Formerly known as "Cruzers in Korea"

Monday, January 31, 2011

Super Bowl!

Monday, January 31, 2011 0
Super Bowl!  Or should I say, Hair Bowl?

Clay Matthews

Troy Polamalu

It was announced today that Troy Polamalu, safety extraordinaire of the Pittsburgh Steelers, was awarded the Defensive Player of the Year Award.  He received 17 first place votes.  Clay Matthews, linebacker for the Green Bay Packers, came in second, receiving 15 first place votes.  He lost out by a hair.

One of the greatest pleasures I've had since returning to the US from overseas is sitting in the comfort of my own living room on Sundays and watching football.  In Korea, I was watching games at 2am on a computer screen through the internet.  Now I'm watching in high definition with surround sound after church.  Wooh!  Life is good.

Here's to a great football game on Sunday.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

American Idol

Sunday, January 30, 2011 0

Say what you will about Fox's hit show, "American Idol."  The show has fans in the Cruz household.  For the horrible singers, it's like watching an episode of "Cops" or a train wreck.  You just can't look away.  And then for the singers with talent, you get to watch their lives change right in front of your eyes.

Me personally, I'm all for anything that provides good quality time for the family.  I love football but at the last game I went to, Carol and I had the Def Comedy Jam sitting behind us throwing f-bombs all over the place - and that was during the singing of the national anthem.  Plus it cost us a second mortgage for tickets.  At one baseball game, no joke, I offered this annoying stranger $5 to shut his pie-hole for five minutes.  He couldn't do it.  I digress but you get my point about wholesome family entertainment.

Jake can hardly control himself when American Idol comes on.  He hears the theme music come on and his little body just takes off.  See for yourself:

Every now and then, you get some really special moments on the show, like Randy Jackson accidentally punching a female contestant in the face.  And she was a Harvard graduate White House intern too.  Here's another, albeit very different special moment:

Update:  video was taken down by the video/copyright police.  Oh well.

Friday, January 28, 2011

South Korean SEALs

Friday, January 28, 2011 0
You go South Korea!  Republic of Korea (ROK) SEALs/Commandos kicked butt against Somali pirates during a recent rescue operation.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Lee's Commissioning Ceremony

Wednesday, January 26, 2011 0
On 7 Jan 2011, my brother Lee graduated from the Interservice Physician Assistant Program (IPAP).  He received his Master's degree and was also commissioned as a First Lieutenant.  I had the great honor of swearing him in as a new officer in the US Army.

As previously mentioned on Facebook, this is Lee and I about to smack each other in the face with the awesomeness of the occasion.  Darn, I meant to wear my large ring that day.

Here's a 7 minute video from the ceremony:

Link to the video:  Lee's Commissioning Video

After the ceremony, I had a couple of folks tell me how much they appreciated my remarks and how they had relatives and friends that served in the military in the 60s and 70s that experienced the lack of diverse career opportunities.  A Command Sergeant Major (CSM) even gave me his command coin to present to my father the next time I see him.  I was very touched and I know Dad will appreciate the gesture.

BTW, a CSM is the senior enlisted soldier in a command.  CSMs work hand in hand with the Commanding Officer of the unit to get things done.  Lee was a senior NCO, or non-commissioned officer before being commissioned on this day.  Rising to the rank of Master Sergeant, there's no doubt that Lee would've been a Command Sergeant Major himself had he stayed in the enlisted ranks.  Heck, if Lee was an employee in a toothpick factory, it would only be a matter of time before he'd be running the place.

Alan, Danita, Joel and Jena were able to make the ceremony as well as some of Cathy's friends and family.  Because Joel is contemplating joining the military after college, I think attending the ceremony was a good experience for him.  Little does he know, there is a lot of pressure on him to continue the tradition of TCD - Total Cruz Domination.

Cathy and the other spouses of the graduates received a bouquet of roses.  Nice touch.  You don't have success in challenging programs like these without great support.  Way to go Cathy!

