Megan in South Korea (for a few more months)

hwamyeongMegan is having a great time on her exchange to Korea. When it came time to reschedule her flight home, the travel agent asked her when she wanted to come home. She said “June 30.” That’s the very last day she can be in the country, because her visa will expire.

We’ve been asked many times if we were going over to visit her, and I always shrugged it off. That’s a long and expensive flight…I didn’t think we could manage it. But I was chatting with Kris, who is the mom of the student who went to Korea last year. She said that she was glad they went to Korea to fly home with their son, because now they have a little better idea of what it was like for him over there, and it’s easier for him to talk about it with them.

I want to do that for Megan, too, so we booked a flight for Korea at the end of June. We’re going to South Korea! Wow. I mailed Megan a box of gifts for her new host family, and she says they are all excited to meet us when we come. It’s weird, I feel way more nervous about this trip than I did for our trip to Italy a couple years ago. There will actually be people in Korea that we will be meeting, and probably making friends with…people who have had our daughter living with them. I feel like I know them already!

I’ve been trying to learn some Korean, I don’t know why, just that I think it would be nice to be able to say “hi” and “thank you” and “how much are those earrings?” Megan says all I have to say is “how much is that thing?” — that sounds easier.

The picture above was taken in the Hwamyeong District where Megan is living now. Busan seems like a fantastic place and I can’t wait to see it! But I can’t wait to see Megan again, and bring her back home.

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Sun Dogs

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Last night was bitterly cold, with temperatures in the single digits below zero and wind chills in the minus thirty range. Even the cats knew to stay away from the back door, let alone go outside. We had to put up with some yowling in the middle of the night, but at least we knew they were okay.

This morning, all the schools were closed and I was given an extra hour to get to work. Even though the temperature was around zero, the sun was shining, which hasn’t been very common lately. Seeing the sun just lifts your spirits and makes you feel warmer than you actually are, if you can drop your hood for a minute and let it shine on your face.

As I was driving to work, I looked up and saw what I thought was the sun, with, what is that, a rainbow? I turned a corner so I could see the other side of the rainbow and saw these amazing sun dogs! I have never seen anything like this before in my life. Light refracting through ice crystals, is about all I really needed to know about it. And there sure were ice crystals in the air, on the trees, all over the streets, in my hair, and everywhere!

There are a few benefits to living where all four seasons have their glorious moments.

A New Flavor of Morning Coffee

There are lots of things yet to happen, but I think David will have a new job in a few months.

We had a great visit with his former coworker at the new hospital, and she has openings posted for all of the lab positions. She’s the acting lab manager, being the one who has been there the longest, even though she only has a two-year degree, an MLT, instead of the four-year degree, the MT. It’s like the difference between an LPN and an RN. She is doing an amazing job nevertheless, but she is very busy and she only has three other people working with her, all brand new to the job. One of them is on her second 90-day probation.

She really needed David to come in and help her manage. She can’t formally take the lab manager job because of her degree, and she offered it to him. He is taking it slow, though, and told her he would think about that, but for now, he would come and help her out as a PRN. She was totally thrilled, and she even confessed to a few tears when he told her he would help out.

PRN, in hospital jargon, comes from the Latin phrase pro re nata, which means “as the situation demands.” It’s like being a substitute teacher. He can take a day or two off from his current job and go instead to the new lab. He thought that would be a good way to help them out, get a feel for the new hospital, and use up his vacation time that he thinks he would lose if he just gave notice. Being a PRN is pretty common, and until he makes a final decision his boss probably won’t have a problem with it.

So there’s nothing permanent settled yet, but tomorrow he’s going to drop off his PRN application. He’s thinking about what days he could work and what days they need him (pretty much whenever he’s available.) We don’t have to move, which means I can stay at my job.

David’s pretty excited about this, going to a place he can feel needed and appreciated. He’s also happy to make a little extra money, especially over the next few months while he works and takes vacation at the same time. He thinks we can pay extra on the mortgage, and have enough to take that trip to Korea to visit Megan next spring and bring her home with us.

I haven’t been blogging much because it seems there just wasn’t a lot to say, but there is, even on days I think are boring and normal. There’s a lot of new to look forward too!

Things Happen for a Reason

One night you go to bed, thinking everything is the same, and the next morning you wake up not realizing that life might flip you on your head today.

During Sunday school last week, we talked about how life can turn on a dime, take you places you never expected to go or even to want to go, yet those changes were the start of something new and wonderful. Mindy talked about quitting her full-time job to open two Christian bookstores. Dawn talked about the time when their children were little and they moved to a new farmstead and lived in an old, run-down house in total need of gutting. Other people told other stories, and the common thread in all of them was that God had his hand in everything and the new situation turned out to be way better than the old, in the long run.

