Sunday, April 13, 2014

DeNami Blog Hop

Holy Cow, I can't believe that a month has gone by since the last DeNami Blog Hop.  Planning my daughter's wedding is absorbing so much of my time and attention.

To give you an idea of how busy my mind is these days, I won as one of the blog participants last month and haven't even had time to go to the DeNami website and pick out my prize!  

But I did make time to participate in this month's blog hop - Buttons and Bows.  I'm doing double duty these days so even though the theme was buttons and bows (a traditionally feminine theme) I made an effort to make my card masculine.  Why?  Well a friend of my husband has been very ill and my DH asked me to make him a card to send to the hospital.  Of course I said yes.  Making cards for people we care about is a high priority.  I mean what's the good of having all these supplies and all these skills and not send a card!

So, onto the creation.  I used a navy blue as a mono-chromatic theme for the flower bouquet image.  I put my bow over the bouquet ribbon from the image.  I added my buttons (trimmed with navy blue/white bakers twine) in the 4 corners and added a layer of vellum to soften the effect.

I'ts not really masculine, but it will do.  DeNami has a really nice selection of sentiments.  My last order included this essential one that was perfect for today's card.

So your next stop on the blog hop is the fun and talented Emily Keaton.  Check her blog 'My little slice of bliss' from the link below to continue along the blog hop.

Be sure to leave a comment here before you go to be eligible for a gift certificate at DeNami.  Thanks for visiting and have a great day.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Wedding Invitations

Well, we are less than 2 months till wedding day and we finalized the design for the invitations and the bridesmaids came over to assemble them all last weekend.   Do you want to see?

We went with a simple beach theme.  Sarah had seen some nice lace accented cards on  pinterest and then we saw this 'holey' lace at AC Moore.  We found a strand of shell necklaces there too and the idea was born.  I did not plan too well for this and half way through making our 50 invitations we ran out of Kraft card stock and about 2/3rds of the way through we ran out of lace, but in classic crafting style we just improvised and made a new design.

The maids did a great job.  One girl was a self declared 'crafty type' but the other two were craft shy. We put everyone to work, the non-crafty girls were fine to tape lace and glue shells.  Myself and the crafty girl were busy cutting and tying.  In 2 1/2 hours (with a lot of talking mixed in) we finished and the girls started drinking Sangria and preparing stir-fry for dinner.  Bob and I headed out for pizza to let them have some time by themselves and over-all it was a great success.

Now, Sarah has to quickly decide on her final meal choices - the response cards will include the 3 options and I'll get them in the mail, hopefully by Saturday.

The wedding plans are proceeding, at a stop-start pace.  We seem to make great progress on a few things and then go cold for a while.  This week was quite productive.  We found a hair salon that we'll go to for Sarah's up-do and bridal make-up.  We also got started on a quote for the beer, wine and alcohol.  We'll do two speciality cocktails - a his drink and a her drink.   His drink was easy - Gin and Tonic (perfect for summer) and Sarah's still debating on her drink.  Maybe a sangria, maybe a pink colored drink, I recommended mimosa's or cosmo's.  She'll have some fun sampling a few options before making her final decision.  We also found a rental company for the chairs and outdoor sound system.  We only have the capacity to bring about 25 chairs onto the beach so we'll need to alert the guests (and bring blankets) for the rest of the crowd.  The ceremony will be under 30 minutes so we'll figure something out.

The bridesmaids dresses are in progress, we have an appt to talk to the florist and Ivan found another groomsman so everything is starting to come together, but there is still lots to do in the next 8 weeks.

Thanks for visiting my blog today and have a GREAT day.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Peace Corps Mom - Time to come home

This is my fifth post in my series about my experiences having my daughter serve in the U.S. Peace Corps.

This post will focus on her final months as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ukraine.

In the fall of 2013, Sarah's focus began to shift toward coming home.  Her 2 year assignment was ending in November/December and as school started that September she had a lot to work on.

She was still teaching in the classroom, but in addition to that, she was finishing up her Peace Corps project, planning for her career when she returned home and thinking about her upcoming wedding.

