Sunday, January 23, 2011

I'm fine. Promise.

 I do miss Steven very much. Very much.

But, I just want to take this opportunity to say that my life does not "suck." I rather enjoy it, even under this circumstance.

 I also want to take this opportunity to say that I do not hate military life. I know a lot of people who do. I feel really blessed that Steven and I have had such a good experience so far. So, I got that goin' for me...which is nice :). But then again I'm easily impressed/amused. I can be pretty happy just about anywhere, (remember when we lived in a hotel for four months?).

But the time has come: deployment/going "down range,"/"Playing in the sandbox"(Don't use that last one--it's kind of offensive). Again, don't cry for me Argentina. Really, don't. From the time Steven and I started dating, (about five years ago) I have known he was going to be in the military. I have had all these years to mentally understand that this would eventually happen--so, what I'm trying to say is: "This is not a shock," (although I was surprised they sent him so soon). True, I had a good four years of college to put off really thinking about it--but it was always "there," like a big inevitable elephant in the room. Don't get me wrong, when he left I threw a pretty big pity party for myself (sorry you couldn't make it). It's not fun. I don't like it. I do know that there is reason for this though. God has put this here, (and all the future deployments) for a very specific, and very perfect purpose. While I have no idea what that purpose is yet, I know it's there and that everything is exactly as it should be. All I know is that I do not have the luxury to fall to pieces (remember that baby that's coming in two weeks?) and fortunately, I don't feel like I'm going to. Plus, sitting around feeling sorry for myself, (which, I have to say--usually feels so good) won't help anyone.

Here's the baby that's "supposed" to come in two weeks. Yeah right.

It's going to take some getting used to. The last seven or eight months have been virtually responsibility free for me. And that's for a lot of reasons, but one of the main reasons is that Steven was the only person with any authority to get us, "squared away" (Look! An Army expression!) so he had to handle almost everything. Now that he is gone, and now that I have some authority, I'll have to adjust to taking care of things myself. Fortunately Steven organized a lot of affairs before he left.

I can't stress enough that this situation could be so much worse. So much worse on a million different levels. Please don't feel sorry me, (I'm kinda gettin' that vibe from some of you). I'm a big girl. And in those situations where I'm not feeling so "grown up" I have a lot of support from both the military community, and my new German family. A lot of people experience deployment for 12 to 15 months, (sometimes even longer) We are so lucky that this, (our first deployment) is such a short deployment. We are also lucky to being living in such a fun and beautiful place, and to have a baby coming, and to have such wonderful people around us, and that we are being taken care of by the Army, and our family, and our new friends. I say these things because I know you might be worried, but don't worry for me. I am flattered when some of friends use the words, "brave" or "strong" to describe me right now, and I understand some of that are just warm words of encouragement, which I appreciate a lot. But really you would do the same thing in my situation. Because you'd have to.

I keep myself busy. I do a lot of cleaning. I took a toothbrush to all the nooks and crannies in the car yesterday. I also took all the hooks and handles off the kitchen drawers and cleaned them, (I don't know, they looked dirty). I have also now found a specific place for every item in the home. There are no junk drawers. Everything has a label. There are also no loose pieces of paper, or documents, or magazines. Everything has a file. I also do a lot of re-arranging of the furniture, and pictures on the walls. But then, I have nothing else going on--so why wouldn't I do these things?

I also try to fill my time with some social interaction, (which is hard for me--I'm relatively shy in new places, and with new people--it takes some effort on my part). Last week I went to a pre-natal class offered on base by the ACS (Army Community Service) that I thought was going to discuss labor and delivery. Unfortunately the class is actually a series of classes that begin in January and last nine months. SO, everyone in there was pretty much in their first/second trimester, and the topic of discussion was essentially: eat healthy and exercise. Groundbreaking stuff really. I also went to church with a new friend (someone who is actually close to my age for a change!), and had lunch with the Chaplain and his family, and two other wives whose husbands are deployed. I also went to a German Bridal Show in Vilseck with my landlord, (no one is getting married--it was just for fun).

Like I said--don't worry for me.

You CAN worry/think about/and pray for Steven! I'd appreciate that.

