Friday, December 12, 2008

Hi Yall!

Mykonos, Greece

Hi All!!! I know!!!!! I know!!!!! I've been back almost a week from our AMAZING cruise to Turkey and The Greek Isles and I haven't posted a single picture yet from our cruise. This is due mainly because I'm trying to catch up with laundry and the hundreds of emails left in my inbox. Not to mention, when we got home our power was out and we didn't have a stitch of Christmas decorations put up yet! Sooooooo....I've been spending my days busily catching up with the Holiday season; putting up the tree, making Christmas cards, and mailing off packages, all the while still doing laundry. The girls are also in a Christmas musical this year. So I've been transporting them back and forth to practices as well... I've posted a bunch of pictures on my facebook and when I get a little more down time I'll post them here! For now I'll give you just a glimpse of all the amazing fun we had!!!!

Monday, November 17, 2008


Tom saw the Neurosurgeon today and it looks like there will be NO NEED for any surgery in the near future. The Dr. said the fact that he was feeling better was a good sign; the anti-inflammatory drugs must be doing their job. Once the inflammation subsides the disk should naturally fall back into place. One thing she did note was that he may or may not ever get all the feeling back in his thumb. So I guess we still have a shot at getting our Mr. Deeds thumb after all!!! COOL!!!

Friday, November 14, 2008

A "REAL" Pain In The Neck"

Tom has being dealing with a pain in his neck ever since July.... And NO, it's not due to me and the girls spending too much money while we were in the States this summer... Ha, Ha... The discomfort in his neck has been off and on over the past few months, but just recently it began to intensify, along with some pain radiating down his arm. So after some serious begging and pleading,by me, he finally scheduled an appointment with the doctor... Hallelujah!!! The doctor put him on Motrin (The AF wonder drug) and Flexerall... Neither of these helped and only made him loopy and even more grumpy (trust me it has been tough around here, even Bandit is hiding!!!) So he went back to the Dr.... Again with our family pleading!!!!... The doctor then put him on Percocet and scheduled him for a MRI... We were all pretty stoked about the Percocet!!! It actually changed the mood significantly in our home! PRAISE GOD FOR PAIN MEDS!!!! Then about 4 days ago he finally had his MRI and yesterday we found out the results. It looks like the "Pain in His Neck" is actually being caused by a "Nerve Root Impingement"... I know, I know, it sounds pretty fancy, but here is a little info to help you out...

Nerve Root Impingement

From top to bottom down the entire length of the spine, at each spinal level nerves exit through holes in the bone of the spine (foramen) on the right side and left side of the spinal column. These nerves are called nerve roots, or radicular nerves. They branch out at each level of the spine and innervate different parts of our body. For example, nerves that exit the cervical spine travel down through the arms, hands and fingers. This is why neck problems that affect a cervical nerve root can cause pain and other symptoms through the arms and hands, and low back problems that affect a lumbar nerve root can radiate through the leg and into the foot (sciatica). The nerve roots are named for the level of the spine at which they exit.

However, nerve roots are not labeled consistently throughout the length of the spine.
  • In the cervical spine, the nerve root is named according to the LOWER spinal segment that the nerve root runs between. For example, the nerve at the C5-C6 level is called the C6 nerve root. It is named this way because as it exits the spine the nerve root passes OVER the C6 pedicle (a piece of bone that is part of the spinal segment).
It should be mentioned that two nerves cross each disc level and only one exits the spine (through the foramen) at that level.
  • Exiting nerve root. The nerve root that exits the spine at a particular level is referred to as the “exiting” nerve root. Example: The C4 nerve root exits the spine at theC4-C5 level.
  • Traversing nerve root. Another nerve root goes across the disc and exits the spine at the next level below. It is called the “traversing” nerve root. Example: The C5 nerve root is the traversing nerve root at the C4-C5 level, and is the exiting nerve root at the C5-T1 level.

