She Who Had No Idea

As I sat in a bunker under the threat of incoming in 2007, I was not thinking I’d face another sort of incoming in 2012.


She probably didn’t mean to come across as ignorant and ironic. 

There was no question, though, that she had an intent.

The woman was a fellow federal worker, and we were sitting across from each other for a meeting earlier this week. As the small group of us sat around waiting for the others, we made introductions and small talk.

There was talk about how motorized scooters are helpful when an office building is super long with many hallways. I mentioned how Segways would have been helpful in the Pentagon, but joked that the Marines would have nothing to do with it.

Some of the folks laughed, and this led to a few examples of how technology has changed the way the military does business.

That’s when she spoke up. Continue reading

Just an Update

Less than 12 hours after sharing the news of Martin enlisting the AF Reserve, I’ve already been approached by three people interested in learning more for themselves or on behalf of their kids.

In other news, I had a few German cookies dipped in my coffee for breakfast. The act of dipping the cookies burned enough calories to make this a completely acceptable way to start the day.


Just Another Day

Miss C took these photos. So glad she was there for him!
This morning, Miss C decided to go through her entire closet to see what no longer fits and what will be suitable upon her return to school next week.
Jaz decided he no longer likes oatmeal, and prefers Cheerios instead while Lola felt brave enough to taste my morning coffee and deemed it delicious, too.
I also worked from home today, my first official telecommuting day as it’s been six months on this new job and I’ve earned the privilege.

And on this bright and sunny Monday, my German husband of ten years went down to the recruiter’s office and enlisted in the United States Air Force Reserve.

My German soldier is on his way to become an American airman.
After clipping some coupons and running to the grocery store this morning, Martin headed to Andrews Air Force Base to take the oath of enlistment, officially joining the U.S. Air Force Reserve.
Miss C went along with him while I stayed home with the younger two and my work email.
He is now enlisted. He will begin basic training at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas in February at the lowest rank: Airman Basic. He will serve six years working as an air transportation specialist for the aerial port squadron at Andrews Air Force Base here in the DC area.
This was no surprise: we’ve been planning this for months. Only a handful of family and friends knew about these plans.
And contrary to some good-natured teasing, Martin did not join the military again so I could have more blogging material.
If only.
I can tell you some of the non-reasons.
He did not join for citizenship opportunity. He is still a citizen of Germany, and a legal resident of the United States. We’ve been married for ten years, and have lived in the United States for seven. If he wanted to become an American citizen, and he may get around to it at some point, he doesn’t have to join the military to do it.

Speaking of citizenship, during our visit to the German embassy last month, we learned that there are a few countries where Germans can enlist in the military and not automatically lose their citizenship. The United States military is one of them.He’s not doing this for the extra income or to find a job. He voluntarily left his job at his bank to become a stay-at-home dad after I accepted my current position. We are fortunate in that my job provides enough for us to do that and be comfortable.

He did not do this solely for education benefits, though they will be welcomed. Thanks to the Post 9/11 G.I. Bill, I could sign over my education benefits to him or the children. However, Martin didn’t want me to do that, especially when he learned doing so would require me to serve another four years beyond my current commitment.
It was then that the light bulb went off in our heads: why couldn’t Martin serve those years?
It made us laugh at first, but as we did the research, we realized that Martin met all the requirements. All he needed was a waiver for his military service in the German Bundeswehr, and that was easily granted, although his commission didn’t carry over as more enlisted rank, and since he’s not a U.S. citizen, he can not be an American officer.
He passed all the medical, background checks, and fitness tests, and scored highly on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery aptitude test. 
He’s the perfect recruit.
And the Air Force Reserve is a perfect fit for him. While he will be gone from us for about five months early next year for training, he’ll be doing his one-weekend-a-month/two-weeks-a-year here in this area for the rest of his service. He’ll remain committed as a stay-at-home dad during the week, taking college classes toward his degree, too. There will be possibilities for him to travel and deploy, of course, but it’s nothing we haven’t experienced with my military career: we can handle it.
He has our family’s full support.
So after all the paperwork was completed today, his recruiter and a random officer pulled from the visitor’s center stood underneath a flag pole on Andrews Air Force Base as Martin raised his right hand and swore to serve.
It seems so silly, doesn’t it?
Why would a 33-year-old man with a good banking career under his belt, living a comfortable life as a stay-at-home dad to three children and a gorgeous wife with a steady job, join the military?
Because he loved serving in the military.
Because he loved the routine, the order, and the people.
Because when he was young and daydreaming about his life as an adult, he imagined a military career and a gorgeous wife.
He got the gorgeous wife. *ahem*
And now, he’s got a promising military career ahead of him again.
He enlisted because it’s never too late to go after those dreams.
I am so, so proud of my husband.
First my German soldier.
Now my American airman.