Steven is headed to the Kabul province of Afghanistan, (oh man I hope that's right. How embarrassing if it weren't!). He will be able to Skype you, and Facebook you, as long as he has internet (which he should). I'm not sure what his forwarding address is over there, but as soon as I know, I'll let you know and give it to you if you'd like it. This is a tiny baby deployment--five/six months--so you may not be able to send giant "care" packages. You'd probably have to send one tomorrow if you want him to receive it on time. But I'll let you know. I'm not sure what his "job" will be yet. He'll find out once he gets settled in there. Steven's branch in the Army is "Quartermaster," better known as "Supplies and Logistics." So, think tanks, and gas, and water, and guns, and food, and supplies, etc. So whatever he does, will have something to do with that.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Willkommen Home!!

This one really is long.
Don't read all of it. Scroll to the bottom and read the Cliff's Notes style synopsis.

FINALLY, the Germans came to hook up our internet and telephone. I don't know what they have been doing these past four weeks. I hope it was REALLY important though. Can I just say, that the last month or so has been a series of, "adjustments." Every day we live here, it becomes more and more clear that we are not vacationing. Don't get me wrong, I like it here so far. I really do. It's pretty neat. But there are a lot of things that make living here seem a little like stepping back in time 10 or 20 years, and maybe that's not such a bad thing. Then there are some things that are simply irritating. Like the following:

1. Everything closes at a reasonable hour. What the heck!?! I don't know of anything open 24 hours a day, (Wal Mart where are you?!) and NOTHING is open on Sunday. Now granted if you take yourself to a larger city, there are some exceptions. Some.

2. The squeaky wheel does not get the grease--it gets ignored.  In America--we are a culture all about getting things as quickly, and cheaply as possible. We also insist on variety, instant gratification, and 24 hour customer service. None of which I have run into here in Germany. They sort of have this, "Hey--we'll get to you when we get to you" attitude, or "you'll pay/buy here and you'll like it." If we were at home we'd simply take our business elsewhere...hence the 4 miserable weeks we waited for TKS to get us internet and phone service. We even paid a deposit, and bought this "necessary equipment." A crying shame.

3. The language barrier. I find it very, VERY comical that Germans think all Germans speak English. If I had a Euro for every time a German said, "Ahh yes, but you a so lucky. Everyone here speaks English!" We'd be so rich. The truth is, like I've mentioned before, many Germans speak some English. The problem is, they don't often get to practice that English. So their, "English" is severely limited. But how would they know that? I do however, give them kudos for the little English they do speak--that's a lot more than can be said for Americans.

This transformer runs our microwave, coffee pot and toaster
but NOTHING ELSE--or it would blow a fuse in the kitchen. 
4. Voltage. We did not see this coming. I knew that American "plugs" would not fit in European outlets. I knew this. What I did not understand, is that not only will they not fit in European outlets, Europeans use a different voltage of electricity, (Why can't we all just use the same?) I bought an adaptor, (the little, "hat" that the American plug wears) and a converter (the little "brain" the hat needs for the European outlet) at Target. I thought all I would have to do is plug anything I had in to one of these babies and boom--it's alive! Not so. Not even sort of so. Word to the wise, those "adaptor/convertors" work for low wattage, short duration use items for TRAVELING. So, it's helpful for your electric razor, your cell phone charger, and your hair dryer (except when I plugged my hair dryer in everything started to smell like maybe it's really not that helpful). But what about your microwave? Your coffee pot? Your DVD player? Your Television? So we had to buy what are called, "transformers" and they are not cheap....whoa they are not cheap. That cut into our cool new car budget. Oh well.

5. You better know how to drive a standard. You better know. Speaking of our new car, we did get one--it's an "Opel" a German car. (Side note: Our landlord, who is simply amazing, and I will talk about later, has a brother who owns a car lot. So because of her, and obvious Providence, we did not get swindled by a German car salesman). We figure, we'll drive it around here for the next three years and sell it back to the Germans. And believe it or not it actually happens to be an automatic transmission! Automatics are unicorn level rarity around here people! It's bigger than the Ford Focus, and that was all that mattered. But Germans drive tiny cars. We could have gone even bigger---but not if we wanted to drive the car, or park the car, or use the car...etc.

