About Me

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I'm currently teaching English in Japan and traveling when I can. I don't want to forget anything. So, I try to blog. This is my life.

Friday, March 9, 2012

One year.

One year. I am amazed at the amount of life-changing events that can occur in one single year. One year ago today, I had no idea what was coming my way. I was packing up my apartment, working on graduation songs with my kids, preparing to end the school year, preparing to move back to America. I wish now that I would have blogged about the past year, but as it was happening, I just never made the time to do it.

It blows my mind that it’s been a year since the earthquake/tsunami. It seems like so long ago, and yet at the same time, it feels like just yesterday. March 11, 2011 will forever be a day remembered in my life. Many lives were lost, homes and businesses destroyed, children left without parents, parents left without children, people forced to leave their homes due to radiation. I’ve watched some of the recent documentaries and such that have been put together, and it just makes my heart sink every time. That day was a normal day, and then it wasn’t.

After everything that happened with the earthquake and tsunami, instead of heading to India and Indonesia like we had planned, we headed back to America. We spent a few weeks being home, seeing friends and family, and then we headed back to Japan to teach for a trimester. I feel so blessed that I was able to go back during this time. It was great to see all of my kids and families safe. Hearing they were okay was one thing, but being able to actually see and hug them was incredible. I also took on a new grade level. This was such a blessing in disguise for me, as before this I was feeling discouraged about being a teacher. However, teaching those 4 year olds reminded me how much I loved watching kids learn. Because of those kids, I left Japan feeling encouraged.

While there for those extra few months, I was able to travel to Hong Kong and Macau. The trip was a lot of fun, and Joey and I did the world’s tallest bungee jump in Macau. At the end of my time in Japan, Sarah and I traveled for a week to India. We had an incredible time, and I was glad to get my fill of curry for a while! After our fun-filled week in India, we headed back to the good ole USA.

Moving home was bittersweet. I had grown to love Japan and the people there. I loved all of my kids and it was torturous to have to say good-bye to all of them. But, I had missed my family and friends so much. My sister and brother had both had baby boys in the few months before I returned, so it was nice to be able to hold them while they were still little. About a month after I returned home, Joey came home as well. It was nice to be in the same country again, but it was an adjustment living three hours apart. But, we made the best of it, driving to see each other every other weekend.

I started graduate school in August. I learn really quickly how little I had applied myself in my undergrad, and how much more I would have to apply myself now. The amount of reading that I had to do was overwhelming, and unlike in undergrad, you actually have to do the reading! I am proud to say that I successfully completed my first semester of grad school with all A’s and B’s. Phew.

January was a tough month. Many things happened, and they all seemed to happen all at once. On January 25, I got the news that my good friend’s baby boy had passed away. He was born in December, but didn’t breath or have a heartbeat for 17 minutes after birth. My friend was able to take him home and love on him before he passed. My heart ached for my friend and her family.

On that same night, January 25, I found out that someone else that I cared about had been killed that day. 1LT David Andrew Johnson had been killed in action in Afghanistan by an IED while leading his men on foot patrol. David was someone that I had once loved. We had maintained a friendship, and I still cared for him. I had actually not talked to him since right before he was deployed in December, but I was blessed to get the chance to chat with him for a few minutes the night before he was killed. He was excited about his mission, and he wasn’t afraid. He didn’t want me to worry, just wanted me to pray. I’ve never known anyone who loved the military as much as he did.

Sarah met me in Chicago, and together we went up to Wisconsin for David’s funeral. This experience was one of the hardest things that I have had to do so far in my life. The honor and respect that was paid to David was incredible to see. Saying good-bye to him was so tough.

It was so great to see his family again though, as I had once loved them like my own. David was a good man, and I learned a lot through my time with him. He will forever have a place in my heart, and he will forever be my hero.

