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It was hot again today, but not as hot as it has been, and it was surprisingly cloudy. In the late afternoon the winds picked up, and by evening it had started to cool off. I took advantage of this and went out for an evening walk in the park. I was somewhat surprised that it got dark on me, though it shouldn't be surprising as the days are getting shorter. It's Labor Day--the unofficial start of the fall season.

I came to a decision about something today, but not ready to talk about it, so here's a piece of chocolate cake.

cake
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I sat out in the garden this morning with my coffee and my long lens, stalking hummingbirds for someone who anticipated a hummingbird photo the other day and was left with a leaf floating in water :)

It was in the high 80s by 10 am, and the hummingbirds were playing dive-bomber with each other rather than placidly posing for me at the feeder. I have identified about 6 distinct hummingbirds that come to visit us. We think they live in the big trees in the yard behind ours. We love having them, as well as our squirrels and all the other birds that frequent our non-hummingbird feeder.

hummingbird

This guy spent about 2 minutes feeding and hanging out. He's not one of the ones that were battling it out earlier. I think he is a pacifist. Anyway, I got my shot and could go back inside before it got up to 90 degrees.

Malida is feeling better today. I could tell, when I asked her if she wanted me to get her some soup, and she gave me an order for a variety of foods at a variety of locations. I gladly fulfilled her requests and was home before it was too hot. She feels good enough to go back to work tomorrow.

Somewhere around mid-day I noticed a bunch of posts that referenced Steely Dan on my Facebook page, and eventually learned that one of the founding members, Walter Becker, had passed away.

I knew Steely Dan's music in the early 70s--it was all over the FM radio. I never really got to know them, though, until 1976, when I purchased a cassette of their album The Royal Scam. I was in basic training in San Antonio, and we were not allowed any personal items in the barracks. Anything we brought from home was locked up. I missed my music.

The first time we were cut loose on base was about two weeks after we arrived. We got two hours in the evening to wander around the training area. I headed to the base exchange satellite, which was about as big as a 7/11 store. They had a pre-walkman portable cassette player for sale, with a single earpiece. I bought it, and two cassettes--an album by David Crosby and Graham Nash, and the Steely Dan.

I got back to the barracks and hid the cassette player and music at the bottom of my locker, hoping that they would be overlooked by the almost daily inspections by our drill sergeants. At night, after everyone had gone to sleep, I would dig them out and listen to one or the other of the cassettes before I fell asleep. It kept me sane, and grounded in who I was--a person who needs music in their life. I am still that person.

I got to know The Royal Scam intimately. It's not my favorite Steely Dan album, but when I listen to it today, it brings me back to that moment in time when I had left home and started the adventure that would become the rest of my life. The drill sergeants never found the cassette player, or, if they did, they let it be.

I listened to a lot of Steely Dan this evening, and was reminded of how good their music was, and is. Their first album, Can't Buy a Thrill is a masterpiece. I am particularly drawn to the insane guitar solo on Kings, as played by session musician Elliot Randall. They used the best session musicians around, and they always shined.

Thank you for your music, Walter Becker. Requiescat in pace.
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It was another hot day today. I got started early on the laundry so I could get it all done before it got super hot. I was going to write about how I sat outside this morning, and realized I already wrote about that. deja vu.

Malida has some sort of a viral cold, so stayed home on the couch. I went out at about 11 and picked up some wor won ton soup for her. It is our go-to when we are feeling ill. I also did the grocery shopping. There weren't a lot of people out today. The air quality is bad, and by the time I got home I was somewhat congested.

In the afternoon I made a mental plan for the work I need to do on my doctoral project. This was much easier than actually doing the work itself. I am planning to throw myself into it on Monday, as it is a holiday.

I looked through the pictures from our Oregon trip for ones that would be appropriate to add to Tripadvisor reviews that I was writing. I was surprised by how many pictures of dessert I took, and how few I took of the places we stayed.

Today's picture is from the Japanese Gardens in Portland. It looks cool and refreshing.

garden waterfall

I read some of the other reviews people had written--the bad ones. "It's just a garden, and you have to walk up a bunch of stairs to get there--total waste of money!"

