My Favorite Squids

Well.

You all may have noticed a distinct upturn in readership as a result of my last post (I certainly did. I had to turn the Word Press notifications off on my phone after the torrent of Navy haters, Navy good sports, and Army supporters leaving comments woke me up in the middle of the night. And two hours before I had to get up for PT, too; somebody call the waaaambulance for me, please.)

But letting a few rude middies ruin it for the rest of them is like letting a couple of burnt kernels ruin an otherwise delicious bag of popcorn (I don’t know why the popcorn analogy. Probably because we’re fresh out of the Christmas movie season but I could still go for some theater-popped goodness covered in butter) and we can’t have that.

Several people lamented the way I poked fun at Navy’s mascot, uniforms, traditions, etc. blah blah blah. Aren’t we all supposed to be on the same team??? How can we defeat the terrorists if an Army officer makes fun of the Navy football team??? How dare you drink at a football game as a 24-year-old officer off duty! I’m a former Naval officer and graduate of the Naval Academy – but I can’t go to bed now, honey; someone on the Internet is WRONG!

I get it. We are all on the same team when it comes to being proud members of America’s armed forces. But unless we strike up a friendly game of football with Team Bin Laden or the Saddam Squad and Navy is playing them, I am going to root against Navy football. I just am. I want Navy to lose frequently, and to Army, always. Forever and ever, the end.

But, having said that, there are several former midshipmen and current members of the Navy of whom I am rather fond. Here are the ones topping the charts:

LYZZY

This lovely woman is Lyzzy, USNA Class of 2010. The Lord gave her a beautiful singing voice, luscious blonde locks, and the good sense to cross-commission into the Army. She actually did it since HUMINT wasn’t open to females in the Marine Corps at the time and that was what she wanted to pursue. She spent her first deployment as a source analyst working solely with human intelligence personnel.

Lyzzy was in Glee Club at West Point her first semester of her junior year while I was a plebe (freshman). She lived in the same building I did, and if I ever ran into her in the hallways she’d talk to me like a real person instead of the pond scum that plebes really are at West Point, and for that I adored her.

Did I mention she’s amazing?

And, per her request: “Ok! I hate to say it, but please include that I still love my Navy roots and will always cheer for Navy…no matter how sad it makes my husband and friends.” (Lyzzy married a West Point grad. Smart lady.)

MATT

Matt was an semester exchange from Navy who was in my company when we were both first semester juniors. He lived one floor below me and was actually Manfriend’s squad leader that semester. Manfriend benefitted from Matt’s leadership skillz, and I benefitted from his friendship. We sat at the same lunch and dinner table and he made life more bearable on crappy days.

Matt is currently being a badass as the Anti Submarine Warfare officer on a destroyer based out of Japan. He also told me he was a boarding officer onboard, which was “semi-interesting.” Actually, it’s really interesting. I had to look it up because he didn’t explain what it meant but one definition I found said it was “a naval officer detailed to board an incoming ship to provide local information (as to the ceremonies or honors expected, uniforms required, or facilities available).” Basically an ambassador of land to those at sea/pretty freaking cool.

Matt’s pretty easy to get along with. He even told me he did “not mind one bit to be one of your favorite squids,” which I thought was quite generous.

MELANIE

Melanie was another semester exchange middie that I met when she was in Glee Club the first semester of my sophomore year. Sometimes she gets these really adorably uncontrollable hiccups, which were only minorly disruptive when we were singing warm-up scales, but infinitely entertaining nonetheless. Last year Melly was the accompanist for the Naval Academy Glee Club when they sang for George Bush Senior.

She gets some pretty sweet close-up action in THIS video at 1:14 of the Glee Club singing at West Point on Veteran’s Day a few years ago.

Aaaand this is her with Patrick Stewart. (That sound was me collapsing into a heap of jealousy on the floor.)

BRANDON

I knew Brandon in high school, when we did Civil War reenacting together (yes, that is a real thing; yes, I participated; see, it happened:

Get over it). We had super big crushes on each other, but I went to West Point and he enlisted in the Navy and now he’s married and I’m engaged and so that ship has sailed (ha, ha). When I asked if I could include him in my blog entry he said of course, and as for the hate mail, well: “See Kelley? That’s what happens when Army loses and you all don’t let it go right away, hah!”

Brandon is now a Navy Corpsman, Petty Officer 3rd Class. Apparently in the Navy, they use their jobs as ranks, so he’s actually a Hospitalman 3rd Class (HM3). This means he deals with anything medical. They work in hospitals, on ships, and can be attached to the Marine Corps as medical attaches. Brandon currently works as a Navy Psychiatric Technician. When I asked for more details he told me to look up Navy Corpsman on Wikipedia. So much for interviewing and going straight to the source.

This is him and his wife, who’s also in the Navy:

Brandon is actually Canadian, born and bred, but he’s a smart Canadian, which is why he lives in America. He asked me to mention that he is “extraordinarily proud to be serving in the United States Armed Forces and to be serving her people.” Happy to have him aboard, eh?

HUNTER

I love this picture because this is how we all felt at graduation but only a few people actually showed it so clearly.

Hunter was a semester exchange student from Navy in the second semester of his junior year and my senior year. He was in the elective I took with a bunch of my friends, Film and Film Theory.

That class was delightful. We were a bunch of burnt out seniors ready to get the hell out of West Point with our undergrad degrees and commissions in hand, so we thought we’d watch a few movies and overwhelm the class with our senioritis superiority.

We were mistaken. The focus of the class turned out to be foreign films, so instead of just analyzing and discussing cinematography, camera angles, and soundtracks, we had to read the whole movie in the subtitles. I was a very attentive student; during one film “lab” when we watched the Kurdish war film “Turtles Can Fly” (no they can’t, and spoiler alert: everyone dies) I took some notes, read the movie synopsis online, rearranged my kingdom in Castleville, and filed my taxes. (Sorry, COL Nelson. I really did learn things, I promise.)

Anyway, Hunter was one of the few males in a predominantly female class (a definite rarity at the service academies). He later admitted to us when we were celebrating our end-of-the-semester project in a local bar that we had contradicted what he had heard about West Point girls (i.e., we’re all ugly). He then proceeded to accurately classify each of us as not-a-bitch, a bitch, and sometimes-a-bitch. (I was sometimes-a-bitch, in case you were wondering, and mostly due to my pretentious use of academic jargon in class.) His honesty about our personalities, his admittance that there were actually five attractive West Point female cadets in a single class hour, and his excellent sense of humor has won him a place on this list.

Hunter studied English (literature and poetry) at Annapolis and completed his senior thesis on Irish poet W.B. Yeats. He branched into the Marine Corps out of the Naval Academy instead of opting for a specific branch in the Navy. He’s currently attending The Basic School (TBS), which is similar to the Army’s basic officer leader course for the Infantry (IBOLC). “All officers go because every Marine is grounded in basic infantry skills,” Hunter explained. His course at Quantico, VA lasts six months. While at TBS, Marines compete for their specific job within the Marines. Hunter was just assigned as a Comptroller (Finance) and will report to his unit after he completes his finance-specific training.

Hunter loves America and the ladies of COL Nelson’s Film and Film Theory Class in Spring 2012 love Hunter.

**

Honorable mentions go to Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra as sailors:

‘Cause yay.

Happy 2014, everyone! Stay tuned for the story of how I recently became affianced to Manfriend and also read 100 books in 2013. Adventures abound.

9 Comments

January 8, 2014 · 6:36 pm

Ten Ways Army Won

Here’s the thing about the Army football team: it’s reallyreally bad. As far as the score goes, Army has lost to Navy in one of the biggest rivalries in college football for the twelfth consecutive year. But if you look a little more closely, you’ll see that there are a few ways Army actually did win the game this past Saturday.

10. We didn’t wear flair on our uniforms

Navy flair...?

What is this garbage? This is not Applebee’s.

We don’t want to see your personality, Navy; we already know that it sucks.

9. We didn’t look like drunk toddlers during march-on

This happens every year. Everyone always says that Army wins the march-on, but it is so true. I’m honestly not expecting the midshipmen to look as sharp as the cadets; West Point has the Corps marching for a couple of hours each night (regardless of rain, wind or snow) the week leading up to the game to make sure they look good for the main event.

Based on Navy’s march-on performance, I’d say they prepare by giving everyone a shot of whiskey, injecting their legs with a numbing solution so they can’t walk in a straight line, then making them spin in circles for a few minutes before they get into formation.

Seriously.

This:

Compared to this:

Sloppy, Navy. Sloppy.

8. We didn’t look like sullen teenagers in the stands

To be fair, would you really be interested in hanging out in Lincoln Financial Field for nine hours straight in the snow when you knew you were going to win anyway? Probably not. But I’m not here to be fair. I’m here to talk about how much better Army is than Navy (at everything but football).

An anaology:

Army fans

Navy fans

It was pretty pitiful how much they didn’t care.

7. This

This didn’t happen at the game. But these guys are in the Navy.

I’m glad I’m not in the Navy.

6. Goats

The Army mascot isn’t something majestic, like a bald eagle. Or even something super exciting and exotic, like a dinosaur (this raises the point about why aren’t more mascots big, scary dinosaurs? but that’s another question for another post). But it does look pretty good at games nonetheless.

This demon-animal is Navy’s mascot:

Gross.

This is a cringe-worthy animal if ever I saw one. In fact, I’m pretty sure every time they showed the Navy goat onscreen at the game, there was a collective cringe from everyone inside Lincoln Financial Field unfortunate enough to see that scraggly, nasty thing blown up to the size of a barn.

Actually, there’s a long history of Navy mascots looking stupid next to Army’s mascots at the Army-Navy Game. Observe:

Sweet pants, Navy.

5. We weren’t bad sports.

If nothing else, losing has certainly taught us sportsmanship. Winning twelve years in a row has apparently only taught the midshipmen how to act like (pardon me) ass clowns on national television.

At the end of the game, when we sang our Alma Mater, despite the freezing rain coming down on their heavy, soaked overcoats, the cadets I saw all stood ramrod straight and sang along. Then, after it was over and we had to listen to the mids sing “Navy Blue and Gold” AGAIN, the cadets remained at attention and gave the appropriate respect to the other service academy.

Stay classy, West Point. Navy, you keep up your traditions; you don’t look at all ridiculous.

(For the record, “Navy Blue and Gold” is my least favorite song. Hearing it sung is more painful than listening to Taylor Swift songs on repeat while someone runs their nails down a chalkboard and a thousand microphones screech with feedback simultaneously.)

4. COL Ragsdale

Colonel Ragsdale loves Army football about as much as I love chocolate chip cookies, naptime, and Oxford commas…which is a lot.

You always win for high spirits when COL Ragsdale is at an Army game.

I plan on making faces like this someday when I’m in labor.

