30. March 2009 · Comments Off on Interior Decorating… · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: ,

So here I am, outside under the “Bra”…the wind is whipping and the dust is blowing. But I persist…things are well enough. I pulled a table and chair behind the giant wooden film screen, so I’m mostly blocked from the wind.

I’m getting ready for my replacement to arrive at the end of the week, although I’m getting rather anxious because I still don’t have a flight home arranged quite yet. No one here does it — suffice it to say that there’s someone in the U.S. who makes all of our arrangements. I’m hoping to hear something in the next 48 hours!

Meanwhile, I am still awaiting word that I have to move into the transient tents later this week. So I’ve been packing up the extra stuff and shipping home what I don’t need between now and when I get home, such as extra yarn and books. I just shipped two boxes today, and there will probably be two more later this week.

Before I took it all down, I thought I’d share with you how I decorated my dorm room:

From 2009 03 25 Kids_Art_DormRoom

I received so much artwork from the boys, and even several letters from Jacob, but some of art from Timmy included some of his first word-writing.

Jacob’s teacher encouraged him to write letters to me. Here are some examples:

From 2009 03 25 Kids_Art_DormRoom

From 2009 03 25 Kids_Art_DormRoom

Before you pick too much on his spelling, remember that he’s in Kindergarten and apparently the spelling part of his language skills come later. Here’s a card Jacob made for Timmy’s 4th birthday in January. That’s Thomas the Tank Engine pulling Annie and Clarabel drawn at the bottom.

From 2009 03 25 Kids_Art_DormRoom

This is Timmy’s work. My heart melted at his drawing of Howie.

From 2009 03 25 Kids_Art_DormRoom

From 2009 03 25 Kids_Art_DormRoom

And finally, enjoy the Valentine’s Day card I received:

From 2009 03 25 Kids_Art_DormRoom

I also had pictures of the boys up elsewhere in the room, and I enjoyed looking at the art and the pictures of my boys each and every day. I’m so excited — it won’t be long before I’m home!

I need to stop now — the dust is actually accumulating on the laptop screen and it’s getting hard to see outside with the outdoor glare. Keep in touch with my Twitter feed on the right column!

23. March 2009 · 6 comments · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: ,

Books Read on this Deployment
1.) The Marching Season, Daniel Silva: 16 Jan 09
2.) Angels and Demons, Dan Brown: 20 Jan 09
3.) Deception Point, Dan Brown: 25 Jan 09
4.) The Other Boleyn Girl, Phillipa Gregory: 3 Feb 09
5.) Marley & Me, John Grogan: 5 Feb 09
6.) Cruel and Unusual, Patricia Cornwell: 11 Feb 09
7.) Point of Origin, Patricia Cornwell: 21 Feb 09
8.) Black Notice, Patricia Cornwell: 1 Mar 09
9.) Holy Cow, Sarah Macdonald: 7 Mar 09
10.) Blow Fly, Patricia Cornwell, 16 Mar 09
11.) Trace, Patricia Cornwell, 23 Mar 09

20. March 2009 · 4 comments · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , ,

Happy Friday and Happy Spring! Another random funny deployment story for you.

So here it is…6:15pm on a Friday night, and I’m still awake.

“Hey, me too! Let’s go hit a club and go dancing later!”

No no no no no. I’m not supposed to be awake! For those unaware, I’ve been on the night shift my whole time on this deployment. I won’t give specifics, except to say that I usually sleep from about 4pm-11pm.

You saw my post from a week or so ago. Sleep, or lack thereof, can be a plague on one’s good attitude and overall productivity. I don’t think I get cranky, but I start doing strange things.

My first month here, I took a trip off base in the evening. I didn’t sleep all day, then went out to dinner in downtown Doha with friends. It was a fun time out but I didn’t sleep between one day’s work and the next.

I thought I was fine. I distinctly remember thinking how resilient I was considering my lack of sleep. The weather was keeping my adrenaline up, I recall. At about 4am I went out to the latrine trailer. Where I work, we have to leave our building and walk out to a row of latrine trailers outside. Not far, probably a 1 minute walk. Picture three construction office trailer-looking buildings…all in a row. Don’t fret, they aren’t bad. The leftmost and center trailers are for the men, the right hand trailer is for the women (since women are probably less than 20% of the population here, we have a pretty good deal).

I walked into the trailer, chose a toilet, and proceeded to do my thing. While I’m in the stall, I notice that the walls are black — when I’m used to them being off-white — and I began to ponder:

“When did they paint the insides of the toilet stalls?”

