Actors and comdians – Karri Turner, Wendi McLendon, Michael Hitchcock, Jordan Black, Steve Little and CBS’ Dave Price all traveled to Kuwait and Iraq once again to “Ring in the New Year” with troops.  





Leaving today for Iraq again with my annual comedy tour.  Everyone except one person has been before – Karri Turner, Dave Price, Michael Hitchcock, Jordan Black and Wendi McLendon.  “Newbie” is Steve Little.  Google these actors.  Very talented and FUNNY folks.  Shawn is handling production again and my daughter and employee Lindsey is along for her first trip to Iraq.  Had very mixed emotions about letting her assist on this tour since it means leaving my beautiful grandchildren with a “nanny”.  I will worry myself crazy with us both away but what else is new. I knew yesterday that travel would be a challenge because of all the winter storms along the East Coast.  I assumed the DC airport where EVERYONE was connecting would be closed or have long delays.  Since I had people flying in from Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, New York City and three of us from Nashville, I had my travel agent book “alternative” flights that routed through Chicago, Frankfurt and then Kuwait.   If we miss the direct flight (the ONLY direct flight into Kuwait from the U.S.) from DC, then it means instead of arriving at 2 pm, we will arrive at 11:30 pm – BRUTAL for our schedule. Morning started off pretty hectic.  DC airport was open but with 35-40 mph wind gusts.   We had booked Dave on an Amtrak from NYC to DC anticipating that NYC airports would be closed.  We were right.  Only thing we didn’t count on was the fact that the trains were about 3 hours behind schedule.  His 9:30 am train finally departed at noon with a 3:30 pm arrival.  Then he had to make his way in traffic from the train station to Dulles – about an hour trip under good conditions.  My Los Angeles passengers called to say that their flight was delayed.  Not good, since we all only had a 2 hour layover before taking the direct flight to Kuwait.  The “reason” was “aircraft servicing”.   Lindsey, Shawn and I arrived at the Nashville airport and got checked in.  Our flight was still showing an on-time departure.  As I went through passport security, the agent said, “good luck with THAT flight”.  Evidently the flight was known for late departures.  Great! By the time we got through passport control and security, there was a message that we were departing 30 minutes late….which in United Airlines time is probably at least an hour late.  So, the stress meter was over the top!  LA passengers called and said they were on the plane but were having to take off fuel…another 40 minute process.   At least my San Francisco and Chicago passengers left on time. Our flight was delayed because it was coming from Chicago and they held the plane for “late arriving passengers”.   I asked United if they would show us the same courtesy since we were going to be late arriving for our flight to Kuwait.  I don’t understand why they can hold a plane in Chicago for late arrivals, which makes our flight late departing, yet they won’t agree to hold our flight in DC!  I called my United rep and my travel agent and we began putting yet another plan in place.   The 3 people who did arrive in DC on time did not want to go into Kuwait without me and I felt the same way.  We’re staying at a new hotel this trip because the Radisson where we’ve stayed since 2003 is closed for a year or more for renovation.  Otherwise, I would have felt more comfortable about them going in without me. I was dreading the landing in DC since we’re in a tiny jet and 35-40 mph winds are NOT a good thing.  The plane was full with a group going to orphanages in Uganda and Ethiopia.   We finally boarded over an hour late and then we sat and sat.  Guys in orange vests kept coming on board and getting off.  Finally they announced the names of 2 standby passengers and took them off the plane.  I was looking out the window and there were dozens of bags sitting beside the plane.  Finally, a cart picked up the bags and took them back to the terminal.  Those were all checked bags for the flight that were NOT being put on with us.  Just glad that none of them belonged to my group! I was prepared for a horrible landing and I was not disappointed.  I swear I’d rather take ground fire in Iraq than do that again.   When we landed, I got a message from Karri saying they had to circle “forever” in turbulence and couldn’t land because of the wind shear.  They had just gotten on the ground, too. We were met at the gate by my friend Jackie, Dave and Michael and taken to “Global Services”.  They had worked diligently to get us re-booked on a flight that evening to Frankfurt and then on to Kuwait.   I asked if there was ANY WAY we could still make our direct flight but was told they would not agree to hold the plane for us.  Supposedly, the issue was the fact that we had checked luggage and they couldn’t get our bags pulled quickly enough.   