Wednesday, February 29, 2012

My last this, my last that..

When I first started this blog, I was so excited about having my new husband back from war alive, moving to Germany, and sharing all my firsts in newlywed life, firsts with German foods, and events. Now I am winding down to my last weeks in Germany and experiencing all my "lasts".
  Yesterday I attended my last FRG meeting. It was all bitter sweet. We discussed the field training that is coming up, but Steve will not be going since we leave right in the middle of it. We discussed future fund raisers and OPSEC (Operational Security). We also discussed the Deployment that is happening in a few months as well. Knowing I won't be apart of any of it saddens me. FRG meetings and events is something I looked forward to every month. We also had a potluck. I made a new recipe to mark the end of one chapter in our lives and the beginning of a new one. I made Cheesy Broccoli Ravioli Bake. Steve made some of his homemade garlic spread and we also brought a loft of German bread.
The Conference Room, where our meetings were held. I will miss it, I already do.

 I also received March's issue of Military Spouse Magazine. My last issue that I will receive as an Army wife. I have been getting this magazine since I became an Army wife. Once again, it is all bitter sweet.  I am giving the rest of my subscription to my cousin Nicole, her life partner is in the Air Force Reserves. We will be staying with them in Delaware until we get our car from Germany and find an apartment.

  Once we are out of this Military lifestyle, I want a 360 change of my life.. and yes, that includes the magazines I read. I want to start focusing more on my weight loss (I have 60 pounds to lose), getting my degree, and starting my career in the animal care field. We will not have the Army to be paying our bills anymore and the money we make will no longer be "spending money". We need to grow up and get serious about what we are going to do with our lives now. We don't even know how to pay for a electricity bill or what the steps are in getting a contract for an apartment. We went straight from our parents home in to the Military lifestyle where everything is already done for us. We are about to go in to unknown territory called Civilian life.

ETS Update: We got Tubbles' and our flights straightened out. We are now flying with United Airlines for the whole trip. They have a whole different set of requirements for pets riding in the cabin so we are now on the search for a new cat kennel. Frustrating when I just bought a brand new pink Petmate kennel that is USDA approved. Going to check out a few German pet stores this weekend and see what we can find. Maybe the PX has what we are looking for.
   Since my cousin Nicole is picking us up from the Airport, we changed our destination to Philadelphia instead of Baltimore. Its closer for her to drive.
  I also discovered this handy thing called Google Street View. It has been so nice to be able to look up potential neighborhoods and homes. you can actually see the neighborhood as if your in a car driving around. Technology these days is truly amazing.
25 days until we leave.
Organization is key. When I PCSed over here to Germany, I had a binder full of papers that took me 20 minutes to find anything each time I had to look for something. Now, I know what I am doing.

Tips on ETSing with Pets.

The following list of tips is not my own. I got this from my Veterinarian. I found it extremely useful so I know someone might also in the future.

*Schedule a nonstop flight whenever possible, fly early in the day, when there is less chance for delays and avoid busy holiday and weekend travel.
*Fly major US airlines rather than the new cu-rate carriers where personnel may not have had animal care training. Some major airlines such as American Airlines send their cargo handlers to a class called "Pets are Customers Too".
*During hot weather fly early in the morning or in the evening to keep your pet out of the heat.
*Don't use an inadequate container. By Department of Agriculture standards, a proper carrier "must allow room for the animal to stand, sit breath, and rest comfortable." It should be easy to open; strong enough to withstand shipping hazards, and free of objects that could cause injury. A solid leak proof floor that is covered with litter or absorbent lining is essential. The container must have side rims, so other cargo cant be shoved against it, blocking ventilation, and it should be labeled "live animal" on the top and on one side. Also must have grips or handles for carrying.
*Don't give your pet a tranquilizer- unless the veterinarian prescribes one.
*Make sure your name, address, telephone number, and the pets destination are on top of the container.
*If you are sending your pet as checked baggage, verify that the baggage claim tag shows the correct destination and is securely attached, Also mark he container with Pets name.
*Before you board, ask the attendant at the boarding gate to phone the cargo area to make sure your pet is being placed on your flight.
*Carry a leash so you can walk your pet before and after flight. Remember that you are your pet's only advocate when you fly him or her by air. Take all necessary precautions and don't hesitate to question what you are being told by the airlines transporting your pet.

