iraqistan

2/19/2009

Battlelord Remains

Filed under: — lana @ 1:16 pm

First of all, if someone ever offers an arthrogram to give them a “better picture” of something in your body, and then they say, “You might feel this,” brace yourself. That means you won’t just feel it where they are shoving the needle, which is into your joint which they are actually trying to separate by pumping it full of chemicals, because they already numbed that part. Where you will feel it is everywhere connected to that joint. No “might” about it. The best part was when the Captain said before shoving the needle in that “sometimes we miss and have to try again, but we hope not!” Thanks for the vote of confidence, Sir.

Given that I am allergic to the stuff they were shoving into my joint, and then later in the morning into my arm en route to my brain, they also warned me I would have to stick around for awhile after the procedure to make sure I didn’t have a reaction. Oh, and driving would be difficult. For about two days. So would things like, say, getting dressed and washing my hair. Thanks for the memo.

And lo and behold, they were right. Driving home was an experience. I can’t wait until tomorrow morning when I have to figure out what I am going to do for physical training with my Soldiers… oh, and then wash my hair and get dressed.

But I did get my MRIs accomplished, fun as they were, and then got a call from the endocrinologist, who already had the results from Xenu, who is still kicking around in the vicinity of the carotid artery in my cavernous sinus making a general problem of himself and causing headaches like commentary from Tom Cruise about the benefits of Scientology.

Xenu is holding strong. No shrinking, but they don’t think he has grown, either. They had been hoping that the blood supply would have been cut off from the surgery and he would shrink on his own, but no such luck. As such, they can’t really do anything with me until after the next MRI, which won’t be until roughly next August, or given the MRI scheduling backlog maybe by the year 2017. Then they can figure out what they want to medically chapter me for and just how badly they want me out. That process can take anywhere from six months to a year, mostly consisting of the joyous practice of sitting around waiting for things to happen. So I will remain in Germany until my current “Get-Out-Of-Germany Free” date of May 2010, after which I still will have a year of wandering around wherever they send me next should they still not have made a decision.

Ah, Xenu. All the drama of daytime television packed into a neat little egg crammed into my temple. If only he were a little more photogenic without me having to glow in the dark…

2/17/2009

Mental Note

Filed under: — lana @ 5:51 am

It is not a good idea to shovel the walkway, which has been described as “half the way to Tibet” as well as critiqued by Germans delivering furniture as “A lie… you said it was on the second floor… this is more like fourth,” with two bad shoulders.

It is an even worse idea to do so in sneakers with frostbite. Having been kicked out of the gym this morning as the base shut down at 0605, I popped into work, got some things accomplished, and then attempted to get my car back up the hill to my house. I was moderately successful, indeed providing amusement to my neighbor who watched me try to skid my car into my garage without hitting my landlord’s car or the wall. While it appears the Germans may not plan for snow, what with perhaps two plows in town, I grew up in the northeast so he was sorely disappointed with my skillful navigation.

I have no idea how I am going to get the car back out tomorrow.

Then I joined him shoveling, as Germans get in trouble if their walkway isn’t shoveled. Bad idea, though I hope sooner rather than later to get full feeling back in my arm. Particularly since now it can’t decide if it wants to snow, rain, or neither, so it has settled on both with a freezing combination the cat doesn’t know what to do with despite repeated requests to be let onto the balcony.

I love this country. Really, I do.

2/15/2009

Not the Brightest Bulb

Filed under: — lana @ 1:35 pm

Not the brightest bulb in the box, not the sharpest knife in the drawer, a few ants short of a picnic… there are a million phrases that seem to come to mind lately when talking to one of my Soldiers.

There are those I have come across in my days who are both a recruiter’s dream and an NCO’s nightmare. Tragically, I keep getting those Soldiers when I am an NCO. They are the ones who desperately need to join the military for one reason or another, but they are horribly suited not just for the job for which they are signing up, but quite possibly for the military in general. Since becoming an NCO, I have had at least four or five of these delights grace my presence. I would love to go back and find their recruiters. Not to give them a hearty punch in the mouth, though that might be nice, but really just to give them back their recruit.

