“I wouldn’t drink anything called Moland.”

pain

I’m still trying to pass this damn kidney stone.  I’ve not fought one this stubborn since my first, when I was 18 and in the Army.  I had surgery to extract it, then had a stent installed.  I remember my roommate telling me I looked like I was in pain all the time.  That’s when the pain became conscious, and it explained why I was peeing blood.

I didn’t become alarmed until the pain overwhelmed me.  Invincible youth.  I was living in an apartment with my husband, who was away for training.  I low-crawled to the next apartment and beat on the door.  Two sleepy men opened the door, then looked down at me and called an ambulance.

I also recall I took a bath just before that, because I knew I needed medical intervention, and I was all sweaty and gross.  The paramedics kept trying to give me oxygen while I fought them to quit messing with me, I was in pain, dammit.  Finally, they figured out I was a soldier and took me to William Beaumont Army Medical Center, where I had the surgery.

While being assessed in the emergency room, they gave me a morphine drip to help with the pain.  It didn’t work.  It just added hurling to the party.  I remember a nurse putting a tiny kidney-shaped basin under my chin to catch it; only I looked at it, then puked on the floor.  I wanted to ask her if she was kidding first, but couldn’t speak.

I’d never heard of a kidney stone and thought for sure I was dying.  It was the first time I had surgery and turned out to be quite an adventure.  My mom said it was from eating meat, candy and drinking Mt. Dew.  I figured she was right; she was almost always right.  I didn’t realize it would continue plaguing me long after I stopped, though.  Sigh.

sad

I still ate in the mess hall, even after moving off-post.  I wish I still had access to one.  My unit was attached to the International dining hall.  It was awesome.  There were TV’s all over the place, usually on MTV.  The salad bar was divine.  And I got to eat with Japanese Air Force members, and soldiers from the United Arab Emirates.  When we ran PT, the Islamic call to prayer blasted over the quad.  It was my favorite unit.

I observed UAB officers prefer driving Mustang’s in custom painted neon colors, exclusively.  You could tell which units were American by what was in the parking lot.  The GI Cadillac back then was the Nissan Sentra.  There were over twenty in various colors parked outside our barracks alone.  I was friends with a guy who was a prince of some sort.  It was a cultural mishmash of awesome.  I miss it.

I miss living in the desert, too.  Today, I awoke to rain, followed by hail, and then snow.  It’s still snowing.  I’m tired of this damn stone and want to get back to my life.  At least I’ve done a lot of thinking about my novel.  The last time I was in Denver, I saw a homeless man on the street outside my hotel.  (I still say, “hi” to strangers I encounter briefly.  In Sioux Falls, it’s rude to walk past someone without acknowledging them.)   We made eye contact, and I recognized him from somewhere.  Probably the Army.

I could tell he recognized me, as well.  But we just stared as he walked on.  I’ve been thinking about him since.  I can’t remember where we met before, so I’m going to include him in my novel with an imagined life.  I’m trying to reason with my ambition since I read a lot of epic serial stories.  Part of me wants to write one, but Logic thinks it’s adorable.  Logic is mean sometimes.  Heh.  I’m off to practice cussing during another wave of pain.  (I’m an ace swearer when pain is the motivation.)  😂

The busboy’s coming!

I had a good day.  My shrink left me a message stating he sent me a 90-day refill of Prozac.  Yay!  I talked to my former section leader from my first permanent duty station in the Army.  She’s the first female leader I ever met.  My part of the conversation entailed explaining my decision to quit the VA.  The rest was her giving a brilliant lecture on common sense, followed by a few compliments to my intellect, chased further by utter disbelief in how one can be so smart and (ignorant) at the same time.

It made me sweat a little while Skyping.  I could easily stand before 45 and elaborately flip him the bird with a goofy grin on my face.  I couldn’t stand in front of my former SFC (Sergeant First Class) and do anything I knew was wrong, rude, or improper in any way.  I understand it, but not fully.  It’s based on respect, but it’s a particular type.  It’s bestowed with confidence, a bit of awe, and incredible loyalty.  Suffice to say, I’m not quitting the VA.  Instead, I’m going to make it safer for me to get care.  I purchased a handheld voice recorder.  I’ll bring it with me and use it when necessary.

I’m fairly sure once it’s seen the grapevine will spread the word, and I won’t need it any longer.  The vast majority of people who work there are not racists.  I only know of one and suspect another.  It pisses me off how just a few ignorant fucks can cause me so much grief.  My SFC reminded me of the POC wearing the uniform right now.  I don’t want any of them to have to put up with this shit when they return, especially if I can do something about it.  So I will.  I’m quite pleased about the refill.  I’d love to have my creativity restored, but avoiding severe episodes of depression is better.  No contest.