Post-edit: As I looked at Miss C’s photo of Martin signing his Air Force Reserve contract, another similar photo from 10 years ago came to mind. 

Martin, 2002, German Bundeswehr, working in his dorm room.
Martin, 2002, German Bundeswehr, working in his dorm room.

Martin, 2012, US Air Force Reserve. Signing his contract.

The facial expression, the head tilt, and the way his left hand is placed … uncanny, right? 

I promise you, this wasn’t staged.  Miss C took the photo as her Dad signed his papers and she wouldn’t have known of this 2002 photo. So weird!


The Cathedral

Just a head’s up: I’ve still got much to post about Germany. I could probably fill up a whole month’s worth of blog space dedicated to just those 10 days over there, but instead, I’ll just sprinkle in some of the best moments and photos in posts this week.
Starting with this one.
Of all the churches and cathedrals I’ve visited in Europe, St. Lorenz (St. Lawrence) in Nuremberg is probably my most favorite. 
It could be because it was the first European cathedral I ever visited. I first walked into it as that foreign exchange student all those years ago, and it’s perfectly fine to assume the bar was set as soon as I felt dwarfed by those incredibly high ceilings. 

It could also be because the place is so dark, gothic, and detailed: everything you’ve ever imagined a European cathedral to be. Walking into that place with a camera is dangerous because you just may never want to walk out again. There are so many things to see and admire at every level and angle.
I visited there with Christian, Tabea, and the kids (my niece and her nephew) during the last day of my visit in Germany. They patiently waited in one of the pews as I tiptoed around the place, snapping photos left and right. I was not only on a quest to take photos, but to just admire the building’s beauty and history. I can’t help but think of all the people and all the eras passed by that’ve contributed to the creation and upkeep of everything in there. 
Later, as I edited the photos, I experimented with color and black-and-white. Martin agreed some of the photos were just better without the color, letting the architecture and details pop by themselves. 
Regardless, none of my pictures can do that place justice. 

The artist of the tabernacle, Adam Kraft, made a sculpture of himself at the bottom of it.

Old Barbie Hair Repair

While I was in Germany, Martin visited my family in Ohio. While he was out there, my father decided to finally empty out his garage and sort through all the buried boxes, many which contained the toys from my childhood.

This included all the Barbie and Ken dolls my two sisters and I collected throughout the ’80s and ’90s. As you can imagine, three girls can accumulate a lot of Barbie stuff. My girls were thrilled to inherit no less than 60 dolls and all the accessories.

But of course, these aren’t new dolls. And for the past 20 years or so, they’ve been hanging out in a dark, sometimes damp, environment underneath the weight of several other boxes. Some of the dolls had mold, some were missing limbs, all had matted and tangled hair, with some of them twisted up in real rubber bands that were crumbling apart.

To put it simply, these dolls were as plastic and nasty as a Hollywood starlet with a personal video camera after midnight.

They needed serious repairs to be ready again for some wholesome childhood fun.

