Publications for Linda Adams

Published November 28, 2013 by Linda Maye Adams

If you’re interested in my publications, please visit my publication list on my website.  I’ve identified stories that about Women at War and Women Veterans.  Enjoy!

Cover for Red, White, andTrue

Cover for Red, White, and True

Also,  if you’re interested in more veteran experiences, check out Red, White, True: Stories from Veterans and Families, World War II to Present.  This is a collection of stories from veterans, including my story, “War Happens.”  The book comes out in August, 2014, but you can preorder it.  Is that an awesome cover?

Desert Storm: Uniforms — One Size Fits All … Men

Published July 21, 2014 by Linda Maye Adams

One of the curious things about the Army during this time is that they were not quite sure what to do with the women soldiers. So as a default, they treated us like we were men, except that we weren’t.

It was something never more apparent than with the uniforms we would be wearing.

We got our desert camouflage uniforms fairly quickly. I remember being bused down to the clothing issue building. It was a huge, cavernous warehouse, white on the outside and dark on the inside. We filed along a brown painted counter, and civilian workers asked us what size we wore. They gave us two each of the uniforms, which was the shirt and pants, plus one floppy brimmed hat (a Boonie hat). I was a small, extra short.

The normal issue was four, but supplies were already running low, so the Army was having to stretch things out. My company had one sergeant who was very tall, and they didn’t have any uniforms for him at all.

The women all had the opposite problem: Everything was both too big and too small. Mine was way too big across the shoulders. I always had this kind of puffed out part on my back, like I had a creature sticking to my spine or something. The sleeves were so long that I could curl my fingers up and my hands would disappear. Handy when it was cold!

The pants were always too long, but thankfully were tucked into the boots. No need to get expensive hemming done! I always had trouble with the waist, which was too big on me. I have an hourglass, and virtually everything I end up with is too big in the waist. Some of the other women had trouble with getting the hips to fit right, because the pants were made for a much narrower male hip. Unfortunately, if you went up bigger sizes, the uniform ended up bigger in other places, too.

More recently, the Army decided to have a look at getting uniforms fitted for women – but it took them over twenty years to figure out that women were different!

History of Uniforms, from the New York Times.  The uniform we wore was #16, and it did include that weird looking grid jacket.  We never knew what to do with that, so we often wore it to ward against the night chills when we were in civilian clothes.  Don’t forget to check on #11, which is WAC uniform from World War II.

Caught in a storm at Arlington Cemetery

Published July 20, 2014 by Linda Maye Adams

Most of the time in Northern Virginia, you can tell when a storm is coming.  It’s summer, and a thunderstorm usually comes when humidity is heavy in the air.  It feels almost like the air is about to burst open.  Then the winds come in, and the trees sway.  The black clouds come in with the winds, and then the rain starts.

But I was visiting Arlington Cemetery in late November, well after summer and nearing the end of fall.  I’d just gotten my new tennis shoes that were made for flat feet, so I was partially trying out how well they work.  But I was also doing research for a writing project.  The very striking thing about the cemetery is that the graves all identical.  Go to a church cemetery and the graves are all different shapes and size.   But at Arlington Cemetery, it’s an overwhelming number of rows of white grave markers.

Because I was so early, workers were out spraying down the graves with a high powered hose.  All the grave stones are white, and all but the oldest are a pristine white from all this cleaning.  Another worker was using a leaf blower to clean the many two lane roads throughout the grounds.

I visited John F. Kennedy’s grave, and then watched the soldiers standing their watch at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.  This is a very special duty for the soldiers, and they’re out there no matter what the weather is.  Only three of the sentinels have been women, the first in 2001.

The sharp clear notes of a bugle drew me to a military funeral for an enlisted soldier.  The bugle has a certain kind of lonely, mourning quality to it.

As the ceremony ended, I noticed that, in the distance, the clouds had gone black, contrasting with the sharp blue of the autumn sky.  It hadn’t been like that when I’d arrived, but now it looked like something evil was coming in over the land.

