81 Days

In eighty-one days, my landlord will hand over the keys to the rented house I’ll have hailed as home for four years of my adult life.  After a brief honeymoon, Charming will hand me one set of matching keys to a house we haven’t bought yet, and we will make it our first home together.  It’s either a miracle or madness to think in just three months time, I’ll be a foreigner on German soil, starting a forever and always that resembles nothing akin to a familiar lifestyle.

It’s exciting and terrifying, wonderful and intimidating.  Yes, it’s all those things that everyone asks me, sometimes separate, almost tangible feelings I can isolate and analyze, but also occurring simultaneously such that prevention of the bubbling, meandering train of conflicting emotion finds me simply nodding and agreeing that, yes, it’s an amazing opportunity, but it’s scary, too.  Not particularly profound.

It’s what I don’t say that would entertain a passerby at the intersection of sentiment and logic somewhere in the limbic system of my brain.  There is no way we could recreate the potential life experiences and adventures available to us when we touch down at home base in Stuttgart, Germany come mid-July.  The ability to travel and interact with other cultures will certainly broaden our perspectives and cement our commitment to global citizenship by situational catalyst.  That’s to say nothing for what an incredible career opportunity my husband will settle into in the week to come.  That’s the plan, anyway.  He’ll go ahead and start his post while I wrap up my last eighty-one days as a high school teacher in Hampton, Virginia.

Our world is going to get a lot bigger.  Right now it’s hard to see past the daily grind of poetry lessons, yearbook training video scripts, workouts and physical therapy, and attending to the neverending car repairs that suggest my faithful Honda ages like a dog – eleven years has my Bella panting, ready from a break from my Pokemon hunting cruises and trips back and forth to DC nearly twice a month for over two and a half years.  It moved me here from Syracuse four years ago, and there from Nashville eighteen months before that.  I bought the white Fit the summer before my divorce, and Bella has quite literally carried me through half a dozen crises, keeping me safe despite my predisposition to wreck, navigating me from new home to new home.  She won’t be making that flight with us.

It’s a new era.  The Dunkin’ Donuts app can tell you my favorite coffee break is at 9:45 am.  The folks at the front desk after school haven’t needed to scan my card in ages.  At Marker 20 downtown, the bartenders will ask if I’m having the “regular”.  Whereas my first day of school it took me fourteen minutes to navigate the three-and-a-half mile straight shot from my place to Kecoughtan High, Bella can now effectively execute a nine-minute commute with nearly a dozen right and left turns to weave me past red lights and congestion.  I recognize the names of the players as the announcer’s voice drifts with the Darling’s stadium lights to my front porch, reminding me to walk over and watch our football team (or take pictures of them and the stands is more accurate).

When I first landed in Hampton, there was no “my Fort Monroe Beach” programmed into Bella’s antique, USB powered GPS unit which would take me to my preferred parking spot on countless days and nights in the years I didn’t know I would love.  Of course, it’s difficult to consider what the next eighty-one days will require of Charming and me, but the ones to come?  We really can’t imagine.  At least in America, I know my day will start with a Keurig coffee that never truly tastes good in comparison to the one my former student will hand me at Dunkin’s window between class changes a couple hours later.  Would finding another Fort Monroe beach spot comfort me when it’s partly cloudy year round?

I couldn’t imagine the quality of life and sense of belonging I would find in a rented bedroom that had room for a family I wouldn’t start while living here, as I’d hoped a lifetime ago.  I didn’t know I would wind up on a first name, text-exchange basis with a mechanic for every auto specialty need, or be greeted with a hug by Robin at the cigar shop with an empathetic question that lets me know he’s read my most recent blog post.

I don’t know what our lives will look like in Germany.  In fact, the only thing that will be in Germany that I will have already seen, known, and been familiarized with for years is going to by my new husband.  Charming is the reason I will face the miracle or madness of starting over together in a foreign country.  After the honeymoon period ends, my plan is that we’ll be clinging to each other, forced to thrive as a team or perish in the Black Forest of our best intentions in forging our own paths.

