This morning, I stood at our living room window and waved as my children walked the path to school, yelling down one more time that I love them and I hope they have a great day. Just as I have every school day since we started here in Hamburg. And also for the last time, as Red walked off to school (The Dude and Blondie finished last week)
This afternoon, I picked him up. There were no parties. No staircase sing-a- longs. No groups of children on the playground playing as parents linger nearby, discussing vacations to the Baltic Sea or Mallorca. Nothing to indicate that school was done for the year except the large bags of art projects being dragged by the kids in the 4 or 5 classes that attended today.
I have so much to say about the last 4ish months. And I will say it. But not now. Now I will just say this. The end of the school year was like ending a professional fireworks show with like 3 sparklers, the really cheap ones. It is not the ending we wanted. But it was the ending we got. No lie, I am pretty sad. But what can you do?
You Know What’s Coming
Most of you have followed me long enough to know what I am about to say.
We are moving. Yes, again. What can I say, we don’t like staying put.
We have known for a few months that change was coming. The contract was expiring and we had been given a few choices: stay, new country, or back in the States. It was not an easy choice. We have really loved our time here in Germany, even with all of our struggles, and it was hard to say enough. To be honest, I am not even sure we made the right decision but we made the right decision for right now. We have a few issues (nothing bad) that would be best dealt with in our own country and when it came down to it, it was time to address those.
We are not returning to Texas. Yes, that has always been the plan. but the plan also said we would be gone no more than 12 months.
We aren’t very good at following the plan. Some might say we suck at it.
So anyway. In 2 months, we will be in Portland, Oregon. I won’t lie, we are pretty damn excited about this one. The PNW is absolutely incredible and has held a special place in our hearts since our short stint in Washington.
There is so much to be said and so much to be done, the move isn’t the only thing happening but for now, I just needed to say it. We are moving to Portland. There. It is official.
We are well into January. It’s grey, cold, and wet. Hamburg has had it’s fair share of rain and unfortunately the temps have stayed just high enough where it is all mud and no snow. It is not my favorite time of year here but luckily it is short lived. I will be dragging the kids around, snapping pictures of color popping up out of the ground before we know it.
I don’t hate this time of year entirely though. It is like the end of a roller coaster, when you are slowing down, mentally getting ready to unwedge yourself from the coaster vehicle, and not quite sure what you are doing next but you know it will be good. And you are slightly nauseous.
What Just Happened?
The 30 day period that starts on December 29th is a busy one for me.
I have a birthday
This blog’s anniversary (Happy 4th!)
The anniversary of our move to Germany
That is a helluva lot of reflection. I have been real busy spending the last few weeks analyzing everything. Everything I did. Everything I didn’t do (a much longer list). Every success, every failure. Everything I would like to improve on, and everything I would like to be.
It is a lot and I am ready to shake myself out of it to move on. To be honest, I am not real satisfied with 2019 Copper. It was not my best work. No lie, I had a great time. There were some amazing fireworks, figuratively and literally. However, I can’t help but look back and say “I could have done much better if…”
I Had Just Tried
There it is. The truth. I didn’t really put my back into it. And I think I lie to myself quite often about that. I have even done it already in this article. My failures. But I am not sure I had any. I can not say with complete honesty that I tried. And if you don’t try, how can you fail? Failing is absolutely acceptable but not trying is a life wasted. I tell the kids that all the time and I need to start holding myself to that.
It is so much easier to tell myself that “I failed” than to admit that I never even bothered to get started. Maybe it is different for others but that is my story. I find myself telling it all the time. I want to be a better mom but do I even try to listen before I yell? I want to be healthier but y’all, I can’t even be bothered with the stairs in our building. I want to be enriched but I don’t even try to put my phone down. I want to create but I spend more time wondering why I don’t find success (keep in mind, I don’t even know what my idea of success means) than I spend actually creating.
Wisdom From A Dark Train Platform
Coming home from book club the other night, my new friend and I sat in the cold and waited for our next train. She mentioned that she had started checking out my stuff. “But you don’t put things out regularly.”
