The Road to Virginia

September 17, 2010

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.


Garden Update

July 17, 2010

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.

The Grand Forks Firecracker Run and So Much More

July 4, 2010

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:   

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.

A Wedding, a Good-Bye, San Francisco and Home Again

May 16, 2010

There were two things that happened in the last month that I had convinced myself would never happen.  Both I’m ultimately happy they did, as I’ll explain later, but both of these dates seemed sure never to arrive.  I was like one of the foolish passengers on the Titanic, I saw the lifeboats being lowered, I felt the water lapping at my feet, yet I just couldn’t imagine the ship actually sinking.  So to what events am I melodramatically referring? 

The first is my best friend since 5th grade, the person who’s stuck with me through some of my less flattering moments (I’m mostly referring to middle school, oh, and high school, oh wait, the year I took off between college and law school, oh, and that nasty break up in college, oh, and…nevermind, I’m totally negating the point of these parentheses) getting married.  Elizabeth found the love of her life and she went and married him.  Here’s the happy couple now:

This was also my first go (and probably only) at being maid-of-honor.  The only thing I really had to do was throw a bachlorette party, throw a shower, not lose the ring, and not fall asleep during the ceremony.  Done and done.  Which is more than can be said for the flower girl.  She was out like a light from the first hymn.  But the wedding was beautiful, my speech was a blubbering mess, and most importantly, my best friend is now happily married to a wonderful guy.  Mission accomplished.  Here are some pictures to show that she did it in style too (and some are just for fun):

The other thing that I thought would never happen bumped a little too closely into the tail end of Elizabeth’s big day.  Kurt deployed.  We’ve known it was coming for a while but somehow, in my mind, I never fully believed it would happen.  But it did.  And let me explain why it’s ultimately a good thing, and I think Kurt will agree with me.  The sooner he leaves, the sooner he comes back.  We knew our lives would go into slow motion as soon as the deployment started but even knowing that, we wanted that dragging time to start because until it did, we would never be moving towards the end.  But now we are and I’ve replaced my bathroom light bulbs with higher wattage light bulbs so that I feel a little more like I’m under the same bright sun he’s in in the desert.  Okay, that’s not true at all.  The light bulbs burned out and all I had was 100 watts to replace what had been 60 watts.  But still, it’s really bright and I kind of feel closer to him. 

So after a heart wrenching good-bye in the Quad Cities International Airport (explain to me again how that’s an international airport), my dad and I road tripped up to Minneapolis together so that I could fly to San Francisco and he could fly home…through Atlanta.  Turns out we weren’t very good at road tripping since we went to Wisconsin accidentally first and then were so late my dad missed his flight and I barely made mine.  I’d explain all that but it won’t save face for either my father or me, so I’m just going to leave you all (and by all I mean my mom, my dad and Kurt who are the only ones who read my blog regularly) hanging. 

I did eventually make it to San Francisco where I partook in the Company Grade Officers (i.e. lieutenants and captains) Annual Professional Development Conference.  My head, and certainly not my heart, weren’t really in it but it was nice to see the city, eat the foot (lots of it) and finally see Alcatraz.  The only other time I was in San Francisco the Alcatraz tour was somehow vetoed but this time the tour was an optional add on to the conference so I jumped all over it.  I insisted on doing every tour available once on the island (much to the dismay of Hotel Hell Hound, Capt Turner, who did not particularly enjoy the tour of the Alcatraz gardens).  It was everything I had hoped it would be.  Of course, since I had been wanting to see Alcatraz so badly, I definitely made sure to bring my camera…oh wait, no no, I forgot it.  In the end all I had was my phone which I think actually did a pretty good job.  See for yourself:

Although Alcatraz was definitely the highlight for me, despite the moccasin tan line and part sunburn that my North Dakota skin is now dealing with, there was another highlight that shouldn’t go unmentioned.  I was fortunate enough, though not at all deserving of any of the credit, to accept on behalf of the Grand Forks AFB Company Grade Officer Council (of which I am the secretary but again, not at all deserving of any credit) the award for Western Region (every AF base west of the Mississippi) CGOC of the year.  And then, I, along with many other Grand Forks attendees, accepted the award for (wait for it, this is going to blow your mind) the Air Force CGOC of the year.  That’s an international award and little itty bitty Grand Forks AFB won it.  Alright, well if you’re not impressed by that then you’ll never be impressed by anything. 

