2015 Journal

Sunday, 27 December, 2015: I'm with the Band...Pasadena

I head out tomorrow morning for Pasadena and the Rose Bowl Parade.

It's a serious muscle movement getting the band assembled from all over the country while on furlough, there, but Major Bert has done a fantastic job...especially considering the C17 flight has changed at least four times.

As it stands right now, I'll depart with COL John and the local cadets at 0700 tomorrow morning, drive to Andrews AFB, load the C17 and fly to Santa Ana Army Air Field.

We're scheduled to fly back on the 2nd, but I'll return either the 2nd or the third to Lex. I may have to take some Cadets to Richmond Airport on the 3rd before returning home.

Only Burt knows.

We went to Jay and KS's house for Christmas Eve Brunch and had a super time. Brunch was delicious, gifts were given, and playtime with Jake and Em was fun, after which we drove to E's for Christmas.

It was a great time with delicious food, and loads of Cooper Time. Regulating the house heat was the only problem and it made Bill miserable. I didn't get much sleep because of that. The trip home went well, though wet. It finally began to cool off last night, so I opened my office window, curled up on the day bed, and happily threw on another blanket.

COL John and I went out to P2 today to pick up the vans for tomorrow. Packing is going well. Can't wait to get going. I'm dreading it in ways, but I have always been like that. When going places in the Army, I would always have a great time once I got going.

Free Trip to California and the Beach! Who can dread that too much?

Monday, 21 December, 2015: Fetching Bill and Sylvia

After closing down Barracks on Friday evening, I got a good night's sleep and then, once again , drove to Alabama to pick up Bill and Sil.

The drive flew by, the differences being the light traffic of a Saturday, driving a car not a truck with no cruise control or governor, and my music.

I went by Jim's with a few things and picked up a few, and went to Jim-n-Nick's 5-Points with Owen '15 now working for Norfolk Southern.

By the time I got back to Bill and Sil's, Sylvia had three piles laid out, luggage, presents, and stuff going inside the car. It looked a bit overwhelming at first, but I made it work. I am, after all, the packing master. Our trip home was fun and uneventful.

We got here about 7:30 pm, just in time for a bowl of Kim's Chili, my reward for being the Best Boy!

I slept like a Rock!

Sunday, 13 December, 2015: The Remnants of Two Lives

Kim and I spent last week loading up those things in Mom and Dad's house that we wanted and quite a few things I just couldn't give up. It was sad walking through the house seeing things laying around that no one wanted or just couldn't take.

As it was, Kady and I brought home a truck full of furniture--things the kids and Kady and I wanted. Still, we left behind things that would be carried off, I hope to be parts of lives unknown. Kady and I brought home all the records and photos. We have all the family history to be included in the family tree data base I have been working on.

I got Dad's Camera, his small tombstone radio, his Atwater Kent, and His Zenith tabletop, things I thought Jim would want, none of which work, But I was happy they went to me. My plan is to have them repaired. Probably not the Atwater Kent, but there is a place in Washington State who does the work.

I also have Mom's .32 S&W pistol and Dad's 20 gauge shotgun. Mom taught me to shoot with this pistol. Who can say that? Kady took Mom's huge secretary and her 8' Couch...which I was very OK with, because it is my favorite place to nap.

Where we're going to put it now is a bit of a puzzle. We also brought home three brass lamps, the end tables, the cedar chest, and her "That Girl" lamp. It's called that because there was one just like it on the set of Marlo Thomas's That Girl.

E took Grandmamma Lee's iron bed, the gold chair, and the green chairs. She also took Jim's "Metal Man," an early piece of his art, which we think Copper is going to hate.

Jay claimed the Encyclopedia Britannica set, a 45 rpm of Music Box Dancer, the Texas Instrument on which he and his Pop calculated poker hands, and the sun dial that Dad calculated and made.

In the last years of her life, mom did an amazing job labeling items. We found pinned to or stuck to items, little notes telling us about each item. Sometimes it would be to tell us who was in a photo, or who a made a quilt, or who she wanted to have an item. She even left a two page note in the safety deposit box distributing the things there.

I brought back all of Dad's science fiction books, hoping to read the stories and then donate them, but there are some of what I call "lunatic fringe books" that I'll keep until I'm gone...fun ancient astronaut stuff. I loved reading this stuff and discussing it with him.

Mom must have still had about a hundred trashy romance novels; she loved them. I donated about four boxes of them awhile back, but we found MORE stuck away in closets. Sylvia, Lynn, Kim, and E took samplings of Mom's cook books.

On the last day, I found her personal recipe box, and Kady happened upon Dad's recipe for his bar-b-q sauce, great finds!

Jim and Lynn took what they wanted. Colin took Dad's Zenith stereo and music. I was worried it would have to be left.

Mom's clothing and shoes we packaged up for donation. Everything else we left. As I walked back through the house, one last time, through the pieces of two wonderful lives laying about, I knew I'd had this feeling before, many times. Walking the streets of Hierapolis, and Troy, and Pergamum, and many others, there was always a sadness I felt for the people whose stories, lives, and loves were lost in time. All that was left of them was the ruins of their city, sometimes the art of their frescoes, and the occasional potsherd littering the streets.

Like the ancients, my Mother and Father's story will be lost in a generation or two. Jacob, Kort, Sloane, and Em will hear only what E, Leah, Colin, and Jay can remember, but maybe they will dance to Music Box Dancer and make stuffing to Mom's recipe.

Maybe they will marvel at the stars and live lives of Southern charm and grace.

Thursday, 3 December, 2015: Mom

Thursday night, Jim called to tell me that Mom was fading fast and that I should get home as soon as I could. I tried to catch a few hours of rest, but couldn't fall asleep. Still, I got on the road after raising flags at sunup.

Stephanie called me to tell me Mom had passed when I was just past Blacksburg. I should have turned around to travel with Kady and the Kids, but my determination to get home was already set on Full.

Saturday, Jim and I made the final arrangements while Kim, Jay, and E drove south.

Tuesday morning we held a small ceremony at the Funeral Home, inside because of the weather.

I was so grateful at the amazing showing of friends and family. They came from all phases of our lives. After an opening prayer by our cousin Tim, Jim read a short eulogy. I have asked him if he would include it here.

Juanita Ann Lee Neel December 30, 1928-November 27, 2015

Thank you all for joining us today to honor our mother, our grandmother, great-grandmother, aunt, sister-in-law, Juanita Ann Lee Neel; we are overwhelmed by your kindness and love.

Try and picture this: The famous black and white photographs taken in Hale County, Alabama during the Great Depression by Walker Evans or Dorothea Lange, because that was the world into which she was born December 30, 1928 in little town of Havana.

Yes, she was Juanita from Havana.

Her mother and father where share croppers, he was also a grocer who walked ten miles each morning to work and ten miles home each evening. I’ve searched through all the WPA pictures I can find, hoping to see her seven-year old face, but to no avail. There are the school pictures of a bright smiling little girl in hand-sewn dresses to give us a glimpse, but nothing that shows the humble two-room house with the feather mattresses, Grandmother’s beautiful quilts and the wood-burning stove for warmth that was their home.

Those early years probably explain her stoic nature, it certainly explains the pantry that was always full (trips to the grocery store were not because she had run out of something, but to replace the backups of those items). Sam’s Club was her dream come true. For a while there she would show up at our house every other week, like clockwork, with giant packages of paper products.

Like her mother and father before her, Mom could grow anything, but flowers were her specialty.

She was brilliant, really, an honor student through school, and had financial circumstances and a world war not interjected themselves, her formal education would have gone much further, but what she knew best was the natural world, birds, wild flowers. I am not making this up, she could spot and identify a wild flowering plant from a hundred yards at seventy miles an hour. She actually kept a folding foxhole shovel in the trunk of her car, at all times, just so her husband or sons could dig up that wild pink flowering whatever and take it home.

She loved music, she loved to sing, in the church choir, at the kitchen sink, in the rose garden, to her grandbabies. You are My Sunshine. It wasn’t an operatic voice, but it was clear and pitch perfect, lyrical. When I hear Iris Dement sing Sweet is the Melody, I picture our mother. She bent every note just right.

Here is a typical Sunday growing up at the Neels. Mom is in the kitchen cooking, she doesn’t want any help, (I think someone else would have upset her rhythm.) Her husband and three sons are on the other side of the bar arguing, debating, something, anything, we are going round and around, but there are a few unspoken rules. One, you better have some facts to back up your argument, unfounded opinions were not tolerated, Two, be aware that Mom was monitoring the tone and language being used, so watch it, and Three, when you hear her say dinner is ready one of you boys set the table and someone pour the tea, all debate is over. Period.

Lynn recently described Mom as fierce. But not fierce like bared teeth, or scary fierce., but strong of will, of resolve. Clear headed in emergencies, independent, stalwart. Like the cats she loved, soft beautiful on the outside, but within, power and laser focus. Her sons married women just like her.

Once, when I was in elementary school, a group of parents met one weekend to clean up the grounds and mow the athletic field and there was an accident. Two of the men were seriously injured, one critically. In the mayhem that resulted it was Mom who calmly, resolutely, took charge. If we can claim any semblance of courage we learned it from her example.

John and I have always loved cars. Muscle cars, sports cars, fast, quick cars. But we didn’t get that from Dad, for him a car was just something to get him from point A to point B, efficiently and reliably. Green or white please. No, we got it from Mom. For Mom, cars were two-door coupes, cool colors, yellow, azure aqua, bucket seats. They had V-8’s. Fins in the 50’s, vinyl tops in the 60’s. Dodges. Richard Petty cars. But, of course, every time she got one she loved, one of her sons would wrap it around a pole. And yet she still gave us the keys to the replacement when we asked. No blame just patience beyond understanding.

There is a Kodachrome that Dad took at a scenic overlook in the Smokey Mountains sometime in the early 60’s maybe. Mom is sitting on the left I am perched on the right and John is crouched in the middle, his hands tucked between his thighs. Mom is looking at us, so we see her profile, I’m looking away from the camera and John, well, lets just say his brows are furrowed. Don, I imagine, a toddler at the time, is asleep on the front seat of the ‘58 Dodge Coronet, two-door, big fins, push button auto trans. Mom has just admonished the two of us for standing on top of the wall, standing too close to the edge. She’s not happy with our “oh, Mom” responses. It wasn’t the first time that she had to step in to protect us from ourselves, or run us to the emergency room when our plans and schemes went awry.

We tormented her entire life with our choices: jumping out of perfectly good airplanes for a living or climbing in rear windows of building to flush out Cuban combatants in Grenada*, rock-climbing, riding motorcycles, crashing cars, or running around war zones in Central America with a camera. But here’s the thing. She was always there for us, never critical, always supportive. In the times our lives seemed to unravel, when we were met with failing courage, when we lay injured and broken, when our judgment was lacking and we made mistakes, Mom was always there, never with blame, but always with insight and understanding.

As we say in Education, those became teaching moments.

I have explained our childhood to others over the years as growing up with Ozzie and Harriet. It really seemed that way. Once, at a particular dark moment in my early adult life, Mom said that she was sorry, that she and Dad had made, what she then realized, was a mistake. Their pact, to never let the kids see them fight or argue, to keep the inevitable disagreements of marriage hidden behind closed doors, she told me, had been wrong, that it had given us a false sense of life. But, you know what it did, was give us a home, a world, that was secure, one in which we were safe to take risks and fail without recrimination. A life backed by the knowledge that understanding and forgiveness were there for us, at all times, just for the asking.

Life. People that know me know I rail against its cruelty and randomness. Often. Life was certainly not kind to our mother in the last twenty-five years. She battled cancer, osteoporosis stoically. In one eighteen month period she lost her husband, the love of her life, and then her youngest son. But she also traveled the world, saw the birth of grand children and great grandchildren, and helped mold their lives.

Mom’s eleven-year battle with Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease ended Friday morning. That merciless disease took her memory and ravaged her body. In the end, she could not recognize her sons, their wives, or the grandchildren she held so dear, but there were moments of sweetness and light. She would smile when someone walked in the room as if they were long lost friends, even though she had no idea who they might be (her Southern politeness never waned.) She continued to sing until the very last, and even though the words were no longer intelligible, she remembered the tune. The mention of red velvet cake or ice cream made her beam with delight.

Mom believed she would join Dad and Don when her Morning came (Comes) Around and she left the rest of us. We hope that their reunion was sweet and full of light and song.

*Jim got this wrong. Mitch was the guy who climbed in the window, I was at the front door. The culprit we were after was a PRA Lieutenant, threatening the people of Victoria. Mom's funeral wasn't the time to correct him.

Jim's composure was stead fast. Mine was not. Through a cracking voice and a few pauses, here is what I said:

John 14: 1-4 NASB "Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in me. In my father's house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to myself. ...I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except through me."

Jim, Don, and I were born into a family of highly intelligent, loving parents led by a hard-working railroad dad and run by a mom who enforced the rules of gentlemanly behavior, self-reliance, and fun.

My two brothers and I were taught to be lifelong learners, open-minded, and respectful. We learned to play baseball, love music, wonder at the heavens, read for enjoyment, and show grace under pressure.