“WHY would they paint the insides of the toilet stalls?”

“And how come I can’t smell the fresh paint of these newly painted stalls?”

“Wait a minute! How did these paint flecks and scrapes appear on these walls covered in non-smelling, newly applied black paint?”

I finished my business, flushed and walked to the opposite wall of the trailer to wash my hands. It’s at that moment that I noticed (a) the wall of urinals that I didn’t notice before and (b) the MAN standing in front of one of them!

You guessed it — I had marched right into one of the mens’ latrines and did my thing. I guess on that day I was more tired than I thought.

This was back in early February, before the insomnia fatigue had kicked in. So after that lack-of-sleep shift I remember going back to my dorm and sleeping straight through until I had to get up to work again.

Stay tuned, maybe after tonight’s lack of sleep I’ll have a new “How Tired Were You?” story to share!

16. March 2009 · Comments Off on Orange Juice and Other Things We Take for Granted in the Food World… · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , ,

As promised, more about the funny OJ picture I posted.

There are assorted DFACs (Dining FACilities) scattered among the base. Different foods, different hours, different dining atmospheres. Most of the time I’m eating from the dining hall near my workplace 1-2 times per day…and it was never eating in the chow hall. I’d eat during my duty shift and I can’t be away from the desk for too long…so I get the food to go and eat in the darkness of my workstation.

I eat my largest meal at about 1:30am, a dinner-like meal (called “Midnight Meal”) and then I pick up some breakfast not long after sunrise. Sometimes I grab the breakfast foods during my midnight meal and just have some cereal and milk at my desk. I turn in in the mid-afternoon for a “night’s” sleep and if I felt hungry, I’d have a snack of some sort, like an apple, some yogurt, or if I was really hungry, a 6″ Subway Club sandwich on Parmasean Oregano bread.

Did I mention that my dorm is right behind a Subway? I treated myself once a week the first few weeks, but I haven’t been at all in the month of March.

In the DFAC there are a lot of choices…imagine what you see in a college dining hall. There’s a main course that’s usually pretty “comfort foody”, like roast beef and mashed potatoes, or chicken parmasean, or perhaps fried catfish with hush puppies. Then you have other options, such as a full salad bar, fresh fruit bar, deli bar and breakfast bar. And it’s a serious breakfast bar, comprable to a Shoney’s or full service hotel breakfast bar.

Also, you have a short-order grill, making awesome omelettes for breakfast, and serving up burgers and grilled chicken sandwiches at lunch/dinner/midnight.

Sidebar about the omelettes. They’re outstanding. The military dining halls seem to have this special way to make their omelettes…paper-thin egg layer filled with the goodies, then wrapped in the egg like a burrito. Or a crepe. I haven’t had an omelette lately (cholesterol concerns), so I’m going to show you pictures of the ones I’ve made for my family on our flat griddle as an example of what we get here. So yummy!

From 2008 01 23 Assorted Cooking

From 2008 01 23 Assorted Cooking

Did I mention the desserts? Lots of great options, Breyer’s ice cream, European-style gelato, baked goods galore. Seasonal fare:

From 2009 02 14 AUAB V-Day Cake

A lot of food. It’s tempting to eat full meals for 3 meals a day. Like the college dining hall experience, having everything prepared for me might make it easy to gain weight, like I did in college!

The food quality is decent, I guess. I’m again comparing it to a college dining hall experience, and in my case, Penn State’s dining hall is my frame of reference. Not a 5-star Zagat’s experience, but definitely not bad either.

Since we have it quite well here in so many other ways, such as this wireless connection with which I’m blogging to you, I’m going to avoid complaining too much about our food quality. Oftentimes, they’re serving foods I simply don’t like: stroganoff, baked fish, well-done steaks, etc.

Note: You might have heard on the news about “Kellogg, Brown and Root” food and construction services, and some of the contracting scandals in the past several years related to how they’re owned by Halliburton/Richard Cheney. We do not have KBR food service here, it’s offered in Iraq and Afghanistan and from what the Airmen tell me, it’s very outstanding.

Anyhow, there are also some basic staples that are in such high demand, food services had challenges keeping it in stock for us. Orange juice is the first example. I saw assorted fruit juice boxes for us my first day here. Some stray mango and strawberry juices. Someone mentioned that the orange juice boxes are good, too. I didn’t help myself to any on the first day, not realizing that I wouldn’t see those juices again in the dining hall for 60 days!