One of my all-time favorite reviews was for Queen Elizabeth Park in Vancouver, Canada. The reviewer allowed that it was a nice enough park, but was disappointed that he didn't see Queen Elizabeth hanging out there. In my review, I noted that we not only got to see her, but she grilled hot dogs for us.
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By now you have probably surmised that about half the time my subject line has little or nothing to do with what I am writing about, other that the date being right (not today, though, because it is already tomorrow). Sometimes it indirectly relates, but I'm probably the only one who sees the connection. Most of the time it is just something I hear during the day and make a mental note of. More often now I need to make an actual note, because I tend to forget.

Yesterday's subject line was a Spanish translation (Gracias, Eliza!) of a German phrase that I used frequently to torture my high school German teacher with. Herr Wells was the most patient teacher ever, and he paid for it over and over. "How would you say, 'I would like to purchase a train ticket,'" he'd ask. I'd raise my hand and confidently respond "Die kuh ist rot!"

I wish I could track him down and apologize. He was such a good teacher, and had a real passion for the language. I would tell him that when I eventually lived in Germany, his instruction served me well (ein bier, bitte!), and that when I went back to Germany, many years later, I was able to successfully purchase a train ticket completely in German. And I can still count to 100 in German (ein, zwei , drei, vier...neunundzwanzig).

It was 109 here yesterday. The weather page tells me it is a record for September 1. It is supposed to be 111 here today, but I see it has been adjusted down to 108. Whew! I had plans to go see the Hello Kitty truck today, but have no desire to stand a few hours in a hot parking lot.

I'm sitting in the back yard with my coffee and my little laptop. A hummingbird just flew up to the feeder and spent a moment there before flying over and hovering directly in front of me to tell me, "Dude, we need more food!"

mercy leaf

Kind of September-like.
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I got word about my doctoral advisor who lives in Houston--fine, dry, got to get out to the store today. I am relieved. I felt like I didn't know her well enough to email and see, but low-level fretted nevertheless. There's an introvert statement for you.

I took my students to the hospital today and cut them loose to shadow nurses for the day and glean what they could glean from the experience. I spent the time reading some research articles related to my project and gleaning language that can be used in my project revision.

I scheduled individual appointments with each student over the course of the morning, and they came down to see me. I don't have an office at the hospital, or anyplace, really, to meet with them, so if the weather is good I see them out in the garden, and if not, in the cafeteria. The weather was good for most of the morning, and then it got hot.

I ask them about how their day is going so far, and about the nurse they are shadowing. I review the sheets they fill out about their study habits, and ask about whether they work, and what they did before nursing school. It's a process--I gently dig deeper and deeper to see what motivates them, what obstacles they face, what their fears are.

It's therapeutic communication. We teach it to the students and they try to use it, mostly in Psych. You listen, and they sound so stilted and awkward. I tell them that eventually you will find the words that make it sound like a normal conversation, and that you will get comfortable with it. Like I have.

I spend about 10 minutes with each student, and learn so much about each of them. My final question is always, "Is there anything else about you that you think I should know?" I say it almost dismissively, as if it doesn't really matter, but it does, and they almost always tell me something that gives me an insight into who they are and what they are dealing with. Today was no exception.

I have written about the first day of clinical in my journals many times before, and have almost always had some sort of feeling about the responsibility I was undertaking with each of the groups I have guided through their last semester. I am relieved to know that I still feel the weight of that responsibility.

outdoor office
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While I was looking through my archives last week, I came across my long-lost photograph of the blue door of Harmony. It was always one of my sentimental favorites. I've probably posted it here before.

There is a town on the California coast called Harmony. It is somewhat below Cambria, which is somewhat below San Simeon, where the Hearst Castle is. It's one of my favorite parts of the coast.

Harmony, when I was last there, had a population of 17. There's not much there besides an old creamery and a locked-up diner with a blue door. When I first started taking up photography, I met a few people from California online who told me that photographing the blue door of Harmony was a sort of photographer's pilgrimage. You had to do it at least once in your life. So I did. It was a spiritual experience.

blue door of Harmony

When I was last through there a few years back, the wall where the door had been was stripped off and there looked to be some remodeling going on. I haven't been back since, so do not know the fate of the blue door of Harmony.
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Today was one of those weird lab-in-the-classroom days, where we haul out some equipment and evaluate how well the students do on whatever task it is. Today was IV start day. Students love the idea of starting IVS. To them, it's the coolest thing in the world. To this instructor, it means the beginning of watching a procession of shaking hands trying to aim a sharp projectile at a poorly defined target and hoping for the best.

