Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Here’s a lady who puts me to shame! She’s a tech-savvy, 90-year-old great-grandma! Yes, you read that right! She just turned 90 a week before Christmas.
Aunt Clyo sends me e-mails, attaches pictures, and reads my blog regularly! I can only hope to be as savant when I’m her age!
Her son took this picture a couple of weeks ago. I’d say she’s the smartest, most chic 90-year-old I've ever known. Here's an excerpt from her latest e-mail:
"I am doing really well for my age and enjoy so many things. The days fly by much too quickly for me. I am a night person and usually manage to make it to bed between 1:00 AM and 2 AM each morning as there is always one more thing I want to finish or do. I enjoy all my e-mail friends so much, keeps me busy each evening until around 10 PM and than I listen to a Vernon Magee sermon on radio from 10:30 PM until 11:00 PM. After that is my reading time as I usually read one or two new books a week. I like the non-fiction books and throw in a few fiction ones also. It all keeps this old brain of mine active. I do not watch very much TV but catch the news while I have breakfast here in my apartment."
In her words she’s “90 years young!” Attitude—that’s half her success right there; the rest is an abundance of good genes.
Love you, Aunt Clyo! I want to be like you when I grow up!
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
From Amazing Journey, Amazing Grace
Getting rejected by the homestay coordinators at all three universities in Seattle left me very disappointed. I tried not to fret, but in spite of my efforts to remain calm, I felt my anxiety level rising. I tried not to worry about my dwindling bank account.
A few weeks later, my sister’s son, who had recently moved to our area, came over for Saturday lunch. It was good to see him again and we lingered at the kitchen table, visiting well into the afternoon. The doorbell interrupted our conversation. Who could that be? I wasn’t expecting anyone.
Two women I had never seen before stood on the porch. “We’re not Avon ladies,” they assured me. “We are helping the homestay coordinator at the English Language Institute in Seattle and wondered if you would be interested in hosting a student from Japan.
Amazing! I had all but given up on the idea of hosting international students, and now here were two strangers at my front door asking me to consider it! I’m sure my mouth hung open with surprise! Finally I found my voice and said, “Why yes. Yes, I am interested. But how did you know? How did you get my address?”
“We didn’t,” they replied. “We only know the family up at the end of the block who told us the families on this street are all very nice people. So we are going door-to-door in hopes of finding enough families to help us, because we have 25 Japanese students coming next week and we are desperate for families to house them!”
[note to reader: the neighbor they knew at the end of the block was not the same neighbor who had suggested I look into hosting!]
“Please come in,” I invited. I showed them my available room and they were ecstatic. I forced myself to remain calm. I didn’t want to get my hopes up yet. I figured they would have the same problem with the long bus commute as had the three university homestay coordinators, so I leveled with them. “I applied to become a host family at all three universities in Seattle,” I said, “but they all rejected me because of the long bus commute.”
“Oh, but our school is a private language school and it’s conveniently located in downtown Seattle. We know there is an express commuter bus from here to downtown and the commute is only 45 minutes!”
Wow! I could be a host mother after all! I exhaled with relief. “Oh, God,” I prayed silently, “Thank you, thank you, thank you, from the bottom of my heart!”
My first student was Motoi, a high school English teacher. He knew English well, but wanted the opportunity to ‘speak with the natives,’ learn the culture and take pictures of America. He wanted to improve his teaching of English in his classroom in Japan.
Motoi had never been this close to a racoon before.
Now, what do you think? Was it coincidence that brought those two strangers to my door? A mere chance? A stroke of good luck? The perfect alignment of the stars? A lucky fluke?
To be continued.
Monday, January 26, 2009
Facing singleness after 25 years of marriage was scary. I had no idea where this strange, new adventure would lead me, but I knew God was with me and I clung to him for dear life!
From Amazing Journey; Amazing Grace
Not long after my husband left, our son, Allen, came back home to live. We both had emotional wounds that needed to heal. It helped us to heal together.
The greater Seattle area is not noted for being a cheap place to live, and even though I was earning more at work and my son was contributing toward his expenses at home, it wasn’t quite enough.
One of my neighbors suggested becoming a host family for international students. I’d never heard of such a thing. “It’s not quite the same as exchange students,” he explained. “Homestay students pay to live with a host family while they attend school in the USA.” It sounded interesting. Allen liked the idea, too. I had an extra bedroom—why not give it a try?
