Lies, Lies all Lies

Let me start this blog by clearing up a few things. In Germany a person can find peanut butter (though it’s pretty pricey), ziplock bags, tampons, brown sugar, mac and cheese, tortilla chips and chocolate chips. There are plenty of pain meds and vitamins as well. You can order taco seasoning by the case. In other words, the extra 30 pounds worth of luggage we packed after being told we couldn’t find certain things could have been filled with something more useful, like the jacket I decided not to bring, the several shirts Tyler left behind, not to mention the books, oh the books I had to part with.

When we first signed on to move over here, we were warned that Germans do things differently, told to pack things like cooking yeast and chocolate chips (or pick another item from the list above) if we really wanted them. Either that or we’d have to have someone ship them to us. We wouldn’t have access to them for the next two years. Which meant we’d have to find room in our luggage for all these things. And with a luggage allotment of 130 pounds per person, we had some trimming to do.

In our last days stateside we packed, weighed, un packed, repacked and weighed again more times than I can count. We crammed things into carry on bags, backpacks, and wore layers and jackets through the airport. Hot and sweaty in my leather jacket, jeans, two pairs of socks and three shirts, I felt okay because I knew that we were taking what we needed. Our discomfort for a day meant that we’d be all set for the next two years. I took it in stride.

Then we arrived at our new home. We began to unpack. And Mark and Nancy, the couple we’re renting, from started asking questions. They wondered why we brought so many baggies and why the super-sized container of vitamins? We told them about the lists that we got and the stories from others who came before us finding that they couldn’t get what they needed.

Nancy smiled “You can buy all of that here,” she explained.

“All of it?”

“All of it.” Mark chimed in.

The following day, Nancy took me to the grocery story. In minutes I found nearly everything I thought we wouldn’t. I was dumbfounded. I came home and confirmed it with Tyler. Then the two of us decided to tell the masses, in one collective voice… pack your clothes, your jackets… for the love of Pete, bring your books, but do not waste the extra space cramming two years worth of ziplock bags and tampons into your luggage. It’s all here.

*A word of truth: PopTarts are nearly 7 Euros a box, taco shells cost 4 Euros for ten, the salsa selection is limited and a 4 pack of Oreos will run you 1.50 Euros.


Week One

It’s hard to believe we accepted the offer to come work and live in Germany nearly five months ago. At the time it felt like July would never get here. We had so much to do, the list was overwhelming: Sell the house, sell the cars, tell our boys, tell our jobs, cancel our subscriptions… We had to find a place in Berlin, pack what we could and leave what we couldn’t.
Looking back, we we’ve been pretty fortunate. Our house sold in just over a week, as did our cars. We found our home here quickly and discovered that we’re renting from a couple of amazing people who have gone out of their way to make the transition easier on us. Our families and coworkers remained so supportive.
Of course, the boys went back and forth between excited, sad, happy and angry about the pending life change.
On one car trip Dylan turned to me and said, “I don’t think I’m going to make any friends in Germany.”
“Why not?” I asked.
“Because I don’t want to.”
I laughed a little. “Then you’re probably right, son.”
Two weeks later he told me that he’d be okay making one friend while we’re away.
He wasn’t alone in his mood swings. Each of us had to reconcile the move in our own minds. We had to find a new normal, and since none of us had visited Germany before, we had no clue what that normal would look like.
Now it’s been a week now since we moved and both boys have announced what Tyler and I have been feeling… Germany isn’t as scary or different as we thought. It’s strange, in fact, how even though we’ve gone through such a big change, life looks the same. We are all the same people that we were a week ago, doing the same daily tasks as before. We were adventurous in Colorado, taking every opportunity to get out and explore. We’re doing that here as well.
Life is good. The move, though not without it’s challenges (we’ll write more on those later) did nothing to alter the fact that we love, care for, and fight for each other.
All this to say, after week number one, I think we’re going to be just fine here :).


The Monday After

My principal knew that I had applied and was not accepted. But as Spring Break was ending I needed to tell him the new twist in the plot of my life. Bekkie and I agreed that Monday would be the day. For me it was the 1st Monday returning from Spring Break.