I almost started with one of my excuses that I tell myself to keep from even trying, “I know. I have great ideas but…” I stalled out. But what? I suck. I am afraid of sucking? I lack any follow through whatsoever? No discipline? But I also have a really high score in Toy Blast to defend? What?
She took a drag of her cigarette, staring out into a field and on the exhale completed my sentence, “You spend too much time in your head.” This woman is smart, very direct, and insightful as hell. This is not the first time she has called me out on my bullshit, on purpose or not and I hope it isn’t the last. I value her opinion a lot and it could not have come at a better time. That sentence has stuck with me for days and let me tell you, she was 110% correct.
There is a new movement going on where people are backing away from resolutions and looking instead for a word to drive them through the new year. I actually really like this. I have never been great at resolutions. I don’t have the focus or the drive or the ability to want the same thing for more than 5 minutes. So I never even try. See? Already improving myself by admitting that. But a word, that I can get behind. It is simple, easy to follow. Less likely to be just a list found years later in one of the 400 notebooks I keep.
My word is purpose. Not just to have purpose, although yes that is an added bonus but to do things with purpose. To accomplish more. To be more enriched. To be more aware of how I spend my energy. To have less regret at the end of the day and more discipline to not just repeat it all over again the next day. I have a lot I would like to be, it is about time to get to it.
I am hoping that it leads to maybe not a better me but atleast a more completed version of me. My goal is when January rolls around next year, I am able to say, “What an amazing year! I am so content with all that I have accomplished. And that list of failures (trust me, there are always failures)? I am really proud of them because atleast I tried.”
This picture shows up every year in my Facebook memories. It is the very first picture of our family completed, taken by my sister. Red is 7 weeks old, admittedly there should have been one sooner. Believe it or not though, once upon a time I was not great at taking pictures. Now, I am just bad at sharing them. Baby steps, people.
I always get a kick out of this photo. It is proof that we have never been able to take a serious picture. Blondie was just 4 years old and slowly returning from the depths of terrible toddler-hood to become a sweet goofball. The Dude was the happiest one year old you ever met, alternating constantly between wanting to cuddle and testing his complete lack of fear by climbing on everything with a triumphant “Ta Da!”. And Red? Well, he was a wrinkly slacker who slept when he wasn’t eating and loved to spend all day being held by his mama while she chased after his brother. But I adored him still.
It was a great day. We wandered around the hotel for hours, taking in all the beautiful Christmas decorations. The kids ate fresh gingerbread cookies and Blondie even made snowballs. The Dude, having just started really walking a few weeks before decided this was the day he would master running. And my sweet ginger babe still had that new baby smell.
What do I see in this picture? My family, my people, my favorite things about this life. I see love, pure love. It was something we never lacked and honestly, some days it was all we had.
What You Can’t See
I am going to be brutally honest here. I am telling you that now because I don’t want you to hurt and now is the time to skip to the end if you want. Here is your chance to hop to the last section, it won’t hurt my feelings. But I encourage you to stick with me, you may need to hear it or someone you know may need you to hear it.
Here is the truth.
I see two boys, who were both on the brink of some medical issues. Short term for Red and long term for The Dude. Absolutely nothing life threatening. But oh man, the struggle was and continues to be real.
I see all the shit that went down in just a few years for us. Decade long fertility issues, miscarriages. The death of one parent and the decisions made by others that led us to step away from them and lose that family base. The recession hitting us like a bus, losing both our house and Moose’s job. Multiple moves. Going back to school, changing careers, and struggling for years financially.
I see a marriage that was really struggling. It was rough. I will be honest, I am not even sure how Red was even conceived. We loved each other, absolutely but life was so hard and the hits just kept coming. I don’t know if we have a deep understanding that marriage is a mountain range or we are just too lazy to divorce but thankfully we held on.
I see exhaustion. You guys. In the midst of everything above, we had 3 babies in 4 years. Largely alone. There was very little in the way of a village. We were so f’ing tired. Physically and emotionally. I don’t even know how to adequately describe it.
And Then There Was This
So I said this was a great day and it really was. I wouldn’t have traded it for the world. But here is the deal.