There’s a machine that dispenses juices from concentrate, but the output wasn’t very good. At my first attempt at orange juice from that machine, I heard the glop, glop glop of the concentrate chunks plopping into my glass, and I was morified! On occasion we’d have apple juice or cranberry juice from concentrate and I would just mix the too-concentrated output from the machine with some water. That was good enough and fulfilled my fruit juice craving.

I’d mentioned a couple weeks ago my excitement at getting some orange juice when I went to the Carefour store off base. Starting on March 10th, these cute little baby cartons appeared in the beverage cases in our dining halls here. YAY! And it’s my favorite kind, super-pulpy!

From 2009 03 18 OJ

We get milk here in the form of little 8 oz. bottles (actually, I think it’s 225 ml). Whole, 2%, skim, chocolate and strawberry. It’s all very good, but my stomach has a hard time with other-than-skim milk, so I stick with skim in my cereal. Or a bottle with my dinner.

Apparently I’m not the only one who prefers skim milk, we run out about 1-2 days per month. That’s a little frustrating because it’s very important to me to keep up with my calcium. But of course I survive!
I’ve started getting pretty creative in my meals lately — they’ve fully cycled through the menus here several times. Tonight I made a BLT sandwich: lettuce, tomato, wheat bread from the deli bar, some bacon from the breakfast bar. That was quite tasty.
Earlier this week I had a breakfast burrito. I asked the short-order grillmaster to scramble me an egg with a sausage patty chopped up into it, with some tomato and green pepper. Served it up in a tortilla wrap with some salsa. That’s a also very good.
I think I’ve grown weary of not knowing exactly what’s in my food. Call me a control freak: when I’m cooking at home, I make a point to know the ingredients of everything I make, but when faced with a dining hall serving up comfort foods like chicken-fried steak with pepper gravy, you don’t know any more about what’s going into you than at a diner. The food might be super-yummy at times, but I simply can’t make a habit of it.
I work a desk job, I sit on my butt for 75-90% of my time on shift. I make a point to work out 5-6 times per week, so I’m not gaining weight, but I’m definitely not losing weight either.
Like the laundry — having the food cooked for me, while it’s great for the Lazy Lady side of Major Mom, leaves me with a loss of control. I cannot wait to be home again to cook for the family and myself!
11. March 2009 · Comments Off on Pictures from After Howie’s Surgery · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: ,

I’ve corrected the coding errors. Sorry ’bout that. Click the link in the lower left to see a better version of the photo album.

07. March 2009 · 4 comments · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , ,
I’m seem to be suffering some sort of insomnia. I’ve not gotten more than 3-4 hours’ sleep per night this past week, except for one night — a night off — where I made things worse by sleeping right through till almost morning. This is bad because I work nights here.

So I’m living that quote above. I remember once learning that if you cannot sleep, your body can still get rest by just remaining still in the dark.

That’s easier said than done. There are several contributors to the insomnia — working night shifts is a start. Also, I think as I get older I’m developing an oversensitivity to caffeine. Over the past 2 weeks I’ve been compensating for the lack of sleep by consuming more and more caffeine: diet sodas, coffee, chocolate…

Yesterday, because we were showing around some visitors from the U.S., I needed to stay awake all day after working overnight. So I consumed some 2 large coffees, 2 or 3 cans of Diet Pepsi, ahem, Pepsi Diet, and also this beverage called “Rip It”…and energy drink that’s provided to us in the dining halls here. Really. You will see on this website that Rip It “Fuels Our Heroes”…

Then I turn around and try to go to sleep before all that caffeine works out of my body. So even though I was playing Patricia-the-Bobble-Head in the meetings — as were our visitors who were suffering horrific jet lag, I would lie in the dark and be alone with my thoughts and frustrations.

So after my 2-3 hours sleep Friday evening, I awakened at 11pm with a resolve to go into work and not consume any caffeine during my shift.

I did not do well. It was horrible. I must have faded in and out several dozen times. I hadn’t been this tired since Timmy was a baby, and I certainly hadn’t felt this tired doing critical Air Force work in over a decade! I’d be sitting at my workstation, staring at weather charts, and out of nowhere it would be 10 minutes later. Did I fall asleep? Was I just staring at the computer screen? The good news was that I didn’t miss any of my tasks during the shift, but I certainly looked foolish swooning all over the place…my workstation is alongside a high-traffic pathway and who knows who saw me.

(My boss here is now a Facebook friend and might be reading this — hey Matt! Don’t worry, everything got done!)

