Monday, December 29, 2008

Christmas Birthday

My youngest son had a birthday the other day, his ninth. He obviously was pretty excited about it, as most kids are. When is the age when folks stop caring about, even begin to loath, birthdays? I suspect it's younger for women, but I believe we all get to that point, don't we?

Unfortunately (I suppose), he suffers from that dreaded right-after-Christmas birthday syndrome. You know, when you're in gift overload, "one more gift...great." Also, all of your school friends are on holiday. No birthday parties.

I asked him why he was so excited about his birthday.

"I'm one year closer," he said.

"One year closer to what?"

"One year closer to not having to order from the kids' menu."

"Don't be in such a hurry to grow up, boy..."

Friday, December 26, 2008

Together for Christmas

Had a wonderful Christmas day with the family. Very thankful I could be with them this year. Last year I experienced the screams of delight of Christmas morning over the phone from my hotel room. This year I was right there with the video camera to capture it all. The kids did alright on gifts. Of particular note:

- 32" flatscreen for extreme PS3 play
- New guitar for yours truly. They coordinated a "Christmas Story" experience for me. My son went to far as to quote Ralphie's dad saying, "So, did you get everything you wanted?" My wife then said, "Hey, what's that behind the tree?" Very memorable experience.
- My youngest son got a 4', two-handed broadsword, a la William Wallace. Don't ask me what he's going to do with that. I told him to stand out in the yard and give passers by his best impression of the Scottish hero.
- Wife got the standard Dicken's Village house. She's got quite the little town going now.
- Call of Duty 5. Me likee...

My daughter got a horse stable set. She's got all 30 of her minature horses packed into it. The best part is listening to the backstory she creates as she plays. It's like watching a soap opera. She actually develops characters. My favorite is the handsome black horse who can't decide who to marry.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Yukon, Ho!

Just got back yesterday from a week-long training mission to Alaska. It's cold up there and it snowed several times, putting a damper on some of our training we were trying to accomplish. I did snap this picture of our other formation aircraft with Mt McKinley in the background. It looks like evening (I guess it is evening up there), but it was about three thirty in the afternoon when I snapped this picture.

Robert Redford's "Jerimiah Johnson" came on last night. After seeing that and considering my recent trip, I must say there is some allure to the frontier, mountain man life, scratching out one's existance and braving the elements. The thought has crossed my mind occasionally.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Various Thoughts on a Monday

Beautiful day in Seattle today. Clear, blue skies and a crisp 53 degrees. It's days like this that make you appreciate the sunshine, as they seem to be so infrequent here.

My Dad rolled into town Sunday night. It's great to see him again, it's been over a year. He was amazed at how much the kids had grown since the last time he saw them. Is there anything like children to make us realize how quickly time passes?

Crock pots are great for cooking. I'm convinced you could probably put roadkill in it with chocolate sauce and cat litter and, eight hours later on low heat, have a culinary masterpiece.

Anyone else start getting a little let down at the 10-week point of the college football season? It's kind of like early afternoon on Christmas day. You've got your presents but there's no going back to that magical time when they were still wrapped and under the tree.

Cheezits are addictive. Perhaps the world's most perfect food.

Ben and Jerry's Chunky Monkey ice cream is #2.

Mix them together...that's not so good. Like peanut butter and salami sandwiches.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

First Wrestling Match

Saw the tail end of my sons' first wrestling match tonight. Glacier View Junior High vs. Columbia Junior High (of Fife, not Cola, SC). My younger son William goes down in the record books, registering the first pin in Glacier View Wrestling sports history. Nathan held his own, but ended up getting pinned late in the first round by a veteran wrestler. Very proud of both of them. I see them every day after wrestling practice--both look like they've been put through the wringer. Rode hard and put up wet.

Perhaps Todd Matrix can show them a few moves when he comes out this way for a visit? What's your signature move? I told the boys to pull a "Nacho Libre" and whip out the patented "neeeeple tweeest" or the "anaconda squeeeezzzzzeeee." Don't know if those are officially sanctioned moves or not; maybe they can be the trendsetters.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A Few Items From the Menu

Federal holiday today, so us AF folks had the day off. Sitting around the table with the family for breakfast this morning, we struck up a conversation on various things about each of us. "What is your favorite color? What is your favorite book? What meal would you eat on a desert island if you had to eat the same meal for the rest of your life?" This line of questioning morphed into various strange things that my family has been know to eat from time to time.

For example, my son William's latest creation is the Salami and Peanut Butter Sandwich. Sounds nasty. I've been a trooper and tasted it. Yep, it's nasty. My son Benjamin is fond of his Swiss Cheese and Grape Jelly Sandwich. Nasty as well. They all gag at my strange sandwich: The Banana and Mayonnaise Sandwich. Something magical happens when those two ingredients mix.

Is it just me, or is this sandwich a Southern staple? I remember growing up eating them all of the time. Ask folks around here and you get the deer-in-the-headlights look. They don't know what they're missing.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

My Little Businessman

My 100th post. Huzzah! Huzzah! Huzzah! Well, enough of that...

Talking with my son, William, last night, I realize what a budding young capitalist I have on my hands. He's worked out a deal at school where he helps in the lunchroom doing odd jobs during lunch. Whether it's putting out cookies or a handful of french fries in a basket, he diligently serves each and every day. The "deal" is that he gets his lunch free for his services and his mother has agreed to pay him the cost of his school lunch each day. Pretty sweet deal. He's clearing about $15 bucks a week. This is the same son who asked for his allowance in Euros while we were in Germany.

"Five Euros is worth more than $5 with the current exchange rate."

In true Republican fashion, he wants others to be rich as well. A potential self-help book author, he tells any of his classmates that'll listen of his path to riches.

I can scarcely contain my pride, but must admit I was curious of one thing. "William," I said, "aren't you the least bit tempted around those cookies? I mean, don't you sneak one every now and then?"

"No. Well, not in front of everyone. I usually sneak the 'scrub, deformed' cookies and take them back to the freezer. That's where I eat them."

"Executive perks." That's what I call that. Future CEO there...

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A Discussion About Dogs

As you may have gathered from past posts, my young daughter pretty much can get me to do most anything she wants. Last night she came downstairs right before bedtime (perhaps the cutest time of the day for little kids, with their little PJs on) and hopped up in my lap.
"Daddy, we need to have a discussion."

I was intrigued. "Okay, what do you want to discuss," I asked.

"I want a dog. For me. And I want it to sleep in my bed with me. And I want it to be all mine."

We just found out the other day that we're going to get to stay in Seattle for another couple of years. The last obstacle is out of the way for getting a dog. Now the only question is what kind.

I came home from work the other day espousing the benefits of a smallish dog breed, the American Eskimo. Guy at work brought his in one day. Looks like a nice breed. My wife had other ideas.

"I want a big dog," she said. Notice where my daughter gets her matter-of-fact tone of voice.
"Like a lab?"

"No bigger. I'm thinking a Great Dane or Irish Wolfhound."
She's taken the leap from big to gi-normous. Between two teenage boys and a 100+ pound dog, I'm cringing at the thought of the grocery bill.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Canoe Trip From Hell

George recently wrote of his exploits on a hiking/camping trip in SC. I read this and had to chuckle. It reminded me of a canoing/camping trip my brother-in-law, a friend of his, and I went on about 13 years ago.

My brother-in-law Bill came home from work one day (we were staying with them in Oklahoma while I went through C-17 school) with the crazy idea for this canoe trip over a weekend. We would pack up our stuff in the canoe and paddle down the mighty Red River to a highway overpass in Texas, where our wives would pick us up. Sounds great, right?

The problems started almost immediately. We dropped the canoe and loaded it up with our stuff at a convenient spot. We three grown men hopped in and, with cavalier waves to the wives, started off on our journey. We got about 100 feet before we hit the first sand bar, our canoe grinding to a halt. We had to get out and pull the canoe to a deeper part of the river. This went on like that for the next 6 hours. See, the Red River is really a river in name only. There's barely any water in it. Tough to canoe when there's no water. It was like paddling in the rain gutters on the side of the road after a light rain.

We hiked/paddled/hiked/paddled/hiked/paddled all together for about 12 hours before we gave up, walked to a nearby farmhouse, and called our wives to come get us. They laughed and laughed. Lewis and Clark we were not.

George, at least you guys saved face and made it to your car.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Thoughts on VP Debate

Listened to the first part of the VP debate on the way home last night and watched the last half with the wife. My first reaction was that Palin had not done all that well. Biden sounded pretty good. Though I still don't agree with the socialist/wealth distribution/fairness message, he did deliver it well. After the debate ended, I sat back and reflected. Perhaps I expected too much from Palin? She did deliver a solid performance and, I believe, held her own against a guy who's been doing this sort of thing for 30+ years. She's had, what, two months? The more I think about it, the better I feel about how she did. No knockout punches, but a solid showing.

Bottom line, which of the two candidates reflect my beliefs in where I think the country needs to go. Parties aside (believe it or not, I'd vote Democrat if it was the right person), who is the better man to lead this country? Who has the better message? It just blows my mind that people just don't see that the "tax the rich and give to the poor" mentality just doesn't work. Biden talked about fairness. What's fair about taxing a person more who's done well through his/her own blood/sweat/tears, who's taken advantage of every opportunity given, who's taken a chance and had it pay off. Why should that person have to pay more (percentage-wise) in taxes than the person who does not get paid as much? Does the rich person enjoy more government benefits? Is he/her more of a citizen?

