20 January 2011

The Kandahar Kid

This is a story I helped write!  (and I took the picture).  It is on USO's homepage.  It is about a soldier who got to witness his first child being born in the states via Skype.  So far it's been my proudest moment of working for the USO.  :)

Here is the link: The Kandahar Kid

18 January 2011


Through the four years of my education at Central Catholic High School a few things were repetitiously ingrained in my brain:
  1. The sun shines inside you and me.
  2. Always leave enough room for the Holy Spirit while dancing
  3. You represent CCHS when you are in uniform, no matter where you are, so do us proud.

While working as a recruiter at Marshall, the same mantra was in place.  I represented Marshall to students who may have never even heard of it, so I needed to make Marshall proud.

Now in Afghanistan, I represent so many things.  I represent the USO.  Even when in a PX buying laundry detergent, someone will say, hey USO girl.  I represent WV.  Countless soldiers have told me they have never been to WV, and they’ll ask what’s it like.  When I go to big social functions, a different nation’s DFAC (dining facility) or to the French compound I represent the entire United States!  It’s sometimes exhausting to constantly feel “on.” 

That’s why I’m so glad to have some genuine friends here.  That way I can belt out any song that pops in my head, or horribly imitate Shakira’s dance moves with some mangled gyrations, or wear bunny ears for no reason all with lots of laughter and little judgement.

In other news, I am SUPER excited to be going to Uganda at the end of this month to see Natalie Committee!  When Natalie first told me she wanted to go to Uganda I was so excited for her!  I told her I’d come visit, but at the time I thought, yeah I have no money to do that.  I’m so happy that I’ve been blessed to now be able to visit and see the work she’s been doing.  When Natalie was gearing up to go to Uganda and I was first going through my interview process for this position, my sister Gretchen was in India, and I was bursting at the seams to tell someone who would think what I was doing was sane!  Natalie was my go to gal.

I’m also looking forward to experiencing a new culture, possibly going on a safari and just playing with kids.  It’s kind of odd here to never see a kid, never hear a cry or giggle while at the restaurant or at the PX.  Most times I don’t realize it, but then after I call Ang or Erin and hear the chattering of kids in the background, I remember.  I’ve babysat all my life, then was a live-in nanny for Christian and Faith, and proceeded to live a block down the street from them for the past 2 years.  I miss chasing them, laughing with them, and hearing their crazy stories.

Three and half months in and it’s still super hard to say goodbye to people.  Since we are a large base, troops that are redeploying (going home) or just getting here before going downrange (out to FOBs or COPs) are usually stuck here for a week or two.  They usually don’t have missions to go on, so they are free most of the day.  Some will volunteer at the center.

So just imagine getting a new coworker, work directly beside them at a shared desk for 10 hours a day for 2 weeks straight, train them, develop a repertoire where you know what tasks they prefer and which you prefer, eat meals with them, joke together, talk about family, friends, and your favorite things, maybe even experience a bonding experience like a fire alarm (or rocket attack) where you have to stand outside in the cold for a half hour.  Now say goodbye and probably never see them again…EVER.  It’s a little jarring.  I always wonder who will stay in my life and who will slowly inevitably fade away.   What’s the quote?  Even though they may stay for only a moment they can leave an impression on you that lasts a lifetime. 

09 January 2011

"Real life"

I believe that the kind of people you surround yourself with is the kind of person you want to become.  Obviously, you share some similarities with them, some common interests, or you probably wouldn’t’ have met them to begin with.  I look at my closest group of friends and not one of them is exactly like me, because I admire qualities in them that I don’t possess.  They all have qualities that I strive to obtain. 

In elementary school I was in a class of 10.  We were all friends; if not for any other reason than necessity, there were only 10 of us.  Then once we arrived in the big scary world of high school there were choices!  What lunch table you sat at became your label as flagrantly as if it were stamped on your forehead.  My girls were nicknamed, “The Jesusans.”  Now if we were nicknamed The Jesusans at a Catholic high school, you know we must have been some good kids.  Through those pivotal adolescent years they were my stabilizing force, my moral compass, my peer pressure, my sounding board, in short, my life.  They were my girls I went to with every question, and we experienced every coming of age moment together.  I am so thankful that it was those girls; I know I chose wisely. :)

Some of The Jesusans

Then came public university time.  Without knowing anyone but my sister, I was in a brand new world.  This was the time to truly “find myself.”  Without the preconceptions of my high school persona, I could invent myself.  The first two years I stumbled around with different friends, but I think I finally found my footing by Junior year and had my core group of close friends.  Again, they shaped and molded the person I became.

All throughout this time of course I had the constant encouragement and love of my mother, father, sisters and extended family.  More than anyone else, through their own example (and basically not putting up with any of my other bullsh*t) they have been the ones to keep me in check to ensure that I am open-minded, slow to anger, quick to forgive, caring, compassionate, happy, and humorous.

So now that I am in Afghanistan, thousands of miles from every single person that has shaped who I am…who am I?  I was eating brunch today with a new friend when he asked me, “So what are you like in real life?”  Real life…real life, what is that?  It seems everyone over here uses the term, it just rolls off the tongue when referring to life where you pay bills and live in an apartment where you have your own bathroom, and go to work during the day, and make dinner at night, and oh yeah, aren’t in an active warzone.  Anyway, I started thinking, am I different here than stateside?  If I am, then why?  According to all those pretty cards and magnets and calendars and facebook statuses, I should “be true to myself and not apologize” or some witty variant of that.

It’s just an odd world to be without anyone who knows me and more importantly has played an integral part in what I have become.  To add to that, the people that do know me are amazingly supportive, but they haven’t been where I am, they can’t truly 100% grasp what is going on.  So the question remains how do I stay true to my genuine self and not get lost by adapting in this crazy world.

Well, sorry, if you’re expecting a emotionally gripping Hallmark movie conclusion to this post, because I don’t have the answers.  I’m still trying to figure it all out.  What I can come up with so far is to surround myself with people here who mirror people I know back home.  It wasn’t a conscious effort.  It just sort of happened, but when I talk to someone and think, wow, they really remind me of Luke, or that sounded like Emily, or they just checked my attitude like Beth, that’s my reassuring sign.  For better or worse, I’m still me.

 And I choose to be the best that I can be.
I choose to be authentic in everything I do.
My past don't dictate who I am. 
I choose.

Because you never know where life is gonna take you 
and you can't change where you've been.
But today, I have the opportunity to choose.
Release the guilt about why things happen the way they did 
cuz life is gonna do what it do.
And everyday, I have the opportunity to choose.
-India.Arie “I Choose”