I know I’ve been horribly delinquent in updating my blog and for that I am truly sorry. So many weekends I mean to get to it and just don’t find the time or the energy. The easy answer is that my transition to Texas has not been all together smooth. But now it’s been months since I move to the Lone Star state and still my blog sits stale. And even now, tonight, as I write this I do not have time to fully explain, update or even begin to get into a real post. Instead, all I can do is promise that Christmas cards are on their way from Shutterfly, a Christmas letter is being drafted and a stop at the post office for Christmas stamps is high on my to do list. So updates are coming by snail mail and a real, post-Chrismas post is coming. But until then, as I live and breathe in this state that is really just too big for me, I share a link to a Christmas card from St. Olaf. There are things that have changed about the school that I don’t love, there are things about the school that I will always love, and there will be requests for money I will always avoid (can I please owe less than a bazillion dollars in student loan debt before I have to pay for someone else’s magical college experience?) but the one thing that broke my heart in this video was the snow. I wore shorts today.
I’m going to blame my negligence in updating my blog on the perpetual Ground Hog Day in which I live. One day runs into the next with the same cloudless blue sky overhead and passing the same obese iguana on my way to work. I know I sound like I’m complaining but I’m really not. If there are days to repeat over and over again, these are definitely some of the ones I would choose. My point is more to explain away my dereliction in updating you all on my Air Force adventures. But recently there was an event that warranted note. My parents made the long trek from cold and, depending on the day, rainy, sleety, or snowy Illinois, all the way down to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The trip was inspired and rationalized by many discussions about what a rare opportunity it would be to visit Cuba, even if it means visiting the portion of Cuba controversially claimed by the United States. Cuba is Cuba and, dang it, I wanted my parents to see it. And so they came, beginning with a 2am drive to Chicago and ending with a 3 hour flight on a plane smaller than my mom’s claustrophobia would prefer. They came and they saw Cuba. They saw the ocean:
They saw me SCUBA diving which necessitated taking a picture that makes it appear that the level of difficulty of SCUBA diving is on par with that of curing cancer or bringing about world peace:
They got to go on a boat ride around Guantanamo Bay, though we used my mom’s lap as a storage area and my dad rode in the blue bucket:
They got to see my house and spent as much time as possible soaking in the island life on the back patio:
We spent a lot of time looking for sea shells and other such things and as a result, Illinois has a lot more coral in it than can geologically be explained.
And probably the highlight for my dad and me (though not mom, she walked 2 miles around the track) was playing soccer together. It had been a while and I think we’re both better than ever…probably…okay, maybe we’ve both slowed down a step or two but dang it, we had fun:
So that’s their trip in a nutshell and a few pictures. I have no doubt that I will be receiving a flood of requests to visit within seconds of posting this but unfortunately, my time at GTMO quickly draws to a close. Upcoming tour dates include stops in Virginia (see you there E!), Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, North Carolina and ultimately Texas. Tickets are going fast so shop early. Hope to see you all soon!
Honestly, not a whole lot has happened. The Office of Military Commissions did send someone to jail which was kind of a big deal but that was over a week ago so I’m going to focus on, well…yesterday. Yesterday was a big day for me because it was the first time since arriving at GTMO, oh, and definitely the first time in my life, that I had an iguana run straight at me. One of the biggest iguanas I’ve seen so far….
chased two smaller iquanas straight at me. It was terrifying. And some of you may be asking the same question my dad did, are they really that fast? The answer is yes. Those puppies can move! Sure it’s an awkward wobbly run but somehow that only makes it more terrifying. I don’t know what happens when an iguana catches up with you but I’m sure whatever it is, is nightmarish.
