Coming Back to America

German_American Flags

Six months ago today, we boarded an airplane at Ramstein Air Force Base to return to the United States. For the past three and a half years, Brandon and I had been stationed at USAG Hohenfels in Germany. While adjusting to life in the United States has not been as difficult as it was originally moving to Germany, it has still been challenging at times. We tried to embrace the German culture while we lived there, and the differences between Germany and the United States really became obvious when we returned. What follows is a list of the major differences between German and American life that required us to readjust.

  • Carbonated Water: In Germany, this was the default when you purchased water. While we were there, we learned to like “bubble juice” (as one friend’s daughter called it) and now it’s a challenge to find it! I can’t order it in most restaurants and haven’t been able to find it at gas stations when we’ve stopped. Instead of paying a fortune to buy bottled water, I gave Brandon a SodaStream as a belated birthday gift. For a time, we were going through a 60-liter carbonating bottle every week! While we’ve tried some of the soda flavors, mostly we just drink the plain carbonated water that we became accustomed to in Germany.
  • Beer: As expected, Brandon went through a German beer withdrawal when we moved back. You just can’t beat German beer. While you can get some German beer here in the U.S., it’s not the Bavarian regional specialties of Winkler Bräu Kupfer Spezial, Plank Hefeweizen, or Weltenburger Kloster Anno 1050. (Supposedly, even the Pope has to have the Weltenberger beer specially delivered to Rome. Unfortunately, we don’t have that kind of pull to get it here to Kansas/Missouri!)  Brandon shipped a three-month supply of beer with our wine shipment, so he technically didn’t have to adjust until October. Thankfully, there are some good microbreweries here in the United States, so Brandon is finding something to drink. At least he hasn’t had to start brewing his own…yet.
  • Shopping: When we first moved back, I couldn’t believe the selection at the grocery store and big box stores. Bed Bath & Beyond was beyond overwhelming! We needed a washer & dryer at our new house, so we stopped at Nebraska Furniture Mart to look. Silly me, I thought there would be about three options: cheap, expensive and middle of the road. Boy was I surprised to find multiple rows of washers and dryers! I didn’t even know where to start. Luckily, we ending up finding a nice used set on Craigslist! It also took me a while to remember that stores are open more hours here. I had to remind myself that I could shop on Sundays and after 6pm during the week. We even went to Lowe’s after 9pm one night…crazy!
  • Restaurant Service: Surprisingly, we had to adjust to eating out in the U.S. again. Eating out in Germany was an entire evening event. Once you had a table, it was yours, even if you were just lingering over a beer or coffee. No pressure to leave, and you had to ask for the check when you were finally ready. Now we often feel rushed when we eat out here. The food comes out so fast that Brandon doesn’t even have time to finish a beer before dinner. And as soon as we finish or decline dessert, the check simply appears at the table. It is remarkable that we can order, eat, and leave in under an hour! I also have to admit that having free soda and water refills is nice again.
  • Driving: It was difficult adjusting to driving in Germany, and it has been equally frustrating coming back. We got used to driving 100+mph on the Autobahn! Cruise control is now our friend. Many American drivers also fail to observe the “keep right” rule that generally states on multi-lane highways to keep right except to pass and move right if blocking overtaking traffic. While this “rule” is not “law” in most U.S. states, it is the law in Germany and it is actually illegal to pass on the right. Brandon and I are trying to break our German habit of driving super close to slower cars in the left lane until they move over to the right! Finally, roundabouts create some problems here in America. We have a new one right near our house that we have to use to get to and from FT Leavenworth. Needless to say, most people don’t know that you are supposed to yield to anyone already in the roundabout and signal when you are leaving the roundabout, not when you enter it, so there have been some interesting close calls!
  • Mail: For some unknown reason, I love getting mail! This has been one of the benefits of moving back to the U.S. My mail is no longer at the mercy of the Military Postal System. I receive my Real Simple magazines before the issue month begins instead of after the month is over, and packages arrive in days instead of weeks. Also, instead of having to stop at the Community Mail Room on post to pick up everything, and inevitably wait in line to pick up a package or anything else that wouldn’t fit in the small box, my mail is delivered directly to my house, even on Saturdays! It’s the simple things in life that give me the most pleasure!
  • Recycling: The Germans recycle everything!! When we moved into our quarters, Housing gave us a whole packet explaining what could and could not be recycled and how to go about it. Paper of all kinds in the paper bin that was picked up once a month; plastics, aluminum, Styrofoam  etc. in the yellow bags that were picked up every other week; glass of all colors could be dropped off at the facility on post or at the collection site in our little town; yard waste and hazardous materials (including batteries, electronics and light bulbs) were collected on post. It was quite the system to learn, but soon it became second nature. Brandon was trained to wash almost all food packaging and throw it in the yellow bag. While we are fortunate to have some recycling here, it is definitely not as comprehensive! For the first month or so, I’m sure we threw much more in our recycling bag than we were allowed. And I still catch Brandon rinsing out packaging that has to  just be thrown away!
  • Post Gate Guards: This didn’t require a major adjustment, but I was surprised at first by the ease of getting onto Fort Leavenworth compared to garrisons in Germany. In Germany, our military IDs had to be scanned and there was a process to sign in guests that didn’t have military IDs. At Fort Leavenworth, we just show our military ID and the gate guard generally lets on on post. Our visitors have only needed to show their driver’s licenses when they have been with us. I guess it’s a lot easier when the Force Protection level is Alpha! (It never went below Bravo in Germany.)
  • Language: Unfortunately, we never became fluent in German while we were stationed at USAG Hohenfels. This made even simple things complicated in Germany. Google translator was one of my favorite web sites, but it has its limitations, especially when you are not near a computer. When we first moved back to the U.S., I still hesitated to ask questions in stores because most of the time I didn’t know how to ask for what I needed when we were in Germany. Or if I did know how to ask, I usually couldn’t understand their response. Of course, unclear responses are still sometimes an issue here in the U.S., but at least I know how to ask follow-up questions! Understanding the language is a huge benefit to being back in the U.S.