This weekend was the first time I’d seen my fiancé in a month.  That’s twice as long as we’ve gone in the past without refilling Charming’s quality time, love language fuel tank.  Adoration and affection rank hand in hand for what’s most likely to get me to bend over backwards and cook a homemade meal with a bum shoulder, so we were both feeling pretty emptied upon first encounter.  A theme of the weekend seemed to be teamwork, recognizing that we have a lot of hurdles to clear in the next eighty-one days, and simply creating and beginning implementation of a plan that finds us officially married, moved out of two homes, belongings shipped or stored, and in possession of all the legal documents necessary for this move.

I’ll admit, last week when Charming clued me in by phone as to the coming weeks’ demands, I practically froze, the anticipated stress already working its debilitating magic.  However, after an afternoon systematically agreeing on the future of each piece of furniture in both of our current houses, the myriad hurdles remaining didn’t seem so insurmountable anymore.  I left DC with a renewed spirit, hopeful about the means which this particularly end will justify for us.  We filed paperwork for government passport identification, and Charming asked me a serious question.

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“What will your name be?” he’d posed, clarifying that it was an actual question.  Perhaps he didn’t want to assume I’d be traditional, but I’ve never been anything else than that and a hopeless romantic, though the oxymoron isn’t lost on me.  In Nashville, having a double first name was as common as beans and rice were at my former in-law’s dinner table.  It does, following logically, allow for the addition of a middle name.  Today, after thinking the question over, I asked how Charming would feel about my maiden name becoming my middle name.

His response over the phone truly warmed me despite the cold, April showers outside.  His support of carrying my Italian heritage over into our forever and always was perhaps an unintended expression of a love language I understand without any translation.  Maybe, like me, he’d considered the possibility that I’d relish the opportunity this move affords me to travel abroad to my ancestors’ towns and villages, in a hopes to write our story.  Keeping the namesake between who I and my husband have always been, this link to my Italian heritage, it makes the new name twice as special.

It’s possible to feel two things at the same time: excitement and fear about moving halfway around the world, or about getting married, or about shoulder surgery, or about packing up my life into boxes to be shipped, stored, or trashed.  It’s possible to be Charming’s wife and an Italian-American searching to unearth her family’s legacy and answer questions we didn’t know to ask yet.  Anything is possible.  A lot can happen in eighty-one days, and a lot has to happen.  I’m confident, though, with Charming and dividing and conquering where necessary and teaming up whenever geographically possible, that we’ll start over like I did and Hampton and find ourselves saying goodbye to our German mechanics and cigar and coffee shop vendors.  Maybe it won’t be a beach, but they’ll be a place I’ll escape to find peace on the other side of the world, too, I’m sure.

In eighty-one days, everything changes.  In eighty-one days, our lives are ultimately unwritten.  Just our names, really, we’ll start over with… the best of two, dichotomies and paradoxes and oxymorons juxtaposed with a oneness I’m not sure I’ll understand fully until we’re thriving in Germany, doing life together in our home, where the only familiar thing I can imagine is the man I’ll marry.  In eighty-one days.

 

If I Can’t Plant a Garden…

It’s been three years since I built up the garden beds framing the off-center steps leading to the red door of my rented bungalow in Downtown Hampton.  Hauling scalloped red bricks, top soil, and brown mulch.  Digging out hollows, ripping out weeds, pulling at vines without ends.  The five azaleas bloomed in sequence then, like now, with two Starburst Strawberry pink bushes framing the front walk.  For three years, April meant planting… but I’m not tending a garden this year.

It seems almost anticlimactic.  A novice gardener, I didn’t realize that April’s showers would invite me to get my hands dirty.  For more than thirty years, it wasn’t a hobby to feel the sweet sweat of a spring sunset warming the back of my neck as my fingers tangled with roots.  Now, as the temperatures promise trends in warmer directions, I’m questioning my decision not to plant a garden.  Hundreds of hours, I’d surmise, I took to the earth in this little yard, laboring for beauty that was worth the wait.

In essence, I grew with my garden… each day, each month, each season.  We danced with Mother Nature, me and my evening glories and hydrangeas and impatiens.  We bloomed and died together, were reborn, and yes it sounds dramatic, but like trees growing side by side, my own roots are intertwined with those of the knock out roses I planted that first spring here when I desperately needed to see something beautiful grow from me.

