Monday, April 30, 2007

Doing the Happy Dance!!!

That's me. Doing the happy dance. I bit the bullet and folded all 3 baskets of laundry some of which still had JD's clothes from when he was home on leave (he left almost 2 months ago!). All put away. No clothes on the dressers, the chairs, or the coat hanger rack thingy that attaches to the wall (I'm sure it has a name, but I cannot be bothered at this moment to find it). All winter shoes are put away.

Now. Who wants to help me with the ironing? :)

Gotta go walk the doggies so I can come back and write some more. Yea!

More Counting Down

Ah. Another month done. Only 5 more months of regular season MLB.

I was out picking up a gift for my niece at Barnes & Noble after work today when I saw that they had calendars out. I took a quick glance for the 99% off sign assuming that they were 2007 calendars. Nope. These were calendars for 2008!

Wow. Someone is already thinking about next year when I am re-thinking any commitments I my have for the end of summer.

Good News from Iraq: 30 Apr 2007

From MNF-I, training Iraqi military to provide combat-related health care.

Baghdad - . . . Steps away from one of the country’s busiest emergency rooms, the structure is being turned into a schoolhouse with laptop computers and high-tech dummies that breathe and bleed.

About 30 Iraqis have been trained in American-style emergency medicine under a program at Ibn Sina Hospital, which is run by the 28th Combat Support Hospital.

The program’s goal is to polish the trauma-related skills of doctors, nurses,
pharmacists and other health workers so the Iraqis can resume control of Ibn
Sina . . .

My Something Hurts

Every so often my something hurts. Maybe it is monthly and hormone related, but it is a very comfortable sensation in my neck and chest that comes with an unattached anxiety. Something is off and I cannot identify whatever it is. I have come to recognize that this something is part of my free-floating anxiety that I have dealt with probably my whole life. I've spent so much time without it now, that when it does come, it causes a physical pain.

So what do I do about this? I think the biggest step for me is to acknowledge what it is. Realize that I am feeling off. Understand that I am not feeling bright and bubbly. Consider my words more carefully lest I lash out at someone with my shortened temper.
Second, I breathe. I breathe into the physical space this negative energy is occupying. I also read from one of my little secret books.

Breating in, I calm my body.
Breathing out, I smile.
Dwelling in the present moment,
I know this is a wonderful moment.
I'll repeat this several times today focusing on my the physical act of breathing and my posture - the location of my shoulders, the straightness of my spine, my feet touching the ground. This makes my something hurt a little less with each breath. And it only takes a few seconds to do. We'll just have to see how I am doing at the end of the day.

The secret little book today is "Present Moment, Wonderful Moment: Mindfulness Verses for Daily Living," by Thich Nhat Hanh (yes, again, still - what can I say, I like his works).

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Warm, Lazy Weekend

This was a great weekend. A great weekend to do ab-so-lute-ly nothing. It was fabulous. I took a nap on Saturday and another today. I cannot remember the last time I actually lied down in the middle of the day with the intent of falling asleep. And to do it 2 days in a row? It was wonderful.

So yep, the laundry remains unfolded. No surprise there.

Good News from Iraq: 29 Apr 2007

When some else complies the good news and it is a lovely, lazy Sunday, I gotta capitalize on it. Here you go. Greyhawk at Mudville Gazette shows that in Iraq, it was NOT a case of the boss is away the mice will play. Our guys doing more good stuff.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

It must be Paris Day

I have a very romantic notion of Paris feed by numerous movies since childhood. A few years back, JD and I even planned a trip there, bought tickets, made reservations, but life had other plans for us. So we never made it.

Today, I was scanning the New York Times headlines email in my inbox, when I saw a link to this slideshow about steak frites. After I wiped away all the drool from my chin and sent the article to JD, I started flipping the channels, and sure enough, there is French Kiss on HBO. I so love that movie.

It must be a day to think about Paris, and what it will mean when I finally get there.

"I love Paris in the springtime . . ."

Why is it . . .

. . . that teenagers can be so very inconsiderate and disrespectful?

Starting at about 10 PM last night, the neighbors to the east began making a great deal of ruckus. Not to worry, I was somehow able to fall asleep . . . only to be woken up every 15 minutes by the doggies getting all worked up from the noise. But that only lasted until 3 AM.

This morning I got up, let the doggies out into the backyard, only to see bar cans and cigarette butts on the ground near the fence shared with the neighbors to the east.

As I was picking up that trash, I saw that there was trash on the side of my house beyond the fence (only the backyard is fenced). I found another 5 beer bottles. In front of my house I found 2 empty cigarette packs. And let me add that this is not the first time that has happened.

If I were actually an inconsiderate person, or one who acted on my anger, I would have marched straight over to their house with their garbage, and pounded on the front door, hoping that I would be waking someone up with a hangover. Mind you it was only 8 AM, a mere 5 hours after their little party ended. Instead, I went back inside my house, threw away their trash, and decided to type away my anger instead.


Boy do I feel better now!

Let's go to Pilates. :)

Good News from Iraq: 28 Apr 2007

From MNF-I, Camp Victory's Hearts of Baghdad program:

. . . Hearts for Baghdad volunteers help to meet the quality-of-life needs of the children and families of Iraq by delivering items such as personal hygiene products, diapers, wet wipes and lotions for babies, over-the-counter medicine, shoes, school supplies and soccer balls.

More than 1,200 Iraqis come to the CMOC each month to receive basic medical care from the clinic, Stallard said. . . .

Strawberry Vanilla Shake

I came across a great recipe for a strawberry vanilla shake, non-fat, low-calorie. I could drink it all day, every day. JD knows how I get with that and knows that is entirely possible.

Makes 2 servings.
2 cups strawberries, sliced
1 cup fat-free skim milk
1/2 cup plain fat-free yogurt
1/2 oz fat-free sugar-free instant vanilla pudding & pie filling mix (1/2 of a 1 oz package)

Combine all ingredients together in a blender; puree until smooth. Yields about 1 1/4 cups per serving. This shake thickens if allowed to stand. If desired, add 1/4 cup of fat-free milk to each serving to thin t drinking consistency (or eat with a spoon).

This is a Weight Watchers Core recipe. Let me know what you think if you try it.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Good News from Iraq: 27 Apr 2007

As promised, here is some good but light news from Iraq. From US CENTCOM, Operation Iraqi School Supplies.

KIRKUK AIR BASE, Iraq - Operation Iraqi School Supplies is a program where school supplies are donated to local Iraqi students who wouldn't otherwise have what's needed for a good education. Airmen made solicitations to organizations in the U.S. to send the most basic, and much needed, items students need for education.

Friday Fun Fact

Having worn glasses since 3rd grade, my vision was horrible and I was legally blind without corrective devices. So when I hit puberty about 10 minutes after getting glasses, it was a painful and insanely awkward childhood. When I was 12 I tried contacts, but I could never get over the whole sticking-the-finger-in-the-eye thing. My pediatric ophthalmologist told me that when I got older I might be a good candidate for corrective surgery, which at the time was radial keratotomy. As an undergrad, I did a research paper on RK. And I learned about a more promising corrective surgery on the horizon using the excimer laser. The laser was not approved for use in the US so I would have to wait, first for FDA approval and second for my vision to stabilize.

And after years and years of waiting, a few months back, I finally took the plunge I had LASIK. My "wow moment" was the next morning when I got up, stumbled to the bathroom, peeled off the plastic medical tape holding on the clear eye shields, and slowly looked in the mirror. I blinked a few times and saw something I had never seen before: Me, without glasses. I started to cry.

It was truly amazing.

Taking It to the Next Level

That's what I did yesterday. I started a new Pilates class. An Intermediate Equipment class. Oh this is so exciting. I get to learn new exercises and everything.

And I have a new instructor (I'll call her Liz) and she is really cool and energetic and said I did a good job.

She even called me "dude". She must not be from the middle.

Personal Liberation

OK. It is time to tell you all that I am a social liberal in the sense of do your own thing. Here's a very ballsy, very public display of someone following his/her own truth. I admirable such acts of bravery.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

It will be lighter . . . tomorrow

How much of this deep, thought-provoking, war-laden crap stuff can one take? I'll lighten up tomorrow, I promise.

Five American National Interests in Iraq

From the National Review, an essay by Joseph Morrison Skelly discussing 5 of the American national interests in Iraq and the Middle East.