While moving to Germany and now back to the United States has had its challenges, the overall experience is still one of the best of our lives. And we would do it again in a heartbeat!

If you’ve lived overseas for any length of time, what were some of the challenges/differences  that you faced when you moved back to the United States?


E&B 2012 Highlights (a.k.a. The Christmas Letter!)

2012 was a great year for us, full of traveling and transitions. Read on for the details!


At the start of the year, Brandon and I were recovering from our pre-Christmas trip to Mallorca and our week of ski lessons in Garmisch-Partenkirchen between Christmas and New Year’s. Both trips were enjoyable for completely different reasons, although I might have enjoyed Mallorca a bit more since it didn’t involve bruises, blisters and lots of falls! Brandon loved finally getting back on the slopes with the Intermediate/Advanced class while I happily stuck with the Beginners.

I started my third year at the Hohenfels Tax Center on January 3rd. As one of the senior preparers, I played a key role in the training at Vilseck and Bamberg. Brandon continued to work as the Executive Officer (XO) for the Badger Team, the Counter-IED training team.


We knew we would be departing Germany sooner rather than later, so we made sure to get our final “souvenirs”: a custom-made dining room hutch for me and a 2011 BMW 335i xDrive for Brandon.

I continued to play clarinet with the Bläserphilharmonie Regensburg up until our move. In February, we had a weekend of rehearsals at Burg Trausnitz, followed by a weekend of concerts to celebrate Fasching, Germany’s Mardi Gras. The concert featured marches of all origins and genres. The audience was quite surprised when I introduced Sousa’s “The Stars and Stripes Forever” in English.


