The Rehders in Cuba

March 2, 2011

I’m going to blame my negligence in updating my blog on the perpetual Ground Hog Day in which I live.  One day runs into the next with the same cloudless blue sky overhead and  passing the same obese iguana on my way to work.  I know I sound like I’m complaining but I’m really not.  If there are days to repeat over and over again, these are definitely some of the ones I would choose.  My point is more to explain away my dereliction in updating you all on my Air Force adventures.  But recently there was an event that warranted note.  My parents made the long trek from cold and, depending on the day, rainy, sleety, or snowy Illinois, all the way down to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. 

The trip was inspired and rationalized by many discussions about what a rare opportunity it would be to visit Cuba, even if it means visiting the portion of Cuba controversially claimed by the United States.  Cuba is Cuba and, dang it, I wanted my parents to see it.  And so they came, beginning with a 2am drive to Chicago and ending with a 3 hour flight on a plane smaller than my mom’s claustrophobia would prefer.  They came and they saw Cuba.  They saw the ocean:


They saw me SCUBA diving which necessitated taking a picture that makes it appear that the level of difficulty of SCUBA diving is on par with that of curing cancer or bringing about world peace:

They got to go on a boat ride around Guantanamo Bay, though we used my mom’s lap as a storage area and my dad rode in the blue bucket:

They got to see my house and spent as much time as possible soaking in the island life on the back patio:

We spent a lot of time looking for sea shells and other such things and as a result, Illinois has a lot more coral in it than can geologically be explained.

And probably the highlight for my dad and me (though not mom, she walked 2 miles around the track) was playing soccer together.  It had been a while and I think we’re both better than ever…probably…okay, maybe we’ve both slowed down a step or two but dang it, we had fun:

So that’s their trip in a nutshell and a few pictures.  I have no doubt that I will be receiving a flood of requests to visit within seconds of posting this but unfortunately, my time at GTMO quickly draws to a close.  Upcoming tour dates include stops in Virginia (see you there E!), Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, North Carolina and ultimately Texas.  Tickets are going fast so shop early.  Hope to see you all soon!


The Road to Virginia

September 17, 2010

Oh gosh, where to start…  Let’s start with that I no longer live in North Dakota…for a while.  This Friday night finds me sitting on a couch at the TownPlace Suites in Springfield, Virginia.  When I told people back in December of 2008 (yes, it was that long ago!) that I would be moving to Grand Forks, North Dakota I got a lot of, “I’m sorry you’re living where?”  Although it seems just minutes ago I was answering that question, now I’m answering a new one, “You’re deploying where?”  It is technically a “deployment” that brings me to Virginia to join the Criminal Investigation Task Force at Ft. Belvoir.  There is a good chance I will be forward deploying from the couch here in Virginia to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (where I can only imagine they sit exclusively in hammocks and bean bag chairs) at some point.  Still hardly what one would call a “real” deployment but a winter away from balmy Grand Forks none-the-less. 

But my deployment is boring in comparison to what I’ve gotten to do leading up to it.  I think the last time I blogged I was enjoying Grand Forks in July.  I was planting flowers, growing vegetables and prepping for court.  Well, the court came and went and suddenly it was very definitely time for me to prepare to leave.  The first order of business was attending Combat Airman Skills Course (CAST) in San Antonio, Texas.  As much as the Texans in my office tried to convince me how lovely San Antonio is, I just couldn’t wrap my head around wearing a helmet, vest and carrying around a M4 in the August heat of Texas.  Ultimately it didn’t matter much because I didn’t get a choice, I was going. 