Driving, I thought about Bekkie. I wondered how her morning would go. I was nervous for her and for me. I really liked my job, loved my team and my students. I could see myself staying at the same school for years to come.

I was unloading my lunch into the refrigerator when my principal came into the teachers lounge. I decided that moment was as good as a any time to tell him the change in plans. I took a deep breath. “Hey Joe, I have some exciting news! Over break the school called and said they had a position open up and I accepted it.”

“ Wow, Tyler that is terrific, what an opportunity!”

I was relieved that he was excited about my adventure. “This is sad to say goodbye, but really exciting and will be a huge opportunity for my family and I to grow together and experience the world and other cultures and to get a incite on education from a totally different perspective.”

“Truly wonderful and I wish the best for you and Bekkie.”

He went on to tell me some things about being young and wishing he could have done something similar like this when he was younger. Though, I believe age doesn’t matter. It’s like pulling off a bandaid you just have to do it.

So there I did it! My teammates already knew, they were excited and saddened by the news, which was harder for me. Over the last six years teaching that my teammates at Frederick and Bacon have been more than coworkers they’ve been friends and family. We didn’t just share the work load and work day together we shared life with each other.

By conferences, I started telling a few parents, but had yet to tell my class. That would be hard too. This school year was full of loss for many of my kids. Parents had passed away and some faced moves of their own. I had begun to declutter my room a bit. A few kids would ask me about it and I’d be very sly and say. “ Yes, I going to Germany for Summer break.” Making it sound like I was going there for a vacation and not moving there. As the year was counting down so were the items and belongings in the room. I decided to tell my class about Germany.

Then the questions and comments rolled in. Everything from where Germany was to why. “Why are you moving to Germany?” “What’s in Germany that’s not here?” “I’ll miss you, I was hoping you’d be my 5th grade teacher next year.” “Mr. Messenger will you find me on istagram?” “Can I email you?” “Can my mom be your friend on Facebook?”

As a teacher these kind of comments melt your heart. To me it showed that I did have and played a part in their lives and their education. It meant a lot to be missed this much. I even received many parent emails who expressed their sadness because they had children still in the building that they wanted me to teach.

Knowing my team, those up and coming forth grade students will be in great hands. I’m confident they’ll do great. Of course I’ll miss them, and I’ll think of them and my team while I’m away.


Over Ice Cream: breaking the news to our boys

“When my parents told me were going to Germany I felt excited. I thought of how much fun we would have. I was about to jump up and down. But then I started feeling sad a little bit. Because I didn’t want to leave our dog and my friends. I started crying easily.

Everyone knows that it’s hard to move. I’ve told everyone that. It’s hard.”

“All I felt was sad. That’s all. I was going to miss my friends.”

