Sunday, May 27, 2007

My Oldest Graduates High School

Talk about weird - my son just graduated from high school a couple of days ago.
MY son.
You know - the one who's diapers I used to change?
The one who I used to feed with a bottle?
The one that used to fit entirely inside my two hands when he was born?
The one who used to giggle uncontrollably when mamma would slap the floor on both sides of him?

The night he was born is still crystal clear in my memory. We lived in Germany at the time as I was in the Army. I wont bore you with all of the military details, because anyone who has served knows what it is like. Lets just suffice it to say that by the time I got a call that my wife was in the hospital, I had already been up for around 35 to 40 hours as a result of my duties. My unit had been "deployed" and away from our families for weeks and I had to get special permission to leave and go to the hospital. My wife wasn't due for another two months, and so this was a lot more than a little scary.
On the way to the hospital (two hours from where I had been working) the plastic air cleaner of the little German Ford that I was driving fell down onto the engine and caught fire! I pulled off of the Autobahn (German freeway) , got out of the car, and ran in small circles before my brain finally engaged and I started scooping dirt out of the farmers field that ran along the freeway and started throwing it onto the flames on the engine. When I got the flames out, I had 1.5 spark plug wires still working - the others had burnt through. Do you know the car still got me home where I could get our other car?
Long story a little shorter, many hours after I got to the German hospital in G├╝nzburg, my wife had an emergency C-section and my son William was born! They wheeled him out on a little cart and gave me a little oxygen mask and told me to hold it over his mouth. They then walked away to take care of my wife and left me alone with him.
Remember that he is two months premature, this is not at all the typical birth, and so things are pretty scary. I remember feeling "safe" while he was crying because at least then I knew that he was OK. When he got quiet I would get scared.

Now things get a little complicated. We are in a German hospital, not the American one we had planned on. Fortunately most Germans speak some English, in varying degrees or proficiency, so some communication was taking place, but there was a lot of room for misunderstanding.
Once my wife was stable, the doctor came out to speak to me. He said that they were very worried about my son as his head appeared to be too large, and it was a virtual certainty that he was going to be "retarded" if he survived. . .

They evac him to the American hospital about two hours away in Augsburg - my wife never even got
to see him or hold him. Remember, by this time I have now been without sleep for over 48 hours, I have just had my car catch fire, my son is two months premature, retarded, and may not survive. Now my wife is in the recovery room. What do I tell her? While she is in all of this pain, do I tell her that her son is retarded or do I wait and give her the chance to recover? I have never lied to my wife but I can't bring myself to tell her while she is hurting so bad. I have never in my life hurt so bad inside - not before or since. Once my wife has recovered from the operation I assured her that the baby was healthy though premature, and she fell off to sleep.

I came to the hospital directly from the field exorcise I was on and so I am in filthy fatigues and take this chance to go to the house and get a shower and change. While home, I called my sister and unloaded on her. My poor sister has been the one that I have always called when I needed someone to talk to. She tells me something I didn't know - my cousin, who grew up in the same town with us, is stationed at the hospital in Augsburg where my son has been taken. My sister hangs up with me to try and get a hold of him. Days later I get the rest of the story - when my sister called his barracks he was falling down drunk (this was the preferred past time for virtually all soldiers back then). They finally got him out of his room and to the phone where my sister explains the situation to him.

My cousin went to the children's hospital and pretended to be the father so they would let him in and talk to him. I have been up for almost three entire days now with no sleep when my cousin calls me from the hospital to tell me that the German doctor was wrong, my baby is fine! The German Doctor did not know my son was so premature and this was why his head appeared so much larger than it should be for his size. I sat there in our apartment for probably a good 20 minutes crying in exhaustion and relief. Me, the big bad soldier, balling like a baby.

It takes almost a week before arrangements are completed to get my wife to the same hospital where my son is. Can you imagine how this affects a mother? Her baby is a week old before she has ever seen or touched him - that's tough for a mother.
So long ago, but it seems like yesterday.
My son, my baby, my little boy has graduated high school - wow!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Houston Texas

This time in Houston Texas, not TOO far from home. Two bits of bad news as regards this trip though!
First, I posted on a number of groups and boards that I visit often asking if anyone knew of neat things to do in Houston. I got a few "I've got a friend from there - you should email her" emails, but not one from anyone that had a suggestions.
Second, I have been sick for weeks and it shows in these pictures. I've got some sort of chest infection that just wont let me go!
Well, having received no suggestions for things to do, I guess I'll go to the movies. I went and saw "Next" - it was pretty good!
I didn't want to call it a night so I went to take a look at Chances, a club I'd found on line. When I got there I found it to be in a very busy area, with all possible parking around it taken! Call me crazy, but I wasn't gonna park a block away and walk through a city I don't know, so I called it a night. Gonna have to check this place out a little earlier next time I'm here. It can't suck too bad or it wouldn't be so popular!
Back at the hotel and sound asleep by midnight. Up by 6:30 and headed back to Austin.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Back in Boston!

