Sunday, December 16, 2012

It's Worth It

This evening I've been watching the 2012 Crossfit Games with my daughters. The women's finals has been on the last 2 hours. I crossfit and enjoy functional fitness, but hate watching other folks suffer. I wanted the girls to learn a lesson tonight so I kept it on.
They've been glued to the TV and want to get to Crossfit kids on Thursday.
I'm not pushing fitness.
The theme tonight was simple- if you want something bad enough, you have to struggle to get it. Tonight they saw women cry, bleed, and sweat in order to achieve. More important- things that are worth it require work and sometimes will be a struggle.
I hope these subtle lessons will transcend the muscle clad women on TV and will seal a narrative that should last R and V's lifetimes...

Monday, October 29, 2012

Just Be

Laura has come out to visit the girls and the house has been empty for days. I absolutely miss them but find solace in silence.
The biggest highlight was taking a nap Saturday afternoon for three hours- I needed it. Typically I kill myself at work trying to get ahead of things and it seems as though 4 months back from Kandahar it wont change.
As I'm writing I'm listening to Bon Iver again. Its been a long time since I've given him a spin. With the silence in the house it goes well.
Now if I could only get the gas furnace going.....

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

It's Always Been That Way

It's been a while, I know. I won't get into specifics, but there is alot to do and not enough time. The job is slowly getting to be more demanding and the house is not a house of order...
Some folks wonder why I enjoy country music. Yes, I'm black. BUT.. I'm also raised by parents that exposed me to quite a bit when I was younger- I'm lucky that they enlarge my life aperture.
In middle school I fell in love with the Black Crowes. There was something gritty and awesome about their guitars and the lyrics that appealed to me. I've been a fan since and have had the opportunity to see them live. There is a weird link to me between Southern Rock, country music, clean lyrics, and lyrics that I can play in front of my daughters while we are in the car.
Southern rock was a bridging solution that allowed me to open my ears and eyes to country.
It was me. Not a girl. Not the desire to fit in. It was me....

Friday, July 13, 2012

Until November

Unfortunately, this election is going to be messy. Here is my disclaimer- I didn't vote for President Obama and I'm still on the fence if he will get my vote. BUT- I can't say that the man has made any egregious mistakes....

Show us your stuff Mitt.

In the mean time, I think America really needs to ask itself why they've been uncomfortable with a black president.


As I get ready for the girls to come next week with mom, I can't help to be cheesy and take from Brandon Boyd again....

If it's good to complicate then both of us are doing fine.
Just keep your eyes on your part and leave me alone to mine.
If it's good to instigate, we're a fast horse, bet on us.
I'm not calling you an animal;I think we just fight too much.
Hey now, in spite of this we're doing just fine
Even diamonds start as coal.
Give us time to shine,
Even diamonds start as coal.
We're both aligned in frame of mind
But circumstance got us good.
And now you're seeing a side of me
I wish no one ever would.
Yeah, if it's right to pick a fight, we're
Fingers in a sugar bowl.
Love isn't perfect, even diamonds start as coal.
Come on, in spite of this we're doing just fine
Even diamonds start as coal.
Give us time to shine,
Even diamonds start as coal.
Even diamonds start as coal.
We're incomplete and infantine
Even diamonds start as coal.
Give it time girl, the fire feels divine
The sweetest things, they burn before they shine.
We think way too much,
Look at us losing touch!
A promise is a promise until...
Yeah in spite of this we're doing just fine
Even diamonds start as coal.
Give us time to shine,
Even diamonds start as coal.
Even diamonds start as coal.
We're incomplete and infantine
Even diamonds start as coal.

Friday, June 29, 2012



It’s a Friday night and I’ve opted to stay inside and clean. I’ve made some progress on finding a place in an area where the girls can get a good education. I thought about this in Kandahar and have the time to do it now….

Below are the top 15 songs I played on my Itunes (in order of how many times were played) over the last 10 months, with a short ditty of each…. Enjoy or at least try to absorb it as best you can….

