31 December 2008

but I'm not gonna let 'em catch me, no

If I were one of those people who made New Year's resolutions, these are what they would be (now with pictures!):

1. Recycle more (read: recycle period)

2. Finally learn how to sew (and make a quilt out of our old t shirts)

3. Volunteer at the animal shelter near my house (how hard is it to walk a dog or play with some cats?)

4. Ease up on the alcohol (actually maybe I'll start this one next week...)

"...and the road goes on forever
and I've got one more silver dollar..."

- Allman Brothers "Midnight Rider" -

30 December 2008

UPDATE: give me back my point of view

12/29, approx 2130 - a comment waiting to be moderated in my blog:

... I'm sorry you saw us as "a group of bitter, arrogant, hateful people who didn't even TRY to participate in the exercise. We aren't that bad, I swear. I don't think we understood each others role in the exercise from the beginning, and that gave each of us a poor impression of each other. I regret we didn't finish out that AAR on the last day so we could both benefit more from the MRX ...

In honesty, I'd searched his blog for contact info, wanting to reach out, but found nothing. I suppose it's a good thing that HE found ME a few days later, because at the time I was still reeling and probably would have said a lot of unfair things - and I KNOW I would not have been open to hearing his side of anything. Calm = excellent.

My emailed response, in part:

... I wish I could explain all of the work that went into [the MRX], that goes into every MRX we've done. This time, for whatever reason, it all fell apart right in the beginning. ... I got a general feeling of suspicion from much of your unit, and maybe some of that, like you said, was just misunderstanding our roles. In our internal AAR, we agreed that next time, all members of the unit as well as the entire training staff will be present so there is no confusion.

I, too, wish the AAR hadn't been cut short. I felt like, after everything that went so wrong, there was no closure; WHY did it go wrong? What can we, as trainers, do to keep that from happening again? I can't speak for everyone, but it was a hugely unpleasant experience for me, too ...

In his initial comment, he'd suggested we get together next week and talk about the unresolved issues we all still had. I agreed, and he's right: the public affairs community is much, MUCH too small to just let it go. Our paths will cross again; I've stumbled across 46-type people I hadn't seen in years in the most random places.

Anyway, he wrote back:

... One thing about having to work at the PA office. We had a serious issue with transportation and it was hard getting a ride to the PA office from our warehouse/office. Our office had a ton of space and power outlets for broadcasters to work. I wish we had thought of seeing if it were possible for the broadcast MTT [Mobile Training Team - us] personnel to come to us. One of our AAR comments should have been that the Fort Dix PA office doesn't have good space for video editing. I don't want that to come across like an arrogant broadcaster thing because we need some space, power outlets, and quiet to do some good editing.

I do hope with all of our bitching, you were at least happy with our product. We worked hard as a broadcast section to put together those stories and the newsreel. Putting up the DVIDS was good training, too ...

He also apologized for the "instructor" thing and even made an amendment to the post, both of which I appreciate very much.

I wrote back:

... As a Q, quiet space to record audio never occurred to me, and evidently [the LT] didn't think of it either. I will bring that to her attention, as well as any other concerns you have ...

I added that I didn't really know what I was looking at in terms of the video products (I'm a print journalist myself) but that their print products were all solid.

There were a few more emails back and forth, mostly about crappy Fort Dix, marketing and DVIDS, and deploying with a PAOC. I also asked permission to use parts from our conversation here in my blog. I'm glad we were able to clear the air a little, and I look forward to speaking more in person. (I'll be sure to add a post on the meeting, as well.)

We're going to try to meet up early next week, hopefully, and any other members of the unit are welcome to come. As for Fort Dix representation, I'm not bringing the LT with me, so I'll be the only training staff member at the meeting; the rest of the staff at the MRX were TDY from other locations.

Anyway, wanted to share that.

Exhausted, and going to bed.

