Sunday, January 29, 2012

New Floors

Ok - so we got new floors back in early November and now it's the end of January. It's about time I posted some pictures.
I'd been telling our landlord since the day we moved in that the floors needed to be replaced. The original linoleum from the mid 90s was still in and very worn and stained and scratched,etc. The worst was the kitchen, downstairs bathroom and laundry room. 
For the first 2 weeks we lived in this house I couldn't bring myself to walk barefoot on these floors. After some serious mopping, I realized even though it didn't look it, the floor was "clean".
Kitchen patch job

Downstairs bathroom
Laundry room

View of the kitchen and family room
 So as part of our lease renewel, the landlord agreed to replace the floors. She had me help pick out tile and has also given us free range to paint the walls whatever color we want (the walls were all in pretty sorry condition as well). This house has come a long way since we've lived here.
With Matt gone, I removed all the kitchen furniture to the front entry and the family room stuff to the living room and the laundry stuff to the office. The tile people moved the fridge, washer and dryer for me. My friends gave me a hard time for doing it on my own and have since learned to call and ask for help. I have fantastic neighbors and friends! What I was hoping was going to be a 3 day thing was actually 5, but hey! I'll deal with it because I'm getting beautiful new floors.
Day 1
Good riddance to the carpet and linoleum!
The tile guys were nice enough. They'd argue like an old married couple all day with each other. My sister Rachel would've gone crazy because one of them chomped very loudly on gum all day long. Burping, farting, and scratching was all put up with because I was getting new floors!!
Day 1 - the floors were easily ripped out and a membrane to protect the tile from cracking was laid down.
Day 2 - tile's going down. The red stuff is the membrane.

This is what they accomplished on day 2

Day 2 went very smoothly. The tile ended up fitting perfectly from wall to wall so very few cuts needed to be  made. Day 3 and 4 were very different because that's when they had to start cutting pieces to fit into all the smaller spaces.

 Since they had the baseboards off, I wanted to get the walls painted to save myself all the taping and careful edging that would've had to be done. My friend, Becca, and her oldest daughter helped me get it all painted. Many hands make light work.

 I love, Love, LOVE my new floors and the new wall color. 
But, my kids like to wrestle and be crazy. Hard tile floors are not good for that. I don't want heads cracking open (even if we do have a neurologist friend living across the street). So, next step - area rug. But it's a big area. No 5x7 will do. So, since November I have been searching for a non-crazy-expensive rug that I actually like.
One idea was to get two 5x7 ft rugs that were really well priced at Costco (and super soft and fluffy - seriously. You gotta get your hands on these.) But the color wasn't right, so we took them back. Gotta love Costco's easy return policy. Luke rode the rugs all the way back into the store and was sad to see them go. The search was still on.
Then I got the idea from my friend to go to a flooring store and by a remnant - have left over pieces binded. So this is what I did. But my sectional is huge and I figured if I'm going custom made I might as well get the size I want. My couch comes out from the wall between 10 and 11 ft. So I went with a 12x12 ft. That is not a remnant because carpet is made 12 ft wide, but it was still much cheaper than buying any other area rug. I just paid per sq ft and they had the edges binded for free and free delivery.
Once I get it, I have to move my big old couch out of the way. Like I said, I asked for help this time. The sectional is hard to hook together because it's been damaged and warped with the couple of cross country moves it's been through.
So my neighbors came over. A hacksaw was brought out because the metal frame of one was getting caught on the other thanks to moving damage and just needed to be shaved.

 Here it is. Tile, painted walls, rug, couch put together, and 3 happy kids who can wrestle and comfortably watch TV on the family room floor.
Everything needs to be jumped on

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Who Needs a Reason?

It's been a while since we've done any kind of social activity with the whole unit; it's so cold and snowy people mostly stay in their rooms. But I got as many people together as I could today to celebrate an important day: our replacements started their pre-deployment Combat Skills Training in New Jersey today. One step closer to going home.

We made pumpkin bread, brownies, and pizza on the grill, thanks to many generous packages from my family. The board game saga of Officers v. Enlisted continued with Pictionary tonight. The officers won both rounds, bringing our record to... 3 wins, 12 losses

Mostly I just wanted an excuse to get everyone together and have some laughs. I will occasionally go days without seeing my teammates, because the work tempo has slowed so much, and I worry about people just hiding out in their rooms with no one to notice if they are happy or sad. So I needed a reason to get people out.

...and a reason to make the cookie-brownie Supreme Bars my sister sent me!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Am I too old for this?

Is there an age at which one is no longer allowed to frolic in the snow? I still see snow and think, "of course I'm supposed to jump headlong into that snowbank. That's what it's for." I'm not sure I have an excuse to act like this when my children are half a world away. I really miss goofing off with my kids! Yet I couldn't allow 24 inches of fresh snow on a sunny day go to waste now, could I?