The good news is that I thought I would have had a blinding headache, but I don’t. I think getting the caffeine out of my system is all I need to do, and I will stick to one good-sized coffee per day, 1-2 hours after I awaken, as I typically do at home.

I’m barely awake enough to finish typing up this blog entry, but I have about 30 more minutes on the clothing in the dryer.

Yes, I’m currently doing my own laundry. I’m living in Rose’s dorm and I get to do my own laundry! As you might remember from my previous post about the laundry, although I thought I would absolutely LOVE the idea of laundry service, it’s not all it’s cracked up to be and I’m thrilled to get to do my own this morning.

Also, the civilian wireless connections on this base have been giving me a lot of problems, so I’m limited in my blog posts for now to e-mail only. In other words, I am able to e-mail text to my Blogger account and it posts automatically. I’m also about to set up the ability to e-mail Twitter updates, which tie into the Twitter widget on the right side of the blog and my Facebook status. These posts are also auto-forwarded to Facebook.

Anyhoo, enjoy this blog post and I hope to come back to you soon with some fresh photos and an update on Howie!

04. March 2009 · 2 comments · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: ,

So many of you know and love our Howie-the-Wonderdog.

From Howie

From Howie

Howie apparently blew out his knee while running around in our backyard on Tuesday night. We’re guessing he was chasing squirrels, they are the bane to his existence! He was hit by a car while chasing a squirrel in 2002. He now cannot put weight on one of his hind legs. We ended up cutting our weekly webcam session short Tuesday night when the boys alerted Dave that Howie was walking funny after coming in from the yard.

Dave took Howie to the vet Wednesday and was told that Howie’s knee was “blown out” and he’d need surgery to repair it. The vet used an ACL injury analogy that you often hear associated with professional football players.

And even with the repair, we will have to be careful with him for several months.

I talked to Dave on the phone today so he could explain to me with more detail what’s going on…he’s scheduled the surgery on Monday. Dave will also have to explain to the boys what will be going on with Howie, and that it’ll be very very important that he not exert too much pressure on his sore leg after the procedure. Dave will have to carry Howie quite a bit.

I’m very distraught that this had to happen while I’m away…I’m definitely hoping for the best, from what the vet has said, this is a routine injury and is a routine procedure to repair him. Dave seems to have the situation under control…I wish he could just have a normal week. I don’t think there’s been a week without crisis, illness or injury since I’ve left just after New Year’s!

04. March 2009 · Comments Off on This Week with David Brinkley…I mean, with Major Mom · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , , ,

I’ve laid low from the web lately. Partly on purpose, partly because the WiFi hotspot has been acting strangely. So here’s a summary of what I’ve been up to this week (omitting job-related stuff, obviously):

First off, a friend from when we were stationed in FL came over from a nearby base for a visit. She came over two Fridays in a row — Friday being her day off. The first time she came was to see a couple of us, and by her next visit, 5-6 other people had caught wind of her first visit and convinced her to spend the entire day on our base, catching all of us as we were migrating through our various shift schedules. Yes, she’s that popular 🙂

Her name is Kasi and we had a great time together in Florida. Here is a picture of the two of us in front of the dining hall, one of the few places we’re allowed to be photographed:

From 2009 02 27 Kasi_Patricia_AUAB

Just like how I have to wear civilian clothing when I go off base, she had to also for her visit over to here. Kasi’s been training for numerous triathalons when she gets home to the Washington, D.C. area this summer and her fit lifestyle and new boyfriend have been doing her very well!

On Monday, I got to take another trip off base, this time with my colleague on the weather night shift, Mike, and the night shift JAG, Brad. The point of the trip was to give Mike, our relative newcomer, a windshield tour of the city. Unfortunately, we had another pesky duststorm and we were a little limited. We went to the Villagio Mall again, and did some driving around downtown, and had lunch at a lovely hole-in-the-wall diner-type joint in the ‘burbs.

Meet Brad. It turns out he’s also stationed at Offutt and lives in a neighborhood very close to ours. We arrived the same week and I really enjoy talking to him — he’s one of the coolest JAGs I’ve ever met! I apologize for the picture of him stuffing his face, but I more want to point out the mixed dips and flatbread we had with lunch. This was SO GOOD!

From 2009 03 02 Doha_BradMike

And here I am enjoying it too, but you couldn’t see the mixed dips as well:

From 2009 03 02 Doha_BradMike

We also enjoyed a “mixed meat” grill, which was an assortment of lamb, beef and chicken kabobs, served with vegetables and more flatbreads, as well as chicken “shwarmas”, which are like chicken lettuce wraps. When all was said and done, it came to about $8 per person for an incredible amount of food!

