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.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

A cheerful flower card for another snowy day

Sigh.  It's snowing.  Again.  Here in Boston, we are getting pretty tired of the white stuff.  I'm eager for spring.

So to get spring on my mind, for today's PTI challenge I decided to ink up an old forgotten stamp set 'gracious vases.'

I don't know why I don't use this set more often.  It's classy and elegant and makes a beautiful, clean and simple card.  Maybe now that it's gotten some ink on it in 2014, I won't neglect it again.

So today's challenge was a 'roll the dice' game.  I headed to 9 designer's blogs and at each blog, rolled the dice to see which of 6 options I received.

When all was said and done, here is what I got:

Colors:  Canyon Clay, Orange Zest, Spring Moss and White.
Sketch - a vertical aligned simple sketch
Event - Birthday
Technique - Heat Embossing
Embellishments: Adhesive pearls and button twine.

So, I inked up my vases in Canyon Clay and did my flowers in Orange Zest.  I put clear embossing on the canyon clay cut out and wrapped twine around it with a button.  I added my pearls to the corner edges of the focal point and layered it all with the spring moss, canyon clay and orange zest card stock.

Now that I see the pictures I may take the little flower 'for you' off.  I think it makes it a tad bit busy, but who knows.  Maybe I'll leave it as is.

Below is the view out my front window. Snow.  Gray.  Blah.  And it's going to turn to ice and snow in a bit.  Lovely.  Well, I won't complain.  Have the U.S. is getting snow today, I'll just make myself some lunch and get back to work.  Enjoy your day.  Stop by again soon.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

27 months - my experience as the Mom of a Peace Corps Volunteer - the second six months of my daughter's service

Hi all,

So this is blog post #3 about my experiences with my daughter in the Peace Corps.  When I left off in the last blog, I had just visited Lviv Ukraine and got to see my beautiful daughter live and in person.

She headed back to her village and worked.  She worked hard all spring into summer and then she was so happy when school let out for the summer.  Her work as a Peace Corps volunteer continued year round, but her responsibilities shifted dramatically when school was not in session.

She focused her time and energy on writing grants to get resources for the classroom.  She also participated in several 'English camps' throughout the region.  That meant visiting other communities and working with other seasoned PCV's on hosting a week long camp for school aged children focused on improving their English language skills.

But before all that work started, she had an opportunity to travel in Europe on a vacation.  She had met a young man, I'll call him Mike (to protect his identity) while still in the U.S. with Peace Corps and they got along well.  They had decided to travel together for 10 days to see Europe.  They intended to have several PCV's join them and at various cities, they did meet up with other PCV's but they were the only two PCV's in Ukraine to travel to all three cities.  They took the train, stayed in youth hostels and tried to do it on the cheap.

They visited Prague in Czech Republic, Budapest in Hungary and Vienna, Austria before heading back to Ukraine.

Sarah had not had Starbuck's coffee in almost a year, so she was very excited to get a latte while on her trip.  They also got to enjoy some favorite familiar foods like Mexican food!

I remember one story that I'm very happy had a positive ending.  Mike and Sarah arrived in Budapest and started visiting all the great tourist destinations.  While visiting one of the beautiful churches they watched a few men playing a game called shells.  The guys put a rock (or something like that) under one of three shells and then shuffled the shells all around and the person had to guess which shell had the rock.  Have you all heard of this?  I certainly had, but somehow Mike from Texas  was  not aware of this game.  He watched for a while and felt really confident that he had a good eye and could easily find which shell had the rock underneath it, when the guy playing the game was an idiot and never able to spot it.  So he placed a bet.  I think it started at $10.00.  And, of course, he lost.  He then had an 'opportunity' to double down to place another bet to get his money back.  When he had eaten through his $100.00 or so of cash, he continued to bet on money he didn't have on his person, assuring the man hosting the game that he could get cash from the ATM machine nearby.  Sarah kept trying to talk him out of further bets and move on.  But something, maybe American pride kept him going.  When he was about $250.00 in, the gig was up.  The host insisted he pay up and several men accompanied Mike to the cash machine.  Well, Mike was a smart guy.  He decided before the trip that he would only keep one cities worth of money in his checking account so he wouldn't overspend his budget in any one city.  But this meant he could not access the full amount of money these guys needed at the ATM.  So, with 2 (maybe 3) brutish looking Hungarians standing by, Mike drains his checking account and is still $75.00 bucks short.  Things were not looking pretty.  Mike then asks his traveling companion (my darling DAUGHTER) to use her ATM card and loan him the $75.00 so he could not get beat up.  As a mom, I was FREAKING OUT.  Thankfully I heard this story well after it happened, but in hindsight I'm thinking - You Fool!  You put yourself and my daughter in danger - for what?  A stupid shell betting game!  Arggh.  Lucky for the two of them, the scam artists were happy with the $250.00, but I was afraid they would ask them for all the money in their ATM accounts.

