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David

Football (Football Mom, Friday Night Lights, Football is a way of Life).  Football is taking up all my free time. The request for volunteers pour in on a daily basis. I had NO idea anything could be more intense than being a soccer mom.  Now I know.

The awesome part, well parts, is that we are building an all-new friendship circle and family. Even awesomer is that Cole absolutely loves it & is shining.  He is a new, much-less-surly, loveable, but smelly, boy.  Manboy.  He is huge!  Even without all that padding. Not that the padding is working 100%.

Saturdays game was a tough one. The opposing team traveled all the way from our base in Lakenheath,England, that’s 18 hours on a bus! Those poor boys could barely keep their eyes open at the team dinner Friday night.  Thankfully they seemed much more rested for the game.

Cole played first string that day.  First string varsity! I’m impressed, he may be a Junior but it’s also his first year playing football.  Cole was ecstatic.  He got to be in for every defensive play.  And he did good.  Maybe a little too good.

Near the end of the game Cole tackled a Lakenheath player, a good, clean tackle, but the other boy landed on top of one of our guys.  Just the wrong way.  The field was immediately quiet as coaches from both teams ran to his aid.  The football players on both teams took a knee and watched anxiously. Usually, after a minute or two, the injured player gets up and resumes play… or worst case scenario, hobbles back to the bench.  Not this time.

This time the on-scene krankenwagen (ambulance) was called in and we all held our breaths as they administered first aid.  Pretty soon it was obvious the boy was not getting up.  Fairly soon after that, his leg was splinted and the gurney brought out to the field.  My heart sank.

Thankfully the boy was moving & gave a wave as they wheeled him away.  Shortly thereafter play resumed as well.  Shortly after that Cole took a helmet hit to the thigh & hobbled off the field himself.

Happily, Cole was okay.  In fact, with his adrenaline pumping he was okay enough to go back in and join in the last handfuls of play.  The Panthers winning easily.

Cole & I checked with the Lakenheath team to find which hospital the injured player was in (the Stuttgart area has five different hospitals, each with their own strengths, people are taken to the best-for-their-injury hospital not the nearest one).  We know how terrible German hospital food is, and we wanted to bring him dinner and our apologies. It was a clean hit, but it never feels good to land someone in the hospital.  Luckily, he was being discharged with a bad sprain!

Still, his leg can’t have felt good.  His injury required a hospital trip. Cole came home with us, but after sitting in the car he had a very hard time standing on his leg and bearing any weight.  That boy is too big to carry!  Of course he asked, he even tried to hop on my back.  Like I can piggyback a moose!

Thank God for Dane. Dane ran and got a wheelchair and joyfully, erratically, wheeled Cole around the store.  I’m not sure who giggled more, Cole, Dane or all the people we passed.

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Last week, for the first time in 20 years together, Dave & I went away for five whole days without any children.  It was the 70th Anniversary of Operation Market Garden, and Dave jumped as part of the commemoration of the Battle of Arnhem.

On Saturday we woke, way too early before five in the morning, to heavy fog.  The planes were grounded and the planned jumps into Ginkel Heath were delayed.  Eventually only half the jumps were rescheduled and we found ourselves with the luxury of wandering through the events, displays and ceremonies.  The actual DZ (drop zone) was located in the middle of nowhere, Holland.  The jumps that day planned to re-act the same jumps 70 years earlier, in the exact same location. We parked our van as close as we could, then joined the crowd hiking in. Soon we were surrounded by not just walkers, but also hundreds of bike riders.

Halfway to the DZ I heard a low rumbling, steadily getting louder and deeper.  At first I looked up, expecting the planes to be rolling in despite the lingering mist, then I realized it was coming from the ground right as the first half-track (part tank, part truck) came careening around the corner aiming straight for me.

Thankfully Dave pulled me to the side, and after five minutes of watching the British retreat (they were due for different ceremonies over in Nijmegen), I remembered my camera and pulled it out to quickly snap some photo’s.  More half-tracks passed, a troop transport, medical vehicles, motorcycles and scout bikes (comically small motorcycles dropped with the parachutists), and jeeps.  Lots and lots of old, lovingly restored WWII era jeeps.

Walking through the woods of my childhood that day was surreal.  A mix of modern and an era before my time, as bikes rode past and jeeps kicked up dust, while half-tracks and troop transports had me dodging behind trees.  I could almost feel the fear, and the elation, of my forefathers as vehicle after vehicle passed by.

When we finally reached the DZ, looking surprisingly like the practice DZs back at Ft. Bragg, I was overwhelmed to see thousands of people gathered for the commemoration events (news reports put it at 40,000).  It was at least a 6 kilometer hike in, and yet it felt like half my country was there to honor the Americans, Poles, Brits, French, Italian, Belgian soldiers who fought to liberate us 70 years ago. Operation Market Garden

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Last Saturday was the big Army ball for the troops stationed in Stuttgart.  It was my first Army ball in almost 20 years.  I’d forgotten how much effort it takes to go dancing for a couple of hours.