Flying Air Mobility Command (MAC)
The only pets allowed on MAC flights are dogs and cats. Shipping a pet is not one of your entitlements s you will need to pay for the shipping. Be sure to inform transportation to reserve a space for your pet shipment on each place. Your pet must fly on the same plane as you. Fees to sly your pet on MAC are as follows:

If the total weight of your pet and his.her carrier is

Between 1-70 pounds the cost is $90.00
Between 71-99 pounds is $170.00

If your pet and his/her carrier weigh 100 pounds or over, you can not ship it on MAC. Only two pets per family are allowed on MAC.

Flying Commercial Airlines with your pets:
Commercial airlines accept pets as cargo. Cost depends on weight and size of the animal and the container. Pet shippers frequently serve the US Military are:
Pet Air Shipping: 069-690 71915 or 71916
Gradlyn Kennels: 069-690 50081
Shipping your pet adds a few chores to your list of things to do when you move. A little planning can keep those chores and last minute problems to a minimum. As soon as you know when and where you are moving, start checking in to modes of travel for your pet and make reservations early.

30 Days Before Departure:
Schedule an appointment to take pet to Veterinarian. Although the required health certificate must be issued within 10 days of departure, that is enough time to treat some alignments that prevent certification. The Certificate verifies that an animal has no infectious diseases and has received any required vaccinations. This is also the time to check the status of your dog's annual rabies vaccination. If an inoculation is required, that shot must be administered 30 days before your departure, To prevent quarantine in the States.

15 Days Before Departure: 
Acquaint your pet with the carrier. Veterinarians and experienced pet owners suggest putting the animal's food, water, and toys inside the carrier to encourage the pet to enter and become familiar with the container. Flight-approved carriers priced between $29 and $150, depending on size, are available at most Exchanges. Purchase a carrier that allows room for the animal to stand and turn, Make an appointment at this time also to get your pet's health certificate.

Departure Day
The day of departure give the pet a light meal. Animals, just like people, are more likely to get an upset stomach if they travel after eating a big meal.

House Hunting with Your Pet
How will having a pet affect my finding a house or apartment? You may find that trying to locate housing is more difficult when you have a pet. Many landlords will not rent to pet owners. If they do rent to pet owners, a non-refundable deposit is required. This non-refundable deposit can amount to one or two months rent over and above the regular security deposit and first months rent. Realtors in the states describe three levels of landlords when it comes to renting to pet owners:
Those who will not accept any pets.
Those who will accept only pets under 20 lbs.
Those who will accept any pets (very rare).

If you have a pet, start your search for housing as soon as possible. Contact Army Community Services (ACS) for information on resources you can use to locate housing at your new duty station (if your PCSing). Once you know your arrival date, there is a centralized reservation system for Army temporary lodging worldwide. Check out to see if they accept pets and if no ask them to give you the name and number of a nearby kennel and make a reservation with them, The toll free numbers for the Army Central Reservation system are:
From Germany- 0130-81-7065
Stateside- 1-800-462-7691

What about my Pet that is not a cat or dog?
Some other pets can be imported, but under very strict US customs regulations.
Birds- Birds entering the US must be quarantined upon arrival for at least 30 days. You will need to reserve quarantine space in advance by submitting VS Form 17-23 (available at American consulates and embassies) with a deposit. The quarantine fees run about $80 per bird. There are restrictions on which bird that can enter the US and should check to make sure you can bring the bird back with you prior to obtaining one.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Life after War

Not all wounds from war are visible.
I wanted to sort of reflect on how much life has changed since Steve has been home. Its been 15 months since Steve came home from Afghanistan. He is an Airborne Infantryman (11Bravo1Papa). Every Deployment is different for every Military family. Some are rougher than others.
  On TV, all you see are those beautiful happy Homecomings where wives jump in to a soldiers arms after a year long Deployment. But you don't see what happens afterwards. You don't see that same soldier struggling with PTSD, never being able to sleep at night, struggling at work and trying to adjust to Garrison life. Their is no transition time, Infantry soldiers go from a Deployment of trying to stay alive to home life and going straight back in to going to work every day.
  You see a glimpse of Military life on TV shows such as Army wives and The Unit. You notice their "stress free" lives of living on a Military installation with free rent, cheap food, strong support system with the FRG (family Readiness group) and ACS (Army Community Services),  and so on. But its not all true. Military life is hard. Any Military wife will tell you what its really like. I'm not sure if I have really painted a accurate picture for you in this blog of my life while stationed in Europe, but it hasn't always been easy.

