25 November 2008

the chaos that controlled my mind

I was volunteered to be a part of the unit holiday party committee. If I believed in Hell, Hell would be the holiday party committee.

Today's committee meeting was TWO AND A HALF HOURS LONG, and we accomplished NOTHING. We decided which room the coat rack will be kept in.

Also during this meeting:

- A MSG in the unit offered to donate $100 to use for gift cards for the 10 older children. After 15 minutes of unnecessarily heated debate whether 10 gift cards would be enough (what if more kids show up?) or if younger kids would rather have gift cards instead of stuffed animals (a valid question) or if older kids would feel left out as their gift bags would be less full (are you kidding me people?), she threw up her hands and said, "That's it, I'm all DONE. I will NOT be donating anything." That's the holiday spirit.

- No one wants to be responsible for supervising the moon bounce. ("Will I be relieved? Because I don't want to stand there all night.")

- Fake poinsettias vs real poinsettias. A more important consideration than this year's election. Your thoughts?

- The HHB commander suggested the following: we buy Santa Hats for all the children, that we buy food for double the people who RSVP'd ("just in case"), that we requisition a giant sign announcing the party to attach to the fence outside the facility (don't know where he expects to get this thing when we're only a week out and this weekend is Thanksgiving), that we put the coat rack in the game room, that we wrap Santa's HMMWV with gold garland (in addition to the lights already affixed to it).

- Someone else declared that the commander wanted garland on the HMMWV because he's "so Puerto Rican," resulting in a collective gasp/awkward silence.

- Should all the volunteers wear Santa hats (since the kid idea got shot down)?

- Who should give out the presents? Santa? (But Santa won't be there that long.) The brigade commander? (The commander's wife gently suggested that wasn't a great idea.) HHB commander? ("But I thought I was helping out with games?") Would it be impersonal to just leave them on a table for kids to take on their way out? (Yes. And the kids would probably steal some.)

- Where is the coat rack going again?

And so on. For two and a half hours. This is why I left Iraq? Fucking send me back. I'm not even joking.

"pretending to feel the same,
then turn around and leave again"

- Maroon 5 "This Love" -

22 November 2008

all this trying has made me tight, and I don't even know where to start

Tell me you love me; surprise me with flowers! Pick me up and squeeze me in the air - spin me around. Offer to paint my toenails. Let me have the good guitar, and don't complain if I want to play bass on Guitar Hero every time. Wait outside the shower and wrap me in a towel when I'm done. Kiss me on the nose. On the forehead. On the lips, and not just when you're leaving for work. Kiss my finger tips. Pull my boots off for me when I get home, and listen to me if I need to vent. Make the bed up the way I like it, with the new sheets and all the pillows. Use extra dryer sheets when you wash my shirts. (Wash my shirts without me asking.) Scoop my favorite ice cream into a mug, my favorite way to eat it. Rub my back. Rub my feet. Play with my hair. Sing me something - a song on the radio or make one up yourself. Or write me a poem. Leave a note for me to find later. Fold a paper bird and hide it in my car. Make me something. Help me build a snowman, or make snow angels with me. Leave me a silly message on my voicemail. Tell me you like my new makeup but that I'm beautiful even without it. Let me kiss you and don't wipe my lipstick off. Have all my candles lit when I get home and let me taste a bite of dinner before you're done cooking. Taste my experimental cooking. Dress up and take me out someplace nice and don't get mad if I drink too much. Hold my hand and give it a little squeeze. Dance with me in the living room. Laugh at the crazy things I find online. Read this blog and talk to me about the things I write about. Surprise me at work and bring me lunch. Let me drive your car. Let me tickle you. Smooch my cats. Carry me to bed. Take a shower with me in the dark. Make me a cup of tea.

Sit on the dock with me and feed the ducks. Let me throw most of the bread. Or just rest with me awhile on the bench and marvel at the serenity of the lake. There are million ways to let me know you care for me. I've just listed a couple. You only need to choose one, and move forward. It's not as complicated, perhaps, as you're making it.