After David’s funeral, I flew down to Louisiana to be with my friend who had lost her son. It was great to see her, as it had been years since the last time. I wanted to be there for her as much as I could, but it was hard to know what to say or do. I know that in times like that, there are no words to take the pain away. I’m just glad that I was able to just be there. And, in all honesty, she was there for me as well. I have missed her, and I will be sure now to not let so much time pass in our friendship from now on.

On my way back from Louisiana, I found out that my nephew was in the hospital. So I went directly to the hospital instead of home. It was a scary situation for a while, and still isn’t completely resolved, but at least my sister is starting to get some answers. Thankfully it’s not life threatening, but still will not be an easy road for any of them.

There have been many other things that have happened in the past year, but these were just some of the major ones. I am hoping that from here on out, only good things will happen. I know that life doesn’t always go your way, and it’s not always easy, but I think I need the next year to go a little easier on me and on those that I love.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

'Tis the Season

Christmas, Christmas, Christmas! Our Christmas party is this Sunday. We had our first big practice today. The kids were adorable! They are singing four songs (Joy to the World, Silent Night/Away in a Manger, Angels We Have Heard on High, and O Holy Night. The kids are so stinking cute when they sing. They have worked very hard learning all of the words. And, in spite of their teacher's not so good singing, they sound pretty cute. :) They have also worked hard to learn a dance to "Santa Claus is Coming to Town." Also, they are doing a Japanese performance. This year, they are performing the Jesus story. It is pretty amazing to watch. There is singing, speaking, and dancing. It kind of gets you right in the heart to see it, really. I love that they are doing this play though. I feel like it makes the story that much more real to them. My kids can speak English pretty well, but I think there is something to knowing that story in their own language that will make it come alive a little more to them. At least, that's what I am hoping.

Tomorrow we are making Christmas cookies for our Christmas party. We are making four kinds - Santa Claus, Reindeer, Snowmen, and Candy Canes. I will have two moms in my room helping, so hopefully everything will go smoothly! Today, Sarah and I had to make the dough and the frosting. It wasn't the smoothest process ever, for sure. Our shopping lady forgot a few things. Also, I kind of maybe mixed up the vanilla extract with strawberry extract. Oops! It still tastes good, just a little..strawberry-ish. :)

I'll be headed home in 16 days. I have been packing for a week or so now. I am trying to bring as much home with me as I can. I already have one 50 pound bag packed, and another medium sized suitcase full. I've decided that I want to live with almost the bare minimum for the last 3 months here. I am worried about having enough space to bring things back. This is the most pressure I've felt packing, ever! I always hate packing. However, I can usually just choose to leave certain things behind. I can't do that here. If I leave it behind, it's gone for good. When I moved here, I packed my bags, left a ton behind, and had my parents ship a few boxes.
I can't even ship boxes home. For some reason, the good ole USA has decided to not accept boxes/mail from Japan that weighs more than 1 pound. Um..not sure exactly what all you can put in a box that doesn't weigh more than a pound. So annoying.
One good thing about this moving business, I have been getting rid of so much stuff. I have gone through and gotten rid of a lot of shoes and clothes. It feels good.

I am so ready to be home for a while. However, there is so much to do between now and then. Including, but not limited to: Christmas cookies, Christmas practice, Sarah's birthday, Christmas set-up, Christmas caroling, 2 Christmas parties, a Thai massage (Mmmmm), Christmas caroling (again), Mochi festival, Bible Talk, Birthday party, a work day, a day of being video taped, and closing ceremony. No big deal. See you in 16 days!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


Is anyone even there? I kind of slacked off a little on blogging and then always felt too overwhelmed to try to go back and start again. But, I just decided that I have to just jump in and start somewhere or else I will never blog again! So many things have happened since the last time that I blogged. I need to write about my trip home for two great friends wedding, summer school and camp, my trip to the Philippines and China (oh, the stories..), my vacation spent swimming with wild dolphins, Field Day, my decision to not stay in Japan another year, Kids's and Parents' Day, and the list goes on...

