Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Home for now

As I began to think through this post, I could not come up with a title. Usually the title is what gets me to write. Something significant stands out and I run with it, but for now the beautiful thing called normalcy has set over the family. The craziness just to get here, the chaos of living for weeks without our things, sending my daughter back to the states without us, and then getting settled in OUR home for the next 3 years has been accomplished. Now normal has begun!

We have already had the joy of exploring parts of Europe. We have visited Florence, Italy through Switzerland! On our way home we stopped in Leichtenstein...the smallest country in the world - I believe. Greg and I went to London for the Bears vs. Bucs game in October. I went this weekend to France (Strasbourg) for lunch! How cool is that? So the benefits of living in Europe are starting to be felt! Prague is our next destination!

Having watched my kids go from "why are we here" or "I have no friends and I want to go back to the states" to rarely ever being home and having friends to invite over has warmed my heart. Tearing your kids away from the love of friends during the teen years just rips my heart out. I love the opportunities of moving often and seeing parts of the world and even the states that others have not seen, is such a blessing. But that blessing comes with many negatives.

But isn't that the truth about life in general? Does everything go rosy for everyone all the time? When a new job - blessing - comes along, with it comes stresses/changes etc. When a new baby comes along - blessings - it brings stresses/changes like no sleep, extra worry, financial issues, etc. So I guess I get to show my children apart of life that some children may not experience until they are an adult. Maybe my children are just more prepared??? Let's hope so!

Since my last post, things have improved dramatically. Rachel worked her job, was the manager for the Volleyball team, earned her Varsity letter, and went to Homecoming with a date (her goal!) She has become even more responsible than I have ever seen her. She gets up really early to go into school early for extra help or to sell cupcakes for her Charity Water organization (they raise money to build wells in poor countries). She goes to Awana, Bible Study, and Youth Group regularly. She is well liked and loved (I know because as soon as someone finds out I am her mom, hey say, "Oh I love her!") Does a momma's heart good. I even asked her if she wanted to go to school full-time next year (she only needs to take like 2 classes) and she said YES! CRAZY girl wants to take more classes than needed just to be in school! Gotta love that.

Sarah has been acclimating to her surroundings and I am learning that she is a home body! She LOVES to be home. If someone wants to come over - great! But if not, she is just happy being home. I am not forcing her out and about to different events because frankly, soon will come the time when she wants to be OUT like Rachel and I will miss it...so I am enjoying it now. She has a good friend, Katie, and they love being goofy together. She has made a few friends at school and that's been good, too. She had the opportunity to play volleyball after school but she only choose to do that once. She isn't into staying after school! Again, works for me!

Zach has struggled more than the rest of us. Not to adjust to life here, but rather to adjust to life in school. He is showing those K behaviors like "running to get THE spot on the rug" while simultaneously knocking children over to get there. Whoops. Then when something is passed out in class, Zach is jumping over others to get HIS. Not good. The teacher already called me in for a meeting. YIKES! We are working on our self control. He did have his retainer/expander removed and then a new one replaced. The new one totally takes up his mouth and he has a device he wears during bed that is supposed to stretch his front teeth over his bottom teeth (a protractor). Poor kid! But he has fared pretty well despite his challenges!

Bekah is in the states and seemingly doing well. I would love if she would consider coming to Germany/France to go to Georgia Tech! They have a campus in France about 2 hours from here. How cool would that be??? So we will see if she wants to do that. She is at the age where she gets to decide how to spend her semesters. Oh to go back to the time when I made all her decisions. She would never be allowed to leave! LOL I love my kiddos.

