Sunday, November 29, 2009

Flyover Country

There are a lot of benefits to living in "Flyover Country." Although you give up easy access to a mall (wait....isn't that one of the benefits??), you gain access to some of the most beautiful country in the world. Yesterday, we spent the day outside, surrounded by that beauty. We, along with my Aunt and Uncle, went off-roading on 4-wheelers. My Uncle has lived here his entire life, and has worked outdoors most of that time. He "KNOWS" "Flyover Country." He took us to an extremely remote, absolutely beautiful area, to see a Native American cultural site. (For those of you who are concerned with preserving cultural sites, my Uncle is a professional who respects those sites, and wants to preserve do I. We are NOT "pot hunters.")

Anyway, we rode the 4-wheelers through some very scenic country...staying on a primitive, but extremely fun, road. We started the 4-wheeler trip higher on the mountain and followed the road down toward the desert. The road followed a deep gully, carved by a year-round creek, which flowed around (and sometimes through) red sandstone cliffs. Every turn of the road brought a new vista that took your breath away. After "a-ways" (which is a measurement of distance here in "Flyover Country") we got off the 4-wheelers and hiked to the cultural site. The hike was interesting, to say the least! We had to climb up a natural cleft in a rather steep hillside (I'd call it a cliff...but I've seen real cliffs that are much more sheer). Here's a picture of the cleft we climbed.

After the scramble up the cleft, we reached a ledge that ran around the side of the hill about 800 feet from the flat where we'd parked the 4-wheelers. The views were incredible! Here's a view of the valley from the ledge we followed, looking westward. Notice the primitive road in the give you a sense of scale....

We followed the ledge (more or less) around the side of the hill to a point where the hillside faced east. There we found the cultural site. The site was high up on the hillside, protected on the west with a 7-8 foot sort-of-semi-circular sandstone formation. The first thing you noticed was the multitude of flint chips scattered over the dirt. The chips were definite evidence that, at some point in time, people sat in that area and worked on tools; like arrowheads or other stone tools. They were all over the place, and you could tell from looking at them that the stone was worked.

The next thing you saw was a small rising-sun etched into the sandstone formation. If you looked more closely, you could see a flat stone with a smooth, oval indentation....something the ancient people used for grinding their grain or corn. Just sitting there, you could imagine a group of people, friends or family or both, coming to this place (where they could see miles in each direction) to visit while they worked or played. It was pretty cool!

It was easy to see why the ancient Native Americans chose this area to live. It is fertile, beautiful, and easily defensible. The ancients in this area built houses (sometimes even towns) and farmed where they could find water. When they left, rather abruptly, they left behind pictures etched or painted on the rock and granaries (sometimes full of corn) high in the surrounding cliffs. They also left other evidence of their daily life, if you know how to look for it, including evidence of their homes, evidence of how they ground their grain or corn, and evidence of how they made tools (like arrowheads or axes).

Just to the east, a short hike away, was a cliff-side granary. Although the ancients' storage facility was in ruins, you could still see how they used stone, branches, and mud to make a secure storage area inside a cliff-side alcove. You could still see the charred wood used as beams of the storage area's roof. You could still see even the indentations of the branches in the mud that was used to cover the storage cache. What was really awesome, was that you could see where the ancients who made the granary used their fingers to press the mud onto the stone. Cool!

After leaving the cliff-side granary...and leaving everything in place...we hiked over the top to the south side of the hill. The views to the south were just as incredible as the north-side views. After finding a way through cliffs and ledges, we finally made our way around the north-side of the hill to a "saddle" or lower-spot on the crest of the hill. Just before making our way over the saddle to find the cleft down the side, we came upon something that, in its own way, was just as amazing as the cultural sites....we found the remains of yellow, green, and black balloons; all tied together with ribbon, that had flown over "Flyover Country" from someone's birthday party or homecoming game and come to rest in the branches of a tree. Not something you see everyday in the wilds...miles and miles away from the nearest mall.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Happy 7th Birthday, Princess

Happy Birthday to my granddaughter, Princess Pink! I will never forget the call from her mother, telling us that she had arrived; healthy and well. I will never forget the wonder of knowing that my beautiful baby had given birth to a small, helpless being. Princess Pink is another beautiful baby, just like her mother; and she is growing up into a beautiful, smart, loving little lady. Have a very happy Birthday, little girl. I miss you.

Monday, November 16, 2009


This video is in the category of "things that make you go "wow!" Check it sure "wowed" the Navy Midshipmen watching this particular halftime show; and without a even having a wardrobe malfunction!

Check it out!

h/t Smiley

Saturday, November 14, 2009


My Marine son is home from Afghanistan, safe and sound! It was wonderful to get a call from him this morning and hear his voice (even if it was 0530 here in "Flyover Country." I know his wife, Florida Girl, is extremely glad to have him home, and so am I. I'm proud of him and the man he is, and I'm proud that he's chosen to serve this Country; but I'm so happy that he's home. YEA!!!!!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Sometimes it pays to be in the military.....

