Welcome Home, Hero. Rest in Peace.

This was not the first military funeral I had attended.  It was the first time I’d been to any funeral that took place 76 years after the deceased had died.  This young man, a kid the same age as my third of five children, has finally made it home to be put to rest with his family in a hero’s ceremony.  Seaman First Class George Anderson Coke, Jr. came home to Arlington today for the first time since he left for boot camp back in 1941.

My friend, Leslie Dorn Barton, is George Coke’s second cousin once or twice removed.  I’m still unclear on all that genealogy stuff.  While I’d like to be able to trace back my family tree, I’m quite unorganized and tend to think circularly rather than in clear straight lines.  Besides, I’ve got aunts and cousins on both sides of my tree who really dig that sort of thing and they actually journal it all. Anyway, Leslie is one of the Special Education teachers who taught my daughter at Sam Houston High School. We became friends over the last couple of years. So naturally, when she mentioned that this funeral was happening today, I told her I’d come.

It’s been hotter than ever all week and I was so relieved when the thunderstorms hit our city last night and it rained until the wee hours this morning.  I donned my black abaya and a gray and black scarf and then headed over to the First United Methodist Church and tried to “blend in” with the Arlington locals.  I know.  I didn’t. The sole Muslim in a sea of mostly older, white, Christian faces.

I listened to the history of George Coke, Jr., son of George Coke, Sr., who was the Chief of Police in Arlington back in the 1920s.  I learned that of the 3,500 American casualties that day in Pearl Harbor, that Arlington lost 48 souls.  My mind wandered, as is the norm during funerals.  Everyone in some way or another is reminded of their own immortality at a funeral.  With military funerals, you are also reminded of all of your family members and friends who also served in the armed forces.  I felt a few tears escape today as I remembered friends who were killed in foreign wars.  I felt a few more tears escape as I offered prayers of thanks and gratitude for those family and friends who returned safely home.

I followed the funeral procession to Parkdale Cemetary. We were escorted by members of the United States Navy and a large number of the Arlington Police Department.  I watched as the sailors, now pallbearers, respectfully carried the remains of their comrade who fell in the line of duty more than half a century before any of them were born.  And the firing of the three volleys, though I knew they were coming, still caught me off guard and those tears of relief that most of my loved ones returned to me fell from my eyes as a silent salute to Seaman Coke and all of the thousands who didn’t.

My heart stirred as I watched the slow and deliberate movements of the sailors folding the flag and the hand off of that folded flag followed by the final salute from Seaman to Non-Commissioned Officer to Officer to Rear Admiral and finally to George Coke, Jr.’s family members.  The spent shell casings from the three volleys, symbolizing duty, honor, and country, were then placed into the hand of the young descendant of Seaman Coke.

A cool breeze gently blew across my face, air-drying the silent tears and leaving my cheeks a little bit sticky.  I hugged Leslie and shook hands with her son, aunt, and mother.  I looked back to see the final resting place of Seaman Coke, under the Live Oak and the Crepe Myrtle trees, beside his mother and father.  Welcome home, hero.  Rest in peace.

 

The Doctor is In

I’ve known him all my life. And after my dad, he’s the “adult male” that I would turn to for car maintenance advice, a kind word, a belly laugh in the form of some hilarious anecdote that had  happened that week. Uncle Tracy has been a comfortable constant in my life no matter where the Army sent us throughout my childhood.

My cousin, Wendy, was my best friend/pen pal during all that back and forth moving overseas to Texas to Alabama and back overseas, etc. I felt grounded reading her letters and a sense of normalcy writing back to tell her all about my softball season, how much I hated Algebra II, and which boy I had a crush on that week. I always sent love to her parents and she always sent it back to mine. And for us, there was never any awkwardness. Even though she wasn’t a military BRAT like me, we would pick up right where we left off three years before. We’d run out to play on the zip line that Uncle Tracy had built using the tallest trees in the backyard or play basketball or throw pine cones at each other or at night, jump out from behind a fat bush on the side of the road to scare the crap out of teenage drivers who were speeding up the street and then take off running as they slammed on brakes and cussed at us out the open windows.