(1) Renewal of Iraqi society. Quoting George Weigel, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center:

[T]he duty to build a secure peace in the aftermath of war is intuitively grasped by morally serious people.
(2) Revitalization of the Iraqi state.
[H]undreds of thousands of Iraqis — elected representatives in parliament, officials in government ministries, soldiers in the army, men, and women in the domestic security forces — have taken up the challenge to construct a new Iraqi state, one that will, over time, establish a just public order . . .
(3) Transform Iraq into an ally in the war on terrorism.
In a speech at the Naval Academy in 2005 [President Bush] said, “Advancing the cause of freedom and democracy in the Middle East begins with ensuring the success of a free Iraq…By strengthening Iraqi democracy, we will gain a partner in the cause of peace and moderation in the Muslim world, and an ally in the worldwide struggle against the terrorists.”
(4) Long-term viability of the forces of moderate Islam.
One of the primary roles of the United States and the West, [Middle Eastern scholar Daniel Pipes] believes, is to support moderate Muslims, those who embrace “a modern Islamic message, [and an] anti-Islamist message.”
(5) Commitment of the United States to complete the mission in Iraq must be unwavering — and must be seen to be unwavering by our friends and by our enemies.
Writing in Foreign Affairs in January, Lew Kuan Yew, the former prime minister of Singapore, warned that “If the United States leaves Iraq prematurely, jihadists everywhere will be emboldened to take the battle to Washington and its friends and allies. Having defeated the Russians in Afghanistan and the United States in Iraq, they will believe that they can change the world.”
Plus - national honor. Quoting James Bowman's Honor: A History:
Honor is ultimately about being true to your word, and if American words — of which there has never been any shortage — are not backed up by deeds that bespeak American seriousness, and American willingness to sacrifice as well as to preach, then Uncle Sam becomes merely ridiculous on the world stage and the safety of the nation he symbolizes is itself put in danger.

Why We Need to Stay

From the Washington Post, a must read article by SEN Lieberman about the our One Choice in Iraq.

. . . Al-Qaeda, after all, isn't carrying out mass murder against civilians in the streets of Baghdad because it wants a more equitable distribution of oil revenue. Its aim in Iraq isn't to get a seat at the political table; it wants to blow up the table -- along with everyone seated at it. . . .

Al Qaeda. Remember them? And a cool September morning back in 2001? Same bad guys. And after they have their way in Iraq, where do you think they'll go next? Oh wait, they are already in north Africa. Spain, perhaps? I do recall it being especially lovely this time of year.

Good News from Iraq: 26 Apr 2007

GEN David Petraeus on his briefing before the Senate (from Defense Link; hat tip Bill Roggio):

GEN PETRAEUS: I -- what I tried to do is to give an accurate depiction of the situation in Iraq -- a forthright assessment. It's an assessment that therefore includes areas in which there's been progress. As I mentioned, for example, the reduction of sectarian murders in Baghdad -- a very important development. And again, remember we're in very early days on this. We're only about two months into the surge. We won't have all the forces on the ground until mid-June and I pointed that out to them, and noted that Ambassador Crocker and I would be doing an assessment in early September and provide that to our respective bosses at that time. That's something we agreed when Secretary Gates was out there.

I also pointed out the progress in Anbar Province, which has been very substantial, as you know. Literally over the last two months, Anbar has gone -- or certainly over the last six months -- from being assessed as being lost, to a situation that now is quite heartening because of the decision by a number of Sunni Arab tribes to join the fight against al Qaeda, saying no more -- they've had it -- and linking arms with the coalition to take on al Qaeda and one city after another really cleaning them out all the way down the Euphrates River Valley from al Qaim and Husaybah through Haditha, Hit, Ramadi and so forth, although as I pointed out to each of the respective bodies -- the House and the Senate -- there still is considerable work to be done in Anbar Province although all the trends are in the right direction. And in fact the two additional Marine battalions that are part of the surge are now operating just for the first couple of weeks in Anbar Province, and they'll be joined by some additional forces later on as with the two additional Army brigades as they move in to their respective areas in and around Baghdad.

. . .

[W]e are actually ahead of where I wanted to be in some areas and probably behind where we might have hoped to be in some other areas. We are ahead, I think, with respect, as I mentioned, to the reduction of sectarian murders in Baghdad. Progress in Anbar is almost something that's breathtaking. We have made huge inroads. I think that you just saw an announcement -- the killing of the security emir of al Qaeda Iraq in eastern Anbar province, the detention of the Qazali network. This is the secret cells of the Shi'a extremist network. I'm not sure whether we've announced it, but we picked up the Shavani (ph) network head in Iraq. That's the explosively formed projectile element inside Iraq that gets from the other in Iran the explosively formed projectiles. We have learned a great deal more about Iranian involvement, very nefarious involvement involving funding, training on Iranian soil, advice and the provision of, again, lots of arms and ammunition, including these explosively formed projectiles that have been so lethal against some of our armored vehicles.

. . .

Congress's Break Up with Our Troops

Break ups are never pretty. To watch a relationship dying for lack of trying by one party is particularly painful. When one party decides the relationship is over, and the relationship is no longer worth fighting for, there is usually not much to salvage. But that does not mean that what was once strong and beautiful cannot be resurrected with time, patience, and understanding.

This is not about me and my husband. Even though we are separated by 6000+ miles, we have grown closer during this deployment. Unfortunately, he tells me that he is hearing from some of his fellow soldiers that their wives/girlfriends are providing ultimatums: "Be home by a certain date, or I am leaving you."

Such an ultimatum on its face is difficult for me to comprehend. An individual soldier has no (zero, zilch, nada) control over when he (or she) will be able to be home. (Or are these wives/girlfriends secretly wishing that their loved ones get injured to come home early? Equally incomprehensible.)

But that got me thinking.

Congress and Our Servicemembers. The majority party in Congress, like the discouraged wife, wants its troops home now. I get that. But what SEN Harry Reid and his ilk are telling the troops is that the relationship is over unless you come home by a certain date. We will cut you off unless you are home soon. We will leave you. An ultimatum.

For some of our troops, not only are they getting ultimatums from their loved ones, they hearing them from Congress too. The majority party in Congress is creating a self-fulfilling prophecy of low morale.

So SEN Reid, thanks for the "Dear John" letter you personally addressed to my husband and his soldiers, claiming it to be from the American people. Talk about demoralizing.

NPR Fund Drive

OK. OK. I know that we all have our pet charities and causes, and quite frankly a radio station seems like it should be pretty low on the list when we could be sending our same dollars to help our own wounded soldiers.

But since NPR is very important to me, I thought I would give a shout out now that they are doing their Spring Fund Drive. Membership levels begin at $40. You can go to a find your local station to make a donation to. My local station has an excellent website and I donate online.

So if you listen to NPR, are you a member?

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Must Be Mocked UPDATED

Did anyone see President Bush dancing in the Rose Garden today with an African Dance group? He actually looked like one of his impersonators. Hilarious!

I just saw it on the NBC Nightly News.

If I weren't running out the door, I would venturing into the unknown (AKA You Tube) and find it. Maybe later.


UPDATE: Here's the link to You Tube! And I figured out how to put it in here! WOW!

The Dandelions Are Out

On our walk today, I noticed that the dandelions are out in full force. Their airy blooms are just waiting for a gust to spread their whimsy. Until about a year ago, I never really thought much about dandelions. Then I read a book, with this little poem:

I have lost my smile,
but don't worry.
The dandelion has it.
The book continues on:
If you have lost your smile and yet are still capable of seeing that a dandelion is keeping it for you, the situation is not too bad. . . . You still have enough mindfulness to see that the smile is there. The dandelion is one member of your community of friends. It is there, quite faithful, keeping you smile for you.
I remember my dark days when a true smile from my soul was not possible. And now when I am having a bad day, and I don't feel like smiling, if I just think of the dandelion, it is not possible for me to so bleak. On good days, like today, when I see 100s of dandelions, my soul actually feels lighter. Oh what a gift. I thought I would share.

The book is Peace is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life by Thich Nhat Hanh. Here's the Amazon link. Seriously, this book transformed my life.

I hate it when . . .

. . . I am strolling down the sidewalk enjoying the lovely afternoon with my doggies, and I pass a street sewer drain with a low droning hum.

What on earth is that? Are the underground aliens coming to take over? Yuck!

Good News from Iraq: 25 Apr 2007

The Weekly Fishwrap is up over at Blackfive. Check it out . . .

. . . lest you think I am ranting and conducting psy ops according to one John Beard who posted a comment over at Badgers Forward. But I like to think that my readers are able to think for themselves and factor in how the good news plays in with the bad news we hear.