All you saved was the pea pods?

Victory in a meadow.

Growing up in a predominantly all-white community has helped me better understand what it’s like for my local peers to first encounter a person of color.  In my first twelve years of life, the only people of color I met were a few Native American parents of foster siblings, and my little sister, Heather.  (I don’t count Heather.)

Everyone else was Caucasian.  My teachers, neighbors, friends, family, everyone.  It was all I knew so, of course, it was normal to me.  Basic training was my first experience with diversity.  I stared a lot.  I got bullied by a black woman from Miami who claimed I “talk proper.”  While I tried to process this, the other women stood up for me and shut her down.  It was my first experience with social politics.

My first assigned buddy was a black woman.  We despised each other within a few minutes of the meeting.  She called me an oreo, and I told her she needed glasses.  (I know, I suck at comebacks in real time but think of hilarious zingers after sleeping on it.)  I remember putting all my energy into preventing myself from bursting into tears.  I failed.  Repeatedly.  Throughout the whole eight-week course.  (And that’s not counting the time I spent working one-on-one with a Drill Sgt learning how to walk right before I could begin basic training.)

I was assigned a different buddy since we both objected vehemently.  I got a Mexican-American woman whose English needed some work.  My Sesame Street Spanish served me well.  She was the best buddy I ever had.  We complemented each other well and conquered each challenge by working together.  I also befriended a woman (named Heather!) who was the glue that held our platoon together.  She had bright red hair and a few freckles.  She could find the funny in anything.  I learned so much from her.  Thanks to her wit, we laughed as much as we cried.

I loved serving in the Army.  Acquiring PTSD was my only reason for getting out.  It murdered my eligibility to serve.  I had both positive and traumatic experiences.  I learned a great deal about humans, war, and reality.  I lost my innocence in every sense of the word.  I recognized my vulnerability and gullibility.  I had known before I reenlisted that my reasons for joining initially were adorable at best.  In those initial three years, I grew up.  I entered a child, and before my first active duty enlistment ended, the child in me surrendered control to my adult self.  The military has converting children into soldiers down to a science.  Soldiers are adults.  The process was painful but fascinating.

I remember the day I realized I had a friend from every group identified by the government.  I ate chocolate cake for dinner that day in celebration.  I celebrated because I thought it meant I was safe from ever being called a racist.  I felt like I won some unspoken challenge in life.  This is something I tie to my upbringing.  It’s a subtle conformity to institutional racism.  Subtleties usually fly over me.  I fear I’m too distracted to grasp them regularly.

This recognition of my contribution to the problem of racism is extremely hopeful progress in my journey to being the best possible me.  Now that I’m aware of where I’m fucking up, I can consciously avoid it in the future.  I have several previous posts in this blog where I, unfortunately, demonstrated my ignorance.  When I gain new knowledge and annihilate the ignorance, I’m tempted to go back and remove anything I said that I now realize identified me as an ignoramus.  I chuckle, then leave it.

Another thing I learned in the Army;

 It never hurts to have a reminder handy for those times you’re tempted to shove your head up your ass.

My previous posts remind me, humble me, and (something that might be) embarrass me.  I’ll never forget the day I had to carry a giant cardboard ID card everywhere I went for losing my military ID card.  My Sgt took many liberties in drawing the highly unflattering photo on my large version.  I struggled to keep assholes from yanking it away and running off.  (Losing the giant card would have been devastating.)  People kept honking and scaring the shit out of me.  I was a nervous wreck that day.  I never misplaced a card of any type since.  Or keys.  I guess it was worth it.

I don’t classify my friends by political groupings any longer.  I know diversity enriches my life.  I like being surrounded by it, but I’m also okay with living in a community that doesn’t have a lot of diversity.  What matters is recognizing it’s positive for everyone.  The only superior race is homo sapiens.  We changed the face of our planet, for better or worse, and climbed to the top of the food chain.  This is our planet, and I hope we spread to much more in the future.

When a person creates something that propels mankind forward, that victory belongs to all humans.  The same goes for the athlete who achieves a world record.  And the scholar who wins the Nobel Prize.  The writer who captures our imagination so profoundly we believe the story is real.  The actor that makes us laugh, then cry.  The comedian who’s so funny you laugh and cry at the same time.  The artist who captures an idea and paints it on a canvas.  These are humanities victories.  These are proof of our awesomeness as a species.  We don’t worship people, we share what makes us amazing.  It’s in all of us.  All humans.  It’s in you.  It’s in me.