So….it’s okay to delay the flight out of Chicago for an hour but not to delay ours for less than that?  Makes no sense at all. We went into the Red Carpet Lounge and I received a voice mail from United saying our original direct flight was delayed until 6:45 pm.  I ran back to Global Services, who were surprised to hear that information.  However, they said that the door to the aircraft had closed and jetway had been removed.  I decided to “see for myself”.    The aircraft was indeed still sitting at the gate but the door was closed and the jetway was pulled back.  They would not even consider letting us board.  There was a cart pulled up to the side of the plane and several bags on the cart.  It pulled away as I was standing there and the aircraft started backing away from the gate.  If “my” pilot buddy had been flying that night, he would have held it for us.  I called his cell phone, but got voice mail.  Was hoping he might know the pilots who were flying us and could negotiate.  I sent him an email and he isn’t flying that route until January 4th – one day AFTER we come back. L So, we had a 4 hour layover in DC.  Everyone went to the other terminal where the restaurants are better to eat dinner.  Global Services provided us all with meal coupons.   They also advised that all our bags had scanned for the flight to Frankfurt except the one for Michael Hitchcock.  His was “lost”.  I’m hoping it somehow made it on the original direct flight since he arrived DC early in the afternoon.  Also had an issue with some of our seat assignments when they rebooked. The aircraft was pretty full but one of the flight crew was former military and extremely nice.  The flight attendants in first were great but the ones in business class were “surly” I think is a good word!   Dave schmoozed the pilot and got himself and Michael upgraded to first class. Dave and Karri were asleep before they ever turned off the seat belt sign.  I wasn’t far behind them but there was really strong turbulence throughout the flight that kept waking me up.  Still got about 3 ½ hours sleep.  The flight attendant had to wake Dave up a few minutes before we landed.  J Jordan, Michael and I were talking about the turbulence and the others were like ‘huh, what turbulence”.  Ambian is a pretty strong sedative.  LOL. We had to go through security when we got off the plane before we could go to our gate.  That never makes sense to me.  Seems like such a waste of money.   You go through intense security before boarding a flight so “what” could you have picked up mid-flight from someone on the plane who has been through the same drill as you?   I forgot to throw away my bottle of water but the agent said, “no problem” and put it in my container to be scanned.   They scanned it and then threw it away!  Go figure. We went to the lounge for our 5 hour layover.  It was nice because they had showers and cots available at no cost.  Wendi took advantage of the cots immediately.  I answered some emails and then we all went to eat.  My appetite is still not back from the “flu” that I’ve had so, I only ate a few bites of a salad and about ¼ of a wiener schnitzel.  Shawn finished up my leftover schnitzel. Went back to the Lounge where the agent told me all our bags had scanned as arrived in Frankfurt except Michael’s.  About 2 minutes later, I got a text message from the Global Services agent in DC saying it “looked like his bag had been placed on the Frankfurt flight at the last minute”.  I assured her it had not.  The Lounge agent told me to go to the gate about an hour before boarding and they would have a list of the claim check numbers and be able to tell me if they had scanned for the flight. Lindsey and I were laughing about the fact that she inherited my “no sense of direction”.   Two minutes later as we were leaving the Ladies Restroom, I opened the door to a mechanical closet instead of the door to exit!  And, people follow me around the world…. J I went to the gate as instructed and there were 4 agents sitting there chatting.  No one was at the counter waiting for help, so I explained that we had missed our connection and would like for them to check their list of bags to make sure ours had all scanned for the flight.  The only guy at the counter, said, no, they couldn’t do that.  I told him I had just left the lounge where they assured me he could do it.  So, he looked at his computer screen and said, yes, they are all there.  I asked him how he could make a statement like that when he did not know my name or anyone else in my group and had not asked to see my claim checks.  He said he just “knew”! I gave him all the claim checks, he never looked at them, and said, “yes, they are all here”.   I said, “okay, we were missing a bag for Hitchcock.  Is his on there”.  And he responded that yes, it was.  By that time, I was losing patience with his “lazy attitude” and the other three agents sitting there chatting.  