I started back, but I’d really walked further than I thought (the shoes were very comfortable).  While I had a jacket on, suited for the cooler temperatures of autumn in Virginia, I didn’t have an umbrella.  I walked quickly, but the storm clouds loomed overhead, and then it started to pour.  All I could really do was keep walking.  It was a cemetery.  There wasn’t exactly places to duck under to wait the storm out.  By the time I got back to my car, I was a soggy mess.

And then the storm disappeared, like it had never happened.

A behind the scenes of the sentries for the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier:

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From The Daily Post prompt:

You’re at the beach with some friends and/or family, enjoying the sun, nibbling on some watermelon. All of a sudden, within seconds, the weather shifts and hale starts descending form the sky. Write a post about what happens next.

The World is Built for Tall People and I’m short

Published July 19, 2014 by Linda Maye Adams

The world is built for tall people. 

I’m not really that short.  I’m more average.  My mother was short at 4’11.  But sometimes I think the rest of the world forgets that not everyone is 6 foot tall with long legs.

When I was in the army, the leadership always seemed to expect everyone to be able to match the pace of the tallest guy with the longest legs.  We’d have formations of hundreds of runners, and the leadership always put these really tall guys at the front.  One of their steps equaled three of mine.  Exactly who was getting the true workout?

But then the world is built for tall people.

When I went to Desert Storm in 1990, the women were created with China Beach style showers.  Essentially, the military built an outdoor stall and plopped a 500 gallon tank on it.  A lever on the bottom of the tank is pulled down to dispense the water.  Even if I hopped up and down (and possibly created an unintentional show for the guys), I couldn’t reach it.  I finally had to take off my shower shoe, and hooked the strap over the lever.

And if you think this is a problem for women, one of the male sergeants was my height.  He had to stand on his metal shaving bowl.

Ah, but the world is built for tall people.

I went to Wisconsin for my grandmother’s funeral and got a rental car from the airport.  It looked like it was car that would be designed for people with shorter legs, because it was a pretty small car.  Only one small problem: the cup holder.  For whatever reason, they had it so far back that the only way it could be used safely was if you were six feet tall.  To use it, I had reach my arm completely behind me and feel for where the cup holder was.  Very poor design.  Made me wonder if anyone actually tested the car with consumers.

I know it’s impossible to design for all types of people.  But there tends to be a default, and also, often a lack of understanding that someone else might have a different experience.  A lot of times, it’s just an extra step to make one more adjustment, to make sure everyone could benefit.  That shower handle could have had a chain on it.  That cup holder could have been put in a more standard place.  My father is color blind, and you’d be surprised at how many engineers don’t think about it when they design something.  When he went to Wisconsin, he had trouble with the street lights because they’re sideways.  He couldn’t tell what color they were!

When we live in our own skin, it’s easy to forgot that what’s easy and natural for us might be an impediment to another person.

From a prompt on The Daily Post

Today, write about any topic you feel like — but you must reuse your opening line (at least) two more times in the course of your post.

The Woman in Turquoise

Published July 18, 2014 by Linda Maye Adams

Today’s The Daily Post poses the following question:

Sherlock Holmes had his pipe. Dorothy had her red shoes. Batman had his Batmobile. If we asked your friends what object they most immediately associate with you, what would they answer?

For me, it’s not an object.  It’s a color.  I’m visual spatial, and I’m immediately drawn to color. In fact, specifically to turquoise.  So much so that particular color keeps materializing in my wardrobe.  I’ll sort through my closet and realize that I have a whole lot of turquoise.

 

Me with the cowbell

Moo!  This was at a writer’s conference last year.

Turquoise is a uniquely summer color.  It’s the color of swimming pools opening for the season, clear blue and cool, ready to jump into.  It’s the color of exotic beaches where you can just sit and absorb the beauty.  Wouldn’t you love to go this beach and stare at this water?

I used to go to science fiction cons and wear a con-type t-shirt, especially after I got stopped at one because I didn’t look like an attendee (guess what color I was wearing!).  But those t-shirts are really for men and don’t fit well, and besides, they’re  – well, black.  Black’s kind of boring, and everyone else is wearing it.  I thought I might as well be me.

So what should I wear?  The turquoise shirt, the turquoise shirt, or the turquoise shirt?

Decisions, decisions.