That's just me. Thinking.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Pilates Blunder

I have rearranged my exercise routine and now I am taking an intermediate Pilates mat class on Tuesdays. At the beginning of each class, my instructor Mari goes around and makes sure she knows everyone's name. There was a "new" woman in class and so Mari asked her a few questions, "got any injuries" and since it is an intermediate class, she asked about student's previous Pilates experience.

Student: "Well I took the 4 classes."

Mari: (with a sideways glance and looking confused) "4 classes?"

Student: "Yeah. The lady at the front desk said I was ready for this class. And she brought me here to this studio."

All students begin to look at each other and at Mari knowing that the lady at the front desk is not an instructor but an office manager of sorts.

Mari : (awkwardly) "Well. OK. This is an intermediate class, but OK."

Class goes on. New student keeps up pretty darn well actually. And then toward the end of class someone mentions something about reformer classes.

Student: "I guess I thought that was what I was going to be taking."

Room goes silent. I know that the Tuesday reformer class is a beginner class and this woman is sufficiently a beginner to not know what a reformer class is. Yikes! That's new.

Mari: (eyes wide) "Well, I guess this was a good submersion into Pilates."

That is quite a submersion seeing is I only moved into the intermediate class after 4-5 months of beginning classes 2-3 times a week, and this woman was over 50 and not overly fit. Kudos to her and her stamina, but Ouch! That might hurt in the morning.

Isn't there something funny out there?

Iraq, Afghanistan, Virginia Tech, partisan politics, blah, blah, blah. There has got to be something funny going out there in the big bad world (besides the whole Sheryl Crow vs. toilet paper thing).

I'm just not finding it. Arrrggghhh!

Can anyone help me out here?

More Good News for Today

From the National Review Online, an outspoken critic seeing progress in Iraq:

. . . For the first time in over a year, [Connecticut Republican congressman Christopher] Shays saw promising signs, and he is anxious to confirm them when he returns to Iraq next month. He is encouraged by the improved security in Baghdad, the cooperation of Sunni tribal leaders in Anbar province, and the dramatically improved oil production in the north. . . .

My Doggies Love Me So

I don't need any tests to tell me my doggies love me. OK, love may be a bit strong but they certainly do like that I feed them and walk them and give them affection. The New York Times has an article on a scientific study about how dogs wag their tails predominately to the right when they are faced with a positive stimuli, like their owners, and predominately to the left when faced with a negative stimuli, like an aggressive dog.


Think the war funding hold-up in DC doesn't matter?

Think that all the partisan politics doesn't affect what is going on on the ground in Iraq right now? Does training the Iraqi security forces to be independent matter?

How about this, from The Fourth Rail:

It is highly unusual for U.S. generals to weigh in on disputes between the executive and legislative branches. The cut in funding for the training programming has caused U.S. generals to mention the situation no less than four times since the delay in the FY07 Supplemental Budget became a critical issue. "At the current moment, because of this lack of funding, MNSTC-I is unable to continue at the pace they were in the developmental process of the Iraqi security forces," Major General William Caldwell said in a recent press briefing. "It is starting to have some impact today, and will only have more of an impact over time."

. . .

Unlike what some would claim, training for the Iraqi Security Forces could only be higher if the FY07 supplemental budget submitted in February was not delayed for political reasons. The proponents of this delay claim that they want to bring the troops home sooner but, the delay in standing up their replacements (the Iraqi Security Forces) caused by Congress' actions has had the opposite effect of delaying the eventual reductions and the withdrawal of U.S. forces.

So the controlling party in Congress not only does not care about us winning in Iraq, they don't even care about Iraq being able to take care of itself. Nice.

Sorry, folks. I am in an odd mood today.

Good News from Iraq: 24 Apr 2007

From the Weekly Standard, an article about whether Petraeus can pull it off. Do you really care about what is going on in Iraq? If you do, you will want to read this whole article (at some point soon). An absolute must read. (hat tip Bill Roggio)

Here is an excerpt about Al Anbar Province . . .

. . . The tribal forces [in Ramadi] are still too weak to defeat al Qaeda's ruthless fighters on their own (and probably always will be), but they have been of critical help in generating tips that aid Coalition forces. They are also now encouraging their sons to join the Iraqi police and army. Last year, few if any Sunnis were signing up. Now so many are eager to join that training facilities are swamped and there is a waiting list of recruits. Sunnis are also willing to serve in local governments. Ramadi has just installed a new mayor and city council.

Colonel [John W.] Charlton [commander of the 1st Brigade Combat Team of the 1st Armored Division] and his battalion commanders have taken advantage of this newfound willingness to cooperate on the part of the sheikhs. Ramadi now has some 4,000 police officers as well as an irregular militia that is being integrated into the police force. It also has effective Iraqi army units, which are integrating more Sunnis into their ranks. But even the largely Shiite soldiers of the two brigades already in Ramadi have shown their mettle alongside American troops. One of the most encouraging sights I saw in Ramadi was an Iraqi army sergeant-major, a Shiite from Baghdad, supervising the rebuilding of a Sunni neighborhood and chatting amiably with the residents. This is the kind of intercommunal cooperation that was once the norm in Iraq and can be again if Shiite and Sunni extremists are defeated at gunpoint.

Ramadi is not an isolated example. There is progress across Anbar province, especially in such towns as Qaim and Hit, which have become remarkably calm after years of violence. General Petraeus was able to stroll through Hit on March 10 while eating an ice cream cone. . . .

And in Baghdad . . .

. . . More U.S. soldiers now live in the neighborhoods they patrol, in Joint Security Stations such as the one that I visited in Hurriya in western Baghdad. Here soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division sleep and work alongside men from the Iraqi army and National Police. . . . As they have established their presence, soldiers have found the number of tips from residents appreciably increasing. This makes U.S. soldiers safer. They are no longer simply speeding down streets in their armored Humvees hoping not to hit an IED. They are now conducting targeted raids and foot patrols, the basis of any effective counterinsurgency.

I went along on one such stroll on the evening of Monday, April 9, in the heavily Shiite neighborhood of Kadhamiya in northwestern Baghdad. This was the fourth anniversary of the liberation of Iraq, a day that Shiite cleric and militia leader Moktada al-Sadr had designated a day of protest, but things were pretty quiet when Captain David Brunais led a dozen men from the 82nd Airborne Division out of Forward Operating Base Justice into the warm spring air. His soldiers spread out on both sides of the street, keeping a vigilant eye for trouble using their night-vision goggles. The only major problem we encountered was a serious car crash (a taxi flipped upside down), but the Iraqi army had the situation well in hand. As we were standing there, a dozen Iraqi Humvees screeched up, sirens blaring. We kept on walking, pausing only to sit down and share cans of Pepsi with some men smoking hookah pipes at an outdoor café. Brunais joked around with them, having come to know them since his arrival in the area in February in the first wave of the surge. Through an interpreter, he asked what their concerns were and explained why the government had decided to impose a ban on vehicular traffic that day. It is through such amicable encounters that soldiers gain the intelligence necessary to wage a successful campaign against an unseen foe.

While this patrol was undertaken by American forces alone, more and more patrols in Baghdad are now joint endeavors. One of the great achievements of recent months has been the willingness of Iraqi army formations to deploy to Baghdad with more than 85 percent of their strength. Many of these units, especially those composed primarily of Kurdish troops, have already proven highly effective. . . .

And about Iraqi Special Operations Forces . . .
. . . The Iraqis showed off their equipment, which is every bit as good as that of their American Special Forces counterparts. They demonstrated their skills in a state-of-the-art "shoot house," followed by a mock hostage rescue mission in a cavernous training facility. (My ears are still ringing from all the C2 explosives used to blow open a wooden door.) Their American liaisons, all veteran Green Berets, proudly told me that the Iraqis are capable of planning and executing their own missions.

. . .

Monday, April 23, 2007

Premiere of The REAL Wedding Crashers

Oh . . . this show is wrong on sooo many levels, but I just had to watch it, just like I said I would. Painful to those poor friends of the bride and groom. OUCH!!

Magical Things

Before I started this blog and chose the moniker Butterfly Wife, I never really gave butterflies a second thought. Sure they are pretty but in our culture (or at least in my mind) they are associated with overly feminine things, and I'm not a girly girl. But in the last month, I have noticed butterflies in all sorts of things and all sorts of place. In fact I've had one hanging from my rear view mirror for the past 15 months given to me by my sister. Interesting.

Maybe my next tattoo will have a butterfly theme . . .

License Plate Game: UPDATE #2

The next installation of the progress of the game.

Total: 44

Remaining states: MT NH NM NV RI WV

I think I may have seen New Mexico, but I could not get close enough to confirm. So it remains on the list. Of course, Ohio and Texas, both non-neighbors, remain daily sitings. I get Texas, it is a huge state. But Ohio, what's up with that?

