Unconditional Love

Tuesday

Well I have done about all I can do this year.  Our wounded numbers are down, but the seriousness of the wounds is up. Today I went to deliver some items to ICU and as I stood outside a room waiting, I saw an image I wish everyone could see.  It was not that he was a typical, good looking man about mid 30’s.  It was not the fact that the man in the ICU bed was hooked to every machine possible.  It was not the fact that he was an amputee.  It was that as he slept, his wife sat next to him with a loving, but concerned look on her face.  His bed sat quite a bit higher than her chair and she sat there wrapped in her shawl watching him as he slept.  It was an image that I had a difficult time looking away from.  I really did not look at him, but at his wife.  If it was at all possible to look at someone with so much love that it heal them, she would have been the one.  When the staff was finished with what I had delivered, I moved on, but that image will be forever in my mind.

Tonight I stood outside the USO and listened to new troops talk about all the wonderful, beautiful things that had happened since arriving at LRMC.  Most would think that a strange statement, since they were all patients.  However, several were thankful for the 10 minute hot shower.  One had not had a shower for over two weeks.  That shower was almost all cold water.  Another man said his last shower was 12 days ago and he had hot water, but it was either all hot or all cold.  Another said that he had thought rain had completely disappeared.  He said he had not seen rain since March 30th.  Another waited to speak and all he said was, “this is paradise,” and he felt like he might finally be able to relax.

Today I worked 9.5 hours in honor of Sharon Buck, LHCP’s treasurer.  Sharon has been with LHCP from almost the very beginning.  She manages to keep the Board and all our finances organized.  Her help has been invaluable!  Thank you, Sharon!

Giving Back

 Monday

Today has been a nasty cold and rainy day.  I seem to have been all over the place with different tasks.  This morning I stocked some of our towels and pillows on the shelves.  We ran to Ramstein to pick up water and sodas for the Tuesday and Wednesday dinners.  We ate lunch pretty quickly and then went back to the hospital.  We received a call from one of the wards asking if we had reading glasses.  I asked what prescription strength and it was a minor correction.  The Chaplain’s Clothes Closet does not have any, but I had my personal pair in my purse and would deliver them to the patient.

On the way to drop off the glasses, I ran into the patient that I mentioned in Saturday’s post.  He was sitting at the end of the hall.  He saw me first and spoke.  It was obvious something was not right.  I asked him if he was feeling ok.  He said that they are readmitting him.  I could not believe how his appearance had changed just from Saturday.  I sat and talked to him for a short period of time.  My heart just broke.  He was on the verge of tears, but he managed to hold it.  He said he just wanted his body back.  I asked him what ward was he going to and he told me he did not know.  He had been waiting for someone to come and take him up.  I told him that I could take him upstairs if he could get permission.  I pushed him to the front desk and they gave permission for me to take him up.

I started pushing him in the chair and realized I still had the reading glasses in my hand. I got him to his ward and into his bed.  He has lost so much weight in just the few weeks I have known him.  He has no bum to cushion him while he sits.  His collar bones are now very present.  He managed to roll from the chair to the bed and I could tell he was in a lot of pain, but he did it.  We got him covered, but his tech said he needed to get into a gown.  I asked him if there was anything more I could do for him and he said no he was just happy to get help going to his new bed.  I explained I had to deliver the reading glasses but would be back.  I went down a couple more wards and delivered the reading glasses.  That patient asked me how I found them and I told him it was not difficult.  He said they were very nice glasses and could not believe we found him a pair.  He was extremely grateful.  There was no reason to tell him they were mine.  He is the patient in the hospital with not much to do but read and watch TV.  I will tell Brian what I did; he will roll his eyes and say I would give away all my clothes if I was not always so cold.  LOL, it was all good.

I went back to see my very young patient, but he was still being in processed so I told him I would be back.  I contacted his liaison and had him bring the patient his lap top from his outpatient room.  When I went back before I was off work, he had his lap top.  I took him a little stuffed squirrel wearing a denim jacket, and a DS game system that I brought from the states.  I also gave him the last IPOD Shuffle and ITunes card so he could download some music.  When I pulled the Shuffle from my purse, he just looked at it and then he took it in his hands and just stared at it.  I know he knew what it was, but I don’t think he could believe he would be able to listen to music.  I had to tell him twice that it was his.  He reached out his hand for me to take and then he leaned forward for me to give him a kiss on the cheek.  I left him with his gifts and told him I would be back tomorrow.

