Wednesday, November 25, 2009

No Place Like Home!

Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday.

I guess because it has always been the one time when the family was always together.

Everyone seemed to split up at Christmas to do their own thing – but Thanksgiving is the time when we all got together, ate till we could pop and then just hang out until it was time to go home.

Since I was an only child, I think I was always happiest when I had that extended family around me. Because no matter how much shit all you “siblinged” folks give us “only child” folks about being spoiled, it was, at it’s heart, a lonely existence most of the time.

But I also think it’s why I have (and cherish) so many friends. I had to make my own family during most of the year!

So I always looked forward to the Thanksgiving time when I could soak in the family atmosphere – just like a real kid in a real family……..

Of course, the downside to all that is the longer you live, the more that changes. The old folks die, the young ones get their own youngun’s and become the old folks – and life goes on.

Well hopefully, life goes on!

But as we grow older, we form new families with new people – even people that we are related to because we “borned” ‘em. Then they have kids and so on and so forth!

And even though in our own memories are of those people that made our childhoods so wonderful are long gone (miss you Dad/Big Momma/Mamie Kate/Uncle Frank/Uncle Boots/Mammaw//Uncle Gene……..and 50 more……..) we form new family units that our children and their children will remember with fondness just as I remember those that passed before me.

So make sure that you hug your family tomorrow and when you’re giving thanks for all of your blessings, make sure that you remind yourself that the most special place is home with the family.

No matter where that family is or what you call home – that is where your roots are and where your heart should be.

And no one said it better than Dorothy:

“Oh, but anyway, Toto, we’re home…HOME. And this is my room…and you’re all here…and I’m not gonna leave here ever, ever again…because I love you all…and…
Oh, Auntie Em…there’s no place like home!

Peace, Love and Turkey!

No Goats, No Glory

I went to see the Goat movie last night.

Oh My God!

This was the craziest movie I’ve ever seen. I’m not sure if it was all the references to the “Jedi Warriors” made by George Clooney to Ewan McGregor – since Ewan was a Jedi Warrior, the irony was literally dripping from the screen.

I don’t know how the other boys I went with saw it, but I can say that everyone in the theater got up and left very quietly – as if digesting it slowly.
Here’s the synopsis of it:

The film follows Ann Arbor Daily Telegram reporter Bob Wilton (Ewan McGregor), who one day interviews Gus Lacey, a man who claims to have psychic abilities. Bob shrugs Lacey off as crazy.

Soon after, Bob's wife leaves him for his one-armed editor. Bob, out of anger, flies to Kuwait to investigate the Iraq War.

However, he stumbles onto the story of a lifetime when he meets Special Forces operator, Lyn Cassady (George Clooney). Lyn reveals that he was part of an American army unit training psychic spies (or "Jedi Warriors"), trained to develop a range of parapsychological skills including invisibility, remote viewing, cloud bursting, walking through walls, and intuition.

The founder of this unit, Bill Django (Jeff Bridges), travelled across America in the 1970s for six years exploring a range of New Age movements (including the Human potential movement), because of a vision he received after getting shot during the Vietnam War, and used these experiences to found the New Earth Army.

In the 1980s, two of Django's best recruits were Lyn Cassady and Larry Hooper (Kevin Spacey), who developed a lifelong rivalry because of their opposing views of how to implement the New Earth Army philosophy; Lyn wanted to emphasize the positive side of the teachings, whereas Larry was more interested in the dark side of the philosophy.

In the early 2000s Bob and Lyn embark on a new mission in Iraq, where they are kidnapped by a criminal gang. They escape with fellow kidnapping victim Mahmud Daash (Waleed Zuaiter) and get rescued by a private security firm led by Todd Nixon (Robert Patrick), but get caught up in a firefight between Todd's security firm and a rival security firm; this would later be known as the "Battle of Ramadi."

Mahmud, Bob and Lyn escape from the firefight and go to Mahmud's house, which has been shot up by soldiers. From there Bob and Lyn leave to continue on Lyn's vague mission involving a vision he had of Bill Django.

After their car hits an IED, Bob and Lyn wander in the desert where Lyn reveals a terrible secret to Bob: Lyn was asked to stop a goat's heart to test the limit of his mental abilities.

Lyn had decided against it, but was compelled to try to accomplish the feat and stared at the goat intently. Lyn managed to stop the goat's heart, but felt that what he did was inhumane and against the entire purpose of the New Earth Army. Lyn left the Army, believing that he and the other New Earth soldiers were cursed and his powers were gone because of that fateful episode.

After spending a few days in the desert, Bob and Lyn get rescued and rehabilitated at a camp run by PSIC, a private research firm engaged in psychological and psychic experiments on a herd of goats and some captured locals. To Lyn's dismay, Larry Hooper runs the firm and employs a now depressed and alcoholic Django.

