Thursday, March 27, 2008

Baja 1000...

You know it's amazing to me the things we have to do to scrounge by here sometimes and the efforts put forth - even potentially life-threatening - that have to be done in the name of "supporting the mission." Take for instance something as simple as supplies. We are not a large compound here at HQ ISAF, so to get the "beans & bullets" to our troops we sometimes have to conjure up a convoy to Bagram Airfield - an hour north of here - to get what we need. I just got back from one of those trips – probably my 3rd or 4th now – heck I don’t remember. All I know is I’m exhausted. You drive, completely cognizant of the fact that you are driving in IED Central, and looking this way and that for anything suspicious. Intel, for instance, tells us to look out for a Toyota Corolla in black, white, red, blue…. Heck that is about EVERY car out there! They also say to look for particular trucks… SUV’s… and even an Afghan National Army vehicle that was stolen…. Ugh! So you get the picture, you basically can’t trust ANY vehicle out there because they are potential VBIED’s. Then you’ve got to navigate through a city that has no traffic laws, with people crossing the street everywhere, taxis and buses routinely stopping in the middle of the street, and - I kid you not – “donkey carts” in the middle of it all slowing up everyone and creating dangerous choke points. The key word is avoidance, and as such, we have only one rule to driving here in Afghanistan: "Drive it like you stole it”, and TRY not to hurt anyone in the process. Ha! What that entails, however, is utilizing driving maneuvers that seem to make things worse, not better. For instance, we don’t stop at most stop signs… we drive WAY faster than the rest of traffic, weaving in and out of lanes, nearly missing the corner of every vehicle we pass. We slam on the brakes so often it has become common fare to have your knees bruised upon your return from the day’s trip. We honk like we own the road, we have to swerve into oncoming one-way traffic to get around a slow vehicle that could make us vulnerable to attack; we’ve played “chicken” with oncoming cars, trucks, busses, and large jingle trucks more times that I can count. Yes, we’ve been accidents; on the convoy before this one, a car panicked and pulled out right in front of us. Our lead truck slammed into the back of it, pushing the car in front of my truck and we slammed on the brakes to avoid hitting it. Shortly afterward, a bus pulled out and again, our lead truck side-swiped it, ripping the mirror off. We're not exactly winning the hearts and minds of the Afghan people here with our highway habits!

Once we make it out of downtown Kabul into the open desert, we drive an average of 80mph on roads not fit for a fully-suspensioned Baja truck to traverse. We often slide and skid, especially in wet weather like today; we come back with dented rims from the gaping pot-holes so large they could swallow our light-armored truck whole; and we frequently go completely airborne through many of the hillcrests and dips in the road. (we have the stiff necks from slamming into the roof to prove it! ) We drive around in an 8000 lb light armored 4X4 Toyota Land Cruiser, retrofitted with 1-inch-thick windows and 1/4 inch inside armor, so it’s already extremely top-heavy. And when you have the additional weight of 2-5 passengers and their cargo, I liken the feel of driving our Land Cruiser to steering a boat on water - that’s really what it feels like. You have to anticipate the tire-roll, the heavy lean to one side with the slightest of turns - “especially” at speed, and the fact that 8000+ lbs of man and metal does not stop on a dime, no matter HOW hard you slam on those brakes. We drive tactically when in a multi-vehicle convoy, and that often means the tail vehicle will provide “block” for the lead vehicles, meaning when we come to a turn, or intersection, he will speed past us to block the oncoming cars. Last trip out, our “block” predicted his move incorrectly and locked up his brakes, skidded right through the intersection, down into a 4-foot drop-off ditch, and then smashed into the side of a mud hut. The lead vehicle is the most vulnerable. He is the lookout, calling back on the radio all the suspicious activities and sites that he observes as we're traveling. You’re a two-man team in that lead vehicle – one driving, as the other calls out cautions in the road, or our intentions – like passing a slow moving truck, then each vehicle behind the lead will, in turn, call out “Clear!” as they pass so that we know we’re all still together. Some may say, “Well, at least you’re not driving a Humvee.” What I would say to them is, “I wish we were!” At least they are wider, don’t practically roll over every time you turn the wheel, they are armored better, have ECM’s (ours don’t), and driving in full body armor in our Land Cruisers certainly doesn’t win you any comfort awards. Because we're wearing full body armor, we can’t sit back all the way. We have a 12-pound bullet-proof plate behind us, and then another up front, along with your ammo belt, all playing interference with your steering wheel. We wear our Kevlar helmets, not particularly for the threat “outside” the vehicle, but because of how often we get banged around “inside” the vehicle.