What a great location for this event.  It was held at the Airborne and Special Operations Museum in Fayette-Nam, I mean Fayetteville, North Carolina outside of Fort Bragg.  Since Lee was a Green Beret (Special Forces) before becoming a Physician's Assistant, the location was very appropriate.  Guests were able to tour the museum after the ceremony.  There were airplanes, helicopters and many awesome displays and videos in the museum.  BTW, the four guys on the left are contemplating how they will mount a huge cheesehead on top of the big statue's helmet on Superbowl Sunday.

As an aviation guy, I find it just a bit unnerving to see dudes jumping out of airplanes.  For me, seeing a parachute means something has gone horribly wrong.  For Lee, it's a periodic qualification he has to maintain.

The museum is outstanding and it's free.  I highly recommend it.  After my time in Korea, I especially liked this display.  BTW, did you hear about the South Korean SEALs that recently kicked some Somali pirates' butts?  Very cool.  Google it.

I really liked this Afghanistan display.  Might have something to do with the guy in the middle who looks remarkably like my nephew Joel.  Uncanny resemblance.

Congratulations to the Army's newest PAs.  Well done boys.  These are the guys that will take care of America's soldiers for the next couple of years.  Off to the 82nd Airborne for Lee. By the way Doc, my elbow hurts when I do this...

After meeting some of his Special Forces buddies, I know Lee will miss life as a Green Beret.  You could just sense the great camaraderie they share.  Those bonds are hard to come by and unfortunately, are sometimes paved by the fact that not everyone gets to come home.  Here's Lee with his team in Afghanistan.  Not surprisingly, the Cruz is the one that's challenged to grow facial hair.

Lee was the medic on his team.  Here he is with a long line of Afghan locals waiting to be treated for various ailments.  By the way Doc, my elbow hurts when I do this... 

Needless to say, the Cruz family is incredibly proud of Lee's accomplishments.  Not everyone could make it in person but we were all there in spirit.  We all know it's been a tough road to plow.  The deployments, personal hardships, rigorous studies and long nights at the hospital.  The attrition rate for this challenging program was extremely high.  We know it's been a grind but you did it bro.  Congratulations.  You're gonna be a great officer and a great PA.

Now that you're an O, you just need to make sure you stick your pinky out when you drink...

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Snow Day!

Sunday, January 23, 2011 2
We got a couple of inches of snow the other day so the schools shut down.  The entire Navy base was closed too except for essential personnel.  In other words, we had a SNOW DAY!  Woo hoo!

Jake saw plenty of snow when we were in Newport, Rhode Island but he was just a baby.  This was really the first time he was able to play in the snow.  He had as much fun as a Republican during the November elections.

This gives you an idea of the amount of snow we got.  I'd say it was about 4-5 inches, which everyone knows is huge.

 Since we have a decent incline on our driveway, our place was a popular with the neighborhood kids and their sleds.

Jake's first snowball

Later in the day, we went over to this sledding hill.  It was a popular place, especially after people found out that a man broke his leg last year while sledding down this hill.

CJ picked up some decent speed going down that slope.  It was a very successful outing - no broken legs and lots of laughs.

We returned home from sledding to find this cute little guy on our porch.

Flannigan and the neighborhood dogs enjoyed the snow as well.  Seeing them run to their hearts' content put a big smile on my face.

After a couple hours of being outside, we went back in for some hot chocolate and some chill out time. This seems like a simple picture of the family playing a board game but there are some things I feel obliged to point out.  Jake got way too overzealous with his nose-picking - I'm talking two knuckles deep - and caused a self-inflicted nosebleed.  Check out the bloody napkin he's holding.  Meanwhile, CJ kept straddling the "Sorry" board game with his crotch even after we repeatedly told him to back up his genitals.  It seemed like we were reaching for CJ's junk every time we had to move our board pieces through his corner of the board.

If you look closely, I'm losing badly in this game.  I have the blue pieces and I'm nowhere near getting any of my pieces to the final home spot.  I decide to be funny and sneak all four of my pieces to the home spot to see if anyone notices.  Well, CJ and Jake definitely notice and think that I'm cheating - which I wasn't.  I was just trying to be funny.  Honestly.