I was mostly concerned about the hair. Cleaning and repairing the bodies would be easy, but how could I get the hair to be soft and manageable again? I was even more concerned with the recommendations I found online, too. Soak the hair in baby oil? Drench it in hair conditioner? In theory, I could understand how these things would work, but doll hair is not human hair. It doesn’t absorb like human hair, so I imagine all that oil and grease would eventually smear off inside the storage boxes, or wherever my kids would be playing with ’em.

Surely, there was a cleaner, simpler way, right?


After working on these dolls all day today, I’ve learned it’s not hard at all to repair Barbie hair.

First, soak the dolls in hot water that’s soapy with dishwashing liquid. I washed the bodies using a vibrating toothbrush, which was great for gently scrubbing off any mildew or dirt from all the corners and crevices. This includes the feet with that little hole at the bottom and those heads that are fixed on those funky joints in the neck.

Then, I attacked the hair with a brush, going in one downward direction, working out the tangles with force, and making sure not to pull off the head. Really – this is an opportunity to work out some issues. It’s amazing how quickly the hair becomes pliant after a few good yanks, too.

Next, I trimmed the ends.

Then I used a blow-dryer to completely dry the hair. I’m thinking the high heat setting does something to the synthetic material used to create the hair, because it really does soften it and make it shine.

Last, I combed everything in place.

It took less than five minutes. Want proof?

Check out my video.

I actually enjoyed doing this. It was neat to see my old dolls again, and knowing my girls are going to create some pretty fun memories with them, too.

And do we ever really outgrow our love for our toys?

Martin thinks it hilarious I pixelated Barbie.


Flashback Friday: Somewhere Only We Know

I’m back home now.

I woke up Thursday morning in a beautiful farmhouse in northern Bavaria in the company of my German loved ones, and later that evening after a long flight round the globe, I fell asleep in my own bed in Northern Virginia, next to my husband with my children nearby.

I am such a lucky girl.

It’s going to take me a few days to really digest that trip to Germany. I was gone for only 10 days, but it feels like it was much longer. I did so much, there was activity every single day, but time was slower. I savored things more: the food, the people, the sights, the sounds. Continue reading

Happy Birthday, Jaz!

The birthday boy. Photo taken by my Dad over the weekend.

It’s our boy Jaz’s birthday today.

It’s hard to believe it’s been a whole year since he arrived.
Nor would I have ever guessed that one year later from that day, I would be over here in Germany away from him and his sisters.

Alas, I fly home tomorrow (Thursday) and then I’ll be able to cover him with kisses.


A Step Back in Time

The altar where Martin and I stood together on April 6, 2002.

Even though we are thousands of miles apart, I felt especially close to Martin as I visited our old stomping grounds today here in Germany.

My brother Christian handed over the keys to his Volkswagon, and after breakfast, my niece Jo-Jo and I headed into Nuremberg and Erlangen. Our first stop was to St. Georg’s church in a tiny village called Kraftshof.

It’s where Martin and I got married more than 10 years ago.

The day was exactly as it was more than ten years ago: brilliant blue sky, endless sun, not a single cloud. The church was open, with a few workers making repairs around the courtyard. Jo-Jo laughed at me as I snapped dozens of pictures as we walked up to the fortress surrounding the church. Obviously, she wasn’t there the day Martin and I got married, so I was constantly pointing out different areas of the church and courtyard, where dozens of our friends and family gathered to celebrate with us.

As we pulled back the church door and stepped inside, I was struck by how everything was so clear and familiar to me.

And it made me wonder why everything remained so vivid to me despite all the years and despite the fact that Martin and I were only there for just a few hours for our wedding day. This place wasn’t his normal church. But like the births of my children, so many details about my wedding day are burned into memory and those memories were becoming alive again as we walked down the stone aisle up to the medeval altar in front of the church.

I remember staring out the stain glass windows as our priest gave the sermon, thinking to myself,
“Whoa – I am totally stuck with this guy Martin FOR LIFE, and I’m totally happy with that.”


