TBT: Little Monkeys

Today’s Throwback Thursday photo is from five years ago this week.
Martin was away at basic training, and I had these little monkeys all to myself! Crazy to think that five years from NOW, one will be in university, one will be a teen, and the other a tween.

TBT: Disney World

For this week’s #TBT post, I’m sharing a photo from our first Disney visit ever in 2007.

I was sent to Orlando on behalf of the Air Force to attend an annual conference for three days, so Martin & Miss C came along and we made a long, fun weekend! Miss C was three years old, which is Jaz’s age now.

Flashback Friday: Airman Martin

It’s been one year since Martin graduated from Air Force Basic Military Training (BMT). This first year has been pretty interesting, if I do say so myself.

Within months of arrival to his unit, he broke his finger during a mandatory “family day” sporting event, requiring surgery through my medical insurance, which was by choice after the military medical community fumbled his diagnosis twice, and delayed his care. Continue reading

Flashback Friday: Keeping Things Alles Klar

Jaz at the doctor’s office in March 2013

Exactly one year ago this week, Martin was away for Air Force Basic Military Training while I was home dealing with Jaz and his first official asthma attack. At the time, Martin could only receive snail-mail letters. At the time, phone calls were few and far between, and unless Jaz was hospitalized and in serious condition (which he wasn’t that week in March) there was no immediate way to contact Martin and let him know what was going on.

At the time, there was no way for me to know that it was all going to get worse before it got better, too. Continue reading

Happy New Year!

Barreling along into 2014! Photo from last year, taken in our van mirror. 🙂


Martin and I welcomed 2014 at home with the kids.

We did have plans to attend a party at our friends Marina and Nick’s house again, but unfortunately, the kids came down with the crud, with Lola sounding like a little barking seal whenever she coughed, so we stayed at home and took it easy. It was actually pretty nice. The girls were up with us at the stroke of midnight, and we cheered, smooched, drank champagne/sparkling cider, and marveled at the beginning of another year.

Those of us who are old enough declared each of our personal New Year’s resolutions.

  • Martin wants to live healthier and get in better shape this year.
  • Miss C also wants to be more active, saying she wants to start running “kid-friendly mini-marathons.”
  • Lola simply said, “Ice cream” when we asked her what she wanted her resolution to be.
  • And I want to be better organized this year, and that applies everywhere. At work. In our home. With our time. I feel like 2013 was such a whirlwind — as life in general can be — but I think a stronger structure and more disciplined schedule would have centered all of us a little better.

I think all of these are pretty solid aspirations.

Especially the ice cream.




Posts from New Years

Dec.31, 11:01 pm. – Exactly 14 years ago, Martin and I were in Paris, sippin’ champagne under the Eiffel Tower, partying with a few million people, waiting for the world to end with the arrival of the new millennium, knowing that whatever was ahead was going to be awesome. And as expected, the world didn’t end! Instead, it got bigger and better for us. And though our NYE celebration is very different now — at home with canceled party plans as we nurse two sick kids back to health while watching movies & eating popcorn — we are feeling just as excited for the future as we did way back then.

11:50 p.m. – What’s your New Year’s resolution for 2014?




Tasty End to 2013

Though I loved being with family in Ohio/NKY for Christmas, I was bummed to miss out on my neighbor’s annual Christmas Eve delivery of fresh, homemade cinnamon buns. She only bakes them once a year, and they are a highlight of our holidays.

But hark!

Marlene saw that we were home again, and brought some over to us just in time for New Years Eve! This is the sixth year we’ve enjoyed these treats, and I savored every bite this morning. Thanks, Marlene & Bob!


Watching a Bugs Bunny cartoon where he and a mouse are competing with each other on a piano. Not a single word is said, and yet all of us are cracking up. #classic


Good Life: Be Thankful

JB and me after his retirement ceremony.

There was a moment a few months ago when JB’s wife, Jessica, paused as she was talking with me and a few others after his retirement ceremony in Las Vegas, Nevada.

We were standing at a back table in the room, looking over JB’s military memorabilia, and she was explaining a few of the photos. She had stopped herself after saying, “… after he got hurt.”

She smiled at us.

“You know, there was a time when I couldn’t say that without bursting into tears.”

It’s taken me a few months to write this blog post for much the same reason. I still get teary when I think about it, but it was such a moving and emotional experience, and one that really made me appreciate what it means to be thankful, which is one of the recommendations for living the Good Life.

While I have written often about that day in Iraq, and can talk or write about it without feeling as much of a tug anymore, attending the retirement ceremony for my team’s broadcaster was way more emotional than I expected.

As far as Air Force retirement ceremonies go, it was nice and traditional. There was a summary of JB’s military accomplishments as a broadcaster, and recognition of his family and colleagues. There were laughs, nodding heads, and polite applause at all the right places. You could tell everyone involved and in attendance really admires JB, and put a lot of effort into it.

However, it was after the ceremony when I got a huge emotional wallop straight to the heart.

His mom came up to me.

Until that moment, I never met JB’s family. While he may have mentioned his parents a time or two, I knew more about Jessica and his kids from the stories we shared while deployed together.

And since the deployment didn’t stop for JV and me after JB was evacuated, I wasn’t able to really keep connected to his recovery as much as I would have liked. The most we got were updates through our colleagues and mutual friends until social media allowed us to reconnect some years later.

Of course, I knew that JB’s family would be at the retirement ceremony, but it never occurred to me that they would want to seek me out, but that’s what his mom did. I was leaning over to read some of his certificates when she came up to me and asked, “Are you the young lady who was with JB in Iraq?”

I looked up at her and said, “Yes, I’m Julie. I was the writer on his team.”

She politely put her hand out.

“We’ve heard so much about you, the girl who was with him,” she said.

