Saying goodbye. 920, here we go!

The start of a transition

Joel received the offer for the State Department job the end of October while attending a Chinese Language Camp. I was alone at home with Naomi and we were given 6 days to decide what we wanted to do. Mind you, Joel wasn’t going to be home until after those 6 days. So we talked over the phone, reviewed previous pros and cons lists we had made and just like that everything changed. We knew there was a possibility that this was coming but you really don’t live your life that way, you start planning and moving quickly once the offer comes. Joel accepted the offer, came home from the language camp and everything just took off. Within days I gave my 2 week notice for a job I was incredibly passionate about with a team of coworkers that were like family. Labor and Delivery nursing was my identity, of course I’m a mom and a wife, but aside from that, L&D was me. So telling them just like telling everyone else came as a bit of a shock, but aside from the sadness came the overwhelming reply that “Mel you would be crazy to do not do this”.

Work girls at my going away dinner at Osorio’s.
My last shift!

Once the news was out that we would be leaving for this crazy adventure we knew that we would need to do something to celebrate and “Say Goodbye” with family and friends. We didn’t have a lot of time to do this, so between the busyness of the holiday season and starting to figure out how to pack up our life we planned a going away party. Thankfully our beautiful apartment building had a community room that was located right across the courtyard from us and could accommodate a large amount of people. We invited over 75 people, family, friends and co-workers. We put together a simple meal of build your own tacos, burritos, and nachos. I made some homemade cut-out cookies for desert and of course there was a full bar of drink options (we do live in WI!). So many people showed up to see us, share memories, eat food and say goodbye. It was bittersweet, but so wonderful to see how loved and supported we were by everyone.

Over the next few weeks we spent most of our time attending holiday functions and spending as much time as possible seeing family and friends. Getting ready to completely uproot your life in the middle of the holiday season is crazy, but also in my opinion a great time to do it. We had so many opportunities to get together with people and I’m not sure that would have happened outside of the holiday season.

“Pack Out”

Getting ready to move your life across the country and then to somewhere in the world, but you don’t know where yet sounds thrilling, and don’t get me wrong IT IS. But when it comes to needing to get yourself organized for that, IT IS NOT FUN. I had been reading some Foreign Service Blogs and the highly encouraged “It’s Your Move” literature before getting started, so I thought I had a decent idea of what was coming.  I was not mentally prepared for how I was going to separate and sort my life. We had 4 different packing categories we needed to put our possessions in; Long-term Storage, HHE (Household Essentials), Express Shipping, and Car luggage. The items that would be put in storage would be in a storage facility in Hagerstown, Maryland, located around an hour and a half outside of DC. Long term storage was items that we would be ok with not seeing for years. HHE, was belongings we wanted with us wherever we would be posted, but wouldn’t need in the meantime while living in DC. Express Shipping items were things that we wanted in DC with us but couldn’t fit in the car with us, and then Car luggage was what we wanted with us the entire time and what could fit in the car with us. TALK ABOUT OVERWHELMING. Oh and while you are trying to organize your life into 4 piles, you need to start working on the laundry list of things that HAVE to get done before you move across the county, in just a few weeks. Cool. I’m fine, its fine, everything is fine. I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I thought that to myself during this process! We needed to work on passports, sell our car, make our apartment presentable for showings, organize important financial paperwork, go to Dr. appointments, plan a party, go to Christmas get togethers, get Charlie ready for a new home etc. The list goes on and on. Lists, I don’t think I’ve ever had so many different lists made and scattered throughout our house. Many friends and family would check in to see how we were doing and I would tell them that I don’t think that I have every felt more disorganized and organized at the same time in my entire life.

Organized chaos
Some long term storage stuff

I tried doing the recommended colored sticker way of organizing, and I think to an extent that helped a bit. Black stickers on totes meant Long Term storage, red stickers meant HHE, that helped us keep things somewhat straight. Another thing we had to keep in mind with packing for the unknown, we had no idea if we would end up in a small apartment somewhere or in a 3-4 bedroom house somewhere, and what kind of storage would those places have? So we had to dial down the decoration bins a bit, and for any of you that know me, dialing down the Christmas decorations is NOT EASY. I am pretty proud of myself though, I went through all of my Christmas stuff, and packed what I felt was important in just a few totes! (I think Joel would have preferred there would be even less, but come on its me!) While going through boxes and organizing our life was stressful, it was fun too. I was able to organize all of my pictures, and I mean ALL of my pictures! Organizing also means getting rid of a lot of stuff, and we got rid of A LOT of stuff. Pretty sure that the local Goodwill’s could have an entire section of just Neujahr household items.

Once we finally were all organized we got ready for our movers to come pack us up.  In the Foreign Service world this is called “Pack Out”. These guys are no joke. They come in to your home, basically each pick a room and just start packing. They are quick, efficient, and pretty much in their own world, so if something is in front of them they pack it, they really don’t care what it is. So that junk drawer full of paper clips, 3M strips and tape? Yea that gets rolled up in packing paper and placed in a box for you to find later. During the moving process Naomi went to our awesome in home daycare provider Liz (we are going to miss her SO MUCH!), and we just hung around trying to make sure everything was packed the way we wanted it to be packed. Thankfully our sweet friends Beth and Andrew let us stay with them while our house was being packed up, we will forever be grateful that they let us crash with them for those few days!

After the truck was packed up and our stuff was on its way across the country we spent our last few nights finishing up odds and ends and spending time with family. Joel’s parents took us to an Appleton staple, Mark’s East Side, where I was able to have my final fill of a true Wisconsin Fish Fry and a delicious old fashioned. Pretty sure those are going to be hard to come by in the next few years. My parents hosted a dinner one night with some of my Aunts and Uncles where we were able to laugh and reminisce about previous times spent together and it allowed them to ask Joel some more personal questions about what was to come. Our very last night in Wisconsin we had a meal at my parent’s house with Joel’s parents, my brother and his wife and my cousin and his fiancé. It was a special night with special people.

The gang from our last night in Wisconsin

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