Category Archives: Life

Sevilla/Seville

We  love living near Sevilla, and I couldn’t wait to take my parents to see the city we love!  It was our first time taking a carriage ride there too!

The architecture in the city is amazing!

We went to the Cathedral and saw where Christopher Columbus is buried… well, at least part of him is buried here!

We took a nice carriage ride around the Plaza de Espana.  It was so beautiful!

Gibraltar

We took a day trip and drove down to Gibraltar.  So much fun and history!!

The first stop we made was to one of the Pillars of Hercules.  Apparently, there were two pillars that Hercules held on to and pushed apart or pulled together the two continents of Europe and Africa.   I can’t remember which one, but this is from the European side, looking across at Africa.   It was really windy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next stop was a cave with beautiful lighting.  I really loved how cool it was in there.  The cave was set up to be used as a hospital during war, but it didn’t have to be used.

 

We drove on up to the “Top of the Rock” and got to hang with the monkeys for a bit.  One of the babies tried to see if Momma had any food in her purse!   They were adorable!

After we left the monkeys… we went to a cave that was used to defend the rock.  Cannons holes are still there.

           

 

 

Morocco

While my parents were visiting, we took a day trip to Tangiers in Morocco.  It was a great day with great people!!

We took a ferry ride to get from Tarifa, Spain to Tangier, Morocco… There were a LOT of people on the ferry because it was Holy Week in Spain (read about our Semana Santa experience if you missed it).   The beginning of a great day!!

The day in Morocco started with a walk through the old part of town.  It was market day, so there were lots of people selling fresh produce, spices, and plenty of trinkets.

Our guide led us to some of his friends who were charming some snakes!  My mother volunteered to have them put one of the snakes on her.

After a huge, wonderful lunch, we went for a drive around the city and out of the city for the funniest camel ride I’ve ever seen in my life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We then went to the Caves of Hercules before making our way back to the ferry for our return trip.

Goodbye Morocco!!!

The real adventure started after we got back to Tarifa and found out our cars had been towed because we parked next to a sign that said we had to move our cars before 6:00pm.  We didn’t make it back in time, so the cars were gone, and Amy and I had to walk to the police station, ride in the back of a police car to get the cars, and drive through horrible traffic to come back and find everyone else to head home.

All in all, a very long and wonderful day!!

 

 

 

PCS: Checklists Galore

This post was originally published on 1 April on the Daily Blog.

This week I was reminded that even though I’m far from my extended family, I’m still surrounded by people who show love to us.  A retired military contractor who works here (he’s leaving Spain this week to move back to the states) found out we were moving to South Dakota and contacted Ron to see if we wanted to meet him for lunch one day to answer any questions we might have.  I’ve never met this man, and all he knows is that we have kids and we’ll be moving to his home town.  He met with us the day before he was scheduled to fly out to move back to the states.  Y’all, he wrote three hand-written pages of things that we should see and do in Rapid City and the surrounding area.  He talked to us for over an hour and went over each one of the 29 points.  It was an incredibly thoughtful thing for him to do for us and I appreciate it so much.  Speaking of checklists…

 

It’s been a couple of weeks since we found out where our next duty station will be.  We are in the middle of my checklist for the move.

  1. Search Facebook for groups.
    1. This turned up more groups than I can keep up with, so now I’m in the process of figuring out which ones I want to be in.
  2. Find out about fostering.
    1. I’ve not been able to contact the county offices because Rapid City is on the edge of two counties. Until we know where we will live, it’s going to be hard to narrow down our county office.  I have written an email to the state-wide foster parenting website, but I’ve not gotten a reply in over a week, so I need to do more follow-up work on this one.
  3. Homeschool Rules.
    1. I quickly found a wonderful Facebook group for homeschoolers and they informed me of the South Dakota homeschooling rules. More lenient that Maryland in some areas, except for mandatory testing for certain grades.  We are all satisfied with the laws except for the one who will have to take standardized tests for the first time in his 13 years of life.  Just another learning experience, right?
  4. Houses to live in.
    1. I’ve just stopped looking. I have found multiple houses that I would love to live in, but I then go down some weird HGTV inspired rabbit hole and realize those houses might not be there in five months when we move in.  So, then I turn it off and sulk.
  5. Jobs and extracurricular activity for children.
    1. Our 18-year-old wants a job, but something with animals, or coffee, or books. It seems she’s open to a lot of jobs, and she has bookmarked nearly every place that has a job opening.  Let’s hope some of them are still hiring in August.
    2. The 13-yr. old wants to take Judo with Ron. He also wants to find a scout troop and find a way to “work with birds” (but only birds of prey… they are the coolest!)
    3. The 10-yr. old wants to “do parkour or gymnastics” and find a cub scout pack for his last year before boy scouts.
  6. History of the area.
    1. Our new friend with all the information also provided some of this. Then a quick google search for a timeline of South Dakota brought up a couple of books that look interesting.  I put in an order for a couple from amazon, so we’ll start reading those as soon as they get here.
  7. Search the house for things to sell.
    1. This is the least fun for everyone except Ron. He loves to throw things away.  We’ve done most of the main parts of the house, but the kids’ rooms haven’t been done at all.  I’m saving that for when my parents visit us in a little over a week!  We have the garage sale date set, so now we’ve got to finish looking through everything so we can be ready.

