Because of an excess of spambot activity, I have blocked new registrations. I hate taking such drastic measures, but I don't have time to clean up all the false registrations that result from whatever attack list I landed on. I will likely revise this in the future once I've upgraded some of my code, but until then, please email me if you would like a user account. Most days, you'll get a login within a few daylight hours. Please let me know:
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The WatchCat spent a year in Russia and the Middle East in preparation for a government career. Unfortunately she got in a little too deep, and health problems sabotaged her career before it began. The future? Now there's an open question. She gets her paws in the action whenever possible, with or without a paycheck. WatchCat keeps busy supporting the troops, recruiting pararescue candidates, yelling at traitors and helping people navigate the grey areas on international everything.
A close family member is active duty US military, but due to OPSEC (and the general need for family peace), WatchCat is unable to write about that person's activities. She makes the most of the opportunities that God gives her, knowing that she should be dead by now.
And yes, she is married & is going to stay married. Smacks upside the head are delivered as needed to those who don't understand this.
Any Amazon.com shopping you do via these links will help keep WatchCat in cream & ammo:
This week I have a decent excuse for the lack of posts: I got hit in the eye and got a significant scratch on my cornea. (Lest you worry, the "how" had its own humor and is something I will hold over the perpetrator for years to come.) Day 1 wasn't so bad, but then irritation and infection set in and effectively shut me down for a while. Then, all the computer time I could tolerate was used rescheduling my vacation...sigh! Anyway...
A part of me stepped back from it all and started analyzing the oddities of dealing with pain. Because, well, no single moment was particularly horrible. A scratched cornea is a step or two down from childbirth, which I only rated a 6-7 on the pain scale. A few years ago I wrote about the emotional impact of getting hit (in training) and I see a similar trend here. I can mentally isolate any particular moment of physical pain. But it's the other stuff, the stuff that goes on in our heads, that makes or breaks our "pain threshold."
I see this as a mom, when my son falls and looks to me for whether he should laugh or cry. We hear the stories of SEALs like Mike Monsoor who overcome tremendous physical challenges in order to meet their goals.
But pain becomes unbearable when we're alone. It's unbearable when we expect it to break us. It shakes our foundations when we're hit, because on some visceral level we know that our fellow man isn't supposed to treat us that way.
Left unchecked, pain morphs into our way of relating to the world. It becomes a language of its own. I've had friends who would cut themselves just to feel something than numbness. Or they'll set themselves up to be hit because they crave physical contact so badly.
The experience of pain is all about the voice in your head. The nerves and pain receptors are going to do what they're going to do. But how do we interact with that physical sensation? Do we start to believe that no one cares that we're hurting? Or do we listen to heroes who say that pain is only temporary?
Pain doesn't make us weak; it only finds the existing weakness.
Okay, I freely admit that this last month might have been a new low for posting. I think I did better during the A&P mayhem.
I pretty much hate the month of May and perhaps the first week of June. Far too many things have gone wrong in this time period over the years, and if there's neither crisis nor general high anxiety in a particular year, I count myself lucky. This year, it could have been much worse. There's been upheaval but mostly it's been just long, difficult days. I'm exhausted, both emotionally and physically.
And I feel very much out of touch with a lot of what's been going on with my friends (this means you!) and in the world.
Still, I'm disturbed by what I've observed when I've poked my head out of the hole. I'm watching longtime members of the "warrior class" becoming embittered by the disregard of the nation, epitomized by the disdain of their Commander in Chief. I don't want to add fuel to the fire by highlighting the evidence, but I'm genuinely concerned about what is happening amongst the sheepdogs. The sheep have always been nervous about sheepdogs, but the sheep are now making it clear that we're only welcome when it's their wool on the line. Wolves who can dress like sheep, though, are welcome to apply.
It reminds me of the Martin Niemoller quote:
"First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out--
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out--
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out--
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me--and there was no one left to speak for me. "
I look at where our nation is heading, at the erosion of rights, disregard for the truth and the contempt for the sheepdogs, and I wonder what the future holds for the United States of America. Problem is, we're not well united, we're losing the concept of statehood to a more federalized system, and we're losing sight of the hard-won freedoms that have formed the American identity. First and foremost, I am a Christian, but my love for the United States of America (as it is meant to be) is a logical expression of my view of the God-given worth and identity of mankind.
Thus I am grieved beyond words when the government kowtows to a faith that utterly disregards human worth.
But what I really want to say is this: the future may indeed be dark for the USA. There are periods in history where evil appears to get the upper hand.
That only intensifies our duty.
