Friday, April 27, 2012

Test Me. Go Ahead.

Allow me to introduce you to my new little friend.  He's been waiting patiently since November to meet you.

This book contains 6 practice exams with a total of 400 questions.  By September 1, I will have CONQUERED this book and not only have PASSED all 6 exams, I will have scored NO LOWER THAN 90% on EACH of them.

Kat's on task, baby.  Stand back.

PS - you can't actually click on it to look inside, you have to go to if you really want to do that.  Psyche.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Blog Therapy

This is one of those posts that started out being about one thing, and ended up being about something completely different.  I was going to answer a firefighting question that is frequently posed to me, your friendly neighborhood Firefighter In Training/Siren Sex Goddess.  I was going to preface it with a very, very brief blurb about why I've been rather silent lately - then I started sobbing, and decided that perhaps the very, very brief blurb should be our topic du jour.  Blogging is free, therapy is not.

If you haven't noticed that I haven't been "producing" much the past few weeks, well, I must really suck at this writing thing.  If you have noticed, bless you for actually reading what I write.  Anyhow, you know about SP, my significant other.  I've told you that he has some serious health issues, and those health issues are getting worse.  So I figure it's time to let you all in on it.

My darling SP, the man who puts a smile on my face without saying a word, the funniest, sweetest, most intelligent, caring man I've ever been with, who adores me completely and has my utter and absolute devotion - my darling SP has pancreatic cancer.

He's not much older than I am, so for someone of his age to have this disease is shocking, mystifying.  Cancer hits all ages, but not like this.  Pancreatic cancer is for old people.  People who have lived their lives already.  People who have had years and years with their significant others, a lifetime of memories in the bank.  Not for SP.  Not for us.

Right now he's on the east coast, and I'm on the west coast.  The plan was that he would move here when I move to Spokompton, and we would live out the rest of our days in happiness. That was the plan.  Then things took a turn for the worse.  Now the plan is, get through the end of the day without getting a phone call about an unplanned hospital trip.  Remember to eat, Kat.  Keep your phone tied to your hand.  Go to the gym because you have to stay strong. At any given moment, know your available credit and the value of the jewelry you haven't pawned yet, in case you need to buy a plane ticket for the next day.

Well-meaning friends and acquaintances -all female - pepper me with questions daily.  "How's SP?  What are you going to do?  Does this mean you aren't moving?  Does this mean you are moving at a different date?  What are you going to do for a job?  Are you still buying a house?  How are you ever going to pay your bills or your rent?  Will you still get married?  Are you going back east?"  The only way I keep my sanity is to put myself someplace else mentally and say, "I don't know."  Because I don't.  I have no idea, 7 weeks from now, where I will be living, how I will pay my bills, who I will be living with, or where SP will be.  I don't know.  I don't know.  And right now, I don't care.  I have to trust that SP will take care of me, just as we had planned for our life together, and leave it at that.  I assume that if my entire universe caves in, my family will not let me or my son be thrown out into the street or get my car repossessed.  (Hint hint, family).  Outside of that, I don't plan past the end of the day anymore.

Thank God for my 1 male friend, who is probably my closest friend, after SP.  Say what you want about men, but I tell you what, a man knows how to handle a panicking woman much better than the stereotypes indicate.  Here's a snippet of a recent conversation (all done via text, by the way, because we are both so hip):

Kat:  I think I'm losing it.  SP is going to die and I'm so far away.
Friend:  He's not going to die.
Kat:  Yes he is.
Friend:  No.
Kat:  I'm losing it.
Friend:  You are okay.  It will all be okay, you will see.
Kat:  Okay.
Friend:  Climbing stairs at lunch.
Kat:  Good thing I'm not there, I'd wipe the floor with you all the way up.
Friend:  Bring it.

See what I mean?  I went from borderline hysteria to firefighter posturing talk in about 3 minutes.  I don't want to knock my other closest friends for a minute - Kelly, Laura, Cris, Kecia - you guys have been invaluable, and continue to be on a daily basis - but Alex, you are saving my sanity, and probably my health.  He doesn't ask a plethora of questions.  He just keeps it real, the way only a guy friend can. Thank you, Alex.  SP will want to thank you too, someday, and I pray it will be soon and in person.

