What is Home and Other Moving Musings

What is home? Is it a place? Is it where you are physically? Is it a house? Is it a person? A community? The people whom you surround yourself with? Is it having your schedule in place? A routine that you can follow day to day? 

What is home? This is a question I’ve found myself learning and exploring the answer to over the years. I think it is a question that we all try to answer through the beginning of our adulthood. Learning what it is to each of us to feel “at home”. I’ve found that, obviously, this varies from person to person and it’s one of my favorite things to learn about people.

So, before we go much further, leave me a comment (yes, right now mid read of this post) and tell me, what is home to you?

So, home. Now, I don’t talk about my husband’s job or career for many different reasons, but if you’ve followed for any period of time, you’ve probably figured out that at this time he is in the military. This means that in the almost 10 years we’ve been together we’ve now moved 4 times. There have been several benefits for this. We get to experience different places (even just within the US there is a wide variety to the way of life) and travel different chunks of the States. We got to experience living in Europe and seeing how life operates outside of our “US Bubble”. Those are big things, but even just the simple thing of figuring out what we like/want/hate/don’t want in a home, so that when we do settle we are positive what we want. The fact that every 3 years (at most, we’ve now had two two-year stations), we are forced to declutter, to re organize, to figure out what we actually want to keep and use and what we can pass along has been great in teaching us value and quality of quantity. 

There are also negatives to moving so frequently. The fact that we are in a place just long enough to create a home, a community, friendships, and then we have to “leave” it all behind is hard. As nice as it can be to unclutter and get rid of stuff regularly, it’s also tough to constantly feel like we are packing or unpacking, never truly able to settle. 

All of this has made me realize, what home actually means to me. For me, home is a combination of things. It’s hearing the pitter patter of feet running across the floor (after they’ve been repeatedly told “No running in the house”). It’s the pacing and chatting of my husband as I am trying to do something in the kitchen. It’s the feeling of waking up in the morning, going to the kitchen to steep up a pot of tea or brew a cup of coffee and while the house is still quietly waking. It’s seeing books aimlessly stacked in various rooms, because even a home library stretches its arms to other places. It’s opening a window on a pretty spring or fall day, heading to our local park to run off some energy (because remember…”No running in the house”). It’s finding a local walking route that gives us just the right number of endorphins (and can also be used as a running route…just maybe?). It’s all of these things that make up “Home”. 

***You’ll notice I haven’t made mention of a community yet. Here’s the thing, as an introvert I don’t “thrive” on community. I like having a social aspect to our lives and you’ll find me out and about, doing all the community things quite a bit, but I find that rather than needing a whole community, I tend to find maybe one or two friends that I spend time with on a much deeper level, than having a whole community at my hands. 

This is what home is for me. 

Germany and America: Differences, Similarities, Comparisons

We’ve been back in the states now for almost 6 weeks and I think that, while not completely back in the swing of things (we’ve only just recently gotten to our final destination and our new home), I think we’ve managed to settle back into the US. At least enough so that I feel like I can share what that adjustment was like and how keenly I noted the difference between the two countries. 

First and foremost, I feel like I should note that I don’t necessarily think that either country is better than the other, though I do want to say that if we had the choice to go back to Europe I would in less than a single heartbeat. I think that there are benefits and losses to each, and it’s ok to acknowledge that of both countries. With that being said, I can say with fairly good certainty, that at its heart, there is really just one fundamental difference of life that every other difference can be attributed to: Way of Life. 

In the United States, we place a lot of emphasis on THINGS and APPEARENCES. There isn’t anything wrong with this- well maybe there is, but that’s a topic for a whole other conversation- it’s simply how it is in our country. Think about it, a lot of our standard activities, a lot of our social media, revolves around some form of store or shopping. We often will just “stop over at the store” or do a “quick Target run”. 

Everything is “bigger and better”, and we are constantly in a battle to have the newest, shiniest thing. Again, this is just how our society operates. Along with that, we have a rapidly rising sense of instant gratification. An “I need this, and I need it now” attitude that is then catered to by a late-night closing or even 24-hour shopping society (and this isn’t even stepping into Amazon or overnight delivery). You want to get the newest game? You can buy it at 12:01AM at your local super store on release day (pre Covid of course). We never have any concern of running out of something because well…we can just go out and get it, no matter day/time. 