When I spent a week with them during the Summer Wendy had gotten her learner’s permit, Uncle Tracy earned a new nickname. We were in his pick-up truck. Wendy was driving. We were in the left only turn bay and she was having trouble with the 3-on-the-tree. Uncle Tracy was patiently bellowing directions from the passenger seat. I was the quiet moron in the middle; head turning left then right then left again as the conversation continued across me. After about 4 light changes from red to green and back to red, Wendy was beyond frustrated as the engine choked and died again. Uncle Tracy stated loudly, for the tenth time, “Wendy, you’ve got to put the damn thing in first gear!”

“It IS in first gear!” she shouted back, red-faced.

“Wendy, if this damn truck was in first gear, we’d already be in the driveway by now. Put it in first gear.”

She violently pulled the shift bar from where it was to neutral and then back to where it was. “It IS in first gear, Daddy!” The light turned green again. She let up off the clutch again. The truck jerked forward and died again. The car behind us started honking again as he was too close to go around us like the cars behind him. The light turned red again.

“Wendy, you’re in third gear. Put the truck in first gear!!”

“Daddy, it IS IN FIRST GEAR!” she shouted back.

Uncle Tracy actually yelled this time, “IF THIS TRUCK IS IN FIRST GEAR THEN I’M A GODDAMN BRAIN SURGEON!”

The dumbass in the middle, sensing the tension and trying to show solidarity with her cousin waved and said, “Hiiiiiiiii, Doctor Tracy!”

They were too pissed off at each other to laugh. She finally found first gear and we went home. When we got  back to their house, I figured I should make myself scarce and then I heard my aunt laughing in the kitchen. I went to get a glass of tea and she handed me a tall cup to take to “the good doctor.” She and Wendy howled with laughter.

I handed him his tea and he just looked at me. Then he laughed and said it was in third. I  told him that out of all the pipefitters in the world, he made a fine brain surgeon. He’s been Dr. Tracy ever since.

 

 

Did I Do Too Much for Them?

As mothers, we second guess ourselves and the choices we make all of the time. Since these children don’t come with owner’s manuals or anything remotely close to that, we sort of “wing it” and combine our gut instincts with the way that we were brought up and what we admired from parental examples we admired from TV and movies, and that long list of stuff we swore we’d “NEVER do when I have kids of my own!” And for the most part, that tends to work really well for most of us. We do the best with what we have and what we know and we try to do what is best for our kids and hope and pray that that is enough.

I used the great ways that my mom had to interact with us when we were little. She was awesome at distraction tactics when we would fight. There were four of us and sometimes it would get pretty loud. I remember many times that she would just come in the room while we were fighting and just sit down on the floor. She’d pull all of our building blocks and Matchbox cars, Fisher-Price people and Weebles out of the box and start making entire towns right there in the middle of the rug. She’d completely ignore us while doing this. Soon we were sort of staring at all the fun she was having and no longer interested in who broke what, or whose turn it was to whatever. We’d watch and eventually sit down and ask if we could play with her. She always said, “Yes.” And we’d join in and start having fun, too. Then she’d slowly work her way out of the game and leave the room and we were none the wiser, yet peaceful.

I also decided that I liked the way that she kept open lines of communication with us. I employed this, too, with my own kids. But I allowed more expression (like limited cussing when they were at that stage where nothing else would seemingly help them “get it out.”) I never lied to them.  (Okay, I did have them convinced for years that I knew the Minister of Birthdays and Aging and that if they did something really horrible that I could call and have that year’s birthday postponed for another. This isn’t as complicated as it sounds when your kids are younger and are certain that they haven’t earned that year older until they’ve actually blown out their candles on their cake. Truth be told, I did NOT tell them the whole candles thing. That was their own understanding. I just didn’t contradict it until the oldest was about 12 and had figured it out on his own. DON’T JUDGE!)

I would watch some of my in-laws and neighbors and friends who would tell their kids things like, “stop crying and I’ll buy you sweets” or “don’t be scared. The needle won’t hurt at all.” To adults, these seem like little lies to assuage fears and calm kids. But for kids, they are actually HUGE lies that, once told and are proven to be untrue, take away from our credibility and teach our kids not to trust us. I never told my kids untruths about our ability or inability to afford something that they wanted. I would tell them, “No. That is something that is not in our budget” if they were asking for their own mobile phone or wanting to go to the amusement park or join a sports club.