So to sum up, San Francisco nice, more than a little overshadowed by a missing piece of my life that’s currently in Iraq, and here are some of the San Fran sights, just because I think I should:

And now I’m home again and not looking at leaving anytime soon.  With that in mind, this weekend was mostly dedicated to getting my flowers planted.  Now of course this will probably mean that it will snow this week, but oh well, replanting them would just give me something to do next weekend.  I did a little more landscaping in my front lawn this year.  This brings me joy, so bear with me.  Here are the pictures from before I started yesterday:

And after a little elbow grease and an incident with the neighbor kid and an umbrella (that Mary Poppins thing is harder than she makes it look):

I’m hoping that as the summer progresses I can post new pictures where it looks even better.  I’ll add pictures of the back too, as that begins to grow.  I tried planting from seed in the back but I’m skeptical that I’ll have much luck since the squirrels and/or rabbits seem to think that by planting the seeds, I’m just making it more interesting for them to try and find them.  Fun game.  Maybe I can hire the little neighbor boy to stand guard.  He already offered to share a fudgesicle with me next time the ice cream man comes, I bet I could talk him into it.

Thanks for your attention everyone.  Grand Forks and my apartment are more than ready for the summer tourist season, so anyone looking to book an action packed vacation this summer, keep me in mind.  There’s stuff to do here, I’m pretty sure…

The Waters Are Rising

March 21, 2010

It’s flood season in Grand Forks (and all of Red River Valley) which may be the only thing worse than January up here.  But Grand Forks learned its lesson years ago.  Grand Forks is now a town protected from the flood waters by walls all along the river.  Yesterday when I went for a run I took my camera with me and caputred some of the rising water and the walls that protect us from it.  Standing on top of the wall which would normally over look miles of river front running and walking trails, I saw this:

These trees give you a pretty good indication of how high the waters are but this might help too:

For those of you who have come to visit me and know what downtown looks like, this is what the entrance to the bridge to Minnesota looks like now.  You can probably guess we’re taking a different route into East Grand Forks these days.

As the waters get higher (and they will) they keep adding metal slats.  This is what it looks like just on the other side of this gate:

If you look a little closer you can see the marker for the big flood they had in 1997.  We’ve still got a little bit of room…

As I was taking this picture, a cop was walking toward me with a somewhat grim look on his face.  Don’t worry though, I’m about as law abiding as they come and I was just on the right side of this sign:

So I smiled, waved, and ran away.  I did nothing wrong.  At least I’m assuming so since he didn’t chase me.  

So that’s the flood.  So far the impact on me has been limited to a slightly wet basement floor and running trails that abruptly end in water.  This biker was confused:

 But don’t worry, I haven’t just been sitting around watching the water rise.  February was an action packed month, mostly because I spend a couple weekends out of the state.  Valentine’s weekend I headed to New Ulm for a brewery tour and a visit with Hermann the German.  What says romance more than beer and a slave chieftain named Armnius the Cherusci (later re-named “Hermann” by Martin Luther) who turned against his masters and led a ragtag army to victory over three Roman legions, thereby saving Germania from conquest?  Nothing.

The following weekend I headed back to Chicago for Elizabet’s long planned and awaited bachelorette party.  After a delayed flight out (thank you once again Grand Forks International Airport) I made it to Chicago for a day at the spa, dinner at Fornello, and a very entertaining evening at the Kit Kat Club.  As with any mass gathering of girls there were some hiccups but they were mainly logistical which is much more manageable than most other girl gathering hiccups (aka drama).  Then my amazing friends stayed up with me and drove me to the airport at 4am so I could catch an early (very early) flight to Montgomery.  A couple birthday suprises and another delayed flight later I was flying first class back to Grand Forks.  By some small miracle I made it back to Grand Forks on time with the most major upset being that I wasn’t able to finish my Sandra Bullock comedy before we landed.

Since the end of February it’s been all work, all the time.  I’ve moved to Chief of Military Justice which is great because my focus now is completely on prosecutions and handling disciplinary actions and discharges which are my favorite things but they make life hectic.  People find new ways to get in trouble everyday and sometimes they just fall back on the same old ways such as drinking and driving.  Keeping busy with work keeps me distracted and makes the time move faster.  In about a month from now Kurt will be on his 6 month trip, Elizabeth will be married, and my cats may fear for my sanity.  I’m just hoping work will keep the time moving at a nice clip then too.