Maya, Luke and Seth- your Dad is still a big weirdo bombeirdo!

Boots: Marching on

There have been some gloomy days recently, between the holidays away from family, the cold weather, and the slow tempo that makes us wonder, "what good we are doing here?". During our morning meeting, I was reminded of why I am here.

Army Specialist Menard belongs to the "Fightin' Fifth" 5th Engineer Battalion based out of Fort Leonardwood, Missouri. His commander in Ghazni (at his left shoulder, see Dec 8 Milestones post) visited him in the hospital to present him with his service medals, and forwarded some photos to us here in Ghazni. They are my favorite deployment pictures.

When I first saw these pictures, I didn't even see the medals. For me, his marks of bravery jumped out at me from his body. Do you see the hole in his neck? I couldn't get enough oxygen in him becuase blood was pouring out of the breathing tube I placed. So I asked the surgeons to cut a hole in his neck to see if bypassing his larynx would help us stop the bleeding from his throat. I fought to give him oxygen through that hole in his neck for two hours, my hand never leaving that tube in his neck. My textbooks tell me he should be brain dead from the lack of oxygen. I don't know how much he will recover, but a smile and thumbs up is a start!

Do you see the scar on his chest? Right through that opening was where I saw his heart stop, where I prayed and waited anxiously to see if the drugs, shocks, and blood would somehow start his heart up one more time. And each time it did. I am so proud of that little heart! It just would not quit and kept on fighting back to life. I'm glad it's safely behind his ribs and skin again, quietly pumping his blood without needing our hands to squeeze it.

I hope one day he'll be walking around without a hole in his neck, his scar hidden beneath his clothes. I like to imagine that one day he could be mistaken for an ordinary person were it not for his medals. Maybe they will help others understand that he is a hero. But I knew it a long time ago.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Christmas Together

More pictures and stories of our adventure to New York will follow, but this is how we spent Christmas with Matt. It's not the same as having him right here, but I am grateful for modern day technology and how that allows us to see each other every day (that the internet is working).

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

No One Was Hurt

A large fire started outside of our supply pods today. Last week, we had piled about 300 boxes of medical supplies together to donate to another Forward Surgical Team that is just starting up. The truck was going to take them at about 1100; the fire occured at about 0100. It looks like the fire started outside and then heated the metal walls of the container enough to ignite our own supplies inside. Luckily, no one was hurt, the fire did not spread to the ambulances parked 10 feet away, and we are still able to care for patients.

Investigators are still trying to determine how it started. The fire started in the middle of the night, in 19 degree temperatures, away from any electrical equipment. So one of their first questions was, "who did you tick off recently?" All of us immediately thought of the soldier who showed up last weekend too drunk to stand, but drunk enough to pull out his weapon and aim it at the Polish medics who brought him to us. Something like that gets you a date with the MPs and the base commander. As cute as it seems on MASH, having a distillery in your room is really not that endearing when you carry automatic weapons around.

Hopefully the fire was just a freak accident.

***update: The fire marshal found an IV fluid warmer battery that was melted, and he thinks that was the source of the fire. Sounds weird to we that a battery sitting on a shelf for months decided to spontaneously combust, but his guess is better than mine.

Monday, January 9, 2012

My Cup Runneth O'er (I Hope Not)

Some of you have expressed curiosity about how certain things work around here given the snow, lack of indoor plumbing nearby, and recent evacuation of portopotties. I understand some may afraid to read on, but for those of you not too yellow to continue, I will sprinkle some knowledge onto you. Or should I instead compare this torrent of learning to drinking from the fire hose? Most of us try to drown out nature's call during the night, but sometimes one feels practically bursting with motivation to go with the flow. Here are a few of the readily available means to contain one's...excitement.

The most obvious option is the good old fashioned water bottle. You cannot travel 100 yards on the base without going past pallettes of these. Readily available, certainly water tight, but the narrow opening requires a high degree of markmanship. Capacity: 500 mL, good enough for one midnight session, but not much more.

One step up from the entry-level models is the Gatorade bottle. Not as ever-present as the water bottle, but still easily obtained from the cafeteria for free. Slightly larger capacity at 591 mL, but more than one voyage and you'll have to change boats midstream. Most importantly, the wide opening relieves the anxiety of all but the most self-impressed.

Some of you must be thinking, "Don't you work in a medical facility?" One would guess that products made for this purpose would certainly be the best. Indeed, one of my "peers" prefers this model because it accodomates over 1000mL and has a large glow-in-the-dark lid. Which opens easily with the slightest push.

But as far as deployment durabilty is concerned, we haven't even gotten our feet wet yet. And we don't ever want to, which is why I swear by the medical irrigation bottle. Holds just as much the "other guys" but has a level base and symmetical shape so it stands more solidly. I've had to depend on the watertight screw-on cap more than a few times, so I recommend placing it under, rather than beside, the bed as an added precaution.