With a new life to build in Germany in July after we’re married, it seems illogical to nurture a garden this year.  Vegetables are the practical seeds, starting indoors then transported to the soil about this time of the season.  Their harvest, however, wouldn’t come until I’m gone.  The time and money alone that a properly tended garden demands was enough to conclude I’d pass on the gardening this last year in my little home.  Then today, I when I broke out the Craigslist lawnmower and prayed it would work for just a couple more months, I realized that though the overrun beds call to me, my shoulder reminded me that it cannot tend a garden.  It couldn’t even start the mower.  If a neighbor had been watching me trying to get my left arm to pull the line, he had his entertainment fill for the evening.

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Once I had the coughing engine puttering pathetically, the lawn was a quick cut.  Unfortunately, walking the entire grounds of my property forced me to take in the full effect of winter’s neglect.  Dead leaves suffocate the flower beds while the vegetable garden is overrun with weeds and vines.  Trash peeks out from between the azalea bushes.  My knock out roses are out of control, entreating me to trim them back by pricking me as I walk by each day.  I could navigate that mower, but I was done.  I took one last, sad look at the neglected yard before tucking the lawnmower into the shed and dashing over to visit my brother’s kids.  No, as much as this house beseeches me to take to my knees and start weeding, I have to accept that my body will keep me from making this place a growing fantasia.

Charming asked me last week if I would have gone ahead with this surgery had I known the recovery would be six months instead of six weeks.  Of course not!  Who plans to pack up a house, get married, and move to Germany with a bum dominant arm?  My clumsiness is endearing to my students, fortunately, but the true loss exists in that which I won’t be able to take on.  Every day, I watch fellow gym rats curling and bench pressing and I long to leave the elliptical machine I’ve been restricted to in the aftermath and doom of this surgery to repair my rotator cuff.  I can’t do that.  I can’t do a lot of things.

When I started this blog, it was about my growth as a person and a writer through the inspiration of planting my first garden.  I can’t tend to the weeds in yard, but I can still write about it.  We’re fully immersed in our poetry unit now, and my sophomores are catching my writing fever.  The lessons fly by, and I’m pleasantly surprised by how much they already know as we dissect masterpiece poems and figure out how author’s make choices about line breaks and punctuation.   Each class spent a day in the library, flipping through page after page of dozens of books of poetry.  Each student was tasked with selecting four poems.

One boy didn’t finish searching, and when I told him he needed to make some choices, he responded that he didn’t want to just pick any poems for a grade.  He wanted to pick his poems, like I’d promised him, the poems he’d stumble upon while searching that were just waiting for him to read words penned long ago by a stranger.  I smiled. He got it. Yes, I let him go back to the library.  I can’t tend a flower garden, but I’ve been entrusted with other gardens to tend.  I have a few months left to invest at Kecoughtan, and there are plenty of figurative weeds and vines to keep me mentally fit.

Perhaps because I have to keep ignoring the urge to go to Home Depot, I have extra energy to give my kids.  It’s paying off, too.  My last block class this afternoon shocked me with their insights on a complex poem.  Identifying devices used by a poet is now child’s play.  Now, they’re explaining that the alliteration of the “w” sound in “wind’s way and the whale’s way” from John Masefield’s “Sea Fever” actually simulates the sound of the wind and the waves, no Socratic leading necessary.  In the last line, he concludes with, “a quiet sleep and a sweet dream,” and one girl announced Masefield had used assonance to sooth us.  This is my fourth season planting at Kecoughtan, and this unit feels like the best in ten years of tenth grade poetry.  It was a very good day for me.  I got to see the blossoms of a different kind of planting.

When I mowed the lawn this afternoon, I thought about everything I couldn’t do because of the restrictions placed on me by my shoulder as prompted by my forlorn garden beds, adolescent epiphanies about poetry already forgotten with the demands of the current scenery. However, after a brief visit to my brother’s house, I suppose I’d had a little time to plant better perspective.  Katarina and Theresa were listening as I read them stories they had picked out for bath time, playing with their plastic toys and “reading” the words sometimes.  After Clifford caught the robbers, Kat exclaimed, “He got the bad guy!”  It struck me as funny coming from this three year old’s lips.  Where did she learn that?   When I finished reading a prayer, her twin Tessa piped up, “God made everything!”  I don’t have to wonder where she learned that, but it elicited an equal chuckle and grin from me.