I've been disappointed with the Republicans the past few years--gov't spending is through the roof. I like McCain's message of fiscal responsibility. I can't spend more than I make (well, I can for a while). Why should the government be able to? Chuck, I think Dave Ramsey would make a fine Sec of the Treasury...what say you?

Monday, September 29, 2008

"Steve Talk Thai. Steve Talk Thai Real Good..."

Got a wild hair the other day. So I figure it takes me 30 minutes to go to work and 30+ minutes to drive home from work. I've done it for 2 months now and I've about had my fill of Conservative Talk Radio. No, that doesn't mean I'm ready to switch to Air America or the Obama Network. Seriously, there are a few good ones out there (Dennis Miller and Hugh Hewitt leap to mind). The others are a little too dogmatic in their support of the GOP.

I digress yet again...

Thirty minutes to and from work. Right. So I figure I might as well make this time productive, right? Well, I'm driving, so taking and typing on a laptop is right out. Talking on cell phones is illegal in Washington now (though everyone still does it). What to do? Why, learn Thai, of course! There are CDs in the base library on speaking Thai. I figure my mother-in-law is full Thai, I can practice my lessons on her when she calls. Lesson 1 was today. I learned to say, "I speak Thai a little," which is true, I suppose. I tried it out tonight on her when she called, grabbing the phone from my wife.

"Oohh, Steeb. That sound good!" [spoken in a Thai/English accent].

Good feedback. I speak English with a Thai accent really well, by the way. I figure if I stumble over real Thai, I'll just fall back on English with a Thai accent, speaking it really, really loud. That way they'll be sure to understand me.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Random Thoughts on a Saturday

Random musings...

Big shakeup in college football today. What is it about college sports? There's something more energetic to it than pro sports, isn't there? Most of those kids won't ever see the pros, and you like to think they're doing it for the love of the game. Makes it seem more pure somehow.

My two youngest watched "The Wizard of Oz" for the first time tonight. I had forgotten how scary those winged monkeys were. Toto is a good dog, too.

Ben and Jerry's New York Super Fudge Chunk ice cream is, perhaps, one of the world's most perfect foods. That, and Chunky Monkey. I could survive on a desert island with those two things.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

High School Memories

I was reminiscing today about High School. Don't get me wrong, I'm not one of those that wiles the day away thinking of "the good ol' days" in High School, wishing I was back there. There are times I wish I was 17 again (well, 17 with the mind of a 40-year-old). But all in all I find that each year is better than the last. Like a fine wine.

Anyhoo, High School. Stay on target. Airport High class of 19 and 86. I was thinking about some funny events from High School that never fail to bring a chuckle:

- David Cobb's wet spot on the front of his pants at a school assembly (he wouldn't stand up)
- Robert Strickland's student body president campaign and the coolest campaign poster I've ever seen (thanks to Jay and Alan).
- Jeff (can't remember his last name--40-year-old-mind) pulling someone out of his parking spot on the Senior lot (he was sent home for the day).
- Martha slapping David Cobb. Watching them two was like watching a soap opera.
- Mrs. Rawl...
- Lunch in Roscoe's classroom

Good memories.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Shaka Zulu Goes to School

My son passed along a funny story from school today. Seems one of the boys in his class won a fake lion skin (with head) at some contest at the state fair. I don't remember any prizes like that at the South Carolina State Fair. The prizes there consisted of roach clips with feathers, small mirrors with REO Speedwagon printed on them, or AC/DC posters. But I digress...

This lion skin was quite the sight. Nathan said he draped it around his shoulders and wore the head like some sort of strange Shaka Zulu headdress. He got all the way to school with it before a teacher called him on it.

"It's part of my religious beliefs," was his explanation for wearing it. The teacher had none of it and into a box went the lion skin.

Nice try. Another one of those "colorful characters" that make it work going to school/work sometimes.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Camping Weekend

Weather's been very nice here in the Pacific NW. Took the family camping North of Seattle to Deception Pass State Park last weekend. We met up with some Canadian friends of ours that were our neighbors in Germany. It probably took the fact that they were depending on us to go for us to actually make this trip. Camping seems to be one of those things that you really have to make an effort to do. Lots of preparation involved. By the time we got a trailer hitch (our old one had been stolen in the move), picked up the rented pop-up camper, bought food, and packed everything away, I felt like I had prepared for an African safari. The park is absolutely gorgeous, the weather was great, and we all had a wonderful time. I spend most of my time around the campfire cooking...and had a blast. I got to dust off the old dutch oven and iron skillet. I also rediscovered that my wife is a firebug. She can't keep away from the fire. Poking it. Prodding it. Mesmerized by its dancing flames, she's drawn to it like a moth.

I also remarked that if I had been born in the 19th century, I'm convinced that my calling would have been as a chuck wagon cook. I was all over the place cutting, prepping, ladling. Good times.

All in all, we all had a great time. Wife wants to camp more. Kids enjoyed themselves for a weekend without the Playstation. I got to cook up some outdoor food. Good weekend.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Back to School and Sarah Palin

Kids went back to school today. It's a little different experience here in the States than going back to school in Germany. I drove past the local high school and saw cheerleaders and a pep club cheering from the corner as folks clapped and cheered on their way to school. I don't remember being that happy to go back to school. I guess there was good things about back-to-school: New clothes, a brand-new Trapper Keeper (that always ended up at the bottom of the locker after week #3, never to resurface), seeing old friends, the smell of a freshly sharpened #2 pencil, and Mrs. Rawl. That's about it. I asked my son Benjamin what his favorite subject was after he got home today. He responded, "Lunch and recess." That's my boy.

Did you watch the Sarah Palin speech tonight. She's pretty impressive. I think the McCain campaign just got a huge boost. I also like what Newt Gingrich had to say about her executive experience as both a mayor and governor. Pretty impressive when you compare her to Obama's lack of experience. Newt asked, "What has he really done other than write a few memos and give some speeches." Will she pull in all the Hillary voters? Martha, you gonna cross over to the "dark side?" Resistance is futile...

Love it.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Funny Tandem Story

My friend Alan recently talked about writing a novel. I mentioned the idea of writing a tandem novel of some sort with each of our blogging friends adding a paragraph in succession, wondering how it would turn out.

I was reminded an old, supposedly true story of such an experiment done in a college English classroom. I hear the students got an "A." Probably an urban legend, but it's still a funny story.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Harriet Oleson Flies US Air

Ran into another "colorful character" on the flight home from Philly to Seattle. This lady, her husband, and 4 children, provided running color commentary for the entire 5 hour flight. Whatever volume control she was born had been removed or simply burnt out from overuse. No sense of confined spaces and respect for people sleeping. It eventually became mildly humorous, actually, listening to her lambast her children and berate her husband in her thick Philly accent over nothing. I was reminded of Harriet Oleson of "Little House on the Praire" fame. Poor Mr. Oleson. I always found some satisfaction when Nels would finally stand up and say, "Harriet, shut up." Classic.

Nothing like this happened, though as much as I would have liked it to, and the flight ended quietly. Back in Seattle and ready for another week.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Life's "Colorful Additions"

I need to "up my game" a bit. I've been slacking a little with the blogging.

I'm TDY again, attending a tactics course at McGuire AFB, NJ. I was stationed here for a year from May 03-Jun 04 while I attending the Advanced Studies in Air Mobility school. I drove past our old house at 4533 East Castle Drive. Looks the same. I couldn't help but chuckle as I looked over at my old neighbor's house. She was a very odd person, perfectly harmless, but one of those people that, shall we say, "adds color to life." She was a karate nut and would wear her black karate suit all the time while she worked in her yard. This in itself is a bit odd, but when it was sunny she'd top off this fashion faux pas with one of those Ho Chi Minh hats. For the first month we lived there I no-kidding thought my neighbor was VC. I looked out the window one day and her and her husband (also a karate nut) were chopping bamboo poles with samurai swords. Odd to say the least, but it still brings a chuckle every time I think about them. Spice to life, right?

This discussion brings me to another "colorful lady" I had the pleasure of riding with on the airplane from Seattle to Philly Wednesday. She was harmless enough. But she turned out to be one of those "20% of the people who cause 80% of the work." She hounded the poor flight attendants non-stop for the entire 5 hour flight. Normally I don't have very much pity of flight attendants. Most that I run across are borderline rude and make it very clear when you cross over into the realm of inconveniencing them. I honestly felt bad for the flight attendants that had to deal with this lady. She was a nice enough lady and meant well, but was just one of those folks that start to make you uncomfortable, you know? Like something is just not right.

What do you do short of telling her, "don't talk anymore, please?"

Thursday, August 14, 2008

We The People...

I've been TDY to Scott AFB, IL, this week, solving the world's airlift problems. I've been brought together with a group of experts from the operations, logistics, maintenance, and airlift management specialties, to work a particular problem. You ever see that movie, "Twelve Angry Men?" That's what it's been like. In a way, it's kind of interesting watching a diverse group come together to solve a common problem while simultaneously trying to champion their own agendas. I imagine it's something like what the founding fathers went through trying to carve out the first draft of the US Constitution, though no one here is wearing a wig and everyone is not nearly as formal and polite. I'm waiting for the Connecticut Compromise to come up so that we can all get things solved and go home.

