Goodbyes

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We said goodbye to Akie today, with tears in my eyes. Juliana called me a sap. I just loved having her with me and sharing this experience together and I miss her already.

It was such a joy to have her stay with our family. We all loved sharing stories and laughter and bonding together. She was absolutely delightful and we all enjoyed her company in different ways.

Our family bonded through this shared experience too. I admired how Juliana was a little mother to Akie, making sure she was happy and entertained and understood. She was patient and kind and loving and unselfish and I loved watching her be the best hostess, even giving up her room for her.

Charlie made welcome signs and presented her with a handmade goodbye card that he translated into Japanese and English, all on his own. He played kendamas and war with her and loved having her with us.

Christian always stopped by her room when he came home, greeting her and asking about her day. He joined us when he could and was warm and welcoming when he was busy.

Jeff had fun translating words into English, Dutch, German and Japanese, seeing the patterns and making connections. He was there to greet her when she arrived, took her to see San Francisco, the Redwoods and Santa Cruz, and was there to say goodbye at the end too.

We all had a special connection with her and for this I am grateful. I loved how she enjoyed small bowls of soup, rice with sprinkled toppings, and long bath rituals. She was polite, kind, friendly, curious, warm and genuinely happy. When she left, I asked if I could hug her and she reached out to give me a hug with a smile. I loved her!

Our family shared an awesome experience and shared our life with a stranger who became like a daughter and sister.

I highly recommend hosting a foreign exchange student. There are so many benefits to both the hosts and the student and it makes the world a little smaller, after all.

Life is good.

Choices

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I love my family so much. I also love my friends, as if they were my family especially since my extended family does not live close to me and this makes me very sad. I love to share this life journey together and they are so far away, which makes it hard to have a cup of coffee together or show up for dinner unexpectedly or hike or do whatever. I love to go to my nieces’ soccer games and plays and school functions and want to be there for the major events too. Instead I have to text them, call or Facetime, or send pictures and just miss out. This is how it is. I get it. And since they can’t be with me as much as I would like, I have chosen to adopt friends, as my local, bonus family. This makes me really happy and makes life good right where I am.  Do you do this or are you lucky enough to have family close by? This would be a bonus dream come true. Does anyone in my family want to move close to me??  Pretty please?

While I wait to see my family, I am enjoying and loving my friends and especially my adopted daughter, Akie. We have 2 more nights left with her before she goes back home. The one thing she asked to see in California was the Cheesecake Factory, while she was here. Tonight was her lucky night. She enjoyed the experience very much, and we enjoyed sharing this with her. She picked the pasta carbonara with shrimp for dinner, and the 30th anniversary chocolate cheesecake for dessert. She was amazed by the portion sizes, compared to Japan.  Some of her Japanese friends were also there tonight and it was nice for them to be able to speak in their native language and share stories.  I am so happy that she is having a good time and enjoying all that is here for her to experience.

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She fits in so well with our family. This morning when I was alone in the car with her before dropping her off at school, she said to me that she wished she could stay in California. I smiled (and cried) and said, “Me too.”  Me too.

Namaste.

Community Connections and Friendship

Today was filled with love.

I started the day with a special breakfast at Charlie’s school, called Moments with Moms. It was my last one as Charlie is graduating this year, so it was extra special. I loved sitting with him and his friends and mine, soaking it all in and enjoying every minute and all the kids and moms and teachers and principal.  

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I love our school and our international community and my baby boy.  I was filled with joy.

After breakfast and doing a few chores, I went to meet my volleyball girls out on the grass for some outdoor volleyball fun. I hadn’t been out for over a month, since I’ve been fighting pain in my neck and back. I received an “internal memo” from our team captain, who always makes us laugh with her spirit and creativity.  She pretends that we are an official team and sends out weekly reminders of upcoming events and helps to coordinate our schedules and encourages us to get outside and play. I adore her!  Here is what her memo stated:

Internal Memo To: A. Hartley
From:  WBVC Management
Regarding:  The Hartley Shuffle aka Happy Dance
Dear Ms. Hartley,
Please be reminded that according to your contractual agreement with the WBVC you will need to ensure that you
fulfill your 2015 public appearance schedule and perform your signature move “the Hartley Shuffle”
aka “Happy Dance”(listed per your, “Publicity Branding”) as specified in the language found in paragraph 4, addendum 23.8.
We are currently renegotiating our sub leases and incentives with our DVD sponsorship and we need to ensure that “the Hartley Shuffle” will be performed during the high season.  Therefore,you will need to rehab your shoulder in short order and provide a timetable for your future appearances.
For your reference note that as per the contract, “Player will cooperate with the news media, and will participate upon request in reasonable activities to promote the Club and the League.”
The Top 7 Sports Signature Moves:
1.) Colin Kaepernick’s “Bicep Kiss”
2.) Dennis Rodman’s “Jersey Toss”
3.) Jason Kidd “Blows a Kiss”
4.) The Bash Brothers’ “Forearm Smash”
5.) Deion Sanders’ “Prime Time Dance”
6.) Lebron James’ “Powder Toss”
7.) Adriana Hartley’s “the Hartley Shuffle”
Thank you,
The WBVC Management
The shortened version of this memo from M and others reads, where is Adriana and how did that happy dance go?  We need
the happy dance back to which management was requested to send a memo asap.  BTW All members reading said memo should attend all practices weekly as your schedule permits.