Once again in Boston! I get to Boston every once in a while for several reasons. My company is head quartered not far from there, and there are a number of players in the semiconductor industry there that use our equipment. It's not a bad deal for me as I like to visit the area. I will enjoy it a lot more as a result of this recent visit where I met with the "Sisters of Boston"!
Well, I went straight from Maryland (described in my last blog post) to Boston for another service call and thought it was gonna suck. Boston is a TG friendly place, but being alone can be a real downer.
I started the day out by going to the movies where I saw Spiderman. That's not the movie I wanted to see, but its the movie that happened to be starting when I got there! The woman at the ticket counter was (I'd guess) in her mid 60's and I'm not sure of she had a sense of humor, or if she clocked me, or both, but I walked up to the counter and said "How about Spider Man?"
She smiled and said "How about it?"
Hmmm . . . okay, so I smiled and said "How about a ticket to Spiderman please?"

So, I saw the movie, drove around, and went back to the hotel at about 6 PM. I've gotta be honest - I was kind of depressed that I was bored and wasn't gonna be meeting anyone in such a cool place as Boston. It is what it is though, and so I washed the makeup off, went back to boy mode, and settled down to read emails and posts. So its now 6:30 when I grab the laptop, crawl into bed, check into my favorite web forum and find I've got an invite from Sally to meet her and her friends at 8PM!

Sally, Ashley, and myself
I almost threw the laptop as I jumped outta bed and sprinted for the phone! I got her voice mail and left a classy and sophisticated message along the lines of "I wanna go, I wanna go! Please, please, please, please call me back!" Ran to the bathroom and started caking on the makeup. Got ready and called Sally again and this time I got her! It turns out they are going to meet in a hotel lounge not 5 miles from my hotel room - how convenient is that?! (I wont say where in case Sally doesn't want that broadcast)

Well, I met Sally in the parking lot - she was awesome! Very thoughtful, wanted to make sure that I was comfortable meeting everyone and getting into the hotel lounge. Sally looks just like her Avatar - beautiful and very much like a GG. Sally and her friends are just awesome, how I wish they were in Austin! They were laughing, joking, and having a ball! None of this quietly skulking in the corner stuff! They had a number of GG's come over and strike up conversations where there was a lot of smiles and laughter - this is what it should all be about.

Sally - your awesome and I am so grateful you allowed me to join you!

Well, by this time it was about 11PM, I had to catch a flight in the morning, and I had at least an hour of packing yet to do, and so I had to decline their invitation to go out for the rest of the night with them.
(Note to GG's - if you think YOU have it bad when you travel, try packing for two all the time!)

Not going with them was one of the hardest choices I've had to make. They were SOO much fun to be around and were clearly going to have a ball, but spending all day traveling after going out and on an hour of sleep would have killed me. Sheesh, I feel like such a wimp :-(
So the day started out poorly and then turned out great - thanks again Sally!

By the way, if you ever get the chance to meet with the "Sisters of Boston" take it - great group of people!

The Sisters of Boston

The Sisters of Boston

The Sisters of Boston

The Sisters of Boston

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Car Towed at the Smithsonian

I just can't seem to get away from the US Army! lol
Just teasing - I loved the Army! I spent over 12 years active duty Army and regret very little of it - it was an awesome experience. If it weren't for my joining the Army, my life would have been so much poorer. I would not have the education I now I have. I would have never left that small town in Southern California and so would not have seen so much of the country and the world. I would not have met my wife, had children, and become the person I am.

Anyway, this time I'm off to Aberdeen Proving Grounds where one of our instruments is working poorly. I got it up and running with very little trouble, and so am done before noon! I bet you can guess what I wanna do with the rest of my day!

Before I had left home for this repair I had searched the Internet for things to do here and was stunned to discover that I would be only a hour and a half from Washington DC. Politics, the white house, etc, do not interest me in the least, but the Smithsonian Air and Space museum is almost my holy grail and it is in downtown D.C.! I mention my intent to my customer and she tells me parking can not be found in the city and suggests that I should park outside the city and take the metro in. For those of you that have gown up or lived in a city, "The Metro" may be old hat, like taking a bath, or brushing your teeth, but for a small town girl, the metro is a great big and scary idea! I'd have no idea how to get around, pick the right route, get off at the right place, get back to my car, etc, etc. I would have no idea how others on the metro may take to me if they "read" me. Put bluntly, the idea scared the hell outta me. I told my customer "Thank you very much, but it's not gonna happen".

 I get back to the hotel and get ready as quickly as I can. Not a lot of time to waste as the museum closes at 5:30PM. As usual, I take a few pictures to record the memory, and head out the door. Started off in a brown pair of pumps that work perfectly with my outfit, but I discover a problem walking across the parking lot.