Ice cream felt appropriate for the situation. Two bowls, filled with two scoops each, makes for two happy boys.
I waited for each of them to eat a few bites. Then I talked. “What if I told you guys that you could go to your dad’s school next year?”
Dylan’s eyes lit up. He’d been begging to go to school with Tyler for the last couple of years. “Really?”
“Yep. And what if I told you that I’d be at home all the time. I can come to your school and help you in your class.”
“That would be awesome,” Evan announced with his mouth full.
“And you can take swimming classes,” Tyler chimed in.
“And biking class,” I added.
The smiles around the table grew exponentially, but then something changed in Dylan’s eyes. It was too good to be true. He’d added it all up, and it didn’t amount to us staying put. “Where will this happen? Here?”
“No.” I reached for his hand.
“Did you get the job in Germany?” This time he turned to Tyler.
“Yeah, I did,” Tyler answered.
It took only seconds for tears to well up in Dylan’s eyes. Only a couple more for them to spill over onto his cheeks and fall next to his ice cream bowl.
“This will be a good thing,” I said.
“No, it won’t. I’m going to have to move away from my friends.”
“But not forever. Just for two years.”
“Two years?” Evan questioned. “How many days is that?”
“About seven hundred,” Tyler answered.
“That’s a lot of days.” Evan took another bite.
“My friends probably won’t remember me after that.” Dylan hopped off his seat. “And I bet there’s lots of bullies in Germany. Really bad ones.”
“There’s bullies everywhere,” I said.
“And I don’t speak the language.”
“You’ll learn the language.”
“Then that’ll just be harder on you.”
“Why is that?”
“Because I won’t remember English anymore. You’ll have to reteach me.”
I laughed a little. “I don’t think you’ll forget.”
The boys finished their treat. Tyler and I gave them a little extra time to hang out before bed, to let them unwind and let the news sink in. Then we brushed our teeth and gathered in Evan’s room for bedtime prayers.
“I don’t think I’m going to pray tonight. I think I’ll just wait in my room,” Dylan said.
“I’d like you to stay with us,” I replied.
“I just can’t be in here right now. I’m going to go cry.”
“What? Why are you going to cry?”
“I think you know why.” Dylan turned on his heels, but before he could make it to the hall a deep sob left his chest.
“Oh, buddy.” I turned to Evan. “I’ll come back, okay?”
Evan gave a nod. I followed Dylan to his room where he was already laying in bed, crying into his pillow.
“It’s okay to feel sad,” I told him. “I feel sad too. I’m going to miss a lot of people. But I promise, I wouldn’t agree to do this if I thought it would be bad for us.”
“But it is going to be bad. I don’t want to go.”
“You don’t have to want to go. You won’t get into trouble for not wanting to go. You won’t get in trouble for being sad or mad. We’re in this together. We’ll get through it as a team.” I reached my arms out and Dylan responded. He leaned his head against my shoulder and cried a while longer. I cried too.
Truth be told, that was one of the hardest nights of my life. Watching Dylan’s heart break made mine ache as well. I questioned momentarily if we’d made the right choice. If we should just stay and take it all back. But in my heart, I knew that God had given us this opportunity and he would get us through it.
With faith, I prayed over my son that night, for comfort, for peace and for our entire family to be stronger as a result of this journey.


We Got the Job!

“I got an email today.” Tyler walked through the grange door and set his things down.
“Oh, yeah?” I peered over my shoulder, turning that night’s fajita vegetables in the sauté pan.
Tyler smiled.
He kept smiling.
“What? Who emailed you?” For all I knew, he’d made a good sale on Craigslist, not an uncommon occurrence in our house.
“It was from our HR department. They forwarded me an email from the principal in Berlin.”
“About what?”
“They had another position open up. They’re wondering if I’m still interested.”
“Really? What did you say?”
Tyler shrugged. I could smell the fajita veggies burning a little, but my attention was elsewhere.
“I told them that I was, and asked for more details.”
“So we might be going? Like, really going to Berlin, Germany?”
A few days later we got the “formal” offer for a third or fourth grade position at JFK International School, and, with nervous hands, Tyler wrote back… “I would be honored to accept the position. Thank you for this opportunity…” We’d have a few months to get things in order and move to Germany.
Weeks before, moving seemed easy. In my head, I’d written lists of things to be done, what we should sell, donate or try to take with us. But that all changed. Suddenly three months didn’t seem long enough to move our lives.
I sat down that night, Tyler at my side, and wrote a new list: sell the house, sell the cars, call and cancel auto insurance…
“When do you think we should tell our jobs?” Tyler asked.
“When do you think we should tell the kids?” I added.
We sat in silence for a minute. “I think we tell our jobs as soon as possible. Give them time.” I suggested. “And tell the kids after that. We don’t want them to have to keep it a secret.”
Tyler nodded. “What if your job asks you to leave early?”
“I don’t know.” I’d only been working at Grace Place for seven months. They’d taken great care of me, even sent me to California for a conference just one month prior. I’d feel bad if I waited too long. I wanted to give them time to find a replacement for my position. If that happened quickly, I guess I’d have to be okay with that.
Besides, we were going to need to tell the boys sooner rather than later. Give them time to get used to the idea of moving halfway around the world.
“So when should we do this?” Tyler’s question drew me back into our conversation.
“Monday?” I threw out. “I have a meeting that morning.”
“Okay. Monday.”
“And the kids on Sunday?”
Tyler agreed.
In the next room I could hear our boys playing. I wondered how they would take it. We had a few days to figure out what to say. Hopefully they’d take it well.