At this point, Sarah really wondered about the maturity of her traveling companion, but they had one more city to hit before home.    Mike also had spent all his trip so hostel accommodations got less fancy and food options were even lower budget.  Yes, be careful people who you choose to travel through life with.  Your partners choices (good or bad) absolutely have an impact on you and your life!!!  Life lesson learned the hard way, luckily it wasn't as bad as it could have been.

The last city was a little subdued, partly because they were tired and partly because they were tired of each other.    Overall, Sarah has fond memories of that trip, but we never wondered if she and Mike would get together as a couple after that.  They remained friendly via Skype and messaging but if you've ever traveled for 10 days with someone (like a Mike) you can understand how the friendship simmered to luke-warm after that.

Once in her village again, Sarah had something else to look forward to that summer - her dad and I were visiting!  We arrived in late July and met her in Budapest (yup, a city, she was familiar with) and she traveled with us to her village.  While in Hungary (again) she was treated to 5 star accommodations.  Let me tell you people, if you want to travel to Europe but need to stay on a budget - GO TO BUDAPEST.  It was VERY affordable.  We stayed at 5 star accommodations for like $60.00 a night.  Dinners out (3 courses, wine) totaled $40.00 USD and it is BEAUTIFUL.  Everyone speaks English, the hot spa's are fabulous and the sights are really amazing.  What an awesome experience that was.  If you want to read the details of the trip, check out these blog posts I did after our visit.  Below are a few photo's to whet your appetite.  One word of caution if you do go.... be careful of being overcharged for taxi's but otherwise very clean and safe city for foreigners.

Blog posts from trip to visit Sarah

During our trip we got to meet her boyfriend (Ivan) her host family, her friends and her principal.  It was a great trip and I am so thankful we got to go.

Around this time, Sarah posted an update on her blog to clarify 'the boyfriend' situation.  All her friends and loved ones were curious (and concerned) about the man she was dating and she attempted to satisfy their curiosity with her own words.  You can read it here.

The boyfriend blog

And yes, among all this boyfriend time and visiting from family and trips to Europe, Sarah was busy working.  She had decided about her long-term service project.  Each PCV is asked to do something that will outlast their time in the village.  It must be something that will benefit the community and be related to the work they are doing.  Sarah had finalized her idea and met with her principal and started to put together all the details.  Her idea?  Develop a first rate resource room at the school for the English Teachers to use.  Stock the room with books and curriculum to help the teachers.  So as her summer came to a close and as the new school year approached, she was feeling more prepared for her classroom time and excited about project.

She also worked with several other PCV's in other villages to host English Camps.  Sarah had fun teaching the kids about american camp things - she found GIMP and showed them how to make GIMP bracelets and taught them American games like 'Mother May I' and 'Red Rover, Red Rover.'

Oh and one other thing Sarah discovered while in Ukraine.  She learned that there actually is a reason for the expression 'till the cows come home.'  Being a suburban girl, she never knew that many areas of the world really do have cows that leave and 'come home.'

Too funny the things you have to go half way around the world to discover!!

Well that wraps up the third blog entry in the series.  Come back again for the next blog post which chronicles Fall of 2012-Spring of 2013

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Trendy Tree tops - Stripe challenge

Hi friends,

Yup, me again with another Papertrey Ink contest entry.  The anniversary celebrations end on Saturday Feb 15th so only a few more days with daily (or more) posts.

