Wow! Again, it's been a while since I last updated! Aaron and I have had such a crazy fun travel schedule lately. We're finally back in the US again after an incredible trip to Europe that I can hardly describe (but i'll do my best in this post!) We had a BLAST, yet it's nice to be back "home" in a familiar place. I wish I could write word for word every single busy adventure we had while over there, but since that would make for the world's longest blog post i'm always open to coffee dates with anyone! :)
Before I go into the trip, i'll start with some general life updates first. Aaron is officially out of the military as of next Thursday, 30 July. It's a bit surreal since life is about to change quite a bit! Though we are excited to have the opportunity to make more decisions on our own (i.e. jobs, moves, etc.) We are sad to leave the Air Force family as we've known it and venture into such changes such as paying for our own medical insurance, full priced groceries (bummer!) and the loss of various military discounts. Huge bummer! Regardless, we're ready for the change.
With Aaron accepting a position working with the Air Force Air Staff, we decided to tour various apartments in the Pentagon City/Alexandria area since we'll be renting something for the next year. Kind of a bummer that we sold the house, but it's nice to not have strings attached since we're most likely only here another year. After many options and weighing out the pros and cons, we decided on a beautiful place right in the heart of Old Town Alexandria (which we LOVE). It's a condo with a private parking space, updated kitchen (granite, tile, etc.) and here's the real kicker....right above a Whole Foods market that overlooks a beautiful courtyard. I can't decide if this is super dangreous or really convenient! Probably a bit of both. Unfortunately, the place is only a one bedroom (don't worry, Mari, we'll give up our room for visitors!) but the price was right and the location is unbeatable - Right across the street from the King St. metro which Aaron will become familiar with to ride 3 stops to work. As far as my employment plans go, I hope to work in Alexandria to eliminate the crazy DC commute I've already experienced since living here. This has been a great time of "employment rest" for me and I trust that God has something just right planned for me over the next year. We look forward to all the wonderful things that will come our way as a result of staying here, and we are excited to have at least another year with some wonderful friends that we would have been so sad to leave! Life is full of twists and turns, but God is GOOD. He is good, all the time! Isn't he??
The biggest news in my life right now is that I received some disheartening results the night we arrived home from Europe. I had gone to see a GI specialist because of my acid reflux and a few other not-so-fun symptoms i've been having (I won't go into detail here) and I had two procedures performed. I apologize in advance if this is TMI (I know it is) but basically the doctor performed an upper GI test (checking my esophagus and stomach lining) and a lower GI test (the crappy one...pun intended...) where he checked the "lower part" of my digestive system. Thank goodness I was out for these procedures! The initial result was that my esophagus and stomach lining were inflamed as well as my colon (sick, I know), so the doc decided to collect tissue for biopsies to make sure there wasn't something more serious causing it and he told me that it was important I watch my diet and add a fiber suppliment each day. He also took samples from the "lower area" to biopsy. The official results of the upper came back normal, so i'll continue to take my Nexium to control the reflux and hope that it just gets better on its own. The official result of the lower tests surprisingly came back as being what they call pre-cancerous. I was shocked (I think as was my doctor) about this because of my age and not really having any family history of cancer, let alone colon cancer. Fortunately, he removed what tested as pre-cancerous, so that's good. The bad news is that he could only see parts of what he needed to, so he needs me to have a full colonoscopy to check for more potential pre-cancerous tissue. Dang it! No kidding, I hate this stuff. Aren't old people the only ones who should be having colonoscopies?!? I've had terrible digestive problems most of my life, so I had this done when I was 18, too. Talk about poopy! (I love being able to make all of these puns...haha!)
Anyway, the difficult part in it all is that our military medical converage is coming to an end next week when Aaron is getting out, so i've been trying to get this thing scheduled before next Thursday. Chances seem slim, and i'm not hearing back from the office, so i'm just waiting it out. It's all a bit complicated, but I won't go into much more detail than that. All of that to say, i'll need to have yearly or bi-yearly colonoscopies probably for the rest of my life. I've been shedding a few tears over the frustration of this, but it's better safe than sorry. All I can think about it how I don't want to let this thing go because life is so precious. I dream of having a family with Aaron and enjoying a happy, healthy life together and there's no way i'm going to slack off on keeping this thing in check.
I praise God for how he works these things out. If I hadn't gone in for tests because of seeminly unrelated symptoms, it may have never been discovered that I had pre-cancerous cell tissue growing in my body. Isn't that crazy?? I'm a bit stressed out over this, but i'm doing my best to trust that God will work out the medical coverage details as well as the continued dr. visits i'll need over the years. He sees everything in the big picture, so I know I can trust Him to go before me and pave the way through all of this. Additionally, I am thankful for all the prayers I can get and WE are thankful for prayers as we continue to transition to a new way of life.
UPDATE: Just heard from Bethesda Naval Hospital. They squeezed me in for a full procedure next Tuesday. Praise God!