Finally, in the US, we are a country of “go, go, go”, getting in and out as fast as we can, on to the next thing before we have fully finished the first. It’s a never-ending cycle that permeates every second of our life. Our day runs through before we’ve even realized that the end of the day has come, and there are times when we can’t even recall what we’ve actually done. Think about your day…we go, go, go get everyone up in the morning to get to school/work. At work we go, go, go to get an endless list of tasks done. Often times we would take lunch at our desk, quickly nudging a bite or two of food in our mouth before we have to get back to it. Or maybe your lunch consists of a quick trip to the shops to pick up some things or to peruse the shelves. Then, the workday and school day ends and it’s go, go, go to various activities for the kids OR home to quickly whip up some food. Maybe your too busy for even that, grabbing a drive through or quick meal in between activities. If you go out to dinner, it’s go, go, go through dinner with barely enough time to enjoy your family/friends’ company before the bill arrives and it’s time to go. Go back to the house, maybe now you take a little bit of time for yourself or family, with a show or a book or something of that nature. By that point, we are all so exhausted that…well the day is over, and we are left wondering…what happened. 

All of these little things tie into our basic way of life in the US. I’m not saying this is wrong, in fact there are some benefits to it, the ability to just run to the grocery store whenever, not have to worry about stores closing or anything like that, it’s just a different way of life to Europe. 

This is not the case in Germany. 

In Germany the number one emphasis is quality of life. The quality of your social experience. What you are doing, rather than what you have. The value is placed on who you are, how you spend your time, where you go, rather than anything else. It’s a society that thrives on the connection with people, everything from dining out to traveling to pumping gas is all about person-to-person connection. It’s not infrequent to go out to eat dinner and be at your table for 2-3 hours, for the wait staff to not bother you or you having to flag them down when you need something. There is no such thing as pay at the pump, you take a ticket into the gas station where you are greeted with fresh baked goodies (like a full bakery) and a wide variety of snacks and magazines to choose from before paying for gas. Every interaction comes with a smile and a conversation, rather than a brush off and rush out. 

In the smaller towns/communities, you’ll find smaller neighborhood style grocery stores that stock fresh, in season, regionally produced fruit and veggies. When you are looking at meat departments, it’s all fresh (seriously fresh), locally sourced, and the common ground meat is a cow/pig combination. It’s so fresh, that often times in malls you can walk right to a butcher shop in the mall and select your cow meat that’s hanging in the back, clear glass view, cold area. It’s an experience for sure, but a great one to have. Basically, you can always expect to have locally sourced, fresh food options. Even the frozen sections tend to be somewhat local and fresh, rather than the processed options we are all used to in The States. 

Another thing that is different is often times, German’s will buy less, but better quality. Sure, you have big box stores in every city, but you’ll often find many more boutiques with better offerings and more unique/cooler designs. This is because the Germans tend to value quality of quantity. They don’t need the next greatest thing because what they bought previous has lasted quite a long time already. Consumerism isn’t as much of a “thing” over there as it is here in The States. 

Another difference is that life is largely lived outdoors. In Germany there is no such thing as bad weather, just poor clothes (seriously- this is very much a thing). On any given day, in any given weather, you will see people outside. They’ll be hiking, riding bikes, rowing, enjoying what the earth and nature has to offer. I don’t think that there has been a time where I haven’t seen people outside and being active. There are parks for kids everywhere, and these are sturdy, use in any weather jungle gyms. And when the weather turns even the slightest bit sunny, EVERYONE heads outside, from the youngest babies to the oldest citizens, you’ll find them soaking up that sunshine. 

Finally, in Germany their work/life balance is vastly different. Maternity leave is much more a thing in Europe already than it is in The United States, but in Germany you have much more vacation time, longer lunches, and an overall healthier boundary between work and life. I feel like there are some things in this area in particular that The States can learn from. There aren’t nearly as many “workaholic” types of situations and there is annual paid vacation time and such. Much more than what is offered in The States. 

More than anything else, I miss that the value is placed on your quality of life, rather than the quantity of your life. 

A couple fun little differences for you to end this post on a happier note; there is no central air in the majority of the houses. That means no AC. Heat is by radiator system and throughout the year you have to open the windows several times a day for certain lengths of time to air out the house. I’ve already said it, but pay at the pump is not a thing there, you take a ticket (or remember your pump number) and head into the station to pay. Most places are cash heavy and do not take card (including those fun markets), so don’t leave the house without it! Most stores close by dinnertime (unless you’re in a bigger city) and, everything, short of churches and some restaurants, closes on Sunday. You have to plan to have everything you need before Saturday or you’ll be waiting till Monday. Since restaurants may in fact open on Sundays, they are typically closed on Monday or Monday and Tuesday. In terms of eating out at restaurants, Water costs money (there is no such thing as “tap” or “table” water, you will buy bottles if you ask for Wasser at a restaurant) and most of the water is actually sparkling- you have to be specific if you want flat water. In addition to water, more often than not, ordering alcohol will be the cheapest drink option.