From Mom we Neel boys learned to be gentlemen and gentle people. I have a story I love to tell of a Sunday dinner after graduating from Basic Training, when I let fly a bit of “soldier’s language,” the worst four-letter word you might imagine. I immediately knew what I had done, a hush came over the room, Dad, Don, and Jim stared down at the table, and Mom very quickly lit into me and explained that, though I was a big soldier now, that kind of language was not permitted in her house, never at her table, much less in her presence. I never made that mistake again and she never again brought it up.

She taught us to love nature and music. Mom could identify trees, flowers, and birds at a distance. She could grow anything. We can do the same, just not as well. I swear she could spot a hawk sitting in a tree at half a mile. Anyone who has ever ridden with her in a car can attest to this fact.

She taught us music by singing with us, encouraging us to play an instrument, taking us along to choir practice, and coming to every concert and recital.

Her one demand of us was that we would learn to swim. Never having learned herself, the one thing of which mom was afraid, was the water. She would not let her boys grow up afraid of anything.

Our mom could Cook. I have missed days past when my friends would vie to be the one person I took home from church to Sunday dinner, knowing mom would be setting a table of fine southern cooking. Happily, her recipes live on in her Daughters-in-law.

From Dad, we learned to love the universe and science. From Mom we received our spiritual side. Raised a good Methodist Girl, she took us to church. She never pushed, but let us make our own decisions, and always respected our beliefs. She taught us what she believed by her example. Everyone who knew her witnessed her faith in the way she treated everyone. They saw her strength and her hope in the good times and the bad.

In her favorite Hymn, we can hear that hope:

I come to the garden alone, While the dew is still on the roses,

And the voice I hear, falling on my ear, The Son of God discloses.

He speaks, and the sound of His voice, Is so sweet the birds hush their singing,

And the melody that He gave to me, Within my heart is ringing.

I'd stay in the garden with Him, Tho' the night around me be falling,

But He bids me go, thro' the voice of woe, His voice to me is calling.

And He walks with me, and He talks with me, And He tells me I am His own,

And the joy we share as we tarry there, None other has ever known.

After a short prayer by Bill, we closed and thanked everyone for coming. It was a good send-off and celebration of her life.

Thursday, 25 November, 2015: Thanksgiving

Kim and I drove to Charlottesville yesterday afternoon to spend time with Jk, Em, KS, and Jay.

Little Em is such a pistol. She has such a cute personality for one so young. She reminds me of E when I first met her in Turkiye. Yeah, that's a story!

The last two weeks have been busy. Last Tuesday, we had Thanksgiving Supper in Crozet. I sat at a really nice table with good Cadets and had a great time.

Ring Figure, where the Second Class receive their VMI Class Rings, was last weekend. I've lost some weight, enough that I fit into my mess dress again, so I wore it to the Supe's house for the Ring Figure Reception. I'm not a social animal without Kady by my side, so I didn't stay long, but I went.

I spent Friday and Saturday night in the hotel watching out after the cadets. Drinking is the only way they seem to know how to have fun, so it's a bit of a task. This year, we had a large number of First Classmen roaming the halls in packs, in a "contractor" uniform, and that seemed to make all the difference. I had little to do, but I still got no sleep either night.

Saturday, I slept through Parade and the Football Game.

Sunday, I met Kady at Berky's for breakfast.

Tuesday, I took charge of clearing Barracks for Furlough.

It went smoothly, but I had a lot to learn. Luckily, I had a good Cadet who thought of all the things I didn't. Thanks to Mr. Leib, a squared away young man! I had a little help from the TACs and ATACs, supposedly part of their contract, but not as much as I needed.

I did have great help from Mr. Jay, a former Cadet, and SSG Chris Bean. It would have been a pain without them. We had it all done by 1730 and I was home by 1830 . Still, I walked about 12 miles around Barracks that day.

So, today is Thanksgiving. I have a lot for which I am thankful, so let me list them right here and now.

I'm thankful to Kady for her love and support all these years--coming up on Thirty-Four. She brings wonder into my life on a daily basis. You should see the Christmas tree. I love her tree. I love everything about her and everything she does.

I am thankful to my Kids for being who they are. Jay is the most honorable man I know. He and KS are building a nice life for themselves and my grandkids. E is simply amazing. She has my organization skills and her mom's intelligence. She loves the Army like I did. Her dog, Cooper, is my dog and buddy.

I'm thankful to VMI for giving me the best job in the whole world, but I'm thankful that I can hang it up in two years and six months. Yay for May 2018!

I'm thankful to the Army for my good health and great doctors who saved my eyesight.

I'm thankful to Ford for building Bess, Roush for the after market add-ons, and Plate Tectonics for the Rockbridge County back roads. I am still in love with my car.

I'm thankful to religion for a week off from work.

Sunday, 15 November, 2015: Shooting Clays

Just got back from the Virginia Tech Shoot at Fun Gun Farm and Isaac Walton League. It was a pretty good shoot and we placed third over all, shooting two things we never practice. My Skeet field is down right now so we've practiced only singles there. We shot 50 rounds of Skeet, 100 rounds of Sporting Clays, and 100 rounds of Double Trap.

Third pace seemed acceptable, and I think the lads had fun...the main objective.

Tuesday, 10 November, 2015: Dad/Daughter Weekend

Work being done for the day, I cut out of the office a few minutes early so I could change, load the car, and put Cooper in the back seat for the three hour drive to Newport News. E had been in the field all week, so I got to keep Cooper. He and I had a blast and certainly, the Cadets loved seeing him. He's the Corps Puppy.

Riding with Cooper is easy, he sleeps all the way there, waking up only when I stop at the rest stop so we both can take a break. He practically knocked Kady over getting in the car. He knew what was up and was ready to go see Mom. E was waiting on the porch as we arrived and Cooper spotter her as I turned Bess around to park across the street. There would be no cold shoulder this reunion. I let him off leash and he sprinted to her. I love watching that.

He loves me, but he is his mom's dog.

That night E and I went to dinner at Fin, a seafood place down the block. It's one of my favorite places to go when I'm in NN. I had the crab cake and it was pretty darn yummy. We were joined by her XO, 1LT Molly, her dad, also a John, and another Captain, joined us for drinks after dinner. It was a nice time. Molly is a West Pointer, but I like her anyway.

Saturday, we slept in and then went to bunch at Food Craft, always a favorite. We always have Mimosas when we go, but we weaken the effects with lots of outstanding breakfast food. Everything I have ever had there is delicious and perfectly prepared. The place is always packed, but the wait is never long. Totally Worth IT!

After Brunch we drove to Yorktown and took the Colonial Parkway to _____town. Though the weather was cold and wet, the drive was beautiful. We stopped first at the _____town Museum, walked that a bit, watched the movie, and then took in the mock village. When I asked one of the actors where the actual site was located, she started off with, "Well, you know, this isn't the actual village." I was so nice and didn't retort with my usual sarcastic comeback, though a few overly harsh ones came to mind.

Supper was Jose Wings from Brick House and Auburn Football. Auburn got a win, which was nice to see, and the wings were delicious...as always. I dearly love those things.

Sunday, we all slept in, even Cooper. Lunch was at Harpoon Larry's and I had the Shrimp and Grits, which were pretty darn good. I had a good time people watching. The waitresses were...uh ...edgy, and the clientele ran the gambit from Bikers to Mom-and-Pop couples.

After lunch, we went back to the house and picked up Cooper and headed to the beach at Ft. Monroe. Though it was a bit cool and breezy, we had a great time walking Cooper. He's the best boy! I talked E into letting him run free on a deserted stretch of beach and he ran around like a crazy dog. Once he ran off into the surf, and was swamped by the next wave. It looked for a second like he was going to be washed out into the bay and E and I both started sprinting in that direction, but he bounded out of it no worse for wear and had more fun shaking off the water and running more circles. Water Dog!

I packed up and headed home about 1700 . It was a fun weekend.

Sunday, 1 November, 2015: Balancing The Work Week

Taking Friday and Monday off to go home to Alabama, left me behind on work related things. I had to be caught up by Saturday for a football game weekend and OC Duty, so that I could leave for Charlottesville as soon as I was relieved at 1630. It all went extremely well and I got a lot accomplished.

The main focus for this week was last night, picking up Cooper, spending time with all the kids, and Halloween with Jake and Em. Trick-or-treat was a lot of fun. Jake was a sumo wrestler wearing an overpressure suit; it was a hit. Em was a Strawberry and just about the cutest thing I have ever seen. We hit all the townhouses in the neighborhood and then walked to a street where the residents were obviously into the day. Every house was lit up in orange and decorated spookily.

There must have been 200 kids plus their parents walking the streets. This is what it was like on my city block back in the 1960's. The girls headed back to the house early with Em which left the last bit to Jay, Jake, Cooper and me. We ate once we all got back and KS made her white chicken chili and sweet cornbread muffins, a favorite. After Supper, E left for Newport News and Kim, Sandi, and I left for Lexington. Cooper rode in the back seat with me.

The Boy woke me up at 4:45 am because, I assume, the time change was not explained well to him.

Ah well, it has made for a nice long day before going back in to work tonight.

Wednesday, 28 October, 2015: A Quick Trip Home

I took Friday and Monday off to drive to Birmingham to check on Mom.

The drive home was great. I only hit heavy traffic around the I-59/I-40 interchange, but that thinned out once the Nashville fools turned west. I made the trip in less than eight hours, a first for me.

I met my nephew, Colin, for supper at Eli’s Jerusalem Grill off of Highway 280…on a Friday…a crazy idea...traffic. Eli’s was good. I had Lamb Doner (called Shawarma there), Couscous , and Babaganoush. Old boy behind the counter got a little puffy when I asked for Lamb Doner Kabab. He even pointed at the pictures on the menu like I was some half-wit. I started to argue, but thought the path to quicker food was to just smile and say, “OK.” I didn’t even add, “Whatever Asshole.” The food was good, bland, but not to Turkish Standards, by which, since this is where these dishes originated, they have to be measured.

I was in bad need of some yogurt and tomato sauce. 505 Rating—C+. The Babaganoush got a B+.

I slept in Saturday. My plan was to go for a run, but that was cancelled by the cool room, comfortable bed, and Mom sleeping in. I didn’t hear a peep out of her all night.

Once I was up, I got my computer up and running and found out that a bunch of my high school friends had linked up to go see Woodlawn, the movie, the night I got in. That would have been a lot of fun, but I missed it.

Jim came over for a bit and we talked about science and technology then went for Costa’s Bar-B-Q. I confirmed that the sauce had not been changed, though some people had told me it had. My sandwich sure tasted the same.

After lunch I joined Bill and Sylvia at their house for the Auburn vs. Arkansas game. Yeah, Auburn could have won that game but had a slew of dropped passes…six in a row at one point. Sadly we lost in the fourth overtime…basically because of the dropped passes and that our defense can’t stop the other teams we’ve played from scoring. I begin to ask, “Isn’t Will Muschamp supposed to be some kind of defensive genius?” For $5-million, he sure as hell should be. I guess I should give him at least one recruiting year before I start judging, but it seems that he has the players to stop offences, it’s that he’s being out coached.

I’ll tell you who was a genius. Ted Roof was a genius. I’ve never seen so many games won in the second half after Roof adjusted in the locker room and then shut down the opposing offence in the second half. Yeah, that was 2010…championship year.

Saturday night, I gave poor Stephanie some time with her family and I watched mom. I had fun showing her old family photos .She seemed to enjoy it. Every time I’d show her a photo of herself, she would ask, “Is It?” I think she is truly amazed that she was once young.

Sunday went by quickly. I got up early and went downtown to take some photo of Vicki's Birmingham. She and I are working on a web site to give her a web presence of her own. It's coming along nicely, but needs some photos. I had her send me details and addresses and I found most everything.

Sunday afternoon I spent a few hours with Bill and Sylvia saying goodbye till Thanksgiving and watching the news and some Big Bang Theory, Bill's favorite show. I got in bed early and awoke at 2:05 am, ready to go. Bess got me home by 11 am through light traffic.

This week promises a few highlights.

Thursday night Kady and I are going to the Visualite in Staunton again, this time for a re-showing of the original Halloween, a favorite of ours.

Friday, I'm having lunch with one of my favorite people in the whole world, Stephanie R., at one of my favorite places in town, the Blue Sky Bakery. I can already taste the Chicken Salad on Focaccia.

Saturday, after Parade and Football, we're going to see Jake and Em as they Trick-o-Treat. E will be there and handing off Cooper. I get to puppy sit all next week.

Next Friday night, I'll drive him home for some decent Dad, Daughter, and Dog time in Newport News.

I love that place.

Wednesday, 21 October, 2015: Fall

Cooler weather hit Virginia this week. Monday it was in the twenties. I'm actually enjoying it.

I think it might be that I'm a little lighter and my Filson Jacket is no longer so snug. What a great piece of kit, just don't trust their sizing advise. If you wear a large, order Extra-Large. Extra Large? XXL! Otherwise, you're going to either send it back or take it as a challenge. 15 pounds thinner and mine now fits great!

Not much has happened since my last post. A few football games (Auburn seems to have worked out some issues), parades, a little time off, and a few trips to see Jay, KS, Jake-man, and Em.

I took five of my Shooters to Fairfax Rod and Gun Club for the George Mason University shoot the 10th and 11th and we shot horribly. We shot 100 rounds of skeet, first. That didn't go very well, understandably, because we had not practiced Skeet all year. We had an electrical problem on the range. But Trap! Trap is all we've been shooting all year, so we knew we'd do well at Trap! Nope, we couldn't hit the broad side of a barn the first day.