 

That is only MY checklist for our move.  Things that I’ve been wondering about and wanting to make sure I know all about.

There are quite a few websites that provide comprehensive checklists for PCSing.  I’m not nearly disciplined enough to go through them, but it is nice to have those lists to look at.  One of my favorites is here.  Military.com has tons of information about the military in general, but this is one of my favorites things on their site.  It has different checklists depending on how long you have left before your PCS.  Since we will be moving sometime in August, we are too early for any of their checklists.  However, we are going to be having all of our stuff packed up at the end of May or the beginning of June.  We want to make sure there are NO issues with getting our stuff to South Dakota before we get there.

Overseas bases have furniture that you can borrow until your household goods (HHGs) arrive, and you can borrow them again after your stuff is packed out, but that doesn’t happen in the continental US (CONUS).  We don’t want to find a house and have no furniture.  I’m sure I’ll be missing my bed by then.

The earliest checklist they have is for 3 months before you move.  Since we are packing our stuff in June, I still looked through this checklist to see what I can work on.

It’s safe to say that I’m getting overwhelmed at the number of things on this list.  So, I’ll stick with my small checklist about the things I’m most excited about, and I’ll report back as we get closer to leaving.

Side Note:  We are going to work our way through every item on his list while we are in South Dakota.  I’ll be documenting our “Checklist Journey” on our family blog if you are interested.

Semana Santa

This was originally published on 22 April 2017 on Daily Blog.

When we moved to Spain, we knew we would get to see things we’d never seen before.  I had no idea one of them would revolve around Easter.  Here in Spain they have a unique way of celebrating the last week of Lent, leading up to Easter.  Called Holy Week or Semana Santa.  I found a link on wikipedia that will explain more about the processions and what everything means, but we have a friend who is a priest at these two churches that I have pictures of below, and I’ll tell you what he said it means.  Wikipedia article is here.

As we walked down the street to the first church San Miguel, we saw many of these red banners.

Each of these processions or pasos are sponsored by a fraternity or brotherhood.  They work all year, but especially in the last months leading up to the pasos getting everything ready.  The pasos start in a church and walk around the entire city.  The ones I attended this year were in the city of Moron de la Frontera.  Each of the pasos tell a story of the Passion of Christ.  They follow the events of Holy Week in the New Testament of the Bible.

There are always at least 2 “floats” in the procession.  One is Jesus in whatever event that paso is showing, and the other is Mary.  Jesus goes out first and is followed by Mary.

Let’s talk about the people around them.  The people who lead the processional are all paying penance of some kind.  It is very personal and only between them and God.  Because of this, they cover their faces.  The hoods they wear (called Capirotes) look familiar to those of us from the United States, but for a very different reason.  Let me just say that the Spanish tradition came first and their manner of dress was stolen by the people who used it to do horrible things.  So, the hoods are worn to hide their identity so they can pay their penance in silence and in a more personal way.

Here are people inside the church putting on their capirotes and getting ready to walk.

The doors are open and the processional is about to start.  People are lining the streets to see the floats.

Jesus is bound and his float is wooden with purple flower petals on the bottom.  It is beautiful.

Closer look at Jesus and the intricate carving of the wood.

Mary’s float is predominantly silver and all of those candles will continually be re-lit all evening as they process.

How do the floats move?  They are man-powered.  Meaning there are rows and rows of men under there and they are literally carrying the floats and walking around the city.  They are very coveted spots and it is a great honor to be able to carry these icons around their city.  They spend every weekend of lent practicing carrying the floats, and we happen to be lucky enough to see one.