This is the difficult part of the trip.  So many of the patients come and go while I am here, but they are moving forward in their care.  The last few days of my trip, I leave our patients to continue on with the LHCP mission, but I feel my heart is being ripped out each time I must leave them while they still finish their care here.

This young man will eventually go back to the Lone Star state.  I wish he was closer so I could continue to check in on him.  He has a home forever in my heart.

I worked 9 hours today thanks to Callie Jordan.  Callie has been a member of LHCP for almost six years.  She is also a member of Stitches of Love, creating beautiful handmade items for our wounded warriors.  Thank you for all your years of support, Callie!

Rhine River Cruise

Saturday

Saturday was our weekly cruise down the Rhine River with our patients. It was a little windy, chilly and cloud cover. Our patient in the wheel chair went. Germany is not as wheel chair friendly as the USA. We got him on the boat and then the restaurant but not without lifting him and some pulling. I believe he looks worse than he did on Thursday, but he has a lot of spunk and spirit. This is the last lunch LHCP will pay for while I am here. Thanks to many of you who made donations toward this trip, we have served up a lot of love and relaxation with the lunches on these trips. As we started to return to LRMC the weather turned nicer. Figures doesn’t it.

I worked 11 hours today.


Sunday

Time to wash clothes.

Too Funny

Tuesday

Yesterday and today were very slow days for patient arrival.  We did have some come in the Chaplain’s Clothes Closet to pick out their free clothing.  After all these years, they are still surprised that so many people back home still care enough to ship care packages.  One of the young men that came in could not believe that we gave him a brand new duffel bag.  He asked how it was possible and one of the volunteers told him who I was and what LHCP does.  She told him that all the duffel bags were from LHCP and he just stood there like a deer in headlights.  Then he gave me a big hug and said to tell all of our donors thank you.

This afternoon I was out distributing supplies.  When I returned to the Chaplain’s Clothes Closet, one of our wounded warriors saw me before I saw him.  As soon as I walked into the Closet, he jumped from around the corner and scared me.  He was laughing so hard, he could barely speak.  I do not handle being scared very well.  My son scared me once in the dark and I took him to the floor with one punch.  He was on his back with legs and arms in the air laughing and saying, “Mom it is me, it is Jeremy.”  My daughter turned on the light before I stopped.  Thank goodness I did not hurt him; even though I was punching him, he thought it was very funny that he scared me that bad.  The patient had the same reaction as my son.  I told him that he was lucky that I did not hurt him.  He just kept laughing saying it would have been worth it.  MEN you really have to wonder about them sometimes!

Today I also got to Ramstein AFB to visit the CASF.  The Ramstein CASF receives patients who are medically evacuated from the Middle East to LRMC.  The CASF also helps evacuate patients back to the Middle East or stateside.  LHCP has been supporting them for several years.  They seem to be well taken care of right now.  The items they are in need of will come from the LRMC surplus.  We may be able to delete them from our web page since they are well covered from the local community.  That is great news!!

I have been tasked with being the A driver for the wounded warriors tour tomorrow.  I hope it is not much walking, because my feet are starting to swell.  I walked 5 miles just in the hospital today.

That’s it for now and it is bedtime once again.  I worked 9 hours today.

My work Saturday, Monday, and today was in honor of Deadra Nelson.  Deadra is another long-time supporter of LHCP and I want to thank her for her years of support to our wounded warriors!

WOW, It Is So Green here

Monday

The weather has finally turned nice again.  This morning, as patients arrived, I was standing outside talking to a LRMC employee.  The first thing I heard from one of the patients is something I have heard year after year.  “WOW, it is so green here,”  as he was staring at the grass next to the Chaplain’s Clothes Closet,  and said, “that grass over there looks so nice, I would just like to go lay in it.”  Just as he finished saying this, a loud pop from the parking lot was heard.  I am not sure what it was, but it sounded like it could have been someone smashing a soda can on the asphalt.  As far as I could see, each of the newly arrived patients from the field jumped and exclaimed every word imaginable.  One patient went down to a knee immediately; even though they were safe in Germany, their bodies and minds were still on high alert.