I told him that 2 minutes ago I was told by the lounge and by Global Services that the bag was NOT in Frankfurt.  He was still arguing with me when one of the females leaned over and said, the computer screen shows that Hitchcock’s bag did not scan!  I am sure that after my encounter they told the luggage handlers not to load any of our bags.   Just unbelievable poor customer service from an airline that is usually terrific – Lufthansa. We got in line to board and had to scan our boarding pass.  Everyone in our group was “rejected” and told we had to get in another line to first have our passport scanned.  We moved over to the “long line” to do this and while we were standing there, one of the agents who had been so unprofessional with the claim checks came up to each person in my group and asked if they had tried to scan their boarding pass.  I explained to her that we were all together and everyone needed to have their passport scanned.  She INSISTED that everyone get out of line and “try”.  Of course, everyone was rejected and then had to get back at the end of the line to have their passport scanned. Once on board, the Lufthansa “service” kicked in.  The flight attendants are awesome and the aircraft is beautiful.  They gave the first class passengers a really nice toiletry bag, nice socks and slippers AND a “sweater”….actually a long sleeve, very soft blue Polo shirt!  The menu reads like something from a fancy restaurant.  Wish we hadn’t eaten at the airport now.  L Doing a little work and then going to sleep a couple of more hours hopefully.  This is about a 4 hour 45 minute flight.   We probably won’t arrive at the hotel in Kuwait until after 1 am and right now, we’re looking at a very early lobby call.  Par for the course.  L The flight was non-eventful.  The seats were luxurious and the food that I saw passing by looked like something out of a very expensive restaurant. Our visas were waiting for us but Michael’s bag was not there and Steve’s also didn’t arrive.  Lindsey took them to fill out claims and no one had any idea where they might be!  Our escort was waiting for us with lots of “news” about happenings here in Kuwait.  Big changeover in personnel coming in the next couple of weeks.  And a major blow regarding our production company.   Also received bad news via email about a friend I have worked with in the Netherlands for many years.  She survived brain cancer and has just been diagnosed with terminal lung cancer.  Breaks my heart! As I said, this is our first stay at the Movenpick and they went overboard to make us feel welcome.  The entire staff was waiting for us….at 1:00 am!  Our rooms were ready and check-in was painless.  The rooms are as nice as the Radisson and I’m very happy we chose this hotel.  Lindsey’s room did have something “electrical” burning in it, so she changed rooms. I went to work as soon as I got to my room and never got to go to bed.  It’s after 5 am and I have to be in the lobby at 6 am for meetings before we depart at 7 am.  United DID locate the two missing bags…they will arrive Kuwait tomorrow afternoon.  Now we just have to get them on a military flight from here to Iraq. I may not be able to send road reports from Iraq due to limited internet access.  Everyone have a wonderful, Happy New Year. Jude

WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 29TH – KUWAIT TO BAGHDAD (JVB) AND THEN TO TAJI:  Felt pretty “rough” not having slept at all.  Breakfast started at 6 am and I was there when the doors opened begging for coffee.  Most of the group made it down to breakfast and it was just as good of a buffet as we had at the Radisson I think.  Coffee was GREAT.  I spent 2 hours delivering “things” to various people and had a quick meeting with James from our production company.  We arrive at the passenger terminal about 2 hours prior to flight time.  Our C130 arrived ahead of time so we were able to board and depart about 10 minutes early.   It was another flight crew out of Dyess in Texas.  Nice guys and we were the only ones on the plane.  They let everyone take turns going up on the flight deck. I wasn’t in a great mood because I had called to check on the grandkids and Zoe is sick.  Wasn’t real impressed with how the babysitter was handling things while we were away and would have preferred to send Lindsey back home immediately.  Hopefully things will be better today. We landed in Baghdad and our escorts met us at the flight line.  We had about 2 hours before we had to depart to Camp Taji – a 15 minute helicopter flight.  I haven’t been there in a VERY long time.  Everyone had a quick lunch and I then I “repacked” my bags to get ready for the flight.  The new folks at the JVB had put all 4 girls in a room that does not have  bathroom, which would NEVER have worked.  So we were able to get one more room and switch with the guys. We departed to Taji on time and it has changed a lot since I’ve been there. It’s still a pretty large base but much fewer people.  We went to their base exchange and I got the greatest duffel bag.  