Somebody please explain Ohio to me. I beg of you. I don't understand that state!

Wounded Soldier Update

You may remember me telling (i.e., venting) about a wound soldier's mother here and here.

Now for a brief update.

I just got off the phone with the mother. She is doing better every day it seems. Her son made it to Walter Reed Army Medical Center and she and the soldier's girlfriend, girlfriend's mother, and close guy friend drove down to DC for a few days. The mother was duly impressed with the care her son is receiving (I screamed to myself, "I told you so!") , but of course, she had to mention that she had heard all sorts of bad things about the place. She said there always seemed to be a healthcare provider in his room and they were great to the family and friends as well. Wonderful to hear!

The soldier's leg wound seems to be doing better than expected and he still needs further evaluation on his vertebrae injury (nonparalyzing). Mentally, he is having troubles as might be expected.

Good News from Iraq: 23 Apr 2007

From National Review Online, Appeal for Courage, evidence that we're winning, morale is good, and changes in Al Anbar. (hat tip Michelle Malkin)

Here's an excerpt:

. . . Despite the frustration with both the partisanship on Capitol Hill and the mainstream media’s inaccurate portrayal of the realities on the ground in Iraq, [U.S. Navy Lt. Jason] Nichols [in Baghdad] contends military morale is good. “It’s because of the tremendous support we receive from the American people,” he says. “A lot of that support comes from the leadership of Vietnam vets and others who have created a kind of ‘support the vets’ movement.”

Iraq is dangerous. The war is difficult. Nobody is pretending otherwise. But even in the face of last week’s horrific bombings, progress is being made both in a tactical and strategic sense, as well as in the winning of hearts of minds. And no one knows this better than the troops on the ground.

. . .

Insensitive Civilians

On Friday, several co-workers and I were walking back to our work area from the cafeteria. We were discussing cancer. New guy in our office mentioned that one of his former co-workers died from breast cancer. So the mouth in my department (I'll just call her Bea for short) piped up that her husband had a co-worker who died from pancreatic cancer. The way Bea was carrying on you would have to agree that these deaths were oh so horrible. I thought I might add my 2 cents.

BW: "I won't even tell you what 3 of my husband's co-workers died from."

Bea: (Dismissively) "Yeah, but that was in the line of duty."

So I guess those 3 deaths don't count and I really had nothing to add to the conversation. Heaven forbid there was a work accident and 3 of her husband's co-workers died on the job.

Glad she cleared that up for me.


Sunday, April 22, 2007

I love . . .

. . . the smell of the late afternoon rain against hot asphalt. It is the smell that spring has truly arrived and warm weather will be around for the next 6 months.

Original Sin

While I am on the topic . . .

Last night the hostess of the dinner, gave me a copy of Original Sin with Antonio Banderas and Angelina Jolie, telling me that there is a hot and heavy scene it. I watched it this morning. Interesting movie. "The Scene" is hot and is like the 3rd scene in on the DVD. But as I was watching the scene for the 4th time (insert hormone level joke here), I starting thinking, how many people went and say this as there first date movie? How insanely uncomfortable that would be. Definitely one of those gettin' in the mood movies, like The Piano.

Just a little tidbit for the toolbox.

Oh my!

And yes, I did thoroughly discussed this with JD.

Not a Chicken??

Last night I had dinner with some girlfriends that I can really let down my hair with. It's wonderful to have friends like that. I was late to dinner and walked into my friend's house, interrupted their conversation, and said, "My hormones are out of control and I need my husband home. NOW!" We then spent the next 3 hours talking about sex. It was wonderful and I will spare you all the details. Needless to say, it was hilarious.

In an attempt to change the subject, I mentioned seeing the chicken in the park. Friend 1 piped up, "That was not a chicken you saw, it was a cock you were hallucinating!"

A cock indeed. Hmmm.

All I gotta say is that this deployment is getting loooooonnnnnnngggggggggg.

Good News from Iraq: 22 Apr 2007

From MNF-I, Iraqi Police training center construction is underway.

Baghdad, Iraq -

. . .

“This mission’s extremely important because we're building a facility that will allow the Iraqi people to train their own protection forces,” [Sgt. 1st Class Jason Briglin, HHC, 4th IBCT] said, “which, in turn, means they will be able to take care of themselves."

. . .

Military Parents Websites

I came across the website for Marine Parents this morning. Thought it might provide some useful information for parents of all branches.

I also found this Army Parents site.

Just thought I would share.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Getting Ready for A Girls' Night Out

I am getting ready for a girls' night out and after running errands and Pilates earlier, I jumped in the shower and after a few minutes, I realized there was all the wonderful afternoon light coming in bathing the room. it was wonderful! It has been a long while since I showered during daylight hours. Oh . . . that was nice.

Afternoon in the Living Room

For many years we had no curtains on our front window. For a variety of reasons, we just never made it a priority. This past Christmas my mother bought us curtains (red multiple stripes of varying wides on cream, tabbed top) and my uncle came over from the other side of the state to hang them. They look great. I have the windows open and the curtains pulled closed to keep out the heat of the afternoon sun. I love the calm movement, the billowing dance, the sunlight sneaking in between the panels, and Moo curled up on the red couch in front of the window, her head hanging over the shoulder. She looks so sweet when she's asleep.

Good News from Iraq: 21 Apr 2007

From MNF-I, bringing more electricity for the summer:

“Since electrical service has been improving in Iraq,” he [Michael Fellenz, a Gulf Region South District project engineer for the Corps of Engineers] said, “projects of this kind will lower the incidence of power outages and help modernize the electrical power system.”

Friday, April 20, 2007

Good News from Iraq: 20 Apr 2007

From the LA Times (yes, the LA Times), by way of Bill Roggio, excerpt below about Sunni tribal leaders in Al Anbar Province forming a national party to fight insurgency.

RAMADI, IRAQ — A group of Sunni tribal leaders in beleaguered Al Anbar province said Thursday that it intended to form a national party to oppose insurgents such as Al Qaeda in Iraq and reengage with Iraq's political process.

The announcement came after 200 sheiks said to represent 50 tribes met here and agreed to form a provincial sheiks council and hold the first convention in May of their new party, called Iraq Awakening. Sheiks from three other provinces will attend, organizers said.

The driving force behind the new party, Sheik Abdul-Sattar abu Risha, said in an interview that the tribal leaders would be pushing a slate of candidates in Al Anbar provincial elections later this year, as well as in the next round of national parliamentary balloting, scheduled for 2009.

One purpose of the party, Sattar said, is to promote a better image of American-led forces "to the Iraqis here."

. . .

Friday Fun Fact

I have 3 tattoos. They are all available for public display (i.e., they are not in private areas).

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Stop and Look for the Chicken . . .

. . . or is it stop and smell the roses? Either way, when the doggies and I were on our walk and we got to spot where I saw the chicken on Tuesday. We could have kept walking, sticking to the routine, but I decided to see if I could find the chicken again. It only took a a minute or two but sure enough, there was the chicken. It made me laugh to think that there was this chicken in the park.

So we continued on and I got to thinking about how sometimes I get so wrapped up in my routine that I don't like to veer from it. And the chicken reminded my that every once in a while it is really good to stop and smell the roses along the path. Or in this case, stop and look for the chicken.

Good News from Irq: 19 Apr 2007

Yep, I am still needin' some news, too!

School reopening in Ramadi (from MNF-I).

AR RAMADI, Iraq - Marking the culmination of a 53-day renovation project, members of the West Central Ramadi District Council and local residents held a grand re-opening ceremony for the Al Warar Boys School here, April 17.

Approximately 100 students, more than a dozen teachers and numerous city leaders were in attendance for the ribbon cutting ceremony of the newly renovated facility. Arif Mokber Sayad, vice president of the WCRDC, and Fadel Khalaf Saleh, provincial director general of education were given the honor of cutting the ribbon for the celebratory occasion.

“Being here and seeing these happy children makes me remember my own childhood,” Sayad said. “Because of the cooperation of the people of Ramadi and the Coalition Forces, we will be able to educate our children properly.”

Approximately 100 Iraqi workers from local neighborhoods were contracted for the renovation, adding four new classrooms, repairing the roof, floors and plumbing, replacing all the doors and windows, installing air conditioning and heating units, and repainting the building.

The improved security in and around Ramadi has made this project and others possible in recent months. The cooperation between tribal leaders, local citizens and the Iraqi Police and Army in the province along with Coalition Forces continues to grow, providing a more solid foundation for future development.

