27 November 2008

Gobble! Gobble!

In a few hours a multitude of people will awaken from their slumber and begin a day feasting, the purpose of which is to celebrate thanksgiving for all they are blessed with and to see how many casseroles they can stuff themselves with and still have room for dessert. I for one am thankful that I am home this turkey day, able to sit down and share a meal with my family and relax in the comforts that can only be found at home. Last year while I was in Iraq I was thankful for a multitude of things, all of which I am still thankful for today, but I need to give a shout out to the men and women who are working this holiday so that the rest of us can stuff ourselves silly with turkey and pie. This includes the police and TSA folks responsible for keeping everyone safe, the fire and hospital workers who keep take care of all our turkey related mishaps, and to the makers of sweatpants as the baggy article of clothing is perfect for stretching with my expanding gut and is most comfortable during a tryptophan induced nap on the couch. To all the soldiers, marines, airmen and sailors who defend freedom, I thank you for your service. To those who are deployed broad, I thank you for your sacrifices and pray for your safe return home and I pray for your families.

Now if you'll excuse me, I must find some clean fat pants before I make the trek south for dinner.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

11 November 2008

Thank a Vet

For those not in the know, today is Veteran's Day. For most it will mean a day off or maybe just reduced traffic for those whose employers require them to work. They might notice the blurbs on the morning news show or maybe even see a few more flags flown than normal, but for the most part they will be oblivious of the significance of this 11th day of the 11th month of the year. They will go about their business of enjoying the freedoms that go along with being a citizen of the greatest country on the planet. To them, it's just another day.

For some it will be a time to reminisce of their time in uniform. They will remember how their time in the military forever changed them and wonder what a life would have been like had they not taken the oath to defend their country. They might participate in a parade in their honor or tell a classroom of what it was like to land at Normandy, hit a hot LZ in the Mi Cong Delta, jump a jet off the deck of a carrier in the Persian Gulf, or man a turret on a patrol through a street in Baghdad. They might wear a hat emblazed with their branch of service or maybe stick a small flag pin on the lapel of their jacket but you won’t get a lot of bravado or gloating from this group. Only they know what they have given, and only those who have served with them can truly understand the meanings of words like sacrifice, duty and honor. They didn’t do what they did to receive thanks on a day like today, but they appreciate it nonetheless when it is given with heartfelt sincerity. Their days of service are behind them, some by many years, and for the most part, today is just another day.

For others they will be getting out of bed, putting on their flight suit, picking up a rifle or hefting body armor and go about their business. They will not think of themselves as heroes or defenders of freedom. They don’t need to. They walk the walk. The reason for doing what they do is so ingrained in them that they might not even realize what today is besides another 24 hours of doing their job. To them, it’s just another day.

The fact of the matter is today is not just another day. It is a day to honor veterans of all branches of service and thank them for doing all that they have done for us and our country. The first group of people needs to be reminded of the significance of this day and of the people it honors. The second group needs to be thanked and showed appreciation of the sacrifices they endured for freedom. The final group needs prayers. Yes, they need to be thanked as well, but they need as much divine intervention as they can get in order to muscle through some difficult times and situations that they are facing.

Show your appreciation today by volunteering at the local VA hospital, visiting a family who has a loved one deployed, or just flying the American flag. Whatever you do to go about your day, thank a vet, pray for our troops, and be thankful for those who have given so much for the freedom you enjoy today.

05 November 2008


Quiscalus quiscula - Latin for "Pain in the Ass"

I hate grackles and they hate me. For those who don’t know, grackles are loud, obnoxious, scavenger birds that destroy local bird habitats and are just a plain nuisance to everyone. Do you want to know why they totally understand my hatred for them? Because I shoot them with my pellet gun in my backyard. Do you want to know why I am fully aware that they in turn hate me? Because they poop through the sunroof of my truck and crap on my shoulder when I’m sitting under a telephone wire at a traffic light.

This war is on...on like Donkey Kong!

It is what it is

The election is over and now everyone can go about their daily lives without being bombarded by the plethora of election propaganda that assaulted our senses this past year. Whether or not your candidate won is at this point beyond your control. If you took the time to exercise your right to vote, good for you. If you decided that your vote didn’t matter, then you gave up your right to complain about the outcome. Our mission now is to back our government and the United States of America and support our leaders, whoever they may be. If you like the outcome of the race, then keep the gloating to a minimum and hold onto the hope of a better tomorrow that you brought into the voting booth with you. If your candidate did not win, then ensure you keep your local and national politicians informed of the desires of their constituents (write them letters) and remember that you have a chance to change things in four more years. Either way, we need to come together as a country and move forward for there are plenty of issues that are testing our mettle. The economy is in shambles, our popularity in the world is not the greatest, the threat of terrorism is real and we still have troops deployed in combat zones overseas. Whether your blood runs blue or red, we can agree to disagree on a lot of issues, but in the end we are all Americans and we must hold onto that common bond with both hands if we are to make it through the challenges that lie ahead.

04 November 2008

Election Day

Go vote. This means you. If you haven't done so already, do it today. Don't give the same party line of why your vote doesn't count or that you don't like the candidates. Too many people have fought to give you this very important right and to make a lame excuse of why you aren't going to exercise it is a slap in their faces. This is an important election and you don't want to look back on this day and kick yourself for not having your voice heard.

'nuff said.

03 November 2008


With Veteran's Day only a week away, I was given this bit of information that was interesting enough to pass on. The Cliff Note's version is that Vets are now allowed to salute (something that was only reserved for people in uniform before).

From the VA website:

New Law Authorizes Veterans’ Salutes during National Anthem - October 30, 2008

WASHINGTON -- Veterans and active-duty military not in uniform can now render the military-style hand salute during the playing of the national anthem, thanks to changes in federal law that took effect this month.

“The military salute is a unique gesture of respect that marks those who have served in our nation’s armed forces,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Dr. James B. Peake. “This provision allows the application of that honor in all events involving our nation’s flag.”

The new provision improves upon a little known change in federal law last year that authorized veterans to render the military-style hand salute during the raising, lowering or passing of the flag, but it did not address salutes during the national anthem. Last year’s provision also applied to members of the armed forces while not in uniform.

Traditionally, members of the nation’s veterans service organizations have rendered the hand-salute during the national anthem and at events involving the national flag while wearing their organization’s official head-gear.

The most recent change, authorizing hand-salutes during the national anthem by veterans and out-of-uniform military personnel, was sponsored by Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, an Army veteran. It was included in the Defense Authorization Act of 2009, which President Bush signed on Oct. 14.

The earlier provision authorizing hand-salutes for veterans and out-of-uniform military personnel during the raising, lowering or passing of the flag, was contained in the National Defense Authorization Act of 2008, which took effect Jan. 28, 2008.


02 November 2008

Iron Ryan

So Ryan completed his first (and only) full Iron-distance Triathlon. Not much to say but he kicked ass and we are happy to see that not only did he finish in a great time, he was also able to walk away from the event without the aid of a wheelchair or gurney.


2.4 Miles of swimming was much better than standing on the cold beach

114 Miles of road biking (102 of it with sunglasses)

26.2 Miles of running on nothing but Nilla Wafers and chicken broth

The finish!

Look at those guns!

31 October 2008

Happy Halloween

While my friends and family are either busy handing out candy, wrangling kids to houses to collect treats, or whoop'n it up at a party with friends or a companion, I am still in North Carolina. It's late on Friday of All Hallows Eve and I'm getting ready to play the role of support wagon for Ryan's first full Iron-distance triathlon. We are getting up early to hike it up to race start so sleep is of the essence. Despite the myriad of things running through my brain I will not be picking one of the many deep thoughts bouncing around in my skull to pontificate about. Instead, I'll be focusing on getting a good night's rest in an effort to get up early and get the crew out the door in time for the big race. It's been a long day of dropping off bikes, picking up packets and staging supplies. I'm tired, and I'm not even the one covering 140 miles tomorrow by my own locomotion.

