Wednesday, December 31, 2008
On January 4th (This Sunday) on ABC, my younger boy (D2) will be in the background of a clip on America's Funniest Home Videos! It's a preschool graduation where a lovely little special-needs boy named Aidan steals the show.
I've tried to prepare D2, letting him know we may or may not be able to see him, considering camera angles and possible editing. Aidan's family contacted me about a month ago about signing wavers so D2's face could be seen on national television. I readily signed off and I really hope they win!
Even in the background, he's a Star to me, Ruth!
ETA: kmkat, you're right! Here's some pic's of him.
The boys gave me a big bag of the dried blueberries from Costco that I love so much. And also my Neutrogena Sesame Oil (I use it after I shower).
Dave gave me a pair of really thick fleecy lounge pants - soooo warm! Best husband ever! Not so much because of the pants (which are perfect) but because he remembers that a year ago, I was trying to find some thick flannel pants! (Apparently those thick flannel pants don't exist anymore since fleece came on the scene.)
We had a really low key holiday. We didn't even get a tree this year. We don't have anyplace to put it anymore and with the cat...
Trev was upset about the tree - he was convinced that without a tree you didn't get presents. Once he understood there would still be presents, he was fine with it. Davis didn't even seem to notice.
Had xmas eve at the MIL/FIL's place, xmas morning with the four of us, then breakfast at IHOP with the inlaws and drove in to Denver to have xmas dinner with the BIL/SIL. Great family times!
This year, Trev was asking a lot of questions about Santa. Dave says, "We should just tell him. We shouldn't lie to our kids." I scoffed, "Dave, please. We lie to those boys every day - 'That show isn't on right now.' 'You can be anything you want when you grow up!'" We didn't tell him, but we suspect he knows.
It was really cute because when Trevor would ask us about Santa in front of Davis, Davis would get all serious and earnest and matter-of-fact:
Trev: Mom, Dad, is Santa real?
Me: Well, honey, what do you think?
Davis: Trevor. You know Santa. He's the guy who brings the presents, remember?
Very cute! Also, when we were getting in the van to go to the inlaws for xmas eve, the kids next door were hollering for their dad to hurry up and come see! "There's Rudolph!!!" Up in the night, there was a red light racing across the sky. The older kid next door said, "That's just a plane." That kid's dad said, "It's going way too fast for a plane." (It was, too - wonder what it really was.) Trev asked why Rudolph was here so early and my wonderful, quick thinking husband said, "They're just taking a test run."
(OK, before blogger wouldn't let me have spaces btw lines, now it's putting them there when I don't want them - any suggestions??)
Superhero's name: Mr. Roar
Superpowers: A huge roar and eats bad guys
Origin Story: A person was digging for dinosaur bones, when he found some. They were toxic. Then he passed out. When he woke up, he was a T-Rex.
Hobbies: yarn-maker (love that kid!)
Little known facts: He plays Football (Daddy loves him, too!)
That kid's little creative brain blows me away!
Hoping you got great swag, Ruth!
Monday, December 29, 2008
OK, so Basic Training (BT) continues....
As a soldier, you're required to take a PT test twice a year. For those who don't know, PT stands for Physical Training. The amount of sit-ups/push-ups and the time you have to complete your 2-mile run depends on your age/gender.
As a 20 (almost 21) year old female, I had to do 18 push-ups, 53 sit-ups and 18:54 for the run (that's 18 minutes, 54 seconds). (I didn't actually remember the exact numbers, there's a chart here.) That's for a 60% on your test. If you didn't get 60% - bad news.
They tested us the day we got to BT proper and then worked our asses off until we could pass the test again at the end of BT. In that initial test, I passed the push-ups, smoked the sit-ups and failed miserably on the run. (The only way I'd survive zombies would be due to fire-power, not the ability to run away from the slow, shambling brain-eaters.) I did so many sit-ups that at the next practice test a week later, I couldn't do more then 5 - I'd brutalized my stomach muscles the first time and they weren't having it.
If you sucked at running, they put you in the front and back of the running formation. You had to wear these construction worker orange vests and at every crossroads, you had to run in the crossing street and hold up your hand (whether there were actual cars there or not). Then you had to run and catch up with the formation. It was kinda nice to get the breaks but totally sucked trying to catch up again. If you were extra unlucky, you had to carry the company colors, too (a pole with a little flag on it).
You were allowed to wear your own sneakers for PT and the PT uniform consisted of a grey T-shirt with "ARMY" on the front and some grey running shorts (also T-shirt material). Most of us just slept in the PT uniform to get that spare few seconds of sleep. I also slept with my sneakers on.
If you got in trouble, you got "smoked". That's when they try to exercise you into a coma. I was lucky, our squad only got smoked-for-real, maybe 2 or 3 times in the 8 weeks of BT. First squad had a really sadistic F'er of a head DS and they were constantly being smoked. His favorite form of torture was to have the soldiers "squat on the wall" - Stand with your back to the nearest wall. Lean your back against the wall, slide down until your legs form a 90 degree angle; now stick your arms in front of you, shoulder height, palms down; now add the weight of an M16. See how long you can hold it and know that if you stop holding it before you're told, big trouble. First squad was on the first floor of our barracks building and you'd always see them in that hall doing a wall-squat.
We'd start every day with PT. Doing push-ups and sit-ups in the dark, watching the sun come up while running. There were many ways to sneak in some extra PT during the day and the DS's knew them all. New soldiers mess up - a lot. Every mess up (whether real, perceived, or made-up) resulted in some form of painful PT. There's the stereotypical "Drop and give me 20". That's just the beginning - in fact, 20 push-ups seems like a vacation compared to the other stuff. Anyone remember the Dead Cockroach? Lay on your back on the ground, put your legs and arms straight up in the air. Doesn't sound that hard, right? Try it. And hold it for for at least 5 minutes. Helicopters (my most hated) - Lay on your back, put your hands under your butt, keeping your legs together, lift your feet about 6" off the ground, lift your head 6" off the ground - hold. Or keep your head on the ground and scissor kick those lifted legs - out, in, out, in. "Do that until I get tired, soldier."
In "today's" Army (1991), they weren't allowed to lay a hand on you. Their only alternative was to exercise you to death. They also weren't allowed to apply "company punishment". Company Punishment was when one person messed up and the whole company got punished for it. With the exception of that tool in Reception, the DS's never laid a hand on us. Company Punishment was another matter altogether.
I remember one day in particular....
You were required to have your canteen on your person and full at all times. Several times a day, we were ordered to "Drink Water!". One morning, about halfway through the cycle (8 weeks), we were forming up in the morning and the DS's did a quick inspection. ONE girl forgot her canteen. I had to hold her M16 while she ran back to her barracks room to get it. While she ran in to get it, DS was having us do up-downs (stand up, drop for push-ups - rinse, repeat. Over. and over. and over....). Every time I dropped for push-ups, those 2 rifles would slam me in the back of my head. Once while getting back up, her rifle (which was slung over mine) slid out of my hair, taking a nice chunk of it out.
Company Punishment doesn't work. It's supposed to make everyone turn on the slacker soldier and give the slacker "incentive" to shape up. All it does with women is make everyone very catty to that soldier and puts everyone in a real pissy mood.
There's only one time I remember when our squad got seriously smoked and I can't even remember what it was for. I do remember it was done in one of the barracks classrooms. We were sweating our asses off in that tiny room with the windows shut. We'd been gettin' smoked for about 15 minutes - it was hot, stuffy, and stinky and everyone was getting angrier and angrier. This is about the time Fitzgerald decided to take a dive. Fitz was one of the worst soldiers in our platoon - she was fat and whiny and never pulled her own weight. During this smoke session, she "feinted". I was standing next to her when she did it and I don't know if she thought I was going to catch her but she nearly knocked me over on her way down. DS Brown starts clapping his hands slowly and loudly, "Riggs, give that girl an Oscar! What a fine job of acting. People, we are going to keep going until Fitz gets back up. And by the way Fitz, usually when people pass out, the fall backward, not forward." He was right, it was so obviously faked - we were all doing jumping jacks, she suddenly stood still, then made a little leap into the air and fell forward. We weren't allowed to talk while getting smoked but we were all bitching at her through clenched teeth, "You better get your ass up, girl." I was next to her and I told her, "Fitz, if you don't get up right this minute and start taking this smoking like the rest of us, I am going to kick you in the head." She got up a couple of minutes later; didn't even try to act woozy or anything. After she got up, DS Brown let the rest of us go and she got smoked for another 15 minutes. Stupid girl.
