Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Frohes Neues Jahr!

Taking a moment to appreciate our bedroom before packing it up. <3

Days to Takeoff: 12

Monday, December 30, 2013

Shipping, Boxes, and Relocation

Tonight we've been busy reconstructing two big cardboard boxes to custom fit two of our most important pieces of equipment - an iMac and a large format scanner. These guys are essential to the work I do, as well as much of what Shannon does. So, we're going to great lengths to get them safely to Berlin. We considered selling both pieces and replacing them on the other side, but they're a few years old, so buying new versions would put us in the red big time. That led us to research ways to ship them over.

Many people who move overseas use relocation services. These are basically shipping contractors - they come and pack up your entire house or apartment, drive it to the nearest port, and load it onto a ship. A few weeks later they pick everything up, get it through customs for you, and deliver it to your new home. It's full service. And it's very expensive! In our case, it would have cost 2 or 3 grand to get our computer, scanner, and some other furniture and boxes over. Again, putting us in the red.

However, we really wanted to travel light, and not spend so much. So, we found that it was much more economical to just ship the two important electronics via FedEx, and bring everything else with us the the plane. This ends up costing less than a grand, and takes like a week (instead of a month or more with the relocation guys).

The thing is, there are no boxes for sale anywhere that perfectly fit the items plus the appropriate amount of bubble wrap, etc. And, of course, we had discarded the original boxes long ago (whoops!). So, we had to call around until we found a place that sold boxes large enough for us to deconstruct and rebuild (using our genius level high school math skills). With lots of measuring, cutting, glueing, and loads of tape, we are successful box makers. Call us for a quote.


Days to Takeoff: 13

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Painting and Reminiscing

Our humble abode. Rahsan getting a little work done before painting the walls!

Flash refused to help.
He knows he's cute, so he can get away with it.

We weren't much better.

We're easily distracted. 

Here is our couch.

We've spent a lot of time here together. Five years in this space. A lot of that time snuggling on the couch. Today this was a poignant moment for us.

Days to Takeoff: 14

Friday, December 27, 2013

Crunch Time!

The heady mix of anxiety and excitement that we are experiencing right now is hard to compare to anything else. We're rapidly approaching the day of our flight, and even sooner is the day we move out of our apartment. The list of things to do is long, and the shifting landscape of our lives can be overwhelming.

When I say "anxiety" I don't mean the run of the mill nerves one might have in reaction to stress. Perhaps for me, the anxiety is more commonplace - the butterflies-in-the-stomach feelings about moving and worry over not getting everything done in time. But for Shannon, it's much more complicated and difficult to deal with. She has managed an anxiety disorder for many years. Most people don't understand what a serious anxiety disorder means. It can play havoc with your life if not carefully controlled. And to carefully control it is exactly what Shannon has learned to do over time. In fact, recent years have been remarkably improved for her, and I've been so happy to see it, and so impressed with her strength. The panic attacks that used to plague her life and interfere with everything she did haven't been happening anymore. The impact of that change is indescribably positive for us!

However, we're finding that a big part of those positive changes has been the stability of our home and our routines together. The fact that we are transitioning to a new home (and will have to break our routines temporarily before reestablishing them) is bringing up a lot of fresh anxiety for Shannon. All of the little changes, not to mention the big ones, are making it all worse. Fighting off panic attacks while we are both so busy - working and moving - is really hard! Imagine it if you can. We both anticipated this could happen but were hoping it wouldn't be so bad.

Of course, Shannon and I are so very excited for all of the changes we're making, and this move to Berlin is all about improving our lives and bringing us new happiness and inspiration. Neither of us would change our decision to do this. And we are as prepared as anyone could be. We've spent so much time getting ready and organizing ourselves (even if it never feels like enough!). Don't get me wrong, we're thrilled to be making this journey together!

So it's ironic that the source of our excitement and our joy is also the source of anxiety and fear. We're going to look back on this as one of the hardest things we've ever done together. Organizing our wedding was the only similarly difficult experience. And we find ourselves thinking of our wedding and remembering that it was so hard, but that once the work was done, it was the most rewarding and happiest moment of our lives. This is what we'll be saying about this move, once it's done. But for now, we've got to just keep connected and supportive of each other, and keep checking those to-dos off our list!

Days to Takeoff: 16

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

We Will Never Be Here Again

I wonder where we'll be next Christmas.
Wherever we'll be, we will never be here again.
Not in this apartment, not with both of these cats, not at this age,
And not with this exact feeling in my heart.
My stomach stings with excitement.
My head races with possibilities.
I'm enjoying these moments.
These moments...

Days to Takeoff: 19

Monday, December 23, 2013

The Bitter Taste of Swiss Coffee

So we had a walkthrough with our apartment manager yesterday. This was a pre-inspection walkthrough, to be specific, so that we could agree on what things we need to fix in advance of the actual, final inspection when we move out. While a lot of what we went over was obvious and even useful, our conversation also uncovered some very frustrating realities.

