Pink Moscato

Pink Moscato

I’ve been wanting to write for a while, but I found myself getting caught up in that well-known downward spiral of perfectionism… I wanted to write but it had been long enough that I wanted what I wrote to be significant and amazing, so I stalled…and on and on the cycle went…only each time I wanted to write, the content had to be exponentially more amazing than the previous time.  So one day, at a relative low, I cracked open a bottle of pink moscato and just wrote. 

Let me recap: I had a baby – an actual, real life BABY!  He grew inside of me and after a painful and (I can proudly say) a drugless 5-hour labor, he somehow made it out into the world. I kept looking at him in awe thinking, “Whoa – he’s really a real REAL baby – like a BABY baby.” Even as I was being wheeled out of the hospital (turns out, you’re not allowed to walk out – hospital policy), I kept thinking, “So wait, they’re just going to let me leave with this baby? That’s IT? I can just HAVE him?” I guess when you wait until you’re 36 to have your first baby, the whole process seems much more unnatural and strange. As it was, I felt like I was downright stealing a baby.  Even after I felt every moment of searing pain to get him out of me, he still didn’t feel like mine.  He’s been with me for 12 weeks now and I often wake up to see him next to me in bed and think, “Who are you and how did you just suddenly get here in my life?” It’s not an angry thought – it’s purely a curious thought. How the heck did those 10 increasingly fatter months lead to this ever-growing little life? 

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As far as babies go, I think I got lucky. He’s what the nurses called an early smiler, and he smiles pretty much any time I or anyone smiles at him…which is pretty darn cool and awesome and funny and great.  To have this little face smiling at me – even if it’s 3am – is soul-filling.  I’m pretty sure someone could live longer if they were deprived of food but had baby smiles every day…pretty sure.  So Jack was born on his actual due date – which Google claims is only 4% of babies – making him the top 4% of punctual people on the planet. Other than that, I try very very hard not to be the mom who compares her baby to everyone else while insisting that he is smarter and more alert and more developed than average (which I’m convinced he is).  It must have been the negative stereotypes, but the Baby Einstein moms who play nonstop foreign language and Mozart to ensure their baby’s superiority completely turns me off and gives me the heebie jeebies. I sing and dance with Jack, but I’ve decided that he’ll let me know when he’s ready to learn things and I will TRY not compare him to anyone else.  That said, in these last 12 weeks, I have only come into contact with 3 other newborns. The first seemed super chubby and I was glad Jack wasn’t, the second had a humungous head and I was glad Jack didn’t, and the third was a super cute girl (his cousin) and even then I was glad I had a boy…so I’m 0 for 3 on comparing. Even the doctor’s office seems to encourage comparison – they printed stats about Jack saying that he is in the 90th percentile for length, the 20th percentile for his head (explaining why the big headed baby seemed so big-headed), and the 40th percentile for weight…so I can’t help but compare right away – average weight but super long body with a smaller-than-average head.

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What a crazy journey it’s been up to this point.  I sometimes think about writing a book about surviving the Army.  I can look at the last 10 years and see a clear love/hate relationship with the U.S. Army.  It tore my marriage apart; it supported me; it gave; it took; it took back; it gave again. In the end, it’s been like most circumstances in this world – it’s not so much about the institution itself so much as how I responded to it and what I chose to do with it.  When I felt and acted like a victim, I was most certainly its rag doll puppet.  When I rose up and took control and used it to my benefit, I found myself abundantly satisfied.

Though there were times I never ever thought I’d be a mom in this life, I look at my little man (who really is quite long), and find myself amazed at this crazy life.  All the turns and speed bumps and dead ends and detours I’ve taken, my path seems less-than-straight.  I’ve messed up, made mistakes, started over, apologized, forgiven (myself and others), started over again, and found myself lost on countless occasions.  And yet, I have a healthy, handsome, smiling baby boy. It’s quite a thing, this life. I’ve stopped trying to second guess it, and have started accepting with open hands the gifts I’m given.  I’ve been given friends from all over the world, a body which seems to heal from just about anything, a heart which has proven resilient beyond expectation, and a little life that has been trusted to me. Wow. Life is certainly unexpected and fickle and inexplicable…and wonderful. 