Before the iguana helped me do a startlingly good impression of Road Runner, I did manage to take a few pictures. There’s a slightly beaten up lighthouse and a kind of boat graveyard on one part of the coast that’s fun to walk through. I did learn today that you can get a key to the lighthouse and there’s a museum inside. Yet another thing to do if anyone is brave enough to visit so close to communism. Here’s a few of the pics:
Here’s a picture of my office and several of the other folks that I work with more indirectly. It’s a fun group and I’m certain this is one of the few times I’ll have an office picture with the ocean in the background:
This week is the Marine Corps Ball which I’m lucky enough to be attending (I have to say that, I’m on a naval base) and in not too long I’ll be getting off island for a bit. Can you believe it’s been 6 months since Kurt left? I feel like I haven’t seen him in years. So there will be crying and turkey eating and everything else that goes with a Thanksgiving/return from deployment trip. And I’m excited to come home for even just a few days because so much has happened since I left. I think nearly everyone in my family has had a life changing event. I only have two cousins and one got married and one had a baby. I have two brothers and one got engaged and the other sent his daughter off to college. I only have one best friend and she bought a house. I only have one Kia and it’s been to the shop 3 times since I left. Honestly, I leave for 2 months…
But an old friend posted a very old picture on Facebook that made me laugh outloud which almost compensates for missing all those life changing events. I’m just going to sit back and let you guys soak this one up. Oh, and I’m not the only one in this picture that is now an Air Force JAG. Seriously, who would have thought?
That leaves you with enough to think about for today. I know it blows my mind.
I have always dreaded going to a movie alone. It’s unbecoming. Sure, people do it all the time but even those brave souls would probably admit that there’s a stigma attached to going to a movie alone. It’s perfectly fine to watch a movie alone in your home but to do it surrounded by people who are not alone, well that’s just socially unacceptable. With all that being said, tonight I went to a movie alone. Not only did I go to a movie alone, I went to a movie that spends a great deal of time discussing coolness. I won’t go as far as to call it irony but I will say it was an interesting coincidence. But wait, it got more interesting.
As I was driving to the theater, a giant herd of teenagers crossed in front of me. This has nothing to do with the rest of the story but I knew it was a bad omen. Teenagers and black cats are equally powerful distributors of bad luck. Anyway, also as I was driving to the theater I noticed it was lightning. Since I’ve been at Guantanamo Bay (did I mention I’m in Cuba now? I am.), it has pretty consistently either thundered, lightninged or rained every evening. So a little lightning was nothing to get upset about. But about half way through the movie it started to pour. I mean buckets of rain. This isn’t making sense is it? That’s because I haven’t yet told you that the theater is outdoors. Completely open air. There was nothing between me and the torrents of Cuban rain beating down on the island.
So now I’m faced with a choice. The movie was free so by leaving I’m not throwing away money. However, movies come and only stay for a week or two down here. If I leave now, I’ll have to come back at some other point, probably alone, and restart the movie and that’s only if I can make it before the movie stops showing. I’ve made a lot of decisions in my life but this one was a toughy. But as with so many of those previously made decisions, I took the path of least resistance…I just kept sitting. I pulled my coat over my head and got soaked. But I watched the last hour of the movie, I enjoyed the movie and I survived my first movie alone. And by survived I mean, I left looking like something worse than a drowned rat.
I’ve been at GTMO for less than a week and I have done a few things besides go to movies alone. I’ve been the third wheel for at least 2 dates, which is pretty much every girl’s dream, and I’ve left my GOV in reverse on a hill (don’t worry, my sponsor caught it). In all seriousness, I’m extremely lucky to be here. I mean, it looks like this for Pete’s sake!
And the beaches are a little rocky but I’ve already been snorkeling a couple of times and these beaches are truly made for snorkeling. Plus, even with a few rocks, they’re still gorgeous.
And I have gotten a mosquito bite here and there but I’m comforted knowing these guys are eating as many as they can.
The iguanas are everywhere. There’s one that comes in and out of a drain pipe just below my billeting room. He’s highly suspicious of me which he indicates with vigorous head bobbing. If he wasn’t such a good mosquito eater, we’d have words.
Also, really quickly, I’m happy to report that Kurt and I were able to spend some quality time together in D.C. We even got pictures of us hanging out. If you don’t get it then good for you because it means you’ve never survived solely on Skype.