So, today's challenge was to use stripes in our card.  Staying with the fast and easy method for work day creations I grabbed Trendy Tree Tops for this card.

Wish me luck in the drawing.  Oh and in case you were wondering, yes I did buy the blue dress I showed in an older blog post.  Ivan drove Sarah, Bob and I all over creation Saturday to 3 different dress shops, only to have me buy the first dress I saw back in early January.  That reminds me of a story of when I was a kid and I made my parents take me to Baskin Robbins for Ice Cream instead of the little ice cream stand near our house.  After looking at all the flavors (for a lonngggg time) guess what flavor ice cream cone I got?  Yup - vanilla.

Here is a picture of the model wearing my dress.  Yup, once I have it altered, it will look just like this on me!  Ha, and how old was this mother when she had her daughter who is getting married (12?)  I think mother of the bride models should be at LEAST 45 years old.

Thanks for visiting my blog today. Stop by tomorrow for blog post 3 about being a Peace Corps mom!  (the story continues.)

Monday, February 10, 2014

Another PTI challenge

Hi friends,
Just a quick post to display the Papertrey Ink card I made for their 'words' challenge.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Papertrey Ink Birthday Contest - Blog Post # 2

Hi friends,

If you are here for the DeNami blog hop, skip down two blog posts.

This is my second PTI post for the birthday challenge.  In addition to making a birthday card for PTI, they wanted me to have a picture of me holding my card.  When I use their Mr. Linky tool, it never lets me upload two photos from the same blog post so to get both photo's up on their website, you guessed it, there are two blog entries.

Voila, my selfie with my card.

Oh and speaking of selfies, have you heard of the new things?  It's called a belfie.  No, don't do it yourself, it's only for celebrities with large rear-ends.  What is a belfie? - well, it's a selfie of ones own behind.  No, folks, I'm not making this stuff up.  Check out this link to get more details (note - may not be appropriate for all audiences!)

Can you believe it!  I don't even want to imagine what will come next.  Thanks for visiting - have a great day!

Papertrey Ink Happy Birthday Contest

Hi Bloggers,

If you are here for the DeNami blog hop, scroll down 1 blog entry.

Papertrey Ink is 7 years old.  They are offering a contest for those who make a birthday card for Papertrey Ink with some great prizes ($70.00 gift certificate.)  So I had to play along.

Below is the card I made.

The birthday sentiment is on the inside.  I wanted to keep the outside clean and simple for this design.

Thanks for stopping by.....  Make it a great day.

DeNami Blog Hop


Today is DeNami's Blog Hop.  I had so much fun making this card for the Polka Dot challenge.  I love using DeNami stamps because they offer so many options for making a simple and unique card.

For this card I used the bunny stamp.  The stamp actually has all four bunnies side by side in a line, but with these types of stamps it's pretty easy to split them out and use each bunny image individually .  Below is a card I made (also polka dot themed) that uses the bunnies - all in a row.

For this challenge, I decided to make a square card and use my polka dot circle stamp color coordinated with a scallop die cut for each bunny image.  Then I made the quadrants by using my polka dot line stamp and stamping it twice to make a cross in the middle.  To finish I added some pink baker's twine and a button.  And, of course, I added some glue glitter to the bunny tails to give it some texture.

If you are following the blog hop, you arrived from Wendy's Blog.

You can access the DeNami blog using this link;  DeNami Blog

Your next stop is Donna's Blog

Be sure to leave a comment before you 'hop' along to the next blog entry.  DeNami will be giving away a gift certificate to a randomly selected person who leaves a comment.  Thanks so much for visiting. Have a great day.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Papertrey Ink Challenge - 4X6 Monthly Moments Trading Card

Hi friends,

I hope I'm not annoying my regular blog followers with an excessive amount of blogging!  It's PTI's 7 year anniversary and they are posting daily challenges with great prizes - soooo, I'm playing along. Plus I had started my peace corps mom's memoirs posts AND I am playing along with other regular blog hops and challenges so this week, you may have noticed two blog posts in one day sometimes.  Don't worry, things will get back to normal (3-4 blog posts a week) when the anniversary contests end next Saturday and maybe I'll have a new stamp set or supply to show you from my efforts this week.

