First, sit down. I'll wait. Are you seated and stable? Okay, remember not to hold your breath. You might pass out when I tell you this.
I went to the most recent FRG meeting.
No lie. I went. I figured the FFSC reps would probably be there, and I needed to see what they had on the local shit for counseling the sprogs (who are NOT dealing well with Daddy's absence). Why did I feel like this was my best option? Because, constant reader, the local base websites are about as useful as tits on a dude. Which is to say it's nice they're there because otherwise, we'd wonder. But in reality they're for decoration only. Mmm. Decoration. Like this, for example:
Anyway. What was I saying? Oh yeah. FFSC. So they were at the meeting, all hail the gods of predictability, so I was able to grab some of their information for to make appointments for to have the sprogs' well-being tended for to maybe stop the random meltdowns at home and at school. Yay.
But in order to get that information, behold! What I endured*:
The Holy Venue
Now, I don't like to bitch about religion much (hurr hurr), and I understand the need to find an affordable venue everyone can access, but fucking come on. When I walk into the front doors of the meeting building, I should not have to feel like I'm on my guard. And at the London Bridge Baptist Church, I did. Don't get me wrong - the folks who helped me out (including one of the ministers) were nice. But they were NICE. Like get-to-know-the-kiddies nice. Like hugging all the kiddies as we're walking down the hall nice (which didn't squick me at all. nope. not me). Like that passive prodding that telegraphs "we might try to recruit you if we locate your weak spot" and lets you know without any doubt that all you have to do is make a sidelong remark about Sunday to have eight pounds of literature and a booklet of prayer in your hot little hands.
Here's where the bulk of my beef comes from: we were supposed to move the location onto base. Of course, the problem here is that there's no set policy on how to get babymamas and babydaddies on base. And by BM/BD, I mean the unmarried mothers or fathers to children of service members. You know, girlfriends/boyfriends/fiance(e)s, etc. Folks who are not allowed to have a dependent ID but who are parents to a sprog with military benefits (who could have a military ID...just sayin'). Frankly, that's fucking ridiculous. I don't know what the policy is for ex-milspouses with sprogs who still need base access, but it seems like there should be some kind of similar provisional access given to non-milspouse parents. "But that'll lead to abuse!" Fuck you. The fucking ID cards say what privileges you get, and theirs can specify thusly.
But apparently, when we shifted venues to the Not London Bridge Baptist Church location on base, there was much squawking and Kermit-flail going on, and they immediately shifted us back to our standard location. Motherfucking yay. Right reason - inclusion is important for the sake of the service members' sprogs - but wrong fucking result. Boo! Fail!
After I made it through the gauntlet that was the hallway leading to the meeting room, I got my sprogs into the (yay!) free childcare (where thankfully they were not made to pray over their snacks and were not, as far as I can tell, indoctrinated in any way) and headed toward the meeting room.
The Meeting Space, or STFU!!
I stood in the back of the room, where I got to watch some rude crotchpockets talk through the meeting and some very I'm-only-smiling-at-you-to-show-you-my-teeth-RAWR flavors of "please be quiet, I'm having a hard time hearing the speaker." I also got to eyeball the FFSC table, so I knew exactly where to go and how to make my escape once the interminable fucking meeting was done. I was kinda surprised at how few people were there. I'd expected a much bigger showing since I keep hearing folks say, "It has to be at the London Bridge church because NOBODY CAN HOLD THIS MUCH WIMMINZ IN ONE SPACE." I call a teensy smear of bullshit there. Unless this was just an anomalous meeting, natch. There were NOT that many people there. Seriously.
Unfortunately, I had a conference call until 15 minutes before the meeting and then had to stuff food down sprogs' gullets a la making foie gras. Granted, the place is only 20 minutes away. Still, with all the sprog and liver-fattening delays, I didn't actually get into that room until the meeting had been going for about half an hour. Parenting FTW!
Alas, I'm pretty sure the part I missed is where the info I actually gave two shits about was disseminated. You know, at the beginning. Before the Special Speakers.
The Special Speakers, or Holy Shit TMI! What the Fuck is Wrong With You??
I'll tell you about our second speaker for the night, since he was rather anticlimactic after what happened during the first speaker's hour-long Q&A Trial By Motherfucking Fire. Second speaker was the chaplain, who was supposed to tell us all about helping sprogs deal with deployment. What he did was tell us how he tells the guys on the ship not to expect to come home and step right back into roles. And that, said he, is the same for the kids!
If you're confused about how that applies to sprogs having issues now, before reintegration, yeah. So was I. Then he went on and said some common sense crap, including not unloading your issues on your sprog and to find a BFF or therapist instead (please, gods, why did that need to be said??). Peppered throughout, though, were constant references to how he was praying for us or clearly "not praying hard enough." Was that supposed to be chaplain humor, maybe? I couldn't tell. Overall, the presentation was pretty useless, and I didn't feel like I had any more pointers about helping my sprogs through this deployment than I did walking in. I wasn't even sure if that would have helped me when I was a newly minted mom and didn't know what the options are for getting help. All I felt was prayed for. Which, yeah. Not helpful, dude, but if it makes you feel useful...