It is camo but rolls and has compartments.  Karri bought one, too.  We still had about an hour before dinner, so we all took a short nap – much needed on my part – since they had given us “girls” rooms and “guys” rooms!  We had dinner in the DFAC and it was Mongolian Barbeque night.  Excellent food.  Back to the rooms to get “show ready” and then to the theatre for the show.  The Improv shows work best with small audiences and we had about 200 people attending.  It was a fantastic show and ended right on time.  We had an hour to sign autographs and take photos with everyone and then our choppers picked us up.  Really like performing for the smaller audiences because it is more “intimate” and makes me feel like we are reaching the troops on a personal level. While there are a lot fewer troops deployed to Iraq, they still need our support and visits.  Thankfully there are still wonderful people like these celebrities who support them and take the time from their busy schedules to come over here. I swear the humor on the bus rides and at dinner is sometimes funnier than when they are on stage, if that is possible!  We were back in lodging a little before midnight and I’m finishing up this Road Report which I can’t send because I can’t hook my computer up to the internet! Off to a small FOB we visited last year – Nasir Wa Salam —  and Ramadi tomorrow.  Had a message that Mike’s and Steve’s lost bags would be arriving in Kuwait on United airlines at 2:30 pm today.  Broadie picked them up for us but then we were told that “unaccompanied” bags could not be flown on military aircraft.  News to me since we’ve had to do this numerous times in the past.   I was not going to take “no” for an answer but was worried because all my contacts have left Iraq.  I ended up calling my guy in DC and begging him to help us.  I knew I could count on him.  He emailed me information a little later and HOPEFULLY, the bags will be flown into Baghdad first thing tomorrow morning.  See why he’s worth keeping around?  J Night!   Jude

THURSDAY, DECEMBER 30TH – NWS AND RAMADI:  I GOT 5 HOURS SLEEP….UNHEARD OF ON THESE TOURS!  J We were originally scheduled to visit Fallujah and Ramadi today but plans changed to Naser Wa Salam and Ramadi.    We visited NWS last NYE with the Comedy Tour and I remember it well because it’s where I “lost” Dave Price.  He was off somewhere filming and we had to start the show without him. Lindsey and some of the guys went over to the Base Exchange at 8 am but I had a quick breakfast  and walked over to the Juicer to see the people I work with who handle entertainment.   Left for the Helo pad at 9:45 am for a 10:45 am wheels up….only we were delayed due to weather.   They couldn’t tell us if it was just  a delay or if our flight was cancelled.   Someone put something on top of mine and Wendi’s flak vest and helmet that was covered with mud, so we spent our time trying to clean that mud off.  It’s like “super glue” over here.   After sitting there until after 12 noon, we realized we would not be able to make it there in time for our show even if the choppers started flying.   We left and went to the big DFAC for lunch.  The food was 100 times better there than what we had at the JVB yesterday.  Even breakfast at the JVB was pretty bad this morning. Came back to the JVB to “rest” for an hour until we could figure out if we were getting another flight to Ramadi OR doing a show in the Victory/Liberty complex tonight.  I also wanted Lindsey and Steve to see the Al Faw palace since they haven’t seen it and everyone wanted to see the Victory over America palace.  We found out at 3 pm that we would be flying to Ramadi at 5:45 which meant departing the JVB at 4:45 pm.   Lindsey and Steve did walk over to Al Faw but we didn’t have time to go by Victory over America.  If we don’t have to leave at daylight on the 1st back to Kuwait, maybe we can go by then. We departed about 30 minutes late and it was a 30 minute flight from BIAP to Ramadi.  Steve’s straps were twisted and he was having trouble fastening his seat belts.   Now, keep in mind that this consist of 4 straps – 2 shoulder and 2 across the waist – that all fit into a round buckle. It’s a Chinese puzzle even for the experienced in daylight.  Dave – who is a pilot as well – was sitting next to him so I asked him to assist.  Problem is, from Dave’s angle, he couldn’t see the holes where the belts fit.  He managed to screw it up even more.  One of the flight crew was standing by me watching and was laughing so hard, I didn’t think he’d be able to help them.  He did take control and hook Steve in properly.  J It was already dark and I was fascinated the entire trip by the fact that there were LIGHTS everywhere below us.  In years past, it was nothing to fly over total darkness.  My point here is – the Iraqi’s now have electricity!  When Saddam was in power, they either had no electricity at all or they had it for a few hours on certain days of the week.  