Sunday, they got it all together and shot well, but by that time we were so far down on the list that everyone, including our number two three guy on the team finished well below the center line on the score sheet. Ah well, it was good experience for the new guys.

This past weekend was Parent's Weekend--Blah blah blah, Yak yak yak. Open House, Parade, March On, Football (the team is so good, but just can't seem to figure out how to win), PLUS people driving willy-nilly all over post, parking in our parking places, acting as if they own the place, etc.

Over It!

Sunday was better. SS and I met Afton at the Range and we had a blast shooting up the bad ammo. Yeah, we had a little leak in the ammo storage house. Not good. Anyhow, Afton is always fun to be around, such a babe, and she can shoot.

This weekend is FTX, so I'm taking a couple of days and going home to Alabama. I'm looking forward to a little Bess Time.

Sunday, 27 September, 2015: Another Lost One

I just rolled back in on Post from the funeral of the Echo Rat we lost this week. He died Monday during a PT run around Post with Army, and there was nothing anyone could do to save his life.

He was gone too quickly.

The EMTs were right on the spot, he was in our hospital being treated by the Doc within minutes, and we transported uptown immediately after that, only to be pronounced dead at 5:58 pm ...I think it was.

This is too much like the fall of 2009 when Hotel Company lost a Rat after a road march and stirred up memories of our Cadet who took his own life in April, 2014, just a few days before his graduation.

As much as I love this place and my job, these are the times I don't.

Sunday, 20 September, 2015: Presently In Stitches

I'm tired of the future and present tenses ruling my life. I need past tense or a present perfect. Instead of the "will heal" or "healing" that have controlled my existence for the last three months, I need to apply a little "Healed." I need to get this over with and done, so I can get on with my life.

Wednesday, I had a small basal cell carcinoma removed from my nose. The surgery left a dime sized hole in the upper right of my nose, just between my eyes. After a bit of undermining and clever suturing, I have a 1 1/4 inch long, thin wound, running along the ridge of my nose. My nose and eyes are purple and swollen. Basically, I look like shit.

It has been an interesting three months. After the eyesight loss determined to be a cyst, then the surgery and the busted cranial sac patch, the repair, an eye check up, recovery, drugs, nose washing, unquenchable thirst, new glasses, lots of bathroom breaks, removal of the basal cell, and face pain, I think I've got it knocked.

Well, I do have a cracked filling, but that's nothing compared to everything else. I think I see light at the end of the proverbial tunnel.

Yesterday was pretty abysmal. The morning was good and I got some things done around the house. Then the Corps boarded busses to go to Richmond for the Corps Trip to see our team get smashed by theirs. Four hours on a bus is never fun, but four hours of watching your team being slaughtered made it even worst for the faithful.

My Color Guard left two pieces of essential equipment back on Post, so we had to do a little tap dancing to post the colors for the game. That raised my blood pressure a bit.

While all of this was going on, I watched Auburn beating themselves against LSU.

And my face hurt. And pretty girls, little kids, and small animals ran away from me screaming.

Today, Kady and E went to Britt's baby shower, so Cooper and I have had the day to ourselves. We've been for two walks and he has taken two long naps while I watched Wild and American Sniper. I enjoyed both movies.

Now I'm drinking a beer...or two.

The two Coronas on the back of the fridge looked lonely. What else could I do?

Sunday, 13 September, 2015: Traveling Alone

I left Alabama Friday morning after a fun Breakfast with my old Army buddy, Mitch at Cracker Barrel.

This drive was so tedious. It was not lost on me that the day was the anniversary of the planes hitting the Towers, the Pentagon, and crashing into the field in Pennsylvania. I did a little remembering with Toby, Alan, and Darryl as I drove north.

Traffic was bumper-to-bumper from the Tennessee line until the split where I hit I-81. The only fun in this return trip was knowing I was headed back home to Kim. My trip home began a few weeks ago with a call from Jim about Mom. She had fractured her left leg and was too frail for surgery. Looking at the options, we really had only one--take her back home, keep her in bed, and treat the pain.

I was unable to travel that far until my next MRI, so I had to wait until last week. I left after getting some things organized on Monday and training the new OC Monday night.

I got on the road Tuesday morning, making it to town for Milo Burgers with Bill and Sylvia. When I got to mom's house, I was completely shocked at how far she had gone down since I had last seen her.

Wednesday, Mitch gave me a call as he was rolling down I-59 headed to Boaz. I hitched a ride with him and we delivered a load of gasoline to a station just past there. I had to run through a rain storm to link up with him, but it was worth it.

Thursday night I had dinner with Jim and Lynn at the restaurant where Colin Works, the Brick and Tin in Mountain Brook. I had the Tomato Panini and soup. Both were delicious. Also delicious was the tiny little margarita-tasting drink, King's Ginger I think it was, but there was just not enough of it.

Saturday was crazy football day. Auburn struggled against Jacksonville State, winning in overtime, and VMI won over Morehead State...scoring 43 points. In two games, VMI has now scored 79 points. Our new coach and his system has started impressing people.

Today was a day off, and I cleaned my home office and watched some of the new season of Longmire on Netflix.

Monday, 31 August, 2014: Settling Down

Today was registration day and tomorrow is the first day of classes.

I got a lot done today and it was much quieter around Barracks. Tomorrow should be even better.

Hell Week is over and with it goes a lot of the antics that make this place so tough. It's certainly not over, but once classes begin, the Rats get a breather from the pressure that has made 20 of them quit already.

My week is full. I have a dental appointment tomorrow, just a cleaning, but not a welcome event. Wednesday I have my MRI, blood work, and then my follow-up appointments with my team. I feel sure they will say everything is fine and give me the go ahead to get on with normal life. I'm dying for a run and to do some damn sit-ups and hit the gym.

Wednesday night I have AOC or what COL L is calling OC Trainer. I'll spend time teaching the New Night OC the ways of the VMI world, while instilling in them the way I want the Guard Team to run...more security focused rather than on the Blue Book, our regulation that governs Cadet life.

Hopefully my new glasses will be here this week...could be next. After my visual field test, which I passed with much better results, we tested my eyes and found that my old prescription was not working for me any more. Like I thought in June, I need new glasses. I think that's kind of funny in retrospect.

I'm sending the Trap and Skeet team with SFC Buck to Nashville for a three day shoot. I wish I could go, but can't plan on it until after my appointments. It was a great shoot two years ago. I'm sorry I'll miss it.

This weekend, I plan to spend time with Kim, Cooper, and E in Charlottesville watching Em. I need some time with that baby. Right now, she does not like me at all. I guess I'm still pretty scary.

Sunday is New Market Day for the Rats, so I'll be up there for that. If given the go to travel, I'll probably go to Birmingham next Tuesday through Friday to see Mom. Such a sad situation.

Sunday, 23 August, 2015: Hell...uh...Matriculation Week

And so, it begins all over again. The Rats arrived yesterday, 498 of them. Three hours later, one kid broke formation and ran up the street toward town and the hotel his mom and dad were still in. Cadre reigned him and in and brought him back and put him into the proper process to leave.

I'm thinking this family and this kid didn't do their homework. This isn't that damn tough. We have tiny little girls still here, so there is no reason this guy should leg it toward mommy.

Rumor has it he's a senator's son. Ah well. We won't remember his name in a few days, but his legacy as the first kid to break formation and run will live forever in VMI lore.

I was in for PT this morning at 5:30 and I wanted to run so badly. You know...just a few yards to see how it felt. But, I was a good boy and walked where I wanted to go. Not much longer and I'll be allowed, I'm sure. I feel super.

E is home for the week and I just got to walk Cooper. Life is good.

Thursday, 20 August, 2015: Moving the Website

Hey! I'm back. After much ado, I have finally moved my site to iPage.

Yahoo Small Business had run it's course with me, getting on my one last nerve, and, now, is selling the service to another company. iPage, a Google new endeavor, was much cheaper and look to be just the ticket.

Though I normally love all things Google, moving was a test of my patience and knowledge...and perhaps my bullheadedness. They have some work to do in my estimation, making the information more easily found, and perhaps a step-by-step page.

Tonight I clicked on every link that even seemed applicable and found the problem about two hours into the search. OH! I have to switch Name Servers. Thanks for telling me.

So, now I can go to bed and sleep without getting up in the middle of the night to try different ideas. I do my best problem solving in my sleep.

VMI is back in full swing. Cadre came in this past weekend and have been training all week. I've been taking it slowly and I am trying to stay out of the sun and heat. Yesterday, after a good rain, a cadet asked me what was wrong with my office door windows. I simply said, "It's Humid and Hot out there and it's freezing in here, Come sit a spell and enjoy it.

Tomorrow I'm taking my lounge chair down there so when the heat gets to be too much, I can go relax. I went for my Optometrist appointment and, GOOD NEWS, my eyesight is coming back.

My left eye is almost 100% and the right is much improved, I'd say, about 85%. That's a "win" in my book. The right should continue to improve as time goes on.

Things in Alabama are not happy. Mom has broken her hip and is far too frail and under-weight to go through surgery. We have moved her to her home, with Ms. Stephanie, and under the care of hospice. The goal is to aggressively treat her pain and make her as comfortable as possible for the rest of her life.

I must get home as soon as the Doctors will let me, after my MRI and follow-up appointments on the 2nd of September.

Sunday, 7 August, 2015: Like Sheep to the Slaughter

I know I'm a bit late, but I got around to watching Schindler's List. It was a powerful story, uplifting, and...horrible.

It struck me--How could millions of people allow themselves to be led to gas chambers and furnaces without fighting back? I guess they just couldn't believe it was happening until it was too late. It reminds me of the Frog Story--Put a frog in boiling water and he'll jump out so fast that it won't burn him; Put a frog in water and bring it to a slow boil and you'll cook him.

If we think this kind of thing can't happen here, we'd be sadly mistaken.

It never will as long as we fight every attempt to erode the Bill of Rights. Imagine if the Nazis had tried to do the same thing in Alabama, Texas, or any of the other free states.

Yesterday, I went to Crabtree Falls, just up the road past Vesuvius, in Montebello Virginia. It's a beautiful spot, but so beautiful that I only took a cursory look, knowing instantly that I wanted to share it with Kim. I'll take her there when she gets back from Tennessee.

I'm selling my boat today. Sell, not Sail. I've had it five years and never put it in the water.

It's time for it to go. I'm justifying it by telling myself we're "liquidating" as we ready for the move to Alabama, just three years away.

Three Years Away. That sounds so good.

Thursday, 6 August, 2015: Fragile! Handle With Care!!

Ouch. I love military friends.

We talk to each other like you can't talk to others. Insults are passed as greetings. Instead of waving, we happily flip each other off. We tell the most embarrassing stories to wives, children, and even moms...as long as it fits within certain boundaries. We Hug with abandon and slap backs.

There, then, is today's journal post.

A former VMI Cadet from 2000, a Lieutenant Colonel now, great guy, popped in the office this afternoon. We greeted each other in the way Soldiers do, but, before I could stop him, he grabbed me, gave me a big bear hug, and then slapped me heartily on my back.

Holy Shit! It hurt like a son-of-a-bitch.

It was like my brain was crashing around in my skull. Once he left, I sat down and did a quick function check, slowed my breathing, checked my nose, and just closed my eyes and sat still for about twenty minutes. I was OK!

I left the office at 1500 and rested some more.

I sent Kady a text about this event and she said I need to hang a "Fragile" sign around my neck.

I Love Her.

Sunday, 2 August, 2015: Tracking the International Space Station (ISS)

I just stepped back into the house after watching the ISS fly over.

My family indulges this need of mine and have taken part when they are here and it is passing over Lexington. I assume, to most, seeing it once is enough, but I have to see it every time I can. It depends on the visibility.

Tonight it came out of the WSW, over Smith Hall and disappeared over Barracks in the NE. I stood in the center of the Parade Ground. It was high in the sky tonight, at 60 degrees at the highest, and visible for almost 6 minutes. The Full Moon wasn't up yet, sand there wasn't a cloud in the sky, so my opportunity for viewing was perfect.

6 Minutes! How small is my little piece of the world?

If you're interested, NASA will send you an e-mail telling you when it is visible in your area. Just go HERE and sign up. Happy Viewing.

Friday, 31 July, 2015: Books

I remembered a book the other day. That sounds strange, I guess, but this is a memory from 1963, when I was ten, and it was time for the Summer Reading Program.

Most of the kids I knew were really into this program, trying to be the kid who read the most books over the summer, so they chose easy books...books I considered, even at 10, a waste of my time.

Mom would take me to the Woodlawn Public Library and I would search the kids section. After the first visit or two, I found the Science Fiction books, tucked over in a corner of the kid's section, by the door. I found a book that interested me, Apollo at Go by Jeff Sutton.

The Cover was compelling to my young interests. Three Astronauts, the future Apollo spacecraft and Lunar Excursion Module (LEM), and the Moon up in the right hand corner. It was what we call now, predictive Fiction...a story based on the NASA plan to go to the moon four years in the future. This would be my first science fiction book and the first book I would read cover-to-cover in one day.