(Hey Becca, email me (Ruth AT 5elementknitr.com)- I want to ask you some things about DS Brown that I don't want to blog about yet - sorry guys)
I barely passed that last PT test. As I said, I can't run to save my life. Also, the too-tight-boots/bruised-feet thing didn't help me any during all that 8 weeks of PT. One of the coolest things I ever experienced in my little 5 years of military happened during our final PT test. They rotated each squad, while one was running the 2 miles, another was doing the push-ups test and another the sit-ups. Our CO (commanding officer) ran 8 miles. In a row. He ran the 2 mile run with each and every squad. Making it even harder on him, he was running with the slow kids (which, I imagine, is physically painful for as good a runner as he was). My squad (3rd squad), was the last to do the run. My friend Amy (not her real name, for reasons of future blogging), was an excellent runner. When she finished, she came back on the track (despite the DS's yelling at her not to) and ran with me. She and the CO ran with me pretty much the entire way (the CO was running with me and sort of switching off now and then with the other slow ones). I remember at one point saying, "I can't do this. I'm going to throw up!" The CO very gently said, "Soldier, you go ahead and throw up, but you don't stop running." 8 miles. And he didn't have to run at all. Hell, he didn't even have to be there for the PT testing. What a great guy. What a great leader. One of the best I met in my time in.
I passed. I passed about 2 seconds ahead of the don't pass time. If you don't pass that final PT test, you have to go through the 8 weeks of BT All. Over. Again. If it weren't for Amy and that CO.... I wouldn't have made it (still chokes me up).
Once I got to my first real unit (in Germany) and beyond, we only did the PT test once a year. For the most part, every unit I was in didn't do Unit PT - as long as you passed the PT test, you were on your own for training the rest of the time. Loved the hospital units! A couple of times we'd take the Pencil PT test - that's where you just write in your scores and go home. Good times!
Still tearing up over that final run support, Ruth!
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Monday, December 15, 2008
Here's the basics about Basic Training. At least these were applicable to my BT. There are about 24 women per squad and 4 squads per platoon. (Now, I know some Hu-Ah Army person is going to come and correct my terminology but let me reiterate - I was not a great soldier. I was a pogue earning some college money.)
Each squad had 3 drill sgt.'s. Out of those 3, one was in charge. My drills were:
DS McCoy - tiny and in charge. A very dark-skinned, tiny, wiry, black woman. The only female drill in our platton, she was unbelievably hard-core and could do more diamond push-ups then the men. (A diamond push-up is when you put your hands together on the ground with your thumb-tips touching and your index-fingertips touching to form a diamond - F'in hard!) (The diamond push-up is F'in hard, not making the diamond shape with your hands.)
DS Beaufort - This cat was straight off the New York block. Tall, slim, mocha brown with the accent, the walk, the attitude and the gold front tooth. He'd finagled some sunglass tint on his Army issue glasses (not easy to get) and wore them everywhere. He loved to give us wrong information and see how long it took for some other DS to yell at us for doing wrong. Funny guy.
DS Brown - Husky, dark-skinned, quiet, very intelligent man. He was probably our favorite. Quick to smile, but taking no bullshit from any soldier, he was a great guy. (Much later, turned out to be not so great but we'll get to that someday.)
Our barracks during BT were different then the ones at Reception. There were actual rooms. Rooms without doors, but rooms nonetheless. There were 4 wall lockers and 2 sets of bunkbeds per room. Still had communal showers (one shower tower with shower heads around the top) but at least you didn't have 100+ clamoring women in a big communal bedroom like Reception.
You were assigned rooms and your Battle Buddy (BB) was the person who shared your bunk bed set. My BB was Blondie (we were all given nicknames almost immediately by the DS's). She was one of the "old ladies" in our squad. She was 24. Her hair was shortish and thick, curly and blonde. She had a husband and 2 little boys back home and had joined the military for the benefits. Her husband joined too and would go to BT when she came home from hers. They grew up dirt poor and saw the Army as their only way out. She loved to do my hair for me since, with little boys, she never got to utilize her perfect braiding skills at home. I was very thankful for her skills since, as you can see in my last Military post, my skills (or lack thereof) were getting me in trouble.
My squad had all the "old ladies". At 20 (soon to be 21), I was one of them. The 3 other squads all had roughly the same age girls - 17-19 years old. My squad ranged from 17-32 years old. Didn't make for the best dynamic, but whaddayagonna do? The older girls (including me) would get disgusted at the younger girls who would often cry for no reason or try (unsuccessfully) to pull that, "I'm just a girl" thing to get out of doing stuff. The younger girls would be disgusted with the older girls for bossing them around.
Once you were done with Reception, you were given a set of linens and packed on to a bus taking you to your BT proper. Everyone is nervous as hell - excited and giggly and scared. Once you get to your new BT digs, a drill sgt. gets on and calmly says, "OK, soldiers, get off the bus and get your duffel bag and line up according to your assigned squad." We all look at each other questioningly as we've not been told what our assigned squad will be.
This is where Shock Treatment starts. The drill starts hollering and yelling and rushing us from here to there and it's all a big cluster-F. As it's intended to be. They want you as disoriented and scared as they can make you. My friend David warned me all about this, so I knew it was coming. (I told more about that here.)
The bus is on one side of the wide sidewalk where we are to line up in our squads. The truck with our duffel bags is on the other. Not the short side, the other end - about a block away. The soldiers on that truck are just dumping them off onto the ground so they can split back to their cushy jobs at Reception. We have to dig through these 50lb. full bags trying to find ours. I had a couple dumped onto my head as I was digging through the mess. The latch on one, ripped a chunk of my hair out. I remember thinking what bastards those guys were and then remembering, "Oh yea - Army."
While you're trying to find your bag, the DS's are calling out names to say who is in what squad. You've got to keep an ear open and an eye on whoever said your name so you know where to stand. In the insane chaos, it's not that easy.
Once you're all in squads, the fun really begins. There's much more yelling and hollering on the part of the DS's and it's not about anything specific. Let the mind games begin....!
After all that, they take you inside the barracks and assign Battle Buddies and rooms. They show how to put your stuff in the wall locker and it's all oddly specific. This stuff folded this way, these T-shirts rolled that way and placed here in the wall locker. There's a small 2-drawer, metal nightstand type thing in your wall locker for the stuff that gets folded. There's a diagram on the inside of your wall locker door to tell you how/where everything's supposed to be. And hell to be paid if it's not exactly like the picture.
One of the tricks we learned early on was to keep the bed made and hide an extra sheet in the wall locker. You'd sleep on top of your made bed and under your extra sheet. Trust me, those extra 2 minutes of sleep because you don't have to make up your bunk - heaven. Of course, if you were caught with the extra sheet in your locker, the DS would dump your whole locker and your bunk and you'd lose about 30 minutes putting it all back together again!
Next week, chow hall etiquette and PT, Ruth!
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
Things I've Done (In Bold)
1. Started my own blog
2. Slept under the stars - When I was a kid, our dad took us camping all the time. We also spent most of our summers sleeping in the backyard.
3. Played in a band - I played flute from 6th-8th grade. Not very well.
4. Visited Hawaii - The summer btw 7th and 8th grade my best friend's uncle took her, me and his 2 kids to a beach front house in Maui for a month. Splee!
5. Watched a meteor shower
6. Given more than I can afford to charity
7. Been to Disneyland/world - Land - several times, World - not yet.
8. Climbed a mountain - I've done a ton of hiking but I've never started at the bottom and gone all the way to the top of a real mountain. Lots of foothilltops!
9. Held a praying mantis
10. Sung a solo
11. Bungee jumped
12. Visited Paris - Twice, once at 17 and again when I was in the Army.
13. Watched lightning at sea
14. Taught myself an art from scratch
15. Adopted a child
16. Had food poisoning
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty
18. Grown my own vegetables - We had a pretty sizable vegetable garden when I was a kid. My job was to pollinate the tomatoes.
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France - When I was 17. Touched the corner of the frame to put my fingerprint on it - almost got thrown out of the Louvre but told them it was an accident, that I slipped.
20. Slept on an overnight train
21. Had a pillow fight
22. Hitchhiked - Twice. Then I read the book Perfect Victim - girl only got in the car because there was a man, a wife and baby. They let her go 7 years later. Never hitched again.
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill - oh yea!
24. Built a snow fort
25. Held a lamb - I've pet them but never picked one up.
26. Gone skinny dipping
27. Run a marathon
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice - I've been to Venice but felt the gondola ride cost was exorbitant for what you got.
29. Seen a total eclipse
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset - Several of each. Prefer sunsets. Sunrises occur too early!
31. Hit a home run
32. Been on a cruise
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person
34. Visited the birthplace of my ancestors - Sort of. Been to Kansas where my gma was born. My mom's adopted so other then KS, I don't know where I'd go!
35. Seen an Amish community
36. Taught myself a new language - No, but took a bunch of ASL classes. I love sign language!
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied - I have money issues, don't know if this would ever be true of me.
