Thursday, September 30, 2010

Send Sprite...and Candy (An Interview From Afghanistan)

(copyright 2010, Dawn Weber. Photos courtesy of Wyatt Carlisle)

Great news from my favorite Marine in the Middle East: Afghanistan is dull!

“This place is pretty boring. Who would have thought…” said Lance Corporal Wyatt Carlisle’s recent Facebook update.

That’s great, buddy. Keep it that way.

In fact, the only thing that’s blown up around Wyatt? A Sprite can.
“Really quite unfortunate,” he said of the wayward pop.
The thing exploded when his buddy tossed it to him, just sprayed all over his pants. It didn’t faze him too much. As we can see, our boy is ready for action…or more rogue soda.

Yes sir, like so many troops (and the cast of M*A*S*H) in all the wars before him, he’s finding that - besides long, hot hours of military work - there’s not much to do in his spare time over there. So he’s amusing himself in new and interesting ways. For instance, Trigger the cat.

“The cat is fat,” he said.
“I feed it my food because I don’t really get that hungry," said Wyatt.  "And it’s lazy - it sleeps all the time and steals my chair. It also likes to chase lasers and climb up the cami netting.”

It’s not only felines begging for food in Afghanistan. Each day, local children offer to fight each other, clean - or even just go away if Wyatt will hand over water or candy.

So, he gives it to them.

“The kids just pop out of nowhere," he said. “They clean me out every day.”
That’s my boy. And, as mentioned in my last Wyatt post, I haven’t seen him much since his toddler years. So I was super curious: In times like these, what makes a man enlist in the service?

In between taking care of work, begging kids and Trigger the cat, he answered my questions:

Why did you want to become a Marine right now, when you knew there would be a good chance you’d end up at war?

I’ve always thought we were here for the right reasons and thought that I should do my part to help, so really the thought of actually being here [Afghanistan] encouraged me to join.

Have you always wanted to be a Marine?

I’ve always wanted to do this, ever since I was a little kid part of me always wanted to be in the military.

I’m sure you’re aware that many Americans feel that our troops shouldn’t be in Afghanistan. How do you feel about that?

I feel that we should be here; if people were terrorizing us we would want someone to help us. Also by dealing with the threat over here the chances of them causing terror on U.S. soil must be going down. The people here can’t carry out normal lives because of the Taliban; we just want them to be able to live in peace.

What do you miss the most?

This is a hard one seeing as how I miss a lot of things over here. Being deployed really makes you appreciate the little things you have and can do at home. If I had to chose one thing I would have to say my family and girlfriend, its different not being able to talk to them all the time, as I could when I was home.

What is the first thing you want to do when you get home?

The first thing I want to do when I get home is go to my house take a nice shower, eat some food with the family and just relax, not even unpack my stuff. Just relax and appreciate some of the little things that I miss.

What is the hardest part of being over there?

The hardest part of being here isn’t actually being here. I think the hardest part is that you miss out on so much at home while you’re gone because the world doesn’t just stop when you’re gone it carries on as normal.

What are the people like? How do they treat you?

The Afghan people are normal people. Yes, some Americans would find them odd, but they have many of the same principles as we do. They have a sense of honor and hospitality; they work hard and pray five times a day. The people I have encountered have been friendly and thankful; if you give them something they always try to give you something in return.

That much is true, Wyatt. The kids and the cat are at least giving you some amusement for your trouble.

By the way? Your care package is on its way, bud. I’ll send along some candy for those kids. And some Sprite for you. (In a Wyatt-safe plastic bottle...)

If I could mail anything else to you and all the other troops over there, it would be utter and complete boredom.

Seriously. I hope you are bored to tears…all the way home.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Our House Is Haunted...By a Trucker

(copyright 2010, Dawn Weber)

I cuss at dead people.

Not all of them, mind you - one in particular. A guy called Buck. That's not his real name. I changed it to protect the asshat guilty.

A former owner of our house, Buck was the type of guy who liked to "do it himself." This has been most unfortunate for us.

He was not a carpenter, a plumber, an electrician or a contractor. He thought he was.