We have cleared out almost 12 feet of storage space and now the winter jackets can be brought in from the bunkers before it snows.  I have never seen so many beanie hats, rosary beads, decks of cards, stationary, pens and pencils in my life.  I spoke with several patients tonight and even though it is a nice evening, (about 60 degrees) the patients are arriving from 100 degree weather and they are very cold.  I ran into one patient on Sunday that had on all of his military winter gear.  He had the flaps down over his ears and the facemask covering his mouth and nose.  He said he could not believe how cold it was here.  It takes them about a week to get their bodies adjusted to the temperature here in Germany.

I would say 99% of the pillows on the shelf in the Chaplain’s Clothes Closet are LHCP Stitches of Love pillows.  There were several pillows that got lots of comments today.  When I looked at the pillow it had a LHCP tag with the name Kitty Grandma of NC, Maria is that right?  I know it is your mom.  (That’s right, Karen.  She has 8 grandkitties!)  The pillow had tropical fish on it and another had cartoon characters.  The cartoon went first and one of the fish went second.  Callie, you did good, great job!

Dealing With Guilt

September 15, 2012 Saturday

I was up at 6:00 AM to be ready for the wounded warrior tour down the Rhine River, again.  We had a smaller group today and the weather was not as nice as our last outing.  I talked to one young man who said he felt guilty for being here as a patient.  When I asked him why, he said that he looks at some of the patients and thinks to himself, “I am not shot and I am not an amputee.”  He went on to say that he felt like he should be able to control his condition by himself.  I have observed over time that many, if not all of the patients have guilt of one sort or another.  They have guilt for leaving their families back home, they have guilt for leaving their comrades down range, they have guilt about being sick or wounded.  I don’t know how many times I have said, “it is normal to have guilt; however, if you are not at 100% you will not help anyone.”  There is a reason they are all here, but sometimes the psychological guilt they harbor can be worse than the actual reason that brought them to the hospital.  Guilt is a difficult emotion to come to terms with and control.

I worked 11 hours today


September 14, 2012 Friday

I worked 7 hours today.


September 12, 2012 Wednesday

It is a cold, rainy and windy day. I worked 8 hours today.

LHCP’s Honorees

Monday

Today was spent doing the same as I have done on previous days; I pushed two carts around the hospital trying to clear out more excess donations.  However, there is still so much more to clear out.  Tomorrow will be spent packing up excess donations to go to LHCP units in Afghanistan.  This afternoon a mom, who is flying back with her son, needed a pair of comfortable shoes and I had to go to the storage room to find her size.

As many of you already know, LHCP dedicates donation shipments each month to a different fallen military member.  Each box shipped has an 8×11 address label and above the address is our current honoree’s story.  Because we buy new, sturdy boxes many of our LHCP boxes are utilized to store donation items.

Upon entering the storage area where the shoes are kept, I was overwhelmed by the magnitude of honoree labels staring me in the face.  Looking at the shelves in front of me, I could see our LHCP boxes lying on their side with the bottom of the box toward the wall and the address labels facing the front.  The amount of honoree stories on those boxes took me off guard and I found myself standing in the middle of a 6×18 room looking at all of their names.  I felt like I could not breathe for a moment because I realized that so many states were represented on these labels, but more significant was the fact that they represented fathers, sisters, sons, and cousins, etc.  My eyes jumped from box to box and my brain was taking a mental note; there is Amy, Ryan, Jason, Daniel, Riley, and Buddy.  I felt honored and sad at the same time.  Suddenly in the midst of all this, the silence was broken by a young man at the door asking for my help; my attention shifted to assist with his needs.  The young man was in need of directions and once I gave him the information, it was back to the Chaplain’s Closet with shoes in hand; leaving the many LHCP boxes behind once again, along with the each of the honoree’s short, sweet stories of devotion and sacrifice.  I felt the donations were in good company, watched over by those brave fallen men and women waiting for the next wounded warrior in need of items the boxes contained.

Today I worked 10 hours thanks to Callie Waddell.  Without her support over the many years, LHCP would be short hundreds of pillows and other items.  Callie has been a very big donor and supporter.

Thank you Callie

War and Youth

Friday

Today is Friday.  This week seems to have gone very fast.  I went to one of the bunkers that LRMC Chaplain’s Clothes Closet (CCC) uses to store excess supplies.  WOW!!   That is all I can say.  I stood there in amazement at a bunker larger than my house – full of items.  They have three bunkers, all full.  The CCC and LHCP have been putting out a “Do not send” list for years.