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
39. Gone rock climbing
40. Seen Michelangelo’s David - He's very impressive
41. Sung karaoke - Unfortunately. I don't sing well and rarely do it in front of people. At karaoke things, I'm usually the back-up dancer.
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant
44. Visited Africa
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight - Maui
46. Been transported in an ambulance
47. Had my portrait painted
48. Gone deep sea fishing
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris - Like the gondola ride, too expensive. Besides, it seemed silly to me to pay to climb stairs or ride an elevator.
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling
52. Kissed in the rain
53. Played in the mud - I grew up in Clovis (Redneck), CA. I've been muddin' in some really big SUV trucks. Also played a lot of mud football. Love mud football!
54. Gone to a drive-in theater - I love the drive-in. My husband and I, for our first date, I suggested a double feature of Jackie Chan at the drive-in. He said sure! I also love Jackie Chan!
55. Been in a movie
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business - 5elementknitr.etsy.com and I used to have my own massage practice that I started
58. Taken a martial arts class - Tai Chi is technically a martial arts, right?
59. Visited Russia
60. Served at a soup kitchen
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies
62. Gone whale watching
63. Got flowers for no reason - From Dave and from my little guys. So cool!
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma
65. Gone sky diving
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp - One of the places, while stationed in Germany, that I had absolutely no desire to see. Reading about is difficult enough.
67. Bounced a check
68. Flown in a helicopter - Several times. Future post, believe it!
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy - I have the teddy bear I got when I was 4 or 5. Until a few years ago, I still slept with it. I had to retire it and get a new one. My original was falling apart and I didn't want that to happen, he resides on my bookcase now.
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial - No but I've been to 2 Husker games at the Lincoln Memorial Stadium in Nebraska. Go Big Red!
71. Eaten caviar - It's gross.
72. Pieced a quilt
73. Stood in Times Square
74. Toured the Everglades
75. Been fired from a job - Another post...
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London - That trip when I was 17.
77. Broken a bone - Neither has my husband.
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle - My high school sweetheart's cousin used to race. One time he slapped a helmet and some leathers on me and took me around the track full-bore. Nuthin' like it, man - loved it!
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person - Great big hole in the ground. This is one of those things that I saw so much of before I ever got there that, while terribly impressive, at the same time I was sorta "meh". Same thing with the Mona Lisa. The Mona Lisa is quite a bit smaller in person then you'd expect.
80. Published a book
81. Visited the Vatican
82. Bought a brand new car - 2007 Toyota Sienna minivan
83. Walked in Jerusalem
84. Had my picture in the newspaper - I was in the Rose Bowl parade on 1985. The reporter covering our trip took a shot of me during practice and put it on the front page of the section where they cover stuff like that.
85. Read the entire Bible - No, but read enough.
86. Visited the White House
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating - There was a lot of fishing with all that camping.
88. Had chickenpox - Still have one of those little scars by my eyebrow.
89. Saved someone’s life - Yet another post. Jist of it is, I felt a massage client I had should see his doctor about some dizziness he had. Smart man (not one of those doctor-procrastinating ones) went to his doc, turns out his carotid artery was 90% blocked! If he hadn't gone it would've been Stroke City. He says I saved his life - I dont think I did but, whatever.
90. Sat on a jury
91. Met someone famous - Blogged all about that here and here.
92. Joined a book club - Learned that I don't much care for not picking my own books. Always hear people in book clubs say, "It was nice because I discovered books I might not have otherwise read." I kind of get that but that means it's also cutting into time that could've been spent books you really wanted to read.
93. Lost a loved one - My grandma. She passed in 1997 and I miss her every day.
94. Had a baby - Two and I make great ones!
95. Seen the Alamo in person - My AIT in the Army was in San Antonio, TX.
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake
97. Been involved in a lawsuit - In high school, had one of those accidental house parties at my house. A girl said this sweet guy tried to rape her. It was complete bollocks. She made out with him, got a hickey, her boyfriend saw it and she had to tell him something. He was worried, told her mom, all hell broke loose. Stupid, lying bitch. Sweet guy was arrested and trial ensued. Since it was my house, I was called to talk about geography of bushes around our house and such. It eventually got thrown out as her own witnesses couldn't get their stories straight and their evidence actually supported the guy in question. The judge told the girl he hopes it never truly happens to her because after this mess no one would ever believe her again.
98. Owned a cell phone
99. Been stung by a bee - First time was when I was four. Been terrified of bees ever since.
100. Rode an elephant - No, but I've been on a camel! Once while in England.
Been quite a life so far, Ruth!
Monday, December 8, 2008
The base I ended up with for Basic Training (and for typing purposes, we'll shorten that to BT) was Ft. Jackson, South Carolina. Every base has a nickname - Ft. Leonard Woods, MO is Fort Lost in the Woods; Ft. Benning is Home of the Ranger (that's where they train 'em); Ft. Huachuca, AZ is Fort We-Gotcha (When you get sent to a base, your time there is usually 2 years. At Ft. H., people get stuck there for years - they get deployed a lot and when they get back, their time at Ft. H starts over from the beginning). I don't know what the real nickname for Ft. Jackson is but my squad got to calling it Fort Smack-me-some. Not that we ever got smacked, but it kicked our ass and the name rhymed (sorta).
Reception is like paradise compared to real BT. You get to wear your own clothes for a few days until they issue your uniforms, you march from place to place but it's a pretty loosely defined version of marching. There's 2 drill sgt.'s and one regular sgt. assigned to your platoon and they are jokey kind of drill sgt.'s, nothing like the hardcore ones you meet later.
You spend your days lounging about in your bunk, waiting for your next trip to the magical land that is in-processing. There's shots to be had, records to be filled out (you get to learn all about our SSN, particularly your last 4), you get to mingle with the boys some. After you get your uniforms, you get pictures with your dress uniform on. You have to do one push-up to prove your physically fit to go on to BT proper. If you can't do that one proper military push-up (and believe me there were 2 girls and one guy who couldn't), you get an extra week at Reception doing nothing but PT to get you up to speed.
Oh, and another Pap smear. Good times.
(For the first 3 years of my Army career, 1991-1994, any female soldier going to the hospital/sick call for any reason was required to pee in a cup at some point during her stay/visit to check for pregnancy. In '94 when I got to Ft. Huachuca, they stopped doing that, but that may've just been a you-work-in-this-hospital-so-you-don't-have-to policy.)
Uniform issue day:
You stand in line and are measured. You're given a piece of paper with your measurements at the top and a huge checklist of all the things you are to receive. You work your way down the line, checking off things as you get them. By the end, you've got an Army issue duffel bag, stuffed to the gills and weighing about 50 pounds. The first thing they issue is your PT gear. PT is Physical Training and your PT gear is a pair of grey running shorts and a grey T-shirt. They issue you granny panties and ugly bras. You can wear your own bras during BT but not your own panties. Weird.
So you put on these PT's and wear them as you move down the Basic Issue line. You try on the BDU pants and jacket. BDU stands for Battle Dress Uniform and it's the green/brown camo you think of for Army uniforms (at least before Desert Storm). Despite your measurements on your paper, you end up getting what they have in stock and hopefully it fits. Back then (as now) I'm 5'2", back then (sigh) I was about 125 pounds. A girl we all called Tiny wasn't even 5' and I doubt she topped out at 90 pounds. We both looked like we were wearing Daddy's clothes. And, as I said previously, they gave me boots that were a half size too small. I said, "These are a size 8, I need an 8.5."
Issuer: Those are 8.5.
Me: (showing the pretty clearly marked '8') No, look, they say 8.
Issuer: They came off the 8.5 shelf, they are 8.5.
Me: (realizing the obvious futility of arguing with this prick) Well, they are too small.
Issuer: They'll stretch.
Me: How, they are plastic.
Issuer: It only feels like plastic, it's leather and they'll stretch.
Me: (looking skeptical) When.
Issuer: Give it a week, if you need a bigger size tell your drill and they'll get you some
Me: Can't I just take care of it now?
Me: Can I get a 9 then?
Issuer: No. And you're holding up the line soldier.
(I thought to myself, 'Welcome to the Army, Ruth.')
After you get all your gear, you have to turn in your civilian stuff. Almost all of the soldiers are going straight to AIT after BT (AIT is where they teach you the job you picked), so we've all got these ginormous suitcases with all our civie clothes. Your stuff gets catalogued and locked into a closet. After reception, it gets locked in a closet at your new digs on base. The big drill sgt. assigned to us had to catalogue our stuff. He was making stupid comments about any frilly underwear he'd come across.
The 2 drills assigned to us were a small light-skinned black guy with hazel eyes and a reasonably mellow attitude and a behemoth, dark-skinned black guy who was always joking with us but turned into a bully when even slightly crossed. I can't remember their names, so we'll just call them Smith (small) and Jones (big).
