Thursday, September 24, 2009

Retail Therapy

Ahhh.... Sweet Relief. I feel a little like Jonny, in need of a nice, long break... Well, I survived the visit from my family. All in all it went well, and I was glad to have the chance to spend time with my aunt, cousin, and even my Mother. I was pretty much right on target with my 72-hour Mom Tolerance Window... somewhere around hour 75 she called me "middle-aged" and told me to cut my hair. Apparently 41-year-old "matrons" shouldn't have long hair. Or listen to loud rock and roll music. It all kinda went downhill from there. *Sigh.* Anyway, had a great time with my cousin, and it was lovely to see my 80-year-old aunt again. She's a hoot. And now, Thank God, they've gone home. I took the fam to the airport just outside Baltimore yesterday morning. After ushering them through the check-in process and watching to ensure they made it through security (never quite sure what my Mom may try to "smuggle" aboard her flight), I almost skipped back to my car. The first thing I did was turn up my stereo - LOUD - and blast out some Velvet Revolver (Slash, Baby, how I missed you!). Then I headed down the road for a little Retail Therapy. There is a huge, world-class, upscale outlet mall about 3 miles from the airport. Now, I'm not much of a shopper, but I have been known to enjoy a good sale. I have been looking for a new pair of black boots, and I need some new work clothes, so I figured...WTF. Indulge my "Girly" side. That's not quite how it worked out.... I spent about 4 hours at the mall, working my way around the huge racetrack of designer and upscale outlets. I was actually quite surprised that I found some things I needed... and LOTS of things that I wanted. But I kept repeating my mantra ("Tour Tickets... Tour Tickets....") and managed to keep myself reasonably within check. I only bought things for which I have a legitimate need. Until I hit the one store that always seems to be my undoing. Perhaps you've heard of it... "Kenneth Cole NYC" ? And everything was 30% off of the markdown price. Drat! I've loved Kenneth Cole's stuff since even before Jonny signed on with the RSVP to Help project. It's just my style. So of course I couldn't resist. I walked out of there with a couple t-shirts (from the RSVP line, thank you very much!) and the most GORGEOUS jacket. My little splurge to celebrate making it through the week without commiting Matricide. So I went to the food court for lunch (sat next to a bunch of Nuns eating tacos, LOL!), and contemplated my purchases as I nibbled at my Subway sandwich. It was then I realized that... I've been spending WAY too much time in Jon Bon Jovi's head. Among my purchases: One black v-neck t-shirt from Kenneth Cole One pair of dark-wash premium denim jeans One pair of black leather boots with low stacked heel (that will undoubtedly be scuffed soon) One pair of pewter-rimmed, smoke tinted sunglasses Sound familiar? Crap, all I gotta do is add the black cap (I actually have one that is similar) and I'm practically a female JBJ. Without the money, looks, or talent. Wow. Self-awareness can be scary sometimes. But at least I'm fashionably self-aware.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Happy Birthday, Air Force!