So, today's PTI challenge is not a card!  It's a smaller footprint crafting image - 3X4 to be exact. Normal cards at 4X6 so it's not a huge deviation but the smaller footprint does bring some new creative options.  It also is FLAT, think postcard.  I used to make this size craft for ATC (artist trading cards) but didn't really grab onto that trend when it was around.  I actually think ATC's were smaller 2X3 and that was a fun size, but I didn't have much use for them and didn't have too many places to trade.

So, enough jibber-jabber... here is the card creation.

As part of the anniversary fun, PTI asked us to share some cards made with some older sets.  I had looked around on my old blog posts and found several creations using Bitty Bird.  I love this set and had forgotten how much fun it is to use.  So when today's challenge came up, I knew right away I wanted to use this bird image.  I found my argyle set and decided a preppy melon sorbet/lime ice color combination was in order to get me thinking of spring.

So, my dear husband and I are off to the gym this morning.  This afternoon I'm dragging everyone (my daughter Sarah, my son-in-law Ivan and my husband Bob) off to 3 dress shops to help me finally select the dress I'll wear to my daughter's wedding.  Yes, I know I said my son-in-law and not future son-in-law, and yes it's complicated.  Let's just say I need a dress for a wedding that is really a renewal of vows ceremony.   I hope we find one that isn't ridiculously expensive!

Leave me some love in the form of comments.  Have a great day!

27 months - my experience as the Mom of a Peace Corps Volunteer - the first six months of my daughter's service

Today's post is a continuation of my previous post on my experiences having my daughter serve in the U.S. Peace Corps.

So when I finished my last post, Bob and I were saying goodbye to Sarah at Logan airport in the fall of 2011.  She arrived into Washington D.C. for a 2 day pre-service orientation.  There were 95 other Peace Corps Volunteer's (from now on called PCV's to make my life easier in the blog post) heading off to Ukraine.

She was very anxious leaving Boston, but once she got among the other kindred spirits, she felt at home and was beginning to feel more secure about her future.  From what I can tell there are three types of motivation for a PCV.  Some people become PCV's because they are ambitous adventurers who see the Peace Corps service as a valuable thing for their resume to get to a career goal.  They have a plan and see Peace Corps service as a jump start to their plan.  Other's become PCV's because they are altruistic and truly want to serve others in a sacrificial way.  And others (and maybe even those with the above intentions) seem to join the Peace Corps service because they have no idea what else to do after graduating college.  Regardless of their motivations, these PCV's have a lot in common.  Sarah made friends easily with a few others in Washington D.C.

The 95 arrived in the capitol of Ukraine (Kiev) and spent a few days at a location outside of Kiev for the first of their pre-service, in country training.  After a few days all together, they were split into groups of 5-6 and sent off to various locations for their full 3 month in country training.  Each group had a Peace Corps trainer assigned and Sarah went to a rural village about an hour north of Kiev for her training.  While she was here, it was difficult to communicate with her.  Any mail had to be sent to the Kiev Peace Corps office and it took forever to arrive.  She had gotten a cell phone and we could call her, but we were not able to skype with her during this time because her village didn't have much internet service.  Below is a photo of Sarah with her training group shortly after arriving in their local village.

Sarah started a blog (which was WONDERFUL.)  It allowed us to get a view into her world in a way that our phone calls never could.  On her blog she shared more of her experiences, photo's and emotions.  On her blog we learned of some of her funny stories (check out the mouse in the couch story - EWWW.)

In their 3 month training it was like PCV kindergarten.  The homework involved things like - two of you go together into the village.  Buy a bottle of water and toothpaste using local currency.  Then go to the post office and mail a letter.  We don't realize how challenging even simple things like this can be in a foreign culture.  Thankfully Sarah passed all the 'tests' and began to learn how to do things in the village and learned a few words and phrases to communicate.

Below is a link to a blog where another PCV tells why PCV pre-service is like kindergarten.  Sarah laughed out loud when she read this because it's so true!