"and it's strange that you cannot find
any strength to even try
to find a voice to speak your mind
when you do, all you wanna do is cry"

- Alexi Murdoch "Song for You" -

21 November 2008

and he comes back home at five-thirty

- Awake
- Snooze alarm
- Snooze alarm
- Snooze alarm
- Snooze alarm
- Shower
- Toothpaste
- Socks, underwear, uniform
- Email
- Cup of tea
- Boots, fleece
- Lost glasses
- Cell phone, keys
- Hat
- Front door
- Driveway
- Snow melting on the roof of my car

"and he's oh, so good
and he's oh, so fine
and he's oh, so healthy
in his body and his mind"

- The Kinks "A Well Respected Man" -

19 November 2008

I know a drugstore cowgirl, so afraid of getting bored

Dear Tom [of MySpace],

This probably won't change anything, but I just wanted to express my displeasure and exasperation at the ads that come up in my profile view. "23 and FAT?" (yes, I am 23) "New Acai Diet Shown on Oprah and Rachel Ray!" "Flat Abs in No Time!" "Want to Lose that Weight Quickly!" and so on.

Really, is this necessary? I am NOT overweight and there is nothing written in my profile to indicate that I have a weight problem, but I feel like MySpace is calling me fat. I repeat, there is NOTHING in my profile to indicate that I have a weight problem. I indicated that my body type is 'average' in the details section of the profile. So why all the "fat" ads?

I get that your ads are supposed to target people they think/hope will follow the links, but this just upsets me. It makes me not want to go on MySpace at all [an exaggeration].

Your friend,
Malibu Niki


Dear MySpace User,

This is an automated response acknowledging receipt of your inquiry. A MySpace representative will review your inquiry and follow up shortly.

To ensure each inquiry is responded to quickly and accurately, a unique case ID has been assigned. If you have any questions simply reply to this e-mail without altering the subject line containing your unique case ID.

We encourage you to visit our helpful FAQ page at http://faq.myspace.com for answers to other questions you may have.

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"I tried to keep up;
you wore me out and left me ate up...
now I wish you all the luck"

- 311 "Beautiful Disaster" -

18 November 2008

I'm a brand new sky to hang the stars upon tonight

I fed some ducks again today - not as many this time. The air is getting much colder, even during the day, so I've been seeing less wildlife in general. It was just beautiful, out on the dock this afternoon. I had a beautiful time, just me and the ducks! The air smelled so cold and sharp and wintery - and I loved the sound of crunching leaves as I walked down the boardwalk to the dock. I broke up some rolls that were getting stale (I saved the rolls especially for them, and let them get a little stale so they wouldn't get gooey and sink into the lake right away) and fed a small group - maybe 10 or so.

I have the rest of the evening to myself. Sometimes the quiet is spooky (two whole walls in my great room are windows, so...) but tonight (so far) it isn't so bad; it's kind of nice, actually. I'm going to do some laundry and put on some pajama pants fresh from the dryer and try the new euro shams in the sham covers I got last week. I feel a little more domestic these days, but I still feel like I'm not doing much of anything in the grand scheme of things. My pajama pants will be here waiting for me, no matter where I go to. So why not? Catch a blowing breeze and fly off until I'm done being wild.

I want to adopt a former racing greyhound. I want to hold its sad little head in my hands and look into its sad little eyes and know that my life hasn't been as hard as this creature's has. Maybe the greyhound and I can learn to live as normal creatures, together.

I'll teach it not to chase my (wild) ducks.

"I am a little divided.
Do I stay or run away
and leave it all behind?"

- Foo Fighters "Times Like These" -

13 November 2008

has our conscience shown?

PT this morning pretty much sucked. It's getting colder, so less and less people are showing up (and no one seems to care, for some reason). Today was a run day but no one felt like organizing anything (to be fair, a former MSG from the unit - I never met him - died Monday so everyone was kind of down) so we just had to run 2 miles at our own pace and then go home. Laaaaame.

