Thursday, September 30, 2010

I Blame JFK

I’m sick. Ugh. Throat-hurting, brain-spinning, sleep-craving sick. Clearly it’s not my fault. It’s not AFS-USA’s fault; or Seattle’s fault. It’s not Marc’s fault (I bet he’s glad he’s not to blame for a change smile_wink) It’s clearly JFK’s fault. Totally and completely.

No, not the president silly. He’s dead. JFK the airport. That ^%#^%& airport. I left Seattle on Monday morning, two hours later than our plane was scheduled to depart. Great, missed my connection. Ugh.

I was placed on a later flight, cancelled. Cancelled! And the next flight was full. I talked to people at the desk while hubs called the airline. Nothing. Nothing until 8:00 a.m. the next morning. Fourteen hours later. I was exhausted. Wiped out. Starting to feel less than stellar—and fourteen hours in an airport wasn’t going to help matters any. So, Marc got me a hotel.

The story he tells me involves him using two phones—one at each ear—calling hotels. Everything close to the airport was full. Finally he found me a room on Long Island. And I found a cab to take me there. Except he was clueless—the cabbie that is. Completely clueless…and the GPS was in the back of the cab—you know where I was sitting. Hello, what? Took me so long to get there (we called the hotel for directions at least 4 times) that I thought I wouldn’t have time to sleep before I needed to head back to the airport. But no, he was just lost.

The hotel people were wonderful—they ordered me a car service when I checked-in. They made sure it came late enough that I would get breakfast, but so I’d get to the airport in time. The car service man was super cool—knew where he was going and much cheaper. Also, he had family in Mooers, NY. He was shocked I knew where that was…

I have never been so happy to be home. What a cheery welcome my front door was.

019Unlike these lazy, unwelcoming beasts…

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Anyway, I digress…I’m sick. I cleaned my house yesterday, but you can’t really tell today. We are two people (must now post cute kitty picture).

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We have no children. So how is it that the house doesn’t look picked up after 24 hours. Because I’m not cleaning today (remember I’m sick?) you can’t come visit, unless you are my mom bringing me soup. Actually anyone can come over if you bring me soup. Yes? Yes.

And to respond to my mother who is probably reading this (Hi, Mom) and asking why I need to post that I’m sick on my blog. It’s because I want sympathy…and soup.

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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Pulling a The David Cook for Charity: AFS-USA

I’ll admit it. I’m guilty. I am a blog-stalking addict. And one of the blogs I stalk religiously is Mommy Wants Vodka. (I know, great name, right?) Today on Mommy Wants Vodka, she’s promoting a blog prank of sorts for charity, Pulling a The David Cook. And so, because AFS-USA is the very most awesome-est thing in the world, I’m joining in (and seriously, it has nothing to do with free ice cream. But then I wouldn’t have to pay for a Christmas present for Sarah). I’m jumping on the bandwagon for AFS-USA, so to speak.

I’m fudging the contest a little as AFS-USA isn’t exactly what one would call a charity, but it’s a not-for-profit on a mission for peace: “AFS-USA works toward a more just and peaceful world by providing international and intercultural learning experiences to individuals, families, schools, and communities through a global volunteer partnership.”

So, I’m calling it a charity (Defined by Merriam-Webster: benevolent goodwill toward or love of humanity), and I think it fits.

It is clear that I find AFS-USA to be a very worthwhile and awesome and formative part of my life. Because I talk about AFS-USA here and here and here. Also, I talk about AFS-USA in this blog and this one and again here. But that’s not all, because there is this one and this one and another one and lastly this one. (the last one is the best, I think).

AFS-USA can always use more attention. So I’m trying to help bring some attention to Studying Abroad. The US doesn’t value studying abroad as much as we should. Organizations, such as AFS-USA, are so valuable to our never-ending attempts for peace. If we understand one another, how can we fight one another? Ya know?

Or if you are not of the age to Study abroad, you could become a Host Family for AFS-USA and welcome a new culture into your home.

If both of those are beyond your capabilities (I won’t say desires, because everyone wants to do those) you could Volunteer with or Donate to AFS-USA. Not-for-profit often equates to Not-enough-money-for-all-we-dream-to-accomplish.

And so this AFS-USA Returnee I have a special place in my heart for AFS-USA and all AFS-USA represents.