After spending a few months around Hohenfels, we started venturing to other countries again in March. I finally made it to Poland to do some pottery shopping with my friend, Rudi. We stayed one night at the Blue Beetroot in Boleslawiec and did some serious shopping in the two days. I definitely should not have waited so long to go, but I made the most out of my one trip!

At the end of the month, Brandon made a quick 2-day trip to Brussels for some NATO meetings.


After the craziness of playing the piano for all of the Holy Week and Easter masses, Brandon and I spent the next week in Slovenia for Spring Break. I actually blogged pretty thoroughly about this trip, so you can read about all of the details here. It was a beautiful country and a memorable trip around Lake Bled, the Julian Alps and Ljubljana. Another place where we would definitely go back!

Ljubljana, Slovenia

Lake Bled, Slovenia

After Slovenia, Brandon had to go back to Brussels for another NATO meeting. While the long drive was not fun, at least he could bring back as much Belgian beer as he wanted!

With the nicer weather, comes Fest season in Germany. We enjoyed the live music, carnival rides, crepes, and Maß biers at the Nürnberg Volksfest and the German-American Volksfest.

Nürnberg Volksfest

Crepes at the Nürnberg Volksfest

German-American Volksfest at Hohenfels


In May, the moving madness began! After some question about whether the orders for FT Leavenworth would actually arrive, we finally received the Request for Orders (RFO) on May 2nd. We were able to get the official orders on May 8th and could then start making all of the transportation arrangements. There’s a lot to coordinate with an overseas move, including household goods, unaccompanied goods, shipment of two cars, the special shipment of our wine collection, what to sell/give away, and what to carry with us. Needless to say, we worked it all out, and by the end of the month our household goods and my car were on their way back to the U.S.

Loading our household goods into the truck

In the midst of all of the moving arrangements, life went on. Brandon was inducted into the Order of St. George and was farewelled by the Badger team. I wrapped up my duties as the 1st Vice President of the Hohenfels Community Spouses Club and prepared my successor at St. Michael’s Catholic Parish to take over my role as the musician.

At the end of the month, we escaped the moving madness with a trip to Norway to visit my cousins there. (You may remember that we last visited them in August 2010 with my parents.) It was nice that the Norwegian holiday of Whit Monday (Pentacost) corresponded with the American Memorial Day! We flew up to Trondheim on Thursday night and took the train to Oppdal on Friday morning. Over the long weekend, we hiked to the Losvold summer farm, observed muskoxen, and just generally enjoyed the beautiful scenery and generous hospitality!

Losvold Summer Farm


The Bjørndals & Caves


My last day at the Tax Center was June 1st and two days later we were on the inaugural sailing of the Carnival Breeze for our “Last Hurrah Cruise.” It was a 12-night cruise departing from Venice with stops in Dubrovnik, Croatia; Athens, Greece; Izmir, Turkey; Messina, Sicily; Olbia, Sardinia; Civitavecchia (Rome), Italy; Livorno, Italy; Monaco; and ending in Barcelona, Spain. Needless to say, it was a wonderful trip and I need to blog about it in more detail at some point! For now, enjoy these few pictures.

Acropolis; Athens, Greece

Mount Etna, Sicily

Porto Cervo, Sardinia

Via Appia Antica; Rome, Italy

Ponte Vecchio; Florence, Italy

Eze, France
(Nice & Eze Excursion from Monaco)

Carnival Breeze in Monaco

After the cruise, we kept working on the final moving details and tried to savor our last few weeks in Germany. We took lots of walks around Großbissendorf, ate at our favorite restaurants, visited Kuchlbauer’s Bierwelt in Abensberg to celebrate Brandon’s birthday, and enjoyed a final day in Regensburg that included a tour of the Thurn & Taxis palace and Sommerfest.


After finally selling our “beater” car, cleaning & clearing housing, and mailing our final packages, our time in Germany came to an end when we flew from Ramstein Air Force Base to Baltimore on July 10th. We picked up Brandon’s car at the Baltimore port the next day and started driving to our next adventure at FT Leavenworth, KS. On our way, we stopped in Iowa and Nebraska to visit family for a few days, and then began the moving process in reverse! Gradually, we were reunited with all of our belongings and settled into our new home in Platte City, MO.