3. General Odierno

Another BAMF that Army gets to claim for their own. General Odierno was at the game on Saturday too, making everyone else on the field look like puny mortals (all football players included) and just generally being awesome. I think what I like best about General Odierno is that he takes the time to meet and speak with Soldiers, officers, cadets, and families and listen to their concerns and suggestions, but he could also turn around and kick a terrorist in the face. That’s what I want to be when I grow up: a well-groomed, friendly, badass motherfucker. I’ll have to settle for being a miniature version though, because I don’t think I’m going to grow another two or three feet in this lifetime.

Happy Ray

Happy Ray

Intellectual Ray

Intellectual Ray

Ray don't care

Ray don’t care

This is how I know he’s a good dude, because he rocks his ACU fleece with all his stars. I don’t have any stars, but I likewise enjoy wearing my ACU fleece in Arctic temperatures, such as may be found in my office at work.

Ray <3's his snuggy

Ray <3’s his snuggy

2. Former Army football players

Another thing that happened at the game that was special (and due entirely to Army being classy and full of badassery) was when these guys stood out on the field and GEN Odierno and SGM Chandler shook their hands while the announcers told the spectators who they were and what they had done. Each one was a combat veteran, and the fewest number of Bronze Stars any one of them had was three. One guy had SIX, and one for valor. Oh yeah, and they were all former Army football players.

General Odierno is a BAMF

Their stories (however brief) made me proud to be a West Pointer, an Army officer, and an American. Also I was glad (again and forever) that I’m not in the Navy.

1. Hot chocolate plus

Technically this point does not apply to Army, but since I’m in the Army and it applies to me, I’m including it, because this was my biggest win of the day (other than not being in the Navy, but that’s a win every day, hallelujah, praise the Lord).

Two years ago, when the game was in D.C., they sold hot chocolate with Bailey’s in the stadium. This year, in Philly, they did not.

But I came prepared.

Always ready

The only real upside that I found to wearing enough clothing to last me a week at one time just to stay warm was that there was plenty of space to hide miniature bottles of alcohol. Great success.

I alternated the whole game between this:

And this:

(click for animation)

**

Bonus point:

This hat.

Just no.

Just no.

I saw four of these at the game on Saturday. I don’t know why the Navy fans think it’s a good idea to wear this horrifying thing on their heads, but I was certainly relieved not to see any mules bobbing through the crowd on the heads of Army fans.

Manfriend summed it up pretty well: “That’s one of those things where you can’t decide if you should put a picture of it online so everyone can see it and know how not-okay it is…or we should burn them all, so no one ever has to see that hat again.”

The really bad news is that this is not a niche item. If it was one of those things that someone had made so there were only two or three of these monstrosities in the world, it might not be so bad. Tragically, however, these little horrors are available for only twenty bucks: it’s true!

We won just by not having any of our fans wear anything this horrendous.

**

Don’t get me wrong: I hate Navy. I hate their team. I hate their songs. I hate the way they whoop at us. I hate their ugly goats. I really really really want to hurry up and start winning. Not just winning either, but destroying them in the Army-Navy game while still being a bunch of classy ladies and gents.

Admittedly, losing sucks. I’m not here to offer excuses for Army’s poor performance against Navy for a gajillion years in a row. I just want to remind everyone that there are worse things in life…like being in the Navy. Beat ’em.

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The Top Five Most Embarrassing Books I Almost Wrote

I am a writer. And when I grow up, I want to get paid beaucoup bucks to write. I want to buy my parents new houses sans mortgage and I want to fly all over the world at a moment’s notice and never sit in coach again.

But until such time as my writing is supporting me in a manner to which I plan to become accustomed, I maintain a sense of humor about my changing ideas and abilities.

To that end, I present to you the five most embarrassing books I almost wrote.

5. The Playhouse

This one isn’t terrible, more like just terribly BORING. It started out as this wandering, reminiscent narrative about a little girl who gets a playhouse for her birthday. She lived with her mother in a small house in the poorer part of town, and her mother was working three jobs and barely making ends meet. The girl had never met her father, but he was out there somewhere, as evidenced by the beautiful, intricately made pink playhouse that arrived on a large truck the morning of her eighth birthday.

I don’t know why he sent it. I don’t know why he was rich and they were poor. I don’t know why he sent the playhouse instead of a freaking check since they were practically dressing like hobos but bearing their poverty with as much dignity as possible, but that’s what happened.

I digressed to discussing the decline of the neighborhood; the setup of their shabby but somehow charming home; how the mother was always so tired but hopeful that someday her daughter would have a better future. Really original. Really riveting stuff.

The mother was beautiful and hardworking and kind. The daughter was spunky and helpful. The mystery father was enigmatic but not in a “don’t go in that haunted house or evil spirits will chop you up kind of way.” More like a “oh look! it’s Casper the Friendly Ghost!” kind of way; you don’t really understand him, you just like him.

I have no idea where the notebook is that I filled with pages and pages of drivel about the beautiful, hardworking, kind mother and her spunky, helpful daughter, but all I can think is that she should have probably been pissed if this bad boy rolled up on her daughter’s birthday instead of a check:

Playhouse10_full

I mean, come on.

tumblr_moepwy5jKN1ru8w1ro1_400

Get out that checkbook and get with the program, Casper the Friendly Ghost/Baby Daddy, or Mama is about to chop up that sucker and sell it for firewood.

Also, get real, eighth-grade self. Your story sucks.

4. Untitled Bodice Ripper

I was in kindergarten when my youngest sister was born. My parents kept no secrets from us about the birds and the bees. They told us: you’re going to have a little brother or sister and this is how he or she got here. Well the sneaky part about all that up-front medical talk about eggs and stuff was that it was actually over my head, and so it was more theoretical than informative at the time, even if I did spend an unnatural amount of time calling my classmates “dummy” because they thought the baby was in my mom’s tummy and I knew it was in her uterus (real charmer I was).

I continued in my trend of theoretical rather than practical knowledge as I grew up. We didn’t have sex ed in school because I went to Jesus Schools and in Jesus School all they really tell you about sex is DON’T and if you have any further questions you may consult your parents or your pastor. Mostly what I had from my parents was scientific, and I preferred it that way.

So at a time when many of my peers were feeling each other up in dark movie theaters or ditching their v-cards before they had their drivers licenses, I was reading teen historical romance novels. They look pretty much the same as the adult historical romance novels and follow basically the same plot lines: smart, innocent (but secretly sexy) female lead is secretly/illicitly in love/lust with the hunky, usually tortured/secretive/rich male lead who is either a duke or a viscount or an assassin or something and their uncle or aunt or father or somebody doesn’t want them together and someone always almost dies but eventually they get married and there are at least three major sexytime scenes either pre- or post-wedding night (and one of them is often the wedding night, in which they consummate their burning attraction for one another. Caution: popping buttons and broken corset strings may follow).

The the major difference between the adult novels and the teen novels is that the teen protagonists mostly just get kissed passionately in carriages while the adult protagonists engage in actual intercourse in carriages. These types of books comprised the majority of my teen sex ed, along with a few doses of Cosmo and Redbook, which I actually found horrifyingly graphic and vaguely nauseating until I was about twenty-two. C’est la vie.

Anyway, my mass consumption of these novels (I could zip through one in an afternoon or so) resulted in me deciding to write my own Regency tale about a smart, innocent (but secretly sexy) girl who meets a hunky guy in a bookstore and OF COURSE he is taken with her immediately and wants to take her on a magic carpet ride and show her the world and stuff. Except it was in Regency London so instead he tries to dance with her at every ball during the Season and offers her a lot of punch and tries to get her to sneak onto balconies with him “to get some fresh air.” …riiiiiiight.

My book essentially amounted to a re-hashing of my favorite steamy scenes from various romance novels I’d read. The guys hardly ever even copped a feel, but all that heavy breathing and passionate kissing seemed pretty intense to me at the time.

(Fun fact, this one was my favorite for quite some time:

Anna and the Duke

Anna was a sassy mcsass skirt who read sexy Scottish poetry so I was a big fan. I also liked her silky ribbons and dainty gloves. I was also embarrassingly rather taken by Teen Fabio’s swishy hair and excellent coattails.)

This prose was discarded circa 2007 so no, you can’t read it.

3. I Can Hear Voices a.k.a. The One About Abortion

When I was fifteen I wrote what I thought was a heart-wrenching short story about a fetus who (spoiler alert) is aborted by his/her teen mother. Parts of it were pretty good but most of it was overdone and melodramatic. I probably could have turned it into something rather touching without losing its aestheticism, but instead I went the overdone and melodramatic route.

I expanded the short story so you could get more of the background about how the mother fell for the guy and had bad, evil premarital sex and then was impregnated out of wedlock, because obviously everyone who has bad, evil premarital sex will INSTANTLY BECOME IMPREGNATED and be left with no choice but to abort the baby.

I’m being a little dramatic here, but it is only to emphasize how bad and dramatic the actual story itself was. Someone probably could write a gripping account of a fetus listening to its mother discuss with other people about whether or not she should abort the baby. Unfortunately, that person was not fifteen-year-old me.

Another one for the slush pile.

2. Once Upon A Time

I started this gem in the fifth grade. It was originally intended to be a short fairy tale, but I kept it on a floppy disk and every so often all the way through sixth grade, I’d pop that puppy into the family Windows 98 and add a few paragraphs to the bloated Word document until the clever, heartfelt short story I began at age 10 had turned into a raging monster of flowery descriptions and prepubescent romantic longings of a very sheltered 12-year-old.

It started out as the story of two sisters, Grace and Estrella. (ESTRELLA MEANS STAR IN SPANISH SO ISN’T THAT A PRETTY NAME?! said fifth-grade self. Vomit.) They’re princesses (of course). Grace is blind and Estrella is not and since they’re twins I guess that’s how you can tell them apart. Except randomly in the story Grace’s parents pay for her to have a very expensive surgery in another country to restore her sight and then the twins are the same and neither one of them is blind.

Let’s pause.

This is a fairy tale. As in, a tale about magic.

And her parents…paid for an expensive surgery to restore her sight? No fairy dust? No genie wishes? No enchanted stream in an enchanted forest? I was an imaginative and romantic child, but I think this plot choice demonstrates a fatal lack of appropriate sentimentality in one of my early works.

Anyway the non-blind sisters go about their merry lives until one day the spoiled Prince Calvineero (because God forbid his name just be Calvin or Cal; it just had to be short for something) comes to visit as a potential suitor for one of the girls. Eventually through a series of sickeningly sweet and unrealistic encounters the three become friends, but love blooms between Calvin and Estrella. So when they get a little older they are married and Cal sweeps Princess It-Means-Star-In-Spanish off to his amazing kingdom. And there were no hard feelings about Grace being left to become an old maid, because the hot prince didn’t want her even though she wasn’t even blind anymore.

Then one night Grace is missing her sister who has gone far away with her true love to be a princess somewhere else, so she starts crying. You would think that crying in the privacy of your fancy princess bedroom late at night in your parents’ fancy castle wouldn’t be a big deal, but apparently Grace’s weeping disturbs an evil spirit whose origins go unexplained for the duration of this magical tale.