Whatever the government, whatever the cost, it is our duty to stand up for the rights and freedoms of those to our right and to our left. It is our duty to speak the truth of our faith in love, to protect those in our care, to alleviate suffering whenever we can. Those are individual duties, whatever the government is doing.
When I go quiet it's usually for one of three reasons. 1) I'm so busy that I barely get to look at my email, let alone write a blog post. 2) I'm learning life lessons faster than I can write about them. 3) There's stuff going on that's not for public discussion.
These past few weeks, it's been "all of the above."
Odd as it sounds, I'm particularly grateful for my car. I've been spending a lot of time just driving, often with no particular destination, and great gas mileage, horsepower and sport suspension make it much more enjoyable. In my quest to extend drive time, I've done a lot of "memory lane" as I've visited regions where I spent childhood days. It's been bittersweet, particularly because for the first time in many, many years, I now believe that my future is here in Oregon.
Yes, that's right. We're 99.9% sure that our plans to relocate to the East Coast have fallen flat. I won't go into all the details except to say that the process was worse than the conclusion. I feel like I should be more upset about this disruption to nearly 10 years of planning. So many sacrifices for something that didn't happen. But I'm okay. The journey was important in itself. There are some regrets but beyond that, I'm grateful. I'm grateful because we would have missed some amazing moments if we hadn't been traveling in this direction. We're coming at "Plan B" from a very different place now.
Dreams change. I'm learning that that's okay. More than that, they have a way of coming full circle. Twenty years from now may be a very different story. Experience has a way of not being wasted.
Other news...BrotherCat just got himself quite the challenge coin. He won't be buying the drinks too often. I'm proud, of course. A little annoyed, too, just because he has so obviously found his niche when I'm still fighting for mine. Aforementioned peace with "Plan B" isn't without some sighing. But Hooyah BrotherCat!
I have an idea about what I want to pursue in the next few years, but the training is harder to attain than I realized. There's a specific class I want to teach, but I have yet to find local instructor training. Thus the problems moves from "find a babysitter" to several nights away, and that's if the West Coast location offers the class again soon. It appears I'm not eligible for the online training, so I'm going to have to keep watching the schedule for an opportunity when I could actually travel.
Pascha... we Orthodox just celebrated our Easter this past weekend. I missed a lot of it (but huge thanks to those who made the bit I got possible!) and so while it was still a wonderful celebration, I've been feeling very much like an exile. It might be hard to understand if you only attend a Friday and Sunday service for Easter...we have 2 on Thursday, 2 on Friday, 2 on Saturday (crossing into Sunday) and then another Sunday afternoon. It's a lifeline in relationship with God and relationship with others. Missing so much of it this year feels a bit like hiking in high altitude where you just know that something vital is missing. That said, the internal battles I fought last weekend have made me stronger. And I've had several people promise to make next year different.
I owe emails to a lot of you as well, so I'll close this for now. Stay strong...if I've learned anything these past few weeks it's that we're stronger than we realize. I'll leave you with the words of my recent fortune cookie:
I have only a few things to say about the terror attack at the Boston Marathon. Tragedy...atrocity...heroes...I think we know that stuff already. I don't want to be redundant.
First successful attack at home since 9/11? Umm...not really. I recognize the distinction between this indiscriminate attack on civilians and the Ft. Hood shooting. Yet I fear that's only academic from the view of Al Qaeda or similar groups. Still, since a growing percentage of Americans have no affinity to the military, I recognize that a civilian attack has a different psychological impact.
The death toll... Given the crowd, I'm stunned by the low numbers. Don't get me wrong; it was still a horrific attack, and inflicting severe injuries on a group of athletes is beyond sadistic. But much credit goes to both guardian angels and first responders for the low death to injury ratio.
Domestic IEDs... We've known about this threat for years, and several plots have been foiled. I was talking to someone yesterday who said that she was going to stop going to large public events. I've seen similar statements on the news. I'm underwhelmed. I recognize that the sheep don't want to spend their time looking at the threats...but the shock seems a bit naive. The only reason I might have additional security concerns now is that a successful attack emboldens terrorists and copycats. I'll be more cautious about where I take my son, and I'll probably be more vigilant about having a first aid kit along. Beyond that...no change. Because I was already watching the wolves.
Speaking of wolves, Laughing Wolf has a good piece up with general security suggestions. You might know most of it already, but it's a good refresher: http://laughingwolf.net/?p=516
We wish that doing the right thing was easy, or at least, would come naturally. Then a bad day hits and it seems that every decision is a struggle to do what's right. To make it more difficult, there are right actions with wrong motives. And sometimes we're just so tired, and something slips without us realizing it. These are the days we need our friends, our team.