OH – I forgot to explain my “relative low” that got me to crack open the pink moscato. I’m chalking it up to the standard adjustment a new mom goes through…that of shedding her old life view and everything that goes along with it.  I stopped and looked at myself in a public mirror today, and saw nursing bra straps hanging out, frizzy hair sticking out from under my hat above each ear, 18 or so extra pounds, and an overall unkept appearance. It’s that frumpy, frazzled, and fatigued self – the triple F-word threat – that takes some getting used to and patience. I think my immediate future holds squats, lunges, situps, some naps, and most definitely more moscato!  

On Loneliness

On Loneliness

I’ve done a lot of contemplating and research on this particular post – starting in Afghanistan – I’ve written and erased and rewritten ”several” times; suffice it to say, my approach and conclusion from what I was first going to write have completely changed. Initially, I looked at the question whether or not loneliness was a choice.  But that was the wrong question, the wrong approach.  I have come to believe that loneliness is no more a choice than a sunburn is when out in the sun for too long. It’s an effect…as is the combination of the sun and lack of sunscreen. Let me explain.

Loneliness sucks. It’s a black, empty void, and a longing for love and attention and community and otherness whose absence glares and taunts us to a point of near torture. I know we’ve all felt the pang of loneliness, and I simply don’t believe someone who tells me they’ve never been lonely. People will do anything to stop being lonely – I know, I’ve been one of them and I’m not proud of the levels to which I’ve stooped, and the morals I’ve sacrificed for even a few moments of feeling less lonely. It’s like what they say about people with motorcycles…there are those who have fallen, and those who have yet to fall. So it is with loneliness…but maybe after a closer look at it, our “fall” won’t have to be so hard. 

After months of research on the topic, the most helpful explanation of loneliness was in a TED lecture on Youtube.  In his talk “The lethality of loneliness,” (from where the two images on the right were taken) John Cacioppo looks at loneliness as any other physical response and early warning system our bodies enact when some sort of adjustment is required. Our bodies feel thirst when it needs more hydration; we feel hunger when our bodies need nourishment; we feel pain when we need to protect and heal our bodies. In the same way, we feel loneliness when our lives need a social adjustment.  It’s a physical response to let us know that we’re lacking something – in this case it is more community and less isolation.  

We are a social species and isolation is like a sickness to us – our bodies let us know when we’re reaching its limit through loneliness.  In the same way babies die without human touch, we suffer and wither from isolation from others. Thus just like it would be ridiculous to ignore thirst and treat it like it doesn’t exist, so it is with turning a blind eye to loneliness.  It’s real and is not something to get used to or ignore. Our bodies are warning us that we need an adjustment – we need to fix this state and put ourselves right again.

At any given point, 40% of people feel lonely…yet it remains a hush-hush topic of embarrassment that we think if we ignore will go away. Studies now show that loneliness can actually contribute to an earlier death. In other words, this embarrassing feeling is not to be swept under the carpet and treated like a nuisance that will fix itself. Our souls need – on a survival scale – to be social with other souls…preferably other nice, kind and funny souls. Being lonely is as normal as being thirsty – and should be treated as a sign or symptom and not a blemish. Just like the image says: recognize the symptom, understand why it’s there and what it means (aka this blog), and respond by reaching out to someone. Reaching out to just one person will help. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could all be a little more honest and responsive with this uncomfortable feeling? Maybe now we can pick up the damn phone and call a friend…oh yeah and Facebook doesn’t count!

Powerful Beyond Measure

Powerful Beyond Measure

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you NOT to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we’re liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” ~Marianne Williamson

A New Year, A New Chance

A New Year, A New Chance

I committed the cardinal blog sin and didn’t update a cliff-hanger blog.  I suppose the excuse that “I’ve had a lot going on” is the token excuse that we all tend to insert when things in our lives don’t get updated or addressed or completed…but I’m going to go ahead and use it. “I’ve had a lot going on.” 

The update is that after some follow-up tests, the ever-growing baby inside my ever-growing belly is thus far healthy.  I broke down in tears (as I’ve done over just about everything in this heightened hormonal state) when I found out the baby wasn’t going to start out at a genetic disadvantage. It wasn’t that the baby would have been any less special and central in my life, but it was most definitely the fear that I simply couldn’t do it on my own.  

But the good news coupled with a new year brought a bit of a sense of hope to my quivering psyche. As I sat with countless hot chocolates in my comfy, baggy pjs over Christmas, I looked around with newfound gratitude at the gift my family is…surrounded with ecstatic kids ripping through gift after gift and loving hands placed on my popped belly. 

