Tuesday, December 27, 2011

2011: Our Year in Review


In January 2011, I sent in my 5th& 6th funding proposals, and we still had no idea where we would be at the end of the year.  Annika & Mayzie were home with me most days when we weren’t going on outings to the Library, the Heights Parents’ Center, and play dates.  One day a week I would keep an extra 2 ½ year old friend so that another day a week I could take a break from our own 2 ½ year old and either get some work done on my qualifying exam or just do some shopping without a very energetic toddler to wrangle.  (OMG Meagen, our toddler exchanges might have actually saved my sanity!  THANK YOU!!!)  Andy had plenty of snow to blow out of the driveway and walkways, and was happily working at the Salvation Army HQ downtown.  Mayzie was starting to crawl and Annika was stringing together simple full sentences.  I was STILL working on revisions to my 1st qualifying exam, and completely anxious yet still optimistic about where the year would take us. 

February 2011, I received rejections for the 1st 4 funding proposals I wrote and started to get really nervous and less optimistic about getting money to come to Berlin for the year. 

March 2011, I got an email telling me that I won a DAAD graduate research fellowship to come to Berlin for the year.  The news was bittersweet, as it would be enough money for us to scrape by on in Berlin, but not enough to get us there or to actually pay for any of my research budget.  I was seriously torn as to whether or not to go to Berlin, so I actually applied for an alternative plan just to keep my options open.  I also applied for a small grant from CWRU for my research and continued working on revisions to my exam.  We also had a really fun trip to Indianapolis that month to help my brother and sister-in-law warm up their beautiful new house and celebrate our niece’s 2nd birthday. 

In April, I received word that I got the small grant, the day before I was to go to an interview for my Plan B.  I decided not to go to the interview and to continue my chase for the dissertation dream, as Andy helped me remember that’s what I really wanted. 

I applied for another research grant in May and finally finished the revisions to my 1st qualifying exam.  Annika turned 3 years old and had a great birthday filled with cupcakes, Karody, a gigantic balloon bouquet, and lots of friendly cuddles.  We finally were able to hire the loveliest girl ever to come watch the girls 2 times a week for a few hours, so I could get some work done.   I don’t know what I would have done without Tali, and I shudder to think about my last few months in Cleveland without her help. 

June came along with the news that I my revisions were acceptable.  I had to put the pedal to the metal on my exams if I wanted to get to Berlin by October, which was one of the only stipulations of one of my DAAD fellowship.  Because of this craziness, I hardly remember the entire summer.  I know that in July, we went to Evansville for a fabulous birthday party for Mayzie filled with family and fun and a very nice 4th of July with Melchiors’.  In July, I received news that I would be getting a 3rd, considerably sizable grant, and we finally felt secure in the financial department for our year abroad.  Andy breathed a sigh of relief, and started to wonder out loud about what would happen when we came back from Berlin.  I refused to even discuss it, and only now will even talk about it, as I had more on my plate than I even could handle at that moment. 

In August we took a really fun long-weekend vacation with the Melchiors clan to Cincinnati where we went to King’s Island and the Zoo and had a great time visiting with some old friends.  Andy took the girls to our friends’ cabin for the weekend once in there, and I stayed home.  What I most remember about those three months was sitting in the library or at Kristi’s house or at Liquid Planet or at my desk in the office at home, skimming books as quickly as possible while typing out notes on my laptop and trying to remember anything I could.  A few days before I was supposed to hand in my second exam, my step-grandmother died.  I remember feeling extremely sad and how angry I was when my advisor actually forgot and pushed me about missing the deadline for my exam.  I allowed myself to mourn, but throwing myself back into work with purpose really did help.  We bought our plane tickets that month too, and our grand adventure to Berlin started to feel like it actually was going to happen. 

By the time September came around, I had turned in my qualifying exams, and was waiting with baited breath to hear back about them.  I was on a VERY tight schedule for getting out of the country on time.  The day before the deadline to schedule my prospectus defense, in very typical form, my advisor informed me that I passed my exams and could schedule the defense.  The weekend before my defense, there was an epic anthropology department party celebrating 2 new doctorates and my departure.  Our girls went to stay with their Nana the last week of September while Andy and I finished packing up our whole house, I defended my prospectus, and then we moved all of our stuff to his parents’ basement an 8 hour drive away from Cleveland.  We did also attend a very nice birthday party for our friend Scott where we got to say goodbye to some friends too.

October 1st we went to a lovely wedding of some family friends. Then on October 5th, I flew to Berlin alone and began a 2 week search for an apartment for our time here while staying in a youth hostel.  I found an apartment, but it wouldn’t be ready until the 5th of November, so I had to then find a temporary place for us to stay when Andy arrived with the girls.  (BLESS my husband for flying trans-Atlantic with 2 small children alone!!!)  Andy & the girls arrived on the 20th, and we stayed in a lovely apartment in Prenzlauerberg for the next 2 weeks.  During those 2 weeks, I made a solo trip over to Boon for a DAAD orientation meeting where I met some amazing scholars here on the same dime.  I had some of the best conversations on that short trip, and I’m soo happy I was able to connect with others who are in the same kind of situation we are in right now. 

We moved into our apartment in Zehlendorf on the 5th of November and have been here for about 7 ½ weeks now.  November was a haze of getting settled into the apartment, research meetings, and figuring out where everything is.  We had 2 very handsome visitors come see us from Bremerhaven, and an OG friend from Bloomington visit who had been in Europe doing Opera auditions for a couple months.  With at least 10 different stops for groceries, Andy was able to procure the ingredients for a real American Thanksgiving, and thanks to Skype we were able to see the faces of our families even.  Andy & I went on a real date for our birthdays at the end of the month even, which is a real treat for sure. 

December has also been filled with research meetings and shopping for Christmas.  We visited soo many Christmas Markets I lost count.  (I’m going to write a whole post on those asap.)  We got the girls some year-long passes to Lego-land and their grandparents got our whole family passes to the Zoo.  We got our residency permits to stay here until next October.  We had a great Christmas at home with just us 4 and Skyped in relatives.  We are planning to spend the remaining days of the year at home together with a few adventures to get some of the girls’ energy out.  Santa brought Mayzie a balance bike and Annika a bike with training wheels, so they’ve been having fun on those the past couple of days.  The weather in Berlin is rainy with 50-36 degrees as the high. 

It wasn’t a white Christmas, but it was a good time for reflection and being thankful for the amazingly supportive family and friends that we have.  I honestly do not think I personally could have survived this year without the love and support that you all give to me!  This year has been truly amazing, and I can’t wait to see what next year will bring our way.  I truly believe that if we could survive this past year of crazy stress intact, there is nothing that can break us!!

At the end of 2011, I am living in one of my favorite cities in the world, fully supported by my husband, kids, extended family and friends, and chasing my dissertation research all over town.  (She’s a fickle muse, but so far fair.)  Andy & I are still renegotiating our very switched-up roles and responsibilities, though I think he likes being able to spend so much time with his girls.  He still gets to go play soccer once a week at least in a pick-up game.  His tour of German beers is in full force now too with a different case of something every week.  Annika asks to go to school every day (we’re working on it), and is a very tall 3 ½ year old who likes to ride her bike, play with dragons, listen to stories, and learn how to draw and recognize her letters.  Mayzie is an almost 18 month old very opinionated girl who seems to learn at least 10 new words a day.  Though she still has trouble with pronunciation, she does not have trouble communicating her needs.  She loves to dance and play hide and seek, especially the seeking part, and she sleeps on the bottom bunk bed like she’s been in a big girl bed forever. 

Every day is an adventure! 
Bring it on 2012!! 

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