You're lookin' good for age 62... Many of you know I am an Air Force Veteran. I spent 13 years on active duty, most of it in law enforcement. However, before I became a Special Agent I was honored to work in two large aircraft maintenance units; one at McGuire AFB, New Jersey and the other at Luke AFB, Arizona. Both squadrons had over 800 active duty airmen assigned; about 15 officers and 775+ enlisted men and women. I was doubly-blessed in those two units: my Commanders were good, honorable, and decent men who were the best role models imaginable, and the Noncommissioned Officers (NCOs) who served under me were brave, dedicated, and patient men and women who helped gently (and sometimes not-so-gently) "grow" me from a clueless and naive young "butterbar" into a confident, capable, and compassionate junior officer. I will be forever thankful to those NCOs; one of the proudest days of my life was the first time one called me "L.T." instead of "Lieutenant." I knew then that I had earned respect, and that I was doing something right. On the flight lines in Jersey and Arizona I saw the blue-collar Air Force in action. I carried tool boxes and slung gear with the Crew Chiefs, I hung bombs off fighters with the Armament Techs, I counted missiles and bullets with the Ammo Crew (IYAAYAS!!!), I packed parachutes with the Life Supporters, and I worried over depot and flight schedules with the Maintenance Officers. I learned what it REALLY meant to be an Airman, with a capital "A." The experiences I had on the flight line early in my career gave me the appreciation for the heart of the Air Force that would serve me well in my law enforcement career. It helped me understand the culture and lifestyle of the men and women, and their families, who are the backbone of our national defense. And it gave me the courage and resolve to take the sometimes difficult, sometimes gut-wrenching steps necessary to enforce the law and the Uniform Code of Military Justice against those who dishonored the uniform and their fellow Airmen. Today, September 18, 2009, marks the Air Force's 62nd birthday. The Air Force was originally part of the U.S. Army, but was created as a separate branch of the U.S. Military by the National Security Act of 1947. The Air Force is by far the youngest military branch (and the BEST!) There are currently over 327,000 officers and enlisted men and women on active duty, another 115,000+ in the Reserves, and over 106,000 in the Air National Guard. Additionally, the Air Force employs over 171,000 civilian personnel, who are very much part of the Air Force family. The Commander, Air Mobility Command, had this to say about this auspicious occasion: On Sept. 18, 1947, our Air Force became a separate branch of the military. Since then our unequalled accomplishments have helped provide a beacon of hope for men, women and children all over the world. The Air Force's birthday is an ideal time to celebrate this heritage and the people who have made and continue to make it all possible. During the Berlin Airlift, our veteran Airmen delivered 2.2 million tons of cargo to a city desperately in need. Today, our AMC, Air Force Reserve Command, and Air National Guard Airmen continue this honorable tradition as they work together to achieve unprecedented results around the globe. Our success does come at a price as evidenced by the many sacrifices of our Airmen and their families. While our people work long hours and endure time away from home, their families remain steadfast in providing unyielding support and care for our personnel as they make history every day. Take time on Sept. 18 to remember and recognize the superior contributions our Air Force has made to this great nation. Also take time to remember the sacrifices that Airmen and their families have made to found the freedoms that we enjoy today. For that, I am honored and thankful to be among you wearing the Air Force uniform. I am honored to have served alongside these amazing men and women of the U.S. Air Force, and to have been a part of a glorious history. Happy Birthday, Air Force! To my Brothers and Sisters in Blue -- Good Luck and GodSpeed.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Mother Superior