I got busy and contacted the international student offices in Seattle’s three major universities. I was full of questions. Could a single mom qualify as a host family? What was the remuneration for hosting? How were students selected and matched to host families?
I learned that each school had a homestay coordinator who would visit my home, meet my son and me and learn more about each of us--did we do drugs? Or have a criminal record? We needed to “pass inspection” before becoming a host family. I wasn't worried.
I also learned that:
The student must have a private room with a window, bed, closet, chest of drawers, desk and a chair. They could share a bathroom with the family.
Food was to be provided for all 3 meals; the student could make his own breakfast and lunch, but the host family should make his dinner.
There should be a bus stop within a reasonable walking distance from the home.
The student could only make one transfer between buses.
The entire commute from home to school must be under an hour.
Back in 1992, the buses from outside Seattle's city limits weren’t that accommodating. The entire commute from my home to each of the universities was easily an hour or more. "I'm sorry," each homestay coordinator said. "You live too far away." And they rejected my application! There I was--up against the proverbial brick wall!
“Oh God,” I prayed, “I thought hosting students was a good idea, but I guess not. So, I’ll wait for a word from you, but please hurry, because I’m running low on money, and quite frankly, I don’t know what to do.”
Just a simple, straightforward prayer, but God heard and answered in a most unusual way!
To be continued.
Saturday, January 24, 2009
“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God your needs and don’t forget to thank him for his answers. If you do this, you will experience God's peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand.” Philippians 4:6,7 (Living Bible)
My homestay students like to kick back and relax with their friends on Friday evenings. It’s the one night they don’t have to worry about any homework due the next day. Last night none of them were home for dinner, so I decided to visit my friends, Mitra and Esmaeil, who moved to the USA from Iran many years ago. I love Mitra’s cooking, so going to their house for dinner is an absolute treat. We had such a good time last night that I didn’t get home until midnight!
As I pulled into the driveway I could see that my students’ bedroom lights were out—not surprising since I didn’t expect them back until 1:00 a.m. (I don’t impose curfews on them, but I do ask when they expect to be home.)
1:00 a.m.: Everyone’s home except Toshi.
2:00 a.m.: Surely he’s on his way.
3:00 a.m.: Where is he?
I considered calling him, but didn’t want to be a ‘hovering mother’ and embarrass him in front of his friends.
I finally drifted into a fitful sleep--my subconscious working overtime fabricating a reason for why Toshi was so late! Suddenly there they were—Toshi and his friends—and all of them with glazed-over, bloodshot eyes! I recognized that look! This was illegal, and they were all under-age! I was upset and faced them squarely--ready to give them ‘heck.’ And then I woke up!
My heart pounded in my chest. It’s not often I have a dream so real! I got out of bed and tip-toed down the hall to Toshi’s room, quietly opening the door. Streetlight filtered through the blinds and I could see his form under the covers. Had he just come home? But no, his breathing was slow and rhythmic, and the light in the entryway was still on--good indications he'd been there awhile. Hmmm.
So this morning I casually asked him when he had gotten home last night. “Oh, about 9:00 p.m.,”he said. “I was so tired I just went straight to bed!” He had been there the whole evening! He started chuckling when I told him my dream. “My friends don’t even smoke,” he said.
So there you have it. The only person losing sleep had been me! I had worried needlessly--had worried myself right into a nightmare. I should have known better. I should have prayed, relaxed and gone to sleep. I should have practiced what I preach!
Hoping I learned my lesson this time,
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Meet Ezra from Indonesia, one of my current homestay students. Ezra is one of us--born in the USA--when his parents were here as graduate students 17 years ago.
(8 candles: 1 candle = 10 years, plus 7 more--so as not to cover the birthday message. Smart, yah?)
Happy Birthday, Ezra!
May all your wishes come true!
God has blessed you with intelligence beyond your years. May he also bless you with a long, joy-filled, productive life.
Your parents are proud of you and so am I!
P.S. Esti, the chocolate mousse cake you ordered was just heavenly! We all thank you!
Sunshine in my eyes can make me cry*It was eye-squinting-bright outside today!
Sunshine almost always makes me high* #3
*Sunshine on My Shoulders by John Denver
Monday, January 19, 2009
Now, to answer your question--
English is the trade language of the world and students from other countries have an advantage of finding an excellent job in their own country if they have studied English abroad or have earned a college degree from a university in an English speaking country such as the USA, Great Britain, Canada, Australia, etc.