1.     INCUBUS: “Thieves”… 86 plays! This is a catchy one. Its smooth and has a catchy lay to it. The band makes incredible music and lyrically they are on par and sometimes better than my man John Mayer.  I hate politics pushed by musicians, and this song does it. I’m in love with Brandon Boyd’s mind so the music and some of the lyrics grew on me- although I don’t agree with all of what he says in the track.  

2.     PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS: “Time to Rock Our Shi$” 80 times played- I don’t know if the lyrics are mindless, but the beat sounded awesome. I don’t know if the song caught me at the right time, but my head bobbed and it kept my busy. The other plus to this band is that the two MCs are near my hometown back in LA…

3.     THE ROOTS: “One Time” 72 plays… I love this band. My conservative friends who can only handle one black friend at a time HAVE to look at these hip hop artists for what they are- the anti-thesis of rap music- THEY PLAY THEIR OWN INSTRUMENTS!!! This isn’t their best work, but I enjoyed the melody. I played this a lot before leave- probably the darkest part of the deployment.

4.     SMASHING PUMPKINS: “Apples and Oranjes” 56 plays. I used to play Pumpkins all the time when I was in college. This track is a different turn for these guys, but the lyrics are incredible. It takes me back to decisions…. I ask that you give it a whirl. The tune is catchy as well…

5.     AMUESEMENT PARKS ON FIRE: “At The Last Night” 55 plays. This isn’t one of their best songs and I don’t know why this got played more than “A Star is Born” (my personal favorite). Its playing right now as I write and it just doesn’t fit. Maybe I played it so much so I could space out.

6.     BON IVER: “Perth”. 53 plays. I caught this band while waiting for a train in Raleigh- there were some great memories from that weekend, but the song and lyrics I can never get tired of. I expect that song to stay on my playlists for years. “Still alive for you”….

7.     THE DOOBIE BROTHERS. 53 plays…. This song is epic. It brings back memories to my childhood. But the other attachment I have to it are my two little girls. I played it for them last spring and they fell in love with it. I can play it now and can get R to dance…. This is pure music with the soul of Michael McDonald.

8.     FUGAZI: 48 plays…. I used to listen to this and Metallica’s “One” before games. It was a weird ritual- douse myself in Bengay- lie naked on my bed and think through the game. It calmed me and I was centered. Back to the song… classic baseline, rage with containment, and intelligible lyrics. Thank you Ian McKay…

9.     KATY PERRY: 46 plays…. I don’t know how this got here. Maybe I was dreaming back to being on leave in CA. Don’t hate me for this…..

10.  JOHN MICHAEL MONTGOMERY: 44 plays.. As a guy that’s been a country fan for about 14 years, this is the first in the list and it came last! I would stream country music radio from the states so I didn’t discount my love for country music. Catchy tune, but when you’re really in love with someone you love them forever- even when they cant be yours…..

This is raw- no editing , so if this doesn’t make sense… screw you. This time its about MY thoughts…. And MY music….

1208- 27107-gna22


Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Over the Shoulder

I have playing on iTunes "Plume" by Filter. I haven't dug into the lyrics like I do with most music I listen to, but every since I bought it a few months ago its been on the playlist. Great melody, Richard Patrick has a way with guitars thats mesmerizing.

This has been a trying year- ups and downs with a few bright spots. Int he next few days I'll take a look back before I land in North Carolina. Soon I'll have the opportunity to sit by myself and start a new chapter in this discourse.

I could lie and say it was quick, but it wasn't. I remember chunks- Discovery, Excitement, Disappointment, Growth, Crush, Still, Awake, Moving, Surprised. Stages throughout this deployment that describe segments of time. Segments that I may go into later on but right now as I sit in my room for the last night, those are the blocks.