So please, in your ramblings through the internet and the Pulling a David Cook world, visit AFS-USA’s website and consider how you might change your world (and the world of hundreds of others—ripple in the water effect) with an AFS-USA experience.

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Hey, and if you have an AFS-USA experience to share, leave your story in the comments (using the phrases AFS-USA and The David Cook of course) because that helps bring the internet world’s attention to AFS-USA and the Pulling A David Cook. kthanksbye

A shout out to Wikipedia for this photo of the David Cook.

And just for good measure: AFS-USA  AFS-USA AFS-USA AFS-USA AFS-USA AFS-USA AFS-USA AFS-USA AFS-USA AFS-USA AFS-USA AFS-USA AFS-USA AFS-USA AFS-USA AFS-USA AFS-USA

Sleepless in Seattle…for real

When you go from the East Coast to the West Coast, your internal clock fails, majorly. Most days I was up until midnight PST (or later) and up by 4:30 or 5:00 am…yuck.

But all-in-all it was a good time.

Our Returnee Initiative launched a major project this past weekend. While at recent AFS events we began to make our presence known, at this event we were moving-and-shaking.

We participated as Sending and Volunteer Coordinators, showing AFS-USA that we can be (and are) active at the local level. But most importantly, we (a group of 100% Returnees) ran a workshop about integrating new volunteers. We encouraged and facilitated brainstorming as to the best ways to incorporate Returnees in areas where, until now, they are mostly undervalued. And we rocked it! Go us!

Anyway, amidst the Starbucks runs and the workshops, I got the chance to wander through the City of Seattle. We ate at Pike’s Place Market, which I failed to take a picture of. It was such an interesting phenomenon. A daily event in Seattle is more like a once-a-year type event for Buffalo. Good food too!

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The famous Space Needle, but this is as close as I got.

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The Puget Sound, absolutely gorgeous!

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Mount Rainier. We were told that you could go for weeks without seeing the mountain due to clouds and weather.

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The City of Seattle009 

This picture cracks me up. I don’t know when or how it was taken, oops. But look! I was there!

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The brown and white speckled birds were everywhere. I want to know what they are.013

The Puget Sound from uphill in the city.014

Much thanks to our local Returnee Initiative member Rick for his amazing tour guide skills (except he didn’t know what kind of bird that was…)

Looking back at these photos almost makes me forget my adventure home…almost. But that’s for another post.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Why I volunteer for AFS

This weekend I attended a Conference for AFS. This conference involved Returnees on a functioning role for the first time (as opposed to just being present). I was asked to speak about the impact of AFS on my life. I think my story was very impactful on the crowd as I, unexpectedly, almost lost it for a few minutes.

So this is it. This is why I volunteer:

I'd like to take a moment to tell you a story.

There was once a 17-year old high school student. One March or April day this student's Spanish teacher approached her with an application packet for an AFS scholarship to study abroad. Her teacher informed her that this would be a great opportunity for the student.

And so the student took this packet home. She didn't tell any one about it. The student was certain that her parents would say no.

Finally, knowing a deadline approached, she broached the idea of a study abroad to her parents. Much to her surprise, they said she could apply, but without a significant scholarship she couldn't take advantage of this opportunity.

Well the student received a scholarship from AFS, but only for a small percentage of the total cost. The student, being the second of eight children, knew that with only this small scholarship, the study abroad experience was out of her reach.

The local Area team knew this as well. And so, that wonderful group of volunteers, people much like yourselves, knowing what the exchange experience means to the student who participates, enabled the student to take advantage of the opportunity to study abroad. They would provide her with the funds to study for a summer in a foreign county.

And so, that is how this young student became one of two exchange students in a small village in Paraguay. They were the first two Americans ever to live in this town, furthering the mission of AFS to cultivate understanding of new cultures and people.

As many of you may have realized, that young girl was me, 11 years ago. 11 years ago a group of AFS volunteers, much like yourselves, made a dream possible and sent my life careening off into a direction I never could have ever in my grandest dreams imagined.

I came home and chose to study International Relations in College. I pursued a career where I used my fluency in Spanish and had the opportunity to continue to interact with people from many cultures and countries.

Over the years, I have truly come to appreciate what benefits AFS has given me. I acquired a second family, and a worldwide community of people I am honored to call friends.

I have, at each orientation, a captive audience who won't tell me that they've heard my stories before. In fact, they ask questions. They want to know more. Better yet, they want to see pictures!