  Steve and I were High school sweethearts. If you have read this blog since the beginning, then you know we married when I was 19 and he was 20. A few days after we married, he left for his first duty stationed here in Germany. The paperwork to have me PCS (permanent Change of Station) over kept getting lost by the Army and we actually didn't see each other until after his first Deployment, two years later. Our newlywed life began in Germany at his Deployment Homecoming.  
  In this last 15 months, so much as changed. We both have changed. We are discovering each other for the first time, it seems. I mean, we spent the first two years of marriage apart. Living together, being a housewife, Steve always training, adjusting to living in Europe, Army life in general is all new to us and I think we finally see where we belong and fit in to each others worlds. It wasn't easy. But if you love someone who has been through War, you need to have extra patience. I didn't at first. I tried to stay in control of everything. I thought I was making his life easier. I wanted to be the perfect wife for him.
  We now have a bit more of a system of who does what. We fight a lot less, and appreciate each other a whole lot more. Divorce in the Military is sky rocketing, we are so blessed to have beat that. Sure, we have threatened each other with the big "D-word", but we know it was a phase that every couple goes through after a Deployment. I understand he is angered a lot more easily so I know when to drop it and let things go. He gets agitated easily over the littlest of things, and flies off the handle at the most unexpected times.
I am used to it but I do get aggravated when he yells at me like I am his daughter and thinks I need to "learn my lesson" when I don't do something the way he would have. I am 21 years old and an adult. One of his biggest fears is going back in to the civilian life and get a "normal job" and not be able to handle his short temper.
  He also never sleeps at night. He has been on sleeping pills and nothing has worked. A lot of nights, he stays up all night. He has a lot of nightmares as well. I am glad he comes to me for support and comfort. I love being the one he can open up to. He has talked with me a few times about what happened over there in Afghanistan, I can tell it hurts him. He has survivors guilt. I will keep his secrets forever.
  I have also noticed that he feels a gun is his only source of self defense. He feels vulnerable without one and planning on getting one as soon as we are in the States. He closes all the curtains when he comes home at night because he is so paranoid of people looking in. Its gotten better since he has been home. When he first got back from Deployment, he wouldn't even sit with his back to a window. He is also very jumpy to noises and big bangs really sets him off.
  I know he has PTSD, but he doesn't want to be tested for it. I know the Army has programs that will help him, but he refuses. He doesn't notice how he acts.
 I know he will make it in the civilian world, its just scary to think about after you have been through war and having the Military be the only thing you know. But he has me. I will always stay by my Hero's side.

 ETS Update: We are on the home stretch of our countdown. 26 days until we leave Germany. Tomorrow is my last FRG meeting as well. I have a few mixed emotions. Happy to get back to America and shop at big American malls, and huge grocery stores, start my internship at a Veterinary clinic, but also sad to leave the Military lifestyle behind. We don't like to think of it as a new beginning, but as a new chapter in our lives.
  We got our first house inspection done and got a good idea of what we need to clean and what we need to leave alone when the final inspection comes. Also have a HHG (household goods) pick up date, getting Army loan furniture again once our stuff is gone, and have our flight tickets. Going to be weird living out of a suitcase again. Everything that is not going on the plane with us is getting boxed up and shipped off. We are also shipping the car back to the States this week as well.
  The only snags we have came across so far is how Tubbles will be flying back to the States. We will be flying with Delta over the ocean and she had been approved to fly in the cabin with us during that flight. Then we have a layover in New York. From New York to Baltimore Maryland, we are flying with CanadAir. This joke of a airline is saying they Tubbles has to be in a way too small carrier to be in the cabin with us. We really don't want to put her under the plane but the size of carrier they want her in seems non-existent. I have looked online and at pet stores here in Germany.  Steve is going to talk to SATO today to see if we can switch airlines from New York to Baltimore. Maybe we can stay with Delta somehow or switch to a bigger plane so the kennel size requirements are a bit more laid back. well I will keep feeding you updates as we maneuver our way out of Germany. This process is all so exciting.
  Since we haven't heard from the job Steve was trying to get in Pennsylvania, we are going to be staying with my cousin Nicole in Delaware. There, we are going to maybe start looking in to apartments and maybe even have that be our new home. Philadelphia is really close to her so I am excited to live next to a big city. The largest city I have ever lived in was Spokane Washington when I lived with my Mom during Steve's deployment, which is somewhat small.  Very eager to shop at a huge mall. Never have before.  That's our plan unless some other job offer for Steve pops up.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