This base is pretty nice. Being HQ for Air Mobility Command, I guess it's got to be. We're right outside of St. Louis which, I've found, is a very nice city. There's lots to do here and the weather has been very, very nice. I've been able to visit with some old friends from Altus here. It's been nice catching up on old times.

Tomorrow is the last day on the Continental, conference. We brief the General at 1000. Hopefully he likes what we have to say.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Hackers and Ponies

Some great ideas from my friends to help spark the creative juices. Although very humerous, I opted not to use Rick's Survivor Island theme with kids being voted off. I once told a story where I killed off the kids' characters after a horrible meteor strike on their spaceship. The initial shock was quickly replaced with a long, "Nnnnooooooo!" Didn't go over very well. I had to quickly recover with the Soap Opera ploy, "It was all just a horrible dream."

Caryn, I used your suggestion and gave one of the characters computer hacker skills. My niece thinks it's pretty cool. Her character used it last night to help escape from a room filling with deadly poison gas. I'm trying to think how I'm going to fit a pony in the story. My boy doesn't have a problem with a pony as long as it's a man-eating pony. That would be cool. Even better, a man-eating pony with laser beam eyes and machine guns strapped to its back.

Chuck, I hear you about reading stories. It's tough to find stories that have the sheer number of farts, burps, mutant monsters like "Pizza the Hutt," and other non-sensical things I tend to include. I'll take any suggestions, though.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Little Help, Please

I need a little help from my friends.

I posted previously about a bedtime story that went horribly wrong. I just completed a series of bedtime stories that were the complete opposite--the kids were absolutely enthralled for nights on end. That's the problem. Now I've set the bar pretty high and they will accept nothing less than perfection. The natives are getting restless for a new batch of stories. I feel like Cheherazade of the Arabian Nights story--forced to come up with new and exciting stories on pain of death. Well, not death, but you get the idea of the pressure I'm under.

I need some ideas. The last story was about how my daughter, son, and three nieces were princesses and a prince going on various quests to see who was worthy to be queen or king of the kingdom. In the end they all realized that they had to work together and rule jointly. Government by executive committee, if you will. I jazzed it up by giving them all special powers (power to heal, super strength, Benjamin could turn into a rock creature like The Thing, super speed). I also gave them their own special weapons. They used their skills and weapons to fight various monsters like a dragon, a shark, and an ogre. One night after I finished a particular section of the story, the kids talked themselves to sleep discussing the best way to turn the story into a movie.

I'm toying around with a few ideas. The kids are a band of kid mercenaries called together when their nation needs them via secret signal--kind of like the Bat Signal. Who do they fight? Special powers, or do they just have special weapons?

Any suggestions?

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Frau Discovers You Tube

Tough day at work yesterday. Worked all morning on various squadron things then played in the wing's golf tournament all afternoon. This was my third time playing golf over the past 5 months--I'd forgotten how much I enjoy playing.

Got home around 6 o'clock, ate some supper, then took my two older boys to see "The Dark Knight." Great movie...and long. Definitely get your month's worth with that one. I remember the 1989 version of Batman and how everyone went ga-ga over Jack Nicholson's Joker. Heath Ledger's Joker was 10 times better, almost other-worldly. I also like how they didn't kill the Joker off, though the next person to play the Joker will have some very large shoes to fill.

We got home around 11 o'clock and found my wife and her two sisters sitting around the computer watching old 80's videos on You Tube. There was a half-finished bottle of wine and chick songs playing. Definitely too much estrogen in the room for yours truly, but I decided to accept the challenge and stick around. It actually was pretty fun watching the videos and watching them reminisce.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Baby We Were Born to Run

Here's a picture of my youngest boy, Benjamin, running in last week's Sea Fair 5K in downtown Seattle next to his cousin. He walked/ran the entire 5K! I'm very proud of him. His brother, William, actually ran the entire way. They had a lot of fun running it.
It warms my heart to see them living a healthy, active lifestyle. I remember the first time I went running. I had just finished off a heaping plate of hamburger steak, gravy, and mashed potatoes. I gave it about 15 minutes to settle and then strapped on my running shoes. "I'll be back in an hour or so." I took off down the street and made it to about, oh, Rick's house before the cramps kicked in. Another 200 yards and I got to see dinner again. It took me about 20 minutes to make it back home doubled over with stomach cramps.
I washed off the shoes and hit the trail the next night, giving myself a bit longer after a much lighter meal.
Thankfully, Benjamin didn't toss his lunch on the streets of Seattle.

Friday, August 1, 2008

800-Pound Gorilla's Off My Back

Finished up my airdrop requalification checkride last night. It was a typical checkride...everything that could go wrong did go wrong. From one aircraft with a fuel leak to equipment problems to dealing with was a long night. Believe me, there were several points where I questioned my sanity in going through all of this. These moments are overshadowed by the coolness of the mission, though. It's probably like someone who really, really enjoys going through childbirth.

We finished up around 0300 this morning. Now I'm signed off to fly in command on airdrop missions. I heard someone the other day put it very eloquently:

"If you like a mission to go as planned with no spur-of-the-moment changes, then airdrop is not for you." So true.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

When Bedtime Stories Go Horribly Wrong

Took my wife's family out for a drive to Mt. Rainier National Park for a picnic and a quick hike around Paradise, Washington, at the foot of the mountain. It really is truly breathtaking out there. We saw a few deer but, thankfully, no mountain lions or bears.

During lunch I briefly entertained the kids with a made up story about the "Monkey Bear" that is rumored to live in the woods around Mt. Rainier. I'm not sure where the inspiration came from. I think perhaps it was something Jay might have mentioned in one of his posts as a story he told Harper once, like the third eye on her forehead. I believe Chuck may have told such a story, too. Fact is, any of my friends could have told this story--great minds think alike.

Anyhoo, it was just a silly story about how a monkey had escaped from the zoo to the woods and married a bear. Next thing you know there's a bear with a monkey face and hands with a long prehensile tail stalking campsites looking for Doritos. My older boys chuckled and immediately dismissed the story. My 8-year-old played along, perhaps hoping beyond hope that there really was a monkey bear and that he'd get to see something he's never seen before. My daughter nervously laughed...I know she believed it.

Skip ahead to bedtime that night. I just finished a bedtime story for the younger kids. It was a pretty poor effort and not filled with my usual fare of silliness, farts, and general mayhem. By the way, I've learned that the secret to a good bedtime story is to throw a fart or two in--gets them every time. Again, I realized from the looks on there faces that I would get no peace until I satisfied the masses. When one of my nieces asked if the monkey bear story was true, I took the opportunity to modify my previous story a bit. I said that it was actually a gorilla with a taste for human flesh that killed it's keeper and escaped into the woods. I went on to talk about how it trapped a carload of teenage girls and was closing in for the kill (they were eating this up by this point and all smiles and screams) when it grabbed a banana and ran off. The masses were appeased and I went back downstairs.

My daughter (age 6), while initially pleased with my second offering, had a little time to think about it and decided the story was too scary. I had to talk her down with promises of a chapter story spread out over many nights with lots of ponies and princesses. It's hard to include farts in a story like that, but I'll do my best.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

It's Good to be Back Home Again

Back home now after my recent trip. Last half of the trip was pretty exciting. We left Turkey and flew to Baghdad to upload some helicopters. While there we saw Barak Obama land for his visit to Iraq. I told him that I knew a couple of Democrats in SC (one budding, one hard core) that were probably going to vote for him. He said he appreciated that, though he was surprised they would with all of his recent flip-flops. Just kidding. Just trying to get a rise out of Rick and George. I really did see him land, though it was across the runway from where we were parked.
We flew from Baghdad to Rota NAS, Spain, where we spent the night. We were all pretty ragged out with the long, hot day, so we kept the festivities that night to a mere dinner on the beach. Life is tough. The tuna steak I had that night, however, was not. Spain is nice, by the way. Nice, balmy temps with a cool breeze blowing off the ocean. We were put right into crew rest for the next day, so we didn't get to enjoy some sangria.
We flew from Rota to Savannah, Georgia to drop off the helos. We flew right past lakes Marion and Moultrie (named after Martha's famous great-great grandfather, Tom "Fatback" Moultrie of the revolutionary war era--I think that's true, but I can't back it up). I just starred out the window as the SC/GA lowcountry passed underneath our wing. Absolutely beautiful.
We quick turned at Savannah and pressed on to Travis AFB, CA to finish up our mission. Just passing Atlanta, and in the middle of a system of thunderstorms, our weather radar crapped out. We spent the next 3 hours dodging storms with the help of air traffic control and using the old mark 1 eyeball. Pretty hairy.
It was nice getting home yesterday. My wife's family has converged on our new house, so it's like a zoo right now. Kids are running around everywhere. My mother-in-law's RV is parked in the front yard. Wouldn't have it any other way.

Happy 17th anniversary to George and Jennifer.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

What Would I Do Different?