 

Stopping to smell the office supplies

Published July 17, 2014 by Linda Maye Adams

I’m a geek when it comes to stationary supplies.  Target and K-Mart are just getting their school supplies in, so I’m plotting a reconnaissance mission for some on sale writing supplies like composition books and pens.

But when I was kid, we had actual stationary stores where you bought supplies like this.  I always loved to go in there and browse through the paper and the notebooks, and especially smell the paper.  There was a wonderfully inviting smell on every piece of paper that says, “Use me for writing!”

 

From a blog prompt on the Daily Post

From the yeasty warmth of freshly baked bread to the clean, summery haze of lavender flowers, we all have favorite smells we find particularly comforting. What’s yours?

Desert Shield: The Threat of Chemical Weapons

Published July 14, 2014 by Linda Maye Adams

Copy of the book Red, White, & True

Copy of Red, White,& True

As you can see, I have a book to share this week.  This is an anthology of military stories that I’m being published in that’s coming out in August.  If you want to know what it was like being in the military, or having a relative in the military, check it out.  The best thing is that a lot of women have a voice in this book, and that doesn’t always happen with books that tell stories about the military.

You can preorder it from Amazon.com.

Off to Desert Shield now …

One of the hardest things about being a soldier during the early days of Operation Desert Shield is that we both had too much information and not enough. I ended up having just enough of the wrong things so my imagination was really free to explore. Sometimes it’s not a good thing to be a writer!

Within just about two weeks of the invasion, Saddam Hussein was blustering that if the U.S. came, he would kill all the soldiers.  He was reported to have stockpiles of nerve agent gas, and just a few years before, he had used poison gas against Halabja.

Poison gas had been used in World War I.  I remember reading All Quiet on the Western Front and imagining the horrific effects of mustard gas from the words in the book (yup, it’s not always good to be a writer).  Now I was imagining that happening to me.

The problem with nerve agent gas is that you can’t see it. You can’t hear it. You can’t touch it. But you can smell it.

“What does it smell like?” I asked my squad leader, who was also a specialist in chemical weapons.

“Freshly mowed grass,” he answered.

That helped less than I thought it would. I think was hoping for reassurance with knowledge, but it made me realize that if I was close enough to smell it, it was probably too late.

How do you get through a day knowing that you might be going into a place where an unseen entity might creep up on you and kill you?

The newspapers were no help. Hussein’s threats were big news, so headlines screamed them, op-ed pieces debated them, and editorial cartoons illustrated them.

The effect this threat had was to create this … miasma of darkness that hovered around our company and touched every soldier. It was like every day felt heavy with the weight of it, and I could see the fear in the actions of my sergeants and officers.

Training came first.  Our focus was on chemical weapons.  Then, we used the M17A1 protective masks (we never called it a gas mask; it was always a protective mask.  Guess the army was trying to treat it more positively).

If you want a comparison, it’s a little like wearing a face mask for going into a pool, except it’s your whole face and you breathe through it. When I had it on, my breathing always sounded like I was doing Darth Vader imitations.

We had 9 seconds to get the mask on.

Think about that a moment. If I smelled freshly mowed grass, I had 9 seconds before it started to take affect.

The Darth Vader video above is 20 seconds.

We had to do all the following in 9 seconds:

  1. Take off the helmet (called Kevlar) and put it between our legs.
  2. Pull the mask out of the case.
  3. Put on the mask.
  4. Tighten the straps.
  5. Seal the mask.

But, for some soldiers, like me, we had an extra step. I wore glasses. So I had to take off the glasses and drop them in the helmet, then do the rest of the steps. No matter how much I trained, I was always about two seconds late.

What did that mean for me? Was I going to die because I wore glasses?

Contacts, by the way, were not recommended because the gas could get under them.  Right.

The masks also were designed for men’s faces. One of the other women soldiers, who was very small and worked hard to get to 100 pounds, had a very thin face. Even the extra small mask did not fit her. She couldn’t get it to seal, and no one had any answers for her.

It was not hard to think that we were all going to die over there, and I took that home with me every day like a heavy cloud that wrapped itself around me.

More in depth on the gas mask: Rod Powers, About.com
Time line for Desert Shield/Desert Storm: Gulflink
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