I had some sleep issues this past week. In part from my off-base trip, but also in general, some temperature changes and some back problems posed challenges. For about 5 days straight, I was getting 4-5 hours of sleep per night. It used to be just once a week or so…such as after a trip off base and we’d get back sorta late. But after 5 days of it, I was a zombie by Monday night’s shift and I had a pretty tough time staying focused while on shift.

Thankfully, my sleep on Tuesday was wonderful, and I was able to get 8-9 hours of rest, and was so happy to see my boys on the webcam early Wednesday morning.

For the first time, Timmy cried while on the webcam and it nearly snapped my heart in two. He said the reason he was upset was because Daddy and I kept talking and he wanted to tell me something, but usually he can use his words to express himself that way, so the tears were definitely building up for some time.

So many other folks here with young children have told me about their kids having tearful episodes on the webcam right away, so I was considering myself pretty fortunate…they were right, it’s pretty emotional when it happens. Timmy was pretty strong, though, he took himself off the camera for 2-3 minutes, and then he came back to us with a big smile on his face, and he told me about his new friend at child care. Unfortunately, I didn’t understand his new friend’s name that well, it sounds foreign, like “Najoon”, but I did understand when he said his new friend’s name’s first letter is “N” and the second letter is “J”. So maybe it was “Njune?”

Timmy also told me I’d been gone 56 days. According to the count they’re doing, I’ll be gone 44 more days, but I think it’ll be more like 39 if I can help it. I won’t have any exact information until April, but based on what I’m seeing with the inbound/outbound flight schedules, I’m encouraged that I’ll be away for less than 100 days…

The temperatures are on the rise here. We got up to 93 last Saturday before noon (Feb. 28th), but then a duststorm came through and plummeted the temperature a whopping 12 degrees! But with the wind it made quite the difference. We’re still in a cool spell, but I think by this weekend it’ll be consistently in the 90s every afternoon. Unlike Iraq and Saudi Arabia’s hot, dry weather, we’re close enough to the Persian Gulf that we can get a bit of humidity here, too. I see my uniforms needing to be washed a lot more often, I was soaked in sweat just walking from work to my dorm at 8:30am on Saturday.

This upcoming week brings several diversions that definitely helps with the routine around here. Tomorrow I get to move into Rose’s dorm room while she gets a 2 week vacation. Rose is assigned here for a year, so it’s one of the benefits of commiting oneself for that long. Another perk is that her dorm is more like a suite hotel-type accomodation. I’ll take some pictures when I move in…I’m very much looking forward to a semi-private bathroom and kitchenette, a dinette set, a small easy chair in the room, and limited in-room Internet access. It’s government Internet, which blocks many sites, such as my blog, but I’ll be able to get into e-mail much easier.

Also, we have a number of visitors coming in from the states this week to visit with the weather teams stationed in the Middle East. As one of the few token reservists here, I’ve sought some advice from my commander and Senior NCOs as to what I should/shouldn’t discuss in terms of reservist issues. To be honest, we don’t have much — we’re an easy bunch, but I hope I get a chance to voice our concerns.

Such diversions to the schedule significantly help my attitude here. This past week was my toughest yet in terms of keeping my spirits up. I started eating poorly (no veggies or fruit, too much dessert), wasn’t motivated to exercise, and was frustrated from the lack of sleep. Those three factors together were toxic to my attitudes about everything else. I was decidedly crankier and folks started to notice. I think the sleep and eating have been improved, and today I ran 5 miles and did some bicep/chest weight training. I feel great right now!

Time for post-workout shower and lunch! Taco bar at the dining hall — I make myself a Moe’s style burrito!

01. March 2009 · 4 comments · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , ,

Books Read on this Deployment

1.) The Marching Season, Daniel Silva: 16 Jan 09
2.) Angels and Demons, Dan Brown: 20 Jan 09
3.) Deception Point, Dan Brown: 25 Jan 09
4.) The Other Boleyn Girl, Phillipa Gregory: 3 Feb 09
5.) Marley & Me, John Grogan: 5 Feb 09
6.) Cruel and Unusual, Patricia Cornwell: 11 Feb 09
7.) Point of Origin, Patricia Cornwell: 21 Feb 09
8.) Black Notice, Patricia Cornwell: 1 Mar 09