He magics himself into her bedroom (creepy) and starts hissing at her about her “pathetic sniveling” disturbing him or something. So to punish her he seals her lips. When he figures out that she was crying because of her sister, he says he will kill her sister (totally makes sense, right?). Then he disappears. Then Grace has to go on these quests to save her sister’s life because obviously she is super noble and brave because she had surgery to make her eyes better and also wasn’t even jealous when the hot prince chose her sister instead of her.

Let’s pause again. Around this time in real life, Star Wars: Episode II came out in theaters. My older sister and I were COMPLETELY INFATUATED with Teen Anakin/Hayden Christensen. I don’t know. Maybe when you’re twelve the pouting and sulking and whining and creepy staring he does at Amidala is hot. It sure seemed that way then.

Anyway, we saw it in theaters over and over and waited for hours while video clips of that hunky Anakin loaded (remember when everybody had dial-up and it really did take hours to load videos? But we were devoted and he was always worth the wait). And so, oddly enough, in my story, the brave questing Grace meets a stable boy who is training to become a member of an elite group of warriors within the kingdom. Of course they are not allowed to fall in love or marry or have families. So what do you think Grace and Hot Stable Boy/Warrior in Training do?

Duh, they fall in love.

And of course I write scenes inspired by classics such as these:

Star Wars love 1 Star Wars love 2

Because at the time, the costumes and scenery seemed incredibly picturesque. And naturally, there’s just somethin’ about good, old fashioned forbidden love.

I don’t know what ever became of Princess No-Longer-Blind Grace (definitely didn’t use that plot device to its fullest potential) or Princess Estrella (who evidently had ZERO personality, but maybe that’s what Cal liked about her), but I will say this: if you ever find this floppy disk, I feel sorry for you.

1. On Thin Ice

This is the most embarrassing and potentially dangerous admission of writerly failure, since this one was actually on the Internet at one point. The only good thing about the Great Hard Drive Crash of 2011 was that every single paragraph of horrible prose (and all the accompanying notes) were lost, Lord willing never to be recovered.

On Thin Ice was Harry Potter fanfiction.

Sister #3 and I went through an intense, vaguely disturbing phase between 2005 and 2006 in which we read as much Harry Potter fanfiction as we could find. And if you search for “Harry Potter fanfiction” you will quickly see that there is an absurd amount from which to choose. There are parodies, songs, stories about what would happen if Harry Potter characters were on game shows. There are crossovers between every imaginable book and TV show and movie. There are endless romantic pairings; some of them are sort of interesting to contemplate, while others are downright, abso-freaking-lutely NOT OKAY. (The one I always found the most disturbing was the Hermione/Snape. Yes. People went there. It was distressing.)

My story was about two sisters who transfer to Hogwarts from their magical school in the United States. The older sister was the same age as Harry and his classmates, but even though she was roomies with Hermione, Draco had a crush on her and was totes talking to her in the corridors all the time, because obviously that’s way more edgy than if she just met some nice boy or something.

There were a lot of bad things about this story. One of them was the absurd explanation about how their father had died and he was British or something and so now they were legacy kids or something and that’s why American children could now go to Hogwarts. Because….just because. Another bad thing about this story was how obnoxiously PEPPY the main character was, with her long, curly dark hair and signature red hair ribbon (not that I was sixteen with long, wavy hair and a propensity for wearing hair ribbons to match my school uniform. Nope.). It wasn’t even the inane conversation the main character carries on with her new Gryffindor buddies in the compartment on the way to school about “gits” and “prats” and other British slang.

It was the sport I invented.

In case you haven’t picked up on this yet, I’m basically a lost cause when it comes to sports. But apparently I thought I could just invent a wizarding sport and it would be pretty sweet. It was called Bellorum, which means ‘of wars’ or something stupid in Latin. It was played on ice, and it was fast and exciting, but MOST IMPORTANTLY the girls could wear leggings or swishy skirts and there were endless opportunities for my long-haired main character to whip her lovely locks around while playing this wizarding sport on ice and making all the boys drop dead with longing at her ice skate-clad feet.

ice skating

The combination of this aesthetics-rule-all sport and the stacks and stacks of cheesy romance novels that I devoured as a teenager suggest to me that I have an insidious streak of anti-girl power lying in wait somewhere within me.

OhmyGodwhatwaswrongwithme.

I am beginning to think that I overcompensated and attempted to quash these gooey, sentimental, girly tendencies by joining the Army. Whoops.

**

I issue to you an earnest request. For the good of both mankind and the future of literature, if you ever happen across any snippets of prose from the above tales, please destroy it immediately. Based on my descriptions, these stories sound pretty ridiculous, right? Badly written, indulgent and cringe-worthy. Well you know what? So are Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey and both those travesties of literature now have movie deals.

I want literary fame and a movie deal, but if the cost is the publication and subsequent adaptation of one of the above five books, I think I’ll just stick to Ramen and clipping coupons.

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A Missive from the Kingdom of Percocet: Days 2 & 3

Day Two of my Percocet-induced ramblings

Dear subjects,

Nurse Mommy just gave me my second dose of Percocet for the day. Percocet is great. It makes my knees feel tingly and makes my head feel like this:

Bugs Bunny

Also today one of my friends posted something and tagged my ex in it and every time someone does that I’m just like UGH GAG WHY ARE YOU EVEN FRIENDS WITH THAT JERKFACE. it doesn’t show up hyperlinked or whatever because I blocked that conspiracy-theorist-and-underappreciator-of-carbs AGES ago, but still, sometimes that stuff shows up. So when I see those horrendous posts I’m like:

tumblr_inline_mrh0gvaPJ31qz4rgp

tumblr_inline_msvy37TMrg1rnvwt1

nope

and then when the post goes away I can resume enjoying Facebook and when I’m on Percocet it’s like:

tumblr_inline_mp19rx6q7O1rnvwt1

Woot wooooooooooooooot

But really, I do that every time a post annoys me on Facebook. I just hide it. And then it goes away and I don’t have to see it anymore and it’s great. Why look at it if it’s annoying? I’ve tried unfriending repeat offenders but either they notice and refriend me or I know I can’t really get away with it so why bother? So then I just take them off my newsfeed entirely and I can forget we were friends to begin with. Deeeelightful. Then Facebook is fun again like it’s supposed to be.

I don’t get why people think they can affect change via Facebook. Remember that time when you were like, “wow, I think abortion is good!” and then someone posted an anti-abortion link and you were like, “wow, I guess I was wrong.” Or when you were an ardent fan of right-wing politics and someone posted an Obama-tastic rant and you were like, “gee, I really haven’t given this enough thought,” and you changed your entire political stance?!

NO. THAT DOES NOT HAPPEN. FACEBOOK IS FOR PICTURES OF WEDDINGS AND BABIES AND CATS DOING FUNNY THINGS. STOP TRASHING UP MY FACEBOOK NEWSFEED WITH YOUR INEFFECTUAL, SELF-SATISFIED, OBNOXIOUSLY RIGHTEOUS RANTS.

GUESS WHAT, PEOPLE.

Okay so back to how I lost all my wisdom.

You know the other thing I was worried about? I asked Mom if there was an escort for my surgery. She asked why. And I was like, “Um, duh, ‘cause what if I get date raped?”

Then she told me that was inappropriate and I think she considered confiscating the Chelsea Handler book I was reading at the time. So I kept my inappropriate suggestions to myself and iced my face and finished my book without further inappropriate commentary.

Okay so you know what is fun? Leaving the hospital in a wheelchair.

That was a new one for me, and the lady pushing my wheelchair must have been SPRINTING down the hallways because HOLY WHOA THAT WAS FUN. The wind in my hair! The air rushing past my gauze-packed, puffy face!

Then we went to get me a shake. And then there was more Percocet! And sooooooo many shakes. Also pudding. And jello. And ice cream. And these truly amazing ICEE popsicle things.

Basically I had a good day yesterday.

Today Mom is still spoiling me and taking excellently good care of me. She made me hand-mashed potatoes and cheese because I was having a sugar overload and they were DEEELICIOUS.

Also Mom called the people in the dental clinic dirty rotten liars because they said that my face would stop bleeding after a few hours and it didn’t stop bleeding until sometime late this morning, which was about twenty-four hours post-op. So if your definition of “a few hours” is “twenty-four hours or more” then yeah, I guess they were right. (Incidentally, my definition of “a few hours” is not “twenty-four hours or more” unless we’re talking about a lunch break or something.)

Also when we went to pick up another shake tonight and buy some soup, my mom said something that made me smile and she goes, “Oh, did you notice your smile is crooked?”

So I flipped down the mirror thingy and made a really hideous smile at the mirror and said, “AHHHHH! I look like I had a STROKE!”

And she started laughing and then composed herself and told me that I did not look like I had had a stroke and said that was also inappropriate. But for real, I have a hideous jawline right now. It is pretty manly. It would look really great on a cartoon MAN. Not on meeeeeee.

Basically if Johnny Bravo borrowed my chin he’d be all:

Johnny Bravo

Oh and did I tell you why I am mad at Ellen DeGeneres?

I applied over and over and over and over and OVER AGAIN on her website thingy where the form is all “know someone who needs a new car?” and Mom did NOT get a new car! That bad boy had over 230,000 miles on it and it was strug-ga-ling. It was missing a door handle on the passenger side and the window didn’t roll down on the driver’s side and some jerk knocked off the rearview mirror so she had drive around with a nifty duct tape do up on the side to keep the rearview mirror in place. It was rough.

Mama needed a new car. And Ellen did not give her one. What kind of world do we live in when one Ellen isn’t willing to help out another??

Sick, I tell you, sick.

But Mommy finally caved and got a deal on a car and replaced hers that was chugging along and her new car is sooo cute and she looks sooo cute in it.

Thusly:

chariot

Anyway, it is now time for another milkshake and that’s all I have for you, my loyal subjects today. The end!

**

Day Three

Just had dose numero dos of Percocet for the day. I’m in less pain than I was the first two days, so we cut my Percocet back. Consequently, I am much more sleepy and much less hilarious than I was for the first two days of recovery. I have also graduated from nothing but cold, sugary foods to soft scrambled eggs, potatoes, and a glorious bowl of mac’n’cheese, all ingested with extreme caution.

Yesterday around four p.m., however, I developed an extremely strong craving for pizza. I JUST WANT SOME DANG PIZZA. Reallyreally badly.

pizza plz

I have to wait though because I’m still like the turtle who can’t open its stupid mouth and also cannot chew.

I have spent most of the day timing my medicine intake (Mommy Nurse had to go back to work so I’m on my own now… DUN DUN DUNNNNNNNNNN) and alternating between reading Cosmo and To Kill A Mockingbird.

My thought process goes something like this –

COSMO: Hm. I should take better care of my cuticles.

MOCKINGBIRD: I should read more Pulitzer Prize winning novels if I ever think I’m going to write one.

COSMO: (while spooning a milkshake into my mouth) I should eat less. …nah.

MOCKINGBIRD: This book is so good, it’s just stupid. It is stupid how good this book is.