My Valentine

 Happy Valentines Day! We woke up this morning to a Winter wonder land. I am pretty sure this is the first time I have seen snow on Valentines day. Even last year, the snow was gone by now. Germany sure has some crazy weather. Blizzard one minute and summer day the next.
View of Oak Street from our balcony.
 When Steve came home from work, he got changed in to his "dress up"clothes and presented me like this..
How would YOU like to have this blocking your only exit of the house? He has the KY and everything.  Baha! We had a lot fun with this photo. But the sweet part is he brought me home a box of chocolates and a card.. a sweet written card. I don't think you understand. This is the first card he has ever given me. EVER! I will cherish it forever.

While Steve was at work, I had fun with Tubbles Valentines photo. She is in her "Kissing Booth".
At first she was excited, then no one came, starting to think it was a bad idea, then "screw this"!
Since we are so close to ETSing and trying to scrounge every penny, we made the decision to not buy anything real crazy because we have so much to pay for and already knee deep with this move. So we went out to dinner.
We went to the Delphi Greek restaurant. It is so pretty inside. They were playing some high energy Greek music.
Inside Delphi
 Today on AFN (Armed Forces Network) the radio program on Military installations, they were teaching the listeners how to speak a few German words. So when we went to the restaurant, I was going to impress Steve with my new knowledge of how to say Chicken in German. I said "hee haw" as I heard it on the radio, when really it was pronounced Hähnchen. Wow, I sure looked like an idiot. But it gave us something to laugh about the rest of the night. I haven't laughed that hard in a long time. It was well needed.
Steve's wine glass where he pours his own wine out of a pot.

Appetizers. Mine-baked veggies with cheese. Steve's-cheese stuffed eggplant

main course. mine-Greek salad with goat cheese. Steve's- Sword fish with potatoes.

My Valentine and I after dinner

Monday, February 13, 2012

ETS Checklist

Tschüss, Deutschland (Goodbye, Germany)

ETS: Expiration of Time and Service. When a service member leaves the Military and returns to civilian life.

Steve got to have a sit-down with his Commander and was notified that he is no longer needed since he has no desire to reenlist and is not going to deploy with the unit in a few months. We are leaving Germany and the Army lifestyle in ...drum roll please... 6 WEEKS! Yep. I just went from bored to SUPER BUSY. Steve was in the field when he talked with his commander and called me with this news.. He is home now and done with his last field training! No more separations!
Finally home!
  Now I start compiling my ETS Checklist. Here is one I pulled off the Internet for the Soldiers aspect. It goes all the way to a year out from ETS. He is going to have to get this done in 6 weeks. YIKES! I couldn't find one that was for the wives so I'll show you the one I made. It includes everything that needs to be done that is not Army related, so to speak. I am just posting it so if any Military family here in Germany needs it in a future, here is a good idea of where to start when you ETS.

 Army Soldier ETS Checklist-

-Schedule first ACAP appointment (Usually it's the Tap workshop) (mandatory)
-Schedule VA benefits brief (usually mandatory)
-Schedule any other ACAP class offered (lots of great info and gets you out of work)
-Schedule appointments for any medical conditions you have (if it hurts get it documented, you may get money for it!)
-Schedule dental appointment (get those ugly teeth pulled!)