There are extra men walking behind them to switch out when it is needed.  These floats weigh over 2,500 pounds.

The way they all stand up with the float is wonderful and if you get the chance to see if on video, you should watch it.

They have left the church and are starting the procession.  It will last for at least five hours, maybe longer.  Everyone outside claps as soon as he is out the door.

On Wednesday, we went to a different church to watch the procession.  This time Jesus was depicted in the Garden, praying and asking God to remove the cup from him.

More intricate wood carving.

We went to the balcony to watch everyone getting ready

They walk along with the incense and a band plays outside as the floats come by.

Walking out with Mary

Re-lighting the candles before going outside.

The most unique thing about this church is that the doors are too small for the floats to get out with the men walking.

They have to carry it to here, then get down on their knees and go out the door on their knees. It is a truly powerful thing to see someone worship in a non-traditional way. In our world, there aren’t many ways we can use our bodies to worship, and they truly are using them here. We watch as they precariously balance all that weight while bending on their knees and then scooting out the door. They then have to all stand back up and begin the long, five-hour process of allowing their fellow citizens to worship this way as well. It was something I’ll never forget and has made my Easter celebrations much more profound.

It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye

This article was first published on 25 March 2017 on Daily Blog.

Saying goodbye sucks.  It doesn’t matter why you are saying goodbye.  It is just hard to look at someone for what may be the last time, but will certainly be the last time for a while, and try to imagine tomorrow when they aren’t around.  This is the basis of #6 on my pro and con list of life in the military.  “Con – You have to learn to make new friends all the time.”

Last night I had the final dinner with my friend before her family PCSs to Texas.  They flew out today and I’m not sure when I’ll see her again.  I know I said the con was having to learn to make new friends all the time, but the other half of that is that you have to then say goodbye to those friends… again.

We move to a new place still thinking about the people we have just left behind and then trying to figure out how we will present ourselves to the new people we are about to meet.  We are caught between never wanting to forget the people you left and trying to fully embrace the possibility of the friendships you could have.  I spent the last year getting close to my friend who left.  We will call her Nikky for this post.

She isn’t like friends I’ve made before.  Usually, I find myself becoming close friends with introverts.  I’m sure it’s because I love to talk, so it’s easy for me to do that when I’m with introverts.  Well, Nikky is even more extroverted than I am.  She loves to talk as much as I do, so there was NEVER a quiet moment with the two of us.  I’m sure anyone around us could attest to that.

Finding friends may not be the easiest thing, as I’ve learned well over the last 10 years in the military, but when you click with someone it seems effortless and you just know you will forever be connected.  That’s how it was with Nikky.  She has two boys and my two boys loved to play with them.  So that added another connection for us.  The downside to this, as it always is, someone has to leave.  We come into these friendships knowing that we only have a certain amount of time together.

When you move to a remote assignment, you know the month you will be leaving when you arrive.  One of the first questions people ask each other here is how long you have left.  We do it just as conversation starters, but also because we aren’t wasting a lot of effort and brain power to meet someone who’s leaving next month.  We try to find people who got here around the same time we did so you aren’t floundering for your last year at a place because your friends all moved at the same time and you’ve been left behind.    That’s what I do, at least, so I can’t speak for everyone.  It’s probably my selfishness coming out, but it’s just hard to say goodbye, and it is hard to get attached to people and watch them walk away or walk away ourselves.

We know where we are going next, so we are in the mindset of heading out.  We are officially the “old” people here because we are in our last 6 months of the assignment.  It has all passed in the blink of an eye.  We were just getting here and setting up our house, and now we are going through each room deciding what we can live without when we move again.

The military life seems so normal to me now, but it wasn’t always like that.  I am very patriotic.  Of course I am, right?  My husband is in the military, so maybe it’s a requirement.  I don’t know, but I am, and I always have been.  I am used to seeing my husband and a lot of other people walking around in their camo and other uniforms, but it still gets me every single time I hear them all stand up and say the Airman’s Creed.  Their voices all coming together to say that they will fight for me and defend the country I love.  I go to any event where I know they’re going to say it, and I try every time not to cry, and it just doesn’t help.  It is my most favorite thing about being surrounded by these men and women.