I get to cultivate inquisitive minds. I get to see young students learn, grow and mature into young men and women.

I know why I volunteer for AFS.

I volunteer for AFS because the opportunities created, the doors that are opened change lives forever. The difference we make is why I volunteer, it's why you volunteer and it's why you are here this weekend.

So for that 17 year old high school student and for all those past and present students that you motivate, inspire, enable, encourage and empower, I say thank you. Thank you for being the stuff dreams are made of, because without you, dreams simply remain dreams. With you, dreams become the most amazing realities that change lives forever.

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September 24, 2010

Sending/Volunteer Coordinator Conference

 

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Thursday, September 23, 2010

Through the Eyes of a Kitty: Chronicles of the unemployed Day 16

As many of you have come to realize, I take a lot of kitty pictures. catBut they are just so darn cute. And yesterday they seemed to follow me around and just be plain interested in what I was doing. And what was I doing?

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The internet stopped working yesterday due to a faulty modem. So after calling Time Warner and being told that a technician would be out, but with no set appointment time, we sat around and took a nap and waited for the very nice technician to get us back online.

Then, we continued working on the painting of the spare bedroom. But clearly painting the trim is very boring work. So instead it was necessary to explore the closet. (The little bugger jump out of the closet just as I was going to take the picture.)

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Once finished exploring  the closet, it was time for a little hide-and-seek.

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“Look I found her!” *Kitty kisses*

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Finally, since all the painting was complete *happy dance,* a little vacuuming was in order. And we all know, the vacuum is a very scary beast…*runs and hides*

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And the finished product:

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I’m giving the paint a little more time to cure before I put things on the walls (the first things things to be hung on the wall since we’ve moved smile_embaressed) and put books on the shelf (since it tends to lean on the wall). But once I take all of the stuff that’s crammed into the other spare bedroom and put it back it’s done!!!!

And after doing all that hard work yesterday, time to rest and gather some more energy.

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I’m headed to Seattle tomorrow bright any early. It’s going to be a long day, starting early East Coast time and finishing “late” West Coast time, but I’m looking forward to it. There probably won’t be any blogging until I get back Monday after I’m home. Well, unless I get a lot of layover time in New York that is.

I guess I better go check in.

Chau.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Wedded Wednesday: My Wedding Planning Advice

 

My installation for this week’s Wedded Wednesday.

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Last May I had a boyfriend. June I had a fiancĂ©. July I had a husband. And it was the best series of decisions I have ever made—that is to plan a wedding in a month and a half.

Some people, actually I’m pretty sure most people, thought I was nuts. And at least half of them were watching my waistline and counting the months. Hehe. There are still no squirming babies in this house and it’s been over a year.

We made the decision to marry sooner rather than later for quite a few reasons. I didn’t want anyone to change their minds smile_wink.

Actually, We were closing on a house in August, and I wasn’t moving in until we were married (yeah, so what if I’m a prude?). Besides getting married, packing (although I have some wonderful packing siblings who did most of that for us), and all the shiza that comes with closing on a house (and believe me the seller’s agent was crazay and kept threatening to put the house back on the market) all in the same month? No. Thank. You.

And so we got engaged the end of May and married mid-July. And it was just what I wanted (except for the fact that my aunts got in a car accident right before the wedding and couldn’t comesmile_sad).

I spent $40 at JCPenneys’ on a white cotton eyelet dress (I bought it in February-ish. Hey,when you find your dream dress you gotta buy it!) and almost as much on the shoes—lol. I wore my mother’s veil. I just swapped out her fabric roses for some daisies.

We wanted to get married at a local vineyard/winery/farm and they had one day open in July—a Sunday. So that determined the date.

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A short time frame means you can invite everyone without offending, and still keep the guest list small.

We had a custom made wedding ring for me—the diamond a gift from my mother-in-law and the custom work from a family friend. We decided just to have one ring—an engagement ring for just a month sounded silly.

My bridesmaids had dresses from previous weddings that ironically matched. I was happy that they could reuse their dresses. Gorgeous aren’t they?

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And their dresses fit my color scheme. Even in a month and a half you can have a color scheme for your dresses, flowers, cake and invitations (which another of my talented sisters designed).

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My music was arranged my by brother and sister on an MP3 player and a different brother was responsible for starting and stopping it.

Today when I hear how much people spend on their dress, let along their wedding I shutter. But I had my dream wedding, they can have theirs.