Greg and I even started leading in Awana...something we have never done. We are also both scout leaders! Greg is the community chairperson for the area Boy Scout Troop/Den (Zach is a Bear) and I am a Cadette Girl Scout leader. We are attending the International Baptist Church which is really neat as we get to worship with Germans, Americans, and those of other races/cultures! I love it. We are feeling like this is HOME for right now and that makes life more normal.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Our New Normal

I can't even describe how I have felt over the last two months. Today is the two month anniversary of our arrival into this great country called Germany. Due to the nature of this move, it seems like it is eons ago we were sitting in a hotel room wondering if we would ever get quarters. Eating out every meal (except for the great breakfast at the Marriott) was just frustrating. The refrigerator in the room was smaller than the one I took to college (30 years ago!) The rooms were not adjoining so we spent a lot of time in the halls between rooms attempting to keep our cooped up children in check. Then there was the parking in the garage for sardines. Seriously, these people have the smallest cars and smallest parking spaces. I guess they aren't used to the machines we call vehicles. Seriously, our cars in the states are ridiculously huge and total gas guzzlers. At about $8.50 USD for an equivalent gallon of gas, I think our cars in the states would definitely start getting smaller. Americans are spoiled with cheap gas prices, big warehouse stores, and grocery choices. Yes, grocery choices. The food here is found in stores like Aldi, Norma, Kaufland, and Rewe which all have limited quantity, choices, and supplies. Now the things missing in America are the good old fashioned bakeries. Or Bakerei here in Germany! Oh my, they are fabulous. And Donner or Kebap (kind of like a gyro) restaurants. So yummy! But I digress.... oh and chocolate. My goodness it is SO good over here. I need to get my friend's addresses and send them some of this chocolate monthly. It will take all your cares away!
The emotions that we have endured since our move here are all over the place. With Bekah being here, going to France with Rachel for 5 days, getting ready to go back to the states for school, to Rachel going to volleyball camp, starting a new job, going to school for the first time in her life, getting on the volleyball team - oh wait, no she didn't - that's another story.... Then there is Sarah going to school part-time, making some good friends, starting girl scouts and youth group, to Zach going to school full-time, becoming a Boy Scout for the first time in his life, and learning how to manage all of this has created a roller coaster of emotions which very well might derail by the end of this blog entry. Bekah is all settled at school and working to finish up the last of about 3 semesters before she graduates. Her time here was limited but we wanted to make it as eventful as possible. Not to mention the fact that we wanted to get out of the hotel. So, we went off to Munich and saw some cool things there and then to Dachau concentration camp. Truly an awe inspiring place. These people endured so much and yet still had faith. There are four churches on this site now and the protestant church even has service on this site every Sunday. How incredible to still have faith after so many people were massacred there because they didn't agree with one man's view of the world and how it should be! Truly these are grounds in which to tread with reverence. She also had a chance to go to Paris with Rachel for 5 days. The events they experienced as sisters will never be forgotten. But I was a bit uneasy with my two beautiful daughters off to Paris without an "adult" - even though Bekah is truly an adult, I still see her sometimes as my little inchworm! A number of other things happened with Bekah that won't be written down for eternity...but caused intense emotions, but also brought some things to light that needed to be brought into THE light! All good, but all exhausting! Rachel who is usually pretty easy going and goes with the flow, struggled the most with this move. Understandably, as she left good friends in GA but also because she is at a rough age to meet new people. So, she wanted to go to school, first to experience it, but also to try to make friends quickly. Oh and yes, she definitely wanted to play volleyball. During the 2nd week of August (after her return from Paris), she went off to volleyball camp for a week. She quickly learned that she was an "outsider" and that to become an insider, they needed to put you through some tests so to speak. Outside of attempting to make her feel bad that she was a "virgin" they shunned her because she didn't cuss, drink, swear, or have her first kiss. One girl said, "Wow, I feel like a ho-bag sitting next to a girl who hasn't done anything." Another girl said, "Oh don't worry about not being a drinker - that'll change here since you can drink at 16." Lovely set of girls to hang around, eh? Tryouts for volleyball were on Monday (or so we thought - as the flyer said "Tryouts begin on Monday at 1530 to 1700")- what does that mean to you? Did you understand that to mean that the tryouts are ALL WEEK? Not us either...but after figuring that out Monday at 1700 Rachel asked coach about missing a practice or two during the week since she had to work and didn't know tryouts were all week. He said, "Oh not a problem - I saw you today and you will probably make a team - Don't know if it will be Varsity or J/V, but you'll make a team" - this was said in front of another parent, too! Hmmm.... OK.
Rachel missed practice on Thursday and after practice on Friday the first cuts were made. Rachel was cut. She was mortified. She went to him in tears and asked him what she could do to improve to make it the next year. He saw the look on her face and immediately realized he had made a mistake and forgot to add her name to the list (since she was absent the day before). After he realized what emotional upheaval he had caused, he said, "Oh I am sorry. And since I put you through that, let me let you in on some information. You will be on my Varsity team!" WOW! She was so excited. That weekend we went out to purchase all her volleyball stuff and then the list for Varsity came out on Wed and guess what...??? PSYCH! Nope. Her name wasn't on the list. REALLY ??? ARE YOU KIDDING ME? The next day the list came out for J/V and NOPE her name wasn't on that either. Oh my word - this was unbelievable. We were in complete shock. How could a person do this to an adolescent? I couldn't fathom what he had done. The emotional rollercoaster almost flew off the tracks at that point. I was needing an intervention! Rachel has stayed on with the team as their manager so that she can condition with them and workout as much as possible. But also to stay close to a game she loves. Her heart is so sweet and tender and she holds no animosity towards this coach. She continues to amaze me as I would like to hurt him. But I have allowed her the space to deal with this on her own! She is doing well in her courses and seems to love her job. Oh wait, that's another story too. She is getting sexually harassed at work and doesn't even realize it. Had to teach her about that too!
Sarah keeps us busy with going to school, homeschooling, girl scouts etc. She is doing very well with this move and seems to take a lot of the punches we endure in stride. I am so proud of her and grateful that she is happy go lucky and willing to experience whatever is thrown at her. Same with Zach. Although he is learning some really tough life lessons, he is definitely handling most of them very well. It is evident that Zach doesn't like authority or to be told what to do that is contrary to what he wants to do. sounds like a kid right? Well, he can take it 5 steps beyond that with some doozy temper tantrums, but all in all he is manageable and we are getting accustomed to our new normal. That's it for now. I will save a blog entry for Greg and my updates!

