Working in Belgium

So, with the news of our impending doom PCS on the distant horizon, I've begun the research and the making of plans and the realization that hoo-boy this is gonna fucking suck.

You might recall I used to be a software engineer. We went to Bahrain, where I did good and fun things and totally biffed my career trajectory because it was all under the auspices of system administration rather than any kind of programming. When I came back to the States, the only jobs I was getting calls for were sys admin--not my cuppa because I hate dealing with people (especially when they're freaking out because they don't know how to reboot their computer). So I went back to school and got a Master's degree in something I figured would help me attain a portable career -- creative writing. This degree would enable me to write better, teach college (where I'm allowed to be an asshole), or edit books.

I quickly found a job editing. I've been working for this company since I graduated three years ago. Huzzah!

But when I researched Belgium, I kept coming across warnings about getting a work permit and restrictions on jobs. When I dug down, I found some pretty fucking dire info: only jobs on base (read: commissary clerk, admin assistant, teacher, etc.) are allowed under the NATO SOFA. Not to diss on those jobs--they're just not for me. You might notice a trend there...dealing with people. Also, aside from teaching, none of these jobs has a really clear or stable career trajectory, which is key for me. I need a job that pushes me to learn and do more than I thought I could, to constantly improve myself, study, experiment, etc. Also, a retirement fund would sure as fuck be nice since I'm not earning one being a pearl-polishing wifey.

Anyway, I did more research because this is some bullshit info. And I kept finding the same thing: limited jobs qualify under the SOFA (the only European country with this kind of sploogetastic 50s throwback shit), and for the rest, you have to relinquish your SOFA status and become a Belgian resident. WTF?

I finally dug up a number for a military law office yonder and, after being spoken to by a very loud French speaker, I was connected with a very French-speaking Belgian lawyer who, I shit you not,

advised me on how best to break the law.

I'm not lying.

So I have to give up the editing gig. This portable job I pursued because it's portable and mil-friendly is not actually portable into Belgium. It's most definitely going to cost me hardcore to maintain, in both taxes and SOFA status, and making these meetings when I'm 6-7 hours ahead of East coast time and 8-10 hours ahead of company headquarters...yeah, no.

But even my backup plan is dangerous. "You will not be a high priority for the Belgian government," she said about a writing career because with this, at least, I would not be taking a job away from a European, and my income would be laughably low enough that I would not be depriving Belgium its due taxes. I just have to make sure I pay my American taxes and keep to American laws so "if the worst happens" (jail time? deportation?) I can show a "good faith effort" to be all legal in some way. O.o

She gave me a tiny glimmer of hope, though: there are American companies with Belgian offices that can employ Americans under the SOFA. The only thing is, they have to be willing to fill out egregious amounts of paperwork and file applications with NATO, the Belgian gubmint, etc. and possibly sacrifice a few goats (which is cool because apparently all their veg is fried in animal fat or doused in dairy, so no big on the goats because harvest time).

This means I have some planning and prep to do. I can write covertly and chance deportation/jail/community service, which in Belgium is probably forced friendliness and most likely entails system administration work, but I should establish that career post haste to show that this was something I brought with me. I can get some certifications to rejuice my not-very-portable software engineering mojo, in hopes (maybe, possibly, because I can't find much with my google-fu) there are Amurrican companies in Belgium that are happy to hire cantankerous Amurrican milspouses and do all that jazzy paperwork shit. But then I'd have to be okay with our next PCS dropping us somewhere there are--once again--no jobs to build up my career. Or I can settle in with the whole housewife thing and pretend to like putting my whole fucking life on hold--yet again--for my husband's career.

If you need me, I'll be in the corner.

Plotting revenge.