I began reading it the next morning at breakfast, stopped under my favorite tree at Wahouma Park as I walked to Cascade Plunge swim club, and hardly hit the pool all day as I devoured this book in the bleachers on the east side of the pool. I finished it that night in bed.

It was a wonderful book and I remembered it one morning at E's house as I was recuperating from surgery, over coffee. Coffee does that to me.

Amazon!! I bet I can find it! That's was my next thought. Sure enough, there it was, same cover, first edition (were there more?), and inexpensive. I had Kady get it for me.

I'm reading it again. I wish I could go lie under my tree at Wahouma Park.

Thursday, 30 July, 2015: Back in Lexington

Kim and I drove back to Lexington on Monday after a lazy weekend at E's in Newport News.

About the only thing we did in Newport News on Sunday was go to Azteca for dinner.

I got a little misty-eyed when I had to put Cooper in his crate as we left. I really enjoyed time with him and he was a big part of my recovery.

On our way home, we made an appointment with Doctor Payne to check out my nose and the patch on my brain sack. He removed the plastic sheet from my nasal septum and the packing he had put there, and then suctioned out the entire area. Afterwards, he let me have a look pointing out his work and showing me where he has sliced off the skin of my septum, the blood vessel he left attached to feed it, and the patch on my brain sack. It was so cool seeing the my pulse on the patch, but maybe that's just me.

After the appointment, Kady and I met Jay and KS at Sultan Kebab for lunch. I ordered our favorites Berek, Babaganoush, and Dolma to start. Jay and I had delicious Türk Kahve. I had the Iskender Doner, which is what I always get. So Good. I love this place!

Anyway, I feel great! I have some limitations, and can't work too hard right now, but I'm back at work getting small things done before Cadre arrives on 15 August. I cleaned up the summer Guard Room and painted the guidon stands yesterday. I'll turn in summer guard uniforms this afternoon and make a list of things that need doing in the Guard Room as the S1 and S4 staffs return.

Next I'll begin working on the Guard SOP and making a few changes and adapting it to a Check List system. Busy Work, I know! It keeps me motivated.

Thursday, 22 July, 2015: Baseball

Kim, E, and a lot of E’s soldiers went to see the Norfolk Tides baseball game yesterday. As soon as we left the house, I realized I didn’t have my glasses, my camera, or my phone. I felt naked, but decided not to make an issue out of it and just go without. This was going to be one blurry baseball game.

Getting anywhere in the Tidewater area takes forever. I love everything about the area but the traffic. So, after much driving, we got to the park, and then waited for the group to gather.

Once inside, I was amazed. These guys really had a lot of community support for a Thursday afternoon. There were lots of little kids in brightly colored shirts for group identification, families, and a whole ship full of sailors. The girl who sang the National Anthem was from this ship as was the Color Guard. The color guard was not so good. The singer was awesome.

We settled in on the upper deck above the third baseline and watched what proved to be some darn good baseball. I took me a while to figure out who was who because the score board was so small, but once we settled in for whom we’d cheer, the game got more fun. I think Norfolk ended up winning, but I don’t really know; we left at the top of the ninth inning to beat the traffic.

On the way home Kim, E and I stopped at California Pizza Kitchen in MacArthur Mall. I had the Jamaican Jerk Chicken Thin Pizza and I’ll have to say, IT WAS DELICIOUS.

The Ride home had to include a Slurpee from 7-Eleven. It has been a craving for days now. I have to have one every day.

Wednesday, 22 July, 2015: Twenty Below

At the end of May, Kady and I began eating a lot smarter. For me, it was a matter of cutting my portions, cutting out processed sugar, snacking on wholesome things like fruit and nuts, and staying away from dairy products.

Kady spent a lot of time in the kitchen preparing delicious meals that included a nice chunk of protein and veggies. Salads, which I love, became a meal each day.

In 2001, 5 days before the planes hit the Towers, I arrived at VMI to take the Corps Sergeant Major job at 48 years old and 195 pounds. The job, a few injuries, a love of good food, and 14 years later, I had ballooned up to 227 pounds and did not feel good about myself.

I had become a tubby old man without really recognizing it. A month into the weight loss plan, the whole cyst-on-the-brain/blurred vision thing happened. I didn’t think about weight loss that much for the next few weeks, but I kept eating on the plan, except for the time at UVA eating hospital food.

As of this morning, I have lost 20 pounds, down to 207 pounds. That’s only 10 pounds over my weight as a First Sergeant. Is this a cause for celebration? I Think So!

I’m going to continue this eating plan. I really enjoy it.

Soon, I’ll be able to get back to running and working out.

I miss that a lot. New Goal: 195 pounds!

Monday, 20 July, 2015: Getting Better and Better

The weekend was quiet. Mostly we sat around the house and did nothing.

Cooper walking took place.

Sunday, Kim, E, and I went to the Virginia Living Museum, just up the road, and I had a good time looking at the frogs and watching the otters frolic. It is a very good exhibit, though a little pricey, $17 for an adult. Kady hates any animal caged, but she was a trooper hanging out with me. I could easily spot when she had had enough, disappearing to sit in the lobby. I, too, was taken aback by the two sad looking Bald Eagles and the Red Wolves they had on site. I could have done without seeing either in such small compounds. I lied to myself that they were injured and this was an acceptable life for them. How else am I to see poisonous frogs?

Exhibits like this are a necessary way to interest people in conversation. Along with getting to see animals you might never see, this museum told the plight of many of our endangered species. I didn’t know that over 30% of Earth’s amphibians are in serious decline. That’s something good to know, right?

Afterwards, we went to the PX on Ft. Eustace. I was not shocked that it looked like every other PX in the world, and that the PX hasn’t changed one bit since I left the army fourteen years ago. I was entirely bored and found nothing of interest there.

Kim, however, found cute baby clothes, for E’s future daughter, who she may or may not have one day. So Cute! I love my girl.

I’m caught up on my two new favorite shows, both on HBO—Ballers and True Detective. If you aren’t watching, you’re making a mistake.

I continue to feel better and better. I’m walking a little more, drinking less water, taking less meds for pain, having to rinse my nasal passages less, and I’m getting less spotting from my right nostril.

The bright sun and heat got to me a bit yesterday. It was very hot out, about 95-degrees, and the sun was intense in the car. By the time we got back from the PX, I was worn out. We went down the block with Cooper about 7:30 pm , and he had a good time playing in one of the little parks, running, off leash, from Kady and me, to E, and back. He’s such a smart lad.

This is my last week here, and I already know that I’m going to miss the house, E, and Cooper. I am so relaxed here at E’s place.

OH! I, conveniently, forgot to tell this story from my trip to the Keys. Since my head isn’t quite right, I can blame the need to tell this story on that. Just know that this happened before the surgery and the scattering of my brain cells.

However I tell this, I’ll never make it as funny as it was.

Living with two other people in an RV is fun, but sometimes crowded. To relieve this, I took to going to taking my shower at the Bath House. It was very nice, clean, and the water was hot and had good pressure. It was a short walk from where SS had the RV parked, and it was never crowded. It was the perfect respite from the salt feeling after a dip in the Ocean or the pool.

We decided, on our last day there, to go out to eat. I grabbed a shower and dressed at the Bath House while they got ready. They were still dressing, SS at his end of the RV and Kady at the other, when I got back, so I kicked off my flip flops and sat on the couch. As they came out and we all began moving to get out the door, I headed to the RV bathroom for a quick stop. As I came out, I heard them talking about Kim’s Flip Flops. Kady was saying that she thought she left them “right here.” As I started to help look, I heard SS ask if the flip flops in the kitchen were hers. Kady said, “No, those are John’s.”

In that instant, we all looked down at my feet and I had on Kim’s Flip Flops, with the prettiest little flowers between my big toes. I jumped out of them in one single move, moving faster than I have in years. Too Late. Both Kady and SS had seen them. Had they realized before I did, I have no doubt that they would have let me wear them to dinner, pointing them out only when I couldn’t do anything about it.

A month later, they are still laughing at me. I don’t know why; I was very pretty in them.

Friday, 17 July, 2015: Absolutely Nothing

Getting me out of the house was the name of the game today.

I took Cooper to Puppy Day Care at Femmes and Fidos, and then waited for Kimberly to wake up. I took a nice two mile walk while I waited.

Once Kady was up and dressed, we drove to Yorktown to see the battlefield, pausing at Yorktown Victory Center to have a look. Twenty dollars later, we walked a partially finished, entirely boring exhibit and watched a barely tolerable film about Liberty and the struggle.

Just terrible.

I see promise in the place, but it is not there yet. We should have stopped at the Yorktown Battlefield Visitors Center first.

Lunch was great. We ate at Water Street Grill down on the York River and this time there was no drama like the last time we ate there. It was a very nice lunch, with a beautiful girl, and delicious food. We sat right out by the river, and watched the boats sail in, while we marveled at how nice it was when one person in the group wanted nothing more than to leave.

Never again.

Thursday, 16 July, 2015: Absolutely Nothing

Today was just like yesterday, which was just like the day before, and the day before that. That’s OK. Routine is just what I need, routine and no Work.

I got up, walked Cooper, took my meds, ate breakfast and lunch, worked on my computer, listened to my music, read at my book, napped, and walked Cooper some more. Once Kady wakes up, I’ve begun walking without Cooper, so I can keep up my pace, without stopping to smell everything in the neighborhood. I’ve been trying to cut down on how much water I drink, so I’m only drinking at meals, coffee and a glass of water in the morning, and a small glass of fluid, a glass of water for lunch, and a glass in the evening.

Sunday, I felt like I had to pound water all the time…I think all the drugs I had in me wanted out. Now I’m less thirsty. The only thing of real note from Monday was a trip to Wal-Mart to buy a lounge chair like SS had in Marathon. This thing is GREAT. Tuesday, my pretty girl took me Cheddar’s for a steak, a huge craving, and it was perfect…best steak I’ve had in a long while.

Last night, Kady made Mex. My girl can cook! The meal was supposed to be a picnic at the park with J and E, while we listened to the band, but no one was up for it. We ate around the table while E told us about her day. She is a hoot and her unit is totally a mess, which makes for great stories.

Kady and I stopped at World Market for a few things the other day, and I found Broccoli Sprouts. We never get sprouts in Lexington. Why? Because the Wal-Mart and Kroger grocers are Commie Bastards!

Anyway, Broccoli Sprouts means Harb’s Turkey Sandwiches, which is, by far, my favorite sandwich. Choose great bread (I like rye), pile on the sprouts and thin sliced smoked turkey, and spread on a half-in-half mixture of mayonnaise and raspberry jam, the more the better. No Really! Make one today. Then you can say, “Thank You John!”

The other day, my iPod started playing Toad the Wet Sprocket. Damn! I had forgotten how great their music was. One of my troopers introduced me to it back when I was the First Sergeant of Charlie 2-505. I decided to Google them and found that, after a 16 year hiatus, they had produced a new album. I’ve been listening to them ever since and can’t get enough.

Amazon Music has become my friend.

Sunday, 12 July, 20015: Rest, Relaxation, and Recovery

I’m in Newport News, hanging out at E’s with Kim, E, and my buddy Cooper.

I love it here. I could live here. E’s house is warm and inviting, I have plenty of places to walk, I’m sleeping in the bed I slept in in Turkiye, I have my own bathroom, all my stuff is around me…music, computer, phone… and I haven’t thought about VMI at all except to think about how I don’t have to do anything until August.

Kady and I got up early Saturday morning and I watched as poor Kady loaded the car. I helped, carrying out anything weighing under ten pounds, like pillows, a blanket, my camera bag, a grocery bag, some Kleenex; yeah, I felt pretty worthless.

Packing the car is always my job, and who wants their little wife carrying their kit?

I can’t carry more than ten for four weeks and then I can lift as much as 20, but no more than that until after my next MRI. Crazy! It’s the same for running, walking only until then.

The drive to Newport News went well, though Kady did all the driving and we hit a lot of rain. Happily, the road bumps have stopped rattling my brain.

Cooper was happy to see us. He is the best boy! We made it by noon, just in time for some car shopping. E bought a really nice BMW X5 yesterday. It’s good to be the Single Captain. This car is beautiful! We had Brickhouse Tavern for supper, always a favorite. I got in bed early, and slept for nine hours with few interruptions.

This morning, after medication, nose rinsing, and a bowl of cereal, I took Cooper for a short walk. My apprehensions about walking him, now, seem unfounded. He’s such a well behaved and gentle boy. I anticipated him pulling, or getting a little crazy if we met other dogs, but he responded to my tugs on the leash easily and when we saw two dogs at the Baldwin Park, he just sat and observed them. I could tell he was excited, but he followed me when I told him to “leave it.”

We only went for half a mile and I need a bit more exercise this morning, but I think I’ll “leave it” for the day, and not overdo it, like I did yesterday.

I had a headache last night, so, I must have done too much. No Cheese! For the last few months, I have pretty much cut out all of the processed sugar in my diet. I have also cut out most of the dairy products and junk food. The result is an overall better health, no more heartburn at night, no more gas, and a steady weight loss down to 210 from 227, my target being 200 by mid-August.

Yesterday, I slipped, drinking a Grapico, eating a small bag of Cheetos, and eating the cheese that came on my house salad at Brickhouse Tavern. I felt like crap all night last night. That could have been the cause of my headache. No More!