Actually, it is probably one of the more difficult tasks in the novice repertoire, and they only really get good at it after they graduate and practice on every single patient they come across who needs an IV. That's how I got good at it.

I would always volunteer to go start whatever IV there was to start. You have to learn how to feel the vein rather than see it, and feel the pop of the catheter passing through the wall of the vein. Eventually if you do it enough times you get the feel for it and you get good at it.

We walk the students through a little script about how to explain it to the patient. One of the patient questions is, "Have you ever done this before?"

We tell them to say "Yes!"

Because the have. On a fake arm in a classroom. I encourage you to let students try things out on you, but if you don't like needles, ask the follow-up, "Have you ever done it on a live human being?"

About 1/3 will get all the necessary (6) sticks for certification. Another 1/3 will get between 1 and 5, and another 1/3 will not even try. I don't push it.

On the weather front, the forecast was correct, and it stayed below 100. It cooled off nicely in the evening, and I took a walk in the park. My daily walking is starting to pay off, and I feel a lot better than I did a few months ago. I like that. My level of fitness seems to run in cycles.

technique

I have taken a similar photograph every semester. I wasn't going to do it this time around, except I noticed that this student was wearing gloves of two different colors. I asked her about it, and she told me, "That's my thing--I wear two different colored gloves."

I kind of looked at her for a moment, and realized she was joking. It's an interesting group.
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The other day I was reading my community web page and someone posted something titled "Strange Dumpling". Hmmm, I thought, what's this all about? Turns out I misread it--it was "Strange Dumping", and had to do with some guy dumping the remains of a deer carcass in one of the local parks. In a follow-up comment today, the person noted that it's still there, and wondered if they should call someone.

My accreditation partners and I had a meeting today. We made a decision to postpone our accreditation visit for a year, for various reasons, including the state of our temporary lodgings. It will give us a lot more time to prepare, and really figure out what we need to do now to prepare. So it's a good thing, mostly.

It's hot again today, Hotter than yesterday, but the forecast for tomorrow has the temps back below 100 (barely) for a couple of days. I'll take it. One nice thing about the trailer village is that the a/c is a lot better than in the old building.

pig clock

The new pig clock in my cubicle. I got it at the Portland Saturday Market, and knew I would put it up here. I would like my cubicle to be the most eclectic cubicle ever. That's my goal this year.
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It was a quiet hot weekend. It was something like 108 here today, and even now, at 8:30, it is 95. We didn't spend too much time out and about other than to spend some time watering the plants. We met our friends at the Korea bbq place for lunch. They are just back from Thailand and brought us some gifts from our Chiang Mai friends.

I installed a new router for our home wireless, but the instructions directed me to hook it into one of the ethernet ports for the old router, which kind of doesn't make sense, but works. I need to call customer support and see what the deal is. In the meantime most of the stuff is still working off the old router. When I first got the old router, I only had a handful of things connecting to it. Now everything, including our burglar alarm, is connected to it, and it will take some doing to get everything switched over. Maybe I'll just run both until the old one dies for good.

I read about the flooding in Houston from the aftermath of Harvey. The pictures show some incredible devastation. Hard to believe another major US city is under water. Hopefully the FEMA people learned from Katrina and will be better able to assist those disrupted by this catastrophe.

passion flower
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I don't know
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My students did online modules today, so I was able to stay home. I had some plans to work on my project proposal, but ended up diving deep into my photo archives and posting a bunch of stuff to my Flickr account, which I hardly ever use.

I spent hours and hours digging up stuff and looking at it. I have mentioned it previously, but I can look at almost every photo I have taken and remember something about when it was taken, beyond what the photo itself reveals. I like that connection.

avocado

This was taken at the farmer's market on a Sunday morning, near the end of avocado season. According to the online statistics, this is the most shared photograph I have ever posted. An avocado--go figure.

I also found this--an old essay I wrote after a particularly difficult shift in the ICU about 8 or 9 years ago. It really captures what it was like for me as an ICU nurse.