Standing at the edge of the parking garage at that hotel, I waited for Moose to get the kids out of the car and wondered briefly what would happen if I just fell. I wish I could say that was the first time I had that kind of thought. I wish I could say it was the last. Both would be lies though. But the truth is, I wondered if death would be easier than life within hours of this photo being taken.
I was deep in the throes of postpartum depression here. I suffered silently with all three kids. Once when Blondie was about 3 months old, I had voiced my concerns to my doctor and he said I should learn to control my emotions. Mortified, I left and decided that suffering alone was what he meant. (Yes, I know how fortunate I am to have made it to the other side of my PPD.)
What’s The Lesson Here
Well, I have 3 lessons really.
Pictures don’t always tell the whole story. Social Media statuses don’t always tell the whole story. People don’t always tell the whole story. I share that photo almost every year and never once have I shared that story or our struggles at the time. So hear me out, I know things.
Don’t compare your lives to what you see. Especially this time of year. Shit looks perfect. But it’s not. TRUST ME. Marriages are failing, kids are sick or struggling, people are broke in every sense. Don’t judge them either. They may be grasping for anything they can reach, just like you. If that perfect “picture” they create helps them…well, let’s just say I get it.
It gets better. Okay, it ebbs and flows. Something is always going to suck. Find a way to let the good outweigh the bad. Not easy, I know but please believe me that there is an exit to every cave. I am here to tell you life can be pretty damn good and you deserve it.
Be someone’s village and allow them to be yours. Help and be helped. I am a lifetime away from the first photo. We all are. But it wasn’t a one man job. Some have come and gone, some are lifers, some I haven’t even met in person. If you suspect someone needs you, be there. And if you need help, please don’t be silent.
I haven’t been writing. Or even thinking about writing. My social media is dusty and so is my camera bag. I have been absent. My bad. Sorry. It has been so bad that when my renewal came up this summer, I almost didn’t do it. I wasn’t sure if the money spent was worth it anymore. I am still not entirely sold but Past Copper must have known that Future Copper would drag her feet and set it up for automatic renewal.
I have seen a lot of posts on Facebook lately about the stress of seeing everyone else’s perfect life on social media. Spoiler alert: their lives aren’t perfect, that shit is as filtered as their car selfie on Instagram. I guarantee they cry in the shower as much us normies do. Their kids act like jerks at restaurants. Their beach vacations are more bickering than basking. Their husbands also spend 45 minutes on the toilet playing World of Warcraft while they clean up from dinner and put the kids to bed at the same time. So please stop comparing yourself to them, okay?
It was never my intention to be one of those #blessed blogs. I started this because our life is messy, loud and I needed proof for future reference. Or court dates, whatever. However, despite my intentions, I think my mindset drifted that way on accident. To the extreme. I have found myself struggling to find happy things to write about or silly pictures to post. I have caught myself several times thinking, “I should post that.” but then the other voice pipes in with, “Nah, it isn’t funny. Why bother, no one will laugh.”. Then instead of finding something funny or pretty or delicious to post, I stay in my pajamas for days and re-watch Brooklyn Nine-Nine for the 80th time.
So you are just not hearing from me. My rose colored glasses are scratched to hell and it is really messing with my vision lately. Well for quite a long time now. So, I am not being open and honest with you or myself and I regret that. I am doing us all a disservice by staying quiet unless I have something nice to say. I apologize. So here are some not so shiny truths.
My Current Truths
Have I been happy? No, not really but through no fault of anyone or anything. Are the kids suddenly angels who speak only when spoken to and never step out of line in public? Hell no. They are a hot mess. Is my focus on something bigger? Please refer to above statement about pjs and binging Netflix. Am I just busy being an amazing mom, wife and friend? The phrase mediocre on a good day comes to mind. Is being an expat just so delightful and easy that I have nothing to write about? Being an expat is isolating, challenging and the hardest thing I have done since convincing Red that wearing pants will not kill him. I am not so sure on some days if I would even recommend it to my worst enemy.
