Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Influence of Facebook

Sometimes I sit and think about what deployment must have been like for my grandparents during World War II.  There was no internet - no Skype, email, or facebook.  Handwritten letters only occasionally made it to their desired recipient.  My grandmother went months without hearing from my grandfather.

Times have definitely changed.  My husband and I have almost unlimited ways of communicating with each other: email, snail mail, telephone, yahoo messenger, google chat, skype, facebook etc etc.  It's pretty incredible to think about.

I always imagined the technology would help with unit cohesiveness and family support.  It's a small unit and everyone quickly became facebook friends with each other.  We formed a private group for all the soldiers and their family members.  It was intended to be a way for everyone to keep in contact and encourage each other through the tough times.  Unfortunately, things quickly went downhill from there.

Facebook became the downfall of the entire support network.  It began with inappropriate comments and photographs.  While it was a private group for the unit and family, there were concerns that people were being offensive to others in the group.  At one point, this turned into a series of arguments between different people and bred a lot of animosity.  Things only unraveled further from there.

Recently someone publicly posted an article about an attack on my husband's base from a few months ago.  Unfortunately, the majority of family members had not been aware of what had happened. 

I remember the day clearly.  I knew something was wrong because my husband did not respond to my email or come online for our previously planned Skype date.  In fact, no one from his unit came online.  Time passed and I started getting more freaked out.  By the end of the day I was hysterically crying on the phone with my husband's best friend.  When I finally heard from him the next day, he confirmed that something had happened and there had been a black out but everything was fine.  He downplayed things for my mental health and I appreciated that.

A couple weeks later I signed on to facebook and one of his fellow soldiers - a superior in fact - had posted an article on his wall about that specific day.  The article referred to how dangerous their base was and how terrible that particular day was for the troops that were there. I won't site specifics because I don't want to reveal too much about the unit, but it described a particularly terrifying thing for family members to hear.  It was something that I and several other spouses wished we hadn't read.  Sometimes secrets exist in military relationships for a very important reason and we like to keep it that way.  It was insensitive and caused a lot of anguish and further animosity.

Most recently a posting was made publicly about when the unit would be coming home.  We all know that Obama has promised all troops out of Iraq by Dec 31, but everyone in the military knows not to hold their breath about anything.  Most members of the unit had told their family not to expect anything so soon and that they would probably be in Kuwait or somewhere else for an unspecified amount of time.  The posting referred to the unit's date of return in fairly specific fashion.  This was the last straw for a lot of upset family members who were trying desperately not to get their hopes up and for soldiers who were trying not to disappoint their loved ones.  Not to mention the fact that people are angry about an obvious OPSEC violation.

Family members are upset. Soldiers are irate. Nasty emails have been sent around.  There has been name calling.  People have defriended each other on facebook.  The unit is divided and family support has unraveled.

Deployment is difficult enough but we're now at the point of complete disaster.

Technology is amazing but it's equally terrifying how it can completely change the dynamics of a group.

How has technology affected your unit cohesiveness and family support?  Has it been a blessing or a disaster?

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Not For One.

Out of the corner of my eye
I see them.
I pause.
My shopping cart goes in reverse.

Pillsbury cinnamon rolls

Warm gooey pastry
Sweet sugary frosting
My mouth starts watering.

That cardboard can with metal ends
The way it opens with a
POP
I can't resist it.
So delicious.
Heaven.

All I want is just one roll...
Or maybe two.

But the smallest can has five.

How many calories in five?

Raw dough
Reminds me
of the simple fact

That it's just me.

I leave the rolls behind
For someone else to buy
Someone without a husband
in
Iraq.

Someday I'll wake up
To that sweet aroma

Pillsbury cinnamon rolls
in the oven
and my husband standing there
Ready to eat
The other three.

Friday, October 21, 2011

A Better Day

"Hey did you hear the news?"

I looked up from a patient's chart and saw one of the city paramedics.

"They announced today that all troops will be out of Iraq by December 31st!"

I gave a fake smile.

"Oh, yeah, well I'll believe that when I see it," I replied.

It was my routine response to this topic.  I've known about the December 31st deadline for a long time and I consistently google all news articles related to the topic.  However, I know that these things can change at any moment and the nature of my husband's work makes it so that he will be one of the very last to leave.  I have prepared myself for a late spring reunion.

I worked the rest of my busy shift, walked to my car, and pulled out my phone to check my email.

One of my best friends wrote: "This is great news, right?"

I shrugged.  Maybe.

Then I saw the video:




The tears started running down my face.  And then I started sobbing.  Alone in my car I was able to let down the wall and feel the complicated emotions of deployment.

I'm still ready for the full deployment but I can't help but feel happiness over the official announcement of a possible early return.

I got home, ate Chinese food, and opened my fortune cookie.

It read:  

Today is probably a huge improvement over yesterday.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Please Forgive Me!

I just had a realization.

I haven't written anything on this blog in almost 2 months. Where did the time go? How is it possible that time moves so slowly in my life but so quickly on this blog? Why have I had such writer's block lately? I can't answer these questions but I promise to be better about it.  This blog has been a major stress outlet for me over the course of this deployment.  I've felt very agitated lately and I think it has to do with my lack of writing.  Deployment weighs heavily on my shoulders every minute of the day and  this feeling of dread won't go away until he's home.   It's incredibly difficult for me to separate these emotions out of the workplace and I think that sometimes my mood can carry over.   Writing on this blog helps me to release some of these emotions.  So.......I'm back.

What have I been doing over the last two months?  Well, there's a very simple answer to that question.
 
I've been sticking my hand in many, many vaginas.  

Yes, you read that right. 

I spent a month working on the labor and delivery floor.  I can now say that my hands were the first to touch the heads of 38 new human beings (or little goats as I like to call them).  I was so happy to end the month but it is pretty cool to think about that little fact. 

The actual act of delivering babies is fun and it's usually not even that hard.  Not dropping them on the floor is the most difficult part.  They are slippery little buggers!

Now I'm back in the Emergency Department and it feels good to be home.

