Friday, March 18, 2011

Back Story

Unfortunately, I am starting this blog a little late. In the middle actually. We were in Switzerland for 2 years and will be here in Germany for 2 before we make our way back stateside. I want to be back in the U.S. when my son starts first grade. I will try to catch you up to speed without getting too long-winded.

My husband and I have been married since 1996. He was 26 and I was 22 and he had just gotten his first "real" job out of college. I was still in school but took a break after we got married.

Fast forward to 2007. I have a very successful massage practice in Cahaba Heights, Lou is still working at the job he got right after college and we adopted a beautiful newborn baby boy!   We settled into our house in Helena as a family of 3 and I  went back to work part time when my son was 3 months old. Life is good. It is REALLY good!

It is  September 2008 and I am on the elliptical at the YMCA and Lou calls me on my cell phone. He was traveling at the time and was just checking in. He says he has something to tell me that would be better in person but he feels uncomfortable waiting another week so he wants to tell me over the phone. The owner of the company wants him to open a sister company in Europe! WOW! That is big news! Lou wants us to talk about it when he gets home and for me to think about if I am willing to move or not. Deep down I knew it was a done deal. I couldn't say no. This was a big opportunity for him. If I told him that I didn't want to move he would decline the offer and I KNEW how much he wanted it. I owed it to him really. He never even flinched the day I came home and announced I wanted to quit my full time job and go to massage school or after I graduated and wanted to start my own massage practice. He just helped me make it happen. I wasn't going to tell him no. I chose to go along with it but deep down I was in complete denial that we would actually move. I was holding it together pretty well on the outside packing and getting our lives ready to transition to a new country. On the inside I was devastated. I was scared and still in denial that it was really happening. I was sharing a little of this with Lou but trying to be brave and supportive and not seem to miserable. After all, he was excited and I didn't want to diminish that. I desperately wanted to stay. I wanted to visit the world but I wanted to live in Alabama. Even after we moved to Switzerland I really thought that Lou was going to come home one day and say "Come on babe, We are going back home".

January 19, 2009, my son (22 months old) my dog, and I arrive in Switzerland. Lou has already been there for a week getting power, water etc. in the house. I immediately love my house and can't wait until our stuff from the U.S. arrives! We have new beds ,enough kitchen stuff from Ikea to make due, a TV and  a suitcase full of clothing each. I ordered new living room furniture in Switzerland but other than that everything is coming from the U.S. Our stuff will take about 8 weeks to arrive according to the moving company.  In the end it took 4 months to get it. Camping for 4 months in your own home sucks, by the way!

February 2009 is spent in Toulouse, France. Lou had to travel there for work and my son, the dog and I tagged along mainly because we had no furniture or friends yet back in Switzerland. We get a suite at a lovely hotel next door to a huge park. Lou had to work but had a good bit of free time so we got out a bit.. We drove to Carcassonne which was the setting of one of our favorite PC games. We all loved it. Toulouse was beautiful and everyone was friendly.

I could go on like this for pages covering the next 2 years in Switzerland but I won't. I don't want to rehash it. Let's just say it was hard. I was unhappy a lot but on more of a subconscious level than openly. I wasn't even aware of it some times. Maybe "On edge" is a better description rather than "unhappy". I felt like an alien in a human suit. I couldn't get Stone into a  Mother's Day Out program because they didn't exist until your child was 2 and a half which was 8 months away for me.  I had the best of both worlds back in Alabama. I had a career that I loved and was good at 3 days per week and  was a stay home mom the rest. I loved it. Now I had no job, no friends, didn't speak the language, it was cold and I was stuck in an empty house with a 2 year old all day...everyday. We would bundle up and take walks or go to the playground in hopes that we would meet people. No one was out. It was winter and they were all inside or at their ski chalets. I didn't speak to another human being  over the age of  2 other than a few words at select stores (and Lou)  until early May when I met a woman from Ireland that had a daughter my son's age.Thank goodness we actually really liked each other because I decided that she and I were going to be friends even if she was a serial killer! Of course, she was lovely and not a killer. I needed her and she saved me in a lot of ways. I was going crazy.

Through my Irish friend I meet other English speakers and things start to improve. I joined an online English speaking mom's group in the area and started to spread my wings a bit. The highlights for me where when people from the states would come visit. I loved showing them the sights and opening my home to them.

We had a good first summer and fall and I was getting a little more comfortable. We spent 10 days in the Bahamas at Atlantis and spent the 4th of July in the U.S. We spent a month home at Christmas and went back to Switzerland after the new year. Those trips back home restored me. Except Christmas, it was hard. My family and I are still working out the kinks of my being gone and we don't always get it right.

Our second winter was hard because it was our first full one. It got cold starting in October and stayed that way until late April. It snowed in December and there was snow on the ground from then until March. Layers of ice and snow. It was cold, dry and gray.I have never been so thankful for summer in my life!

My 3 year started at a french speaking preschool in early July of 2010. This one was a good fit for us which was a relief because we had tried 2 that were not. My cousins came to visit for 2 weeks in July as well. It was a good visit. We went to Paris, France and Venice, Italy while they were here. We were catching a groove. My son loved his school and they loved him. He had started school while my cousins were visiting so I was looking forward to having 3 full days each week on my own after they left to figure out my place in Switzerland and take some real french classes. I was understanding most everything that was spoken but not having any classes made it hard for me to speak back. 

Then we got the phone call.....

I dropped my cousins off at the train station to go back home and then Stone at preschool and had a big "me day" planned. I left my phone in the car when I got home after lunch but didn't go back for it because the school would call my home number first if they needed me. I watched a movie and then about 4:00 got my phone out of the car to send Lou a blackberry chat. There it was, pages of chats that I had missed from Lou. The owner of the company that Lou worked for was closing down the office and wanted him to go back to his old position in the U.S. rather than lose him. Lou was literally sick about it. Even though the company was doing well and closing it had nothing to do with him and everything to do with the whims of the neurotic owner, Lou felt like a failure. I was so hurt and upset for him. Go back to his old position? In effect a demotion? That hit him even harder. He had been with this group since1995.....almost 17 years! We were both angry that we had uprooted our lives to move and the rug was being pulled out from under us. Both parties had committed to 3 years and that is what we were expecting. It had only been a year and a half.

After a lot of soul searching  Lou decided he would leave the company and not go back to his old job in Alabama where he had no more room to grow with the company. He took a nice severance package and the company agreed to pay to move us wherever we wanted to go and pay for our tickets to the U.S. whether we moved  back there or not. Lou was on the job search for the first time in 17 years. I was dying to go back stateside but trying to be supportive. He and I both knew the job market in Europe was better than in the U.S.

He put out feelers, he called people, he networked and he basically worked his ass off and got the job he wanted. He would be the head of a new department with a photovoltaic company in Germany beginning January 2011.  We found a house to rent near his new office and the plan was in motion.We took an extended vacation in the U.S. to visit family and would return after the new year to our new life in Germany.

This time around I handled things differently. I didn't keep quiet about my fears and concerns and we struck a deal. Two more years abroad and we were headed back stateside. This will put us back about the time our son starts first grade. I don't really care where we end up just somewhere in North America. I want to be somewhere where I can immediately speak the language and know how things work. Of course, I would love to end up back in Alabama but that is highly unlikely. Solar energy isn't exactly booming there. 

So now you are caught up. I know, it was long-winded but you should have known it would be. I have never been at a loss for words..... at least not in my native language.