At the time I wondered if I would regret the quickness. I didn’t have an engagement ring to flash. I didn’t have a bridal shower (my mom offered, but I felt it would be rude to invite people who weren’t invited to the wedding and people would feel obligated to buy two gifts in a matter of a month). Rather than a crazy party, I had a bachelorette dinner…tame and prude-y just like I wanted it. And we didn’t take a honeymoon right away (that’s next month—yay!).

But do you know what? I don’t regret it. Not one bit. I avoided some mega-drama. There was some drama, but I couldn’t image a whole year of it. The drama would have exploded [shudder]. We kept it affordable. I didn’t lose my mind hoping everything went ok.

We were able to enjoy our wedding. It wasn’t like those weddings that the bride and groom don’t remember or enjoy. We enjoyed. We remember. 

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Every time I hear someone’s wedding planning stories, complaints of family wanting the wedding their way or stating the price tag of their wedding, I shudder and smile. I mentally pat myself on my back…this is what I avoided.

I would recommend this to anyone…well, most anyone. If you won’t be happy without a custom-made dress, this is not for you. No one will custom make a dress in a month. If you need to be married on  specific day, for instance 11/11/11 or 12/12/12, this is not for you. That day will be booked a year in advance. If you need to marry in a specific church or temple, this may not be for you. There are specific time frames and steps that need to be followed (although we did marry in the church last November, as that was important to me). If you have to have a grand orchestrated affair, well good luck.

My small, simple wedding meant that the focus was on what was important. My husband and I making a promise to ourselves to love, cherish and honor.

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Forever.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Please say I’m done: Chronicles of the unemployed, Day 14/15

 

First of all, my unemployment claim was approved. Yay! The Department of Labor agreed that I left for a situation beyond my control , which makes the whole unemployed this a lot easier. It’s not easy to get unemployment when you quit. I really had to back up my claim—and I did! Thankyouverymuch. smile_shades

It’s been a busy few days of late. Last Thursday and Friday, I began this project:

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I was painting the blue spare bedroom orange—apricot nectar to be precise.  I knew the blue was dark, but I figure two coats would suffice.

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Hah! It took THREE, count ‘em! 1! 2! 3 coats!

Have I ever mentioned that I hate painting?

No?

Well, I hate painting. It makes my neck ache and my shoulders hurt, and it’s one of the few things that causes my carpal tunnel to yell at me. (I have such a mild case of carpal tunnel that most times I forget about it…except when I’m painting that is.)

Painting also brings back the dreaded ladder…

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Although it’s much cuter adorned with a kitty (cell phone picture was the best I could do).

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Although, the ladder and I have come to an agreement; I graduated to a step higher (most of the time comfortably). And I actually don’t need to be that high to paint a room. Painting my foyer, however, is going to be a different story altogether (ugh).

This painting fun is almost done (in this room anyway). Alleluia!!! I just have the baseboards and the window trim to paint. Yay! I don’t actually mind that.

But first I have to go to the grandpa’s and scrape and prime his windows. Want to join me?

Before I leave you, some more cute kitty photos. Jasmine has decided that she likes the spare bedroom mattress where it’s been relocated during the painting process, and Salem likes the bookshelf on its side (but he didn’t cooperate for that photo, so you get a different one).

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Monday, September 20, 2010

Cut it out will ya?

That getting older thing…you. need. to. stop. Now! Because if you are getting older, what does that say about me?

Little babies starting preschool?

Young school kids in High School?

My little sister is of legal drinking age? Say what?! Now I only have three siblings that CANNOT drink with me at a bar. I don’t know what to say…or do…or feel! Gawd I need a drink.

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My artwork (not my best, but it’ll do):

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She has a drink in her hand and it’s not Sprite!

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The night’s entertainment consisted of brought-to-you-by-technology-activities.

There was a fierce Worms competition:

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Turning 21 doesn’t mean you are good at Worms. Right, Heidi?

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And then there was a insane competitive tournament of Mario Strikers on the Wii.

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I need to figure out how to upload a video into my blog…Sarah=hilarious!

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Yes my mom “played” too! Although her skills are questionable.

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Good Food. Good fun. Good company (even my in-laws came, but I never seem to get pictures of them)

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Cut it out, you two…couldn’t get a decent pc of hubs and I because some people can’t behave.

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Happy *cough, cough, wheeze, gasp* 21st *ouch* Heidi!

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