Todd had a very thought-provoking post about what he would do if he could go back 25 years and do it all over knowing what he knows now. I realize that our mistakes/regrets help make us who we are, but I'm going to operate under the assumption that we can keep the experiences gained from the bad choices after we fixed them. I realize that this flies in the face of all Science Fiction stories, but please bear with me:

Let's see, 25 years. That would make me...what, 15? Let's begin there:

- I would have listened to my folks a lot more; they're really smart, having been around the proverbial block a time or two more than I have
- I would have started my term papers for HARP sooner than the week prior to them being due, with the goal being to have them finished several days prior to the due date. Many late nights were spent typing those suckers out the night before.
- I would have told many of my teachers how much I enjoyed learning from them.
- I would have taken Martha to the Senior Prom instead of the girl from Pelion I ended up taking. I'm convinced that I would have had much more fun going with a friend like Martha than being crushed THE NIGHT OF THE PROM by someone I was kidding myself thinking she liked me. There, I feel better...
- I would start jogging at a younger age.
- I would have been a better roommate to Jay.
- I would have kept in better touch with my High School friends. These blogs have really been a blessing--getting back in touch with lifelong friends again.
- I would never have tried to sneak into a movie while Chuck was on shift at Bush River Cinemas. We put you in a bad spot, Chuck, and you handled it with grace and style.
- Suspenders with shorts...would never have worn them.
- Would never have dated my friend Steve's sister from Atlanta. She was a little nutty (as I found out later). She tracked me down years later at MY MOTHER-IN-LAW's house in San Antonio. Little freaky.
- I would be much more patient with my oldest boy growing up.
- I would have called my wife much sooner than I did. I had her number for two months before I called her and asked her out. It took a call from Steve's nutty sister (another stalking incident) to get me to look for a "fresh perspective." The rest is history.

That's about it for now. This was kind of a cathartic experience. I may have to continue this in a later post. I just got down from flying and am sitting in Turkey. We fly through Iraq tomorrow and back to Germany to begin the homeward trek.

Friday, July 18, 2008

A Pilot Looks at Forty

Small tribute to a classic Jimmy Buffet tune as I leave the land of the thirties behind and join many of my friends in the exciting world of the forties.

I hit the road on 14 July on my first offstation mission since returning from the squadron's deployment in March. We flew 4 1/2 hours to Dover, Delaware and spent the night, the crew enjoying some Buffalo Wild Wings for dinner that night. The next day we took off for Spangdahlem AB, Germany. We turned our jet over to another crew and went to our off base hotel to await the next mission.
I must say that I miss certain aspects of the crew dog life. The middle-of-the-night alerts are for the birds, but it's the times when the crew gets together and explores some local culture and takes in the sights...that's when the fun begins. We have a couple of days before our next mission (a rare occurance in these days and times) and were blessed with the use of a "Blue Steely" AF van, so we took in a little historical culture. The crew hopped over to nearby Bastogne, Belgium, to walk the ground where the "Band of Brothers" of 101st Airborne fame made their famous stand during the Battle of the Bulge in WWII. Great museum there at the historical center. Afterwards, we drove down to Luxembourg City in the Duchy of Luxembourg. Dinner was Pizza Napoleatana washed down with bubbly mineral water--tres European! We ate in an open square with a brass band playing in a nearby gazeebo. Of course it was a bit chilly and drizzly, and we all stuck out like sore thumbs with our shorts and t-shirts.
Today is much less "cultural." We're staying on base and I'm blogging while my clothes finish drying.

I guess there's worse places in the world to be when you turn 40...

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Search is Over


We moved into our new house in Puyallup on Wednesday. The balance of our household goods showed up on Friday. Most everything made it and only a few things broken/dinged/scratched/scuffed. It was like Christmas for the kids as they opened boxes of toys they'd not played with in months.

There was one scary moment as the movers unpacked the crates. The one in the crate remarked on a "funny smell" as he handed out boxes. The "funny" smell turned into a "horrible smell." I think he may have gagged a time or two. One of the other movers screamed and pointed at his feet once. It was nothing, of course, and we all thought the box man's moment of terror was pretty funny. Everyone thought that perhaps something crawled into the box and died. I made a half-hearted joke about our cat being missing. The movers, to a man, didn't laugh. "Dude, that's happened before." Something about a cat crawling up into a couch. Our couch was cat-free, thank God. We never did figure out what the smell was. Said one mover to box man, "Dude, it was probably you."

Anyway, normalcy is returning just in time for me to head out on a trip Monday. I'm headed over to Germany and on to parts unknown. Iraq or Afghanistan, probably. Much apologies to James for my failure to call lately. Now that I've got some digs, I owe the Kirk clan a much-deserved steak dinner at Das Ritterhaus in Puyallup.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Catching Running Water in My Hand

The housing saga continues, but the end is in sight.

The Fox Island house fell through. Yes, Jay, I've seen the footage of the first Tacoma Narrows bridge collapse (hopefully the ONLY collapse). Don't think that doesn't go through my mind every time I go over that bridge. Anyhoo, we thought we had an "in" with the owner. He's a German ex-pat living in San Diego. We just came from Germany. I like Jagerschnitzel. We'd both like to invade France. What's the problem? His current tenant, apparently tired of the endless line of prospective renters, went with a kindly elderly couple with two small dachsunds. I told him that he should not be taken in so quickly with older folk. They seem nice but have years of experience to draw from and are quite crafty. "Don't get between them and an all-you-can-eat buffet, either."

"Vas ist der all-you-ken-eet-buffet?"

I sighed and hung up the phone, resolved to continue my endless search for a home to rent much like Caine wandering the West on "Kung Fu."

We have the inside track on a house in Puyallup which, I believe, means "Land of Boundless Cookie Cutter Homes" in native Indian. Our house is not very "cookie cutter-ish," though. We're going tomorrow to lock it in with a deposit. The search is almost over, Grasshopper.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Still Sans House

Alas, still no house for the Ritter clan. The one we were looking at fell through. We got into a sort of "bidding war" with another couple and they were willing to go with a 2-year lease and we weren't. Classic bait and switch and probably totally unethical. We are not dealing with that rental company anymore. We started looking on base at housing. One is available but is, at this point, an absolute last resort. It is a bit on the snug side and the wife would have a killer commute everyday to take the kids to school. We're holding out for a house on Fox Island that definitely looks promising. It's going to mean a 40-45 minute commute each way to work for me, but I told the wife that "I'd do it for her and the kids." Made some MAJOR points there. In actuality, the house is huge on a corner lot with a nice view of the Puget Sound. There's also a hottub on the back porch. Last time we drove through the neighborhood there was a doe with her young fawn munching on a neighbor's bushes. My older boys immediately mentioned the possibility of "front porch hunting." Aspiring rednecks...

We will hopefully hear something later this week about whether we can have the house or not. Keep us in your prayers. The walls are really closing in on us in our billeting room.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Possible Home...Stay on Target...Stay on Target...

Drove around yesterday looking at more rental homes. We found one that all of us fell in love with. We've attempted contact with the owners to start working things out but have yet to get a response. This is the maddening part of it all, when you find something only to have it dance just outside your reach. It's in the right area with the right schools and is close to the water. The main question right now is price and if they allow pets. It's a little older, so hopefully they will allow pets as that, per my kids, is a deal breaker.

I've also been drawn to another home that has a hot tub in the back yard. All of Martha's stories of relaxing dips after a hard day of work have my interest piqued. The yard at this house looks like some sort of English gardener's psychedelic fantasy trip. Different, to be sure, but I can put up with quite a bit. My wife...well, that's a different story.

The search continues. Keep us in your prayers. The walls in our billeting room are starting to close in. In know they are...I've measured the distance. Spikes are starting to come out of the ceiling and floor as well.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Searching for a House

Arlene and the kids made it in fine on 1 June. Since then we've been busting out tails trying to find a place to live. The only breaks have been my usual 10+ hour workdays. I did get to fly last week, a hectic 6-hour airdrop requalification ride that left me quite spent. I took the family into Seattle for a much-deserved break last Sunday. It was a beautiful day and the wife and kids had a nice time checking out the fish market at Pike's Place and all the souvenir shops. My daughter said she thinks Seattle is a beautiful town and it reminds her of "Yu Nork City."

Back to the rental websites. Must...find...home. Can't...stop...until....find....home....

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Back in the NW

Got back from my trip down South last night. Spending the night in an airport is not recommended. I didn't sleep worth a hoot and was a mental wreck for most of the next day. Got into San Antonio just a tad late and met up with the family at the RV camp they were staying at. This was my first experience RV'ing and, much to my surprise, I found it rather enjoyable. Kind of like upscale camping. More cozy and rustic than a hotel room yet more civilized than a tent.

The highlight of my trip to San Antonio was walking over my land. I didn't even recognize it and my wife and I drove right past it. The area has grown up in the 5 years since I've seen it. It's a great plot that will make a fine place to build a retirement home. The weather was hot, though, and my wife started having her doubts about South Texas. Coming from Germany, Texas looks hot, rocky, and a bit under-forested. I reminded her of how we'll be wearing shorts at Christmas, never having to worry about being snowed in ever again. That perked her right up. She made me promise we'll find some place up North where we can spend the hot summers. Perhaps Northern Idaho or Western Montana. Need to check it out.