In September she attended a Peace Corps sponsored event to help her prepare for the culture shock and acclimation back into America.    Sarah doesn't handle transitions well, so she started to get very stressed out.  As a child, Sarah cried about going from middle school to high school.  I remember talking to her during that transition and trying to assure her that EVERYONE likes high school better than middle school and it was going to be okay.  In the same way I tried to re-assure her that coming back to America (especially with her fiance) would be a really good thing.  But she still stressed out.

She wrapped up her peace corps project in September so that was a big step toward finishing up.  Her project was to create an English Learning Resource room in her local school.  She raised $1,500.00 and bought a laptop, projector and some english books.  The headmaster had provided a space (not really a room, more like a closet) so that the items could be shared among the teachers.  She got a lot of satisfaction from setting that up.  It was a way for her to be assured that even after she left, the school would be able to continue with needed resources.

Next on her list of things to do to prepare to come home was to work out all the details for her fiance to return with her.  She felt really strongly that she would not leave Ukraine without Ivan.  They had filed their K-1 fiance visa paperwork in July and everyone was so glad to hear that he was approved in October.  Sometimes the K-1 visa can take up to 6 months.  After the initial approval, Ivan needed to have a physical and an in person interview in Kiev.  Kiev is a 6 hour bus ride from his home in Lviv and they scheduled the physical and interview to coincide with a meeting Sarah had with Peace Corps in Kiev in November.

So, then it was time to book the travel arrangements to come home.  Peace Corps provides a standard reimbursement for travel expenses to go home, so Sarah was able to make her own plans.  We found a flight from Kiev to JFK in New York City for December 13th.  We encouraged her to book the flights in mid-November before Ivan's paperwork was final.  We figured if for some reason his paperwork didn't come through we could change the flights, but we did not want to wait until November 28th to book flights - since so many plane tickets get very expensive within the 2 week window.  And yes, I very much wanted Sarah to be home for Christmas.

What else was she focused on?  Well, she had to figure out what to bring with her from Ukraine.  She had a 2 bag allowance and she had accumulated a lot of stuff during 2 years.  I encouraged her to leave any clothes behind that were worn out.  I encouraged her to take pictures of sentimental things that she would not actually use in America.  For instance, Sarah had a collection of rocks.  Yes, I said rocks.  she wanted to bring them with her (think weight allowance on luggage.)  Did she bring rocks home with her, yup.  Thankfully she only brought a few.  Packing and deciding what to bring and what to leave was difficult.  Ivan was a big help to her there.  He was able to help her think through what was most important.  Ivan also helped her out by letting her fill half his suitcase with her stuff.  We picked on her for that.  Ivan had to put everything he owned in 2 suitcases.  She had left all kinds of stuff home at our house and only brought along a few things for her two years of service.  And yet, she had 2 1/2 large suitcases full of stuff and Ivan had 1 1/2 suitcases.  Some of it is the difference between boys and girls, but some of it was Ivan's generosity.

So things were progressing nicely for her return home. The job market was dismal in 2013 but there was glimmers of hope that it was improving.  She was packing and wrapping things up and preparing to leave.  And then the politics in Ukraine went crazy.  In late November, the then president of Ukraine, Yanukovych did not sign a much awaited agreement to align more closely with the EU.  The people of Ukraine felt betrayed.  Yanukovych had been talking as if he would align with both EU and Russia and it came to the point where he had to choose a side and he chose not to sign the agreement toward EU, based on pressure from Russia.

Within a few days, the people of Ukraine started to gather in the capital and protest.  By December 1st, the political upheaval was in full swing.  My husband and I watched the news and tried not to be concerned.  Sarah thought it was very cool!  She was happy that the Ukraine people were standing up for themselves, and while I agreed that they should stand up for what they believed in, I had studied enough history to know that revolutions almost always include violence and I was concerned for my baby girls safety.

I was very happy to hear from Sarah, about how much the Peace Corps was counseling the volunteers about the situation.  Peace Corps commanded the volunteers to stay out of the capital and forbid the volunteers from being any where near the area where the protesters were gathering.  Sarah took that council to heart and avoided the area.

