Thursday, September 18, 2008

Rusty Update

Here is the last post from Steve!! He leaves Iraq today or tomorrow to start his journey home! 6 more days, hard to believe. He has had a remarkable experience and has LOVED working with the Iraqi people. I personally have so much to blog about, just not enough time right now to do it. Maybe in a day or 2. And if you notice to the right, JoJo's MoJo hit it's 10,000 reader mark today! Thank you for all the love, support, advice, comments and prayers!!!

Written the end of August

Just got my departure details from Iraq – will be home 24 Sept – will probably leave here on the 19th of Sept – don’t want to miss that flight out of Al Udied! I picked out some random pics that I’ve taken…
Above is us at the firing range, ran by the Brits – we shot both the M4 and the M9.
Got to know Jolt (spelling unknown), Hungarian Army special forces – great guy. He is with one of our bomb squad guys with his dog.
Eating is and always has been one of my favorite times of the day – here we are in the NATO DFAC (dining facility) – the menu here can be too European/Indian at times so we’ll have to venture over to the US Army side of Rusty and eat at the good old KBR DFAC – never a disappointment. Those burgers, onion rings and Baskin Robbins ice cream have made me what I am! People called me, "Bull" - from Night Court.
Darin Williams – my bud here at Rusty – cut my hair before my R&R – I guess he didn’t want anyone to speak to me. Here is Capt Mickey Jordan by some damage caused a while ago from a rocket.
Here are some of my students the day after they were punished by the Iraqi Army staff. They shaved a strip down their heads – so the students just cut the rest of their hair off – here they are posing for me.
Living with multiple NATO soldiers – we each take turns hosting BBQ’s – the best by far was the Italian BBQ – unbelievable food! This is a picture of Capt Wes Venters (USAFA Behavioral Science instructor) winning Tombolo – like our Bingo.
I always take pictures of animals that I saw. We found a kitten in June that was near dead – we feed it almost daily. Somehow it survived getting part of its tail cut off later – it’s survived thus far and will likely make it now. Here’s Ralph…

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Work Off That Flab!

With no family around after work, what do you do while deployed? Never miss a meal and work out are on everyone’s list, so I had to throw of few pics of our daily ritual. Maj Darin Williams, a computer science instructor at the Academy, is my partner. You HAVE to workout because the food is excellent and every meal is literally an all-you-can-eat buffet. Think Sizzler or Golden Corral – that is us 3 meals a day everyday – what a deal! The amount of ice cream (Baskin Robbins) I have eaten on this deployment is next to immeasurable. The dining facility has made me what I am! Our NATO gym is not very good at all – but it gets the job done. The only TV channel worth anything is music videos in Polish. So much for the “Beer Barrel Polka that Pappy, my Grandpa used to love!” Here I am doing my 1st of 3 sets pull-ups - 1 rep each – just kidding!

Friday, September 12, 2008

My 4 days of R&R and my 7 days of travel

Rest & Relaxation (R&R) – at least I tried. This is the hottest time in Iraq – between 115 & 120, but Qatar was just as hot and as humid as Louisiana! Here we are loaded up in a C-17 – about a 2 hr flight.
Here are plush accommodations!
Here is the “terminal tent” – basically where you wait to board your flight. You can see how many soldiers choose to pass their time.
Smoking is common in theater. Here is the door that leads to a smoking area – notice the blackened area around the doorknob!
I went on a beach picnic trip. Swam in the Persian Gulf (very warm and very salty).
Road a camel (jemaal in Arabic), which was the highlight of my trip.
Here is a good friend I met, US Army Maj Mark Clancy, a graduate of Citadel – played LB there.
My touristy picture… my harem is not pictured!
On the way back, our C-130 broke down in Kuwait – about 130 on the flight line. Here we are waiting for use of the facilities.
Nothing but C-130 comfort.
Exhausting travel. Arrived back to an air-conditioner that wasn’t working, but my friend here got it going!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

