O Canada

My daughter has had the same core group of friends since she started kindergarten, actually even one since preschool. Like all parents, I hoped she would find a good group of friends to hang out with, and I couldn’t have asked for a nicer bunch of compatriots. As they begin transitioning from college graduates into the real world, they are still as close as ever. Even though everyone is following their own path, I adore watching them support and help each other. I am not saying everything is roses and rainbows, what I am saying is the friendship is real.

As my daughter gets ready to head to Canada for a summer internship program, she has been busy this week spending time with her friends. They travel in packs to each other’s apartments, homes, restaurants, stores and such. Recently, some have been over helping her pack, providing advice and encouragement, as well as just hanging out together. Usually I am in a different room, but can usually hear them laughing and chatting from anywhere in the house. It’s like music to my ears.

Some of my fondest memories are when five to six of them would pile on my daughters bed; they would talk and laugh for hours. Over the years, I would randomly capture photos, that I’ve come to treasure. It’s reminiscent of my own school days and how important those relationships were and still are to me too.

This week my daughter and I had plans to run a few errands for her trip, but upon my arrival home from work, two of her girlfriends were over. After a bit, I suggested it was time to get a move on, and made my way to the car, and to my surprise, all three girls hopped in. We spent the evening checking off things from the list. At one point there was an ice cream shop across the street from the store we were at, and one girl mentioned it. I was happy to treat the girls. We decided to take a break and walk a few blocks to the lakefront. Along the boardwalk was a tall, sail ship that proudly displayed the Canadian flag.image

It was fun to walk along the water with the girls, as I listened to their chatter and stories, while the Canadian ship lapped up and down in the water. O Canada……I will miss my daughter while she’s away, but will also miss hearing the laughter, bond, and friendship she has found here in the states, eh?

xoxox…..Sheryl

Brazil or bust

During my daughter’s senior year of college she applied for several domestic and international internships. She received her degree in Biology and has always dreamed of having a career working with animals. Fortunately for her, and not so fortunate for me, she was awarded her number one choice, Brazil. With all the talk of crime, human trafficking, and the Zika virus alert, I was less than enthusiastic about the news. She was also awarded another internship in British Columbia, Canada, that I was excited for her opportunity.

She worked it out with both places that she would go to Canada for six weeks first, then only a few days after her return would leave and fly to Brazil for the next three months. Wow, that was a lot to take in for a mom that would lose her daughter to adventure much quicker than expected. After I had time to research her locations, facilities, and people in charge, I did feel a little better; but still apprehensive about her safety while traveling alone to far away lands.

Since she was determined to travel to the north and south of the USA borders, I better strap myself in and go with the plan. There was lot to do in the next six weeks. She had traveled to the Bahamas one month earlier for a hands on experience of collecting data, counting fish, tagging iguanas, and learning the ecology of the area, which meant having her passport was already complete.

Trying to understand exactly what else was needed to enter each country was somewhat…..wait, not somewhat…..incredibly hard to understand. Nothing was easy to decipher. What she needed for Canada seemed less complicated to figure out and since it was the first trip, we tackled it. As far as we could tell, all she needed was her passport, and possibly a work permit (even though she wasn’t getting paid).

When it came to Brazil, for the life of us, we couldn’t figure out what she needed for a visa. There were so many documents listed, it wasn’t possible she needed them all, and trying to locate a contact and phone number was impossible. It took days of researching, googling, and flat out guessing what was needed. We did know that if she went to the Brazilian Consulate she would have enough time to get her visa. What we didn’t think of was even though my daughter would bring the needed documents, for some reason we thought she would leave the same day with the documents in hand. When we realized that she wouldn’t get her documents returned, she had exactly ten business days before she left for Canada. Panic set in and she desperately got everything together and had her plan in place for the next day.

I was unable to take off work so she would be on her own. The counsulate only took so many visa application requests from 9:00 to 11:00 am, on a first come, first serve basis. Once she was able to get a ticket and reserve a spot we both felt better. When it was her turn she provided the following required documents: her passport, plane ticket, itinerary, birth certificate, bank statement, receipt from the on-line form, passport photo, proof of immunization, and a money order for the visa. Upon inspection, the clerk stated if she didn’t have the following additional documents her visa application would be denied: a contact person in Brazil, including phone number, and a signed document from her father about the bank statement. Pure chaos happened for the next ninety minutes, as we desperately tried to beat the clock. Scrambling to get a letter, signature, sending it to a friend that worked in the city, finding the friend’s location even though her navigation stopped working due to a lost signal……ARGH!

Amazingly enough, she got to the window with ten minutes to spare, and the same clerk announced the letter from her father must be notarized, and oh, you also need a letter describing the reason for travel……WHAT THE?! imageDENIED….oh, the agony of defeat. With less than the needed turnaround time, she went back the next business day and fingers crossed, is praying that it will be processed in nine days. If that works out it will be Brazil or bust! If not, we have one more crazy idea up our sleeves, but I am hoping for the former, because my heart can’t take much more panic…..UGH. Here’s to not leaving things to the last minute!

xoxox……Sheryl

 

Bear Country

This week happened to be vacation bible school (VBS) at my church. When my children were little I was the co-chair of VBS for many years, and have not since returned to that position. It’s one of those volunteer things you do for your children, but once there are older, you gladly make your exit. Don’t get me wrong, it was fun to do, but also a huge commitment both with time and energy. I am happy to admit I wouldn’t change a single thing from those years. Well, this week I made my return to the annual event.

