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About Me…or How I Became a SAHM #17

It has been a while since I added a chapter to the story of me. As we approach our 1 year anniversary back in the US, this seems like a good time to post an update.

In January of 2012 we were well settled into life in Jacksonville. We found a church we love and were eagerly anticipating the arrival of summer weather and days at the beach. Then, in one week I had three separate women seek out my advice on organization and domestic topics. Each woman asked if I had considered starting a blog. I ignored the suggestion from the first woman, laughed off the suggestion of the second woman, but when the third woman suggested I start a blog I began to consider the idea. I spent several days praying on the idea, asking God to give me clear direction. In one prayer session the name of the blog was born, but I was still unsure. I wrote “The Organized Wife” on a notecard and continued to pray. The next day God brought the Proverbs 31:10 scripture to my heart. During prayer times ideas for posts began to form in my heart. I knew God was telling me to move forward and on January 9, 2012 The Organized Wife began.

This blog has blessed me in amazing ways over the last 10 months and I am truly humbled that so many people want to read what I have to say about organization and home management. Please know that I regularly pray for all of you who have joined me on this journey to an organized home.

About Me….or How I Became a SAHM #16

Flying out of Taiwan we ended up taking 2 more suitcases than we came with, plus shipping 6 boxes of schoolbooks and other small items back to the US. Ironically we flew out of Taiwan 10 years to the day after we had moved into our home in Ohio. Ironic, for sure.

We landed at the airport in Omaha, Nebraska, a town we had never even visited before, because my parents had moved there and they had a house large enough for the 5 of us to stay there. My dad had to bring his trailer to pick us and all our luggage up from the airport! We were quite a scene and we could barely walk through the airport without people stopping us to ask about all our bags. We were exhausted, but excited to be back in the US and to see our family. Forcing everyone to stay awake as along as possible to try to adjust (again) to a 12 hour time difference, we survived through dinner and fell asleep around 8pm Omaha time.

Upon waking on our first full day back in the US we proceeded to make plans for getting settled in North Carolina. How would we get our things that were in storage with family in Chicago and Cincinnati, plus things at my parents, and all 5 of us to Camp Lejeune? Where would we live? Buy a house, rent a house, or rent a flat? How could we possibly buy a car, all the furniture we would need, and get a home set up? And doing it all during what felt like the middle of the night to us! We quickly went to work.

Giving ourselves one day to get adjusted and pick up the basic things we would need (shampoo, American foods we had missed), on our second day back we came up with the plan for the move and proceeded to go to Nebraska Furniture Mart – the largest furniture store in the US to purchase much of the furniture for whatever new place we ended up living in. Overwhelming does not begin to describe that experience. Too many choices, not enough sleep. I remember telling Husband, “I don’t care! Just pick out a bed!” (By the way he did a great job and I love the mattress he selected!) I sat in the living room section, tears streaming down my face, because the whole experience was just more than I could handle. Luckily our selections of that day have proven to work well for our new home!

My parents agreed to watch the kids for several days and 4 days after landing in the US, Husband and I took off cross-country in a U-haul truck. We spent 14 hours in Chicago picking up things at my mother-in-law’s home and eating good pizza. We went through Cincinnati, picking up things from my father-in-law’s house and getting the opportunity to connect with friends and our old small group who had blessed and sent us prayerfully to Taiwan just 15 months earlier. It was a surreal experience. We also purchased a car in Cincinnati and added towing a trailer behind our U-haul.

We rose early and proceeded to drive from Cincinnati to Jacksonville, NC in that third day of our trip. We arrived in Jacksonville having no idea where to go or what to do. We drove past the Main Gate entrance of Camp Lejeune. As we passed stores, strip clubs, and bars I was near tears, thinking “What have we done?!”

But God is good – all the time! And the craziness of those first days back in the US were not to be a predictor of everyday life. Though there would be more ups and downs to come, in a few short weeks we would be completely settled in Jacksonville, just in time for Christmas.