They are three, almost four.  I’ve been growing with them like my garden and my classroom, I suppose.  There is so much they can’t do.  Kat and Tessa are some of the most beautiful bloos God’s planted in my life, and they remind me what is possible when you don’t know you have any limitations in the first place.  The twins make gains on a daily basis that are so subtle you’d miss them overnight, but even in a week’s time, roots deepen and they find themselves boasting about a new accomplishment… in complete sentences with vocabularies that remind me how grateful I am that my brother’s wife is an incredible reading interventionist.  I can’t wait to see all that they will do… even if Skype gets the corner on that market while we’re living in Germany.

After all, it’s like Kat said as I was leaving, “You’re family.”  I’m leaving Hampton.  I’m leaving my garden beds and my classroom on CD hall and my sweet nieces and nephews, but there are no limitations for the potential growth God has for them and for me beyond that which we can do now.  It doesn’t matter that I can’t dig out vines this year.

There are people in my garden to invest in now, while I can, where the potential for discovery will yield unexpected blossoms… like my nieces reminded me tonight.  I came home and saw only the pink azaleas framing the front porch, brilliant and beautiful without any help from me.  No annuals this year.  I’ll labor in syntactical soil where I tend to souls instead, where growth will continue long after I turn in my keys to the red door that marks my Hampton home.

Senioritis, Tampa Bay, & Unity

Yesterday morning at 8:20 a.m. when the morning bell rang at my high school, I’d venture that attendance was at an all time low for our graduating class.  Usually, a spring break recharges me, but as we embark upon the last quarter of the year at Kecoughtan, I find myself fighting something akin to senioritis. Just three months until the freshman I shuffled through Journalism I four years ago walk the stage to get those long-awaited diplomas.  There won’t be one for me, but nevertheless, I’m graduating, too.

For ten years I’ve drilled grammatical concepts and come up with clever mnemonic devices for mastering confusing concepts.  I’ve written English curriculum geared at engaging our digital natives in the discipline of analyzing life and sharing their informed perspectives with a world that only requires an internet connection to be published.  I’ve graded over 16,000 persuasive essays, hoping the evaluation reveals my kids have conquered organizational structure, transitions between and across well-developed paragraphs supporting and explaining valid reasons for established positions.  I’ve shepherded thousands of students through poetry explorations and career discovery adventure projects.

I’ve been in high school for nearly my entire adult life.  Tenth grade English is what I know, but does the niche I’ve carved out for myself unintentionally apply to life outside a school building?

After writing last Tuesday night, I couldn’t sleep.  There was no school, no impending pressures.  I packed up the car, and at 2 a.m. started out on a southbound highway.  By early afternoon Wednesday, I was soaking up the Florida heat as I checked into a little hotel room in Tampa Bay.  With Charming’s new job in Germany official, I was finally able to write about the questions and uncertainties I’ve been grappling with for some months now.  It was almost as though coming out in my blog about moving to Stuttgart for three years was a means of typing the removal of a mental boulder that, once eliminated, opened the floodgates of everything else I hadn’t been able to face until I’d written the first truth.

We’re getting married in July and moving to Germany.  This isn’t just my last quarter at Kecoughtan.  It’s the last few months of my single, adult life in America.  And if I am being completely honest, I haven’t liked the person I see looking back in the mirror for a while now.  This little impromptu excursion to the sun was an invitation for God to warm the coldest and most broken parts of me.  Unlike the patio heater that whirs beside me, Tampa’s breeze was subtle and silent, the heat of the day permeating the pavement until well past dark.  The feigning summer days comforted me as I faced all the other truths that come after deciding to move to Germany.

Who will I be after Charming and I get married?  I can teach on base or facilitate online classes, sure.  But do I want to?  I drove for hours.  I thought for hours, too.  Maybe I could get an internship at a German car manufacture and pick up some practical, enterprising skills to keep me relevant and fresh.  God only knew I would end up having enough car problems to turn a half a day’s drive into a two day trek back to Virginia after my soul searching was over and I would wish for that particular skill set.