Thanks as always for tuning in and here’s hoping we all stay dry this spring.

North Dakota Warm

February 7, 2010

I know, I know…I’m so delinquent!  But in order to be a good JAG, I’ve had to sacrificed this blog…oh yeah, and I’ve been watching a lot of Charmed.  I’m not proud of it but it’s true and if this blog is about nothing else, it’s truth…

Anyway…As I sit an ponder why it is that everytime I want a team to win the Super Bowl, they don’t, I also decided it was time to update.  So lest anyone think I’m still learning taxes down in Fargo, here’s a quick glimpse of what’s been happening since then.  First, I passed the IRS tax test.  I’m a certified tax preparer…don’t even ask.  Trust me, you’re much better off with Taxslayer.  Second, Christmas came and went, fast.  I was shocked and overjoyed to see my favorite Notre Dame fan on my parents’ porch Christmas morning.  And I think it’s safe to say that Kurt was thrilled to find that this year’s theme coincided well with his personality.  Behold, Wild Wild West Christmas:

 Also, I’ve had a lot of graduations and milestones these last few years (law school, passing the bar, COT, JASOC, etc.) but I think I made my parents the most proud on Christmas Day 2009…. 

 Did it require gunning down my grandma and opa with a nerf gun?  Yes.  Did it take 2 tie breakers with a gifted competitor (aka my cousin, Emily)?  Of course.  Will I treasure my Wild Wild West Competition Winner plaque forever?  Absolutely.  It’s already displayed proudly in my office…at home.  I don’t want to intimidate legal assistance clients.

Third, I completed TDAC (Trial and Defense Advocacy Course) down at Maxwell AFB in Montgomery.  This of course meant being back at Maxwell almost exactly a year from when I first started COT.  It sent a weird chill down my spine but simultaneously I felt reassured knowing I had survived one full year in the Air Force.  19 more to go!  Kurt had a couple friends from law school who were about to start COT so we had them over for dinner (edible thanks to Sally John’s fabulous vodka pasta recipe) the night before TD0.  What I would have given for a couple of COT survivors’ brains to pick the night before I started.  The get on a plane, get on a bus, walk around a corner and get screamed at thing isn’t an ideal way to start your Air Force career.

Alright, so I survived three weeks down in Montgomery, fit in a docketing conference while I was there, and then came home to play some serious catch up.  My office endured a full acquittal during my absence and everyone was beat.  It was a long busy fall and the beginning of the year has taken off with a similar pace.  The tax center is up and running, 2 court martials scheduled for the next 2 months and an annual awards banquet under our belts have kept us more than busy.  Speaking of the annual awards banquet, check us out!

Our own Marie Aubrey was a nominee for Civilian of the Year and don’t be fooled by the picture, she was much happier to be there than it appears.  Also, I got to wear my mess dress again which any milage I can get out of that bad boy makes me feel better about the money I spent on it.  I did have to buy captians shoulder boards at $45 for the pair but I’m hoping I get to use them more than once too.  I also really broke in my mess dress by cleaning off a couple of inches of snow from my car while wearing it.  I would say mess dress goes with pretty much any occassion except snow removal.

And finally, the last update I have is to announce that I have embraced a couple of truly North Dakota winter activities over the last few weeks.  Last weekend I went curling for the first time.  I was told I was both “a natural” and “graceful.”  Hey, stop laughing!  I swear people said that.  We did have a casualty though…a fellow JAG broke his wrist while attempting to walk on ice – it’s hard folks.  This weekend I attended the 97 KYCK Cardboard Sled Races just a few short blocks from my apartment.  I actually knew the winner too!  Here’s the winning monster truck, a sled shaped like an outhouse (why not?) and the aftermath:

So I think that about covers it.  I’m sure I’ve missed something but having covered curling and Wild Wild West Christmas, I just can’t imagine there’s much else left.  I’ll leave you with an image I see every morning and every night.  I’ve grown to accept and even appreciate it.  My apartment’s warm, my cats love me (not enough to refrain from knocking over my plants but enough), and I learned today that I can figure out to do when I blow a fuse (panicking and screaming, “I’m missing the half time show, I’m missing the half time show,” is not it) – right now that’s all I ask for.  Thanks for tuning in.

At Least I’m Not the Last Article!

January 28, 2010