Someday I hope SP can meet my circle of friends, those who are shoring me up right now.  I hope we can all hang out and listen to some of his insane stories.  I hope that you all can laugh until you feel like your intestines are going to spill out, like I do, once SP gets on a roll.  I really do.

Until that day, please make some allowances for your Kat.  I'm still on program, still on task - but my SP is my life and my soul, and my life and soul desperately need my undivided attention.  If you are fortunate enough to have the person you love next to you tonight, give them the most tender kiss you can and count your blessings. 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Here's One for Da Fyafytas

Okay, so my buddy Ray Lamb compiled this little snippet on the local FD.  Other than the fact that there's no reference to local fire blogger Kat to be found (we'll forgive that, because we love Ray), it's freakin' awesome and puts a grin on my face every time I watch it.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

I Thought He Was Just Walking Funny

Okay, so this is totally cheating - but I saw this on and thought it was seriously clever.  And yes, we should ALL be prepared for natural disasters, such as earthquakes, and unnatural disasters, such as attacks by the undead.  Enjoy.From Fire was using the zombie technique made famous by the Center of Disease Control to teach safety measures and how to be prepared in the worst case scenario. They compare real life dangers to zombie outbreaks and share how to stay safe in case of earthquakes or pandemics. Spokane Fire lead their safety list with water and food to stay safe, ending with first aid supplies noting if you’re bitten by a zombie, you’re a goner.

We spoke with assistant fire chief Brian Schaeffer about zombie preparedness and a few fire crews hanging around Fire Station 1 in downtown Spokane. They shared their thoughts on zombie survival and why they went with the zombie technique.

We ask assistant fire chief Brian Schaeffer, what inspired a zombie news release?
Schaeffer: "The theory or concept behind a zombie metaphor came from the Center of Disease Control and it’s one of their interesting marketing campaign that they use to get people’s attention to think about some of the worst case scenarios and how to plan for those. Their message gets old and tiring.
People nowadays are driven by social media. This is something they can flash on social media and really get some feedback and get people interested, enthused and drawn into the message. I borrowed it from them. We’re using it to grab people and bring them in.
It’s important. Disasters don’t just occur on the coast, but they occur in small towns like Spokane."

How does this help explain your message?
Schaeffer: "We really have to reach that group of people that have that natural interest. We’re trying to tap into the group of people that we’re sworn to protect that don’t necessarily subscribe to the boring press releases.
We need to be able to connect with them, bring them in and force them to read it because they’re interested. It’s proven successful, we’ve been getting hits on our website, Facebook and other social media. It connected with people that I don’t know if we would have necessarily connected with before.
If they can pick up one safety message from our interaction then we’re doing our job and doing our job without a lot of impact to the budget. Because most often the messages I send out, I’m in my pajamas on my couch. They aren’t necessarily in an office in a bureaucratic frame of mind. I’m either traveling to the scene, or I’m on the couch, from my deck. Whatever. It allows you to have a 24 hour presence without having to be in the uniform in the office."

If Spokane is hit with an outbreak, what do you do?
Schaeffer: "Very similar to a volcanic eruption, earthquake or wildlife fire, we have to rely on people being prepared.  The list of survival zombie equipment that we suggested that everybody carry, those are truly life saving: a gallon of water for each person in the house, toiletries, special documents. That can be used if you’re under attack by zombies or if we come knocking at your door reporting a wildfire and an ordered evacuation.
All that equipment and information should be ready to go. You should be able to leave your house immediately and go somewhere much safer."

How long can these supplies last?
Schaeffer: "At least 48 hours. That’s our goal that everyone is prepared to continue because zombie attacks can last a long time. It could be eternity. You have to be prepared."

We ask deputy fire marshal Brett Hatcher, how can firefighters fend against zombies?
Hatcher: "We use universal precautions. We’re going to have rubber gloves on. Galoshes. Anything to keep ourselves from being exposed.
People would have a tough time rolling a fire truck... I think we’d be okay."