On Wednesday night when Charming, unable to hide his surprise, asked me why I’d chosen Tampa Bay, I was almost embarrassed to admit it to him.  Because I know I’m going to be his wife in a few months.  We will live together, take meals together, do life together.  I’ll manage our home, and hopefully he’ll manage our finances (shameless plea, noted I’m sure).  We’ll try to expand our family.  There won’t be time for frivolous things in Germany, I imagine.

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Pokémon Go is just a game to some, but once Niantic rebranded the in-game battling system with raid bosses suggesting groups of ten or more, they forced individual players to organize into communities. When I admitted to my students this week that I’d gone to Tampa Bay because it was the one place in the United States where I could catch the regional Pokémon that spawn in Africa and South America, one joked that he didn’t know people still played the game.  I laughed silently because I could still picture realizing that the boy in the back row of my last class on the first day of school in August had been a raid battling buddy all summer long.

Honestly, I see the father and brother of a girl I took to Italy more frequently than my family simply because we share the same passion and are always trying to sneak in some common time to take down those big raid bosses.  We can’t do it alone.  If we want to be successful, we need numbers.  When we come together, I’m one of many, like the thirteen original colonies strengthened by forming one republic.  Who knew Niantic would support our year’s ploys for unity, too?

There probably won’t be time for Pokémon Go in Germany.  And I probably won’t teach tenth grade English in Germany either.  Well, at least not for a year.  I don’t know who I’ll be when I’m Charming’s wife.  I don’t know what our house in Stuttgart will feel like on Tuesday nights when I sit down to write.

I do know that with when this mid-distance relationship with Charming got serious, I started living for the weekends and began pulling away, a little at a time.  It wasn’t conscious, but the logical conclusion is that it would be easier to sever ties if they weren’t closely bonded.  After Charming proposed and I knew this would be my last year in Hampton, joining him in the D.C. area was a natural next step.  Now that we’re moving a half a world away, there are immediate choices: what needs to be moved? Shipped?  Stored?  Sold?  Purchased overseas?  This is what I thought about while I nestled myself into a deserted patch of beach between two lured Poké Stops and caught my first Corsola.

It means little to most of my readers, I’m sure, but the people who have kept me company through the long winter weeks of what feels like the longest year of my life will think it’s very cool.  I never imagined bumping into strangers in Fort Monroe who turned me on to a group chat in the summertime would lead me to find soulmates in Hampton locals who’d been driving the same streets, hitting up Marker 20 for drinks and a live band, all previously passing like ships in the night until a shared passion for an augmented reality game made loners into unlikely friends.

This morning, we held our third quarter award ceremony in my yearbook class.  Having successfully submitted all pages for this volume of the Tomahawk, some of our staffers deserved recognition.  There are a handful of girls who I’ve coached from freshman year through senior year on the Tomahawk staff who have always carried us.  We didn’t meet our final deadline on time, and these girls were honest in their quarterly reflections that they were experiencing senioritis.  In competition with prom dress shopping, yearbook wasn’t the priority it had been for them in years prior.  Today, as a part of our ceremony, we reflected on that reality and gave recognition to younger staffers who are still investing in their legacy in the green and white halls of KHS.

That’s it, I think.  Senioritis isn’t a slap in the face of integrity or work ethic.  I showed up ready to work yesterday, but each natural occurrence was suddenly a bittersweet potential “last time” I’ll do something.  For four years, I’ve lived more waking hours on the CD hall than in my own home.  My shins boast half a dozen scars from all the times I ran into the stage while I was teaching, swallowed the pain, and kept flow with the lesson anyway.  That’s what we do.  As teachers, we respond to the environment.  It’s never canned.  It’s never predictable.  There are always approximately twenty-six variables breathing new life into each analysis of Pat Mora’s “Same Song”, a poem that captures the adolescent struggle, a uniform battle common to the human experience of being disappointed by the reflection we see looking back at us in the mirror.  I can relate, too.

