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Oh, How My Life Has Changed

When I met Tony, I had no idea how this man would end up changing my life. I thought I was just lucky to meet a man I had so much in common with and would actually sit and talk with me for hours.

When he asked me to marry him I said yes without a second of hesitation even knowing it would mean moving away from everyone and everything I knew. It was scary, it still is, but very exciting at the same time.

I still deal with a lot, a LOT, of guilt about moving away from my Granny and my parents. My Granny was 98 when I moved and my parents are both in their 70s and starting to need more help. I had been there for all of them my entire life and it was so hard to leave them.

I thought it would be hardest to tell my Granny about my plans to leave, she was bedridden in a nursing home and her only regular visitors were my mother and I. I went and saw her every week unless I was sick. Surprisingly,  Granny was extremely supportive of my decision and only said, “it’s your turn to take care of you.” She lived to be 99 and a half years old. I will forever be grateful to my husband for sending me home to surprise her for her 99th birthday. There are not words to ever express how much those memories mean to me.

Being so far from family and friends has been hard but I had Tony here with me. To give me some more company he got me a dog, Shaggy. He is my little fur baby and, yes, I am one of those people who loves their animals like part of the family. I am native and all I see when I look at him is another spirit. You may think I’m a crazy hippie and you’d be right. I own it!

Having my husband and my dog here with me made things a little easier for a while but then Tony was assigned a new project at work and now he’s gone for 4days and 3 nights every week. It was hard being in a foreign country before but now it’s so much harder.

Do I still think my life has changed for the better? Yes! Just because life is hard does not make it bad. It just means you have to work harder to find your bliss. I do love living here in Germany and the people are great. Once I get to where I can speak German better I know I will make friends and be more social. Until then I will keep focusing on keeping in touch with as many people back home as I can, my writing, my dog, and my husband.

 

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Who I am and Why You Should Follow Me

The first part of this is easy enough. I am a middle-aged woman who got married for the first and only time at the age of 47. As is typical nowadays, my husband and I met on a dating website. A co-worker had met his fiance on Plenty of Fish and suggested I try it too. I had five dates and the fifth would be my last first date ever, I met the man I would marry.

 

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Just your average Kansas girl.

I was born, raised, went to college, and lived in Wichita, Kansas practically my entire life except for a few short moves to Oklahoma and Missouri. While I had traveled to different countries, the visits were never more than a week a two. My husband, however, was born and raised in Chile, went to college in Germany, and has lived pretty much all over the world. How his life’s journey managed to land him in Wichita, KS, I will never know but I’m grateful it did.

 

I fluently speak English and have studied Spanish, Russian, and American Sign language but can barely have a basic conversations in them. My husband fluently speaks English, Spanish, German and can have basic conversations in Italian, Portuguese, and French and knows some Danish and Chinese.

I am the first person in my family to go to college and I believe I am still the only one with a degree but defiantly the only one with more than one degree. I have a degree in journalism and an associated degree in forensic criminology. I have taken numerous business and management classes and had started another degree in nutrition but after meeting my husband, my future plans changed. I do hope to finish my nutrition degree one day. It is very important to me.

My husband, on the other hand, comes from a family where college is expected and many people have degrees. He himself holds five degrees. I believe it’s two undergraduate and three master’s but, honestly, I can never remember for sure.

I come from what would be considered a lower middle-class American family while my husband comes from a more aristocratic upper-class Chilean/German family.we couldn’t come from more different backgrounds and yet we are so similar it’s scary.

My husband and I both love to learn new things, cooking, and are both admitted crazy geeks who love all things Star Wars, Star Trek, Lego, Comic-Con, etc. I don’t think we could ever find anyone with whom we could be more compatible. We love traveling and trying new things and are not shy about sharing our adventures.

While I do use fictitious names because of Tony’s job, I am pretty honest about every other aspect of our lives here. I hope you will find out journey as interesting as we do.

Life is What Happens When You Are Making Other Plans

I haven’t been in the mood to blog much this month. Which has been a bit of a problem since I also work as a blogger for a indie film company.

We got moved into our amazing new apartment in Dusseldorf, my husband started his new job, and I was almost done writing my first installment for a western saga I was starting. Things were looking up for us. Then one day I was walking home from the grocery and just started crying. I had a feeling my grandmother had passed away.

When I got home I had a message from my mother. Granny, her mother, had not passed yet but was in the last stages of life. She would be gone in a few hours.

I called my mother who was with Granny. She held the phone up for Granny and I was able to talk to her, tell her how much I loved her and that I was on my way to her. Mom said Granny smiled a little when she heard my voice and turned toward the phone but she wasn’t able to open her eyes or speak to me. Granny was gone only a few hours after that.