The tensions continued to build for the next few weeks.  All the while I was counting down the days till December 13th.  A lot can happen in 12 days when a revolution is in the making and while I was so glad they had their travel arrangements made I was also very nervous that the protests would increase in intensity and impact their safe return to the U.S.

Every morning I would look on my ipad for news about Ukraine.  Every evening I would pray for Sarah and Ivan's safe arrival.  The news ebbed and flowed over that two week period.  In the meantime, Sarah and Ivan were saying goodbye to friends and family.  I imagined how difficult it was for Ivan's mother to say goodbye to him on Tuesday December 10th.  They had a family dinner and then in the evening Sarah and Ivan (with all their luggage) boarded the train to Kiev.   I remembered how it felt for me to say goodbye to Sarah for 2 years.  I was sure Ivan's mom was feeling a lot of emotion saying goodbye to her middle son.  She loved Sarah and was happy about their relationship. I'm sure she was also aware that Ivan would have great economic opportunity in the U.S. that he didn't have in their small village, but it's still very hard to say goodbye to your child.  In her case she had to say an open ended goodbye.  she did not know when she would see him again.

They arrived in Kiev on Wednesday morning the 11th and the protests were still in full force.  At alternate times there would be conflict between the protesters and the govt and it was very unstable in Independence Square - an area near the govt buildings in the center of Kiev.  The peace corps offices were about 1 mile away from the protests and Sarah and Ivan had gotten a room near the peace corps offices.  Again Peace Corps was very good about keeping everyone informed.  They knew Sarah (and several other volunteers) were leaving and they advised about where to stay and arranged for special transportation to the airport.  As part of the end of service with peace corps, Sarah had a physical check and a meeting with the peace corps staff in Kiev.  When she signed her papers and handed back her peace corps passport, she got to 'ring the bell' commemorating her service.  Her teacher friends had given her a traditional tunic which typically has beautiful embroidery on it.  She wore that shirt for her 'bell ringing' event.

So, they boarded the plane in Kiev on Friday morning December 13th at 6am.  I headed out the night before to stay with my cousin Thursday night so I could get them from JFK at noon.  I left my cell phone right by my bedside in case there were any issues with the flights.  They left Kiev and connected through Moscow.  Then they had a direct flight to NYC.  They had discarded their cell phones since they were local phones so I had no way to get in touch with them, but I knew if there was an emergency they could contact me.

I headed to JFK Friday morning and arrived in plenty of time to meet their flight when it arrived around noon-time.  I parked and stood at the opening where the international flights discharged.  I stood and waited, and I stood and waited for FOREVER.   I knew the flight had landed but I had no idea how long it would take them to get through customs.  They didn't walk out until 2 1/2 hours later.  I wasn't panicked, but I was growing more and more nervous.  I asked at the info booth and the worker assured me that the customs areas can back up and that a 3 hour wait wasn't uncommon.

 Then they both walked through the area and as you can imagine I hugged them both for a long time!  They were exhausted so we headed to the car and began our 4 hour car ride.  I wondered what Ivan thought of the New England landscape.   We stopped at Starbucks for a quick snack.  I had made chili in the crockpot and when we arrived to our home in  MA, they enjoyed a simple meal and some conversation.  My son Eric had returned home for Christmas from college the same night so it was a busy homecoming day for everyone.

We had a wonderful Christmas season.  Everyone wanted to meet Ivan and see Sarah.  Ivan did great with the massive overload of friends and relatives.  We bought him a New England Patriots shirt and proudly watched him wear it often around town.   Since they weren't married yet, my husband asked Ivan to share a room with Eric until the wedding happened.  Ivan very respectfully agreed so the boys took over the 3rd floor room and Sarah slept in the spare bedroom during the holiday season.