In reality, I’ve lost myself so fully in tenth grade English that I’m unsure what practical abilities I have.  I’m not a singer or a songwriter anymore, and perhaps it’s a blessing in disguise to shed some of the hats I wore to sift through the plight of the Jack of All Trades, Master of None life to which I have become so accustomed after over a decade in public education.  My acting skills are largely to credit for the fact that my average students performed as well on standardized testing last month as the district honors level student average.  If one deems me a better teacher, it’s only because I exhaust myself in pursuing creative new ways, on a daily basis, of selling my kids grammar and rhetoric just like an ad on TV.

If my students believe that their lives will be better, they will buy what I’m selling.  This morning, when my yearbook students and I got honest about this sneaking current of senioritis threatening to destroy our perfect submission record, we wound up engaging instead in a discussion of value.  For me, senioritis isn’t making me lazy.  It’s making me want all of these “lasts” to mean something.  This award ceremony, for example, we got deep.  We honored our traditional recipients, and then we took a few moments to get serious and think about the unexpected ways in which our yearbook theme can change the world.

The theme of 2018 Tomahawk is unity, that we are one of many, each of us contributing to the greater good, together separate and solitary, however paradoxical.  We’ve followed the thread of unity throughout our school year, documenting it in action and featuring our own people to highlight the celebrated diversity.  One of the interview questions we’d explored in the closing divider of the annual was what individual students were going to do to carry on the torch of unity next year at Kecoughtan, but given my recent soul searching adventure in Tampa Bay, I needed to take my kids deeper.

More than half of this class isn’t coming back to Kecoughtan.  They are graduating or, like me, moving away.  How does this theme we’ve tried to hit home for the student body apply after we leave?  Students struggled at first, but as I called them out one at a time, asking where they were headed next and then isolated the question, “What will you do to promote unity at Virginia Tech?” If our theme wasn’t just some fancily crafted words, how does it impact future life actions?

As I listened to seniors I’d coached for years offer statements about acceptance and diversity, about tolerance and time, about morale and equality… I felt the warmth of the Tampa Bay breeze return.  The kids said I was in a particularly good mood today, but the truth is they brought me back to the comfort of the ocean because our journey doesn’t end with the senioritis in June.  We’ve wrought real-world fights in our four years running the Tomahawk Press, dubbing ourselves the Memory Keepers.  Someone else will take that torch next year, but in our four years learning to be one of many, we found a community in KHS.

We unite in shared passions.  It’s happened in my English classes like with my yearbook kids.  And I was fortunate enough to stumble into a fabulous crew of raid buddies and make friends that are happy to keep me company while I play the game a few more months and bring my single adult life to a celebratory close… with a few rare Pokémon as keepsakes from Tampa, of course.

April Fools, God Forges

April started out right with our third Easter service at Restoration Anglican, our dream church nestled in picturesque Cherrydale, the Arlington suburb where Charming and I envisioned settling down after our summer nuptials. Washington-Lee High, just a stone’s throw from the church, reached out for an interview… but spring brings surprising beginnings, and when we buy our first house together, it will be in Germany, not Cherrydale.  No April Fool’s joke here.

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Germany wasn’t part of Charming’s epic Prince-posal.  With his three-year post at the Pentagon coming to an end this summer, he’d been applying to potential positions throughout the fall months, all located in D.C. like we’d imagined they would be.  We’d been engaged a few months when the Charming first mentioned Germany.  It would be a three-year post in Stuttgart working for the government, and his credentials made the application a logical choice.

We were at dinner in Old Town when he told me about the job post, and I could feel my pulse quicken.  It wasn’t excitement; no, I was stricken with fear.  Germany?  I didn’t know anything about the place, and it certainly wasn’t on any of my dream travel destination lists.  The country’s name even sounded cold as it coughed out of my mouth.  This wasn’t the plan.  I’d been waiting more than thirty years to finally grow roots somewhere and raise a family, and Restoration Anglican wasn’t in Germany.  If Charming took a job in Germany for three years, I’d likely be having my first kid on foreign soil.  No, this wasn’t the plan.  The threat to my vision of normal resounded in my mind for an hour or so.

Then, it was silenced.  Arlington was my ideal, but it would still be there in three years.