The past couple of days I took care of a young woman who was admitted to the ICU after having a seizure. She stopped breathing after the seizure and had to be intubated and placed on a ventilator. She was pretty much unresponsive when she came to us.

When I began to care for her she was just starting to show signs of coming out of it–some movement of her hands and a furrowing of her brow when I irritated her. I turned off her sedation and waited. 

The night nurse who admitted her told me the story. She had been diagnosed with a brain tumor about 4 years ago, when she was pregnant with her second child. It was a glioblastoma–probably the worst brain tumor you can get. It’s the same thing my best friend Joe died of. It’s a tumor with fingers that spread in all directions. It is invariably fatal.

She had brain surgery after she had the baby, and they removed what they could of the tumor and then started her on courses of chemo. At the time, the surgeon told her husband that, at best, she would have about 4 years. 

She’s been having seizures more frequently lately, and the one that put her in the ICU was the worst so far. I took her down for an MRI scan. It showed tumors on both sides of her brain, with some small hemorrhages throughout. 

Her husband came in and we talked for a while. He is juggling his wife’s illness, his kids, his job, and his wife’s family. He is really trying to hold it all together, but has no illusions about where this is all heading. He knows. After we talked for a while, he had to go back to work. As we said goodbye, I told him that I had gone through something similar. He replied, “So you understand how tough this is." 

"Yes,” I replied. 

The second day I cared for her, she looked better. We put her on a ventilator mode that pretty much allowed her to breathe on her own. She did good, and began to wake up more and more. I got a blood test and talked to the neurosurgeon about taking the tube out. She was for it, but wanted to make sure the critical care doctor was available in case the tube needed to be put back in. 

The critical care doctor felt that it would be futile to put the tube back in, but wouldn’t talk to the neurosurgeon about it, leaving it to me to work it out. A big part of my job is about doing just this–getting doctors to step up and do what they ought to do. It’s frustrating. 

I talked to another doctor–a neurologist, who understood. We talked to the husband and told him what the situation was. He went into the room and talked to his wife for a while. I looked at them through the window. It was heartbreaking–her in the bed, unable to talk because the tumor was pressing on the part of the brain that produces speech, and him leaning over her, still able to talk, asking her what she wanted while they both cried. She is 26 years old, and she is going to die. 

They decided that she wanted the tube out, but if she failed, we wouldn’t put it back in. I called the doctor and got the order. I talked with the respiratory therapist, and we pulled the tube and put her on oxygen. Her husband stayed at the bedside and held her hand. She did fine. 

Her husband had to leave to pick up the kids. After he left, I got my friend Karen to help me clean her up a little. We gave her a bath and changed her linens, so that she would look good when her family and friends came in later. 

I asked her if she felt better. She looked at me and gave me one of the most beautiful smiles I have ever experienced. It was like a brief glimpse of sunlight on a rainy day, and I will never forget it.

Before I went home, I made a referral to hospice for her, so that she could go home and die, surrounded by people who she loved, and who loved her. 

As I drove home, I looked at the clouds reflecting the colors of the sunset. It was so beautiful, and I cried, and was glad to be so fully alive.
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Up early so I could get out on time and catch the shuttle from the parking lot to the hospital, which is now a 15-minute ride. I left my coffee sitting on the shelf in the garage. Got there in plenty of time, and was pleased that all my students did as well.

My first impression of the group is positive. They all brought what I asked them to bring, and a few even completed the online modules I had assigned yesterday. Gold stars were awarded.

We went around to all the units and said hi, and I cut them loose for an hour to explore before we regrouped. During that hour I recharged my far-flung Ingress portals and caught up on my email. Once we reconvened, I administered the medical math exam.

I took the exam along with them. It is a good way for me to keep my medical calculation skills. I struggled with a few of them, but not the same ones as last time. I used to do this stuff every day, and even had a Casio calculator watch. Anyway, I got them all correct, and so did all the students. First time everyone in the group has passed on the first try!

They have tomorrow off to complete a bunch of online modules that the hospital requires, and I have the day off to work on my doctoral project and maybe cook something good.

awol

Offered without comment.
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One of my friends posted a list of questions that can be addressed in an entry so that you can avoid getting stuck in "Did you have a good day at school today?" I'm not there yet, though. I gotta talk about my day at school.