In the last 24 hours I've learned a thing or two about my situation. I would like to say that the lessons are good and that I've come away for the better armed with more knowledge and a bit of hope that things will turn out the way they are suppose to. Instead, I'm more uncertain and unsure that it will turn out good for anyone. It's okay to be unsure though as life can mimic a blind rollercoaster ride where you don't get to see when the next up, down or loop is going to hit you. So, it's okay to be uncertain. You have to wrap your brain around the idea that just because you don’t know the outcome of a situation, it doesn’t mean that you have to consume all of your emotional energy trying to figure it out. You need to have a little faith and hope for the best, at least that’s I’ve been told. The hard part is losing hope or harboring the feeling that the situation is hopeless. Hope is something that every human being holds on to when things get sketchy in their lives. It’s a defense mechanism to deal with the current hardship in an effort to make you believe that the hurt will go away soon. This is suppose to get you through the tough times, but it takes effort to do so. You can hope you do well on a race, but in the end, it will be up to how much training you did and how mentally prepared you are to complete a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike and 26.2 mile run. The only thing worse than losing hope is having false hope. Focusing your mind on the idea that something will turn out the way you want when you know good and well it will never happen will not only expend your energy, it will psychologically crush you that day when you know you’ve held out for a false dream. I guess the question is, how long do you hold out? Is the time frame three weeks? Is it six months? Is it forever? And how do you know that the hope you have isn’t false? Is it a matter of faith rather than hope?

The answers to these questions really don’t matter in the big scheme of things. In the end, you have to put one foot in front of the other and move forward in life because you can’t stop time and you can’t get back the time you’ve spent. You can only learn from yesterday, live today, and try to make the most of tomorrow before you find yourself under a dirt blanket wondering what in the heck happened to the time you spent wanting something you never even had a chance to get in the first place.

Not to end this entry on a down note, let me tell you a story of my first Halloween in America. My brother and I, new to the concept of begging for candy at stranger’s houses, were taken by my folks to a neighborhood to experience our first “trick or treat” outing. We were properly briefed on what to do and thought we had the plan figured out. We walked up to the first house, which was decorated pretty scary, especially to a 4 and 5 year old, and surveyed the scene cautiously. Like a good older sibling, I sent my little brother forward to scout out the situation. Well, it was more like I was a little freaked out about the place and I assumed that if Gary got eaten by the flaming orange squash on the steps then it would give me a head start to run away. He returned with a treat and with my safety concerns satisfied, I marched up to repeat his actions to receive my just reward. Upon returning to the parental units, we approached with very disgusting looks on our faces. When asked what was wrong, we stated that we didn’t like the treats and proceeded to spit out the fowl candy into the parent’s hands. To their surprise, they found that they were holding what looked like a mixture of chocolate, caramel, and foil. Apparently they failed to brief us that you had to remove the wrapper of the candy before you could eat it.

So, have a Happy Halloween everyone and wish Team Ryan good luck tomorrow.

30 October 2008

Where's the beach?

North Carolina. I’ve never spent any significant time here having only driven through this state on my way from Virginia to Myrtle Beach a few years back. If it wasn’t for the race that my buddy Ryan is doing in Wilmington, I probably would not have a real reason to be here. We are staying at his folk’s beach house about a half hour away from the race and let me say, wow. I kind of like this beach life. I could get use to this whole waking up to the sound of waves. It’s a real beautiful place that I’ve been given permission to come back and visit (or should I say encouraged to with the threat of bodily harm if I don’t). I’m looking forward to taking them up on that offer and witnessing the warm sunsets, but for some reason, watching sunsets alone seems to take some of the beauty out of them.


Soon I'll be leaving on a jet plane (don't know when I'll be back again). I am North Carolina bound to help support a buddy doing a full Ironman distance triathlon. Why people do these things is beyond me, but I'll be there to encourage him and to help bring his exhausted carcass home after the event.

29 October 2008

Yes...I am the muffin man

So watching Charlie Brown last night wasn’t as magical as I remember it, but I suspect that you lose something as you get older and become a little more jaded. I too saw how the kids were a little mean to Charlie Brown and I have to say that I don’t remember the whole school election segment that followed the original show. I’m sure it was done to fill in the one hour time gap created by filling a half hour cartoon with commercials, but it sort of turned me off as it was a little campy. In my state of disinterest I found myself longing for something warm to eat as the hot chocolate just didn’t do it for me. Wandering into the kitchen in search of a toasty treat, I had this sudden desire to make muffins. I scoured the cabinets to see if I had purchased any pre-made mix (you know the kind that you just add milk to and pop in the oven) but alas, the cupboard contained no packages of prepared powdered pastries. One thing I don’t have a shortage of is baking supplies (left over from the mass cookie bake a month back) so I decided to whip up a batch of my grandmother’s bran muffins. That’s right, I said bran muffins. Usually when you hear people mention “bran” in anything, it brings up visions of Metamucil, dentures, and coffin dodgers. Believe me when I say that they are a lot better then you think, and when you warm them up, slather some butter on them and pair them with a nice cold glass of milk, they will make your taste buds happy (not to mention they are pretty healthy for you). My grandmother’s recipes are not small by any means, and I ended up making enough for about 2 dozen with batter left over to make about 2 dozen more. Now, with a giant container full of colon scrubbers, I should have treats for the next week or so. Who would have thought that a bad cartoon would drive me into a baking frenzy AND stir a desire to be pretty regular?

Although I was slightly disappointed in the Great Pumpkin, I still enjoyed it for the good memories it drummed up. Despite my current state of not looking forward to the holidays, I will be looking forward to Mr. Brown’s Christmas Special where Mr. Van Pelt will recite Luke 2:8-14 for the true meaning of Christmas. Not sure why it makes me feel good, but there 's just something about hearing it from a child that makes me take pause during the busy season. Their innocence hasn't been lost yet and I think we all could benefit from that point of view now and then.

In my head

I’ve done my best to avoid the radio and most forms of music lately, but somehow there is a tune in my head that feels like the audible equivalent of hammering needles under my finger nails. If I could just get a Ms. O’conner from bellowing out periods of times (7 hours, 15 days), I would be most gracious.

28 October 2008

The Great Pumpkin


When the weather gets cold, I am thankful that my truck has seat warmers. It might be a silly option to have, especially living in Texas, but I’m here to say that on mornings like this when the outside temperature gauge reads 38 degrees, it’s nice to hit the switch that will quickly turn my heat robbing leather seats into a toasty bum warmer. I usually keep it in the low setting because it does a pretty good job (probably from lack of use). Plus, the high setting is enough to scortch your boxers.

I’m not sure if this cold snap means that autumn has officially arrived in Texas but I know that I’m kinda enjoying the weather. It reminds me of Michigan and New York in the fall, well, early fall at least as there would be frost on the ground as early as September. These brisk temps were good for carving pumpkins as you could leave your Jack-o-Lantern out on the porch for almost 2 weeks with no fear of the heat turning it into a rotten mess of orange goo. Speaking of pumpkins, tonight is the annual airing of “It’s The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown”. I’m sort of a sucker for those old seasonal cartoons on prime time TV because they signaled the start of the next holiday. I guess it’s not as exciting as it use to be with the advent of TiVO and DVDs when you can watch that stuff whenever you want, but I still plan on curling up on the couch to watch it tonight even though I’ve seen Linus Van Pelt's disappointment a hundred times. When the weather gets nippy like this, it’s nice to sit and watch those nostalgic shows curled up under a blanket with someone, but I’m guessing that a cup of hot chocolate will have to do. Just as long as it has Cool Whip in it. Mmmmm... Cool Whip.

In the big scheme of things, the temperature hasn’t been that cold but I’ve spent the last two weeks a bit chilled. Maybe it’s my time in the desert that has made me this way. Yeah. That’s probably it. I feel like a wimp, but I’m not going worry too much about it. I just can’t wait for it to go away as it is a deep chill that not even the highest setting on the seat warmers can seem to shake loose.