I think it’s a universal outlook any one of us can take in this new year. No matter how much shit we were hit with last year, the beauty of a NEW year is a sense of a fresh start. Just like today is a new chance to remedy yesterday’s miserable mistakes, this year is a whole new year. Here are some additional encouragments about this year you may not have been aware of. In the Chinese zodiac, this is the year of the Horse. The spirit of the horse is recognized in people’s unremitting efforts to improve themselves. It is designated with the characteristics of energetic, bright, warm-hearted, intelligent and able. …not a bad grouping for a year if you ask me. 

The truth is, none of us is starting out at a disadvantage in this new year. We are simply starting out.  Being pregnant (sans job) is just a part of life… as are any of our predicaments.  Whether it’s divorce, unemployment, surpise prenancy, health problems, money problems, deployed away from family, heartache, heartbreak, loneliness, lost soul, or devastating loss, the fact is that if you stop and look around, we all have one or more of those checkmarks to claim at any given point…Lord knows I’m no stranger to many of those things! It’s not at all belittling to say those things are just circumstances…the setting and props on the stage of which you are the star.  And this is a new act. You know that saying, “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% what you choose to do with it.”  It’s not the setting of your stage that defines you, it’s YOU who defines you.  The actor, and not the props, is what matters the most. In other words, don’t submit to your props! You’re not the victim; you’re the star…now BE the star.

Give yourself the gift of a deep breath in, the faith in the knowledge that simply by being alive, you’ve been given the gift of another new year, and a whole new chance to discover and experience the gifts of life being presented to you. For me, I suspect my gift this year will come in a little blue bundle (it’s a boy, by the way). It’s taken a readjustment to see this as a “gift,” but I think life’s Author just might know me better than I do. For my sister exhausted with three kids, it may come in the moments of laughter she holds onto each day from funny or ridiculous things her kids do and say. For my other sister planning her May wedding, it will come in a new life joined with someone she loves very much. For my 90-year old grandpa, it comes in moments like L.A. Lakers victories, and phone calls and visits from grandchildren, as well as his ever-professed satisfaction with having lived a good and full life overflowing with love. For my friends in Afghanistan, it’s in Skype calls with family, care packages, and sitting around the hooka appreciating the friendships that have formed in a far-off land. These gifts are otherwise known as joy. Let yourself be open enough to be surprised by joy this year!

Scary Day

Scary Day


I’ve woken up to the shaking of a nearby explosion. I’ve been lost in dark alleys in the wrong parts of town in strange countries (don’t tell my mom that one). I’ve been caught unprepared in a blitz snowstorm on the top of a remote mountain, stranded on another mountain in a severe lightning storm (the metal in the toes of my boots actually smoked from being so hot), and was lost underwater in the hull of a sunken ship. Each of those were moments where I was scared and even if just for a moment, feared for my life. But nothing prepared me for the sort of fear I experienced a few days ago. I was driving up to Denver getting ready to fly out to Los Angeles the next day to visit my grandpa – incidentally my most favorite person in the universe – when I got a call from my OB/GYN (aka baby doctor). She explained calmly that my last ultrasound – which disappointingly didn’t reveal the baby’s sex – did reveal an inconsistency in the heart which was an indication of Down Syndrome and that I needed another blood test to confirm whether that was or wasn’t the case…but that it could wait until I got back from my trip. I struggled to be as polite as possible while I tried to process what she was saying and still keep the car between the white lines on the highway. After she hung up, the brunt of what she just said started to hit. I may be looking at being a single mom of a baby with Down Syndrome. Did I just hear that right?! At first the tears started slowly, but within a couple miles, they turned into steady streams and were quickly accommodated with loud and uncontrollable sobs and hyperventilating. Can I just take a moment to beg healthcare professionals out there NEVER to give less than positive news to patients WHILE THEY ARE DRIVING?? I couldn’t breath, couldn’t think, and couldn’t see – because of the tears filling both eyes and the fact that my one eye can still only open about halfway from the recent surgery.