It was a very hard loss. Granny was 99 and a half years old. She passed almost exactly 6 months from her 100th birthday. I made it to Wichita, KS the next day but it was too late to see her. I have spent a lot of time with Granny the last several years, actually I’ve spent a lot of time with her my whole life. But once she went into the nursing home I made a point to go see her every week unless I was sick.

I have so many memories of her. It was so hard leaving her when I moved to Europe with my husband. It wasn’t as hard to leave my parents. They can use Skype and call so I knew I could keep in touch with them but Granny was different. She could barely hear or see and was confined to her bed or her wheelchair if they used a lift to get her up. She couldn’t call me on her own and while Mom did help her Skype with me once or twice since I moved it wasn’t easy for her.

1780890_10204240718449825_6215469782036421564_nI am so glad I got to come back for her last birthday. I can never thank my husband enough for making sure I got to do that. He has been fantastic in this, and everything. As soon as I told him Granny was dying, he got out his computer and booked me a flight home as soon as possible. Tony is amazing.

Since he had just started his new job he was not able to come back with me. It’s been hell being here, going through all of this without him. With my neurological condition I cannot let myself get too upset or it can put me in the hospital. Crying is actually physically painful for me. At times this month I have been so stressed out trying to keep my emotions in check, I was actually shaking. Tony is usually the calming factor in my life. But at least I have managed to get through this month here in Kansas without giving in to my emotions. I look forward to getting home with Tony so I can deal with my grief. At least when I am in Germany, if I need to go to the hospital I have insurance there.

I leave for Germany this Thursday. I hate leaving my mother. I know it’s going to be so hard on her here. Dad is here with her but he’s not really good at being understanding and comforting. She will internalize everything as she always does. But I have to keep reminding myself I cannot fix her life for her. I can only direct my own. But I will always love her and be just a text or Skype call away for her.

I hope to get back on track with my own plans when I get back to Dusseldorf. I have the first installment of a western book series to get finished and published and need to get back to working regularly for the movie company. When I go home, I take with me years of wonderful memories with my Granny and a few items to keep her close to me no matter where I go.

Getting Ready to Move

This past week has been pretty busy for us. Tony had a birthday. He turned 50 on Friday. I had really wanted to do something special for him. He had mentioned once that he had never been to Disneyland. I really wanted to take him to Disneyland in Paris but he said no. I was going to take money out of my 401K to pay for the trip but he wanted that money to stay in the retirement fund.

I tried to argue with him saying that since he smokes, I have two neurological conditions and we are both over weight, the likelihood that we would live to use the retirement was slim so we should use it now. He wasn’t amused.  So instead we stayed home. I made him his favorite cake that his grandmother used to make for him on his birthday’s, German Black Forrest Cake.  I made signs from photos of him from our travels and put up stings of paper flags. I got him a Cuban cigar and a gift card for iTunes. It wasn’t much. I couldn’t even throw him a big party. We don’t know enough people here to make a big party.

Tony kept saying it was just another day and it was okay that we didn’t get to do much but I feel bad. It was his 50th birthday. It should have been a bigger deal. I am already planning my 50th. I want Tony and I to take a balloon trip somewhere. If we are in the US then, I want to take a balloon in through the Rockies. If we are in Europe, Tony says they do trips in Switzerland.

Maybe it’s more important to me to celebrate birthday’s than it is for Tony. As far as I know he’s never been as close to death as I have. For me, I think of all these years as bonus years. I feel lucky to be here. I want to celebrate that. I feel so lucky to have met and be married to Tony I want to celebrate him being here too.

The bottom line is he seems happy so I should be happy too. Right now we are focused on checking out apartments in Dusseldorf. In about a week or so we will be taking a trip there to tour a few apartments. So far we have seen a few online that look great. There is one we both love but it has a tiny refrigerator with a freezer that is the size of a shoebox. But the rest of the place is amazing. There is another that has a US sized refrigerator but the furnishings are a little odd. There are at least 3 we have seen online that looks decent and a few that look livable. Hopefully something will work.

I am looking forward to moving Germany except for one thing. Right now Tony has a company car. When he changes jobs he will lose that and the new company will not give him a company car until he passes a 6 month probation. We will have no car for 6 months. Luckily it will be warmer months so walking to shopping and bus or train stations won’t be too bad but it will be so odd. I have had a car since I was 15-years-old. I have been okay with not having a car here because Tony did but I have never experienced life with no family car. I realize this is totally a first world problem and not anything new to a huge portion of the world population but it’s new to me.

