November 30, 2004

LESSON

Have you ever had one of those moments where you realize you're a fool?

My co-worker and I had an argument last week, the details of which are tedious and irrelevent. I decided I would suck it up and try to clear the air on Monday, so I walked into the office with a gift in hand and apologized for the misunderstanding. She refused my apology and gift.

I keep thinking about that ending scene in Clerks, where Randal berates Dante for sticking with the status quo simply because it's easier than rocking the boat. I too hate rocking the boat. I keep my mouth shut all the time at work, despite the fact that my co-worker pisses me off a lot, because it's easier than dealing with discord. I have considered quitting my job and looking for something more fitting someone with six years of higher education, but I never wanted to rock the boat. I didn't want to disrupt the office, I didn't want my boss to have to find someone to replace me, and I didn't want my co-worker to dislike me for moving on and leaving her to train someone new.

In short, I have been living for everyone's happiness but my own. I'm an utter fool.

I'm reading Atlas Shrugged for god's sake, and I didn't see what a pushover I've become. I turned down a job I really wanted because I didn't want to upset the status quo at work. I'm so disgusted with myself today that I don't even know what to do.

I learned a valuable lesson this week: Sarah comes first. I've spent the past year trying to make life easier for my co-worker, and this week she proved that she would rather win an argument than save our friendship. No longer will I do what's good for the office and for my employer; I will do what's good for Sarah.

There will be big changes in the near future...stay tuned.

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November 29, 2004

VISIT

My trip north turned out nicer than I had imagined it would. Lüneburg is one of the cutest freaking cities in Germany, and the Christmas decorations just made it all the more wow. I also had a very nice time with my friend. I was nervous at first, since she's from Sweden and her German boyfriend is stridently anti-war. In fact, she also said that she was nervous about our introduction. However, he was a very good host; he asked many, many questions about the war and the military, but none of them were rude or demanding. I tried to answer them as best as I could, and hopefully he learned something new or at least got to see another perspective. I was very grateful because he could've been a real jerk. It was a pleasant visit, and now I've driven all over this darn country. The only other direction left is towards Berlin...

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November 26, 2004

TRIP

I'm leaving today for a trip north to Lüneburg to visit an old friend. I'll be back to blogging next week. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Give Thanks for These Patriots
Holocaust Survivor Reunites With Rescuer

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November 22, 2004

PANIC

I had a strange variation on the going-to-school-naked dream last night: I dreamt I went to a Veteran's Day parade in Class A's, but I had forgotten my beret. Talk about panic! I bolted awake and calmed myself down by reminding myself that I'm not even in the military...

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POLES

Mom's 4'11" and Dad's 6'3". Mom likes shopping, traveling, and entertaining friends; Dad likes fishing, fishing, and fishing. They both like movies, but Dad likes action and Mom likes romantic comedy. They both like TV, but Mom likes reality shows and Dad likes to flip channels between kung-fu and pirate movies. But somehow they've made it work for 28 years.

Happy Anniversary, Mom and Dad!

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November 21, 2004

WHEW

The husband's best friend is back safe and sound from Fallujah.

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FOUL MOOD

While my husband was home, he fixed a broken drawer in the kitchen. He was completely frustrated and pissed off while he was doing it, because the broken part was at the back of the cabinet frame in a very difficult spot to reach. It's been a long time since I've seen him in such a gumption trap. I mention this because I was in one today.

I took an Excel Spreadsheets class this weekend. The class was fairly easy and straightforward, and I learned a lot of tricks with Excel that I didn't know before the weekend. However, the final exam was nothing like the class. I just spent the past three hours being angrier and more frustrated than I've been in a long time.

I'm still far too grumpy to even bother going into details about everything that went wrong on the final. The overarching problem was that the class was full of easy stuff like 1) highlight this data, 2) see the pretty graph, 3) save. In contrast, for the final, the teacher gave us a spreadsheet with some data and told us to make a business presentation out of it. I had learned Excel over the weekend, but I sure hadn't learned economics or business management. I couldn't read the data at all; I didn't understand the headers and I spent a lot of time looking up what all the business terms meant so I could even understand what the figures meant. All of my formulas were right, but somehow I had invested 159% of my money, my graphs kept overwriting the other graphs, and I couldn't get the damn thing to center on the page to save my life. Even the teacher couldn't figure out what was wrong with my spreadsheets.

I left the class in a very foul mood. So much for personal growth and enrichment; I took a class that I didn't even need, and all I got was a massive headache.

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November 20, 2004

LOVE

All of a sudden, my husband's absence has hit me like a ton of bricks. I wish he were here. When I'm with him, every day seems like double-soup Tuesday.