When wearing hose, my feet keep sliding right on outta the shoes, so something has to go - either the shoes or the hose. Sorry, but I AM a cross dresser so the hose aren't going anywhere - I change my shoes! :-)

Get into WA at around 3:30 and find the Smithsonian with little effort. After my customer told me what a nightmare it was to find parking there, imagine my surprise and joy when I see a number of parking spots right in front of the Smithsonian! Very pleased with myself and my decision not to take the metro (you might say I was feeling smug), I pull up to the curb, load up the meter, and head inside.
There are three guards there, and I am told that I need to send my purse through the metal detector. I still had my keys in my hand and started to drop them onto the belt as well, but one of female guards smiles and says "Don't worry about them hun". I am just about positive that she has "made" me (realized that I am male), but she is nice and so it doesn't matter.
Get through the security check point and am in the Smithsonian! (Cue the sound of angels and a large choir "AHHHHHHHH"). I try to stay calm but my heart is pounding and I'm scared to death that everyone that will see me will make me. I literally walk in circles for almost five minutes, looking at a lot, but not really seeing any of it because of my nerves. At last, I calm down, my brain engages, and I start to truly look around and enjoy myself.

Anyone reading this on the Internet can go to the Smithsonian's web page to see what exhibits were there, so I wont give you a complete list here, I'll just touch on a few of my favorites.
  • The Pershing II Missile. Standing tall and proud among its bigger brothers and sisters, was one of the very few remaining Pershing II missiles in the world. Maintaining and repairing this missile and all of it's support equipment was my first adult career, the start of my adult life (Army MOS 21G). It looked so odd standing there on the floor, without its erector/launcher platform. When in use, this missile would have never been mated and standing on the ground as displayed here. Unlike the two other remaining missiles I have seen in recent years that are all in outside displays, THIS missile is inside, well taken care of, and not showing its age. The other two I have seen (at Ft Sill and White Sands Missile Range) were outside, not maintained, and were litteraly rotting. I know it sounds stupid, but seeing those other two missiles, my lifes work, rotting and rusting brought me to tears. At least this one is being treated with dignity and retains her pride.
  • The Wright Brothers flier. Wow - the beginning of aviation! Yes, I know the Wright Brothers didn't start Aviation, but they sure gave it a heck of a boost!
  • A mock up of Skylab. I remember when America had our own space station, and I remember when it came crashing to the ground.
  • A working 100% accurate replica or the Viking landers! This is NOT a model, but is a duplicate of the lander that we landed on Mars. How cool is that??!!
  • The model of the USS Enterprise from the Star Trek (the original series) TV series! When you hear that things are done with models, you picture something like the cars and planes you put together as a child. Uh huh, nope! This model, that was actually used to film all of the shots of the Enterprise is HUGE! It's got to be at least 7 feet long and about 4 high! (I'm sure someone is going to correct my guesstimate).
So, I have seen these things that fascinate me, seen the Smithsonian Air and Space, and done it as female with not a single glance or odd look - a perfect day! The museum was closing and I was feeling on top of the world as I walked out . . . and discovered my car was gone! I kept walking back and forth thinking "Nah, I must be confused, maybe I'm on the wrong side of the building!". Nope, I wasn't on the wrong side of the building and no matter how hard I wished, my car did not appear. Took a real good look at the meter and discovered a sticker clearly saying that you were not allowed to park there during rush hour (yes, the hours I parked there).

Went back in to the museum and went to the security desk, told him of my screw up, and asked him to please tell me how to get my car back! This gentleman was VERY nice and sincerely helpful and . . . kept calling me "sir". :-( As I've said before, as soon as I open my mouth all illusions are shot to hell.
For those of you that are thinking I should have taken this chance to educate him, tell him "it would be kind and polite to call me ma'am" forget it! When your that far up S%#t Creek, and someone is bending over backwards to give you a paddle, you don't quibble over "sir" or "Ma'am". So he gives me a phone number and an address and I head out to the street where the cabs are parked. I get one with a gentleman that speaks very poor English but he agrees to take me. Went the whole way without the air conditioning on. Considering my state of mind, the makeup and hair, this means my appearance is beginning to degrade. I see him spending almost as much time looking at me in the mirror as to where he is going.
Get to the company that towed my car and the manager leaves me standing outside in the heat for a good five minutes before he can be bothered to ask me what I want. This guy is clearly a "man's" man, and not in the least amused when he looks at my drivers license and figures out I'm not female.
Well the good news is my tools and my laptop are still there, for some reason the towing company did not or could not charge me, and "all" I owe is $100 to Washington DC that I can pay by internet.
This makes two serious incidents I've had involving cars while dressed and I'm thinking maybe I should consider taking cabs from now on!
You know the funny thing? Even having gone through all this junk with the car, I STILL feel that the day was a success and I enjoyed it. Go figure . . .

So here are some of the photos I took that I liked the most. Enjoy!