I learned a lot. I learned about love. I learned about backing off. I learned about patience. I learned about strength. I learned about time. I learned to be appreciative. I learned "nice". I learned friendship. I relearned sensitivity. I relearned Ayn Rand. I studied callousness. I saw maturity. I toyed with uncertainty. I learned about the Spirit. I learned about Him. I learned about me. I changed my parenting. I'm reevaluating my next spouse. I heard somberness. I relived pain. I realize that I still need to grow.

Thats the cursory look


When I as shopping for Ph.D programs, I sat on the bench at Penn and I can say that when stuff kind of stopped. I lost a loved one, I have (and still have an uncertain future), and I dreaded coming back.
Maybe with 90 days to go I snapped out of it and decided to put key stroke to electrons....
I’ve teamed up with Number 42 and another guy  for workouts.  Its great because 42 is a competitor andI like the push and its been nice to have someone around of the same ilk.
So I think the standstill is over, there are a few holes that need to be plugged in, but I think Im back and ready to break out....


Home.. Sometimes its good to be me...

15 days later and Im thinking about how my leave went. Alot happened- family, personal, final breaks with a close friend, the unveiling of opportunities... some clarity. The list goes on. 
Time was an issue going into leave and I can look back and say I got time- not nearly enough, but I got it.
Its interesting to see how kids react to when their dad leaves again for another 6 more months- at ages 6 and 9, the girls understand time and how it feels to be separated. Rian’s attempt to hold back tears at the gate to her plane made my eyes water... Sometimes I cant believe how folks outside of the armed services can scoff at the work we do far away from the people we love the most- our children.  It hurts and if you were able to taste it, you wouldn't want to do it again. But some people just have to get the work done.
In 6 months kids learn and grow quite a bit. I had a father/daughter sit down with both girls (separately) and they talked extensively- I learned plenty. Despite calls to stop my methodology of parenting, both girls get IT and love their father accordingly. Kids love structure and if I can give it to them so that they don't roll down the paths of some of the family that they are around, then I am a success and they will be too. At the end of the day, somebody needs to hit them with a dose of reality- its not right to celebrate your 14 year old cousin’s baby shower.
Appreciate what you have when you are away from it. I saw that everyday when I looked through windows in both of my parent’s homes. As I’ve said before, I use that time for contemplation and I thought plenty over the last 15 days. I’m grateful for that time, even though in the back of my mind I knew that some of the views I experienced I wouldn't see for a long time.
Personal accountability and responsibility are the key to growth. If you cant look yourself in the mirror and TRY to make something “right” then you as a person have failed to learn. Failing to learn is counter to what your mortal experience on earth should be. 
Sometimes spending 80% of your day in bed is ok. Again, time to just be.....
 This is a repeat of “stuff” I’ve said before, but cherish every person that came into your life. God brought them in for a reason. Think about it....
Sometimes its ok to just have space. The art comes when trying to deliver the blow so you don't lose that person forever. 
Random thoughts here- there will probably be more as I let the last 15 days marinate...

The Lot In Life

One of the views from dad's...

This is a view from the front yard of dad’s house. Its amazing to see the “jewelry box” look when its night time and all of Los Angeles is in front of you. 
I took this picture and began thinking- You are who you are and while you can control your life, there are some things that will never change. If you continue down the same paths and choices in life, not much will change. You will experience the same challenges, the same pitfalls or alternatively- the same successes. with the line of reasoning I’ve just written about 
Introspection- I constantly try to improve my own life. But there are some things that keep reoccurring that don't go away.  Do we just accept it as the lot in life I drew- or do you fight fate and try to change what may be inevitably unchangeable?


I’ve been on an airplane nearly 36 hours and don't know why I’m more excited about going home. There are friends and family I want to see, but am I really enjoying time off by having to schedule time with folks over the next two weeks? I’d argue no. This is what I get for being an infrequent friend to those on the west coast. Believe me, I’m excited to see you, but I don't know if Im excited to schedule events or time when I should be enjoying it on the couch and random outings with two of my favorite 9 and 6 year olds. 
I wish I could enjoy Los Angeles with MY time and at MY pace. I’m being selfish, but this is time number 4 to a combat zone and I can feel the effects of wanting to just be....