For the last several months we’ve been walking, for our health, for the beautiful scenery in the Black Forest, and to look good in our ball clothes.  About a month ago we ordered all the clothes we’d need.  After 20 years, I needed a new ball gown, Dave had new dress blues but he needed a formal shirt and bow tie.  The last two weeks I had to find shoes and earrings (shhhhh, and undergarments).  Last week, finally, I had hair appointments, dress fittings, and a nail appointment.

Unfortunately my dress fittings were canceled and I spent Saturday morning, with Dave’s help, fitting my dress and shortening it myself.  We almost missed the ball itself! But we didn’t miss it, we were perhaps a little late, walking in right as the toasts were kicking off.  I’d forgotten about the toasts.  It’s a little like Catholic mass were various church members call out their prayers; and we all say:

“Lord, hear our prayer.”  Except, with the toasts, we all raise our glasses and take a drink.  More like frat boys at a party.  And, like frat boys, we all chimed in and sung the Army song. I rather love hearing the deep voices band together. I’d been dreading the speeches, but they were thoughtful, clear and even enjoyable.  And, as always, there was an empty table and chair:

The empty chair – for those who are not here The table in the place of honor – to show our appreciation for their service
The untouched drink – for the pleasures they cannot share
The black tablecloth – for the dark fate that has befallen them
The single rose – for our love the spilled
shaker of salt – for our tears.

And the traditional toast – drunk with water to represent sorrow and remembrance:
“To Absent Comrades.”

That part never gets easy, yet I am so thankful that our fallen soldiers are never forgotten and always a part of their brothers left behind.

I was grateful when it was finally time to sit and enjoy our meal. By then, with all the wine sipped during the toasts, I needed a little food in my stomach to balance the spinning in my head.  After dinner, with the band already playing, we stepped outside for some quick photo’s of us in our finery, before the dancing really washed away the finishing touches.  And that’s when I realized I wouldn’t be dancing.  I had done a great job in the months leading up to the ball.  I’d remembered everything; hair, nails, shoes, shorten the dress… what I hadn’t planned on was take-in the dress.  The last couple of walks had done enough good that my dress was not as snug as it should have been.  My beautiful, strapless, dress was determined to not stay in place.

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Peaceful, Easy Feeling

by Toiny Westberry 27 April 2013
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We have a now made it a daily ritual in our house to go out for a walk in the Black Forest.  I still (almost) pinch myself in awe that I actually live in the Black Forest.  That I can step outside my door, pass 3-4 houses and I’m amongst the trees.  It is an immediate […]

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Veronica

by Toiny Westberry 20 April 2013
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Ever have one of those weeks? I had one this week. I feel guilty saying it out loud.  None of it was bad for me, I even got a beautiful new-to-me car this week.  And yet…. it was a really hard week. Monday started off beautiful.  Not only has all the snow melted, but the sun […]

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WRX STI

by Toiny Westberry 16 March 2013
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I have to brag a minute, sometimes moms just can’t resist.  Besides, the other part of the story makes no sense without the brag tossed in.  That’s my story & I’m sticking to it. Soren, our oldest, graduated college in May.  After 5 long, disheartening, months, he started a new job in November.  Two months […]

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The Big, Red, Intimating, not-out-of-order Machine

by Toiny Westberry 6 January 2013
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Much like our other house, our new home requires a degree in engineering to run properly.  We’ve got four, big, oil tanks in our basement, encased behind a spill-proof enclosure.  Refills happen by big tanker (Dane can’t wait till it’s time!) through a special hole in the wall.  The big, red, intimating, not-out-of-order machine sucks […]

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Happy Halloween…. BOO!

by Toiny Westberry 31 October 2012
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Don’t scroll down if you are easily frightened or not a Halloween fan.  We have only one picture from our big Halloween party last Saturday, taken by little Dane, and it’s a doozy! We love Halloween.  We love dressing up, trick-or-treating, scary movie marathons,  and just being goofy one night a year. This year friends […]

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American Racers

by Toiny Westberry 13 October 2012
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Yesterday was take II of the “Amazing Race” for my husbands soldiers. We’ve been working hard for the last month scouting locations in Stuttgart, finding new & exciting tasks for the soldiers and coordinating clues. I have enormous respect for the real Amazing Race producers and production teams.  It is hard enough to pull this […]

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Klettergarten

by Toiny Westberry 18 August 2012
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Running theStudio is a full-time job, sometimes it’s more than a full-time job.  This week was one of those weeks.  I’m working at hard to bring some new products your way, add a little more to the store for your scrapping needs.  New always equals head-banging for me.  It also means my kids get left […]

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