26 October 2008

Two days of fun...not!

In an effort to occupy my mind and stay busy, I’ve spent the better part of this weekend assaulting my very large “to do” list of projects around the house. Nothing major like tearing down a wall or installing a bidet, but they are things that I’ve wanted to get to but never seemed to have the time for. From sun up to sun down I’ve unpacked straggler boxes that escaped the initial move, I rearranged furniture a few times, hung fixtures here and there, and transformed my garage from a junkyard into a room with some semblance of order (enough to actually access my tools in order to complete the other major projects on the house). In my frenzy of work, I’ve come to the sad conclusion that I’ve misplaced the hardware to my bookshelves and can’t find the nuts and bolts to my futon. Guess my guest will be sleeping on the pullout.

Since man cannot live on cleaning alone, I spent some serious time in the kitchen making food as if I was preparing to feed an army. The culinary creations included a nice big pot of chicken noodle soup. With the exception of actually raising the chicken from an egg and growing the veggies, I made it all from scratch and it tasted pretty darn good. Also on the menu was a batch of “test chili” in preparation for the upcoming chili cook-off at work that someone signed me up for. And I rounded out the cook-a-thon by whipping up a massive bowl of fresh guacamole that I’ve been eating on for two meals (and could probably sustain a small Mexican village for a season).

Unfortunately, there is no point to this rambling. I normally try to throw in a deep thought or a witty revelation, but not today. Sunday is a day of rest, and after two days of not using my brain, I’m just not able to pull out anything worth writing about.

24 October 2008

Friday is here

Today marks the end of the work week. Most people who work the usual Monday to Friday shift will be patiently waiting for the five o’clock whistle to start their weekend (except for people employed in retail, food service, hospitals and correctional facilities). So what do you do with those two days free with no obligations to that job that pays your bills? Well the possibilities are endless and are limited only by your imagination and money. I throw money in there because if we all had an unlimited amount of it, most of us wouldn’t have to work a nine to five job thus making every day a “Friday”. Anyway, today is the day that springboards you into the weekend and I fear that most folks, like me, will have their mind not on the tasks they are getting paid to do today. Instead they will ponder what crazy events they want to cram into the next two days. Keep this in mind the next time you keep a Friday dental appointment and the dentist is rooting around your mouth with a high speed drill.

Every weekend can’t be a vacation. Projects that you’ve put off all week because you were just too tired to mess with after a day of work will need to be done. Those of us with lawns that are still growing will need a bit of upkeep so that the neighbors don’t think you are attempting to grow wheat in your front yard. Laundry that has piled up all week will require some attention unless you want to do the whole “wear your underwear inside out” to get a few more days use out of them. And the weekend is a perfect time to find out what is causing that smell in the fridge as it hasn’t “gone away” like you had hoped it would. But all work and no play makes you a boring person. Let’s not forget to fill the weekend with some fun things to do. Go visit a pumpkin patch and pick out some gourds to carve up. Meet a friend for fondue because those meals take like forever! Taunt a friend who is training for an IronMan triathlon and challenge him to a Buffalo Wing eating contest! Better yet, enjoy the benefits of the season and do some leaf peeping (unless you live in Texas where leaves quickly transform from green to brown in the blink of an eye and it usually happens some time in December).

I found that when I returned from Iraq, I learned to appreciate the weekends a lot more than I did before the deployment. Because the mission over there only allowed us half a day off per week (and sometimes not even that), we learned quickly to prioritize our free time in order to maximize its benefit to our sanity. This usually meant more sleep, or as much as you could get as the sun tried to bake you in the tin can of your hooch. Regardless, I try not to take the weekends for granted.

Unfortunately the deployment didn’t change the fact that I am a busy-body and don’t like to be sedentary for very long. My weekends start as early as my weekdays, much to the dismay of the people around me who enjoy the pleasures of sleeping in. I try to respect their need for rest as I too hold rack in high reverence. It’s just that I can’t sleep in so I might as well do something constructive. This use to involve some sort of physical activity like running, bike riding, or squirrel chasing, but I’ve recently found more time to do that during the week which frees up my weekends to do... well, to do anything else except physical activity. I’ve got plenty of tasks at the house to work on as it is always in need for some sort of tweak or repair. Plus, with the cost of gas coming down, I am no longer bound by the distance I can go without selling a kidney to pay for the fuel required to take a long road trip.

So go out and spend the next two days doing something fun. It will make valuable deposits into your bank of experiences that makes the difference between living and existing. As for me, I’m not sure what the weekend will hold for me, but I know that I’d much rather be doing a lot of other things, like trying to stay in bed just a little longer in order to keep it warm, traveling by plane to see old friends or taking a hay ride someplace in Virginia.

23 October 2008


I found this quote today:

"Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness." ~ Max Ehrmann

It evoked memories of times in my life when I let fear get the better of me. This in turn motivated me to get a little more information about this quote (thank goodness for the internet).

Mr. Ehrmann was a lawyer turned writer and whose most notable achievement was the poem “Desiderata”, Latin for "things desired as essential". The quote was actually part of the poem and I thought it was interesting enough to post it.

By Max Ehrmann

Go placidly amid the noise and the haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.

As far as possible, without surrender,
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even to the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons;
they are vexatious to the spirit.

If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain or bitter,
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs,
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals,
and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love,
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment,
it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be.
And whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life,
keep peace in your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.

22 October 2008


I woke up this morning at 5:00am, like I have for as long as I can remember, and I laid there contemplating the day ahead of me. The alarm on my watch is set for 5:20am in case I get too wrapped up in my meandering crack of dawn thoughts, but for the most part, I’m off the couch, turn off my brain, and put my body on autopilot to begin my weekday pre-work custom. I went to the bathroom, shaved, dressed, and packed my meals for the day. With the exception of missing one very important thing, this morning was the same routine I do every day before I head out the door to become a productive member of society.

For as long as I can remember I have been tied to some sort of schedule. From dragging my butt out of bed to attend kindergarten to making sure I was at the paper station on time to pick up the news for my paper route, I learned early on that life operated around routines. You could either accept that fact or expend a lot of energy trying to fight it. Resistance is futile because it is hardwired into us. We are creatures of habit and this lesson begins at an early age. I remember loathing nap time as a wee lad because it usually interrupted a game of tag with my brother or caused massive scheduling delays on a very important Lincoln Log construction project. But each day I was given my daily dose of a well needed nap, even if I didn’t know I needed it. Even today I see examples of people in my own life with children who are kept on schedules in their developing years. Although often difficult for the parents to maintain while juggling their own busy schedules, the children with routines tend to get through the rough spots in their childhoods quicker than those without a schedule, not to mention that the parents of scheduled kids normally retain most of their hair and a bit more sanity. Coincidence? I think not.

If I didn’t have a good sense of what a routine was before I went to college, one was hammered into me after my stint at a military school in upstate New York. Imagine four years of your life where you did the same thing every day to the point where every day ran together in a blur of gray on gray. The clothing was the same, the schedule was the same, and the slop they were serving in the mess hall was the only way one could differentiate what day of the week it was. I think this regimented lifestyle is one that only members of the military and prisoners can relate to.

Most of the time, routine gets a bad rap. How would it make you feel if someone told you that you were routine? And most terrible of all, how would it make you feel if you overheard your significant other telling someone that their love life was routine? If that’s not reason to go out and invest in some fancy underwear or educational literature, I’m not sure what is. I guess I’m trying to point out that routine doesn’t have to drum up mental images of people in drab clothes clambering through a monotonous factory job in some Communist country as their will to live is slowly leached from them on a daily basis. Schedules are like taxes; everyone might not like them, but they serve a purpose and they help make the wheels of civilized life go round.

There also exists some level of comfort in knowing that the same thing will happen every day; that you will come home from school and mom will have a glass of milk and cookies waiting for you, that you will share dinner each night with someone you love, or that after every dinner you have a tradition of taking a walk with that special person to talk about your day. Imagine a life where the sun rose and set in the arms of the one you loved and you might appreciate it. Now imagine that same life where that simple event didn’t happen and tell me that you don't miss it.

