Closing Up My Life in the US

Mom & Me at the Orpheum

Mom and I at the Orpheum Theater in Wichita. We were seeing the 3D movie Creature From the Black Lagoon. It was pretty good effects for a movie made so long ago.

Egg Crate Cafe Wichita

This is my favorite place to get breakfast in Wichita, KS. During the summer Mom and I would go out on Saturday mornings and shop at the Farmer’s Market then come here to eat.

Hajjaj and Reed and Yoga Mini Golf

A few of my crazy friends who I got to spend time with before leaving Wichita. For most of the game these two were playing yoga pose mini golf. They would have to hold a yoga pose while shooting and they both still beat me.

Mom and I wave goodbye

Mom and I wave goodbye at Wichita’s Mid-Continent Airport














This is going to be a little convoluted, so try to follow my train of thought.

Now that my visa had been approved to Denmark, I had a few more minor things to take care of. First was getting copies of my medical records to take with me. For most people this is not a big deal, you just need general information but when you are someone like me with more than one serious health condition it becomes more of a challenge to figure out what information you need and from where.

A little background, I am one of the luck individuals who have an Arnold Chiari Malformation (ACM). What the heck is that you are probably asking. Don’t feel bad, even a lot of doctors are not familiar with this condition. ACM is when the cerebral tonsils, which are normally tucked up under the cerebellum in your skull, hang down into your spinal column in your neck next to your spinal cord. This can cause numerous issues with the flow of cerebral spinal fluid to the brain which in turn causes many neurological symptoms. Basically, if you are lucky you don’t even know you have it, if you are unlucky, it can really really suck.

To give you the short history, I was one of the lucky ones for 34 years. I never knew I had a Chiari Malformation until I had an accident at work that made my condition worse and become symptomatic. In about one minute, I went from lucky to very unlucky. A bookshelf filled with hardcover coffee table books fell on me, slamming me in a seated position, on a hardwood floor. I was slammed down with what ended up amounting to 250 pounds of force. Yes, it hurt. No, I never hit my head. Yes, I went to the E.R. However, the Chiari Malformation wasn’t found until months later. I started developing more and more neurological issues after the accident.

From the day of the accident I had constant headaches. I would wake up with one everyday and go to bed with one every night. The only thing that differed was the intensity. Over the next few months I started having blurred vision, slurred speech, trouble remember words and names, trouble swallowing, etc. I learned from a work comp doctor I had ACM. One of these days I will post about that conversation, it was a doozy, that doctor was an ass.

Anyway, to make a long story short I ended up needing a decompression surgery to allow proper fluid flow back to my brain. I ended up having complications which happen in a lot of ACM cases. I ended up having 7 surgeries in 6 months in 2004, 6 of those were brain surgeries. After I had the decompression I was getting too much fluid to my head and developed hydrocephalus. So now I have that condition on top of the ACM. I had to have a VP shunt placed in my head. A shunt is a valve in your head to help regulate the fluid flow. The 7th surgery was to fix the tube on my shunt, it had moved and needed to be put back in place.

It took about 5 years to completely recover from all of this but I did it. This gives you a basic understanding of why getting the right medical records would be so important for me. I got records from my general practitioner and my neurosurgeon. The really funny thing is when I put in the request from my GP’s company, the woman in records who ended up gathering my information was from Denmark. When I went to pick up my records she met me and told me she had seen my request and had asked to work on it. She even sat with me for a while and told me about living in Denmark. It was pretty amazing. The packets of information were both quite extensive and a bit expensive to have copied, as you can imagine. I had files, x-rays and CDs with MRIs and CT scans. I was ready!

Next, I started trying to decide what to take, what to keep, and what to get rid of. I started out by going through my closet and donating things to the DAV I didn’t wear or like. I pulled out everything I could let go in a garage sale. I started off posting things online to see if any of my friends wanted my stuff. I had worked for a bookstore chain for more than 13 years and had quite a collection of books. Many friends jumped at the chance to get their hands on my books. I am also obsessive compulsive so my books remain in perfect condition even though they have been read more than once.

Things were moving out of the house but I still had so much to get rid of. I decided to have the dreaded yard sale. At this point I was still working at the Health-food store and I was more than ready to quit. I knew they would not give me time off to hold the yard sale so quitting now made sense. Every time I had asked my husband if he thought it was okay to quit now the answer had been no, with valid reasons. Anyone who knows me knows that if I hadn’t agreed with his reasons I would have just told him I was doing it anyway but he always had solid points, dang it.

Finally, the day came when I asked him if he thought it was okay to quit my job and he said yes, it was time. Hallelujah! I so ready to be out of that environment. For my schedule, I worked Saturday and Sunday mornings. On Saturday, I was part of the crew who unloaded the delivery truck. Sunday, I was the opening cashier. For the first two hours the only employees in the store were the manager, the person setting up produce and me.