DS Smith liked to go around saying, "That looks like an abortion!" which made a couple of people in a platoon full of women turn pale. The women, when alone in the barracks, would say things like, "Why does he have to say that? It's so offensive!" And, from an older girl, "I've had an abortion and that shit ain't nuthin' to joke about."
(When we took our pictures, I remember taking DS Smith aside and telling him how some of the girls found that phrase offensive and would he mind picking a different way to insult us.
Yea. I know. I'm a total, idealistic dork. When I think back to the absolute naivete that prompted that, I don't know whether to laugh at it's existence or cry that it's gone.)
The regular sgt. assigned to us was a good guy. (His name also escapes me, so we'll call him SSGT., since that was his rank - Staff Sgt.) He was always nice and pleasant and always smelled really good. Eternity for Men, I think.
One day, towards the beginning of our stay in Reception, SSGT. and DS Smith were standing around the common area when Tiny came running out of the barracks and found me. She said, "Ruth, there's a guy in our barracks and he's in the upper bunk from you!"
Me: Whaaaat? No way.
Me: There can't be a guy in our barracks, the guys are no where near here!
Tiny: He's there - I swear.
Me: Look, I'm going to go check it out. You go get DS Smith and have him come see, too.
As I was heading into our barracks to see, I was closely followed by DS Smith who'd overheard our convo. As did most of the other girls who were hanging around the common area. One hears and with all those females, it spreads like wildfire.
I went to my bunk and there was someone on the top bunk. Certainly looked male, gotta say. But as we introduced ourselves, Cindy and I got it all straightened out. DS Smith left the building laughing and went to calm down the other women. (Speaking of straightening out, as butch as Cindy looked, turns out she wasn't the gay one. The gay one was this really pretty, feminine, big-boned girl named Breaux. More about that in a future post.)
Our barracks in reception consisted of a big open room (think reception or banquet hall) called a bay. There's all these wall lockers and bunk beds lined up in rows down the middle. You have about one foot of space between your bunk and your wall locker. You can house over 100 people in these bays. No privacy for anyone. Communal showers and bathrooms. The only privacy you'll ever find there is to lock yourself in a bathroom stall. If you do that, they soon come looking for you.
Towards the end of our week in Reception, we were all hanging around the commons again. The SSGT. came over to me and said the usual thing I'd hear, "Riggs, you need to fix that hair, soldier." Except for the 4 years of high school when it was really short, I've always had really long hair. Really long (at least mid-back), really straight, really soft hair that doesn't like to stay up. I've also always been really hair-styling impaired. I'd twist it into a bun and wrap a scrunchie around it but the softness and straightness of it - it'd slip out within minutes. Especially with physical activity. So my hair was always sort of half coming out of my scrunchie. But it was up above my collar and not terribly messy so I didn't understand the actual issue at hand. "SSGT.," I said, "What exactly do you mean? I put it up and it stays up but you still tell me to fix it. If you could just, please, be a bit more specific, I'll do my best to take care of it."
This is when I almost get thrown out of the Army on my 5th day in.
DS Jones is standing there the whole time listening. After I ask SSGT. to be specific, Jones reaches out with his big paw and grabs my bun of hair. My whole body stiffens and I automatically put my arm up to push his away. He sees this, grins smugly, and starts yanking my hair back and forth, up and down to emphasize his words, "This soldier. This is what he's talking about. You don't question, you. Just. Fix. It."
When he's done yanking, he stands there with my hair still in his mitt. He's at least a full foot taller then me and standing to my side - I look at him as best I can and say, "Take. your hands. off me." He laughs, lets go and starts to walk away. I talk to his back, and quietly yet firmly say, "And if you ever touch me again, I will Fuck. You. Up."
He stops. Stops dead in his tracks and stops laughing. He whips around, heads back my way, gets right in my face and says, "What did you say to me, girl?" I look him dead in his eye and say, "You heard me. You're not allowed to touch us and I'll just be defending myself."
Drill sgt.'s are taught to not use a single finger to point at people. The theory is a single finger is too personal - my theory is it's too easy to get it broken. So they are taught to use their whole hand, turned sideways with thumb folded in. They use this to shake at your face and make their point. DS Jones was coming at me with a single finger and sputtering mad.
SSGT. squeezes in between us at this point. Facing DS Jones, SSGT. says, "Riggs, go to your bunk and cool off." DS Jones realizes that SSGT. (who outranks him) is actually talking to both of us. He turns around and storms off. So do I. I go to my bunk area and do about the furthest thing from cooling off. I'm in a rage. I rip the sheets and blankets off my bed, open my wall locker and throw everything out of it, yelling things like, "Who the FUCK does he think he is?? He can't put his hands on me! I'll kill that motherfucker!" After about 10 minutes of this behavior, finally spent, I lay on my bunk.
Of course, the grapevine is out and all the girls are around my bed watching me throw this huge fit. (Not that they needed a grapevine, I'm sure they could hear me. Italy probably could've heard me.) When I've stopped and calmed down some, a bunch of the other girls told how he'd done similar things to them. One had been repeatedly poked in the sternum (single finger thing) while DS Jones was making some other point. One had been offended by his inappropriate remarks regarding her personal civilian things during the cataloguing process. And a few others that had choice words for the drills.
In another burst of extreme naivete as to the workings of the military, we got together and wrote this huge letter to the CO (Commanding Officer) about the drill sgt.'s despicable and, possibly, illegal (as far as the military goes) behavior. I believe it was something like 5 pages long. (I know. Stupid. Childish. Naive beyond belief.)
We took it to the CO's office but he'd already left for the day. We gave the sealed envelope to the drill sgt. sitting at the desk and told him to give it to the CO, first thing.
2 days later, when we were to be getting on the bus to be shipped out to the part of the base where our BT proper was supposed to begin, DS Smith asked me and Tiny to come into his office. He had her there as a chaperon while he ripped me a new one.
Smith: Who do you think you are soldier?
Me: What do you mean, DS?
Smith: You go running around here telling drill sgt.'s what they should and shouldn't say. You write letters to the CO, trying to get people in trouble. You are messing with careers here, missy. (At this point, to my abject horror, he holds up the letter. Tiny and I looked at each other gape-mouthed. Those cheating bastards!)
Smith: That's right. That drill last night gave it to me.
Me: That was a letter written to the CO. You guys stole it?? What the fuck?! And as to messing with careers, don't you think DS Jones is messin' with his own career going around doing these things he knows he's not supposed to??
Smith: You can't talk to me like that. Tiny, you're a witness.
Me: She's my witness too. If you can say the things you're saying and hold up letters that don't belong to you.... she's my witness too.
Smith: You just better watch yourself, Riggs. We drill sgt.'s stick together and where you're going, they already know allll about you.
(Here's where Tiny gasps. That statement, quite frankly, is the very last thing any soldier in BT ever wants to hear. If you keep a low profile and are invisible, the drills will generally leave you alone. I suppose that was never likely to happen where I'm concerned.)
Me: Stick together - what do I care? I'm always where I'm supposed to be, doing what I'm supposed to be doing - if they're going to judge me for some bullshit here where I wasn't even the one in the wrong then there's nothing I can do about that.
Somewhere after he produced the letter, we both started yelling. Tiny is trying to get tinier in the corner and the DS and I just kept getting madder. After my last statement, the DS huffed at me, "We shall see." and sent us on our merry way.
Steaming mad again and wondering if my friend David who helped me get into the Army was right about me - that I could do it if I tried. Because, at this point, I was really questioning my ability to get through the next 8 weeks. David had told me they couldn't touch me and to just do as I was told and don't get sucked up into the head games they play at BT.
Tiny and I headed to the bus that was to take us to our new home for the next 8 weeks. We were hoofin' it because our little tete-a-tete with DS Smith made us late. As we were grabbing our linen stack for our new beds, DS McCoy (the female drill I told you about 2 weeks ago), heard my name called.
McCoy: Hmph, "Riggs"? Yea, we heard allll about you, Riggs. We gonna see how you do.
Me: I'll do just fine, DS. Go where I'm supposed to go. Do what I'm supposed to do.
McCoy: Sounds like a good plan, soldier. Get on that bus.
Still steams me to think of that jerk pulling my hair, Ruth!
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
Here's my friend Donna (who is not huge) modeling it for me....
Pattern: Pimlico Shrug from Knit2Together
Yarn: Alpaca with a Twist Highlander (7 skeins D'Lynn bought plus 2 more I bought to finish the edging)
Needles: Whatever was called for in the pattern (US 9 and US 7's I think)
This thing is so warm and big, it's like wearing a really pretty, incredibly soft blanket. If you don't pull the back down over your tush, it has this big, unattractive bubble of knit fabric bagging around the back.
The pic's in the book have this piece as much shorter. I made it to specs and I'm sure it's probably a gauge issue on my part. The thing is, there's no real way to tell until you've done about 12" what it's going to look like when you're done. And the way it's shaped/sewn up, by the time you get to 12", you ain't froggin'.