One of my current projects discusses the concept of a chain of failure. Sometimes one mistake is disastrous, but more often, disaster comes from a long line of smaller issues. Surrounding yourself with wise, experienced people stops failure from going unnoticed.
About a week ago I got in a big argument over something I saw as a great opportunity. While the other person misunderstood on some levels, they were shocked at my suggestion and challenged me on it. It was particularly jarring because it was in an area of personal expertise. Once I calmed down, though, I realized that they were mostly right about the problem. Now I can't believe what I was thinking...except I know exactly where it came from. It came from fatigue, from having chief responsibility for a really long time.
I've done a lot in my life alone, and all too often I've gone unchallenged because I've surrounded myself with those who are a step behind me. I'm grateful to say that this has changed. Not in every arena of life, because there are plenty of people who need help. But I choose to take the ego hit of associating with people who are stronger than I am in various areas. I've learned humility the hard way, with mistake after mistake and regular reminders that I still have a long way to go. But I'd rather live with accountability and have hope of becoming great, rather than have an unchallenged false belief. In short, we learn more from examining our lives in light of heroes than by looking for pats on the head.
The Economist has a great editorial up regarding North Korea: Korean Roulette
Asian politics have never been my field, but some of you may recall a comment I made at the time of Kim Jong-un's succession: "He looks terrified." That impression has remained, and was on my mind when I read,
"Whereas Kim Jong Il was practised in the calibrated calculation of shaking down the outside world, his callow son has escalated tensions wildly. Nobody knows how to walk him back from the brink.
Doing so depends partly on Mr Kim’s motives. Perhaps aggression is a rite of passage to prove his leadership credentials to the country’s ancient generals. Perhaps he will shrewdly claim he has seen off the imperialist threat and back down. Perhaps he gets a thrill from orchestrating the chaos—as if he were playing a video game. Or, most worrying, perhaps he is out of his depth and therefore more prone to miscalculation."
Rite of passage? Yes. Shrewd claims? Somehow I doubt it. Thrill from orchestrating chaos? Yes. Out of his depth? YES. He's 30 years old, not even old enough to be elected president in the USA. He's a child of privilege and is proving nothing but his disregard for the lives of his citizens. The most charitable explanation I can see is that he's being led by one or more hard-line generals. One other thing occurs to me as I write that: inciting Kim Jong-un to reckless threats and action could be the first in a chain of steps leading to a coup.
I'm still trying to get my head around China's relations with North Korea. (If someone who has studied this wants to chime in, that would be fantastic.) My initial read of the situation is that China is playing both sides (US and N. Korea) and we're letting them get away with it. One could argue that we ignore China's bad behavior because of their military might; one could also argue that we don't want to give up their cheap manufacturing.
Everyone yowls about our dependence upon "foreign oil," but what about foreign manufacturing? Bringing back American manufacturing may be one of the best strategies out there, but it's unlikely to happen because it's too long-term for political rewards.
In short, I'm worried less about the young potentate, and more about his allies.
"Even to the death fight for truth, and the Lord your God will battle for you." -Sirach 4:28
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Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?" And I said, "Here am I. Send me!" -Isaiah 6:8
As many of you are aware, the PJCountry blog disappeared in November 2008.
I'm doing my best to help the pararescue community by sharing PJ-related news and events on my blog. The following information may be helpful:
You will find answers to many questions at pararescue.com and specialtactics.com
If you're ready to become a PJ, you'll need to decide between Active Duty and Reserve. This will determine who will handle your official recruitment. Visit Contacts and POCs to find the appropriate person or email me.
304th Pararescue Team (Reserve) (Oregon)
If you're on the west coast near Oregon and are considering being a PJ/CRO on the Portland Pararescue Team (commitment of 4 years beyond training), contact TSgt Stanley Iakopo at stanley.iakopo AT us.af.mil or email me.
I have no official role with pararescue or other SpecOps but I know enough to get you connected to the right people. Email to CAT at THEWATCHCAT dot NET
Jubilate Agno, Fragment B
[For I will consider my Cat Jeoffry]
by Christopher Smart
For he is the servant of the Living God, duly and daily serving him.
For at the first glance of the glory of God in the East he worships in
For is this done by wreathing his body seven times round with elegant
For he keeps the Lord's watch in the night against the adversary.
For he is of the tribe of Tiger.
For he purrs in thankfulness when God tells him he's a good Cat.
For he is an instrument for the children to learn benevolence upon.
For every house is incomplete without him, and a blessing is lacking in
For he is the cleanest in the use of his forepaws of any quadruped.
For he is the quickest to his mark of any creature.
For there is nothing sweeter than his peace when at rest.
For there is nothing brisker than his life when in motion.
For by stroking of him I have found out electricity.