Walking without a care because the moment was just right. 
Bailey's paws clapping on the pavement and his heavy breathing were tuned out. 
The fall air smelled of fire wood burning in the homes of Marshall and hands were clasped. 
Conversation about home, parents, and almost nothing was the banter back and forth while learning and pondering. In my head was the clock- there wasn't much time left.
Make the most of it- cherish the moment that you have and take it all in. One step at a time and word at a time and savor it all. Some day it may all go away.

5 Turns and 7 Men

I don't know why I thought of this today, but I did.....
The doors opened automatically as you walked in. There was somebody there to escort you. By the time you got there you composed yourself and made the walk. After the first time you knew the route. Not much was said. You followed the walls down the long corridor that was bare. You made a left then an immediate right to a glass door. You pushed the door open and made a left, but you were outside and the summer air greeted your face. Most of the time you were already sweaty and the humidity didn't help. There was a loud generator and HVAC unit that spun as you kept walking. On the right hand side was the small building. You made the right turn-There was another glass door which you opened into an atrium. Then you made the left and were greeted.
"Sir, he is in there. Are you ready?"
"I am"
Each of the 7 times each one looked different. One time I couldn't see his face. 
To know that I was partly responsible gave me a lump in my throat. Id walk slow and remember who else would know in a few hours and what I would say after they found out. 
Each one got a kiss on the forehead and a whisper from me that I've only told two people, "Whatever you do, take His hand and walk through the veil."
That's all I'd say and I knew all was well- for him.
Life can end at anytime for anyone. My experiences of burying 7 men under my hand is no exception and I wouldn't say it's worth more then anybody else's. What I would say is that people can leave anytime and we should love every minute that our friends, acquaintances, and loved ones remain here on Earth. 
Arguments, disagreements, hurt, distance... All can be overcome. But living with "I wish I would have" can and will haunt you forever


Moving on and beginning anew is always a big step. Congrats to Laura on her wedding plans with Jay.
Today a close friend weds away in Finland. Thank you for your friendship and your keen ability to help with life for nearly two years.
No matter what age you are at, it is never too late to begin again. Really it is a matter of the mind and a shift and priorities and anybody can do it. Taking a step back and recognizing the need to change in itself creates opportunities for future.

Thoughts Into Christmas With a Dabble of History

Kandahar Sunset

One of my favorite Christmas stories took place 235 years ago on a frigid storm struck Christmas night – December 25, 1776. On this storm struck night along the western banks of the Delaware River,sat General George Washington and the army of men and women that rallied to him. Washington’s army consisted of thousands of men from throughout the colonies, and the women were the wives of many of these men. These women followed the army from battle to battle providing some of the behind the scenes combat support such as cleaning, cooking, laundry, and chow. On this bitter cold Christmas night as a howling nor’easter storm struck the Delaware Valley, Washington led the men across the icy river in a desperate attack against the British and Hessian troops posted along the river’s opposite side.

In the weeks and months leading up to this night, Washington’s men had become dreadfully dispirited. They had experienced defeat after defeat as they repeatedly retreated from the advancing British forces. Many of Washington’s men had given up. With their contracts due to expire in this very month of December, 2000 troops refused to sign on again. Hundreds had already deserted, and most of those that remained were sick, hungry, and miserable. They had almost no clothes to protect them against the bitter harshness of that winter. In fact, a visitor to their camp described them as looking wretched.

This army and their new nation were in crisis. It was a perilous moment when things had gone deeply wrong for the American War of Independence. Thomas Paine, a great writer of that era, had actually marched with them in their retreats. Seeing the destitute nature of Washington’s army and knowing the desperate nature of their situation, Thomas Paine hastily wrote a pamphlet aptly titledThe Crisis. This pamphlet was immediately published and distributed throughout the colonies in an effort to get the colonies united behind Washington’s army. To rally the colonies, Thomas Paine described the crisis in this way. He said, “These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.”