Am I clearly on the wrong side of my depression/anxiety and unable to focus? Yes. Is the robbery still weighing very heavy on me? Absolutely yes. Someone stole almost everything we owned. That fact sits in my chest 24/7. Do I want to go home? Yes. Or stay away? Also yes. Do I suck at multi tasking? I burned bacon while writing this and I am right next to the oven. Am I tired? Constantly. Do I want to put some pjs on right now and see what Jake Peralta is up to? Kinda, yeah.
The purpose of this whole thing was never just to make you laugh, that was just a bonus. It was suppose to be honest insight. I fully accept responsibility for drifting from that and remaining silent when it wasn’t sunshine and rainbows. I will promise to do better by you if you promise to see past the #blessed filters out there and stop comparing your happiness to their #lies. Pinky promise?
Yesterday was the first time that we had a big American holiday pass us by here in Germany without any fanfare (July 4th was the end of our school year so we were busy and barely noticed).
To be honest, that knocked me down a bit and I was shocked and unprepared for that. I don’t even hold Thanksgiving in high regard. Even so, we have grown traditions based on it and yesterday, I really missed them.
Where We Would Be
The last several years have been a mix of spending the holiday with my sister’s family and Friendsgivings. I frankly never see enough of any of these people and so I have always been grateful for the opportunity to just be together. The cooking, the loud talking and laughing, the eating and drinking. The simplicity.
If we were up in Dallas, the day would be fairly lazy. Dinner is a group event up there so each individual has little to do. Some cooking, definitely some baking. Uncle Mark would probably talk the kids into yard work under the guise of it being fun and if they didn’t fall for it, off to the park then. Dinner would be delicious, the company welcoming, and the kids, as always, just happy to be with their cousins and sneaking desserts from anyone that will plate it up for them. My sister and I would plan our evening after dinner. There is midnight shopping to be done but more importantly, we just really enjoy the time together.
If we were staying home, we tend to do Friendsgiving with the family that we choose for ourselves. No matter the year, in the life we live, there are always friends without local family. So we get together, eat well, drink too much, play cards and laugh well into the night. For many of us, it is perfection in an imperfect world.
What Really Happened
So yesterday was a normal day. Moose went to work and the kids went to school. I did housework and ran errands. We had goulash for dinner. I moped a little all day as the pictures started rolling in on Facebook. Life went on without us and honestly, while I don’t expect everyone to push pause while we are gone, it can sometimes be hard to watch. And it always makes me wonder if we did the right thing. I felt really homesick yesterday.
However, I had many reminders throughout the day that we are okay. Dude told me he loved me more than mac and cheese as I hugged him goodbye. Red’s teacher gushed to me at pick up about how well his German is coming along. The boys giggled the entire way home as they plotted their afternoons. Several people, who shouldn’t even know what day it is, went out of their way to tell me Happy Thanksgiving. A friend and fellow traveler reached out to make sure we were doing okay. Texts from home reminded me that we have not been forgotten. And the sweet man at our produce stand kept an eye out for me all day because he got me cranberries.
If you are worried about our low caloric intact, have no fear. We have plans with fellow expat friends tomorrow that involve turkey and all the fixings. Today, instead of Black Friday shopping, I will be making that last minute trip to the grocery instead. Prep work on my offerings has already begun and the cranberry sauce is already chilling in the fridge. The wine is picked out and there are some games bagged up to take over.
So in review.
Yesterday was weird and a bit difficult, today feels better and by tomorrow, the pity party will be packed away and replaced with food, friends, and new memories.
I love the holiday season. Really I do. All of it. We are not religious people, in fact 3 out of the 5 of us lean towards being atheist. But we love the spirit that comes with the all upcoming celebrations including Christmas, which is of course the holiday we associate most with.
Look. I get it. Some people feel very strongly about Christmas being premature. It does seem like the stores start putting stuff out earlier and earlier every year (I am looking at you, Hobby Lobby in June). I try to respect your wishes and not start blasting holiday music from the roof top on November 1st. It is officially the week of Thanksgiving though and I am done waiting.
Up She Goes
Yesterday, we decorated our tree. The kids colored their advent bags. We drank hot chocolate and mulled wine while we ate fancy cheese and listened to Holiday Favorites on Alexa. I packed up all of our Fall decor and lit candles that smell like sugar cookies.