Today was one of the worst convoy’s I’ve been on. It was rainy, muddy, and to boot, I was in charge as the convoy commander today, so everyone’s safety resided on my shoulders. We had so much cargo loaded in the back, too, that all rear view visibility was gone – not that we had much to begin with. Scotti, Bixby and I had other passengers too - a couple redeploying and going on R&R, and our Chief
first sergeant, the highest ranking enlisted guy in Afghanistan, who had meetings to attend. The fact that these peoples’ lives rested on my ability to put together precise and sufficiently briefed convoy procedures in the event something should “interrupt” our normal course of action, did not rest easy on my mind. This is not my first convoy - heck I've been shot at in past deployments, even ambushed, and this is also not the first time I have had a responsibility like this put on me. But weather conditions made it worse, and this was also the first convoy where we did not accompany another unit, so we were completely on our own today. What if I got everyone lost? What if we hit an IED? What if....???

A couple months ago on our first trek through this desert, I actually thought it was fun. I likened it to competing in the Baja 1000 – except under duress. But it's not so fun anymore. I don't know.... maybe it was turning 40... maybe I'm getting too old for this. Or maybe I've just been through enough situations like this now that I realize all the wonderful things I have to come home to, and am more cautious than before. Either way, these trips now seem more and more like a game of Russian Roulette, and I worry that eventually our odds will be stacked against us.

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Monday, March 24, 2008

The Royal Throne...

Gosh... how long has it been now? The last post was on the 11th???? Sorry for keeping you all in suspense but I've been unable to keep up on the blog here due to various reasons.... travel for one.... internet down for another... and just B-U-S-Y lastly.

The last time I took off on another trip, I ended up heading back to my old stomping grounds - Iraq. Baghdad, specifically. In fact, I was to meet up with another ASOC like us who resides at the old palace that I used to call home in Southwest Baghdad, so returning to the very place that we occupied 5 years ago was quite an experience. For those that don't know, I was with the first units in Baghdad 5 years ago during what they now call the "major combat phase" of the war. We first took over the airport in Baghdad, lived there for a few weeks, then moved into a nearby palace. The building that the Army gave the Air Force as a way of saying "Thanks for the close air support!" was the one that I lived in - we were it's first occupants. There are a thousand stories about that experience that I just can't go into here, but suffice it to say, it was quite a time. When we landed on the tarmack in Baghdad and I stepped off the back ramp of the C-130, I looked across the runway to see Baghdad International Airport. There it was.... glowing, with power... lights.... looking back at me as if it were a living, breathing creature - NOT the once-bombed-out shelter I remember. I am here to tell you, it was emotional. I didn't expect it. It just happened.

Once we arrived at the palace, we pulled out our sleeping bags on the 4th floor and snoozed for a few hours. I awoke the next morning restless, anxious to walk around and see what they had done with the place in 5 years' time, so I got dressed and walked outside. The first thing I had to check was to see if the old outhouse that Scotti and I had built was still there. This outhouse was like none other. It was built using one of Saddam's gold chairs from his palace as the "stool", but retrofitted with a toilet seat and lid. It had stained woodwork fitted in and around the marble steps that led to the gold chair, and it also had more gold trim taken from the frame of a now-destroyed oil painting of Saddam. I could go on about this outhouse but I don't have room. For Scotti and me, it ended up being our legacy. People came from all over to use our outhouse for several months until power and plumbing was finally restored to the bombed out palace compound. Even years later, I've run into folks who talked of that outhouse, not knowing we were the ones who built it. Heck, even my own bathroom in my house was inspired by it and was decorated in an outhouse theme while a picture of Scotti and me standing in front of our outhouse resides on a shelf on the wall! *smile* So as I walked out the back door that was backdropped on the edge of the lake...... there it was. "The Royal Throne", as we referred to it, was still there. It was well worn, however, and showed how hard the last 5 years had been on it - not too different than "me" really. I felt like I had found an old friend as funny - or as sickening - as that may sound to some of you. The door we made was now off and laying on the ground, half burried in the dirt next to it. The inside was covered in a thick layer of dust and cob webs, while the outside that once shimmered a bright white coat of paint was now chipped and peeling away. The once shiny, stained and laqured wood trim inside was now drying, faded, and exposed to the elements. The round mirror, the gold and glass shelf and the toilet paper dispensors were now missing as well. But in all honesty, it still was in really good shape. A really good cleaning and paint job would've restored it to it's former luster.

