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Adventures with New Video Camera

Last night, Martin and I bought a digital video camera. We just got all the backpay we were owed from the past months, and we’ve been wanting one for awhile. Martin stayed up late, getting it to work, and followed me around with it this morning. We’re planning on making a video of our house and the neighborhood, and then making copies to send to family and friends who are interested. It’s really pretty here.

We went up to Germany over the weekend. His unit had a final officer’s banquet.

We also visited his brother, his wife and their four-week old baby, Jacqueline.

Yes, this gives me a lot of ideas.

Well, the real adventure didn’t start until we were driving back to Austria. Because we were taking back a LOT of stuff (including a new living room set), we drove his mother’s camper. Everything was going great until we passed Munich. The engine was revving, but we weren’t exhilerating. We were going, at the most, 50 kilometers on the Autobahn. We crossed into Austria, and that’s when things went bust. Going up the mountains was impossible.

We were going 20 kilometers if the thing didn’t stall. Eventually, we stopped at this mountainside hotel and called for assistance. We ended up stuck there for at least four hours. A mechanic came with his truck and rolled the camper uponto it, with us still inside!! Then, he drove us DOWN the mountain on tiny, winding road with us in the camper ontop of this truck. It was a little unnerving. As it turned out, the little plastic filter in the engine, right before the BIG filter, was clogged because Martin’s mother (who just went on a major roadtrip) waited until her tank was empty before filling up, so dirt and grime was able to pass through. We didn’t get home to Italy until 2 a.m., when we were suppose to be there at 5 p.m. I’m sending you some photos from that.

Anyway, all is good for now. The cats are great. They aren’t shredding the furniture or puking all over. Martin is doing fine, as well.

Holiday Greetings

Martin and I made ten holiday greetings this morning.

Since I just got here, I didn’t set up the event here at Aviano, but it was the same people who had done the greetings last year at Ramstein (when I planned the event), and they knew who I was. Even the new crewmembers knew who I was. Why? Because my greeting last year was the single most-played greeting in the country, or so they told me. It ran a lot nationally and locally. The crew had a computer this year, too, continually running last year’s greetings.

Yours truly’s was on there, on the Regis and Kathy Lee II (Kelly Ripa) morning show. I didn’t know about that one. It also apparently ran on a Holiday Disney show, the super bowl, Good Morning America and of course, the local television stations.

They said they sent out what THEY thought were good ones, and then the networks picked their favorites out of those. AFNEWS said it was my huge smile that won me the coverage. (Really. Go ahead and roll the eyes. I did!)

So, in keeping with the tradition, Martin and I made a total of ten greetings. One general to Cincinnati Tri-State. One to Carla and David and Pat and Puddin in Dayton. One to Mary Ann and family in Oregon. One to Barbie and family in Indiana. One to mom’s aunt Joan in New Jersey. Three to family in Texas. One to Robb in Maine (he’s a youth counselor now at a boy’s home up there) and the “sillyest” was the one to Denise in Wisconsin. In that one, Martin donned a red Christmas Santa hat that lit up, and I spoke directly to them in a funny voice. I hope all of them turn out really great. I think they will. What can be better than seeing Martin and I saying, “Merry Christmas” together and smiled and waved. It’s really cute. The crew said they wished all their customers were like me and Martin. We were quick and professional and loaded with cheese.

The office’s deputy chief took photos of us filming … I’ll send those as soon as they are downloaded. We looked great! Anyway, that’s the latest with us. Martin and I are getting better. We’ve been arguing a lot. Mostly about foreign policy. Being married to a European is soooo challenging. I can look past the incessant need to recycle. I even like giving up sliced bread for fresh loaves, but I wonder how many other young American couples argue about foreign policy. And the reason we argue (or rather, heated discussions) is because anything George W. does affects us directly.

Not like anything WE say to each other matters, but Martin, like any European, really likes talking about this, where I’m like, whatever honey. Let’s eat dinner. It’s nuts. But, like I said, we’re learning. We’re still trying to find balance between chores and money, but it’s all working out great. Our cats like each other. They are so much fun. Gizmo, the white Persian, is like a dog. He’s very loyal and calm. He lies on the floor on his back, and when he’s on his stomach, he spreads his back legs out, like a dog. He loves having his stomach petted and always comes to check on us. Baci is getting braver. She was really frightened of us and noises before, but she follows Gizmo around and lets me pick her up. She stands at the bathroom door in the mornings and watches me do my hair. They have definitely become part of our home. I don’t understand how people give them away or turn them loose so readily when they PCS. It’s crazy.

Anyway, that’s the latest. The newspaper is getting better and better here. Just this morning, Lia, a friend and coworker, came in herself and told me I’m really turning it into a product she WANTS to read. That was really a compliment, because when I first got here, Lia was the one who told me, “Julie, nobody around here really uses the paper other than for the classifieds. You have a tough job ahead of you to make into something credible again.” And it’s only my third week. I’m really flattered and Martin’s always saying he’s so proud. Life is good.