I officiated my wife's stepfather's retirement on Friday. It is a very moving thing to watch someone retire from the Air Force after 22 years of service. They had the grandkids sing the National Anthem at the start...not a dry eye in the place. My 6-year-old daughter joined her older cousins in the rendition and sang all of the words flawlessly. She's very talented--gets that from her mother. I was very honored to do the ceremony for him and found myself thinking ahead to my own. I've got 6 more years before that day comes.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

3 o'clock and all is well

Just sitting in the USO at SeaTac airport. It's 3:10 in the morning and I've got a 6:20 flight out that will get me to San Antonio at 2 in the afternoon. It's going to be a long day. It's like Jonestown right now. People are sprawled out asleep all over the place. One lady is asleep on the floor...I've never heard a woman snore so loud before. She passed gas a little while ago. That was a little awkward for the few guys that were awake with me. What do you say? Do you laugh? If it were a guy you would. No, there was just a nervous chuckle and everyone pretended it didn't happen.

Think I'll take a walk.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Officially Homeless...Again

Just moved out of my crappy, long-term hotel room. I hit the road tonight for San Antonio, where I will join the rest of the Ritter Clan for a week of sun and refried beans.

All in all, it was a good week at work. I flew on Saturday, giving one of the squadron's copilots his Mission Evaluation. It was a beautiful day for flying. Some folks call it "Field Grade Weather." That means there is no bad weather around that older guys like me have to fly around or through. Less to worry about which is good because I haven't been flying nearly enough. I was pretty rusty, making calls on the wrong radios, forgetting to put the landing gear down, flying the wrong way...well, not really. I did screw up a few radio calls, though. I need to fly more.

I'm looking forward to seeing the new "Indiana Jones" movie with the kids. I've caught myself whistling the tune this past week. I even remembered once wanting to become an Archaeologist because of "Raiders of the Lost Ark." Archaeologists are quick to point out that theirs is a life of boredom with occasional moments of discovery. No snakes, no Nazis, no giant rolling boulders. In my career choice I believe I chose....wisely.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Thinking Ahead to Retirement

I attended a going away dinner last night in honor of the vice wing commander here at McChord AFB. This was the end of his third assignment here, and it was obvious that he was going to miss this area. There were the obligatory speeches and the standard going away gifts. The thing that struck me was how heartfelt it all was. I can't help but choke up sometimes when people express such warm affection for others. I guess I'm just a big softy.

I head out one week from today to join my family for a week in San Antonio, Tx. I'm looking forward to having a big ol' steak on the riverwalk washed down with an ice-cold Shiner Bock. I love San Antonio. It's in my top 5 potential retirement locales. Some others in contention:

- Somewhere in the South Carolina low country between Charleston and Savannah
- Corpus Christi, Texas
- Tulsa, Oklahoma
- Ashville, NC
- Nashville, TN
- Flagstaff, AZ

I'm constantly refining this list, adding and taking away places. The Seattle area could be added very soon. Today is an absolutely beautiful day (low 80's and clear, blue sky). It's growing on me fast.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Disposable Wipe Lady Strikes Again

I went to the gym again the other evening. After I finished on one machine I got up and started to walk away. Out of the corner of my eye I saw the same lady who had gotten on to me two weeks ago for not wiping off the machine. Before I realized what I was doing, I stopped, completely changed directions, and got a disposable wipe and wiped down the machine I had just used.
As I walked passed the lady, I couldn't help but look her way. What was I looking for? Perhaps it was for some recognition on her part of my new-found sense of hygene. I reflected on this event later and likened it to when I was 6 years old and finally did what my mom had been scolding me about for the past few days. Picking up my socks, taking my plate to the sink, wiping my face off after eating BBQ chicken--it's like this lady owed me something for my troubles.

I guess this is my tribute to Mother's Day.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

A Manly Skill

I was at the gym the other day and had just finished a particular exercise and was walking away to the next when I was accosted by a woman. "Aren't you going to wipe that machine down," she said. I stared blankly at her for a moment and said, "Ahhh, sure." Grabbing a nearby disposable wipe, I dutifully wiped down the seat and back pads of the machine I had just used. Justifiably chastised, I watched this woman over the next half hour move to various machines doing her workout and noticed that after every workout she would diligently wipe each machine down. I then conducted a totally non-scientific observation of both men and women at the gym at came to the conclusion that women are much more concerned about hygiene than men.

I think perhaps it's something in the male brain which allows us to switch off feelings of disgust that arise from immediately following a sweaty man on an exercise machine. Women, it would seem, are incapable of ignoring incidences like this. Other times this ability comes in handy are:

- Taking a drink of soda after your child without doing the "floaty check"
- Using a public bathroom toilet right after someone else and not caring that the seat is still warm
- Tossing a smelly shirt into the dryer for a quick warm up because "it's got one more day left in it"
- Letting your dog lick your face (no telling what it was licking 10 minutes ago)

A handy skill indeed. I've found that sometimes ignorance is bliss. It's just better not to think about those things and just press on.

Any other ideas of when this most manly of skills comes in handy?

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Touring With Friends

Time for my weekly (weakly?) post...

Two weeks away from seeing the family again. They fly into Dallas next weekend only to be swept up with the grandparents and whisked off to Oklahoma City where I'll join them the week after. I'm looking forward to settling in and getting the Ritter family clicking on all 6 cylinders again.

I finished the simulator portion of my airdrop requalification. I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly I picked it all up again. I was scheduled to ride along on a big exercise yesterday. We had 5 C-17s from McChord doing drops over at Moses Lake and joining up with more C-17s from Charleston for a pass over a drop zone near Nellis AFB, NV. Our jet had some maintenance problems and we had to scrub while the rest pressed on. C'est la vie.

Have big plans today. Operation GOOD TIME kicks off this afternoon. I'll be rejoining with Kirk Squadron for a tour of McChord AFB. We've got plans for a C-17 tour and a ride in the simulator. Harper's looking forward to trying to pick out her house from the "air." Jay's looking forward to trying his hand at air refueling. I'm looking forward to zooming over Seattle at 300 feet and 300 knots.

This is a standing invite for all my friends out there. Let me know if you're ever up this way and we can set something like that up as well.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

A Little Politics

Seems like I'm able to break away and post about once a week now.

Anyone see the Bill O'Reily interview with Hillary? I actually came away from that with a modicum of respect for her. I don't agree with most of her ideas/policies, but you have to respect her for agreeing to the interview. I think she more than held her own. Obama scares me. The whole Rev Wright thing IS a big deal. "Birds of a feather flock together." How could he have associated with that guy for 20+ years and not been influenced? Influenced? I think they associated that long because they share the same thoughts on things. Scary. What even makes this worse is that Obama tossed him under the bus this past week and has totally written him off. So much for friendship. I don't always agree with John McCain, and Lord knows the hard-core Conservatives have a problem with him, but he stands up for what he believes least from what I've seen so far. He doesn't strike me as the type of guy who would sacrafice what he REALLY believes in for the sake of political expediency. I guess we'll see as this campaign trudges along.

One month until the family shows up in Seattle.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

The Mines of Moria in My Mind

I'm not one to subscribe to stereotypes, but I think there are some cultural "truths" out there that ring true for the most part. British folks tend to be polite. Japanese people tend to be very proper. German people are very blunt. Along these same lines, I've observed that the German people are the exacting, attention-to-detail people that you'd want guarding your gates, working on your cars, or packing your furniture. I still feel that way about everything except the furniture part. Arlene gave me a rundown of how the move went. All-in-all she was pretty disappointed with the service the German packers/movers provided. Most articles weren't wrapped properly. Any observations or suggested improvements she offered were shrugged off. I've decided that this will be the last time I'm not physically present during a packing/moving. My wife is much less confrontational than I am and, frankly, I wouldn't have put up with that crap. Anyhoo...

Started airdrop requalification today. Much less exciting than it sounds. My training at this point consists of staring at a computer screen trying to delve deep for knowledge that once was on the surface. Much like the dwarves dug too deep for Mithril in Moria, I'm a little worried what might come up. Perhaps some long-repressed memory of an English lesson taught by Dr. Maddox, or some sine/cosine theorem from Mr. Kilgo. Anyone remember how he always had chalk all over his sportcoat?

See what I mean?

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Daddy Like Carrot Juice

I thought for sure by now that the jet lag would be over with. I've been waking up (not the kind of waking up where you just get up to go to the bathroom, but the full-up, wide awake waking up) at 0400 every morning this week. This morning it came in handy when I actually had to get up that early for a flight. I rode along watching two guys get a checkride. This checkride included a low level flight through Oregon and a mid-air refueling. I was able to get in the seat for a quick hookup and actually showed the youngsters a thing or two.
Work has been pretty busy this week with trying to catch up on things that laid fallow while I was on leave.
I've decided that one of the things I plan to grow in my vegetable garden (whenever I actually move into a house) is carrots. One of the fringe benefits of living on the Left Coast is the ready access to organic foods/granola/free range/dolphin friendly-type foods. I'm sure there's probably some Hemp products around here if you look hard enough, especially the smokable kind. I bought a bottle of carrot juice at the grocery store the other day and have managed to quickly polish it off. Very tasty. Each bottle takes a pound of carrots, though. I'll probably have to dedicate a signficant portion of the garden to this little project.

Feel free to insert "growing Hemp" jokes now...