There's a certain level of insanity that only a mother can drive one to.
My mother is coming to visit tomorrow, along with my aunt and my cousin. I'm looking forward to the visit, for this is my Very Favorite Aunt coming to see me. We always have the BEST time together. In fact, my own Mom often comments that I am much more like my aunt than I am her.
I'm also really looking forward to seeing my cousin, whom I haven't seen in more than five years. She is a cardiothoracic nurse, and one of the funniest people on the planet. And a Jovi fan to boot. Yeah, we're gonna have a good time.
Our guests will be here for a week, taking in the sights of the Washington, DC area. I will be playing tour guide part of the time, and hiding part of the time. (I'll probably have to hide in my bathroom with my laptop to post my Jovi-Porn, so be warned!)
Now, before you start to wonder why I haven't said I'm looking forward to my MOTHER visiting, let me go on the record and say I AM looking forward to seeing her.
For a little while.
Don't get me wrong, I love my mother. She is an amazing woman, and I am so very grateful for all the things she has taught and given me throughout my life -- even when the lessons were administered under the heading of "Tough Love" or "Because I Said So." I hope I am half the Mom to my daughter that she has been to me.
But I have about a 72-hour tolerance window with her. Then things start to get a little iffy.
One of the many things I inherited from my mother is a compulsive perfectionist streak. Another thing I inherited is a stubbornly independent streak. Both of these traits have served me well in my chosen professions and in life, and I have learned how to harness them to use my powers for good rather than evil (most of the time).
But that all goes out the window when Mom is around. Now, Mom comes from good German stock. She grew up on a dairy farm in Kansas, where you worked from sunup 'til sundown, and went to school for a couple hours in between. My grandfather immigrated from Germany when he was a teenager, and he instilled his work ethic in all of his five children. They in turn passed it on to (most of) their children.
I'm like my mother in that I'm not afraid of a little hard work. I'm also not immune to her criticism, no matter how veiled or sugar-coated it might be. And that's why I'm sitting here at 1:30 in the morning writing this (somewhat therapeutic) rant/post.
Because I have spent the past 17 hours cleaning my house.
Now, I can usually clean my 4-bedroom, 3 1/2 bath home in about 5 hours, all told. And it looks pretty good, too. But not when Mom comes to visit. Approximately 48 hours before her arrival the perfectionist gene goes into overdrive, and I see dirt and crud and filth EVERYWHERE. It's not enough to just wipe down counters and sinks and vaccuum and dust and swish toilets. I must scrub the tile floor on my hands and knees, like Cinder-freakin'-rella. I must meticulously scrape the miniscule specks of mildew from the grout in the shower tiles. And I must crawl along the entire perimeter of every room of my house, wiping every smudge and stain from every white baseboard.
That's what I did today... well, yesterday. Now I'm sitting at my keyboard, gulping iced tea and waiting for the Naproxen to kick in to soothe my aching back muscles so I can sleep.
About 5 hours ago my Hub gave me one of those looks that only he can muster as he dragged the Dyson vaccuum cleaner over to empty its bin for the 6th time. "Why didn't you just hire a cleaning service?" he asked wearily.
I fixed him with a glare. "Because. I can handle this." I answered tersely. "Besides, there's no reason to spend good money on something we can do ourselves" (NOTE: The "we" comment was to appease him; I actually meant "I.") Besides, I thought, There's this TOUR coming up, and this means more money in my ticket/travel fund...
But we both knew the REAL answer to his question; the unspoken truth. Because Mom would KNOW I hired someone to clean my house. And to her that is just unacceptable. It is a badge of dishonor. It is LAZY. Even if I never told her, she would somehow know.
So I choose to suffer on into the night, then to quietly smile and bite my tongue in a few short hours as I stand in my sparkling-clean kitchen as she performs her little covert inspection. "Oh," she'll say. "The house looks... nice." Then she'll give me that little Mom smile. "I know you're busy, Dear. You're doing the best you can," she'll say gently.
Thank God my cousin drinks wine.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Remembering Our Heroes...

On September 11, 2001, the world was forever changed. That fateful day touched every American, every Citizen of the world in a profound way. For me it was personal. On that day, I was sitting in my classroom with my students at the Air Force Office of Special Investigations (AFOSI) Training Academy at Andrews AFB, MD (we hadn't yet moved to FLETC). I was an active duty Air Force Officer and Special Agent. My students were preparing to go out to our training "raid houses" for tactical assault training. First one, then a second plane slammed into the World Trade Center. We heard the explosion as American Airlines Flight 77 slammed into the Pentagon, just across the Potomac River. We watched the smoke and flames rise into the sky. There are no words that can describe what I felt. Probably the closest I can come is... RAGE. Complete, profound, all-consuming rage. And unless you are a military veteran, or a cop, or a first responder, you probably can't understand why I don't say shock, or sadness, or fear. I was four months pregnant with my daughter at the time. Six hours after the attack on the Pentagon, I was there, at the site of the crash, helping process the second-largest crime scene in the history of our country. The largest was the World Trade Center. I didn't sleep for more than two days. I had a job to do, and despite my pregnancy my mind and my body wouldn't let me slow down. I remember driving home on the usually-busy DC Beltway in the middle of that long night, my car one of only three on the road. It was eerie. Like I was one of a few survivors of the apocalypse. I heard the afterburners of the F-16 fighters flying combat air patrol over our Nation's Capitol. After 10 years in the Air Force, the sound of jet engines was like background noise to me -- I never noticed it, even when I lived right next to the flightline. That night, I heard every jet. When I got home from the Pentagon that night, I wrote a letter to my unborn child. I read it every year, on this day, and again I feel the rage and pain and sadness I felt as I scribbled out those words. I don't ever want to forget how I felt that day. It's part of who I am, who I have become. I want my daughter to know that about me. Someday she'll be old enough to understand. The days that followed passed in a blur. There were too many funerals to count. We grieved the loss of our brothers and sisters in police and fire departments, and we prayed for the souls of the victims of the attacks and for peace for their families. We also prayed for those who would endure the hardship and sacrifice yet to come. And we went to war. Since 9-11, there have been 7 Special Agents of the Air Force Office of Special Investigations (AFOSI) killed in the line of duty, in Iraq and Afghanistan. More than a dozen others have been seriously wounded. All were performing critical counterintelligence work in incredibly dangerous environments. Even tonight, as I write this, hundreds more are in harm's way. I am not a religious person--at all. But I pray every night for their safe return to their loved ones. Today I remember Special Agents Tom Crowell, Nate Schuldheiss, Dave Wieger, Matt Kuglics, Ryan Balmer, Danny Kuhlmeier, and Rick Ulbright. Tom, Dave, Matt, and Danny were former students of mine. Rick was a friend and colleague. You can read their stories here. I also light a candle and say a prayer for the firefighters, police officers, and other first responders who made the ultimate sacrifice on 9-11-2001. When others ran out, they rushed in. Today, take a moment to reflect on the fact that Freedom is not Free. And if you see a cop or firefighter or EMT or Soldier, Sailor, Airman, or Marine, thank them for their service. For a long time I've been meaning to put together a tribute to these heroes. I finally did it. Chances are if you're reading this, you know the music: It's "Nobody's Hero." Please take a minute to listen and watch and remember. If you are so inclined, say a prayer. The portraits shown during the solo are of the AFOSI Special Agents killed in the line of duty. They are images of from the Hall of Heroes at AFOSI Headquarters. Well Done, Agents. We are forever grateful for your sacrifice. You are my heroes.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Are You Ready????