I was so happy when D'Lynn picked this pattern and even happier when she picked the Highlander yarn. I've been wanting, for quite some time, to use that yarn and make this pattern. 2 birds with one stone! I was thinking about making one of these for myself as well but after finishing this, I know I won't. The main body of the piece is a 16 row repeat - it's actually the same 8 rows and the second set of 8 is just moved over 4 sts. It's interesting.... for awhile. You're supposed to repeat those 16 rows for 34". I remember measuring around 17" and almost crying. It's never ending and gets really dull. The 500+ stitch edging Bind-Off took me an hour.
The yarn is a dream. I have acquired much more of it and see no signs of ever knitting with any other yarn. (hah! I can't even say that with a straight face, but am still seriously loving that yarn!) The finished product that is Pimlico is lovely. But I won't be making another.
I'm mailing this tomorrow. I'll be borrowing it tonight to wear to my PTO meeting (it's snowing here, I want to wear a blanket!). The sleeves are a bit tight - my finishing skills aren't the best. I'm mailing it with some Eucalan, very explicit instructions on washing this thing (it felts within seconds which is great for spit-splicing and no-end-weaving but a bit scary for washing), and the number to D'Lynn's nearest LYS in case she wants someone to do a better job with those sleeve seams.
The FO parade marches on, Ruth!
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
We've been having so much fun with it that I've decided to extend the deadline. We won't be taking anymore contestants. Over 20 people signed up and the snail mail is taking much longer then anticipated!
Yesterday, we turned in the pic's and souvenirs and such that we had (I bought a scrapbook, people!). We'll continue to add to it as things come in.
The new deadline is December 31st, then no matter what - Trev will pull the winner's name from a hat on New Year's Day!
Thanks to all who signed up to help with this project, Ruth!
Monday, December 1, 2008
Last Monday, I told some about Basic Training and why I joined, but I'm going to start from the beginning...
When I wanted to call a recruiter, all there seemed to be in Fresno was Army. Initially, my friend David suggested I go Air Force as it's "not real military". The Army recruiter in Fresno told me the nearest Air Force office was in Lemoore which is about an hour from Fresno. I didn't have a reliable car, so I stayed in Fresno, talking to Army recruiters.
What the recruiter failed to tell me was that the AF recruiters would have come and picked me up. I found that out the day I went for my physical for the Army.
The physical - what an odd experience. Standing in line with all the rest of the female recruits, shuffling along, being poked, prodded, tested. They actually make the females have a Pap smear. The doctor was this ancient, kind, little old guy. I remember him testing my ovaries while my feet were in the stirrups - he said, "Let's see what this ovary is doing. OK, now let's see what this one over here is doing." I remember thinking, "They're having a party, can we move this along??" But like I said, he was very sweet and very, very old and I'm sure he thought the small talk was putting us at ease. Not so much.
The recruiter took me and some other recruits out to a lunch at some really crappy Chinese joint around the corner from the building where you get your physical, take your ASVAB, and pick your job. It was a buffet place and he was gushing about how he just loved eating there and it was all on the Army's tab. He was this doughy black guy and it was pretty clear he liked buffets. (All the recruiters in Fresno were in rotten shape. I think it's allowed so recruits will get the impression that the Army isn't that difficult. But that's just my opinion.)
After that lunch, he took us to a park and we all played basketball together. It was a fun game! I'm not great at basketball, but I don't completely suck either and I had a great time. Then he took us all home. He dropped me off last and walked me to my door. Then he pinned me against the door and started slobber-kissing me. I shoved him away and he stammered apologies, said he thought I was giving him signals and stuff. Right. Eeew. It was the first, but certainly not the last of some very inappropriate behavior on the part of superior ranking individuals in my time in the Army.
I had a delayed entry and as I explained in my last Military post, they sent me to the wrong base initially - Ft. Dix. They hadn't taken female recruits there in over 3 months so the Drill sgt.'s there were surprised to see me. They kept me with them the whole time I was there, except when it came to eating. At dinner, I got my tray of food and walked over to their table to sit down and eat. One looked at me like I was stupid and said, "What are you doing?" I said, "Sitting down to eat?" He said, "Uh-uh, find some place else to sit soldier, you can't sit with us." When I asked why, he explained about rank mixing and other stupid stuff that I quickly learned was de rigeur for the military. They can joke and smoke with you all they like but when it comes to mingling, not allowed. At least not in training settings.
I shrugged it off and walked to the nearest table. The guys at that table started shoving each other left and right to clear a space for me. It was like a bowl full of hungry fish when you throw a few fish flakes in. The Drill said, "You can't sit there either." "Why not," I sighed. He said, "That's for the recruits." (All guys, remember.) "OK," I said, "Then you tell me where to sit." - because the whole chow hall was all guys and there wasn't an empty seat to be had. The chow hall tables are like huge Formica picnic tables - the kind with benches attached. There's about 15 people per side and it's a tight fit.
The Drill stood up and made the nearest table full of guys clear out and find seats elsewhere. They had to cram in where they could at the other tables. I sat at this big ass table by myself, face burning since I could feel all these greedy eyes on me. Not that I'm much to look at, but after not having seen a female for weeks, those boys would take what they could get. The drill's kept barking at them to "chew it now, taste it later" and "eyes DOWN!!".
Same scenario the next morning for breakfast.
Like I said last post, I couldn't get out of there fast enough. I asked if I could just sit on the bus and wait until it was time to go back to the airport. They let me even though the bus didn't leave for another 3 hours. And the ride to the airport was no big joy either. It was full of fresh graduates who, again, hadn't seen a female for 8 weeks. I felt like an alien.
Next week, I'll take you through Reception with me.
Glad to have ducked Ft. Dix, Ruth!
Friday, November 28, 2008
Yesterday, we had Thanksgiving dinner at the in-laws. I made these desserts from the Everyday Food cookbook. I used to have a subscription to the magazine. Great stuff, simple, fast, everything found in a normal grocery store. When the cookbook came out, I bought it immediately.
CRANBERRY UPSIDE DOWN CAKE
8 TBSP unsalted butter at room temp
1 cup sugar (separated)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp allspice
1 3/4 cup cranberries
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/4 cup flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup milk
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Rub the bottom and sides of an 8" cake pan with 2 TBSP butter. In a small bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup of sugar, the cinnamon and the allspice. Sprinkle mixture evenly over the bottom of the pan; arrange cranberries in a single layer on top.
2. With an electric mixer, cream remaining 6 TBSP of butter and 1/2 cup sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla; beat until well combined. In another bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture to the butter mixture in 3 batches, alternating with the milk, until well combined.
3. Spoon the batter over the cranberries in the pan, smoothing the top. Place the pan on a baking sheet; bake the cake until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean - 30-35 minutes. Let cool on wire rack about 20 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the cake and invert onto a rimmed platter. Serve with whipped cream.
I've made this cake twice and both times when I inverted it, some of the cranberry topping stayed stuck to the pan. You'd think with 2 Tablespoons of butter that wouldn't happen. Next time I'm going to first spray the pan with non-stick spray and see if that helps.
PEAR CUSTARD PIE
1/4 cup unsalted butter plus more for the pie dish
3 ripe but firm Comice or Bartlett pears, peeled halved and cored
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup flour
2 tsp vanilla
3 large eggs
3/4 cup milk
1/4 tsp salt
Confectioner's sugar for dusting
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees; butter a 9" pie dish. Slice the pears 1/4" thick lengthwise and layer in pie plate, slightly overlapping
2. In blender, process the rest of the ingredients (except confectioner's sugar) until smooth. I had to scrape the sides a few times.
3. Pour the batter over the pears ; bake until golden brown and firm to the touch, 40-45 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature dusted with powdered sugar. They aren't kidding about the warm part. I took a bite later last evening when it was cold. Not so good. But when warm - spectacular! Also, I had about 1/4 cup of extra cranberries left over from making the cake so I threw those in after step one. Soooooo tasty!
The last one is a favorite but I'm tired of typing so I'll just link to it. My MIL has gotten both of us lifetime subscriptions to Taste of Home. Excellent mag. There's little to no advertising - it's all recipes and all sent in by readers. This is out of that mag. It's Sweet Potatoes with Apples.
Eat well, Ruth!
Thursday, November 27, 2008
I joined YarnThing's Holiday KAL-CAL. My list includes a hat each for my brother, my MIL, and my FIL. Slippers for the boys and the in-laws. And now I've added a scarf and some Peekaboo Mitts for my MIL. And a bathmat (crocheted) for my BIL/SIL.