Maybe I will go back and try to fill you in on some of those things slowly. It might be a bit much to try to fit in 5 months or so worth of stuff into one post. :)

So, for now I will just tell you that we are in full Christmas mode here. We are teaching the kids several Christmas songs as well as a dance they will perform for their parents. I spend a lot of my time breaking my "no Christmas music until after Thanksgiving" rule. However, Christmas songs seem to be a little comforting since I know that I will be home for Christmas very soon! I can't even tell you how much I am anticipating that trip. I have been a little homesick recently to say the least. I miss my family, and my friends. I miss church.

Well, if you read carefully, you would have read that I decided to not stay in Japan next year. It was a hard but very easy decision. I love the kids and it's a great job, but I just feel like it's time to be somewhere else doing something different. What is that something, you ask? Um, well..get in line because I am currently asking that same question. I have absolutely no idea what I will do next. I will be here in Japan until just about the end of March, then I am planning to travel a little, and then go home sometime in April. I will be going home to babies, babies, babies! I think I love being an Aunt more than anything in this world.

I'm trying my best to trust God with what comes next. It's scary, and overwhelming. I do know that I want to do something that makes a difference in the lives of others. I do know that I want to travel. I do know that I want to work with kids in some capacity. However, that's about all I currently know. :)

A friend posted a song tonight and I felt like it was coming straight from my own heart. So, I'll leave you with the lyrics. If you are a praying person, remember me sometimes. I have some big life-changing decisions to make in the very near future. I want to be exactly where I am supposed to be, and I want to feel confident doing it.

Savior, please take my hand
I work so hard, I live so fast
This life begins, and then it ends
And I do the best that I can, but I don't know how long I'll last

I try to be so tough
But I'm just not strong enough
I can't do this alone, God I need You to hold on to me
I try to be good enough
But I'm nothing without Your love
Savior, please keep saving me

Savior, please help me stand
I fall so hard, I fade so fast
Will You begin right where I end
And be the God of all I am because You're all I have

Everything You are to me
Is everything I'll ever need
And I am learning to believe
That I don't have to prove a thing
'Cause You're the one who's saving me

By: Josh Wilson

Monday, May 24, 2010

Just say "No" to chicken pox!

Well, we have moved onto the second of ten levels in the school year. Crazy how fast the first six weeks of school went. I am adjusting to my new class a little bit. I am starting to feel like they are my kids a little bit more each week, I think. I will be headed home in about 17 days. I can not wait. I think that it will be something that I really need - a breath of fresh air. However, I know that it will be incredibly hard to leave and come back to Japan.

Last night a bunch of us went to Cirque Du Soleil. It was incredible! We even got to go backstage and see where they practice - some of them were working on their jumps and such. It was pretty cool. The strength that they all have is amazing.

My birthday was this month. It was a pretty good week. Lots of good food, good friends, hanging out at parks, going downtown. Although, turning 26 really wasn't much fun. 26 just seem SO old! One of the boys in my class has the same birthday as me. When I asked him how old he was that day and he said, "6" it hit me that I was 20 years older than him! 20! Wow. Old.

Things are about to get busy here. Ha..not that they haven't been busy all along. But, things are about to get extra busy.
Chicken pox has hit Immersion. I'm freaking out a little. I only got part one of the two-part shot a few years ago. So, I'm not sure how effective it will be. I am going to try to go and get vaccinated here in a few days, but until then I just have to pray that I don't get it! I don't have time for it! Not to mention I don't want a million little itchy red bumps all over my body! I have been paranoid about it..just ask my co-workers! Haha.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

A new school year

I think that time in Japan goes by faster than it does in the rest of the world. I mean, I'm being a little bit serious. And, I know several people here that would agree with me! Tokyo was fun. It was nice to get away and spend some time together. Sarah and I attempted to go to Disneyland on Saturday, but..they were sold out! Crazy. So, we pre-bought tickets for Sunday. Us and 70,000 people! I can not believe how crowded it was. I think we maybe rode 5 rides in the 7 or 8 hours that we were there. But, we had fun and felt like even though we didn't get to do a lot it was still worth it.