Schools are very good!

What scares a Butterfly Wife?

This. Iran Exonerates Six Who Killed in Islam's Name. Here is an excerpt from the New York Times article.

. . . According to the Supreme Court’s earlier decision, the killers, who are members of the Basiji Force, volunteer vigilantes favored by the country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, considered their victims morally corrupt and, according to Islamic teachings and Iran’s Islamic penal code, their blood could therefore be shed.

The last victims, for example, were a young couple engaged to be married who the killers claimed were walking together in public.

... Iran’s Islamic penal code, which is a parallel system to its civic code, says murder charges can be dropped if the accused can prove the killing was carried out because the victim was morally corrupt.

This is true even if the killer identified the victim mistakenly as corrupt. In that case, the law requires “blood money” to be paid to the family. Every year in Iran, a senior cleric determines the amount of blood money required in such cases. This year it is $40,000 if the victim is a Muslim man, and half that for a Muslim woman or a non-Muslim.

First, it is OK to kill a man and a woman for walking down a street together? Granted, there is probably more to the story, but even if they were having sex in the middle of the street with donkeys, is death an equitable remedy?

Second, you gotta love the equity in the monetary value of a life. Not all humans are created equal. And somehow, I doubt there are many non-Muslims remaining in Iran at this time.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Sanjaya is OFF!!

Cuz we all know that this is the most important thing going on . . . Sanjaya Malakar has been voted off the American Idol island.

Color Question

When I changed the colors on this blog, I made the background a lovely light blue. I did this at home on my new MacBook. At work, the background is a light purple color. But otherwise, I have not had any problems with color with my monitor at work.

So I thought I would ask you all . . .

What color do you see as the background of this blog?

(Yes, smart ass answers are much appreciated too!)

Good News from Iraq: 18 Apr 2007

Still wanting good news? Me too. Here's some about caputring suspected chlorine bombers by way of MNF-I.

BAGHDAD, Iraq – One terrorist was killed and eight suspected terrorists linked to al-Qaeda foreign fighters and improvised explosive device networks were detained Wednesday in two separate Coalition Forces raids.

One armed terrorist was killed and Coalition Forces detained five suspected terrorists west of Taji. The suspected terrorists are believed to be tied to al-Qaeda in Iraq and a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device network known to use chlorine in its attacks. They are
also allegedly involved in facilitating foreign terrorist movements.

“This capture disrupts a threat to the people of Iraq as well as Coalition Forces,” said Lt. Col. Christopher Garver, MNF-I spokesperson “Terrorists continue to disregard the safety of all Iraqis, and we will persist in dismantling their networks that undermine the security of the Iraqi people.”

In Mosul, three suspected terrorists with ties to the al-Qaeda in Iraq network were detained.

More Coffee!!

I got a card yesterday from Boo's foster mommy from when he was born. She still has the rest of his litter mates. She's had a tough year, but wouldn't you know it, she suggested we get together soon to catch up. And even though I have not heard from her in a long time, I think I just might call her. What the heck!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Computer Savvy: No. Discount Hungry: Yes!

After a couple of failed attempts to post this as a response to Navy Wife's comment, I decided it was just easier to post the info here.

I got a fabulous military discount when I needed Microsoft Office for my new Mac. I spent $20 vs. $400 at Amazon. It was through the Home Use Program. Here are a couple of links.

Army Times article on this discount.
Army Small Computer Program.

You know you are a milspouse when . . .

. . . you see a guy in the car behind you combing his hair and you cannot remember the last time you saw a man comb his hair because your man's hair is too short for combing.

Injured Soldier's Mother UPDATE

Motivated purely out of guilt and the sick desire to provide you all an update, I called the injured soldier's mother back. Well, maybe I actually care somewhere deep inside, and would want someone to do the same for me. But I do want to update you.

From the last time we spoke on Sunday morning (when she said she was going to call me back and of course never did), she has been able to speak to her son a couple of times. He is in Germany had surgery (had a rod placement) today on his fractured leg. His spinal fractures do not appear to be causing any paralysis and he has his neck immobilized. He will be coming stateside, but we don't know when.

She made it to the post office yesterday (finally) after dealing with bronchitis and the snow (she's on the east coast) to get the newsletters that I sent her that contain the information she needs. She figured out that the Red Cross was not particularly helpful in this situation with even giving her updates on her son (go figure!). She did get a hold of the National Military Family Association and said they were helpful.

Anyway, she was much more pleasant today and much less self-focused. The call went well other than being too long - I had to tell her that my dinner was getting cold in order to get her to end the call.

I'll call her back in a couple of days to see how she is doing and see what more information we have.

City Chickens??

The doggies and I were on our walk today in the park when standing in the shade of a large tree near a little pond of water was a chicken, black with white speckles and a red crest. An honest to God chicken. That has got to be the oddest animal I have seen in this urban park. I live in a city, a big city, where some of the biggest green spaces are the cemeteries dating back to the mid 1800s. But I suppose we got fox in our neighborhood from somewhere too. Maybe the fox came to get into the hen houses.

Good News from Iraq: 17 Apr 2007

I need to hear some good news today. How about you?

MNF-I Freedom Fact:

The Bomb Disposal School completed training for the seven Iraqi police departments with IED response teams, or bomb squads, graduating 528 specialists in 2006.

Training is good.

Don't let this story get lost: UPDATED

I want to start by saying that I am profoundly saddened by yesterday's shootings at Virginia Tech. It was all over the radio this morning as I drove teary-eyed to work. It is deeply tragic and on one level or another affects us all.

That said, I think an even more disturbing scenario is beginning to appear in Iraq with Muktada al-Sadr pulling 6 cabinet minister "to make way for new ministers without sectarian agendas" according to a New York Times article. Sadr's move is "motivated by Iraqi nationalism." Hmmm.

The man obviously has a huge influence over the Iraqi government. But if he were truly motivated by "nationalism", why didn't he just tell these ministers to vote with the same sense of nationalism? Instead, he is pulling out for his own (sectarian) purposes, none of which involve some altruistic sense of nationalism, a term he may bandy about to sway an American public intoxicated by the notion that the Iraqi culture values nationalism as highly as we do.

Don't be fooled. This man is loyal to himself and his religion.

Read an Iraqi's view on this move by Sadr.

Monday, April 16, 2007


Well, I have been at this for just over a month, and somehow I managed to get over a 1,000 visits already. WOW!

I just thought this would be a good time to thank all the little people who got me here. YOU!!

OK. Badger 6 has been very good to me. So go visit his site and Acute Politics (the now famous Acute Politics as seen on PBS!) and the other guys (and gals) who have blogs and can bring us the latest information from the front.

And speaking of PBS, you must MUST watch Operation Homecoming that was on tonight.

I hate it when . . .

. . . I ever so carefully tip over the brand spanking new large container of Cascade Fresh nonfat plain yogurt to pour off the liquid and the entire contents of the container spill out into the sink. SPLAT!!

Yes, I was able to "recover" just enough for my recipe.

Warrior Writers: Operation Homecoming on NPR

On Point has a radio interview with the producers of Operation Homecoming that is airing on PBS at 9 CDT. The voice of our Warrior Writers.

Good News from Iraq: 16 Apr 2007

From Forbes, an article about the positive changes happening in Ramadi (by way of Bill Roggio at the Fourth Rail).

JD & BW's Battle Drill for Execution Shooter

In light of today's shootings at Virginia Tech, JD and I came up with a plan. I go low after the guy's legs and JD will go high after the gun. Better to have a plan and not need it.


Someone asked me if I wanted to have coffee sometime. It looks like if you put out them good vibes into the universe and ask for what you need, you just might get it.

Sunday, April 15, 2007


I pull up to the drive-thru window of Starbucks. Shining in the window's reflection the late afternoon sun lowering in a seductive dance shrouded in blue silver layers of soft clouds.

I can feel the need for a fix coming. The intoxicating waft of the caffeine-laden air hits me as the windows slide open with a mechanical whirl.

Even before I take a sip of the iced venti nonfat caramel macchiato, I am feeling the rush. The urge swells in me and I scramble to find a pen and any piece of paper. Ah! The receipt from the coffee. I start scribbling down the scene as I drive out of the parking lot.

"Shit! The light is green! Why can't I hit a red light when I need one?" I mutter to myself.

I wind my way through the traffic with pen in hand and paper on lap, praying for red lights so I can get more down. Chicken scratch comes out of the pen as I arrive at my destination. I grab my coffee and my pen and paper and rush in so I can write some more before the meeting starts. I jot down more notes than usual during the meeting trying get that fix in another way. Meeting over, I race to get back to my car and start to write more, almost compelled to get down my thoughts.