We ask deputy fire chief Bob Hanna, in worst case scenario, what’s your job to protect people?
Hanna: "In certain instances, we have pre-plans on how we would handle an incident.
For the unforeseen incidents like zombies, we could gather senior staff. If it’s wide-spread we would go to our incident management team with the county and we would get together and start addressing the issues.
We start researching and try to find out what is involved or what’s happening or where it’s going to be. If it’s concentrated here or there, we’ll send resources to deal with what needs to be dealt with at that site. If it’s a moving target then we try to figure out where that’s going to be moving to.
We try to manage resources and if there’s certain things, zombie land and you need a stake or silver bullet, we’ll try to team up with local law enforcement."


Saturday, April 14, 2012

In Honor of the Charleston 9

On June 18, 2007, 9 firefighters died in the line of duty following a flashover and structural collapse at the Super Sofa Store in Charleston, South Carolina.  In their memory and honor, the site was transformed into a memorial park.

At the site where each man fell, a small monument was erected bearing his name and years of service.

This tragedy was the greatest single loss of firefighter lives in our country since 9/11.

I knew precious little of the incident when I went to this park.  I wish I had known more.  I found this incident timeline online today.  I just ask that you read it and remember these men.  Please note - this entire incident, from a call reporting a structure fire to the horrific loss of life, took only minutes.

  • 7:08 p.m. - First call reporting the fire is received.
  • 7:09 p.m. - Dispatched units: Charleston Fire Department Engine 10, Engine 11, Ladder 5 and Battalion 4.
  • 7:10 p.m. - Battalion 4 arrives on scene. Dispatched units: Car Charleston Fire Department Engine 16 and Car 2.
  • 7:11 p.m. - Engine 11 arrives first and reports a trash and debris fire that is up against the wall in the loading dock area, but that they have not yet entered the building to check for extension. Engine 10 and Car 2 arrive.
  • 7:12 p.m. - Ladder 5 arrives. Engine 12 is dispatched.
  • 7:13 p.m. - Engine 15 is dispatched. (approximate) Fire crews enter the showroom building and find no obvious fire, however some light smoke is visible near the ceiling tiles near where the fire burns outside. A door leading from the showroom to the loading dock area is opened by the Incident Commander, and the force of the fire pulls the door out of his hand. The inrush of oxygen feeds the fire and makes it impossible to close the door. Fire enters the showroom.
  • 7:14 p.m. - The Incident Commander reports fire in the showroom.
  • 7:15 p.m. - Engine 16 arrives and enters the showroom to join Ladder 5's crew attacking the fire from inside. Engine 19 is dispatched.
  • 7:16 p.m. - Charleston Fire Chief Rusty Thomas (Car 1) arrives, several off-duty firefighters also begin to arrive. Engine 6 is dispatched. Inadequate water supply begins to be a problem, which is compounded by some hoses being run over by passing vehicles.
  • 7:17 p.m. - Engine 12 and Engine 15 arrive.
  • 7:20 p.m. - Engine 19 arrives. Problems continue with the water supply.
  • 7:21 p.m. - Engine 6 arrives.
  • 7:24 p.m. - Battalion 5 arrives. St. Andrew Car 3 (from neighboring St. Andrews Public Service District) decided on their own to respond and soon request more help from St. Andrews crews.
  • 7:25 p.m. - St. Andrews Engine 2 and St. Andrews Rescue 1 arrive.
  • 7:26 p.m. - An employee of the Sofa Super Store calls 911 and reports that he is trapped in the warehouse building. The crew from St. Andrews is notified of the trapped employee and attempts to locate him from the outside.
  • 7:29 p.m. - (approximate) The trapped employee is rescued when the St. Andrews firefighters breach an exterior wall and pull him out of the building.
  • 7:31 p.m. - The first firefighters in the building have been breathing from their air bottles for approximately eighteen minutes and will soon run out of air. Conditions in the showroom continue to worsen while at least sixteen firefighters continue to work inside. Engine 3 is dispatched.
  • 7:32 p.m. - A firefighter inside calls "Mayday!" over his radio. Soon after, another voice on the radio is heard to say "Car One (Chief Thomas). Please tell my wife that ... 'I love you.'" Another firefighter inside is heard on the radio saying " Jesus's name, amen." Chief Thomas orders his commanders to account for their crews and is told that some firefighters remain inside. One firefighter attempting to escape is trapped behind the large glass in front of the showroom, and is freed when someone smashes it as other crews prepare to enter the building to rescue firefighters in distress. An emergency alert is activated on the radio of Ladder 5's engineer, who is inside, but calls to that radio go unanswered. Several PASS devices worn by firefighters are heard, meaning that firefighters in distress have manually activated them or have been motionless for at least 30 seconds. Firefighters begin smashing all of the glass in front of the store to allow escaping firefighters out and rescuing firefighters in, but this allows large amounts of oxygen to reach the fire, which quickly begins to grow in intensity.
  • 7:38 p.m. - Chief Thomas orders a full evacuation.
  • 7:40 p.m. - Engine 3 arrives.
  • 7:41 p.m. - (approximate) A flashover occurs. Virtually all of the interior of the showroom building erupts in fire within seconds. Chaotic radio traffic now ties up the radio channels, but calls about water supply problems continue. A final, unsuccessful attempt at rescue is made but quickly forced back by the intensity of the fire.
  • 7:45 p.m. - The front of the showroom building collapses, sending a fireball and smoke plume out the front of the building, over the heads of fleeing firefighters and showering hundreds of onlookers with ash and debris. Fire then shoots 30 feet (9 m) into the air as much of the rest of the structure collapses.
  • 10:00 p.m. - (approximate) After the fire is brought under control, the remains of two of the firefighters' bodies are found near the center of the building.
  • 10:45 p.m. - (approximate) Charleston Mayor Joe Riley announces that several firefighters remain missing.
  • 11:00 p.m. - (approximate) The bodies of two more firefighters are located about 30 feet (9 m) from the first group.
  • 11:15 p.m. - (approximate) Three firefighters' bodies are found at the South end of the building.
  • 4:00 a.m. - (approximate) The remaining two missing firefighters are located at the Northeast corner of the building.
  • The firefighters