...For some FOOTBALL? The NFL Season starts TODAY! Now mind you, I'm a Baseball Girl all the way. Given the choice to watch a baseball game or a football game, I'll take baseball every time (well okay, 99% of the time). But football is my second-favorite sport, and I celebrate the return of Monday Night Football as exuberantly as most of my guy friends. Like most fans, I have teams that I follow faithfully. I grew up near Kansas City, so I am of course a Chiefs fan first and foremost. But since there hasn't been much to cheer about there lately, I've sought solace in my "other" teams -- the Eagles, Steelers, and Bears. Growing up, I was a huge fan of two quarterbacks who played on opposite ends of the State of Pennsylvania -- Terry Bradshaw and Ron Jaworski. (Hey, my Grandmother was from Philly, so it does run in my blood...). And of course, being an Eagles fan, I absolutely loathed anything to do with the Dallas Cowboys. Still can't stand 'em. When I was in high school I traveled to Chicago for the first time and fell in love with the Bears. I gleefully followed Jim McMahon and the Monsters of the Midway to their Super Bowl XX trouncing of the New England Patriots (sorry, Hath!), and yes, I could do the Super Bowl Shuffle, LOL! : ) My devotion to Da Bears would pay off... on my first date with the cute little soldier who is now my Hub, we discovered we had identical six-foot posters of "Mad Mac" (Jim McMahon) hanging in our barracks/dorm rooms. We knew then that fate had brought us together. I still have my #9 Jersey. I break it out every now and then for the Hub. ; ) So, here we are on the cusp of a new NFL season, and I'm looking forward to watching and attending as many games as I can. And I'm sure there will be a goodly amount of trash-talk going on with friends and family as the season progresses. And it will be SUH-WEEEET when the Eagles kick the Patriots' butts in the Super Bowl, after a rockin' Bon Jovi halftime show! (My prediction, not actual fact.... yet!) BRING IT ON!!! Get us started, Hank... (and Richie!)

