Friday, July 27, 2007

You Get What You Pay For ...

I apologize for my lack of posting lately, but I’ve been dealing with some technical issues as of late (and I’ve been doing some extra reading – good for my melon). When I arrived back at my trailer after the leave, the first thing I did was to turn on the TV to check up on any news for the previous day that I had been traveling. Much to my chagrin, the cable was out (I think I mentioned that earlier). On top of that, my internet was running quite slow (to slow to post much). Well, I did what anyone would do, I deferred to the “experts” at Magic Island Technologies (my TV and Internet provider).

It took them a few days to get out here (the 24th to be exact), but I returned to my ‘hooch’ one afternoon to find a note on my TV that said, “Your AFN (Armed Forces Network) is now working!” Well this was excellent news, I turned on the TV and found a PERFECT picture! Needless to say I was excited (Notre Dame Football starts in 35 days and I need the TV to be functional). I actually didn’t watch too much TV that night, but did catch an episode of Emeril! the next morning. I left for work with the intention of calling my beloved sister on her birthday, and went about my day.

When I returned that evening, I turned on the TV and … Nothing … just static. Soooo, I had a picture for less than a day. The fact that ALL of the channels were out led me to believe that maybe it was a system-wide outage, so I went back to my book for the night. The next evening I fully expected the system to be back up again. When I arrived at the house … you guessed it … no TV. Oh but wait, now the internet was down too! Joy! So, in my zeal to get one fixed, I lost the other one. I took a deep breath and went back to the book (almost done at this point).

When I came home today, I decided to do some investigating. The internet had come back on it’s own (it has it’s bad days, so this wasn’t a shock), so that problem was fixed. I took a look at the back of my trailer and followed the cable lines to look for a break or cut. The lines aren’t buried or strung, they’re just kind of thrown on the ground between the trailers. On top of that, when a line goes bad, they don’t remove it, they just string a new one and tie them all together with zip ties. After 20 minutes of research, I found about ten lines on my side of the trailers that were ‘dead-ends’ (ones that had been abandoned from previous maintenance). When I came back to the rear of my trailer, I noticed that there were scraps of cable from maintenance lying by the box (hmmmm, a clue). I also noticed a fresh connection lying on the ground. It can’t be that simple … can it? Apparently, my intrepid team of cable maintainers ‘fixed’ the line by adding a new connector, and then just pushed it on the cable box … you know, the type that requires you to SCREW THE CONNECTOR ON! Well, I screwed the connector back on and went inside to find … my perfect picture back.

You would think that’s the end of it … nope. An hour later my neighbor stopped by to ask about the cable. It seems that he too had problems and received a note from the cable guys on the 24th saying it was all better. After he relayed the story to me, we went to the back of his trailer to find … the exact same thing. I will never complain about American repairmen again … unless they REALLY deserve it! Until tomorrow.
-Grease out.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Jet lag, Travel and Babies ...

We’ll I’m finally over the jet lag from my return trip to Baghdad. It was surprisingly harder this time to overcome than on other trips (I was rarin’ to go after a day when I went home). I found myself falling asleep at 8 PM, waking up at Midnight, and staring at the ceiling until my alarm went off at 6 AM for about 3 days. I finally slept through the night last night … I bet my wife wishes the same about the twins (Yesterday was the two month checkup, complete with immunizations … grumpy babies last night).

The trip home was somewhat surreal. I was in a large group (seemed to be 500+) and we traveled for about 45-50 hours straight to get home. At that point, most people don’t seem to mind (You’re headed home, right?). I found it amusing how excited we were to get to Shannon, Ireland (fuel stop) – they have a duty free store with lots of souvenirs! There isn’t much to shop for in Baghdad, so most folks walked out of Ireland with a few gifts for the loved ones back home. I can’t imagine what those folks thought when they were sitting in a nice quiet air terminal, and 250 folks in uniform “storm the castle.” We received more than a few strange looks. The same was true in Atlanta, I’v never had so many folks come up to me and either thank me for serving or ask me what the war is really like (Hint: Folks, most military personnel are deathly afraid of “speaking on behalf of the Department of Defense” so the answers you get will not be as in depth as you are hoping).

Well, after 45+ hours of travel, I was given a hero’s welcome by one beautiful lady and four awesome kids (to them I’m Superman – especially in the uniform). My vacation was exactly as I planned. For the first five days, I didn’t even leave the neighborhood! The grocery store and pool are in our neighborhood, so I felt no need to venture farther than the road. I spent countless hours remembering what little babies are like. Eventually, Karen told me we had to go out … something about baptizing the twins. I asked if we could just bring the priest to us … she said no. We had a nice private baptism (what we were hoping for), very low-key and informal. All of the other baptisms have been a massive affair, with a large party afterward … on this trip we decided that small was the name of the game.

Other than that, life was pretty boring. I spent time getting to know my kids and wife again (something folks just don’t get – people, especially kids, change when you’re gone for long periods of time). My wife is easy, I’ve seen what changes in her while I’m gone – she is usually a gentle soul, this changes when I’m gone – she becomes a hardened Navy wife (Big Hint: When you return after months of being away, don’t try to undo her changes – it will end poorly for you). The kids grew, as kids grow, and became more a part of the conversation. When I say that, I mean that they participate more in the life of the family, instead of the other way around. My daughter is crazy about the babies, and is quite the helper (she has the patience to get a baby to sleep in a bouncer unlike anyone I’ve ever met). My son is beginning to deal with the fact that he’s not the “baby” anymore. I’m not sure he likes it too much, but he does like that he gets to do more of the “grown-up stuff” as a 4 ½ year old.

I guess the only real “event” of the trip home was our yearly trip to Busch Gardens. Last year only Megan and I could ride anything (Brendan was too small for most things and Karen was trying to get pregnant). Brendan rode his first roller-coaster (The Big Bad Wolf) and liked it – to a point. He liked it, but didn’t want to ride again right away (much like his sister was at her age). Megan reveled in the excitement of “big people rides,” and the twins were given their first test on how they handle a day at the park. Much like our other kids, they passed with flying colors. Karen and I have always had the mindset that, while babies do change your life, they can’t END your life. As long as you plan for the unexpected, they handle days like that VERY well (lots of sleeping). Both our older kids were at Disney before they were one, and hopefully, the twins will be too!

As slowly as the first week of leave went, the second went just as fast. You start to look at your watch about halfway through, and begin to dread the return trip. Well, tears were shed, hugs were given, and here I am. I’ll fill you in on some of the particulars of some amusement of the trip later, but this should be good enough for now. Until tomorrow.

-Grease out

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Back in the USSR ...

Oh wait, wrong era ... should say back in Baghdad! Sorry about the absence, folks, but I've just completed possibly the most wonderful two weeks ever! As my time here crept over the halfway point, I departed for home for two weeks of well deserved R & R. I can honestly say that I didn't think about this place once in an eighteen day period (well ... maybe once, but that's another story for another day). I was able to make a formal introduction to the two most beautiful babies in the world (and spend some time with their older siblings - pretty special kids in their own right). Lastly, I was able to lift some of the burden off of a lady who has done so much in the last few months ... years ... almost decade. With that said, I'm still so jetlagged I can't see straight ... I do promise to pass on some wonderful stories from the adventure that was my leave ... just, not tonight. Until tomorrow.

-Grease out

First stop home, next stop ...