I did not/will not give my kids an allowance. I hated this rule growing up but my dad had it and I’m actually quite grateful for it now. He always said, “I buy you every-damn-thing you need. If there is something you want, come talk to me about it and we’ll decide if it’s something we can do.” So when I wanted a Mickey Mouse watch at 5 years old like my neighbor had, Dad said no. He said it was ridiculous that Michael Murphy had a watch at 5 when the “big dummy can’t tell time.” (I was born in the late 60’s and digital watches were still about 10+ years away.) So, of course, I was heartbroken. But Dad told me that if I learned how to tell time that he would buy me a watch. I accepted his challenge. I learned how to tell time in one week. (And oh, yes, I rubbed that in Michael Murphy’s face big time.) And Dad bought me my first watch at the PX  (Post Exchange for you non-military types.) It was dark blue Timex with silver numbers and hands and had a dark blue band. It was a ladies watch…for grown ups. It was so fancy. He taught me how to wind it and take care not to get it wet. I had that watch for 11 years before it finally broke. I’d earned the right to wear it. And Dad promised it and fulfilled that promise. Trust was built over something little.

When my kids wanted pocket money, I made them work for it. They always had to help around the house and I didn’t pay for that. But if they wanted something extra, I made them work a little extra. My sister-in-law thought I was mean and horrible for making Ismail make all of the beds in the house (a total of 5) after their naps one day and I only paid him 25 piasters. She thought that that was a lot of work for a 6 yr old and that he deserved more than just 5 piasters per bed. I asked what she thought was fair wages. She said 1 pound. I told her she was nuts. I explained that her own sister worked 12 hour days, 6 days a week in a factory making purses and backpacks and she only brought home 250 pounds per month. That averages out to about 1.15 pounds per hour. “He needs to learn that life in Egypt is hard and that people work hard for very little money. Then he will appreciate what he has and will take care of it and learn to work hard himself.” That was ten or twelve years ago. Now she tells me that she wishes that she had done like I did as her kids think that it’s their right to demand large amounts of money to go shopping, buy fast food and go to the movies whenever they like.

I instilled a good work ethic in them. BUT there are other things that I didn’t do right. I still haven’t let them do the other stuff. I handled their confrontations, argued with store owners who wronged them, all the typical advocating for my kids. But they didn’t learn how to do those things on their own. None of them knows how to fill out a job application on their own, their own medical history, how to drive. And I’m not preventing them from doing any of that or still doing it all for them. They’ve sort of just fallen into the habit of asking me to do it and I do it. I fear that I’ve not encouraged them enough to try stuff on their own. I’m afraid to push them out of the nest to test their wings. I know that failure is part of learning and that I have to be a good enough parent to allow them to fail. But it sucks when your job all these years has been to catch them when they fall.

My best friend and I cried together over this earlier this week. She and I have a mess of kids and our oldest are about the same age. She told me that her daughter called from her university on the other side of the state wanting her to put on her “momager” hat and call the school and handle some situation for her. My friend started to do that but then caught herself.

We women are able to have entire lengthy arguments and weigh outcomes of choices all in our minds in split seconds. Men don’t realize this, I think. But we are able to go through every option available, predict results and decide the best course of action to take all within about 3 eye blinks. We’re bionic like that.

So my friend told her daughter, “You know what? This is something you can handle. You need to call and tell them that you don’t want to change dorms again and give your reasons why. I believe in you. You can do this.” Her daughter was pouty but accepted my friend’s advice. Of course, she cried her eyes out after hanging up because she felt she was a “bad mom” for telling her NO. But this is how we have to do it. And it’s hard. And it sucks. But it’s the being there to pick up the pieces if they fall and break during their test flights outside our nests that make us good moms. And while both of us know this intellectually, it doesn’t make it any less heavy on our hearts when our kids want us to do something and we force them to do it themselves.

Have I done too much? Maybe. But we do what we can the best way we know how and trust that we’ve done it right. Excuse me. I’m going to go cry now.

 

 

 

28 Days and a Wake Up!

We are SHORT TIMERS!

Most of you who didn’t grow up in a military background probably don’t understand that. So, I’ll explain.
We are 29 days away from leaving Egypt. I’ve got all our appliances and furniture sold and I’m in the middle of packing up the stuff we’re taking with us and getting rid of the stuff we’re not. Plus screaming “QUIT FIGHTING!” and “GO STUDY YOUR HISTORY!” and “DON’T FART ON YOUR BROTHER’S HEAD!” or whatever usual shout-out I have to yell regularly to keep this house a home.