Bob spends time with Django and learns the ways of the New Earth Army and together they spike the water and food of the base with LSD and free both the goats and captured locals.

Following this, Lyn and Django fly off in a Bell JetRanger helicopter, but not before trusting Bob with the duty of making sure his story reaches the public. Bob reveals that neither Lyn nor Django were ever heard from again, believed to have crashed their helicopter.

Bob returns to work as a reporter and writes an article about his entire experience with Lyn. However, the only portion of the story to be aired on the news was how the captives were forced to repeatedly listen to the Barney & Friends theme song.

However, this part of the story was treated as a joke, and Bob vows to continue trying to get the story out. In the film's final scene, Bob exercises his own psychic abilities and runs through a solid wall in his office.

Anyway, I thought it was great so if you haven’t seen it yet – go!

Peace, Love and GOATS!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Giving Thanks

Just realized that I haven't posted a damn thing in two weeks.

Oh well......

So here's to a happy thanksgiving to everyone and we'll hope that black friday doesn't consume what it left of our souls!


Thursday, November 12, 2009

Home Improvements

I'm thinking of some home improvements for Christmas this year......any ideas?

I think a new porch swing would be a romantic addition to my love palace!

God Bless Our Boys

Today is Sid Collin's birthday.

He is a red-headed cocksucker. But I like him none-the-less.

He is serving in Iraq right now and sent us all a letter which I am copying below.

We joke about everything in life, sometimes it's the only way to deal with the stress that life throws at us. At least, it's the most healthy way to deal with it.

And even though I am totally opposed to these "wars" we are fighting - I am the son of a warrior and a very patriotic man, so I love and respect each and everyone of our soldiers for the job they are doing and support them without reservation.

So when you say your prayers at night (if you are so inclined), please remember to include my friend Sid and his kids in your prayers.

Now, here's Sid:


Sorry I have not been in touch before now. We have been in Iraq for one month as of yesterday (10th). We completed our RIP/TOA about a week later (Relief In Place / Transfer of Authority). This message is one of my birthday gifts to myself.

The Mission - my Military Police platoon is responsible for mentoring the Iraqi Police on the East side of the Tigris River in Mosul. Mosul has a population of 1.8 million. The Tigris River runs down the middle (mostly) and is the natural reference point. Not really an amazing river by our standards. More like the Okatoma with less trees. Anyway, I have 3 squads and they each are assigned to a District Headquarters. We travel to each DHQ about twice a week to train the police officers and assist in the maturing of law enforcement. I am out about 4-6 times a week as I travel with each squad on most missions. There are plenty of US forces here in Mosul, but the only ones going out are the MPs because of our mission.

The Excitement - my kids want some. I repeatedly tell them that I would prefer nothing happen. Been there, done that. We have had some excitement, but no direct action. While we were visiting my most urban DHQ, a car bomb was detonated about 1300 meters from our location. It was a small bomb at about 500-1000 lbs. I was sitting inside the building with an interpreter and a few other soldiers explaining communication operations to the Iraqi Desk Sergeant. Everything moved slightly to the left. A brief second later, we heard the boom. We all looked around. No one spoke. I glanced around to make certain we were okay, then walked over to the edge of a window, pulled back the curtain, and peeked outside. The black cloud was rising just north of the station. I told everyone to move back to our vehicles. From there, I directed air cover to check out smoke and get a battle damage assessment. As we say, battlefield boring.

Since then, explosions have become a part of our daily life. I have watched kids tell each other in passing that 2 rockets just hit the airfield (about a week ago) and that the movie they just watched sucks. Both parts of the conversation had the emotional connection of "hello". As we draw down our presence in Iraq, we become more of a target because the insurgents here want to jockey for position. Attacking each other is not producing the effect desired so they have begun to target us more.

The Daily Stuff - I have prayed openly with every patrol my platoon sends out. Usually, I am leading the patrol but sometimes I have to stay behind for other responsibilities. When that happens, I attend the patrol briefing and have prayer just before they mount up on the vehicles. Last night, our battalion chaplain attended our mission brief for the first time. He asked if anyone would mind if he prayed for us after the mission brief. I recognized the effort. He had to ask if he could pray, he had to allow anyone to leave if they would prefer not to pray, and he announced that he would be praying from the Christian perspective. My squad leader turned to me and we made a connection with our eyes. I got the message and stood. I told the chaplain that we had prayer before every mission. That despite the lives these kids lead outside of their military service, each one willing attended our mission prayer. I told him that even our Irish cohorts and civilian augments participated in the prayer. That he was welcome to lead our prayer tonight.

