16 August 1986 @ 6:36 CDT, we promised. We were so young, but there has never been a doubt that he is the only one.
16 August 1986 @ 6:36 CDT, we promised. We were so young, but there has never been a doubt that he is the only one.
Germany: June 1992-April 1993
Our move to Germany happened very quickly. Shortly after Christmas 1991, I told Kelly that I wanted to get away. Family visits over Christmas had been emotionally charged and difficult. I wanted a fresh start where our little family didn’t have to fit into anyone else’s pattern. So in late February, Kelly put in the paperwork for an “accompanied, overseas, extended long” tour of duty. We left the location open so that we’d be at the top of the list for “send them anywhere as long as they go as a family.”
In late April, Kelly called home at lunch and asked how I felt about Germany. I loved the idea. “When?” Six weeks! By the time he got home, I had the bathroom and part of the bedroom ready. We sat down and talked about the base. It was a base closure assignment: short-term and then you can choose your next base. He signed the paper the next morning and the merry-go-round started immediately.
Passports (on rush), shots, medical clearance — all in the first week. Spouse counseling, international driver’s licenses, and loads of paperwork — week 2. Movers for bulk shipment (by boat) — week 3. More paperwork, more shots, and finish up all stateside business — week 4. International bank account and movers for express shipment (by plane), pick up passports and exchange some dollars for DM, and say goodbye to Ohio. — week 5. Visit Kelly’s family to say goodbye, fly to Atlanta to say goodbye to my family, and finally board the international flight from Atlanta to Frankfurt Germany — week 6.
We got to Germany and stayed in a hotel for a week and then we moved into a base apartment. Germany was an amazing experience. We spent our weekends exploring the country around us. We found our favorite places (Trier, for one) and picnics on the Moselle River (which was quite near our base). We traveled rain or shine and even in the snow. We knew our time there was short and we made use of every free moment.
Germany was also the place where my kids got chicken pox, ate from street vendors, climbed over ruins, and learned that friends don’t always speak the same language. We went to church where German, Croatian, Russian, English, and Sudanese were all spoken. We had earpieces for the Sundays when the sermon language wasn’t English.
One Monday in early April 1993, the movers came again and packed up our express shipment (which went by air from Germany to the US and then on another plane from US to Turkey). On Wednesday and Thursday they picked up our bulk shipment (which had to go from Germany to the US by boat before going by boat to Turkey). Friday we took a shuttle from our base to the airport. We spent the night in a hotel, and early Saturday flew to Turkey on a C-130.
When we left Germany there were piles of snow and it was cool (45-50 degrees). When we landed in Turkey it was green and brown and 85 degrees. We knew we were in for a huge change.
June 1990 brought a second addition to our family. A little girl with some trouble breathing entered this world on Fathers’Day. She came with nothing but her beautiful blue eyes. We spent the first four days in the NICU and several weeks after carefully watching her chest rise and fall.
Two kids in 18 months will tax any system put in place in a home. My home was no different. Suddenly there was at least twice as much of everything a kid needs. Or rather, what our society says a kid needs. We had beds, a walker, an indoor swing, an outdoor swing, push toys, pull toys, dolls, blocks, strollers, carrying slings, diaper bags, etc. You name it and we were probably given it.
What we weren’t given was twice as much “mom energy” and I realize how much of my energy had to go into maintaining our home and constantly putting things away. They helped from the time they were old enough, but still most of the “doings” fell to me.
Looking back, I would do things much differently. I would follow the Montessori principles much more closely.
By June 1992, a major move was on the horizon. I had no way of knowing how completely it would change our family.
Our co-priests are on sabbatical (May 14-Sep 3) and our parish is having all sorts of fun, educational, and just plain cool forums and presentations. Thankfully most of them do not involve “stuff” that I would have to bring home.
This project did. However, it has a lot of meaning wrapped up in one simple stained glass cross. It’s small enough to tuck into any corner of a suitcase. Every time I look at it hanging in my window I am reminded of the lessons I am learning during this journey with my beloved parish.
Clifton Gorge was one of our favorite hiking spots in Ohio. We started taking Michael at least once a month starting when he was about 5 months old. He loved to go: it was quiet, peaceful, he actually slept best when strapped to Kelly’s back.
