Wednesday, December 26, 2007

On the Road Again

Busy today taking care of last minute preparations. Bus leaves for the airport bright and early...0300. I'm debating whether I should even bother going to sleep tonight.
Christmas was fine. I had an old friend invite me to a get together Christmas Eve where we all had Christmas Enchiladas. I'm thinking of making that a new tradition in the Ritterhaus--they were tasty! I got back to my room in time to field the call from the wife at my sister-in-law's in Italy. The kids were in a fever pitch as they all said "hello" to me while being forced to stand in the pre-staging area. I laughed when I heard the screams of joy as they were released into the living room to see what Santa brought. My daughter got a Felicity American Girl doll--I could hear her scream it loudest above the other screams. The boys were very happy with their new PS3 (so was I). Only thing I'm missing is the "testing out of the games" that dads are required to do before the kids play.
Christmas day saw me hanging out watching tv and movies. By the way, "Trainspotting" is NOT a good Christmas movie. I went over to my friend's house for Christmas dinner. I got to live vicariously through their 3 boys playing with their gifts. It would seem I made quite the impression on them as the youngest asked me if I wanted to go play with them.
I'm looking forward to getting out with my new squadron. The hustle and bustle of deployed ops with help the time pass more quickly.
Happy New Year all.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Class B Bachelor Life

I've been at Seattle for 2 weeks now and I have come to realize something. Being married is great. I realize that I am, presently, a Class B Bachelor and not truly single, but it's close enough to the real thing to make me feel the effects.
What is a Class B Bachelor? It's one who, though married with all of married life's restrictions (i.e. no cheating--Homey don't play that game), has the freedom to go where he pleases and do what he pleases without worrying about pleasing the wife and/or children. No "chick flick" movies. No Disney movies. Straight action flicks and comedies with lots of fart jokes. It also means you can eat where you want if you choose to eat out. For me, that means all-you-can-eat Chinese buffets. Something about paying $8 to stuff myself with cashew chicken, only to be hungry again in an hour. Can't stay away.
You know though, as nice as all that sounds, the appeal wears off after about 8 hours and I realize how much I miss the wife and kids. The hotel room starts closing in and it is just too quiet. When I'm out and about, I find that I can't help smiling at little kids walking by. I saw a 1 1/2 year old boy chasing a ping pong ball across the floor of the mall yesterday and I couldn't take my eyes away. I wanted to sit down there with him and play. I miss my 12-year-old kicking my tail on Playstation, I miss playing roughhouse with my 8-year-old, I miss laughing with my wife.
Yep, I don't miss being single one bit. Give me the noise, the chick flicks, and McDonalds (again) anytime if I can be near my family.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

5 Days to Go...

Finally found a computer that can give me access to the internet and my blog. I've been wondering around base for the past week like a zombie trying to find some way to communicate with the outside world. Let's see, what's happened since my last post?

Spent all last weekend checking out the local area and potential homesites for the new Ritterhaus. I don't delude myself into thinking I can actually BUY a house right now. CINC House (that's "Commander in Chief House"--my wife) is not here. "If Momma ain't happy, nobody's happy," is a little rule I live by. There are some nice areas around here and I am laying some good groundwork for future house shopping excursions. It's like being there for the delivery of the baby (reference my last post), not much for me to do but be there.

Had a wonderful evening out with James Monday night. I learned a few things that night. One, that oysters pulled out of different sections of the Puget Sound taste remarkably different. Two, that it is possible to get good Irish Beer outside of Ireland. And three, God has blessed me immensely with wonderful friends. These blogs have been a wonderful way to keep in touch. I pray we can all get together more often than every High School reunion.

I spent most of the week preparing for my upcoming deployment. I'm not looking forward to being away from the family, but being busy helps the time pass quickly and speeds (or seems to at least) the reunion. I got to fly last night for the first time in a month and the first time here at McChord. It was a beautiful, crisp evening and I had a good flight. We flew right past Mount Rainier and Mount St. Helens. I didn't realize St. Helens was that close to Seattle. The guys said that you can see a pretty good heat signature coming from it when you wear night vision goggles.

Tonight's my movie night. Think I'm in the mood from a good hamburger from Fuddrucker's. Hope there's one around here.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Busy Friday

Pressing hard to get ready before my deployment. Spent most of the day running through computer tutorials and tracking down folks to sign off various inprocessing items. I met the Ops Group commander today and had the opportunity to chat with him for a few minutes about what I'll be doing for the foreseeable future.

I talked with his secretary while I was waiting. Her youngest daughter is due to deliver her first any day now. We were regailing each other with stories of the deliveries of our children. The funniest thing, and something that seems to be a recurring theme with all the fathers I've talked with that have been in the delivery room with their wives, is just how little we actually contribute to the birthing process. I had visions of coaching my wife through this most natural of events, just like the husbands do in the movies. "Breathe, breathe, breathe, PUUUSSSSHHH!" Nope. None of that. Arlene didn't want to hear anything I had to say. It got to the point where my breathing irritated her. You can't really blame them, can you? I bang my head on the cabinet and I want to punch a hole in the wall. I can only imagine what I'd do if I had to squeeze out a basketball. You get the picture.

