Archive | November, 2011

Sweet Kicks

14 Nov

Matty bought Ruby some awesome pink Vans this weekend.  I love this picture because it looks like she is about to take off running.

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Veterans Day

12 Nov

I meant to write a big piece for Veterans Day yesterday, but the day got away from me and I am just now posting something.  This is an article that I wrote for my alumni magazine while I was serving with the Army in Iraq.  We lost many god and great soldiers while I was over there, and I am forever grateful for their sacrifices and the sacrifices of all of our veterans.

Written at COB Speicher, Iraq

On May 27, 2005, I stood with the rest of my classmates in Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium and took the oath of office, swearing to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, to bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and to well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which we were about to enter.  The words of our oath are profound—unlike other nations we swear to protect ideas rather than a person or a piece of land.  After four long years by the bay, however, most of us were not dwelling on the oath (or at least I wasn’t).  We were finally ready to join the fleet as young ensigns and second lieutenants.  It was a day filled with memories of the past and hope for the future, and after throwing our covers in the air and giving three cheers for those we were about to leave behind we were on our way to new adventures, not yet knowing what they would be.

A few weeks later I stood on a pier in Malta and gazed up at my new ship, the guided missile cruiser USS Antietam (CG 54).  Looking up at the sailors manning the rails in their whites, I took a deep breath and vowed to do the best job I could.  I became the First Lieutenant and was quickly immersed in the dual tasks of running a division and struggling to get qualified as a Surface Warfare Officer.  Life was incredibly busy between training, inspections, workups, boards, and an extended deployment to the Middle East, but much like plebe year the days passed by like weeks but the weeks passed by like days, and before too long I had a SWO pin and had “fleeted up” onboard for my second division officer tour as the Navigator, my dream job.

During my time onboard Antietam, Individual Augmentees (IAs) from the Navy and Air Force had been supplementing ground forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.  These sailors and airmen leave their parent commands and fill billets that the over-burdened Army (and Marine Corps in some cases) desperately need.  From supply officers to masters-at-arms to operation specialists, people who never could have imagined being part of a ground war have been stepping up to the challenge.

The thought of doing something new and different that would have an immediate, direct impact on the war appealed to me, so early one morning in March when my ship received a tasking order requesting an officer to be the Electronic Warfare Officer for an Army unit on the ground in Iraq, while everybody else thought “I joined the Navy, not the Army,” I heard myself say “I’ll do it.”

A few months later I traded in my khakis for Army Camouflage Utilities and was on my way.   In Ft. Jackson, SC I was issued an M4 rifle, an M9 pistol, and 50 pounds of body armor and began training to become as much of a soldier as possible in 3 weeks.  Essentially this meant a whole lot of marksmanship and convoy training in the sweltering South Carolina summer.  On July 6th we landed in Kuwait in the middle of the night, and the next morning when I stumbled out of my tent into the blinding sunlight and saw nothing but mile upon mile of sand stretching in every direction I thought “what have I done?”  All of a sudden 9 months seemed like a very long time.

After some convoy training in Kuwait and a crash course in electronic warfare in Baghdad, I finally arrived at COB Speicher in Tikrit, Saddam Hussein’s hometown.

So far this has been an eye-opening experience.  I have always had a very healthy respect for the Army (my grandfather, uncle, and 3 cousins have all served in the Army), but I am incredibly impressed by the soldiers I work with.  In the Navy we think 7 month deployments are long, but my unit is on month 12 of a 15 month deployment and is still going strong.  The transition from war fighting to nation building is ongoing, and the Army is handling that challenge well.  Every day soldiers put on their body armor and go outside the wire, risking their lives to fulfill the mission, and their efforts are paying off.  The number of violent acts by insurgents has decreased dramatically since this time last year, and there is much hope for the future of this fledgling nation.

Much like shipboard life, the day to day routine here can be monotonous, but there are moments that will stand out when I reflect back on my time in Iraq.  One of those moments happened last night, when the division commander officiated at a promotion ceremony for my battalion’s physician.  As part of the ceremony he likes to re-administer the oath of office, and looking around the room it was humbling to hear the oath not in a grand setting with all of the pomp and circumstance of an Annapolis graduation exercise, but in a dusty makeshift building in the middle of a war zone, surrounded by Americans who had “taken this obligation freely” and were now living out that promise every day, far removed from their families and friends.  Tired from a year spent fighting and watching other soldiers die or be critically injured in the line of duty, these men and women still get up every day and fight for freedom, and I will forever be grateful for the opportunity to serve with them.