COSMO: I don’t know who this celebrity lady person is.

MOCKINGBIRD: Boo Radley is fun to say. Boo Radley Boo Radley Boo Radley.

COSMO: I want to be filthy rich when I grow up. Maybe I should pay more attention to this article about how JLo earned 35 million last year — oh look, another ad for shiny hair!

MOCKINGBIRD: (spooning shake with despair) I WILL NEVER WRITE A BOOK THAT IS THIS GOOD

COSMO: MY CUTICLES ARE NEVER GOING TO LOOK THAT GOOD

So then I gave up and watched three episodes of The Big Bang Theory and finished my shake in peace.

I have to go back to work tomorrow with my bruised jaw and Johnny Bravo face. It is very very sensitive so I shall have to guard it with great vigilance.

NOBODY TOUCH THE FACE.

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I don’t know why they would, but I’m just saying. Not a good idea to be up in my grill for the next couple of days.

Also it would be a great favor to me if you darlings who inhabit my kingdom and read these missives would “like” them on here instead of on Facebook and also comment because my younger sister is making fun of me and saying I lost my following and I think she’s a terrible subject and off with her head!

So that’s all.

Love,

the ruler of the Kingdom of Percocet

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This Message Brought to You from the Kingdom of Percocet

Note: Earlier this week I had my wisdom teeth removed. I spent most of the next seventy-two hours in what I named “the Kingdom of Percocet.” During that time I decided to blog. Luckily, I did not have the presence of mind to publish said blog entries. What follows is a version of what I wrote the day of my surgery with (most of) the inappropriate and some of the ridiculous commentary removed. (Also I couldn’t figure out how to add pictures into a post while I was on Percocet so if I had published them in their original state, they not only would have included lots of “LA LA LA LA I AM A GOOD SINGER LA LA LAAAAAAA” but they also would have said “ADD PICTURE HERE” whenever I wanted to add a picture.)

 

Hello dear subjects,

I am writing this missive from the Kingdom of Percocet, of which I am the sole, undisputed, puffy-faced but still completely endearing ruler.

I have some things I would like to discuss.

Number one. When you go to get your wisdom teeth out, unless you want some nervous resident to jab needles into your hands in a mislaid attempt to start an IV, don’t sign the release form that says you’re cool with it. I mean, I don’t really care. Personally, I was there to make some friends, because who doesn’t want to make friends with the people who are about to cut into your head and pull things out of it?? not me! Somebody told me it wasn’t facial surgery. Um. You are wrong. Why is it called oral and maxofilial or whatever it is surgery place at the hosptial if it is not facial? filial…brother…Latin root..something…facial. Face. Also my mouth is inside my face so it’s not even like they started at the outside and worked their way in. They just went right for the money shot, people!

But it was okay cause I wore my patriotic shoes. Mostly I wore them to keep my toes from getting cold because I have poor circulation in my phlanges or something but either way, it won me some fans. They were like, “oh I love your shoes!” and I was like, “and I love America!” and they laughed at me cause I am charming and have freckles on my nose and stuff.

(These are the shoes:

'murica shoes

AREN’T THEY WONDERFUL?)

Number two if you were wondering if surgery is like it is in the movies, it is not. I told them I wanted one of those rooms with the observation deck because my mother is a nurse and she was my responsible adult responsible for picking up my meds and driving me around and stuff (she has me on this super strict schedule of Percocet and Ibuprofen and something else that I think is supposed to fight infection with a rapier sword or something so it’s good because I have nooooooo idea what time it is or when I am supposed to take all these meds) and they laughed at me like it was not a serious request! Seriously people. You think I’m just going to go in there all unsupervised with you stranger dangers and let you perform surgery on my face?? I have fat thighs and a questionable propensity to retain water, which means my face is my best feature, which is why I believe most pictures of me should be from the shoulders up, kthanx. And you think you can just cut into it? You bitches be crazy!

Anyway so I lost that battle but you know, whatever. And then I wanted to know if they were going to make me count backwards to make sure I was asleep. If it was in English that would be okay, but I might struggle cause numbers are hard… so… Really though I was more worried they’d make me do it in Korean or Chinese but I don’t remember Korean backwards or Chinese forwards because I only did Tae Kwon Do for like four years and it was all in an East Texas accent and Chinese sneaked out of my brain one night when I wasn’t looking! So what if I was counting backwards, trying my darndest, and they thought I was pausing because I was drugged out and I was really just thinking really hard?!?

But yeah, I dunno, one second I was watching my vitals and admiring my low heart rate and blood pressure (brought to you by the migraine preventative propranolol!) and the next I knew I was waking up again! And there was gauze in my mouth! And I asked if I could see my teeth but I don’t think the lady took me seriously because I never did see my teeth so I don’t know where they went, probably to some tooth fairy mafia payoff or something, but anyway, then they put me in a wheelchair and wheeled me out of there real speedy quick and I waved goodbye to the nice lady at the front desk and I am pretty sure the lady pushing me was SPRINTING DOWN THE HALLWAY WITH ALL HER SPEEDY QUICKNESS because it was so fast and I was like, wheeeeee!!! And they laughed at me but it doesn’t matter because it is good to make people smile. Also Mom forgot to return the clear badge holder things to the security person at the door so now we are badge thieves.

But you know what? I think that is not even a fair trade for them not giving me my teeth because I think that would have been a better souvenir. I mean really. Two badges for four four teeth that have all my wisdom? No! That is not a fair trade!

Number three thing I would like to discuss. School zones.

What is up with those? Because for real, a school where there is no place for children to be crossing the road does not need to have flashy lights that make you go 25 mph in a 55 mph zone at four o’clock in the afternoon. That is madness, people. MADNESS. All the kids should have gone home by four in the afternoon. And if they have the school zone up for the detention kids and one of them gets hit in the road? Well maybe they should have thought of that before they became detention kids. Also they should have figured out how to look both ways before crossing the street by the time they’re in high school so that’s just Darwinism. Sorry folks.

Okay so number four. My mom made very proper arrangements for the ruler of a small kingdom prior to my surgery and I think all of you should take this into consideration if ever you should find yourself caring for a puffy-faced invalid who had had all her wisdom cruelly stolen from her in a morning of unconscious violence. Number one is you should buy jello and pudding the night before and then make it in cute bowls. Don’t be cheating and buying just the cups because that is lame and does not show you care. You can buy some of the cups and stuff for after you must leave the invalid to fend for herself but before that you have to make some out of the little boxy thing because that’s how you know it’s love.

Also you must buy baby pumpkins and flowers from the grocery store so the invalid’s castle/home/palace/apartment thing looks festive. Also it offsets the presence of gauze and many many bottles of pills so it will make her feel less like a geriatric shut-in and more like an empress being tended briefly in her time of need. It is also acceptable to put baby roses in her room and use an empty rum bottle as a vase because she likes rum but she can’t have any while she is healing from losing all her wisdom.

Just some things to consider. Here is an illustration:

rum flowers

festive pumpkins and such

Okay so the fifth thing I would like to discuss is how I don’t think I can be an opera star this week because this gauze is pretty cumbersome and I can’t really open my mouth wide enough to hit all those gloriously high high notes.

Like a turtle.

poor turtle

Have you ever heard a turtle hit high notes? Because I haven’t.

Anyway, it is milkshake time but don’t forget you have to eat it with a spoon and not drink anything out of a straw for at least a few days and probably a week because if you do, you will get dry socket AND DIE.

That is all!

Further word of advice to any future caretakers of post-op wisdom teeth people: don’t let them take selfies in the car on the way home from surgery. You’ll end up with pictures like this (don’t worry, I won’t publish any of the ones where I’m simultaneously trying to create as many chins as possible while showing off the blood on my teeth):

no wisdom left

 

oh well!

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Today, on the Springer Show

Full disclosure: I love trashy TV.

That is not to say that I want to watch a marathon of Jersey Shore any time soon (I’ve actually never seen a full episode but the fifteen minutes I did see was confusing. I did not understand their dialect of English…) but from time to time I can really get into some Toddlers and Tiaras or Celebrity Wife Swap, or even, yes, Jerry Springer.

Last summer Manfriend and I saw this really delightful episode of Springer where this one chick was angry because her boyfriend was cheating on her (but he may have been her husband, I’m not sure. He was at least the baby daddy) with her sister. Then they bring out the sister and she is just as obese and aggressive as her sibling and she says she don’t gotta justificate herself to nobody, etc. etc. Then she kind of lunges at the boyfriend/husband/baby daddy and tries to throw a chair at him and the burly guys in black t-shirts have to hold them apart. I think at some point the sisters teamed up on their two-timing boyfriend/husband/baby daddy. When he tried to defend himself against the two of them one of the dysfunctional sisters kept yelling, “Who is you? I’m her sister! You is nothin’!”

Manfriend and I were rolling with laughter. I wish I could have recorded it.

But here’s the catch: what makes these kinds of things funny to me is that they are so far removed from my life, so outrageous and unbelievable, so completely implausible – that I just have to laugh.

Last week, however, I fear that my entertainment at others’ expense (even if they did agree to be filmed) returned to torment me and I spent Friday trapped in an episode of The Jerry Springer Show. It was NOT. FUNNY.

My company had its morning formation at the Fort Hood blood donation center instead of our PT field. A couple of units had to cancel their blood drives at the last minute, which meant that units down range weren’t going to be getting the blood they were counting on, so we were one of the companies who came to fill the slots and send some extra blood to Afghanistan. A good finish to the week, right? So as we’re standing around in the parking lot at o-dark-thirty waiting for formation, my commander comes up to me and informs me that one of my NCOs has been shot and he’s in the hospital but he’s stable.

Okay, I’m sorry, but what?

We are not in Afghanistan.

We are not in Iraq.

We are not even in Kuwait.

We are in garrison. People don’t get shot in garrison!

Here’s what happened:

He was traveling back to Texas from temporary duty to attend a military school in Virginia. On the way home, he stopped in Georgia to visit his mom. His mom and her boyfriend got into some kind of argument, and so he stepped in, and his mother’s boyfriend shot him in the abdomen.

I’m sorry, but what?

He visited his mother. His mother has a boyfriend. The boyfriend shot him.

This is not a Looney Toons short, people! You can’t just go around dropping anvils on coyotes or shooting ducks and expecting them to turn their bills around to make their faces look right again. That is not how this works!

Luckily he’s going to be all right (he texted me that he was KCCO late Friday afternoon and his wife flew out to Georgia to take care of him), but still. It was a rather disturbing start to the morning. If anything it actually made me want to give blood even more and do something positive for someone somewhere. The company crowded into the blood donation center and began signing in and filling out paperwork to prepare.

Once I pass the initial questions I go into a small, hyper-air conditioned room to conduct my interview to determine my eligibility to donate blood. Since I dropped out of that prostitution ring a couple years back and haven’t been playing with dirty needles recently I figured I’d be good to go.

I listed all the times I’d been out of the country with vague accuracy: “Um, well I was in Italy in 2008.”

