Better than a bran muffin, I tell you…

Things are moving.

During the night, I grabbed a few of the guys and moved pallets. And by moving pallets, I mean there was one of us on each corner and we carried them over and put them on dunnage next to IBOL World HQ, to prep them to load IBOLs. Why four big strong soldiers to move a pallet? Each weighs 200+ lbs., and they are very unwieldy. But that was last night — we did get-er-dun.

Today, I swung by the air cargo guys and got nets for the pallets, and ratchet straps, too. And then I headed out to the warehouse, to build pallets.

I had hoped that by going out there today, I’d be there in the morning when one of the new infantry units came to pick up bundles. Oh, we’ll come gets all of them they said. I think they ended up picking up 400 or 500 — a very good start, but not all of them, by any means. I was not there to see them, but CSM Flores was.

And he was there when I arrived. Helped upload the nets and stuff, too. He had some other work to do there, but I didn’t stop to chat — I went on the hunt for a cornerstone box to use, so I could start in on building a pallet or two.

The pallets are located between the warehouse and one of the chow halls. It was ribs for lunch, BTW — the smell was truly awesome. I was starting right before lunch started, so people were walking by and checking things out most of the time I was building pallets. Nothing gets people curious more than an open door to a warehouse, apparently, as lots and lots stopped to stick there head in, or go in and wander about. Strange.

What I don’t understand is, two weeks ago I ran the Army 10 Miler race here, on an obviously swollen and sprained ankle, in lousy form because my back was out. And people told me I was nuts for running on the sprained ankle, and continuing on when my back hurt. Less than two weeks later, here I am single-handedly preparing to build six pallets of stuff, moving it all out of the warehouse by hand, but that seems normal and OK to people. Go figure.

Anyway, I found my cornerstone. Some, I know would look for a strong, rugged box on which to anchor the effort. Other would probably look for the rejected box –something about the stone rejected by the builder becomes the cornerstone, or something. Me, I went with the prettiest one. Did you think I would choose any other ones?


From there, I started to frame out one the pallet would look like.

Framing the pallet

It worked out to five rows that were seven deep and seven high, and the middle row that was seven deep and three high.

One layer

One layer

After that, it was carrying boxes. And carrying the boxes gave me a chance to look at some of them. Which brought a lot of comic relief. Really, I wanted to stumble across bundles from people I knew, but instead I could messages, IBOL logos, and all kinds of other things that made me smile or chuckle. Like this one:


It says, Redirect to address below, and someone wrote in Any Iraqi Police Officer, which I thought was great. I’d seen similar things before, and it always made me chuckle and smile — smile, because it’s such a great idea, and chuckle, because I wonder what the mail folks would actually do.

Oh, and notes. You all wrote a lot of nice things on the boxes. Here are a couple that I saw today. Keep in mind, I only built two pallets, each with 266 boxes.


Ah, shucks.  You're welcome.

So very true -- on both counts.

So, here you have them — two pallets, each of 266 bundles.

2 x 266 = something

And here’s me, my ever faithful sidekick, Mr. Pistol, and the dining facility right behind us. And yes, I wear a different patch on my left shoulder, than on my right. That’s not by accident, that’s actually by choice.

Me and stuff

We put the nets over them, more or less just to keep people from messing with them. They will get a lot more work before the actual flight date.

Me and the Two

And remember how I mentioned that all of the curious stopped by? One was the aviation guy who’s ready to schedule the helicopters. He looked inside the warehouse, and said something witty about there being a lot of boxes. I don’t think he could visualize what a few thousand boxes really looks like — I knew I would be able to before this.

The guy who gave me the straps and netting — he stopped by en route to his lunch, too. Walked me through how the netting and stuff worked, gave me guidance on how to do it all. I think he was impressed that it was me out there actually doing the work — I had not passed it off to poor junior soldiers who’d otherwise been voluntold they were going to help. Nice enough guy. Said he’d come back when it was time to load them out, to help make sure they were really as ready as could be.