A lot of confusion occurs because when a nerve root is compressed by disc herniation or other cause, it is common to refer both to the intervertebral level (where the disc is) and to the nerve root that is affected. Depending on where the disc herniation or protrusion occurs, it may impinge upon either the exiting nerve root or the traversing nerve root. For example: When the traversing nerve root is affected: In the lumbar spine, there is a weak spot in the disc space that lies right in front of the traversing nerve root, so lumbar discs tend to herniate or leak out and impinge on the traversing nerve root. For example, a typical posterolateral (behind the disc and to the side) lumbar disc herniation at the L4-L5 level often affects the nerve that traverses the L4-L5 level and exits at the L5 level, called the L5 nerve root.

When the exiting nerve root is affected: The opposite is true in the neck. In the cervical spine, the disc tends to herniate to the side (laterally), rather than toward the back and the side (posterolaterally). If the disc material herniates to the side, it would likely compress the exiting nerve root. For example, the C6 nerve root would be affected at the C5-C6 level (because in the neck the exiting nerve root is named for the level below it). (This is what we think Tom has from the MRI results)

Over the past few days the pain has subsided a bit... This might be due to the Percocet, but he also still has some discomfort down his right arm and serious numbness in his thumb... This is caused by the nerve being pinched... The girls and I keep telling him he could be cool just like Mr. Deeds, and have a numb thumb instead of a numb foot for the rest of his life... How cool is that!!! I guess He doesn't think it's that cool... So the next step is scheduling an appt with the Neurologist or Neuro-Surgeon to see exactly what's up and where we can go from here... I say "We" because this has had a huge impact on the whole family...

Now it seems, we ALL have A "REAL" PAIN IN THE NECK that we would like to get rid of!!! LOL

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Volunteering... A Two Way Street

A dear friend of mine sent me this article and I thought it was worthy of sharing with all my family and friends... If you're a military spouse, you'll find this article to be very true!!! And if you're anything like me, I'm pretty sure you've asked the "Why" question once or twice before...We, military spouses, never actually raised our hands to enlist, but by marrying a member of the Armed Services, we "volunteered" for more than any of us could have ever imagined...

So, for many of my friends, as well as, military spouses everywhere...I would also like to thank you for your "volunteered" military service on Veteran's Day too!!!

This article written by Norris Burkes

This Veteran's Day I couldn't help but think of the documentary I brought home a few months ago...My wife doesn't especially care for documentaries, particularly the news this one was about to bring. "Baghdad ER" is a documentary that HBO says "captures the humanity, hardships and heroism of the U.S. military and medical personnel of the 86th Combat Support Hospital . . ."

I said, "I want us to watch this movie together," ....There was nothing subtle in my approach... My wife saw right through it and knew I was carrying it along with some news of my own. So before she could respond, I answered the question I already saw on her face."The Air Force needs a chaplain VOLUNTEER for their hospital at Balad Air Base in Iraq. The hospital is specifically requesting a 'hospital-trained chaplain' for a four-month deployment... I also hurried to add: "It's a Level 1 trauma center, which does over 1,200 surgical procedures each month. They help everyone -- military, civilians and contractors as well as Iraqi soldiers, police, civilians and even detainees."She stared at me, stuck on one word: "VOLUNTEER."

The thoughts of the military spouse upon hearing the word "VOLUNTEER" aren't normally as altruistic as those of the military member... Who could blame her if she suddenly exclaimed, "What makes you think I'm not the actual volunteer here?... I would be volunteering for four months of solo parenting!... I'd be volunteering to be single - living a separate life for the next four months!... Instead, Becky simply said, "We'll watch it after dinner."

After dinner we talked about the mutual meaning of the word "volunteer." We talked about everything from kids to car problems.We talked about updating our wills. I tried to soothe her with the fact that there hasn't been a chaplain killed in the line of duty since the Vietnam War...Not surprisingly, she found that factoid devoid of comfort...I told her the pay would be great -- especially with hazardous duty pay....Again, I got nowhere, not even when I mentioned the $3.33 per day separation pay.

"Why do you want to do this?", she asked... Ah, the "WHY" of it all."

I said, giving a commonly offered solution in the conflict between military members and their spouses...."If I retired, I wouldn't have to go!"...She wasn't biting. -

"WHY?" she repeated. -"WHY do you want to go?"

"I want to go because I want to help," I said, unable to state it more profoundly than that... "They need hospital chaplains. I'm one. I can't sit here while they declare they need someone. It's a need I know how to fill."