Knowing this makes me love people.  I know everyone I encounter has awesome in them.  I hope they show it off.  It’s a connection between all of us, and I think we should all celebrate it by eating chocolate cake for dinner.  You in?

A little respect. For I am George, King of the Idiots.

Today was long.  I’m not enjoying a 5 AM start time for work.  We agreed today that our newest team member will adjust to different hours starting next week.  The purpose of her hire was to be our phone representation.  Most of our clients are on the west coast.  None of them have ever needed to phone us at or anywhere near 3 AM.  We negotiated more suitable hours, and next week I’ll probably be less of an airhead.  Probably.

Even in the Army, we didn’t run until 6 AM.  That mean waking up at 5:45 AM to use my toothbrush, (with toothpaste applied the night before).  I slept in my PT uniform, and could put on my kicks and dash out to formation, where I would strategically tie them while doing warm up exercises.  Sleep was precious then, and I could sleep pretty much anywhere, anytime.  One time in basic training, I thought I was being so clever by sneaking in some ZZzz’s while pretending to tighten up my bunk from beneath it.  I heard abruptly cut off laughter, and opened my eyes to see my Drill SGT’s face inches from my own.  I’m fairly certain I lost about 3 years from my life expectancy from that moment of sheer terror.

Hopefully, the rest of the week will fly by.  I don’t have enough to do this week, and it’s messing with me.  I’m conscious of working too quickly for my teammates, so I’m deliberately holding back from jumping to another project.  I walked the circle a lot.  Being in motion seemed to help.  I did several Twitter fly-by’s, and tried to play a few hashtags.  I’m a very casual hashtagger, but it’s mostly because I usually need several examples before I understand how to play whatever tag is going around.  Ironically, the few times I’ve done a funny one, it was where I misunderstood the tag.  I think.  I’m too literal.  And knowing I’m too literal doesn’t seem to make any difference, which kinda pisses me off.

Fortunately, the people who play regularly are generally pretty kind, and will favorite some of my attempts.  I’m pretty sure some of them are pity favorites, but I’ve decided that’s just fine.  I take it as, “You keep hanging in there!  You’re bound to tweet something funny someday!  Here, have a favorite!”  Or something similar.  I’m just glad I saw a tweet early on that was making fun of people who gushingly thank anyone who retweets or favorites their tweets, (because that’s totally something I could see myself doing).  When I understand the tag, and can also think of a tweet, it’s a good feeling.  It’s like solving a mini puzzle that leads to a new puzzle.  I love puzzles as much as candy.  Maybe more.

I’m rambling because I’m embarrassed.  I want to rage against unexpected things, but that would be a waste of energy.  When I’m in my apartment, I keep my entry door locked, and then don’t worry about being fully dressed, as it’s just me and my cat.  When I get home, I tend to take off my shoes, socks, and jeans.  I’m on the top floor, so even if I walked past an open window, nobody would be able to see anything private.  I’ve mentioned before that I’m a bit of an airhead.  Well, tonight I proved it.  I walked down the hallway past several closed apartment doors, to the trash chute.  It’s in a little room near the middle stairwell.  When you open the door, the light comes on automatically, (motion detector).

Up until that point, it didn’t occur to me that I was in only my t-shirt and undies.  Technically, nothing private was exposed, I suppose.  But this was an accident.  I saw my reflection in the door to the chute.  I could feel myself start to shut down, but I didn’t.  I bolted from the room and walked quickly back to my apartment.  Nobody opened their door.  I hope nobody looked out their peephole.  When I was 3 doors away, I heard a nearby door unlock, and I ran the last few steps.  We have electronic locks, so there was no key fumbling.  I was in, and then I did that thing I’m always whining about.  I slammed the door.  Sigh.

Disability Day of Mourning

Today is Disability Day of Mourning.  There were lots of posts on Twitter.  There was a list of disabled people who were murdered by family members by date, name, and cause of death.  I skimmed the list to see if the little girl who lived across the street was on it.  She wasn’t.  Her name was Rachel, and she was 9.  Her mom took her into their basement and shot her, then herself with a shotgun.  Rachel was Autistic.  My sister, Heather, was her babysitter.  Naturally, the whole neighborhood was shocked.  Murder is not an acceptable way to cope with disability.  There are no excuses.  Nobody has the right to steal someone’s life.  Especially not that of a child.