Stay tuned for the regular return of Dr. Army Wife's blog!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Worm

I see a lot of disgusting things at work and it takes a lot to gross me out.

This morning, however, I made a particularly gruesome discovery.  I was out walking Libby and she was doing her...ahem...business...

I looked down and what did I see?

WORMS.

Libby has worms.

Tapeworms to be specific.

I will spare you sample images. If you're interested, feel free to google.

It was a total freak-out moment and I have literally been shuddering all day.  Thankfully, tapeworms are relatively benign and easily treated.  They occur after the dog swallows an infected flea so I guess it could happen to any dog.  I'm fairly confident that Libby doesn't have fleas but we did a flea bath just in case.

The vet listened to my description, basically threw the medication across the counter like this was totally routine, and I went on my merry way. 

We are now embarking on a mass genocideTapeworm execution. Worm murder.

Wish us luck. 



Shudder.



Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Evolution of a 12 hour Emergency Visit

You've either experienced it yourself or you've heard about it from other people.  It's a common complaint and one that hospital administrators, medical workers, and government officials are always trying to solve.  I'm talking about the lengthy emergency department visits. 

I frequently hear friends or family complain about waiting seven, eight, nine, ten hours in the emergency department for their medical care.  Honestly, I feel for you. I really do.  I know it can be frustrating and boring and can seem completely unnecessary to have to sit on a stretcher in a hallway for hours upon hours.

I want to shed a little light on why this happens and hopefully change a few viewpoints out there.

First and foremost, the emergency department is primarily for emergencies.  The main focus is to resuscitate and stabilize people who are very sick and who may not survive without intervention.  That's not to say that back pain, sprained ankles, vomiting, urinary tract infections, sore throats, flu-like symptoms, or lacerations don't have a place in the emergency department.  Sometimes people don't have primary care physicians, cannot get an appointment with their doctor, or feel so lousy that they want some help in the middle of the night.  I understand.  Most emergency doctors and nurses are in the field because they like seeing "any patient, any time, with any problem." We don't mind treating more minor complaints.

There's just one very important caveat:  Sick people get seen first.  Always.

This means that you may watch 20 people come through the doors and get taken back from the waiting room while you continue to sit in your chair.  This is because someone qualified and trained in medical triage decided that all those people were more sick than you.  Every effort is made to see people in a quick and timely fashion, but in reality there are just too many patients.  Sometimes it can take 4 hours before there is no one who is sicker than you are and then it's finally your turn. 

This also means that once you are in a room or on a stretcher in the hallway, it may take some time before you are evaluated by a physician.  Emergency medicine is all about prioritizing so sometimes the doctor must let someone wait so that they can tend to a critical patient.  Your physician may be spending that hour resuscitating a child who has stopped breathing.  The hour you wait is an hour that someone else is fighting for their life.

Next comes tests.  Perhaps you get blood drawn, urine tests, xrays, or CT scans.  These all take time.  It takes time for the blood to get to the lab, for the lab technicians to prepare it to go through the machines, and for the computers to calculate the results.  The final step is that your doctor has to be able to get to the computer in between patients, see the results, and decide what to do with them.

There's a good chance that you will wait hours for your xray or CT scan.  There are usually only 1 or 2 CT scanners for the whole hospital and the same concept applies here: Sick people go first.  Just as you are about to go to the radiology department, another patient may bump you out of line because they were involved in a major trauma or there is concern that they are hemorrhaging internally.  This may happen over and over again.

Technology rules the world but computers don't create results for your imaging studies.  There is a radiologist sitting in a dark room looking at every image taken from every single patient in the department and meticulously interpreting it.  This takes time and they read them in an order that puts the urgent patients first. They go as quickly as they can but they also have to be extremely thorough so that they don't miss anything on the images.  Again, these results have to be entered into the computer and your physician has to find the time between patients to view them.

Next time you are in the emergency department (I hope you never are there), take a look around at the amount of patients that are in that small space.  Your physician is treating every single one of those people at the exact same time.  It's the ultimate juggling act.

Perhaps your doctor has your discharge paperwork and prescriptions in hand and suddenly a stroke patient comes through the double doors.  Unfortunately, your paperwork will be thrown back down on their desk and that's another hour you might wait.

We live in a fast food society.  There is an expectation that everything must be done promptly, that all information can be at our fingertips in seconds, and that a few minutes of waiting is a few minutes too long.  The emergency department is it's own universe.  There are no appointments and it isn't first come first serve.  Every patient is valued but some are more critical and important than others in terms of promptness of care.

Next time you're heading into the ED for something that is not life or limb threatening, remember that there are others there for whom seconds literally count.

Grab a book, bring your ipod, and enjoy the show.




Monday, August 8, 2011

Grasping to the Learning Curve

I'm here!

Really, I am.

I'm so sorry I have gone away & I promise to pay closer attention to this blog.  Writing here and getting your feedback is so important to me.  I'm going to catch up on reading your blogs too.  Believe it or not, I have 707 unread blog entries right now from all of you.  I'm sorry I've been so bad!

I've just been really really busy with this thing called INTERN YEAR.  Let me just tell you, it's a lot harder than I thought it would be.  They say the learning curve is steep when you transition from a 4th year medical student to a 1st year resident but I think the curve is not just steep. It's a totally vertical line.  You basically spend your time trying to climb directly straight up on the learning curve while at the same time grasping on with all you have to prevent yourself from falling off completely.  There isn't a day that goes by that I don't feel like a complete and utterly incompetent idiot.  There isn't a day that goes by that I don't make mistakes.  There isn't a day that goes by that I don't doubt my ability to do this and ultimately become a proficient doctor.  In short, my confidence is at an all time low.

I wonder when I will stop feeling this way and when I will get to the point when I've climbed over the vertical curve and I am cruising up at the top.  I wonder if I'll ever get there.  They say I will.  They say that everyone feels this way and that it will get better.  It's hard to believe right now but I just have to put some confidence in the system and just keep pushing myself to get better every day.

Emergency Medicine is what I love.  I know it's the right specialty for me and I'm sure I will be happy with my career.  I want to love residency but it's a strong word when you aren't confident in yourself.

I'm happy to have the support of my husband, family, and friends to help get me through this.  I also could not be doing it without this girl:



I get to come home to her wagging nub tail every single day and cuddle with her every night.  No matter how my day was and no matter what happened, she is always there with endless love.

Deployment combined with residency is hard.  Really hard.

It is is made so much better by my battle buddy.




Friday, July 15, 2011

The Blackout

The fear is hard to describe.
The panic of a communication blackout
When they intentionally shut off all communication
So that family can be notified.
So that word doesn't leak out.

You don't get your morning email
The message you always get.
You wait for the Skype call you had planned
But it never rings.
You send emails - desperate emails
That go unanswered. 
Unread.

With each passing moment 
Your panic increases
You scour the internet for an answer
And hope you find it
At the same time you hope you don't.
You read those four words:
American soldier killed today
The next words list the general location
The same location across the world
That the love of your life lives.

You try to convince yourself that you'd know by now.
Someone would have told you.
You're the first person to be notified
And you've been home all day.
Someone would have come
And told you 
The news.
You would have seen that car by now.
The car that every military wife dreads
The car that you keep looking out the window
Hoping not to see.

There's nothing you can do
To stop the fear
the tears
the nerves
The only thing that would help
Is a phone call from him
An email.
A message.

So you wait.

You just keep waiting.


Thursday, July 7, 2011

You Call Me Doctor

Doctor.

You say that's me.
I'm not so sure.
It says "MD" on my name tag.
So I guess it must be true.

I have to let you in on a little secret.
Right now I'm just pretending.
In truth,
I don't know what I'm doing.
Or at least it feels that way.

It's July.
You shouldn't come to the hospital in July.
All these fresh faces.
All these new doctors.

I don't even know the way to the bathroom.

You call me "Doctor"
but it feels like
Halloween.



Sunday, June 26, 2011

Red is Positive, Black is Negative

As I've mentioned before, there's a little thing called Murphy's Law of Deployment.  It strikes again and again to family members of the military.  I've been pretty lucky so far and have not had too many issues with Mr. Murphy.  Regardless, I have been forced to learn a few things along the way about self-reliance and independence.

I'm not sure that this qualifies as Murphy's Law, but the battery in my husband's cherished and beloved Mustang keeps dying.  I suppose I can't blame this on Murphy at all because it is actually entirely my fault.  I haven't been starting it on a regular basis or even a semi-regular basis.  A couple of weeks ago I enlisted the help of one of my husband's fellow firefighters to jump start his car.  This would have worked fabulously if the plan didn't rely on me continuing to turn the key on his car.  I let the car run for 30 minutes, shut it off, and of course didn't attempt to start it again for pretty much a millenium.   Needless to say, the Mustang sits in our garage with an empty battery and low tire pressure.  I actually believe the tires may be molding into one particular shape because they haven't moved.  I'm a horrible car babysitter.

Today I decided I would be an independent and strong woman.  I would....gasp...try to jump start his car on my own!  Oh the horror! 

I pulled my car forward just narrowly escaping denting his bumper with mine.  It took me a good 15 minutes to find the lever on his hood.  Finally with both car hoods open, I stood proudly admiring my work so far. 

Now came the difficult part.

I opened the jumper cables, inspected the red and black clamps and promptly googled "how to jumpstart a car" on my iphone.  This was quite successful as there are several detailed instructions online.  I connected red to positive (+), black to negative (-), red to positive (+) on the Mustang, and stood there with the final black clamp. 




Connect to a unpainted piece of metal under the hood.

No problem.  I confidently clamped it around a metal piece.  Unfortunately, no one warned me that it would spark. 

Boy did it spark.

I jumped, screamed, retreated, unconnected everything, threw down both hoods, backed up my car, and ran inside.

Why is it that I have no problem defibrillating a human being, but cannot manage to charge a car battery?

Oh well, there's no shame in asking for help.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Indego Africa Winner!

The winner of my Indego Africa Giveaway is.....





Congratulations!!  Please email me with your shipping address:  drarmywife@gmail.com

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Happy Birthday, U.S. Army

**(Be sure to enter my first ever GIVEAWAY!  I don't have a lot of entries yet and the cosmetics bag is super cute.  If you are already a follower, just let me know in the comments section - that counts as an entry!)**

Happy Birthday, United States Army.   

Two hundred and thirty six years!  You old goat.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

First Giveaway - Indego Africa!


I am really excited to announce that I am doing my very first giveaway -- and it is really awesome. 

I want to tell you about an amazing non-profit organization called Indego Africa.


Indego Africa ("Indego") is an innovative 501(c)(3) nonprofit social enterprise – and subject of a Harvard Business School case study (Nov. 2010) – driving forward a uniquely market-based approach to women's empowerment in Africa.

Indego employs a simple yet powerful business model: (a) partner with cooperatives (“co-ops”) of more than 250 women artisans in Rwanda on a fair trade basis; (b) sell its partners hand-made accessories and home d├ęcor products on its online store and at more than 70 U.S. retailers, including Anthropologie and Nicole Miller; and (c) invest 100% of profits from sales, and all donations, into its training programs for the co-ops in business management, entrepreneurship, literacy, and technology – all taught by Rwanda’s top university students on scholarship through its partner NGO, Generation Rwanda.

Indego Africa provides opportunities for women in difficult circumstances to first meet their families’ basic needs, and then acquire skills that enhance long-term earning potential. Within five years of partnering with Indego Africa, each artisan cooperative should include the following:


                WOMEN GENERATING SUSTAINABLE INCOME. Women consistently earn more than $2 per day through their own initiative and oversee households that are entirely free of hunger, inadequate housing, and school absenteeism.
               WOMEN LEVERAGING VALUABLE LONG-TERM SKILLS. Women deploy new high-value skills to earn supplemental income in their own community – whether at a cooperative, another employer, or their own business.
                WOMEN RUNNING PROFITABLE EXPORT BUSINESSES. Women manage cooperatives that are fiscally responsible, effective in product design and delivery, and dynamic contributors to the community – all while engaging the global export market on their own terms.
                 WOMEN FEELING HOPEFUL AND CONFIDENT. Women translate their experiences of financial success and increased productivity into a lasting sense of self-worth and pride, knowing that anything can be accomplished by working together with others and relying on their own strength.

By forging a strategy that validates and scales its mission, Indego Africa re-defines an outdated handicraft model of economic development and maps out a replicable blueprint for unleashing the power of women entrepreneurs in Africa.

Check out this video message from Emelienne Nyiramana, one of Indego Africa's partner artisans who recently graduated from the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women Initiative Entrepreneurship Program in Rwanda.  Before partnering with Indego Africa in 2007, Emelienne and her colleagues made less than 25 cents a day carrying water.  They now run a profitable, transparent, high-profile business partnering with major retail outlets, including the iconic fashion designer Nicole Miller.



The women of Rwanda have so many incredible products available through Indego Africa and I encourage you to visit their website and take a look!

I'm giving away this GORGEOUS cosmetics case that was designed and produced by the women of Cocoki:



The cosmetics case will come with a tag signed personally by the artisan who created it!  I know this product is incredible because I own one and use it to carry around my favorite make-up.  Isn't it pretty?
To Enter:   

Please leave a separate comment for EACH entry (i.e. 1 comment for following, 1 comment for looking at the website, 4 separate comments for blogging about it).
  • Publicly follow this blog and leave a comment to let me know (this is different than subscribing - see sidebar at right to follow):  1 entry
  • Visit www.indegoafrica.org, look through the online shop and comment to tell me which product you think is the absolute coolest: 1 entry
  • "Like" Indego Africa on Facebook (comment to let me know):  1 entry
  • Follow Indego Africa on Twitter (comment to let me know): 1 entry
  • Tweet about this giveaway (please include @Indego_Africa and comment to let me know): 1 entry
  • Facebook about this giveaway (comment to let me know): 1 entry
  • Blog about this giveaway (please leave me a link to your blog): 4 entries

This giveaway will stay open until Sunday June 19th at midnight EST and the winner will be chosen with random.org.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Golf With the Locals

Did you know it's safe over there now?
At least it's not Afghanistan.
After all, the war in Iraq is over.
We're just advisers now.

The troops
They are just playing golf with the locals.
Today they had a big softball game
U.S Army vs. Mahdi Army
There were beers
And hot dogs
Al-Sadr showed up and led a song of peace.

Last night
All the Americans stayed up late
for a pajama party with the insurgents.
They had ice cream
Did each other's hair
And talked about Kim Kardashian.

Sure, it's safe over there.
Tell that to the 50,000 troops
looking over their shoulders.
Tell that to the 5 troops killed in a single day
June 6, 2011
Tell that to their families.

If you think it's safe over there,
If you think we can breathe easy
Tell that to the
wives and husbands
mothers, fathers
sisters, brothers
children
as they hear about attacks
Frantically searching for the location
What city
What city
What city
As they scan the page or listen to the news
As they hold their breathe in fear.

Tell that to the pregnant wife
as her Skype conversation goes silent.
A loud noise, then silence.
A silence that lasts days.
Tell her it's safe
as she tries to convince herself
that it's just bad internet.
A poor connection.
A storm.

Tell that to the troops
who think about the future months.
The final exit from Iraq.
The long road through the desert to Kuwait.
The drive out of the country
with proverbial
targets
on their backs.

Or tell that to the troops who might stay.
The select few left behind
beyond the deadline.
The troops who already have threats
against their lives.
The ones who might be there
when everyone else
is home.

Tell them that it's safe.
After all, they are just playing golf with the locals.

Monday, June 6, 2011

My Lucky Day

Today was my lucky day.  I won a TV!

My husband's family holds a memorial golf tournament every year in honor of his late cousin.  Fifteen years ago, his cousin died in a helicopter accident during a training session with the Marines.  The golf tournament raises money for a scholarship in his name and for various other military charities.

There was a raffle and I won the grand prize - a 32 inch flat screen TV!

Please excuse my photo crasher.
No, I did not buy her dentures. I think that's just her tongue.
Tada!


Thursday, June 2, 2011

Eyes Wide Open Exhibit Revisited

Five years ago, I wrote an editorial for a university newspaper expressing my disapproval for the "Eyes Wide Open" exhibit sponsored by the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC).

Have you ever seen it?

(http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/18885483/ns/us_news-memorial_day/t/nearly-soldiers-killed-iraq-past-year/)


Basically, the American Friends Service Committee is a Quaker organization that works to promote social justice, peace, and humanitarian service.  They have done many important things since their inception in 1917 including establishing economic development programs in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, providing support to the U.S Civil Rights Movement, and providing aid in both World Wars and Vietnam.  In 1947, along with the British Quakers, they received a Nobel Peace Prize for their work.

The American Friends Service Committee is fundamentally opposed to conflict and has been against every war since its inception in 1917.  They have consistently vocalized their disapproval of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and have called for immediate withdrawal since they began.

Here is what I wrote about their exhibit (Eyes Wide Open):

~~~~~~~~

As I walked towards the Tisch Library last Wednesday, I passed by a group of individuals handing out flyers about the war in Iraq. They had signs up proclaiming that too much money has been wasted and too many lives have been lost overseas because of the war. I was continuing to make my way up the steps when I noticed a large number of combat boots lined up in a seeming attempt at a "memorial" for fallen soldiers. The sign underneath read, "Eyes Wide Open: An Exhibition on the Human Cost of the Iraq War." 

As a girlfriend of an Iraq war veteran, I was curious. Upon closer inspection, I realized that attached to the boots were tags containing the names and towns of several fallen soldiers from New England. 

My heart sank. 

At first, I thought that it would be best not to voice my opinion, and I attempted to walk by; but as I passed, I was solicited to take a flyer. My polite "no thank you," however, was received with a sarcastic sneer. I took a few steps further and decided that this was not a time to remain silent. 

There are ways to be against the war in Iraq and continue to support our troops, and unfortunately, this exhibit was not an example of this behavior. Instead, the group took the names of soldiers and placed them in their exhibit without first obtaining consent to do so. 

This was clearly an anti-war protest masquerading as a memorial for those who had lost their lives. It put on the show of honoring the fallen soldiers by placing their boots in a row and listing their names. 

However, these soldiers were brave and honorable men and women who traveled across the world from their loved ones and sacrificed their lives for a cause that they felt was just and for reasons that are inalienably personal. It is disrespectful to use their names - especially in the context of their deaths - to propagate a viewpoint that may not have been their own. 

To use their names as an argument for troop withdrawal and to support the idea that the war is wrong only serves to say that they died for nothing. This behavior does not honor the troops, but in fact dishonors what they stood for, fought for and for which they ultimately lost their lives. Regardless of your opinion on the war, it is not right to use another person's name to further your cause without his or her expressed consent. The fact that an individual is dead does not give free reign on their identity. 

When I approached the individual at the "memorial" and asked whether they had gotten consent from every family member to allow the names to appear in their exhibit, I felt I was received with a less-than-friendly attitude. As I expressed my concerns and the offense that I had taken, the individual stared off into space and said, "Well, I stand by it, because it humanizes the exhibit." 

Yes, of course it humanizes the exhibit - I will not argue with that. But then maybe we should include the brutal stories of their deaths, because that would humanize the exhibit even more. Or perhaps we should show videotapes of their funerals or, better yet, maybe we should just put up pictures of their bodies. That would make for an especially humanized effect. 

The protestors used the soldiers, through the combat boots, as mere props and all but admitted that they were dramatizing their exhibit to express their views. When I asked the individual how he felt about the fact that many of the fallen soldiers would explicitly disagree with his views and may not appreciate their deaths being used as an argument for them, his response was that, "I'm pretty sure a lot of families of these soldiers would agree with me at this point." 

I was not aware that one opinion of the war could be extended to represent the opinion of another person and voicing it for them. Apparently, these individuals felt that they had the right to do that.

The "Eyes Wide Open" exhibit is a national traveling group that visits areas across the country. It is run by an organization called the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), which promotes the philosophy that there should be an immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.

Interestingly, the "Contributors" page on the Web site for the exhibit makes no mention of the fallen soldiers - the very people that they are using to express their views. The Web site also claims that the exhibit "features a pair of boots honoring each U.S. casualty … This traveling exhibit is a memorial to those who have fallen and a witness to our belief that no war can justify its human cost." 

I called the AFSC, and they confirmed for me that they do not ask permission of families before displaying names in their exhibit. They also admitted that some families have expressed disapproval about the nametags. However, the AFSC representative said, if family members are opposed to the naming of their loved one, they can file paperwork and have it removed. 

This is not an acceptable solution. Everybody deserves the right to control where his or her name is placed before it appears alongside a political message. Relying on families to hear about the exhibit, visit and file paperwork to remove the name is the wrong way to obtain consent. 

The organization asserts that it is not a protest, but instead, it is a place for "people to come and mourn those who have been lost." This exhibit was far from a memorial for the casualties of the war. 

A war memorial is a time to honor the individuals who sacrificed their lives. It is a time to stand up and applaud their efforts and remember how much they cared and how much they gave. It is not a time to list names as statistics to further a personal agenda, and it is certainly not a time to assert that their sacrifices were not worth anything - to say that their deaths were not justified. 

If you do not believe that their acts were brave or that their efforts are worthy of applause, then do not demean their deaths by using their names without their permission. I am not arguing for or against the political messages of this group, but am instead arguing against their acts of personal infringement. This is not an issue of the situation in Iraq and what actions need to be taken regarding this matter: It is an issue of respecting others for their opinions and their actions. 

An unpopular war is not an excuse to disrespect the lives it has claimed. It is time to truly honor the fallen. 

Take the names off the boots. 

~~~~~~~

Do you agree with what I wrote five years ago?  
Do you think writing the names is disrespectful or do you think it is acceptable and within their right? 
Is this a memorial, a protest, or both?  

I would love to hear your thoughts.  Opposing views are welcome just please keep it friendly.




Tuesday, May 31, 2011

2 Months

We have officially hit the two month mark on this deployment.  While I wish I could say the time has flown by, that would make me a complete and utter liar.  In reality, these have been the longest two months of my life and time has crept so slowly I sometimes think I have entered some sort of alternative calender.  Even so, it is time behind us and that's all that matters. 

These last 60-ish days have been filled with an incredible highs and lows.  I graduated from medical school, learned of my best friend's pregnancy, and just this weekend watched my big brother stand up and marry his perfect match.  My heart beamed as he said his vows to my new beautiful, smart, and sweet sister.  This same weekend I got to spend time with so much of my family including my little cousins, my lovely grandparents, and my 93-year-old great uncle.

At the same time, there have also been days when I felt like I couldn't get out of bed, days when I spent endless hours in my pajamas watching romantic comedies, and days when nothing stopped the tears.   

Overall, I'm getting through it and every day that passes is another day closer to my love coming home to me.

Here are some 2 month mark deployment lessons & thoughts:

  • Staying busy truly is the key to survival.  Perhaps my lack of things to do has contributed to the snails pace of these last two months. While I'm enjoying my extended staycation, I'm looking forward to residency for this very reason.
  • I can rely on my mil spouse blogger friends for support more than many people I know in the non-internet world.
  • Getting a dog and starting a blog were the two best things that I did for my mental health.
  • I should probably start my husband's car more often than once every 2 months, which reminds me that I need to call AAA. 
  • Red wine doesn't necessarily make you feel better and it might just cause you to write an incredibly long and emotional email to your husband about your entire future together.  Prefacing said email with, "I'm finishing off a bottle of red wine" is clearly advisable.
  • It's really difficult to cook for one person, especially when you lack motivation to go to the grocery store in the first place.  I'm still working on this one. 
  • Extra deployment money doesn't go as far as you think it would, especially when you use giant shopping trips to BJs Wholesale and sending enormous care packages as a form of therapy.
    • A good, long walk outside always helps.
    • Tactfully answering peoples' ridiculous questions about deployment is truly a learned art.
    • I have no idea how anyone had the strength to endure a military deployment before the days of Skype, email, facebook, and every other form of social media available today.
    • There's nothing more vital than the love of family and friends. 

    The most important thing I learned today is that Ben & Jerry's now makes Red Velvet Ice Cream. Try it.

    Tuesday, May 24, 2011

    Sweet Albina

    Little sweet Albina: 

    If I could give you a home, I would.
    If I could I could afford to take you, I would. 
    If things were different, I would bring you here. 

    You deserve a family.  You deserve all the love in the world. 

    Maybe someone else will see this.  Maybe your next mommy & daddy will see this wonderful post and bring you home. 

    Sunday, May 22, 2011

    Officially Dr. Army Wife!

    Well folks, the "Dr" in "Dr. Army Wife" is now official!

    Yesterday I put on a heavy red robe, a goofy hat, and walked into a big arena filled with cheering spectators.  I sat through some long speeches, walked across a big stage with my face plastered on the JumboTron, and accepted a heavy green hood around my neck.  Someone called me "Doctor" for the first time and I gladly received a diploma that was about the size of my entire body.

    Two days ago I was a medical student and today I am a physician.  Granted, I am still far from competent, but hopefully I'll figure out what I'm doing after a few years of grueling residency.

    There was, of course, one important person missing at my graduation -- my husband.  The keynote speaker asked everyone to raise their right hand, grab a memory out of the air, and hold it to our hearts.  He told us to think of the one important person who has supported us - the person who has helped us through the journey. 

    "That person may or may not be here today," he declared. 

    With my hand on my heart, I thought of him.  I am so very lucky to have married a man who loves me, pushes me to pursue my dreams, and supports me through the good times and bad times.  Even though he was across the world, I continued to feel his love and pride.

    To my husband: I could not have done it without you.  Those few small steps across that stage were minuscule compared to the steps we have taken together.  Thank you for everything.  I love you.

    Wednesday, May 18, 2011

    Blue Star Banner - How Much Is Too Much?

    Do you ever worry that you are advertising to complete strangers that your spouse or significant other is not home?

    I have a blue star flag on my front door and a sticker on my car.  I hesitated at first to put these up because I worried that they would tell people a woman lives here alone.  In the end, I decided that the blue star flag signifies an immediate family member and not necessarily a spouse.  In addition, it doesn't even mean that the Soldier normally lives in that particular residence.  I proudly display my blue star in honor of my husband.

    Today I started to doubt myself.  My doorbell rang at around 10 AM as I was standing in my living room.  I hadn't yet showered, brushed my teeth, or changed out of my sweat pants and sweat shirt.  I looked out the window to see some construction guys standing in my walkway and I quickly contemplated what to do.  I rarely answer a doorbell unless I'm expecting someone or I know who is on the other side.  However, a town Department of Public Works truck pulled up, so I went ahead and answered.  They needed access to my basement to connect a temporary water main that they had been placing on my street. 

    I opened the garage doors and I got a simultaneous "NICE MUSTANG!!!!!" from the four workers.  I chuckled and said "Oh, thanks, it's my husband's car."

    Then one of the men asked me the question.

    "Is your husband overseas?"

    I stared blankly, confused at how he knew that.

    "I saw the blue star banner."

    I looked up and noticed that he was wearing a camouflage baseball hat. 

    He must have some connection the military, I thought.

    "Yes."

    "Army? Navy? Marines?"

    "Army."

    He nodded his head.

    They walked around my garage and basement with a flashlight looking in every corner for the water meter. 

    "Where is he?"

    I hesitated. 

    "Iraq."

    He nodded again.

    That was the extent of the exchange. They found what they were looking for, asked me to check if I still had water (which I did) and went on their merry way up the street to the next house.

    I walked back into my living room and started thinking:

    In an effort to honor my husband, did I just put myself in harm's way?  

    Did I really just tell this complete stranger, who now knows the exact lay-out of my basement and garage, that I was living alone?  

    Does the blue star banner open me up to sensitive conversation?

    In reality, I'm fairly certain this town employee with the camouflage hat was just being nice.  He was likely either in the military, retired military, or a military family member.  But how can one be so sure?  I've had people in my life surprise me and turn out to be completely insane when they seemed quite normal.  I've learned through experiences that you can't trust appearances, so why am I being so trusting?

    Do you display a blue star banner or other indication of your husband's service?  Do you get nervous about the same things?

    Sunday, May 15, 2011

    Unwashed Sweatshirts

    It still smells like you.
    The sweatshirt I didn't wash.
    I inhale your scent.
    Stick my face right in it.
    The tears flow easily.
    They run down my cheeks
    and into the fabric.
    I think about how you would laugh.
    You would tease me.
    Because now I can't smell anything
    through my stuffed up nose.

    Wednesday, May 11, 2011

    never you (follow-up)

    My last post was about how I instinctively think that my husband is texting me whenever my phone alerts.  I understand that his cell phone does not work overseas and it is not possible for him to text message me.  Nonetheless, I always think it's him and my heart sinks when I see that it is not.  I'm not sure if I will ever get used to this.

    Apparently he read my blog entry because today I received a text message from a random number (sent from a computer).  It had his name attached to it and it simply said:

    "Because I love you."

    He's such a good man. 

    Monday, May 9, 2011

    never you

    Every time my cell makes that sound
    (Bing)
    The text message noise
    I think it's you.
    Every single time. 
    I expect to see your name
    across the bright screen.
    But it's never you.
    Never.


    Sunday, May 8, 2011

    The Tale of the Toothless Dog

    *For the purpose of this blog post, Libby will be referred to by her official name, "Liberty."  From across the world, my husband has informed me that I should be using our dog's complete name on my blog.  He does have a point.*

    As soon as Liberty got off the truck from Alabama, I knew something was a little amiss.  Her doggy breath did not smell quite like typical doggy breath.  It was a little more like garbage.  Or a fish tank.  A dirty algae-laden fish tank.

    I attributed the stench to the long transport and figured it would pass.  Unfortunately, it did not.  During our first veterinary visit, he immediately zeroed in on her breath.  He opened her mouth, showed us her rotting teeth, and pulled out a dangling one right there in the office.
     
    Three days after adopting Ms. Liberty, we were faced with a large vet bill.  She needed her teeth cleaned under anesthesia and any necessary teeth would be extracted.  Sigh. 

    I waited until after the hubby had left to take her in for the procedure.  In typical Murphy's Law of Deployment style, the whole thing turned into a much bigger deal. 

    Liberty's Final Dental Procedure Count
    - 7 pre-existing missing teeth
    - 11 x-rays
    - 19 teeth extracted, all with abscesses
    - Home with pain medication and 2 weeks of antibiotics
    - $$$$ = unmentionable

    Photos of a Post-Operative Toothless Girl:







    One week later, Liberty is back to normal.  Her crusty stick-up hair has been washed and she no longer reeks of surgery.  She has been running around, eating dry food, and giving lots of love, affection, and kisses.

    Best of all, her breath no longer smells like algae.

    Thursday, May 5, 2011

    I'm Not Your Doctor.

    Please.
    I'm begging you.

    We just met.
    You are not my patient.
    I'm really not interested
    in your 
    high blood pressure
    high cholesterol
    or 
    diabetes

    I'm not at work.
    Please don't tell me about
    your 
    diarrhea
    or
    constipation

    No, it's not normal
    to have
    blood in your stool
    But seriously
    I'm not your doctor
    and
    I don't even know you  

    I just want to enjoy my haircut
    without hearing about your
    menopause
    I'm sure your hot flashes are terrible
    and
    I'm glad to know that you are taking
    B12

    I don't care that you have a 
    urinary tract infection
    or that the 
    antibiotic didn't work
    or that you
    tried to drink cranberry juice
    Can I please enjoy my martini?

    I'm sorry you broke your arm last year
    or that your appendix burst
    and you needed surgery.
    That is horrible that you had 
    significant hair loss afterwards. 

    I'm sure your
    mammogram 
    hurt.
    They always do.
    I'm thrilled it was normal. 

    Your vaginal discharge 
    is none of my business. 
    I like not knowing.
    Really.

    I bet that hernia is uncomfortable.
    and so are those hemorrhoids you kindly told me about.
    The whole restaurant 
    enjoyed hearing
    about that.

    Your prostate exam?
    Please, stop.
      


    Tuesday, May 3, 2011

    Sacrifice

    It occurred to me today.
    I've never had to sacrifice my life
    In any meaningful way.
    Not once.
    Until now.

    I grew up
    with married parents
    who gave me everything
    who love me no matter what.
    An older brother who asked for me.
    A pink baby
    He announced.
    A younger sister to protect.

    Storybook childhood
    Upper middle class
    Two houses
    Private education
    A car
    A pony

    First choice college
    First choice medical school
    First choice residency program

    The man of my dreams.
    A husband who pushes me to pursue my goals.
    Who never once objected to my aspirations.
    A man who loves me for who I am
    and for who I want to be.

    I'm sitting here
    looking out the window.
    Thinking about how fortunate I have been
    How lucky I have been
    How very, very blessed.

    I've never in my life had to sacrifice.
    I've never been told 
    you can't
    you won't
    you shouldn't

    This deployment is a sacrifice.
    I miss him.

    But, I think it's my turn.





    Saturday, April 30, 2011

    Extreme Home Makeover: Fire Department Style

    Something really wonderful happened to one of the families in our unit.  As I've said before, we are a reserve unit so the soldiers all have civilian jobs. We live away from military bases, each other, and the Army lifestyle.  One of my husband's battle buddies ("M") is a firefighter and his wife ("J") is a teacher.  They are some of the nicest people you will ever meet.  She is now 7 months pregnant with their first child and will be giving birth while he is overseas.  We are all hoping they can arrange leave so that he can be home for the birth.  If not, they have it arranged with the hospital to Skype the birth.  This couple had big plans for much-needed home renovations before their little boy arrives.   Unfortunately, they did not have time to do everything they wanted before M left.

    Thursday morning, J woke up to pouring rain.  She left her house and went to her job teaching 6th grade.  When she returned in the afternoon, she drove up to 30 firefighters surrounding her house.  Fortunately, there was no fire....they were stripping all the siding off her house!  The city firefighters had taken it upon themselves to get together on their time off and renovate M and J's house.  Dominoes Pizza and Home Depot showed up with donations and there were news crews everywhere!  The goal is to give M and J an entirely new house exterior in 10 days.  I believe they are even putting on a new roof.


     

    It couldn't have happened to two more deserving people.  M probably won't be able to recognize his house when he comes back and that little baby boy is going to be living in style!

    Wednesday, April 27, 2011

    Excuse Me, Mr. Trump....

    Today was a very unimportant day in politics.  President Obama released his birth certificate thereby proving that he is, in fact, a natural born citizen of the United States.  Clearly, this is the biggest issue in this country and I'm so happy it was straightened out.

    We can all thank Donald Trump for accomplishing such a monumental feat: 

    Following the White House's release of the long-form certificate, Trump told reporters in New Hampshire that he is "very proud" of himself for helping to bring the release of the document.

    "I've accomplished something nobody else was able to accomplish," Trump said. "I'd want to look at (the birth certificate), but I hope it's true so that we can get on to much more important matters."

    - CNN, 4/27/2011

    I think I know the more important matters to which Mr. Trump is referring:

    Reference: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-1025610/A-step-step-guide-gravity-defying-Donald-Trump-combover.html

    Reference: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-1025610/A-step-step-guide-gravity-defying-Donald-Trump-combover.html



    Mr. Trump, can we please see the birth certificate for your toupee?  If you insist that your hair is a natural born citizen, please show me a certificate of authenticity. 

    There must be an amendment in the Constitution that excludes presidential candidacy based upon outrageously bad hair, right?

    Tuesday, April 26, 2011

    She's My Therapy Dog

    Since I have a lot of free time right now, I took a trip to visit my parents.  This involves a lot of time hanging out in the country, watching movies, eating food, and being surrounded by the world's best dogs.  Libby loves going to my parents' house and hanging out with her canine cousins, Chelsea and Medford.  They play outside, go on walks, dig in the garden together, and smother all the homosapiens with an abundance of kisses.

    L to R: Medford butt, Libby butt, Chelsea butt

    My parents' chocolate lab, Chelsea, is one of a kind.  She is an old lady but she is the sweetest and most gentle dog.  For the past 9 years, she has been a registered pet therapy dog and my mother takes her into a local assisted living facility to visit with the elderly residents.  They all absolutely adore her and look forward to her visits.

    Since Libby is, in my opinion, the most wonderful dog to ever walk the face of the earth, my mom and I decided to take her to the assisted living too.  The staff members at the facility are pretty laid-back so they didn't mind that Libby isn't a registered therapy dog.  We got the girls all beautified and ready for their visit:


    Chelsea ready to do her job
    Miss Libby all dressed up



    Instead of a bandana, Medford got a bone and he stayed home.  While he is an incredibly loving and sweet boy, Medford is a little too fearful of all the sounds in the assisted living.

    For her first time, Libby did great.  We walked into a large room with approximately 20 residents sitting in a circle.  This was overwhelming for Libby and she seemed a little bit nervous.  Over time, however, she seemed to relax.  She let lots of ladies and gentlemen pet her, she got on a couch with someone, and she sat on one woman's lap.  Of course Chelsea was a professional and went from person to person giving her love and affection. 

    Because we live a couple hours from my parents and my life will be getting busier, Libby and I may not have the opportunity to return to the assisted living.  We certainly won't have the time to get her registered as an official pet therapy dog.  That's okay though.  In reality, Libby doesn't need that piece of paper or that dog tag that says she is a therapy dog.  She is the ultimate therapy dog  - she's my battle buddy and she takes the job very seriously.

    Libby is my therapy dog. 

    Tuesday, April 19, 2011

    I'll Always Be a Student

    The sun shone on my face as I walked away from the hospital.  It was a cool day but the sun felt warm and comforting.  I looked back at the enormous building, smiled, and said a soft "farewell." 

    So much happened at that place.  

    I studied countless hours of biochemistry, immunology, and physiology. 
    I meticulously worked with my anatomy cadaver to reveal the intricacies of the human body.
    I drank coffee.
    Lots of coffee.
    I studied 16 hours a day for a month to prepare for a single exam. 
    I hit the snooze button at 3:45 am.
    Sometimes I never saw the light of day.
    I made decisions that were right and I made others that were very wrong.
    There were tears shed for dying patients and celebrations for babies born.
    I watched 6 surgeons struggle for hours to save a man's life and ultimately succeed.
    I helped families decide on hospice care and I watched as they said goodbye.
    I touched the faces of 2 pound babies fighting for every breath. 
    I made children giggle hysterically through office visits. 
    I saw sheer joy as women heard their babies' heartbeats for the first time and I witnessed intense mourning when they did not. 
    I watched patients hit rock bottom on chemotherapy and I saw them smiling when they were cancer-free.
    I learned about resilience and strength from patients who were not able to even tell me their stories.
    Children with horrible genetic diseases showed me how to appreciate the little things.
    I listened to a 27-year-old scream in pain every morning from her invasive cervical cancer.  She was on enough pain medication to sedate an elephant and yet she still screamed.
    Elderly women held my hand and reassured me that I would succeed.
    Elderly men held my hand and told me I was beautiful (and other less tactful variations.)
    I treated gang members, murderers, drug addicts, sex workers, and homeless schizophrenics. 
    In the same day, I treated philanthropists, teachers, social workers, and diplomats.
     
    I learned something from every single patient that I came across and I wish I could thank them all.

    Twenty-five years ago, I walked into early Kindergarten.  This Friday I walked away from my last day as a medical student.   The next phase in my career will bring countless new experiences, some of which will be wonderful and some heartbreaking.  Regardless, I know that they will all teach me something important.

    I may not be a student but I will always keep learning.

    Friday, April 15, 2011

    AOL's Military Job Week

    Take a look at this video from Michelle Obama and Jill Biden:






    I was recently contacted by AOL's social media team and asked if I would help spread the word about their current promotion for Military Job Week.

    This week AOL is teaming up with the White House to show love and support of our troops and their families and encouraging those who have loved ones in the military to show their love through their Badges page.

    For every support badge that is shared through Facebook or Twitter, AOL will donate to Hire Heroes USA.  This is an organization that offers assistance to veterans and their families in order to seek jobs upon their return home.

    Please show your love today!  Get your badge at: http://aol.it/e51ogo

    Tuesday, April 12, 2011

    Strong Because Of You.

    I'm strong because of you, my friends.
    I'm strong because of your calls and messages.
    I'm strong because you bring me cupcakes just to cheer me up.
    I'm strong because you visit.
    You ask me to get pancakes.
    You invite me to brunch.
    You sit with me, drink wine, and watch movies.
    It makes me stronger when I feel so weak.

    I'm strong because of you, my friends.
    I'm strong because you ask me if I want to take a walk. 
    You pretend you really need one
    But I know it's for me.
    We get outside in the fresh air.
    We walk through the fields and through the trees.
    I'm stronger because of it.

    I'm strong because of you, my friends.
    I'm strong because you distract me from my thoughts.
    You allow me to forget the loneliness.
    You know I don't want to talk about it.
    So we don't.
    That makes me stronger.

    In the quiet of solitude
    I don't feel strong at all.
    But because of you, my friends
    I'm strong.