He shrugged everything I said off and continued on his deliberate way. He led us through the 23rd Psalm but had to stop and preach during it and then led us through the Lord's Prayer but had to add another blessing or two at the end. The kids saw it all as trying to one up me, but I asked them to accept it. We told a few Southern Baptist jokes quickly as we walked to the vehicles and I watched them leave. They came back at midnight and knocked on my door. Just like kids, they know that if I am not on patrol they need to stop by my door and tell me they are back and safe.

The Kids-Unbelievable. They are being asked to perform the most delicate phase of the war in Iraq and they are doing it well. It is easier mentally to fight a war. In the 2003-6, US forces could just shoot anything that moves. No questions asked. Now, there is a moral decision and consequences behind every bullet we launch. Restraint and discipline are our biggest weapons. A new enemy tactic we are seeing is to have young children carry what looks to be an RKG-3 grenade to the edge of the road. An RKG-3 is a Russian weapon the size of a WWII German hand grenade. It fires a shape charge through armor and could kill us, destroy our vehicle, or both. I told all 3 of my patrols that we would not fire on kids regardless of what might happen to us. Not one of my soldiers has challenged me on this.
My kids run the range of life. I have 2 medics. One was a high school cheerleader and we are not certain she could an injured infant, much less a wounded soldier. The other medic has postponed medical school for one year to make this deployment. He was offered the chance to stay back and start med school by the MSARNG but declined. He said that our platoon had been supportive of him for his undergraduate time and that we were his friends. He was accepted at UMC, LSU, Tulane, and USA. One of his roommates is a graduate of Youth Challenge at Camp Shelby. That is the military reform school for first time offenders. The YCP graduate just found out he is going to be a father and is now planning to get married we he goes home on leave. The girls in my platoon just stopped by my CHU to give me a meter long box of German cookies. A few days ago, we had a suspicious vehicle folowing our convoy. A car kept trying to pass our IP rear escort. I was down inside the rear vehicle and coached our gunner for the longest 20 minutes of our lives. He showed remarkable restraint. Eventually, the rear escort stopped and confronted the car. My gunner was sitting behind a machine gun and was the only exposed member of the patrol. he never complained. He never asked for relief. He just stayed there with his weapon trained on the grille emblem of that car.

I am not an easy man to work for. Spare the rod, spoil the platoon. But my soldiers know that I care about them and that my only goal is to bring them home safe and sound. While we were waiting on air cover to arrive at the car-bombing, we swapped radio messages between vehicles. Our running joke was that we had just ordered pizza and if the car bomb messed up traffic, would Dominoes stand behind the 30 minutes or its free policy. Unbelievable. Their first major contact in their first war and they have presence of mind to joke and laugh while we wait to find out if we are fighting our way out or staying for the night.

Funny stuff - We have developed sayings on the dod-an-pony-show theme. "Sometimes the dog gives it his all. He really did. He jumped through the hoops. He left the biscuit on his nose until told to eat it. Really, he had his heart in it. But the pony was just phoning it in. He just trotted around the ring letting the dog do all the real work. And that is not the kind of show we want our superiors to see." You should get the idea that this is said after a less than fulfilling moment that was mandated by our superiors. Tomorrow, our new P-PTT team RIPs in. We are expecting a whole new supply of field grade officers. A fellow platoon leader just stopped by my CHU and asked if I was on "kennel or stable detail for the show tomorrow?"

Facebook. Be careful if you venture to close to our platoon Facebook page. You have been warned. Every Friday night, we have a platoon cookout. Thursday is almost like a day off and Friday is the Muslim Sunday so we don't do missions on Friday. Friday night is like Sunday night and we cook out each week. Some photos are post on our Facebook site. NO ALCOHOL in IRAQ. Period. We have free access to non-alcoholic beer though and you would not believe how many soldiers in my platoon drink it. I don't get it.

There is plenty to laugh about here. The more we are stressed, the more we laugh about things that would not appear from the outside to be even remotely funny. I have gone a 4 hour mission and we told lines from the movie Blazing Saddles, Full Metal Jacket and Mitch Hedberg jokes for the entire trip. God forbid, but if anything happens to me. Please know that I was half way through a joke and my sincerest desire is that someone finishes the joke and my soldiers giggle.

I am okay. I am safe. I am performing a mission with the finest group of human beings I have ever known. God bless them.


Sid Collins

Peace be with you Sid. You and all of your "kids"........

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

In My Heart of Hearts

As I look back on life, there are so many things that mean so much to me.

But like most things, there are a select few occurences that actually define those parts of me that are the most important.

The milestones that we all come across as we get older always hold special appeal within each of us - but for me, there is one thing that is at the top of the list.

Her name is Paige........

We can't really count anything about our upbringing as defining the "true" nature of our souls because the truth is, all of that stuff is simply an "accident of birth".