Oh, I fed some ducks (and geese) the other day. We were sitting on the bench next to our dock after raking the front lawn and a small group (flock?) floated by, so I ran to the house and got some stale-ish bread I'd been saving for them. When I got back to the dock, there were maybe 5 or 6. Soon there were about 50, creating Vs behind them as they swam from across the lake to get to our dock, and dinner. But it was nice, feeding the wild geese (and ducks). It felt civilized and quaint and sweet. I'm going to pick up some more bread for them when I go shopping tonight - for reasons I can't explain, it's really important to me that these wild creatures like me.

One more thing before I get in the shower and go to work - my eye is broken. I was messing around with my cat last night (he has this chair that he loves and will attack anyone who bothers him when he's sitting in it) and he swatted at me - and got my directly in my right eye. Luckily he must not have had his claws out because I didn't bleed or anything, but my eye swelled up and I couldn't see. He hit me pretty hard - it felt like my eye had been knocked loose and was just floating around in my skull.

My cat punched me in the eye. Yup.

"and I laugh at myself
as the tears roll down"

- Collective Soul "The World I Know" -

08 November 2008

somewhere a queen is weeping

Sometimes I think I am still in Iraq. My weapon - where the fuck is my weapon?!

When I am dreaming, I am almost always shuffling my feet through the dust. Sometimes I look down and watch how it settles on the toes of my boots, like I've been standing still too long. I can feel the comfort of my IBA around my torso, weave my fingers through the loops that hold my gear to my vest. My medical pouch is full of sand. Sometimes, with all the shit I have to carry, I think about taking out one of the plates to make my IBA a little lighter. I've already given up on my side plates - they'll sit in a duffle under my bed until we're ready to go back to the world. It isn't safe, I know, but being constantly on guard has a way of wearing on you and making you stop caring as much. If I get shot, then I get shot.

We were joking, when the IDF was really bad around Easter, that the Iraqi barbers who worked in the palace were actually the mortar team that was responsible. They worked in the palace with us and the State Dept., so they knew the rhythm of the work day - when the most people were in one place. We'd look in the mornings to see if they'd posted a sign: Closing at 3:00 today, or whatever. They're leaving early, we'd say to each other. That means we'll get attacked later this afternoon. It wasn't funny, but it was funny. 

If we got attacked while at work, we had to move to the secured part of the palace - right near the cold sandwich bar. I took to making myself an soft serve cone while we waited for the All Clear. If you don't eat ice cream during an attack, the terrorists win, we'd say to each other.

The IDF was an annoyance - I just sat down at my desk! Fucking insurgents, I was trying to send an email to my father. And I'm getting sick of soft serve. If I was in my trailer, my day off or sleeping or whatever, sometimes I wouldn't even try to run for the Duck and Cover bunker. I'd just lay there, waiting for the sirens to stop. 

I don't think I can tell you what those moments felt like. Not paralyzed - I just felt made of air. I felt like I literally weighed nothing, like I wasn't a solid form anymore. I felt like I could lift up and float away. I couldn't hear my heatbeat anymore, I stopped having conscious thoughts. For that split second, I was as closer to death than I was to life. 

And just as quickly as it comes, the sensation is gone - replaced with a nauseous urge to start moving at lightspeed. Colors are vivid and the air smells so great and the ground has never seemed so solid beneath my feet. Have you ever realized that you are alive? That's what it is. You're alive and that's the most beautiful thing in the world.

Even thinking about those sirens is bringing tears to my eyes. Sometimes the sirens were worse than the sound of the explosions. Sometimes I'd lay in bed staring at the ceiling, hyperventilating long after the All Clear.

When I first got back, I spent a lot of time trying to sleep and not really sleeping. I drank too much and paid for it. I had to keep moving - felt weird and anxious and uncomfortable if I had time to rest. I'm a little better now, but loud or sudden noises still make me feel spooked.