“When?” asked my interviewer. She was a youngish Hispanic lady with nice eyebrows and neat handwriting.

“Um…”

“What month?” she clarified.

“Oh. March. For about a week.”

She copied the information.

“Then I was in France in 2010. March. Again about a week.”

She kept writing.

“Then I was back in June of the same year. Rome and Paris, then London and Edinburgh.”

“How long? Two days?”

Sure lady. Two days. It was three to five days in each city but whatever. Close enough.

“Yes,” I said. “Two days for Italy, then France, then the UK and Scotland.”

“Okay. What else?”

“March 2011, Rome and Paris again. Four days each.” I thought about it for a minute. “That’s all.”

“Okay.”

Then the room was quiet for a while as she flipped through a gigantic white binder. I zoned out briefly. When I looked back over she was still consulting her binder, looking between her notes and the typed page in its crinkly plastic page protector. I got curious about what she was looking up, but just as I leaned over to creep, she looked up and asked, “Rome. Now… is that…in…Romania?”

I blinked rapidly several times. “Um. Italy.”

“Oh.” She crossed something out on my form and wrote “Italy.”

She looked up at me again. “And Paris. Where is that?”

I looked around. This had to be a trick. “…France,” I said.

“Okay,” she said. “Well I don’t see any issues. You can go get your vitals taken now.”

Um. I see an issue. The people who are in charge of determining whether or not it is safe for blood to be transfused do not know where the hub of Western Civilization lies.

But because I am shallow and materialistic, I quickly forgot my reticence because they were like “and YOU get a car! and YOU get a car!” Well, not exactly. But there was a counter where they gave you small snacks before donating blood, and I got to pick out a t-shirt (there were five designs to choose from! oh the consumerism!) and they gave me a free tumbler and stuff, which I thought was pretty exciting.

Finally it was time for me to give blood. The medical professional (I use this term generously. You’ll see.) asks me which arm I prefer. I tell him it doesn’t matter. He puts the band around my arm and sort of thumps the skin experimentally.

Now, I’m not a medical professional. But I do know that you’re supposed to put that band on pretty tightly because then the veins will stand up and you can figure out the best spot to stick the needle to start the IV. Not the scientific explanation, but that’s pretty much what happens. Not with this guy. He thumps around for a moment, then switches the band to the other arm and repeats the procedure. Now I get it that I don’t have huge veins, but I’ve given blood a couple of times before and I’ve never had issues getting my blood drawn. You should have seen the look on this guy’s face as he studied my arms. You’d think there was some kind of equation on my arm and he couldn’t solve for the third variable.

But then he began to very confidently swab my left arm with iodine. Swab swab swab. And he kept swabbing. And swabbed some more. Then he threw away the first iodine cotton ball and opened another so he could swab again. My arm was definitely sanitized at this point. Looking down, however, it was my untrained medically professional opinion that I had no freaking idea where he was going to stick that needle.

Apparently he wasn’t sure either, because he JABBED IT INTO MY ARM LIKE HE WAS TRYING TO POP A BALLOON AND HOLY CRAP DID IT HURT. And you know what happened? Nothing. Of course. Because he’d missed. So what does he do? No, gentle reader, he did not remove the needle and try again. HE STARTED JIGGLING THE NEEDLE AROUND INSIDE MY ARM. LIKE HE WAS GOING TO GET LUCKY AND HIT A VEIN.

Excuse me, sir, but my arm is not the Yukon Trail. STOP PANNING FOR GOLD INSIDE MY ARM.

After unsuccessfully drawing blood from my now ravaged left arm, he wraps it up and says,

“Well, I won’t put you through anything else today.” Then he turned away and began writing on my form.

I looked down at the hot pink wrapping on my left arm, then looked at my unmarked right arm.

“Um,” I began articulately. “Would you like me to change chairs so you can try the right arm?”

“No,” he said. “That’s all.”

“But–”

“That’s all.”

So now that the not-so-professional medical professional had turned into Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada, I realized that I was not going to be allowed to give blood after all. I ate their free cookies and drank their free juice for breakfast and ranted to my NCOs who were also enjoying a balanced breakfast of juice and cookies. No wonder they were short on blood! They’ve got blind guys mining for gold in the Yukon! Because no joke, my blood type is O-positive, which is basically blood gold, and I can’t believe those fools turned me down.

Let me tell you what my day in the life of a Springer guest taught me: you is nothing, Rome is in Romania, and I am feeling pretty grateful that Friday was a frightening anomaly and not the norm.

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Locked Out of Heaven: How to Diet Like a Pro

Yesterday I heard Bruno Mars wailing “Locked Out of Heaven” on the radio. I can really relate.

No, this doesn’t have anything to do with pent-up sexual desire, unless my desire for chocolate and trans fats has some kind of sexual undertones of which I am unaware.

It has to do with dieting.

Hearing the song brings to mind “Be Our Guest”-type visions of Reese’s cups rotating with beautiful precision, surrounded by fudge squares and chocolate-covered pretzels frolicking in delight in front of waterfalls of white, milk and mint chocolate. There are cookies bathing under the mint chocolate waterfall. They become thin mints. They are beautiful. A glass of milk appears. I am salivating. YOU MAKE ME FEEEE-EEEEL LIKE, I’VE BEEN LOCKED OUT OF HEEEAAAAAVEEEEEEN!

Oh God, this is sexual, isn’t it?

Okay, well, regardless, the fact is I need to drop a few pounds. I haven’t been good lately about sticking to a calorie count or getting enough exercise to make sure that eating a little extra doesn’t really matter, so I decided to return to a method that worked when I was in high school – the dessert purge.  I would go two weeks without desserts to sort of cleanse my palette of super sugary foods so I could get myself back on track and cut out those extra calories too. In the past when I did it, it was only the first few days that sucked, and then I’d lose some weight and go back to eating desserts. No big deal, right?

Incorrect.

On Day 1 I stared longingly at everything that could even be vaguely classified as a dessert and pined for all that chocolatey goodness.

On Day 2 I began to rethink my plan. Maybe I should try something else, like cutting out desserts during the week and only eating them on weekends. It was Tuesday; surely I could survive till Friday night or Saturday? And how bad could it really be if I only ate desserts two days out of seven each week?

On Day 3 I parked outside a Shipley’s and wept for all the apple fritters I could have been eating instead of frittering my life away in yo-yo diets (ha ha). I didn’t actually do that, but I did get out a spoonful of raw cookie dough and almost eat it before my guilt grew stronger than my craving and I threw it away.

(But seriously, look at what just opened like two seconds away from my apartment:

Shipley's

It is wrong and unfair and the fact that it has a drive-thru only makes it worse, because you can get fat without even exiting your vehicle. So now it’s there and open for business and taunting me. Every. Day.)

On Day 4 I ate a tub of chocolate-covered pretzels with patriotic sprinkles and was filled with joy and self-loathing. I did not return for a Day 5.

So why didn’t my mini-purge, which had worked so brilliantly in high school, work for me now? It had been so easy. All I had to do was cut out desserts for a designated period of time, and bam. Lose five pounds. Or seven. This may actually say more about the amount of dessert I was eating since just cutting that one thing created enough of a calorie deficit to cause me to lose weight, but never mind that.

This wasn’t some kind of kooky diet plan. It is based on science. And by “based on science,” I mean 1) it worked when I was sixteen, 2) I read this article once about sugar being addictive. Allow me to further elaborate.

1)      When I was a junior in high school, I decided to give up desserts for two weeks so I could lose a little weight. Cupcakes, cookies, candy, cake, and all their relatives were off limits. I think I still ate things like Cocoa Puffs in moderation as a coping mechanism, but no legit desserts. (Sister #3 suggested at one point that my criteria be cutting it if one of the first two listed ingredients was high fructose corn syrup, but I never followed through with that suggestion because I think it eliminated something like graham crackers, to which I said, no thanks.)

Anyway, it really wasn’t the most terrible thing in the world. It is probably more extreme-sounding than it actually was in practice. I continued to eat pizza and Mexican food to my heart’s content. The only difference was that I didn’t follow up with cinnamon sticks or sopapillas and complimentary soft serve ice cream cones after dinner. Once it was over I’d lost about five pounds over that two weeks and suffered only some major chocolate cravings as a price. No starvation, no malnutrition: no biggie. It was a good system.

Now, however, I am beginning to fear for my future metabolism. Obviously it will never be as high as when I was in high school, but the fact that my chocolate detox is not as effective in my early twenties as it was in my late teens is downright disturbing. I have begun to imagine a sad, dark future in which I will have to subsist on a diet of seaweed and kale to keep myself from becoming morbidly obese. I don’t actually know what kale even looks or smells or tastes like but it sounds healthy and I imagine it is like that time my aunt tricked me into eating buckwheat pancakes because they were “good for me.” They were horrifying and awful that nonspecific way most of my horrifying and awful childhood memories tend to be—they looked and smelled like normal pancakes, but even swimming in syrup, they were most decidedly not normal pancakes. They were deceit. They were travesty pancakes. They were a slap in the face to all good and decent pancakes in the world, especially chocolate chip pancakes, which may or may not be a culinary manifestation of God’s presence in the world.

2)      I don’t know where I originally read it, but here are some articles about sugar’s addictive properties:

This one comes from Web MD, where you can go from looking up your cold symptoms to a certifiable hypochondriac with terminal cancer in about three clicks.

Here’s the Wikipedia article about it, so that’s how you know it’s legit. Nothing is legit until it has a Wikipedia article. I don’t even consider myself to be legit because I don’t have my own Wikipedia article. (Incidentally if any of my friends were to create one about me and mention my dazzling personality and use a good picture, I would definitely make them cookies. Just saying.)

This is a truly stupendous article that will tell you about the dangers of sugar addiction. “Would you allow heroin dispensers in your kid’s school?” it asks. “Think heroin lollipops or morphine muffins. This is exactly what’s happening in America today.” Dr. Mark Hyman (tee hee) is the author.

Apparently my participation in Red Ribbon Week and a lifetime of hugs-not-drugs education has failed to save me from ingesting what is apparently the legal equivalent of crack cocaine every single day of my life.

I’ve given up my high school dieting plan for now and am searching for an effective postgraduate one with which to substitute it. So far I am on Day 7 of counting my calories and I’ve lost two or three pounds. The “whoop-ee” part of that (not “Whoopee!” or “WHOOPEE!!!” but like, “big whoop”) is that I also have the rather unsavory ability to gain five pounds in a single weekend of eating like I’m a fifteen year old lineman instead of a twenty-three year old with child-bearing hips.

Hopefully doing this the old-fashioned way (everything in moderation, burn more than you eat, drink water, blah blah BLAH) will slowly but surely yield some lasting results.

In summary: My body is mocking me at the ripe old age of twenty-three, and I will cry if you make me eat kale. But, in the spirit of full disclosure, if Bruno and I ever discover we have been locked out of heaven forever, I am definitely going to split a box of Thin Mints with him.

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My First Filling (or, Why I Can Never Wear Chapstik Again)

I’ve never had a cavity.

