Making A List, Checking It Twice!

After Christmas, my primary objective was completing my entire list of things to do in America. The shopping part was overwhelming at first, because stores in the US have EVERYTHING and its easy to lose track of what you’re there looking for in the first place. My list was also quite daunting; I had more than 40 things to do/peoples to see/foods to eat/items to purchase while I was home, and only two weeks to do them in! Luckily for me, my Mom and my sister Tori were up to the challenge of completing “The List” and we steadily made our way through.

I even had a section on The List devoted to goodies I needed to take back to other volunteers in Ukraine, such as peanut butter (I had 5 requests for peanut butter alone), jello, mac n’cheese, ranch dressing, and other American staples that you can’t get anywhere in Ukraine. I also bought a Swiffer for my apartment, because Ukrainian brooms are a joke and I have no mop to speak of. So the Swiffer does both; you start with a dry cloth to sweep, and once the floor is clear you use a wet cloth to mop it. Such a handy invention! The Swiffer was a Christmas present I bought for myself 😉

Shopping at Polaris with Tori and my Mom!

My favorite part of The List was clothes; I needed some new teaching outfits for Ukraine and a new dress for the New Years Eve wedding I was attending, so that meant lots of time at the mall. My sister Tori isn’t a big shopper, but she was a great sport and humored me in my quest for cute clothes. She even agreed to come down to Columbus with me and my Mom, where we spent a lovely day at the legendary Polaris Mall with my friend Stephanie from college. We had a blast going from store to store, and I found a beautiful navy lace dress for New Years Eve. The only problem was that I was binge-shopping; after a year of withdrawal from malls and cute clothes, it felt like I was binging on clothes every time we entered a store. I definitely got my fix though, and some great outfits to boot. Now the Ukrainian winter just needs to pass quickly so we can get appropriate weather for my cute dresses 😉

My dear friend Stephanie and myself.

Also on The List was a day in the water truck with my Dad. He’d reserved this day on my calendar more than a month before I came home, and promised to take me out to breakfast at our favorite diner if I agreed to wake up at the ungodly hour of 7am. Tori even agreed to tag along, and we had a nice time together driving to the tiny town of Shelby and delivering water with our Dad. One of the stops required hard hats, so we got a cute picture of us inside : )

Me, Tori, and Dad hard at work!

In my down time (of which there was little), I luxuriated in the feeling of driving myself wherever I wanted to go, and drinking as much coffee as I could, leaving me in a near-constant caffeinated state.

In the days following Christmas, I got to see several dear friends (Justin! Liz! Stephanie! Emily! Peeny Popper!) and family members (Aunt Dawn! Aunt Linda and her girls! Uncle Carl!), and I ate so much yummy food that I’m sure I gained at least a few pounds. I had Italian food at Olive Garden, French food at my parents’ favorite restaurant, Chinese food at P.F. Chang’s, Mexican food in Columbus, Middle Eastern food in Oberlin with Tori (I thought of you Tammela!), and yummy homemade food every time I made it home for more than an hour 😉 I pretty much overloaded on everything; clothes, food, friends (if that’s even possible) but I wanted to fit as much as possible in my short time home.

The only bad news is that I didn’t get to cross off every item on my list; the good news is that I’ll be home FOR GOOD in 11 months, and have all the time in the world to finish The List. ; )

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Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas…

Let your heart be light. From now on our troubles will be out of sight…

Christmas in Ohio was wonderful, everything I hoped it would be. I’d only been in America two days by the time Christmas arrived, so it was a bit of a struggle to stay awake for the whole day, but amazing nonetheless.

Decorating the tree and playing with the puppies!

My family even waited for me to decorate the tree so I could be part of all the Christmas traditions. My sister Tori baked enough goodies to feed an army, and I came dangerously close to sugar overload a few times, but justified it by saying that soon enough I’d be back in Ukraine and not eating like this anymore!

Christmas included lots of time spent catching up, cuddling puppies, going to church for both a Christmas Eve service as well as a Christmas day sermon (I was trying to make up for the last year of not going at all), and seeing as many friends and family members as possible in one day 🙂 After church we had Christmas at my house, with my parents, sister Tori, and sister-in-law Amanda. Heath was still at Boot Camp, and it was weird without him, but we still had a lovely Christmas morning.

Dad, Tori, Amanda, and myself getting ready to open presents.

After opening presents, I had a Skype date with my two favorite Americans in Ukraine, who I was already missing, and also made a long-distance call to my friend Olha because she wanted to hear if my family liked the presents she sent them. It was a nice way to keep up the connection to the people I love most in Ukraine, all the while fully loving every minute of being home!

Next we headed to my grandmother’s house for Christmas dinner, where I met my new cousin Elise. My Aunt Linda adopted her just a few months ago from Russia, so this was my first time seeing her! She’s 2 years old, and is definitely in the throws of being a terrible toddler. My aunt handles it all with grace and ease though; Elise is her 3rd daughter, and she has the parenting thing under control. I heard Elise get to the “naughty chair” at least once or twice 😉

Elise, who is affectionately referred to as a little “ipswitch.”

Tori and Cousin Elise

After we finished opening presents at Grandma and Grandpa’s house, we relaxed at home and watched my favorite Christmas movie, Christmas in Connecticut. I didn’t see much of it, because although it was only 5 pm in Ohio, my body felt like it was midnight because of the time difference from Ukraine. My nap was short-lived though, because we had one more Christmas-day stop: at a party with some of our dear family friends, the Johnsons! One of their daughters, Alyssa, is my age and we were good friends in high school. We went to different colleges and haven’t seen much of each other since high school, but it was wonderful seeing her, catching up, and meeting her husband who she got married to since I left for Ukraine. Its great to have those friendships that can be instantly resumed whenever you see each other again, and that’s definitely how it felt with Alyssa. It was a great evening full of friends, food, and laughter, and a nice note to end Christmas on 🙂

Christmas was everything I hoped it would be, and the best part was that when it ended, I got to go home and sleep in my own bed just like all the Christmases I had growing up. I hope your Christmas was just as wonderful!

1 Year Anniversary!

Today marks 1 year—1 year that I’ve been living in Sokyriany, Ukraine. There were days I thought I wouldn’t make it to the year mark, which makes it all the more sweeter that its finally here and I can say “hah, I made it.” I can’t imagine myself living in any other town in Ukraine, or working at any other school. I love my kiddos, and I’ve made some wonderful friends in Sokyriany. So here’s to 1 year, the official half-way point. 1 year down, 1 year to go! Congratulations to all the Peace Corps Volunteers in Group 39, look at how far we’ve come! I hope you feel as proud of reaching this milestone as I do. 🙂

In other important news, the countdown says 12 days till I’m on my way HOME to Ohio for Christmas! I can hardly wait. In less than two weeks, I’ll be celebrating Christmas in AMERICA with my family and friends, and spending lots of quality time on the couch bonding with Sophie and Leo, my sweet puppies. Here’s a picture of me and Leo from Christmas 2 years ago. I can’t wait to re-enact this. 🙂

I hope all is well where you are. ❤