Another was a senior Sergeant who stopped by and asked a few questions. Nice enough guy. He was on his way to lunch, but thought it sounded like a neat project. Later, on his way out of lunch, he came and found me and asked me how I was going to move the pallets next. I said by air — and before I had a chance to confess that I had no idea how I would get the pallets to the air pad to be loaded onto the helicopters, he gave me his name and phone number, pointed to where he worked, and said he would take care of that — he’s got a big forklift, and big trucks, and his guys move this stuff all the time.

I’m telling you, IBOL brings out the best in people.

Last war story, I promise. I had one volunteer for the last half of the second pallet. She was just back from her R&R to the states, she outranks me, and she’d just finished lunch. But she carried boxes and then helped with the nets, and then took the photos of me. And told me to pick a day to finish the other four pallets, and that she would round up others to help — and started to rattle of names of folks who also outrank me. Who am I to argue with putting senior Army officers to work, doing manual labor in support of IBOL?

So, maybe Sunday. I need to see if that will work. Might be the plan, though.

Oh, and thank you. I know the excitement of the climbing box count has come and gone, and now I’m into the boring part of IBOL distribution. But every day I see the value in this project, and every day I am thankful that you all have helped me with this crazy idea I had. So much for cursing at the darkness — here’s to lighting a candle every once in a while.


40 Responses to “Better than a bran muffin, I tell you…”

  1. IBOL Guy Says:

    Holy Toledo — I almost forgot.

    You saw the cornerstone box I chose, for the first pallet. Want to know the last one I stacked into that pallet, before calling it done?

    Oh, come on – guess!

    That’s right. One from Sew Mama Sew.

  2. figmentofcogitation Says:

    Dude. Somebody stole some of the photos.


  3. Fitzy Says:

    Yeah, photo troubles too.

    I think one of my favorite parts will be the distribution. Helps keep it real.

  4. Connie Sayler Says:

    I just love to hear about projects that bring out the best in people. Look what you have created! 🙂 Thanks again for this opportunity to send a bit of love.

  5. kim Says:

    Thanks for the update.

  6. quiltdivajulie Says:

    As I was reading your post, I kept wondering when others would start helping to carry the boxes … even though we have our doubts along the way, there is a LOT of goodness out there waiting for an excuse to show itself.

    Thanks for this update ~ seeing all those boxes is JUST as exciting for me as watching the incoming numbers rise …

    (will come back later to see if the missing photos appear)

  7. Gerrie Says:

    Where are all the photos. Is Flickr sabotaging us?

  8. IBOL 78754 Says:

    Do you remember the story of making Nail Soup?

    Dude, you’re making Nail Soup on a huge scale!

  9. sygnett Says:

    “I think he was impressed that it was me out there actually doing the work — I had not passed it off to poor junior soldiers who’d otherwise been voluntold they were going to help.”

    Grrrin 😀 Theres no need for volun-told-ing here! We’ll help anytime!!!!

  10. carolyn Says:

    glad you got some help…hey, where is all the photos go? bad flickr! bad flickr!

  11. Carrie Says:

    thanks for the update, I loved being a part of this. But dude, we NEED the pics.

  12. gail norback Says:

    Just terribly awesome and how great to see it towards the finish line!! Thanks again for taking the time to SHARE! Gail Norback

  13. Magpie Sue Says:

    Thanks for at least trying to show us the process of distributing the bundles. Maybe Flickr will get its act together soon. I could wish there were more who were willing to step up to the pallet to help you load and cover them!

  14. Elizabeth Messer Says:

    I am almost as excited about them going out as I was coming. You have done an awsome job. Thanks again for letting us help make a difference! (I too hope those pictures show up.)

  15. Sandy Says:

    Holy Toledo, IBOL guy….you’re amazing! Thanks for all you are doing to keep this idea moving – can’t wait to see what comes of it!

  16. stephanie Says:

    This process reminds me of making a quilt- buying fabric is easy. Getting the top pieced is terrific…It’s the FINISHING that sometimes takes a while! Keep up the good work!!

  17. melissa Says:

    I can not BELIEVE that you took time out from all of this labor to right THANK YOU NOTES! YOU are thanking ME? You humble me!

    • IBOL Guy Says:

      What? I’m not going to try and write a few hundred thank you notes? I’m seeing my mom after Iraq — there’s no way I am answering “no” when she asks, “Well, did you write thank you notes to those people?”