Reality #1: The apartment manager does the final walkthrough with us. However, she doesn't make any decisions, have any quotes, or really, have any useful information whatsoever. I don't understand why they do it this way. Is it really legal? I mean, for this pre-inspection, all she did was walk through the apartment and tell us to "paint that wall" and "put putty in the nail holes" (duh). I tried asking her if they would be replacing the carpet, and how much that could be, also asking if they would charge us for this or that. All she could say to me was, "I'm really quite helpless in all this. The Landlord will come down after you move and make these decisions, and then she'll make a list for you". And when I asked if The Landlord was typically unfair with deposits (the manager and I had a casual conversation going), she said "No, I don't usually hear that complaint. The thing I hear about her is that she doesn't return the deposit to the tenants in time. She's pretty flakey". Really? You just admitted that The Landlord commonly breaks the lease agreement? Ugh. 

Reality #2: The walls have to be painted "Swiss Coffee" white. No, not 
- White
- Ultra Pure White
- Bright White
- Linen White
- Pure White
- Antique White
- Falling Snow
- Guardian White
- Polar Bear
- Dove White
- Painter's White
- Toasted White
- Elegant Lace
- Autumn Haze
- Summer Sandcastle
- Cappuccino White
- Guesthouse
- Ivory Palace
- Marshmallow White
- Burnished Clay
- Desert Springs
- Navajo White
- Frost
- Whisper White
- Cottage White
- Nope, not even Parchment White... 


Apparently, according to the manager, there was a past tenant who left their apartment in immaculate condition, but because they painted some of their walls a shade of white other than Swiss Coffee, The Landlord charged them, claiming that it was a noticeable difference, and that the painters had to paint over them. Worth noting: the manager told us that she didn't notice the difference when they did the final walkthrough. It was an issue only after the painters billed The Landlord for... well, I'm not sure what they billed her for. But I guess it was to paint over the, let's say, Whisper White and restore it to the all-important Swiss Coffee. 

Now, I understand the position of The Landlord and the painters: if the walls are painted a color that may take them more than one coat of paint to cover, that takes more time and money, and thus it should be the responsibility of the tenants to return the walls to their original state. One complication (which was revealed to us seemingly by accident because the manager stuttered afterward) is that the contractors apparently PAINT OVER EVERYTHING anyway. It's some policy, I guess. So... yeah. They paint all the doors and cabinets and walls, but painting over a different shade of white is so difficult that they need to take a bit out of your security deposit. Makes sense.

Anywho, it's really no big deal. I'm going to grab my Swiss Coffee, pick up a brush, and sing along to Xmas tunes while we paint, like we're in a holiday movie montage or maybe a musical. 

Days to Takeoff: 20

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Health Insurance in Germany, Part 1

The Residence Permit. This is the mighty document that you need to get to live in Germany. And it's a very complicated process!  The requirements are relatively simple at first glance, but getting everything in order is pretty difficult. There are many documents you have to put together into a packet, and then you have to go apply in person at the local Auslanderbehorde (Foreigners Office/Authority). This office is notorious for being difficult to navigate, and they (purposefully, I suppose) do not and will not speak English there, according to what we've been told.

One of the most confusing requirements is health insurance. You're required to have health insurance coverage to live in Germany. If you have a normal job offer, and that's why you're moving to Germany, then this is relatively easy. You can immediately get into the (apparently awesome) public insurance system, and you're good to go (at least, this is what I've read).

But if you're a freelance, self-employed person like I am, and like Shannon is, then you have to buy private health insurance. And this insurance has to meet the strict German regulations. So, you should just buy insurance from one of the many German insurance companies, right? Well, no - apparently German insurers no longer take on freelancers who are new to the country. Oops.

Nope, newbie freelancers have to go get private insurance from an international insurer. There are also many of these - they're companies that sell insurance plans to international travelers, mostly business people I assume. Again, you'd think this would make it easy, since many competing companies would probably be offering plans for Germany, wouldn't they? Nope! Most of these companies don't meet the German regulations. So, after narrowing it down, there are only a few companies and plans that are even an option.

So, in summary, this is freakin hard! More in Part 2.

Days to Takeoff: 22

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Loving Candy, Bittersweet

This afternoon we introduced Candy to her new caretaker, the person she'll be living with come January!

On one hand, it was great to meet "Candy's New Human". She's a really sweet woman who seems to be genuinely excited to take Candy in. Candy will have a quiet new home with lots of love and care. One bedroom apartment, no other animals to compete with (Candy has never gotten along well with our other cat, Flash, who is much younger and larger, and tends to pick on her), a gentle person who will give her everything she needs - really, all that we could ask for.