    CompanyRankNameAgeYears of Service
    Engine 15CaptainLouis Mulkey3411½ years
    Engine 16CaptainMike Benke4930 years
    Engine 16FirefighterMelven Champaign462 years
    Engine 19CaptainWilliam "Billy" Hutchinson4830 years
    Engine 19EngineerBradford "Brad" Baity379 years
    Engine 19FirefighterJames "Earl" Drayton5632 years
    Tower 5EngineerMark Kelsey4012½ years
    Tower 5EngineerMichael French271½ years
    Tower 5FirefighterBrandon Thompson274 years

    Thursday, April 12, 2012

    The Scent of Southern Hospitality

    Hey, it's Thursday!  My photos from my big South Carolina Adventure should be ready tomorrow.  It was probably the only roll of print film they had to develop all week.

    I lived in the Charleston area from 1988 to 1993, and I have to say, it was nice to go back as a tourist (i.e., older and with a decent job, rather than younger and dead broke).   With SP as my fearless driver and tour guide, I put on a sundress and some little white flats and away we went.  I had spent many days imagining how this day would progress - turning it over and over in my mind, like a shiny new Coach wristlet.  SP knows that I like to smell like a girl, and had told me of this wonderful, magical place where I could create my own "signature scent."  Well, I was all over that.

    So downtown we went, to Happy Scents.  (No, it's not really called that.  I'm not going to use the shop's real name, for reasons that shall soon become apparent.)  A quaint little hole in the wall, Happy Scent's doorway beckoned me from the cobblestone street - come to me, Kat.  Create your dream fragrance here, Kat.  Push the door, don't pull, Kat.

    The jingle of a little bell overhead and we were in.  The shop was crammed with perfume bottles from floor to ceiling, pressed together in glass cases which lined the walls; a table in the center of the really, really small room held apothecary jars of potpourri.  Quaint.  Charming.  I was in love.

    Along the back wall and behind the shopkeeper's counter stood all sizes of vials and bottles with teeny, tiny labels disclosing a myriad of fragrances.  Ah, yes.  The Creation Counter.  I felt myself pulled toward it, enchanted by row after row of essential oils, staring in wonderment at their colors, their potency.  The shopkeeper gazed at us from behind the counter, a wizened Southern woman, who was most assuredly bold, sassy, and charming.  I felt like I was in a Harry Potter-esque mystical shop, only it was a shop for sexy people instead of weird little kids.  As if in a dream, I floated forward to her.

    SP shuffled up behind me, and being the essence of gentlemanly charm, said:  "I was in your store over 20 years ago.  I love ambergris."  he slapped his adorable, slightly flirty smile on his face and waited.

