Sunday, April 18, 2010

A Month Later... Reflection

We've officially been home for a month. I meant to blog on Friday, the official month anniversary, but I was busy... and now I've finally found some time.

Here is what I wrote for the final reflection on the last day of our Germany --> USA travel:

Montag 15.03.2010 (day 182)
This is our last consecutive blog entry in this whirlwind of an adventure. I can’t imagine if we would’ve stayed an entire year! The journal I’ve been keeping would’ve been 208 pages instead! We woke up at our Frankfurt hotel at 6:15 (It was a mere 12:15 a.m. Chicago time) and loaded into the shuttle that took us to the terminal. Our hotel was supposed to be less than 4 km to the airport, but honestly, it felt like 15 km instead. We arrived and got to work weighing our bags on an open machine and displacing items. We were definitely overweight in a couple of our bags and we managed to check 4 bags at 23 km each (exact allowance). We threw nothing away and had the maximum for carry-ons as well. We got in line for Lufthansa and we noticed a bag unattended as we were proceeding in the line. About 5 minutes later, we saw our entire line of people in front of us rushing to another area and evacuating our entire line! We quickly followed suit assuming the people knew more than we did. The German security officers immediately taped off the entire region and refused to let anyone else by. We assumed one of two things: some diplomat was coming through, or there was an unattended bag that could present a health risk to others (i.e. in the form of a bomb). We joked because when we walked by, Ray put his ear to the bag to see if it were ticking. No ticking. We watched our line grow enormously long, the bomb squad officer come in and x-ray, then a sniffing dog, and finally… the terminal area was reopened. We checked our baggage with no problems and went through security. It wouldn’t be a Wilson experience if one of us didn’t have something searched in the process! Ray had two ballpoint pens we got in Switzerland (well made, fully metal) and apparently they collectively looked suspicious. We carried on and sat in the Lufthansa terminal for our Swiss Air flight that was delayed. We were nervous that the delay would mean we’d miss our flight in Zurich to Chicago. Until our flight, we enjoyed the free hot beverage service in this particular terminal. After hot chocolates a tea and a mocha, we were well hydrated before our first flight. We got on the plane and were positioned nicely next to a fat guy. Luckily, that flight was only 30 minutes. In Zurich, they dropped us off in the complete opposite terminal and we had to bolt to the shuttle train to our terminal and arrived with a line that checked each passport. We also had to go through security again (though we went from gate to gate) and this time, I was checked. I have a small pair of scissors in my toiletries and they made sure to measure that. We walked on the plane as we heard them making a final call for the Chicago flight. Another Swiss Air flight and this one was a new Airbus with really nice entertainment on the flight. Of course, I sat in the middle next to fat guy #2. I hate to be too stereotypical, but I am personally a small person paying the same amount for the flight of another person who takes up more than their share. I especially didn’t appreciate nearly getting elbowed in the face (I had to duck at times—it was that bad) or the guy complaining a lot to the flight attendants about the food choices, then getting another dish after eating the first one! For what it’s worth, the few words we did speak were good. He seemed intelligent and friendly. Though, I sure wish he would’ve been sitting somewhere other than right next to me. I’d say I win brownie points for sitting for 9 hours next to a guy who I had to lean away from in order to avoid arm hair contact. Ew. I’m pretty sure I saw him pick his nose and wipe his boogers on the tray table. Let this be a lesson to us all: sanitize! The flight food was good, but there just wasn’t enough of it! We’ve always eaten well on Swiss Air. I watched 3 movies on the flight. Ray watched two of them with me. We saw Up in the Air, Couples Retreat, and Amelia (based on the Amelia story). I watched Amelia solo and was disappointed to learn that she cheated on her husband. Unfortunately, all 3 of the movies addressed that issue in some form. Couples Retreat was the best of all and there were some legitimately hilarious parts where I was crying and couldn’t control my laughter. Movies sure make a very long flight go by much quicker. Oh, and perhaps one of the highlights of the plane ride: a Jewish kid in front of us had a Yakima that was embroidered with “Red Hot Chili Peppers” in bold and this yellow threading. Is that sacrilegious? Maybe not, but either way, it was unique. We went through customs, waited for our baggage at baggage claim, and called our limo service at O’Hare after our arrival at about 5pm CST (11 pm Germany). We had a really nice driver who took us a better way than any of our previous drivers had done before. We arrived at Mike’s condo, popped a frozen pizza in the oven and talked on the phone with family and friends for much of the evening. We threw on a little American television, opened the mail that was in the mailbox waiting for us, and answered our emails—still in shock that we’re actually here to stay. This isn’t a visit. This is real life and it’s our new home. We’re Midwesterners. Our future kids will be from the Midwest and that’s totally weird to say! We only have 3 days left until we’re homeowners and we couldn’t be more excited to start that life together in our new home state. This experience of living in another country has taught us an enormous amount. Perhaps I should make a list of all the differences that stick out in my head, but considering it’s nearly 4 a.m. (Germany time) and not quite 10 p.m. here in Chicago, my brain is out! It’s almost been 24 hours since I’ve had any sleep and I can barely make out coherent sentences. As far as final words are concerned, we are so thankful to have experienced all that we did in this 6-months and there is no doubt we have grown so much as people through this experience. I no longer live in my bubble of existence because I’ve seen the way others live around the globe and was able to relate certain experiences to their lifestyles. This was such an eye-opener and one that has shaped our lives forever… not to mention the quality of coffee we’ve experienced overseas vs. what is available here. I am forever spoiled.