After nearly a week of discussion, she said, "You need to go! You need to feel you've done your share... I understand!"... It was at that point, I composed my e-mail accepting the assignment. I called her to the computer and let her proofread the e-mail. Then I asked her to do a difficult thing. "I want us to share this decision. Would you be willing to press the 'send' button?" Her index finger hovered over the keyboard in hesitation. Then, she clicked "send" with a definitive push. - She did understand.

So this month, I have a favor to ask. As you offer a grateful handshake to a veteran, turn to their spouse and say, "Thanks for your understanding." After all, most of them have certainly done more than they've ever "VOLUNTEERED" to do.

Burkes will leave for Balad after Christmas. He plans to continue writing his column while he is deployed. Visit

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Veteran's Day Tribute

Veteran's Day Tribute

When America had an urgent need,
These brave ones raised a hand;
No hesitation held them back;
They were proud to take the stand.

They left their friends and family;
They gave up normal life;
To serve their country and their God,
They plowed into the strife

They fought for freedom and for peace
On strange and foreign shores;
Some lost new friends; some lost their lives
In long and brutal wars.

Other veterans answered a call
To support the ones who fought;
their country had requirements for
The essential skills they brought.

We salute each and every one of them,
the noble and the brave,
The ones still with us here today,
And those who rest in the grave.

So here's our country's heroes;
They're a cut above the rest;
Let's give the honor and the due
To our country's very best.

By Joanna Fuchs

Sunday, November 09, 2008


Last year, on Nov 8th, a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crashed on the banks of the Piave River, not far from Aviano AB, killing six U.S. troops and injuring five more. As you know, our family was close to two of the men who died in the crash. Not only did we lose them, but it felt as if their families were ripped prematurely from us as well. Saturday, on the Anniversary of the crash, a large group of Italians and Americans gathered together to remember the six service members who died.

The banks of the Piave River have long been associated with tragedy even before U.S. service members called Italy their home. An estimated 80,000 Italian troops died during battles with the Austro-Hungarian Empire in World War I along this very waterway. Countless others died in earlier conflicts. Some of the largest Bases/Posts in Italy are named after Italian heroes who died at this exact location.

On Saturday — not far from the crash site, a memorial was dedicated to them — and the memories of the fallen from years past. Brig. Gen Franklin, our Base Commander said, "This memorial symbolizes yet another bond between two nations tied together in history." Family members and four of the five service members injured on the flight also attended — two of them had noticeable problems walking, as they dropped flowers on the new memorial. All five are still in the military, though several still face medical review boards that might require them to leave the service.

The injured and family members attended a private service at the crash site earlier in the day. Later they were joined by several bus loads of airmen from the base along with an equal number of Italians at the dedication for the new memorial.
The memorial consists of six metal bars set close together in a line, separating a stone slab with six indentations from a short walkway. A plaque lists the names of the Americans who died and the circumstances of their deaths.The ceremony was very touching, and you could tell this horrible tragedy affected both Italians and Americans alike, but it also left a bond that will last a lifetime...

Saturday, November 08, 2008

My "Two Cents" On The Election

Just recently I read an article by Ann Coutler, called "McCain", that basically expresses exactly why I was so disappointed with this year's Presidential Election.... So here is her (my) two cents....

"Last night was truly a historic occasion: For only the second time in her adult life, Michelle Obama was proud of her country!

The big loser of this election is Colin Powell, whose last-minute endorsement of Obama put the Illinois senator over the top. Powell was probably at home last night, yelling at his TV, "Are you KIDDING me? That endorsement was sarcastic!"

The winner, of course, is Obama, who must be excited because now he can start hanging out in public with Bill Ayers and Rev. Jeremiah Wright again. John McCain is a winner because he can resume buying more houses. And we're all winners because we will never again have to hear McCain say, "my friends."