Capt. Laura Muirhead, LTJG Sarah Atwood, 1st LT Melina Lee

Tio David

12 Nov

Here is Ruby with her awesome Uncle Dave, who arrived at our doorstep this very cold and rainy morning after biking the entire way across the country.

My brother-in-law Dave just amazes me.  He was out visiting us in April and told me that he wanted to bike across the country.  This seemed like a rather worthwhile and lofty goal to me–perhaps something to be added to a bucket list. Not to Dave.

He is an engineer on merchant vessels, so his schedule is (roughly) four months on then four months off.  Right after his visit with us Dave went back out to sea.  Upon his return he made preparations for a week, then drove down to Florida to begin his journey.  He started in St. Augustine on September 26th.

Dave weathered the elements, bike malfunctions, and a bum knee but made it all the way across, without having done any prior serious training.  This is perseverance at it’s finest, and I am so proud to call Dave my brother.

Sort-of Shepherd’s Pie

9 Nov

Daylight savings began on Sunday, a fact that Matty and I completely forgot about, thus completely wasting our extra hour of sleep and disembarking from our cruise an hour earlier than we meant to.  When we flew back into San Diego on Sunday night there was a slight chill in the air and it appeared that fall had truly come to sunny SoCal.  Within about 30 minutes of me getting home from work yesterday it was pitch black outside.  I hadn’t planned anything for dinner and was busy trying to catch up on laundry and finish unpacking, so Elise and I decided to make one of our childhood favorites, Shepherd’s Pie.  Fairly quick and easy with simple ingredients, it is definitely comfort food that warms you from the inside.  We had most of the ingredients on hand, but just as we were about to roshambo to see who would run to the market, our baby brother Adam called to say that he was on his way over.  Problem solved; he picked up the few things we needed.

I say “sort-of” because traditional Shepherd’s Pie uses lamb rather than ground beef, but our mom always used beef and Matty doesn’t like lamb, so beef was on order last night.  I also added just a few extra ingredients to kick up the flavor a bit, and as an added bonus Adam picked up country gravy mix rather than the brown gravy mix I had in mind.  I decided to go ahead and use the country gravy and will continue to do so in the future–it added a creamy, peppery element that I loved.  Here is the approximate recipe I used, but feel free to add in extra veggies ( I hate peas but if you like them they are a traditional ingredient) or make any other changes–just let me know how it turns out!  We served it with some sautéed chard that we had on hand in the fridge.

Sort-of Shepherd’s Pie (makes one 13×9 inch pan, or about 8-10 servings)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cook 1.5 lbs ground beef, 2 finely chopped carrots, 2 diced onions, and a few minced cloves of garlic in a saute pan until the beef is cooked through.  Drain the fat then stir in prepared country gravy (directions are on the package).  Adjust salt and pepper to taste.

Meanwhile, boil about 4 large or 8 small potatoes (peeled or unpeeled, whichever you prefer) in a pot of salted water until nice and soft.  Drain and mash (I just throw them in my Kitchen Aid mixer).  Mix in a few tablespoons of butter, about 1/4 cup of milk, a few chopped green onions, about 1/3 cup sour cream, and salt and pepper to taste.

To assemble spray a 9×13 inch pan with Pam and spread the meat mixture on the bottom.  Layer two drained cans of corn on top of the meat and the potatoes on top of the corn.  Sprinkle liberally with shredded sharp cheddar cheese, bake for about 15-20 minutes or until cheese is melted and enjoy.

Hello world!

8 Nov

Welcome to my very first blog!  I plan to post tons of pictures of my beautiful baby Ruby, little updates on daily life (focusing on becoming a stay-at-home mom once I get out of the navy sometime next spring), great recipes, and a fair smattering of politics (I describe myself as a conservative libertarian, so consider yourself forwarned).  If any of those things interest you then please read on.  If not, feel free to ignore me.

Occupy This

8 Nov

So I was going to write something about the Occupy Wall Street protests, but as usual Mark Steyn has said it far better than I ever could:

Corporate Collaborators

 

Cowgirl

8 Nov

Last Halloween, when I was pregnant with Ruby, I decided that our little baby would be either a cowboy or cowgirl for his or her first Halloween.  Unlike most of my other brilliant ideas I actually followed through on this one and bought a little cowgirl outfit and also a miniature saddle for Cash.  About ten days before Halloween we booked a last-minute Caribbean cruise, so we were out to sea for Halloween itself, but my mother-in-law, Elise and I took Ruby out to the barn where Elise boards her horse, Charlie, for a photo shoot: