Wednesday, October 29, 2008

"Always go to the bathroom when you have a chance." King George V

Here is the much requested unveiling of the new Harrell Bathroom:
This may not appear as much of anything to those that have not been in our home as of yet. But when compared to the baby diaper yellow abomination that was our previous shower of despair;
it is the transformation a butterfly envies.
Now there are few ends yet to tie. Such as towel hangers, toilet paper holder, light above the sink, etc. There's just so many options, what's a girl to do? Soon I shall settle on one and we will stamp it complete. As much as I love the newish bathtub I think my favorite feature is the window and the natural light it brings in.
With the added floor space we gobbled up from one of the bedroom closets there is now direct access into the master bedroom.
I accepted an offer from our ward missionaries to lend a hand for their service project this week and they were so helpful! It was amazing the work we got done. I have door handles in the bathroom! Locks are great! And there was some ceiling scraping going on. See all that dust! I was able to scrape off the rest of the popcorn torture/texture this evening. That's one more room down four more to go. Ceilings that is.
The elders hacked a path through the back jungles of our property as well. See how out of control this Tennessee landscaping is? Any suggestions on how to keep it at bay. Besides not running away to Alaska (which reminds me of a Calvin and Hobbes cartoon) for five months in the middle of summer. I already thought of that one thank you very much. The elders are behind that growth somewhere with a weedwacker.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

We Are Adopting!

Before Valli and I got married we talked about dogs. We both like dogs. We talked briefly about having a dog of our own someday. It went something like this, I think.

Hey Valli, one day I’d like a dog. Like a German Shepherd. That would be awesome, right?

Ok Honey.
Maybe a year later we got married and I decided to bring it up again. That conversation went a lot differently than I had planned. Turns out Valli and I were polar opposites on nearly every aspect on dog ownership. I said when I get back from Afghanistan, she was thinking more like three or five years down the road. I was thinking keep the dog inside, she wants it outside. She wanted fixed, I wanted all natural. I wanted a purebred pup, she wanted an inexpensive or free/rescued full-grown dog that was already trained. I was thinking companion and family member, she was thinking security system. We were as far from the same page as we could imagine. We have never disagreed on anything as much as we have over the hypothetical dog.

But after discussing the subject again and again, after reading all the books, after digging up every concern, after lots of compromises (mostly on the part of my saintly wife of whom I am completely undeserving) and a firm understanding that I owe her big time! -we have reached a consensus.

And here it is.

This little guy, or one of his brothers, will be coming home with us in January. He's a German Shepherd. Mom and Dad are both 85 pound working dogs. The plan also entails that I will ensure he is trained to be prefectly behaved on his own and around children by the time I leave for the next (and last) deployment in about 2 years. Bonus points if he will "maul-slash-scare-the-urine-out-of" people when Valli decides they are threatening, bothersome, or especially annoying. He will be a full-time outside dog except for very special occasions. I will handle all fencing (before the wee one gets here), housing, and waste disposal issues. A Valli has been doing great at finding deals on the internet for pet crates, buried fences, and other neat dog items. There are still other details to iron out but on the whole we have reached a settlement. We are both looking forward to bringing him home.

Valli's thought's: "Looking forward to bringing Dave home soon."

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men

There have been lots of goings on at the Harrell home. In the last 24 hours we have taken that incredible List and all the goals and plans we constructed over a year- and figuratively burned them to the ground and danced in the ashes. This is a good thing.

Valli got back from her 6 month stay in Alaska and immediately went to work cleaning, repairing and improving our home. We wanted to sell it around the new year and get into a larger better home with a big yard and room to do all the great stuff we’ve been dreaming of since we got married. We had injected a lot of stress into her life with so many things going on at once. I’ve been doing what I can to help; calling our bank and getting pre-approved for a loan, searching for real estate online, but Valli was doing almost all the work. And with things moving forward so quickly, I really got caught up in buying a new home. We even narrowed down our choices to one place that we both really liked.

Then we got to the task of figuring out how to pay for it all. Valli has retired from the engineering realm for a while. We haven’t finished remodeling our current house yet. We might not be able to even sell our place once it once it’s ready. The home we were thinking of buying will be wonderful (and finished) and huge, but will not leave much room in our budget for unexpected surprises. And as luck would have it- we received an unexpected surprise three days ago.

The transmission on our 1982 Benz 300D tanked. No one in 100 miles wants to touch it, so we will have to buy a new (read= rebuilt. Like we could really find a new one) tranny. Luckily a guy in town bought one a while ago from a company in Arizona. So we won’t have to find one ourselves. We are prepared to deal with things like this. But once we jump into a new house we won’t be. That experience really made me think about some things that Valli has been trying to tell for the last week. Mainly- are we sure we are doing the right thing? Once I really thought about it, the answer was a clear and resounding “NO!”

Enter the paradigm shift. We are still going to get the goals we want. But we decided that the plans we had made was the wrong way for us to get there. So, instead of buying a house with a big yard, we are keeping our house and just buying a yard. You read right. Once the house is finished we are going to start looking at land for sale. No one wants to develop now with the current state of things so it’s just sitting there, depreciating. That will be our big yard for keeping bees, raising pigs, planting a big garden, making bonfires, playing paintball, shooting things, whatever.

Instead of paying of the last of our debt with the money we’d make from selling our home, we are using the down-payment we’ve saved for to do that. Instead of buying a house with a big basement and storage space, we are going to excavate under our own house. Eventually.

And instead of buying a motorcycle we are buying a transmission. It was my idea. Valli wouldn’t ever ask me to give up a motorcycle after all the pathetic behavior and drooling and waiting. But it’s for the best. Since we are not moving 20 miles further from the post, we can easily afford me driving my big awesome truck to and from work until I figure that bike situation. Since we won’t be stretched to the breaking point, we will have plenty of dough at the end of the month for savings, dating, heaven willing my motorcycle fund, and anything else that breaks on the old car.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Hey Four-Eyes!

Do I look smarter?

I went through a physical exam last week. In the past I have always got flying colors in every event. I am a perfect example in every aspect of human health and fitness. But this time when I got to the eye exam and the doc asked me to read line nine it went something like this-

Me: Um... right. There is no line nine.

Doc: Try line eight.

Me: Oh wait! I see it now. O, um ...I, um...another O,

Doc: Try line eight.

Me: Fine. Line eight says... um... ummm.

Doc: Try line seven.

Line seven! That's the best I could do. My near vision is still 20/20 but my farvision in my right eye has deteriorated significantly over the last year. Weird. Maybe that time in the 7th grade when I shined a laser directly into my eye from an inch a way to see what it looked like has finally caught up to me. The right one has always been a little off since then. Go figure. So now I have these glasses. They are hard to get used to but when I wear them stuff really pops out at me now, like numbers and letters and stuff. I don't think I will wear them very often, just when driving or shooting. Anyway- new toys are tons of fun, and yay for getting old.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Ichabod Crane never had it so good

It's that pumpkin carving time of year again. Woo Hoo!

This uber beautiful pumpkin is brought to you all the way from Afghanistan by the talented Dave. I can't believe he got so much detail on such a small area. Carving genius I tell you. It is lacking flames. Did I say lacking? I meant improved upon with no flames.

Mine on the other hand, hee he, while lacking in detail makes up for it in uniqueness. Ok, so maybe it doesn't actually make up for it. But it is unique. No one else I know of used my hand for their inspiration.

The rest are brought to you by a few of the Hatley siblings who participated in our Family Home Evening.

Laci's cute creation.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Spencer with Hogsqueal.

I think the top would do well for a tail.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           

Mark's impersonation of his pumpkin.                                                                                                                       

                             Lanisha and the Joker.

Happy Halloween Everyone!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Why I Can't Get Promoted

Some of you who have experience with the military might wonder: Why hasn't Dave been promoted in nearly three years? I myself wonder that all the time. In this post I am going to try and answer that question.

To get promoted in the Army you need four things: time in grade, points, a peer recommendation and a visit to the promotion board.

Way back in the day- when I got back from Iraq- I was too lazy to do anything about it. I didn't have the time in grade, and I didn't feel like gaining points through gay Army correspondence courses when I had a new wife, new house and various other distractions.

A year down the road- Now I have the time in grade, and I've stocked up a bit on points by now. Now I have no time. My boss (the one who is supposed to recommend me) is gone for months doing some kind of Army training and I am left in charge to keep the Aid Station functioning and get us all packed up and ready to go to Afghanistan. We worked long days and weekend during this time. I sure as heck wasn't studying for any boards, and I can't recommend myself. So- no dice there.

Then we get to Afghanistan and I move to the Medevac. Now I have lots of time to study and scrape up the few remaining points I need to make that cutoff. So I told my new boss I was ready to go to the promotion board. I had all my points, awards, comendations, letters from previous supervisors- everything all ready to go. And he said he won't send me to a board until I have finished my progression as a flight medic. And that is understandable. He wants to know that I can do the job I have now, not the one I was doing for the last three years. Fine. Another month or two won't hurt.

After seven months of delays, broken aircraft, trainers going on leave and getting send to other bases, crappy weather, and an overwhelming number of medevac missions I was finally progressed and signed off as a flight ready crew member. I went to my boss again to send me to the promotion board. He said not yet. I needed some more experience flying missions and getting familiar with working with a crew, managing mass casualty scenes, and working on the patients. Okay- whatever. He wants me to have more mission experience. Cool.

Two months later: I don't know anyone who has been the rank of Specialist as long as I have unless they have been busted or can't pass a physical fitness test. People who have been in the Army less then two years now outrank me. It's getting a little insane. Every week I hounded my boss asking him to either recommend me for a board, or give me a written counseling statement explaining why he wouldn't, and what I still needed to do or be before he would. Finally he did. He said he would send me to the board. I would go in November and I have tons of time to prepare.

Two weeks later, or about a two weeks ago: I pissed off my platoon leader. I bit the hand that feeds. I had just finished a really crappy mission where lots of things went wrong. My platoon leader was chastising me for something that I had no control over while I was trying to restock my aircraft in the dark for the next mission. And instead of saying- Yes Sir, it's my fault. Everything is my fault and you are right. I said something like- I'm doing the best I can and you don't know what you're talking about.

A couple days later my boss told me I wouldn't be going to the board. The PL had shot down his recommendation because I have zero military bearing and respect for my leadership. Which isn't completly true. I have a little military bearing, and no respect for hypersensitive crybaby officers or condescending pigheaded jerks. It's been my biggest problem since joining the Army. And that incident confirmed it. So being hardworking, dependable, highly skilled and knowlegable, experienced and exibiting many other leadership qualities is not enough to get promoted. Not in this platoon anyway. It's so frustrating to watch my peers fly through the ranks. Friends with easy jobs and supervisors who don't care. Peers who are overweight or undertrained- but get sent up the ladder because they have a buddy somewhere. It's discouraging. But at least now I know what I need to work on. All the hard work in the world doesn't get me what I want until I learn how to bend over.

Hopefully I will be sent up in the first few months back in Fort Campbell. A lot of the leadership is moving to other places or getting out of the Army, and I will be one of the most experienced medics left. So there is a light at the end of the tunnel. And did you guys all see the size of that truck Valli bought? Its as big as our house! My wife is the awesomest.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Trying to keep my title so I'm open to suggestions

A few of our avid readers may recall when I took Grand Prize this Spring in the Worst Wife contest. Thank you to all who voted for me. Now my dear supporters, I fear that my actions yesterday may have put that title in jeopardy. Which is such a shame since I have so enjoyed admiring my trophy on it's mental mantle. 

Due to Dave's current redeployment ambitions the need for a good work truck has arisen. These plans and schemes involve raising honey bees, chickens, goats, butherching hogs and anything involving self-sufficiency. We might just throw in some lambs for Spitfire when she visit's. So yesterday I purchased a work truck. 

Now since you are seeing this for the first time Dave I must apologize for a few things. This truck is lacking a few aspects found in the Ford Ranger I/we sold. For instance things the Ranger had that the Chevy does not; limited seating, tiny cargo area and broken armrest. And then there's a few things this truck has that the last one wasn't hampered with. Such as a pesky tool box that will probably reduce the need to untangle the cargo net. Yes, that cargo net you like so much and repeatedly liken to Christmas lights in muttering tones. Another addition when compared to the Ford is the Heavy Duty towing package which will inevitably lead to hauling more things and helping people move. I realize the trade off is quite unequal. But I am trying to keep that trophy after all.

Monday, October 13, 2008

This one time in Afghanistan...

It's been a while since I had any cool war stories to share. I had a trying mission the other day that I'll relate, and give my readers some insight into the exicting side of my deployment. These exciting moments don't come along everyday. Or even once a week. And sometimes in a month. But I did have a really cool one come along a few days ago.

I was on the second-up crew and through a series of unexpected events we had to take a mission for three urgent patients without the assistance of a flight doc. It's standard practice to bring one with us in case the patient needs care that exceeds the medics ability, training or if there is just too many things going on at once. We don't always bring one if the patients have some really lame ailment. But this wasn't one of those times. The only info we had was that all three patients required immediate surgery, and they were all already on ventilators. No info about specific injuries, treatment they have already received or anything.