Furthermore, as tempting as it is to just roll over in bed and lean over the side, I cannot vouch for any system that does not involve a well balanced, standing approach. And don't think that keeping the lights off will help you get back to sleep faster, or that you can judge the fulness of the container by sound alone. One rogue shot or depth miscalculation will cost you ten times the amount of sleep you thought you were saving.

Females are not automatically excluded (imagine a funnel flattened sideways) and a few report "a hard time imagining going back." Most claim they do what they have to do to survive deployment, but afterward it's all water under the bridge.

Some may argue that the line of good taste has already been crossed, but the convenience of these home remedies has inspired some to creative, if distasteful, efforts. Knowing that I like to build things, one of our technicians approached me about the feasibility of drilling a hole waist-high in the wall, and running ventilator tubing down to the ground under the dorms. I like to tell myself he was kidding.

I have also heard reports of larger containers being, um, dual-purposed to meet all of one's needs. It's going to have to get a lot colder before I seriously consider that option.

So, there it is. You can either soak in the knowledge like a sponge or let it fall like water off a duck's back. But if you were worried before about being outside "the know", don't worry now:
"you're in"

(this post dedicated to the Edmonds, my sisters Becky and Lisa, and The Red Fox, an old family car)

Saturday, January 7, 2012

I was running!

Sometimes you check the box on a goal even though it wasn't exactly what you had in mind. I didn't run a marathon, and maybe I never will. But since I ran a half marathon today in 23 degree weather, at 7200 feet, over junkyards full of gravel (not to mention chronic bowel issues from the local cafeteria- TMI?) I'm calling it good enough, and allowing myself a little satisfaction.

This is a big deal for me; before deploying, I had probably never run more than 3 miles at one time. 8 was the farthest I had run before today. But I psyched myself up, made a playlist of killer music, and ran. Here is a synopsis of my thoughts:

mile 0.1: This is it! I'm off! I'm doing it!

mile 1: What did I get myself into? Why did I tell everyone I was running a half marathon today? Oh yeah, to make sure I didn't wimp out. Too early for thoughts of bailing out, let's do this thing.

mile something: I'm not even going to track the distance for now. Switch to Forrest Gump mode, and just run until Dana says it's time to stop.

mile 6.5: halfway there. A little leprachaun jumping heel click to celebrate, then back to zoning out to The Eagles, Led Zeppelin, and some workout music Jen sent me. I still don't know if I'm going to do this thing, but I'm feeling pretty good right now.

mile 8: This is it- the furthest I have ever run. Crash through that mental wall, we've got miles to cover...

mile 10.5: OK, Body, huddle up, conference time!
Neck and Shoulders, you guys quit whining. I don't want to hear about you guys getting sore when all you do is hold Head up. Head needs to groove to the music a little, let him have his fun.
Heart, you're doing great. Let's keep those coronaries open. Maybe now is a good time to think about forming some nice collateral vessels for when a plaque ruptures someday. Not a good time? OK, you're busy, just file it away for later consideration...
Intestines, I don't have much to tell you. If you make me stop I'll be disappointed in you. Cowboy up and just do the best you can with that chicken from last night.
Legs, love you guys. "Who's my favorite muscle group right now? That's right thighs, you are! You are!"
Ankles, I was a little gung ho over those rocks earlier. I'll do better about stepping around them, but you gotta hang in there no matter what.
Feet, we've been through this. Even with double socks, Toes are going to get a little crammed. We're in ten dollar Wal-Mart shoes over ugly terrain, I know you're going through a lot. But throwing a blister tantrum only punishes you, and nobody likes a drama queen.

mile 11.5: Thighs, I was wrong to give you the impression that our relationship was a friendly one. Sorry, but I'm the BOSS and you do what *I* say, got it? We're not going to like each other very much the next 48 hours, but we are going to finish this because you're not here to like me, you're here to do a job. Stop complaining and get back to work!

mile 12.5: I wish Dana hadn't told me the distance. As soon as Body overheard it, everyone thought it was 4:30pm on a Friday and they could quit early. A little help from Parliament Funkadelic gets us through to the end.


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Thursday, January 5, 2012

My trip outside the wire

I got to go off base today for the first time since arriving in Afghanistan. I went scuba diving with my daughter. I can't remember her ever starting lessons, but she had her certification already so we went to Hawaii. Not a stellar diving day because we didn't see any Hawaiian cleaner wrasse or Picasso triggerfish, although the parrotfish and yellow tangs were still quite pretty. And the weather was absolutely gorgeous. Jen and I savored the warm lush scent of a brief summer rain in the sunshine.

I woke up to the sound of helicopters. The scene that lay before me did not compare well with my tropical adventure. Overnight it had snowed, and the portopotty outside my room had been taken away and not replaced. Stupid helicopters.

The Kids