My little trick caused quite the reaction from the boys.  They demanded that I lose a turn.  Needless to say, I did not win the game.  The snow day was a win for all of us though.  Very fun hanging with the family.

25 Years Ago

Let's start with one year ago:

A year ago, Carol and I were at a function hosted by the Korean American Busan Association or KABA.  That's Mr. Cho, the KABA President and his wife.  

On that night, KABA made me an honorary member of their organization.  It was an incredibly kind gesture of friendship.  I really enjoyed our relationship.

Five years ago, we were enjoying the snow of Newport, Rhode Island.  I was at the Naval War College.

Carol and Jake - the Great Big Ball of Baby Goodness!  Jake was born in Newport.

Ten years ago, we were stationed in San Diego.  I was a Flight Instructor at VS-41, the Fleet Replacement Squadron for the S-3B Viking.  Here's the wardroom at the I-Bar at Naval Air Station North Island.

I had the great pleasure of volunteering with Balboa Elementary School while stationed with VS-41.  These are the kids from my class during a field trip at the squadron.

So now we're talking fifteen years ago.  Here's me and Steve "Whip" Blasch as young Lieutenants with the Scouts of VS-24.  This is in Puerto Rico right before our flight where we shot a Harpoon missile.  It was an awesome shot too.

It's not all work with a squadron.  Here are the Scouts during a port call at Saint Martin.  We named the Greek statue, "Freeballicus."  Epic port call.

Rewinding even further, twenty years ago, I was the Alpha Company Commander at the Virginia Military Institute.  That's me leading the company during a parade.  I'm fairly certain I was the shortest guy in the entire company.  Didn't bother me one bit.

Carol and I are making plans now for the 20th college reunion.  My turn to be a spectator at the VMI parades instead of a participant.

And last but not least (well maybe least as far as weight), this picture is from 25 years ago.  As a senior, I was wrestling in the 105 pound weight class for Kellam High School in Virginia Beach.

While I enjoyed the competition and challenge of wrestling, the cutting weight part was no fun.  At least I got this cheerful picture out of it.

Thanks for flipping through the photo album with me.  Time flies.  Wonder what the next 25 years will bring?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Random Thoughts #3

Thursday, January 20, 2011 0
Marriage thought:  I'm horrible.  We've been in Tennessee since July and Carol and I have only had one date night.  It was a good one though - Navy Ball at the Peabody followed by listening to rock and blues on Beale Street.  Ended with an overnight stay at the Peabody.

Technology thought:  Internet was down at the house for a week.  I broke out in hives.  Since we didn't have our Comcast internet for a week, Carol made sure our bill was reduced by a week.  Word.

Navy thought:  Tough times, even with reliable professions like the military.  The Navy just announced that it's doing a SERB - Selective Early Retirement Board.  About 100 Commanders and 100 Captains will be asked to retire early.  Navy Personnel Command always has things going on.  Tough times.

Food thought:  Wasabi and soy sauce almonds - awesome!  Buy them now.  When you eat them, don't just start chewing though.  Let 'em sit in your mouth for a few seconds so you can max out the flavor.  You can thank me later.

Football thought:  Dang Jets!  Gotta give it to them though.  While this team won't be remembered for its humility, what an awesome win and really nice coaching job by Rex Ryan.  His talk the week prior drew attention away from the 45-3 stomping they got just a few weeks ago from the Patriots.  He had his boys ready and fired up.  Bringing in Dennis Byrd as a surprise speaker - genius.  I feel an emotional let down coming up for them against the Steelers though.  It's like they're satisfied with beating the Patriots.  We'll see.

Random picture:

This is the old mirror that's been in the Cruz family for as long as I can remember.  It's now sitting on the fireplace mantel of my brother Lee's house in North Carolina.  When I saw it two weeks ago during a visit, I had a flashback to when I was a kid.  I remember not being quite tall enough to see my reflection.  One day during one of Dad's patented fits of uncontrollable rage (are there any other kind?), he threw me across the living room.  It was like slow motion.  I recall this great sense of amazement while I was mid-air, looking down at the tops of my brothers and sister's heads and thinking, "neat."  I just never experienced that visual perspective before.  While still airborne, I also remember catching a glimpse of myself in the mirror right before I crash landed into the couch.  I don't remember what the heinous crime was that drew the ire of my father.  I'm sure it was something outrageous like leaving a single dish in the sink or not having my sock drawer inspection ready.  Ah, those were the days.  It was good to see that the mirror landed in a happy setting - the lovely home that Lee and his new bride Cathy now call home.    

