“It says Army Europe,” relayed my husband. He was reading his email aloud while I played with my toddler and admired my pregnant belly. His words made me stop in my tracks. Our family of four would soon be living in Germany for the next three years, courtesy of the US Military.

This was going to be the opportunity of a lifetime.

You see, I discovered London, Paris, Dublin, Edinburgh and Florence during college and was hooked. Anytime I had the opportunity, I’d save up money to journey across the pond.

I imagined drinking beer in Germany, coffee in Italy, wine in France, and eating chocolate in Belgium. I envisioned worldly children with travel stories that would rival those of tenured college professors. I could finally cross all those places off my list that I’d hoped to see, but never had the time or money to visit.

My family had a different reaction though. Upon learning the news, my mother cried, because the grandkids would be so far away. She’d never been to Europe – it was a place of mystery. Even worse was the fear from my World War II-era grandparents. “Germany used to be our enemy,” they somberly shared, and I understood their concern. Well, that official email arrived two years ago and today I am living my dream. I expertly navigate the Autobahn, have several German friends, speak some basic Deutsch and have journeyed all over Europe.

In a matter of months, I have visited nine countries, countless cities, spoken four languages and did it all with toddlers in tow.

When my parents made their first trip to Germany my mom had a breakthrough. “I finally get it,” she said, “I see why you wanted me to experience this and I’m ready to plan my next trip.” Her words were music to my ears.

In a matter of months, she’ll return for her second European visit. I’ll be flying her to Florence, the birthplace of the Renaissance. I can’t wait to see her face as she gazes upon Michelangelo’s “David,” takes her first sip of espresso in a café and – most importantly – greets her Italian cousins for the first time with a kiss on each cheek.

As much as I enjoy travel for my own personal benefit, there is nothing quite like watching that adventurous spark in the eyes of those I love.

It’s Modeling, for Art’s Sake

I have always had an affinity for the arts. In college, I was a proud humanities major and reveled in a course schedule of music, literature, art, languages, religion and history.

I studied museums in London, Paris and Florence. During my summer abroad, I discovered that seeing art via slide projector paled in comparison to standing before a canvas, taking in its size and examining the nuances of the artist’s brushstrokes.

After college, I worked with art museums, a university and a private gallery. I then realized that it was no longer enough to study art, teach art, or look at art – I wanted to be the art.

Yes, I wanted the full muse experience.

My first artist was Steve Pi. The Vietnam War veteran used sculpture as therapy for his post-traumatic stress disorder and I was honored when he saw something special in me. Typically a bronze sculptor, Pi cast my likeness in chocolate. I was perfectly transformed into a reclining goddess, running fingers through my hair, and gently petting a cat.

Nearly ten years later, I am modeling again, but this time it’s in Europe. As an Army wife stationed in Germany, I’ve met a base of American photographers who have invited me before the camera. I can transform myself from a housewife and stay-at-home mother of two, to a model, an inspiration, and a vessel of creativity. Yes, the muse has returned!

In the name of art I have traipsed through fields of flowers and wheat, settled into bathtubs of milk, been the target of flying flour and donned clown makeup. I have posed with delicate women and plastic rats, and have been portrayed as beautiful and mysterious, as well as dark and eerie.

When asked by friends and family why I agree to get “dirty” or “creepy,” I share that art doesn’t need to fit a definition of traditional beauty to be relevant, important, captivating, thought provoking or simply fun. This is art for art’s sake and I absolutely adore it.

I learned from Munch, Bosch and Gentileschi that art is more than just a superficial presentation. It is a deep, meaningful and personal mode of expression for the artist.

It is my honor to be a part of these visions, these fantasies and -- yes – it’s fun to say that my likeness has been featured on Vogue Italia online.

Each day I try to master the art of living like an European, and on some of those days, there is a photographer present to capture that moment. So although I don’t consider myself an artist, I can say that I’m a work of art, no matter the definition.