Don’t ask me how apparently spectacularly healthy gums and teeth have lived in my mouth for the last twenty-three and a half years, because I have no idea. Yeah, I brush my teeth twice or three times a day, and I floss whenever I remember, but I also went through a phase when I was in elementary school when I had spectacularly bad dental hygiene (Basically I was a grimy seven-year old with glasses who didn’t brush my teeth enough. Sorry world.) and I have always partaken of copious amounts of sugary foods and drinks. Yet somehow, miraculously, I have never had a cavity.

UNTIL NOW.

I had a cleaning last week and the guy goes, “Oh. You have a little cavity.”

“No I don’t,” I said.

“Just a little one,” he said, “on the bottom.”

“I don’t have a cavity,” I repeated. “I’ve never had one!” Didn’t this guy know I had decided I was immune to cavities?

He pulled off his gloves and tossed them in the trash. “Just schedule a filling next week and we’ll get it taken care of.”

“I’ve never had a cavity,” I told the woman at the front desk when I handed her my file.

“It’s okay,” she said, checking my birth date on the folder. “Twenty-three years is a pretty good run.”

Which I thought was valid, so I scheduled the filling and carried on with my life. UNTIL THE DAY OF THE FILLING ARRIVED.

Following this experience I am led to believe that I did not fully understand what a cavity is exactly, so, as is usually my solution for things I don’t understand, I Googled it. (I found some horrifying pictures, so I really don’t recommend Googling the seemingly innocuous word “cavity.”)

After trying to un-see some of the pictures of people’s mouths rotting before my eyes, I have decided it was basically like this:

dental cavity

Poor little guy.

So I went in and the helper/technician/ladyperson led me to my chair. It looked like this:

13686349-chair-of-torture

Then a short Asian kid came in to deliver the paper. Only he wasn’t a ten-year old Asian newspaper delivery boy. He was the dentist who was apparently going to fill my cavity. I was immediately suspicious. Why were they going to let a child perform dental work on me?! He looked like someone who aced everything his fourth grade teacher tossed his way, the type to know his multiplication tables better than I know that catchy Fifty States song I had to learn in fourth grade (I can still sing them all in alphabetical order upon request, in case you were wondering). But even really bright fourth graders don’t know calculus or legit biology yet. Some of them don’t even know where babies come from yet! I’m sure Asian Newspaper Delivery Boy is a fine, upstanding American; that doesn’t alter the fact that I don’t want a prepubescent kid performing dental work on me!

But apparently I had no choice and they leaned me back in the evil dentist chair to meet my fate.

“I’ve never had a cavity,” I told the Asian Newspaper Delivery Boy in a last ditch attempt to worm my way out of the situation.

“What?” he said. He was very quiet.

“I’ve never had a cavity,” I repeated. “So…I’ve never had a filling.”

“Oh,” he said, sounding like he was wearing one of those paper face masks and muttering. Except he wasn’t wearing a mask; he was just muttering. “So you’ve never had any oral injections or anything like that then?”

I looked at him sharply, then back to the helper/technician/ladyperson, then back to him. “What? No.” Who said anything about injections? What was this kid talking about? One second we’re talking about some gunk and a hole in my tooth and the next it’s needles? What the heck???

“Oh,” he said.

Then he leaned me back and pulled open my jaws wide enough to swallow a polar bear whole and dabbed something that tasted like rotten bubble gum toothpaste mixed with bleach onto my gums. “This is just a local anesthetic,” he informed me in that same could-someone-please-turn-up-the-radio-because-it’s-tickling-my-eardrums? tone. “To numb the area.”

I made one of those non-committal “ah” noises that suggests you have heard and comprehend what the person has just told you but could really mean just about anything.

“Okay,” he said, reaching for something on his tray where he was apparently keeping all of his medieval instruments of torture. “Now hold still.”

And people, I swear to you, all of a sudden he had a needle in his hand and before I could do anything my life was flashing before my eyes (it was more likely my eyes widening and then clenching shut and then flying open in horror again and then closing again because I didn’t want to see the needle but that light they put over your head is really bright and made me think the Rapture had come at last) and Asian Newspaper Delivery Boy was easing the needle into my gum for an impossibly long time.

“Just breathe normally,” he said. “And hold still.”

What was he talking about, “hold still”? Breathe normally??? I went into freaking cardiac arrest! I was paralyzed from the bleeding gum down! I couldn’t have moved if I’d wanted to. I felt like I was on one of those unforgiving metal tables you see corpses lying on while they await forensic dissection.

I usually have a lot to say, and three or four ways to say it. While that needle was in my mouth, however, all I could think about was that brutal instrument of drug transmission penetrating my innocent, fleshy pink gums. It went something like this (minus the expletives):

WHAT SHARP OW OW OW OW MOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM SKIN SOFT NEEDLE SHARP OW OW OW OW SERIOUSLY WHERE THE HELL IS MY MOTHER RIGHT NOW OW OW OW OW OW FREAKING OW OW OW TAKE IT OUT RIGHT NOW

And after about eight thousand years, he withdrew the needle slowly. (You can tell I was legitimately afraid because I lost the ability to punctuate my inner dialogue. It’s like somebody put me on caps lock forever and stole the period and comma off my mental keyboard.)

“Okay,” he said. “Now do you feel tingling in your chin? How about your lips?”

“Um. Sure,” I said. “I guess.” Couldn’t he see I was traumatized?

“You can relax now.”

YEAH. OKAY.

AS.

IF.

The technician/helper/ladyperson squirted water into my mouth and then sucked it back out. She made a face. I think my gum was spurting out blood or something. I tried to unclench my hands, but my fingers had entered a rigor mortis-like state while I had my brush with death in the dentist’s torture chair so they weren’t going anywhere.
The Asian Newspaper Delivery Boy poked around my gums with something pointy.

“Can you feel that?” he asked.

 “Yes?”

“Oh,” he said. “Hm.” Then he sat there and stared at nothing and waited to see if the medicine would work. Then he poked some more and when I could still feel it he whipped out another needle and stabbed me in the mouth again. This one hurt more, which makes very little sense to me since part of my mouth was already numb.  My head started to spin a little bit after he pulled out the needle. I wasn’t sure if it was because all the blood was rushing to my head from lying back so far or because I was in shock due to the torture to which I was being subjected.

When he prepared to give me a third injection I thought about making a run for it. Then I realized I couldn’t even unclench my hands, let alone sit up and bolt for the door. Just as I was thinking that perhaps I ought to simply have a stern discussion with this fourth grader and his needles about the dosage of whatever he was sticking into me, the needle was in my mouth again and I went totally rigid for fear of making it even worse than it already was. After the third injection he deemed me sufficiently numb to continue with the filling. It was at this point that I was thinking to myself what a truly terrible prisoner-of-war I would make, because I would not be able to keep a single secret if the bad guys started shoving needles into my gums. I’d be like, “STOP I’LL TELL YOU ANYTHING. IN FOURTH GRADE I HAD THIS HUGE CRUSH ON–” (Classified. Strictly need-to-know basis.)

Anyway, next the Asian Newspaper Delivery Boy put some kind of evil-looking metal clamp around my tooth and shoved some rubbery-feeling block into my mouth to keep it propped open. What does he think I was, a python in another life? I can’t detach my jaw, buddy! He topped off the whole thing by tenting my mouth, presumably to keep my tongue from flailing around involuntarily and slobbering up everything. I’m not entirely certain. It was hard to tell what was going on since all I could really see was flashing needles and the bright light of the Rapture hovering over my head.

“Raise your left hand if you feel any pain,” he said.

Then he turned on one of those devices that makes people hate the dentist. It sounded like we were in the welding shop, but instead of cutting metal, he was grinding down on my teeth. Which, when you think about it, is basically like the visible bones of your face. At this point I was too dazed to really care and was just glad there were no more needles for now. Take my teeth, I thought, I don’t care. Grind them down. I don’t need them. Just stop before you get to my swollen, bleeding, victimized gums.

He decided to take a break and fiddled with his torture tray for a bit. “Just raise your left hand if you feel any pain,” he reminded me. I sort of wanted to raise my right hand, just to see what would happen. He never told me what it would do if I raised my right hand. Probably get a shot in the middle of my forehead or something to teach me a lesson. But I kept my hands clenched together in my lap the whole time and never deployed the Left Hand Panic Button so I never found out if either hand had any power or if that was just something they tell patients. When it was all over the Asian Newspaper Delivery Boy told me to make an appointment to have a consult and then have my wisdom teeth taken out. LIKE I REALLY TRUST YOU AFTER WHAT YOU JUST DID TO ME, MISTER.

I wasn’t scared of the dentist/dental procedures prior to this experience. I wore braces for two years and went to the orthodontist’s office dutifully each month to floss, brush, and have my braces tightened and admired by my eccentric orthodontic team. I now understand why people equate the dentist’s office with a medieval torture chamber. There are needles in your face and there isn’t even a foot massage or mood music like some kind of New Age spa to justify this indignity. THEY PROP YOUR MOUTH OPEN WITH A RUBBER BLOCK. It’s like an Orwell novel.

Furthermore, I feel deceived by everyone who has ever had a cavity filled and didn’t talk about it so people like me who have gone their whole adult lives (I know it’s not long, but it’s all I’ve got right now so give me a break!) without getting a filling didn’t realize what we were in for with the dungeon and the torture chamber and the underqualified-looking dentist kid with the needles and the drill.

I think of it as the horrifying opposite of kissing. I was barely a teenager anymore by the time I got in on this whole kissing trend. Prior to the experience I was like, hey you kids! What’s all the hullabaloo about this kissing nonsense? And then I got involved in the worldwide phenomenon of kissing someone you like and I was like, oh. Well jolly good to that! Carry on, everyone! Except in this case when people said they didn’t like cavities I thought it was like not enjoying having your teeth cleaned, when they scrape around on your mouth and try to make your gums bleed a little to make a point about how nobody knows how to floss properly. I’m going to say this again: NOBODY TOLD ME THERE WERE NEEDLES INVOLVED. It was like when I first figured out how tampons worked and I was like, WHY IN THE NAME OF ALL THAT IS GOOD AND HOLY WOULD GIRLS DO THAT. I think I was about twelve.

So here I was, eleven years later, horrified about another apparently widespread, first world phenomenon that I had, once again, apparently been totally in the dark about up to this point. I sat in the parking lot of the dental clinic for a bit and slapped and pulled at my numbed face. I called my father and told him that I had just had my first filling and it was literally one of the most horrifying experiences of my life. He laughed at me.

(I really think it was an unfair and paternally unsympathetic response on his part. Look, even his childhood hero, Captain James T. Kirk, didn’t like the dentist:

Kirk dentist

Look how upset he is! He’s totally lost touch with reality. And this guy is a graduate of Starfleet Academy and the captain of the Starship Enterprise so he’s not exactly a wimpy butter bar, okay?)