At the end of the month, we attended the 60th Haugland Reunion at Inspiration Hills outside Inwood, IA.


The first weekend in August, we drove back up to Iowa for the “Fasse Birthday Bash,” celebrating Emma turning one in July and Hannah turning five at the end of August.

The next weekend, I visited my friend Allie who lives in Nixa, MO while Brandon started his coursework towards a Master of Science in Administration through Central Michigan University at FT Leavenworth. On August 13th, Brandon started his Intermediate Level Education (ILE) classes at the Command and General Staff College (CGSC). In typical Army fashion, they changed the name a week later to Command and General Staff Officer’s Course (CGSOC). All I know is he goes to school every day and had a lot of reading and assignments until Novemeber!


Over Labor Day Weekend, my sister and her family were our first visitors to our new home. We visited several kid-friendly attractions in Kansas City, including Science City, Hallmark’s Kaleidiscope, the Kansas City Zoo, and Alldredge Orchard.

My parents and Aunt Sandy were our next visitors a few weekends later. We explored historic Weston, MO on Saturday and then enjoyed the beautiful weather at the Plaza Art Fair on Sunday.


Brandon’s family came to visit us over Columbus Day weekend. Brandon’s dad was born just up the road from us in Atchison, KS, so we went up there for a crafty Oktoberfest and to learn a little family history.

I started the Becker CPA Exam review classes on Oct. 11th. The first review section was Regulation, so at least I eased into it with a topic with which I’m comfortable: individual taxation. There are four parts to the exam and I will be done with the first two parts of the review by the end of the year. My hope is to take those first two parts of the exam in January/February 2013 and take the last two parts by the end of April. While my application to take the exam has been submitted to the State of Tennessee (where we are legal residents), I am still waiting for approval to schedule the exact dates to take the various parts.

This year was my 10th reunion from Wartburg College, so I went up to Homecoming with my sister and her family. I was a little disappointed that more folks from the Class of 2002 didn’t attend the reception, but it was nice to see those that were there. And I always have a great time with Hannah and Emma!

On Halloween, we announced via Facebook our biggest news of the year: we’re going to have a baby in 2013! Little Pumpkin Cave is due May 24, 2013.


We finally found a free weekend to go up to Nebraska so Brandon could be in Lincoln for a Husker football game. Brandon and his dad attended the Penn State game and were treated to beautiful weather and a 32-23 win. I stayed in Omaha to watch the game from the comfort of Brandon’s sister’s house. (However, since I didn’t attend the game, there are no pictures.)

Thanksgiving was celebrated at Brandon’s aunt & uncle’s house in Omaha. It was a nice treat to actually be with family for the holiday and to enjoy a home-cooked meal. Brandon’s mom always gets an Iowa-grown turkey from a family friend in Atlantic and it was delicious!! After watching the Nebraska-Iowa game on Friday, we headed over to Atlantic to see my family for the weekend. (Again, sorry there are no pictures…I’m obviously getting lazy and need to get my camera out more! Is it that seeing family is actually becoming routine again?)


And finally we made it to December! Brandon and I kicked off the holiday season with the Kansas City Symphony’s performance of Handel’s Messiah. I loved it! Brandon thought it was a little long.

Now we are finishing up our classes, so we can enjoy more time with family over Christmas. We will be making a big loop from Platte City, to Atlantic, to Des Moines, to South Dakota, to Omaha and back to Platte City. Looks like there will be lots of time to review my CPA exam materials in the car!

Thank you so much for reading my blog throughout the year, sporadic as it is! The New Year will surely bring us new and exciting experiences as we welcome Baby Cave in May and move again next June. (No, we don’t know where yet, but hopefully the Army will tell us in January or February.)

We wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy 2013!!


