Check out my entry on Shutterfly Summer Freedom Contest.

July 3, 2010

Check out my entry on the Shutterfly Summer Freedom Contest..


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


December 10, 2009

At the risk of not playing hard enough to get and giving you all (who actually reads this anyway?) too much of a good thing, I’m back.  Two days in a row is a lot, I realize but something needed to be said that got overlooked yesterday.  Fargo, North Dakota is full of really nice people.  I know a lot of jokes can and are made about a person who chooses to live in Fargo.  But after spending a week here, I found a lot more can be said about them than the fact that they clearly have a high tolerance for pain induced by prolonged exposure to subzero temperatures.  They’re also really really nice.  

Everyday this week I’ve interacted with several of the same people over and over again.  Now I can promise you that a week of walking into the same Federal building in Chicago everyday would have produced the same blank stares and the same thorough and invasive search of all my belongings everyday.  But here the security guards remembered me after the first day.  I’ve already had conversations with them about the weather (obviously), how I like Grand Forks, how I like the Air Force, and what I’m getting them for Christmas (I hope they were kidding).  In short, they have been nice enough to provide me with some of my only conversation all day that doesn’t involved income tax returns. 

But the security guards are only the beginning.  I’ve parked in the same lot every day this week.  A guy named Al, who wears one of those hats with the ear flaps that tie on top, sits in the little booth on the way out and hand writes receipts if you ask for one.  Since I’m here for work, I need a receipt everyday but it only took one day for Al to have my receipt ready for me so I only have to have my window down for the very bare minimum amount of time.  He smiles and points his finger at me like old men do and tells me to have a nice day.  There are a lot of places in this world where you could pay for parking for years in a row from the same clerk and they would never have the time or energy to tell you to have a nice day, let alone write you out a receipt and sign their name to it.

I was almost convinced that none of that stuff was worth mentioning but Fargo pushed me over the edge when I got back to my room to find a handwritten note from a repairman name Norbert who had worked on the noisy heater in my room.  He confirmed that I wasn’t imagining the “terrible pounding” (his words not mine) I had complained to the front desk about and sincerely apologized for any sleep I might have lost.  He said he had installed a new unit and hoped this one would be “beter.”  I also had a message waiting for me on my phone that said they were really sorry about the inconvenience and that 3000 Priority Club points had been added to my account.  Maybe I’m stingy but 3000 points is totally worth a crappy night’s sleep.

Anyway, I won’t go down the cheesy road of talking about how despite the cold the hearts here in Fargo are warm because that just makes me wince.  But Fargo is a good place and it’s just another example of how the Midwest has some of the nicest people in the world.  And to be fair I’m not exactly a world traveler but I hope some day to see quite a bit of it and I’ll keep you posted on whether my opinion of the Midwest changes – I don’t expect it will.

Fargo is Warmer Than Where I Live

December 9, 2009

It’s true.  Fortunately, I’m tucked safely away at an IRS tax course in balmy Fargo, a good 65 miles south of frigid Grand Forks.  So don’t any of you feel bad for me.  But all kidding aside, I’m freezing.  My dad used to say that you knew it was really cold when the snow squeaked, not crunched or squished, squeaked.  Right now in North Dakota, dogs are howling continually in response to the high pitched squeaks made by all of us unfortunate enough to be walking around outside.  As I was walking around downtown Fargo today I thought of a million brilliant ways to describe the cold so that it could truly be understood.  Of course, now as I sit in my warm room at the Holiday Inn Express (Priority Club Platinum Elite Status here I come) I can’t think of any of them.  My poor little Kia Spectra (aka the Rehder Red Racer) probably could though. Every time I hit a bump I feel like it’s so cold that something crucial is going to crack off.  I’m being as kind to the old girl (do we think it’s a she?) as I possibly can.  Before I eat my breakfast in the hotel lobby, I always start her up and let her idle for about 20 minutes.  Then I make the 5 minute drive to the Federal Building/Post Office in downtown Fargo where I have my mind numbed by hours of income tax law.  So I may be spending more on gas these days but if it prevents (I’m feverishly knocking on my desk hoping that it’s actually made out of wood) paying for major repairs necessitated by driving a 2003 Kia at a starting temp of -20, it’s well worth it.

Enough of my incessant whining about the cold.  This could go on for months.  I need to suck it up and honestly, we’ve been blessed that it started as late as it did.  Also, I’ll be making my escape for a couple of weeks this winter at the beginning of January when I head down to Montgomery, AL for a trial advocacy course.  Plus, I believe most of my loved ones are currently covered in giant mounts of snow which, oddly enough, completely missed North Dakota.  So I’m now not only feverishly knocking on my desk but also counting my blessings with the same zeal.  Oh yeah, and it doesn’t really matter how cold it gets because I have this:

Do people judge me when they see me wearing it?  Absolutely.  Do I knock things off shelves and pump into people without realizing it when I’m wearing it.  Oh definitely.  Do I lack all peripheral vision when wearing it with the hood up (which is the only way to really properly go about wearing it)?  Of course.  Is it also the best thing the Air Force has ever bestowed on me?  It’s way up there on the list.  For those of you I am lucky enough to see at Christmas time, plan on seeing it make an appearance, even if it’s not that cold.

Moving away from the weather and onto what, in the life a JAG and a lawyer in general, is a pretty big milestone.  I finished my first fully litigated courts martial.  It was originally set to be a members court (in the military jury = panel, jurors = members for future reference) but on the morning we were supposed to start, the accused (= defendant) decided that he would rather have his case heard by a military judge.  I was honestly a little bummed because I still have never done a court or trial in front of a jury but it also really simplified the process and made what could have been a 5 or 6 day trial take only 3 days. 

Overall it went really well.  Although I spent more than one night at the office till 2300 (= 11pm) responding to last minute motions, it was all worth it.  The accused was found guilty of many of the charges (there were several) and his sentence included almost two years of jail time, a bad conduct discharge (BCD) and a reduction in grade to the lowest possible enlisted rank.  I got to do the opening statement, several directs and crosses, and the sentencing argument.  I also was able to argue several of the motions I spent what seemed like days writing which is really rewarding, especially when you win most of them.  One the judge decided not to rule because the defense withdrew it.  The judge did a feedback session with us after the court was all done and the coolest thing was when he wouldn’t believe me that this was my first court.  Thank you John Marshall trial advocacy program and Cook County 1st Municipal. 

So I won’t go into any more detail here but thank you to everyone who didn’t give me a hard time for falling off the face of the earth for two weeks (if it was even noticed by anyone besides my cats).  Looking forward to seeing everyone over the holidays really pulled me through.  Oh, another thing that pulled me through was coming home everynight to my Christmas lights which, thanks to modern technology, come on every night at dusk and thanks to my mom and dad, are perfectly symetrical and the perfect balance between colored and white lights.  Just in case you don’t believe me:

Those white blobs are twinkling stars that the picture really doesn’t fully capture and the bigger white blob in the window is my little tree.  Is it wrong that Christmas lights are a necessary part of my life?

To bed I go, for tomorrow awaits temperatures dangerously below zero and learning how to calculate first time home buyer credits on a tax return.  Both of those thing require a good nights sleep to tackle.  Night!