So I went.  As it turns out, I actually learned a few things.  First, we didn’t only wear helmets, vests and carry a M4, we also got to wear masks.  Masks that others breathed in and out of in the Texas heat and then passed on down to us.  It gets grosser so if I’m losing you, you might want to quit now.  But look how tough I look!  Could someone please reassure me I don’t only look tough because I don’t look like me…

Another thing I learned, when porta potties are all you have, you’ll learn to deal.  I think you all know what I mean by deal…develop insanely strong leg muscles so hovering becomes second nature.  Sometimes I do it at my hotel room just because I can.  Oh, and for you ladies out there, don’t worry, they had separate ones for us females.  One guess as to how you can tell which ones are ours…

So what else did I learn…I learned that if you sit at the end of the table and no one else in your squad wants to be a driver, you will become a driver.  I’m not going to post the picture of me driving the HMMWV because it’s my Facebook profile picture and I know how you all feel about redundancy.  However, I will show you some of my fancy photography work from the passenger seat of a HMMWV.  Don’t feel like you have to act unimpressed.  I won’t get a big head.

So that pretty much wraps up CAST.  Wait, there is one thing I forgot.  Important lesson here.  Getting hit in the nose with a paintball sucks.  It hurts and makes you look like Rudolph (that would be the red-nosed reindeer).  Fine, I’ll show you a picture but everyone has to promise that if you’re ever hit in the face with something, you’ll send me a picture.  It’s only fair.

Does anyone else think I look way too happy for having just gotten hit in the face?  So I’ll end my notes on CAST with a picture of my tent mates and the simple note that they rocked.  It’s amazing how a group of great people can help you through nearly anything (including such deadly combinations as MREs and porta potties and rattle snakes and tent living). 

The week between CAST and leaving Grand Forks was a flurry of packing, cleaning and moving.  My parents swooped in and helped me more than they’ll ever know…or maybe their aching backs are telling them exactly how much they helped.  I had movers come and actually move everything into storage (climate controlled of course) but the amount of packing, taping, wrapping, and organizing my parents did in the 3 days before the movers came is nearly unfathomable.  For any of you who visited my place in Grand Forks, you may have observed that I have an enormous amount of crap.  Somehow we managed to make it look like this:

It was sad to move out of that place.  A lot of work went into making it a home and I really enjoyed living there.  But being the fiscally responsible person I am (Kurt, stop laughing!), I just couldn’t justify keeping it while I was deployed.  So now some college kids will come move in and trash it and annoy the neighbors.  The 4th Ave Drinking Team lives on.  I probably wasn’t doing it justice anyway.

So after a farewell to Grand Forks (more traumtic than I thought it would be) and a quick stop in Minneapolis (always generous with hospitality), I made my way down to Chicago for my second wedding of 2010.  It was a beautiful wedding and I felt lucky to be a part of it.  I think I should be able to make a case for knocking running a marathon off my bucket list after walking down the longest aisle I’ve ever seen but I always enjoy a good cardio session.  The reception was beautiful, the food was great, and the company was even better.  We danced, we laughed, we cried (thanks a lot Marta) and generally just had a blast.  Can’t you tell?

No, your eyes do not deceive, I am wearing jewlery.  That’s what I will do for a friend and for those of you who know me, that’s no small thing.  But more importantly, the bride was beautiful and the groom had my favorite line of the night…”First, I’d like to thank Christine for marrying me.  I don’t know how I pulled it off…”

So that should catch you up for the most part.  I went to Texas, packed up my life and Christine became a Fiscella.  I said bye to my cats (don’t laugh, I actually cried harder than I did during Steel Magnolia’s…maybe not), taught my parents how to skype and now I’m in Virginia.  I’m 2 days away from turning 29 and I have a Trader Joe’s near my hotel.  I can live like this.

Thanks for tuning in and no, you may not see any more pictures of my nose after the paintball.

The Waters Are Rising

March 21, 2010

It’s flood season in Grand Forks (and all of Red River Valley) which may be the only thing worse than January up here.  But Grand Forks learned its lesson years ago.  Grand Forks is now a town protected from the flood waters by walls all along the river.  Yesterday when I went for a run I took my camera with me and caputred some of the rising water and the walls that protect us from it.  Standing on top of the wall which would normally over look miles of river front running and walking trails, I saw this:

These trees give you a pretty good indication of how high the waters are but this might help too:

For those of you who have come to visit me and know what downtown looks like, this is what the entrance to the bridge to Minnesota looks like now.  You can probably guess we’re taking a different route into East Grand Forks these days.