6. Driving here is scarier. Remember when I said that driving on the Autobahn was no big deal? I'm sorry. That was out of line. And not true. You see, when I said that, I was on a big big bus. Driving safely at 60 kph in the slowest of slow lanes. Recently, Steven and I took the rental car we had to IKEA, (thank the Lord for IKEA by the way) and the we took the autobahn. The Autobahn, although similar in style and theory to American highways, is much more frightening. Should you actually get the courage to pass someone, you better hope you pass them before someone driving up behind you at bazillion kph, smashes into you. The speed here in Germany is simply faster everywhere. It takes awhile to get used to. I did pass my drivers test I can check that off the list. And now I've even done some driving without Steven, so I'm feeling a lot more confident about being here and functioning normally. My next goal is to take on the Autobahn alone. Don't count on the autobahn making your travel ten times faster. There is not an "Autobahn" entrance in every city, the way there is a highway on-ramp in every city in American. The nearest Autobahn entrance to us, is about 30 miles away. Also, there are NO signs. Instead there is a simple, "Right of way" rule. It sounds simple at first: "Right before left at an intersection or junction, UNLESS otherwise posted." I promise you this is trickier than it sounds, because we are used to coming up on stop signs, at perfectly manicured and linear four-way stops--not here. And you better know who has the right of would be a shame to be wrong, when a BMW is barreling towards you at 100 kph or more.

7. They don't like closets, cabinets, or shelves. So we did find a really great place to live. And honestly, that's been the best part so far. The place is adorable, and we live right above the world's best landlords. I'm not kidding. I'm not saying that it's a contest--who has the better landlord---but if it were.....
Anyway, the husband is the mayor of Vilseck, (no big deal) and his wife, (who speaks perfect english and might be one of the top ten nicest people I've ever met), used to be a nurse (for labor and delivery!!) but now stays home. They have two kids, a 17 year old boy and a 14 year old girl--and they are very sweet. They constantly come to check on us, and invite us to do things. They also bring us lots of treats, and warmly refer to us as their "older children." So, we won the lottery when it comes to living places. (Side note: There aren't a lot of "apartment complexes" in Germany. Most of the little Gingerbread houses I mentioned are in fact duplexes. There is a front door that leads to a shared entry that houses a staircase, where one family lives on the lower level, and the another lives on the second floor--we live on the second floor). However, we did not anticipate that there would be no closets, cabinets, or shelves. Apparently that's just how it is here. But we are used to lots of storage by means of closets. If anyone has ever been inside Charleston Apartments in Norman, (don't make a special trip if you haven't) you know that there is at least one redeeming quality about the complex: MASSIVE closets! MASSIVE. So, we were not prepared when we moved in. And that's why we went to IKEA. And IKEA saved the day...and also cut into the cool new car budget. Oh well.

8. Recycling. It's no secret that Europeans are more into recycling than we are. Technically we don't HAVE to recycle here, (we do have to separate paper from our regular trash--but that's the extent). I'm all for recycling. Don't get me wrong. But I'm far far far, from being "green" for ANY noble or admirable reason. In reality, I simply have a plastic pet peeve. I don't know what it is. I like to use reusable shopping bags, because I hate all the rustling plastic.I can't stand all the plastic Wal Mart sacks, or the even the plastic containers that food comes in. I like to take cheese, or nuts, or coffee grounds, and transfer them from their icky plastic to a prettier, more counter top worthy container. I don't even put my fresh fruit or veggies in those plastic baggies the supermarket offers you. And when I opted for cloth diapering 75% of my reasoning was because I didn't want a bunch of plastic diaper packages lying around, (they are ugly). Anyway, I'm glad I made that choice before we moved here. I have no idea WHERE I would throw those disposable diapers away at? The photo above is our "dumpster." All I know, is it is the same size as the kitchen trash can at my mom's house. So, there some "scaling" for ya.

The garbage man comes to get it twice a month......

You DO have to separate out paper, which goes in a larger trashcan (the somewhat bigger green trashcan in the picture above)-- and this container is only picked up once a month:

I VERY quickly realized that we do not have room to be wasteful. If I throw out leftovers, simply because we don't feel like eating them--they quickly smell up the entire kitchen, as we wait two weeks for our tiny outdoor dumpster to be  taken. I also quickly realized, that plastic and aluminum were taking up precious space in the now we are full on recycling. But I have to say---I mostly just feel like we have a bunch of really organized, well rinsed, garbage lying around. AND WE STILL are cutting it close with the dumpster space. So I've been researching composting for apartments. But after that, I don't know what to do. Oh well.