While I was loading up the aircraft with all the extra monitors and breathing machines I thought I might need, someone else was trying to get a doc to us. In the end we decided to go without. I was a little nervous on the way down. When we got to Jalalabad and I saw my patients I was able to relax a bit. They were in a truck that was hit by a bomb, caught fire and crashed. Two were US soldiers and one was a local interpreter. They all had burns to their upper bodies and airways, and some broken bones, but they were all stable and drugged out. Our people in flight operations had called the Jbad aid station while we were in flight and told them we were without a flight doc, and they had a surgeon there for us. He didn't have any medevac experience but it was better than nothing so I brought him along. None of the patients looked like they would be any trouble and I didn't think I would need him anyway.

Normally if we only have one patient the doc doesn't have to do anything. If the patient is really messed up the doc and I will split up the work- ei one of us works on the airway and the other hooks up monitors and get the fluids and drugs pumping. And if we have multiple patients I'll work on the one worst guy and the doc will keep an eye on the less severe ones, and be a ready resource if I run into anything I haven't seen before.

On this flight the doc had no way of knowing what he should be doing, and wasn't up on our internal communication system. So to get his help with anything I used the highly inefficient point and scream method. Like so.

Me: (points to doc and screams) "YOU", (points to my eyes, then points to patient closest to doc and screams) "HIM".
Doc: (blank stare)
Me: (same thing but louder)
Doc: (nods, but doesn't do anything)

I wasn't his fault though. We normally train our docs on what we expect them to do. And doc aren't used to working in an environment that they didn't personally set up.
It all worked out in the end. It was extremely crowded and cramped in the back of our bird but eventually I got everyones O2 adjusted, IV bags hung and flushed, monitors monitoring and wounds looked at. Once that is done the rest of the flight usually goes real smooth but with these three there was always one or two things that needed to be done. A piece of equipment would fault and need to be troubleshot and fixed, a different patient would need suction, the middle guy needs more oxygen. And since the doc didnt know where anything was, I spent the ride crawling over the litters from one patient to the next constantly trying to fix something. The worst was in the last 5 mintutes of the flight.

I was doing something with dude-in-the-middle when I faintly heard the doc screaming something at me and pointing to the monitor on dude-on-the-left. His oxygen saturation display is showing a rapid drop. After checking the equipment to make sure the sensor is working right, I disconnected the ventilator and hooked the O2 to a bag and started breathing for him manually, and asked the pilots to please fly faster because all of the oxygen tanks are about to run out. I happily those O2 sat numbers climbing back into the pink. That's when I looked at dude-on-the-right and saw his pulse had doubled and his hands where clenched and shaking. Apparently while I wasn't watching his drugs were wearing off and he had noticed a big fat tube was shoved down his throat. So the doc took over bagging and I crawled/swung over the patients so I could get to my drug bag and send dude-on-the-right back to lala-land. Once that was done I looked to see how the doc was doing, and it lookded like his guy was tanking again. Thankfully we landed right then. Whatever was wrong with the patient at that very moment could wait the 60 seconds it takes to get to the emergency room.

We got everyone off nicely and wheeled into the ER, I gave my report to the doc there, thanked the guy that flew in the back with me, and went back to my bird. The cargo area looked like a bomb had gone off. Wires and tubes strewn everwhere, wrappers and syringes and trash getting blown around, a couple little puddles of bodily fluids, the hiss of leaking oxygen canisters, and alarms beeping angrily from two or three various machines. Accompanied my all this was a deep feeling of peace and accomplishment. I managed all three patients without panicing or forgetting everthing I ever learned about medicine, and everyone got to the hospital safely. After 9 months in this country I felt like I had been thrown into the fire and finally come back out unsinged. It was a great feeling, and since that mission I haven't had the usual pre-mission butterflies and doubts. I have arrived!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Church News

Good news for the church from Afghanistan. Last Sunday the fourth branch in the country was organized. Following is a statement written by the district president, Gene Wikle. Cool eh?

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

On Sunday, September 28th the fourth military branch in Afghanistan was organized. The Salerno Military Branch was created at Forward Operating Base Salerno. The Salerno Branch has 31 members. The new branch presidency is comprised of President Steve Haga, Christopher Witte, First Counselor, Tim Wilson, Second Counselor and Joel Ellington, Elders Quorum President. LDS Chaplain James Montoya officiated on behalf of the District Presidency. I am grateful to these brethren for accepting the call to serve. I know that they will bless the lives of the members serving at FOB Salerno.

As of October 1st the Kabul Afghanistan Military District is comprised of 442 members serving in four military branches, 18 service member groups and at 17 remote locations. We have been blessed to have members serving from many countries to include the United Kingdom, France, Belgium, Germany, South Africa, Australia, Philippines, Canada, and the United States. This is truly an international effort of service by saints from the four corners of the world united to help the good people of Afghanistan in defense of freedom.