And it was a really nice day.
I Am Not Trading In On Thanksgiving
None of this means I am skipping Thanksgiving. In fact, even though we are not even in the States anymore, we are still celebrating this weekend with some fellow expats. We will have turkey, mashed potatoes, and some extremely hard to find pumpkin pie. I am not trying to push one holiday out for another, I pinky promise.
In fact, usually I decorate the day after Thanksgiving but the lines here are blurry. The holiday season here is huge and we want to take in as much as possible. November/December is easily our favorite time of year, there is so much to celebrate. As the unofficial Activity Director of this family, I have so much to do. If I can get some of my list done and find some joy in the process, I make no apologies to getting a head start.
So I am going to talk about the holidays. And my feed is going to start filling up with decorations, and baking, and Christmas Markets. If you want to know about our life here, you will have to understand that it is is part of the package. I do promise to talk about other stuff as well, if that makes it any less painful. Regular life will go on and we all know Red won’t shape up just because there is promise of gifts.
Also while we are on the subject, temperatures have dropped and it is bound to snow sooner than later. So there are going to be a weird amount of pictures of my southern babes experiencing winter. Just putting that out there. Sorry not sorry.
Today is my favorite day of the week! It is raining non-perishables up in here and I didn’t have lift a finger. No, don’t leave. Hear me out.
Back in the States, grocery shopping was something I really did not give much thought to. It was so easy. You drive to the store, buy groceries for a week or a day or a meal, pack your car up and drive home. Don’t even get me started on Costco. Man, oh man. Did I take that for granted.
The Struggle Is Real
One of our biggest decisions here was to not buy a car. At least not immediately. Most days, this is not a big deal. Public transportation is pretty awesome and I tend to walk everywhere I can within reason.
The one place where this plan falls short is shopping, especially for food. See, we are 5 people. We consume a lot. Enough that it is sometimes a big production at check out. Not to mention, while I have an enormous amount of pantry space, our fridge/freezer is about a third of the size that we are used to. So I grocery shop a lot. Almost daily. I have to haul it back to the apartment on foot and it is not my favorite part of our life here. I have a trolley which makes it so much better but it is definitely an uphill battle.
Which brings me to my favorite day of the week, delivery day. Back home, grocery delivery was a thing and curbside pick up was a thing and I just never used them. If they had been around years ago when the kids were little, I would have been all over that but these days, it just wasn’t necessary.
I quickly decided here that I needed a better solution, pulling a trolley full of food home daily was going to be the end of me. Luckily delivery here is a big deal and we have lots of options. So now I have my little splurge, seriously it costs me 10 euros a month, grocery delivery.
Yes, I know. Cool your tits Copper, it is just groceries. I get it, I know how pitiful this post is. But I get to sit on the couch, drinking coffee while I set up an order and poof, it comes to my door a few hours later. I mostly do stock-able items, I am picky about produce and meats. Still, it makes a world of difference in my day to day. Did I mention they deliver booze too? Holla!
Every night, long after the last book is read, the kisses are had, and the lights turned off, noises come from the boys room. Every night for about 20 minutes. Whispers, sounds, and giggles. I really don’t mind that it takes them a bit to slow down and go to sleep. I don’t know what they talk about in there but I feel like it is very important stuff. So we allow it.
Fourteen Months and One Day
Red was born while Dude was still a baby. We didn’t plan it that way but yet, here we are. Fourteen very short months and one day after Dude was born, Red made his appearance.
There was a lot of concern that there would be jealousy, outbursts, setbacks. But there wasn’t. From the day we brought him home, it was like he was always meant to be here. Dude loved him immensely from the second he meant him. And the feeling was mutual.
The boys couldn’t be any different, not in looks nor personality. That has never stopped them from believing that they twins from a different time. They are inseparable. All of their milestones have been closely related. When one decided to do something like potty training, the other followed shortly.
They have always missed each other greatly when separated, those first few years of school for Dude were long for Red. Afternoons after pick up though were like they had never been apart. Playing and plotting their futures as Astronauts or firefighters if that doesn’t pan out.