(Me & Scotti, May 2003, standing in front of our newly completed "Royal Throne")

(Me, March 2008, standing in front of a now well-worn "Royal Throne")

(The inside is still mostly complete, however very dusty and weathered)

Then I remembered, Scott and I had signed the inside framework just above the door after completing the build. "Designed & built by MSgt Ken Mahoy & TSgt Scott Stadler {signatures} May 2003, OIF" Was it still there?.... A quick look inside and up over my head revealed that our signatures penned with my Sharpie marker 5 years ago were still there unbelievably. *smile* Wow... that just brought it all home. The only problem was, Scotti was not here with me to experience it. I fought hard to get him to go on the trip with me - because I really DID need his satellite expertise on my project - but after 3 attempts, the commander would not budge. I brought SSgt Chris Lambert with me instead - and he did a great job, mind you - but for obvious sentimental reasons I really wanted Scotti to come along. I was more upset than I can say that he wasn't allowed to go. Scotti was too. 'Nuff said.

The next few days there in Baghdad were busy but just before I flew out, I borrowed a vehicle from the ASOC and Chris and I went for a drive around the palace compound there, and with each direction I looked, at least a dozen memories popped back into my head. It was fun for me
to be able to take Chris and point to a particular area and tell the story of what happened "right there" 5 years ago, or to walk past another area and remember the fun things that Scotti and I did when it was all so fresh and so new back then. No 10-foot tall concrete barriers blocking the beautiful view of the lake or the other palace buildings... No fences... No sandbags stacked up in front of all the windows.... No trees cut down for security reasons.... It was beautiful! And it was ours for a short spell. Looking back now - exactly 5 years later - and all that has transpired there at the Iraq.... and even in my "own" life, I can only get nostalgic for a spell, but then have to quickly divert my attention back to the now, and all the things that are going on today, and all that I have to accomplish before I get out of the sandbox here yet again. But for those few short days, it was hard not to remember back to that time 5 years ago that was so breathtaking... so exhilarating... and terrifying, yet somehow fun all at once. Before I left, I decided that I'd bring a momento back for Scotti, so Chris and I removed the brass door handle and I packed it in my backpack and brought it back to Afghanistan here. I sat with Scotti alone a few nights ago and showed him the pictures and video I took of the palace, and then, at the very end, I pulled out the door handle. We shared a good laugh over it and recalled all the great memories. We even kidded about how we could scheme to get the entire outhouse shipped back to our unit in Peoria! *lol* That outhouse has had a life of it's own, and we often joke that our outhouse is "the story the refuses to die" because of how many times it's come back to us with yet another story during it's 5-year tenure there. *grin* But this time around, sadly, I know I'm leaving it behind for good.

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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Jet setter...

Ok, so maybe I'm being a little facetious about the "jet setting" but this past week has pretty busy with one trip after another, most of which I can't talk about unfortunately. But I left on the 4th, the day before my birthday, spent most of the day all around Kabul here, then on the 5th I celebrated my 40th birthday somewhere in the air over Afghanistan in a blackhawk helicopter. The next day was in another location here in Afghanistan, then the next 4-5 days were spent in Qatar. I just got back late last night - very jet-lagged - and now I'm getting ready to fly out again for a spell. Ugh. So let me quickly address a few things.

1. THANK YOU to all of you who sent me Happy Birthday eCards and care packages and emails! I was QUITE overwhelmed when it all happened. On the 4th, I had just enough time to check mail before heading out and I had 11 - YES 11!! - packages mailed to me! When I got back last night I had another 6 waiting on me! Wow I don't know what to say but "thank you" to all of you that thought of me in that way. *smile* My kids sent me cupcakes in the mail with a tub of chocolate icing to put on myself and I shared those with everyone. They were goooooooood! *smile* Thanks kids! The personal letters that were written to me really put a huge smile on my face too! I wanted to give a shout out to "Brooky" for her special letter to me too. *smile* You had me smiling and laughing and I felt very special. Thank you.

