You are here: Home » Blog » Personal Notes » David


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.

Be the first to comment ... Join the conversation!

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 break from reality, incredibly peaceful, mind-blowingly beautiful and such a joy.

Dave & I are both working on improving our health.  Stronger bodies means we will be able to hold off illness & pain, such as his Tietze Syndrome flare-ups.  But these daily walks are also improving our  marriage bond, and our family bond.  Dane especially loves racing through the outdoors.  The added benefit for us is not just quality time with him, but also a tired Dino, at an earlier hour.  Score!

Thursday was particularly beautiful, and I’d remembered my camera and memory card. It was hard to not stop every 2-feet and hold a photo shoot of the little details in the forest (mushrooms! road markers from 1700! old bridges! ponies & buggies!).  I had to force myself to focus on walking at a good pace, enjoying with my eyes, ears & nose and spending time with my family.  A simple walk is a very complicated, multi-faceted task.

Twenty minutes from home,  Dave and I got very excited as we approached some natural springs.  The smell in the air changed, the forest floor got softer, mossier, and the foliage thicker.  Chatting about how the villages must have depended on this spring for running, fresh water, how life must have been even 100 years ago, we temporarily lost sight of Dane.  I realized it was really quiet, except for our voices, and quickly looked around, slightly panicked, for my youngest.  I spotted him just around a bend in our path, not even 100 yards back, quietly sitting on the forest floor, meditating.  It’s something he picked up from one of his favorite cartoons.  How could I get mad at him for dropping out of sight when our forest is this peaceful?  How can I get mad at him for taking full advantage of his surroundings to just be?


Be the first to comment ... Join the conversation!

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 came out, it warmed up to 70, and tulips sprung up in my yard. I love tulips! The icing on the cake was a surprise visit from one of my favorite cousins and her husband.  Complete with amazingly delicious vlaai’s fresh from their bakery in Holland.  Vlaai is a regional type of pie, that’s not really pie.  If you are ever in Holland, in the Southern area around Maastricht, try it!

By bedtime I could tell Dave, my husband was in pain. He has Tietze Syndrome, a very painful inflammation & swelling of the cartilage in between the ribs.  Symptoms mimic a heart attack, and are therefore not only painful but very scary.  By morning, with pain radiating down his arm & into his neck, we knew it was hospital time. It was our first time in “our” new hospital since our move.  It did not go smooth.  None of the emergency staff had heard of Tietze Syndrome, and none spoke English.  While my German is pretty good for daily life, in a medical situation I struggle.  To make matters even worse our patient liaison services have been reduced and we were on our own.

Dave was finally admitted, with the correct treatment, but struggles continued with the hospital staff implementing it.  Thankfully Wednesday morning we finally had a patient liaison and everything went smooth from there.  With communication issues solved, the proper treatment fully implemented, Dave was well on the way to recovery.  To see his color return, his smile return, was a huge relief.

I have been without a car since James died (Goodbye Sweet James).  While my village is small and my legs work well, it is a struggle to do all the grocery shopping and child shuffling without a car.  We stumbled upon a PCS’ing fellow soldier (PCS – permanent change of station) anxious to sell her car several weeks ago.  This past Thursday Dave was going to negotiate the sale.  With Dave in the hospital, that fell to me. Not only have I never bought/sold a vehicle, I haven’t done it in Germany, with the army, with double the paperwork.

Thursday morning I got the kids off to school, except Dane who was really not liking Daddy in the hospital, got to hospital in time for morning rounds and breakfast with Dave, then to the banks for money, and to the car-buying appointment with five minutes to spare. It did not go well. I had forgotten to transfer insurance papers to the registration office.  Thankfully a wonderfully kind employee, helped me straighten things out, and bought me an extra day to complete all the paperwork.  Even better?  Dave called and his doctor was releasing him Thursday evening!

After three hours, I finally went outside to meet our new-to-us car: a beautiful, blue 2000 Volkswagen multivan.  I have always wanted a blue car. Sarah, the previous owner, was sad to say goodbye.  She asked for last picture of Veronica with my kids, for her kids, so they could see Veronica was going to a new family that loves her.  Our joy knew no bounds when it sunk in that we had bought a car from another family that names their car!  For the first time all week I had a big smile on my face.  A smile that got even bigger when Dave got in Veronica two hours later to finally go home.


1 comment ... Join the conversation!


by Toiny Westberry 16 March 2013
Thumbnail image for WRX STI

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 […]

0 comments Continue reading…

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

by Toiny Westberry 6 January 2013
Thumbnail image for The Big, Red, Intimating, not-out-of-order Machine

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 […]

1 comment Continue reading…

Happy Halloween…. BOO!

by Toiny Westberry 31 October 2012
Thumbnail image for Happy Halloween…. BOO!

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 […]

0 comments Continue reading…

American Racers

by Toiny Westberry 13 October 2012
Thumbnail image for American Racers

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 […]

0 comments Continue reading…


by Toiny Westberry 18 August 2012
Thumbnail image for Klettergarten

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 […]

0 comments Continue reading…

Our Amazing Race

by Toiny Westberry 2 June 2012
Thumbnail image for Our Amazing Race

Every muscle in my body hurts.  Dave put on an “Amazing Race” event for his soldiers.  Since I’m the Amazing Race fan in our house, I volunteered to help.  This week my volunteer hours turned into a full-time job! Coming up with stops wasn’t hard, typing up clues was a little harder, running the race […]

0 comments Continue reading…

Tiny Dutch Cars

by Toiny Westberry 22 April 2012
Thumbnail image for Tiny Dutch Cars

If you are really feeling green, and truly wanting to cut down on your carbon footprint, I think one of these would be an awesome next step.  Other than right there, in that picture, I’ve never seen one.  We’ve gotten very used to small cars.  It is now the occasional SVU or full-size pick-up imported […]

0 comments Continue reading…