    The wizened shopkeeper looked over our way from her pile of papers, and said, "Yeah?" in a tone which one would expect, had SP said: "I was in your store over 20 years ago and scraped dog excrement from my shoe onto your threshold."

    The dream is ending about now.  I notice that the charming perfume bottles which are stacked floor to ceiling are actually kinda ratty, and in scents not popular since a certain General Sherman paid a little visit to these parts.

    Undaunted, and perhaps a little naively, SP pushed on.  "I told my girlfriend here about your shop, and she's wanting to create a fragrance."  I, in an attempt at a little self-deprecation, threw in: "But with my eyes, those labels are a little hard to read."

    With a moderately derisive snort, Shopkeeper strides to another counter, which is stacked with piles of gawd knows what.  She shoves it all aside to reveal a curled paper taped to the countertop.  "Well, there's A LIST."  She left "dumbass" off the end of her sentence, but it was implied.  SP and I obediently scooted over to the "list" counter. 

    Hmm...okay, maybe she's not Julia Sugarbaker, but this experience is still salvageable.  I looked over THE LIST and pinged on 2 - White Tea and Summer Peach.  Still feeling confident enough to make direct eye contact, I turned to Shopkeeper.  "How about a combination of White Tea and Summer Peach?"

    Bad decision.  Shopkeeper let out another snort, and informed me that she couldn't make any GUARANTEES if I wanted to be a "MIXER", which in her eyes is evidently 2 degrees above "meth head".  With a rather forceful smack, the two containers containing my magic signature scent hit the counter, and each one received an unceremonious paper dip.

    "HERE.  Take these OUTSIDE and mix them together on your wrist.  Then SNIFF.  Then COME BACK IN."  I don't know how she managed it, but those words I capitalized - I swear when she barked them, we both were hit with little jolts of scented lightning.  If I weren't Kat, I would have actually flinched.

    SP and I gladly left.  Ever compliant, we followed our directions precisely.  It was nice, but it was a little sweet.  "I think I want to try a different scent with the White Tea."  SP-a brave, brave soul- agreed. So back in we went.

    "This is almost right.  How about Pear instead of Peach?"

    More eye rolling, more bottles smacked around, and 2 new paper strips.  Back outside we went, and - PERFECT!  I announced to SP that this was my 'signature scent.'  He was so relieved, I thought he might weep.

    "HERE.  When you RUN OUT, you CALL ME and I will SHIP you some MORE.   I don't have any CARDS but here's a scrap of PAPER with my WEBSITE ON IT.  Now you can't BUY anything on my WEBSITE, you have to CALL ME.  UNDERSTAND?  Now get OVER HERE  and put in your PIN NUMBER when I TELL YOU to.  Don't MOVE from right there or you won't be ABLE TO SEE.  UNDERSTAND?"

    Good gawd, yes ma'am, I understand.  You can have my PIN.  At this point, you can even keep my debit card, if it gets me the hell outta here.


    Turns out that while I was mixing, PIN-ing, and engaging in other activities which were deemed inappropriate, some poor young sap wandered into the shop and was browsing in "the corner."  He turned, startled, as a young buck might appear in the precious few seconds between the initial realization that he's in a hunter's sight, and the sound of the shot.  SP and I grabbed our treasure and headed for the door.  In a fleeting instant, we met the gaze of the fresh meat as we pushed past him and out the door to freedom.  In that glance, the story of his fate was sealed.   This is the Hunger Games, dude.  Every man for himself.  May the odds forever be in your favor.

    Sunday, April 8, 2012

    She Came, She Saw, She Climbed.

    Yes, I am once again back home in my beloved Washington.  Don't get me wrong, South Carolina is nice and all - but it's not home.

    I have so many stories to tell you, dearest reader...and so many photos to sort through!  So I'll start with my "photo-free" anecdotes and go from there.

    I spent 14 nights at the Embassy Suites in North Charleston.  I picked it because-trust me on this one- you do not go LOW END in the South unless you want to share your room with various and sundry insects.  I lived there for 6 years, I know of what I speak. (That would be North Charleston, not the Embassy Suites.)  Anyhow, the hotel was reasonably clean, it had a decent fitness center, the room was okay, the staff was...okay.  And I don't care where you are, the experience gets really old around Day 9.