St. Georg’s church was built in the early 1300s, and served as a fortress for the village to protect from neighboring warlords. It survived all those centuries until February 1943, when a fire resulting from a World War II air raid over Nuremberg burned the church to the ground.

Along the back of the church are portraits of the church before the war and immediately after the burning, showing the stone shell of the church. The people rebuilt it, and all the surviving artwork remains on display. I took photos from nearly the exact spots.

Before we walked out, I signed the church’s guest book, mentioning our wedding there and that Martin and I are a family of five now.

I look forward to the day I can bring our children there to that church and show them around, let them stand at that altar and visualize what it was like for us the day.

Once outside, Jo-Jo and I spent some time walking around the fortress. We climbed up onto the walls and took a peek at the countryside on the other side. Even though this village is really just a few miles from Nuremberg, it’s really quiet there with lots of open fields.

I really did have a fairytale location for my wedding.

Proof I was here. I like that my niece managed to make the angel look particularly angelic.
Danke für das Bild, Jo-Jo!

My Jo-Jo, wearing her eye patch for her lazy eye.
And yet, she still took some really cool photos for me.
Photography comes naturally in my family. 🙂

This cemetery is older than the United States.

Next, Jo-Jo and I headed to Erlangen, which is where Martin was born and grew up. It’s also where we spent a lot of time before we were married, when I was stationed at Ramstein.

Martin was in the Bundeswehr, so we only saw each other on the weekends and usually at his mother’s apartment in the city there.

Jo-Jo and I went directly to the city center, and it was as if I was stepping back in time, of course. My niece and I walked around, stopping at an ice cream shop for a snack, and visiting the place where Martin and I had our wedding reception in the middle of the city.

Martin and I saw SOOO many movies in this movie theater. And our favorite Asian restaurant is right there in the top corner in the shopping center next door.

The McDonald’s there has been renovated, but I remember the day Martin and I sat on bar stools next to that window and decided on the date to get married. Funny how I remember these little moments, but I managed to forget my pajamas at Pam’s apartment in Hamburg. Doh!

Ah, Erlangen houses for sale. One day. One day.

The place where we had our reception. It was once a Lutheran church before being converted into a multi-purpose hall. It was locked up, so we couldn’t go inside.

The Greek restaurant across the street where Martin’s best man kidnapped me, and where the owner brought out the most expensive champagne for us to drink as we waited for Martin to find me.

Since it was so warm and Jo-Jo was being such a good sport, walking all over the city with her sentimental aunt, we stopped at a playground for awhile. There were a lot of families out and about, and I couldn’t help but wonder what life would be like for me if Martin and I made different decisions early in our marriage. What if I had been the one to leave the military, and Martin had a long career in the Bundeswehr? What language would we be speaking with our children? Where would we be living? What would we be doing?
There are no regrets, of course. It’s just interesting to wonder. Being back here in Germany has made it clear to me that we — Martin and I — can not let another seven years pass before we return. Though we are able to communicate with our German family on a regular basis, it is not the same as actually being here.

After a few hours, Jo-Jo and I headed back to her home via the Autobahn. It was awesome being back on there, driving in the sun with the music playing. German drivers are so disciplined, and driving is actually enjoyable. A far cry from the roads of Washington DC.

As soon as Christian and Tabea returned home from work, we headed out to a nearby village to a beer garden for some dinner. I ordered the jagerschnitzel, salad, and spaetzle, which is a type of noodle dish very popular here. It was such a great evening, just sitting around under the trees, listening to the live band across the street, and just being with my German family.

Another photo taken by Jo-Jo.


Martin’s Blog: Vacation West

As Julie traveled east to attend our friends wedding and visit with my family, I packed up the kids and traveled west to visit with her family.

Usually a trip to the grandparents is only for the weekend since either Julie or I had to be back at work by Monday. To my knowledge, we have never stayed in Ohio for more than a weekend. Continue reading