Monday, November 24, 2008
Just as there's 101 ways to get out of the Army, there's also about 502 ways to get put out of the Army. My favorite is the inheritance one. If a soldier inherits (or wins) a lot of money (I believe the cutoff number is somewhere around $100,000), they will be put out of the military with an honorable discharge. The thinking is - with that much money, they have no incentive to put up with the bullshit one has to put up with in the military.
Your family also needs to be example-setting, upstanding citizens. I had a friend who was put out because his wife was a complete F'up. They were living in base housing and she was a pothead. She'd get loaded and go to the Shoppette (military version of 7/11). One time she went for her munchies and apparently reeked of weed badly enough to have the clerk call the MP's on her. They pulled her over on her way home and she got busted for DUI. It was the last straw for the soldier's CO. Soldier was put out. It was my understanding it was a sort of "You can take this honorable discharge and get out or we'll put you out with a dishonorable discharge" situation. Sucked for him because he was actually a really good soldier who just married wrong.
Usually, if you're a good soldier, they don't much care what your private life is like. That's where the cop out of "don't ask, don't tell" often comes in to play. Of the 15 women on the Women's Medac Softball Team at Ft. Huachuca, I was one of 2 1/2 who were straight. (Evelyn's theory was, "Why limit yourself?" Why indeed, Ev.) The Army does not care. But if they need a reason to put you out....
Ditto for writing bad checks. And having a car that doesn't work. And failing the college courses you chose to take. And being consistently late. And a hundred other ways if they feel you're not up to par.
Have I ever told y'all why I joined the military? It's a long story involving borderline homelessness and a severe lack of college money.
So there I was....
We'll stick with the second reason for now. I was going to Fresno State as a Dance Major. I was in Dance all through high school and that's what I wanted to do with my life. I was running out of money and had no real options. I called one of my best friend's from high school, David, and asked him about the military. (He was an officer in the Army. Still is - he's currently a Major in the Armor Division and just came back from Saudi Arabia this past July.) The first thing he said was, "You're going to hate it." (I wasn't exactly known for conformity.) I said, "I know but what choice do I have??"
He came over and schooled me about the military. He said the first thing I had to do was take the ASVAB. I don't know what it stands for but it's sort of like SAT's for the military. He said after the ASVAB, the recruiter would take me to a computer where I'd pick my job. He told me that recruiters have quotas they need to fill and they have certain jobs they need to fill more then others. "This," he said, "means that They. LIE. A lot. Use your head and see if what they are saying makes any sense." He insisted that I pick a medical or dental job. He said, "Medical is not real Army. Not as much in the old days, but there's a higher level of education and a much more laid back feel." He also told me about Basic Training. He told me about Shock Treatment (we'll cover that in a moment) and then he said I'd be fine. "Ruth, they can't lay a hand on you. All they can do anymore is yell at you and try to make you feel like shit. It's all a head game - just don't play." Once he told me that, I knew I could handle it. They can yell all they like, it ain't gonna bother me as long as I know they can't hit me. What do I care if some stranger I'll only have to deal with for 8 weeks yells at me?
I took the ASVAB. There's a lot of "school learnin' stuff" (as the recruiter told me) but there's also sections where they test for different skills - I remember a section with pictures of gears and you had to figure out which way they were going to turn. It's impossible to get 100% on the ASVAB - it's designed that way. If I remember right, I was told it involves the code section, it's too long for anyone to actually finish. If someone gets 100%, they know that person cheated. I got 97%.
The recruiter said with a 97% I could choose any job I wanted. Then he starts showing me cook and truck driver jobs. I looked at him and said, "If I can choose any job I want, why would I choose cook or truck driver? Let's see the medical jobs." He pulled up medic. Dave warned me about the medic job. It's one of the crappiest jobs in the military (albeit, one of the most important). It's shift work and shit work and blood and cleaning bed pans. I don't do blood. I'd rather not deal with bed pans. But it was a short school and since I was only joining to be in the Reserves, I wanted as short a school as possible so I could get back to "real" school as soon as possible. They had a slot for me in Basic but nothing in AIT (that's where the Army teaches the job you picked). So we moved on and the recruiter pulled up OR tech. OR. Operating Room. I looked at him and said very slowly, since obviously he wasn't getting it, "I. Don't. Do. Blood." He said, "Oh, no, it's not like that. You're no where near the table. You mostly sterilize the instruments and if you are in the OR, you stand about a foot away from the table and just hand the Dr.'s the instruments." I looked at him incredulously, "97%, remember? I'm not stupid. What else do you have?"
So we eventually settled on Optician. Short school, I'd be back by Fall semester. Had I known my very near future, I would've picked a better job, like Pharmacy Tech or something. I didn't. I had a delayed entry so I could finish out the Fall semester I was currently in. Fall semester - 1990. I was to leave for Basic training the following March.
Fall 1990. Ringin' any bells? The day after I signed my final paperwork for the Army is the day America invaded Kuwait. The Gulf war. I couldn't believe my luck.
It worked out OK, though. With my delayed entry, by the time I graduated Basic Training, the Gulf War was over. phew!
So Basic Training. (For avoiding-carpal-tunnel-while-typing, I'm going to call it BT) First they send me to the wrong place. I was flown to Ft. Dix, NJ. The other recruits and myself were trundled off to Reception. When we got there, the drills were looking at me as if they'd never seen a woman before. Apparently it had been awhile since Ft. Dix hadn't taken female recruits for the past 3 months. The Army changes its mind a lot - coed Basic Training, not coed. Not only was Ft. Dix's BT no longer coed, they weren't training any females on the entire base! The only females on base were active duty soldiers doing there jobs. I spent the night there and at dinner that night and breakfast the morning I left, all eyes were on me. The drills kept barking at the soldiers to look at their food. Awkward.
I was then flown to Ft. Jackson, SC. So happy to leave Ft. Dix. I got there and left there when it was dark and holy crap was it cold - in March! At BT, you spend a week in reception. They process you with paperwork, paperwork, shots, paperwork, physical, paperwork, get your uniforms, paperwork. Oh, and then there's the paperwork. But it's a party! There's drill sgt.'s but they're all laid back and you have a regular sgt. who's assigned to your squad and takes you everywhere. They practice a little bit of marching but it's just to see how lame you are at it, nothing real serious.
After that first week, they put the recruits on one bus and their duffel bags stuffed full of brand new uniforms, boots, canteens, etc. onto a separate truck. Once you get to where your actual barracks/training site will be, the bus stops. Then the Shock Treatment begins. As I said, David warned me about this so I wasn't shocked and found the whole thing pretty funny.
A drill sgt. comes on the bus and starts shouting at everyone. It's a huge cluster fuck from there. There's drill's shouting, you have to run from one end of the barracks sidewalk, where the bus is to the other (about a city block), where the truck is. All the duffel bags were being dumped onto the ground. You have to find your duffel out of the hundred or so on the ground, find where your squad is (there's 4 in a platoon with about 25-30 women per), find a place in line then stand still while the drill's tear into you. The girls who were crying got reamed. The girl next to me apparently found it as funny as I did and started laughing. The drill came and was screaming and spit-yelling in her face. Literally. The brim of his drill sgt. hat was touching her forehead. I could smell his breath from where I was standing. Ew. She stopped laughing. I was trying so hard not to bust a gut, I almost peed.
I've got so many memories of Basic Training but this post is getting over long as it is. Again. Maybe I'll start a Military Monday and write some memoiries (not misspelled - I like making up new words).
The point of all this is here...
The Army is the irony of my life. I joined to get college money for my Dance Major. In Reception, they gave me boots that were a half size too small and told me they'd stretch. They didn't stretch, they just caused nerve damage. When I went back to school, I couldn't go on toe anymore and had to give up dance. When you think about it, it's actually kind of funny! It's the only reason I went in and then I couldn't do it anymore because I went it.
Of course, it wasn't funny at the time. I was 21 and it was devastating and all very dramatic. I went back to the Army and said I wanted to go Active Duty (I'd only joined the Reserves, remember) - I figured I needed time to develop a new plan for my life and if I went Active Duty, I'd get twice the college money in half the time. I obviously wasn't thinking too straight since "half the time" also meant full time - Army 24/7. I said I wanted to get as far away as possible, so wanted to go to Korea. I'd been to Europe on a trip with some classmates the summer between my Junior and Senior year and figured I'd seen it in the 6 weeks we were there. (What a schmo I was!) The recruiters told me all they had for my job was Germany. I sighed and snapped, "Fine." Yeah, fine - I had the time of my life while stationed for 2 years in Germany! They made me take the ASVAB again, since they'd lost my test scores from the year before. I got a 98% and those idiots were all impressed. I reminded them, "I just took this a year ago. It's. the. same. test. Not like I memorized it but, come on!" After that, I was on my way to the next 4 years of my life.