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Passing the Video Game Torch

Just got back from a great visit with the family in Germany. I haven't seen my wife or children since December 9th of last year, so it was, needless to say, a joyful homecoming. Lufthansa just started up a direct flight from Seattle to Frankfurt. A nine hour straight shot is much better than having to drop into Washington, Chicago, or Atlanta first.
Family is doing great. My wife is gearing herself up mentally for the move. Packers arrive tomorrow. Most of my week was spent getting the house in order for the move: Pictures off the walls, dirt removed from outdoor stuff, getting the car ready to ship. Very busy week.
I learned something else. My kids are now officially better than me at Playstation 3. I mean, I really tried hard to beat them on Call of Duty 4! I'm talking about the kind of trying you do when you're trying to beat your friend, not the "Daddy-really-tried-but-not-really" that one normally does when you play a game with your kids. I eventually beat my 8-year-old in one game. I wore down my 12-year-old--I think he was just mentally fatigued when I beat him. It was 10 o'clock at night when I scored my victory. I finally beat my 14-year-old in one game, but he later told me he wasn't really trying. A subsequent game saw him unleash his total fury on me...wasn't even close.
No, I think that I need to face the fact that, on any given day, my kids can all beat me at video games now. Does that mean that I'm now officially an old geezer?

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Going to See the Family Tomorrow

Little bummed that the Tarheels bowed out to Kansas. The final game was an "instant classic."

Had a great time last friday with Jay. He invited me along to a Sonics game. While the game was forgettable, I had a great time with my old friend. We stopped off for some coffee afterwards and I have to say: Seattle is tops for java.

Saturday was fairly uneventful. I went to see "Leatherheads," starring George Clooney. It was a good movie and worth $8.

Sunday brought me back to Jay's house again, where Jay, Caryn, Harper, and I took in church and a scrumptious feast at Famous Daves. I had heard of Harper's rib eating prowess. Trust me, in person it is something to behold. We spent the rest of the afternoon watching the first Superman movie and helping Harper to Jedi flips in the living room. My back was mysteriously sore the next day. Think I'm getting old.

I hit the road tomorrow for 10 days of well-deserved leave, flying non-stop from Seattle to Frankfurt, Germany to see my family. I know my kids are excited, but not nearly as excited as I am to see them. I'm stretching my thumbs out now for the soon-to-be Playstation marathons. I also need to brush up on the My Little Pony interactive skills. My designated pony is Golden Delicious or Scooda Loop. I can't wait.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Sunday Flight and Final Four

I did indeed fly on Sunday, though the flight was much shorter than planned. We sat for 2 hours with the engines running until we finally made the decision to tail swap to another jet. We had just enough time left for each of us to get a takeoff and landing. Checkride complete.
Finally got to the gym today. It was so nice I went outside for a run, though it also was much shorter than planned. I'm going to blame old age, though that is hard to back up. I see 60-year-old folks running marathons. Too much ice cream and not enough exercise is a more likely explanation.
Glad to see North Carolina in the Final Four again. I picked that entire bracket exactly as it went down. The other ones were a little off, but I have proof that I did pick the Final Four correctly. I felt guilty at first picking all the #1 seeds until I found out that this is the first time all four #1 seeds have made it to the Final Four. I knew that would happen. Yeah, right.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

In the Hot Seat Now

Spent the latter half of this week completing the final spin up for my new job. The guy I'm replacing and I held the "Passing of the Blackberry" ceremony on Thursday. Friday came and I was off to the races. I had my quarterly phase simulators on Thursday and Friday, which added to the general "busyness."
I'm scheduled to fly on Sunday. Nothing big, just a short 3 hour local sortie. The AMC evaluators are in town conducting a major inspection, so we're going to get looked at. One of the inspectors is a guy who was the only guy I failed on a checkride during my schoolhouse tour at Altus, a point he reminded me of when I first saw him (it was the only checkride he'd ever failed). We've since had a tete-a-tete about the whole thing. Nothing personal...just business.
Wife has given me marching orders to go check out a couple of potential rental houses today. I've got tickets to go see them on 11-20 April. I'm looking forward to that very much. My kids have been sharpening their PS3 skills and are selecting Rock Band songs for us to play together.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Easter Kilts, Flying and Eggs

Had a great Easter weekend with Jay and his wonderful family. Church, chicken, and dying Easter eggs. The eggs were not only colorful, they have proven to be very tasty as well, serving as my breakfast for the past few days.

I flew on Monday on what turned out to be a beautiful, if atypical, Pacific Northwest day. We flew a nice low level up the Columbia River and over and around part of the Cascade Mountain range. When came back and requested to land a little early. Command post asked us why we weren't back 30 minutes ago. Ooops! Minor math error during planning gave us an extra hour of flying. Bonehead mistake.

Got some pictures from the family. I've been waiting for one in particular of the Scotsman, William, at his history fair. I was particularly pleased to see that he's one of the few people I know that can pull off wearing a kilt!

Here's some great egg coloring going on at Das Ritterhaus:
Isabella and Benjamin both appear pretty pleased with their work.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

A Week Off, But I'm Back!

Busy week. I'm taking a big drink from the firehose and learning my new job, Director of Operations for the 10th Airlift Squadron. What really cool is that I've got my own office--it's huge! The previous DO was a bit of a handyman, so there are all sorts of creature comforts. My wife has already volunteered to "spruce it up" for me [translation: "Don't touch anything until I get have no sense of style]. She's right. One of her funniest stories is the first time she came by my bachelor pad and saw the picture of Jack Nicholson as The Joker hanging (too high) on the wall.

New car is working out great. The New-Car smell is still wafting in the air everytime I get in. I figure I've got about 3 more weeks before the "man scent" covers it up. You know, that musky, outdoorsy, smell of testosterone and campfires, footballs and steaks. In other words, it smells a lot like feet. I'll be buying one of those air fresheners shaped like green pine trees to hang from the rearview mirror in about three weeks.

Arlene said they've gotten quite a bit of snow in Germany. I talked with my daughter this morning on her way out the door to go sledding with her brother the Scotsman. Not sure if he wears his kilt when he plays in the snow. Wouldn't put it past him, though. I've got plane tickets to go visit them in April and they'll be here for good in May. I can't wait. I miss them very much.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

The Boss Knows My Name

I was reading the Word this morning and came across Exodus 33:17:

And the LORD said to Moses, "I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name."

I'm reminded of the scene in the Chevy Chase movie, "Christmas Vacation," where Clark Griswold's boss continually forgets/get wrong his name, despite the brilliance of Clark's work on various food additives. In the Air Force, as I'm sure it is in any large civilian corporation, it is often who you know that helps you move up in the organization. Fact is, there are so many excellent people, how does a leader choose who to promote? It often boils down to a simple matter of picking "the known commodity." A leader will go with the people he knows are good rather than take a chance on someone who is an unknown commodity. Some many folks work very hard to be noticed by the big boss.

I read this verse and I equate this in my life to the CEO of GM knowing the name of a simple stocker in the back room of a parts department in the Chevy dealership in Butte, Montana. Not just knowing his name though, it would be more like he knows everything about this person: His favorite color, his hopes and dreams, his weaknesses, his strengths. In fact, he knows more about him than the stocker knows about himself.

It struck me that God, the creator of the universe and each and everything in it, knows me that well. Not only knows me, but loves and cares about me and has a plan for my life. He takes the time to guide me, give me correction along the way, and who, I know, will be standing there at the end of the race to take me in His arms and tell me, "Well done, son." It's comforting, isn't it?

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

New Wheels

I bought a car last night. In my last post I mentioned the chain of events that led me to decide on the Honda Fit. As I drove away last night in my new car, I realize that I made a good decision. The car is a joy to drive. The engine, while not overpowering, is peppy enough for me. It handles like a dream and is very responsive. I can plug in my IPod and play it over the radio. I even love the color.

So I'm coming to grips with the fact that a South Carolina boy has passed on buying a 4-door, 4X4 truck, in order to purchase a Euro-car. My friends in Oklahoma would probably take me out back and horsewhip me. I'm going to call my new car it what it is...Euro. Perhaps it was my three years in Germany that made this purchase possible. I couldn't imagine buying something like this five years ago. In fact, a little over five years ago I had bought a Dodge Ram 4X4. THAT was a truck, my friends. Low gas mileage, little creature comforts, with enough power to pull down a fair-sized house.
With gas prices the way they are now, I'm sure I'll get over the Tacoma everytime I have to fill up. Yeah...I'll get over it real quick.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Back Home and Car Shopping

Back in the Pacific Northwest. We packed up most of the squadron and left Turkey early in the morning 5 March and flew 5 hours up to Mildenhall Air Base, England, where we stopped there for some gas and some tasty breakfast burritos (insert witty "breakfast-burrito-gas-comment" here). We took off for McChord AFB about 9:30 that morning, arriving 10 hours later. It was daylight the whole trip over and we had some great views of Iceland, Greenland, and Northern Canada. We were about a thousand miles South of the North Pole.

That was my longest sortie in about 9 years. I had forgotten how difficult it is for me to sleep on a plane, so I arrived at 11:45 in the morning Seattle-time pretty tired. Of course, you can't go to bed at 2 in the afternoon; you'd be wide awake at 2 in the morning. So I stayed up until 9 that evening...and woke up wide awake at 2 in the morning. This jet lag thing is a big drag.