So in the fall, Sarah had a meeting with the PCV's in charge.  During that meeting she was able to discuss her preferences for her assigned location.  Peace Corps encouraged the volunteers to have a very open mind and not list out any restrictions.  They told her 'you don't want to limit your experience by setting up too many restrictions.'  So Sarah told them that she would go anywhere in the country. She did not request running water. She did not request an indoor bathroom.  Bob and I laughed out loud at the potential joy of the experience of living in a cold climate with no indoor bathroom or running water, but we tried to keep our mouths shut.  I prayed that she would have running water, even if she wasn't going to ask for it!

She got assigned to Vishkovo.  Vishkovo is a small village on the western border of Ukraine in the beautiful Carpathian mountain area.  It is very close to the Romanian and Hungarian border.  It was a beautiful area with rolling hills, streams, lakes and farms.  It is actually a tourist destination for many Ukrainians with spring water spa's and recreation areas.  Sarah was quite pleased with her destination and started making plans for her arrival at her village.

In December, just before Christmas, she took an overnight train to her village.  Transportation in Ukraine is plentiful but not luxurious.

The principal of the school had requested a PCV for his school district so he made arrangements for her living situation and assigned a counter-part teacher to assist Sarah.  Sarah was set up in a host family home with a women who was a widow with an elementary school aged daughter who was quite smart and interested in the English Language.  Sarah had her own bedroom, a shared bathroom with a shower, internet and access to a washing machine.  It was luxury living for the village for sure.  Sarah liked her home set up, but never really bonded with her host mom.  Her host mom was very anxious.  She stayed there for one year and then moved to a different host home (more about that later.)

Sarah enjoyed getting to know her counterpart (a lovely young teacher with a young son) and she was introduced to the students just before the Christmas break.  Her first Christmas in Ukraine was lonely for her.  Her other PCV volunteers were nearby, but even nearby was hard to get to because of slow public transportation.  She was skyping with Bob and I often and I sensed her lonliness.  Being a PCV is a very independent thing.  While there is a lot of support, the actual day to day life and work is generally on your own.  That is a good thing to some degree, but it can be very lonely - especially in an area with short days.  The sun was setting for her around 3:00pm and not rising until after 7.  That makes for long nights for sure.

In January, she started teaching and did well.  She had classes she taught (with other Ukrainian teachers) for all grade levels.  She was doing lesson planning and teaching.  The work was hard.  She didn't feel capable and she was incredibly homesick and lonely.  In late January I wondered if she would make it.  Up until that time I never had a doubt that she'd stick it out for the whole 27 months but on several occasions in those early months I really wondered how she would hold up.

And then one day we are talking to Sarah and she mentions a man - Ivan - that she had met.  I love the story.  She was walking in the village and a man in his 20's spots her and approaches her.  He asks her in English 'are you the English teacher from America?'  Sarah of course answers yes - surprised that he knew there was an American English teacher in the village and surprised to have someone speak to her in English.  Ivan had learned in the small village that an American Teacher was coming in the winter. He had lived in the U.S. for a year and spoke excellent English and was eager to meet and interact with an American - male or female.   He was not from Vishkovo, he was living there on a 2 year military assignment for border patrol and he too was quite lonely in the village.  Imagine his joy when he discovered that yes, there was an American teacher in the village and how nice - she is a young beautiful woman!  He asked her very polity if they could get together and he could practice his English. Great line Ivan!  Clever!  She was quite reluctant.  We were happy that she was proceeding very cautiously.  Her PCV training advised being very careful about dating in the village and I hadn't mentioned it before but she had an on again off again  ex-boyfriend at home (Jonathan) who she was convinced that they would get back together eventually and she would marry him.  So she was not at all interested in young men in Vishkovo.  But she did think he had beautiful eyes and a gentle way and agreed to meet him for coffee at a cafe in the village sometime.

As Sarah continued to meet him for coffee and talked to us about him, I began to wonder about the true nature of the relationship.  I asked if she had a picture of him and all she could say was that he had a facebook profile with a picture.  I looked it up and was taken aback.  He was in the military and Ukrainians don't smile, so the first photo I saw scared the crap out of me.  Here was a well built, strong man with strong facial features, a military uniform on and no smile.  Yikes!