In reality, he was a truck driver. We can tell.

I spend a lot of time yelling:

"Buck? You suck!"
"Buck - WTF?"

For 17 years, he's haunted our house with cluster-Bucks: jacked-up plumbing, makeshift carpentry, fire-hazard wiring. Nails where there should be screws, screws where there should be nails, and nothing where there should be something. His actions have caved in ceilings, caused small electrical fires and  flooded our hardwood floors. Twice.

He's left our Allstate agent in tears.

Luckily, I'm a tough cookie. And I watch a lot of HGTV. So of course, I know everything about home repair and remodeling. (Just ask me.)

Lately I've been using my mad television skillz to remodel the downstairs bathroom, and I was especially excited to get rid of the heinous, late 80s, Garth Brooks-era medicine cabinet and light fixture. Both are epic in their fugliness. I blame Buck.

Simple things, replacing a medicine cabinet and light fixture, right?


You hear that? That's him, beyond the grave, laughing his ass off.

Because when I unscrewed the two screws holding the medicine cabinet onto the wall and gave it a tug, I got exactly...nothin'.

No movement. Not even close. Stubborn and stock-still, the Garth Brooks cabinet didn't move. I examined it all the way around, thinking I'd missed a screw, a stupid nail. Nope. I tugged again. Nothin'. The box remained, a monument to blue wooden geese and bad country music.

This reeked of Buck. Buck plus construction adhesive.

Instead of just screwing the cabinet into the wall's studs like a sane person, the village idiot our boy had chosen to slop industrial strength glue on the wall and permanently affix the Garth Brooks medicine cabinet in place for all time. Just to be evil.

Buck - WTF?!

I immediately knew two things:

1. If I ever did get it down, the drywall beneath the cabinet was probably jacked-up beyond repair.
2. It was time to drink my lunch.

I pondered my situation on break, and decided to save cabinet Cluster Buck for later and move on to the revolting light fixture.

Breaker off, I began unscrewing it, wondering what would happen next. Didn't have to wait long.

The lazy redneck had drilled a huge, jagged electrical hole on the SIDE of the fixture instead of the middle. Didn't matter to him: In 1989, his fugly light wouldn't show the hole.

Well, guess what dead dude? It's 2010, and my new, awesome light will totally show this gash. Now I have a huge hole to patch, and wiring to drag to a new location. My TV skillz will be taxed.

Who DOES this? Who puts huge electrical wiring holes on the SIDE of a fixture?


Ladies and Gents, here he is again: the Jack of No Trades, Mr. Mediocrity, the King of Half-Assery.

Buck? You suck.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

From Munchkin to Marine...I Missed the In-Between

To me, he is a little boy.

Not a man. Definitely not Marine.

Someone please tell me where the last 20 years have gone, because I’d like to know exactly where that kid went.

I have a general idea. Wyatt Carlisle, now 20, is in Afghanistan. The son of dear old friends, he's from my Ohio hometown. He just deployed as a Lance Corporal with the 4th Marine Division, a Reserve unit from Akron. We aren't aware of his specific location, of course, for security reasons. He just tells us it's hot - 115 degrees with few trees.

"At my new home for the rest of my time here," he said in his last Facebook update. "It's a shame there's no grass or shade, lol."

That’s my boy. My funny, easy-going Wyatt. He broke my heart by growing up in the blink of an eye - the way kids will. These days, it’d be pretty difficult to do all the things that I used to...tickle him...hold him...hug him. I think he, his gun - and probably his girlfriend - would have something to say about that.

He was a toddler when I met him. I was young myself, in my early 20s - close to the age he is now. His big brown eyes grabbed me from the get-go.

I liked the way he cuddled with his mom, wrestled with his dad, the way he jumped right in to play with me - a stranger, at first. He made me want a boy of my own.

He felt like my nephew. Not linked by blood. Just love.

Soon after I met him, I got married. Then, quickly, my wishes were fulfilled with my own daughter and son. I didn’t get to see Wyatt as much. He lives three hours from here, and work and family always seemed to get in the way.