The way I found out about the nerve damage was pretty funny, too. I was gimping down the hall and the drill saw me. She was the only female drill in our platoon and was small, wiry and hard as nails. She said, "RIGGS - get over here." I was in my pajamas (in BT, that's your PT outfit) and said, "I gotta go to the bathroom." She was at one end of the long hall and the bathroom was at the other. I was in the middle. She yelled, "Come here." I knew she was wondering why I was limping but I wasn't about to tell her. If you have to go to Sick Call for too long, you get "recycled" which means you have to start Basic Training all over. From the beginning. It was week 4 of 8 when she spotted me. I said, "After I pee." and started run-gimping down the hall. She was chasing after me and quickly overcame me.
Drill: What's wrong with you?
Drill: Don't lie soldier, is it your leg?
Drill: Soldier, I ain't here to play 20 questions with you.
Me: (finally breaking and bursting into tears. It's the first time I've cried during BT) My feet.
Drill: (looking alarmed at my tears) Let me see them.
Me: No. I'm fine.
Drill: I'm not going to ask again.
I took off my socks and showed her my feet. She actually gasped. The bottoms were completely black and blue with bruises. The tops of my toes were also bruised. "It's really not that bad," I lied. She asked what the hell happened and I told her I didn't know but I suspected it was from my boots being too small. She asked why I hadn't told them the boots were too small. I said, "I did ask for bigger boots at reception. When they gave me my pair, I told them they were too small. The guy said to stop complaining and that they'd stretch. I guess they haven't." She laughed and said, "I guess not. I'm sending you to Sick Call."
I almost started crying again and begged her not to. I told her it wasn't so bad and if she just got me boots that fit, I was sure they'd heal quickly. She reluctantly sent me anyway and, so I wouldn't get recycled, I lied like crazy to the doc's when I was there. She got me proper fitting boots. The bruises healed but the nerve damage never has. To this day, if I wear shoes that are too tight around the toes, the nerves in my toes crack and it feels like they are being electrocuted.
Don't feel bad for me. When the subject comes up and people hear this story, they get all sorry for me. Shit happens. I don't regret a thing in my life. I had the best time in Germany, I had the crazy Major at Ft. Huachuca, I ended up in Tucson where I met my husband and had my kids!
That's just the way it goes, Ruth!
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
My friend in Germany had no idea. I promised her I'd tell all so here it is. Grab a snack.
So there I was...
stationed at Ft. Huachuca, I had the worst CO (commanding officer) ever. Well, at least in my limited 5 year military experience. She was the second worst boss I've had in all the jobs I've done. (Someday, I'll tell y'all about the worst.)
Major Cindy Palmer. I hope she googles her name and reads this someday. Not that she'll care.
Whenever you get to a new base, it's usually best to get a bank account on that base and have your direct deposit go there. Makes money access so much easier. I was at the bank on Ft. Huachuca with my boyfriend, Aaron. This family came in and signed in to wait (just like I had) and sat across the room from us. Aaron and I looked at each other with decidedly WTF?? looks on our faces.
The family was very tall. The husband and wife were well over 6' and the 2 boys were as tall as me and taller (not saying much there - I'm 5'2"). That's not what we thought was so strange. The strange part - they were all dressed the same. Same exact madras plaid shirts, same exact khaki, knee-length cargo shorts, even the same damn shoes! White keds. Very strange.
So I get to work the next day at the eye clinic for the hospital (I was an optician - screened patients for the Optometrists). I get my "welcome to the base" briefing from my new NCO (non-commissioned officer in charge, i.e., my Sergeant). It went a little something like this:
"If it's poisonous and lives in North America it's here - to include water moccasins and the brown recluse spider. Hydrate or die." I said, "Sounds like a lovely place." (I had a run-in with a brown recluse shortly before I got out of the Army. You can read that adventure here.)
I was given a tour of our meager offices and then introduced to the staff on hand. I was told that there was going to be a new Major and that she would be there the next day. The next day came and guess who my new Major was. Yea. The crazy lady with the family that all wears the same outfit.
I was stuck with her for the 2 years before I got out of the Army. She's the reason, the very specific reason, I know of that at least 3 other people gave saying, "yea, that's enough Army for me". She wasn't the only reason I got out (as the title of this post implies) but she was a big help. Maybe I should actually thank her for being such a bitch that it woke me up to the truth. The truth of my having become complaisant to the idea of staying in the cocoon that the military becomes for so many people. People like me who originally joined just for college money.
She was uberchristian yet seemed to never get enough of other people's business. Including the tragedy and business of strangers - she couldn't get enough true crime books. She once got caught in the clinic next to ours when we were moved to the new wing of the hospital. That clinic was the OB/GYN clinic and they kept their records in a small room locked with a key. She was caught in that room going through people's test results. Pregnancy, STD, and Pap results.
We could hear the Major from that clinic ripping her a new one through 3 closed doors. Of course, nothing happened to Palmer, other then being told to find her OB/GYN care downtown somewhere, at her own expense. Had she not been a Major, I'm sure criminal action would've been taken, but such is the Army.
Just as I'm sure, had she not been an Optometrist in the Army, she would not have had a successful practice. She was always a minimum of 20 minutes behind (usually, more like an hour). Even Cpt. J once said, "There's no way she'd make it in the real world." And she was a horrible leader. One of my duties was to keep the clinic stocked with whatever we needed. Palmer would come raging out of her office, yelling at me (oftentimes in front of patients or anyone else who happened to be standing there) because she was out of something. After the 4th or 5th time, I raised my voice back at her, "What am I supposed to do? There was no psychic class in my training. You won't let me into your office to take inventory. You don't tell me when you're low on things, you just yell at me when you're out. So what am I supposed to do?" After that, she started giving me lists of what she needed. I should've stood up for myself much earlier!
The first year there, she had a Christmas party at her house. She and I were stationed there in July and in that short 6 months, she'd already alienated everyone in the clinic. But, she's our CO, so we gotta go, right?
My captain in the clinic was a female, we'll call her J. J had a wife (D) and everyone knew it. My NCO also was a female with a girlfriend and everyone knew it. No one really cared. They were excellent soldiers (I was not. At all.) and so no one cared. The day of the party, I was hanging out with our receptionist guy (a retiree named Stu) and Palmer came up front to hang out, too. She was making small talk and then asks, "Is J. coming tonight?" Stu and I didn't know. Then she says, "Is she bringing D?" Again, we didn't know. Then she asks, "So.... what is D? Like her roommate or.... what?" Stu whips his chair around and is suddenly very busy at his computer.
I look at her dumbfounded and when I find my voice (silenced by my low rank and my desire to keep the college money I'm in the Army for), I say, "Well... I don't know. I mean, it's really none of my business and if you have any questions about Cpt. J, you. should. really. Ask. Her." And I mosy on to my desk in the back office. What a bitch!
But wait, there's more....
At the Ft. Huachuca optometry clinic, one of our duties was to go to Yuma, AZ once a month. They had a tiny base in this tiny, desert, OK - shithole of a town and it wasn't big enough to warrant their own Optometrist. So we went. One Optometrist and one Optician. No one ever wanted to go with Palmer because, well, as I've said, she'd pretty well alienated everyone she ever met.
But it was an extra coupla hundred bucks TDY pay to go, so I usually went with Palmer because I could pretty well let her craziness roll off me. Or so I thought.
The first time we went together, we drove. I didn't bring my Walkman because I didn't want to be rude. I listened to Christian talk radio for FIVE HOURS in that car. At one point, I almost opened the door and jumped onto the freeway going 75 miles an hour. yea.
On the way back, I settled in to sleep through the next 5 hours of Christian talk radio. Palmer asked me to stay awake with her because she was sleepy. sigh. I busted out my book, thinking, "I may have to make sure you stay awake but I don't have to entertain you." Wrong again. Only her form of entertainment was to rip into me about the books I read. I love the scary stuff! She said, "How can you read that trash?? It's so graphic and disgusting!" I asked, "Well, how do you know that if you've never read it?" (Not that she was wrong mind you, just bein' snarky.)
Palmer: I used to read that stuff when I was younger and I know how graphic it is. You shouldn't fill your mind with such filth.
Me: (eyeing that car door handle again) Well, you read true crime books all the time. Those are way more graphic then anything I read.
Palmer: That's different. Those are real.
Me: (turning red with incredulity) Doesn't that make them WORSE?!?
We didn't talk much after that.
The next time... we flew.
Each base had it's own tiny airport and we flew in these little puddlejumpers. Her family gave her a ride to the airport and was hanging around until she left. Her boys were 8 and 11 (this was in 1995-ish) and the younger, as I said, was as tall as me. (Palmer was a little over 6' and her husband was around 6'6".) At one point the younger walked up to her and put his arms up. I was thinking, 'How sweet, he wants a hug'. Uh-uh. She picked him up and carried him around for almost 20 minutes! The 2 guys on staff and myself couldn't stop staring. I wanted to scream at her, "Woman, he's eight years old - put him DOWN!!"