What I just can’t wrap my brain around is: what if it’s true? What if I’m going to be a single mom with a challenged baby? HOW THE HELL DO I DO THAT? Since that phone call, I’ve been more scared than any other life-threatening moment in my life. It’s more than just me here on the line now – it’s a whole new person depending on me – me the sporadic, fly by the seat of my pants, try anything once, risk-taking “mommy” who is now scared shitless into a stagnant state of dread. The only answer that keeps coming to me is, “I can’t do it, I can’t do it.” Thanks a lot, subconscious, that’s all you got? Not, “this too shall pass,” or, “you are only given what you can handle.” Nope – no such reassuring thoughts – just “I can’t do it.” I’ve had an unending stream of prayers that consists of one sentence…”Please let this baby be healthy. Please let this baby be healthy. Please let this baby be healthy.” I know in my head there are resources to help people like me to adjust to a special needs baby like that, but I just don’t think I’m that strong.

Incidentally, I turned around and went back to the doctor’s office to get the test done. I’m in LA now with my grandpa and trying to think about other things until the results come in a few more days. The Price is Right is on with volume level 50 – not exactly a way to clear the mind from troubling thoughts – or maybe it’ll turn out to be some untapped sound therapy I’ve never tried.

The truth of the whole matter is this potential reality is so big that I can’t wrap my brain around it – not yet. I suppose it’s good self-advice in that we humans can and often do drive ourselves crazy with fears over what may or may not happen. If I were to leave my thoughts to their own demise, I’d be laying on the floor in a pool of my own saliva mumbling and paralyzed from fear. I’ve often heard the saying that 90% of what people fear in life never happens. Now if I can just internalize and pause with a little patience before I have to face whatever lies ahead. It’s not ignoring fear; it’s letting that fear sit next to me but not consume me. It’s breathing in one breath at a time and when I feel shaky and unsure and scared, to steady myself until I know just what my new reality will be. This is definitely a life lesson in the works – one we’re all faced with. Once again I find myself on the stage of life – my setting and obstacles may be a little different than other people’s, but we’re all dealt the same big lessons. And you know what? This too shall pass…written appropriately with fear tears filling my eyes…breathe, Amy, breathe.

New Beginnings

New Beginnings


I have a lot to reconcile in life, but I’ve always learned from my mistakes and somehow I’ve kept going, pushing through the challenges and obstacles in life. I have come to believe that strength is in every one of us…that inner push that comes from something so unconscious in us that we don’t even know it’s there until it’s called upon.

I went to Afghanistan in search of something…a new start, some adventure, insight into this 12-year war…maybe it was a little of all of those. In many ways I identified with Elizabeth Gilbert in her book Eat Pray Love when she went off on a journey in search of living a fuller, more meaningful life…of course she chose Italy feasting on wine and pasta and I chose Afghanistan and war and barbed wire. Although her route was slightly more appealing, the missions were similar – to embark on a 1/3-life-crisis journey to reset and begin anew.

In Afghanistan I did find adventure, saw new lands, and met new friends, but my new start came in the most unexpected of ways. I was laying in a hospital bed shivering in a surgery gown waiting for surgery on my eye – an inexplicable infection – when a nurse came in with a funny look in her eyes. She explained that while I still needed surgery, I could no longer have pain medication due to the fact that I was pregnant. I was cold, in pain, and most of all, stunned in a state of segmented and incomplete thoughts except for the one clear memory from over a year prior when a doctor told me I would need science (fertility medicine or in-vitro fertilization) to get pregnant. I’m pretty sure my confused look urged the nurses to say something soothing, but all they managed to say was, “Congratulations!” In hindsight, a hard slap to the face and yelling “Surprise!” would have been so much better.

With an additional confirmation blood test, I went into eye surgery – only there had been an attack that day and I was low on the priority list for the operating room, so I got moved to the dental clinic. The doctor fumbled as he had no choice but to convert dental cleaning tools into surgical instruments for an eyelid. Without pain medication, I was alert and gripped the vinyl chair arms with all my strength to stay still as the doctor made incisions in my eyelid with the scalpel…or whatever he was using to cut. I felt tears streaming down my face, but I couldn’t tell whether they were from the shock of the news or the pain.

The doctor finally finished, patched up my eye, and sent me on my way. I was still in my one-eyed hazy shock on the helicopter ride back to my base unable to see the hills and mud huts below or even think past each successive minute. I got out of the helicopter when it landed, the deafening sound and wind coupled with my one eye fog made everything feel like a distant dream. I shuffled across the landing area to my tiny room, opened the door, and flung myself onto my bed for three days of crying. No food, no interaction, no work (they thought I was still up at the hospital), just crying. Have you ever cried for three straight days? It was a far cry (so to speak) from my strongest moment. I was confused, ashamed, regretful, angry and scared…and nowhere in all of that that could I even begin to reconcile a baby.

