What is a Backstory?
A backstory is a history or a background on a person or a character. Many people ask me, “What is your backstory? What brought you here?”. I suppose it’s a valid question. Of course, our decision to live in Sweden didn’t happen overnight and there is a reason we came here from the United States.
The Big Year
2007 was a big year for us. I graduated college in May and began looking for a job. I landed a job as a nanny for a family with 3 kids and started in July, we bought a house together in September, got married in November, and found out I was expecting our first baby by the end of December. How much better could life get, really?
Well, it didn’t get much better for a while; financially speaking at least. As many of you know, and probably experienced in some way, the market took a turn around 2007, and suddenly houses were worth infinitely less than what was owed on them. Since we had bought our house just mer months before, and we used Johnny’s military benefit of not having to put any money down when buying, we were very underwater when it came to our house.
The Trying Years
There wasn’t much we could do about the housing market so we just kept treading water. Johnny was working some crazy hours as a personal trainer while I continued to work as a nanny and brought Jack, and eventually Olivia, to work with me. Johnny ended up finding a job working as a project manager with some steady hours, and decided to go back to school for his Master’s Degree. While he went to school, we were able to pull money from his student loans in order to help us pay our bills. Things had gotten very tight financially after having 2 children and all of the regular day-to-day expenses of raising a family. These student loans are what sustained us.
We looked into selling our house as a short-sale, but we were concerned that the bank would hold us responsible for the loss, as this is something we had heard of happening to others. We called the bank that held our loan and asked for help. They were unwilling to help us until we were late on our mortgage payments. We were adamant about trying to keep our credit score in tact, which we were able to do. As a last ditch effort, we even looked into bankruptcy so that we could just get away from this house and the prison that it had become for us. Unfortunately, we made just a little too much for that to be an option. We were officially stuck between a rock and a hard place.
This financial strain was hard for our family. It made our work lives miserable, our marriage suffered greatly, and we spent a good part of our children’s first few years agonizing over every penny that came in and went out. That isn’t to say that others didn’t, and still don’t, have it much worse than we did. We were healthy, had food to eat, clothes to wear, and a warm bed to sleep in.
Finally, a Break in the Clouds
In April of 2012, I found out I was losing my job as a nanny. Only a month or so later Johnny found out that his company was making cuts and he would be taking a pay cut. We were absolutely unable to make ends meet anymore. Having two young children made it really hard for me to find another job as a nanny and it made working elsewhere almost pointless after I were to pay the high price of daycare for them. This left it to Johnny. We decided it was time to have him put his applications in to different companies nationwide. Before too long, he accepted a job in Jackson, TN as a project manager. This job paid to move us, and everything we owned, 500 miles where we began our next chapter in September of 2012. We were able to rent out our Illinois house for almost the full amount of our monthly mortgage payment.
Life in Tennessee
Life in Tennessee was looking up for us. We now had the ability to “stop the bleed” on our finances and we could afford for me to stay at home with the kids. Tennessee doesn’t have state taxes, which is great for one’s wallet, but not as much when you look into education. The schools are just not funded as they need to be. Since I didn’t feel comfortable with the public schools, and the private schools would have cost us close to $20,000 a year for two children to attend, I decided to homeschool. Having my degree in Elementary Education helped me a bit, but anyone who is dedicated to their children’s education is more than qualified. Homeschooling was great for our family! It was hard, but so rewarding!
An Opportunity of a Lifetime
Johnny was doing really well in his job as a project manager and was presented with an opportunity to work in Sweden for a few years. At first I wasn’t so sure. We now had 3 kids, two houses (one in Illinois and now one in Tennessee), family living in the Chicago area, friends, an amazing church, etc. As I continued to toss it around in my head, read a bunch online, and check out the towns, the more I thought maybe it wouldn’t be so bad. If we didn’t jump at this opportunity we would forever kick ourselves for it. Yes, it meant sacrificing all we knew and were comfortable with for a few years of unknowns, but this may not be an opportunity we could be presented with ever again. After all, what is life if you don’t take some risks?
Little did I know that this opportunity would be one of the best decisions of my life. My kids now know another language, we are almost debt-free thanks to relocation perks and benefits, we’ve gotten to travel to other countries, we have great friends here, the kids love their school, Johnny is doing so well at work, and overall this has been the most enlightening and also the most humbling experience thus far.
Writing a Blog
Moving within the States and then abroad, traveling by car over 500 miles and flying to other countries, and just living out our daily lives both here and in Tennessee, has taught me so much. I really enjoy sharing our experiences with others and comparing and contrasting life in different places. I began tracking our homeschool journey on a small blog, for myself and family, while we lived in Tennessee. Although not many people read it, it was so fun to share those experiences and to have them tucked away for us to look back on as the years go by.
As we began our move to Sweden, I started a page on Facebook where I could share little tidbits of information as well as pictures and videos. This became a fabulous way for family and friends to keep in touch with us and feel as though they were part of our journey. I then decided that I would like to put those posts into blog form and have them accessible in a much easier to read format. Since starting that original blog, I have gotten a lot of great feedback from people who really enjoy reading, not only what we are up to, but what life is like in another country.
With the great feedback that I had gotten, I decided to take the plunge head first into the blogging world and purchase my own domain name and make this blogging thing “official”. This blog aims to educate, inform, entertain, and enlighten all who read it. You will find everything from posts about The Best Places to Visit in Sweden, to How Much Does it Cost to Live in Sweden to Helpful tips for a Smooth Road trip with Kids and so much more!
So, What is the Backstory?
Everyone has one. We don’t just wake up and find ourselves where we are without a reason. Sometimes it’s a good backstory, other times it isn’t, but it’s your story. Tell it, and tell it proud! What’s written today doesn’t have to stay the same, your next chapter can always be different. Leave a comment to let me know where you are reading from!