For now, that’s all from Cuba. It’s surreal being here and I fully intend to make the most of this gift of a deployment. I’ve updated my address on the contacts page but my email address is still the same. Now I’m off to bed…as soon as I post my blog to Facebook and finish looking at pictures of the Holzhauer children on Facebook and I should probably update my Facebook status before I go to bed too… See you all on Facebook!
Oh gosh, where to start… Let’s start with that I no longer live in North Dakota…for a while. This Friday night finds me sitting on a couch at the TownPlace Suites in Springfield, Virginia. When I told people back in December of 2008 (yes, it was that long ago!) that I would be moving to Grand Forks, North Dakota I got a lot of, “I’m sorry you’re living where?” Although it seems just minutes ago I was answering that question, now I’m answering a new one, “You’re deploying where?” It is technically a “deployment” that brings me to Virginia to join the Criminal Investigation Task Force at Ft. Belvoir. There is a good chance I will be forward deploying from the couch here in Virginia to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (where I can only imagine they sit exclusively in hammocks and bean bag chairs) at some point. Still hardly what one would call a “real” deployment but a winter away from balmy Grand Forks none-the-less.
But my deployment is boring in comparison to what I’ve gotten to do leading up to it. I think the last time I blogged I was enjoying Grand Forks in July. I was planting flowers, growing vegetables and prepping for court. Well, the court came and went and suddenly it was very definitely time for me to prepare to leave. The first order of business was attending Combat Airman Skills Course (CAST) in San Antonio, Texas. As much as the Texans in my office tried to convince me how lovely San Antonio is, I just couldn’t wrap my head around wearing a helmet, vest and carrying around a M4 in the August heat of Texas. Ultimately it didn’t matter much because I didn’t get a choice, I was going.
So I went. As it turns out, I actually learned a few things. First, we didn’t only wear helmets, vests and carry a M4, we also got to wear masks. Masks that others breathed in and out of in the Texas heat and then passed on down to us. It gets grosser so if I’m losing you, you might want to quit now. But look how tough I look! Could someone please reassure me I don’t only look tough because I don’t look like me…
Another thing I learned, when porta potties are all you have, you’ll learn to deal. I think you all know what I mean by deal…develop insanely strong leg muscles so hovering becomes second nature. Sometimes I do it at my hotel room just because I can. Oh, and for you ladies out there, don’t worry, they had separate ones for us females. One guess as to how you can tell which ones are ours…
So what else did I learn…I learned that if you sit at the end of the table and no one else in your squad wants to be a driver, you will become a driver. I’m not going to post the picture of me driving the HMMWV because it’s my Facebook profile picture and I know how you all feel about redundancy. However, I will show you some of my fancy photography work from the passenger seat of a HMMWV. Don’t feel like you have to act unimpressed. I won’t get a big head.
So that pretty much wraps up CAST. Wait, there is one thing I forgot. Important lesson here. Getting hit in the nose with a paintball sucks. It hurts and makes you look like Rudolph (that would be the red-nosed reindeer). Fine, I’ll show you a picture but everyone has to promise that if you’re ever hit in the face with something, you’ll send me a picture. It’s only fair.
Does anyone else think I look way too happy for having just gotten hit in the face? So I’ll end my notes on CAST with a picture of my tent mates and the simple note that they rocked. It’s amazing how a group of great people can help you through nearly anything (including such deadly combinations as MREs and porta potties and rattle snakes and tent living).
The week between CAST and leaving Grand Forks was a flurry of packing, cleaning and moving. My parents swooped in and helped me more than they’ll ever know…or maybe their aching backs are telling them exactly how much they helped. I had movers come and actually move everything into storage (climate controlled of course) but the amount of packing, taping, wrapping, and organizing my parents did in the 3 days before the movers came is nearly unfathomable. For any of you who visited my place in Grand Forks, you may have observed that I have an enormous amount of crap. Somehow we managed to make it look like this:
It was sad to move out of that place. A lot of work went into making it a home and I really enjoyed living there. But being the fiscally responsible person I am (Kurt, stop laughing!), I just couldn’t justify keeping it while I was deployed. So now some college kids will come move in and trash it and annoy the neighbors. The 4th Ave Drinking Team lives on. I probably wasn’t doing it justice anyway.