Thanks to Smiley, who sent this story posted on the Wisconsin AP news wire:

Nov 10, 2009 7:13 pm US/Central

Milwaukee Robbers See Army ID, Return Wallet

CARRIE ANTLFINGER, Associated Press Writer

MILWAUKEE (AP) ― A Milwaukee Army reservist's military identification gained him some street cred Tuesday, when he says four men who mugged him at gunpoint returned his belongings, and thanked him for his service, after finding the ID.

The 21-year-old University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee student said he was walking home from work about 1:15 a.m. Tuesday when the men came out from between two houses. He thought about running to the other side of the street but decided against it.

The victim, who asked not to be identified because the robbers still have his keys, said one of the men pulled him into an alley. They had him lay face down and one put a gun to his neck. They took his wallet, $16, keys, his cell phone and even a PowerBar wrapper from his pants pockets, he said.

But when one of the robbers, whom the reservist presumed was the leader, saw his Army ID in the wallet, the hostile tone quickly changed. The robber told the others to return the items and they put most of it on the ground next to him, including the wrapper, the reservist said.

"The guy continued to say throughout the situation that he respects what I do and at one point he actually thanked me and he actually apologized," he said.

The reservist said he asked the robbers, who all had hoods or hats covering their faces, if he could get up and they said he could before starting to walk away.

"The leader of the group actually walked back, gave me a quick fist bump, which was very strange," he said.

Milwaukee police spokeswoman Anne E. Schwartz said the reservist is credible and that officers still were looking for the suspects Tuesday.

The reservist didn't realize until later that his keys were not with him and he doesn't know if the robbers intended to keep those, he said.

As he was walking home, he realized the strangeness of the situation and questioned whether his girlfriend would believe him. (She did.) He said he feels lucky.

"I'm just kind of awe struck that everything was given back to me due to just being in the military, " he said. "I realize in pretty much every other situation that wouldn't happen."

He said he's never been deployed, only having signed up for the Army Reserves about a year ago. He is the first person in his immediate family to join the military and he's always wanted to do it.

Schwartz said besides that attempted robbery there were two others within a 40 minute period in the same area and police suspect the four men were involved in all of them. The robbers were unsuccessful for the first, at 12:35 a.m., when the 39-year-old man they approached ran into the street and started screaming.

Schwartz said within 10 minutes they approached a 47-year-old man — who is a convicted burglar and had a Department of Corrections inmate ID in his wallet — ordered him to the ground and pointed a gun at him. They took his wallet, apparently unfazed by that card.

Anyone with information should call Milwaukee police at 414-935-7360

Interesting, isn't it that these thieves would respect a military ID, but not an ID from the Department of corrections!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Happy Veteran's Day

Today is Veteran's Day; a day when we should recall and remember the service and sacrifice of those who serve, or have served, in our Nation's military (and their families). Even though this day is dedicated to solemn rememberance, often played out in Veteran's cemetaries across the country, it should also be a day of joyous thanksgiving. We should give thanks for the freedom and liberty that we enjoy, because of those military men and women. So as you go about your business today, take time listen to "Taps" and grieve for those who are lost. Take time to rejoice with those who have come home to those who love them. But most of all, take time to thank a Veteran.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Class or No Class

One of the assignments I had, while on active duty with the Air Force, was to serve as the staff judge advocate at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland. It was an interesting assignment, for a number of reasons, but one of the interesting parts of the assignment was the chance to serve as a "greeter" for Distinguished Visitors. Andrews Air Force Base, home to Air Force One, also hosts flights for Congressmen (and women), as well as members of the Cabinet and other important people. I got to "welcome home" a couple of important people, including Secretary of State Condalisa Rice and First Lady Laura Bush. Both women were extremely polite, exceedingly gracious, and exceedingly classy. What a shock it was for me, based on those experiences, to see the photograph of our current First Lady debarking from Air Force One dressed in shorts and tennis shoes.

Now anyone who knows me knows that I'm a pretty informal person. (I went to my high school graduation wearing couldn't see a nice dress under the graduation robe...). I live in jeans and enjoy workout clothes. But, if you ask me, casual and informal clothes are not appropriate wear for someone representing our great Nation as First Lady while riding on Air Force One. I wouldn't wear jeans to a business meeting or while representing a client in court. That our current First Lady feels it appropriate to wear casual clothing while representing our Country does nothing but demonstrates a severe lack of class.

h/t Grama & Ally

Happy Birthday to the United States Marine Corps

On the 10th of November in 1775, at the Tun Tavern in Philadelphia, Captain Samuel Nicholas organized two battalions of Continental Marines; giving birth to one of the most feared, most celebrated, and most professional fighting forces the world has known. (And that's really not hyperbole!) Today, U.S. Marines around the world celebrate the Marine Corps birthday. I'd like to join them in a small way by saying "Happy 234th birthday" to all Marines, past and present. Thank you for serving this Country and her citizens. Thank you to your families for supporting you in your choice to serve. Thank you for 234 years spent preserving our freedoms.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Women in the Military....Making a Difference!