6 MONTHS - 3 Months ETS Date
-Schedule Phase 1 physical
--Then schedule your phase 2 physical (no more PT!)
-Schedule transitions brief (call the transition office, very important! This is where you get your orders!)
-Put in for your terminal leave (Depending on unit SOP you might need your orders first)
-- Put in CIF memorandum to clear it early (Get this from your company orderly room)
- If filing for disability, request your medical paperwork usually at the hospital. (Get this down before your 3 month mark, they'll fast track your paperwork)
--Once you have your medical paperwork take it to the VA office so they can look it over
--Then submit it to the VA

You should receive your clearing papers around 10 business days before you start terminal leave or if you're not taking terminal leave 10 business days before your ETS date.

Do note that every unit and post does things their own way (where is the uniformity?) but this guide should steer most people in the right direction. If you are filing for disability try to do that as soon as you can, it is the most time consuming part of this process.

Please Pass this guide along to other soldiers can benefit from this hard fought knowledge and enjoy the ETS process and eventually the civilian life. Woot!.

The Army wives ETS checklist-
Since we are six weeks out.. I will give you my exact list. Usually you start at maybe three months out but you can get it done in six weeks no problem. Also note that this is OUR checklist. Adding kids, dogs, different branch of service, PCSing instead of ETSing, moving TO Germany instead of from, ect will change what you need to be doing drastically. But if you happen to be in same position we are in (LEAVING Germany, ETSing out of the Army with one cat) then by all means, here is great check list for your family.

Six Weeks from ETS:
-Google "Plan My Move". Its a DOD run program that tells you exactly what you need to be doing to have a smooth move. Great site to help with everything and tells you exactly what you should be doing for each day.
-Buy USDA approved crate for your pet to fly overseas in. If you don't know what the standards are. Just Google "USDA requirements for pets flying overseas" or something of that nature. Or just call the airline you are flying over with. That's what I did and they knew everything.
-Start selling everything you don't want and just collects dust especially 220V appliances since you can't use them in America.. (so far we have made over the amount of the cost of Tubble's plane ticket, all by selling our "junk").
-Notify Army housing (if you live on post) or your landlord that your are moving in such amount of time.
-Save up as much money as you can. Try to shoot for $4,000. by the time you leave.
-Schedule HHG (household Goods) to be picked up and shipped back to the States
-Ship your car back to the States (if you want it there waiting for you when you get there).
-Try to pay off your Military star card as soon as possible.
-Get medical and dental checkups.
-Arrange transfer of Medical records to new physician. 

Three weeks from ETS:
-Once you have order in hand, schedule flight for family and pets through SATO.
-Change all mailing addresses (magazines, your Bank, your college, credit card companies, Associations, friends and family) Once you know what city you will move to but still don't have a home set up, just open a PO Box.
-Schedule pet's Vet appointment to get health certificate.
-Schedule to have German phone and internet shut off.

10 days from ETS:
-Do a Change of Address at your CMR (Army Community Mail Room) so they will start to redirect your mail on the date you specify.
-Call airline to verify flight and pet's flight.
-Have Military Star Card paid off and canceled
-Get Health Certificate from Vet. Also ask about a tranquilizer so they are not stressed on flight. (Read my experience of PCSing to Germany here. I wished I had given Tubbles a pill but didn't. Won't make that mistake again).
-Pick up pet's medical records for Vet.
-Box up and ship what you will need right away to your new address. (College text books, clothes, animal food dishes, ect)
-Exchange all Euro at the PX so your not stuck with it in America and have a hard time finding a place to exchange it at.

Moving Day/HHG pickup day:
-IMPORTANT! The night before the movers come, pack up your suite cases, important documents (passport, orders, pet health certificate, ect) and put it in a corner of the house. If its not coming on the plane with you, then it needs to be shipped off with the movers.
-Monitor the movers, they arn't all trustworthy.
-Set out lunch for them, maybe a pizza and drinks. If you take care of them, better chances of them taking care of your stuff.

Steve and I went to a Smooth Move class provided by ACS (Army Community Services) and got a whole stack of books that are full of lists, tips ect that help you have an easier transition. We added those and a few other things that is good to know to our lists above. We finally have an idea of what we are supposed to be doing right now to prepare for our move. Got to love the Army and their lists. Makes everything so much easier.
all the book, lists, and tips that we got from the Smooth Move class

On a side note, I read this today and I haven't laughed so hard all week. Its the Dog Diary Vs. Cat Diary. Click here for a laugh.