"Damn! I need more paper!" A personalized note pad from my sister-in-law. I keep going.

I speed home back to my laptop so I can make the words permanent, real, posted. As I pull into the garage, my heart starts racing. I ignore the dogs, and the need for water, food, and bathroom, and hit the keys. Nothing matters until I can hit "Publish". That's when the rush comes. That's the fix, stimulated by caffeine and fed by red lights.


Good News from Iraq: 15 Apr 2007

Over at MNF-I, I finally found where the keep all those Freedom Facts. Here's an interesting one.

Per capita Gross Domestic Product, according to estimates by the International Monetary Fund, has grown in the past three years from $949 in 2004 to an estimated $1,237 in 2005 to $1,900 in 2006 which exceeded the projected $1,635.

Supporting Troops Takes More Than Just the Words

Here is a post about supporting the troops taking more than just the words coming out of one's mouth (by way of Michelle Malkin). It is a way of life.

Today: A Much Better Day . . . Almost

Today is much better than yesterday. Yesterday I was woken up by the phone. A soldier in JD's unit was severely injured and his mom was calling. I am her FRG phone tree contact.

OK. I gotta vent on this. (I'm not really a bitch, I just play one on the internet.) This mother has been a little difficult for me already. But don't get me wrong, I feel very bad about her situation - she lives alone in a rural area, few coping skills, no family except her 2 sons, one son deployed and the other on the way. But when you throw in the mix that she was career military herself, that she repeatedly turns down offers from her sons for a computer and internet access because of some preconceived notion about some troubled kids she occasionally has in her home, but complains about her sons' lack of communication, it can be difficult to muster up a lot of sympathy for her. From talking with JD about it, the sons feel like their mother is choosing to these troubled foster kids over her own flesh and blood going off to war. I tell you this as background lest you think that her state of mind at the time I tell you about below is just "upset and not thinking clearly". She's never thinking clearly.

But this is what woke me up yesterday. Her son was severely injured (broken leg and 2 fractured vertebrae without any signs of paralysis) and she couldn't cope. I was as gracious as I could be. She wanted information that was sent out in the last newsletters. Over a week ago, I got a call from her saying that she couldn't find the last newsletters but knew she had read them. So first thing this past Monday, I mailed her another set after confirming her address. I mentioned that the information she needed was in those newsletters, and her response was, "Oh. I haven't been able to make it to the Post Office this week." (See the window? See the sympathy leaking out?) I pulled up the electronic versions and reviewed them and read her the pertinent parts. 95% of the information is online, which of course she cannot access.

I did what I could to reassure her about what is going on with her son, but I mostly listened. I was able to get JD on skype so I could ask him a few questions and relay the information to the mother. I mentioned that her son was going to be going to Germany and then maybe onto Walter Reed. She freaked! "Walter Reed? He can't go to that horrible place!" I wanted to reach through the phone and choke her. I think I made it pretty clear that she needed to get her facts straight and know what she is talking about. But if she did not want her son to get world-class medical care . . . *Sigh* This is just one little piece of a lengthy conversation filled with similar moments (like how she might go out and get a passport that day so she could get to Germany - I had to talk her through the logistical problem with that let alone that we do not know how long her son would be in Germany).

After interrupting this call (that she made to me) several (at least 4) times to take other calls, her phone was going dead and she wanted to have enough battery power to be able to talk to the Red Cross, which she had stuck in her head as the organization that would be doing everything for her (including flying her son out of Iraq). There would be no convincing her otherwise until she talked to them directly about this.

I got off the phone and IM'd with JD for a while, then did my Saturday morning things, including Pilates. But it was clear that I was not in a good mood. I ran my errands and sent JD a care package. Hours later, I was still feeling pissed off.

Getting on to early evening, I decided the nice thing to do was to call this mother back and see how she was doing. She had talked with the Red Cross and her son and was doing generally better.

And I actually felt better too.

That is until she called me back this morning. Actually, I still feel better, but since I am venting, I will continue to do so. She called me while I was writing this post, concerned that she had not heard from her son since yesterday. And she wanted me to pump JD for information. Information which he does not have because the people caring for her son and busy caring for her son or other sons and cannot give 5-minute updates to the company commander. She just has unreasonable expectations. She has forgotten what Army life is like (I neglected to mention that this woman was career Army herself including a direct commission officer).

Here is a tidbit from our conversation this morning.

HER: "I have 5 different religions praying for me. Do you think that will help?"

ME: "Yes, I am sure it will." When I am actually thinking, "Praying for YOU? How about praying for YOUR SON?" That may have been what she meant, but it certainly was not what she said. You see, it is all about HER. What is being done for HER, why is this happening to HER. I told JD this and his response was, "No wonder her sons want to go to Iraq."

Anyway, about 10 minutes into the conversation, she said she is having a problem with interference with her phone and needs to call me back, which I took to mean within a few minutes. That was over an hour ago. Good thing I am not doing anything today. Oh wait, that is my life waiting for me out there. Arrrggggg!

When she calls back, I will be polite and speak nicely through my clenched teeth and tell her what I can to calm her down. Then I will vent here again.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Could we actually make the public change its mind?

Sometimes I just wish I could force feed the positive stuff from Iraq down people's throats. Here (at Hot Air) is a must watch video from blogger Bill Ardolino's recent embed in Falluja. He has the Marines of a Police Transition Team tell the American people what they need to know about what is going on in their sector.

Good News from Iraq: 14 Apr 2007

From MNF-I, Embedded Provincial Reconstruction Teams helping "build the indigenous government capability and capacity needed to stimulate economic growth that supports the transition to local Iraqi control and self-reliance."

Helping establish a self-reliant government sounds good to me.

I hate it when . . .

. . . I rush to put on a worn pair of jeans over my work out pants, and then when I go to take off my jeans at the Pilates studio, I realize that the last time I took off my jeans that wasn't the only thing I took off and that something falls out there on the floor, and of course, there has to be other people around.

Been a while since I've been really embarrassed like that!

The Loneliness is Palpable

At this point in the deployment, the worst thing is the loneliness. I am surrounded by civilians who have their own families, their own trials and tribulations. And while I can email friends to make plans, it is hard to get some of my "friends" to fit me in. I think I make them uncomfortable because they have a different take on this war in Iraq and they don't want to think about it. But as the folks I had dinner with the last 2 nights can attest to, I don't talk about politics, war, military life unless the other person brings it up.

Chance are you do not know me or live any where near me. But you do know someone who has a loved one serving somewhere. Call or email that someone. Ask that someone to grab a cup of coffee or a quick bite to eat.

Friday, April 13, 2007

A Shadow of My Former Self

Last night I had dinner with a woman (I'll call her Cassie) I used to know back at the BIG job on the 14th floor. We weren't really friends and our jobs never really crossed paths, but we would occasionally chat at social events. A nice woman, accomplished at her job, Cassie had always been thin, jovial, confident. But when I ran into her almost 2 weeks ago after not having seen her in almost 2 years, I hardly recognized her. She looked like she had gained about 50 pounds on her small frame, and her face looked vacant. It was a look I recognized that I used to have.

When I approached Cassie, she livened up, and we caught up for a few minutes. Then we agreed to meet for dinner. We talked about a bit about my journey to here and now, and where she had been on her journey. Successful on the outside, she felt a wreck on the inside. She'd had some medical problems that led her to surgery and a long, painful recovery. The pain became debilitating and she then needed antidepressants to help her cope with her physical ailments. Her problems grew from there. Now on 4 prescriptions to get through the day, plus Xanax for panic attacks, I was not surprised she looked numb. That was how I felt when I was on 2 SSRIs.

It seemed that everything she said I had experienced something similar. But I cannot get over the physicality of Cassie's suffering. The vacant stare when not directly engaged, the nervous darting eyes, the tense shoulders that, as my yoga instructor would say, invade her neck. There was nothing about Cassie that said relaxed.

Two years ago that was me. It was like looking in a time mirror. And it made me realize how far I had come to living a different, happy, contented life and how solid my foundation really is.

We'll have dinner again soon. While she maybe seeking help and guidance from me, Cassie will help me reflect on my transformation.

Good News from Iraq: 13 Apr 2007

From MNF-I, progress on Haifa Street, Baghdad. We are continuing to make it work there.


I have a 12-year-old boy's sense of humor.

I think the word "stopcock" is funny.

I've been giggling all day as someone here at work is trying to order some.

Stopcock! hehehehe. *snicker*snort*

Friday Fun Fact

I like to make faces.