(pictured above is those of us sleeping on the long C-17 cargo flight and me writing a letter to my kids in the dark)

2. My last post on the blog here did not leave anyone who read it with a warm fuzzy, so my apologies for leaving you on such a "low" and then leaving the country for a week. I am doing fine - much better now - and I'm sure you understand that we all have "those days" here and that was one such day for me. The amount of encouraging email I got offline, away from the blog site, was simply incredible. I had a couple emails that just flat out made me "lose it" but it gave me the reassurance that I needed to hear in that moment. To all of you who emailed, Thank You!

3. I turned 40 on March 5th! AAAHHH!!!!!! As you can imagine, I have quite a few "opinions" about turning 40 and I'll share those insights in another post (when I get back). Nothing terribly profound, but 40 seems to be a good age for most to look back AND look forward on one's life, and I am no different. Thanks again to all those who sent birthday wishes. Those of you who have already reached that milestone perhaps can bestow some of your wisdom on me because I still seem to want to learn things "the hard way" even at this "mature" age! *grin*

Ok.... gotta fly.... I have NO clean laundry from this past week and I've got to head out here soon. I didn't want to leave you all hanging from my last "glum" post, so now you have something else to read in the meantime.

Outta here....

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Tuesday, March 4, 2008

I struggle...

I struggle… I struggle with what to even write sometimes. Being in a war zone is of minor significance when you consider the number of good days versus bad days you have here. You just don't care that there is danger outside those walls anymore. I also realize that the “bad days” tend to seem somewhat amplified because of our circumstances, but those days – good or bad – are ubiquitous, and can’t be escaped - No matter how many times you’ve been through this, no matter how many lessons you swear you’ve learned from past deployments, no matter…… just….. no matter. Period. We have all reached the stage of this deployment where we can officially declare that “the honeymoon is over.” No more silent anxiety from the rookies worried about traveling to a war-torn country, no more pumped up bravado from men wanting to kick the enemy’s tail, no more patriotic propaganda and pep rallies urging us to “Be all we can be!”…. just hard, cold reality setting in. …those realities that finally catch up to you when you just can’t push past the pain of how much you miss your kids… or how much you miss your girlfriend or wife… and other realities, such as realizing how frustrating even some of your fellow comrades are and how damaging they can be to everyone’s morale here.

That’s where I’m at today. I suppose there should be a “blogging prerequisite” or S.O.P. that states you shouldn’t write when you’re tired and frustrated, but I can’t help it. When I was in Iraq five years ago I kept a daily journal. In it I would write the events of the day along with my most personal feelings. It was filled with my most private experiences and only one person has ever been allowed to even read it. In this blog, however, I’ve come to realize that I can’t really do that here. This is not a diary. Quite frankly, you don’t WANT to know what I’m thinking sometimes…. But allow me this rare moment to speak about the “other” side of war that most don’t get to see.

I miss my kids. As a divorced father, I already came here prewired with guilt about my failures as a father and husband, but traveling halfway around the world just exacerbates those feelings. I worry about them. I wonder how they’re doing. I wonder how they’ll cope if somehow I don’t make it home. I wonder if they begin to forget about me – if their mother even includes me in their lives by mentioning my name. Moreover, do my “kids” even talk about me much? I’m painfully aware that they read this blog, so I hope that they also understand that their Daddy is a human being with feelings….. and with flaws….. who thinks about them every minute of every day! To my kids: I love you!

Shortly before deploying, my visitation with my kids, while much too short, was filled with lots of fun-filled days and new memories. I still see vividly in my mind us all dancing around and lip-synching to the music of High School Musical 2. We even had wigs and a play microphone. My youngest son loves to play his mini-electric guitar and jam to the music playing in the background. I can still see him rocking out to “Rockstar” by Nickelback and running and sliding on his knees while never missing a riff! *lol* I miss finding my older son lying on the floor next to Ellie, our black lab, and quietly stroking her belly. He claims – and I believe him! – to be able to talk to all animals in their language. He is such an encyclopedia of animal facts and trivia, he just amazes me! I miss cooking with my daughter - my oldest child. It doesn’t matter HOW little time my kids have at my house sometimes – even just an hour and a half on Wednesdays! - she always wants to whip something up. At my house she has her own separate “nook” in the kitchen with her own cooking utensils, cookbooks, ingredients, and apron and she uses it like there is no tomorrow. Hmmm. Ironic.