America is a very popular destination for international students. Washington state is especially strong in the number of colleges that recruit and welcome international students. The greater Seattle area is home to many colleges/universities that have ESL (English as a Second Language) programs. Most international students have learned a little English in their home country, but find they need additional training in English in order to compete with native English college students when pursuing their undergraduate degrees here.
When these international students arrive, some choose to live in the college dorm, or a private apartment, but a large number prefer to live with an American family. These students are called 'homestay' students. The advantages of living with an American family are many. They learn English faster; they learn first hand about American culture; and, they develop friendships that may last a lifetime.
There are advantages for the host family as well. The family learns about the countries, cultures and religions of their students; they make lasting friendships; and, they get paid for hosting the students.
I chose the name 'Homestay Mama' because in a sense I become my homestay students' 'Mom' while they are here in America. Sometimes I even act as their guardian when they're under 18 years of age. I chose 'Home to the World' as my blog name because that is literally what my home has become--a home in America for students from all around the world--Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Oman, Qatar, Eretria, Turkey, Germany, Romania, Russia, South Korea, Japan and Indonesia.
I realize that not everyone can open their home to a stranger, especially a stranger from a different country, but I find it very rewarding. I am happiest when my home is full of young, energetic, international college-age students. I love talking with them. I love helping them with their English. I love learning about their countries, cultures, religions. I love tasting their foods and sometimes even learning how to cook their recipes. I love staying in touch with them after they have graduated, gone back to their countries, gotten jobs and started families of their own.
Why does being a homestay mama work for me? Because my God-given personality and gift of hospitality come tailor-made from our Creator, Himself! It's really quite awesome when you think about it!
Finding joy in the journey,
Sunday, January 18, 2009
My dad, Max, my homestay student, Omar and my son, Allen
I remember the phone call from the placing agency when they told me my new student would be coming from the Middle East. At that time the only thing I knew about Kuwait was what had been reported in the evening news during the First Gulf War. To say I was apprehensive would be putting it mildly. I was more like scared to death! What in the world would I do—a single mother in America—if Omar should expect me to behave like the black-robed women in his country?
However, I always prayed before each new student arrived, so I figured God knew what he was doing by sending an Arab to my home. Wow! Was I in for a surprise!
A very pleasant surprise!
When he first arrived, Omar wanted to know by what name to address me. I offered my first name, but he shook his head. In his country it was disrespectful to call an older woman by her first name. A title was needed. And so, I became ‘Mrs. Sue.’
Omar was respectful and congenial—a cheerful young man with a beautiful smile. He was full of laughter and had a unique sense of humor! He was also a big tease, but I was clueless until one day during one of our conversations around the kitchen table. “Mrs. Sue,” he said, “you are too serious. You need to laugh more!” His statement left me stunned. I thought about it for the rest of the day!
I was the oldest of three daughters. My mother had been a school teacher and a strict disciplinarian. Quite naturally I inherited many of her traits. Now here was a young man from the other side of the globe telling me to lighten up!
Ahh, so that’s why God brought Omar into my home. God had a bunch of lessons for me to learn—the first being not to take myself, or life in general, so seriously. God wanted me to trust Him more. He wanted me to relax, to smile, to laugh and have fun. He knew Omar was the best person to deliver that message. He was right! Thank you, Omar!
Happy Birthday from your American Mom! May God bless you and your family with a wealth of laughter all the days of your life!
Still laughing and enjoying life.
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
April—lost my job
May—broke my wrist
June—wrist in cast—not allowed to use it
July—had to have surgery on wrist
August—physical therapy on wrist
September—back in school again
October—Still in school
November—Finished Autumn Quarter at school—had guests for Turkey Dinner.
December—Remodeled the downstairs bathroom.
January '09—Cleaning, cleaning, cleaning and finally getting my life back on track! Hooray!
The pleasure of cleaning out closets and little-used drawers is finding things I’d forgotten about! Like these pictures from 2004. This is Yoshi, one of my former homestay students from Japan. (This photo was taken before my major kitchen remodel.)
Yoshi's parents came to visit in the Fall of 2004, and brought a Japanese kimono--the largest size they could find--for me.
There are many parts to a kimono.
The thongs (also size large) were about two sizes too small for my size 10 feet!
Taking a break from the cleaning.
Saturday, January 10, 2009
Anyhow, the top picture is my garage before the clean-up. Below is how it looks today.