I always wanted to have a baby eventually with someone I loved, but I didn’t want one like this. The dad was not someone I was even in a relationship with, and I was suddenly looking at the reality of being a single mom. It’s taken me months and months to come to grips with this new beginning, this new journey. It’s only the start of a very new and scary and unknown journey, but it’s a start nonetheless.

I never pictured my life would turn out this way, but then again when DOES it go the way we plan? I’ve heard the saying more than once and have said it even more often, but if you wan to make God laugh, just tell him what you’re going to do tomorrow. I’m pretty sure He had a good laugh with me, and I had a few choice words for Him at first too. But my actions were clearly what leapfrogged me onto my new path and I couldn’t blame God or anyone else. Well, I could blame the dad, but as I’ve been reminded by friends when I’m all fired up, it takes two to tango.

Whether I agree with Mother Nature or not, this baby is coming – I find out tomorrow if it’s is a boy or a girl. I don’t know exactly how I’m going to do it, and I know I’ll probably stumble along the way as I’ve done in the past, but I’ve accepted that this is indeed my new beginning.

Go Easy on Yourself

Go Easy on Yourself


Well, I’m back in the “real world” – back from Afghanistan. I’ve been back for about two weeks. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night thinking I’m still there and have to walk across the gravel to get to the bathroom, while other mornings I wake up and the whole thing just seems like one, big dream. I was just in Afghanistan for more a year – even saying that sounds strange. There’s such an influx of soldiers and civilians trying to leave the country right now that it took me nearly a week to get on a plane out of the country. Imagine being stuck in a US airport for a week – it’s almost unheard of. Now imagine that airport being in Afghanistan and looking more like a giant metal warehouse. It was NOT fun.

As I continue to process what I just went through, I would like to put together a sort of “lessons learned” write-up. As it is, I’m still adjusting back to this world. That seems to surprise people that it’s a challenge, but unless people have been there, they don’t understand the whole “adjusting” back into life here. As I was leaving Afghanistan, a friend gave me some advice that has turned out to be very wise. She said, “Don’t expect too much of yourself, and don’t make too many plans.” It’s pretty much the exact opposite of how we as Americans today try to live our lives…try harder and do more. But now I get it. As stressful as life was back in “A-Stan,” it was at its roots very simple. There was very little (ok NO) natural beauty, so gravel and metal connex boxes became my scenery. Daily decisions were nearly obsolete – I chose between eggs and fruit for breakfast, and chicken and beef for lunch. Now, I sit and look at green grass and nearly cry because it’s so beautiful. When I’m hungry, I go online and find a million possible recipes from which to choose, then I go to the grocery store to get dinner supplies and find I’m completely overwhelmed by the number of choices I have and decisions I have to make just to leave with one simple basket of food. All the “normal stuff” suddenly seems to take twice the effort and energy as it used to. So I repeat the advice given to me as my new mantra, “Don’t expect too much of myself, and don’t make too many plans.”

Maybe this is the approach we should always take with ourselves as we transition from one phase of life to another. Can you imagine how much more enjoyable life would be if we were this gentle and forgiving of ourselves all the time? Whatever that transition may be, we’re always going through them – a divorce, a new city, a new job, a death, a new child…life’s changes sometimes drag us along whether we want to go or not. Perhaps that change is easier to adjust to and more enjoyably processed if we ease up on our own expectations and take one day at a time until we’re comfortable on our new paths. I’m not saying run away from the change, I’m saying accept it gently and slowly. It’s a concept that is foreign to today’s world. Even as I looked for quotes, nearly all the quotes pertained to “be harder on yourself,” or “expect less of others and more of yourself.” I’m putting my fist down and calling for the exact opposite. If I expected more of myself right now, I’d crumble. Instead I’m going to treat myself like a little child and walk myself through this transition one day at a time, and one grocery store basket of food at a time. I will find my new comfort zone eventually, but I’m not going to demand that it be tomorrow. Consider it.