Friday, August 5, 2011

A blast from the blindside

Never saw that one coming. I have prided myself (that always causes problems when one prides themselves on something) on looking ahead and seeing what is to come, but no one could have prepared me for this one.

I won't get into the specifics because in actuality, those specifics don't really matter. What matters more, is recognizing what it is. Sin. Simple as that. When I realized that I didn't see it coming, it was because I wasn't on the look out for sin like I am supposed to be. Been in all the classes, have the tee-shirt kind of thing, I know to be on the lookout for sin. But, complacency had set in. I have sat in that easy chair of life and kicked back believing that my sights were aimed in all the right directions and all I had to do was just pull the lever so I could sit up straight in my easy chair and then blast them with whatever weapon I currently had at my disposal. However, not every sin uses the same weapon. I didn't see the enemy come in this shape ever before and my weapon that I used on other sins I saw in my sight was not adequate for this one! I needed the Word of God and frankly, my past weapon has been my insight and knowledge ABOUT scripture, instead of scripture proper.

But now I am prepared. Well, maybe not prepared, but rather preparing... I am constantly on the lookout now and my bazooka (the Word of God) is aimed in the right direction. This is going to be a battle. A battle of epic proportion. A battle I intend to win since the right weapon will now be employed. Thank you Father for equipping ME - all of us - with your Word. THE sword for battle. The rest of the armor is going on and I am going in. Back me up people...I will need the support.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

On the other side of the Atlantic

I cannot believe it has actually happened. I can say that I have lived in Germany! You don't know how jealous I have been over the last 20 years hearing other Army wives go on and on about their time overseas, and I have to sit there and listen to it, all the while wishing I could participate in the discussion. Not because I needed to be apart of the conversation, but I had always figured, if my husband had to be in the military and was gone all the time, I should at least get a bit of the benefit of living in an exotic place! But NOOOOO, he always had some stupid job that was related to homeland defense, and how often can people do homeland defense if they aren't IN the homeland? So, I have sat through numerous events with spouses who talk about their trips all over Europe and how they would say, "Oh when you get to go, you'll love...blah blah blah!" Yeah, well, I thought our opportunity was gone. We are nearing our final duty station and I figured the chances were nil. But, I was wrong again - such a naysayer I am!