The K-1 visa requires that a marriage take place within 90 days of the fiance arriving in the U.S. so we had a small wedding ceremony on Monday January 6th.  It was precious.  The lead pastor of our church agreed to a small service in the chapel.  After the ceremony we headed to dinner and then sent

Sarah and Ivan off to the Hyatt in Boston for their first night together as a married couple.  Eric headed back to campus the next day and Sarah and Ivan headed upstairs to the 3rd floor room and set it up as a nice little honeymoon suite.  They had received some money and gift certificates for Christmas and bought some decorations, a folding table and a lamp.  The room was perfect.

Ivan then filled out his paperwork to get his work permit and to apply for his greencard.  Sarah found a job at a vegan cafe attached to a yoga studio in Cambridge.  She started taking the bus to work and was happy to bring in a income.  Shortly after she started with the cafe, a temporary job in Boston opened up at Pearson Publishing as a proofreader.  She quite the cafe job and has been working 35 hours a week near Copley Place Boston.  Ivan's work permit should arrive any day now.  He is helping us around the house doing small jobs - painting the bathroom, doing yard work, but he's anxious to get working.  He plans to work construction through the summer and then go back to school for an engineering degree.

They are happy living in the third floor room of our condo, but they are hoping to get an apartment of their own this summer.  Once Ivan starts working and once Sarah finds a more permanent assignment it should be fine.

The celebration of the marriage (with the white dress and party) will happen in early June.  We are all busy planning for that celebration, which is only 2 months away.  It will technically be a wedding vow renewal or re-enactment but friends and family won't care.  Everyone will be glad to celebrate their love.

And on the political front, the protests in Ukraine did escalate into a full fledged revolution. President Yanukovych was ousted, a new leader brought in and Russia's leader, Putin, took over Crimea. Ukraine and Russia both are building up troops and the U.S. is busy trying to negotiate a peaceful end to this conflict.  As of today, things seem to be quieting down.  Ivan's family is not in danger.  His family lives on the western side of the country, far from Crimea and the area of potential conflict.  The big concern we have now is for the safety and well being of Ukraine and it's people and for a potential draft. If Ukraine calls a draft and Ivan is drafted, it could prohibit him from traveling back to Ukraine to visit his family.  We are praying and hopeful that this won't happen, but only time will tell.

As for other news of Ukraine, Ivan's brother had a baby girl in January and his mother is busy being a grandmother to her younger son's child.  Ivan skypes with his brothers and mother frequently.  Sadly it doesn't look like any of them will come for the wedding in June, but hopefully a visit will happen sometime.  Another peace corps volunteer that Sarah was friends with is engaged and her fiance is Ukrainian.  Vitaly arrived in the U.S. in March and will be one of Ivan's groomsmen for the wedding.   Vitaly likes in California but it's nice that Ivan has a friend with so much in common.

Well, that wraps up the post about 'preparing to come home.'  Thanks so much for visiting my blog today.  Have a great day!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Fuzzy Critters - DeNami Blog Hop

Hello friends,

Today's post is a fun 'critter' card using my new DeNami fox stamp.  I am playing along with DeNami's Fuzzy Critters Blog Hop.   Below is a link to the DeNami Blog for all the blog hop details.

If you are on the hop, you should have arrived from Ruza Rebel's blog. 

Here is my creation

Isn't this little fox adorable?  I thought he was so cute, he didn't need a lot of companions so I kept my card to just his image as the focal point.

Here in our home in MA, we are looking forward to spring.  This weekend felt like a heatwave - we were over 40 degree's both days.  We are really hoping that the bitter cold we've had for the last several weeks is finally done.  

Your next stop on the blog is Emily Keaton's blog.

I'm sure she has something adorable for you to see.  Enjoy the hop, and enjoy your day.  Oh, and please leave a comment.  All who leave a comment will be entered in a drawing by DeNami for a gift certificate. Good luck!

Friday, February 28, 2014

Wedding Invitations - first mock-up idea

Hi friends,

Today I have three things to share with you.  First, we are working on the design for Sarah's wedding invitations.  I know these need to go out in March and no I haven't even come up with a first idea, but we are still thinking we'll make them ourselves.

I told Sarah I would show her three different designs and she could choose her favorite (or choose none) and then we could tweak the design of her favorite and then get busy.