Succumbing to the idea that your life will have some sort of customary routine does not mean that you have to accept the “in and out” of the same thing as your eternal plight. You might be bound to a schedule of showing up for work every morning and punching a time clock, or picking up the kids or dog from daycare the exact time each afternoon, but that doesn’t prevent you from finding ways to put excitement in your existence. Simple things such as taking the long scenic way to work instead of the quickest route or taking the dog to PetSmart to buy a bone instead of straight home to watch TV can break the “same old” repetition that can mean the difference between living life and just existing. There are hours and days that you do control and while it is necessary to fill the cup of your life with water to sustain you, it’s nice to add something different every now and then...like something fizzy, or alcoholic, possibly with an umbrella.

Have I bought into the belief that routine is the best thing for everyone? No. I believe that in order to achieve a healthy balance of purpose and happiness in your life that you must understand that routine and impulsiveness can coexist. Spontaneity is totted as the spice of life and it’s important to fit something tangy or sweet into your daily recipe as much as possible. In fact, I highly recommend setting aside at least one weekend a month that you leave open; no dates, no appointments, no scheduled trips. Take that time to wake up, read the paper, and find something that is happening that will only take no more than a tank of gas and a packed lunch to experience. I think you’ll find that it will help keep you sane, or at least impede the onset of insanity for a little while.

So, as I sit here working for “the Man”, I have a little more clarity on the pitfalls of routine and a lot more appreciation for the customs and habits of my life. I will complete my 10 hours of work, fight the traffic to the house, find some vittles to eat, go for a run, and maybe even do something spontaneous with the few remaining hours I have, like go early vote or ride my bike to the local Dairy Queen for a Butterfinger Blizzard. I’m crazy like that! And after all is said and done, I will end my day the way I’ve done for the past few months, minus the same thing I missed when I started out the day. It is then that I will miss the routine more than ever.

21 October 2008


I ran my first marathon over 10 years ago when I was but a young lieutenant in the Army. I don’t exactly recall why I made the decision to abuse my body for the 4 months leading up to the event and the race itself. It may have been the pressure exerted on me by my commander at the time who was a hard core runner himself, all 5 feet of him. It may have been a way for me to get in better shape. It could also be that I was repressing a little bit of self masochism and needed a constructive outlet. Regardless of the motivation, I spent many an early morning dodging road kill and pounding the pavement of Fort Hood preparing my body to endure the 26 miles and 385 yards I pledged to conquer.

I wasn’t the only sucker that the commander got to run. He drafted other unsuspecting officers to join in the misery and even pressured some NCO’s to participate. Our final group was small and the daily training runs started early so we could start the day with the rest of the unit. We usually ran together for the first few miles, but as the blood started pumping and we shook the blankets of sleep from our muscles, we thinned out as we settled into our own individual paces. Not as fast as most of the folks, I spent a lot of time running alone. It frustrated me. I ran track for 6 years before college, but rarely had to run more than a 5k. Back then, all my runs were over in less than half an hour, yet there I was trying to cover the scheduled 10 miles without thinking about how long the run would take. How long had I been running for? How long until the next water stop? When does the sun come up? I viewed time as my enemy, but not in the same sense that professional athletes interpret it. I was not trying to beat the clock or achieve a personal record. Instead, time was part of this intricate plot to make the agony of the run last for as long as possible and I loathed it for that reason. Now I’m an educated person and I know about the theory of relativity. That didn’t mean I appreciated how sluggish my watch moved when I wanted nothing more than to stop all this running business.

This was by no means my first run in with the troublesome clock. On long trips across country, time between rest stops was long and painful, especially when your dad only stopped when he needed to fuel up and you just got done gulping down half a pitcher of Kool-Aid. “Oh Yeaaaaah” quickly turned into “Oh Nooooo!” combined with a modified sitting position of the pee-pee dance. Every Christmas Eve lasted forever and the acceptable hour to wake up the parents (required before tearing into the gifts) mocked me from afar. The 4 years of college were brutal and the hands on the clock moved as if they were double tasked with telling time and pulling farm equipment. The days spent in Iraq were longer than normal and time moved at glacial speed keeping home so far away. In retrospect, time has never been a good friend of mine. In fact, it’s not even cordial or polite. It just there, unknowingly torturing the souls that are bound to it and leaving us wondering why it moves so damn slow, or too fast. That’s right. Time is a fickle fiend. Not only will it prolong your pain, it has no qualms with prematurely stealing your joy. Recess is never long enough, weekends and vacations too short, and I swear that alarm clocks were invented by Beelzebub himself to rob you of those extra few minutes of deep and cozy sleep (which is why the snooze button is consider by some as a heavenly blessing). We are controlled by time and there is always a shortage of it when you want it most, like spending time with a loved one, and a surplus of time when you need it least, like when that loved one is far away.

I’m sure there are proponents out there for time, probably in the form of lobbying organizations or a large corporation like Timex and Seiko. They are the ones who push age old clichés like “better late than never” and “time heals all wounds”. Well, I say “bah” to those promoters of seconds, and minutes, and hours, and days, and months and years. Time has given me nothing but heartache and sorrow and while I consent to the logic that cuts will turn into scabs and eventually into scars with the passing of time, I won’t succumb to the idea that time is always a beneficial thing. It is still my enemy, especially now. Especially today.

Despite my illogical hatred of time, I still run, but I’ve given up running marathons. It’s too much on the knees and the time you need to invest to train properly is too much to juggle with everything else that saps my days. Getting old sucks. But still I run, and this chapter in my life is just another leg of the long race that is my life. The difference is, of all the other legs I’ve ran before I knew that the pain in my joints and the burning in my chest would only last for a little while because I was armed with the knowledge of the distance to that next rest stop. I had one year to endure in Iraq before I could returned safely, had to suffer through 4 years before I eventually graduated college, and Christmas morning finally came after a few hours. There were, in fact, definitive stopping points in my life that I mentally and emotionally prepared myself to hold out for. Only this time, I don’t know where that next rest stop is or how long I have to go before I can take a break from this internal aching (and it is a far worse feeling than the modified sitting pee-pee dance).

Curse you time.

19 October 2008


Madison the Wonder Mutt has made many an appearance here on the blog. From my battles with her chewing my stuff to her peeing on my leg when she didn’t want to listen, I have spent more time with her than I originally thought I would. I remember sitting in Iraq wondering how I was going to accept this new addition to my life. For starters, I’m allergic to animals and new puppies take a lot of time to train and take care of and I was unsure how she would be included in my transition to civilian life.

Potty training took what seemed like forever and her constant chewing was hard to deal with. Spontaneous adventures were curtailed because you had to make sure you weren’t away from the apartment for more than 8 hours. The freedom to take off for the weekend was now complicated by finding a dog-sitter. If it was anything, I guess it was good training if you were thinking about having a kid and I thought her owner and I were getting pretty good at juggling our schedules to accomodate the puppy. It was complicated to have her around, but as she grew from a puppy to a dog, she got rid of some of her mischievous ways while still retaining her sweetness. We started to overlook the hicups in our lives because we had a wonderful dog that was willing to give us slobbery kisses and affection.

When I moved to the house, she was given the luxury of having a yard to play in. She spent hours running around, chasing squirrels, eating sticks, and digging to China. When she wasn't pooping all over the place, she was protecting us from the evil geckos and lizards that roamed near the doorway. Her cat upbringing put any bug or flying insect at risk of a series of sloppery chomps. But most of all, she loved the convenience of going outside to play as it was just a whine away, far better than having to get her on the leash and walk her down two flights of stairs. When she turned into devil dog at night, she had 4 bedrooms to run around and explore until she got tired. When you weren’t paying enough attention to her, or when you were on the phone, she would proceed to chomp on her favorite squeaky toy to ensure you didn’t forget about her. She also learned that if she brought you a toy and beat you enough with it that you had no choice but to succumb to her sweet face and play a quick game of fetch.