If I could just Run!

Today was super relaxing. I even had a Mimosa! Once everyone was up, Kim, Else, J and I drove out to Virginia Beach for Brunch. We got there at the perfect time and were seated on the beach front, outside, in about three minutes. The place they chose, one of their favorites, was Waterman’s Surfside Grill, and I was impressed. Service was great, the view was excellent, the weather was perfect and the food was delicious. We all started with their Homemade Sticky Bun. That was tasty and not too sweet. I, of course, got the Shrimp and Grits, one of my favorite combinations, and this was one of the best versions I’ve ever tasted. I also had a bit of E’s Shrimp and Crab Omelet and Kim’s Pancakes, both of which were yummy.

On the way home we stopped for more drinks at Mac’s Place on the Bay, a perfect little dive, with seating right on the beachfront in Norfolk’s East Beach. Kady and I had water and a lemonade, while the other two continued their fun. I figured my one Mimosa wouldn’t bother me at all, but I sure as heck wasn’t going to push it. A cat named Joe Heilman provided some excellent solo entertainment, singing lots of classic rock and a few new tunes in his own style. Joe is a solid singer with excellent guitar skills. I’d go back to Mac’s to hear him again.

Friday, 10 July, 2015: R and R

I'm going to take a break from just about everything for a while and concentrate on Rest and Recovery. I'm feeling Super, but do not need the aggravations of VMI plaguing me...or rather, I don't need to let small shit around here bother me. Today, I went crazy over two broken squares of sidewalk, not four damn feet from the sidewalk just dug up and replaced in front of Smith Hall. No one else would think this a big deal, but still, I let it get to me.

Therefore, VMI, I break with thee.

I'll try to update soon.

Tuesday, 7 July, 2015: A late Independence Day Celebration

Thursday came on very quickly. Kady and I left Rockbridge County about 4 in the morning headed for Charlottesville.

We got to UVA hospital about 5 for a 5:30 start, and it seemed we waited no time for them to come get us. Pre-op took place very efficiently and fast, though the nurse didn't really want to hear about my lack of bowel movement for the morning.

Jay came by and he made the time go by much faster with his lighthearted antics and stories. They took me back and set me up very quickly and last I remember them telling me was to think of something nice and asking what that was. I said, "Turkey and Turkish food" and that is the last thing I remember.

I woke up to the worst sore throat I have ever had and a throbbing but low grade headache. I threw up a couple of times but otherwise made it through post-op nicely and was in my room with the family in no time flat. The doctor came in and said that things had gone fine and that I was well on my way to recovery.

Jay, KS, and the grand kids, and Barbara all stopped by that day to cheer me on.

Sadly, two days later I started getting a drip from my nose which was mixed with something white and clear that could only have been cranial spinal fluid. After a quick test to confirm this, they wheeled me back into the operating room the 4th of July to install the nasal flap to repair the tear in my cranial sac and stop the leakage.

I was none too happy about going back again, but it was the only thing to do.

Recovery from that operation was much faster, with no sore throat, but the three days that followed were a long series of shots, blood draws, pills, and interrupted sleep, that nearly drove me crazy.

The only bright spots in those day was E coming in, Jay, Barbara, and COL John stopping by, and of course, my brave wife Kimberly who sat by my side held my hand through the whole process. She was simply amazing!

The Nursing staff that took care of me up on 6-West was also fantastic. I can't say enough about their professionalism, good nature, and efficiency. I never lacked, for a moment, the attention this surgery required.

They released me this morning and sent me home where I've done nothing but what I want to do, when I want to do it, eat what I want to eat, and nap the day away. I feel so much better.

Now, I have a lot of pills to take, a lot of easy-going to do, and a lot of people to thank, but that is so much better and being in the hospital. All in all, things went extremely well and I'm very grateful to have been in a position to have the best surgical team and health care in the world. Dr. Vance the team leader, my surgeons Dr. Jane, who removed the critter, and Dr. Shepherd (you got it, a brain surgeon named Shepherd), my ENT surgeon, Dr. Payne, who repaired the leak, were a perfect team.

Maybe next 4th of July will be much better. Surely it will be.

SSaturday, 27 June, 2015: Key West and Back

"It's magic here. There are angels in the spray, wizards in the palm trees, and elves in the seashells. And, they all look favorably on struggling young writers." ~ Savanna, on Key West, 1993 FOX TV Series.

Kady and I got up early and left Marathon Key for Lexington, work, and home. Having her along made the trip so much more enjoyable. We did the one thousand-plus miles in about seventeen and a half hours, pretty good time.

Marathon will be missed, but Kady and I both remarked about the lush greenness of Virginia and the beauty of the clouds and sky here.

This morning it has been raining and cool. I have used that as an excuse to sleep in, dodge cleaning the car, and forget about my morning walk. I did go get a haircut at Buck's. What I really need is a nice summer thunder storm to welcome me back.

Come on! Show me the magic!

I couldn't leave for the Keys when I wanted, because I had duty the Friday through Monday before, and my consultation with my doctors on Wednesday morning the 17th.

Both appointments went well, though they doctors were a little incredulous that a 62 year old man had such solid blood pressure, had nothing wrong, besides The Critter, and that I was taking no medication of any kind. They also seemed to be watching for that point where I would get scared or upset. The long pauses and staring into my eyes as they explained the situation, procedure, and possible problems and complications, were a bit comical to me.

Finally, I said, "Guys! I'm a Paratrooper! This ain't nothing but a thang."

The ENT doc was all happy when he found, and excised, a tiny little polyp in my right nasal passage, which he promptly dropped and I, just as promptly, swallowed. Hell, I couldn't tell, my whole throat and sinus cavity was numb. He did save enough to biopsy, "just in case," but that turned out to be...wait for it...a polyp. Once he got it out he asked if I could breathe better, to which I replied, "I can't tell Doc, you have me so full of Epinephrine, that I can't even tell if I have a nose."

I got out of Charlottesville about 1530 and headed home.

That night, DJ came to visit and we then drove to Clifton Forge after to take photos of her illuminated only by the lamp at the old train station. It was to be a military shoot, Marine leaving home, but my Marine drove off without her uniform. She did, however bring a jeans and heels. That would do nicely.

At the station I captured a few clear shots. Of those, I think about three are pretty decent. I deleted all the blurry photos

I have a lot to learn about low level photography.

I left the next day to link up with Kady at Sandy's RV which was at the Jolly Roger RV Park in Marathon Florida. I knew the trip would be long, but I decided to do it all in one day. I went to bed about 1700, thinking I'd get on the road about midnight. Nope! I woke up at 2030, and my mind was ready to go, though I knew I didn't have enough rest.

I sure as hell wasn't going to fall back to sleep. The trip was going to be rough, but in preparation, I had bought eight Double Shots, with enough caffeine to spike me for days. I pushed hard and made it there by mid-afternoon. The site SS chose was right next to the Gulf, where we could walk out back every night to watch the sunset, and was close to the nice saltwater pool.

The next few days were spent snorkeling, swimming, and walking, topped off by really good food and drinks in the evening. I used the sunsets to correct my low light photo problems.

The sunsets were amazing, and I took a lot of shots.

RV living, though Sandy's RV is super nice, is not for private people, and it was a bit of a struggle for the loner in me. I took long pauses in the communal living outside in the heat, reading at the picnic table, with my iPod piped into my travel speakers. The Atlantic breeze kept me from dying in the summer heat. Hydration was a constant concern the whole week and bottled water was my friend.

My main issue was trying to relax and leave my daily and future concerns in Lexington. That took about two or three days.

Kady was dying to go see Jurassic World, which was showing down the road in 3D. Perfect. I enjoyed it.

Tuesday, we went to Key West, mostly for me. Kady was unimpressed, and I was a little saddened that, just as Hemingway had prophesied, it was such a Tourist Mecca. I might as well have been at Virginia Beach or Panama City Beach. Generic sea shell shops, t-shirt stores, and tourist bars were everywhere. But, I walked haphazardly around looking for the quaint and the interesting. I focused on the old.

After making the Mile Zero marker my first stop, I went straight for Hemingway's house. My goal was less about seeing the house than seeing where a scene from the TV Series "Key West" was shot.

That show was one of my favorite shows, which was, sadly, cancelled after it's first season. What a shame. There was a small fade-in during the opening of each episode showing Hemingway typing out in the garden of his house, which changed to the lead character and aspiring writer, Seamus O'Neill played by Fisher Stevens, writing at the same spot.

I still watch that TV Series from time to time. All thirteen episodes were saved by another series lover on VCR tape and transferred to DVD. I bought them for a song on e-bay. Now you can watch them all on YouTube.

It was a fantastic trip and one day I need to revisit, to look for the real Key West, adopt a 6-toed kitty, write a little, and stay until I have an opportunity to seek the wise council of my own Savannah, and have found my own Gumbo's.

"I'm going to sleep till four in the afternoon, stay up for three days straight, ...get real fat, then ...real skinny, eat caviar, howl naked at the Moon in a cemetery." ~ Seamus

Tuesday, 16 June, 2015: Barracks Duty

I spent the last four nights in Barracks. My main trust was to get the rooms cleaned up, so I spent a lot of time on the stoops inspecting, given guidance, and holding the summer school students living there to the incredibly low standard. My new trick is to lock the door of a dirty room when no one is home, forcing them to come see me to get back in.

Works like a charm.

If a kid doesn't get the message, I make them run laps around the parade ground. That also makes an impression. The rest of the time was boring, until I remembered that I had never watched or even heard about the last two seasons of Dexter. That kept me occupied, tough that damn show got pretty ridiculous in the end.

I had duty with COL Gary, and told him that I'd need an hour on Sunday to go home and watch the Game of Thrones Finale. It was pretty great and set the next year up to be a really good one. I, for one, will not comment on specifics, nor will I speculate of what certain circumstances will mean, but it surely doesn't stop others from spouting off. The ones who have read all the books are the worst. Therefore, I don't discuss, nor do I read ANYTHING about the show. I won't even visit the web site. There is just too many people out there trying to spoil it for everyone.

Tomorrow is the consultation at UVA. I don't know what to expect, nor do I have any expectations, so whatever happens will be OK with me. I will be happy to get this done and over with. I hate the waiting.

Once I get home, I'll finish packing and try to get on the road early-early on Friday morning, hoping to make it to Marathon Key by Friday night. I bought two four-packs of my drug-Starbuck Double-Shot Espresso and Cream.

Jason came into town yesterday and Conor came in today. It was good to see them both.

Wednesday, 10 June, 2015: Up and Down the Valley

Saturday, Kady and I got up fairly early and headed to Charlottesville for Jake's Birthday. This was held at Jump, an indoor trampoline park. This place was cool. There were two big rooms full of trampolines with pads between so kids could jump from one tram to another. Walls were vertical trampolines so you could bounce off. The second room was full of runways with a trap at the end so you could practice your tumbling and flips, landing in a pit full of soft stuff.

I declined to partake, but was left wondering why we didn't have this kind of thing when I was a kid.

I took Kady to the Airport for her flight to the Keys before heading home, unsure of what I'd do in Sunday.

I had a LOT of ideas, but wanted to make no firm plans.

Sunday morning, I decided to drive to Richmond and visit Shockoe Hill Cemetery and the Almshouse. I had visited both a few years back when we formed a detail honoring a VMI grad buried there. It was a beautiful old cemetery and the final resting place of Chief Justice John Marshall, officer in the War of Independence, lawyer, Envoy to France, member of the US House of Representatives, Secretary of State, and first Chief Justice of the new United States.

When I visited Marshall's grave, I was surprised by the condition of the site. It was the most poorly kept place in the whole cemetery.

I just sent a message to Friends of Shockoe Hill Cemetery and the John Marshall Foundation. I'm all over this.

Almshouse was an old hospital used during the civil war to treat federal prisoners. After Hunter's raid on Lexington and the shelling of VMI, the Corps marched to Richmond. In December 1864 and until the end of the war in April 1865, the Corps held classes in this building. After the war, Cadets made their own way home, beginning classes again in October.

After bimbling about Richmond for a while...in some pretty seedy areas of town, I headed for Fredericksburg and Pelham's Corner. I visited there two years ago, arriving just before they placed a canon at the spot of his heroic artillery dual with the Federal left flank. I had to go see that.

It looks nice and is pointed directly at the battlefield-encroaching businesses. I like to think that if young Pelham were here, he'd give them double canister! After a nice quiet drive and a few meditative moments along Lee Drive, I headed to old town Fredericksburg for an early supper.

I walked around the town while and settled on Soup and Tacos. The food was delicious. After supper I walked over a block to look at the churches and take a few photos. I should have brought along my good camera, but the photos turned out great.

I took Highway 20 back to Charlottesville, wishing the whole time I had driven Bess. I'm trying to give her a break, making only short trips to keep the mileage down. She has 110,000 miles on her now and getting to be an old girl....though she looks great and still runs like a top.

Yesterday, feeling cooped up, and a bit lonely, I drove Bess to Clifton Forge to see the C&O Heritage Park...a pretty nice little park and museum. The rail stations are beautiful there and made for some pretty great photos.

The week is moving slowly. I have duty all weekend, Monday and Tuesday nights, and then I'll head to Key West.