    All that being said, the Embassy Suites was a 10-story building.  Yes, I had access to a stairwell.  Yes, I'm a firefighter in training.  Yes, I'm a raving egomaniac who thinks she is in much better shape than she actually is.  What happened next, I guess, was inevitable.

    On what was probably the hottest day of my vacation, I got it into my head to skip the treadmill and do some stairclimbing.  I texted Alex, because I can't do something like this without bragging to my firefighting homeys.  "I'm climbing the stairs today...wish me luck!"  With a big stupid grin on my face, I stared at my phone and waited for his enthusiastic response.  Hmm...perhaps he is sending a GROUP TEXT to the entire Stevens County force, telling them of my spunky fortitude!  My enthusiasm was met with silence.  I was beginning to get a complex when I realized that I had texted him at about 5 a.m. his time, so I let it slide.  Friendship does have its boundaries, I guess.   I GUESS. (she says while rolling her eyes)

    So I put on my blue capris with the pink trim, my Stevens County Stairclimb 2012 t-shirt, my black Zumba shoes, and headed for the stairwell.  How many flights will I do?  40? 50? 60?  Or will I simply lose count and climb up and down, up and down, until I finally have to stop because it's time to go out to dinner with SP?  Oh, the ANTICIPATION!  I spend an hour a day on the treadmill - the health of my cardiovascular system knows no bounds.

    The blast of stagnant, humid air smacked me up side the head approximately .438 seconds after I opened the door.  I don't know why this didn't occur to me, but STAIRWELLS ARE NOT AIR-CONDITIONED.  Go figure.  And remember how I said it was a hot, hot day?  Sigh.  Anyhow, I was not to be dissuaded by a minor inconvenience such as a little heat, a little humidity.  After all, my firefighting brothers and sisters do this all the time, right?  And in full gear, right?  And frequently dragging some a hose or whatnot with them, right?  RIGHT!

    So off I went.

    Around floor 3, I noticed that I could actually SEE the air.  It was that freakin' humid.  But I am Kat, hear me roar.

    Floor 7 - my, I have a little burning sensation in my calves.  How affirming to know that I'm working my muscles!

    When I hit floor 10, I got to go DOWN 10 flights back to the ground floor, which was nice because it gave the the opportunity to catch my breath.  By "catch my breath", I mean dragging myself down the stairwell using the handrail, and wondering if the old adage "if you vomit in a stairwell and nobody sees, does it make a sound?" held any water, as my lungs heaved and gave a mighty effort not to collapse upon themselves.

    Floor 12...every ounce of fluid in my body has been aspirated through my lungs and I am now in a state of complete and utter dehydration.  Death is imminent.

    Floor 15 - who knew that Hell was so damn HUMID?  I certainly didn't.  I always thought Hell was hot, dry place, completely devoid of any creature comforts - a place of utter desolation, pain, eternal agony and regret.  You know, like MTV.

    Words fail me as I try to describe the 20th flight.  As I rounded #19, and headed up to the very top of the tallest building in South Carolina, my life flashed before my eyes.  It truly did.  I saw my first day of kindergarten; my first crush; my first kiss; my first broken heart.  Since they all happened on the same day, I was able to relive it all in that one flight.

    I hit 20 and knew that I was done for.  That was it.  No more.  Stick a fork in me.   The rest gets a little hazy, but I somehow made it back to my room on the 3rd floor and collapsed on my bed.  I laid there for gawd knows how long.  When you are hovering at Death's Door, time tends to refract, bend, pulse, morph into something you really can't comprehend.  Anyhow, once I was able to see color again, I reached for my phone and left Alex a voice message, which said, in effect:


    By this time, he was out of bed, so he texts me:  "How many flights did you do?  40?"

    Jerk.  Isn't he funny.

    I spent the rest of the day flopped sideways across a queen-size bed at the Embassy Suites, floating in and out of consciousness, until SP came around.  My darling SP decided it would be a "good idea" to massage my sore calves.  After 1 quick squeeze, he realized the error of his ways.  I did forgive him, because he has so very many good qualities, and when you love somebody, you are supposed to do that kind of stuff.  Or so I've read in Cosmo.