I finished up my first year as a teacher after that. My kids graduated and are now moved on to 1st grade. Graduation went really well and my kids all did so well. Luckily, I get to see all of my kids again as they come back for the after school program. However, one of my girls moved - it was really hard to say goodbye to her. Also, one of my boys decided that he didn't want to come to Friends Club. This was kind of a pretty big blow to me, because his reasoning was that he "doesn't like English." The rational part of me knows that this isn't entirely true. This boy has had a really rough last couple of weeks in school because of his parents and the drama that they brought into the school. They made it uncomfortable for everyone involved, including the little boy, and I think it drove him to not want to come. However, if he truly doesn't like English, that is kind of on me ya know? I've tried not to beat myself up over it, and I just pray that he changes his mind and decides to come back. The mom left the final decision up to him (a 6 year old, I mean..for real) but she wants him to come. It just breaks my heart because I know that our school is the only place that he is going to hear about Jesus. So, I'm just believing that he will miss his friends and decide to come back.

Another hard part of the end of the school year was that a good friend of mine moved back to America. She was my partner teacher and I really miss her. She challenged me so much this past year, and I will forever be grateful to her for how much she pushed me at times. The good news is that I will get to see her in August when Sarah and I head to Los Angeles for her wedding! I'm really excited about that!

Thailand was amazing. Maybe I will find time to blog more about that later. For now, a quick synopsis. We started the trip in Phuket, rode elephants, shopped a bit, took a boat trip to Phi Phi Islands and snorkeled (the most gorgeous beaches and water I have ever seen). We went to Bangkok and went to the Grand Palace, saw the reclining Buddha, shopped, went to a Thai show. We risked our lives riding in tuk tuks, and got ripped off several times while shopping in markets. We got some interesting, yet cheap, massages and pedicures. It was a pretty good trip.

We came back to Sendai and jumped head first into work. Several days this past week I worked 13 or 14 hour days. Thursday was opening ceremony with my new kids. Yesterday we had our first day of class (well, a half day anyway). It hit me yesterday that this class is completely different than my last. It is going to take some major adjusting, a lot of patience, and time. The kids are adorable, but..I don't quite feel like they are MY kids yet. I'm sure it will change with time. But, it was just a little bit of a slap in the face yesterday realizing that the place that I had worked so hard all year to get my kids to - listening, doing their best, treating each other nicely, sitting nice, etc. I have to start all over. I know that it will be a good year..it will just be challenging.

In more exciting news, I got a scooter! It seems like everyone in Japan has scooters. They might be dorky in America, but here it's the norm! I haven't had time to take advantage of it much, but the freedom that I feel having it is amazing! It will come in handy so much, I think! I like just being able to go whenever I want. Granted, we have a van that we can use pretty much whenever we need. But, we do have a lot of other people that use the same van. So, I am so excited to have a scooter!

Well, that sums up my life for the past month or so! I will be coming home in June for a few days and I can't wait for that! This is going to be a busy year!!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Where did February go?

Wow. There are only two weeks left of school. Graduation is on the 22nd. I can't believe I am just about finished with my first class of students. It has been an incredible year, I was blessed with an amazing first class. February was such a busy month. We had open house, which I think went pretty well. I only had about 18 parents and grandparents this time, so not too bad. We also had parent interviews (parent-teacher conferences). Those all went really well. I loved showing the parents that I met with how much their child has learned over the past year. They have all grown up so much. I can't believe these are my last couple of weeks with them.
The past week or two has been really tough. There is some stuff going on with some of my kids and parents. It has the ability to really wear me down, that's for sure. At this point, I feel like all I can do is pray for them and hope for a good outcome.