Even when I was serving in the Army, I firmly believed that killing someone is wrong.  I didn’t claim conscientious objector status, because it wasn’t an issue for me.  There was only one incident in which a weapon was fired intending to hit me.  That weapon was practically a relic, and it’s shooter was only 15.  Of course I didn’t return fire.  I told on him, and he got smacked by his grandfather.  I got an Article 15, but it was just company grade, and not my first.  That Iraqi boy’s life was totally worth 14 days of extra duty and restriction.  Other than that, I was what is commonly referred to as a “chairborne ranger”.  I spent the majority of my military career in various schools.  I enjoyed it.  My motivation came from finding out that in the event of chemical or biological warfare, the first person required to remove their protective mask and gear was the person least mission essential.

I didn’t want to be that person, so I made sure I had crucial skills.  I eventually became the NBC NCO (Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical Noncommissioned officer).  That alone pretty much guaranteed it wouldn’t be me.  The often denied chemical and biological agents used in Desert Stormy by Saddam Hussein caused a lot of people to get sick, and some passed it on to family members.  It’s only recently been acknowledged by the VA.  They tried to pull a Vietnam/Agent Orange again.  Fuckers.  It takes 10-20 years for the VA to overcome denial.  Unfortunately for Vietnam veterans, it’s apparently a recurring condition, as they’re dumping programs for them left and right of late.  Fuckers.

I don’t regret my service, though.  I learned some crucial lessons.  I learned that maintaining American freedom is not the reason we’ve participated in wars since WWII.  That’s just the lie that gets suckers like me to volunteer.  It works well when you couple it with the bullshit they teach in public schools.  I was 17 when I shipped out for basic training.  I was a young, naive 17-year-old with an extremely sheltered childhood and undiagnosed Autism.  I bought into the whole “protecting my country’s freedoms” line.  This is an embarrassing admission in hindsight, but I joined the Army because I wanted to be a soldier so I could help prevent war.  My high school debate training left me thinking that I was good at stating my case, and convincing others to adopt my views.  Shut up.

So it was an eye opening experience, but one I needed.  I literally grew up in the Army.  It was so painful to accept the fact that America isn’t the best country ever.  That we have a bloody, horrific past, just like pretty much all other nations.  That as a nation, America is a teenager who hasn’t yet figured out where she fits in on the world stage, and has shitty boundaries.  I’m sure plenty of other people had this figured out by age 17, but I didn’t.  It was like finding out there’s no such thing as Santa Claus all over again.  I remember watching CNN, and being floored by the fact that they were lying their asses off.  I had assumed if it was on the news, it was true.  Shut up.  So yeah, I had to grow up.

I also learned how to embrace and love hard, demanding physical labor.  The feeling of being completely exhausted, and barely able to walk after a hard day of work is so good.  I learned that my capabilities are far greater than I ever imagined.  I learned how to cope with incredible fear.  I shake, cry, hyperventilate, and emit strange moaning sounds when I’m extremely afraid, and I can still function despite it.  The first time I experienced this was when we had to throw 2 live (REAL) grenades over a wall in basic training.  We stood inside a bunker with a thick plexiglass window to observe those who went before us.  Every time, we’d duck for cover when the shrapnel flew at us and embedded in the plexiglass.  It was loud, it smelled badly, and I was terrified.  I was in the middle of the line, and when it was my turn and I was handed 2 live grenades to put in my LBE pouches, my legs were like Jello.

I walked so carefully and slowly, trying to make sure I didn’t trip.  It was a short distance to where my Drill SGT waited by the wall.  We were told to throw them like a shotput, not a baseball.  All we had to do was pull the pin, and project the grenade over the top of a wall that was probably around 10′ high.  It was a very simple process.  However, our Drill SGTS told us the horror stories of the Private who threw the pin and kept the grenade.  When I finally made it to the designated spot, I pulled out the first one, pulled it’s pin, and threw it as hard as I could.  It probably went about 2 feet beyond the wall.  Then my Drill SGT grabbed me and shoved me down against the wall, and lay over me.  This was standard procedure.  I got back up, and started crying.  I asked if it was okay if I just threw the one.  It was not okay.  So I threw the other one pretty much exactly like the first one, bawling my head off the whole time.

Another important lesson I learned in the Army was how to let go.  How to let go of people, stuff, and places.  I had friends who got orders to move to other countries.  I literally lost everything I owned when moving back to America from Germany.  I lived in Texas, Maryland, D.C., Virginia, Germany, and Saudi Arabia.  I went on field problems in 29 Palms, California, and Yuma in AZ.  I went to basic in South Carolina.  Suffice to say, I’ll never be a hoarder.  I don’t allow myself to get overly attached to objects.  There are other important things I learned from my Army experience, but these are the ones that remain helpful.  There.  I’ve managed to refocus in order to prevent my grief over the murders of so many innocent disabled people from crushing me.