Tried times tend to either unify us or divide us. In the crisis of 1776, Washington’s army united together on this cold Christmas night and won the battle of Trenton thus turning the tide of the war and bringing hope to their young nation.

For many of us, this Christmas may be a difficult and tender time.We are separated from loved ones by long miles. Some loved ones are missing from Christmas gatherings for the first time. Some may be separated by strained relations. “But the promise of Christmas is that sorrow can be turned to joy, and sadness can give way to gladness.
Always there is hope – hope that we will reunite with loved ones, so cherished and missed; hope for an opportunity to start rebuilding a relationship; hope that this Christmas will mark the dawning of new life and new prospects.
Merry Christmas.. all is well over here. This was just time to reflect...

Into the Sea

When I was younger I used to hate riding in the car with my dad. He would ALWAYS play classical music and this a news radio station called KNX 1070. Two things came of it- my love for Claude DeBussy and news radio.
My favorite Claude Debussy song is Clair de Lune, but in 1999 Trent Reznor used La Mer and turned it into a dark melodic track- one that sticks with me today. I don't know why it does, but it does. Something happened yesterday that reminded me of oceans....
  “Et il est un jour arrivé
   Marteler le ciel
   Et marteler la mer
   Et la mer avait embrassé moi
   Et la délivré moi de ma caille
   Rien ne peut m'arrêter maintenant”

Lights and Urine

I remember during my first deployment to South East Asia, we burned our feces and the fumes were noxious. It was what you did though- there was nobody to come suck it up in a truck for you. Over time government contractors have developed means for waste management- in comes the porta-johns. Great!
Really, its great until you are man and you have to pee in the dark. About a month ago my worst nightmare came to pass....
At night I missed! I missed the man cup, but didn't know it until I walked into the “office” and saw my boots covered in what was my piss. Dude.
Now, things could be worse. Women “hover” to pee and all of us have to sit if we want to push out solids. Intro to blue butt if you splash. Ahhhh yes, if you are eating well its going to splash and your white briefs, boxers, boy shorts, and undergarments go to the shade of blue.
What to do.... headlamps! Yes, headlamps when I pee. Im still trying to think for those of us who hover and come up with a cure for blue butt....

Brick Windows

I have had moments where I would stare out of windows and think. It really started in college and has carried its way until I left Virginia. Windows were a moment of solace, a time to think, evaluate, and ponder. Over time I saw windows as a means to see inside me and to let folks know where my mind was going.
Windows allow you to understand people. They open up friendships, they allow love to develop, they make you transparent, and ultimately it is a means to see your soul. 
Experiences often build the mortar that closes windows; seals your soul, and who you are from people you love and care about. Over time jumping over the bricks becomes tiresome and it hurts. There isn't the strength to vault anymore. So you sit in front of the walls and pound your fist trying to get in, but you cant. So you wait... Wait.. and wait. But you cant anymore. The brick windows won and the person that you once knew cant let you in. Friendships fail, love wanes, and what you once had is gone. 


  1. I can still do what I want
  2. I still compete on the fields of men with sticks
  3. I try my hardest to be the whole man in all I do (spiritual, mental, and physical well being)
  4. I shave my head because chicks dig it, not because I’m balding
  5. The most important aspect in life is self-improvement. This is a journey with a purpose... evolve.
  6. I’m surrounded by some pretty damn smart folks and I want to be like them everyday
  7. I wear my heart on my sleeve and most of the time you don't get a response
  8. I still want to climb Kilimanjaro before I retire 
  9. It takes me three days to recover from games (see number 1)
  10. My last marathon wasn't my last
  11. I have a secret love for contemporary art
  12. I’m not a rough guy with a cowboy hat who croons like Billy Currington, but I’m a heck of dude to hangout with
  13. Despite my shortcomings and faults and with 36 more years of life ahead of me; I’m not the fastest, sexiest, or smartest, but I’m pretty damn happy with the way things have gone.