The items they have in storage…well…wow!  They have so many aqua-colored shoes, I don’t know if they will ever get rid of them all.  They have containers upon containers of lotion, cotton balls, combs, conditioner, paperback books, magazines, decks of cards, pens, stationary, blank cards – the list just continues on and on.  Storage space is precious at LRMC and it has been taken up by items they just don’t use.  I need to try to help them clear some of this out, but I just don’t know if it is possible.  I am hoping that our units in the Middle East can use some of it, but I am afraid much of it will not be used by anyone.  They also continue to have expiration dates expire on toiletry items before it arrives at LRMC or will expire soon after it arrives.

Today I am going to take one of our IPOD shuffle donations to a wounded warrior in ICU.  I was asked to deliver it to him personally.  I knew it would be difficult, but after all these years it still gets to me worse than I thought it would.  The liaison and I went up and the patient had been moved from his bed to a bed/chair.  They were asking him if he wanted to move back to his bed and even though he could not speak the word “no,” we all understood that the sound that he made meant no.   The liaison told him why I was there; he explained the CCC and LHCP.  The patient just looked at me.  I thought about my own family members that have been deployed and I realized I was putting them in that bed.  I had to choke back what I was feeling and told him that I was happy to meet him and that I wanted to give him one of the IPODs.  One member of his family was flown in to be by his side and since the warrior was paralyzed from the neck down, I gave it to his brother.  I turned to look at the warrior and he had a smile on his face. This man is younger than my son and I just melted.  I asked the brother if I could give the patient a kiss on the forehead.  I then asked the patient if I could give him a kiss on the forehead.  Both answered with a yes and so as difficult as it was, I gave him a whisper of a kiss on his forehead.  My heart was pounding so hard by then I knew I did not have much time before it overwhelmed me.  As I started to leave the room, we were told that a 3-star general was outside our door and could we please wait.  I do not seek out “distinguished visitor” visits.  I am uncomfortable and would rather seek out a patient or a box to unpack.  I squeezed by everyone in the room and stuck myself in the corner.  It was all going well until the liaison said he would like to introduce me to the 3-star.  I whispered no to the liaison before he could get the first couple of his words out, but it did not work.  The general asked about LHCP, the CCC, and my yearly visits.  Then he thanked me and asked that I be sure to thank all our members and donors.  After he stepped out of the room, I made my silent departure.

I went back down to the CCC and found two large carts of excess supplies waiting for me to find them a home.  So, around to all the clinics I traveled.  I did clear out four or five bins, but still came back with several full ones I could not clear out.  Monday, I will try again.


Saturday

Today is Saturday and the last of my clean clothes.  We had the regular wounded warrior trip today, so the clothes must wait.  This group will also take a trip down the Rhine.  It was a beautiful day with temps in the 80s.  I found a chair by the side and sat and watched the hills and castles go by.  I had several wounded come up and sit with me and I realized that my heart was in pain.  The patients were all smiles and taking pictures, but I kept thinking about the patient in ICU.  I caught myself twice with tears welling up and would turn away from a patient so I could compose myself.  Would the patient in ICU ever be able to breathe on his own?  Would he be able to eat by himself, dress himself or even walk on to a boat for a river cruise?  I thought about how wonderful the sun would feel to him, and as strong as I could, I wished the warmth to him.  Sounds silly, I know.

By the end of the trip, most of us looked like we were in the running to be Rudolph (red noses).  We moved all the patients to the bus for a short trip to the restaurant where LHCP paid for lunch again.  As I looked around at all the tables, I saw a gunshot patient, I saw the PTSD patients, I saw the shoulder patients.  If some of them were not wearing American logos on their shirts, you would never have thought anything was wrong with them.  Then I noticed one patient with head in hand.  I got up and went over to him to ask if he was ok.  He said he had a headache.  I asked him if he thought it was from the sun and he said yes.  I looked around and they were just putting glasses of water on the tables.  His would be last so I went back to my table and gave him my glass.  In another 3 or 4 minutes he received his glass and drank that water as well.  Within about 20 minutes, he was feeling much better.  One of the patients told me that I was connected to them by a small fiber.  He said I knew when one in almost 40 people was not feeling well.