The Nurse called from the Doctor's office this afternoon, saying that everyone had reviewed my MRI and all systems are a "Go!" The only change was the addition of the ENT guy to sit in in case he/she is needed. I'm guessing that possibly there is some interest in the size on my nose and ears, traits for which all Neels are infamous. Actually, I guess there may be some concern that they may have to go through the roof of my mouth to get to this critter. Whichever, I want this thing out now and I'm getting anxious. VERY Anxious.

Friday I'm going for Bar-B-Q with Ashley...a very pregnant Ashley. She's so cute!

Friday, 5 June, 2015: The Schedule

17 June : Consultation--I'll meet with my Doctor, Anesthesiologist, Surgeon, EENT Doctor, and Nurse Practitioner at 1130 at the clinic. They'll explain everything, walk me through it step-by-step, and ask me a bunch of questions...I'm sure.

01 July: Pre-op--Don't know what all this will entail, but It was promised to be short and "out-patient."

02 July: Surgery--This is a very early show-time...0530 . Should last about 4 hours. I'm calling this "Critter Removal."

02-06 July: Post-Since they are going in through my nose, I'm guessing I'll have black eyes, won't be able to breathe through my nose for a while, and will have all manner od packing up at least one nostril...probably both. I'm guessing they'll biopsy the cyst to make sure it's benign before releasing me.

I'll need a good book and my iPod.

Wednesday, 3 June, 2015: The MRI

I got a call about 1000 asking if I could come early for my MRI.

I rescheduled for 1230. I was motivated. The registration process was very streamlined, so I was back in Radiology in no time, emptying my pockets, taking off my watch and belt, and lying down on the table.

I have never been a claustrophobic, as a mater of fact, I would have thought that I was immune to any such condition, having been packed like a sardine on the Air Force Aircraft for jumps all my adult life. However, when the little girl placed the cage over my face and the machine rolled over my head, I had an instant panic attack.

Oh, Hell No! I wasn't going to freak out.

I closed my eyes and began breathing slowly. I began designing a Storefront Home in my head.

I planned the kitchen. I chose the refrigerator, stove, microwave, and fixtures I wanted, and laid out the cabinets, island, and wrap-around bar. I chose a nice table and placed it between the Kitchen and the living area. On it I placed the flatware and dishes that I would have, all monochromatic, thank you very much.

In my living room/den, I chose the TV, furniture (Can you say, BIG Recliner?), and utilized every Turkish rug that I own. My study would be wireless and the desk massive. I chose everything from speakers to the printer.

I used Kim's bed for my bedroom, but made sure it was covered "manly-like."

The bathroom was ultra modern and had every feature I've always wanted...the shower had multiple heads and a waterfall feature.

I was interrupted when it was time for the injection for the Comparison Scan.

Once back in the machine, I began planning my garage with a lift, cable hoist, and all the tools I'd need to begin building my Kit Cobra. Happily, money is no object in this kind of mind game.

I went upstairs to begin working on the guest bedrooms, baths, closets, and theater, but before I really got started there, the test was over.

I survived.

I went back home and then back to work awaiting the promised call. That came in at 4PM. The lady from my doctor's office said that they had indeed found a 1.9 cm - by 2.2 cm - by 2.3 cm cystic lesion on my brain pressing on my optical nerve.

That's a sphere about the size of a nickel or a shooter's marble. This is normally very operable through the nose, usually benign, and recovery is usually 100%...AND, the most visited clinic in the world for this operation is at University of Virginia, one hour up the road.

I was told to expect a call from a doctor's office there. I expected that today, but I guess that will happen tomorrow. If I don't hear from her office tomorrow, I'll call them.

I'm more than anxious to get the little critter out of my cranium.

Before I left the office today, I sent my Optometrist an e-mail to let her know how correct she was and how much I appreciated everything. There is a good chance she saved my eyesight.

Dr. Helen Fure, Hero!

Tuesday, 2 June, 2015: Hey Little Med Student Person. How YOU Doing?

I went to the doctor first thing this morning. My doc turned me over to this very adorable med student to ask all the questions, check reflexes, listen to my heart, take my blood pressure, and listen to my lungs.

She was really good and has a great bed-side manner, very thorough and professional. The only time she balked was when she had to ask about my erectile function. I expect she'll be a really good doctor one day.

My doc came in after, checked a few things, then had blood drawn and we scheduled an MRI for tomorrow.

Monday, 1 June: 2015: Stop Coming up on my Blind Sides

I went back to the Eye Doctor today to do a peripheral visual test on my eyes.

Going back is never a problem, because the doc is such a babe, but this time I was a bit apprehensive.

During last week's appointment, we discovered that my supposed need for new glasses was actually a dead spot in my right eye, right-of-center.

Today's test was a series of lights on a screen, that flashed around a center light, measuring first the right eye, then the left..

I was to look at the center light and press a button every time I saw a light around it. This became pretty stressful as it became perfectly clear to me that I was only seeing the little lights on the left of my right eye. Unexpectedly, the same happened on the left. My peripheral vision is gone....or, more accurately, fuzzy as hell.

So, what does this shit mean?

The Doctor explained that something has damaged my brain, possibly a stroke, or, and this what she thinks, I have "something compressing my optical nerves in the vicinity of my Pituitary Gland...most likely a tumor."

So. She called my doctor and set up an appointment for tomorrow morning at 0730 .

An MRI is already in the works and my Doc says he'll make that happen soonest.

In happier news, my Filson Jacket fits now. I've cut out sugar (except for the occasional Peanut M&M or spoonful of Jiff Extra-Crunchy), dairy products, and I'm eating a lot of vegetables and protein. I've dropped weight from 227 down to 214 as of this morning. I feel great and look a hell-of-a lot better.

Awesome! I'm going to be the best looking, fittest, blind guy in the whole world!

31 May, 2015: Summer Nights in Barrack

During the school year, Barracks teems with life. All of the cadet and institutional systems conspire for attention, that brings on a tumultuous clash of activity, beginning at Breakfast Roll Call formation and continues until Taps. Classes attend from 8 am and continue through the day until 4 pm.

At the Completion of Academic Duty, Cadets move to a variety of activities around Post. Athletes go to practice, clubs meet, homework begins, the Corps hits the gym and running trails, the First Classmen head downtown for a drink or too many and a bite to eat, buddies huddle around gaming systems, and a hundred other endeavors.

Barracks has its own sound, a tympani of cheering for games in the courtyard, the giggling and screams of silly girls, conversations on the stoops, music played too loudly, the cursing of some poor cadet whose hard drive crashed mid-project, and the occasional blast from a more-than-unauthorized Vuvuzela or some like contraption.

During the summer months, Barracks becomes a spooky, quiet place.

Darkness hides in the corners.

Strange shadows cast by the 4th Stoop lights form eerie shapes that seem to move as you walk from one spot to another. Small bits of paper, left in the 16 May rush to summer furlough, catch your eye, blown about in the wind trapped by the interior walls as it is scooped up by the parabolic front of Barracks and funneled into the arches.

Small sounds, never heard during the Fall and Spring, almost inaudible, capture your attention and are always impossible to locate as they reflect around the walls and into the courtyard.

The Moon plays her part.

It is truly a brave person who can walk the stoops in the dark this time of year.

I am not a superstitious person and I won’t do it.

Stories abound in this place of spirits who roam the buildings, especially Barracks.

Moans and tears have been reported coming from Virginia Morning Her Dead.

A ghostly sentinel wakes guard members for their shifts by knocking on doors, a yellow, ghastly face hovers around Gold Coast 3rd Stoop at 3:30 in the morning, blankets are ripped from atop sleeping cadets, and the mural in the chapel is said to move, bleed, or speak, if you are brave enough to visit JM Hall at midnight and say the names of the ten cadets killed at the Battle of New Market in 1864.

I bring two stories from my personal experience to this list of tales.

One from my first summer in Barracks of the distinct sound of furniture moving over a summer school student’s room, and try as we did to “catch” the prankster, no one was ever found, nor was there any furniture moved.

The other happened as 3rd Barracks was being built and I walked my family on a tour around the interior, headed from the arch to the Sally Port. As we passed each of the four doors along the first stoop, the doors slammed shut as we approached. I had the distinct feeling we were being told we weren’t welcome, but, surely, it was just the wind.

There are likely candidates for these visitations. There are Cadets who have died before the end of their cadetships, some say they could be the ten who died at New Market, or at least the six buried here on Post. Old Stonewall himself has been implicated and I have seen a photo that purports to contain his hovering image in Old Barracks Courtyard. There is one story of three cadets who died in a fire in room 226, but I have found that to be only VMI legend. My own additions to this list are the construction worker, Mr. Ray Porter, who died, falling 58 feet, during the construction of 3rd Barracks and a young Rat who died after a road march a few years back. Both are sad stories of entirely preventable tragedies. The very next Rat class that came in had a young man who lived in the same area on 3rd Barracks as our lost Rat. From day one, he claimed to see an apparition, that, when described, sounded exactly like our lost young man from the year before. Perhaps my slamming doors were Mr. Porter.

There are more recent candidates I could consider, but those stories are too close to home and too painful in the memory of those here for me to mention, but if this place draws spirits the way Alumni return, anything is possible.

For the last four nights, I have been living in Barracks, 3rd Barracks specifically. All of the summer session students are in New Barracks. I’m the only cookie in this jar.

As I walk Barracks through the night, 3rd barracks to New, or through the PX, perhaps even as far as Old Barracks, looking for kids up to no good, I look in the shadows. I turn to look behind me. I challenge 3:30 AM in Gold Coast. It’s not that I’m brave. Rather, I am curious.

I know there are things we don’t know about, things little understood, and I’m open to suggestions.

But, I am never going in JM Hall at Midnight.

24 May, 2015: Run Awayyyyy!

Kim and I just got home, and I need a Weekend Off.

This morning was more of the same. Cooper and I went for a long walk while the girls slept in. By the time we got back, they were up "doing stuff."

I was tasked to move the Mulch from E's 4-Runner, move the extra washer and dryer and refrigerator to the corner, and then there was a picture to hang.

I mentioned BREAKFAST a couple of times, but that request fell on deft ears. Finally, about 10 am I pitched a wobbler and got everyone moving to the car...not without some ridicule.

Brunch, because it sure-as-hell wasn't breakfast time, was at Cracker Barrel, and I went for Eggs, Bacon, Buscuits and a LOT of Coffee.

Payback came at Lowes. I bought a 3/8" bolt to drill out a broken dowel in a shelf and a 1 3/4" hole saw to drill a place for E's new garden umbrella in her new garden table. Then there was a squirrel feeder to mount on the fence (Hello. Mary Baldwin Grad), and a new utility shelf to put together. Just when I thought I was done, a new American Flag appeared that needed to be mounted to the front porch.

When I walked back in the door, I was advised that I was running late and that we needed to get on the road. In my defense, I had been packed and ready to go since 8:30 am, but, Oh, NOW I'M LATE.

The drive home wasn't too painful, except for the wreck on I-64 right at the Charlottesville Exit. It was a bad one.

23 May, 2015: Birthday Bess!

I got up early this morning to take Cooper out for his morning constitutional and breakfast, then drove to get breakfast for Kady and me. After Breakfast I took Bess for a drive around Newport news to celebrate our 10th Anniversary, or, as I call it, her 10th Birthday.

I picked her up this day in 2005 from Town and Country Ford in Bessemer Alabama, and then drove her straight to the lake house where the whole family was hanging out.

Barbara and I made some great photos of her with the lake in the background, so I thought it would be fitting to have a little water in the background for this year.

I like to call the 2005 Mustang “The Car That Saved America” and I think this is pretty accurate.

Before the 2005 Mustang, the American auto industry had lost its way. Ford was the only car company making money and the only one who still had a pony car. When they came out with the retro-styled 2005 Mustang, Detroit and the whole world stood up and took notice. The ’05 was a sharp looking car with 300 normally aspirated horse power right off the showroom floor. It was affordable, drivable, and very basic. It sold like hotcakes, so much so, that I couldn’t find a GT anywhere in Virginia or back home in Birmingham.

I drove out to Bessemer, where Town and Country Ford had ten Roush Sports on the lot.

Since this car came out, Chevy has returned the Camaro and restyled the Corvette. Dodge has reintroduced the Charger and the ever-beautiful Challenger.

Finally, the car magazines had American Horsepower to write about and it was overdue.

23 May, 2015: Never have a daughter; they are smarter than you!

As Memorial Day weekend approached, E asked me if I would watch Cooper from Thursday Night until Monday night, so that she and J could “go to Georgia for his Grandmother’s birthday and so (she) could meet his parents.” How could I say no?

She promised to buy me groceries so I could continue with the way I’ve been eating (down 14 pounds, thank you very much), and promised a nice, relaxing, weekend to myself.

Kady was to drive to Birmingham at the same time and then meet me back at Lexington on Tuesday.

About Monday, the week before, things began to change. Now Kady would go to Charlottesville to watch Em, while Jay and KS went to a concert, after which she would drive to Newport News.

Then J found out he’s have to go on TDY, cancelling all their plans as the Army is apt to do at any given moment.

After working my ass off at work, starting the summer school process and closing down the academic year by sorting out equipment, re-arranging the flag room, moving ammo to the park, clearing the shotgun safe, collecting the Cadet Battery equipment, and a thousand other things, I got on the road about 4 pm Thursday night.