29 December 2008

the girl got reasons; they all got reasons

The holiday... didn't end up being that bad, actually. A brief rundown of the festivities:

24. made the insanely horrible pre-holiday drive back to Massachusetts with the husbo. SEVEN HOURS LATER we arrived at his mother's house. There we all had a little informal dinner-thing (she thoughtfully made veggie lasagna especially for me) and exchanged presents. Afterward, we stopped for a short visit at my parents' house to do presents, then drove to Tree's dad's house and promptly fell asleep. Alcohol units consumed: two

25. had a really nice breakfast spread courtesy of Tree and his dad. Exchanged presents with his dad and brother, then went to my parents' house (again, and with Tree's dad) for food. My sister and her bf came to eat as well and we all had a (surprisingly) enjoyable time. Ate, hung out, stuffed ourselves full of my mom's infamous lady finger cake. Mmmm. Alcohol units consumed: four

26. recovered in the morning and spent a few hours with Coug midday. Then Tree and I drove to Worcester to meet up with Angel and her son - checked out their new (to me, as I'd never seen it) apartment and then onward to Boston for Blue Man Group. Greatest. Idea. Ever. So much fun!! It is how I imagine being on acid must be like. Love. After the show, we searched for the elusive Hard Rock Cafe and (finally) found the damn place. Bought a new pin. Got home after midnight. Awesome. Alcohol units consumed: three

27. the day of two birthdays: my sister and Tree. We'd all (Tree, me, my sister and her bf, my mom and dad, Tree's dad, his mom and her bf and his two kids, Tree's brother and his gf) decided to merge the events into one, so we met at 5:30 and ate locally. My parents and Tree's dad are swiftly becoming actual friends and not just people stuck with each other because of their kids, and I love that. Friends = kick ass. Alcohol units consumed: three

28. showered, packed, said good bye to everyone, left around noon. SEVEN HOURS LATER (again) we got back to New Jersey, and, you guessed it, promptly fell asleep. Alcohol units consumed: zero

In related news, I need to dry out...

"don't turn away, what are you looking at?
he was so happy on the day that he met her"

- Stone Temple Pilots "Sour Girl" -

27 December 2008

give me back my point of view

So, I went ahead and did it. The PAOC we have at Dix asked me if I wanted to go (half joking or not), and I said yes. Yes, I'll deploy again, as soon as possible, in fact. I haven't feel so... relieved in... months. I belong there. I hope you can understand.

I haven't written much in the last couple days for a few reasons.

1. The abortion that was the Mission Readiness Exercise (MRX). I won't get into it too much because it honestly depresses the hell out of me, but I will say this: there have been few other events in my life that have so broken my spirit. The PAOC was great (more on this in a future post) but the MPAD... they were a group of bitter, arrogant, hateful people who didn't even TRY to participate in the exercise. You can't just decided not to qualify with your weapon at premob, so why would you think you can decide not to validate at your mission specific exercise? You don't have a choice.

It seems the leadership of the MPAD evidently didn't pass on the whole purpose of the exercise, leaving the lower enlisteds questioning (a) who we, as the trainers, even were and (b) why they had to listen to us. They missed the entire point. Some of that was simply the leaders not passing down the info from the OPORD, the rest was an overall negative attitude toward everything. The most maddening:

Why did we have to work out of the PAO shop instead of our barracks/warehouse? Because there was an EXERCISE going on. How can we conduct it unless we're all in the same spot?

Why were there so many "hey you" missions? Poor prior planning? Nope, those are called FRAGOs, and if you've been in the Army more than 10 minutes, you know they can happen all the time. And those "hey you" missions were built into the exercise matrix, as FRAGOs, way in advance. I can show you.

Some of the members of the MPAD blogged about their experience with us and how terrible it was: while I am all about freedom of expression and the need to vent, I hope the blogs will be addressed by people much higher than their commander. The bloggers ignorantly blamed the whole mess on us. I wouldn't be so upset if it were valid complaints, but they simply aren't.

I was even referenced in one of the blogs:

... We called DVIDS and their satellite provider and they weren't getting enough power. So one of the "instructors" comes out to help and said, "I was able to send some stuff when I set up across the street last night." When we did that, we got a sweet lock and sent about 30 min of footage ...

I was that "instructor." Even though I was clearly helping them out, which he admits, I was still an "instructor." I've linked both of the blogs above for you, but I'm going to force myself not to look at them again as they make me want to beat my face against a wall. I'm so angry I can hardly speak.

I know I said I didn't want to say much about it and I did anyways. So now I'm moving on.

2. The holiday blahs. I'm just not feeling very merry this year, you know? If it wasn't for Tree, we wouldn't have had any decorations out, or even a tree up. He jollied up the house, and I'm reluctantly admitting publicly that I'm glad for it. Christmas and all the crap that goes along with it just sucked the life out of me. I wish I could blame it all on one thing (the HHB party, the bleak economy, the MRX, post-deployment depression, etc.) but it's all and none of those things. The more I try to nail it down, the less like the truth it seems.