“Oh, are you a relative?” I asked, still not sure who I was speaking to. She offered me a warm smile.

“Oh, I’m his mother,” she said. “I can’t thank you enough for being there for him.”

I remember repeating, “His mother? His mother!” as it dawned on me who she was, but before I could think or say anything else, she was wrapping her arms around me as I began to cry, telling her I was so glad to finally meet her.

Let me be more honest: I was a shuddering, hiccuping, sobbing mess, totally caught off guard by my reaction. I just never considered that I would be mentioned whenever the events of that day were shared with JB’s family, but then to have his mom there, wanting to meet me?

It was a lot.

She rubbed my back, explaining how she and her husband had no idea where JB was while he was deployed, that they weren’t expecting a call like the one they got when they learned he had been injured, how they traveled to him when he arrived stateside for care at Walter Reed, that they were relieved to learn he wasn’t alone when the attack happened, and how grateful they were for the things everyone did for JB that day.

Between gasps for breath, I blubbered about how bad he looked the last time I saw him, how pale and weak he was, how the last thing I did was kiss his sweaty bald head as they carried him away, and how great it was to see him so healthy again, to see him standing and walking.

And then she said, “You know? He’s okay now. You don’t have to worry now. And you’re okay, too. We are so thankful for that.”

JB’s wife Jessica pinning on a retirement pin.

I’m not sure how long we stood there like that, but eventually, she pulled away and turned to her husband behind her, and said, “Hey, this is the girl who was with JB over there.”

And then her husband approached me, and JB’s older brother (a former Marine), and even though I tried to compose myself, it was just so much to be surrounded by all of that. After we talked some more, I rushed to a corner of the room to check my make-up to make sure my meltdown wasn’t too obvious.

I was fine during the rest of the reception, and even stayed behind to help clean up, but as soon as I returned to my hotel room, I sat on my bed and cried some more.

I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say I cried out six years worth of tears.

For as much as I’ve shared about my deployment experience, there’s so much more I haven’t shared because it’s just so exhausting and draining.

The aftermath of that incident (both immediate and long-term) and the way things were handled by some of the “leadership” (quotes intentional) were about as traumatic as the incident itself, and changed my perspective on many, many things.

For all the wonderful things that happened to me because of my Air Force service, there were very bitter things to happen, too. Time, focusing on all the opportunities ahead of me, and the amazing support of those close to me during that time helped lessen the burden.

Yet, when JB’s mother approached me, and talked to me, she unintentionally opened up some things that are still very raw and emotional … and yet in the process, her words healed my heart in a way I absolutely wasn’t expecting.

There was a reason I was there that day, why I was a part of that team, and why I was moved to do the things I did, and as I thought about these things, and the words she said to me, I felt like an incredible weight was lifted off my shoulders.

I’ve never questioned or doubted my service over there, but she gave me an answer I didn’t know I needed.

And for that I am thankful.

Christmas with Family

Christmas Eve pajamas with a little Google sparkle in the mix.

We spent the Christmas holiday with my family in Ohio and Northern Kentucky. 

It was the first time in exactly 15 years that I did that, which seems ridiculous, but it’s true. The last time I spent the holidays in my hometown was in 1998 when I was a senior in high school.

In 1999, I celebrated Christmas in Germany with that handsome German guy I met earlier that summer, and then I was stationed there in June 2000, and spent our Christmases in Europe for a few years until we moved back to the United States in 2005.

At that time, Miss C was the only grandkid, and it made more sense to stay in Washington DC (or have family visit us) for Christmas and do our own thing without having to haul all our holiday stuff to Ohio and back for her.

But now there are four grandkids who are all old enough to be excited about the holiday, so my sister Jill and brother-in-law Greg opened up their home to us. We arrived shortly before Christmas, and spent the next few days visiting with friends and family.

And on Christmas morning, Miss C, Lola, and Jaz woke up with with their cousin — the fabulous Lil’ Jo — to discover a huge pile of gifts waiting for them from Santa Claus under the tree.

We had such a good time, and we hope your Christmas holiday was just as awesome.

Happy New Year, too!


We dressed up the kids to get their portraits taken. Weren’t they adorable?
Jaz loves hats. Good thing – he wears ’em well.
Lil’ Jo is a baby genius. Not even two, and she works a mobile phone like a champ.
Christmas Eve at our cousins’ house.
Gifts for the kids! I love Aunt Sue’s and Grandma Linda’s faces here.
This is what the kids found Christmas morning.


Finding their names in the loot.

This is the only photo I got with all four of the grandkids in the same picture.

Hey, Lil’ Jo?! Wanna sit down for a photo? No? Just wanna spin around in circles? Okay!

My Christmas crew!

Lola requested three things from Santa: Woody, Jessie, and Buzz Lightyear dolls. She got all of them!

Miss C reacts as Martin opens his gift.

A popcorn machine!

My sister Jill gave me a beautiful scarf and a Starbucks gift card. She knows me.

The Fabulous Lil’ Jo watching cartoons in Lola’s sled.
My sister Jill and me, looking super cute in our matching eyeglasses.
She loves it when I take her photo, can’t you tell? 🙂


And I’m just putting this out there … I’ve lived and traveled all over the world, and I can honestly say that the good people of Washington, PA are *the* worst drivers on the planet. Example: every single time we stop here, there are folks with an apparent death wish parked on the exit ramps, waiting to merge. Ugh.

Martin and I see it EVERY.SINGLE.TIME we drive past here. This evening, it was especially dangerous, because the parked cars (with local plates) trying to get on the highway were spaced out and parked right up to where it curves going onto Murtland, so it got really hairy there as cars were weaving, slamming on breaks, honking on horns. Ugh.

Yes, the card said it was for Martin, but ….
October 2019
« Sep