Can you imagine living like that?  We flew low enough that I could see the homes and everything looked nice and very well-kept.  Major improvement from when I first began coming over here in 2003.  About half-way through the flight, the crew shot off the flares and we all about jumped out of the bird.  I had forgotten that they do this every flight.  Plus, I’m usually in the front of the chopped and don’t notice them.  This time I was sitting by the window, so it was right in my face. We landed and it had started to rain – not a good thing since the choppers usually don’t fly in the rain and we don’t want to spend the night at Ramadi.   Our escorts were definitely on  the ball – they met us and had a great backstage set up.  After a quick visit to “real indoor toilets”, we had a great meal at the DFAC.   I told Dave that after that first horrible lunch at the JVB, I didn’t know if the food was really that good at the other places or it just seemed that way in comparison. Shawn and Kahdar did a great job setting up the production in record time while we had dinner.  Believe it or not, the show started on time.  There was about 300 people tonight and Dave and the Improv group had them laughing for well over an hour.  Our chopper flight crew even got to stay and watch the show!  We were able to take care of everyone in the autograph line and still depart right on time.  That’s only possible because they pre-sign the autographs.  Then everyone in line steps up one at a time and takes a photo with my group of celebs.  As they walk away, I hand them the autographed photo.  That way they still get “personal” attention from the celebs and we don’t have to cut off the line to make our flight departure deadline. Even though I sat in the back, it was freezing!  I took our big show bag and covered my legs with it and it helped a little.  About 10 minutes into the flight, the visibility was almost non-existent and right before we landed, the lightning started.  I was afraid we would be turned back but we managed to land at BIAP.  Everyone was complaining that their butt was frozen.  I actually thing the crew forgot to turn on the heat for the flight.  The weather report calls for rain all day tomorrow and if so, we may not be able to make it to JSS Shields in the Red Zone.  Really hope that doesn’t happen since they don’t get a lot of celebrity visits there. I answered some emails and took my shower.  Got in bed by 1 am for 4 hours of sleep.

FRIDAY, DECEMBER 31ST – JSS SHIELDS (RED ZONE) – HAPPY NEW YEAR!  Up at 5:30 am and dressed and ready for my coffee by 6 am.  We have a 7:15 am lobby call.  Was able to grab a quick breakfast and work on my road reports.  It has stopped raining but is very cloudy AND windy which makes it much colder than yesterday.   Sure hope we can get to Shields. Went to the LZ and waited to see if we would have helicopters.  They arrived about 30 minutes late but at least we were able to fly.  Our MWR escort was supposed to meet us at Shields, but she was “stuck” over in the IZ with the Gospel Group.  But, the folks at Shields were “on it” and had everything under control.   It had started to rain again and we took a quick “walking” tour (which took only about 10 minutes) of the base.  Shields is in the Red Zone next to the Green Zone and they have not had entertainment there in two years!  There was Army and a lot of Air Force (which made me very happy).  While we were walking around, we learned that we had “Red Air” again which meant we couldn’t fly.  We were supposed to perform two shows – one at 12:30 pm and one at 6:30 pm – and then fly back to the JVB.  I was concerned that we would get stuck there overnight and then have a problem getting back to BIAP for our flight to Kuwait tomorrow. The decision was made to move the show to a bigger venue and just do one performance.  Then we would have the South African Special Ops convoy us back to the JVB at 4 pm.  We were able to eat lunch in the DFAC before the performance.  I have to say, it was the best show of the entire trip…probably because of the overly appreciative audience we had.  Did our little meet and greet afterwards and then had our briefing.   We had 24 Special Ops guys plus a couple of U.S. Air Force and Army guys escorting us in I don’t know HOW many vehicles.  They split us up into two convoys and then split us into separate vehicles within that convoy – all for security reasons.   We got lucky this New Year’s Eve in that the weather is bad and there is no moon, so they are expecting fewer attacks because of those two situations.  Dave, Kadhar and I rode in one of the “Ice Cream Trucks” and it was a short ride…less than 30 minutes.  Only about 7 minutes was “outside” the wire. I’ve made the trip many times and was not at all concerned. We were back at the JVB by 4:30 pm and had “free time” until we went to dinner at the main DFAC at 7:00 pm.  Some of the group went into the lobby and taught the staff (soldiers) how to do Improv.  