Waking to Shaking

Waking to Shaking

Getting jarred out of sleep in the darkness of early morning is disorienting, especially when it’s with a bang and a shaking bed. In those first few seconds, your mind sluggishly runs through the brainstorm of what it was…was that a knock on the door? No, I felt shaking. Was it an earthquake? No, I heard a bang. Did my roommate fall out of bed? Maybe that’s it. But then a few seconds go by and your mind has woken up a little more and the thought hits you, “No. That was an explosion.” I poked my head outside my door to see a bunch of other heads poking out of their rooms as we all witnessed a giant plume of black smoke rising up into the air from what looked like the other side of base. Then the sounds of gunfire from the same direction woke us up entirely. A firefight was happening between insurgents and whoever was trying to protect the base. We found out later it was less than a mile away but on another, smaller base…which housed all civilian contractors and local gate guards who died in the firefight.


I stayed in my office for the first part of the day because it’s a hardened shelter that would protect from any follow-on attacks, and the only information I could find was from a local internet news site. I made calls to other bases, but the scene was in such confusion that no one knew much of anything in those first couple hours.

All told, more than 15 people died in that attack yesterday morning…including at least 1 American and 1 Brit. As of the time I’m writing this, they are still digging bodies from the rubble, so there’s no final death count yet. A slew of injured civilians made their way over to my base throughout the day for temporary housing and medical assistance. One of the medics told me that a building 150 ft from the detonation caved in on a couple people, and they were able to survive by crawling through the debris and out of the wreckage. Pictures showing the 60m-deep and 140m-wide crater at the blast site with mangled metal and body parts made it clear how those guys who crawled out could be considered a miracle. The doc on my base who helps with my calluses from working out (yes, makes me feel pretty insignificant to say that) spent most the day saving those who could be saved, and writing death certificates for those who couldn’t. This morning he told me good heartedly that it gave him a chance to practice his French because France would not repatriate the French bodies without proper autopsies and embalming done, so he had to get on the phone with France and figure out just what they needed.

By late afternoon, I made my way over to coach my Crossfit class to discover that our gym space was being occupied with the civilians who had come over from base that got attacked for temporary living. They looked haggard and drained and in no mood for my questions as to who they were and what the heck was going on. The guy who initially snapped at me when I first came in and snorted “Crossfit isn’t here today,” eventually warmed up when I explained I was the coach and we’d be happy to move our workout outside if he didn’t mind me taking a white board and marker. It was a no brainer – again – I felt pretty insignificant even coming there for Crossfit after the day they’d just endured.

At the end of the day, there was no consolation to take, no lessons learned, no takeaway that I could offer to my classes of athletes, myself, or my friends and family who read my blog. Nothing. I can only hope that on days like tomorrow, the 4th of July, we can come together and celebrate the birth and strength and freedoms of our own wonderful country, and share in the festivities with all the foreign soldiers here next to us. I hear there’s going to be a dunk tank. …which has me wondering…did they build something like that over here?…or stranger yet, did someone pack one up and send it over? Either way, I’m going to go check out a general hopefully get dunked, and laugh and start again.

On the lookout for acts of humanity…

On the lookout for acts of humanity…

“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” ~Aesop

Afghanistan is an environment where it’s easy to harden your sense of humanity into very black-and-white molds of “good guys” and “bad guys.” I’m on the “good guy” team obviously. I listen to the soldiers around me sometimes talk about “vaporizing” the “bad guys” (ok I’m simplifying and PG-ing the “bad guys” terms…many more bad words mixed in there) like it’s just a normal part of life…which it actually is here. But you work in and around the concept of killing the bad guys long enough, and somewhere along the way, the bad guys’ evil traits spread in the minds of the soldiers to extend to all Afghans. I can see how easy it is to happen because of how many innocent lives are lost as a result of the bad guys on a daily basis…it sours all sense of hope for saving anything here. You see little boys running around in the street playing with a ball, and you can’t help but find yourself starting to hate the evil men some of them will become…yet they’re just children.

So I made a decision that for one day, I was going to stay on alert for “acts of humanity” here on the base I’m on. I would go around and do the things I normally do – but take note of anything that reflected goodness and heart and soul.