In more exciting news, I finally went skiing. I had never been before. We went last week and..well, I spent most of the day on the ground. It took three other people to get me up once, haha. At one point, this Japanese ski instructor came over and worked with me for a while. He kept making me snow plow, and let me tell you, doing that for a long period of time really starts to hurt your legs! I would say that my first time skiing wasn't the most enjoyable.
However, I decided to give it one more shot. We went again this past weekend, and..I loved it! I found out that the ski boots that I was wearing last week were way too big! That made a huge difference! I also figured out how to ski back and forth, and how to stop. My goal for the day was to be able to get myself up, and..I did! I don't know if those boots made that big of a difference, but..wow, it was a completely different experience! I also used poles, which made me feel a little bit more balanced.
We did the bunny hills a few times, and then we decided to do a bigger hill. Joey, a guy who was skiing with us, assured me that the slope we were going to wasn't any more steep than the one we did the week before. So, I hesitantly agreed. We finally got to the top, and well..he was wrong. It was way steeper! I seriously stood at the top of that slope for like five minutes trying to get the courage up to start heading down it. I finally did, and I fell several times, but..it wasn't so bad. I have decided that I am a fan of skiing!

In even more exciting news..Sarah and I randomly decided to go to Tokyo this next weekend and go to Disneyland. We got a really good deal on train tickets and hotel. I am really excited! And, then like a week and a half later we are headed to Thailand. Which, we haven't even planned at all. Whoops. Oh well, it will just be nice to be somewhere new. I am really excited for both trips!

Then, we come back and have one week to set up for the next school year. I will get a brand new group of kids. I am excited and nervous still about this next year. I know that there will be such different personalities and dynamics in my class. I think this next year will be more challenging, but.. I think I am ready for it!

Monday, February 1, 2010

A little thing called Grace

I do a Bible study once a week with a couple of girls that I work with. It is usually a straight-forward, almost a little boring sometimes even, kind of Bible study. However, a couple of weeks ago, one of them said something that I found myself not totally agreeing with. So, I asked her about it and she explained why she felt that way. She then proceeded to ask me why I thought the opposite and I realized that I honestly didn't know why. It was something that I had been taught growing up, and I had never been challenged to figure out how I personally felt about it.
I quickly started talking to different people, reading in my Bible, and really thinking about the issue and what I believed. I can't say that I have a finished answer, but I still have the overall same stance that I originally started out with. Now I have a little more reasoning behind it.

However, I learned..a lot. I learned that there is so much more grace than I ever knew possible. I feel like I grew up in a great church with some amazingly Godly people around me. But somewhere along the way the lesson on true grace never quite made it into my brain. I have lived my life in so much fear. Unnecessary fear. Fear should not in any way be a driving factor. We are not supposed to live that way. God has so much more grace than we could ever give Him credit for. We sing about grace, and we talk about grace, but do we really get it? I would say for the most part, probably not.

I have been challenged to figure out how I really feel about things. I have realized that a lot of my beliefs are not truly mine. They are what I was brought up hearing, and I never really questioned whether or not it was truth. A lot of the things I was taught I still feel the same about, but I am also learning that some of it I don't- and that's okay! God is so complex that there is honestly no way to know that one specific religion or person has it all correct. Most of it honestly doesn't matter. It's petty. I still think it's important to understand why you believe something, but unless it's a fundamental, it really doesn't matter.

I know this post wasn't really about Japan. I just feel like I have had some huge revelations lately, life-changing ones. Being in Japan and still drawing near to God has been a challenge. There is no real church to go to, no accountability. Besides the people that you work with, it really is just between you and God. I have realized that church has always been a sort of crutch for me. Don't get me wrong, I love church and miss it more than I could say. But being stripped away from that has made me step back and see how much of my faith and "relationship" with God was dependent on others. I will be thankful for the day that I have a church family again, but I am also thankful for this time in my life that I don't.