As the waters get higher (and they will) they keep adding metal slats.  This is what it looks like just on the other side of this gate:

If you look a little closer you can see the marker for the big flood they had in 1997.  We’ve still got a little bit of room…

As I was taking this picture, a cop was walking toward me with a somewhat grim look on his face.  Don’t worry though, I’m about as law abiding as they come and I was just on the right side of this sign:

So I smiled, waved, and ran away.  I did nothing wrong.  At least I’m assuming so since he didn’t chase me.  

So that’s the flood.  So far the impact on me has been limited to a slightly wet basement floor and running trails that abruptly end in water.  This biker was confused:

 But don’t worry, I haven’t just been sitting around watching the water rise.  February was an action packed month, mostly because I spend a couple weekends out of the state.  Valentine’s weekend I headed to New Ulm for a brewery tour and a visit with Hermann the German.  What says romance more than beer and a slave chieftain named Armnius the Cherusci (later re-named “Hermann” by Martin Luther) who turned against his masters and led a ragtag army to victory over three Roman legions, thereby saving Germania from conquest?  Nothing.

The following weekend I headed back to Chicago for Elizabet’s long planned and awaited bachelorette party.  After a delayed flight out (thank you once again Grand Forks International Airport) I made it to Chicago for a day at the spa, dinner at Fornello, and a very entertaining evening at the Kit Kat Club.  As with any mass gathering of girls there were some hiccups but they were mainly logistical which is much more manageable than most other girl gathering hiccups (aka drama).  Then my amazing friends stayed up with me and drove me to the airport at 4am so I could catch an early (very early) flight to Montgomery.  A couple birthday suprises and another delayed flight later I was flying first class back to Grand Forks.  By some small miracle I made it back to Grand Forks on time with the most major upset being that I wasn’t able to finish my Sandra Bullock comedy before we landed.

Since the end of February it’s been all work, all the time.  I’ve moved to Chief of Military Justice which is great because my focus now is completely on prosecutions and handling disciplinary actions and discharges which are my favorite things but they make life hectic.  People find new ways to get in trouble everyday and sometimes they just fall back on the same old ways such as drinking and driving.  Keeping busy with work keeps me distracted and makes the time move faster.  In about a month from now Kurt will be on his 6 month trip, Elizabeth will be married, and my cats may fear for my sanity.  I’m just hoping work will keep the time moving at a nice clip then too.

Thanks as always for tuning in and here’s hoping we all stay dry this spring.

At Least I’m Not the Last Article!

January 28, 2010

Back in the Windy City and then on to the Snowy City

May 1, 2009

Before I get into my new exploits in North Dakota, I wanted to fullfill a promise.  I told my friends in Chicago that since I spent a week with them that I would blog it so all my Air Force friends could read about them.  Kind of the reverse of what we’ve had so far.  So here goes.  I spent 5 nights in Chicago and somehow managed to wrangle up enough people to go to Cubs games 2 of those nights.  Actually, my awesome friends worked out all the details so all I had to do was sit back and enjoy the games.  The first night we did so from a rooftop.


The down side of the rooftop is that it was a little chilly and windy but we struggled through…because there was an inside section with a buffet.  But just to prove that we did go outside at least once:


Did I mention it was windy?  Also, quick shout out to Christine (pictured above with wind tussled locks) who just got engaged earlier this week.  Congrats guys!

The next night we actually headed into the park to watch the game.  Unfortunately, unlike the first night, the Cubs were not able to pull out a victory.  We still had fun though.


Besides a quick trip to John Marshall and a few dinners with friends, the last thing on the Chicago agenda was a Costco sponsored party for Tom and me.  Per usual at 4022 N. Sheridan, there was tons of food (stellar beans as always, Liz, cheesey potatoes to die for, Elizabeth, and enormous quantities of meat courtesy of the newly engaged)  Unfortunately I took no reasonable pictures that night so your imaginations will have to paint the picture of the last night I sat, wind swept and merry, on the balcony of 4022.  A picture is not necessary to cause one solitary tear to role down my cheek.  Too dramatic?