Finally after 20 years...we are here. In beautiful Stuttgart. I no longer feel that the rug will be pulled out from underneath us, like I did just 1 short week ago. I kept thinking this couldn't really be happening. Even after our first shipment left in June along with my car, I still believed it would all be sent back because it was a big mistake. It was a horrible feeling to think every call or email was going to be the one that pulled the plug on my overseas happiness opportunity! It is all about me isn't it? Greg has sacrificed so much to give this to me and for that I am eternally grateful. He has been my rock - especially through the terrible times we have had getting here. I don't think I could have done this without him, nor would I have wanted to.

The signs were on the wall that this wasn't going to be an easy move back in June. Up to that point, things had worked quite well. Bekah's passport was expired, and the soonest we could get an appointment to get one ordered was late in May. But the post office lady said, "Go to the courthouse in Atlanta because no one really knows they do them there!" Sure enough, we walked in, walked to the window, filled out the form, and BAM, 7 days later had a passport in our hands (didn't even expedite it!) But, within a few weeks, Greg got the news that the entire family was required to have military passports...WHAT!? How do we get those in a short time span (we were only about 6 weeks out from travel)? We went to the newly opened passport office on Fort McPherson and the woman there assured us that she could expedite and get them to us in 4-6 weeks! REALLY??? Seriously...that's like way too close for us. but she did the expedite letter and we were hopeful. Well in about a week and a half the 3 girls passports arrived and we wiped our brow believing Zach and mine would be following behind. Day after day we waited and waited to find nothing returned to the passport office. THese are military passports so you can't just call the local passport office or check online. In speaking with the passport office we asked when we could check on them. She said we'd have to wait FOUR weeks from the time they were sent out! WHAT?! So I dutifully waited the 4 weeks and then at 4 weeks showed up at her office.

She then thought that an email status inquiry was the best way to get information! REALLY??? Why not a call, I don't know. This was a Thurs. Friday afternoon she still had no response. We are now only 7 business days from travel. Monday we learn that the passport agency wants my and Zach's tourist passports. Now we have NO way to leave the country. But I dutifully surrendered to their request. She shipped them on Tues. They were received on Wed. But I didn't know this at the time. I contacted the passport lady and she basically told me to just wait and she'd start calling around to the people she knew to get a status check. Thurs was a crazy day of moving so I didn't call but on Friday I went into her office and left her a note that I needed to know what whas going on. She came back and said, "Oh, we haven't received anything so I guess it isn't coming today!" She went on to add..."You and your son may have to leave separately!" WHAT? Are you CRAZZZYYYY!!!???

So Friday I went into overdrive and began the process of contacting my Senator, Marco Rubio, in FL, who kicked it into high gear and flew through the process of helping me get my passports. I had to sign releases, fax them over, and then have Greg do the same. Within hours we had information about the location of the passports and that they had been returned for a special stamp (Zach is adopted from China). By Monday however, we still didn't know if they would be able to get the passport to me by Tues morning (the day we were to fly), but by 2pm - the workers in DC were walking my passports between agencies and getting the appropriate stamp and getting it FedEx-ed to me by the next day! At 10:30am I tracked the package to Fort McPherson. At 11:15am I had the passports in my hand.

That is the passport saga. DURING this same time frame, we had issues with shipping our second vehicle. The second vehicle was to be shipped out of Charleston SC. But the paperwork necessary to get the shipping documents was being held up due to a miscommunication by Germans as to what was actually needed to ship the vehicle. By Wed, all the documents had been fedex-ed to me and I was able to scan and copy all that was needed. All I had to do was call on Friday for an appointment on Monday to drop the car off at the port. Oh remember the problems with the passport on Friday??? I was stuck on the phone freaking out about that, I forgot to make the required drop off appointment in Charleston. Bekah and Greg drove down the night before and just prayed the port would have Grace and Mercy at the door - She was there! Grace allowed the car to be shipped and all is good!