I’ll say it one more time, people. NO ONE TOLD ME THERE WERE NEEDLES INVOLVED. I legitimately thought needles in the mouth were only necessary for major oral surgery, not some puny filling on what was supposed to be a tiny cavity! It took like three thousand hours for them to do the whole procedure! What was in there, the Grand freaking Canyon?

I tried to put on some Chapstik (the liquid kind, in a tube). It was all melty from sitting in the sun, but hey, no big deal, just use a little less and spread it around, right?

Wrong.

Not being able to feel my face, I lost all sense of where the Chapstik ought to actually be applied and ended up with some on the half of my mouth that could still feel and some on my cheek and dribbling pathetically down to my chin. Struggle bus, ladies and gentlemen. Front row seat on the struggle bus.

When I got back to the motor pool, one of my NCOs looked at me funny, pulling his chin back and scrunching up his face. “You all right, ma’am?” he asked. “You look a little…” Upset? Traumatized? Like half of my face is numb and I have apparently lost the basic skill of applying Chapstik to my dentally-ravaged mouth?

“I’m fine,” I said. “I just had a cavity filled.”

“Oh,” he said. “That sucks.”

He’s right. It does suck. But you know what? He mentioned nothing about needles.

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How to Defend the Dream (To the USMA Class of 2013)

Dear Class of 2013,

CONGRATU-FREAKIN’-LATIONS. After 47 months of literal blood, sweat and tears you have finally made it. (I know the blood, sweat and tears thing is a cliche’, but I think we also all recognize that all three are involved to different extents throughout a cadet career. Gross but true.) It seems like only yesterday you were stinky little new cadets marching your way into the Corps and now you are stinky little lieutenants in the United States Army (just kidding. It really is exciting). You were at the top of the heap and the top of your game at West Point (even if you struggled—because we all did in our own way—you at least figured it out enough to graduate) and now you are back to the bottom of the totem pole in the Big Army.

There was a great article floating around a few weeks ago about effective leadership as a lieutenant, with the most memorable lesson being, “don’t be a douche.” But seriously. (You can read it HERE if you missed it.) Just as none of us would have graduated without working together (cooperate and graduate is no joke if you ask me), I firmly believe that we butter bars should stick together instead of trying so hard to outdo one another. This isn’t actually an entry about how to defend the dream, but in the spirit of cooperate-and-defeat-the-negative-LT-stereotypes, I give you a few of the lessons I have learned in my first year as an officer.

KEEP THE BOXES

You are going to move a lot in the next year. You’ll leave West Point and go wherever it is you’ll go for grad leave, and then you’ll leave there and go to BOLC, and then you might go to a follow-on school, and then finally you’ll end up at your first duty station. That is a lot of moving.

Last year I moved in May, then in July, then in December, then again in January this year, and now in May. One thing that made it easier was having a lot of suitcases and tubs and trunks to pack stuff in. AND I used several of the boxes that I labeled and shipped off last May because they were still in good enough shape to help me move stuff from one place to another. Packing materials can get expensive if you go through enough of them, so help yourself out and salvage what is salvageable and reuse it while you move three-plus times over the next year.

Also keep your receipts for gas and weigh your car heavy and packed to the brim and also empty as can be, because the travel office at your gaining unit will use them to defray the cost of a DITY (formerly the do it yourself move, now a PPM, or personally procured move) since they tax it at about a bazillion percent.

THERE IS NO RANK AMONG LIEUTENANTS

When I first got to my unit, the 1LT XO was the acting commander. I had this stupid internal crisis where I was like, “Do I need to salute him? Do I have to call him sir?” Because I thought maybe it was a thing where you saluted him and used rank because he was the commander. But there’s not. So luckily I did not salute him and we call each other by our first names and it’s not a big deal and nobody in my unit ever figured out that I was naïve enough to even wonder if I needed to salute my XO.

There is another 1LT in my unit, however, who makes a big fuss about differentiating between first and second lieutenants. Wrong-o, Miss Thang. Granted, I respect that she’s been commissioned for two years longer than me, deployed for eight months, and has more experience. But am I going to call you “first lieutenant?” Am I going to appreciate it when you emphasize that I am a “second lieutenant?” No. I am not.

Just be aware that there are some first lieutenants out there with a chip on their shoulder. Don’t let the bastards get you down; they’ll get promoted soon enough and go away to career course or to rot on staff somewhere as junior captains.

YOU DON’T ALWAYS HAVE TO TELL THE WHOLE TRUTH

I know it’s about more than ratings and OERs and other stupid stuff, but sometimes in order to take care of your job and your Soldiers, you have to put on a face for certain individuals. For instance, when your rater or your senior rater asks how it’s going, they really mean, “Are you ruining the maintenance in this brigade? Are you totally lost? Are your NCOs helping you? Are you as clueless as you look?” and not, “I’d really like to hear about your goals and dreams and help you find the perfect job in the Army.” Granted, some commanders honestly do want to know about your major and your academic and personal goals. Other commanders consider you a collected set of statistics that they can gather from your ORB and don’t really care about your grad school aspirations or if/when you plan to start a family. I know West Point jammed it into our heads that leaving out any information is lying by omission, but seriously – some people just don’t want to know the truth, especially if the truth about your aspirations involves opera and novel-writing instead of Airborne School and battalion command (oh wait, that’s me, isn’t it?). Sometimes it sucks, but parts of the job are a game, and you’ve got to know when to play along.

Seek mentorship in other places if you end up with someone in charge of you who is like this. Some of the best help I’ve gotten has been from people in the ’09 year group who are starting to get the hang of this whole Army thing and are willing to point you in the right direction for grad school options and duty assignments that won’t show up in your normal career progression unless you seek them out yourself.

PEOPLE WILL ASK YOU RUDE/INVASIVE QUESTIONS

In normal society it is considered impolite to ask people their age or weight. In the Army, people want to know your stats. I am considering making a trading card for myself so I can just hand it out when people start asking me if I’m married/if I have kids/how fast I can run/when I was born/where I grew up/my shoe size/if I’ve had all my shots. I also had this idea that if I kept a low profile and didn’t wear my class ring, people wouldn’t think I was a douche. Unfortunately, “what is your commissioning source?” has been demanded of me more times than I can remember. The reactions have varied, and I have rarely correctly predicted what they will be.

For a while I was distressed by all the stereotypes and preconceived notions. But you can’t let it bother you; it’s a waste of time. Some people don’t like women/men/white people/black people/short people/tall people/West Pointers/officers and that’s just the way they are. Some of the best advice I ever got was from one of my former sponsors who retired as a colonel last year after over thirty years of service.

Be part of the solution.

That got its own line because I think it’s that important. My sponsor told me her TAC had told her this after she came back to West Point after CTLT at the beginning of her cow year wanting to resign. He said she could quit, or she could be an instrument of cure. Eventually she recognized that she would have opportunities to make the Army better. The higher you go, the more you control. That control gives you even more opportunities to demonstrate wise leadership as you grow into a competent, mature, level-headed officer. Don’t throw up your hands in despair too soon. Which leads into my next point…

REMEMBER HOW IT FEELS

This is sort of a “don’t forget the little people” kind of thing. Being a lieutenant is this weird in-between stage where you don’t feel like you have any real authority, but you actually have an impact on people’s lives. I have learned a lot in the last year about both my technical field and the Army as a whole from both formal schooling and independent research, but some of the most valuable lessons have come from just listening to people. And I’m not just talking about OPDs with sergeants major or generals, but from hearing the stories of other officers, civilians, NCOs and Soldiers who have been around the Army a lot longer than me.

Remember how badly it feels when you are shat on by someone with more rank or influence than you and never treat anyone the same way. When you are on the other side of the desk you will remember how it feels to be powerless, poorly treated, and disenfranchised, and will have the opportunity to do better than your predecessors. There is a lot of poor leadership out there—not just in the Army, but everywhere—so don’t let yourself get caught in the trap of punishing people for the crappy leadership of those who came before you.

People are desperate for someone to listen to them. I have seen people’s demeanors change from tired, frustrated and defeatist to if not upbeat, determined and ready to work—all because I stopped what I was doing for five minutes and listened to what they had to say. My sponsor reminded me that every Soldier you touch in a positive way will have a ripple effect. Just remember that you might not always see the ripples. As one wise old sergeant major once told me, “Being a jerk doesn’t make you a hard ass; it just makes you an asshole.”

“I’M A PLEBE; I DIDN’T KNOW!”

This is your one time to ask really, incredibly naïve questions and get away with it. People don’t expect lieutenants to know much of anything, so if you have burning questions, ask them. Or if you get really lost, ask for help. Lieutenants are usually lost anyway. I saw this most clearly during inprocessing.

At Fort Hood, you do most of your inprocessing at this hideous three-story building on main post called the Copeland Center. They give you a long checklist of places to go and things to do and paperwork to turn in to places that you didn’t know exist and send you on your merry way. The privates, who are pretty much as new to the Army as you are, are herded around New Cadet-style by an NCO who tells them exactly where to go and what to do. I was a little jealous of them at first, but then I realized that nobody cared about how quickly or slowly I inprocessed as long as I was finished within the designated time period. I also realized that nobody minded giving me directions or telling me to get lost when I was in the wrong place. In fact, most people saw so many ACU-clad bodies moving around their work space that they all blended together after a while. I asked the same woman three separate, stupid questions and she never seemed to realize that I was the same lieutenant. I know this because the third time she sighed and said, “Man, they really don’t tell you new officers anything, do they? You are the second person to ask me this today.” Either someone else who looks like me had the same question or she was just really confused. So if you’re worried about looking stupid while you’re still figuring things out, don’t be. I asked a lot of stupid questions for the next couple of days, finished inprocessing a day and a half early, and had the extra time free to do as I pleased.

Being a second lieutenant is basically a license to fumble through the Army for a few months. Having said that, I think it is also important to bear in mind that sometimes you must simply –

FAKE IT TILL YOU MAKE IT

Most people are willing to assume the best about you unless you prove them wrong. Granted, they may tease you a little (one of my NCOs and I have a running joke about a silver spoon because he said that I was probably spoiled rotten as a kid and then at West Point…HA) and make some stereotypical LT jokes, but generally speaking, people have been receptive to my leadership when I am equally receptive to learning from their experience.

When I first arrived at my unit I felt totally lost and wasn’t really sure what I was supposed to be doing for much of the day. So I spent a lot of time just trying to look busy, because I didn’t want to build resentment against me for everyone else being busy while I was standing around empty-handed. And you know what? It worked out just fine. Another lieutenant told me not to sweat it because I’d be busy soon enough. He was right. Sometimes the transition time is awkward while you’re figuring out what you’re supposed to be doing, and before you know it you’ll have plenty on your plate. So when you’re not sure, ask around (even if you’re just asking the Google) and give it some time; you’ll figure it out. People will assume you’re busy and you’ll prove them right sooner than you think.

**

I don’t know how many of you will see this since you’re all off frolicking in your adolescence in various corners of the great, wide world (as you should be!) but hopefully these short lessons will make your transition from cadet to butter bar a little easier. Maybe some of it seems obvious to you, but a few of these things I’ve learned in difficult or awkward ways and hopefully sharing them will help you to avoid the mistakes I have made.