The next morning Tom and I packed the car, the poor little red Kia that has seen so much, to its fullest.  Despite my desperate pleas to save my dying plants from their brown thumbed captors, Tom would not let me pack them all.  Only one plant made it to North  Dakota…only time will tell the fate of the rest.  So with only one plant in tow, we headed to Minneapolis were we spent one night.  One great evening catching up with friends and a 7 mile (nice and easy) run with Tom’s sisters later, I was on my way to North Dakota alone.  Well, not fully alone.  Jack and Jonesie (for those of you just tuning in, these are my cats) were nestled safely in their carrier somewhere in my car admist suitcases, dufflebags, boxes, and one plant (can you tell I’m upset about the plants?). 

We made it to North Dakota.  Although it rained as I drove through Fargo (yes, it’s still mostly under water), the skies cleared and the rain stopped by the time I got to Grand Forks.  The base is about 15 miles outside of the actual town.  At the gate you are greated with the large painted words, “Warriors of the North.”  I checked in, got the cats settled in and then met my sponsor.  For those of you new to all this (as am I), a sponsor is someone assigned to you prior to your arrival at any new base who is responsible for getting you settled in and acclimated.  So I met my sponsor, Capt Ian Holzhauer (Naperville native – go figure!),  and he took me to dinner at his neighbor’s house in the on-base housing.  Not only did I get a home cooked meal out of the deal, I also got a plate to take home which lasted for 2 more meals.  As we were eating, something strange started to happen…by the time I returned to billeting that night, this is what I found:


That’s right.  This was my welcome to Grand Forks AFB.  The cats were confused.  I dropped my phone in the snow.  I think I saw a squirrel run backwards up a tree.  Just one short week ago I was safely in the warmth of the Bible Belt, and now look at me.  But on the upside, my room at billeting is huge. 




So now I’m here.  I’m looking for a place to live (which is actually proving to be pretty difficult – Grand Forks does not equal pet friendly), getting in-processed on base (only 4 shots so far…), and starting to figure out what kind of job I’m actually going to be doing (apparently something legal).  Everyone here is great (so far so good anyway) and I have my own office with chairs and everything!  Once I get it spruced up a bit I’ll throw a picture up here.  I know how you all love pictures of really mundane things. 

I think that’s all I have for now from Grand Forks.  I miss everyone but don’t worry, I’m doing fine up here in the north country.  Though my o’s seem to be getting a little longer…

Graduation and then Good-Bye…for now

April 22, 2009

I had an interesting conversation with a friend the other day because she mentioned that it seems like I had gotten myself into a line of work where I would be saying a lot of good-byes.  Good-byes to family and friends in Chicago because since there are no AF bases there, as long as I’m in the AF, I’ll never live there.  Good-byes to the friends I went through a debatably rough 5 weeks within COT.  Good-byes to my fellow green JAGS as we all graduate from JASOC and move on to our new bases.  And in 2 years (or so) I’ll be saying good-bye to all those I meet at Grand Forks.  At this point the pattern is obvious.  A life in the military means a constant stream of new friends, co-workers, acquaintances, and mentors coming in and out of your life.  So why on earth would a person put themselves through that?  Well, after much thought, I guess my answer is that if the price of having these people in my life is that I have to say good-bye to them from time to time, that’s a price I’m willing to pay.  There’s a chance I may never see some of the friends I made in JASOC again.  There’s also a good chance their our paths will cross again.  As we’re often told, it’s a small Air Force.  But either way, I feel lucky to have had them as a part of my life for even the limited time that I did. 

So with that mushy stuff out of the way, let me get down to the nuts and bolts of graduation.  On Thursday night we had our JASOC dining out.  Now I’ve put lots of pictures up about dining outs and I think I’ve done a good job of explaining what they are like.  But something I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned (TJAG can attest to my inability to accurately remember what I’ve said on this blog) is that every dining out has a Madam and Mr. Vice who act as part entertainment, part officiants of the mess (another name for the dining out).  Think award show host.  I was asked to be Madam Vice for our dining out and I reluctantly (and I really mean that, I did not see this being a good idea) agreed.  Mr. Vice was Michael O’Brien who has made appearances in previous posts and who is a fellow JMLS alumn.  We stumbled our way through the evening with arguably witty banter and some skipped or premature lines.  But we were far from the highlight of the dining out.  The spotlight definitely belonged to the real enterntainment – the skit and the Thunder JAGs.  Now it’s impossible to describe either of these phenomenon so I won’t even try.  But here’s a picture of the Thunder JAGs just to give you idea.  This if from the D.C. Dining Out.