That same day, something happened that could change our lives, at least a little. A patient came into the ER in the hospital where David works as a lab tech, was treated, and sent back home. On Monday, she came back to the ER. They ordered a blood test that was sent to the lab. David said it was the kind of test that somebody puts into the machine but someone else might finish and report it out, not the kind of test that one tech works on from start to finish. In the lab manual, it says that particular test takes 30 minutes.

The test took 60 minutes to run, mostly because the lab is way understaffed and they were swamped that day. Because the results of that particular test were slow in reporting, the doctor said that the lab put the woman’s life in jeopardy. Not the ER the night before for sending her home, not the lab management for not reviewing its policy manuals, not the hospital for allowing the lab to continue in a precarious, understaffed way. The techs who ran the test were blamed. David’s “boss” came down hard on the lab, and the end result was that David came home totally frustrated and angry.

There’s a new mentality that seems quite popular, that of blaming the peon when things go badly. Look at how government workers are blamed when the policies of their department are questioned. And poor nurse Pham, it was all her fault for contracting Ebola because she did not wear her protective gear correctly. Oh, how the nurses organizations were up in arms over that one.

Anyway, the same day, Monday, David got a call from a former coworker who now lives and works in a nearby town. Their lab is short-staffed at the moment, too, and she basically offered David a job as lab manager.

Coincidence? God’s timing? That’s what I think. And to top it all off, David and I both have the same two days off this week, which rarely happens. Tomorrow we are driving to the new hospital “just to check it out.” Not making any decisions, just an out-of-town excursion on a beautiful fall day.

I don’t know what will happen. There are pros and cons for each option. David, though, has a history of jumping into things without thinking very carefully. Me, I have to consider all the options ten times before making a decision. Major points to consider: this hospital is a 45 minute drive, not a pleasant thought with winter coming. Move to said town? There’s the hassle of selling our house, leaving everything and everyone that is familiar and comfortable, and being 45 minutes farther away from my elderly father who still lives alone in his own home. If we move, I have to give up my job in this town, because I work for the city and I can’t live more than 8 miles outside of the city limits. And in my case, I love my job and my coworkers and I make good money for being only part-time.

But even if the minuses outweigh the pluses, God knows what we should be doing and as always, his timing is perfect. Isn’t it better to grow and change, even if it can be stressful? The alternative isn’t very exciting, even if it is much more comfortable. Tomorrow is out little excursion, and I’ll be sure to document exactly how it goes.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Humanity

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I am always amazed that each day the world seems to shrink just a little more. This is a photo of my daughter and her new bff, Sae’dah, who came to our little town as a foreign exchange student from Palestine. They’re exchanging sweatshirts with our high school logo on the front and their last names on the back, only Sae’dah’s shirt has our last name, and Megan’s shirt has Sae’dah’s last name– that is exactly the way they wanted it. Now, a world apart again, they still keep in touch. Through Sae’dah’s posts on Facebook, I see a different side of the conflict that now rages in that part of the world. There is so much more to know and understand about the world than the machinations of religion and politics, and that is the humanity of all of its occupants and how much the same we all truly are.

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Dialogue

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My take on Dialogue is a little more literal, if that is okay. Before our trip to Venice last year, I practiced enough words in Italian that I was able to enter this gorgeous Venetian shop, speak with the lady in the photo, and buy these earrings made from Murano glass. She spotted me as an English-speaker a mile away, but I think she thought I was being kind of cute for trying to speak Italian. I’m sure that as a shopkeeper in a city like Venice, she spoke at least a little English, but she proceeded to speak slowly in Italian and told me a little about Murano glass and where it came from. I actually understood most of what she said. And when it was time to say goodbye, she wished me a pleasant day and I was amazed to find that my automatic response was in Italian, too — I didn’t even have to think about translating it in my head. Aren’t those beautiful earrings? They are laying on the paper she wrapped them in; a tiny package I just tucked into my bag.

 

A Few More Good Men

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 The light at the end of the tunnel.  Today we were given our duty station wish list. It’s been a wild ride so far. I’ve accomplished so many things I didn’t know I could do, but it’s not over yet. There’s no other place I’d rather be than overcoming every challenge thrown at me with these fine gentlemen.

Try, fail, LEARN, try, succeed, repeat.

Facebook post by Andy, 7/6/14

Photo from The Marine Corps Times, 8/6/14 (click here for article)

Andy’s been training for the United States Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command since January…survival training, combat training, marksmanship, and all kinds of other things I probably wouldn’t want to know why he needs to know those things. Up next – language school. He’ll be learning Arabic. But as you can see, he is right where he wants to be.