On arrival, I was informed of the plan to “clean up the back garden.” I distinctly heard E tell _____, “Mom and I will do it; all dad needs to do is watch Cooper.” I believed that Bull Shit.

Friday Morning, I found myself at Home Depot, picking up weed killer, bags of crushed Marble, and a garden rake. Next came weed pulling, deconstruction of the old mulch areas, shoveling, wheel barrowing, pressure washing, and lots and lots of raking. This all seems like a plausible turn of events, but, with a bit of tequila in me, I begin to subscribe to a different narrative, one where everyone is culpable, including _____.

Surely, I arrived in Newport News knowing E and Cooper would be there, as would Kim, but also thinking that I’d have nothing to do but watch and walk Cooper, read my books, listen to my music, and watch a few movies. Little did I know that I was being conspired against by the most cleaver, devious person I know—My Own Daughter. I can hear her saying—“Just act like he’s coming to watch Cooper for the weekend. You act like you were actually taking me to Georgia, but now have to go on a TDY trip. Mom, you act like this was not your plan, but hang out for the weekend in case I meet with resistance. Once he’s here, we’ll shame him into doing whatever we want. We’ll work his old ass into the ground and get whatever we want done. Joel, you bring over a wheelbarrow and a pressure washer, but not to early; we don’t want him to see it coming.”

However it went down, it was a friggin' chore, but it’s done.

Or, so I think.

18 May, 2015: Pennsylvania and Back

Summer School begins today. I went in this morning, sorted out the Summer Guard Room, raised the flags, and posted the rules.

I probably won't get any students signing in until this afternoon, but I'm ready.

Kady and I got back last night around 7 pm, in time for Game of Thrones.

The whole family went to Pittsburg Pennsylvania for Jay's Masters graduation exercises at Carnegie Mellon. I loved Pittsburg. What a fun place!

Everywhere we went, people were polite and friendly, the city were great, and the food yummy.

The commencement exercise was a bit unorganized, but I guess that's just the way civilians do things. How hard is it to go back to your assigned seat after you get your diploma? Hell, you just got your masters degree and you can't go back to your seat.

After graduation we all went to a great brewery in an old church, Church Brew Works, where the beer was good and the food better. I got the shrimp and grits and they rivaled any I've had in New Orleans, Savannah, or North Carolina. I highly recommend this place, unless you are sensitive about religion. We all thought it funny that the beer was made in the apse; others might not see the humor. Certainly, the stain glass windows were beautiful and wonderfully restored.

I had a lot of Cooper time on Friday and a bit on Saturday. That was good for me; I miss him.

On the way back, Kady and I took a side trip to visit the Flight 93 Memorial. It is well visited, and everyone was quiet and respectful. The whole atmosphere was solemn and sad. I think they did the park just right by taking a minimalistic approach. It was good to see people bring their kids there...kids who were not born when the event happened. Never Forget!

The 4th Class FTX went well...no problems. One kid tried to hack off his finger with a Kukri while chopping wood. Of course, it is against the rules to have anything but a folding knife out there, but I guess that didn't apply to him. Knucklehead. He had to be put on emergency medical furlough for surgery. Other wise, things went amazingly well.

6 May, 2015: Bess's Behind Foots

I got Bess back from the shop last night. It was expensive, but I'll chalk it up as Stage 1 of the plan to take her to 200,000 miles. It took me a while to convince the Ford place here in Lexington that when I said I'd leave it with them, I didn't mean for two weeks.

I took them three days to look at the car, two more to get in the parts, and then two more to begin and finish the work. I know they aren't that damn busy.

5 May, 2015: Final's Week

This week is Finals Week at VMI. The kids are hunkered down in the books and behind their computers, studying, writing, and preparing presentations, which gives me the time I need to prepare for the 4th Class NCMT FTX ,which begins Sunday.

I have team packets to build, food to confirm, vehicles to pick up, toilets to position, and about ten things, from ammo to bug spray, to gather.

Happily, E and Cooper come in day-after-tomorrow, which will be Happy Time before the field. Can't wait.

Sunday, I'll depart for the George Washington National Forest with about 425 4th Class Cadets (freshmen) with Cadre and OPFOR for 15 miles across some very rugged terrain. It's a test, I'll tell you.

Thank you Magnus for the best time of my whole year.

Hopefully Bess comes back from the shop today. I had a bearing going bad and a leak in the backend, so I decided to do a complete overhaul of bearings and seals.

This is nothing unusual for a Ford with 110,000 miles.

Next should be the alternator or water pump. One thing I know is that I need to drive her about once a week.

A nice Sunday Drive would do her a world of good and do me good as well.

3 May, 2014: Jk Man Weekend

I had OC Friday night and it was pretty quiet.

I boned some simple shit like Disturbances During Evening CQ, but that's about it.

Once the Chap relieved me, Kady and I drove to Charlottesville to see Jake's baseball game. That was fun, but none of the kids, including Jake could hit the ball thrown by the machine.

After the game, we brought Jake back to Lex, stopping twice at McDonalds, which may have been more about the toy in the Kid's Meal, a run into Wal-Mart for a skate board, and a return trip to Wal-Mart for a scooter which he "...really wanted, but Granddaddy made me feel like it was too expensive."

I get blamed for everything.

In my defense, I said was "Pick out what you want."

Well, the Scooter was the big hit of the day. He and the kids next door spent the balance of the day tearing up VMI on their scooters, Jake's being a huge hit because it made sparks when he stomped on the brakes.

21 April, 2015: Manteo, NC

I took two days leave for family time on the Outer Banks last weekend. Wednesday night I drove Cooper to Newport News, while Kady watched Jake, Em, and Brasco. The kids, for some reason spent $4 each to go see Snoop Dog in "Concert." $4! Rediculous.

After linking up in Newport News on Thursday morning, we all drove to Manteo and Roanoke Island. The Girls had a great plan for chow with KS making Breakfast and Kim and E making dinners of Pizza, Lasagna, and Pesto Chicken.

I supported E while she did her thing, another reason for the weekend, a 5-K on Saturday and a Half-Marathon on Sunday.

I wasn't running, but Cooper and I drove her to the start on Sunday and picked her up after the run. For me it was a great weekend of Kim, grand kids and kids, long Cooper walks, beach time, excellent chow, and fun with the boys.

Jay, Jake and I drove go-karts, bumper cars, played pirate golf, and Jake schooled us on Air Hockey (really). The boy kicked my ass!

The house was great, right on Roanoke Sound looking at Nags head, with a huge deck out back, where I read, listened to my music, and relaxed.

It was GREAT! I'm looking forward to next year.

11 April, 2015: NCMT Range

Yesterday, Ech, Bean, and I ran the NCMT Range for the 4th Class. The Cadre did a great job and we fired about 400 kids, in firing orders of 15, on the M14, M4, and M9.

It was a good day.

Every day at the range is a good day.

10 April, 2015: Appomattox

COL B and I took sixteen Cadets to Appomattox, by invitation, to the 150th anniversary ceremonies.

We stopped by the Museum of the Confederacy as we arrived in town, and they let us in free-of-charge. This is an amazing museum and the amount of artifacts are overwhelming.

Here you can see uniform items, swords, pistols, and rifles of just about every Confederate General Officer. There are a number of stories told in this museum I've never seen told anywhere else, my favorite being the map of where Southerners fled rather than live under the tyranny of the victorious North.

Outside, the Cadets found some fun. They talked a group of artillerymen into letting them fire a cannon. These guys taught them crew drill, made them rehearse and learn the commands, then let the Cadets fire the thing. It was darn fun to watch.

Once we arrived at the National Park, we did a recon of the site at McLean House where we would form a Cordon for Lee's departure after the surrender. It was a pretty simple mission, showing the flag and helping with crowd control. Even with all the cameras and cell phones, it was still a bit like seeing the event for real and it was emotional.

The actors did a good job following the Historical events, the best being General Grant doffing his hat to Lee and Lee returning the gesture before he rode away. I don't think there was a dry eye in the crowd when that happened.

The cadets were highly visible in White Blouse, having their photos taken with loads of pretty girls and friends of the Institute, but by the end of the day, we were all a muddy mess.

On the way back we had dinner at El Mariachi in Amherst, a nice little place that I had been with Leaun and Erin a few years back.

The food as pretty decent, but I really didn't like their Fish Tacos.

6 April, 2015: Ishtar Break

The Family got together for "Resurrection Sunday" at E's. I drove to Newport News on Friday after work. Jay, KS, Jake and Em arrived a couple of hours later. Seeing Cooper was good. I missed him.

Saturday was uneventful, except putting E's car in the shop for tires and service, and a walk down to the new City Center Boulevard bridge for the opening. E is excited about this bridge, with goes over the railroad tracks for its convenience and because it has the only hill close to her house for her hill routine.

The first night was rough. Little Em was an ill little baby, coughing, running a low grade fever, and crying all night long. Everyone in the house was awake with her.

Kendall came in on Sunday brunch, driving his 2013 Boss 302 Laguna Seca down from Alexandria. What a car! He let me drive it and I took it up and down Jefferson Avenue at speed. He told me to redline it, but I refused, still, we broke the sound-barrier a few times.

Happily, no ticket.

I brought Kady back home with me last night. Jake too. It's good to have other sounds in the house. The last two weeks were pretty boring but the time went fast. The Spring FTX kept me pretty busy.

Bess and I took a drive to Humpback Bridge for a few photos.

I took the team out shooting and then to Tong Dynasty for supper on Tuesday.

This week is full. The Corps comes back tonight, The last day of NCMT is Tuesday. I'm taking a group of cadets to Appomattox on Thursday for the 15th anniversary, and then I have the 4th Class Range on Saturday. Sunday is Game of Thrones Premier Day. I have OC all day. I can't believe I'll miss the premier. Next week will be short.

I'll be leaving on Wednesday night for the Outer Banks for four days.

Monday, 23 March, 2013: Mission Complete

Today's mission to reunite Mom and Puppy was a success.

Yesterday, friends came in from all over, J from Richmond, KS and Em from Charlottesville, all to spend the night and get up early to go see the redeployment ceremony. We left the house at 7:30 am and drove through the back gate to McClellan Physical Fitness Center.

Though it started a bit late, once it started, the entire ceremony was only about ten minutes long.

Cooper met E on the sidewalk as she approached the house and He was all about her. It was the best thing ever.

Now we're all just sitting around watching CNN like nothing happened. Better.

As soon as KS goes, I'm taking a NAP!

Saturday, 21 March, 2013: Cooper Prepp

Yesterday was Cooper preparation for E's return. I took him for a wash and blow dry at Femmes and Fidos, a foo-foo place just down the street. I love this place, actually. It is so much better than the places in Rockbridge County; the people are nice, the place is clean, and they act as if they actually love dogs.

They cleaned his ears, ground down his claws, and he looked REALLY fluffy when I picked him up. While he was being beautified, Kady and I went to lunch at her favorite place, Chedder's. I'll have to admit it was darn good, but I need some Shrimp and Grits.

I goofed off the rest of the day.

Today is more house Prep. We set up E's bedroom yesterday, so All I had to do today was put away a few things, from her closet to the attic, to finish that. Then, with the amount of people closing in tomorrow for the ceremony on Monday, I had to put the day bed together in the little guestroom; we'll need the bed space. I'll finish E's Truck today as well. All I needed was a hose and a bottle or Armorall.

Today is the day for that! It is beautiful out there.

Wednesday, 18 March, 2015: Hampton Roads

Kim, Jay, and I packed the cars and a trailer, and then drove to Newport News on Sunday. Jay left after helping me unpack the trailer to the Garage and after a bit of lunch from Schlotzsky's. Kady spent the rest of the day looking around, getting Cooper settled, and putting two beds together for a night's sleep. I was too sore from that little move and too keyed-up from pulling the trailer to get much rest, and I found myself walking Cooper at about midnight. I think he, too, was unnerved by the trip and new surroundings to get much rest.

Monday was spent setting up the dining room table, chairs, and couches so we would have some where to sit. I found the base to the TV and Kady the screws to that,, all in different places. Silly.

Tuesday's main mission was to get the Cable and Internet set up. The guy arrived on time and got it all going, but it started cutting off and re-cycling after he left. Luckily, E had his personal number, so we called him and had him come back--no problems since.

I also planned to wash E's car, but never got to it. The internet is a huge waste of time.

Cooper is settling in well. He's such a smart boy. He remembers all his old favorite places. He practically drug me to the dog park and immediately sat so that I could open the gate. He has a great time there. Then he went looking for Josey, a dog friend of his who lived, obviously, around the corner from his old house. Then we went to the entrance of E's old apartment. He was very confused when we left without going in.

After a trip around his old park, he took me, on suggestion, to find Sutton's house, another dog friend, and pet of one of E's high school friends.

Happily, I have him back on his routine, though he has been a little finicky about his food lately. He needs his Mom. I'm sure he can smell her among all her things.

We have five days left until the Captain gets out of quarantine. We'll begin unpacking some of her stuff today, and I plan to get around to the car when it warms up.

Monday, we'll bring her back here and we don't want her to walk into a mess. I'm writing this in HTML and that system automatically changes my two-spaces after a sentence to the new, and WRONG, one-space. I hate that when I see it. It's like hearing news commentators say "pleaded" instead of pled, or fingernails on a blackboard.