About Me…or How I Became a SAHM #15

Just about the time I was really feeling settled in Taipei, change was on the horizon. I had a volunteer position at our church that suited my skills (media director). I had friends and a Bible study. I knew where to get things we needed at reasonable prices. I was pretty happy

But Husband’s work situation was getting really stressful. The fact that he was being required to teach classes that weren’t in his contract meant that he was bringing home large amounts of papers to be graded every night. In Taiwan they over-grade everything! He was required to have 5-10 graded items per day for some of the classes. So we spent nights grading workbooks, homework, tests (sometimes 3 a week for each class period), penmanship, science notebooks, and all kinds of things that neither of us had ever heard of taking a grade on.

Since accepting the position in Taipei, we turned down several offers from schools within the Department of Defense EducationActivity (schools on military bases in the US and around the world). We kept saying that we were under contract and would see it through. But as things at Husband’s school got increasingly more stressful, we got an email from a school at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, just 15 minutes from one of our favorite vacation spots. After exchanging several emails with the principal, Husband went forward with the interview, all the while saying he was under contract for the current year. At the same time he continued to try to address the situation at the Taipei school though the proper channels, with no luck.

After a very short interview process, he was offered a position to start as soon as possible. We prayed. None of us really wanted to leave Taiwan but his work situation there was far from what was promised. About the same time we started this interview process we saw our main ministry opportunities come to and end. Was God really sending us to North Carolina? We pray more and brought in trusted family and friends to pray with us. After assessing the situation from all angles we believe that God was sending us to North Carolina and Husband accepted the job at Camp Lejeune. He resigned his position in Taipei, which ended badly with threats to hold us in the country if we didn’t pay them a 2 month salary fee for leaving, even though they broke the contract. We hated leaving Taiwan and he hated leaving his students but we had complete peace about the situation and knew this was the right move for us.

So for the second time in 15 months (and just 4 months after our move to Taipei) we began the process of selling everything we owned and packing our lives into 10 suitcases without any clue as to where we would live. If anyone wants to know how to pack and move quickly, talk to me. We did a two-week move to Taiwan and ten days after Husband accepted the position in the US and resigned from the Taipei school, we flew out of Taiwan. Life was officially crazy!                                                                                                                                                                One of our last pictures in Taiwan…tea

About Me…or How I Became a SAHM #14

After selling everything and moving literally to the other side of the world, we were once again facing unemployment because of budget cuts. We began applying for jobs all over Taiwan and in many areas in the United States. We really wanted to stay in Taiwan and did not feel that it was time for us to return to the US. The lack of job offers from the US seemed to confirm that. Our most promising option in the US was with the Department of Defense teaching on a military base. But we had been warned that the application process could take 2-3 years. So we began thinking of that as a longer-term option and focused our search in Taiwan.

Husband received many requests for interviews and several job offers. We ended up turning down several offers because we just did not belief this was how God was leading us. Finally he received an offer at what was marketed as a Christian school in Taipei. Though the pay was the same, and the cost of living in Taipei was much higher, we took the position believing that this was the right path at that moment. In July 2011, during a week that my parents were visiting us, we packed up and moved the family to a nice flat in Taipei. Once again God watched over us, leading us to a great flat in a fabulous area, just 1 block from Husband’s work and 3 blocks from a great English-speaking church.

As we settled into life in Taipei we made many new friends and loved our new neighborhood. The kids found many friends after a year of solitude. I was able to step into a role at the church as the Media director (something I did when we were in the US for many years). We had lots to do, many new friends, and were very excited about our life outside of work.

But things at work were a bit different than expected. Things at the school were just off. I couldn’t shake the feeling that this was a fun experience but something just wasn’t sitting well with me. Then the school where Husband was teaching began requiring him to teach classes not included in his contract without paying him the additional amounts the contract set up. When he pointed this out, he was told to be grateful that he had a job. Then they added more classes without the appropriate pay.

During all this, I realized how sheltered out life in the smaller town of Jhunan had been. In Taipei, and specifically in the are we lived, people had money. Lots of money. We had a teacher’s salary and a higher cost of living than we had ever experienced. My skills as a home manager were really being stretched and grown.

Spring Break

This week is spring break around our house so we will be taking the week off from all our “normal” activities to explore our region.

But don’t worry! You can still get great tips and information from The Organized Wife! Check in daily here or on the Facebook page for links to some great free stuff, quick tips for organization and many of the most popular posts from earlier this year.