I eventually accepted my role as the punching bag/handgrip/scratching post/head full of hair to pull, during deliveries. My wife would be mildly surprised at the damage after all the smoke cleared and the child was born, and mildly amused. It was the least I could put up with, right? I recently passed this nugget of wisdom along to a friend of mine who planned to be in the delivery room for the birth of his first. He later thanked me. Some things never change, I guess.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

A Real Hero

Today at lunch I met an older gentleman and struck up some small talk while we waited for the salad bar to open. This gentleman was not cut from the same cloth as the older, meaner sort commonly found on cruiseships. A very pleasant man of 87 with a sharp mind and firm handshake. I was in uniform and he asked me if I was a pilot. I said, "Yes," and he told me he once flew on military aircraft as well. I always enjoy talking with the guys who flew planes in the "good old days," so I asked him what he flew on. Turns out he was a radio operator on a Navy torpedo bomber in WWII. The more we talked the more Mr. Tom Nelson laid out a tremendous story that had me riveted for 2 hours.
Mr. Nelson was stationed at Pearl Harbor and vividly remembers the morning of 7 December 1941. He was rolling out of the bunk when he heard a plane in a power dive and the first explosion. He and some buddies thought it was a training accident and went out to look. Imagine their surprise when they saw Japanese fighter planes attacking our ships in the harbor.
He participated in the Naval battle of Santa Cruz in October 1942, flying off the carrier Enterprise. His plane was shot down by Zeros and he parachuted into the ocean, spending about a day floating in shark infested waters until he was picked up by a Japanese destroyer. He spent the next 3 years in Japanese prison camps unloading railroad cars and working in iron mills along with the other American and British comrades there with him. He told me of how they "continued the fight" by sabotaging as much as they could. He passed along one particular time when he and a buddy helped sink a barge by dropping a 200 pound iron bar through the bottom. He talked a little of his Japanese captors. One in particular was a young, overly zealous guard who was not highly regarded by the American and British prisoners. They thought even less of him when they found out he had flunked out of Kamikaze school.
When the war ended, he and his fellow camp mates commandeered a passing Japanese train and made their way to Tokyo. I love talking to guys like this. The sad part is that there are less and less of them every day.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Man in a Suitcase

My current situation reminds me of the Police song, "Man in a Suitcase."
The room's my oyster
My hotel room's a prison cell
I'm getting a little tired of fast food and the hotel's morning offerings of various unsavory and unhealthy food choices. I went to the gym today in a vain attempt to turn the tide, to try to work off some of the cholesterol that's been injected into my bloodstream one cheeseburger at time. I move into an efficiency apartment Saturday where I can at least cook for myself. Instead of high fat fast food, I'll risk the occasion bout with food poisoning that comes with my cooking adventures.
I'm getting hungy. McDonalds is starting to sound good right about now.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Here in Seattle

Arrived safely yesterday at my new assignment at McChord AFB, Washington. I hopped on a C-17 headed West out of Germany at 0300 in the morning and arrived 12 hours later. Human beings have no business being awake at 0300 in the morning. That's when the zombies come out. I'm convinced I sat next to one waiting for my flight. I had to say "see you later" to the kids the night before--perhaps that's the one good thing about leaving that early. I hate all the crying and waving...that's me crying and waving.

The flight was uneventful, though I was coldsoaked for the entire flight. I think I'm getting old. I travelled with a woman flying back to the states with her 4 children. She had three girls and her 8-week-old son, her husband had just deployed to Iraq for 15 months. She had the patience of Job. All of the other folks on the plane stepped up and helped her out, carrying bags and entertaining her kids. I dusted off the old "detachable finger" trick which kept her 5-year-old entertained for an hour. My wife was in this woman's same position a year ago, traveling back to the states while I was deployed. Paying it forward.

Looking forward to my time in the Seattle area and catching up with my old friend James and meeting his family. The weather here is just like I left in Germany. I feel like I didn't go anywhere...other than the fact that everyone speaks English, doesn't smoke, and there are no Smartcars.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Cruise Photos

Few photos from our cruise last week.
This is obviously in Egypt.

The one below is at the Acropolis in Athens.

This is my daughter, Isabella.

The Ritter kids at Giza. Nathan, William, Benjamin and Isabella (with Roary, her class mascot).

Here are a few photos from our cruise last week.

Just to set the record straight, I like and respect older folks. I was just a little unnerved by how mean they can be when you get betweeen them and the buffet.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

I'm Back (For a Short While)

Just returned last Friday from a huge family vacation. We joined my wife's sister and husband and their brood of 4 kids in Genoa, Italy for a cruise through the Eastern Mediterranean over Thanksgiving. We visited Naples, Egypt, Cyprus, Rhodes (lots of smart folks there), Athens, and Olympia, Greece. I had been on one cruise previously, a work friend and I touring through the Bahamas as a last hurrah before entering the service. Big difference between going on a cruise when you're 22 and when you're 39 with wife and kids. I was pretty proud of myself if I managed to stay up past 11. I actually enjoyed the shows. I did not drink myself to the point where I tossed lawnchairs over the side (wait, that was the Airport High senior cruise, right?).

I will say that, even at 39, I was one of the more "spritely" gents onboard. Lots of old folks on this cruise. Let me tell you, there is a big difference between kindly old folks that are grandmas and the nice old ladies who bake you cookies. The old folks on this ship were flat out mean. Good luck getting through the buffet line without being run over. I literally watched them push past my kids to get on the elevator to go up ONE floor. I walked out on the Lido deck one particularly sunny afternoon to get some fresh air. Each and every lawn chair was taken by these seemingly gentle creatures. Each was splayed out in a kind of macabre death pose, sleeping the sleep of one who had eaten too much at the buffet and tried to Samba 20 years later than they should have. I imagined this was what Jonestown looked like. Creepy.

Anyhoo, highly recommend the cruise with family. All of us had a great time despite the daily battles with the seasoned citizens. I pull into Seatle on Sunday the 9th and am looking forward to some good seafood again.

Happy birthday to James and Todd. Lots of talk about turning 40 and being old. Believe me, you guys aren't old. I've seen old're no where near it.