Quotes to Live By

Alright the extensions for active duty Army have been announced. JD is in the Reserves and thus not affected by this announcement. But I have been reading what the other spouses are saying and I hear a lot of anger and venting. Which gets me thinking . . .

And then I start pulling out the ol' quotes to live by:

My mother gave me this one as I headed off to Italy as an exchange student (AFS) after I graduate high school:

Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

I came across this one more recently:
Holding onto anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.

I cannot change the fact that my husband is in Iraq in a war; I have come to terms with that. I have the courage to change myself and how I view the world and myself; I changed dramatically. I have enough wisdom to know what it is I can control and what I cannot control. I do not have anger in my life; I drop the hot coal when I feel myself beginning to get upset.

I am much happier this way.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

When a Bridge Isn't Just a Bridge

Read the story of Omar of Iraq the Model and what the loss of the Jisr al-Hadeed (the Iron Bridge) means to some Baghdadis, which according to the author is more significant than the bombing at the Parliament.

Good News from Iraq: 12 Apr 2007

Fun Freedom Facts from MNF-I.

In 2006, education opportunities improved for Iraqis with 838 of 849 schools completed. Each completed school serves approximately 400 students for a total of 335,200 students nationwide.

And in just one year. Not bad. Not bad at all.

Iraq 101: Introduction to the Iraq and the Region

I found this very informative interactive over at MSNBC. Richard Engel even tell us why the US military cannot just leave. Amazing!

Keep the Comments Coming

I decided to start responding to comments by posting comments of my own. I like the way Jan does this over at Standing By - it helps keep the conversation going.

I went back through all the comments on this first page and responded.

I cannot promise that I will be 100% perfect about it, but I will try. Cuz at some point I do have to spend some time actually working and some time doing laundry.

So keep the comments coming. I do read them and I love to see them.


Missing You

Last night at yoga, there was a couple, new to the studio. I watched them throughout class. It felt like I was watching us in an alternate life where we would be doing yoga together instead of being over 6,000 miles apart and communicating through the Internet. And it made me miss you and our life together.


Yesterday, while I was out cleaning up the backyard (that is doggieness business), I noticed that some of the really big weed trunks (yeah, I let them get that out of control last year) were tilting severely and even pulling up the dirt a bit. I have been dreading, and I mean DREADING, dealing with these weeds, and have obviously been putting off dealing with them for a very long time. So I thought I would give one of the little trunks a pull and see if it would come up whole. It did and with hardly any effort. I tried another; same thing. And then another and another. In about 2 minutes I had all the dreaded weeds out of the ground. It was amazing.

And to think I spent all that time and energy thinking about dealing with something when it was actually so simple to solve. I guess I can check that off my list of things to do.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

I hate it when . . .

. . . Moo decides she needs to take care of her "business" in the middle of the street with traffic coming at us. Arrrggg!

Hey, at least we didn't rained on.

Walking between the rain drops

It rained off and on today. I decided to brave it and walk the doggies anyway. The rain fell lightly as we left Camp Toenges and within a few minutes it stopped. After we got back 50 minutes later, the rain started falling again.

Some days it real does fell like walking between the rain drops.

Good News from Iraq: 11 Apr 2007

One thing I don't hear much about in the MSM is the security around the Iraqi-Syrian border. I hear that it is a problem because them bad guys (AKA AQI) can get in that way, but I cannot recall hearing that there is anyone doing anything about securing it. So here is an MNF-I blurb about securing that border.

And they are called POETTs, which is what caught my attention and reminded me of the Teflon Don over at Acute Politics.

Ah, the notion of the warrior-poet . . .

A Grilled Cheese for a Grown-Up Girl

The New York Times cruelly published this article before lunch. Now all I crave is grilled cheese. Nothing quite like it. And I love grown up versions even more. There is a local pub that has a 3-cheese version that is to die for. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.

I gotta stop!

(NYT might make you register - free - in order to read the article.)

License Plate Game UPDATE

I wanted to update my post last week about license plates. I did see Massachusetts on Saturday while out running errands, and I saw Maine this morning on my way to work. Funny that those are the 2 states that follks commented on me not seeing, and then boom, there they are. I also saw North Dakota, which was not on the list.

Also, it is a rare day when I do not see Ohio, and it is not a neighboring state (nor the state I am in).

New States: MA ME ND
New Total: 39

I guess this means I will continue to keep track.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

What is Pilates?

Rhianna over a A Texan Abroad asked what is Pilates. It is a exercise system created by Joseph Pilates. Here is a link to the Wikipedia entry on Pilates. The gist of it is that you use your core muscles to strengthen and lengthen your body. It focuses on a few repetitions of difficult exercises, breathing plays a key role. In the 7+ months I have been doing this, I have greatly increased my flexibility. I have never been able to touch my toes, my hamstrings and/or back have always been to tight. And without having done any stretching I just stood up, and in running shoes, reached down and put all 10 fingers on the ground. After class I can put my hands flat on the ground.

That said, I better get going off to my Pilates Reformer class with Tracey, who I mentioned a couple days ago.

Who's the luckiest person you know?

I think that this is one of those questions that the answer to can tell much about the respondent's perspective on life. I'm guessing 8 out of 10 people will think about for a few seconds and give an answer of someone they envy.

So who's the luckiest person I know? Me, of course. ;-)

Good News from Iraq: 10 Apr 2007

Exceprted from The Fourth Rail's most recent Baghdad Security Operation Order of Battle, summarizing succinctly the success thus far in Baghdad:

We have witnessed some positive signs during the first eight weeks of the
Baghdad security Plan. Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki's government has shown a willingness to move forward on reconciliation while appears committed to curbing the power of the Shia militias. Sadr's flight from Baghdad to Iran, and fragmenting of his Mahdi Army have been a pleasant surprises. The Iraqi Army has redeployed its battalions into Baghdad from the provinces, something it could not do just last fall. The reduction in sectarian attacks has provided a welcome respite to the Iraqi government and the people of Baghdad. The relaxation of the U.S. rules of engagement and the commitment to end the catch & release program, where insurgent prisoners are released from custody within months of capture, will pay dividends in the long run. The Coalition has regained the initiative and is taking the fight into the provinces, even though the full contingent of U.S. combat brigades has yet to reach the theater.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Listening to Myself

I woke up this morning, and like most Monday mornings, I was feeling especially tired - way too much staying up late 4 nights in a row. Usually, I start whining to myself before I make it to the bathroom, as I am shuffling to get my morning grogg, before my eyes are even open. It goes something like this: "I donnwanna go to work. I donnwanna go to Pilates. I donnwanna walk the dogs. Humphf." Then I tell myself to shut up and get busy. I comply.

This morning was no exception. Except this morning there as no whiny voice. I calmly thought, "I shouldn't go to Pilates this evening." Since I was not apparently whining to myself, I decided I must be right. So I skipped Pilates for the first time in over a month. And that's alright because I am taking it easy, walked the dogs, did some light weeding in the yard, and am being kind to myself today.

Good News from Iraq: 9 Apr 2007

Guys over at Blackfive posted the weekly Fishwrap filled with good news from Iraq.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

More of what the Pope didn't read . . .

Obviously, the Pope didn't read this article by SEN John McCain in the Washington Post (by way of Pajamas Media). I think there is a "message of hope" in McCain's view.

"Nothing Positive Comes From Iraq"

That seems to be a direct quote (translated) from the Pope in his Easter message of hope. Well, he has obviously not been reading my blog.

Good thing no one is listening to him. Oh wait, lots of people listen to him. He must be right.

Perhaps a good question for the Pontiff would be: How is such a negative a "message of hope"? Hmmm. I'm confusing myself here. Time for afternoon caffeine.

Good News from Iraq: 8 Apr 2007

By way of MNF-I, repairing the roads and closing up hiding spots for IEDs. Good job guys!

Why is it . . .

. . . that when you need a couple extra minutes of alone time in the powder room that is the time the doggies/children need to cause the most trouble?

Doggies and Easter

No doggie pictures, but this morning I did give Moo and Bear some special bunny treats made from peanut butter I got at Three Dog Bakery. Now they are sleeping off their treats. And they are so sweet when they are sleeping.

See, it's not all doom and gloom here.

Easter in the Middle

JD and I were both raised in fairly secular Christian households. Easter for me as a child was about getting a new dress and shiny shoes and hunting for eggs and finding the big basket filed with candy. Then we ate hot cross buns. That's about the extent of the religiosity of Easter for me as a child: hot cross buns.