I'm finally past the jet lag now, though. I've found me a little extended stay hotel to park my stuff in for the next 2 months until Arlene and the kids roll in. I'm busy looking around for a new car now. I test drove a 2008 Toyota Tacoma 4X4 crew cab on Saturday. My eyes glazed over and I was transported to a magical place somewhere beside a pristine mountain lake. My new Tacoma was parked underneath a giant redwood. My tent set up next to a small campfire. Trout were jumping in the background, dancing to the music of nearby songbirds. Soon my eyes drifted down to the sticker price and I was immediately ripped from my fantasy--I am convinced I heard a witch-like cackle from the car salesman. I phone call with my wife later brought me back to my senses. This Tacoma truck is not the smartest second car and we can take the Ritter Family Truckster camping.

So, I was sent with new marching orders to the local Honda dealership, a new Civic in the crosshairs now. Fun...removed. Okay, the Civic was nice, but it kind of cramps my "Mountain Man" image of myself. I thus reported back in to the Commander-in-Chief and brought my pouting "A Game." She said she could almost see my shoulders slumping and my bottom lip poking out from Germany. I smiled to myself. This might work. I may get the Tacoma. "These aren't the droids you're looking for," I continued.
"Have you looked at the Honda Fit like I asked you to?" AAARRRGGGHHHH! "Yes, dear."
Back to the Honda dealership for a test drive. What a pleasant surprise! I had a smile on my face the entire time I drove that thing. Maybe it was the shifter knobs at 3 and 9 on the steering wheel a la Formula 1 racing car. This car definitely appealed to the Michael Schumaker part of me. I'm sold. The wife was shocked but pleased. Everyone wins (except the cackling Toyota salesman).

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Last Day in Turkey

Hard to believe the deployment is over. We hop on a plane to return home tonight. I'm part of the front end crew and will be responsible for getting everyone home safely. I just need to remember the directions--fly North to England and then hang a left. Got it.

Just finished John Adams by David McCullough, a book I thoroughly enjoyed. John Adams was truly a remarkable man who lived in remarkable times. I really liked how the people back then wrote letters to each other. These letters provided such an insight into their states of mind and thoughts about a variety of things. I guess that these blogs are just a different version of those same letters and serve the same purpose. Like my friend Todd has said, one day our grandchildren will go back and, hopefully, learn a little bit about what made us tick through these blogs.

Next post will come from the Great Northwest.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Not What It Seems

I'm headed home in about 2 days. Last night a few of us took the opportunity to go off base and do a little shopping. I ended up buying a nice machine-made Turkish rug. This is a bit of a gamble as this has not been cleared with the Frau. I might end up with a nice carpet to lay on in the garage when I change the oil in my car. My other purchase was a bit more of an impulse buy. I went into a store run by a man named "Mr. Rolex, " at least that's what he kept referring to himself as. He had Rolex and Breitling watches galore. I ended up buying a nice Breitling for only $75! Why, I should buy up the whole store and bring them back and make a killing!
Well, not exactly. It looks like a Breitling and even says "Breitling," but the sign on the wall of "Mr. Rolex's" store clearly stated that the insides of the watch are not Breitling but rather Timex or perhaps Casio. What the heck, the watch looks nice and, so far, keeps decent time. Reminds me of many stores in Korea that sell "knock off" items like this. We commonly refer to Korea as "The Land of Not-Quite-Right," for just this reason. I bought my wife what I thought was an expensive brand named purse in Korea. The lady I bought it from glued the logo on the purse which raised the red flag in my mind. I tried to pass it off as genuine, but the wife was on to me and saw right through it. Everyone knows but me...

Saturday, March 1, 2008

A Hero's Return

There are occasionally times when you get through with a project you've worked on, sit back, and say, "Man, that turned out really well." There is a Guard unit deployed with us here supporting the ongoing operations in Iraq. One of the members of this unit is a guy named Dale Storr. I was first made aware of Dale at Air Force Survival School training in 1995. The instructors showed us a video of a local boy who's A-10 had been shot down over Kuwait during the First Gulf War. In the video, the various instructors were asking him about his experiences and how his survival and resistance training had helped. I remember having a sense of the tremendous amount of respect the instructors had for him, that Dale had "done it right."

I returned from survival training to Charleston for my C-17 assignment there and subsequently met Dale's younger brother Doug. I grew to be friends with Doug and even met Dale on one occasion in the late '90s when he came out to visit his brother. I was surprised about a month ago to see Dale come walking into our operations room. I struck up a conversation and caught up on a few folks.

During one conversation, Dale asked about the possibility of hopping down to Iraq on one of our missions. We have flown many of these folks on these flights to give them an awareness of our mission, as they have taken some of our folks up on their aircraft as well, so this was nothing out of the ordinary. As we talked though, Dale mentioned that he had not been back to Baghdad since his 1991 release from his 33 days as a POW. This was going to be something special. Couple of calls, and quick signature from the boss and Dale was on.

To make a long story short, we were able to fly him into Baghdad on a perfectly clear day. He had a great aerial view of the cell block where he was kept at Abu Ghraib prison and got some great photos. He got off the aircraft at Baghdad and walked around a bit, taking it all in. He said the place had changed a bit since he was there last and that the whole experience was surreal.

I'm glad we could put something like that together for a true American hero.

Monday, February 25, 2008

My Life as a Sermon

Reading this morning from Deuteronomy chapter 6, the Lord impressed on me the importance of teaching my children about what really matters:

4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

To talk about the Lord constantly with my children. Not just talk, but also show them in everything I do just how important the Lord is in my life, that I love the Lord with all my heart and will all my soul and with all my strength. It all begins at home. When it comes to teaching a child, I believe that no Sunday school teacher, no matter how good, can take the place of a parent who is truly living the life of a Christian. A very great responsibility, no? But it is also a rich and rewarding blessing to watch the fruits of that effort take root and grow.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

A Very Busy Week and a Few Random Thoughts

I gave my friend George a hard time for being delinquent in his blogging. I mean, who is going to let something like WORK get in the way of letting the entire internet world know what you think. Looking at the gap in the post dates from this blog to my last, it would appear that I have.

In just two short weeks I've gone from being a crusty Lieutenant Colonel line pilot helping out around the office to the Director of Operations to, the deployed commander. I get called in and told this latest little juicy piece of information last week. I was told, "Steve, you're the commander for the remainder of the deployment," but heard instead, "Steve, step up to this firehose and take a biiiiigggg drink after I turn it on full blast and then give you a kick in the junk." Now, our deployment will only last for another couple of weeks, but it's certainly more than I bargained for. You can rest assured that a flurry of prayers have been rising skyward. "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me..."

Those of you following the kilt and the acorn story: My son had his history fair and did a great job as Sir William Wallace. My wife said he regretted not painting his face blue a la Mel Gibson, but was overall satisfied with the endeavor.

I realize now, despite a noble effort to force myself to be, that I am not a fan of miniseries adapted from western novels. I watched the miniseries "The Streets of Laredo," adapted from the Larry McMurtry novel of the same name. I sat through it but found the characters a bit stereotypical, something that happened again when I tried to watch "Lonesome Dove." The main men characters are the silent, strong type. Their partners are a tad whiny but nonetheless faithful. Indians are a bit quirky. The women characters are either pitiful victims or practicing or recently reformed prostitutes. Not my cup of tea.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Marrying Man and The Scotsman

I love to talk about my kids, mostly because there's always so much to talk about.

My wife passed along some news about my 8-year-old son, Benjamin. Apparently Benjamin is ready to get married and have children. It's true. He decided that the other day. I talked with him about it two days ago and received confirmation. He says he's ready.

"Well son, do you have someone in mind you'd like to marry?"
"Is she in your class."
"Is she nice?"
"Have you talked with her about this?"
"Well, son, that might be a problem."
I guess I'm going to log this off as marriage counselling, though I don't think much will come of the incident.

The other story concerns my 12-year-old son, William. He has an upcoming history project where he's supposed to dress as a famous historical figure. We've had the opportunity to travel to Scotland on several occasions during our assignment to Germany, and he's become quite taken with the country and the culture. The fact that I have Scot ancestry through my mother pushed this over the edge for him. He decided he was going to dress as William Wallace, of "Braveheart" fame. We ordered him a kilt (though Wallace probably did not wear a kilt in reality--a fact he is choosing to conveniently ignore) which arrived several weeks ago. Yesterday was the big dress rehearsal and rather than hand-carry his costume and change at school, he chose to wear his kilt all day. He got lots of attention and faced the inevitable giggles from the girls in his class ("You're wearing a skirt!") with bravery and much fortitude. Not only did he wear it to/from school, he wore it after school and to piano lessons and for the rest of the day right up until bedtime. His mother had to intercede at that point as the kilt was dirty and would probably chaff him during the night.

Two acorns that didn't fall very far from the tree...

Sunday, February 10, 2008

The Calling and the Fire Within

Probably the best part of this blog stuff is getting reacquainted and staying connected with old friends. My friend Martha recently had a posting discussing her husband's efforts to come back into the Army following 9/11. This was very interesting to me and helped shed some light on my own situation, though from a different vantage point.

I've had many situations like this in my own Air Force career when I was called (and continue to be called) to go in harm's way. My wife would, of course, be upset--she doesn't want to see anything happen to me. What she had the hardest time understanding was WHY I wanted to go and would do everything I could to go. If I was picked to go, that would be fine. But why fight to go? Most guys I work with are this way. We're all itching to "get into the fight" and go do what we've been trained to do. Why would I want to leave my family and the safety and comfort of home and risk my life halfway across the world?