Now, onto Europe! Here's the rundown. And again, i'm lame for posting these pictures out of order! Also, be sure to check mine or Aaron's facebook for the full gammet of pictures :)
*July 9-10: We were able to hop a space-A flight out of Dover AFB on our first try! We slept the entire flight and also experienced the worst turbulance of our life so far about halfway through. It was a wild ride! We arrived at Spangdahlem AFB, Germany, rented a car and took off for Nuremberg, Germany. We only had one day, but we loved the food, beer and all the historic sites!
*July 10-12: We spent two days in Praha (Prague), Czech Republic which turned out to be my most favorite place! It's so beautiful and charming and the history is quite amazing (because of their communist past). We toured the Prague castle and had the best spot to catch the changing of the guard at the gate. Incredible! Aaron got a ticket driving there...had to pay the police officer on the spot. HA! Hilarious. It was bound to happen at some point!
*July 12-14: Drove to Vienna, Austria. We loved Vienna for all the places it has to offer which seemed less touristy than the other places we visited. They have amazing wine and beer gardens on the outskirts of the city. We also toured the Leopold museum and stopped to get lunch at an open-air market. FYI, the salami, bread and cheese (mainly because cheese doesn't have to be pasturized as it does in the states) are to die for in Europe! It's also a lot cheaper to buy food from markets than eating out, of course.
*July 14-15: Started driving to Italy with the plan of making it to Rome. Whoa, that was a bad assumption! It was too far, so we stopped in Bologna (pronounced Boloynia) for the night and experienced true Italian culture. No one spoke english! It appeared to be somewhat toursity, but mostly for Italians, not for Americans. So it was a challenge communicating with people (most like a game of charades) but we had our first experience eating real Italian pizza and it was GOOD! We slept at a small pensione and the owner was so nice to us. Again, he didn't speak english, but it was good for us to experience that!
*July 15-17: We parked our car at a train station about 1.5 hours outside of Rome and hopped the train into the city. We DO NOT recommend driving in Rome. Italy is a crazy place to drive in general (Germany is much more efficient. You can research this to find out why!) but Rome is by far the scariest place to drive, i'm convinced, in the world. We stayed at a B&B type place right in the city and it was beautiful, though, it did not have air conditioning. Rome was 110 degrees the entire time we were there. Yes, I just said 110 degrees. It was HOT but we had a nice fan in our room :) Another side-note with Rome: Pick-pockets are awful here and very skilled. Watch your things like a hawk! Especially at the train station. In general, Rome was my absolute favorite place as far as history goes. I was completely taken by the wonders of the Forum, Coliseum, and the Vatican...just to name a few. It's absolutely, hands down, INCREDIBLE! We're talking some of the oldest original structures in the entire world...thousands of years. Also, Rome has the best Gelato known to man. Just thought I'd add that!
*July 17-20: Drove up to Venice and stayed at a fun Art B&B with a wonderful breakfast each morning and saw the amazing wonders of Venice, Mirano and Burano. We took pictures on the Rialto bridge and toured St. Mark's Basilica. It is stunningly beautiful! We also happened to be there at the same time as our wedding photographer, Aaron Watson, and his assistant Thomas, so the 4 of us went on one of those famous gondola rides and Aaron did a photo shoot with us! We can't wait to see how the pictures turned out! We were also in Venice for a huge festival called the "Feast of the Redeemer" which is symbolic of the end to the black plague. We bought 3 bottles of wine and sat by the edge of the water to watch a 45 minute fire works show. Probably the best i've ever seen! We had such a fabulous time!
*July 20-21: Drove back up to Germany via the Swiss Alps and also made our way through parts of France (no Paris...oh well, next time!) The Swiss Alps are by far the most beautiful things i've ever seen. We stopped in a small Swiss town to eat a late lunch and were surrounded by a lake and the mountains. I was speechless at the sight. The Northwest and Alaska are beautiful, but this had them beat. I took many pictures, of course, but after looking back at them, they just play the sight down so much that it really must be seen in person. We then made it back to Spangdahlem AFB, stayed the night, then drove 1 hour to Ramstein AFB the next morning and thankfully made it on the first flight out to Baltimore Int'l Airport. We flew back on a huge air craft filled with troops coming back from all over the middle east. It was such a neat experience visiting with them and joining in their excitement to return home to their families. We talked with one guy who has a mutual friend with Aaron. Gotta love the military. So big, yet always like a family! When we landed at BWI, we were all greeted by the USO who are AMAZING. They just love the military and they had food and water waiting for everyone who got off the plane. It's wonderful to experience first-hand just how much they appreciate the troops and families.
We walked a ton, ate a ton, drank a ton, laughed a ton and enjoyed our time, A TON. But again, it's great to be home and we continue to relive the memories of our trip in our minds. We feel so blessed to have had this experience! If any of you find yourselves planning a Europe trip, be sure to let us know so we can give you pointers based on things we learned over there from travel tips, to food, lodging, etc. Ask away! Viva la Europe!
St. Mark's Basilica - Venezia (Venice)
Famous Rialto Bridge!