In August, MARSOC decided to resurrect the title “Raiders,” which made Andy even happier. He’s now part of the 3rd Marine Raider Battalion, formerly the 3rd Marine Special Operations Battalion. Here’s a brief history of the the Marine Raiders, excerpted from Wikipedia: (see the entire article here)

“The Marine Raiders were elite units established by the United States Marine Corps during World War II to conduct amphibious light infantry warfare, particularly landing in rubber boats and operating behind the lines. They were given the best of the Marines’ equipment, and were handpicked from available volunteers. Four Raider battalions served operationally but all were disbanded in 1944 when the Marine Corps decided that the Raiders had out-lived their original mission.”

Fast-forward to 2014, 70 years later. “On August 6th, 2014, Marine Commandant James Amos announced that all units would undergo a name change. For example, the 1st Marine Special Operations Battalion would now be known as the 1st Marine Raider Battalion. This move came as a surprise to many; General Amos seemed reluctant in the past to accept the use of the Raider moniker, believing that ‘your allegiance, your loyalty … is to the Marine Corps, based on the title you have on your uniform.’ “

We’re driving to North Carolina for his graduation in October, and I can’t wait to see him. Last week I got a text from him asking if his dad and I preferred a t-shirt or a hoodie, and what size we needed. Apparently, we get a new Raiders shirt in black and yellow. I asked for a hoodie to wear in the winter, and I’ll be wearing it every chance I get.

I couldn’t be prouder of my son, even though I’m sure my internet moniker embarasses him no end. Maybe I should change it to raidermom.  🙂

잘가 다음에 봐 — Jal-gah, Megan, Dam-ae-bwa

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We took Megan to the airport this morning, told her we loved her, and sent her off to Korea on her adventure. There were tears, Grandma (David’s mom) and Grandpa (my dad) came with us, and seeing Grandpa give Megan such a huge hug, seeing the tears in his eyes, still makes me cry. I hope I don’t short out the computer by writing this.

When she checked her bag, they told her it was overweight, so she took out a pair of jeans and stuffed them into her already full backpack. Way too soon it was time to leave, so after the goodbyes and hugs, I walked down to security with her. She’s never flown before, so I asked her if she wanted me to go through security with her. She said yes, so the airline counter gave me a gate pass to walk down to the departure gate with her.

She seemed to be doing fine, but I kept tearing up, and then God sent two angels to help convince me that everything was going to be fine. This is a Rotary Club sponsored student exchange, so the Rotary made Megan and all the other exchange students a blazer with the Rotary Club logo and patches, plus she gets to cover it with pins that her exchange friends have made and that she collects from different places. An older couple followed us into security and asked Megan if she was a Rotary exchange student.

Now, I’ve had so many people tell me that she will be fine on her flight, the airport staff and flight attendants would help her out, and that other Rotary members who see her jacket would say hello and make sure she was doing okay. But I certainly didn’t expect it to start the second we got to the airport!

When Megan and I got through security, the couple was waiting for us at the other end. It turned out that they were headed to Dallas on the same flight as Megan, and we chatted all the way down to the gate. It turns out that not only was he a past District Governor of one of Iowa’s two Rotary Districts, but their two sons had also been exchange students and they had hosted many students in their home. They were both amazing people, so friendly and interested in us and concerned about our well-being that I felt totally blessed both by them and by God.

She’s in the air right now, on her way from Dallas to Tokyo. She called when she arrived in Dallas, totally calm, no troubles, found the shuttle to the right concourse and watched a movie on her computer while she waited for her flight. I think I’m more nervous than she is. We printed out a map of Tokyo Narita Airport, so she can make her way from Terminal 2 where her flight will land, on a bus to the North Wing of Terminal 1, where her Korean Air flight will get her on to Busan. She’ll arrive around 7:30 tomorrow morning, our time, which for her will be about 9:30 pm in Korea.

I’m feeling a little wasted right now. There is laundry to do, and dishes to wash, but I don’t really feel like doing any of it. I told her I would take a backhoe to her room after she left, but I think if I went into her room right now I would fall apart. Other than a phone call telling us she arrived just fine, she really isn’t supposed to contact us other than by email for a few months, just so she can “bond” with her host family and get more immersed – if we tried to skype with her right away it might make her more homesick, especially if things aren’t going the best right away. But a wise friend of mine thought the ban on skyping was more for me, so I don’t keep bugging her and telling her how much I miss her. It’s true.

She’s going to have such an adventure! I would do it in a second now, at my age, but at seventeen I don’t think I would have even considered such a thing. She’ll be in an intensive language course for a few weeks before school starts, and she knows if she works hard her credits will transfer back home and she’ll be able to graduate with her class in the spring. (We weren’t sure that would work out, but her high school principal and counselor are amazing and they are going to try hard to get it done.)