So this is why I’ve been so lax in my writing lately. I’ve just been too busy. (Between all of that stuff and keeping up with my Criminal Case game on Facebook, you understand.) But really mostly the busy stuff.

I’m hoping to make the time to do a brief photo-mentary and upload that before we leave, so that I can share the beauty of Egypt as we know it.  Not the touristy crap that everyone sees…but the day to day people stuff and how we live. It’s a lot earthier and real.

Anyway, I guess this isn’t really as much a post as it is an apology for not being more prolific in my writing. But I will post a few more times before we leave here and hopefully once I get into my rhythm after we get back to the People’s Republic of Texas, I’ll get all regular on here again.

In the mean time, thanks for reading my stuff.

Self-Confident or Narcissist?

I LIKE ME! Actually, I LOVE ME! No, really. I do. I can honestly look at myself in the mirror and say, “Hey, you good-lookin’ specimen. If I could have an out-of-body-experience, I’d totally do you….TWICE!” And then I accidentally drop the towel and think about how long it’s been since I’ve done crunches. But you know, that doesn’t take away from my love affair with me.

It took me an extremely long time to like me. I grew up in a military family, where my dad had issues with weight vs. height standards according to the Army charts in the orderly room. I don’t think he realized that the standards are different for women than they are for men. My mom was always concerned about her weight and size. I think she’s always had an unhealthy view of herself…even when she only wore a size 5 jeans at 5’5″. I haven’t seen a size 5 jeans since I was in the 8th grade. And my mom had had 4 kids by then.
I think at her heaviest she was 135 lbs……without being pregnant. And probably only 155 lbs while 9 mos pregnant with my baby brother…who was 10 lbs 11ozs at birth. My mom always had a rock star figure. Even the guys in my high school thought so. But she continued to diet and jog and workout all the time. And never for the thrill of the workout or because it made her feel better. Seemingly, it was to lose weight so that she could make my dad like her better. What she never knew was that he liked her fine as she was.

I remember once when I was a senior in high school and a member of the track team and dance squad and running between 2 and 5 miles on the weekends because I liked how it made me feel, my dad asked me how much I weighed. I told him the truth. I weighed 120 lbs. He said that at 5’3″ I shouldn’t be more than 105. I told him that I’d inherited his mom’s body type and short of lopping off a boob, there was little chance of me losing weight. I wore a size 9 which is incredibly thin for my fairly muscular frame. (And when I say muscular frame, I’m talking about back when I was 17. I still have that same muscular frame now at thirty-thirteen but it’s very well insulated.) I always blew off the height/weight standards to how I felt in my clothes. I don’t think my sisters or my mom felt the way that I did, though.

I managed to get out of my parents home with more self-confidence than my siblings, I think. (I may be wrong about that. They can correct me in the comments section if they like.) And although I thought that since I moved out at 17 years old, that I didn’t get any of the low self-esteem issues or lack of self-confidence problems that I had seen in my mom, I was so wrong. I dated guys who were losers. I treated myself very badly. I carried myself in a manner that I WANTED to be but underneath, really wasn’t. I wanted to be a mover and a shaker. I was instead, a shover and a faker. It’s true. But about the time that I finally decided that I deserved better than the shitty relationship that I was in, I decided to take my faking to a whole new level.

I applied for a temporary assignment overseas….via backdoor means….and then pulled the, “REALLY? I didn’t know that was how I was supposed to do it” excuse when I got lectured by my boss about protocol and blah blah blah……Boy, was he PISSED when they called me and offered me the assignment. I took it. And I swore it was all this self-confidence that I had that led me to doing it. But in retrospect, I think it was just a way for me to get away from my ex without having to actually deal with him. And little bits of self-confidence were beginning to grow roots within me. But I don’t think they had actually taken root to me yet.

I think it took me about four years or more from that point to feel those roots of confidence start to wrap themselves around my core and then an opportunity to move overseas for a long term assignment. I took that assignment and ran like the wind. I thoroughly enjoyed myself. Three months after I got there, I got my final documents giving me back my freedom and partied hard for another three months. I dialed back the partying after that but still had a great time with wonderful friends that I still keep in touch with today. And then I met my husband.