I met with my students in anticipation of our first clinical day tomorrow. There is a whole bunch of paperwork associated with clinical orientation that all has to be done, not to mention a medical math test. I passes out their parking passes and instructed them to be there no later than 06:45. I will be there at 06:15, which means I have to get up at 05:00 tomorrow. Ugh.

After class, I headed home for my phone conference with my doctoral advisor. We agreed on the plan for the coming semester, and discussed some details of my project. One thing I learned from my initial session of my Hmong class was that probably most of the people I am teaching won't understand written Hmong. We talked about the implications of this, which is significant. It doesn't necessarily make it more difficult, though.

After my conference I did my Hmong homework, There are 96 possible vowel intonations in the Hmong language. It's interesting, but somewhat incomprehensible. I did my best.

I went to class and realized I am the outlier. I am the only person in the class that doesn't speak Hmong, which puts me at a distinct disadvantage. I will have to talk to the instructor to see if I should continue. I don't need the grade or the units, so it is really a matter of whether I will get completely lost or not. Ideally, I would like to just hang out with the class and learn what I can.

Something other than school:

I was walking at school today and found a lovely hibiscus plant.

hibiscus
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Today was the first day of class for the students. We spent the first hour going over orientation stuff, then jumped right in to content. Not my content, though. My content doesn't start for at least a month, which gives me time to rebuild our test bank.

I talked to Man Bun for the first time. He seemed more soft spoken than I expected, and had all the paperwork I needed in a nice bundle. In my mind, he got a gold star for confounding my initial expectations.

While I was working in the cubicle farm, I heard someone come in and say "Is anyone here?"

It was our new college president, coming to visit to the nursing department! There were three of us around, and he spent some time talking with all of us. I had already liked him from his Convocation speech, but now like him even more for getting out and meeting his constituency. I mentioned to him about my impression that nursing is under appreciated on campus, and he really listened. He said he was aware that we were doing a lot with so little, and I think he will be an advocate for us.

Later, when I was out taking my morning walk, I ran into him again and we talked some more while I showed him where the cosmetology department was. I mentioned that I was a graduate, and how the counselors and teachers here helped me to turn failure into success.

I mentioned that our trailer village is on the other side of the campus. We are close to the art building, and I keep discovering little art things scattered about the area.

jar

I really never spent much time on this side of the campus, and I like it.

I need to go back over to the hospital tomorrow for a while, then come home and do my Hmong homework. On Thursday I take the students for their first full orientation day at the hospital, and it begins again.
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Two big things today, beyond it being the first day of the semester, and all that entails.

The Eclipse!

I was out in the quad at one of the information tables passing out student manners/maps when it started, I wasn't really sure that it had started until a student handed me her glasses and I could see that there was a chunk of the sun missing. Things just got gradually darker. It was pretty cool.

At 10 I went back to our department, and everyone was outside watching the eclipse. I ran up and exclaimed, "Something's wrong with the sun!"

One of our students had eclipse glasses and was letting everyone look. I think we got somewhere around 80% eclipse. It was so fascinating!

Student

One of our students looking through the eclipse glasses.

Carel eclipse

My awesome boss looking at the eclipse and texting at the same time! That's why she's awesome!

As it reached its peak, I ran over and got my camera, and threw on all my neutral density filters and got this:

eclipse

meh.

My favorite was this one, a selfie:

Selfie eclipse

It has it all--blurry sun, me with my wild professor hair, and a tiny eclipse reflection on my left cheek.

********


The second awesome thing that happened today was that I had my first Hmong language class. It was way cool. I am the only non-Hmong person in the class, and at least 30 years older than anyone else, including the teacher.

I got a Hmong name: Tub Ncig, which means "Traveler". I like that.

It's going to be a lot of work, but I think it will be worth it. There are a number of students who want to be nurses or enter other health professions, and I might be able to recruit them to assist in my project. If nothing else, it is an entry into the Hmong community.
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I had a dream that I had gone on a road trio up to some rural area with a bunch of people, and decided to bring the cats along. When we were ready to go home, I couldn't find either one of them--they were hiding in some barn somewhere. While I was looking for them, the people with the car left without me.