So after the flashback, I dug up this old gem.  There's the family mirror on the left of the picture.  I'm guessing this photo was taken over 30 years ago.  I'm probably smiling because of my awesome "Chris" patch emblazoned on my jacket.  Nifty.  We were pretty happy on that Christmas day.  Dad's snapping the picture and my oldest brother Alan is popping a zit onto the mirror.  Good times.  Until the next random moment...

Friday, January 14, 2011

Gotta Lose Some Elbees

Friday, January 14, 2011 0
I hear the gym at work has been crowded this week with folks and all of their resoluteness.  I stopped doing the New Year's resolution thing years ago after I realized the only successful resolution I had was to stop making New Year's resolutions.  That and to never see Madonna's "Evita."

So it really wasn't the New Year thing that has me on my latest workout kick.  It's the fact that Navy Personnel Command will not be switching uniforms from khakis to the Navy Working Uniform (NWU).

Here I am in my khakis at a function in Korea.  I'm the brown guy second from the right.  This is before my khakis became painful to wear.  Khakis are the daily uniform at Navy Personnel Command.

These are the newer NWUs which are affectionately known as "aquaflage" or "blueberries."  It's amazing how well they blend in with the ocean if you ever find yourself blown over the side of a boat.

I really like the NWUs because they're comfortable.  More importantly, they hide my gut much better than the khakis.  At the rate I was porking out over the holidays, it's no wonder that my khaki uniform pants are now causing me physical pain around my midsection.  Yes, I'm getting red marks around my waist due to the snugness of my pants.  The pubic hair of an ant wouldn't fit in the space between my pants and my bare skin.  Now I know how David Hasselhoff felt, sucking in his gut in those later years of Baywatch.

And so with my latest uncomfortable predicament, the obvious options were #1.  Buy bigger uniform pants.  #2.  Advertise my latest look to a sausage casing company and at least get some cold hard cash for my pain.  Or #3 Lose some elbees (that's LBs for the uninitiated).  Since Carol and I spent way too much money on lavish Christmas gifts that we'll be getting rid of in a garage sale as soon as the weather heats up, I went with option #3 and started working out again.

I'm embarrassed to say that I was tempted to do the pregnant rubber band trick with my khaki pants.  That's where barely pregnant ladies (that should be the name of a rock band - BPL) take a rubber band and loop it around the button hole above the zipper and attach it to the button in order to give the belly some extra breathing room.  I hear it works great during the stage where you can still fit into your normal pants except around the waist but you're not yet ready for maternity pants.  Or in my case, where you've done your best wallowing mud mammal impersonation by chowing down non-stop on Christmas desserts, turkey, ham, buffalo wings, Bubba burgers, bratwurst, sushi, empanadas, a variety of salty meats and a single breath mint.

Speaking of breath mints, I can take a hint.  You see, the other night, Carol made us a nice salad for dinner.  Just last night, she served a delightful couscous that we thoroughly enjoyed.  Good stuff and very healthy.  But like I said, I can take a hint.  She might as well have taken a Sharpie marker and scrawled, "Fat Ass" on my forehead.  It's like when someone offers you a breath mint or when the barber asks if you want your eyebrows trimmed.  You never say no to those two questions.  Folks are politely telling you that your garlic onion breath is killing the nearby foliage and that your scary mono-brow between your eyes is beginning to look like Sasquatch's armpit, respectively.

I know that I shouldn't make a big deal out of this because relatively speaking, I'm in decent shape.  Round is a shape, right?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Bring on the Savings!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011 0
Had to share this one that my brother Lee found at a Walmart in Fayetteville, North Carolina:

Thank you Wally World for the tremendous savings. 