Moving Madness!!

We’re still in Germany, but not for long! After an uncomfortably prolonged delay, Brandon finally received orders to FT Leavenworth, KS, at the beginning of May with a report date no later than July 27th. We jumped into action, and by the end of the month, our household goods and vehicles were on their way to the United States.

One last look at my car before it is shipped.

The basement all packed up at the end of Packing Day 1 (out of 2).

Loading my hutch into the crate.

There are so many things that I want to blog about, including the complexities of moving overseas, our last two major trips (Memorial Day Weekend in Norway and another 12-Night Mediterranean Cruise at the beginning of June) and our last impressions of Germany, but I am going to have to tackle those topics a little at a time over the next few weeks. Most of my days are still consumed by cleaning and sorting, and cleaning and sorting some more, so we will be ready to move out of our house on Friday. It is amazing to me all the little decisions that need to be made about what goes in what shipment, what gets packed in suitcases, what gets sold, what gets given away, and what just gets trashed!

We have mixed emotions about leaving Germany, but in honor of Independence Day tomorrow, here are some of the things that we are looking forward to about being back in the U.S.A. (in no particular order):

  • Window screens
  • An attached garage
  • Central air conditioning
  • Being able to get gas at any gas station and pay at the pump
  • Using credit cards without a foreign transaction fee (and having Discover accepted)
  • Asking questions in English and being able to read all signs
  • Having most stores open on Sundays, if not 24/7
  • Being able to mow the lawn on Sundays and holidays
  • Target stores
  • Fast Internet
  • Nebraska football games
  • Being close to family & friends!

Happy 4th of July!!

Photo from

While he was gone…

You may (or may not!) have noticed that my blog has been pretty quiet the past few months. You see, my husband deployed to Afghanistan on January 12th and finally returned home last Friday, May 13th. I’ve been subjected to enough AFN commercials to be aware of OPSEC, although I doubt my blog can be considered much of a security risk. Still, I didn’t feel comfortable posting to the World Wide Web that I was all alone in Germany. That minor detail aside, the main reason I haven’t written anything is because I’ve been too crazy busy!

After we returned home from our fabulous Mediterranean Cruise, it seemed to be just one thing after another! We arrived home on Christmas Day to a broken furnace and a freezing house. About a week later on New Year’s Eve Day, we awoke to water seeping into our basement from the neighbor’s side of the duplex. (Apparently, she was not aware that turning your heat off when you leave in the winter months can cause your water pipes to freeze and burst.) And then Brandon deployed. Needless to say, 2011 did not start well for us!

Then, I started working at the Tax Center again. I had two weeks of training up at Vilseck and Graf and officially opened the Hohenfels Tax Center on February 1st. A steady flow of clients kept me occupied during the day. Thankfully, I completed my coursework for my Master of Accountancy in January, so at least my evenings weren’t dedicated to hours of homework like last year. I still managed to fill most of my free time with Catholic Musician responsibilities, HCSC treasurer duties, gym workouts, hand bell rehearsals, spending time with friends, and chatting with Brandon on the computer. My coping mechanism is obviously busyness!

In addition to my “normal” schedule, here are some of the significant events that happened while he was gone:

  • I went Antique shopping with Melynda, Paige & Kimmey a couple of times. One excursion included climbing a ladder into a lady’s barn…unfortunately, no treasures were found there. We had better luck at Keferloh.

  • In April, Mom and Dad visited for about 10 days. Since they’ve seen most of what there is to see around Hohenfels, we decided to do some traveling. We enjoyed a few days in Heidelberg where my Aunt Sandy spent a year during college. We also visited some family friends in Weinheim. Then we drove on to spend a few days in Colmar, France where the highlight was a tour along the Route des Vins.

  • Finally, the days before Brandon arrived home turned out to be quite eventful. After Easter Vigil, I had a small accident with the car…I turned too soon pulling out of our driveway and scraped the front bumper against the concrete wall. It’s fixed now and everything is fine, but at the time it was quite traumatic! It was probably better that Brandon wasn’t home to actually see it!