Madi has grown to be a great dog and I am happy that I got to spend as much time with her as I did. I miss her more than I thought I would, but she is in good hands and has a lot of love to give.

Madison's favorite squeaky toy that "somehow" lost it's squeaker device.

18 October 2008


Life is not fair.

When you are brought into this world, there is no written guarantee stapled to your birth certificate that states the world will treat you justly. Live your life by helping people and doing good deeds and you are bound to step in dog crap every now and then. Conversely, subside your days doing wicked or evil things and you will become a politician. This is by no means a new revelation or sudden epiphany. It’s just how it is.

I guess my point is that just when you think the path that meanders through the woods of your life is well paved, relatively free of potholes and is going where you think it should go, that’s when the bridge gives way and you find yourself at the bottom of a deep, cold river. Did you end up in this most uncomfortable position because you were a bad person? Realistically, bad things happen to everyone regardless of age, gender, race, financial status or how your picture was rated on “Hot or Not”. You just have to roll with the punches that life dishes out because it’s not a question of whether or not something bad will happen, it’s just a matter of when, and I’m prepared to put that in writing. It won’t happen when you are emotionally stable and have the overflowing support of your family and friends either. Instead, it will happen after a long day of work as you slog your way through traffic and prepare to sit down to eat your frozen homemade burrito.

I’m sure the granola hippies and the “My Name is Earl” devotees will claim that it’s not chance that bad things happen because it is not, in fact, by chance. It’s karma; that you must have done something bad and this is just the way life gets back at you for your past sins. The rational person in me says this is a bunch of phooey, but recently this concept has me wondering if there isn’t some truth to the theory that you will “reap what you sow”. The good Lord knows I have plenty of past sins that have affected others very deeply, which could be the reason why I’ve come to this juncture in my life where I’m on the receiving end of the pain, not to mention on the verge of a catastrophic emotional breakdown. This lends credence to this idea that the pain you dish out will one day be returned to you twofold, or in my case, in the form of a 12 gauge slug through the blood pumper in the chest.

It does no good to complain about it because the last thing the world needs is another blog about loss or heartache. It helps not to curse the heavens or cry in your beer as the shouting to the sky does little more than disturb the wildlife and nobody likes a watered down beer. Instead, you just accept the hurt while trying to convince yourself that the pain will not last forever.

I happen to look at the calendar and noticed that I returned from Iraq a little over 6 months ago. I survived the mortars, rockets, explosions and boredom with a fresh outlook on life. Through a lot of soul searching (and near death experiences) I put to bed a lot of old demons over there and brought back some new ones along with a healthy dose of renewed hope in my big green duffle bag. I clung to the concept that life is too short and I developed this urgent need to live my remaining days pursuing my hopes and dreams. The kick in the nuts realization that those hopes and dreams will not come true leaves a hollow space inside, or maybe that’s just the hole from the shotgun blast.

Life is not fair.

01 October 2008

Ride and Wedding

The weekend was busy. In the span of two days, we not only managed to squeeze in a lot of people into spandex, but we also squeezed in a 75 mile bike ride through less than favorable conditions (thank you Tropical Depression Kyle) and have a backward wedding. I should explain... the wedding itself was not backwards in the sense that the bride wore a tux and the groom wore a dress. In fact, the wedding went off very nicely and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves despite the weather. The events of the wedding were not traditional in that the reception was held the night before the wedding and the rehearsal meal was actually held after the wedding. This was mainly done to incorporate the MS Bike Ride into the weekend, but it was also the wishes of the bride and groom to make this event unique, which they did successfully.

Okay, so the groom did wear a kilt, but it was still a nice wedding.

24 September 2008

MS150 - Go Mary's Mashers!

I figured it’s time to write something besides my battles with the Wonder Mutt. I’m heading to Delaware this weekend to ride in the Delaware Multiple Sclerosis “Bike to the Bay” 150. I think I wrote about this event last year while I was in the “sandbox” to bring awareness to Team Mary’s Mashers. This year I’ll only be able to ride half of the event due to a wedding that I need to be at on Sunday, so it’s more of like the MS75 for me and the rest of the team. The week leading up to the ride has been crazy with cookie baking and camera tweaking, but it promises to be a good ride this year as the team (and the brave support crew) has grown exponentially since last year’s ride. Let’s just hope that the weather holds out.

If you are interested in learning more about MS, or want to donate to the ride, please follow the link below.


25 August 2008

Cuddly fur ball or vengeful beast? You decide.

This is not a dumb animal.

So I’m sitting in the apartment on Sunday night, kicking back and watching the closing ceremonies of the Olympics (my crazy Asian brethren really know how to make a visually appealing display) when Madison the Wonder Mutt decides to turn into Devil Dog. This is not an uncommon occurrence for her as she normally gets a burst of energy towards the closing of every evening. When this feeling overcomes her she proceeds to run like a rabid animal through the apartment as if she is herding sheep (or cats, or people). She usually calms down after a few laps and collapses on the floor panting while we watch in amusement at this sudden display of amateur solo dog racing. This night, however, was different. Instead of dropping to the floor in exhaustion, she proceeded to squat down next to the kitchen table and water the carpet near the trash can. Now Madi is a good dog and is relatively house trained. She’s only a puppy and still has her occasional accidents that accompany the fact that she resides in a second floor apartment with limited access to acceptable potty areas. We continue the long and arduous process of training her to be a good dog by disciplining her when she does bad things. Our methods do not include striking her with a rolled newspaper or rubbing her nose in her mistakes as this is suppose to only confuse the animal. I’ve been told that this is the new and improved (and kinder) way of raising animals (just like kids I guess). While I might disagree, I comply with the wishes of the owner and landlord (because she’s hot) and just give the errant pee distributor a good tongue lashing ensuring that it knows this sort of bad behavior is not acceptable. The puppy, thoroughly educated by my lecture, sulked under the kitchen table (obviously to think about the folly of her actions). Convinced that my discipline technique was satisfactory, I went back to watching television. No sooner had I kicked back on the couch did my little fur butted friend emerged out from under the table, marched over to where I was sitting, and proceeded to pee on my foot.

Now, is this the action of a dumb animal? Maybe. While I argue that if she knew that Korean’s have been known to eat a dog or two that she might have reconsidered her retaliatory action, I believe she was just trying to display her displeasure of my style of punishment in the only way she knew how.

Note to self: Start a newspaper subscription immediately.

05 August 2008

A/C no workee

Returning from vacation is never fun. Returning from vacation to a house that has no air conditioning just plain sucks, especially when you live in Texas.

While I was away playing army, a rule went into effect that states new housing have to be more energy efficient and cannot have an A/C unit that is less than 13 SEER. SEER stands for seasonal energy efficiency ratio, which means that the higher the SEER, the more efficient the system. It might sound like I’m throwing around my intellectual weight in regards to air conditioners, but the truth is that I’ve just been swamped with folks giving me outlandish estimates and more information about HVAC than I would ever want to know. I just want cold air!
Through this ordeal I've learned that I currently have a York 8 SEER, 3.5 ton unit in the house which is pretty inefficient. I learned that multi-stage variable-speed units can save money by operating at lower speeds thereby drawing less energy, but they can cost a king’s ransom. I also learned that waking up to an 85 degree temperature at 5:00 am is not normal for most of the northern states. I am willing to bet that if a Michigander woke up to a temperature that hot before the sun came up, they would deduce that their house was on fire. Of course I’m not complaining. There’s nothing that will prepare you for a hot Texas summer better than spending a year in the Middle East, although I don’t recommend this as an approved method for hot weather acclimation.

So I wait, sweaty but patiently, for the A/C folks to come out and either revive the green beast or dish out it’s last rites and install a new one. Whatever the outcome, I just hope it happens soon before the water in the toilet starts to boil or my TV spontaneously combusts.