Here's a great story of an Air Force pilot who is making a difference...oh, and she happens to be a woman flying as a military advisor and an instructor pilot with the Iraqi Air Force. Who said cultural prejudices couldn't be overcome?

Female Advisor Invades Iraqi Airspace

by Senior Airman Alyssa C. Miles
U.S. Air Forces Central Public Affairs

11/4/2009 - CAMP TAJI, Iraq -- A female Air Force pilot deployed from Andrews Air Force Base, Md., works in a male dominated environment training Iraqi helicopter pilots.

Capt. Kacey Grannis, 721st Air Expeditionary Advisory Squadron, is the Iraqi air force's first female Mi-17 instructor pilot at Camp Taji, a job which she describes as one of a kind.

"My primary duty as an air advisor is to train, advise and assist their pilots by expanding their knowledge base," she said. "I'm an American Air Force pilot flying in an Iraqi air force bird built by Ukrainians with an Iraqi co-pilot in a combat zone. Everything from the challenges we have to deal with, to the rewards that we reap from our relationships with the Iraqi co-pilots and the sheer 'cool' factor of the flying we get to do is rather unique."

In the Iraqi military female pilots are scarce, and upon notification their new advisor would be female, some Iraqi pilots doubted Captain Grannis' ability to handle the helicopter's large frame. However, the captain decided to let her skills speak for themselves.

"There have been other female air advisors, but not in this air frame," she said. "For the guys I was flying with, I think they were maybe not really sure what I could do, but they were at least willing to let me fly with them and let me demonstrate my skills. I was fortunate enough to have the best training in the world, so I was able to do what I know how to do. I believe I've garnered the respect I needed.

"One of my very good friends here is a member of Squadron 4's leadership," the Sturgis, S.D., native continued. "He's one of the most experienced Iraqi pilots here - he's an absolute wizard in the Mi-17 and he's known for being skilled for hovering without the flight control assist system. When I first got here, he wanted to fly with me to kind of gauge my skills. As we were out flying, I asked him if we could do some hovering with the auto pilot off, simply because I knew it was something he would find valuable if I could do it properly. I feel like the fact that I was able to one - do it, and two - do it well, I feel like he responded well to that."

Captain Grannis, who has more than 50 hours in the Mi-17, trains Iraqi pilots who have many more hours in the aircraft than she.

"Pilots as a whole tend to be competitive and respect number of hours and skill level," she explained. "The dynamic itself is very interesting - the pilots we fly with have a lot more experience in the aircraft specifically than we do; there are definitely things that we have as coalition advisors to learn from these guys. They are definitely the experts on the aircraft systems and the performance handling characteristics. However, we're not necessarily trying to teach them how to fly, we're trying to teach them how to employ the aircraft in ways that are different from what they've done in the past."

Outside of the learning environment, the Iraqis have come to view Captain Grannis as family.

"I get a lot of attention because I'm a female, but it's very respectful attention," she said. "A lot of times these guys kind of treat me like their little sister which is a great honor to me because I know in Iraqi culture, family is very important. I'm honored that these guys consider me a sister. But I tell them 'outside the aircraft, I'm a woman, inside the aircraft, I'm a pilot. And because I'm your instructor pilot, you're going to do what I tell you to do.'"

One student who has responded well to the Captain's training is Iraqi air force Capt. Jabbar, who says he has no qualms working with another female advisor "if they are as talented as Captain Grannis."

"Captain Grannis is the first female pilot I've worked with," he said. "She's a very good instructor and she has good experience for training and teaching. She always gives good advice and she never gives up."

With the training he and his peers are receiving, Captain Jabbar has high hopes for his country.

"We're making good progress with our training, and I hope the Iraqi air force is a strong air force for this country," he said. "I wish peace for Iraq and I wish the Americans a good and happy life, and I hope they wish the same for us."

Captain Grannis does.

"This has been a great experience," she said. "I'm very fortunate to have been able to come here and meet all these great people. I'm honored to work with the officers, warrant officers and airmen of the Iraqi air force. Without exception, every one of them is highly patriotic and dedicated to the job they're doing and dedicated to the idea of a free peaceful Iraq, and I think that's amazing."

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Socialized Health Care....

Smiley sent this to me in the email and I just can't resist posting it here....thanks Smiley!