  • I also enjoyed the days leading up to the JMRC Spring Ball more this year without Brandon. He hates formals and doesn’t keep that a secret. This year, he had a good excuse to not go, but I didn’t let that stop me from attending. Although I missed him at the actual event, I had a lovely time tagging along with the Weavers.

So, that pretty much sums up the last five months. Now that Brandon is home and work at the Tax Center has slowed to a painful crawl, I hope that I’ll do better posting updates…we’ll see!

Taxes are Taxing!

Last week was exhausting, and it was only a four-day week with the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday on Monday! Maybe this going back to work plan was not such a great idea.

I had training in Vilseck this past Tuesday through Friday. It was quite the jolt into reality to have to be on the road between 0630 and 0730. (I have a new appreciation for people that have to commute an hour each way!) The first day I drove myself, but then carpooled the other days with the soldiers that will be working with me in the Tax Center. I was surprised to find out that I would have three soldiers, since I had been told I would be lucky to get two! Now I just have to figure out how helpful they will be…

The training itself was quite boring. The instructor was from the IRS. She simply read from the book and kept saying, “This is out of scope for our tax centers in the U.S., but I don’t know if you need to know it.” We were basically left on our own to figure out the software and reference materials. We have another three days of training this week, but that will be taught by a local lady who actually has experience working in overseas military tax centers. Hopefully, by the end of Wednesday, I will really know what I need to know to start seeing clients on 1 FEB.

While I’ve been in tax training, Brandon has been training Polish soldiers in an OMLT rotation. He had to work this weekend, but I enjoyed a quiet weekend aside from teaching a clarinet lesson and playing for Mass this morning.

So, that’s the news from Germany.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Visitors

Brandon and I had some visitors last weekend. My friend, Deb, and her son, Camden, braved the bad weather on Sunday to drive from Katterbach (about an hour to the west). The roads around Hohenfels were labeled “Red” and all church services were canceled, but that wasn’t enough to stop Deb! (Actually, she said the roads were fine until she got off the Autobahn at Parsberg.)

Deb and I are friends from Greensboro. We met at First Lutheran and sang in the Contemporary Choir together. Ironically, we didn’t become really close until I moved to Tennessee. When I made my trips back to Greensboro for work, I would stay at Deb’s house. She put up with my crazy EMF hours for two months during the 2007 summer and many shorter trips during the off-season! In November 2008, Deb married a soldier and they moved to Germany this past spring. Deb’s husband, Jay, deployed this past November.

It is really quite sad that we have lived so close, but this was the first opportunity we had to get together. However, I’m glad it finally worked out, and the weather didn’t ruin our plans. We enjoyed the time to catch up while Camden worked his way through the Wii games. When Brandon got home from work on Sunday night, he helped Camden with the Cabela’s hunting game he had brought. I showed them around Hohenfels on Monday, and Camden was thrilled to eat Anthony’s Pizza for lunch before they had to head back home.

I plan on visiting them in May to see their home and meet the new baby. The Army is such a small world, and it is wonderful to have a friend so close in a foreign country!

Update: Originally, I posted that Deb & Camden visited on President’s Day, which isn’t until FEB. Apparently, I am losing my mind while attending this tax training, or I am just really looking forward to our upcoming trip to Vienna over President’s Day. Either way, sorry for any confusion!

E&B 2009 Highlights a.k.a. “The Christmas Letter”

2009 has been a very eventful year for us! Read on for the highlights from each month.

January ~ This year began with the endless arrangements needed to move to Hohenfels, Germany. We carefully decided what we would take and what would go into storage for the next three years, shipped the car, and put our house on the market. We flew from Nashville on January 29th and arrived in Frankfurt on January 30th to begin our international adventure.