One of my Soldiers recently lost his car keys. Actually, I misphrase. He lost his car key. The one car key for the family car. The one family car for his entire family. He, or rather apparently his wife, lost the key in a small town approximately forty minutes away while he was on his convalescent leave recovering from knee surgery by walking around local tourist centers. The car remains in the town, most likely with a substantial number of angry German parking tickets stacked neat and orderly, as is the German way, under the windshield wipers. The family took a taxi back home.

This was mentioned to me off-hand as I was getting off the phone with him the day before he was to return to work. He seemed put-off when I told him he had better call around and get the shuttle schedule, as the free inter-post shuttle would be able to get him to work relatively close to on time. For some reason, he appeared to think I was just going to swing by and get him.

I am, as an NCO, obligated to do some things for my Soldiers. I have to make sure they are at physical training, I have to make sure they have time to eat and bathe and work, and I have to make sure they have a means to get to their medical and other appointments on time. I am not, as it turns out, obligated by any regulation to schlep them around in my personal vehicle for two weeks, particularly when they live across town and about fifteen minutes out of my way.

This Soldier was also rather perturbed, it appeared, when I told him he would still have to be at physical training in the mornings, though I would pick him up for the time being. I then told him he would have to bring his stuff to shower at the gym, because I was not going to take anyone home in between. He did not react well to this news. He did react interestingly, however, when I asked him if he had considered renting a car. The thought, it seemed, had not even crossed his mind. I could actually smell the smoke as his brain slowly started comprehending what I had said… then I think the hamster had a heart attack, as his eyes went blank again and he asked me what time I would pick him up after the weekend for physical training.

This is the same one who nearly cries when I tell him he will most likely head to a tactical unit following his current assignment, who argues he can’t possibly give a briefing because he is an extreme introvert, and disdainfully asks why I don’t just demote him or chapter him out whenever I tell him how he screwed up this time. I tell him not to tempt me so; it’s not really polite.

I have an insatiable urge to find this fellow’s recruiter, or to at least take him to some local high schools and say to the class, “If this is you, please find another career… the military needs warm bodies, but not lobotomized heads. If you insist on joining, please allow me to provide you with a list of jobs that will keep you far away from me.”

I have seen that the military can make one dumber. My concern is that I am not sure how much more some of these people can take… or why they keep sending them to me.

2/14/2009

Off Again

Filed under: — lana @ 1:43 pm

This week I will be taking yet another trip out to the wonderful world of Landstuhl, Germany, for some MRIs.

What’s that, you say? Why yes, it is indeed true that naught but a little more than a week ago I took the three-plus hour-depending-on-traffic drive each way to do the same exact thing. It appears I have failed to tell my tale of woe.

Actually, it was pretty simple. I drove out there. I got there nice and early, because I was only scheduled for two MRIs: one on the dome with the tumor and one on the left shoulder which they think might be harboring a torn rotator cuff from Iraqi times of yore. However, I had recently decided that racing my Soldiers up a rock wall was a good idea and dislocated the Clinically Disgusting right shoulder, which they now think possesses a Torn Something Else. The doctor made a phone call and the lovely folks at the MRI clinic recommended I get there good and early and they would try to squeeze in a third MRI.

So I got there three hours early, knowing that the clinic schedules about a month out. I wander in and the nice lady at the desk looks at the system and says, “Uh oh,” and then gets up. I figure, using my powers of deduction, that this is not a good sign and wait patiently. Then there is some deliberation between the nice lady and an Air Force Tech Sergeant, who tells her to check with the radiologist. After more behind-the-scenes action, the Air Force Major running the joint calls me back to his dark little office.

He explains patiently that I am allergic to MRI contrast. I tell him I know this, but no one seems to have cared previously. I get a rash, maybe some bumps, maybe a bit itchy in the hands, but no big deal. He says that since the contrast is going to the brain, I should probably be medicated. Having no idea if they medicated me or not in the hospital, I tell him I will be happy to go to the pharmacy and pick up some anti-hystimines if it will make him feel better. He then says that the right shoulder, seeing as it has been rather feisty about staying put lately, needs some sort of fancy-schmancy MRI. Actually, he didn’t say that, but I have no idea what the thing is called. He informed me it would involve injecting contrast into the joint, it would not be comfortable, and they could not do it today. Oh, and also, Walter Reed had not sent my previous MRIs anywhere, so he had nothing to compare my brain with and therefore could not have examined Xenu today. Since I was not medicated, my joints remained contrast free, and Xenu’s modeling photos were lost in the mail, I therefore should reschedule with the front desk and make my way home.