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Alice Cooper and... Alice Cooper

I have this really cool kid. She's funny, smart, adorable, and sometimes a bit too mature for her age (like 7 going on 30). Thankfully, she has inherited my taste in music. After all, she's been exposed to Bon Jovi and other rockers since her residence in the womb. Come to think of it, she was probably conceived to a Bon Jovi song... Anyway, there's none of that Hannah Montana crap in our house. High School Musical? Gag. The Jonas Brothers? "Mom, they're just BOYS," my kid says with a sneer and a roll of her eyes. "They don't know how to ROCK." (Note to Self: Start preparing Hub now for the fact that Daddy's Little Girl will probably be "With the Band" when she's in college...) Anyway, one of my daughter's favorite rockers of all time is Alice Cooper. She thinks Alice is absolutely HYSTERICAL. Now, before you cringe and think "Jeez, that Catte is one permissive Mom...", let me tell you how Kiddo discovered Alice Cooper. It was the Muppet Show. I'm a lifelong Muppet Groupie. I am head-over-heels in love with Kermit the Frog. So of course I have every season of The Muppet Show on DVD. When Kiddo was 5, I took great joy in introducing her to Kermit & Co. And I gotta admit, I breathed a sigh of relief that she was immediately hooked, since she was not a great fan of Sesame Street. (Can you imagine a preschooler who could care less about Elmo? That was her.) Slowly, patiently, I doled out Muppet Show episodes as special treats, watching her little face light up and hearing her delighted giggle as she watched "Pigs in Space" and "The Swedish Chef," and "Veterinarian's Hospital." We worked our way through the episodes in order, starting with the first season and advancing. I should have seen it coming, when somewhere around Episode 8 she remarked. "Mommy, Rowlf the Piano Playing Dog looks an awful lot like David Bryan." (Took me awhile to stop laughing at that, but damned if she isn't right!) Finally we arrived at Season Three, Episode 7, with guest star Alice Cooper, circa 1978. I was a little apprehensive about her reaction to Alice, even in family-friendly, fuzzy Muppet mode. After all, the guy does climb out of a coffin and dance around with Muppet ghosts while lip-synching "Welcome to My Nightmare."

She LOVED it. From that point on, it was all about Alice. She played that episode over and over, and begged to be allowed to listen to more of his music. I relented somewhat, allowing her to add "No More Mister Nice Guy," "House of Fire," and "Feed My Frankenstein" to her Alice playlist, which already included Muppet-friendly "Nightmare," "You and Me," and of course, "School's Out." Needless to say, most of the rest of Alice's catalog, along with music videos and footage of his stage shows, have remained off-limits. Since that time I've added a couple more songs with more mature lyrics to her playlist, along with a long discussion of what is and is not appropriate to be belted out at the top of her lungs on the school bus or in other public places. She has also expanded her list of favorite rockers to include Joan Jett, KISS, Lita Ford, Meat Loaf, and Slash, among others. And since HairNation is on A LOT in our house, she does hear some things that aren't exactly second-grade-friendly. Yeah, I'm still awaiting that phone call from the school: "Well, your daughter was singing some... um... inappropriate music on the playground... Yes, well, it was "Take me down, slow and easy..." (She likes Whitesnake, too). But I just can't find it in my heart to squash her enthusiastic discovery of power chords, screaming vocals, wailing guitar riffs, and heavy, thumping bass guitar. I remember how much I loved to sing when I was her age, and my heart just melts when I hear her in her room, singing away to Alice or Joan Jett or Bon Jovi. Blame it on the Love of Rock-n-Roll. Anyway, the thing that inspired this post was an article I stumbled upon yesterday. It's been out there for a few days, but I thought it was pretty darn funny. It's about Alice being quintessentially Alice, one of the nicest guys in Rock and Roll, trying to be all scary but not quite succeeding. Apparently last week the New York Post ran a story about some Good Samaritan out in Brooklyn who rescued a rare kestral (a type of hawk), then named it "Alice Cooper" because of its resemblance to said Rocker. Now, this is one cute, fluffy bird, and one not-really-cute, scary-ish character. But you can definitely see the resemblance. Alice is currently on tour in Australia, and when asked about his avian namesake, responded with tongue firmly in cheek: "First 'The Crow' stole my makeup, and now this kestrel has done it. This madness has got to stop, or I'm going to send my army of lawyers with everything they've got to go up against this bird. The bird has been trying to get a part in the show and will try anything to generate attention and get into our production.... the only one who wants him in the show is the snake."

And that's why I love Alice. Scary and sweet, all at once. Rock On, Dark One. As a treat, one of my favorites. Could have a little something to do with backing vocals by His Royal Hotness himself.... "If my love was like a lollipop, would you lick it?" Umm, yeah....