I believe that I've been called to do what I do. I believe that God created men with this innate desire to be part of something larger. To have a dream, a vision of something better, of what could be. When a man does something he's been called to do I believe there's a fire that burns in him. I believe this fire makes him a better husband and father. This calling can be in the military, in the church, at whatever job he does. What a blessing to do what God has called you to do! John Eldredge wrote about this in his book Wild at Heart. It's a great book that takes a look at what makes up a man.

So, even though I'm away from my wife and children right now, they're never far away in my thoughts. It's not that I don't want to be there with them, it's that I feel I have to be here. When I am back together with them, I know they'll see that fire inside. I think my wife has learned this and understands more now. She says it's one of the reasons she loves me--it's part of the man that I am. That and I love to cook...

I hope this helps, Martha. Thanks for sharing and thank your husband for me for his service.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Thirty Days and a Wakeup

Flew again today, a mission into Mosul and some other place that I can't spell. Talking over some brats and saurkraut at the chow hall, someone mentioned we've got less than 30 days until our deployment is over. It's hard to believe how fast the time goes by when you're busy like this. I celebrated with a plate of french fries and onion rings. I'm so full I feel like a bloated tick.

I'm back in the office tomorrow. I have a feeling the brakes are going to get put on my flying. Much to do and not much time left to do it.

I watched "The Godfather, Part III" last night. I was mildly interested, but this movie fell far short of Parts I and II. The night prior I watched "Cool Hand Luke" with Paul Newman. That was a much better movie--I don't think I'd seen it all the way through before. Well worth it.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

It's All in the Name

My friend Alan just posted an article in his blog on the challenges faced by those who go by their middle names. His article reminded me of a fairly common tradition among some in the Air Force (mostly fighter pilot) to go by "callsigns." Now, if you've seen "Top Gun" you know about callsigns. "Maverick," "Goose," "Iceman," are world-renowned callsigns--that's why you'd never see anything like that in the Air Force. Fighter pilot friends of mine let me into their world (only briefly, mind you) to explain a few of the callsign rules. To boil it all down, a callsign should poke fun at some character flaw or physical trait of the person with the callsign. My brother-in-law's callsign is "Pokey." If you knew him you'd know that is a perfect callsign. I love him to death, but that man is so slow; we're always waiting on him. Another personal favorite of mine was the callsign "Worm" given to a guy who, frankly, could pass for a girl if he had long hair. "Woman OR Man," thus the callsign "Worm." Others I've heard of were "Pyro," "Screamin'," "Wrut-row," and "Rock." While this last one seems a break with the "disparaging" rule-of-thumb, this name was a play on the man's last name...Bottomlee. Pretty funny. He's a good man, by the way, and takes it all in stride, as most do. If you don't, the creative juices really start flowing resulting in a name much, much worse than the first.

So, taking these basic callsign rules into account, let's revisit "Top Gun" and consider for a moment what callsigns these characters more likely would have had. Tom Cruise's character "Maverick" would probably have been called "Sweaty"--the man sweated through the whole movie. The "Iceman" character would probably have been named "Flamer." The locker room scenes still make me a little uncomfortable. "Goose?" I'm drawing a blank.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Congrats to the Football Giants

I'm not a Giants fan, but I have become a tremendous Patriots hater over the past 4 months. They were painted by the sports pundits as this unstoppable juggernaut. It was great watching the under-appreciated Giants win.
I'm a little worried about the Patriots fans around here now and how they're going to react to the loss. It was a bit like talking to cult members--"The Patriots are the best team EVER," "Tom Brady is the best quarterback EVER," "Randy Moss is the best receiver EVER." Just like Jonestown. These folks are going to take it hard.
My wife and kids stayed up to watch the game. They're in Germany, so the game didn't even start until after midnight, ending at just after 3 a.m. My wife and oldest son managed to stay up. My other children didn't. Arlene said Isabella woke up at the end and saw Eli Manning getting the MVP award. She smiled at my wife and said, "Oh, I love him." He's a little old for you Isabella (she's 5).

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Becoming More Moderate

My friend Rick posted an interesting bit about his thoughts on the current presidential race. Unlike Rick, I've always fancied myself a Republican, forged from the political fires of the Ronald Regan years and the early Rush Limbaugh. Republican leaders were who I most closely identified with and tended to vote for when I voted (I vote in every election now).

But like Rick, I find that my views are becoming decidedly more moderate. I'd like to think this comes from age/wisdom. I think it all began with a discussion with a coworker on capital punishment, something that, until then, I had been a firm believer in. He got me thinking about it quite a bit and I eventually changed my stance, though not for his reasons. As a Christian, I suddenly realized that putting someone to death for some heinous crime eliminates any possibility, no matter how remote, that the person would hear the gospel and receive Christ as his/her Lord and Savior.

It's not just capital punishment. I find my stance on many things changing. I do think government has a role in the lives of the people it governs--to provide them every opportunity to live the "American Dream" and of "Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness." Stepping in to help after a devastating hurricane, unemployment insurance (for a reasonable amount of time), and providing for the common defense.

I'm at the point now where I prefer not to label myself "Republican" or "Democrat." I'll cast my vote for who more closely shares my same views of government. There are no perfect candidates--frankly, I would be very nervous if one came forward who was perfect. So George, you might not smile as big as you did from Rick's post, but know that I am at least considering casting a vote the Democrat's way. Fair enough?

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Two Brothers

Settling into a groove now. The days are passing by at a steady clip rather than starts and stops. Weather has moved into the area. Up until now we've enjoyed absolutely stunning, sunny days in the mid '50s to low 60s. Sunday night saw clouds and rain move in with a decided downturn in the weather. It's like Seattle here now.

Nothing new to report on the homefront. My kids' reportcards roll in this week. My oldest seems to be going through the typical early teen phase--all thrust and no vector. He comes home each and every day with a different new thing that's got him all riled up. My second son is the much more focused one. His grades are consistently over 100 and he's never veered from his goal in be an astronaut.

I think about this difference in two brothers who spend so much of their life so close together. Shouldn't they be more alike? They are so different, though, each with their own likes and dislikes, each with their own interests and passions, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. It's really interesting to watch. It's not that I love one more than the other. I guess I see their differences and love that they are so unique and growing up to be individuals, neither one better than the other, just...different.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Layer Cake and Chinese Food

I got to fly again yesterday. That's my 12th mission in a little less than a month. Can't complain because it's not often "seasoned" folks like myself get to fly this much. We got back around 6:30 last night and I ended up over at the base shoppette looking for a movie. I picked up "Layer Cake," starring Daniel Craig. I had remembered reading that this was the movie that won producers over to Craig as the next James Bond. Good movie.

I talked to my wife this morning. I think that was the first thing that attracted me to her was how easy it is to talk with her. She really is my best friend.

I have come back to the world of eating meat with a vengence. I went out with a buddy for Chinese food tonight. "Chinese food in Turkey?" YES! It was very good and made with very little cat or dog. I don't recall if there was much MSG used in the food--I'll find that out later. Seems MSG gives me funny dreams. A few months ago I had some eggrolls my wife's aunt made that were loaded with MSG. That night I had a dream my wife and I had an argument and I was so angry at her I tossed a glass of water in her face. I woke up in a cold sweat wondering how I was going to talk my way out of that one.

On the schedule for tomorrow. Time for bed.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Back to Meat and Two Good Movies

I'm four days into this vegetarian diet thing and I've decided to pull the plug. I'm tired of the lack of energy. This diet certainly doesn't support anything close to the exercise regimine that I'm looking for. I went for a run today and hit a wall. People kept pulling over asking me if I needed an ambulance. Okay, not really, but it felt like they wanted to as they drove by. There were a few worried looks. Okay, maybe they were laughing, but I know they didn't really mean it.

On to a totally different subject. I watched Kevin Costner's latest effort, "Mr. Brooks" last night. I've learned from several of his past movies not to set my sights too high, but I was actually surprised at how good this movie was. William Hurt was right in his element playing Mr. Brooks evil conscience. Even Demi Moore was good. I was pleasantly surprised and would recommend it.

I followed this movie with one of my all-time favorite movies, "The Sting" starring Robert Redford and Paul Newman. I watched it for the first time uncut (i.e. not on broadcast television) and non-stop from beginning to end. What a delight that movie is. Everything about it transports me back to the 1930's. The look, the feel, what a great movie. It's in my all time top 10 for sure.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

A Bitter Disappointment

Flew again yesterday. The flights are not all that difficult, just busy. When we got back the schedulers informed me that I was on a mission going to Ramstein the next day which would mean a chance for me to see the wife and kids, if only for twelve hours or so. I called Arlene and told her the good news. I've been around the Air Force and have flown these sorts of missions enough to know that things can change in a very short time, so I told her not to tell the kids. I didn't want to put my younger ones through the turmoil if things cancelled.

The mission did cancel late last night. I had to call Arlene this morning and give her the bad news. No one was more disappointed than I was, but that's the way things go. The guys are keeping their eyes out for missions to Germany for me. Hopefully one will come up before too much longer.

I've done long deployments before. Last summer I was gone for 132 days. The worst part about this deployment is that there's a chance that I can see them. Last summer there was no chance, so there was no expectations to crush. This seems worse. Of course, if I do get back, I'm sure the look of joy on my kids' faces will make it all worth it.

I'm reminded of a quote by Thomas Paine that helps bring meaning to all of this: "If there must be trouble, let it be in my day, that my child may have peace."