Once, right when I first started at Fort Dix (about a month and a half after I left Iraq), I was getting my camera out of the back of the van to go shoot some photos at the counter-IED / IMT lane. I had my back to the lane, which was on the other side of some trees.  I was changing lenses when one of the range cadre threw an artillery sim - it whistled and exploded - and I burst into tears.

I'm not afraid of the sound really, but my responses scare me. That empty, light feeling I was talking about? It's the greatest feeling, but it's also the most terrifying feeling I have ever experienced.

I'm not trying to tell you cool war stories or to make you feel bad for me. (I'll be the first to admit that I was lucky - I only had to deal with IDF, no direct fire.) I don't want you to try to comfort me, or even to talk to me about this. I just needed to write and feel like I'm normal again.

"will the wind ever remember 
the names it has blown in the past?"

- Jimi Hendrix "The Wind Cries Mary" -

04 November 2008

my salsa makes all the pretty girls want to dance

A long departure from my entries, but I'll offer this cocktail as an explanation: one part not-enough-hours-in-the-day, one part remarkable-exhaustion, one part lack-of-inspiration. Add a splash of limited-computer-access. Serve over ice.

Things that currently have my attention (in no particular order, except the first one):

1. The election. Namely, the self-loathing associated with not being able to travel back to Massachusetts and vote. Why didn't I send away for an absentee ballot? Because I'm an idiot. It's pretty obvious which candidate I support, but that's not really the point. Today is a crazy-huge important day, and I can't participate in this life-changing event. 'Angry' and 'disappointed' don't even come close.

2. My career. The E6 list comes out in the spring, but will it even matter? Still appears to be a problem finding a slot... going to have to shop around to other states when the time comes. But I think I have problems getting my unit to help me out NOW, when I've known them all 6 years of my career and fucking deployed with them? How will it be being the Fucking New Guy in some other state, a name on a piece of paper, an abstract Soldier in distant New Jersey? Unless I transfer to the NJ National Guard and promise to drill with them, which I don't have to do and don't currently do. Sacrifices will be made no matter what I decide to do, oh yes.

3. New house! I will post photos on my MySpace as soon as we're done unpacking and tidying up, but WOW, I can't even describe how much I love the place. It's on a fucking LAKE. How can you beat that? It's the most beautiful thing I have ever seen.

4. Iraq. If everything goes as planned, Josh will be deploying in the spring, and fuck, I'm kind of jealous. Scared for him, sad about being apart (again), but yes, jealous. And - this could really be a whole entry by itself - I know that I need to go back. I can't get that place out from under my skin. I want to go bathe myself in dirty sweat and coat my lungs with dust. I miss the smell of burning and how the heat makes the skin on my face feel like paper. I miss feeling like I was making a difference.

5. Volunteering. This doesn't sound like me, even to me, but I found a project that I believe in and want to help out with. Rebuilding Together is a non-profit organization that rehabilitates the homes of low-income families. One of the NJ chapters has a program specifically for veterens who are in need of assistance, and they are looking for other veterens to help with the rebuilding. I think I'm going to offer to help. I guess it goes along with the not-feeling-like-I've-done-enough (in Iraq and at home) and the feeling-of-uselessness-here-in-NJ. I want to feel like what I do matters, and I want to see someone's life get better. Doesn't mean this will be a substitute for a deployment, though.

6. Summer to Autumn to Winter to Spring. Seasons! How novel! Love it.

7. The Office. I am pretty much hopelessly addicted to this show (the US version) and can't even tell you how unhealth-ily I quote the characters, reference scenes, contemplate putting my LT's stapler in jello, want to marry Jim... (ahem) Also important to me this season is the old standby, House. He's so deliciously sinister... and those dreamy eyes...

Now. Hope that has left you as satisfied as I feel at this moment. It's November in New Jersey, 55 degrees, breezy, leaves all over the ground. My LT is out of the office and I'm going home early to paint the trim in my great room. I have a great room! Who could have seen this coming?

"and by now, the rest of the fellas get jealous,
especially when I drop the beat and do my acapellas"

- Eminem "My Band" -