Thunder JAGs

Now it might not look like much from this picture but trust me, plastic briefcases and some fancy marching make an awe inspiring sight. 

The next bit of entertainment was the skit which made me almost pee my pants infront of a crowd of about 200.  The skit ended with a song written and sung by my very musically gifted classmates.  Now this I don’t even have to try to explain because luckily it was recorded and can forever be relived simply by visiting youtube. 

Some of it might not be easy understand because of the sound or because they’re inside jokes but again you’ll have to trust me when I say it was very clever.

Dining out was followed by the obligatory game of crud.  My parents were lucky enough to see me in action for the first time.  It probably scarred them.  For good crud playing pictures, check out Johnny Utah’s blog. 

Some how we managed to get home at a reasonable hour and drag ourselves to our pre-graduation breakfast the next morning.  Shortly thereafter we graduated.  A simple shake, take, and salute and it was over.  Here I go…


Phew, I didn’t mess it up.  Then it was time for some final pictures in the courtroom at the JAG School:

post graduation

momanddad graduation

And then it became time to say good-bye.  This pictures says it all:

sad graduation

Well, I’m not actually positive what this picture says.  I see some confusion from Amber and Joni and I look sad but in a creepy way.  But we were sad but as I said before, it’s ok because this is not good-bye for good.  This is good-bye until we next call to get help with something we’re working on (Amber and I already had that conversation today) or good-bye until our paths cross again and we can sit down for a beer and catch up (Joni and I will be doing that tonight) or even good-bye until I have something silly I need to text to you (Kurt gets more than his share of those).  So it’s not good-bye for good.  Far from it.

Moving Melodrama

January 6, 2009

I will start by pointing out my immediate failings at being a blogger.  I’ve never done it before and barely knew where to start typing.  Tom set this all up for me so anything you see that is weird or you don’t like, attribute it to him.

The reason I decided to sit down and start this today is that the movers are here and everywhere I go, I feel like I’m in the way.  So I’ve retreated to Elizabeth’s room where I can type quietly without bothering anybody (except for Elizabeth whose stuff I intend to riffle through).

So as I said the movers are here and the landscape of our apartment is changing rapidly.  What was a cluttered apartment with a vague decorating scheme and then a sea of boxes is now a scantily furnished and decorated apartment.  It’s not like my stuff was everything but it was at least half and it’s absence is noticeable.

But I’m not sitting down to do this today to be depressing.  I don’t want my stuff being gone to be a symbol of something sad.  Instead I’m looking at this as my first exposure to the military.  They’re paying for all the packing and moving of my stuff.  And so far, the experience has been good.  They’ve been super fast and efficient and I have yet to see anything broken.  We’ll reevaluate when I get to North Dakota and unpack and actually see if everything is in one piece.

Don’t worry, I know this has been a lame post.  I just spent 15 minutes in the bathroom with the cats (they’re in there so they don’t run out during the moving) crying so I’m feeling a little drained.  I want to stay positive but right now I’m finding that difficult so I figure I should just wrap it up.  I hope that in a month or two when I look back at this time, I’ll be happy that I went through it and will know that I made the right decision.  But right now, the thought of leaving my life in Chicago with Elizabeth, Tom, the cats and all my other friends is absolutely killing me which obviously makes me question why I’m even doing it.  So I just hope that this pain will be justified by the life I establish down the road…a better life for not just me, but also those I care about.  Although I always said Elizabeth and I couldn’t live together forever, deep down I somehow believed we could.  Facing the reality of moving on is harder than I ever thought it would be.

My final thought:  I’m freezing my ass off because the movers leave the door open the whole time…even when they’re on their smoke breaks.