Sunday, September 27, 2009

Missing Kenin

For those who don't know, Kenin is my dog. Outside of my immediate family, he is the most important "person" in the world to me. I adopted him in April 1997. There were some growing pains as we learned to live together. Most of the pains were mine as he did some damage to my new house--tearing out all the window screens when I left him outside, digging a whole in the living room carpet, and chewing up the moulding in the kitchen, to name a few things. Thank God for a handy father and father-in-law. But then, and now, he is well worth any trouble he caused me.

That was never more true than when my ex-wife asked for a separation in June 2006. This was just weeks before we were to drive out of Alaska together to make our way to my next assignment at the Pentagon. So when I drove out of Anchorage, it was just Kenin and me in the truck. He was my copilot for the drive from Alaska to Virginia, including stops in Vancouver and Michigan (like an AF copilot, he wasn't much help with figuring out where we were going). I have some great pictures of him standing on the back seat looking out the window. Our first extended stop was in Vancouver to visit my brother John. All three of us enjoyed the few days we had together. From there we made the cross-country drive to see my mom and other brother David in Michigan. Although it would have been nice if he had taken his turn behind the wheel, he still makes a great traveling companion. We had a great visit in Michigan. Kenin loves running up the stairs to my mom's condo. After a week in Michigan, it was time to drive to Virginia and finish our 5,000-mile odyssey.

The first year or so in Virginia was a very difficult time in my life. The future of my marriage was very uncertain. I had a decent apartment, but it was very lonely. I received a lot of support from my family, especially my mom. However, they of course couldn't be there in Virginia with me. I don't know if I could have handled coming back to the apartment day after day if Kenin wasn't there to enthusiastically greet me everytime. There is a dog park just a 10-minute walk from the apartment. We went there often, although I should have taken him more than I did. We also went on many hikes. We went to almost every park in Northern Virginia that had a trail and even out west to the Shenandoah Valley. I'll treasure those memories for the rest of my life. I give my mom and Kenin credit for getting me through that time.

When I thought I might be deploying, my main concern was what to do with Kenin. Because of how important he is to me, I wouldn't leave him with just anybody. I asked my mom who she thought would be willing to take him. She suggested Mark and Teresa. Mark's family lived next to mine when we were growing up, so we've known each other our whole lives. Our families remain very close. Teresa didn't hesitate to say yes when my mom asked her. At that time I thought I was going to be gone for just 6 months. When I found out it would be a year, I called Teresa and again she said yes without hesitating. God's hand was obviously on this decision because I could not have found a better family to leave him with. Mark and Teresa send me updates on how he is doing, my mom tells me how well he is being taken care of, and even Jenny, Mark's sister, has visited him and told me how happy he is. I am very grateful that he is with such a loving family.

Other than when I first dropped him off at Mark and Teresa's house, I haven't really felt like I am missing him. Even when I received updates on him, it didn't affect me much. However, when Jenny sent me pictures of her and Mark and Teresa's kids playing with Kenin, then I missed him badly. I especially felt his absence when I saw this picture.

That is such a classic look for him and brings back such great memories. For a while I had the picture set as my computer's wallpaper. I would "pet" him before shutting down my computer for the night. I told Jenny not to feel bad that the picture made me sad because I love it and am glad she sent it. So now I think about him more and I still miss him, but it is okay because I know he is doing well.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Are You Ready for Some Football?

Apparently the Detroit Lions defense wasn't! Losing to the Saints 45-27 and letting their QB throw for 6 touchdowns. It wasn't shown live here, which is just as well. It was replayed on Monday, but for some reason I didn't feel like watching it.

Despite the inauspicious start for the Lions, I'm still thrilled the football season started. I, like many others here, have been looking forward to this for weeks. Watching football over here, like many other things, is just a little bit different. We are 7 hours ahead of the Eastern time zone, so the early college football games start at 1900 and the early pro games start at 2000. I can usually watch either half or all of those games. It is bedtime for me when the mid-afternoon games are starting. The night games have already started when I wake up in the morning, so I can watch part of them before church on Sunday or work on Monday and Tuesday. The daylight savings time change will make it easier to see the night games but harder to watch even the early afternoon ones. Wah!

Those who know me know I'm a diehard Michigan Wolverines fan. Of course I root for my alma mater, the Air Force Academy, but I live and die with the U of M. All last week I was looking forward to the Michigan-Notre Dame game. For me, ND is the second most hated rival behind Ohio State. I spent all day last Saturday looking forward to the game since it started at 2230. At game time, I was comfortably settled into my recliner (yes, I'm spoiled) and ready for some football. I watched the game nervously as it went back and forth. About halftime, which was around midnight, I almost fell asleep. I am so glad I stayed awake. What a game! When Michigan scored the go-ahead touchdown with 10 seconds left in the game, I had to restrain myself from yelling and possibly waking up my neighbor. I was also really excited when CMU (where my brother John went to school) upset MSU on a last second field goal (sorry Jenny). I can't wait for the rest of the season (in fact, I'm watching the UM/EMU game as I type this).

In addition to watching the games, it is nice to have something to look forward each week other than work. People mark their time here in different ways. Some people count each day. That would drive me crazy. The DFACs (aka chow halls) have different specialties on different days. One day will be Chinese, another Mongolian BBQ, another Arabic, and so on. So some people mark their day by when their favorite food is being served. Even after 4 months here I still can't remember the DFAC schedule, so that doesn't work for me. I'm not counting down my days, but I am looking forward to football making the time pass. Also, I already figured out I'll have 3 months left after the Super Bowl and I'll be close to finding out where my next assignment is. Therefore, football is my calendar.

Watching football brings a taste of home to the deployment. I can't say this enough, I have it good that I can watch the games, especially in the comfort of my room. I don't have to get dressed up to watch the game at a rec center or, even worse, not be able to watch the games at all and have to wait a day or two to get results. Hallejuah for the Armed Forces Network and having a TV in my room and office (where I'm at now). Go Blue, go Air Force, and go Lions!