 Her colors are coral, green and grey and I made this using the colors.  My other drafts will be more cream/white options (without as much color in them.)  It's hard to get the flavor of the card from the photo because of the vellum layer on top, but it is very elegant and pretty and may work.

So the second thing I have to share with you is that after all those posts for Papertrey Ink's anniversary celebration - I WAS A WINNER!  Yes, on the last day, I was the last selected winner and I received a $70.00 gift certificate.  I was very happy.  I was even happier when the mailman brought this big giant box of supplies to my front door.

The ironic thing is that with all my creations, I actually won my prize by leaving a short comment on one of the blogs.  All entries counted and I'm just happy I was a winner!

And the third thing I have to tell you is a very funny story about something that happened to me on my way to work the other day. So it's a normal, everyday Wednesday and I left my house around 8:00 for my 30 minute drive.  I am cruising along 128/95 south in the middle lane when a driver next to me on the right starts to try to get my attention.  Well traffic is thick and we are all going 65 miles an hour so I saw a brief indication that the driver was trying to get my attention but I couldn't tell anything else.  I start paying attention to my car and begin to wonder - is my gas cap off?  Is there something hanging out the trunk?  Did I leave a cup of coffee on the roof?  And then the same driver (in a red Toyota Corolla) is near me again, again trying hard to get my attention.

So as I'm wondering what to do, I notice a truck turn-out lane just ahead.  Now this isn't even the same as a rest stop.  It's basically an extended and widened breakdown lane right on the side of the highway, but I sense it's a safe place to pull over and I decide better safe than sorry, so I pull out into this truck turnout lane.  I get out of the car and start looking around and the red toyota corolla pulls up behind me.  I'm thinking - hmmm, this is weird.   The middle age, balding, very ordinary looking man gets out and with a big grin on his face approaches me and says 'hey I saw you and you looked like a lot of fun, so I wanted to meet you.'  Bahahahaha... Some guy is trying to pick me up on the HIGHWAY!  I smile and shake his hand and start walking back to my car saying 'sorry, I'm married.'  He yells at me as my back is to him 'so am I, I was hoping you wanted to fool around.'  I laugh out loud, get into my car and still snickering drive away.  Can you believe it?  Some horny middle-aged guy was wanted to get some booty during the morning commute.  I got to work still laughing and told my co-workers.  We all roared with laughter thinking of this sad man.  Did he think that I would give him my number and we would make plans for a rendezvous on the weekend?  Did he think I would have said, let's check out the motel 6 on route 1 in Westwood and be late for work?  Did he think I'd jump in the back of his toyota corolla in 28 degree weather on Rte 128 for a backseat fling?

My co-workers and I figured he MUST have been successful at this attempt before and must have had success.  Either that or he had a thought in his head and decided to act on it.  Everyone asked me, what were you doing in your car?  If only!  I was driving, in my beige wool car jacket, maybe humming along with the radio in my filthy dirty, Mazda 3 heading to work.  It's not like I was rocking out or wearing some provocative outfit.  It wasn't even that I made eye contact with him or had some crazy bumper sticker that would advertise my fun ness.

One person asked if I was at all scared and cautioned that she would never get out of her car if another car was nearby, but it didn't seem like a risk at all.  I mean I know I could have been at risk, but in hindsight I think about it and I was no more at risk in the truck turn out lane on 128 south than I am in my work out world parking lot or walking the dogs on my street.  It was 8:15am, bright daylight, open air and thousands of cars driving by me.

It just seemed hysterically funny to me that someone would try to get my attention in the car to meet me because 'he thought I looked fun!'  Bahahahaha...  Have you ever heard of this new way to meet middle age women to start an affair with?  Afterward I thought I should have told him to go on-line like every other guy wanting some fun does.  At least on-line he'll find people willing!

So that was the highlight of my week.  Thanks for visiting my blog today.  Make it a great one!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Peace Corps Mom - the second year

Hi all,

This is my fourth post in a series about my experiences having my daughter serve as a peace corps volunteer from 2011-2013.