Of course That is easily fixed if you don't mind typing five characters between each line.

Thursday, 5 March, 2015: My Name? I'm not really sure.

In better news, E is home from Liberia. She's in quarantine for the next 18 days, but at least she's out of that nasty place. I can't wait for the stories.

We'll see her right after Spring Break for a couple of days. After that, I imagine myself "Batching It," with Kady there helping E settle. E takes command of her company today, and I'm writing this as Kady and I wait for the ceremony to begin, which we'll watch on Face Time.

Last night, I had a weird mental episode. I'm writing about it here in case it re-occurs, I'll know when it happened. I had a fruitful day at work, accomplishing a lot of things I needed to do, completely organized and rocking along. I helped at the Range for the 3rd class marksmanship program through lunch, went home for a bite to eat, and then back to the office to check on things. I went home a little after 4 to walk Cooper.

On our walk, I felt a little "off." Walking Cooper is usually a very active conversation, though one-sided, as I encourage him to take care of business so we can get out of the cold, rain, snow, or whatever the nasty weather has thrown at us for the last three months. Yesterday, for the life of me, I couldn't remember his commands or things that I normally say. My sentences were broken and sometimes gibberish. I had trouble thinking of the right word. I felt confused.

It scared me a little. I made Kady drive to supper when she, Sandi, and I went to Muchacho Alegre. On the trip there, my speech was still broken and disjointed, but got a lot better once I got some food and ice tea in me. I'm chalking it up to being tired, maybe a little dehydrated, and hungry. BUT, I'll keep an eye out for further episodes like it.

We're supposed to get slammed with more snow today, but so far, all we're getting is rain. It's pretty warm out there, so maybe we'll get through the day without more of the white stuff or the Ice and Sleet the weather folks are predicting. Come On Spring!

Last Wednesday, Kady and I went to see Jay, KS, Jk, and Em. Jk beat me out of my S&W pocket knife, at least for a while and Em won my heart by snuggling into my arms and sleeping. They are both little dolls, though Jk is growing up so quickly. I can see him asking to drive Bess any day now.

We got about 4 more inches of snow today.

Monday, 23 February, 2015: Mr. Lexus Man, or not.

Jury Duty was a bust. I felt like the kid at recess that no one picks for football.

Actually, I WAS that kid, so it brought back painful memories.

I was at the bottom of the random list of twenty-four, and they needed only seven. So, after the vetting process, I was told I was not needed. Probably good.

The defendant, who was contesting a charge of "Failure to obey a road sign" was representing himself. What is it they say about fools in the courtroom? Well, he looked like a shyster lawyer, with his shiny suit, pointed shoes, Kennedy hair, and long sideburns.

The lawyer sitting next to him, to "advise" him, looked like John Belusi in Animal House and HIS suit looked like it was a size too small which he had to pull out of the clothes hamper this morning.

My Opinion began forming before the trial ever started. I wrote to my fb friends:

They let me go when I said, "He looks like a W&L philosophy professor who was probably driving his Lexus far beyond his limited abilities when he lost control."

I didn't actually say that, but I was sure thinking those very words.

I looked over a the deputy who still had the "What a Wanker" look still on his face and knew I was right. I've seen that same look in the faces of the cops who responded when I cut down the telephone pole with Mom's 1971 Dodge Charger. I can see him careening off Highway 39, because the 25 MPH curve sign didn't apply to his amazing skills and, by god, he was driving a Lexus, or Acura, or Saburu, or... You get the drift.

I wonder if this was the guy who was trying to keep up with me on 39 the other day.


Saturday, 21 February, 2015: "2-4 inches, maybe 4-6 inches, we aren't really sure..."

White-out conditions continue here in the Northern South. What the Weather Channel has been touting as a major snow storm called Pandora, has arrived and we've gotten 8 inches at last check...on top of the four that have been hanging around since Monday.

Happily Cooper has learned he can't hold it, and the temperature has gone up a bit, so trips out are shorter and less painful. I spent last night in Barracks for one of our Night OCs with a good plan, wanting to make it home for the weekend. I was more than willing to do that for him.

I walked the stoops a bit, then went to bed after Taps. I was home in time for Cooper's morning walk at 0630 . UKY cancelled their Clay target match, so we didn't have to brave the weather on the roads between here in there, and we didn't lose any money.

Hopefully, they can reschedule for a time that is good for us, but those weekends are few and far between. Because of the money involved, I had every intention of at least trying to go, but it would have been a miserable time, even if we had made it.

Better they cancelled.

I heard no grumbling from the team about it.

The snow seems to be tapering off this afternoon. I certainly hope we get the rain they promised for tomorrow to begin washing this crap away.

Saturday, 14 Feb, 2015: a Crazy Week

I had a dental appointment Monday afternoon, just a cleaning, but the doc found a chipped tooth. That meant another trip for a new filling on Thursday morning. I put in motion the process to have two of my teeth crowned. That should be nice and costly.

Tuesday, I had Trap and Skeet and New Cadet Military Training, but got Ech to check on First Aid and I covered practice. I was able to pop over to see the Land Nav Stations that were out at McKethan Park as we stopped firing. That went well, but It looks like I may have to take over First Aid. That is not going as planned.

Wednesday I took a small funeral detail to Waynesboro for one of the Commandant's Brother Rats. That went well, but took up the whole day. I took two ushers , a bugler for Taps, and a piper to play Amazing Grace. The ushers folded the flag and the Commandant presented the flag to the widow.

I got back from the dentist, sore as hell, in the early afternoon, giving me a half day to catch up on work.

Friday I took a day off to watch Cooper while, Kady went to Newport News to have the gas turned on at my daughter's house. I took Cooper to the groomer for a bath, trim, and claw grinding.

He looked like a different dog when I picked him up. He looked like he had a better time this time. There were a lot of little dogs running around and he loves that. Today is the Mid-Winter formal and I'm not playing. I'm tired of going out to the hotels and taking care of a bunch of drunken college kids. It is ridiculous.

Let the cops deal with them if they get out of hand.

Every time I go out there, I put my livelihood on the line. All it would take is for one kid to drink himself to death, one girl to pass out and get assaulted, or one kid to take a swing at one of us and, poof, there goes the job.

I can see the headlines now: Teenager dies at drunken party, supported by school, while former soldier/school administrator "in charge" sleeps. The headline will fail to mention that the incident took place in a closed room, at 4 am, and that he probably got the alcohol from his Alumni dad or an upperclassman It will be the guy who was paid to be out at the hotel in case something bad happened that will take the heat. In my estimation, we are only encourage bad behavior and dangerous action by protecting them from the law. We need to squash this hotel drink-fest.

Sunday, 8 February, 2015: Em Day

I've got a LOT of good stuff to do today.

I'll start by cleaning Kim's Car and putting the clean Air Filter on Bess.

The day looks like it's going to be a nice one so I need to get Cooper out for a good walk and a fetch.

I think I'll try to clean out the workout room and put the bed there in the guest room.

Yesterday, Kady and I drove to see Jay and KS...no...really...Em. Kady got to see her on Wednesday last week, but this was my first time to hold her.

The little thing fell asleep on my chest and stayed there for almost two hours. I was in heaven. She is a doll. I refused to move as long as she was comfortable, and ate my Jimmy John's sandwich over her little head. I'm afraid I may have dropped a few crumbs on her face. She didn't seem to mind.

When we got home, I took Cooper to the Lacrosse Field for a walk and a fetch . He and I had a blast.

In the evening, I took the Regimental Color Guard to Roanoke to post the colors for a Pro Rough Stock event. It was my first rodeo and it was a blast.

Friday Night, 6 February, 2015: The Grand Daughter's Arrival

We got Jay's mass text message during the Super Bowl. He and KS were taking Jake to Barbara's, Brasco to the kennel, and headed to the Hospital. He let us know about half-time that KS was being admitted and that we should come on whenever we want.

Kady and I finished watching the game (Pats Won!...after the most unintelligible play call in the history of modern football), packed an overnight bag, and left for Charlottesville.

The wait was long and uncomfortable.

I have to assume the chairs and couched were purchased for the waiting room for the purpose of discouraging sleeping. It was an incredibly uncomfortable 14 hours. After 24-hours of labor, at 2:05 pm , KS gave birth to a beautiful 9lb, 10oz, 21-and-a-half inch, healthy baby girl.

Enter Miss Em.

We got our first look at her through the glass of the nursery. She was a BIG little girl, and so beautiful. Her grand daddy was smitten immediately.

Kady and I came back home as KS recovered.

Tuesday was the first day of NCMT, and I took the time to watch First Aid training. It was good information, but weak in its presentation. I swear, next year, I'm going to teach it myself. I just can never, except for one year, get the EMTs to take it seriously. What I need to do is hire a Medical NCO.

Wednesday, we held practice Parade at CTT. We dressed everyone up in Overcoat, full Dyke, with Arms, and marched them around the muddy Parade Field for an hour. RIDICULOUS! Fridley!

We would have been better served by Drill on the Bricks and a Key leaders practice in ACUs, but No. Now uniforms, including and especially everyone's dress shoes are trashed. It will take till the end of next week to get shoes clean on about 10% of the Corps.

Kady went to Newport News in the morning, so I had Cooper all day. I had to crate him during this practice, which I didn't like either. That night, I took Chris'es OC so he could go to the White House. Kady made it home, even with a stop-over to see the baby, in time to take care of Cooper in the early evening.

Thursday, I scrubbed Trap and Skeet practice for the cold. The wind in Lexington took the temperature that afternoon down to 18 degrees. I'm guessing that, out at the Range, it would feel more like 10 or 12 degrees. I was not going out in that. I heard no complaints from the team.

Friday was supposed to be more pain and mess on the Parade field, but, as if a gift from the gods, a water main burst right in front of Barracks, prompting Parade to be cancelled...so, basically, Wednesday's nonsense was for absolutely Nothing!

Sunday Morning, 25 January, 2105: Rolling into the Spring Semester

I took a photo of Cooper sitting in my car the other day and posted it on face book.

People, including two buddies who are deputies, immediately noticed that my state inspection was 9 months past due. This is a sad indicator of how infrequently I drive poor Bess, a combination of the miles on her, the weather, and how busy I am.

She's dirty, needs a wax, and the air filter needs cleaning. I need a free and clear warm weekend.

The first two weeks of classes saw the start-up of New Cadet Military Training and Trap and Skeet. We gave the Rats their NCMT Briefing on Thursday, and Alex, the CIC, did a great job...better than most any year before.

We had one day of shooting and we didn't grade it, letting the team get back to shooting after Furlough. I had the Brief on Thursday and SFC Buck couldn't make it, so I had to cancel Thursday practice.

Sarah came in town yesterday and joined us at the basketball game against Citadel. The team played good ball and we beat them by 10 points. We were ahead by over 20 at times. but at the end of the game, with three of our players in foul trouble, we let them shoot without chancing a foul. They were too far behind to catch up.

After the game, Chris came by with Sarah, and for over an hour, we talked about...wait for it...COOPER.

That's what my life has become...dog stories.

Sunday, 18 January, 2015: REMF

This weekend I was supposed to go with the NCOs and a few Cadets to the National Forest and conduct a train-the-trainer exercise for New Cadet Military Training. I was all packed and ready to go when I got a call that a very prominent Alumni and passed away and that the funeral would be Saturday in Salem.

The family was requesting a Piper and three ushers in Cadet uniform, and the late notice made that a problem. I asked the C1C and Major Burt to send me names and I didn't get them until after everyone departed for the range.

Saturday morning, I drove them down to Salem, stopping for lunch, and then to the church for the service. The service was about two hours long, attended by two senators, and a large throng of folks from that area of Virginia. The lads did great and everyone was very appreciative.

I got back to Lex just before Dark and the guys told me that training was complete and that there was no need to come out. I feel like such a POG, but honoring such a man as Cabell Brand '44 was as important to the mission as the training.

It's good to have great guys like Ech and Bean to take charge and do things. Hell, this was their trip, I was just strap-hanging anyway, but I did have a few things I wanted to accomplish out there.

Oh Well.

The first week of classes was uneventful, except one cadet, one of our star basketball players, was sent home on Medical Furlough. I wish I had had in-put on that decision. VMI is the best place for the young man and I was trying to work with him. I hope he gets his ass back here.

I need to go have a word with a few people.

I should have been called when the situation arose.

Sunday, 4 January, 2015: Jay and KSN's

Last day of Christmas Leave. Going to Jay and KSN's for late lunch.

Feeling Better...except for the dreams.

Thursday, 1 January, 2015: Happy New Year

Happy New Year.

I spent my NYE with Kady but got in bed by 10:30 pm. I think I may have heard a fire cracker or two, but the effects of the flu are still weighing heavily.

I woke Cooper up for a change, then we went to put up flags.

2014 was eventful.

Jay and KS got married and then pregnant. E deployed with little notice to Africa to help with the Ebola outbreak, giving us a Cooper to watch until she returns. We got a new Commandant, and I gave up Hotel Company to give me more time as Sergeant Major. Jay finished his masters. The flu for Christmas was very unwelcome. 2015 promises to be as eventful with the arrival of Baby Em, E's safe return from Liberia, and Jay's graduation ceremony for his masters degree from Carnegie-Mellon.

Three and a half years to go at VMI.

Can I make it?