It was pretty funny to watch. You cannot BELIEVE how hard it has rained.   There are huge, deep puddles of standing water everywhere and the mud is unreal.  Some of the group decided to go to the Bazaar and I went as well so I could “ride herd” on getting them back in time for the departure to the DFAC.   I don’t think anyone purchased anything and we had to walk through pouring rain and ankle deep mud puddles to get there. Had dinner at a great DFAC and then came back to the JVB.  Everyone has decided that the way we’re going to celebrate NYE is by going to bed early.  We have to be in the lobby ready to go at 5:30 am tomorrow.  Then we fly to Al Asad and Balad before finally reaching Kuwait at around 12:30 pm IF everything goes as scheduled.  If we do, we’ll barely have time to stop by the hotel and check in and then depart again for our show up at Ali Al Salem tomorrow evening. I’m going to take a shower and go to bed in just a few minutes as well. Jude

SATURDAY, JANUARY 1, 2011!!!!  — BAGHDAD TO KUWAIT:  Cannot believe it’s 2011.  Where are all the years going and WHY are they going so fast??? Was up at 4:30 am and everyone was ready to leave by 5:30 am.  When we arrived at the terminal, the flight was coming in early so we didn’t have time to go to the DFAC and get “to go” plates.  Fortunately, I had stolen a box of Special K and some skim milk from the JVB!  We boarded on time and one of our guys was the navigator from my Aaron Tippin tour…the one with the beautiful eyes!  J  We put Wendi and Steve on the flight deck for the short trip from Baghdad to Al Asad – about 30 minutes.  We had the Gospel Group on board with us and were dropping them off.    Otherwise, we were the only ones on the plane. We landed at Al Asad and dropped the Gospel group and picked up 7 passengers and 2 more pallets of gear.   Al Asad is West of Baghdad.  Then we headed North to Balad – a 20 minute flight.  For some reason, the flight crew turned on the “air” instead of the heat for this trip.   We were FROZEN by the time we landed.   I went up to ask them what was going on but it was a very young crew (the pilot was 25 years old and had only been in country for 3 weeks) and they couldn’t tell me what had happened.   We didn’t drop anyone off but picked up 2 more passengers who turned out to be Michael Peterson and a Colonel who sponsors his tours.  We ran into him at this same time last year.  We also downloaded the two pallets and picked up a WHITE PICKUP TRUCK!  First time we’ve ever done that.  They actually drove the truck onto the aircraft and then put our pallet on again.  This took FOREVER to do though.  The truck is being sent to Kabal, Afghanistan. We all got off for a potty break while they were loading the truck.  The Brigadier General at Balad is a buddy and I wanted to call him but we were nowhere near a telephone.  When we finally were ready to depart, Karri asked the load master if she and Dave could get in the truck and sleep because it was so cold on the plane.  They gave them permission to do this.  We took off and again, they had the “air” on.  I went up on the flight deck 3 times to ask them to please turn on the heat but they just couldn’t figure it out.  I had on a hoody underneath my big coat, so I took it off and wrapped it around my legs, which helped a little.  It was an hour and a half flight and absolutely the most miserable flight I’ve ever had in Iraq.  When Dave got up to get in the truck, the other loadmaster YELLED at him to get in his seat.   He did, but then he called the load master over who had given him permission to get in the truck and asked him if it was still okay.  It was and the other guy was just being a jerk – something we rarely encounter in our flight crews!  But, it’s a MUCH different world over here with the troop draw down. We finally landed at KCIA and our flight crew didn’t want to let us off the airplane.  Because we had told them we were performing at Ali that evening, they thought they were taking us there.  We FINALLY got off the aircraft and learned that ground control had told our escorts who were picking us up that the only passengers on our plane were 2 contractors who were going to Ali plus several pallets!  Thank God they didn’t believe them and waited for us. While we were waiting for our pallet to be downloaded, we ordered a pizza for lunch.  Then we drove to the hotel and checked  in quickly.  Evidently, Ali had been given the wrong information about our performance.   First, they were told we were performing on Janaury 2nd – the day we fly hope.   I caught that and got it changed when we landed last week.  But, today, they had advertises the show for 6 pm and we were told 7 pm!  I told them we’d get there as quick as we could.  We checked in the hotel at a few minutes after 1 pm and were able to depart by 3:30 pm.   Karri managed to “blow up” her converter and straightener by plugging it into the outlet incorrectly!  Thankfully it didn’t shut down the power on the entire floor! I booked massages for all the girls and Michael before we left.  