About Me…or How I Became a SAHM #13

Being thrown into the world of home schooling with no preparation time was, quite possibly, the biggest adjustment of our move to Taiwan. In the midst of our two-week whirlwind move that included selling almost everything we owned and packing the few things we would save or take with us, somehow I selected curriculum for 1st and 3rd grades. I am so thankful to the other home schooling moms who gave us materials and guidance, and especially to my own mom (who home schooled my youngest sister). Not only did my mom give me some materials she had saved but she packed and shipped all our books that we had shipped to her house because we had no address.

I am not a teacher. I have no education in educating children. I went into this home schooling thing basically blind, but with the idea that, like other areas of our life, organization and scheduling would help make everything alright. Much prayer and tears went into our first weeks of home schooling.

But after Chinese New Year, which included a visit from my mother-in-law and a three-week vacation, I decided that our school situation could be better. Yes, we were covering the materials and the kids were clearly learning, but it just wasn’t working as smoothly and I thought it could. Plus I felt constantly guilty that I wasn’t given the school aged kids or Little Man enough of the right attention. My role had become more about putting out fires. So at the end our New Year break we tackled improving our home school experience.

First, we arranged the school room in a way that worked for us. Simple things like making sure the kids could see the white board without having to move seats and moving my desk so that when I was sitting there I was facing the kids and not with my back turned to them made a huge difference in the mood of our school room.

Next we tackled the schedule. Some home school families operate without a schedule, but that does not work in our family. We tried several things and ended up with block scheduling. This is where we divide our school time into smaller blocks, and each time period has a specific assignment. At the end of the time block if you are not finished with that assignment you set is aside into an “unfinished work” pile and move on. At the end of the day (right after lunch for us) or in any block where you finish your work before the time ends,  you come back to the unfinished work. (See our Weekly Home School Schedule)

Now I was feeling pretty good. We were settled into life in Taiwan. Our home school experience was better than ever. We had our first visitor from the US and managed to take Nana all over the island. Life was going smoothly!

But once again things were about to change. In the early part of the spring we learned that budget cuts were going to eliminate Husband’s teaching position and we were once again looking for a job.

To Be Continued…

About Me…or How I Became a SAHM #12

Life in Taiwan was exciting and sparked a sense of adventure in me that I had long abandoned for the “sensible” life of kids and family. Not only was a rediscovering my more adventurous side, but God was forming in me a desire to help wives and moms grow in our God-given roles as family managers. Adding home schooling and cooking from scratch (with just whatever we happened to be able to get at a store) was taking my household management to another level that just 5 years ago would have shocked almost anyone who knew me.

Christmas in Taiwan is very understated because it is not a Christian nation (we were luck that it fell on a Saturday, otherwise Husband would have been required to work). However I was determined to give our kids a great celebration. We hosted all the foreign teachers in our county (kind of like a state) for a huge Christmas party. We spent Christmas Eve baking my famous Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies in a 9×13 inch toaster oven with new friends. On Christmas Day we served an Italian feast for 20. It was definitely one of the most memorable Christmas Days ever. And I learned an important lesson on making food with the ingredients I have not always what the recipe calls for. Because we were forced to experiment and find substitutes for ingredients easily available in the US but not Taiwan, my cooking skills grew quickly from following recipes to creating my own. By the time 2011 rolled around, I was very comfortable making up things as I go when I cook.

But an organized wife’s work is never done. As Chinese New Year and Lantern Festival rolled around in February I realized that while I was really feeling comfortable in the kitchen, and the household chores were running smoothly, we had an almost 3-year-old to potty train and our school experience needed some schedule tweaking. So after the amazing experience of Lantern Festival literally 2 blocks from our house, we buckled down to figure out how to manage and enjoy home schooling and not just survive it.

To Be Continued…

About Me…or How I Became a SAHM #11

As Thanksgiving week came, we had settled into a decent school routine. The girls were requiring more time that I had hoped, which left me feeling guilty about how much time I was giving Little Man. He was doing fine but I felt like no one was really getting the best of me. Husband’s work situation was quickly showing itself as stressful. We had made many new friends and started a small group for local and expat married couples. Our ministry was growing and God was blessing our faithfulness in ways we never could have imagined.