I woke up to pee and the cats were sitting on the floor near the bed. "Where you been," I asked.

We had a fairly normal Sunday. Went walking along the creek trail, had lunch at the noodle place, shopped.

I cleaned up my office this afternoon. Got rid of the stack of old mail, cleared off my desk, etc. Sorted out some research articles that I will need in the coming weeks.

In the late afternoon I checked the webpage for my doctoral program. My plan of study for the semester is posted by my advisor. When I saw the deadlines, I felt my heart seize up in my chest. I have a lot to do this semester. My first complete rewrite is due in three weeks.

I breathed in and out a few times and decided I need to attack this semester systematically. I started to form a plan in my head. I emailed my advisor and asked to meet next week to work it all out.

I decided to go for another walk in the park. It was relaxing. I feel ok.

Tomorrow is the official first day of school. I start my Hmong language class tomorrow evening. I'm looking forward to it, but it's the first thing I will ditch if I start to get overwhelmed.

still life

Still life left on a picnic table along the creek trail. I added the leaf.
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The cat came in and woke me up this morning, apparently not realizing it was Saturday. It was ok, though. We got up and did morning chores, laundry, etc.

We turned the radio on and listened to rock and roll as we worked. We almost always have music playing, unless Malida has the tv on. We have a Sonos music system that allows us to stream music throughout the house. I love it.

We drove out to the rural sushi place for lunch and sat outside to take in the nice day. The food was as good the second time around as it was the first time. We decided we would go there for dinner one day, as they have delicious-sounding dinner menu.

gyoza

Gyoza--little dumplings of wonderfulness.

After lunch we came home and napped for a while. I dreamed about not being able to fall asleep. It wasn't until I woke up that I realized that I had been asleep.

After the nap I went into the office to take a look at our finances in anticipation of having to pay tuition next week. I received a pretty nice retroactive pay adjustment thanks to a stable state budget. It was a one-time deal, but it helped pay the bills. The theme for the rest of the year is "don't spend a lot of money".

I made some pork chops for dinner that were pretty yummy. Unfortunately I didn't make anything else, so I served oyster crackers as a side dish. After I ate I realized I had some baby bok choy I could have made. Tomorrow!

In the evening I listened to music with my friends for a while. After that was done, I went out for a walk. It was just after sunset, and it had cooled down to about 72 degrees. Lovely walking weather. I was only going to walk in the neighborhood, but I ended up walking to the park and around the path. It was dark by the time I got home.

noisy sunset

There are a lot of things I like about the iPhone camera, but they really do not handle low light situations very well. My previous iPhone did much better in low light.
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Today was back to work day. I can't believe how fast the summer break went by. Even though I drifted through the first month, I managed to get a lot accomplished, and was able to relax, so it's all good.

My main goal this morning was to get there early enough to snag one of the 5 parking spots that are up against our portables, which we have renamed the "Allied Health Trailer Village". I got there just after 6:30 and claimed my space. It was sweet.

I walked across the street and a half block to my favorite coffee place in the area, Espresso Metro. It first opened when I was in nursing school there. I spent a lot of downtime there when I was a photography student. Now it is almost across the street!

metro

I walked back to the cubicle farm, and there was only one other person there, so it was quiet for a while. Eventually everyone showed up. There are 14 or 15 of us crammed into a relatively small space, and it got really loud quickly. One of my team members, after sitting there for about 15 minutes, told me she would be working from home a lot this semester.

The entire faculty met for convocation in the auditorium. We got to meet our new college president, who sounds like a great guy. The rest of the day was division and department meetings. The big message was that we need to get students through programs and graduated faster, and ensure we are graduating them into jobs. Our awesome director noted that for the past year, we have had a 100% pass rate, and a greater than 70% hire rate into a job they were trained for in the program. We are #1 in the state of California. Whoo Ya!

One of my favorite friends from afar sent me a surprise package last week. It was a box of flamingo bandaids! I love them, and put them in my Hello Kitty box so they can serve as my first aid kit at work.

bandaids

I am ready for the semester!
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Someone asked me what happened after I was busted for possession of hashish in the military 40 years ago. So here's what happened. I was 20 years old at the time, and a long way from home.