The best moments were during the first speaker's presentation. He was the dude from Tricare, and his biggest mistake was in telling the room that he's the guy you talk to when there's an issue.
Enter the WTFkery.
Of course, there were the folks who can't ask a question, get an answer, and then STFU. No, they have to keep talking, reiterating what they just said, when there's absolutely no need. Por example:
Where X = a long, detailed story which could be stated in three words max but nevertheless requires its own paragraph each time it appears.
Wifey: Why can't I do X with Tricare Prime?
Tricare Dude: Because Tricare Prime is fucked up, and seriously, y'all should consider whether you'd be better off with Standard *coughcough* *hinthint*. <-srsly. I got that impression hardcore. He was pimping for Standard.
Wifey: But why can't I do X with Tricare Prime?
TD: Because Prime doesn't allow it. You can do that on Standard.
Wifey: But all I want to do is X.
TD: Move to Standard.
Wifey: But all I want to do is X. On Prime.
TD: Moving along...
Now take that example, and be sure to pepper it with lots and lots of anecdotes about recent health issues and Tricare Prime and trying to do paragraph-long description of X and being told no and more anecdotes and others will back her up no really anecdote anecdote.
At some point, Tricare Dude made sure to remind us that we can always contact him afterward (he gave out his card) and that he'd even stick around, and if you had any personal issues with personal details, he's heard it all, and he's happy to hear it but not in front of the room, please.
Cue the woman with TMI Syndrome.
TMI: I called the appointment line recently. I wanted three things: my annual physical, my PAP, and to check a mole**. I was told I couldn't make all those appointments at one time. WTF?
TD: [though turning a bit pink, gives a reasonable answer, though he admits the policy is cracktarded.]
TMI: But I just wanted three things: my annual physical, my PAP, and to check a mole. Seriously, they can't do that at once?
TD: [a bit more pink now] Sorry, that's policy.
TMI: But I just wanted three things: my annual physical, my PAP, and to check a mole. They wouldn't even let me make those separate appointments in the same call. I had to hang up and call back.
TD: [kinda purple now] That's not right. They should never tell you to call back, not for any reason. Next time, do this, that, and the other, and if you don't get help, contact me.
TMI: But I just wanted three things...
O.o Seriously, it was bad. Poor Tricare Dude.
The meeting, in all, was useless, and even the little craft thing, which might have been cute for the sprogs (it was a Father's Day craft), was a non-starter because some bizatch got up there and grabbed five of them for her kids. Not one for them to work together. Not one for the family and go to fucking Michael's and get the material to do more if you need it. Five. One for each sprog, I assume. I peeked in there, and the two left were both sports, which YodaMan despises as much as I do, so I walked away.
I decided right there it wasn't likely I'd be coming back.
My Sprogs Have Issues
So after that clusterfuck of a waste of an hour and a half, I made my way back to the sprogs to check them out and go home. One was in tears when he came outside. Because they dawdled, and because we were late, they didn't get more than one turn in the bouncy house, and elder sprog declared the teenagers sitting were all bullies because they collapsed the house to get him out for another kid's turn. Younger sprog declared it was mostly boring, and he was unimpressed with the lot of it. I had hoped they'd maybe meet some kids, make some friends, connect in some way with a sprog going through the same situation. But no. It sounds like those kids were as friendly and inclusive as the adults in the meeting were. Which is to say, not so much.
As we left, we walked right by the minister and his perked ears a-waiting to recruit the milspouses, and elder sprog said this was a horrible night. I agreed with him and promised we wouldn't ever come back. And then I gave him the cute, non-functional flower on a green stick thing they gave out to the moms in the meeting. That cheered him up, though he was perplexed why you'd go to all that effort to make a flower if it's not at least going to be a pen. Ahh. My little crafter. This flower was the one perk of the whole fucking night. The one thing, though completely non-functional, that made things a little better. Makes me giggle since the supposedly functional FRG was useless, obnoxious, and a waste of my fucking time, energy, and gas.
I went in with low expectations after my experiences with the very snotty, very ridiculous, clique-infested Nimitz FRG group (my first ever - there was no such bird for us prior to that experience). The meeting verified for me that what I saw at two Nimitz FRG gatherings was perhaps not just happenstance. Twice might be coincidence, and three times might be a pattern, but it would take a pretty damned amazing FRG experience after Enterprise to convince me these things aren't ridiculously executed from start to finish.
* YMMV, especially if you are not tired, spouse-salty, bitchy, snatchy, snarky, and Pagan.
** I actually couldn't hear what that last one was. For all I know, she was saying she needed the doc to graft an iPhone to her hand. Like I mentioned before, there were rude people talking throughout, so not everything was clear, and she lowered her volume a hair on that last one. Which leads me to believe it was actually something NOT personal or ridiculous. Hence my "check a mole."