And now Thanksgiving loomed. This was always my favorite holiday. My family made this an intimate time of sharing our thankfulness to God when I was growing up. Even though I wasn’t spending this holiday with my family I was thrilled to be putting on my first real Thanksgiving feast! Only problem – where to get a turkey in rural Taiwan and how to cook it without an oven?

This Thanksgiving would being my journey as a cooking from scratch, making your own kind of wife and mom. After talking to a local friend Husband secured the right half of a 20 kilo (50 pound) turkey. And yes it was literally the right half…someone had taken a saw down the middle of a turkey. But now what? After much research we decided to turn our small slow cooker into a roasting oven. Husband did all the serious work of separating the turkey (I have a major aversion to anything that still looks like the animal it once was!). We use veggies and foil to roast the turkey in 3 parts over two days in the slow cooker.  (TIP – Ball up foil and place it in bottom of the slow cooker. Then fill the space with carrots, celery, garlic & onion and some chicken stock. Be careful not to completely cover the foil with liquid. Place turkey or chicken into slow cooker and roast for 6 hours on high.)

We ended up putting out a Thanksgiving spread with all the trimmings for 15 people. We had turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, green beans, rolls, cranberry sauce, and apple pie! After doing this, I really began to realize that a lot of things I used to have and do when we were in the United States were really not needed. This began a journey to getting back to the basics of cooking and cleaning and also helped me really feel at home in Jhunan, Taiwan.

Change is a part of life, but I would never have guessed that I would move twice and spend the next Thanksgiving in Elk Horn, Nebraska. God was sure taking us on a crazy and wild adventure!

To Be Continued…

About Me…or How I Became a SAHM #10

Taiwan was a shock to our systems. We were met by all kinds of new experiences and smells (stinky tofu? No thanks!) but the most shocking thing of all was the heat. In September we were smacked in the face with heat and humidity. In two days we went from landing to finding a place to live and Husband started work. I spent the first few days in Taiwan walking my kids through the streets of Toufen to the local grocery store, which was much more western than I had expected, to get bakery items that we could eat in our hotel room. On Wednesday, 5 days after landing in Taiwan, we moved into our new rental.

God was clearly looking out for us in this part of our experience. We had no idea where to live and picked our place out of fatigue and the fact that it was basically clean, had “western” bathrooms, and we could afford the rent. As it turned out, we were 2 blocks from the train station, walking distance to a grocery store, and 1 block from the park where Taiwan’s annual Lantern Festival would be held in 2011. We also ended up in a gated community with neighbors who were Christians and would come to be dear friends.

Taiwan brought a whole new perspective to my journey as a stay at home mom, because now all the traditional “mom” chores were harder plus I was now home schooling our then first and third grade girls because there was no English-speaking school around our township. Adding these responsibilities brought a new need for planning, organization, and household management.

Because we moved to Taiwan so quickly and because we only had 9 suitcases to pack our life into, we did not bring many kitchen or household items. At the last minute in our packing I stuck in a set of kids plates and bowls, a strainer, chopsticks, and a few other kitchen items. Because we didn’t have tons of money to spend (we were focused on figuring out how to buy beds for the kids, which took 2 months) kitchen and household items were not a priority. Because we lived in a town with very few western items, getting things for cooking and the house was hard. So very quickly I had a crash course in cooking from scratch, and doing so with 1 pot and 1 pan. We ate a lot of chicken with broccoli and mushrooms over rice in those first couple of weeks. I could recognize those ingredients and knew what to do with them. But I knew we couldn’t eat that forever.

Home schooling was a shock too. I had never taught and felt like I was clueless. My parents shipped our school books (we ordered them a week before leaving the US) to us and about 4 weeks into our Taiwan adventure we started home schooling. It took a lot of trial and error and a lot of advice from friends and family who had home schooled kids but soon we had a schedule and routine going and we were surviving.

But I believe that God calls us to do more than survive. So on the Saturday after Thanksgiving we decided to host a bunch of local and western friends for a traditional American Thanksgiving meal…including turkey and all the trimmings. To prepare the food we had 2 gas burners, a slow cooker, and a toaster oven. This was going to get interesting!

To Be Continued…