A trip to the Veterinarian

Since we have the big ETS right around the corner, the number one thing that we were worried about not getting done in time is Tubble's rabies shot and health certificate. By law, she has to be up to date with her rabies 30 days prior to flying. I wasn't sure if she had gotten it yet but I found out that she had at Fairchild Air Force Base Vet clinic when we lived in Spokane. So, she is set to fly. All we have to do now is have her taken in to the Vet once we are 10 days prior to flying to get her Health Certificate.
  Yesterday we went to the Vet to get her her rabies shot (then found out she already had her 3 year shot) and so I decided to get her ears checked. She has been scratching them a lot and it has been worrying me. They did a swab and checked to see if they were mites and I guess it was just dirt. The whole vet visit was $17.00! That is probably the cheapest Veterinary bill I have ever paid. Got to love Military Veterinary clinics.

The next worry on our list is where the heck we are moving to. We had three options I listed on the "whats next??" post. We have decided that joining the National Guard/Reserves is not what we want to do..and staying active duty is for sure a no-go. We are getting out of the Military 100%.  So that eliminates one option. We have also come to the conclusion that Steve will not be attending Penn State University. He is more interested in getting out of the Military and getting a job. He is still planning on attending school at maybe a local college or local university of where ever he finds a job at but it will be part time, he is thinking maybe night school or something.
  He isn't sure Nursing is right for him.. but still leaning towards it. Second guessing your career is normal. You all know I sure did. I have many posts about maybe switching my major. In the end I went with what my heart was telling me and I know that is what Steve will do as well. I mean, its your CAREER! That's a big decision.
  At this moment, we are waiting for a reply back from a job that Steve is trying to get. Its located in Canonsburg Pennsylvania. Once we know that he as the job, we are going to send HHG and the car. If he doesn't get the job, then we are going to send the HHG and car to where my cousin Nicole lives. We are wanting to maybe live close to her. We want to live next to a big city and she lives next to Philadelphia. Living next to family and a big city would be perfect for us. Nicole is more like a sister than a cousin to me. If Steve did end up getting the job in Canonsburg, we would live over six hours away from her. I am torn between wanting him to get the job and him not getting the job. That's so horrible of me, I know.  I also want to live closer to my Mom in Spokane Washington. I am just so torn between it all. I have been in Germany for so long and if we move to Pennsylvania, who knows when I would be able to make a trip to Spokane again. Steve says maybe a few months after we get to where ever we are going, I sure hope so. I just miss my Mom so much.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Whats in my handbag

I admit it. I am a Youtub-er. I love it. We have a Youtube full of home videos, its Their is a big thing on there of people showing what they have in their handbags, college book bags, ect. I thought it was really interesting so I thought of doing one. Only I don't Vlog (video blog).. I just have a regular blog right here. So, here is my version of "whats in my handbag".
I have a Signature Coach Carly handbag
A glimpse inside. Burgundy lining. Everything nice and organized. That vinyl  bag is what holds my random items.

Inside my matching wallet, I have both dollars and euro (since we are stationed in Germany and its good to keep cash on hand). Also keeps my student ID card (I blacked out my student ID number for security purposes), AAFES subway card (my favorite fast food place), Shoppette movie rental card, German drivers license, Papperts coffee card (favorite German coffee shop), and Washington drivers license.

My Coach ID holder. I keep my Military ID and debit card in it (blacked out also, you can never be to careful). I use these two cards the most so I keep them easily accessible.(you have you have your Military ID to shop at the Commissary, PX, check your mail, get gas, rent a movie, rent a library book, pay your internet/cell bill, take your animal to the vet, go to the doctors, and so on).. If your in the Military or a Military spouse, you are no one without your ID card.

Photo of Tubbles in the photo slot of my Coach ID holder

random stuff I need throughout the day. -pens, daily planner,  feline print coin purse, German cell phone, and a meal bar since I have a blood sugar thing and will pass out if I skip a meal.