I miss my best friend… the one who has since evolved into an inseparable part of my life… the other half of my once-broken heart. All of the difficulties of the past few years have always been met with her encouraging words and unconditional love and support. She has reminded me more times than I care to admit that it’s not the end of the world, and that while God may close a door, He also opens a window - if we just look. She was so right. I miss her encouragement….. I miss her smile…. I just…. MISS her!

UPDATE: …As I typed this last sentence I just received an email from her and learned of the passing of her grandpa. This is yet another side of deployments that is heart-breaking. The passing of loved ones… the births of children…. significant events in your life that you can’t be there for. I want so badly to be there to comfort her in this difficult time but have to sit here and wonder how she is doing. Is she holding up? Is she struggling like I am?

The pressures here are great. But while we’re human, replete with our many anxieties and flaws, we don’t have the luxury of letting those feelings consume us and detract us from our mission at hand. We are so pent-up at times fighting our true feelings – often stoic – that it’s no wonder so many soldiers suffer from PTSD when they return home and have trouble adjusting to a “normal” life again. You find that PTSD has really very little to do with “the fog of war” or actual combat, but rather “the fog of life.” At least the “life” we know while serving overseas as we await the return of our “normal” life back home. Until then….. I think I will continue to struggle.

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Monday, March 3, 2008

Prince Harry...

The big news in Afghanistan lately has obviously been the reports of Prince Harry being secretly stationed here, and subsequently being removed. The most interesting thing about this story to us here at the ISAF Headquarters is that many of us didn't know either. Yes, there were obviously a few who knew - particularly his fellow Brits - whom posess a much higher pay grade than me. But for the most part, we had no idea. Once we got wind of the story, especially after learning that he was a FAC (Forward Air Controller) who called in close air support, we went back and looked up our past missions. We now knew his “call sign” that he used on the radio (which I can't say here for obvious reasons) and with it we were able to see just how much interaction we had with him. To our surprise, we had flown a number of missions with him, and in fact, there were a few missions that put some serious HURT on the bad guys down in the Southern provinces.

To us, we just deal in code names and call signs when we speak to the literally hundreds of different people out there, whether they be ground troops, pilots in the air, or other staff
members, so flying missions for Harry was no big deal - no different than any other mission we fly a hundred times each day..... at least.... at the time. But the Brits who work with us in our ASOS (Air Support Operations Squadron) are particularly proud to have learned of their own royalty - the third in line to the throne - serving on the front lines with them. In fact, one of the Brits who works with us actually "trained" Harry last year on his duties as a FAC! He couldn't say anything at the time for obvious reasons, but once news of Harry hit the airwaves, he was finally able to share his story. Pretty fascinating stuff.

Anyway, the questions coming in asking, "Did you know Harry was there?"..... and "Did you work with him?"... were getting more frequent so I thought I would let you in on what little we did know. Honestly, in the grand scheme of things, he was just another call sign at the other end of the radio, but somehow, in the end, it "is" a little exciting that we got to be a part of it.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Pinky And "No" Brain...

I think it’s going to take me 10 years to catch up on the sleep I don’t get here….

First off, thank you to those of you who have sent me emails asking if I’m ok because I haven’t posted here in a while. *smile* The answer is “yes”, but the effects of working too many hours are starting to really wear on me. In fact, I just woke up from an unplanned “nap” (more like a “pass out”) just 30 seconds ago and now I’ve got to hit the road again soon to do something else tonight across Kabul here.

Speaking of that, since the last time I wrote, I have been traveling in and around the country here a lot lately – quite thrilling I assure you (Ugh!) – and soon I’ll be flying out of country to a few places as well so you could say that my “ops tempo” , as we refer to it, has certainly increased. I’ll spend more time in other blogs talking about those adventures but at the moment I just don’t have the time.