Results:

  • I saw a girl drop something (too far away to see what), and another girl passing immediately bent down, picked up the dropped object, gave to back to the girl with a smile, patted her on the shoulder and kept walking. – I went to a church service where the chaplain leading the service had us all bow our heads and pray for our friends and families back home…that’s something I don’t think most people back home realize…as they’re praying for the guys out here, they’re praying right back for the loved ones back home.
  • I witnessed a US soldier (my coworker) and a young Afghan man who works in the dining hall talking and laughing and getting to know one another. The Afghan talked about how he goes to college classes in the morning, then works the evening shift at the dining hall, and how his dad is a schoolmaster in town and makes sure his 2 daughters get an education by walking them personally to school every day. Here, the middle of war, two men brought together from completely different worlds and backgrounds getting to know one another and smiling and laughing.
  • In the gym on the evening of my “day of looking out for acts of humanity,” I stood there and took in the scene. There were Candians, Romanians, Americans, French, Croatians and Hungarians…everyone was working out together, talking and laughing, and even cheering one another on at the end of the crazy difficult workout. Here, again, the realization hit – here were soldiers from all over the world who have voluntarily signed up to do this job – they’ve all been transported to a distant desert country that is corrupt and filled with men who want nothing more than to kill them – and yet there they stood smiling, cheering, and working with one another.

It goes without saying that I was humbled by what I witnessed on that one day of observation. I’ll let the US soldier who let the dining hall door slam on me with a full tray of food in my hands off the hook because maybe he didn’t see me (though I’m pretty sure he did) – but the GOOD far far outweighed the BAD. …and I can sum up my whole experience here so far with that same outlook. The humanity and the goodness far outweighs the evil and bad here. It is in the eyes and smiles and determination in every soldier from around the world, every government employee and contractor (like me) who work alongside the military, and all of the local citizens who help make living here possible.

Goodbye Hutchie Boy

Goodbye Hutchie Boy

As I was wrapping up work for the day last night, I got an email letting me know that my dog, Hutch, passed away just a few hours prior. He had been out playing in the hot California sun and got overheated and never recovered even after cool water and shade and ice and everything else was tried. I sat here at my desk reading the email like I do with all of the other hundreds of reports I sift through a day about wounded and dead soldiers, and wounded and dead Taliban. It read just like another casualty at first – just another tally in the “KIA” (killed in action) box for my daily reports. But then it hit. That death was MY DOG…the closest thing I’ve experienced to my own child thus far…and he was just POOF gone forever. I’m surrounded by big, burly, scruffy soldiers, but I couldn’t help but just put my head in my hands and silently weep at my desk.














When I gathered up myself to turn my computer off and leave the office, I realized there was really nowhere to go to keep crying. My roommate is – well she’s a bitch – I’m not feeling friendly right now and I’ll just come out and say it. She has the warmth of a cold, wet, floppy fish. So I couldn’t go to my room, I didn’t want to go sit at the picnic tables where a few people were out playing cards and talking to significant others on Skype. Where to mourn alone on a relatively small base? Good question. I finally found a staircase out behind a building that was out of the way and gave me a little spot to collapse back down in tears as I started reeling through all the great Hutch memories stored up. I understand that here I’m more surrounded in the context of death than I ever have been or ever will be the rest of my life, but I also know better than to diminish my own loss with that justification. I had to let myself cry it out – just weep with the pain of losing something so cherished, so loved.




















Hutch was my great protector through these last eight and a half years. I was the first one to coax him out of the tiny crate he arrived in on a plane from another Hawaiian island; I poured hours of training into him to be the great and obedient dog he came to be; I threw a tennis ball to him what must be tens of thousands of times over the years – tennis balls were his crack – he could never get enough of them. When he was just a puppy, our other dog was attacked while we were out on a trail, and from that day on, Hutch became my personal body guard. He made sure to stay between me and anyone else approaching or talking to me. In my years alone, Hutch was always the warm body I cuddled with on the couch or next to me in bed, and the poor guy was often a willing pillow if I was on the ground watching a movie. There were days of depression where I couldn’t even get out of bed, but it was Hutch who forced me to get up and feed him and take outside on a walk. I remember having the realization one day that if I didn’t have to go to the grocery store to get Hutch more food periodically, I would probably never get out to get food for myself. He forced me to take my attention and pity off myself and care for him…which in turn helped me. Hutch was a pack dog – he wanted nothing more than to be where the crowd was – and then he was perfectly content laying down and resting or playing with kids and running around. But he never once understood that he was any different than the 5lb Yorkie he grew up with – so he was ever my 80lb lap dog who would creep into any little space he could squeeze as long as it was close to me…or close to a warm body…as if you don’t notice an 80lb dog sneaking onto your lap. As long as he could be ON a piece of furniture or cushion of some sort, he was content…even if it was curling ridiculously on top of a tiny Yorkie dog bed.

Goodbye Hutch. You’ll always be my Hutchie Boy, my goofy, playful, happy big lap dog.