I continued to fake a lot of my self-confidence. I don’t think he knew it even….until we talked about it one night last year. It was so weird. I was so certain that I loved him 100% and that he probably loved me 50% or maybe up to about 60% but just wanted a wife because his younger brother married before he did and he felt obligated to marry and I was handy….and kind of cute. But I still felt this way, six or seven years into the marriage. I have no idea why. I had already left my job and we’d moved overseas to Egypt when it finally dawned on me, “Hey, this guy REALLY does love me and REALLY would give me the moon if he thought it would make me happy.”

I started to work on making me happy after that. I continued to read more and learn how to do things that I never thought I could. And you know what? It worked. I really, really, really started to like me. I also improved my Arabic skills, learned to sew, learned to make homemade ketchup and brown sugar, homemade pizza dough and to cook awesome Egyptian foods. I taught myself how to make a perfect pie crust, make my own fitted sheets, how to haggle with vendors in the open markets and souvenir shops. I learned how to rewire a lamp, change a valve in a faucet and to snake a floor drain in the bathroom. I discovered that I really suck at making my own clothes but I’m really good at making curtains, valances, sheets, pillows, and mending. I’m also one lesson ahead of my son in learning how to speak French.

I managed to lose 28 kilos through hard work and diet and kept it off for two years. Then it slowly crept back on and I haven’t been able to finally decide that I want to focus the attention I need to lose it again. But I will. Soon. And even though I’m way overweight again and unhappy with how I look, I STILL like me. I still love me. And I can see myself through my husband’s eyes. I am an incredible, sexy, intelligent, confident woman who does whatever she sets her mind to do. And I no longer need to fake the self-confidence. In the words of Abed from Community, “I’ve got self-esteem falling out of my butt.”

Alphabet Soup

I’ve mentioned before that I’m a military BRAT. Growing up around the Army, acronyms were just the norm for us. While most kids on a playground can tell you about ABC-gum and understand what “You’d better XYZPDQ” means, BRATs are familiar with so much more, usually even before the third grade. Also, our  parents when saying things like ‘As Soon As Possible’ did not spell out A.S.A.P. but usually pronounced it ay-sap. By the time we were in high school, we knew that a letter from DODDS addressed to our fathers was probably CC’d to him and actually addressed to his C.O. and that we must be nailed for ditching school and life as we knew it was now FUBAR (that’s Foo-Bar.)

What’s that? OH…right. Translation:

DODDS:   Department of Defense Dependent Schools
CC:           Courtesy Copy (you should know this from email headers, come on!)
C.O.:         Commanding Officer
FUBAR:    F*#!ed Up Beyond All Recognition

So, when I got caught, along with 65 of my closest friends, drinking apple schnapps on the school bus and the driver, Frank (not really his name but since Frank and Stoeckl own the bus company we called ALL of our bus drivers Frank) drove us to the MP station and the DSCC held all of us there for over 4 hours without allowing us to contact our parents. I finally was the ballsiest and picked up a phone and called my dad, who came immediately with my friends parents in tow and OMG did the S.H.T.F!  My dad calmly went in and told the DSCC, “Colonel, I would like to press charges.” The colonel was shocked thinking that my dad wanted to press charges against me for under-age drinking. He contended this was a matter best left for the  parents to handle since I was not military and they could not hold me in a military cell or discipline me in anyway. Dad clarified. “I want to press charges for kidnapping.” That got the Colonel’s attention.

DSCC:   “Against whom?”
D.A.D:   “You, Sir.”
DSCC:   “Come again?”
D.A.D:   “Sir, you have held my daughter against her will, without her parents knowledge and refused to
               her any contact with her parents. According to any dictionary, that is the definition of kidnapping,
               Sir, and I’d like to press charges.”
DSCC:   “But she and her friends were drinking on the bus!”
D.A.D:    “True, Sir. But as you’ve indicated, that would be a matter best left to her parents to handle since
                she is a dependent and not a military member and thus outside your jurisdiction. Isn’t that correct,
                Sir?”
DSCC:    “Uh, well……uhm, see that she never does this again, Chief!”
D.A.D:     “I can guaran-damn-tee it, Sir.”
DSCC:    “Then I’ll just release her into your custody and we’ll pretend this never happened?”
D.A.D:    “That’s affirmative, Sir.”