Again, Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt filled my head.  We were very glad that Sarah was proceeding very slowly, but she kept insisting that the relationship was purely platonic, even after several weeks of coffee and pizza with this man.  I cautioned her that he may have romantic intentions and challenged her to ask him about it when the time was right.  Oh and that ex-boyfriend at home... well, he was wondering what this guys intentions were too.  His jealous side was showing big time and he basically forbid Sarah from spending time with Ivan (yes - ex-boyfriend - forbidding her to see him - a little strange and controlling).  After a certain point, where Sarah realized that Ivan was attracted to her and interested in a romantic relationship, Jonathan gave her an ultimatum.  Stop seeing this guy or else it's over between us.  Sarah was torn.   She genuinely cared about Jonathan and had really hoped they could work it out in the end, but she realized 2 years was a long time and she wanted to spend time with Ivan, getting to know him.  So she told Jonathan goodbye and continued to see Ivan in the local cafe's.

Her host mother was not happy about the new male friend in Sarah's life.  Because Ivan was not from Vishkovo she was fearful of him and would not allow him into the house - even for a moment.  So Sarah would meet Ivan at the front gate and they would go to the village to spend time together.  For Bob and I that wasn't a bad thing.

In March of 2011, the relationship officially transferred from friend to boyfriend.  So, everyone, be careful what you wish for.  In January I started praying fervently for God to help Sarah's loneliness. Well, that prayer got answered but not in the way I expected.  No longer was I hearing about how lonely she as.  All I heard about was how wonderful Ivan was!  We were trusting Sarah's judgement on him.  We were very far away and had no other choice.  But I was praying.  I prayed that if Ivan was not a good person for Sarah to be involved with that God would reveal his true nature and/or end the relationship.  I also prayed that God would turn the relationship into what He wanted it to be. Thankfully God answered those prayers.

So, now she wasn't lonely, she had a kindred spirit and a local boyfriend.  But the work remained very difficult.  Sarah was learning the language but was not confident in it.  Sarah had minimal training on actually teaching and struggled to control the classroom.  It's especially difficult to do this since she had no grading authority over her students and many were only a few years younger than her.  But she put in a great effort every day to prepare lessons and try to teach the students.  The current method of teaching in the school was all memorization and reciting memorized phrases.  Sarah was trying the more modern methods of getting conversational English, but that was new and it was hard.  Sarah also really strives for perfection.  Poor Sarah considered her teaching session a failure if she did not do everything in her lesson plan.  Many of us tried to explain to Sarah that even experienced teachers rarely get through the entire lesson plan as it's written.  She persevered on in spite of the challenges she faced.

In March I had the opportunity to visit Sarah in Ukraine.  The Peace Corps is really good about allowing family members to visit.  I had a business trip to Germany and was able to fly from Munich into Lviv (one of three cities in Ukraine with an international airport)  and Sarah was able to use some of her time off to meet me in the city.  It was really, really good to see her.  There is something about actually hugging someone, seeing their faces, feeling the flesh on their bones and hearing them share their feelings in person that is incredibly reassuring.  She looked good.   She sounded good and the most amazing thing was how well she could communicate in the local language.

We were in a city that was foreign to both of us.  She met me at the airport and together we found a taxi to take us to the hotel (that she had booked earlier in the month.)  She checked us into the hotel, got us food for lunch and arranged transportation into the city proper.  Amazing.  All the while she kept insisting that her Ukranian wasn't good, but everywhere we went she managed to communicate.  Yes, there were many phone calls to Ivan for clarification.  Ivan was from Lviv and knew the city well.  He did not join us there, but he was a constant source of information via the phone.

It was great to see her and I cried sobbed when she dropped me off at the airport for me to come home.  I was so glad to see her and see her doing well, but I knew how much I would miss her in the coming months.  We were only 6 months into a 27 month assignment at this point and I was happy and sad all at the same time.

That wraps up blog post #2 about my experience.  Stay tuned for blog post #3, the second 6 months!