So when I left off on the last post, summer break was ending and a new school year was beginning.

My daughter was now a familiar face in the school district.  She was co-teaching several grade levels and was in the class-room almost every day.  She began leading 'English club.'  This was an after school activity in which children interested in English language would come.  English club was rather informal, much to Sarah's disappointment.  Unlike American after school programs that are very structured, her English Club was very unstructured.  If the weather was nice, no-one wanted to do English Club and the students would ask Sarah 'can we do English club tomorrow instead?'  Sarah tried to be accommodating, but often found herself over-committing.  For instance she had responsibilities to do class preparation, but then students would approach her and ask 'can we have English club today?' and Sarah would say yes.  Her mission with Peace Corps was to bring about a desire and an ability to speak English so when students would approach her of course she wanted to say yes.

She also began doing one-on-one tutoring for interested students.  As a peace corps volunteer she could not ask for (nor receive) compensation for this, but she willingly volunteered to meet with many students after school to do one-on-one teaching.  So with her classroom responsibilities, unstructured English Club and private tutoring, Sarah was busy-busy-busy.

But she was falling in love, and that makes everything happy.  Her and Ivan were together all the time. But they faced some challenges.  First, Ivan's military service contract was at it's end so he needed to find work.   He did not want to renew his military contract, but a job in the village was unlikely so he wound up getting a job in Lviv (his hometown city) and moved back in with his mother and brother outside the city.  Now Lviv is not too many miles away from Vishkovo (about 81 miles) but the only way to travel between the two locations was via bus or bus and train.  The public transportation option took about 5 hours each way, so Sarah and Ivan were forced into a long distance relationship.  Ivan's job was as a security guard for a hotel so he often worked a shift that involved 12 hours on then 12 hours off for a 3-4 day period and then 3-4 days off.  So while it wasn't great at least it allowed them to see each other.  Ivan would travel to see Sarah when he had time off and Sarah would travel during her school breaks.

During this time, Sarah also got 'kicked out' of her host family home.  In Ukraine, heating oil is expensive and controlled. Families were charged an excess use fee if they used more than a certain amount of heating oil in a given period so many families in Ukraine closed off large sections of their home and lived in just the kitchen during the winter period to save on fuel costs.  Yes, they lived in just the kitchen.  They moved the beds in and had a cozy winter. Sarah's host mother discovered that having the extra room Sarah occupied significantly increased her fuel costs (because of the surcharge) and said she needed a higher rent if Sarah were to stay through the next winter.  Well Peace Corps was not willing to incur the higher rent so her school headmaster found another family who would host her who had a different family set up and did not need to charge extra for the fuel.
Sarah's new host family dad and dog

Sarah moved into her new host family home in the fall and found the change to be a good one for her. When she first moved in, the host father's mother took a liking to her and would come into her room and sit on the bed and just smile.  This woman is what people in Eastern Europe would call a Babushka. She was an elderly widow woman (often wearing a scarf.)  She and Sarah didn't communicate very well, but the woman would just sit in her room, let the sunshine fall on her face, close her eyes and smile.  I thought it was so cute.  Sarah didn't really mind, but she also didn't mind when the woman kept to herself more and more in the later year.  Sadly the Babushka passed away the following summer, but I always am honored to know that Sarah's room with the window brought some joy to her last days.
Not Sarah's host fathers mother, but another typical Babushka

One time Sarah was asked to provide care for the Babushka while the family went out of town.  Sarah found the job impossible.  The woman refused to eat and Sarah had no idea what to do.  She heated up the meals, provided them to the woman, coaxed her into eating, but the woman was on a hunger strike. Luckily the family wasn't away for long, but Sarah found the time very challenging.

So back to the classroom.  During this time, we all discovered how very different life is in Ukraine to the U.S.  One of the shocking things I learned is that they plan their school calendar around a general time frame that is constantly open for discussion and rescheduling.  For instance, on several occasions, the fall break that everyone was anticipating was simply cancelled.  The school decided 1 day before the break was to start to not take off but to continue having classes and cancel classes later in the winter to save on fuel costs.  Sarah had left for the weekend to visit Ivan and didn't even know that classes were back in session on Monday until she called a friend on Tuesday and realized classes were in session and she should have been back.