After Bill Clinton won the 1992 presidential election, Hillary Clinton immediately announced that, henceforth, she would be known as "Hillary Rodham Clinton." So maybe Obama can now become B. Hussein Obama, his rightful name. This was such an enormous Democratic year that even John Murtha won his congressional seat in Pennsylvania after calling his constituents racists. It turns out they're not racists -- they're retards. Question: What exactly would one have to say to alienate Pennsylvanians? That Joe Paterno should retire? Apparently Florida voters didn't mind Obama's palling around with Palestinian activist Rashid Khalidi and Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, either. There must be a whole bunch of retired Pennsylvania Jews down there.

Have you ever noticed that whenever Democrats lose presidential elections, they always blame it on the personal qualities of their candidate? Kerry was a dork, Gore was a stiff, Dukakis was a bloodless android, Mondale was a sad sack. This blame-the-messenger thesis allows Democrats to conclude that their message was fine -- nothing should be changed! The American people are clamoring for higher taxes, big government, a defeatist foreign policy, gay marriage, the whole magilla. It was just this particular candidate's personality.

Republicans lost this presidential election, and I don't blame the messenger; I blame the message. How could Republicans go after B. Hussein Obama (as he is now known) on planning to bankrupt the coal companies when McCain supports the exact same cap and trade policies and earnestly believes in global warming? How could we go after Obama for his illegal alien aunt and for supporting driver's licenses for illegal aliens when McCain fanatically pushed amnesty along with his good friend Teddy Kennedy? How could we go after Obama for Jeremiah Wright when McCain denounced any Republicans who did so? How could we go after Obama for planning to hike taxes on the "rich," when McCain was the only Republican to vote against both of Bush's tax cuts on the grounds that they were tax cuts for the rich? And why should Republican activists slave away working for McCain when he has personally, viciously attacked: John O'Neill and the Swift Boat Veterans, National Right to Life director Doug Johnson, evangelical pastors Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson and John Hagee, various conservative talk radio hosts, the Tennessee Republican Party and on and on and on? As liberal Democrat E.J. Dionne Jr. exuded about McCain in The Washington Post during the Republican primaries, "John McCain is feared by Democrats and liked by independents." Dionne proclaimed that McCain "may be the one Republican who can rescue his party from the undertow of the Bush years." Similarly, after unelectable, ultraconservative Reagan won two landslide victories, James Reston of The New York Times gave the same advice to Vice President George H.W. Bush: Stop being conservative! Bush was "a good man," Reston said in 1988, "and might run a strong campaign if liberated from Mr. Reagan's coattails." Roll that phrase around a bit -- "liberated from Mr. Reagan's coattails." This is why it takes so long to read the Times -- you have to keep reading the same paragraph over again to see if you missed a word. Bush, of course, rode Reagan's ultraconservative coattails to victory, then snipped those coattails by raising taxes and was soundly defeated four years later.

I keep trying to get Democrats to take my advice (stop being so crazy), but they never listen to me. Why do Republicans take the advice of their enemies? How many times do we have to run this experiment before Republican primary voters learn that "moderate," "independent," "maverick" Republicans never win, and right-wing Republicans never lose? Indeed, the only good thing about McCain is that he gave us a genuine conservative, Sarah Palin. He's like one of those insects that lives just long enough to reproduce so that the species can survive. That's why a lot of us are referring to Sarah as "The One" these days. Like Sarah Connor in "The Terminator," Sarah Palin is destined to give birth to a new movement. That's why the Democrats are trying to kill her. And Arnold Schwarzenegger is involved somehow, too.

Good Lord, I'm tired. After showing nearly superhuman restraint throughout this campaign, which was lost the night McCain won the California primary, I am now liberated to announce that all I care about is hunting down and punishing every Republican who voted for McCain in the primaries. I have a list and am prepared to produce the names of every person who told me he was voting for McCain to the proper authorities. We'll start with former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Florida Gov. Charlie Crist. Then we shall march through the states of New Hampshire and South Carolina -- states that must never, ever be allowed to hold early Republican primaries again. For now, we have a new president-elect. In the spirit of reaching across the aisle, we owe it to the Democrats to show their president the exact same kind of respect and loyalty that they have shown our recent Republican president. Starting tomorrow, if not sooner."

And as a good Texas Republican would say, "You get um Cowboy!!!!!!"

Friday, November 07, 2008

Straight A's

Tom and I are so proud of our girls!!! The first quarter has come to an end and they both received Straight A's on their report cards!!!!!

