Monday, August 24, 2009

Habitat for Humanity Volunteer Recap


This past weekend, I participated in a volunteer effort coordinated by Habitat for Humanity with my mother and my exchange student, Kim. We arrived at the location (near Hwy 175 & Rochester Park in South Dallas) at 8am. The assignment was to paint the exterior of a house from top to bottom. It wasn't a "Habitat" house, but instead was an existing house in the neighborhood where they were building multiple Habitat houses. Their idea to spruce up a neighboring house was to hopefully make it less obvious which houses were Habitat ones, so that the entire neighborhood started to improve. It was grueling work in the hot, hot sun. (I've got some sore muscles and a sunburn to prove it!) We worked until about 3:30pm, when the house was finally complete. We never got to meet the homeowner, but we did get compliments from neighbors telling us what a great job we had done.

It's funny how a fresh coat of paint can make such a difference. Using supplies provided by Habitat, 15 of us spent about 8 hours of our time and we completely rejuvenated a previously dilapidated-looking house. That's not too big of a burden on any one person. But, just imagine how impossible it would've been for the homeowner to attempt to pay for and coordinate getting new paint on his/her house. I'm sure it would've taken much longer and been very costly. It was cool to see what we were collectively able to do in a relatively short amount of time. I have no doubt the homeowner was pleased with our efforts. I'm glad Kim was able to be a part of such a wonderful experience!

Back to School!

If you didn't realize school was starting, you've been living under a rock. Between the back to school commercials, newspaper ads, in-store displays, and news stories, there really isn't any possible way to ignore this occasion. Kim and I have been joking about it over the past few days whenever we see a sign - "Oh my gosh Janet, did you realize it was BACK TO SCHOOL time?!?" Haha.

I was listening to the radio this morning, and one of the stations was doing a segment on how sad parents were to send their child off to their first day of school. It definitely prompted an eye roll from me and I thought to myself, C'mon, parents. Suck it up. It's not that big of a deal. Do we really need to cry over this?

And then I dropped Kim off at school....

Kim has only lived with us for about 2 1/2 weeks, and she's not my biological daughter. She's a German foreign exchange student, spending the semester with us. Yet, I got this weird feeling in my stomach when she stepped out of the car to walk up to the high school for the first time. Will she be alright? Will she make friends easily? Will she understand all her teachers? Will she find her locker and all her classes? Will she like the American high school experience? I was immediately overwhelmed with all these nervous thoughts and sincere worry. I didn't shed a tear, but I did get a glimpse into what parents probably felt. I still think there is quite a bit of overreacting going on, but I can certainly understand where it's coming from now.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Let's Learn Some German!

Kim brought a hilarious slang book with her from Germany, that helps you learn "hip" or "modern" phrases in other languages. It shows the translations in English (American & British), German, Spanish, French, and Italian. I don't think it's possible to peruse this book without laughing out loud. Some of the phrases it teaches you are just ridiculously funny. Here's a sample:

1) hella, mad "The movie was hella exciting."
German: abartig "Der Film war abartig spannend."

2) to take a deuce
German: abappeln

3) to chill, to hang, to chilax
German: abchillen

4) sweet, the shit
German: abgespaced

5) hairy pits
German: Achselkatze

6) Bummer! Crapola!
German: Alter Latz!

7) rad, sick, off the chain: "This song is really sick."
German: amok "Der Song ist echt amok!"

8) barking spiders
German: Analsturm

9) homie, dawg
German: Digga

10) hard core chillin' "My hobbies are soccer, hard core chillin' and listening to music."
German: Extreme Gammling "Meine Hobbys sind: Fussball, Extreme Gammling und Musik horen."