When I left, it was a Saturday. At the end of my regular shift I gathered all my things up, cleaned out my locker, left my resignation letter that was effective immediately on the table in the break room with my employee ID, company apron, my name tag and I walked out. I had never felt so good in all my life. So many other employees said they loved that I did it this way. One or two of the managers were upset because they had to cover my shifts. But for the most part everyone understood why I had done it.

I can’t remember if I’ve told this story or not so just to be safe I’m going to do a quick reminder. In November I had developed a blood clot in my leg which required me to take time off work. That unexpected illness ate up all my paid time off I had saved up to take off for my wedding in December. When it came to take off for my wedding the HR person at home office told me,  too bad, you should have planed better, you will work what you are scheduled. When I said I only wanted to take off 2 weeks of unpaid time and I was willing to lose my insurance qualification if I had to, the HR woman responded, “we don’t care what you want, we are in the business to make money.” So you can see how I knew I would never get time off for a yard sale if they wouldn’t even let me off work to get married. I knew in that moment I would not give two weeks notice, I would be walking out. (If you are wondering, my store manager said if they say you have to work whatever you are scheduled I just won’t put you on the schedule for two weeks. Bye. Go get married. GOD love her!)

Anyway, back to the yard sale . . . my mother agreed to help me and brought tables from her office to use to cover the yard and driveway with my belongings. There was no room in the garage to have it in there so I stored my things in a camping trailer in the driveway and waited for the weekend. The first two weekends I had planned to have the sale were canceled because the forecast said rain. With this having to be out in the yard I didn’t want my belongings to get rained on and ruined. I really needed to make some money off of the sales for the move so I wanted to keep things as nice as possible. Oddly enough the forecasts were wrong and both weekends were beautiful and sunny and would have been perfect for the sale.

The third weekend was shaping up to be perfect. The forecast was for sun the entire time I had wanted to hold the yard sale. A friend my mother works with stopped buy to pick up some of my furniture he wanted to buy. As we were loading things in his van he made the comment, “now watch, this will be the weekend it pours for days.” I told him if he just cursed me I would have my mom kick his butt at work the next week. As you can guess, she did give him hell for me.

About two hours into the first day it started to sprinkle. We had planned ahead and pulled out tarps to cover the tables just in case of rain. we started to move some things back into the camper that would be completely ruined if it got wet and took a chance with other things. At about hour 3 the rain started to get a bit heavier so we covered things up and decided to call it a day. I had already sold several things and had made almost $400 so I was pretty happy with the first day but then it started to pour and it became a mad dash to get things in out of the rain. My dad who is not in good health tried to help us but I insisted he just stand on the porch and hold the door for us as mom and I did mad dashes in the pouring rain to get everything inside.

We managed to get everything either in the house or in the camper with nothing getting ruined except one of the tables which broke in the middle and started to do a v-shaped sag while we were trying to get all my hard cover books off of it, out from under the tarp we had covered it up with. As the table started to sag the water started to run toward the middle under the tarp. It was at this point I was really cursing my mom’s co-worker and thinking of ways to torture him the next time I saw him.

But in the end everything got back under cover without being ruined. As my mother and I toweled off as we dripped on the kitchen floor she looked at me and said, “I will pay you $1,000 if we don’t have to do this again.” I just looked at her and laughed and she told me she was serious. While I thanked her for the offer I really needed to make more than that for the move and I would do it alone if she wasn’t up to helping. I had a few friends who had mentioned maybe being able to help out and I could check in with them. She looked at me and said, “$2,000.” What can I say, I’m not stupid, I took the deal. All my belongings were now my mother’s property. She had plans to slowly sell them all on eBay over the next several months.

So, I had all my paperwork, my property was sold, I had my medical records, and matching luggage ready to pack.  I put my mom on my bank account in the US in case I needed someone in the states to take care of anything for me. I paid off all my bills except my student loan which I will most likely be paying until the day I die (actually it’s paid down to less than $20,000 so it’s not horrible) and I still had about a about $2,700 I was going to have in cash to take with me. I really thought that would last me until I could find a job in Denmark. Naivety can be so adorable.

Thanks to a search of different websites I was able to find a ticket from Wichita, Kansas to Hamburg, Germany for about $1,200. If you have ever flown into or out of Kansas to anywhere you know that is a good deal. My parents bought the ticket as a going away gift and I was all set to leave on August 1st, 2014. I spent the next two months visiting with friends and family. Then on the last day I went out and had breakfast with my parents. My mom drove me to the airport and waited until I got through security. I waved at her as I passed through toward my gate and we each took a photo of the other waving. I was finally leaving the only home I had ever known to go to a country I had never seen and to a man I had never lived with. It was the start of a completely different life.

Next up: Europe at Last!


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