We are who we are because of who we were born to and where they were in their lives and all of that molded us into the people we became.

But later in life, when it is our choices that lead and direct our lives, well, those are the things that count most.

And our careers are often the place where we define ourselves. But those situations are simply when we were in the right place at the right time or we got lucky and were picked at random for a job. All of us probably found ourselves luckily chosen out of a slew of people all looking for the same thing.

But relationships are different..........

While it is true that many people find themselves in relationships simply because that is the way things just worked out - some of us are there because of decisions we made. Or in my case, decisions that someone else made on my behalf!

Sometimes those decisions were difficult for us due to circumstances beyond our control.

And many times, we were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. (see many first marriages)

But sometimes, fortune smiles upon us. Lightning strikes us out of a clear blue sky. Prayers are answered and plea's are heard.

For me, the defining moment of my life was seemingly simple, yet at the same time, an extremely complex series of events that led to the truth of the post secret illustration I "borrowed" at the top of this post.

My defining moment was when my wife, the absolute love of my life, made a conscious decision to allow me to love her.

That may sound convoluted.....but it's not.

I loved my wife from the first time I met her in my Sunday School class many, many years ago. We were in very different segments of our lives at that time.

And I guess, to qualify that statement - when I said I loved her, I didn't mean that like it sounds on the surface. She was a person that immediately clicked with me. She had everything I ever wanted in a girl and the package that presented itself was one that I would never have changed one thing about. But I wasn't thinking about a relationship - I just loved her. Above all others that I knew.

And it is still like that.

I am accused of being a "hopeless romantic", and maybe I am - but that only applies with her.

And though a thousand variations on life, at some point we both found ourselves at a place where all of what we have now is possible.

But one thing had to occur in order for that to happen.

So at some point, and I'm sure that point came with me being very, VERY persistant - she made one decision that changed my life.

She decided that she would let me love her!

That was all it took. Because the depth of my love for her rewrote the entire book of my life. I'll even go as far as to say that it "rewired" my entire self.

I put away all of my "self" and reinvented myself into the man that I WANTED to be.

No longer was I a victim of my circumstances. I was free from all of the constraints that I and society placed on me and I was able to be the person that I always dreamed I could be.

Which is where I am today and will remain forever and ever.

I truly believe I am the luckiest boy in the world.........and I owe it all to her simply saying "yes".

I did not ask her then, or now, to do anything other than to be open to allowing me to love her. And wherever that took us was fine with me.

All I needed was a chance........

Because I knew in my heart of hearts that I was born to love her and if she gave me that chance I would make the most of it.

The best part is that all of this required absolutely no effort on my part.

It's simply that natural for me.

So thank you Paige. Thank you for saying "yes".

You changed my life and I will always be yours.

Thanks for wanting that!!!


Life's a Beach!

We spent a lovely weekend at the beach. I love sneaking off with my wife - even though we had a few 10 year olds with us.......

I would have much rather had that alone time with the smell of the ocean and the sound of the waves crashing!

And speaking of waves crashing, my beautiful, patient, wonderfully beautiful wife and I went to the gym at the condo on Sunday morning. And as we were playing with the machines, we happened to look out the windows towards the beach and were very shocked to see 6 foot waves crashing against the beach!

I guess we missed out on the weather reports of the storm that was coming.

Luckily, it wasn't much - but it certainly stirred up the gulf a good bit.

If it hadn't been so damn cold I would have loved to go out and ride some of those waves. But alas, in my old age, the temperature of the water has everything to do with my immersion in that water!

Anyway, we had a nice, relaxing weekend and I wish it could have lasted longer.

There is something amazing about being at the beach with the most amazing girl in the world and I just didn't want it to end.

I could retire there and make love with the patio door open for all eternity and never grow tired of my life!!

Hope your weekend was good too.......

11th Hour of the 11th Day of the 11th Month.....

Today we honor our heroes.

In our society today we tend to minimize the sacrifices that were made for us by our best and brightest.

But lest we forget, there are generations of brave men who have answered the call of our country since it's founding who have made the ultimate sacrifice for God, Honor and Country.

I buried my uncle yesterday - right next to my father. They were both warriors who gave of themselves without a thought for life or limb - simply because it was what was required of them in their hearts.

As so many of our young men and women are still struggling in far off places - not because they want to, but because they are called to - I pause and say a prayer of thanks.

And would ask that each of you do the same.

Peace (may it come in our time)..........

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Still Alive and Kicking!

Well, the reunion was magnificent in its outcome. Meaning that no one died, got divorced or "hooked up" (except for the one in the closet that we're not going to mention ever again..........)

It was great to see everyone and I'm hoping that we can do that again.

In another 30 years!