You can actually see the storage cupboard now!
I can't believe how many loads we took to the transfer station, the recycle yard, the hazardous waste station and Goodwill! I feel so much lighter now. The rest will be a 'piece of cake.'
I know you're wondering how a retired lady like me could possibly pull off an amazing feat like this! Well, with shear guts and determination, I--
Oh, alright, I'll fess up! I had help. Well, actually my nephew from Oregon did all the work, and I was his help!
He's the same nephew who repaired-remodeled the downstairs bathroom right before Christmas. He can do anything he sets his mind to!
Oh, by the way, my nephew was a little disappointed that I didn't get rid of everything in the garage. I feel his pain. I, too, would like the garage to be clean and bare. So I'll have a garage sale as soon as the weather improves.
Last night Bridgette cooked dinner for all of us (including my current homestay students). Have you ever had spaghetti squash? When it's cooked, it separates into strings--kinda like noodles. You put spaghetti sauce over the squash instead of noodles. We ate it with vegetables and garlic bread. Mmmm was it delicious!
Thank you, Josh and Bridgette. You both are a real blessing!
Feeling so much better now.
Friday, January 9, 2009
I’d never let my garage look like this! Nope. Never. Not me!
They say confession is good for the soul. They’re right. Now that I've got that off my chest, I feel a whole lot better.
And this is my garage, too. There’s a door in there somewhere, I think.
What a mess. It’s driving me crazy. I’m gonna clean it! Promise!
Oh, I think I said that yesterday. I think I’ve said that a lot lately.
My homestay students have heard me say that every day for a long time—like for the whole time they lived here! I'm speaking the truth here. (Mohammed, Hyun-Wook, Kazu, and Ki-Bum will vouch for me. Becky too!)
But this year is different. This garage needs ‘change.’ It needs to 'head in a new direction.' Out with the old; in with the new. Don’t give up on me. I WILL clean it. 'Keep hope alive!'
You’re not buying any of this, are you?!
Can’t say that I blame you.
Thursday, January 8, 2009
Here’s my multi-talented nephew from Oregon who did all the work! He's the best!
Isn't he just the greatest? I sure think so!
OK, I supposed you noticed my messy garage. Well, I'll get to that soon. I promise!
We're making headway now.
Wednesday, January 7, 2009
My boss was very kind—he was like a father to me. He was well-known and well-liked by everyone. He had retired from teaching about seven years earlier, but at the request of the board of directors of a small, private foundation, he had become their executive director. Three years later, he hired me to be his administrative assistant and I felt privileged to be working for him. We were both part time employees and each of us worked 20 hours a week.
I had purposefully not said anything to him about the upheaval in my life. I had not told him I was looking for a full time position. So that morning in 1992, when I was sure I’d have to give up the job I loved, my boss laid down his pen, leaned back in his chair, turned to me and said, “You know, I’m supposed to be retired. My wife would really like me to be home more. Would you consider taking 10 of my hours at my rate of pay and work 30 hours per week so that I can cut back to 10 hours?”
What an incredible offer! As soon my boss asked, I knew immediately this was God’s answer to my prayer! My eyes filled with tears. They were tears of joy! I could keep the job I loved, still work part time and yet earn as much as the other full time job would have paid. I choked up and couldn’t talk. My boss looked at me in confusion. “I’m sorry,” he said. “Did I say something wrong?”
Getting my voice back, the words tumbled out as I explained how my husband had left me, how I hadn’t wanted to but, had been looking for a full time job, and how his offer was the answer to my prayer. A look of amazement spread over his face. “I am so sorry,” he said referring to my failed marriage. “I had no idea!”
Isn’t God amazing? Who’d have thought of a solution like that? Only God! He loves to make “all things work together for good to them that love Him, to them who are called according to His purpose” (Rom 8:28). He loves to pour out his grace on us at the least expected times in the least expected ways. He also loves to answer the desires of our heart. But He waits until we are ready to give up our own will and in humble faith, fully submit to His will. It is our faith in Him and our submission to His will that allows Him to bless us as he longs to do. What an awesome God!
But there’s more. This was only the beginning of my journey. God had even more plans up his sleeve, as I would soon find out!
To be continued.
Tuesday, January 6, 2009
From Amazing Journey; Amazing Grace
I never intended my marriage to end like it did. But in 1992, there I was, single—whether I liked it or not. It was a title I did not enjoy. I avoided bringing attention to my status, quietly checking the box marked “Ms” only when I had to. I choked on the ‘D’ word. It sounded too much like ‘failure.’