I must extend congratulations to 2012 – we are no longer the most junior lieutenants in the Army! (If anyone else has any other helpful information or good anecdotes, please feel free to share them in the comments or send them to me and I’ll do another entry as a compilation.) And congratulations again to the Class of 2013 on making it through those 47 months in gray. Welcome to the green, now get out there and defend the dream.

You’re welcome for the rhyme.

Very Respectfully,

Kelley, Butter Bar

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Why I’ll Never Be a Superhero (and some of life’s other sad truths)

You know those movies where someone ordinary does something extraordinary? And I’m not talking about one of those made-for-TV movies where someone just happens to be at the right place at the right time and performs CPR and saves someone’s life but they could only do it because they had just recertified their CPR two days before. I’m talking about look-at-me-I’m-a-poor-village-lad-but-I-will-save-thousands or I’m-just-a-girl-in-China-but-oh-wait-I-am-also-Mulan-and-now-I-have-saved-everyone-from-the-Huns kind of story.

I have determined that even though I am a pretty tough cookie (and who doesn’t love cookies?) and have been through some things I didn’t think I’d make it through, I also don’t think I’m Tony Stark/Mulan/Everyman-Turned-Fairy-Tale-Hero material.

Allow me to elaborate.

MINOR PHOBIAS

I haven’t actually been diagnosed with any kind of major disorder (this will come as a shock to some, I’m sure), but I have a plethora of just-minor-enough-to-be-annoying-but-not-major-enough-to-be-medicated kind of issues. Basically I am afraid of heights/bugs/deep water/small spaces. This rules out the following heroic actions:

–          Climbing trees

–          Scaling tall buildings

–          Hanging out of a plane

–          Freefalling

–          Sticking my hand into the hole full of bugs to save Indiana Jones’ life in the Temple of Doom

–          Hunting for sunken treasure

–          Being shipwrecked

–          Being buried alive

–          Dragging my daughter’s beloved down a tiny tunnel away from a failed revolt in the sewers of Paris

–          Playing dead and carried out of Chateau D’if only to be dropped into the ocean (what is it with the French?)

–          Digging a tunnel to a different sewer to escape from Shawshank while my actions are narrated by Morgan Freeman

I would also not be great in a high-speed car chase, a burning building, or any type of torture situation. Sometimes I’m at the optometrist and they’re like, “and I’ll just take out your contacts for you and put in some eye drops” and as soon as they reach for my eyelid I’m like, “NO STOP, PLEASE, I’LL TELL YOU ANYTHING!!!

It is quite dramatic and I don’t think these ocular-minded individuals appreciate my sense of humor/respect my legitimate fear of having people mess with my eyeballs.

MOVING AT THE SPEED OF LIGHT

I am also a slow packer. I could never be a drifter or a wanderer or any kind of legitimate nomad, because I am not nomadic. I am a nester. Everywhere I go, I put up pictures and make the place homey and accumulate books and leave them there.

I wish moving was like:

imagesCAIIOHJ2

Sadly, it is not.

It takes me an hour to pack for a weekend trip, because I have to go through a long list of Things Not to Forget and check it twice and inevitably leave something off and then be mad about it later because I forgot to think of it more than once.

Things like: “don’t forget your hair gel or your head will look like a brunette poodle is sitting on it all weekend,” so I remember hair gel but I forget toothpaste. So instead of looking like I have a brunette poodle on my head I just smell like that there is a brunette poodle in my mouth, which is both strange and disgusting. Or, “don’t forget a sweatshirt or you’ll be cold at night,” so I remember a sweatshirt but don’t pack pajama pants so I am scurrying around all naked-legged and shivery with three layers on top, which doesn’t even make sense because I carry way more body fat on my lower half than on my upper.

According to the Employment Relocation Council, moving is the third most stressful life event, after death and divorce. Now some scales rank it differently, but let’s just think about that for a second. Putting all your junk into boxes, hauling it somewhere else, and unpacking all your stuff is a life event topped only by the disintegration of a marriage and the cessation of life. I have chosen to do this without taking off time from work. WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME.

So basically I spend all day scurrying around the motor pool and am anxious to get home so I can paint/organize/unpack/agonize over my book cataloguing system. I certainly could not move from place to place with ease or uproot my whole life and just set off across Middle Earth to defeat all the evil in Mordor. There is no second breakfast in Mordor.

BECOMING AN INVALID

I used to read a lot of bad historical romance novels with sickly aunts and mothers who frequently had to excuse themselves to go lie down because they had a “memgrin.” I think that is a migraine, and while I used to scoff at these weakling women in my more naïve high school years, I, as a migraine sufferer, now envy them quite a bit. I wish I could send a note on a silver tray to my maintenance tech that says something like this (penned of course in flawless cursive with a feather pen that I dipped in an inkwell):

 

Chief –

I have taken ill with a memgrin. Do forgive my absence at the maintenance meeting this afternoon, and I shall see you tomorrow morning for PT formation.

Affectionately,

Your Lieutenant

 

Then they would all cluck sympathetically and call me a poor lamb and send flowers and notes of sympathy penned in equally flawless cursive with feather pens that they had first dipped into inkwells.

Of course this makes no sense. But I also tend to get a little delirious when I have a migraine at work and I’m sitting in a meeting with my skull trying to contract into a tiny ball of quivering agony and there are spots all over my vision and my neck hurts and I strongly suspect I might throw up and everyone is all, “hey LT, you feeling okay? Why isn’t this part on order?” and I’m like, “FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, WHY IS EVERYONE YELLING.” Except not really, and I have yet to hear any Soldiers in the United States Army do any clucking or call anyone a poor lamb, so it is probably just a twisted coping mechanism brought on by the fact that the neurons in my brain apparently do not function normally.

MINOR CRISES

I am kind of pathetic when it comes to relatively minor crises that adults face every day in the world. It’s not even something life-threatening, like we had a bad harvest this year and now my family and I are probably going to starve this winter. It’s First World Problems. Stuff like a flat tire.

The problem is that, in my mind, it’s not just a flat tire. IT IS THE END OF LIFE AS I HAVE KNOWN IT.

For instance.

Last month I had a blowout. I was leaving PT, heading home to shower, and all of a sudden I lost control of the car and was swerving all over the road and there was this horrible noise and I didn’t know what had happened and I was scared out of my mind and I pulled over and sat on the side of the road for a minute with both hands over my heart, breathing unnaturally hard and saying out loud, “okay. I’m okay. Okay. I’m okay. Okay. It’s okay. I’m okay.”

As soon as I started driving again, there was a new, different, horrible noise, and I realized that my tire was totally destroyed. Once it was safe to pull over and look at the tire, I got out of the car and the wind picked up and it started raining and as soon as I got a good look at how flat it was and saw the horrible slashes and torn places in the tire, I literally burst out crying. I’m not really prone to fits of hysteria but for whatever reason that blowout had me thinking all kinds of overly dramatic thoughts like, OH MY GOD I WAS ALMOST IN A HEAD-ON COLLISION AND NOW MY TIRE IS RUINED AND I COULD HAVE DIED AND I DIDN’T EVEN FINISH MY NOVEL OR MAKE A CHILD OR SEE THE TAJ MAHAL AND NOW IT’S RAAAAAIIIINIIIIIING.

But then I put on my Big Girl Pants and got the jack out of the back of my car and lay on the ground in the rain and jacked up the car. Then I called my dad crying because I didn’t know if I had put the jack in the right place and I didn’t want to die because my car fell on me. Having been assured that it was all right, I got off the phone and went to take the lug nuts off my tire. Now I am not a little person—not a waif by any means. But no matter how I strained and tugged and swore and torqued (not to be confused with twerked, which I did not do that morning), I could not remove the tire from my car. So I threw some of the tools on the ground and started crying again. Then I panicked that I might have messed up the only tools I had and fetched them and wiped them off on my filthy PTs and continued to cry. Then I called roadside assistance. You know. Like a normal person would have done in the first place.

That afternoon when I went to buy a new tire and found out how much tires cost, I just about choked. Once it was all over I got in my car with my new tires and sat there and cried some more. There should be emotional plumbers or something, because I am pretty sure that my tear ducts were broken that day.

Essentially what I am trying to convey to you is that I cannot save a plane full of screaming people as it goes spiraling into the ocean because I can barely handle my tire exploding and trying to change it in the rain. It makes me weep in a very angry, infantile, and unattractive manner.

(Also later it hailed that day while I was walking into the motor pool and it was basically the worst thing ever, but that’s not really the point. I’m just making sure you know it was a really bad day.)

I ARE GOOD AT TYPE ON KEYS

I can work in Windows and operate Word and Excel and Power Point without any major issues, and I spend an inordinate amount of time pinning things on Pinterest and stalking people I love and people I hate and people somewhere in between on Facebook, but I am really not computer literate.

For instance, all that fancy computer stuff that Q does in the Bond movies? Or the ridiculous things Tony Stark creates as Iron Man? Or even just the wings that Leonardo DaVinci makes for Drew Barrymore in Ever After so she can walk into the ball like a boss and steal the French-prince-with-an-English-accent’s heart like a boss. Circuits and plugs and wires and networks and designing things all escape me.

Last week my Manfriend came to visit and he set up my big TV so it is connected to my laptop and I can run it off a wireless mouse and keyboard. He goes, “Oh yeah, that’s easy. We just need to get you an HDMI cable.” Then we went back to the apartment and he plugged it all in and all of a sudden I could stalk people on Facebook at 60” of high-def from the couch across the room.

WHAT SORCERY IS THIS.

So sure, I can type fast, but I’ll be damned if it’s useful for anything other than telling you my woes and publishing them to this blog. If anyone with knowledge superior to Norton Antivirus or McAfee or any other anti-virus software I might have installed at any juncture in my life decided to hack my computer, they would hack my computer. End of story, sayonara and adios computadora. Or maybe I should say zaijian, because word on the street is that the Chinese are going to hack all of our computers someday, and somehow I think being able to say, “hello, my name is Tang Kai Li” (that’s my super awesome Chinese name my adorable Chinese teacher gave me when I took Chinese at West Point) in Chinese is going to save my computer from its inevitable demise.

It is a sad fact that none of my life skills would be particularly useful in an action movie. Anyone who saw my award-winning performance in the 100th Night Show last year knows that I do not have stage fright. But let’s be honest: when was the last time someone saved the world because she enjoyed wearing a face mic?

If you are trapped in a fire, I recommend that you call the Fire Department and not me. If you are drowning in a deep, scary ocean I suggest either some SEALS or some enchanted dolphins or the Genie from Aladdin. If you are clinging to a cliff over some roaring rapids, you might hope that someone very strong is nearby to pull you over the edge and away from certain doom. As for me, I will either be humming to myself and wishing for a face mic and a spotlight, or standing in the rain in dirty PTs, still trying to remove the lug nuts from my busted tire.

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