February ~ After three weeks in temporary lodging, we were finally were able to move into our house in Großbissendorf. Two days later, Brandon flew back to the U.S. for a month-long external training rotation at FT Bragg, NC. He quickly learned the ins and outs of his new job as an Observer Controller. Basically, he follows units that are preparing to deploy through their training exercises and critiques their performance.

March ~ Our household goods were finally delivered two days before Brandon arrived back from FT Bragg. I did my best to have the majority of the boxes unpacked! We welcomed our first guests on March 31st when Brandon’s parents visited for four days after a business trip to Sweden. We enjoyed showing them some of Bavaria, including Regensburg and Munich.

April ~ Spring Break week (5-10 APR) was spent in Amsterdam. Highlights of that trip included the tulips at Keukenhof Gardens, the Van Gogh Museum, a canal boat tour, and the Heineken Museum.

May ~ Over Memorial Day weekend, we drove to Berlin. We enjoyed seeing the Brandenburg Gate, Checkpoint Charlie, a performance of Blue Man Group and many other sights. I also started this blog in May to keep our family and friends informed about our adventures. Last May, I wrote about Why start a blog?, Spring has sprung thanks to Self Help, Weekend Update, PWOC Annual Training Conference, Fields of Rapeseed, Fire in Großbissendorf, and our Memorial Day Weekend in Berlin.

June ~ Brandon was in a rotation for most of June, so I continued to work on getting our house in order. I had some Fun with a Concrete Drill and discovered IKEA. You can also read about A Visit from the Polizei, Brandon’s 30th Birthday and a Relaxing Four-day Weekend with a trip to the Bürgerfest in Regensburg.

July ~ During the two weeks of Block Leave (3-18 JUL), we traveled around England and Scotland, including London, Stonehenge, Bath, Bristol, Liverpool, Keswick, Glasgow, Inverness, Loch Ness, Fordyce, and Edinburgh. It was an amazing and exhausting vacation! I wrote about each day of our trip so you can read all of the details here if you are interested. At the end of the month, we had more Visitors to Großbissendorf when my parents came to visit for about ten days. We had a great time exploring the local area, venturing out to Regensburg, Munich, Nuremberg, and Rothenburg ob der Tauber.

August ~ After such a busy July, we were ready for a slower August. I had quite the experience helping with Vacation Bible School. We were able to spend a night in the walled medieval city of Rothenburg ob der Tauber and go on the Night Watchman Tour. Toward the end of the month, a major rotation started that demanded all of Brandon’s time.

September ~ While Brandon was still working 24/7 in the rotation, I managed to keep myself busy. As treasurer of the Hohenfels Community and Spouses’ Club (HCSC), I had lots of fun working at my first Holiday Bazaar. I quietly celebrated my 30th birthday and also started taking online classes. I am working on several prerequisites needed to pursue a Masters in Accountacy beginning in January 2010. When Brandon finally emerged from the rotation, we enjoyed a long weekend in Heidelberg at the end of the month.

October ~ At the beginning of the month, I had the opportunity to attend the Hohenfels Spouse Leadership Conference, Help! I’m a Military Spouse – I Get a Life Too! I also officially took the Catholic Musician contract after playing the piano for them regularly since June. My other musical endeavors here include providing Praise & Worship at our weekly Protestant Women of the Chapel (PWOC) meetings, teaching one high school clarinet student, and playing clarinet with the Symphonisches Blasorchester Parsberg.

November ~ Beginning the last week of October, Brandon traveled to the country of Georgia for an external rotation. When he returned, we made our first trip back to Iowa, Nebraska, and South Dakota to visit family and friends over Thanksgiving. Of course, we made sure to see a Nebraska Huskers football game in Lincoln while we were there!

December ~ We are spending our first Christmas in Germany, enjoying the Christmas Markets and glühwein. On Christmas Day, we will travel to the Canary Islands to do some SCUBA diving and ring in 2010. We hope you and your family have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy 2010!!

Best wishes,

Erika & Brandon