In the same way, they would push up a school vacation if the weather was to be nice one week, but possibly rainy the next.  I couldn't imagine an American school making a change to the school calendar even several months before it happened much less a day before hand.

So before I conclude this blog entry about the second year, let me leave you with a top 10 list - top 5 things loved or really enjoyed about her time in Ukraine and the top 5 things she really disliked!

Things she LOVED!

#5 Coffee.

Coffee in Ukraine was espresso.  It was never had in a 'to go' cup or on the run.  Coffee in Ukraine was a social experience to be savored.  It was enjoyed typically in the afternoon in a cafe with a friend (or two) and while it only took 4 sips to finish the cup, most people would linger for 20 minutes (or more) to enjoy it.

#4 Farm Fresh Produce

Sarah lived in the Western region of Ukraine which was rich farmland on rolling hills.  In season she enjoyed vine ripened fruits and vegetables that she would buy at the local outdoor market.  At her host home, they had apple trees and a garden so she would walk outside and pick an apple and bite in to sweet fall yummy.

#3 Limited social media

Yes, Ukraine has facebook and they LOVE to post their selfies on it all the time.  But as far as a lifestyle of staring at a screen instead of faces, that hasn't hit eastern Europe (well at least not rural villages in Ukraine.)  If people wanted to talk to each other they called on the phone or visited.

#2 Friendly people

Sarah encountered so many very friendly people who were willing to go out of their way and make time for her.  One story that stands out to me is when she was taking the train from Lviv to her village.  Sarah got confused about the stops and accidentally got off the train one stop too soon from where she was supposed to connect to another train.    When she got off the train she went into the station and the woman who was working the counter explained that the next train wouldn't come for 2 1/2 hours.  Sarah asked if there was a place to get food and the woman said sure.  Then she locked up her counter and walked Sarah down to the village to the cafe.  The woman had a meal with Sarah and they had a nice little chat and social time together.   I can't imagine that happening in America (at least not on the east coast where we live.)

#1 Less rigidity about schedules

One day i was talking to Sarah on the phone and I was all stressed out.  I lead a bible study and at that time it was meeting on Tuesday nights.  our study included a DVD teaching and a workbook.  The DVD's are expensive so I was sharing the DVD with another bible study group that met on Thursday's.  Normally I would leave the DVD in a locker after my class on Tuesday and the leader for Thursday would get it from the locker on Thursday morning before their class started at 9:00.  Well, I realized as  I was driving to work that I had the DVD in my bag and I had forgotten to put it int he locker.  I was freaking out and when I called the other leader she started freaking out.  I called my boss and said I'd be late to work.  I drove 30 minutes to the church (after having gotten almost to work before I realized the mistake) and then handed off the DVD to the leader just a little before her class started and then drove another 30 minutes to work.  I spent over 2 hours in the car for my mistake and to correct it. When I described this to Sarah, she was incredulous.  She said, in Ukraine, if that happened the other leader would just say 'no problem' we'll do that another day and would use the time for something else or just cancel. In Ukraine it would unheard of to go so far out of your way to 'stick to the plan.'  In Ukraine it would be far more likely to just come up with another plan when the first one had issues.

So now for the top 5 least liked parts of Ukrainian culture

#5 Cheating as a way of life

As a teacher, Sarah found it infuriating to find that all her students (even the good students) cheated on exams.  It was an ingrained part of the students life - even the elementary school kids.  Part of it can be attributed to the pressure to perform but a lot of it was attributed to a corrupt culture where honesty is not an integral part of the society.  Sarah wrote a blog about it and how she tried to counter it.  you can read that here.