I can’t even say I prayed about it, but all I’ll ever be able to do to explain the sudden transformation is that God gifted me with a supernatural peace about moving to a place I’d equated only with war and persecution.  I told Charming then, and for the next few months of crickets as he waited for a call that might never come, that if we were supposed to be in Germany, that’s where we’d be, and if not, landing in Arlington was what we’d wanted all along.  We’d get an opportunity of a lifetime that would delay settling down, or we’d get our Cherrydale suburban manicured garden.  We couldn’t lose.

Mom was the perfect encourager during these months, sharing new ideas almost weekly for what Germany might hold for us in the years to come.  So in February, when Charming had interviewed for the position and got an email that he hadn’t been selected, we shifted our focus back stateside.  We weren’t supposed to be in Germany, after all, and the quiet lesson too sensitive to blog about was that I was ready to go anywhere Charming goes, and we would trust God to forge the path before us.

As soon as Germany was no longer on the table, I sent out my applications to specifically selected schools in Fairfax County and Arlington.  There’s a job fair there this coming weekend, and I put it on my calendar.  I’ve heard back from several schools, but I couldn’t follow through with them.  Two weeks after their break-up email, Germany hit send on a courting request that would officially launch Charming’s career into relevant orbit in the most incredible, God-ordained, perfectly designed position for him to thrive in meaningful work.  I didn’t care about the applications I’d labored on for a week.  Everything had changed. We had to make a choice, and in some ways, I feel like that’s Charming’s story to tell, not mine, though now it’s clearly no surprise which one we made.

This Sunday morning as I gazed around the familiar sanctuary, its hardwood floors echoing the usher’s high heels while finding visitors seating in the crowded pews, original artwork of the stations of Christ’s death and resurrection, fragrant spring perennials tickling at my nose, my heart broke a little bit for the first time since we made our choice.  The woman beside me had engaged me sufficiently in hushed conversation that I concluded she might have been my new best friend.  If I wasn’t moving to Germany.

The perennials are an Easter tradition for Restoration Anglican, and each family in attendance is instructed to pick one to take home with them.  I’ve always capitalized on the fact that we’re not married, and the side garden bed I built three years ago now has six plants to surprise and delight next spring, only I won’t be the one to enjoy them.  They’ll bless another family, and maybe another.  Passing over eggs and bunnies for a symbolic gift is an effective ministry; each spring, these perennials remind us of the resurrection of new life from that which was dead, and there’s layers of applications for me, knee deep in soil and dirt from every aspect of my life.

I was already giving up my home in Hampton to start over, so delaying that manicured garden in Cherrydale a few years isn’t a huge hiccup in the grand scheme of things.  The incredible network of family and friends Charming’s shored up over the course of the last few decades will still be waiting for us on the other side of a three year overseas adventure that neither of us could have known to dream of in our existences before now.  It was right to grieve in the wooden pew on Sunday, with Charming’s arm around my shoulder, laying to rest a longing to put down roots where I get to see a tree I planted start out as a seedling and mature into a great oak my grandchildren climb someday.  It was right to start our spring this way.

That’s the only moment I’ve been sad about this move, really.  We’re going to Germany!  After binging a dozen hours of YouTube videos and travel blogs, it’s not this foreign, unknown land anymore.  I’m going to see every fairy tale castle ever constructed!  From February 21st when Charming was offered the position until his installment was official last week, we existed in a holding pattern, restricting Germany chatter to close family and friends.  Having prided myself on authenticity in my blog, keeping this close to the vest forced me to peel back some of those layers of soil and dirt I’ve accumulated over time, wrestling with some uglier issues instead.  I don’t regret the vow of social media silence; this was our month of processing our new beginning and every implication that comes with it.

Charming and I love Restoration Anglican Church, and I still think it will be our home three summers from now, and I’ll still pray Washington-Lee High School will need another English teacher then.  I still have a supernatural peace about this move halfway around the world.  The flowers we brought home to plant in my garden remind me of the saying, “Bloom where you’re planted.” God’s planting us in Germany for our first years as a married couple, perhaps even for our first years as parents.

The last of my pink magnolia blooms are falling because they’ve seen the full course of their lives.  Charming and I are just reaching our prime, and we’ll bloom in Stuttgart or Cherrydale or Korea as long as we lean into each other and trust God’s forging the path before us.