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November 19, 2004

SORRY

Annika made me laugh with the list of advice her dad has given her. My dad also has a very dry sense of humor, and he's always been a sort of hands-off type of dad. He never intimidated any boyfriends, he never preached, and he wasn't the house authoritarian (that was our mama). So when he spoke, it was usually something memorable. Some of his wisdom was simple ("Never drive barefoot") and some of it was more complex (He made me figure out how much money I would have to pay on student loans each month if I chose to go to a private school instead of a state school.) But there is one "dad saying" that stands out for me.

Dad has an expression that drives some people nuts: "If you were sorry, you wouldn't have done it." Several people think that expression is absurd, but I know what my dad means by it, and I hate to hear him say it. Sometimes we know we're doing things that will hurt people or get us in trouble, but we do them anyway. And then we expect a "sorry" to fix everything. Dad doesn't buy it; you shouldn't have done it in the first place. I would often break my curfew in high school and then come in and say I was sorry. Of course I wasn't sorry and I had stayed late on purpose, so sorry doesn't cut it. Sometimes I would egg my parents on and then say 'sorry' in a huffy voice. That doesn't cut it either. The funny thing is that my husband has sort of picked that expression up and uses it when we argue. Whenever I sheepishly apologize, he echos Dad...and usually gets a punch in the arm.

I think about Dad's expression a lot. Obviously there are times when a sorry is sincere, but sometimes we shouldn't be allowed to get away with hurting people on purpose and then apologizing. If we were sorry, we wouldn't have done it.

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184 PAGES

In regular history texts, the build-up to WWII takes a couple of sentences. In the book I'm reading, The Oster Conspiracy of 1938: The Unknown Story of the Military Plot to Kill Hitler and Avert WWII, it takes 184 pages. Right now it's 24 Sept and Chamberlain has just returned from his visit with Hitler. I can't put the book down. It's a fascinating story because we all know they fail, and we all know the price of their failure.

Oh yeah, I'm also struck by how much Bush is not like Hitler.

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November 17, 2004

PHOTO

A photo of CPT Sims.

And a very touching memorial and letter from CPT Sims' father on TexasBug.

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November 15, 2004

QUIET

For two weeks, my house had a built-in comedian. Today I realized the house is too quiet and there's no one to talk to.

(Thank goodness for fad.)

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November 14, 2004

FUTURE

Over the past two weeks, the husband and I talked a lot about the future. We talked about where we'd like our next duty station to be. The husband started studying for the GMAT. We talked about making the final payment on our car, our cruise that's scheduled for May, and my job prospects for next year. On Saturday night, we cracked open a bottle of cheap champagne to celebrate our good fortune and bright future. And then the phone rang.

CPT Sean Sims was killed in Iraq.

We don't know CPT Sims personally, but I know his wife and infant son fairly well. I couldn't believe the news. As we sat there, the champagne soured and our future started to look a bit more precarious...making our last 24 hours bleak and somber. I couldn't stop thinking about the Sims family for the rest of our weekend. She's going through the worst possible thing that will ever happen to her, and all I could think of is what every military wife understands: it could just as easily be happening to me. All of our worst fears are materializing for someone I care about, and there's nothing I can do about it. In the end, all I could do was snuggle under my husband's arm and cry, cry for a baby who will never know his father and a wife who will go through hell. Our weekend took an ugly turn, but we faced it together, choked down the rest of the champagne, and went to sleep in our bed for the last night in a while.

I just dropped him off at the bus. Our future is uncertain, but at least we know we made the most out of the two weeks we just had.

MORE:

Let's avoid registration:

Company commander dies on Fallujah mission

By TOM LASSETER
Knight Ridder Newspapers

FALLUJAH, Iraq - Capt. Sean Sims was up early Saturday, looking at maps of Fallujah and thinking of the day's battle. His fingers, dirty and cracked, traced a route that snaked down the city's southern corridor.

"We've killed a lot of bad guys," he said. "But there's always going to be some guys left. They'll hide out and snipe at us for two months. I hope we've gotten the organized resistance."

Sims, a 32-year-old from Eddy, Texas, commanded his Alpha Company without raising his voice. His men liked and respected him. When faced with a broken down vehicle or rocket propelled grenades exploding outside, he'd shake his head a little and say, in his mellow drawl, "We'll be OK. This'll work out."

When he noticed that one of his soldiers, 22-year-old Arthur Wright, wasn't getting any care packages from home, Sims arranged for his wife, a school teacher, to have her students send cards and presents.

Sitting in a Bradley Fighting Vehicle that was pocked by shrapnel from five days of heavy fighting, Sims figured he and his men - of the 1st Infantry Division's Task Force 2-2 - had maybe three or four days left before returning to base.