Sarah's blog post about honesty at school

#4 Force Feeding

Many cultures put pressure on people to eat.   Ukraine is definitely one of them.  When Sarah would eat with her host family or at a social event, everyone would put significant pressure on her to eat more or drink more.  Thankfully no-one held her down and forced food in her mouth, but the pressure to eat was always there.  At one time her host mother yelled at her and said she was too skinny and that her mother (me) would be very unhappy to have me come home so skinny.  Sarah is a perfect size (@120 pounds 5 foot 5 inches.) she left that weight and returned the same.

#3 Shopping and the lack of variety of goods

Ah America.  Shopping in America is awesome.  We have great prices, great variety and great convenience.  This is not the case in much of the rest of the world.  There were several stores in her village.  None of them were bigger than a convenience store (think small corner store, not a giant Cumbies) and all sold the exact same products.  So if Sarah wanted shampoo, she would go to the store.  All the items were behind the counter.  so you had to wait till it was your turn and then ask the clerk for the item you wanted to buy.  In each store they would carry maybe two varieties of each product.  If Sarah wanted to compare the two choices of shampoo, she would ask the clerk to show them to her.  The clerk would hover over her and she tried to read the ingredients or product description and then Sarah would either buy one or leave.   When Sarah came home at Christmas and went to Target she was in heaven.

#2 Salad

Okay, Sarah didn't dislike Salad in Ukraine.  She disliked the lack of American Salads.  In Ukraine, Salads were typically made of pickled foods.   so a salad would include beets, cabbage and carrots but no lettuce and based in a tangy sauce.  The idea of a Caesar salad was unheard of in Ukraine.  Lettuce was not grown and sold in the markets and Sarah spent most of her senior year of college eating at least one american salad a day.  She has really enjoyed having salads again now that she is back.

#1 Gossip

This isn't really a Ukraine issue.  This is more of a small town issue, but the gossip that was said around town about her was hurtful.  In a small town, everyone talks.  And when a foreigner arrives, what better thing to talk about than the American Teacher.  When Sarah started seeing Ivan the rumors were flying fast and furious.  She overheard things and experienced the result of the gossip in town. Many people that knew Sarah realized that it was just mean gossip when people were saying untrue things about her, but it's still hard to live in a small town when lies are being said about you.

So those are my top 5 great things and top 5 not so great things about what I think Sarah felt in Ukraine during her peace corps assignment.

Next blog will wrap up the series with stories about her preparing to come home.  Thanks so much for visiting my blog today.  Have a great day!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Life is Sweet

Hi friends,

Today's post is for PTI's anniversary challenge.  Today's challenge is to make a card with a beautiful envelope.  I am terrible about decorating envelopes.  I know how to do it.  I have the tools to do it, but I usually skip this step and just toss my card in an naked envelope and send it on it's way.

But today for the challenge I decided to do it up.

My card today features two neglected stamp sets.  The Sweet Life is a great floral set with matching dies and two/three step stamping options.  It's really beautiful and I should take it out more often to play.  The second set is All Booked Up.  This too is a great set, but not as versatile as others.

I felt compelled to use All Booked Up today because we had GREAT news in our home this morning.  My daughter Sarah is looking for work now that her Peace Corps assignment is done.  She heard back today about a job she is REALLY interested in.  It's a start up company in Cambridge that is for multi-lingual eBooks.  If you know my daughter, you will realize that this is RIGHT UP HER ALLEY.  She heard back from the CEO and has an interview on Monday Feb 24th.   Can you believe the job was posted on Craig's List?  Sarah says many of her Millennial friends find work on Craig's List.  Who knew?

Craig's List Job Post

Oh and don't you dare apply for this job.  If Sarah gets the job, she can refer you but don't take her opportunity!!!!!

Anyway, it seemed quite fitting that I would make a card today with a book on a reading theme.

For this card I decided to 'be smart.'  PTI announced a challenge on the first day of the anniversary celebration that allows us to enter multiple cards to win.  Well, silly me, all this week I've been making PTI cards completely forgetting that I can 'double dip' in the contests.  If I use the sketch and color recipes, my creation can count towards the new daily challenge contest AND the first day sketch/color challenge.  So today I decided to make the challenge card (fancy envelope) with the sketch color challenge.

Thanks for visiting my blog today.  Have a great day.