Candy decided to participate in decorating
the christmas tree this year.
On the other hand, it's heartbreaking to come face to face with the tangible reality of giving Candy to someone else (although it feels more like we're leaving her behind). It was more abstract up to this point - the process of talking about what we would do with her, of searching for her new home, and of phone calls and texts as we worked out the details. But now, after having actually met the person and seen her hold Candy in her lap, it's very real.

We'll be transitioning Candy to her new home in the first days of January. That's stressful because it's only a few days before we leave our apartment, but it's relieving to have a couple more weeks to say goodbye, and to get to spend one more christmas with her.

We adopted Candy almost five years ago. She was already a senior kitty, probably eleven or twelve years old, no one was absolutely sure. She had lived with one of Shannon's childhood friends, in a house with many other cats, maybe thirteen fluffballs. Shannon's friend had asked for help because they had to move and unfortunately couldn't bring all of their kitties with them. We volunteered to help out and Shannon's friend suggested that Candy would be a good fit for us because she was so sweet and it was thought that she would get along well with Flash.

It turns out that Candy and Flash hate each other, but nevertheless we've come to love her and appreciate her quirky yet endearing personality.

When we started to figure out how to make this big move to Berlin, one of the very first things we had to talk about was, of course, the cats. We spent a lot of time researching what it takes to fly a kitty into Germany. We had to be certain that it would be safe, and luckily United Airlines allows you to bring a pet with you as carry-on baggage as long as you meet certain requirements (to be talked about in full in a future post!). So, we knew that bringing Flash with us would work. However, it was apparent that bringing Candy was not practical for her health and happiness. She's delicate and old, and not equipped for that kind of rigorous, extended travel. We know she'd be much happier staying here in a quiet home, even if it was with someone new.

It really did break our hearts, but sadly, it's for the best for everyone. It's best for us to move to Europe because it's something that we've always had in our hearts and is important for our life. But it's best for Candy to stay here. Not to mention it's going to be good for her, at the very least, to get some peace and quiet away from Flash the Tyrannical!

Despite it being the right thing to do for everyone involved, it still stings like hell and feels like we're abandoning someone we love. It feels like something we may regret, and it's hard to not feel guilty. Hopefully it works out for the best and we all benefit from these changes!

Days to Takeoff: 24

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Monday, December 16, 2013

Art, Shopping, and Candy

This afternoon, while I was working on Think Tank #12, Shannon began the process of gathering web-sourced images for a collaborative art project we are doing for a show in Berlin. Despite everything we have going on, this show is actually taking place just before we arrive in January, so we absolutely must finish it before the end of the month. Of course that brings stress because there are many other things on our to do list, but it is of course exciting to already be participating in the Berlin art scene. We'll talk more about this project later, but you can get a hint of what we're working on over here.

On a positive note, we got some very necessary holiday shopping done. Well, Shannon did. ;) Thank Thor for web stores!

Also, we will soon be meeting with the kind person who has volunteered to adopt our senior kitty, Candy. We will definitely talk more about her and that whole process in the future. The brief explanation is that Candy is too old and delicate to be flown halfway around the world, so we had to cast a very wide net among our friends and family to find her a new home. After much worry, we finally seem to have found someone, and we're about to begin the process of transitioning her. It's going to be emotional but it's for the best!

Days to Takeoff: 27

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Day of Cleaning: Part 1

Today was the Day of Cleaning: Part 1 on our calendar. We are so worried about getting every cent of our apartment deposit back that we bought special supplies to clean everything. Like super matter-eating orange oil that destroys goo and gunk. We scraped off the filthy grout around our shower tub and reapplied new clean white grout. Our tub looks so clean now, I'm mad we didn't do this before!

It's also Christmas Season, so I felt pressure to get a tree tonight. We closed the door to the bathroom to keep our cats away from the cleaning supplies and spent a few hours getting a cute $30 tree and decorating it, accompanied by Home Alone and brandy-spiked eggnog.

We didn't get nearly enough cleaning done... Let's hope it gets done this week. *Fingers Crossed*

Day to Takeoff: 28

Friday, December 13, 2013

What's Worth It?

We are packing up our memories. Deciding what will be stored and what will be looked at fondly one last time before being thrown in the garbage, donated, sold, or given away. Deciding what few things we will bring with us to Berlin.

This process is a great metaphor for what we're doing, in the big picture. We're deciding what, from our past, we will leave behind, and what is "worth" holding on to.

I already took the big step of selling my late grandfather's standing clock (ok, it's a grandfather clock, but it sounded weird to say "my grandfather's grandfather clock"). He had bought it in the 80s when clocks like this were still worth something on the market. Decades later, he asked me if, when he passed away, I would be interested in keeping it. At the time, I was honored and I felt a great sense of duty, a duty to carry on some sort of legacy. I think this was motivated by my grief over my father's recent death, as well. It wasn't just about my grandfather. It was about somehow taking my father's place, perhaps. I'm not sure, exactly. But, in any case, I said yes.