They were in southwest Fallujah, where pockets of hardcore gunmen were still shooting from houses connected by labyrinths of covered trench lines and low rooftops.

A CNN crew came by, and Sims' men led them around the ruins, showing them the bombed-out buildings and bodies of insurgents that had been gnawed on by neighborhood dogs and cats.

The father of an infant son, Sims was still trying to get over the death of his company's executive officer, Lt. Edward Iwan, a 28-year-old from Albion, Neb., who'd been shot through the torso the night before with an RPG.

"It's tough. I don't know what to think about it yet," he said slowly, searching for words. "All of this will be forever tainted because we lost him."

Shaking off the thought, he threw on his gear and went looking for houses to clear.

A group of rebels was waiting. They'd been sleeping for days on dirty mats and blankets, eating green peppers and dates from plastic tubs. They spied on soldiers who occupied nearby houses without knowing the enemy was so close, watching and waiting.

When Sims and his men came through the front door, gunfire raged for a few minutes. Two soldiers were hit near the shoulder and rushed out by the man next to them.

Crouching by a wall outside, Sgt. Randy Laird screamed into his radio, "Negative, I cannot move, we're pinned down right now! We have friendlies down! Friendlies down!"

The 24-year-old from Lake Charles, La., crouched down on a knee, sweating and waiting for help.

A line of troops ran up, taking cover from the bullets. They shot their way into the house.

Sims lay on a kitchen floor, his blood pouring across dirty tile. An empty tea pot sat on nearby concrete stairs. A valentine heart, drawn in red with an arrow through it, perched on the cabinet.

His men gasped. There was no life in his eyes.

"He's down," Staff Sgt. Thorsten Lamm, 37, said in the heavy brogue of his native Germany.

"Shut the (expletive) up about him being dead," yelled back Sgt. Joseph Alvey, 23, of Emid, Oklahoma. "Just shut the (expletive) up."

The men sprinted to a rubble-strewn house to get a medic.

The company's Iraqi translator, who goes by Sami, was waiting. He asked, "Is he in there? Is he there?"

He tried running out of the door with his AK-47 ready. As men held him back, he fell down against a wall, crying into his hands.

When the troops rushed back, they lifted Sims' body into a pile of blankets and carried it into the closest Bradley.

Six soldiers and a reporter piled in after, trying not to step on the body.

In Baghdad, interim Minister of State for national security Qasim Daoud had announced that the city of Fallujah was now under control.

In the surrounding neighborhood, troops furious at the news of their fallen leader called in revenge, in the form of a 2,000 pound bomb airstrike and a storm of 155 millimeter artillery shells. A mosque lost half a minaret, its main building smoldering in fire and smoke.

In the back of the Bradley with Sims' body, no one spoke.

The only sound was Wright sobbing in the darkness.

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November 07, 2004

SNOW

We had a great weekend, and it dumped snow on us all day today.
That's a story for my husband to tell back in Iraq!

More later. Isn't Arafat dead yet?

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November 05, 2004

VACATION

The husband and I are leaving today for a weekend at the Edelweiss Lodge and Resort in Garmisch. They have a great R&R package, and everyone who's already been has said it's beautiful there. We'll be away from the computer, but I can take a few days off now that the election is over.

Don't do anything fun without me!

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November 02, 2004

WHEN DOES HE GET HIS FUNNY HAT?

The cutest thing in the world happened today: my husband applied to join the VFW.

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November 01, 2004

HALLOWEEN

There's nothing like an Army post to bring out the trick-or-treaters. We're swarming with kids, not to mention that the Germans bring their kids on post to enjoy this weird American tradition of "giving away free stuff." Some of the German kids didn't even bother to wear costumes, and they gave me a danke schön when they left, which almost made me want to snatch the candy back. When I'm in your country, I speak German; when you're in my country, taking my free candy, please attempt a thank you. With or without the difficult -th- sound.

There were some good costumes. Lots of Sponge Bobs and Spidermans. Lots of princesses. A really cool Wolverine, complete with adamantium claws. A blue sweatsuit covered in rubber ducks: a duck pond. And unlike Lileks, I saw a couple of terrorists and Osamas. And lots of Soldiers. I guess it comes with the territory.

Oh yeah, and I'm the awful lady who gives away Tootsie Rolls and Blow Pops and cheapie candy. We got hundreds of kids, and I wasn't about to spend $50 on brand-name candy bars. I managed to make two large bowls of candy last for an hour and forty minutes, thank goodness. I was about to start giving away Pringles...

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DISTRACTION

My husband has also been a wonderful distraction from the last few days of the election season. I'm still reading through blogs, but now it's with more of a "keep me updated but let's not dwell" attitude so I can run back in the other room and hang out with my best friend.

I also have no interest whatsoever in grading papers, which is not good at all...

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