Shortly before all of this saga, the household goods shipment nightmare occurred. I won't even go into that crazy situation. I don't want to rehash it as it makes me sick to my stomach. Suffice it to say if Allied ever comes near my home again, God help them.

I am grateful we have weathered this storm. Or should I say hurricane. It was a whirlwind of excitement but it is all good now as I lay my head on this side of the Atlantic. All worth it? So far so good.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


November and December of 2010 in Atlanta was filled with many different emotions. In November, the weekends were filled with me jet setting about the country. The 2nd weekend was filled with a spiritual high going to PWOCI Conference. This is a conference that brings together PWOCers from all over the US every 2 years. It is a time of spiritual renewal and a mix of emotions ending with a spiritual high. Upon returning from the mountain top, the next weekend was filled with a trip to Orlando with the family for a Reintegration conference (soldiers returning to family life after time overseas!) The family enjoyed some much needed bonding time at Disney and then in a wonderful 4 star hotel! It was definitely a fun time. I turned around 3 days later to get into the car for a trip to FL for Thanksgiving. Bekah flew in from Charleston and we drove to Venice with the rest of the family. We had a quick few days together and then Greg and I turned around and got on another plane to Aruba.

Aruba was the trip designed to celebrate 20 years of marriage. I don't think we should have ever come home! It was really a great trip. We enjoyed the company of good friends (Mark & Laura McCatty) who endured the coastal waterways and beautiful southern breezes with us. Scuba diving, snorkeling, swimming, hot tubs, and bocci ball were the highlights of the trip! Oh yeah and barracuda. Man that was the tastiest treat ever!

After returning back to reality on the 6th of December, an 8 hour trip back home was waiting for us! The kids enjoyed their time with grandma and grandpa but were definitely ready to get into that car and get home. I guess Gma and Gpa didn't take them out of the house except for two trips to WalMart. They were a bit stir crazy!

After our arrival back to Atlanta, Bekah came home from school a few days later, and Grandpa George arrived for a 3 week stay. It was just crazy here. Grandpa needed some entertainment so we set him up with a computer at the table. He would play "Sparkle" (his way of addressing the game Farkle on Facebook!) and check his bank balance each day (sometimes multiple times a day). He appeared to have deteriorated or maybe just given up on life being anything but eating and sleeping. Kind of reminded me of babyhood. That is pretty much what my kiddos did in their first months of life...seems like grandpa is just waiting for him time to "check out." It's actually kind of sad. I definitely don't want to be unproductive through my later years. I want to stay active and alert - being involved in my grandchildren's lives.

Christmas came and it actually snowed here in Atlanta. Apparently that hasn't happened in over 100 years! So we had a very pretty White Christmas in Atlanta 2010. Since our Thanksgiving dinner was held at the American Legion in FL, we didn't have a real dinner. So, I made the whole kit and kaboodle for Christmas. What a nice night.

December 29th Grandpa left for home but within days (the 31st) the house had another addition - Rob. Bekah's boyfriend came for the Passion 2011 conference held in Atlanta at the Phillips Arena. What an amazing time of spiritual renewal - AGAIN! I was blessed with not only one conference in two months but TWO! YAY ME!

Not completely certain how the conference affected the 2 of them, but I believe we will see if it has done anything by watching the actions of the two of them over the next few months! Much of the conference talked about the balance between what we believe and what we do. Is there consistency? So, we'll see!

The dissertation is coming along. In October 2010 I passed comprehensive exams and became a doctoral candidate. I have been working on my proposal/prospectus since then and am getting closer to completion! UGH. If only....

We are also believing we will be moving to Germany. Just waiting for those orders. As usual...we will know when they tell us. So be quiet, hurry up, and wait!