03 August 2008

Tri this

Brian, Ryan, Ken and me at the Steelhead Tri

This is a picture of 4 men who traveled great distances to compete in a race. You will notice by way they are dressed that not all of them competed in said race. A Half Iron Man is no joke. Just ask anyone who has had to exert themselves for over 6 hours for a cheap looking medal and a T-shirt. If they laugh at you, then that means they just finished a race, are in a state of delirium, and you need to get them some water, maybe a doughnut, a glazed pastry, or quite possibly medical attention.

Props out to those of the Canyon Men who competed in this year’s test of strength and stamina. I think next year we should do something less demanding, like bowling.

30 July 2008

Lake House

It doesn’t look like much, but this house is the origin of a lot of good childhood memories. I learned how to jet ski on the lake this house sits on, and I’m talking about a real jet ski, not one of those sissy sit down wave runners that you see people zipping along on with no chance of falling off. We rode it one handed, no handed, backwards and even tried our best to submerge it. Despite running over our friends (and sometimes ourselves) no one was ever seriously hurt (a miracle in itself).

I rode my first tandem bike on the various back roads behind this house. We would pedal the heavy beast through the hilly and twisty tree lined streets that rarely had any traffic on them, starkly contrasting the busy boulevards of Detroit’s suburbs. Some of us would ride it down the hills from the back seat position, a feat that has not been replicated to this day (mainly because along with getting older, we have all gained an allergic reaction to unnecesaary pain).

It was near this house that I conquered “crazy hill” on both a sled and a mountain bike. The mountain is just the remnants of an abandoned ski slope that I never saw operate in all the years I visited there and we spent hours exploring the woods and trails nearby.

I did my first roofing job on this house. It doesn't look like much from the picture, but this house was as large as a castle with multiple rooms and passage-ways. And just like a castle, it needed a lot of regular repairs to keep her maintained, which we were all more than happy to do (as long as we got to take the jet skis out when it was too hot to shovel shingles).

I took my first sunset pictures on the dock near this house which woke up some internal primal need to purchase lots of camera equipment (although some would argue that the need is part of my genetic makeup).

The house represented freedom from the dangers of growing up in a big city and freedom from responsibilities of school work or a crappy minimum wage job which is why I am drawn to it now that I am older and saddled with the yoke of adulthood. What a better place to reunite with childhood friends and reminisce about the antics and mischief that made being a kid so much fun?

Being grown up sucks.

28 July 2008


Yes, this is a picture of an empty sack of White Castle hamburgers. It was devoured by yours truly in what one can only call a masochistic feast; not because it is painful to eat them, but the onslaught these tiny burgers impart on one's digestive system can only be described as brutal. There is a reason they are nick-named “sliders”.

The nearest White Castles to Texas is in St. Louis, Missouri. To say that I haven’t thought about making the 10 hour drive just to get a sack of sliders would be grossly untrue. In keeping with tradition, a sack of them are usually one of my first meals upon returning to Michigan. I highly recommend it as it is a great way to purge oneself of all the junk food one consumes while traveling cross country. Who needs Pepto?

26 July 2008

Road Trip

So what do you do with a pick up truck full of clothes, bikes, Little Debbie snacks, guns and ammunition? You head north. At least that is what I decided to do for a week long vacation away from the whoas of work and unpacking. There are approximately 1200 miles of road between Dallas, Texas and Detroit, Michigan, none of which are particularly exciting to see either. East Texas, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky and Ohio are the states that roll under the wheels of the Ford as I steered north to cooler temps. Why am I driving instead of kick’n back in the confined seat of an aircraft? Well, I’m traveling fully loaded with gear that, after the airlines finished charging me for all the additional overweight and oversized fees, would cost much more than dishing out the dough for a round trip ticket. Besides, the folks at the airport look at you kind of funny when you check in a box full of guns.

So what’s in Michigan? Although my parents live in Texas, most of my family and friends live in the Great Lakes. I try to make a pilgrimage there at least once a year for a visit and it just so happens that this trip will coincide with the annual gathering of “Canyon Men” which is the moniker for the group of friends I grew up with. We use to spend a lot of time together as teenagers but we sort of went our separate ways after high school. With the onset of jobs, responsibilities, families and old age, we decided that we needed to get together at least once a year to do something “manly” like climb a mountain or wrestle a crocodile.

The Canyon Man weekend was mainly about getting together and doing the things that we enjoyed as kids. Events included riding our bikes down a ski slope (in summer), jet skiing on a cold lake, consuming vast quantities of pizza bread and cooking dangerous canned food products (there is a story about chicken and dumplings in here that will make your skin crawl). We decided that we couldn’t just relish in youthful recreational activities without looking like a bunch of washed up 30-somethings trying to hold onto their youth. Instead we decided to up the ante by competing in a race or even to challenge ourselves (or kill ourselves in the process).

The first gathering was a few years back when we decided to do a triathlon together. Let me caveat this by saying that you would not have confused any of us as the typical high school jock of our respective high schools; I ran a little track, Ken wrestled, Brian read books and I think Ryan golfed. For the most part, we were not specimens of the athletically fit, so when we decided to go for the Lake Hubbard sprint triathlon, it was a pretty monumental task. That first year most of us trained for it and some of us even completed it (less the swim), but we vowed to reunite again in the following years. With the exception of my short stint in Iraq last year, we have followed through on our promise.

I’m only in Ohio now, taking a well needed stop over at a friend’s house near Cincinnati. Assuming that the evil Ohio Highway patrol doesn’t impede me, I’ll travel north to Dayton tomorrow to visit Alissa’s family and then move onto Michigan. I’ll gather up some folks and drive up to the lake where we’ll ride jet skis, shoot guns, and maybe even build a bonfire that can be seen from space. After that, we’ll head west to the West Coast (Lake Michigan) to watch some of our members race in the Steelhead Half Iron Man. The smarter ones in our numbers will only be spectators for the race.

Did I mention that I was smart? An arguably false statement but I still won’t be doing a triathlon until I overcome my handicap of swimming like a cinder block.

15 July 2008

Kick some grass!

Today I conquered the lawn.

When I closed on the house a few weeks ago, the grass needed to be cut. Almost 2 weeks later, the lawn grew to an unruly jungle that needed attention. I got my lawnmower from my folks house last week and I was a little apprehensive if it would work after sitting dormant for a year and a half, but after a tank of fresh fuel and few pushes of primer, it fired up on the first pull. Ya just gotta love Craftsman!

Oddly enough, cutting the grass is something that I’ve been looking forward to do since my return. I’m sure I have lots of friends and family who would have gladly let me cut their lawn, but that’s not what I was looking for. I wanted to cut my own grass. There is something about getting back into doing the routine things that makes me feel more grounded. I’m sure that the more I do them, the more weary I'll grow of doing it, but for now I am still a wee bit excited about it.

My mowing buddy

13 July 2008

Summer Moving

With the help of two moving trucks and some dedicated friends, I moved most of my worldly possessions into the new house this weekend. Let me start off by saying that I have some great friends and that I also have a lot of junk. What was I thinking when I packed all this crap away? Hauling gear out of a metal storage shed in 100 temps isn’t my idea of how to spend a summer weekend but I’m glad to be getting closer to that “settled” feeling. I’m not moving myself into the house just yet. I’m still missing some appliances and furniture that will arrive in the not so distant future, plus I’d like to do some renovations to the place as it is in serious need of a coat of paint or two. Who paints their walls a chocolate brown? I had some estimates done on the windows and the A/C system that might just dwindle away the savings I stacked up during my deployment, but hey, it’s only money, right? They say it doesn’t buy happiness, but for about $15,000, it will buy you some nice insulated windows and an air conditioning unit that turns off every once in a while.

I went from having relatively no monetary commitments to having a whole mess of them all at once. Couple that with the rising cost of gas and I think I might have to explore some alternative transportation options.

"I bet the $100 it cost to fill my truck would buy a lot of oats."

05 July 2008

Happy Independence Day

The last "American Birthday" I spent was in Iraq listening to a very different kind of fireworks, which is why this 4th of July that much more enjoyable.