3. I have the bubonic plague (or something). I have been fighting this mutant cold for two weeks and still can't breathe, can't taste anything, can't sleep. My throat is still sore, my eyes still water constantly, my head still feels like it's going to explode. I wish it would.

4. Trying to be a better wife. This one is the toughest, and the most personal (I debated whether or not to include it here, but fuck it, it's my blog, right?). Tree and I have gone through some extraordinarily difficult times, and I know an impending deployment won't make it any easier on us. But while I'm here, while I can, I'm going to make a real, serious effort to do all of the things I should have been doing all along. He will give me this deployment, and I will learn to give him what he needs as well.

I just finished watching the last part of Band of Brothers and now it's almost midnight. I should get some sleep - it's a long drive back to New Jersey tomorrow.

I'll try to get back into the blogging spirit. I've missed it.
12/30: please read UPDATE: give me back my point of view to see my conversation with one of the bloggers from the MPAD
"oh well, it seems like such fun
until you lose what you had won"

- Jet "Look What You've Done" -

22 December 2008

when I wear it I feel cute


I, evidently, like stuff that white people like.

I came across the blog in the usual way: linkhopping through blogger profiles until something catches my eye. So I scanned the first page, somewhat interested but skeptical ("This site will probably be lame and not relevant to me because I'm not 'white' the way white people are 'white.'"). After a couple minutes of scanning and becoming increasingly concerned, I clicked on the master list of Stuff. Of the 115 specific things white people like, I enjoy 45 (I didn't count some of the general things, like t-shirts and bottles of water). But those 45 things are big, significant things.

In particular, a few creepily personal references: Farmer's Markets, Tea, Microbreweries, David Sedaris (!), Vegan/Vegetarianism, Breakfast Places, Public Radio, Living by the Water (yikes), Toyota Prius (ok, what the fuck), Scarves, Pea Coats, and Hummus.

It was like someone looked into my soul. And found a yuppie.

Fuck! I AM white!

"I like boys with strong convictions
and convicts with perfect diction"

-Kimya Dawson "So Nice So Smart" -

19 December 2008

I'm me, me be, god damn, I am

A. I still feel very wild and restless. I've done the Fort Dix thing, and the mission isn't going to change all THAT much for me (maybe decrease, but not really change...). I've pretty much seen and done all there is to see and do. Sure, I'd like to fit in a couple more professional development classes before I leave, but that's not life-or-death.

The thought of another deployment makes my heart beat a little faster. Iraq? It's like longing for a lover you haven't seen in far too long. I want so bad to see the cluttered landscape, taste the sand, hear the foreign prayers at dawn. 

Do you know that I still roll my shoulders backward sometimes, the best way to make my pistol holster sit comfortably? I haven't touched that weapon in nearly 7 months.

There is a major I know that is willing to take me along with his unit to be the last AFN in Baghdad. It would require me going back to DINFOS for the broadcaster course (great!!), transferring into the Army Reserves (not so great), and possibly paying back most of my reenlistment bonus (exact opposite of great). But I'm really, really considering it: early 2010 is the timeframe for that deployment. I'd get off my OWT orders as scheduled in July, go to DINFOS until November, hang out for a few months and then..

And if not that, there are TONS of other opportunities. As a trainer for all Army reserve component public affairs units going to Iraq, I could easily hop on with any one of them. The current PAOC we have on the ground asked me to go with them; their LTC keeps telling me to pack my bags so I can leave when they do.

Do you believe me, I mean, really believe me, when I tell you that I loved it?

Iraq made me important, needed, a part of something so much bigger than myself, but in that way, big. My heart felt big each and every day I was there.

B. I love my little house, my little car, my little cats, my little life. I love sleeping in, having a weekend off, and the possibility of calling in sick. I love seeing my family pretty much whenever I want, and I love even more not hearing the tension in my mother's voice over the phone. I love having more than 10 cable channels (two of which were in Arabic, three were AFN channels, and the rest were MTV, History Channel, Animal Planet... forgot the other two...). 

I love not eating the same 5 meals over and over again. I love soda that tastes like soda and not watery shit. I love more than 5 minutes of a hot shower.

I love the wintery air and snowflakes. I love not having to pretend that the holidays don't matter to me.  I even love the Christmas tree that I didn't want in the first place.

