Family Vacation: Road Trip to Naples Florida

The first part of our family vacation was spent in Valdosta, Georgia. Max and I showed his parents the city we’ve called home for the past year or so. Chuck and Rene got to see where Max works, what his … Continue reading

Return to Hodgepodge and a Homecoming

Happy 2014 hodgepodgers! Yes, I took a brief hiatus from blogging for the first few weeks of the new year. Allow me to explain 🙂 First off, every year I do a cleanse to rid my body of built up … Continue reading

Close Call

Today has been a day filled with ups and downs. Work wise, things were the norm. I got in early to finish up some paperwork that I didn’t manage to get to the day before. Around 8:30 a small contingent of folks from our office made the journey out to the Carl Vinson Veteran’s Hospital to drop off some holiday goodies, visit with veterans and share a laugh or two.

If you’ve never visited a VA hospital, it can be somewhat of an emotional roller coaster. The men and women there are very mentally alert, but their bodies can’t always keep up. Such is the cruel reality of old age. You can see them struggling to communicate or move around the hospital wing and it breaks my heart every time.

With this particular visit, I put together candy bags and individually addressed over a hundred and sixty cards so that every veteran could have some holiday cheer. It’s such a small token and I have no idea if the vets even like it. I’m hoping that one day if I’m ever in their shoes though that someone will be willing to sign some Christmas cards and stop by for a cup of hot cocoa or a game of go fish with me during the holidays. What goes around, comes around, right?

By the way, you don’t need to have served in the military to visit a veteran’s hospital; contrary to popular believe, this isn’t a prerequisite. Anyone can visit. These folks have amazing life stories; many of them are the kind that great novels are fashioned after. If you have a free weekend or evening, I would recommend taking some time to stop by your local veteran’s hospital. You won’t regret it, I promise.

As the bus made it’s way back to the base, I received a rather distressing phone call from my mom asking if I had heard from Max lately. When I told her no, she took a deep breath and said the words that I’ve feared more than anything: there’s been a helicopter crash in southern Afghanistan.

If you’re a new hodgepodger, my husband, Max, is currently deployed to southern Afghanistan along with some good friends of ours.

Somehow my heart skipped a few beats while at the same time speeding up at an alarming rate. My breathing shallowed and it was as if the whole world went quiet. All I could focus on was her voice and the mental checklist I was rattling off in my head.

If something had happened, I would have known about it.

I would be the first one to know.

But I hadn’t heard from him in a while.

I tried to keep my voice as level as possible as I politely hung up the phone.

Being on a bus with only my iPhone, I turned to google. Several search combinations later, I discovered that there was in fact a helicopter crash, but that it was a UH-60 Black Hawk, not a HH-60 Pave Hawk.

For those of you who don’t know the distinction, Black Hawks are flown by the Army and Pave Hawks are flown by the Air Force. Really, they’re practically the same airframe, but with a different paint job  and name.

But if the average Joe doesn’t know this distinction, then maybe a reporter would confuse them as well. My mind picked away at my logic, instilling more doubt and fear in me as the bus rolled on down the winding country highway.

I sent Max a short message via Facebook.

Black Hawk crashed near Kabul. 6 US soldiers killed. Please send me a message and let me know you’re ok. Love you.

And I waited.

In the meantime, I called my mom back to tell her I was 85% sure that the crash was Army related and that I believed Max was fine. If you’ve ever been in a situation like this then you know that 85% sure isn’t good enough; you want 100% absolutely positive, without a doubt, you’d stake your own life on it sure.

And then the phone call came from the commander’s wife: it wasn’t Max and it wasn’t even his unit or any of his buddies he deployed with.

Nervous exhale. Thank God.

I felt happy, relieved even, that Max was fine and as safe as possible at the moment.

On days like today I’m thankful.

Thankful that Max is safe.

Thankful that we’re both young and very much alive.

Thankful that we have such a great support system and family.

Thankful that there are still men and women who are willing to give the ultimate sacrifice: their life.

Thankful that I visited local veterans who have gone before me to protect my our way of life.

But while I’m thankful for all of this, there’ still a cold reality that I can no longer ignore. Today I heard harrowing news, but in the end, I was told that my significant other, my other half, my husband is still alive and well. Others are not as lucky. Sometime within the next day or so, six families will get a phone call that will change their life for forever. A husband, brother, uncle, or son is not coming home. And it’s the week before Christmas. (To my knowledge, none of the fatalities were women.)

For many Americans, we’ve pulled out of the war; for many, they believe soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines are no longer putting their lives on the line. This isn’t the case.

My heart goes out to the helicopter rescue community and fellow brothers in arms today.

There’s Nothing Quite Like a Holiday Surprise

Looking back over the last few posts, I’ve noticed a common theme: stress. In November I was assigned a new program. On top of being infinitely more complex and high profile, I’m new and that inevitably means that there’ll be … Continue reading

Coping with Reality

I bet when most of you read the title of this post, you thought to yourself, “She must be writing about dealing with Max’s deployment.” Sorry to disappoint Hodgepodgers, but that’s not what this post is about at all 🙂 I know, I feel so sneaky!

A million years ago (ok, only three and a half), when the Air Force commissioned Max and I as officers, we set off on two very separate paths: Max pursued being a pilot and I set off to be an Acquisitions officer. I didn’t really know what acquisitions was when I set out, so I was cautiously optimistic. I remember saying a silent prayer when fate assigned me this career field. Please Lord, let me enjoy it, I said. Three and a half years later and let me just say that it’s not what I envisioned myself doing in the Air Force. Not by a long shot.