That's an airplane at the local show here in Dallas

Ooooh! Aaaaah!

03 July 2008

In the saddle

I've been back to work for about a month now and I've come to the realization that I don't like to work. Oh I do enjoy the benefits of work - the sense of accomplishment, the contribution to something worthy, the paycheck - but the whole crawling out of bed every morning and dragging my rear into a job where I plop down behind a computer all day isn't what one would consider fun. It does pay the bills, of which I've acquired more of with the purchase of a house. That's right, I'm no longer homeless. I'm the proud owner of a cozy 1,600 sq. ft. 4 bedroom house smack dab in the middle of the DFW metroplex. It has a decent yard, lots of trees and a 30 years worth of payments.

Blogging was something I did to pass the time during my trip to Iraq and I'm finding it hard to transition my thoughts from military life to my Mr. Civilian world. My views and priorities are a lot different now that I've returned and if find that it can be challenging at times to get re-adjusted to my surroundings. Not returning home to a family or a house has made me long for a little bit of stability to anchor myself to. I've got a great girlfriend and wonderful friends who have helped to house me and my stuff in an effort to make my transition less stressful, but I still haven't shaken that transient feeling I've had for the past 3 months. I put a lot of hope that the purchase of a house would help me feel more settled, although part of me realizes that it takes more than a building with indoor plumbing and A/C to make it feel like home.

In order to outfit my house with the bare essentials, I strolled over to the "scratch and dent" store located at our local outlet mall in an attempt to get a good deal. In the midst of my hunt for a washer and dryer, I found these:

Either the popularity of this color is a reason they didn't sell so well in the retail store, or else they wash your clothes really REALLY fast!

02 June 2008


Today was the first day back to work at my job...my civilian job that is. Lots of new faces from the 140 folks they've hired since I've been gone, not to mention the absence of a lot of good colleges due to retirement or just moving onto something different. It's amazing how much changes in a year and a half. Speaking of changes, I don't have my old job back like I thought I would. I'm doing "special projects", which is a politically correct way of telling someone that they are the "bitch-boy" until they figure out what job to throw you in. This would normally infuriate me, but I think I left a lot of angst back in Iraq. Instead, I was happy that they had employment for me, that I was getting paid for said employment and that my new job as "doer of things no one wants to do" did not involve body armor or mortars.

God bless America!

29 April 2008

Welcome Back

I just got word that the last of the Captain Mafia has returned from theater. After a similarly grueling long travel trip, Kevin, Brendan and Tom are now safely in the US and will go through the same 4 day out-processing ordeal that the rest of us went through. This may sound slightly silly, but I'm a lot more relaxed knowing that they are safe. I missed them.

When the regular Army deploys, the unit tends to hold that vigilant watch until everyone is home safe. Because this deployment was more like a smattering of individuals, the strength of the team cohesion resembled watery paste rather than the typical super glue found normally in the Army. This doesn't mean that we didn't create some close bonds over there. You couldn't help but get to know the people you worked, ate and shared a cramped trailer with on a daily basis. They became your adhoc family and confidants when the people back in the real world weren't there to share the in the enlightening experience we were going through. Who else could you share humorous stories of dodging rockets over a crappy meal of curried something in the mess hall? I could get all cliché about the strong bonds you create during a deployment, but I find myself reluctantly holding onto my hatred I developed during my stint over there. Besides, I've already cashed in some man-points for admitting I missed those guys, so I'll stop while I can.

So, welcome home fellas. Drink your 40’s and celebrate your freedom.

"I wonder if Girl Scout cookies go with 40's of malt liquor?"

18 April 2008


Since I am homeless, I am staying with Alissa at her "aparment-o-animals". Now, let me start off by saying that I am in fact allergic to both cats and dogs. I love my girlfriend, but I think I love breathing a little more. Thank goodness for Claritin-D, for without it I'd be a weezing, rashy mess. When I left, she had one long haired cat (we'll call her mellow cat for now) that was just getting use to the river of snot that would drip out of my nose when I bent over to pet the furry critter. When I came home for my mid-tour leave from Iraq, her kitten family grew by one (and we'll call him fat cat) who was spoiled rotten.

Imagine my surprise when I got a phone call a few months back that said that she got a puppy. At first, the guys in my "office" thought it was great that she was thinking of my Asian heritage and was preparing a Korean feast for when I got home. When I informed them that I didn't eat dog meat and that I was allergic to dogs, they asked me if my girlfriend hated me.

The puppy (we'll call her appetizer) needs to be potty trained and torments the hell out of the other two cats who had reign of the apartment before the puppy was introduced, but overall the puppy is a good dog and her "cuteness" attracts a lot of attention. She resembles a small child in terms of the amount of attention it requires and you have to plan your whole day around taking care of it, which is something I'm not a stranger to since I grew up with a dog (and cats). It's just that I wasn't mentally prepared to take care of an untrained puppy when I returned from Iraq and it is taking some time to get adjusted to. Lucky for her that I don't follow my Asian roots that closely or else we'd be having some kay-go-gee for dinner.


“I wasn’t born here, but I got here as soon as I could!”

That’s a bumper sticker I use to see all the time while wasting many hours of my life sitting in Dallas traffic. Originally I was bothered by the exorbitant amount of pride this state had in itself, but now I’d gladly put this sticker on the back of my truck declaring my giddiness to be back in the Lone Star State.

It has taken me a few days to get readjusted to civilian life. As I sit here, unshaven, in my non-issued shorts and T-shirt, laptop resting on my legs, my fungus covered feet (thank you Iraq) propped up on the coffee table of Alissa’s apartment, watching TV with commercials, I remember that I use to take this all for granted. Let me say that I am now relishing in all of the little freedoms that I’ve lacked in the last year.

I spent the weekend at my parent’s house in Gatesville. It was great to see them and I’m glad that I didn’t have to battle through the hype of a large welcome home party at their hands. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for a get together with friends and family to celebrate my return, but I think its going to be a while before I feel like commemorating my arrival back in the states with food, alcohol, music and people. I still hate most people, but I think that will change the longer I don’t have to lug around body armor or wear combat boots.

I’m trudging through all the things that I need to do now that I’m back. Uncle Sam still has a hold of me for a while before I return to work at my civilian job and I intend to use that time to do some important things, like finding a place to live, getting my stuff out of storage, getting rid of all my Army stuff, and consuming as much Blue Bell ice cream that my body can retain. Since I don’t have to keep myself in “army shape” any longer, I’m contemplating a new career in sumo wrestling. Now if I can only get sponsored by Papa John and Jason’s Deli...

My journey to Iraq and back is over and I hope that the blog has helped those friends, families and strangers who were interested to stay informed of the happenings of little ol’ me. Thank you for everyone who supported me and the rest of the gang with comments, letters, packages and prayers. I didn’t get to write as much as I would have liked to, but it’s not like I want to go back to make up for my lack of blogging. There were issues that I couldn’t write about, and there were issues that I just plain didn’t want to write about, but all of them are still creeping and crawling in my head searching for a stream of coherent words that might lone day describe them. They say hindsight is 20/20, so stop by now and then to see what babble I've jotted down. Maybe as time rolls on I’ll try to reflect on my Iraq experiences with a little more clarity than I am now in my current Ben and Jerry’s induced comma.

To all those who are still in Iraq, or Afghanistan, or anywhere else that body armor and foot fungus is present, please be safe, hurry home, and know that you are in my thoughts and prayers.

Me and the parental unit's at their house

07 April 2008


Kansas. I never thought I’d see her rolling hills or lack of citizens with teeth again, but here I am, freezing my rear off on the tundra of scrub brush and cattle. Everyone is in a tizzy here as it appears that the state has a team in the NCAA basketball tournament. I’m following it much like I follow NASCAR, which is, not at all. There is so much of the current life here that I don't know that I'm not getting too wrapped up in who is going to win a basketball game.