So after a farewell to Grand Forks (more traumtic than I thought it would be) and a quick stop in Minneapolis (always generous with hospitality), I made my way down to Chicago for my second wedding of 2010. It was a beautiful wedding and I felt lucky to be a part of it. I think I should be able to make a case for knocking running a marathon off my bucket list after walking down the longest aisle I’ve ever seen but I always enjoy a good cardio session. The reception was beautiful, the food was great, and the company was even better. We danced, we laughed, we cried (thanks a lot Marta) and generally just had a blast. Can’t you tell?
No, your eyes do not deceive, I am wearing jewlery. That’s what I will do for a friend and for those of you who know me, that’s no small thing. But more importantly, the bride was beautiful and the groom had my favorite line of the night…”First, I’d like to thank Christine for marrying me. I don’t know how I pulled it off…”
So that should catch you up for the most part. I went to Texas, packed up my life and Christine became a Fiscella. I said bye to my cats (don’t laugh, I actually cried harder than I did during Steel Magnolia’s…maybe not), taught my parents how to skype and now I’m in Virginia. I’m 2 days away from turning 29 and I have a Trader Joe’s near my hotel. I can live like this.
Thanks for tuning in and no, you may not see any more pictures of my nose after the paintball.
I realize that calling my potted flowers and vegetables a garden may be a bit bold but I’m close enough that I’m going to call it in terms of horseshoes (close only counts in horseshoes…oh, nevermind). Since I haven’t updated the progress of all my plants since my initial set of pictures back in May, I thought I’d post a few updated ones. Here’s the front:
My one hosta exploded and engulfed everything around it but in my gardening world, that kind of behavior is encouraged. If I can get anything to grown well, I’m happy.
Now on to the back. Yes, I have two grills. Yes, one of them has a gas tank bigger than the grill itself. Listen, it’s not even a big deal. Just chill.
I don’t have any control over when the yard is mowed and as of yet, the pattern is unclear. They usually come to mow about a week and a half after it’s already needed to be mowed for a week. The thick patches of grass are ideal for mosquitos to live in so I think a fair assumption is that those in charge of mowing my lawn are somehow in league with the giant mosquitos that plague Grand Forks. Maybe it’s like a mafia thing. There’s money changing hands that no one sees. I bet the mosquitos could get a liquor license if they wanted to.
If you look closely at my hanging tomato plant, you can see this:
I’ve also planted cucumbers, cherry tomatoes and green peppers. The mowers (seriously, bane of my existance) some how managed to run over one of my cucumber vines but they seem to be bouncing back fairly well. No signs of peppers yet but the cherry tomatoes are starting to take shape. I’ve never really planted much in the way of veggies before but some day I hope to have a huge garden so this is just a warm up.
The next couple of weeks has a vacation to the Dunes, a Cubs game, and a major court martial in store for me so I apologize in advance if I drop off the face of the earth. Don’t worry. You’ll manage without me…for a little bit at least.
Today I ran the Grand Forks YMCA Firecracker 10k. There are a couple goals I try to keep in mind everytime I run a road race. Not being last is one. Not a tough goal but it’s important to have attainable goals. Also, as part of my goals I have a list of people I’d like to beat or at least pass at some point. This list includes girls in tiny running outfits I wouldn’t dare step out in public in, bigger girls in the same outfits who shouldn’t have stepped out in public (are capris so uncomfortable that it’s worth subjecting all of us to watching you pick your shorts out from between your legs every couple of minutes?), beefy looking guys who spend so much time in the weightroom they’ve lost all traces of a social life, and finally, happy couples (how dare they?).