Obviously the history of Germany (and of Europe) is much older and more vast than America, so you are able to see castles and towns that pre date the beginnings of our own country. Travel is also…different than it is stateside. Obviously you can country hop all throughout Europe (in a non Covid world), but there also different modes of getting to places (you can choose car, train, or plane).

I think that basically covers most of the differences I noted between Germany and America. Truth be told, it just boils down to way of life and if you’re open to how they live, then you can adjust really fast. If you have any questions, or anything to add, just let me know!

Adjusting to America

We’ve been back in America for about 6 weeks and I can firmly say that we’ve adjusted about as much as we are going to. We’ve had a couple of moments of culture shock, but by and large it seems like just stepping back into a life that we could only just barely remember. I wanted this post to kind of serve as just a highlight of some of the things that we’ve noticed or dealt with since moving back from Germany. Some of it is personal observations, some of it is going to be Covid-19 related (as that’s what we are currently in the middle of), some of it is going to be random. 

I will say, I do have a whole separate post in the works about some of the big differences between the two countries, so drop by for that one when it comes out in a few weeks. 

One of the biggest things to adjust to in coming back to the US is just the convenience of it all. You don’t have to worry about hitting the stores before they close, or reaching out to friends/neighbors on that inevitable time that you run out of something and the stores are closed. There is NOTHING wrong with this (in some ways I like how it fosters a community), but it is nice to just be able to get what you need exactly when you need it. 

Another aspect of convenience is in terms of big box stores. It’s nice when you are able to do all of your shopping in one store, rather than making lots of little purchases at a variety of different stores. That is actually something I missed in some ways (although I didn’t miss picking up random things that were not needed simply because I walked past them thinking “oh well we will need that at some point” or “oh that’s cute”). 

In strict relationship to Covid-19, it’s been really nice not to have to schedule an appointment or worry if a store is open due to restrictions, we can just run over to whatever store and do what we need to. Of course, masks are required, not much of a difference there, but the fact that stores are even open is a new thing. Not commenting on the merit of that, just on what we experienced. 

In terms of reverse culture shock, I once again experienced culture shock in going to the grocery store. For some reason going to Walmart or Target didn’t bother me (there are big box stores in Germany that we did go to), but the grocery store was massive in comparison to my little neighborhood grocery. I walked up and down the aisles in shock trying to figure out what we needed and where to find it. It was an experience to say the least. 

One other thing, that is partly just being in a new place (in terms of NY specifically, it wasn’t so bad in KY where we’ve been before), but also partly different is just driving and getting gas. First up, getting gas in Germany involves going in to the station market to pay. It’s not a pay at the pump situation and often times, some gas stations will have their own cards that you can use to pay. Also, the speeds and driving rules are different enough in Germany that, coming back here and driving has been a little strange (and no- I’m not just talking about the Autobahn, just in a general sense). I didn’t feel it as much going over to Germany, but definitely did coming back. 

Otherwise, we’ve gotten to a point where I feel like we are feeling “normal”. I feel like there are benefits and drawbacks to each country, BUT, in all honesty, I would go back to Europe in not even a single heartbeat. 

Leaving Germany

January 17- I don’t really know how this post is going to go. I have no idea how to even begin, when to begin, how to process my feelings and then write them out, no ideas. So, I think I am going to treat it a bit like a diary of sorts. A dated registry of my feelings every so often (I’m thinking maybe two or three of these dated bits) as things happen or what not. I hope that this turns out ok and that it ends up being a good representation of this move. It could also end up being totally bad…if it is, then I’m sorry. My goal is to have a bit of a “part 1 on the road home-leaving” followed by a “part 2 on the road home-adjusting” that will be up in March. And if you’re reading this, then I’ve succeeded. Maybe. 

So, we are about a couple weeks out from our flight back to the US. Our home has been packed up, crated, and is slowly making its way to the shipping facility to be shipped back. It’s been a tense time between trying to corral two very curious, very active little boys, track what the movers are doing, handle schoolwork, and just keep sane. Getting your entire house packed up and emptied out slowly (this was done over two days) makes a move even more real. The second day we were all cooped up in our Master Bedroom and walking out to things being wrapped and then later to a completely empty living room was…a bit heartbreaking. 

I’ve spoken before about how much of a home and life we’ve made here in Germany. This is one of the first places in our moves that has felt…so much like home. We’ve made a little community for ourselves here and while we’ve known this move was coming since summer, this moving day kind of…came all too fast and all too final. Germany has taught us and given us so much. We’ve learned how to live a slower, less complicated life; how to be a bit more “go with the flow” (ok, ok, 2020 and Covid really taught us that); how to actual live life, rather than plod through it. We’ve seen history in ways we couldn’t imagine, been to places we’ve dreamed about, and we’ve been able to learn and grow as a family. We’ve made some incredible friends, a best friend who will forever be in my heart. I’ve found some new facets of myself and a little piece of our family’s heart will always remain here. 