Thoughts Before the Anniversary

A rainbow in Germany, taken in 2000. It seems like a lifetime ago.

September 10, 2002 – It is about 10 p.m. Martin is already asleep. 

I stayed up later, totally intent on working on the newspaper. However, I grew bored/restless/distracted and I spent the last twenty minutes playing computer solitaire and freecell. Gizmo is stretched out on the floor next to my chair. Of our cats, he’s the most faithful. He’s more like a dog in that way. He anwers to his name, and always seems to be right around the corner, checking up on us. 

Earlier this evening, I made chocolate chip cookies with both dark and white chocolate chips.

At around the same time, Ashcroft came on television and announced the U.S. government has upped the ‘security level’ to orange, which means they have indication to possible terrorist attacks to mark the one-year anniversary of the New York and Pentagon attacks.

Up until then, I didn’t really think about the anniversary, and considered it another work day. I’ll remember, of course, but life has moved on for me. Now, I’m anxious. A few days ago, German officials found two Germans conspiring to plant a bomb on Heidelberg barracks. The one German actually worked on base. It is not the Islamic fundamentalists I’m worried about … it’s about the nameless pukes who only want the noteriety who would do anything to get it. Mail hate letters. Bring guns to school. Plant bombs on military installations. The paranoia is nuts, but I guess each generation has it’s own.
Exactly one year ago, my biggest grief (after work of course) was the wedding. I was painting champagne glasses and ordering bridesmaids dresses. The day of the attack was beautiful in
Germany. The day was great. I took a long lunch and spent a good two hours at the gym, totally obsessed with the idea of having a killer body for my wedding dress. I was even finishing up the newspaper, and at around 3:15 p.m., a coworker (Taisha) ran in and said, “The towers have been hit!” And of course, we rushed around the television and watched the devastation. 

I immediately called my father at Wright Patterson and just as quickly, I had to go as soon
as the Pentagon was struck. I was ordered to rush over to a security meeting to get information to release to the public. And I didn’t sleep again for three days.
One year goes by quickly. I really hope tomorrow lasts without incident. I hope all the freaks stay low and stumble in their own devices. And leave me peacefully to my work and life.

Baking and Married Life

Martin and I got up early this morning and went to the supermarket on base. 

I stocked up on plenty of baking goods … cake mixes, chocolate chips, ingredients for icing and pie fillings. I had a good excuse, too. 

Today was our friend, Jason’s, birthday, and when we got home, I made him a cake. German chocolate with coconut pecan icing. Yum!  We took it over to his house and watched a movie with him and his friend, Nicole. Afterwards, we went back to our house and watched one of the movies we bought at one of yesterday’s yard sales. 

The biggest adventure today? Baci missed the litterbox and left us a stinky gift. That was it. A very calm and uneventful Sunday.

Yard Sales and Friends

Martin and I found a new weekend hobby. Yard sales. There seems to be quite a bit of them in this area, as Americans come and go every few months.
As editor of the paper, I get first dibs on the classified section and we make phone calls often for specific items. But this morning was the first time we ventured out to look for stuff. And we found everything, from adorable cup holders to board games. Most of the places we went to had lots of children’s clothes, which we don’t need, of course. But we did purchase some really great stuff.
Now, every room in our house has a fan (which is great since this place lacks air conditioning.) We bulked up our video cassette collection, and even bought a little storage closet for the kitchen (always a good thing!) I think our best find was a near-brand new dish set; four plates, four bowls, four mugs and a napkin holder … all black and with no chips or marks. The same set is sold in the base store for about $30. We got it for 3 Euros. Yea!
Later on, Martin and I got in the mood to bake something, so we made a banana nut scone and some peanut butter cookies. Even though Martin can’t stand peanut butter, he really liked the cookies!! (He claims you can’t really taste the peanut butter, sure, whatever … )
We wrapped up some cookies to take to our friend, Lia, and her family. On the way out of our house, we saw two, little Italian girls playing in the front yards. Since I haven’t picked up on the Italian yet, I just approached them and offered them the cookie bowl. They both giggled and took one, saying “Grazi!” which I KNOW means thank you. That was my host relations moment of the day.
We went over to Lia’s house and hung out with her daughter, Dolores and her husband, Kurt, and their month-old son Matteo. It was the first time Martin and I saw the little baby, and he was so cute! We oohed and aahed for a couple hours before heading home again, where we were greeted by two very hungry cats. Baci and Gizmo have grown on each other. Well, maybe the most correct thing to say is Baci finally accepted Gizmo, which is a good thing. They don’t play together too much, but Martin says during the day, they’ll lounge in the same area without hissing or clawing. And food-time is extremely civil. So, there’s not so much drama in our house these days.

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