Hailey's teacher told us that "Hailey Bop"- her pet name for Hailey, is such a joy to have in class and wished all of her students acted just like her! She also told us that Hailey excels in ART and MATH, and commented that she is not only one of the best artists she's seen in the 1st grade in a long time, but also observed her keen sense of fashion! LOL! So it looks as though Hailey is either heading for a career in Fashion Design or Architecture.... Hmmmm!!!!

Sarah's teachers told us that she was "The Model Student"... I was told that she is one of the most conscientious, thorough, and well organized students they have in the 6th grade this year. Sarah excels in READING, WRITING, and SCIENCE... actually they said she excels in everything, but I don't want to sound too proud... So it looks like Sarah is either heading for a career as a Writer or Research Scientist.... Hmmmm!!!!

Either way, both Tom and I are so very proud of them!!!! They both have worked very hard this quarter and are always our PRIDE & JOY!!!!!

Monday, November 03, 2008

Halloween - NO Hassel, NO Drama, NO CANDY!!!!

This year we celebrated Halloween very differently than we would usually celebrate it in the States... No Trick or Treating! No costume parties! Just good old fashion fellowship. The weather here was cold and wet. And with that sort of combination Trick or Treating isn't appealing no matter where you live. Besides Sarah informed us this year that she is now a Middle Schooler and way too old to Trick or Treat... Perfect!!!! One down! One more to go!!!! And my Hailey actually wasn't too trilled about the thought of Trick or Treating either, because she says, and I quote, "They never give out the good chocolate, like Lindt Swiss Dark Chocolate or Godiva dark chocolate truffles."... LOL.. Boy, Oh Boy!!!! I guess we've all gotten a bit spoiled living over here in Europe.

But putting that all aside, it sure was nice this year to not worry about costumes, and instead simply enjoy the evening hanging out with friends. We started our night off by going to a local Italian seafood restaurant in Pordenone. It was the sort of place that only the locals frequent. My favorite type! Our dear friend Tony P always seems to have a knack for finding some of the best places around Europe. The seafood at this place was not only good and fresh, but also super inexpensive for Italian standards, which of course always makes Tom happy!!!! Then we drove over to our friends home, built a fire, opened a good bottle of wine, roasted some chestnuts, and relaxed as our children watched movies and played together. Now that's my idea of a perfect Halloween! NO HASSLE OVER COSTUMES, NO DRAMA, and NO CANDY!!!! Boy, I sure do love Europe!

Saturday, November 01, 2008

2nd Annual Peep Game!

Last year my dear friend Kat introduced me to the Halloween "PEEP" game. I'm not sure if she created it herself or she inherited it from someone else, but we Giles' are always are up for a good game involving fun and fellowship with our friends. So this year we decided to put the game into action once again. Sadly, a few of our dear friends have PCS'd since last year's festivities, so we decided to introduced some new friends to the game...

First off, here are a few things you need to know about the game.... It involves those smooshy little marshmallow treats called"PEEPS".... You know the ones... They're full of sugar and immediately become stale as soon as you open the package... YUM!!! The object of the game is to spread the "PEEPS" around as much as possible, but to NOT end up with the "PEEPS" at Midnight on O' Hallow's Eve or you're responsible for throwing the first party of the new year. The game has only one rule and that is to use Tricks or Treats but don't get stuck with the "PEEPS". Fun!!!! Well last year The Giles' family were the big Losers or PEEPSTERS due to our weakest link Hailey. She unsuspectingly took the "PEEPS" disguised as a wrapped Halloween gift. If you know Hailey you know she would never turn down a gift even if it is one full of stale marshmallow treats... :) So this year we put both of our girls on full "PEEP Alert"- To accept no gifts or packages in the month of October no matter how tempting they look... :)

This years game took off with a bang and the "PEEPS" ended up in many different locations throughout the month of October.... 10 different families and 20 locations in all... Some of my favorite statements from the game this year were ... "Oh NO! Not the PEEPS!... You BRAT!!! I think there is a rule that you can't 're give' the peeps, right??!... The PEEPS, The PEEPS, The Dreaded PEEPS!...I'm devising a plan to get rid of those smooshy little guys!... Let's have a PEEPS rule interpretation! Ha, Ha!!!!