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Random Thoughts #2

Wednesday, January 5, 2011 0
Football thoughts:  Ryan Mallet looked pretty darn good last night...up until that game changing pass.  Ohio State's zone blitz got him and he threw a horrible interception to a defensive lineman that doesn't normally go back into coverage.  I'm pretty sure the Buckeye defender that intercepted the ball is one of the five players that will be suspended for the first five games next football season. If the transgression was so grievous to warrant a five game suspension, why weren't those players suspended for last night's Sugar Bowl?  They should've been.  Oh well, the SEC domination over Ohio State had to end some time.  I wonder if the Dolphins have a shot at drafting Mallet?

Navy thoughts:  I haven't seen the Enterprise videos yet.  Darn shame.  Everything I hear about the Skipper (Commanding Officer) has been really positive.  You never like to see good officers get fired.  I've seen some pretty interesting things on the aircraft carrier TV broadcast over the years.  One guy even taped a surgery he had while onboard the ship.  I think it was a big cyst he had removed.  Entertaining (I guess) but would probably earn some type of reprimand if it was shown in today's Navy.  Sheesh, I guess posting the "Naked Day on the Aircraft Carrier" video on Youtube is out of the question.

Jake's thoughts (word for word from the little guy himself):  "My soup tastes like the moon.  I know because I've been on the moon.  Well, I haven't actually been on the moon.  You guys knew that, right?"

Canine thoughts:  A friend recently asked for dog advice on Facebook.  She got a ton of responses.  Get this, get that.  Carol was the only one to mention adopting from the Humane Society or a shelter.  A few months from now, as the novelty and cuteness of that Christmas puppy wears off and the reality sets in that you actually have to take care of that animal, shelters all over the country will be teaming with former Christmas present dogs that will have to be put to sleep due to overcrowding.  Adopt a pet instead of going to the pet store.  Save an animal's life!

Random picture (as random as closing my eyes and double clicking on a bunch of pictures can be):

So this is from my 40th birthday party in Korea.  That's Big Daddy in the middle.  Tripp Blanton is a great American.  He and I were the two Commanding Officers there in Busan.  He was the 837th Transportation Battalion Commander while I was the CO of Military Sealift Command Korea.  You can't help but smile when you're around him.  He was recently selected for Colonel.  It was sad saying bye to Tripp and his family.  I have a feeling we'll see each other again sometime down the road.  Even though he's older than me, he got me some Ben-gay, hemorrhoid cream and Metamucil laxative for my birthday.  Sweet.  More randomness later...

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

More Tennessee Living

Tuesday, January 4, 2011 1
So we've been in Tennessee almost six months now.  Verdict - we like it.  Here's the second edition of some of the reasons why living in the Volunteer state is a good thing:

Even though I haven't had time to do much fishing, the times I've gone have been fun.  I caught this fat catfish in the little pond by our house.  Sucker was about two feet long.  I threw him back in the pond so hopefully some lucky fisherman will get the chance to catch him again.

The neighborhood kids love their Rip Riders.  It's like a biker gang when the kids are scooting around on these things.  They've got tiny wheels on the back that enable them to spin like dang hurricanes.  Lots of fun, especially when you come bolting down a steep driveway to pick up loads of speed and tornado into a massive spin.

Man I missed grilling while I was in Korea.  I recovered a significant portion of man genes the first time I burned animal flesh upon my return from overseas.  Gotta love the beer butt chicken.  You can't see it, but each of these birds has a can of beer shoved up their butts.  Makes for some delicious poultry.  Google it and grill it.  You won't regret it.

Ah, the only man in history that could make sequins look good - Elvis.  This is from Carol's visit to Graceland.  

Our street is great.  The kids actually go outside and play.  Here they are playing kickball.

Remember "Duck, Duck, Goose?"  Old school.

But the best thing about living here in Tennessee is our neighbors and friends...

They're so nice, they even let me win our big neighborhood fantasy football league.

 Happy New Year everyone!  Hope you're enjoying your place as much as we are.  Time to watch another SEC football victory.  Go Razorbacks!
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