      • MsMauri Says:

        Thank you for my note, too, IBOL Guy – like everyone else, it was my pleasure to holp.

  18. Susan Says:

    I’ll never get tired of hearing about projects that bring out the best in people.

  19. CMN Says:

    Love the update – Love the photos. Thanks for taking the time! (And hope those ribs were just as delicious as they smelled!)

    • IBOL Guy Says:

      Didn’t actually have any. And now, at 1 AM on Friday morning, I am a bit hungry. Should have stopped for ribs.

  20. IBOL Guy Says:

    Must be Flick. Photos load here, and as tagged for anyone to be able to see.

    Wow — being in iraq pays off sometimes. I can see the photos just fine.

    And I’d worry, but CMN says she sees them.

    Try this, if all else fails:

    • Robin Says:

      Thanks for the Flikr link — I can see the pictures (and the one I couldn’t see from the Tikrit Orphanage visit) if I go there.

  21. Stacy Says:

    Thanks so much for the update – it’s wonderful to see them going out the door.

  22. Robin Says:

    Also, while it WAS fun to watch the bundle count go up, the process — the what comes next — is just as interesting, at least to me. Anytime you want to update us, we’ll be reading. Lots of IBOL sewer/knitter/quilter/crafter love to IBOL Guy Assistants: CSM Flores, Aviation Guy, Straps & Netting Guy, Senior Sergeant Pallet Mover, and Senior Officer Pallet Loader Ma’am (no disrespect intended — just don’t know your names)!

  23. Holly Says:

    All of your work, and all of the tales of process it takes to get the IBOL’s to their destination, is NEVER boring! Photo’s received thru ‘tinyurl’, SUPER! Thanks again & Always…..

  24. Paul Says:

    Dude. Awesome. Put those senior officers to work. Nothing else going on they need to do. 😉

  25. nikki in virginia Says:

    Love the updates. Thanks for sharing.

  26. Melanie Says:

    Ya know. . . sometimes it helps to ask. Sometimes people are waiting to be asked. . . like close to 3500 bundles worth. The pallet-packing may be a similar situation. It’s just a thought. . .

    Bless you and keep you, IBOL guy. Bless you and keep you.

    • IBOL Guy Says:

      Yeah, I could. Or, really, I could just do it. I’ve asked some folks to come and join me Sunday, to go ahead and knock this out — finish up the other 4 pallets. We’ll see.

  27. laura in alameda Says:

    Yup. I’d ask. Course, I always ask. The joke at my job is that I had better not ever transfer to a non- union job, because with a mouth as ready to ask as mine, I need a contract! Doing work is good for senior officers. Helps them feel like they know what’s going on.

  28. Gwen Says:

    Oh, the exciting part has most certainly NOT come and gone – seeing the photos of all the boxes and reading about how you are getting them distributed is VERY exciting! AND the MOST exciting part will be seeing pictures and hearing stories of the final step – putting our bundles of love into the hands of the women who will use them! Thank you so much for continuing to keep us in the loop! 🙂

  29. Sarah in STL Says:

    How can those boxes look even more impresive on the pallets?! You must be so proud…we can’t wait to see photos of them being distributed…woohoo!

  30. Linda Says:

    Before getting involved in this project, I never even thought that there are soldiers who never receive anything from home. How can I “adopt” a soldier to send packages and letters to?

    • IBOL Guy Says:

      Linda, I sent you an email. There’s no, like, official program, but I might be able to shop for one for you. Yes, I know how bad that sounds…..

  31. Happy Zombie Says:

    At IBOL…
    I have learned about giving.
    I have learned about caring.
    I have learned about kindness.

    And NOW… I have learned I can have some fun with the Redirect field on a custom’s form! I love what that person entered… too funny!

  32. Ann in Marin Says:

    Adding my thanks to others, for the photos and updates. It really helps me feel I am part of a little something helping women in Iraq. Your continued commitment to this project is great, IBOL guy!

  33. Holly Says:

    I was imagining the usual wooden pallets (4-5 feet square) and was a little disappointed that all the boxes were only going to fill a few pallets. Then I saw the pictures – those are serious pallets! The army doesn’t fool around, apparently.

    Also, “voluntold” may be the best word ever.


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