And, he was very busy too, growing up, living life, becoming type of man it takes to make a Marine. But I never forgot my brown-eyed little guy.

So all these years later, the news that he was heading over there hit my chest like a Humvee. It brought the war right home - probably a fraction as much as it did for his parents, Jodie and Dan.

Wyatt's story isn't unique. It happens all over the U.S. Every week, families nationwide are still waving goodbye to their loved ones heading overseas. Even as the war in Iraq nears an end, President Obama has dispatched thousands of additional troops to Afghanistan.

This conflict in the Middle East is easy to forget. Its media coverage has dwindled. And, according to a recent Associated Press-GfK poll, six in 10 Americans don’t support it.

These United States sure aren't the gung-ho, patriotic, flag-waving ones that my Grandfather fought for in World War II. In a way, I think it’s even braver now, going off to a war like this: You're aware the entire country isn't behind you. Even though you're fighting for all of them.

I support careful, finite U.S. involvement in Afghanistan. I know it's very complicated, and I respect those with dissenting opinions.

But I think September 11 showed us that extremists need to be kept in check. Obviously, some are a threat to our safety and our way of life. And I think we should finish the job we started in Afghanistan.

I admire the men and women willing to stand for something they believe in, who risk their lives for us - whether or not we're in favor of their missions.

Disagree with me? That’s cool. It's called freedom of speech. Some very brave men and women fought for it.

I just hope that, no matter their opinion of the situation in the Middle East, folks remember the troops still over there.

For sure - they're thinking of us.

Wyatt and I, circa 1993. Godspeed, Buddy. Can’t wait to see you again. We're due for a new picture!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Mean Mommy Strikes Again

(copyright 2010, Dawn Weber)

Recently, I baffled my boy - with baked goods.

He's a genius. We're so proud.

"What are those things on that plate?" he said.
"Those are cookies, bud," I said.
"Where's the box?" he said.
"There is no box," I said. "I made them, then I put them on a plate."
"Wow! You never made cookies before!" he said.
"Yes I most certainly have!" I said.
"Not since I've been born," he said.

The kid is right. Martha Stewart I ain't.

But when I do, occasionally, make cookies, we keep them in a special place, a magical place, to the right of the stove and the left of the sink. A place where salt is King and sugar, his Queen.

My son named this hallowed spot many years ago, after yet another unsuccessful attempt at feeding those two a healthy lunch, at which they picked, I nagged and nothing nutritious was consumed. I had gone into the bedroom when I heard:


Uh-oh. Sounded like trouble. Kid-sized trouble. I listened:


Curious, I peaked into the kitchen to find a chair pushed to the cupboards. Halfway-on, halfway-off the counter, legs akimbo, was my son's diapered rear-end.

"What are you doing?" I said.

He froze, mid-sneak, and craned his wee head around.

"Going there," he said, pointing to the built-in bread-box.
"Where?" I said.
"Um, the Counter of the Junk Food?"he said.

Scooping up his 2.5-year-old Pampered behind, I took him to the other corner of the kitchen and introduced him to the refrigerator.

"This is where the 'real food' is," I told him.

I showed him the apples, the strawberries, the blueberries. I presented to him the cheese, the yogurt, the carrots and the celery.

Yeah, I know - it's hilarious. I'm naive optimistic like that.

He made faces, wriggled free and toddled away. He was having none of it.

The Counter of the Junk Food also ranks as the only approved meal location for my daughter. At work, I get phone calls like this:

"Mom! We have no food!" she says, panicked.
"What do you mean we have no food?" I tell her. "I just went to the store! There are cheese sticks, bananas, grapes..."
"Blech! That is not real food,"she says.
"I think God would disagree," I say. "What food are you talking about?"
"We need Oreos, salt n' vinegar chips, Doritos, Slim Jims..." she says.
"Okay, THAT is not 'real food,'" I say. "Anyway, keep looking - I'm sure there is some junk somewhere you'd like."
"There is not!" she says. "I've looked all through here! There's nothing to eat!"

Poor children. It's a dang travesty - it's a downright shame!

Contact the authorities. As you can see, I'm starving my kids. With produce.