Friday, October 12, 2007

One Year in Germany

Hi All,

well I thought I would try and get out our 1 year update before our 2 year anniversary comes around. We have been Germany for 1 year as of September 22nd. It is a good feeling to have made it to the one year mark. It's funny that such a milestone means so much, but it for us right now it does mean a lot.

It has been a blessed year for us. Our family has learned lessons that I think would have taken years for our family to learn in the states. It is hard to summarize the many ups and downs and joys and sorrows we have experienced since moving here a year ago. And our experiences it is not different from the lives we all lead. Our family is just leading a normal everyday life in a country that is not our original country. I don't know if there is anything extraordinary about living overseas away from your original home, but here are some of the noteworthy items from our lives this the last year.

Just last week my parents came to visit us and we had a very enjoyable time. The kids were so thrilled to have them here. Even Emma, who is only 2 and almost a half, fell back in love with grandpa and grandma instantly and there was a constant background noise of "grandpa/ma Wheeler, play . . ." . She played hours and hours of games with them, Shantal and Hannah put on shows for them and went shopping, and Spencer went running almost everyday with grandpa. Spencer also had an exciting adventure with grandpa at the dentist (you'll have to read the blog entry for that one, but it was a great story). Ian also was happy to have them around, although it took him a while to warm up to the idea.

Seeing my parents again after what seemed like such a long time, and seeing my children thrive with them here made me want to move in down the street from them. I didn't realize how much I loved them and missed them. I didn't realize how much I needed them prior to being so far away. The feeling of longing for sisters and brothers is also very strong. And, I have noticed that when tough times have come around, that I become particularly attune to such feelings.

On the other hand, we have been able to see people here in Germany we might not have otherwise seen in our lifetime, or who we may have seen many years later. We were able to visit with a former missionary companion and his family as well as our two former exchange students and our former aupair. Those visits were extremely rewarding and valuable. To see them again and to meet two of their families was awesome. It was a huge blessing to be able to see them.

Working in international business has been extremely rewarding for me. I can't put my finger on what is different from the states --> me, the business environment, or both. All I know is I am very happy at work. I am able to speak my mind and my opinion is valued. The work is challenging and interesting. The team that I lead is a lot of fun to work with. An interesting note here is that I am doing the exact same work I did in Denver, CO 6-7 years ago --> unbundling of the local loop for Telecom operators. This time the internet is faster (they are using VoIP technology (like Vonage), which was just a pipe dream 7 years ago) and I am working for the competitor rather than for one of the Baby Bells (Deutsche Telekom in Germany). The work, however, is very similar. It's fun to do it in German this and with Swedish business partners as well (the parent company is in Sweden and so I often work with the central project members in Sweden on the phone and in Stockholm - a very beautiful city).

We have been able to get to know the members of our church here more intimately. I loved the members of the LDS congregations when I was here as a missionary. As I have seen them live their lives and their faith over this last year I have been even more impressed and more filled with love for this great people. They are people of conviction and integrity who do great things and I admire them greatly for their faith. I also understand better some of the challenges they face and have had many questions answered that were still open from my missionary service here in Germany. I obviously understand their challenges better in part because I am older and also have a family now, but also because I have been able to live among them and experience their culture and traditions first hand and unique challenges that they face in Europe that we don't face in the Mid-western U.S. That has been a wonderful blessing.

We have made many friends here as well. The parents of other children in the kids school, and some colleagues at work have been an amazing help to us here. Our neighbors and landlord are also wonderful. The neighbors all built their houses about 30 years ago as younger married couples and have long since sent their own children out into the world. I think that has provided a bit of security for our children and for us. Additionally, the neighbors are constantly giving us gifts for the kids and helping us with various house and garden jobs. Some gifts we have spontaneously receive include: plums, colored pencils, raspberries, pumpkins, sea shells, chocolate and sweets, baloons, sidewalk chalk, to name a few.

I have also grown to love my wife much more than I thought possible. It has been very refreshing to renew our love for one another as we have returned to the country where we first met. I see my children in a new light as well. I admire and respect them more than I did before. They have been through so much and done so well. They do so much around the house and with the babies to keep are family functioning. I also can't begin to count the hours and pains my wife has experienced over this last year, but I know that she is an amazing woman who does much good and has faith to move mountains. I know this, for I have seen her move many mountains this last year.

As I stated above, these are the blessing and challenges that most are seeking for in life: love of family, love of friends, and an anchor or a faith to fill the soul. We appreciate our family and friends, especially those in Wisconsin, who helped us make this leap over the pond last year to a new life and adventure in Germany. We wish you all the best.

INFO: I am trying to gauge the interest in such an email update. Please let me know if you would definitely like to receive a periodic email update. Or, if you definitely do not want to receive a periodic email update. Tamara and I update a blog with details of our day to day lives on a regular basis and have recorded Podcasts to chronicle some of our experiences as well, but I would gladly write, or not write (depending on your preference) the periodic emails as well.