Closer to home, we took daily walks, sometimes multiple walks a day. He rode in the stroller when it was just the two of us. He began to walk to 10 months and from then on he chose whether to walk, ride, or usually a combination of both.
He began to hike on his own at about 2 1/2. These were just short little hikes, but we did include some elevation and scrambling before he turned 4.
In late November 1987 we arrived in Ohio with a car load of possessions. Shortly after arrival all our things we’d stored in Evansville (wedding gifts galore) began tricking into our home. We’d gone from light and clean to slightly cluttered.
Since it wouldn’t all fit, we bought plastic crates and filled a closet with them. It filled a closet, but with the door shut you never knew and out of sight out of mind!
In late March 1988 I was sick. Really sick: passing out, throwing up, sleeping a lot, and unable to keep up with life and work.
In mid-May I finally went to the doctor. That’s when I found out I wasn’t sick, I was pregnant. Pregnant with serious, long-term morning sickness.
This change in family status necessitated moving from our cheap, old, run down, drafty apartment to something a little nicer. After several months of looking, we found a cute little 2 bedroom apartment. It was adorable and probably my favorite of all our homes.
The thing about this apartment was it was bigger than our efficiency apartment in Texas (350 square feet) but much smaller than our existing apartment (900 square feet). 600 square feet with small closets and no storage space and we were adding a child. In those days before the move, I began to purge. I’d open a box in the closet and if I’d never used anything in there, I’d stack it up in a corner. A couple of days before the move, DAV came with a truck and hauled it all off.
What I learned from this move was if it’s in storage you’ll forget about it and buy it again.
I also learned that a tiny new life could suddenly upend everything I ever thought I knew. And that was a good thing.
I also learned that babies don’t need 90% of the stuff I was given at multiple baby showers.
I think the most profound lesson I learned in Texas is that adventure (and living in a culture radically different than your own) is not scary, is not dangerous, and is not necessarily expensive. It may seem strange to call Texas a radically different culture than southern Indiana, but when all you know is Midwest, English speaking, white people . . . Texas is worlds away.
I came away from our time there with a confidence that I could communicate with anyone. A few words in a language (not your own) shows respect, a commitment to relationship, and a true interest in those around you.
I also learned that it is important to find people and a place where you can worship regularly.
And food . . . I definitely learned to eat like a local. Find the places where the locals go and eat there, buy food in the local markets, and get a cookbook so you can try out food on your own.
Our home in Texas was in a nice complex that included laundry facilities and a pool. The pool seemed like such a luxury when I arrived, but by June I was of the opinion it was absolutely necessary. It made cooling off in the middle of the day a true highlight of our time there. Everything we had fit into a 300 square foot efficiency apartment.
What we should have learned in this apartment is that white space is everything when you can see everything standing in one spot. But as pictures of upcoming houses will reveal — I didn’t learn it until much later. But, as I look back on these pictures I see how little it really takes to feel at home.
Remembering this (white space) helped me when drawing up our shipping allowance list. We will be looking for a very small home. And I don’t want it to feel cramped and small, but rather open and spacious.
Our apartment complex was “way out” on the 1604 (near where Sea World is today). There wasn’t much around but scrub at the time. We took long walks in the scrub, and drove miles to run errands. At the time it didn’t bother me because I really didn’t have anything else to do while Kelly was at training.
Our next few homes were much closer to Kelly’s work and errand running sites. Our current home is “way out” and it takes 20 minutes to get to the nearest gas station and grocery store, 40 minutes to get to Target, bookstore, etc.
Each time I have to go to town, I prepare for a long day. It is better to clump all my errands into one long day. As the years have gone by, I find that I really don’t like being so far out. Don’t get me wrong, I love our little place, the quiet, the space, but there are days (many days lately) when I long to hop on my bike and take care of my errands.
This move we hope to be centrally located to public transportation and markets. Walking, biking, and public transportation (and Uber) will be our primary modes of transportation for a year or more. We even plan to use our bikes (with a trailer) or a pull-behind garden wagon for running our marketing errands.