But we still have to move and leave each other.  We still have to make our children say goodbye to their friends and watch them cry because they just wanted to see someone one last time.  They are used to moving and packing up all of their belongings, and that part doesn’t seem to bother them anymore, but it’s the people.  These people that we meet and connect with.  They take a bit of us when they leave us, and we leave a bit behind every time we move.  In one way, it is amazing that I know so many people spread out over this whole world, but on the other hand, I am so spread out and pieces are removed so many times that eventually I worry there won’t be enough left of me.

Saying goodbye sucks!

**For a great post on saying goodbye from a non-military family, read this:

https://lumpslymphnodeslaundrylegos.wordpress.com/2017/03/23/dear-military-best-friend/

 

The Airman’s Creed[1]
I am an American Airman.
I am a Warrior.
I have answered my Nation’s call.
I am an American Airman.
My mission is to Fly, Fight, and Win.
I am faithful to a Proud Heritage,
A Tradition of Honor,
And a Legacy of Valor.
I am an American Airman.
Guardian of Freedom and Justice,
My Nation’s Sword and Shield,
Its Sentry and Avenger.
I defend my Country with my Life.
I am an American Airman.
Wingman, Leader, Warrior.
I will never leave an Airman behind,
I will never falter,
And I will not fail.

On the Road to Nowhere

Sometimes you have a great plan and you think everything will work out.  It can be a huge plan or something really small, but if it doesn’t work the way you planned, it can be frustrating.  I am usually not so easily frustrated by these little bumps in my plans, but if I’m tired or not having a good day, I lose it easily.

A few days ago, Ron said we were all going on a surprise trip.  We were told that we would be going to Marbella (about a 2 hour drive) to eat at the Hard Rock Cafe (we are obsessed with finding these restaurants).   After lunch, he said we would be having a surprise.

All 5 of us driving in our car is not ever fun for anyone in the backseat.  If we have to spend any amount of time in that car, the “you are on my nerves” starts.  We were all prepared for an uncomfortable car ride, but the promise of a surprise made it doable.

We love this abandoned train station not far from our house.

We drove through some beautiful hills and valleys along the way to Marbella.

We made it to Hard Rock and had a great lunch… now on to the surprise!!

We were close to a Starbucks (with a very cool bed in the store next door), so we had to stop by for coffee and to plot our next stop.  Ron and I wanted to take the kids to a birds of prey sanctuary about 45 minutes away.  So we put it in the GPS and headed out.

He really wants this bed to be his… “but black, not white”

We found the bird sanctuary, but it wasn’t open.  The sanctuary is located on top of a mountain and the wind was blowing too much for the birds to fly.  Back to the GPS… and home.

We were able to spend the day together, but didn’t get to do what we had planned.  We drove nearly 5 hours round trip for Hard Rock Cafe.  While we do like their food, I’m not sure being crammed in the car for that long was worth it.

The good parts of the trip… These beautiful views of the Mediterranean Sea, the views of the hills around us, and the greatest little podcast.  We all listened to Mike Rowe’s podcast called The Way I Heard It.  They are less than 10 minutes and remind me of The Rest of the Story with Paul Harvey.

PCS: What Happens When We Move

This is the post I wrote here when we first found out where we were going for our next assignment.
It was first published on March 18, 2017.

What Happens When We Move

After months of waiting and waiting, we found out where we are going.  I’ll give you the location later, but if you just can’t wait go ahead and scroll down.  You must also be the people who have to skip ahead in a book to find out if someone gets killed or not.  That’s okay, even weird people need to be loved.

When we are waiting to find out about our assignments we practice a lot of patience.  Not because we are patient people, or because we are great at being patient, but just because we don’t have a choice.  I try to do everything I can to distract myself from what’s coming up.  I know that any day my husband could get an email and I’ll have to run to his office to find out where we will be moving next.

For some jobs in the military, there are only specific places and bases you can work, but as a chaplain, my husband can be used at just about any base.  So, our options are nearly unlimited.  It makes it difficult to narrow down where we might be going.  We thought we had an advantage this time because we know more about PCSing this time than we ever have before.  It turns out that our “knowledge” didn’t really have any effect on it at all.

Our oldest son, Price, turned 13 years old on Wednesday, so it was a pretty momentous day at our house.  We have a tradition where we go out to dinner as a family on the actual birthday of each family member, but he didn’t want to go out on his birthday because it was the same night as the monthly dorm dinner here on base.  The chapel sponsors it and it is a time for the dorm residents to get some home cooked food and hang out with other members of the squadron.  Our son loves to go and run around and play, so he wanted to spend his birthday at the dorm dinner.  I didn’t want to go, so Chyna and I went to meet some friends for our weekly dinner out at a nearby Venta (small community restaurant).  Ron took the boys and they headed out.