11) party for people over 30
German: Gammelfleischparty

12) male anorexic
German: Hunger-Harry

Monday, August 10, 2009

Birthday Celebrations


This past weekend we had a party at our house to celebrate Kim and David's birthdays. Hers was on 8/7 and his is 8/13. Even though Kim has only been in America for a couple days, she's already a part of our family and we definitely wanted to celebrate her special occasion! My nephew David lives in Austin, but he and his girlfriend Meredith were nice enough to drive up so we could celebrate his day as well (thanks guys!). Jer's mom was in town on business, so we were excited to have her over for the party too. The menu was delicious! We had brisket, ribs, cole slaw, potato salad, waffle fries, baked beans, Texas toast, pecan pie, and chocolate cake! And, what get-together with my family would be complete without 7-layer dip? We introduced Kim to it and she loved it!


My young nephews got to meet Kim for the first time, and I'm pretty sure they're smitten! All in all, it was a very fun day and I'm glad so many of our family members were able to share in it together. Enjoy the pics!



Friday, August 7, 2009

Kim has arrived!


Our German foreign exchange student, Kim, set foot in Texas last night for the first time! She was given a big Texas welcome from Jeremiah, my mom, my dad, my sister Jo, Jo's daughter Livy, and me. We held welcoming signs and gave her flowers. After picking up her bags, we headed over to Jo's house where she got to meet Jo's husband Trey and spend a few minutes with little Livy. She adores children, so I know we will have many visits to Jo's house in the future. After that, we headed to our house and showed her where she'll be living for the next 6 months! I had some fun American gear waiting for her on her bed. I got her a "Don't Mess With Texas" t-shirt, a Las Vegas t-shirt, a Texas Tech t-shirt, a Texas tote bag, a Texas flag keychain, a couple of American magazines, and some framed pictures of her family and friends. We were pleasantly surprised when Kim told us she had brought gifts for us as well. She gave Jeremiah some milk chocolate (his favorite!), gave me some perfume from Germany & a shirt from H&M, and gave us a German cookbook. She's such a sweet girl! We stayed up for a couple hours talking, and then decided we better get some rest before our big adventure begins! More to come...

Saturday, August 1, 2009

My August Selection

As we prepare to open our home to a foreign exchange student this semester, we thought we'd support an organization that involves and empowers communities to create affordable housing solutions. We recognize and understand the benefits of home ownership, and wish to see as many people as possible obtain that opportunity. Habitat for Humanity is a nonprofit, Christian ministry founded in 1976 with the mission of building hope, dignity and self worth through the construction of quality, affordable housing. Based on information from their website, they have built more than 300,000 houses, sheltering more than 1.5 million people in more than 3,000 communities worldwide. The Dallas Area Habitat for Humanity is the third largest Habitat affiliate in the US and builds quality, affordable homes in partnership with deserving families. Charity Navigator has given the Dallas Area Affiliate a 4-star rating.

Habitat for Humanity is such a neat concept because they don't follow a "hand-out" philosophy. They prefer to "partner" with deserving families, and in essence, teach them how to help themselves with a little education and a big opportunity. Instead of a cash down payment, families contribute 400 hours of “sweat equity” by participating in the construction of the home alongside community volunteers and Habitat staff. The house is not simply given to them when it's completed; instead, homeowners are still required to pay a mortgage. However, there is 0% interest on their loan so that their payment is a manageable amount and they get the chance to build equity sooner. Their mortgage payments are then used by Habitat to build more houses. Before the process is over, Habitat homebuyers attend Homebuyer Education classes where they learn budgeting and home maintenance skills to prepare them for homeownership success.

Let me give you another reason why I respect and wish to support Habitat for Humanity. From their website, "Habitat homeowners are chosen without regard to race, religion or ethnic group, in keeping with U.S. law and with Habitat's abiding belief that God's love extends to everyone. Habitat also welcomes volunteers from all faiths, or no faith, who actively embrace Habitat's goal of eliminating poverty housing from the world." I love hearing about organizations that acknowledge the importance of helping others, despite differences in race or religion, and open their arms to volunteers who are just looking to make a positive difference with no spiritual motives.

If you are interested in helping, there are various ways to donate. You can find out about them here, see what your money will buy here, or view their Wish List. Or, you can sign up to volunteer your time here.