All Expense Paid Trip to the Green Zone

Last week, Ralph Whitener & I had to go to the international zone (IZ) (AKA Green Zone) to get our ID cards reset . Why? Long story. But we were nonetheless excited for the opportunity to see something different. There aren’t many people like Ralph. He has become one of my closest friends here. Born & currently living in South Carolina he is a retired USAF Lt Col. He was a forward air controller & fighter pilot in Vietnam, Panama & Columbia, and since retiring in the early 90’s, he’s owned a few businesses, been civilian instructor pilot among a # of other things. He is a fountain of knowledge and experience from whom I’m constantly learning something. He took a 1 year contract to teach English with us here. So for this day, we were travel buddies. Even though downtown Baghdad is only 5 miles away, it just well have been a cross-country trip, trying to schedule flights, etc. Convoys are a possibility but for obvious reasons we shy away from those. We flew in a Blackhawk helicopter to and from. This picture is of me trying to see if my camera was working… it was. We have to fly w/ body armor and head & eye protection. My body armor weighs about 50 pounds.
Helicopters always fly in pairs. Here is a good view out one of our gunner’s door also being able to see the lead chopper.
The chopper was packed but I was able to get a picture of Ralph stowed away in a corner seat.
Here are some shots from the chopper over Baghdad. A large swimming pool…
The river running through downtown Baghdad…
This is the US Embassy where we got our cards renewed…
This is the ministry of Defense (the equivalent of our Pentagon)…
On the ground of the Ministry of Defense the T-walls are nicely painted w/ murals. T-walls are found ALL OVER Iraq for protection from ground and rocket/grenade attacks. The walls can be 6 – 18 feet high. If it’s one thing I won’t be sad to ever see again, it is a beautiful Iraqi sunset over the T-walls on the west side of our base.
We met up with some folks that we went through training with at Ft Dix, NJ and they gave us a driving tour of some sites within the Green Zone. Here is the parade route of the Crossed Swords. Here Sadaam had about a mile long parade way w/ a large grand stand with an air conditioning hose to each seat. At each end of the road are 2 crossed swords held by hands. At the base of the hands are piles of Iranian soldiers’ helmets taken in the Iran-Iraq war. Here Ralph is walking over the helmets that have been set in the road!
Adjacent to the Crossed Sword parade way is their equivalent of our Tomb of the Unknown Soldier…
It was a hot but fun day – temperature about 115 - with body armor, even hotter. The average temp now is around 115; the best analogy is looking into a hair dryer.
On the return trip I sat by a tiny interpreter who didn’t know which stop was his. He showed me his hand that had, “Rusty” written in marker on it. He was going to our base, so we made sure he got off with us. Don’t ask me what he would have done had he missed his stop – probably road a Blackhawk for the afternoon. Fun day! Here is the river to the east of our FOB.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Why time goes by fast!

Steve will be home 2 weeks from today. I have had so many people say to me "I'm sure it hasn't gone by fast for you, but it doesn't seem like he's been gone that long." My reply is always "It's gone by fast for me too."

This is why it's gone by so fast for me, this has been my life since Friday! (as in 5 days ago)

Need I say the main reason why??

Matt and Ashley stayed with us for the weekend

And he proved that he can make the best cookies without any help, well Ashley and I did help eat the dough!

My friends from CA (the cutest sisters ever, and now live in Austin and Las Vegas) Natalie and Sabrina came over to visit. They were here for a wedding and came over with their really cool hubbies and darling kids (and Sabrina has another one on the way). I LOVE THESE girlies!

I have done my fair share of home decorating since Steve's been gone. Here is what I worked on this weekend, I found this really cool piece but the yellow wasn't my thing, so I worked on it

and this was the final product, even hung courtesy of Ashley, Matt and myself! (from the picture, he won't have a clue where this is in the house though)

Playing referee with the kids! Or as I told Steve the other day "I'm on crowd control duty" Sometimes they fight so much, it drives he crazy. Mason did something to Preston and afterwards he was trying to console him. They CAN BE so sweet with each other! Just wish it were more often.

Preston's first day of scouts. This is going to be a fish cutting board. We're supposed to finish it together (hope it still looks like a fish after I get my hands on it)

Preston and I stayed up together tonight (after the other 2 went to bed) and built his new Indiana Jones lego set that our friends gave him last night. I love spending one on one time with each of the kids, although I don't feel like I do it enough, it's my favorite and I always seem to learn a lot about what's going on with them when I do.

I have been getting back into my metal business the past few weeks. Knowing that Steve will be home soon, I can start taking on more business! I made this one this past weekend.

Clothes that the kids have outgrown have over taken the storage room. So I am doing a consignment sale with a girlfriend this weekend. So now the clothes have overtaken my basement. I had to wash everything, and everything has to be hung a certain way and the tags have to be made out on the computer with a description of the item! The tagging part will start after I hit publish post in a few minutes. Can't wait to get it all OUT of the house ASAP!

Okay, don't laugh. But I got some of my fall decoration out a few days ago. The weather has been in the 60's and 70's and it has totally felt like fall! And I always make sure I am not the first one to decorate, I think I am the 4th one of the street to have my deco out.

Plus, Preston has been begging for pumpkin bread, so I stayed up a few nights ago making pumpkin bread and decorating for Fall! I even sat down and played a few Christmas songs on the piano while I was waiting for the timer to go off. I am my mother's daughter! It was actually a treat for me!

This doesn't include cleaning, cooking, laundry, gym, speech apts, kid's running club practice, piano lessons, homework, visiting teaching and being visit taught, returning phone calls, running errands, )planning Steve's work's Christmas party, planning my trip to Virginia in Oct, setting up apts for Mason's surgery for his ear tubes (next Monday)..... but, despite all the somewhat organized chaos, I am the happiest person ever knowing that my hubby comes home in 14 days. Oh, and I did get a 2 1/2 hour nap with Mason on Monday. (And I did turn down the request to be in charge again of the dinner at the kid's school carnival)

So if you're wondering how time has gone by fast for me, just look at my last 6 days and know that this has really been my life the last 6 months!