And the lakehouse - how can I live without this view?? The loft, the outdoor hot tub, the window seat, the screened in porch, the floating dock, the wild ducks... this place is the closest to perfect I could have ever imagined.

Does loving those things make me selfish? Because that's exactly how I feel after typing all that.

"watch me unravel, I'll soon be naked"

- Weezer "Undone (The Sweater Song)" -

17 December 2008

but there's one promise, darlin, I'll see you on god's golden shore

On my way to work this morning, earlier than usual and in the rain, a dying dog flopped on the side of the road, trying and failing to get back up. I didn't see him get hit, but it couldn't have happened more than a minute or two, if that, before I got to him.

I was already running late and needed to make a positive link up or I'd miss the SP, but I pulled over just past the poor thing. I don't know what I was thinking - I just wanted to see if I could tell where he'd come from, so I could get his owners, so he wouldn't have to die in the rainy street alone. He could have bitten me, in that panicked dying state. I just didn't want him to be alone.

There were suddenly lots of cars behind me, so I had to wait to open my door. By the time I got out, he'd stopped moving, but I could see his breath fogging the air above him. I walked to him, only 15 paces or so, and in that time, he stopped breathing. I'm fairly sure he was dead by the time I reached him. Even still, I would have liked to find his owner, to get him out of the street, but he didn't have a collar, and truthfully, he looked a little thin - a stray? I couldn't go knocking door to door at such an early hour. I could feel my heart in my throat.

So I stood there stupidly, suddenly aware that the fact that I'd parked just past a dog laying dead in the street probably looked like I had hit it. And my car is the only one in the neighborhood with Massachusetts plates. And I was in uniform. Ashamed that I couldn't do anything, I got back into my car and drove away.

I cried the rest of the way to work.

"I'm a-bound to ride that mornin railroad...
perhaps I'll die on that train."

- Bob Dylan "Man of Constant Sorrow" -

14 December 2008

that I would be good even if I did nothing

I had a dream the other night that I'd gotten a boob job - no joke. I was sitting on a table, checking out the sizes and picked out a pair. Then the doc had me lay down and I was unconscious... when I woke up, she was hurriedly taking off her gloves and smock-thing and told me she had to leave unexpectedly but that she'd meet me the same time tomorrow to finish up.

"Finish up" ?

......... "Finish up" !!

I pulled up my shirt (I was wearing a shirt during the procedure, apparently) and was stunned (horrified would be a better word) to see that ONE SIDE of my chest had been bandaged. What the doc had meant was that she'd only put one implant in.

How am I going to walk around like this???

And is this common practice to complete one half of an augmentation and come back to it the next day? Someone's going to be getting a call from the Better Business Bureau, methinks.

Further along in the dream, the doc "finished up" and I then had a beautiful new pair of tits (the healing process took only 30 seconds, it seemed). I stood in front of a mirror and lifted them gleefully, squeezing and pressing and admiring them from the side and simply loving.

Weirdly, after the second implant had been put in and I was talking to the doc post-op, I remarked that I was glad that my nipples were now centered on my boobs. WTF?! First, what a fucking bizarre thing to say, and second, my (real life) nipples are quite centered, I assure you.

No idea why I had this dream, as I haven't been especially thinking of my boobs lately... could have to do with the new GIANT tongue stud in my mouth I suppose:

You can't really tell in the photo, I guess, but this thing is two gauges larger than my last stud (which I lost in Atlanta). 

So. What else? New tattoo(s) in the planning stage. I'm going to revamp my little chili pepper tattoo (sadly, the red has faded considerably, so that needs to be retouched, and maybe I'll add some words to go with it) and get a phoenix on my side.

I've been thinking about the phoenix for a long time now and made up my mind to go for it. I'll be getting some quotes this week and I'll go from there. Here is the closest design I've found to what I want - only the tail feathers will be a tad less peacock-like, it will be in color, and there will be more fire incorporated into the overall design. But the size, placement, and the bird's position are in the spirit of the design I want.

Also (speaking of body modification). I have decided I am going to become a Suicide Girl. This is my goal for 2009. Seriously.

"that I would be loved even when I numb myself
that I would be good even when I am overwhelmed
that I would be loved even when I was fuming
that I would be good even if I was clingy"

- Alanis Morissette "That I Would Be Good" -

12 December 2008

open up your plans and damn, you're free

Sitting in a small meeting room off the hotel lobby, listening to all-instrumental Christmas music playing in the next room and thinking, I could really go for some hot chocolate. With marshmallows. Mmm.