I was almost finished with my lunch when one of our ladies got up and walked out.  Silva and I noticed about the same time that something was wrong. I told Silvia I would go with the patient.  I found her outside with tears in her eyes.  I asked her if she would like to go for a walk and she said yes.  She is having panic attacks and not sure why or what set this one off.  I held her hands and promised her these episodes do get better.  It might take a while and not be as fast as she might think she should heal, but they would.  She explained some personal things and we slowly made our way back to the restaurant.  She will be heading back to the states for further care.  When Silva saw us walk back in, she told me that I really had a way with the patients.  I told her that I am not sure that it is me.  I believe that they really have a way with me.  They have a way of getting inside my heart.

After lunch, the patients have about one hour to walk around and look at the German shops.  I took my group into several stores.  We found the largest cuckoo clock I have ever seen.  They asked me if I had a wall large enough for the clock.  I laughed and said no, but I also did not have a wallet large enough to pay the 25,000 euro price.

The bus was rather warm when we got back to it and it did not take long for them to all fall asleep.


Sunday

Today is Sunday.  It was another 0600 day as one of the chaplains asked me to his church services.  He also asked some of the wounded warriors, and we took two of them with us.  Afternoon plans were cancelled, so it gave me the perfect opportunity to get clothes washed.  Tonight was rather calm as I sat outside the building and talked to wounded arriving throughout the three hours I sat there.  Then we all went inside and watched the football games.

Dianne and Frank Lane have been long time supporters of LHCP.  They have also helped support this trip over the years.  I want to thank them for their continued support and dedicate the last few days to them.  Friday, Saturday, and Sunday I worked 10 hours, 15 hours, and 18 hours.

A Special Thanks

Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.

It has been a fast paced crazy couple of days.  I spent most of Tuesday trying to in-process.  Each year the requirements to be a volunteer change.  The Red Cross has taken over the volunteer program again at the Chaplain’s Clothes Closet (CCC).  All volunteers must have a military id card, must be cleared through the Occupational Health, Security Office, take a HIPPA test, and go through Red Cross training.  This process can take over three weeks.

Tuesday I worked with very  few patients coming through the CCC.  Most of Tuesday and Wednesday I worked in the store rooms.  I met the Navy retired volunteer that receives our shipments here.  When we were introduced he gave me a big hug and said to tell all of you a very big thank you!  As in years past, there are many items that can not be used here.  I took some of these items through the hospital asking staff and those waiting for appointments if they wanted any of them.  Within about an hour, all the items on my little cart were gone.  Tomorrow I plan to do the same thing.  There are bins upon bins of items that are on the Do Not Send list that continues to be sent to LRMC.  Storage space is prime real-estate here. We need to clear these items out so volunteers can store things that are needed on a daily basis.

Wednesday was spent working with a few more patients.  I spent part of the day with a photographer in tow.  The public affairs officer received an email from the Saturday Evening Post which is interested in doing a story about LHCP and they need pictures. On Tuesday and Wednesday, the National Guard and local VFW post provide pizza and sandwiches for the wounded and ill troops after the CCC closes.   I leave the CCC and head over to the other building to help set up and spend some time talking with wounded warriors.

The Chaplain’s office has tours for the wounded warriors on Thursday and Saturdays; so Thursday was spent directing wounded warriors from one location to another and making sure we did not lose anyone. These tours are one program that I believe is extremely important for the wounded and ill.  This 5- or 6- hour trip gets patients away from the hospital environment and gives them a chance to feel healthy and normal.  They may walk with a limp, be on crutches, or have braces; but during the tour they are more normal than many of them have felt in months of deployment or days at LRMC.  The mornings that we leave for these trips, the wounded and ill sit around without speaking to each other.  By the time we pull back up to the hospital, they have formed some great relationships with others going through the same thing they are.  These trips allow the door to be opened for communication with others that have been through the same experience and feelings.

I have met some Georgian military.  Many of us do not realize that there are many countries supporting our U.S. military in Afghanistan.  One of those is the Georgian Armed Forces.  They are a staunch ally of the United States with approximately 2,000 serving in Afghanistan – that is a huge contribution of military troops from a very small country.  They work directly with our marines in some of the worst areas of Afghanistan. One member of the Georgian military is stationed at LRMC as the liaison for their wounded that arrive here.  Two Georgian doctors escorted Georgian wounded to LRMC.  One is the brother of a Georgian ICU wounded warrior.  It does not matter the country our wounded warriors are from, if you are called to be by the bedside of a loved one it is never good.  None of the patients, nor the brother, speaks English and I can not imagine the stress that must add to a already stressful situation.

Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday I worked a combined total of 34 hours, thanks to the support of the Dawejko family.   They tracked me down early this week to bring me bottled water and goodies.

Donations Feed the Wounded Warriors

Saturday

Today is my first day with the wounded and ill warriors.  Each Saturday, the Chaplain’s Closet takes the warriors on a day retreat.  It is more like of a sight seeing tour; however, as one wounded warrior told me, “I feel like I went on vacation for a whole week.”

After the CBS Evening News story, LHCP received many donations.  Some of the donors requested that the money come straight to me for my use. . Sharon and I wrote letters or spoke with many of the donors and they agreed to turn over the money to LHCP use.  Some said that they wanted the money to come to me for my personal use.   I am overwhelmed with donors’ kindness towards me and appreciate their gesture very much.  Although I understand the intentions for their request and it is very admirable and most appreciated by me, I cannot accept these funds for my personal use.  I wrote the letters to explain why this is the case and to offer an alternative way for me to use their gift.

When I began down this road over eight years ago, to provide needed items for our military men and women, I also made a promise and commitment to do so without compensation for myself, or for anyone connected to this non-profit.  I felt strongly then and now that any monetary donations should and would be used for the benefit of our troops.  I also felt that if I allowed myself, or others, to financially profit in any way from this operation, that it would not be honoring our military men and women in the manner they deserve.  These individuals sacrifice so much on a daily basis and what LHCP does is just a small gesture of love and thanks to them.

With that said, I proposed the donors that I would use their kind donations to purchase lunch for wounded warriors during my annual trip to LRMC in Germany.  By using their donation in this manner, it will not only make me extremely happy, but it will also allow us to spread some joy to the wounded at LRMC.  This is something near and dear to my heart and their donations will be greatly appreciated for this purpose.

I asked the donors that if this was not what they felt their donation to me was for, to please let me know and I will return their checks to them without prejudice or malice. I received permission to use the donations for this purpose.

Today our trip with the wounded was down the Rhine River to view the many, many castles.  So, this morning, part of these donations was used to buy a small breakfast meal such as coffee and a danish or tea and a fruit cake.  They all loved it.  I had to smile as I looked around, because some of them looked as if they were eating a meal worth a thousand dollars instead of just a couple hundred for all of them.

We then got everyone to the boat and down the Rhine.  I don’t think I have ever heard so many clicks from cameras and iPhone before.  When the Rhine River tour was finished, we took all of them to a typical wine cellar German restaurant. They each had a small bowl of soup, then salad, then their meal, and dessert. We found out that one of the wounded had a birthday and so we asked for her to be brought a birthday dessert.  Everyone sang Happy Birthday. They were told that LHCP purchased their meals and they thanked all of our sponsors for the support.

During the bus ride back to LRMC, I could not help but keep looking at their faces.  Some were sleeping;others were just as quite as a church mouse.  When they got on the bus six hours ago, many showed signs of stress.  Now they were calm and so peaceful – what a beautiful thing to watch happen during the last few hours.

Each year our board asks for donations to help with this trip.  This year was no different and we received several “trip sponsors.” Today I worked ten hours with the sponsorship of Larry and Rachel Hause.  Larry and Rachel have been long time LHCP donors, supporters, members, and friends. Thank you both.  Your impact on our wounded is far beyond words.

Karen Grimord
LHCP Founder and President

Back To Landstuhl

Wednesday

I find myself back on a plane heading to Landstuhl, Germany to spend the next month working side by side with staff at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center (LRMC). It seems it has been forever since I have been on this long flight.  Last year I was not able to fly due to some major health problems. The flight was very uneventful except for the man sitting next to me that I don’t believe had flown before, or if he had, absolutely did not like flying.  Unfortunately for him, he was flying from our west coast to Budapest for his job.  I don’t remember the first time I flew, it must have been uneventful for me, but I am sure this man will not forget this flight.  If he had been a small child, I would have asked him if he had ants in his pants.  But I had to smile as he explored every aspect of the seat and the pouches around him for hidden secrets or maybe pots of gold.