I'll post some pictures as soon as I take some.

Now for some FAQ

1. "Did you watch a lot of television while you didn't have Facebook?" No. I think we might be off television. We didn't even order it for the apartment. Why you ask? Because it's not like they have American cable here...this is Germany...they are have American shows.....that are in German. We could have gone with what they have here called the Armed Forces Network. And it is AWFUL. It's a hodge podge of american shows, mostly re-runs, mostly completely random, and in snip its. For instance, You might catch an hour of the Today show, airing a day late, at 4:00 p.m. Followed by a year old episode of Oprah. You just never know what you're going to see, or when you're going to see it---but it's still, forget it. I'll watch movies.

2. Is Steven working yet? No. His daily job consists of preparing for deployment. And that includes preparing "his family" for his departure. So that's a never ending check list of, getting his personal affairs in order, (some training, medical stuff, equipment, and so on) getting bank accounts transferred, getting housing set up, getting Power of Attorney documents, and Wills in order, getting all the new and proper insurance and car registrations, etc. etc. etc. Exhausting.

3. When will Steven deploy? Next week. Surprise! It was a surprise to us to. I really thought, "There is NO WAY they are going to deploy him." But they did. He will leave January 12, and return sometime in June or July. In all honesty, this situation really is the lesser of two evils. At first I thought, "Wow...this is the first time in my whole life that my 'worst case scenario' is actually happening." But now that I think about it, it's a REALLY short deployment, (Steven is joining his new unit, who have been deployed since last March) Most people go for 12 to 15 months, so I have nothing to complain about here. And, this unit wont deploy again for another two years at least. Plus, Steven is an officer, who just got in the Army. He NEEDS that deployment experience. Even if it is only six months, that's better than attempting to lead people, who already have a chip on their shoulder about you, who just came home from a year in Afghanistan. See what I mean now?

4. Will he be here for the birth of the baby? No. But thank goodness for Skype, right!?

5. What will you do without Steven? Keep on Keepin' on, I suppose. I'll have to, wont I. Don't cry for me Argentina. I'll be fine. I've got quite a bit of support here, which is good. I've made a few friends, (Hey Rebecca--here's a shout out!)

6.  Have you seen your doctor yet? YES! And she is pretty great. She wont be delivering the baby though, so I'm not really worried about establishing any type of relationship with her. A midwife will be delivering the baby, and I'll meet her the day of the delivery, (which hopefully will not be before February 10---I do not want an early baby for a multitude of reasons).

7. Do you know where you are having the baby? Yes! At St. Anna's hospital in Sulzbach, which is about 15  minutes from Vilseck. I took a tour a few weeks ago, and they are very much exactly what I wanted, and seem to be a perfect fit for me and my "birth plan" ;).  And, I get to call ALL of the shots.Which is great, because I don't like to be bossed around. So I got that goin' for me...which is nice. :)

8. Do you have everything you need for the baby? Yes! Well, almost. Now I'm just waiting on things to arrive. I've just been ordering everything off Amazon. The downside is it takes awhile to get here sometimes, but they DO ship to APO addresses! So it's great because the PX on base (remember the PX is essentially Wal Mart) has a relatively limited selection of anything.

9. How do we reach you? You can mail us a letter to our address in Germany:

Steven & Blayne Royse
Kettelerstr. 13
92249 Vilseck

OR to our APO address:

Steven & Blayne Royse
CMR 411 BOX 6237
APO AE 09112

If you were going to mail a package of some sort, you need to use the APO address. Whenever you ship something to an APO address, it's considered shipping to a regular, American post office, so you wont pay extra because your shipping internationally.

And as soon as I figure out our home phone number, I'll let you know. But of course there is always Facebook or Skype. And don't forget the 7 hour time difference--if you can't sleep at 4:00 a.m., you can just call--cause it will already be noon here. I'm sure I'll be making lunch or something. ;)

So In conclusion: TKS has hooked up our internet, and I'll get you our phone number as soon I as figure out what it is. We can call you for free anytime though! Yay! It's been a little rocky adjusting to living here, but all in all it's going very well, and we really love our new place. Steven is deploying January 12, so please pray for his safety--I would appreciate it. He'll be coming back in June/July though, and that is tremendous blessing.