    It took 3 full days for my legs to recover to the point where I could hit the treadmill again, which I gladly did.  I only hit the stairwell one more time after this debacle, when the power went out and the elevator quit working for a bit.  I seriously considered just sliding down the elevator cable.   

    Thus endeth the lesson.  I did 20 flights of stairs in a stairwell that was easily 95 degrees, and probably 80% humidity.  I rock.

    ps-Alex is not a jerk.  Any previous reference to jerkiness was verbalized when I was in an oxygen-deprived state.  But he does pick on me a lot, so don't feel too sorry for him.

    Thursday, April 5, 2012

    Re-runs Are Actually Rather Interesting, Especially If You Have No Functioning Long-Term Memory.

    Hi there.  Miss me?

    I'm still vacating (which, I believe, is the correct verb-ation of the word 'vacation') on the east coast.  I'm loaded with ammo for a plethora of blog posts upon my return, such as will blow your already teeming minds, for it is common knowledge that my readership is amongst the most educated, most well-read, most cultured and refined readership ever to assemble on the world wide web. 

    Anyhow, since I'm out and about, I feel guilty that I've left you behind in the dust.  Well, Gawd forbid you read something else, like, oh, a BOOK - so I thought I'd re-run this post from my 2010 blog.  Almost 2 years later, it still makes me cry. 

    I've been thinking about my son a lot lately.

    My son, Chris, is a very quiet 20 year old. He's taller and thinner than me, and I think he's handsome. I wouldn't say he's shy; instead, I think that it just doesn't occur to him that a conversation would be an appropriate thing at any given time. He would be quite content to spend the entirety of his day in front of a screen of some sort, be it the TV, computer, or game console, while taking the occasional bathroom/meal break.

    My son is also currently sitting somewhere in the vicinity of the Bagdad International Airport. He's a soldier, and he's at work.

    I try not to follow the news; in fact, if I hear anything about Iraq, I intentionally shut down and go someplace else in my mind. I don't want to hear about how many people were killed. I don't want to hear about civil unrest. I don't want to know that more/less troops are being sent over. I don't even want to hear anything positive. I just don't want to know, so don't tell me.

    I get an e-mail from Chris about every 3 to 4 weeks. It usually consists of less than 100 words, in which he tells me that he's bored and everything is fine. These e-mails constitute all of my contact with my son.

    I haven't spoken to him on the phone since the day before he shipped out, which happened to be a Saturday afternoon. My 40th birthday had fallen on the prior Wednesday. When the phone rang, I knew it was he, because nobody ever calls me - especially on a Saturday afternoon. Our conversation was stilted, broken, awkward. We both knew that once certain words were said, that the entire call would break down and that would be that. So I bit the bullet and said the things that I knew, as Mom, it was my job to say. I told him how proud I was of his decision to join the Army, that God protects His children, that I loved him and would miss him. Then, of course, came the tears.

    I don't know if you know what it's like to just sob on the phone, if you know how it feels when your world just stops and you can't speak, all you can do is cry. Let me assure you, dear reader, that it sucks. As emotional, as gut-wrenching, as shattering as the phone call was, the hardest part had already occurred several weeks before.

    We had said our "goodbye" in person about a month before when he came home on leave for 10 days. I took Chris to the bus station - which in our area, consists of the parking lot of a mini-mart that's gone out of business - and waited for the bus to show. We both tried to make some small talk about the trip - "I hope the bus isn't too full" - "Do you have any cash on you to buy snacks?" - but again, it was stilted, broken, awkward. When the bus did show, Chris was the only person to be picked up, so there was no delaying the inevitable. I held my oldest child, told him how proud I was of him, how God takes care of His children, how much I would miss him and that I loved him. And then came the tears.

    My son sobbed in my arms and all I could do was join him. Instinctively, I rocked him back and forth in my arms and rubbed the back of his neck like I always had when he was a child. I knew that optimistically, I would see him in no less than 7 months; pessimistically, 13 months. Once I let go, that would be it, and he would be gone. So I did my duty as a Mom - I let go first and sent him to the bus.

    I let go first.

    Who would have ever thought that a single action, taken during a moment of a mother's acute pain, could be so haunting?

    If, God forbid, anything should happen to my son while he is in Iraq, that is what I will remember. I let go first.

    I let go first.