Today I finished up the DVIDS Operator Training Course and will be flying back to Boston tomorrow morning to pick up my car so I can drive back to NJ tomorrow afternoon. It's freezing today, yes, in fucking Atlanta. And I was expecting to catch a little tan while I was here. If I were to go outside right now, I'd only get frostbite and maybe windburn. Ridiculous. 'Hotlanta' my ass.

But I'm looking forward to going home, and not just because it's amazingly cold here (NJ may be worse). This place is nice, but I'm ready to be done and move on to the next adventure. Atlanta and the DVIDS course are great, my hotel is sweet (I have a fireplace AND a full kitchen!), love living in transit... I could be a vagabond, it's true. I just sort of feel like I've gotten all I can out of this place, at this time (with these people). You know?

Weird: 63 tried to call me yesterday while we were outside doing setup drills, but my phone was on vibrate and I didn't feel it. There was no voicemail, so I'm only 98.1% sure it was him - but really, who else would call my cell phone from the palace in Baghdad?


Back to the DVIDS course... as part of the training, we all recorded a holiday greeting so we could have a real product to transmit. I considered posting the resulting video of my greeting here in my blog, but in the interest of not putting too much of myself out there (you never know who is looking at my posts), I decided not to... however, if you know me personally, you have enough information to be able to find my greeting on the site. Take a look and tell me what you think.

Have to pee.

"so please don't, please don't, please don't
there's no need to complicate
cause our time is short
this, this is our fate..."

- Jason Mraz "I'm Yours" -

11 December 2008

taking my time but it's time that I'm wasting

I am not an especially smart person.

I know I speak well, I belive I'm a decent writer, and I at least meet the standard when it comes to most things in my life. But smart? Surely not brilliant. I don't really have any marketable skills (out in the *real* world) and there's nothing I'm exceptional at, except maybe at being mediocre. But still, I get by. Even being painfully average, I've found a purpose at Dix that makes me happy (for the most part... and not counting the immense guilt...) and so my life is small, but shiny.

But if I were brilliant - it would almost be an insult to the universe to squander it, to have nothing to show but this little existence that I have to work at to keep spinning. Embarrassing. I wish I were brilliant, that I knew more about politics, that I understood the state of the world a little more, that I could build something beautiful with my hands. Some of this I can work on, but at the end of the day, all I've got is what I was born with. I can't cook, I get bored easily, I'm no good at cars, sports are only vaguely interesting to me, I'm not particularly creative, computers/technology/whatever is overwhelming and foreign. I've got nothing. Do you know how depressing that is?

I don't know where I'm going with this. I'm sitting alone in my hotel room in Atlanta, slightly drunk, and sad. I don't know how to talk to you.

"how many times can I break til I shatter?
over the line, can't define what I'm after...
I always turn the car around."

- O.A.R. "Shattered" -

03 December 2008

were lines that I couldn't change

Here, enjoy this worthless STUFF:

Woke up this morning, got dressed, scraped my car, went to the gym to meet the LT. She was late, I worked out mostly alone (next to the brigade CSM), left the gym to go back home and shower.

Got out of the shower, got dressed, did my hair and makeup, grabbed a FiberOne bar and a bottle of water, drove back to Fort Dix. On the way to HHB, the LT called and asked me to swing by MATOPS to get the banners she ordered for the holiday party this weekend. Picked up the banners.

Parked in the faraway lot and walked to HHB, gave the LT the banners, checked my email, ate the FiberOne bar. Worked on the upcoming MRX (Mission Readiness Exercise) for the two PAO units who will be on the ground next week. Finished the PAOC plan the LT had been asking me for, for like, weeks. Made travel arrangements for Atlanta.

Went to the PX with the LT so she could buy a Christmas gift for her mother. Walked next door to the Commissary to get a cake for a going away party for a girl I don't know. Went to that going away party. Took some photos.

Back upstairs, finally got my other work laptop fixed. Made a note to get the Adobe Creative Suite software out of the hard case for the IT guy to install tomorrow. Helped the LT find her missing cover.

Drove home with leftover salsa from the party in the passenger's seat, cried in my car.

Does it sound as weak and meaningless as it was for me to type it? "What did you do today?" is the bane of my existence.

Sorry, gotta go puke now.

"if you go, if you go
and leave me down here on my own,
then I'll wait for you"

- Coldplay "In My Place" -