And now, as we are about to start cleaning our house, making the last of our meals, and getting everything together for the last shipment of stuff consolidated, and really look at leaving, I’m getting that antsy anxious feeling. That feeling that says, “C’mon let’s just get on with it already”. The whole, just rip the Band-Aid off, feeling…except just break my heart instead. 

January 29 – Today was our move out day. Out of all the days that we have had to prepare and adjust to this move, today was the day that it decidedly felt real. We loaded the massive van we rented, did a final walk through ourselves (due to Covid) and then drove away. I had a tear or two (or a sob fest) as we drove the route towards base one final time. There was a finality to this. Previously, we could almost fool our brains into thinking that this wasn’t coming, wasn’t happening, that we were just doing things (don’t ask me to explain the psychology of it because I can’t). But driving away that final time, knowing we were done in that house, that we were properly leaving was hard. 

February 4 – Well, the road hasn’t been easy the past 48ish hours, but we are finally on a plane heading back to the USA. We were supposed to be on a plane 2 days ago, but due to circumstances beyond anyone’s control, the planes were not coming or going, and we ended up in a hotel without our luggage for that period of time with all of our fellow travelers. Thankfully everyone’s spirits were high, the hotel did an exceptional job housing us all at the last minute (and feeding us, keeping us informed as the changes kept coming, etc.), and on the last day we had a bit of free time between our arrival at the terminal and our security time, so we could go purchase some clothes or anything else we might have needed at that point (we did have a grocery a short walk away, so simple things were able to be purchased on the first day). 

Needless to say, having this experience of leaving, changed my reaction to finally boarding the plane and now, writing this while in flight. I thought that I would have some tears, some sadness at leaving a place that had come so close to home for me, but instead I was filled with excitement at the thought of actually boarding the plane and heading home. I had said my farewells to everything and everyone in preparation for our Tuesday flight, and now, after all the delays, I just wanted to go. 

So, not the way I had thought I would end this post, but here we are. I think that this was a way for me to be “ok” with leaving Germany. Maybe “Germany”/A Higher Being/The Universe/Whatever you want to call it thought I needed a little push to leave and this was how that happened. I’m still feeling a bit emotional at leaving, but mostly what I feel is relief to be leaving this limbo that we’ve been in.

Auf Wiedersehen für jetzt Deutschland.  Wir werden dich vermissen und die Erinnerungen und Freundschaften schätzen, die wir geschlossen haben.  Bis zum nächsten Mal.

A Cuppa Cosy Heads Back Stateside

Well, it’s come to an end. Or rather a new beginning has come. Glass half full, right?

I have put off writing this post for a long time. And then, when I finally sat down to write it, I went back and forth and re wrote things multiple times. You see, in an incredibly surprising turn of events (to us at least) we found out over the summer that we were only supposed to be in Germany for 2 years, rather than the 3 that we had planned on. To say we were shocked was an understatement. Shock quickly turned to disappointment and sadness at the thought of leaving the place that we have very quickly started to call home so soon. As we started to sort through all of the feelings we were experiencing (which were a lot and were exacerbated by being separated at the time) it became a situation where we needed to look forward to where we would be going next. 

It has taken some time to come to as much peace as I could to write this post and NOT come off in any other way than positive about this change. I’ll be honest, I cried a lot of tears about heading back The States. I’ve made it no secret how much I’ve loved living here in Germany. The benefits have far outweighed the hard moments (which there have been) and I’ve really learned a lot about life, about my little family, about friendship, and about myself being here. We’ve done and seen so much here, and while we celebrate everything that we’ve been able to see and experience, we also, in a way, mourn the closing of this chapter. 

I’m trying not to get to deep into my feelings or into all of the things (though my 2020 wrap up will have A LOT to say), but basically the gist is, in the first few months of 2021 we will be moving. Our new chapter is going to be in New York and we are excited to be in a small town in a beautiful area. There is a lot to celebrate, being able to see our families, shopping at target, eating Chipotle, and much more and we are trying to focus on all of the good that will be coming our way with this move, rather than the bittersweet feelings of saying goodbye to this incredible place. 

So, that’s my incredibly short life update for you. Probably one of the shortest posts I’ve written, but I honestly don’t have much to say about it. It’s one of those things that you process and then try not to continue to focus on as you try to stay positive.