It doesn’t take long for anyone to figure out that they are happiest when they are together. When given the option to have separate bedrooms came up they acted like we were crazy. “We could never sleep so far apart. What is one of us gets scared?”
Hey There Bubba
Sure they fight. Oh how they fight. Nobody knows how to push one’s button like the other. It never last long though. Soon they back to whispering in each other’s ear, plotting and giggling away. Sometimes it makes me laugh, sometimes I fear what they may be plotting.
They call each other Bubba. They speak a language only they understand. They are brothers first and best friends second. I have no doubt that together they will both drive me crazy and do great things.
One of my favorite features on Facebook, other than the snooze button, is Memories. When I wake up in the morning, it is literally the first thing I do. I love it, I just do.
If you don’t know what Memories is, it is a feature that shows you what was happening on that particular day in years past. You can filter it so that if there are things you don’t want to see, you don’t have to. Luckily for me, the majority of my Facebook history is full of good memories. Or at least ones that were so ridiculous, I am happy to be reminded that they are behind me.
So most mornings, while I am still buried under the covers and delaying the inevitable, I grab my phone and head over to review years past.
They Were So Cute
Most of my Memories posts are, of course, about the kids. The boys births, Dude’s health problems, Blondie heading off to school for the first time. Play dates, surprise pregnancies, and two years where Disney World was our playground.
Pictures of the kids when they were little make both my heart and my ovaries twinge a bit. I look back on how both Blondie and Red went through the terrible 2’s and 3’s, Dude somehow cruised through just being the lovable little adventurer he was, and wonder how we made it out on the other side.
Potty training, surgeries, and moves (so many moves). Parenting alone when Moose was on the road, camp outs in my room, random date nights and friends who became family. I remember daily how wild life was, reminders of a different time that has gotten fuzzy as life has moved on.
And About Me
Sometimes though, I am also reminded to do things for myself. Memories of pedicures and movie nights. Blog posts and Podcast shows. And like today, solo trips. I try to at least once a year travel by myself. I actually like doing it, it is like a reset button. 4 years ago today, I packed my bags and flew to Houston by myself for a girls weekend. It was a great weekend and looking back on it reminds me that it is about time to do it again.
I need to be reminded to do these things for myself just as much as I need to be reminded that the kids were cute and messy, sweet and mean. Because it all goes so fast and I forget how much I loved those times. And it gives me the will to get up and create next year’s memories.
The cold has hit our house. No, not “Brrr” cold. The low key “I want to curl up and sleep for 2 weeks” cold. Blondie and I woke up achy, congested, with sore throats and runny noses. In hindsight, knowing what it is, I think maybe we weren’t the first to fall. Both boys were…difficult…last week. I did notice runny noses but to be honest, snot is pretty common with kids and I didn’t put two and two together.
Luckily, it is Sunday. A relatively lazy day for us. We opted out of a park adventure and grabbed several hours of couch time together, relishing the peace and quiet while the boys were gone. Sipping on hot tea and coffee, we spent the afternoon watching Harry Potter movies.
Unfortunately a lost drone and some rain brought the men back much earlier than expected. So I had to step up my game and move from my ass groove to make some hot pretzels and cocoa. Later, I made up some quiches or torture pie, if you ask Red.
Because that is the thing that sucks about colds. You still have to function. You CAN function. It is the middle ground illness that leaves you feeling gross for days, constantly aware of when you can go to bed, down to the minute and not a moment sooner. Sure, you should be able to stay tucked away where you aren’t sharing the wealth. However, that is not how life works. Especially when you are a parent. People still need you.
Slightly Fevered Copper Idealogy
Now the flu. The flu is the better illness. You can quit being functional with the flu and no one bats an eye. Sure you will want to die but no one wants to be around someone that smells a little like vomit. You can just curl up in bed and fade in and out of consciousnesses while watching Friends reruns. Now that is the life.
Kids go to school and Moose rides public transportation, we are going to get sick. I mean, clearly healthy is the optimal situation but tis the cold season and germs are a reality. And I am just a girl, blowing her nose and popping Aleve, knowing she has 2 hours and 15 minutes until she can go to bed.