I had always thought our marriage would last like our parents’ marriages. Both had celebrated their 50th wedding anniversaries just a few years earlier. Ours barely made it past 25. I would like to say it was my husband’s fault, but that wouldn’t be fair. After all, “it takes two to tango,” or not.
My first night alone in our bed was the worst. I felt so alone. I buried my head in my pillow and let it all out—my sorrow, my disappointment, my heartache—let it all out with gut-wrenching sobs. I finally fell asleep from emotional exhaustion.
The next morning I awoke feeling small and vulnerable. “Oh God,” I prayed, “It’s just you and me now, and I need your help very much.”
I began to worry. How would I pay for a double-mortgaged home? I only had a part time job. Obviously, I would need to work full time. But how could I give up a job I really loved? How could I give up working for the best boss I’d ever had? That prospect filled my soul with sadness. It brought fresh tears to my puffy eyes.
When our self-sufficiency is shaky at best, it is much easier to turn to God. I started every morning with prayer and a chapter from the Bible. In His tenderness and grace, God directed me to the Bible verses that held His answers to my prayers. It soon became food for my soul and I found great comfort in His spiritual nourishment. For example, when I started worrying too much, God gave me these verses:
Philippians 4:6, 7
"Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. If you do this, you will experience God's peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus."
Learning to let go, to relax, to take my burdens to the Lord and leave them there, was not easy. It was literally a ‘two-steps-forward, one-step backward’ kind of faith.
Then the idea came to me. Maybe I could work two part time jobs. Yes, that must be the solution! So, I started looking at job postings in the classified ads. Nothing. Nothing with flexible hours. Nothing within close proximity to the job I loved.
In spite of all the verses of encouragement, discouragement set in. The facts were plain and simple. I needed a full time job and I soon found a position that looked promising. I made an appointment for that Thursday. But on Wednesday morning, sadness settled in. I prayed a simple, straight-from-my-heart prayer. “Oh, God, I really don’t want to give up my part-time job that I love so much, but if this full time position is your will, then I will do it.” And I meant it.
I had not said anything to my boss about my failed marriage. He was like a father to me and I didn’t want him to worry. I also didn’t want him to know about my pending job interview. Not yet! So that Wednesday morning, I put a smile on my face and went about my work as usual.
About mid-morning, my boss quietly laid down his pen, leaned back in his chair, turned to me and made a statement that left me in tears.
To be continued.
Monday, January 5, 2009
How did I get to where I am today? It’s been a long journey, full of bumps and bruises; but, also full of joy, and fulfillment. Along the way I learned a thing or two about myself—the good, the bad and the ugly. I also learned about the big, wide world out there—right in the comfort of my own home—and got paid while I was learning. Amazing!
The things that have happened these past sixteen years did not happen by coincidence. Only God could have orchestrated this amazing journey. Some of you have lived this journey with me. Some have heard me share bits and pieces. But now I am ready to share the complete journey with the hope that it will encourage you.
Tomorrow I will post chapter 1 of Amazing Journey; Amazing Grace.
Sunday, January 4, 2009
Since he’d been traveling a lot in the past 20 days (USA to Indonesia to Australia; back to Indonesia and then back to the USA), it was quite possible my homestay student had picked up a strange “bug”, or two. Too many time-zone changes too quickly and lack of sleep had undoubtedly compromised his immune system.
So I drove him to Northwest Hospital. The doctor and nurses tested him for strep, meningitis, and a host of other things. They were very thorough and professional. I’m always impressed when I go to the emergency room at Northwest Hospital. (That’s where I drove myself back in May 2008, when I broke my wrist—another story for a later post.) All tests came back negative, so the prognosis was my homestay student had caught a bad virus.
The doctor ordered two liters of liquids through IV, pain medicine for his headache and Tylenol for his fever. We were in the emergency room for four hours. Then they sent us home with a fistful of papers--instructions for his continued care, what to eat, what to watch for and a note from the doctor saying he could not go back to school for two days.
Gotta go check on my patient, now.
Saturday, January 3, 2009
Friday, January 2, 2009
Looking at the picture albums brought back lots of happy memories. I wonder if Peter remembers the 'gang' hand signals he taught you back then? (No, don't worry. Peter wasn't a member of any gang, but he was certainly an astute observer!)