I thought my dad was the coolest thing ever. The DSCC released the rest of the students with a stern warning and only my two best friends got suspended from the bus and had to take the train for two weeks. (That’s because they’d bought the booze in the first place.) And I was just the big hero. MY dad had pretty much gotten everyone off the hook and put the DSCC in his place, etc. Until we got in the car. And I was placed on restriction for the next 2 weeks and only allowed to leave my room for KP, laundry, meals and school. SNAFU. I was also warned that if I were to EVER embarrass my father via his chain of command again, that I would see the 4 walls of my room until we PCS’d. I was scared. That meant no more DYA sports, no more AFN, no more kissing boys behind the BOQ, no more watching movies at the AAFES theater and no more hanging out at the snack bar in the PX. So, I followed my father’s advice and got my “head out of my ass” and walked the straight and narrow until he came home one day and said, ‘FIGMO’.

For those of you, not familiar with military life overseas, more translation:

MP:        Military Police
DSCC:   Deputy Sub-Community Commander (the MFWIC of the smaller of two American military
              communities that are closely situated.)
MFWIC: Mother F*#!er What’s In Charge
OMG:     Really? You have to ask this in the age of Twitter?
S.H.T.F:  Sh** Hit the Fan
KP:         Kitchen Police
SNAFU:  Situation Normal-All F*#!ed Up
PCS’d:    Permanent Change of Station (to move)
DYA:      Dependent Youth Association
AFN:      Armed Forces Network (tv and radio station; aka AFRTS or Ay-Farts which is Armed Forces
                Radio and Television Service)
BOQ:     Billeting of Quarters (a military sort of hotel where members and families sometimes stay
               temporarily, after they’ve cleared quarters prior to PCSing and/or while on TDY – Temporary
               Duty)
AAFES:  Army Air Force Exchange Services (they ARE the dept store/fast food/bowling alley/theater/ on
               any Army or Air Force military compound.)
PX:         Post Exchange (you’ll sometimes hear someone say BX and that is the same thing only they’re
               usually Navy or Air Force because they have BASES instead of  POSTS so it would be Base
               Exchange….which I find really weird because Marines are assigned to CAMPS but they don’t say
               CX for Camp Exchange….I think they also have BXes. Of course, no one credits the Marines for
               being big readers anyway so if you just say “the exchange” to them they’ll know what you’re talking
               about and reply in the affirmative, “Oo-rah.”
FIGMO:  F*#! It. Got My Orders (means I don’t care….I’m PCSing soon and already have orders to leave)

      

We’re Having a Party Today

party hat Pictures, Images and Photos I have decided to throw a party today…just for my kids. I believe that they deserve it.  I know you think I’m nuts, right?  “All the complaining about them driving you insane as to how bored they are, even on their way home from the beach! Your kids don’t deserve a party!” Au contraire, mon frere.

You see, most of you civilian types don’t know what I’m talking about.  My military brat friends are probably laughing their butts off right now. Because they know that the above-pictured party hat will NOT be donned by my children. That’s right, fellow BRATs.  I’m throwing my kids a G.I. Party.  They don’t know what it is yet either. But you can bet, they won’t be wearing headgear of any kind. (Don’t worry, civilian people. I’ll  provide a glossary for all these italicized terms at the end of this post.) But I will. THIS will be my party hat:
Oh, yeah.


Somewhere along the line, I got tired. Perhaps it was the fact that I realized I’ll be 44 this year, AHEM! (29 for the 15th time.) Perhaps it’s just the heat and humidity is getting to me.  The fact that we all shower 3 and 4 times a day, thus overfeeding the laundry monster towels and sweaty clothes requiring me to slay it repeatedly on a daily basis, has pushed me to the edge of my usually forced patience brink.  But now we’ll add in the constant whining, bickering, insult-throwing, sassing, and fist-fights to the already fully packed list of tattles, complaining, and arguing and you’ve got a one word adjective that describes the situation I am in to a T:   Disrespect. 


I have noticed that lately I must call out the same name at least 5 times before I hear a half-assed “Ma’am?” in response. I know that if my face was on t.v. they’d hear me loud and clear. (And probably turn the thing off.)  When I ask someone to complete his or her dishes so that I can get dinner started, I either wait three or four hours for them to begin, or I get pissed off and ask God for patience while I wash them myself.  I get elated that I finally killed the laundry-dragon and burned its nest down and smashed its eggs only to walk into the boys’ room and find its twin sister laying more eggs at the end of my son’s bed in the back corner of the bedroom…..even though I told him THREE TIMES to get all of his dirty clothes into the hamper NOW so that I can complete the laundry.