All my family was in SoCal so we might get together with the cousins or grandparents. Not a big "family" holiday by any means. Didn't appear to big a family holiday for any of my friends either. JD tells me his experiences were the same as a child outside SoCal.

When JD and I moved to the middle 8 years ago, we thought were encountering some especially whiny grad students who wanted an extension on a writing assignment because they planned to go home for the big family holiday of Easter. I don't remember whether additional time was granted, but I doubt it. But that was the first time I had ever heard of Easter being a family holiday.

Now living in Middleville, it is quite apparent how much of a family holiday it is for most people. Big parties like it were Christmas, worrying about what to take to friend's potluck, thoughts of exhaustion come Monday morning. Well . . . one things for sure. Me and doggies will be well rested after our weekend of vegetables and solitude (cuz there ain't nothing open except church, which I am skipping yet again this year).

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Dragon and Cat

This morning as I was putting on my shoes getting ready to head out the door, I was watching Dragon (Saturday morning Qubo cartoon that comes on right after Babar). Dragon found a cat on his door step. He had no idea what to do with it, but he took it in, named it Cat, and tried to take care of it. But that didn't go over so well. I mean really, what does a dragon know about taking care of a cat? Mailmouse suggested that in order to keep the odor of the yellow puddles the cat made, Dragon should get a litterbox. So Dragon and Cat went outside and gathered up all the litter they could find and put it in a box. But that only made the smell worse. I just about died laughing.

Pilates Prowess

On Thursday I went to an intermediate mat class, my 4th in as many weeks. There were only 6 students and the class was taught by the same instructor (I'll call her Mari) as the beginning mat classes I have attend for the last 7 months. Just as we were getting started, in walked THE head Pilates instructor (I'll call her Tracey; she's my reformer instructor) and 6 student instructors to observe the class. It was a tough class for me as it was my 4th day in a row of pushing myself hard at Pilates and yoga and waking the doggies, let alone that it was by far the hardest class I take. I was already uncomfortably aware of my size in this class of skinny young things and now another 7 highly experienced Pilates practitioners were going to be doing nothing but watching me for the next hour. I could not recall the last time I had felt so self-conscience.

I plugged away at the tortuous torture for an hour. As I put away my mat, the student instructors were gathering with Mari "to discuss". "Great," I thought, "they are going to talk about how I don't really belong in the class." I stumbled out feeling dejected.

Today, I went back for my beginning mat class with Mari. Made it through class without any problem, and afterward, Mari came up to me. After class on Thursday, she sat down with the students. One thing that they mentioned was how good my form was, especially during my most hated side leg series of exercises. Wow! They were actually IMPRESSED with me. Oh my! Mari told them that I was so good was because I had been doing beginning classes consistently for months before moving on to intermediate.

I sure do feel good now. Woohoo!

Good News from Iraq: 7 Apr 2007

Freedom Fact from MNF-I:

Completed Gulf Region Division water treatment projects have provided the capacity to serve an additional 2.2 million Iraqis with potable water. At the end of the program, the added capacity could serve approximately 5.2 million Iraqis with potable water.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Color Me Crazy

I love color. Color is very important to me and so I thought I would color up the blog to reflect me a little more. Expect it to change as my mood and desire change.

I love blues and greens with a little purple thrown in. I am in a blue/green period of my life. When I was about 19, I was in a funk (probably a slight depressive state) and I used red to bring me out of it. I wore red shoes, red shirts, red sweaters . . . but not all at the same time, thank God. That's when I learned that color was important to me.

I love fiestaware. Color, color, color. Cobalt blue, turquoise, periwinkle blue, sea mist green, sapphire, chartreuse, juniper, shamrock, peacock, and the soon-to-be-released evergreen. I had to tell myself a few years ago that I could not buy every released color, just the blues and greens. So in a few months (June-ish) evergreen should be available for all of the drool over in person.

If you have trouble reading any of my blog entries due to the colors, please let me know. But if you are color blind . . . well . . . let me know that too and I will take it under advisement.

Serene Spring Scene

Freshly green fields filled with small purple and white wildflowers and dandelions grow between the sparse and still-bare, 30-foot oak trees. The low afternoon sun streaks gray shadows of limbs across the grassy palette as a soft breeze blows, mixing the colors in dance of dark and light.

Good News from Iraq: 6 Apr 2007

Via MNF-I, soldiers delivering humanitarian aid. Good stuff.

Broken Army?

I just had to point out this post by Sarah over at Trying to Grok. Sarah takes us through some of a Time article entitled, America's Broken Down Army. I completely agree with her analysis and her views on the war. Nice to see that there are others who agree with me. Thanks Sarah!

But I have to say that it is no wonder the American public is against the war when our journalists write with such a slanted viewpoint.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

License Plate Game

JD and I have a sense of wunderlust. We like to travel. Explore new places. Experience new things. So that fact that we have been here in the middle for the past 8 years is amazing.

Not too long after JD left Middleville, I started playing the license plate game with myself. I drive 26 miles one way to work. And 95% of it is on Interstates. And Middleville being, well, in the middle of the country, there are cars here from everywhere. I believe that I have seen license plates from every state, including Alaska and Hawaii. One day while in a suburban grocery store parking lot, I saw a car with a license plate from Guam.

So I thought I might write down the plates I see . . . the best I can remember cuz I wouldn't want to do that while driving, right?

Here are the plates I saw between 29 Mar and 5 Apr. Total: 36.

Good News from Iraq: 5 Apr 2007

What I found most interesting about this MNF-I article was the statistics on the electricity availability. But then you know the old saying, "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damn lies, and statistics." Anyway, it sounds like electricity in being restored.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Technology: Milspouse Friend or Foe?

Over at Spouse Buzz, Army Wife Toddler Mom asked us readers to post comments about what technology means to us. I truly appreciate that Spouse Buzz creates an environment where so many people can voice how they feel. I will admit that I was a little surprised by some of the negative feelings that people had toward technology. That got me thinking back to where I was 6, 8, 12 months ago.

While I do not recall having spent time obsessing over casualty lists, I do now spend quite a bit of time reading blogs about what is going on in Iraq, especially over the last few months. I do remember a time when I could not watch the news because I would be so filled with anxiety if I heard about deploying soldiers. I was in such a bad place then, almost paralyzed by the anxiety of hearing something bad. I did not want to live my life like that so I stopped watching the news and I started getting myself better. By the time my husband left for Iraq a few months later, I was able to start watching news reports about the war, I was able to have deep intellectual discussions about "the mission" with JD, I was able to learn about how we got there and where we were going. All done with the help of the internet.

I do have bad days and sometimes it does seem like I spend "too much" time on the internet reading. But that "too much" time on the internet is usually done out of loneliness rather than out of fear of what I might learn. I understand exactly how much danger my husband is exposed to. And actually learning about what is going on over there, knowing the reality of it, is comforting to me because, as with many things, the imagination is usually worse, far worse, than the reality.

Comfort for me lies in the truth. And technology delivers the truth in big heaping doses daily.

Milspouses Heard On NPR

On my way home from work today, I heard a piece on NPR's All Things Considered about a unit be deployed to Iraq after having being home only 9 months. This time they interviewed 2 spouses. I found it interesting that they interviewed the wives of a General and a Colonel. Don't get me wrong, I appreciate that they even considered interviewing spouses, but I would imagine that a more representative selection could have been made and the interview could have included the wife of an enlisted Soldier or a junior officer. Of course, they could have spent hours on the topic of milspouses.

Nonetheless, it was very refreshing to hear from two of ours.

Good News from Iraq: 4 Apr 2007

Even ABC News is figuring out that there are positive things resulting from the "surge" in Baghdad. I saw this at Mudville Gazette, and Villainous Company has a link to the video report: ". . . in Baghdad ABC's Terry McCarthy says the surge is having 'a large and positive effect' (via the InstaWhosit)."

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Did I hear that right?

In my Pilates refomer class, there is a heavy-set, black woman who is probably in her early 50s who stands about 5'2". I have probably exchanged about 10 words with this woman prior to tonight.

After class we started talking a bit as we put on our shoes. She asked me how long I had been doing this (the instructor told the class to look at me a few times for proper technique - how cool is that!?!) and we started talking more. I told her that it only gets harder as I learn the techniques better. Several of the exercises have you lying on your back with you knees bent in a table top position. She was commenting on how difficult that this position is. I agreed with her that it is especially difficult at first. Then she said . . .

"You know the only other time you have your legs up like that is during sex, not that I am having any. But you don't really think about your legs then, do you?"

Now I am not easy shocked or offended and I roll well with the punches so I did. And really is there any disagreeing with what she said? I don't think so.