I’m here at Fort Riley (again) to go through the final steps of me getting out of the Army (again). It will take 4 days of my life to shed the chains and so far the powers that be have treated us good by not making us do silly things to waste our time. Alissa made the drive up from Texas in my truck to welcome me back and it is great to see her (and my truck).

I consider myself lucky to have left when I did. The news has shown that things aren’t much better in the IZ and we have reports through our internal channels that we had some folks seriously hurt just the other day at my old FOB. It’s not a good situation there and I wish I could send our plane back to pick up all of my compadres immediately. It sucks to know that I am here and they are not, but I know that they will be home soon, and that helps me let the reality of being home set in a little easier.

06 April 2008

Chasing the Sun

After spending almost a week in purgatory and suffering through countless delays we finally departed Kuwait Sunday afternoon and began our trip home. We are crowded into a DC-10 with two other units which is much different than the almost empty plane we took over here. While we would all prefer the room to spread out, it doesn’t matter, just as long as it gets us home.

Flying west we are chasing the sun. The light coming in from under the rounded window shades is evidence that we are still hanging onto daylight even when it is usually dark by this hour. Sliding the shades open reveal a world below us much different from the bleached and shapeless terrain of the Middle East. Pastures and farms of Germany are a spectacular shade of green. I’m unsure if the green is so vibrant due to the onset of spring or if it’s because my eyes are not use to this hue in the color spectrum. It is nice to look at.

It’s starting to set in a little, that is, the feeling that I’m going home. I’m unsure if I was subconsciously not pondering my homecoming during my stay in Kuwait because I was still in the Middle East, or if it was because being surrounded by people with guns and uniforms didn’t have that “homey” feeling. Regardless, I began my trip home around 6pm on Saturday when we loaded up our bags and made our way from Camp Virginia to our first of many stops home. Customs was difficult because of all the stuff that the Army decided to issue us, they neglected to give us octopus arms to carry the 4 dufflebags, rucksack, backpacks and team boxes for a few of us. None of us were going to let this stop us from getting out of there, so we muscled through it so we could wait another half day in isolation while they prepared the plane for us.

It’s almost dark now as we leave Germany to jump the “pond”. We’ll be in the US soon. Getting out and kissing the ground might very Pope-like, but if I just might do that if I’m not too tired.

04 April 2008


Apparently, Harley Davidson is branching out from making their world renowned motorcycles and delving into the generator market for lightsets in Kuwait. They have installed a few here at Camp Virginia. While the wheeled contraptions lack the signature chrome or the orange blazing eagle that we've come to signify with Harley's, the generators do posses the patented exhaust that make the Harley brand motorcycle so popular. It gives one the impression of sleeping at a biker-rally in say someplace sandy, like Daytona, minus the bikini clad women.

So, waiting in Kuwait is not very fun. Before I go down this tirade, let me start by saying that yes, I am happy not to be in Iraq anymore. Yes, I am lucky that no one is shooting mortars at me. Yes, I'm grateful that I'll be going home soon. No, I have not forgot my friends who are still sitting in the IZ waiting for their time to be up to get out of there. With that said, Kuwait still isn't very fun. Due to the long wait for an available aircraft, we have come to regard this place as pseudo purgatory. It does not personify the frustrating and sometimes dangerous environment of Iraq, but it also does not have the freedoms of being in the US. We're stuck in the middle without much to do but think about how we can make the next hour go by faster. We have depleted all the distractions we brought with us; all the movies watched, all the books read and all the bags repacked (twice). Yes, we recognize that we ought to just enjoy this time of relaxation, but it wears on us when we know that the only thing standing between us and our individual homes are the multiple hours that make up the next few days. It also gives you too much time to think and to anticipate what the real world is going to be like. Sure, we all have our perceptions of how it's going to be after 16 months of being away from home, but the reality is that things will be very different. Friends have changed, family has changed, even the roads that were under construction when you left have changed. I'm sure all of us deployed have changed as well, although our adjustments are less noticeable to each other than they will be to the people we are close to back home. Without a job or rocket attack to preoccupy our minds, some of us have diverted our thoughts on what we'll do in the "real world" when our Uncle Sam releases us from duty. So we wait with anticipation, hoping for the best but preparing ourselves for the worse, and to quote Tom Petty, "Waiting is the hardest part."

On a different note, I've run into some of the old IRR folks that got called up with me at Ft. Benning back in January of 2007 but didn't deploy with me to Iraq. Most of them are stationed here in Kuwait to run security for convoys and I have seen them in the chow hall now and then after they've returned from a mission. Unfortunately I will be going home before them, but that's only because they didn't arrive in country until June 07 and will leave in May 08. It appears that Uncle Sam is going to get the full 545 days out of them for their activation.

I've been slacking in the picture taking department lately, but I hope to rectify that today although there really isn't much to see except tents and desert...lots and lots of desert.

01 April 2008


It is official. I am no longer in Iraq (and it's not an April Fool's joke either). After what was probably the worst C-130 flight in history, our group made it safely to Kuwait the other night. We are now in a staging area waiting for a scheduled plane to take us home.

The computer access at the basecamp so distant from the battle is slow at best, but it does allow me to send a note here or there to the folks back home to tell them that I am still alive. Being out of the IZ is a big relief. Although I'm still in the Middle East, I'm not in Iraq, and that is a good thing.

Not much to do here for the next few days but wait, which is one game that I think I have earned the right to go pro. Seeing as how I've waited almost a year to get home, a few more days shouldn't matter much. For now, I'll just try to catch up on some much needed sleep and get myself ready to re-integrate into the real world.

It's hard to relax knowing that there are still folks I know back in Baghdad at a time where things aren't the best. It would be easier to transition my mind to being a civilian again if I knew that the entire crew was safely out of there. They don't have long to go, but my thoughts are with them. Too bad my thoughts can't shoot down rockets.

30 March 2008


I’ve been a little restless. It could be the anticipation of going home or the mosquito in my trailer that has kicked my ass for the past 3 nights. Whichever it is, I’m up before they call everyone outside the wire to morning prayer and I’m sitting in the TV trailer listening for tell-tale signs that I should be someplace containing more concrete. Thank God I don’t have much more of this to go.

I’m what you’d call a short timer. I have completed 336 days in Iraq and only have a few more to go before they ship me home just days shy of a year. As I’ve noted in previous blogs, I’ve spent the last few days packing things up, throwing things out, out-processing and generally trying to stay focused on the things I need to do (like not getting blown up). I have a lot of thoughts about my deployment, most of which I’ve already written about, but as my days here number in the single digits, I’ve oddly spent a large portion of this week looking back on my last year instead of looking forward to my trip home. I would love to say that this experience here has been a positive one, that I was called up when I was needed to do a job that was very necessary to support the mission. I would like to think that some other soldier with multiple deployments under their belt didn’t have to come over here because Uncle Sam called me up instead. I want to believe that my efforts contributed or mattered. Only time will tell if I’ll ever accept any of these things as true.

Even though I’m out of here soon, I still have some more hoops to jump through before I arrive in my home state of Texas. There’s a stop-over in Kuwait and then back to Fort Riley where I’ll most likely freeze by rear off. Only after I do all that will I be released. I call Dallas home because both my civilian job and my stuff are there, but technically I’m homeless since I sold my place before I deployed. I have some wonderful people who are going to put me up until I can find a place of my own so I won’t be living out of an abandoned refrigerator box in the bottom of the Trinity River valley.

On top of figuring out my living arrangements, I’m looking forward to returning to my life outside of uniform. I’m going to try and do some traveling to visit friends and family, especially those who supported me and kept in touch with me, my parents and my girlfriend during this tour. I’d love to take just a month off to travel the states, slowly letting myself get readjusted to the common liberties I’ve missed by being away from the US for so long, but there are many factors that will prevent that, the biggest of them being the cost of gas. I guess I’ll just chalk up paying the $75 to fill the tank on my truck as one of those freedoms I’ve missed out on.

I wonder if they sell monkey butt scented car fresheners back home?