I was working nights in labor and delivery, and we had some mandatory thing after work. While we were in the middle of it, the first sergeant came over and asked me to accompany him across the street to our barracks. We walked up to the third floor where my room was, and some of my buddies were sitting on the floor in the hall, being watched by an MP with a police dog. I was invited to join them.

Meanwhile in the rooms, another police dog, Argo, was sniffing around looking for hashish. He was a good dog, and he found it. Interestingly, they guy who sold it to me and my buddies, sold us 5 chunks, each about the size of a thumb. The MPs knew how many chunks they were looking for, and which rooms to look in. We had been ratted out by the guy who sold it to us, who had likely been ratted out himself. By the time the day was done, he had been moved out and we never heard from him again.

They found 4 of the 5 chunks. One of my other friends, whose room was at the end of the hall, overslept and missed the meeting. He walked out of his room and saw all the commotion, said, "Must be a party", and returned to his room. He immediately opened his window and tossed his chunk on the roof. They eventually found it, but couldn't tie it to him.

We got taken down to the base jail and sat there for a while, and then our first sergeant came and took us home. He didn't say much, but he didn't have to.

What happened back then was that they gave you a chance to rehabilitate yourself. It involved lots of peeing in cups, going to rehab classes, non-judicial punishment, and whatever else they thought of.

Shortly after this all transpired, I went to talk with the first sergeant. He was a good guy. I told him I would do whatever it took to not get kicked out of the military. He told me what I would need to do, and I did it.

I went to all the classes and made all the meetings. I peed clean. I stayed out of trouble. I accepted my punishment, which was a temporary drop in rank and pay for 6 months. I also had to translate the dorm fuse box into English from German, and dig a ditch for a hedge the 1st Sgt. wanted to plant.

Everyone else that was caught that day got kicked out.

I learned a lot from the experience. I learned to face trouble on my own for the first time in my life. I learned that I could survive bad things happening to me, which would continue to help me down the line. I learned that I was a survivor.

I finished my tour of duty in Germany and was transferred to a base in the US. A few years later I received an honorable discharge. And a good conduct medal!

I'll never forget that 1st Sgt. who was willing to give me a chance to redeem myself. Glen Jackson. He retired somewhere in Germany.

One of the most encouraging things about reading my two friends' obituaries was that they were able to redeem themselves as well, and bring some love to the world. I am sorry we weren't able to celebrate that together, and that's what made me cry about all this as I wrote it.
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I keep in touch with a couple of friends from my military days on Facebook. We were all stationed together in Germany, and were a pretty tight bunch. I did a google search the other day for another one of our friends, and was surprised and saddened to find his obituary from a few years ago. He was my dorm-mate in Germany.

His name was Mike Conley. He was an x-ray tech. He left the Air Force early after we all got busted for hashish. I lost track of him completely. When I was in Portland Maine 14 years ago, I found him in the phone book and tried calling him a few times, but no answer.

His obituary noted that after the Air Force, he became a letter carrier like his father. Eventually he became a caregiver for an in-home support services company. He became ill and went into hospice care. Before he died, he "sent his love to everyone he had ever known in his life. Everyone!" That made me cry. He was 56.

Conley

Mike smoking a bowl. Only picture I have of him.

I sent the obituary to my friends this morning, and we talked about him for a bit on the chat page. I wondered what became of one of our other friends, and googled him. Sadly enough, I found his obituary as well.

Kevin Belcher. I met him the first day of technical school in Wichita Falls Texas. He was my bunk-mate. The first thing I remember about him was that he took off his shoe and showed me his baby toe that didn't have a bone, because it got caught in a lawn mower when he was a kid. He wiggled it back and forth with glee. He was bigger than life, and always a character.

We got stationed together in Germany, and our first afternoon there went into town and had some pizza. They don't slice pizza in Europe--you have to eat it with a fork and knife. Kevin, undeterred, rolled it up into a big tube and dug in. He too got caught up in the hashish bust and got discharged early. I tried to find him over the years, but he was elusive, up until I found his obituary this morning. He died last year at the age of 59.

belcher

Kevin, standing next to me, holding the Trout Fishing in America bumper sticker.

My friends and I talked some more for a while and decided we needed to get together some time in the coming year.

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