The flowers in the photo are from the going away party we had on Saturday. We served bulgogi (barbequed marinated beef strips) and Korean fried rice, Korean pancakes with veggies, and lots of Asian snack foods we bought at the market in Des Moines. We made iced tea punch…I don’t like iced tea, but this was really good. A cup of instant iced tea mix (or a packet of the liquid mix) and a 2-liter bottle of ginger ale, with lots and lots of ice and lemon slices floating around. It went fast.

I miss her already, but I’m so excited for her. I told her I would look at her blogs every day — she’s got two, one for photos and one as more of a diary. And at my age, time goes by pretty fast, so I know she’ll be home before you know it. In August, we’ll take my other daughter to college, and in October, we’ll visit my son when he graduates from Marine Special Operations training in North Carolina. If Megan hadn’t put purple chalk in my hair last night, I’m pretty sure I would have noticed twice as much gray hair as I had a week ago — I will/do miss them all so much.

And now for the sake of my laptop I need to go restock on tissues. Jal-gah, Megan! Go well, and dam-ae-bwa — see you again soon!!

Cherries!

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This house came with a cherry tree — and it’s been so nice! Picking cherries is like working in the garden, it’s relaxing and when you’re done, you feel like you actually accomplished something.

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The haul. Could have been more if I’d gotten out a ladder, but this is enough for now. Mostly because they all have to be pitted. I have a cherry pitter, but I never mind doing things that are more time consuming, just because it’s nice to have a reason to not always be rushing from one thing to another. So I cut them all in half and take out the pit. Another good reason to not use the pitter? We don’t spray the tree, so several of them had a little worm in the pit. Not many, but enough to be wary! A little sugar, a homemade pie crust, not hard, just took some time.

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The finished pie! I ended up not having quite enough cherries, so I tossed in a pint of blueberries from the store. Baked on a tray with parchment paper so I don’t have to clean up the mess that always happens…maybe I put a little too much fruit in?

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Yummm. Not too sweet, those cherries were tart but not too tart. Served up with some cherry frozen yogurt from the ice cream shop, and oh my, fresh berry pie is to die for. I am not the world’s greatest cook by a long shot, but when you have fresh cherries right off the tree, how can you go wrong? It’s a lot of work, but worth it!

My Online Shop is Open!

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After six months of procrastination and playing the “what if?” game with myself, I finally opened my online card shop today! Pinwheel Papercrafts is open for business.

I went around and around thinking what to do and how to do it. I thought about Etsy, but I have heard horror stories from small sellers about being shut down for no reason. My sister opened an Etsy shop last week and I had to enter the exact name of her shop into the search bar before it would let me in. Searching for keywords didn’t do any good at all. I looked up “handmade cards” on Etsy and saw thousands of listings. I decided I didn’t want to be one more small fish in that Pacific Ocean of crafters.

So I settled on Jimdo’s web hosting service, because I liked their clean, simple look and their promise of tutorials and help. I should have done more research, though. I created my shop, my banner, my pages layout, and when I tried to enter my sixth card…oops, you can only have five items in a free store.

With sympathy

A few days later, I upgrade to Jimdo Pro. $90 for a year. I decide that the listing fees and commissions Etsy charges could nickel and dime me to death before I knew what was happening. Happy again, on we go. I keep adding cards. Oops. You can only have fifteen items in your Jimdo Pro store.

I look around on the web for other simple sites that host ecommerce. Simple ways to set up an online store. Weebly, GoDaddy, Shopify…so many. I am struck by the fact that the prices at Jimdo are really very reasonable. They provide great support — they emailed me back within a day when I asked a question about my account when it was still free. They provide all the basic items I need, without all the extra bells and whistles that my small store will never use. So…I upgrade again. Jimdo Business, for unlimited store items.

I will try it for a year. I’m thinking one of three things will happen, and only one of those things is good. Bad thing number one: nobody will buy anything and I will have wasted my time and money. Bad thing number two: Too many people will want to buy stuff and I won’t be able to keep up. Good thing number one: Just the right amount of business will happen and I will have fun growing my shop at a pace I can handle.

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Friends and family have always given me great feedback about my cards and books. I love making them and creating new designs. Having an online store gives me the reason I need to keep creating cards.

And…I’ve had two separate dreams that I had to tell my boss I was quitting because my card shop was getting very busy. If I could do this for a living, oh wow, it would be the perfect job! If you want to visit my shop, please leave a comment and tell me what you think! I am open to any and all suggestions – kinds of cards to offer, prices (too low? too high?), ease of navigation. I have a facebook page, too, where I plan to do most of my blogging and feature new cards and the things that inspired me to make them.

The website is done, and I think I need to take some aspirin and lie down for a bit after trying to understand the ins and outs of the Internet. *heavy sigh* Not my thing! Social media? Taking lots of advice from my daughters!

One year, I can do this. If nothing else, when it’s done I’ll have piles of cards that will last me for the rest of my life. 🙂