The day had been pretty normal up until then.  I went with a friend to Costco in Sevilla, and then did normal everyday things.  I have recently started getting my friend’s kids from school each day and doing homework with them.  They are moving next week back to the states, so this gives them a chance to get everything accomplished before they move, and it eliminates some of the homework issues because it’s easier to do homework with someone who isn’t your parent!

So, our family was in two different places.  Everyone was singing Happy Birthday to Price at the dorm dinner, and Chyna and I were enjoying time with friends at the Venta.  Ron checked his phone, like he’s been doing every 10 minutes since January, and he had an email with our assignment.  He didn’t look at it before calling me.

I answer the phone at the Venta and he asked if Chyna and I were done eating.  I knew immediately what was going on, so we jumped up and left.  Thankfully we were finished eating, so I paid and we drove the 8 minutes back to base excitedly talking about where we were going.  This is the first-time Chyna has been with us while we waited for an assignment, so it’s all brand new to her.  We went to the chapel to meet Ron and the boys and we all gathered around to see the assignment.  He opened the email and everyone leaned in to see.  It said Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota.

There are a couple of things that went through my mind immediately.  First, I saw Ellsworth and thought Elmondorf.  That is in Alaska, and I was freaking out for a split second before I saw SD after Ellsworth.  I am sure that Alaska is a great place and really beautiful, but y’all, I’m from Arkansas and the idea of being surrounded by that much snow freaks me out.  Bringing me to the only downside of this new assignment.  I have never driven on snowy roads.  I haven’t ever lived anywhere that had snow except Colorado Springs (our first assignment), and I had little babies so I just stayed home anytime it snowed.  This time I can’t do that because I have older kids and they want to be involved in stuff.  After my initial panic of thinking it was Alaska, I was just stunned.  I really thought that we had gone through the list of openings for his job and put all of those places on our “wish list”.  The kids wanted to know basic questions, like how far it was from Arkansas (18 hours), and how far it was from Maryland (23 hours).  We started googling where it was in South Dakota as we began to call our parents.  After telling them and then starting the process of telling all our friends, it began to sink in that I was going to have to learn how to deal with snow.  I could ignore it and hide from it in Colorado, but that won’t be an option in South Dakota.

Now that it’s been a couple of days, my initial surprise has worn off and all the research I’ve done has made me more excited than scared.  The children have all been looking for things they’re interested in doing and finding lots of options there to keep them busy.  The most pressing unknowns right now is where we will live and what Ron’s job will look like.  While we wait to hear about the job and the future of the assignment there, I’ve just been doing some South Dakota research.  The main things I’ve learned so far.

  1. The state capital is Pierre (pronounced peer) apparently the pronunciation part is a huge deal, and since I’ve grown up with people mispronouncing Arkansas (are-kansas), then I will do my best to always pronounce it correctly.
  2. We will learn so much history about the expansion of our country that I can’t even fathom all of it right now. I am a history nerd of all kinds, so I am the most excited about this prospect.  I will probably be super annoying to all the people around me as I continue to research the history of the area and the part our country’s expansion has played in the area.
  3. Everyone loves to be helpful and tell you what they know about an area, so the two most consistent things we hear are about the wind and the cold. We will just have to wait and see how accurate these warnings are.  I’m not really looking forward to finding out.

As we learn about this move and this new area, I will look back at my 10 pros and cons of moving in the military and remember number 10.  No matter where we are, if we are together then we are home. 

Mt. Moron

We live in southern Spain… about an hour and a half from the ocean.  We’ve lived here for a year and a half, and today was the first time we’ve climbed the little “mountain” next to the base.

We are approaching the mountain…
At the bottom… ready to go!
There were beautiful wild flowers growing out there…
The kids were all smiles when we started…
We haven’t made it very far, but that’s the place that processes the limestone that they excavate from the mountain.
It’s steep!! Steeper than I was expecting!!
We had to stop occasionally to catch our breath!
Beautiful View!
Getting higher and higher! Beautiful!

We stopped when we found a shady spot and ate our lunch… I’m so glad it hasn’t gotten too hot here yet!

It really was nice to see the city of Moron from the mountain.  You can see the castle ruins there in the distance.