We flew all night and, believe it or not, landed 20 minutes early.  Silvia and a new chaplain from LRMC picked me up at the airport and it is always wonderful to get through passport control, customs, and the sliding doors to see a smiling familiar face.

We drove some exhilarating autobahn speeds to pick up my rental car, only to arrive and find out they did not have my reservation.  Since this is a holiday weekend, I walked away with the only car available.  Not sure you can call it a car; I truly believe that it would fit inside my suburban, with room for several boxes.  The rental agent asked if I had ever driven a Smart Car before, I can remember thinking “oh no,” this is going to be interesting.  “No problem,” I told the rental agent.  I thought, “how difficult can this be.”  I have visited and lived in 22 different countries, visited or was a resident of 42 different states.  “I got this.”

We head out to the parking lot and I have never gone tracking for a car the way we did this one, but after about 30 minutes walking through the parking lots beeping the lock on the key ring, we found the car – on the opposite side of the building from where the rental agent told us.  OK, tags match, key unlocks door, we are set and all is right with the world again.  Well almost, the fact that the car ignition is down between the seats different, but ok.  I have one large suitcase, one small suitcase, and one computer bag.  Unless by some small chance, the computer bag had manifested itself into a super being and had learned to drive, none of the bags were going to fit into this car themselves, let alone with me and Silvia.  The chaplain said he would drop the bags off at the hotel.

Silvia and I get in and put the key in the ignition, but nothing happened.  I can remember thinking the computer bag could have done as much.  We both pushed buttons, turned the key, and nothing.  Oh, wait she said something about manual.  Look down, nope no clutch.  Finally, I figured out the car was not in the N position.  Cool, now everything is right with the world… well not yet.  Foot on gas, but zero movement…move shift lever…no, still no movement.  Now remember, I have been awake for over 24 hours and this is just down right funny to me.  I started laughing and Silvia joined in.  I am sure if anyone had been watching, they would have thought we were high school girls giggling about a deep dark secret.  Move shift lever a couple more times.  “Yes, we are moving.”  Then this clutch-less car sounds and feels like it needs to be shifted.  How the heck do I do that with no clutch?  Extremely quick prayer said and I moved the shift lever, then a number 2 flashes on the dash.  Hah, I got this now.

First stop light and the car quietly dies.  Not like a regular clutch car that is in the wrong gear but quietly turns off.  OH NO!  Light is green, now what?  Foot on gas and the car started without any more help than the gas pedal.  So what was different this time than trying to get it to move in the parking lot…who cares, we are moving and Silvia and I take great pleasure in that fact.

Stop and go traffic all the way to the hotel and each time the car idles, it would also stop.  Hmmm, maybe it does that to save gas; cool, I guess but it is a little nerve-wracking wondering if it is going to start again.

We get checked in at the hotel and go to the LRMC chaplain’s closet.  There is a ton of paper work do to before I can start work and I want to start as soon as possible.  We do the walk around and I notice items right away that are not on the shelves.  Next out to the store rooms; note to self:  get LHCP yahoo group members started on SMALL PJ bottoms immediately.

There is a Combat Stress Dinner tonight with sub sandwiches.  However, everyone is out busy doing something.  I volunteer to take Silvia back to Ramstein to pick up the sandwiches and water.  Really Karen!!  Have you not learned anything today?  You have a car with no body.  There is no way we can pick up 6 cases of water, 4 very large trays of subs, and bags of lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, olives, and peppers.  However with some careful squeezing this here and that there we did get 2 cases of water and all the subs and toppings in the car.  Key in ignition, car in N, start car, put car in R, and then like a magic show, voila we have movement!!

Back to LRMC, drop off food and water and the bed is calling me.  It is still early and I am fighting it, but I now have a headache and my eyes are burning.  Back to the hotel, I spend an hour unpacking and setting up the room for the month.  It is only 6:00pm, but I need sleep.

I tossed and turned awhile, then I was ready to get up for the day.  Check time on clock, OH!! it is 1:30am.  Check emails, play a game, talked with husband on Face Time and back to sleep at 4:30am.  Up at 7:30am to grab breakfast, and a shower.  I also learned that the hour I spent yesterday unpacking might have been too soon.  There was confusion with the room and I found out this morning I do not have a reservation here for the entire month.  I need to find a new hotel by the middle of the week.  No problem…right…22 countries and 42 states…

Karen Grimord
LHCP President