Another good reason I haven’t written lately is that I’ve been injured and typing on the computer has been (still is) quite difficult. We formed a volleyball team a couple weeks ago and we were playing the French (yes, it’s like the Olympics here – one country versus another! *smile*) and we were a little over-confident after pummeling the Italians just the week before. It seems the French took this little friendly competition a little too seriously because just past the halfway point we were already about 20 points behind and they were unrelenting in their efforts to bury us! Then….. it happened. Their star player – a 6 foot 5 tall Frenchman – spiked the ball over the net. And who do you think was there to deflect it? Yep. Little ol’ me. Except that it came so stinking fast that I only got my hands up about two thirds of the way and didn’t have my arms and fingers fully extended, so the ball hit my right hand – particularly my pinky – and managed to pull it out to the side, completely disjointing my pinky at the knuckle. I felt a sharp pain, but it happened so fast that I didn’t think much about it….. at least until I looked down at my hand. Ugh. Looking at my hand, I realized that my pinky was “half good” in that the bottom half up to the knuckle was straight up and down the way it should be, but the top half above the knuckle was bent and disjointed out to the side about 75 degrees! Saying nothing, I calmly walked to the side of the court to let our commander, who was our “hot swap”, come in for me. To quickly, but quietly, let him know why I was stepping out I just flashed my hand to him so that the game would not be interrupted. But I think my hand must have been worse than I realized because he “instantly” recoiled in a painful cringe and diverted his eyes. I honestly thought he was going to puke!

Pinky: "Gee Brain, what do you want to do tonight?"

The Brain: "The same thing we do every night, Pinky—Try to take over the world."

As he stepped in for me, I walked over to an Austrailian who was helping referee the game on the sidelines and asked, “Hey, can you pull on this for me?” He looked at it….. and after he was done cringing…. gave it two good tugs (as I let out a couple good yelps!) and he got it to pull back closer to “normal’ than it was, but it was still very disjointed. That’s when he said to me (in his Austrailian accent), “I-eev played Rugbee fo’ years and I’ve disjointed my fin-geh many times. But I-eev ne-ve seen one this bad mate! You nade to go to the cla-nic.”

(by the way, these pics were taken "after" the Australian pulled my finger back closer to normal!)

I’ll fast forward. The "cla-nic" couldn’t pull it back either. (Yes, they tried…. And yes, I yelped – AGAIN!). Their opinion was that there was no way it could be pulled that far out to the side without also being broken. They were also concerned about blood veins and tendons being damaged. The only clinic that was equipped to deal with broken bones was the Czech Republic tent hospital at KIA (Kabul International Aiport), which was not good news. My little crooked pinky was now committing two of the hospital staff, myself (and Bixby who offered to stay with me), and about eight Macedonian soldiers in tanks who formed our QRF (Quick Reaction Force) to racing through downtown Kabul in the middle of the dark through one of the most dangerous routes in the country! *shaking head* Needless to say I felt stupid.

Once at the clinic, I was poked at several times while I just sat there, helpless, in a chair with my arm extended out on a stretcher in front of me as they spoke in their native language their theories on what they thought was wrong. I had no idea what they were saying. I wondered if they weren’t joking about how much this was going to hurt to have it yanked back into joint! They rushed me off to a small, portable X-ray trailer and had me assume several uncomfortable positions to try to get the right angle for the picture. When the X-rays came back they looked at them, puzzled, and then said to me, “Eet ees not br-r-r-oken.” But they didn’t look like they were totally convinced.

Thirty minutes later, they had put a cast on my right hand, covering only my two outer fingers (plastering my ring finger and pinky together) that went all the way from the tips of my fingers down to my wrist. “After” it dried, they decided that they wanted to take more X-rays. What?!! (I “told” you they didn’t look convinced!) The second set of X-rays were even more uncomfortable as I now had a cast on my hand and the positions they wanted me to assume were doubly difficult. After the second set was developed, they came back and said once again that it wasn’t fractured "that they could tell", but admitted that because my ring finger was now in the way of the pinky they couldn’t really see the bone as well. Ugh! At this point I just wanted to “suit up” and put my armor back on and head back to base here. I was done with these guys. So I did.

For the last week I’ve been wearing this annoying, itchy cast with the fingers bent down at an angle, making even hunting and pecking on the keyboard difficult. Last night, I couldn’t take it any longer. After taking yet another shower, with my handy dandy plastic bag wrapped over my right hand, I unwrapped it to discover my cast completely soaked. That was the last straw. I came back to the room here and cut it off. My finger is still a discolored yellow and purplish hue, and much to my surprise, “still” sticks out to the side a little. It is also painful to the touch and still quite swollen . And for the last 24 hours I’ve painfully banged it and jammed it so many times I can’t even count. About the only advantage to not having the cast now is that I can type more easily, but what’s funny is that now that my finger is still slightly off I keep missing the keys on the right-hand side of my keyboard! Oh well… what can ya do?!

Gotta go…. Will post more tomorrow.

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