I needed to include a photo or two from this week... always an adventure... I went for an 18-mile bike ride with Toni in downtown on Thursday and we had a great time!

Other than having a generally great time in our new home... we've also been...
  • peeling wallpaper in our dining room... and refuse to buy our dining room table from Crate & Barrel until it's done
  • gardening... picking dandelions, wild onions, branches, and all other items that don't belong
  • working hard (well, mostly my dear husband at his new, wonderful job)
  • working hard (me too! I started teaching an online course for Greenville College MA of Teaching program and I'm loving it. I just spent the last few hours writing my notes for this week's teaching.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Billy Goat

We've been considering this for our foyer art piece...
{courtesy of ... where we spend plenty of money}

It's totally us-- not to mention we actually hiked this short 3-mile trail and saw these guys on the rocks at Logan Pass in Glacier National Park, our favorite of the U.S. parks.

What do you think? Cool, or scary?

Saturday, April 10, 2010


Racy title, I know. Don't worry... nothing trashy here. Well, not trashy, but tacky. 

Here's what our formal dining room looked like prior to 2:30 p.m. today
This is about 4:30 p.m.

With a little help from soap, water, Dif, a scraper, scorer, and our own brawn, we have made quite a bit of progress. At this point, the entire room is bare and no more of that tacky wallpaper is to be found (except the curtains which were the same print. We're using them as drop cloths.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Chi-town Easter

On Friday afternoon, Ray & I drove to Milwaukee to pick up Ray's family from the airport. They were flying on free tickets they got from flying to California for our wedding! The tickets required that they fly into an airport Midwest Airlines flies into... and that airport was located in Wisconsin. Ray and I had never taken that drive before, so it was pretty fun. We learned that Wisconsin is only about 1 hour from our house and that about 50 minutes away from our house is Six Flags Great America.

After we picked up the family, we headed home... but then Samantha saw a sign for the Jelly Belly factory... so we went!
They required we wear these ridiculous (and fun) hats to take a tram in a circle around their warehouse.
The next day, Ray and I woke up at 4:30 a.m. to catch the 5:28 Metra train downtown. We then walked a mile to Harpo studios, where Oprah is taped. This is the only evidence I have from being there other than two copies of the first season of Glee. They were the guests on the show and we saw them perform two songs. They were excellent and it was a lot of fun. While there were about 30 men in the audience, I'm pretty sure Ray was 1 of 2 total that was straight. The show was fun and we left the studios around 11 a.m. to meet the family at the Willis (formerly Sears) Tower. The episode with the cast of Glee will air tomorrow, April 7th!
...and it rained for half of the day downtown...
Here's the Wrigley building... and no photos were taken of Millennium Park or the Navy Pier. Ray and I had already visited these places, but wanted to take his family. We'll take my family when they come to visit also... and any friends who want to come see us! photo taken during the rain and one taken when the sky cleared...
Isn't this city so charming?
This photo's for my dad. Check out the train! You're going to love them. They're everywhere!
{part of} the famous Chicago sign
bridge up for passing ships...
...and finally, the Willis Tower
Fun stuff that wasn't pictured from the weekend: Deep Dish pizza from Giordano's, homemade meatballs, homemade pulled pork (Easter dinner), Easter bunny gifts (= LOTS of chocolate in our house now), chocolate-peanut butter fondue, strawberry shortcake, walks around the Green Trails neighborhood, walks around downtown Naperville and the Naper Settlement, and Easter Sunday service at our new church.

We had a great weekend with Ray's parents and sister, and we're looking forward to my family coming out this fall! We are also excited for Gramie & Papa to come visit and see our neighborhood and home.

And of course... all our wonderful friends are welcome also!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Spring in Illinois

We have had some amazing weather lately. It's been so amazing that I've even broken out the shorts. I know. Incredible, right?

In other news, this weather has brought springtime. Animals are out and flowers are blooming rapidly. Since this is my first real springtime, it's been a real joy to witness the gorgeous landscape as the snow is gone and the bright colors appear. It's also pretty cool owning those beautiful flowers.

Here is some animal fun for you. Can you spot the squirrel in these photos?
Terrible, terrible photo... but the beautiful birds are out, too.
This is basically our backyard. If you take the trail from our backyard about 1/4 mile, you find this (and about 4-5 others within a 5-minute walk. We LOVE this area.
We've also seen quite a few of these critters...
And for the blooming flowers. This tree has massive amounts of red buds on the ends that I love waking up to every morning (taken from the master bedroom window).
A series of lovely flowers on our property... (our deck in the background)
There's proof that I was wearing shorts!
Underneath trees...
Rose bush buds coming out for springtime
Here's a happy little bird. And yes, we have that fire hydrant on our property. Our house will never burn down.
And for Easter... here's our decor outside on that red-blooming tree in our front yard...
Happy Easter!!!