For the most part I think everything will be okay not having a car but I think my biggest worry is what if I get really sick again or have neurological issues that will require going to the hospital again. I cannot imagine trying to take the bus or a train to the E.R. while in the throws of a horrible migraine with nausea. Other than that I have gotten used to walking to shop. It should be interesting. I have taken the buses and subways when I have gone to visit friends in big cities but there really isn’t great public transportation where I come from in Kansas. I look forward to finding out about them in Dusseldorf. Hopefully I won’t get too lost. Which would be bad since Tony won’t have a car to come pick me up if I end up out in no man’s land.

I don’t look forward to packing everything up here but at least we don’t have much so it won’t take more than a day to pack up the whole apartment. I have started doing yoga again getting ready for all that going up and down the three flights of stairs when we have to move everything down to the moving van. I would volunteer to take money out of the 401K to pay movers but I don’t see that happening either. I just hope the new place will either have an elevator or be closer to the ground. And if God is kind, there will be a washing machine in the apartment.

Next up: Why Does Everything Always Happen at Once?

Where to Go From Here?

Things have been a tad busy here lately. Tony and I are making all kinds of plans for the next few months. It looks as if we will be moving to Germany soon. So I guess this blog will have to change from my journey from single Kansas girl to married danish resident who moved to Germany.

I think things will actually be much better for us in Germany. Besides the fact that Tony speaks fluent German, the city we will be moving to is bigger and just has more to offer.

I have really loved living here in Sonderborg. I have never lived anywhere where I could actually see a beach from a window in my home. It has been nice. I love that basically everything is within walking distance of our apartment. I found it hard at first to deal with the fact that there just isn’t the conveniences here that I was used to back in Kansas. Things like canned soup and pumpkin. But I am also grateful for the experience of having to go without those things. It has made me realize that it’s really not that much extra work to do things from scratch. Even when we are back where we can buy all the convenience things again I doubt I will ever rely on them the way I originally did.

I have found that there are things here I like better than in the States. Of course I have mentioned the bread here before. Oh my God it’s good, too good in fact. In Kansas I rarely ate bread. Here, I could go a whole day and eat nothing but bread. Also, I had my first trip to a Danish dentist for a general teeth cleaning and checkup. The dentist actually did everything himself. I don’t know what he used on my teeth but they looked so white and perfect when I walked out I was shocked. I drink a lot of tea and coffee and it tends to keep my teeth a bit stained but he took care of that, I probably should have hugged him.

I am going to miss the fashion sense of the people in Denmark. It’s really a great cross of looks here. I am amazed daily how many people here look like they just stepped off a fashion runway but they are just out running errands. Then there are those who have a very wild style of self expression when it comes to fashion. I have seen men in their late 40s dressed in black with metal studs and fake razorblades hanging from their shirts while out grocery shopping with the wife and kids. I saw a man in his late 40s the other day who was in the grocery with his wife and child on Valentine’s Day and he had dyed his hair cotton candy pink. I love how you have such bold extremes here.

Sonderborg has been a great transition town for me to get used to living in Europe. One of the things that was a huge help is that nearly everyone here speaks English to some degree. I think if we had just moved to a larger city it might have been a bit overwhelming for me. Now, however, I have experience with being somewhere I do not speak the language and when we go to Germany and I encounter people who do not speak English it will not be as stressful for me. I know I will manage.

In all I am glad we came here first but I think I am ready to move on and experience more. The move might be coming very soon. It all depends on how long it takes to get a work visa for Tony. Once that last hurdle is overcome we will pack up and head on to the next phase of European life. Something I am looking forward to with great excitement and only a little nervousness.

Next Up: Getting Ready to Move

Impromptu Post: Why is Denmark Trying to Kill Me?

I am the first to admit that I have fairly fragile health. I have two neurological conditions that keep my immune system working overtime. I tend to catch colds more than the average person but the bugs I have caught since moving to Denmark have been germs from hell out to wreak havoc on my body.

The second month I was in Denmark I contracted a respiratory virus that sent me to the E.R., lasted 2 months, and started up my asthma issues again, for which I had not had to use an inhaler for in more than 3 years.

This week I ended up with a flu that just about sent me to the E.R. again. For two days I had a sinus migraine that would not let up and nausea so bad I couldn’t even keep water down.

Now, as I said, I do have a lower immune system than most but I have not had a year like this before that I can remember since 2004 when I went through several surgeries.

The pain was horrific. Not being able to drink water for two days was torturous. Luckily, today the pain has subsided and I have been able to keep tea and toast down for several hours.

I wonder if the change in allergens, food, and weather with moving from Kansas in the U.S. to Denmark are all ganging up on me to test my physical stamina. I can say that I’ve just about had it with the testing. I want 3 good months in a row with no cold, flu, headache, or even hiccups! I think I’ve earned it.

Next up: Where to Go From Here?

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!