Today was a day of mixed results. I passed a few happy couples, including one I paced with for a lot of the race and then pass in the last half mile. I had several of the tiny outfit girls pass me but also took down a couple of my own. There was one group of bigger, tiny outfit girls that had jostled their way to the beginning of the pack before race time and subsequently had too much of a jump on me and I never did catch them. I also passed a couple athletic looking guys and managed to not be the last one in. Mission accomplished.
Besides unfairly stereotyping road race participants, I’ve been up to so much more. Starting chronologically, several weeks ago I had my first (not counting the expertly managed garage sales of my childhood) yard sale. It turned out to be more of a porch sale but a success none-the-less. I made nearly $100 and unloaded a lot of things I was not interested in trying to move in the all too near future. My next door neighbors may have been my best customers so some of the stuff didn’t go too far but I really don’t care so long as it’s no longer my problem. Here’s what a porch sale looks like at 104 4th Ave. S.:
As with any good sale, advertisement is key. Don’t worry, I didn’t get another cat. That was just my first customer of the day. Though after he scaled the tree, he lost interest. Apparently he did not need a pair of used Asics or a broken microwave.
My next logical summer adventure was meeting my best friend at the headwaters of the Mississippi at the northern most tip of Lake Itasca in Itasca State Park. No, Elizabeth and I did not come up with meeting there as some sort of symbolic gesture capturing the roots of our friendship along the banks of the Mississippi in the Quad Cities. Though that does sound kind of like us. Instead it was really convenience more than anything else. She was coming up to see me, I wanted to do something other than sit in Grand Forks for 4 days and the Mississippi just happens to start it’s journey towards our childhood stomping grounds just 2 hours east of Grand Forks. So we met, we camped, we hiked, we got ticks, we got sunburned and were generally very outdoorsey. We even waded across the Mississippi. Elizabeth fell once but that was that little girl’s fault. She had no respect for slippery rock decorum. I didn’t capture the fall in pictures but did get some of the other highlights:
On our way back to Grand Forks we swung through Bemidji because I love Elizabeth way too much to let her get this close to Paul Bunyon and not pose brazenly in front of him.
And as with most things, Elizabeth was the one brave enough to ask the tough question when signing Paul’s giant guest book:
I rounded out the month by going on an incentive flight on a KC-135. For those of you who didn’t immediately google Grand Forks AFB’s mission when you heard I was coming here, our mission is mid-air refuelings which enhances the Air Force’s Global Reach and Global Power which is an integral part of making us the most powerful air force in the world. No biggie. The KC-135 Stratotanker accomplishes this mission daily. The day of our ridealong they were refueling F-15s on a training mission over Mountain Home AFB in Idaho. We got to lay in the back with the boom operator. The boom operator, as the name implies, lowers the boom to the plane that is being refueled. If the other plane approaches too quickly or can’t maintain the appropriate distance and speed, the boom operator will disconnect to avoid accidents. I’m not sure any of that made sense so how about some pictures to supplement my rambling. This first picture is of the boom hanging from the belly of the KC-135 tanker we’re on:
Then one of the F-15s approaches:
Then, if everything goes according to plan, the F-15 will hook up and begin to receive fuel:
Then off he goes about his Air Force mission, refueled thanks to Air Mobility Command and Grand Forks AFB. You’re very welcome, sir:
And just to prove I was actually there:
So that’s about it for the summer so far. It’s been busy and suddenly very hot in Grand Forks but so far I’m surviving. I did have a couple traumatic trips to the hair salon but I’m recovered from that for the most part. Curry Comb here I come! I’m also coaching a soccer team of U16 girls and have quite a few weekend tournaments. As if having Kurt a million miles away wasn’t enough torture for the summer. But they’re starting to get it.
If you’re at all interested in reading my latest attempt at journalism and some really boring AF law to boot, here’s a link for ya: http://www.grandforks.af.mil/news/story.asp?id=123211854.
As always, my door is open up here in Grand Forks, sometimes quite literally as it is right now, and I promise I’ll even wash the sheets.