This years PEEPS game also included some very inventive and tricky gift giving ideas... But my over all favorite was receiving the PEEPS via MPS mail... Way to go Sean & Amanda! You get this years Master PEEP award for overall skill and trickery!!!!! This year's game was tons of fun and I want to thank all of our dear friends for playing along and even as I'm writing this Blog I'm not sure if the family who ended up with the dreaded "PEEPS" are even aware they have them! Hint... Hint... Check in your bathroom!

So the lucky "PEEPSTERS" are the Polizzi Family!

We love you and we are all looking forward to the next party at your house!!!!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Fall Blessings

Yesterday one of my good friends Linda and I arrived at her house and were happily surprised to see all of our children diligently raking the leaves in her yard. I thought how sweet is that, I was sure they would be in the house playing some sort of computer/internet game when we got home. But to my surprise they were outside being helpful and raking leaves. I immediately became curious because they all seemed to be working so diligent at the task at hand. They were not easily detracted and were working very well together as a unified group. So I grabbed my trusty camera and stood back to see how this mystery would unfold. I quickly realized what they were really up too. They were raking the leaves into a pile so they could jump and play in them. How fun! It made we want to do it too!!!!

As I stood there watching, I was immediately transferred back to my childhood, and all the great memories and fun times my siblings and I shared as we did the very same thing. Playing in the leaves for us was always one of the best experiences of the Fall season. Oh how times have changed... Now that we are adults it seems we now dread this part of the season with the countless amount of leaves that fall on our yards and sidewalks. Especially when it rains and they become slick. What a nuisance! As I stood there and watched the children I was quickly reminded of how blessed our family is. My children have such amazing friends that act as if they are their actual siblings. I immediately thanked God for all the blessings He's given Tom and I in our life. What a joy it is to be able to experience certain things all over again through a child's perspective! It's always nice to be reminded in this high paced computer generation to enjoy life and take the time to play in the leaves every once in a while!

Looks like Sarah is about to get hit with some leaves!

Pumpkin Festival in Venzone

Last Saturday we and some friends drove about an hour north of Maniago to a small medieval town called Venzone for their annual Pumpkin festival – Festa della Zucca. Venzone was originally a major trade city during the Roman era linking Italy to the rest of Europe. The town continued to flourish during the middle ages to modern day. In 1976 the town was leveled by two major earthquakes 4 months apart. The town however was rebuilt as an exact replica of its original form. Every year the fest takes place the fourth weekend of October in the medieval town of Venzone. It started celebrating its pumpkin fest 14 years ago because of an ancient legend, which centers upon a pumpkin. According to this legend, in the 14th century Venzone was almost completely built and had many nice palaces. The city's cathedral and the tower clock had finished being constructed Unfortunately, the city didn't have enough money to pay the artist who had just completed decorating the roof of the tower clock with a golden globe. The city committee decided to give him just one third of the amount he asked for his work because they thought that everybody should volunteer some of their working time for the town, especially during this hard time. He didn't have much choice, and he accepted the money that the city gave him. But that night he thought he would pay the city back in the same way. He went back up to the roof and replaced the golden ball with a nicely painted pumpkin. He left the city the next day. The Venzone inhabitants were happy for the completion of the work that embellished their city but, shortly, they realized that something on the tower was wrong because the ball was changing color. Only when big pieces started Falling down did they understand how the sculptor had fooled them. Nevertheless, the city dedicates an annual fair to this important agricultural product that grows in the area. For a couple of days, the town is swarmed with thousands of visitors from towns nearby, as well as from Germany and Austria, who come to watch the parades of people dressed in medieval costumes, musicians, jugglers, peasants and knights who populate the narrow streets. The pumpkin festival promotes all things pumpkin; pumpkin gnocchi, pumpkin grappa, but there is no pumpkin pie is to be found anywhere. . The ‘townsfolk’ hold various contests and the entire town is decorated with pumpkin motifs, and in the evening lit by candle light only. We had so much fun and enjoyed tasting all the various foods made with pumpkin(Zucca). My favorite was the pumpkin pizza! Yum!