The first time I heard this song was in 2003 and V was a little over a year old. I was in Baghdad on the Tigris River and didn't realize the journey I got myself into. My life long goal is to make sure that I raise self-suffcient women who do the right thing. 8 years later, these lyrics by John Mayer resonate with me- I love you V and R.....
I know a girl
She puts the color inside of my world
But she's just like a maze
Where all of the walls are continually changed
And I've done all I can
To stand on her steps with my heart in my hands
Now I'm starting to see
Maybe it's got nothing to do with me
Fathers, be good to your daughters
Daughters will love like you do
Girls become lovers who turn into mothers
So mothers, be good to your daughters too
Oh, you see that skin?
It's the same she's been standing in
Since the day she saw him walking away
Now I'm left
Cleaning up the mess he made
So fathers, be good to your daughters
Daughters will love like you do
Girls become lovers who turn into mothers
So mothers, be good to your daughters too
Boys, you can break
You'll find out how much they can take
Boys will be strong
And boys soldier on
But boys would be gone without the warmth from
A womans good, good heart
On behalf of every man
Looking out for every girl
You are the guide and the weight of her world
So fathers, be good to your daughters
Daughters will love like you do
Girls become lovers who turn into mothers
So mothers, be good to your daughters too


You made my week. Thanks....


Short entry today. I think a friend of mine blew me off for a 5K run this morning- you know who you are..:)
A couple of weeks ago I took my roommate to the hospital because of abdominal cramps. Because I’m a good trooper I took my Kindle and waited for him. Whilst waiting I grabbed at the tray of food next to me and peered into a pink bin to the right.
A full bin of condoms. Don’t know who has time for sex- I get home and the only thing I do at midnight is get into my own bed, by myself. Good for them I suppose.


Its 14 minutes after midnight and I’m trying to figure out what to put finger to keyboard. To be honest with you, I just don't know and that may be the beauty about this posting; its a stream of my thoughts after the stroke of midnight.
  1. There is something therapeutic about being away from loved ones. You miss them, but you can use this time to take a look at yourself without anyone else’s input and work on being a better man. My goal after this next grueling year is to come out better than who I was.
  2. Despite isolation, friendships away from work are key. No matter what you gauge who the supporters are and those who will say hello when they feel like it. This goes back to my postulates about the chasm between servicemembers and the society/country they serve. Our experiences can only be shared by 1% of the population. 
  3. Trees are amazing. I haven't seen one in 8 weeks and can’t wait until the spring when I land back in sunny southern California and see trees, a sunset, water, and breathe clean air. More than 6 hours of sleep would be nice as well.
  4. When I lived in DC I never grew tired about my commute in or any of the monuments. At the end of the day, DC is gorgeous. I miss the city, the Church community, and the experience to learn and work with some of the smartest minds the world has.
  5. There are two albums that I frequent when I write to you, one is from Bon Iver and the other is from a band called A Sunny Day in Glasgow. Im not pitching for bands here, just telling you what calms my mind at the end of mentally draining days.
  6. One day I’ll have to write about sirens, 107mm explosives, and carbombs. Its amazing how humans deal with the dangers of combat. Sometimes, you just don't...
  7. This is the first time I have been deployed and not been focused on killing. The change in mindset at times is unsettling.
  8. The coalition of multinational partners is amazing. I’ll write about that on another day too. No matter what country you are from, the profession of arms comes together to see young men carried on to airplanes  no matter what country flag is draped over his coffin.
  9. A woman’s touch is amazing as her lips and the smell of her hair.
  10. Reading the Economist off the Kindle isn't too bad after all. 
I’m going to stop now, I don't know why, but I am. This was good, it gives context- I’m not depressed, sad, or remorseful. This is reflection, and every once in a while its ok to stop and think......
I said I wasn't going to post a picture, but I will. This is sent from a friend back home. I miss you City of Angels.