I'll get more into the way they treated their kids in a moment.
When we flew back from this particular trip to Yuma, she asked me if I could give her a ride home. Her husband had taken the boys on a bike ride to the OK Corral in Tombstone. (That's about a 30 minute drive from Ft. Huachuca, btw). I reluctantly agreed. What else was I going to do? It was almost comical to watch her fold her body into my little '66 Mustang. Even more so since my passenger side door didn't work and she had to go through from the driver's side. Anyway, she managed to get in and I gave her a ride home.
The next day, she had me written up because my speedometer didn't work.
That was the last straw for me. I refused to sign the negative write up and took it to the Hospital's First Sergeant. I had been keeping a record of my negative write-ups, which were many. I showed him the timeline I'd drawn out and said, "You notice the only time I get written up is when it's just Palmer and me? Whenever Cpt. J and my NCO are in Yuma or when they are on leave - that's when I get written up. And this last time? The only reason she knew my speedometer was broken was because she asked me for a ride home and I gave her one." My First Sergeant (who was about 40+ years old) went, "Nuh UH" just like a little kid. To which I replied, "Yuh huh!" He tossed that last write-up out and I started paperwork to get out of the Army.
So. Her kids.
These poor kids were home-schooled. Now I don't want a bunch of crappy comments on the joys of home schooling and how I don't know anything about it. That's true, I don't. Two of my favorite bloggers home school. I'm only giving an account of my personal and very limited experience with home schoolers.
Yea, they were home-schooled by her husband who was a stay-at-home dad. They had absolutely no contact with other children. Palmer once told me how she told the lady across the street to keep their kids home since they were a bad influence. The Palmers went to a Korean Baptist Church - the Palmers are not Korean and one of the sons told me that most of the kids there don't speak English. In the Ft. Huachuca area, if you don't have cable, you don't have TV - the mountains are too close and there's no reception. They didn't have cable and other then the occasional Disney rental, they had no TV.
From what I've read around the web, I hear that home schoolers have a reputation for limited social contact and being very sheltered, but even this was taking it to the extreme. I always figured those poor boys were going to end up in a watch tower with a rifle when they got the culture shock of experiencing the real world for the first time. They'd be about 21 and 24 now. I wonder what's become of them.
So there you have it. My last experience with a crazy Army person. There are other crazy experiences/people I encountered in my brief time in the military but those are for another day.
So happy to be out, Ruth!
Thursday, November 13, 2008
New Blogger - go say hi!
Knitting With Dogs
A very impassioned piece from Keith Oberman. Love that guy! In this segment, he appears to be near tears a couple of times. As many times as I've watched him, I've never seen him like that. It's here.
A custom poem made for kmkat. She won it! It's a very moving bit of writing. I'm always envious of people that can write in such a way as to provoke actual emotion. The most I can manage to provoke is annoyance.
Candidates facing off. Hysterical!
An origin of the Pop Goes the Weasel nursery rhyme. And a follow-up.
Wasting time on the web, Ruth!
Monday, November 10, 2008
I've become a bit of a fiber snob over the years and only like natural fibers. I've been in yarn swaps where my upstream partner said they only have access to the big craft stores and I've replied, "Really? Because you're online and there's tons of stuff online!" (What a snot I am, right? In real life, I was a bit more diplomatic.) I don't care for mohair or anything scratchy. I don't need any felting stuff.
Also, not likin' the cobweb yarn. I've got 3 or 4 skeins of the stuff and I just don't like working with it. I love lace knitting but only if it's in a weight of 28sts = 4" or more! I don't really have any use for wraps/stoles but I like lace knitting in socks, sweaters, scarves, etc. Know what I mean?
2. What do you use to store your needles/hooks in?
I have a cardboard wine tube ($2 at Michael's!) that I store my old bamboo straights in, a fabric needle roll for some of my DPN's, and my other DPN's kind of roll around in a plastic bin full of knitting notions. I have a set of KnitPicks options (metal) in their little "book" thingy, a set of KnitPicks metal DPN's (US 0-3) in the case they came in and a ton of addi turbos in a Brown Sheep Company holder that makes me think of a CD case.
3. How long have you been knitting & how did you learn? Would you consider your skill level to be beginner, intermediate or advanced?
I learned in the summer of 2003 and my friend taught me. She's a midwife and I'm forever grateful! I feel I'm pretty advanced.
4. Do you have an Amazon or other online wish list?
Etsy wish list
Amazon wish list
5. What's your favorite scent?
I like fresh, citrusy stuff. Grapefruit - love grapefruit! I don't burn candles but I love soap and body stuff.
6. Do you have a sweet tooth? Favorite candy?
I'm a fiend for sugar. Chocolate Riesen - well, chocolate anything really! I also love to try homemade sweets (cookies, sweet bread, whatever). And jam, love interesting jams.
7. What other crafts or Do-It-Yourself things do you like to do? Do you spin?
I don't spin. I used to cross-stitch but I've got a huge, dusty, ignored bin of that stuff. I only knit now.
8. What kind of music do you like? Can your computer/stereo play MP3s? (if your buddy wants to make you a CD)
I'm pretty much wide open here. I've got everything from country to rock to classic rock, blues (love the blues), alternative, some classical. I have an iPod.
9. What's your favorite color(s)? Any colors you just can't stand?
Again, pretty much wide open. I prefer dark and jewel tones. I don't like pastels, and I'm not a fan of yellow, orange or purple.
10. What is your family situation? Do you have any pets?
One husband (for now - jk!), 2 little guys (7 and 5) and a cat.
11. Do you wear scarves, hats, mittens or ponchos?
All except ponchos.
12. What is/are your favorite item/s to knit?
Again, I'm all over the place here. Socks, scarves, mitts, hats, sweaters, wraps. I don't do blankets and I don't do too many wraps.
13. What are you knitting right now?
How much time do you have? I'm almost done with a Pimlico Shrug. I've got 2 sweaters on neeldes (one for me, one for my husband), btw 3-5 socks, an Icarus (in waiting), a shrug I'm designing and don't even get me started on the WIP's in the Closet of No Return. I'm planning to start some serious Xmas knitting (3 hats, one bath mat, 4 pairs of slippers).
14. Do you like to receive handmade gifts?
15. Do you prefer straight or circular needles? Bamboo, aluminum, plastic?
I'm pretty well set for needles. I prefer metal circulars and am completely addicted to my KnitPicks Options. That being said, I wouldn't mind trying some of their Harmony tips for my set! And I can always use a couple of extra cables (I use mostly the 32"ers) as I'm addicted to knitting but not as addicted to finishing anything as I out to be.
16. Do you own a yarn winder and/or swift?
17. How old is your oldest UFO?
I'd have to dig through the Closet of No Return but the one that jumps off the top of my head is about 2 years old. There's probably some older then that stuffed away in there, though.
18. What is your favorite holiday? What winter holiday do you observe?
We are NOT religious but we do Christmasy stuff. My favorite holiday is Halloween and my birthday (which I'm hoping the new president will make a national holiday).
19. Is there anything that you collect?
Hand-dyed sock yarn. Well, yarn in general.
20. Any books, yarns, needles or patterns out there you are dying to get your hands on? What knitting magazine subscriptions do you have?
I have no Wollmeise or STR. The STR I've been eyeing - Nodding Violet and Typhoon Tina, anything from the Raven Clan - any weight!
Oooh and Malabrigo! Malabrigo anything (but laceweight) and I've heard/seen around the web that new Malabrigo sock yarn. *drool*
I don't have subscriptions to the only mags I read - Vogue Knitting and Interweave Knits. I used to just use the 40% off coupons from the Sunday paper but recently, they stopped letting you use them on books/mags - drat!
21. Are there any new techniques you'd like to learn?
Not that I can think of.
22. Are you a sock knitter? What are your foot measurements?
I like to think I am! Despite some 30 skeins of sock yarn (and so many sock WIP's), I have yet to finish one! Still collecting...
toe to heel - 10"; arch circumference - 9"; base of the toes/pad of the foot circumference - 8"; ankle - 9.5"
I wear a US 8.5 or 9 shoe. Surprisingly big feet for someone of my stature (5'2").
23. When is your birthday?
24. Are you on Ravelry? If so, what's your ID?
I'm adding my own questions here:
25. Are you in any Sock of the Month clubs?
I'm in Scout Swag and the Nefarious Yarn Clubs.
26. Anything else?
I have a cat and I keep it away from my yarn. Obviously, it doesn't live in a big hamster ball and is near things I'm actually working on but any other yarn is safely sequestered in bins behind the closed door to the basement.
I loathe anything smoky. Cigarette smoke, smoked meat, smoked cheese - barf!
I'd love to see what you have around your area. Whether it's edible or yarnible things, I love local stuff!Forever addicted to swaps, Ruth!