One woman from the church faithfully organizes everything to do with the children’s curriculum, and truth be told, I’ll gladly let her. However, if she asks for volunteers, I usually say yes. This year my role was to help in the craft area, as well as all around support for the group.

Upon arrival I found the leader busy organizing the registration desk, and since I was the first volunteer to arrive, it was my new assignment. She began throwing instructions at me, one right after another in rapid fire. There were sign-up forms and name tags for the pre-registered kids, blank forms and name tags for walk-ins, tickets to put in for a raffle drawing, song sheets for practicing at home, iron-on transfers for t-shirts, information about the church, a check-off list to make sure the parents signed their children in and out, as well as received everything fore mentioned…….oh, and if they brought in a new pack of twenty-four count crayons, they received an extra raffle ticket, and one more thing, the kids get to pick out one of the free gifts……”Ummm….can you repeat that?”

Shortly after my brief training session, reinforcements appeared, and I was given a helper and somehow I was now the tenured registration desk volunteer….HA! I was training my helper…..OK, I’ve got this. Just then four kids and two parents walked in the door 30 minutes early; then another two kids and their parents. The first two sets went a little slow, but we picked up speed by our third group of children,we were in our grove.

What I loved about working at the registration desk was getting to greet each child as they waited for their name tags and raffle tickets. Most were very excited and smiling ear to ear. The handmade decorations made VBS look like the coolest camping trip to bear country, and the kids made their way back to enjoy dinner, including s’mores.

imageThe children were busy for the next two and half hours, playing games, story time, crafts and music. It was fun to engage with these precious little souls. One little girl wanted my help tracing her hand, but insisted I used her purple marker as compared to the slightly lighter shade purple marker in my hand. Another little boy asked if I would help him squeeze the glue bottle on the jagged, but darling moose face. He was very fond of glue…..as he piled it high for the googly eyes (that probably took hours to dry).image

The last rotation happened to be music, and I heard one little girl ask in her most excited voice as she skipped into the sanctuary…”Are we gonna dance?” What a fun experience it was for the children and I must say, me too. They all seemed to enjoy this year’s VBS, Bear Country. It almost made me want to consider being a co-chair next year, but then I quickly came to my senses. Volunteering will be just fine…..especially since I have the registration desk already mastered.

xoxox…..Sheryl

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Life-changing Magic

Several months ago I kept hearing about a book that described the life-changing magic of decluttering your life. The more I heard about it, the more intrigued I became. I thought the concept sounded good, but I needed a good chunk of time to dedicate to the first step.

The book explains to clean by category and not by room. The recommended starting category is clothing. The idea is to collect every piece of clothing, accessory, shoe, coat, purse, glove and hat, and pile them on the floor in one location…..or should I say HEAP…..YIKES! Then comes the task of picking up each item and asking if it brings you joy. If not….toss, if so….keep. Sounds simple enough, right?…..Not so much!

Once it was go time, I began hauling out every single piece of clothing I owned. When I finished collecting and heaping, and had the chance to stop and look…..well, actually GASP, I said aloud….”What did I get myself into?” I immediately felt dread and overwhelmed by the situation, and had to take a moment to collect my thoughts on tackling the next step. I needed to gear up for letting go of items that I no longer wore, didn’t like, didn’t fit, or looked outdated. I have to admit, I felt embarrassed by the amount of things collected in the middle of my bedroom floor.

OK Sheryl, no time for judgement…..let’s get this party started! It seemed like hours had passed, and I had a growing pile on my bed. These were the items I thought I needed to try on or think about…..first wrong move….ha! By midnight I was making progress from the heap on the floor, and losing ground from the growing pile on my bed, but I needed to close my eyes. Hmmmm…..now what? The only thing I could think of was push the pile from the bed onto the floor, and worry about it in the morning.

Morning arrived and as I opened my eyes, the heap on the floor came into focus and I quickly shut them, opening them again…..”Drat…it wasn’t a dream.” OK, day two, let’s get back to work. All day, I sorted, using a bag for garbage and a bag for donating. Which ultimately turned into two bags for garbage and four bags for donating. Some items were easy to part with and others I struggled with, as I thanked the items for their service and joy; sending them off to a new home that would bring others happiness.

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Day three the project was complete, and all remaining clothes and accessories were neatly hung on hangers or folded and put away. I felt a sense of accomplishment and joy. The book goes on to state the faster it gets done, the better. I all but panicked thinking they surely must have meant next week. However, a few pages later it noted it would take about six months to go through all the categories, one at a time…..phew. The next one I tackle will be books. You might ask, was the experience life-changing magic? The jury is still out….even though, on day four as I dressed for work, I thought I didn’t have much to wear…..haha. I might need to go shopping…..kidding!

Happy tidying!

xoxox…..Sheryl