At least, I left all the information with their Sales rep and he booked it.   I told the receptionist that we didn’t want anything before 12 noon or after 3 pm. I called the MWR rep at Ali to tell her we were departing the hotel and she said that she had told our escort 2 hours ago that they had changed the show time to 7 pm!   Since we were already ready to go, we loaded up and departed. We had a meeting with the Base Commander and a couple of Colonels.  One of the Colonels turned out to be the one who flew us earlier on the tour from Kuwait to Baghdad!  Really nice man.  After a brief meeting with them, we went to the DFAC for dinner.  The colonel told us that they had just hired a new contractor to provide the meals in the DFAC and today was their first day.   Honestly, the food wasn’t even close to being as good as what they have on the bases in Iraq! We had time for a quick trip to the Exchange and I decided to buy another one of the rolling camo duffels.  I like the one I purchased a couple of days ago so much that I wanted another one! My friend Wally and his wife Ro were there when we got back to the theatre.  Really great people and so glad I’m getting to see them when I come to Kuwait.  The theatre was PACKED – the largest crowd we have ever had there.  The MWR rep said it’s the biggest crowd the theatre has ever had, too!   Dave did a great job with the opening stand up routine and the troops love him and all the Improv comedians.  It was the perfect way to end a truly GREAT tour!   I can’t remember when I’ve laughed this much – during the show and “after hours”!  One of the topics of conversation at dinner was the sexual harassment problem and the number of “romances” that start while deployed.   There were some great stories but one of the best was the story about some of the lovers using the amnesty boxes for their “trysts”!  I don’t know who in the world they accomplish that because those things are small. We stopped in front of “The Rock” and took a group photo and then we stopped by the Green Beans Coffee Shop because one of our escorts had decorated it.  It was really nicely done, too!  The drive back to the hotel was about an hour and some of the group was going next door to Chili’s for a late night snack.  Not me.  I have work to do.  When I went in to my room, I was ticked off to see that someone had been in it and taken my extra room key out of the slot that turns on the electricity.  There was also a letter saying my massage was scheduled for 4 pm…much too late for me to do it!  So, I had to go to the desk and try to get it taken care of it….but the Spa was closed so I won’t know until tomorrow if I can change it.  Really hope so because I’m looking forward to it. Have been answering emails for about 3 hours and going to bed now and finish this up tomorrow.  We have the “day off” before we fly home tomorrow night.  I am SO ready to see my grandbabies.  Sure Lindsey is ready to see them, too. Jude S

UNDAY AND MONDAY, JANUARY 2ND AND 3RD, 2011 – KUWAIT TO USA!  Was going to sleep in until 9:30 am this morning since I stayed up so late.  But the phone rang at 8:30 am and I thought it might be the Spa so I answered.  It was Lindsey asking if I had gone to breakfast yet.   I told her to wait until 9:30 am and I’d meet her.  Couldn’t go back to sleep after that so just got up and headed down to breakfast. The breakfast buffet was as good as the Radisson except for not having the great fresh waffles.  Instead they had a “local” delicacy but we couldn’t figure out how to order it.  They were baking the fresh bread and then had bowls with cheese, olives, and a sauce that you had to choose from.  They rolled all the ingredients into the bread and cut it into “rounds”.  Looked great and next time I’ll try it. The Spa finally called and said they couldn’t move my appointment but could do just a regular massage at 10:30 am.  That didn’t work for me.  I went over to talk to them but she wouldn’t budget off the fact that there were no appointments available.  I did some work while I waited for Sayed to come to work. Once he came in, we walked over together and he told the receptionist to “find” somewhere to work me in.  I left to go work out and about 10 minutes into the workout, the Spa  called me to the phone.  They were going to be able to take me at 12:30 pm today.  J  Had to rush back to my room and get ready to go to the Spa.  I had a therapist named “Nancy” who had been called in to work on her day off (I’m sure she hated me!).   They gave me a robe and a little plastic bag with a blue piece of cloth in it.  Didn’t fool me this time like they did in China.  I knew it didn’t go on my head but was a “thong” to wear. Never forget wearing the plastic panties on my head for my massage in China and I’m sure the little masseuse never forgot that incident either!  J Nancy was great – just the right amount of pressure.  I fell asleep several times when she was doing the reflexology.  