These are normal issues that happen all the time, I guess. But we’ve also been dealing with an enormously abnormal amount of tattling, whining, teasing, slapping, farting on, fist-fighting and swear words. I am at a loss for words as to how much of it.  Maybe not.  Words seldom leave me. I guess to be more accurate, I’ll say that I’m too humiliated to admit to the world how bad it’s gotten. It’s enough that my neighbors can hear the noise of bodies crashing against furniture and four letter words flying through the open windows (only because it’s too hot to breathe with the windows closed.)  I’m very grateful that most of their insults and swearing are done in English because none of my neighbors speaks English.  Although they all probably know the bad words. (Thanks, Hollywood.)

I’ve put them on restriction.  I’ve spanked (get over it, those of you who don’t believe in corporal punishment. I’m betting you don’t have 5 kids separated by a year between them each and live in a foreign country and raising them alone. And if you have, oh well. Bygones!) I’ve taken away their meager allowances and computer privileges and television. I’ve encouraged. I’ve rewarded good behavior. I’ve talked with them. I’ve explained. I’ve done everything that everyone under the sun from Dr. Spock to Dr. Laura have suggested. (I still don’t know who Dr. Who is, so haven’t tried him yet.) So now, I’m going back to my own grassroots, sans the “beat the hell out of ’em” policy.  I am returning to the Army. 


Each GI will be issued a scrub brush.  Sassier GIs will be issued a toothbrush.  KP duty will entail scrubbing of tiles on the walls and floors.  All dishes will be cleaned. Stove top will be scrubbed.  Counters will sparkle and all duties will be completed prior to mess at 1800 hrs


Latrine duty will entail scrubbing of all tiles on the walls and floors, sink, toilet, shower and removal of all clutter, including empty shampoo receptacles that had previously been labeled as saved for refilling with water to fire upon passersby under the balcony.  Latrine will sparkle and all duties will be completed prior to mess at 1800 hrs. 


Day room police will entail removal of all dust particles from furnishings and appliances.  Windows will be cleaned and once floor area is completely mopped, all furnishings will be returned to their appropriate locations.  Any non-regulation day room items will be returned to their proper locations or will be removed by drill sergeant during white glove inspection.  Day room will be left in a clean, neat and outstanding condition prior to mess at 1800 hrs.


Any underbreath remarks, backtalk, complaints will result in disciplinary PT  following mess at 1800 hrs.  


DISMISSED.


*As suggested by my BRAT friends, I will not lie on the couch and eat bonbons throughout the party.  But I will definitely be reminiscing and once they fall asleep exhausted tonight, I’m going to email my dad and thank him again for being the hardass that he was.  If he hadn’t been, I wouldn’t be nearly as respectful a person as I am today.

Now, I’m going to “get this party started.”


GLOSSARY (for you civilian types)


G.I. Party – Army term meaning a massive cleaning session, usually carried out by an entire platoon.

Platoon – A subdivision of a company of soldiers, usually forming a tactical unit that is commanded by a lieutenant and divided into several sections; A movie about Vietnam that starred Tom Berenger and Charlie Sheen…but that’s not relevant to this blog post.


Headgear – Regulation hat issued by the military as part of the regulation military uniform; to be worn outdoors only


KP duty – Kitchen police; usually involves scrubbing pots, pans, dishes, walls, floors, peeling potatoes and cooking.


Mess at 1800hrs – Mess means meal; Mess hall or chow hall would be a military dining room. 1800 hrs means 6 o’clock in the evening.


Latrine duty – Cleaning of the latrine


Latrine –  Bathroom; WC; facilities; toilet


Day Room – The living room/den area where soldiers are allowed to “hang out” in the barracks; usually furnished with couches, chairs, tables, television, sometimes  pool table and ping pong table or fussball table and soda machines or snack machines. 


Non-Regulation Day Room items – Personal items that do not belong in the Day Room, this includes but is not limited to clothing, shoes, backpacks, scarves, books, pens, rocks picked up along the beach, the charger for your mobile phone that you always claim you cannot find, and toenail clippers.


Outstanding – Overused Army adjective that reflects good quality; antonyms for outstanding would be unsatisfactory, sub-par, and shitty.