I’d like to think of myself as a goal driven person; I like seeing results. When I don’t see progress being made – tangible progress – I feel as if my ceaseless efforts have been in vain. For those of you that don’t know, acquisitions is a long tedious process with major milestones that are few and far between.

My first job I worked under a brilliant program manager who was able to impart boat loads of wisdom – how to schedule, how to budget, how to manage a complex program. The only problem was the timeline of events. In the two years I worked there, we didn’t deliver a single physical item because the lead time for the effort was no kidding two years. It was all paperwork, paperwork, paperwork and just as I was leaving all the “fun” was slated to occur.

My second program was more hands on, but because my move to Georgia loomed on the horizon, I didn’t get the opportunity to really jump in and flex my program manager muscles. Again, I moved before I had the opportunity to see any real results delivered to the warfighter.

My third job, here in Georgia, has been an entire new experience. In no way has my three years on the other two programs prepared me. You see, here at Robins AFB, we’re not program managers, we’re logistics managers. Logistics, not acquisitions. Oye. On top of that, I’m managing software. 😦

I’m going to tell you the truth. I took a computer science class in college and it was not one of my best grades. It just didn’t gel with me. Countless hours were devoted to wrapping my head about the concepts, but nothing worked. Software is the same way – it may as well be Latin or Greek because it doesn’t make much any sense to me.

Last week I found out that I’m moving to a new program. It’s more complex, but at least it’s not software. It’s an actual physical item that fighter pilots use here in America as well as several other countries.

Here’s what I’ve learned in three and a half, almost four years.

The path you set out on from college may not be the exact direction you envisioned yourself traveling. But like the popular saying goes, “It’s not the destination, but the journey.” If you had told me I would be managing software contracts and work years on a program that didn’t deliver anything, I would have laughed in your face. Although each of those jobs has been rewarding in its own unique way, I’ve gleaned a whole heap of information on my Air Force journey. And now that I’m finally taking on another new and exciting program, I’m more than cautiously optimistic. I’m psyched.

Unlike my past programs, I’ll be delivering an actual product and it’ll make a difference in how our military operates! Someone will actually use the components that I manage and actually  be thankful that someone procured them!

So when I say coping with reality, I mean, stay optimistic. Eternally optimistic. Life will always throw you curve balls. Sometimes you can dodge them and sometimes they hit you square in the stomach. Optimism though, that’s what helps you stand back up again.

Honoring the Past

Every year in November, the royal family, veterans, and the public gather at Whitehall for their Remembrance Service. It’s a memorial day observed by the entire Commonwealth to commemorate the fallen soldiers and sailors from World War I. Though it … Continue reading

About This Morning…

Every Wednesday, I have official PT with the other military folks in my office. There’s about fifteen or so of us that gather in the early morning hours to get a good workout in before the day starts. Like clockwork, I find that every Wednesday is both physically and mentally draining as the early morning workouts make the day drag on and on and on. (I’m really ot a morning person. Can you tell?)

Typically, we rotate between three exercise regimes every week. Week 1 consists of playing basketball. Now, above I said that fifteen or so of us gather to workout. All – as in fourteen of the fifteen – are guys. Combine that with different ranks, lack of coffee and a high level of competitiveness and you’ve got yourself one hell of a spectacle. It always starts out the same: an innocent basketball match, good humored and fun. But about ten minutes in, the elbows start flying and people get tripped and emotions run high as the fouls start adding up. As the only girl, I usually just run up and down the sideline, occasionally getting passed the ball and taking a shot; but there’s no way I’d ever want to get tangled up in that hot mess of a game. I hate saying this, but basketball PT days are my least favorite because I feel that it panders mostly to the male ego and temperament more than to mine.

To each his own though, right? I get it – basketballs not for everyone. So why don’t we switch it up between various sports? That’s a mystery I’ll never solve unfortunately 😦

Week 2 is usually a track workout. Some weeks it’s brutal and other weeks it’s a joke. It all depends on your individual motivation going into it. Personally, I hate being the caboose on any workout train, so I always push myself to at least be in the middle of the pack (and that’s on a bad day). I’d love to up in the front, but I doubt I’ll ever run a sub 7 mile. Oops.

Week 3 is my favorite: a 5k loop on base at your own pace. I bring my iPhone, turn up my music and zone out for 3.1 glorious miles as the sun rises. That is nothing short of perfection and on those days, I always find that by the time I fall in bed, I’m mostly only physically tired, not mentally. Running to me is therapy. I find it very energizing.

Today was a basketball day. Without exaggerating, I’ll just say that things go way too competitive. And that’s when I realized: I enjoy team sports, but I prefer solo workouts.

Please don’t take it personally if I decline to go running with you. When I work out, I’m not in the mood to gossip or chit chat. I want to get my heart rate up, my blood pumping. I want to work through some stress and pent up emotions. I want to zone out or reflect on the day, week or month. I’m not trying to be rude. I just enjoy alone time, especially when working out.

Funny what you can uncover in the midst of a tense basketball game, huh?

Occupational Diversity, Anyone?

You hear it all the time in investing: diversify, diversify, diversify. Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines diversity as the quality or state of having many different forms, types, ideas, etc. Basically, diversity means don’t put all your eggs in one basket. The theory … Continue reading

The Mean Reds

If you’re unfamiliar with the phrase “the mean reds”, let me enlighten you. It’s from Audrey Hepburn’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Here’s the dialogue between Holly and Paul where she explains what the “mean reds” are. Holly: You know those days when … Continue reading

Ever Constant Change

In case you didn’t know, this past Sunday was wildly important for several reasons. First, it was Max’s and mine three month anniversary – yay! I love being a newlywed. I’ll have to do a megapost on only the very best … Continue reading