Kelly left Evansville in late February 1987 for San Antonio. He joined the United State Air Force as a way to give the two of us a better start in life together than Evansville could offer. I joined him in May.
Texas . . .It was the first time we’d been anywhere (longer than a week) without a family support system. We stretched our wings, explored our city, and learned how to take care of a myriad of normal tasks.
Texas . . .We found our favorite places were run by locals. We found our favorite neighbors spoke a mix of Spanish and English. We experienced life in a community of diversity unlike anything we had previously known.
Texas . . . Kelly walked 2 miles in the September heat from our apartment to see Pope John Paul II. Our dates consisted of finding out of the way Missions (Catholic churches from the late 1700’s and early 1800s), then hitting up our favorite local eatery, and taking walks in the scrub behind our apartment complex.
These are the biggest impressions that remain from Texas. Mostly it was about daily life interspersed with adventures and learning more about those who lived around us. It was a taste of something we couldn’t identify at the time, but followed us to our next base.
In late November 1987, we packed our Mitsubishi hatchback (it was a tiny little car) and headed north through Texas . . . destination Dayton, Ohio.
Greetings! A fresh blog with no words written yet is just like a new journal. Somehow I feel the words should be momentous and memorable. And so, I am tempted to put off writing until it seems the words are perfect. But if there is one thing I have learned after walking this beautiful earth, it is that perfection isn’t attainable. So I’ll settle for good enough and start writing.
My family is a family of four adults choosing to live together. We started out as two: young, impulsive, wanting a life together, wanting adventure, wanting children. So we started with a marriage, a move or two (Indiana, Texas, Ohio). Then we added two children in pretty quick succession.
Our children (Michael and Hannah) are as different as night and day. They always have been. Michael was born observing the world, seeing too much, hearing too much, finding patterns (and comfort in the patterns), inquisitive, and sensitive. Hannah was born watching the world, telling the world exactly what her feelings were, performing, guarding the defenseless, creative, and playful. Like I said Night and Day!
Kelly and I were still young, impulsive, and wanting adventure. So when, in a fit of emotional upheaval, I announced a desire to move . . . and to move far away, Kelly signed up an “accompanied, overseas, extended, tour of duty. Several weeks later the paperwork came in and we found out we were headed to Germany.
Germany . . . land of beauty, a new language (after 7 years learning it in high school and as my college major), a new start, and an adventure. Germany was an amazing place to live with small kids. It is clean. The water is clean. The public restrooms are clean. The air is clean. The people are clean. We arrived with three large suitcases and four backpacks. Each weekend we used the backpacks as we got out there, meeting people, seeing the sights, eating local food, and generally acting as if we were on an extended vacation.
Germany . . . also the land of base closures. We knew when we arrived that our time there would be relatively short. Pretty soon, too soon, we were looking at a list of bases we could choose from. We could stay in Germany, come back to America, Kelly could go to Korea alone, or Turkey.
Turkey . . . land of beauty, a new and much different language, another new start, and an even bigger adventure. The adventure started immediately: Kelly was being sent to Italy for training. The kids and I were going to be there alone . . . right away. In many respects, Turkey could not have been more different than Germany. And I fell head over heels in love with it. We were in far eastern Turkey, so all that stuff you know about Istanbul–none of it applies to where we were.
Turkey . .. dirt, sand, sandstorms, no rain (except during the rainy season and then boy does it rain), intermittent water outages (and then lovely “Water Buffalo” trucks that bring water to the neighborhood), intermittent power outages, and marble floors laid straight on the dirt. But the people and the food . . . it just doesn’t get any better.
The first person I met in Turkey was Çemile. She was young (17, maybe) and she was Turkish. We met as I was struggling to figure out how many Turkish coins to insert in a pay phone in the hotel lobby, while talking on the phone arranging permanent housing (as opposed to the hotel we were currently living in), and trying to keep two young, energetic, and hungry kiddos quiet and happy. Salvation appeared in the form of a lovely, slender, young lady, who picked up Hannah, motioned for Michael to follow, and led them to clear spot on the floor where she began to talk to them and play. She looked up hesitantly and I beamed my biggest smile ever. We were fast friends and we hadn’t spoken a word.