She was able to get most of the knots out of my shoulders and neck, which rarely happens when I get a massage.  I had a deep tissue full body massage, reflexology, a head massage, and a facial!  Loved it. Went back to the gym and finished my workout then took a shower that took three washings to get all the “oil” out of my hair from the massage.  Had time to pack everything back up and work on my emails before meeting James from Coaxial in the lobby to talk about production for next year.  At 7 pm, we all met for our “wrap” dinner.    Steve, Mike and Jordan had a great time today “sightseeing” with my friends Wally and Ro and they joined us for dinner as well.  Dave just “chilled” in his room most of the day – something that is usually needed after a tour through Iraq. The dinner buffet was as good as the Radisson.  Couple of things they don’t have that the Radisson served but overall, it was just as good with some “new” items to try. Have to put bags outside my door at 9 pm and we depart at 9:15 pm.  As far as I can tell, the flight is on time.  I think I confused United by having so many different flights booked for the trip over that they are not going to notify me of my departure flight. As the New Year begins, rather than making New Year’s resolutions that I know I can’t keep, I prefer to think about the things I am thankful for.  From a “personal” perspective, I am so blessed to have my precious grandchildren and my children.  I never knew grandchildren could change a person’s life or enrich a person’s life as much as mine do.  Sometimes I think about the fact that I won’t be a part of their lives when they are in their 30’s and it makes me wish I could live to be 100 years old I but am thankful for this time with them now.   No matter what my I achieve in my life, my children will always be my “greatest accomplishments”.  I am also blessed to love and be loved by an amazing man who “accepts me as I am” which is far from perfect and not an easy person to love. From a career/business standpoint, I am unbelievably fortunate to have my own company – although a lot of work and stress, I wouldn’t have it any other way.   Then there is Stars for Stripes – the one that fills up my “heart” while JSI hopefully handles the side of filling up the pocketbook.  If I were independently wealthy (like when my Iraqi dinars hit), I’d devote all my time to bringing quality entertainment to the troops. Anyway, when we arrived at the airport the line to get into United was out the door and wrapped around the building…more than 100 people.  We managed to push our way through the people in line because there were 2 entrances and we took the one for business and first class.   Managed to get through and get checked in with relative ease and had about an hour and a half to “chill” in the lounge before our flight. Dave started working the pilot for his upgrade as soon as we got on the plane.  I didn’t think he would get it because the flight was so full.  But, he managed to get the pilot to move him from business to first!  One of our flight attendants decided to play “matchmaker” and hook me up with one of the male flight attendants.  We decided to get married on the flight to DC since there was an “aisle” to walk down.  There was a silver coffee pot with a white napkin and some roses in it that would work as a bouquet.  Only problem is, I think he was probably more attracted to Dave than he was to me.  Anyway…it was fun and he was a good sport. Movies on the flight totally sucked…everyone agreed.   I tried to watch something about Wall Street with Michael Douglas but could only get through the first half hour.  Turned off the video and fell asleep.  Slept so long, my back started hurting so I had to get up and read my book. We landed in DC about 20 minutes early and said good-bye to Dave.  The rest of us had connecting flights.   The line at Immigration was short because we landed ahead of the flights coming in from other countries.  All our luggage arrived and we went to the lounge for about a half hour.  Our connecting flights were all on time as well – nice after all the travel delays we had on the trip over!  Lindsey, Shawn, and I flew to Nashville on the tiny jet but the weather was beautiful – but COLD – and landed early there as well.  Can’t wait to see the babies!!! Another successful, wonderful, heart-warming tour for our troops and the celebrities involved!  I look forward to this tour all year not only because the celebrities involved are so awesome, but the laughs are non-stop and truly make me feel great as the year comes to an end.  This year was no exception.  I know I say this after every tour, but it was one of the best – such a great group of caring, easy-to-work with individuals.  We all agreed that we get much more out of these tours personally than what we bring to the troops.  I know the troops disagree but it’s wonderful that everyone on the tour feels that way. HAPPY NEW DECADE! Jude