He did seem to feel rather bad about the whole thing and made sure the front desk coordinated my return visit for a time at least moderately convenient for me, which is to say I only had to shuffle my schedule minimally to accomodate the one day they had available before the end of the month.

So bright and early Thursday morning, though not so much bright as just plain early seeing as I expect to be through the nearby state of Baden-Wuerttenberg and into Rhine-Pfalz before the sun makes its lazy way above the horizon, I shall once again brave the German traffic and weather patterns in my efforts to determine my eligibility to remain a dedicated member of this Big Green Machine. Given that the warranty on my parts appears to be running out, it might be prudent of me to read the fine print on any service and labor extensions offered.

2/3/2009

When Pigs Fly

Filed under: — lana @ 2:29 pm

Yesterday I received a cryptic phone call from none other than my illustrious First Sergeant, who seems to find it an enjoyable game to test my blood pressure capabilities.

Phone call went something like:

Him: We need to talk.

Me: That’s never good. About what?

Him: Re-enlistment.

Me: What? Whose?

Him: Yours.

Me: What? Didn’t you just goad me into that less than a year ago? I didn’t even make the E-7 list! *interjection: I am a few months short of qualifying for the promotion list for the year*

Him: Yet. Oh, and there might be a deployment coming up.

Me: What? *interjection: I am not deaf, but I believe I did say either “what” or “huh” more than usual during this conversation* I’m supposed to medboard soon. You know they won’t let me deploy.

Him: We don’t know that. Yep, so, re-enlistment. Oops. Gotta run. I’ll call you later.

And off he went. His absolute favorite means of getting off the phone is to rile me up, confuse me, and then tell me he will call me back and hang up before I can ask any other questions. Then usually something happens that makes him cranky and I don’t hear from him until the next day. Predicting this, I had a little conversation with my husband in the interim.

My husband and I have not had it easy. We have been apart most of the marriage, neither of us are terribly sane, and we went through a particularly rough patch early on that saw separation papers. But we mended old wounds, forgave old sins, and are much stronger for it now, which is lovely and not something most military couples can say. But we still remain on separate continents at the moment, which does put a bit of a damper on Friday evenings. So ideally, wherever I would go would be somewhere he would eventually rent out the house and come join me.

Now, therefore, comes the question of should I be such a sucker, what would I get from this reenlistment?

So I came up with a list of places I would go, in agreement with my husband whom it would be nice to see more than twice a year. Not a single one of them is an easy task, and on purpose. The Army does make me tired on a frequent basis, so I like my revenge. One, a periodic assignment that comes up for Antarctica, is actually impossible because the Army knows I have frostbite (but really want to climb Mount Vinson… and they give me plastic boots, so I don’t see the problem). That was number two on my list. Number one was for a unit I didn’t even know the proper name for, so figured my loose description would daunt them and they would leave me alone, hopeless and frustrated. I underestimated my First Sergeant. He knew who they were, and might know how to get me there. It is in the general east coast area, a distinct improvement of only a three hour drive instead of an eight hour flight to my husband, and it is in the field I have desperately tried to get back to. I, probably foolishly, made the promise that if he could get that in writing, I would negotiate with the doctors to continue this debacle I call my Army career. Oh, but I did keep my head long enough to point out that nothing would happen until I got back from the class I intend to attend in May. I’m no fool… I have to cash in still on the promises from my last reenlistment fiasco.

He’s no fool either, as I have long suspected. He knows my reenlistment window doesn’t even open until May. I strongly suspect he just wanted to see what I would bargain for this time to allow him time to have something waiting for me upon my return.

As for the deployment, more details revealed I wouldn’t have time to sneak around the doctors for it, so it was tossed out the window for now to join my Soldier’s old coffee and my warrant officer’s frisbee, which hasn’t made it out the window yet but will once he lets his guard down long enough for me to steal it and chuck it out there.

So it appears, as Lewis Carroll (mostly) wrote, that the time has come (yes, already, the First Sergeant said) to talk of many things: of shoes and ships and sealing wax (and re-enlistment), of cabbages and kings. And why the sea is boiling hot, and whether pigs have wings.

The trouble, it seems, is that each time I say anything along the lines of “When pigs fly,” someone seems to chuck one out a window at me.

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