When grandpa died, I dutifully took the clock, even though it was completely out of place in our little apartment. I never set it up, so it simply sat there in the corner for years, a very imposing (seven feet tall!) but beautiful daily reminder of Grandpa Jolly. Eventually we began storing books in the glass-enclosed cabinet - that gave it a purpose and a nicely designed look, at least. The person who got the most use out of it was Flash (our cat) who loved to jump, implausibly, up to the high perch on the very top of the clock and curl up for a princely nap.

This is where the grandfather clock was.
The space feels great!
But over time, and especially with the impending pressure of storing and moving our things, I came to a new realization - the clock itself did not mean as much to me as the photographs, stories, and memories of my grandfather, of the man himself. The clock was symbolic of my sense of guilt-driven responsibility to the departed men of my family, and this was a burden that I needn't carry. My grandfather - and my father - are in me, in my actions every day. So, shedding the physical artifact and embracing, rather, the thought - this seems a far better way to live, and a far better way to memorialize.

Anyway, this is a long roundabout way of saying that it felt good to let the clock go to a new buyer, a new family, and to sort of step forward, carrying my grandfather, and my father, in my heart rather than in a storage unit. So to speak. ;)

(On a lighter note, we are definitely keeping Shannon's old Super Nintendo, because well - it's awesome! And despite being worth a bit of money, perhaps, it's something that we will love to come back to, whenever we do come back, and therefore is worth the slight inconvenience of storing it in a box.)

Well, since we're sharing - here is, in no particular order, an incomplete list of things we're keeping and storing:

- Books, mostly interesting art books, rare paperbacks, and some graphic novels - stuff that would be difficult to re-buy, and that we would like to have in the future. But we were harsh with getting rid of anything unnecessary!
- Super Nintendo and a couple games
- A few PS3 games that have sentimental value, like the Assassin's Creed series and Batman: Arkham series
- A guitar
- Shannon's cool collection of older cameras
- Memorabilia from our wedding
- A handful of cards from family (some with special handwritten notes)
- Comic books - only a couple boxes (I got rid of tons of comics a few years ago)
- Our bed (we got it cheap and love it, and it is a very slim memory foam so easy to store)
- Our very modest supply of linens
- Photographs
- Original artwork
- A few CDs with sentimental value
- Singing in the Rain DVD set - I bought it for Shannon years ago, early in our relationship, and it is something that means a LOT to us both
- Amon Amarth live concert DVD - another artifact from our early years together - super nostalgic!
- Some expensive art supplies
- My beautiful work table that Shannon and our family bought for me
- Photographic equipment, like video lights and some other stuff
- Our small collection of pots and dishes - because that shit is expensive!

Stuff we're getting rid of:

- All our large furniture and appliances - almost all of it is going to my little sister for her new house - freeloader! ;)
- The grandfather clock - SOLD!
- Our TV - going to family
- Old clothing
- A keyboard
- A bass guitar and an amp- already donated
- Some old cracked dishes and scratched up pots
- Microwave
- All those old food products that have sat in the back of the cupboard for years (don't try to tell me that you don't have some, too!)
- Lot of cheap knick-knacks
- Books, CDs, and DVDs that we can find digitally or that we simply don't need
- Crap

Stuff we're bringing:

- Clothing, coats, shoes
- Macbook and Vonage box (Shannon's work equipment)
- iMac and Epson scanner (Rahsan's work equipment - we're Fedexing them to our new address)
- Art supplies
- Two cameras and a couple lenses
- One princely cat

So I don't know if this gives you any insight into our mindset and attitude toward life at this moment, but it does for us, so I thought we'd share anyway. Basically, the process feels very much like unburdening, and then embracing the things we "need" (or, honestly, were too weak to part with).

Days to Takeoff: 30

Thursday, December 12, 2013

OMG ONE MONTH or "There. And back again?"

In fifteen minutes, the clock will pass midnight and we'll have less than ONE MONTH before we leave.


That's how long we have before we get on that eleven hour flight to our new life in Berlin. We have so much to do before that! We have to pack up our house, we have to learn German (a little behind on that one! whoops), do tons of networking, take care of all sorts of paperwork for our kitty, get German health insurance, put together our visa applications, change our address with EVERYONE, give all our furniture away to family, buy Christmas presents buy warm gloves and socks for the 15 DEGREE weather stock up on the many prescriptions needed paint the apartment anddoanythingwepossiblycanto getourdepositbackwhileworkingourassesofatbothofourjobsupuntilthelastsecond...

But you know what? We couldn't be happier.

Days to Takeoff: 31