It was soooo good to be out on the field again with my friends, playing in the sunshine, sharing stories and catching up while working out with my girls. I was nervous at first to play again, and was on the injured list, which gave me a few privileges, such as extra serves.  After about an hour or so, I warmed up and the pain was less. I was so happy that N encouraged me to come out and play again, as this made me very happy.

The rest of the day was filled with catching up with laundry and work, before getting ready for the potluck dinner with our Japanese students and host families back at school. Every family brought something to share, which made for a fabulous dinner. We made bagel pizza bites and the girls made gluten free chocolate frosted cupcakes.

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The Japanese students provided entertainment that made me very happy.

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My favorite part of the night was watching. The kids perform. The Japanese kids practiced their English, acting as the MCs and directing the agenda for the evening. I loved the boys group dancing, the drama scene, the group song, and most especially watching  Akie perform a solo ballet performance to my favorite Frozen tune, “Let it Go.”  

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She was absolutely stunning and beautiful and graceful. I was so proud of her (as my daughter!) I left from filming, saying to my friends, “that’s my girl!!.” They giggled.

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Seeing and feeling the appreciation and gratitude and love between the students, the schools, and the families made my day.

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This is truly a remarkable experience and I recommend hosting a foreign exchange student in your house, if you have the means. We are all loving her and sharing in this journey, creating connections and friendships that we would never have had otherwise.

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I am thankful!!

One Love – Japan and America

Today the girls went ice skating with their friends after school. I don’t think Akie had ever been ice skating before and was a good sport. Juliana sticks by her side and helps her and includes her in everything she does. I am proud of all the work she puts into making Akie feel at home here.

For dinner, I served roasted chicken from Costco, rice, fresh corn, and sliced pineapple. I think she liked all of it, which makes me happy. I love that she is willing to try everything.

After dinner, we took Akie to Target to do some inexpensive American shopping and browsing. We were looking at the dollar section right as you walk in the store, and as we’re browsing, we hear “AKIE!!!”

Two of her Japanese friends walked in with their host family and we were all happy to see them. It was really cute to watch them greet each other. They walked up to her and decided to reach out with their arms wide open for a slow, animated, hug. I was shocked! So was Akie.  They hugged, which is not normal for Japanese people. They were practicing being like their American friends and it was so cool!

When we left the store, I asked Akie about the hug and she said this was the first time she ever hugged her friends. I told her that I hope she takes the hugs home with her back to Japan and starts a new tradition there.  She laughed and smiled.  This really made me happy.

She loved looking around Target and admired the accessories, especially the colorful sling handbags and floral jewelry. She spent a lot of time in the candy aisle, and chose two different types of Ghiradellii chocolate bars to bring home. She also enjoyed looking around the kitchen aisles. I loved watching what she liked and what she admired.

We came home and unpacked and sat at the table, sharing a drink and a snack. Akie left the table and came back with a surprise for Juliana, wrapped up in her red scarf. She called Juliana’s name and when Juliana looked up, she presented her with a hand made gift that is priceless.  I wish you could have seen Juliana’s face.

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I took a picture of Juliana admiring her treasure and then asked Akie to give her a hug!!  She laughed and joined in on the fun.

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I can’t even tell you how much I love this girl and how much I am going to miss her when she goes back home in a few days.

Having her here with us is a great gift that we will treasure for a very long time.

Life is good.

Our Exchange Student

We are very lucky to be hosting an exchange student who is so wonderful.

She is very curious and polite and happy and knows what she likes and doesn’t. She is engaging and helpful and has become part of our family in just a few short days.

We are all going out of our way to make her time here a great experience.

Today I took her to the Paris Baguette after school to pick out a treat, as she loves cakes and baked goods. I loved watching her genuinely love all the displays and tasting the samples.

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She picked a Royal Pudding served in a small glass jar that I had never seen before.

After an afternoon snack, she got ready to go to a ballet class with one of Juliana’s friends. I dropped her off at the friend’s house and they took her to the class and brought her home. At first, she was nervous to go on her own and I was luckily able to reassure her that she would have a good time and that she was safe. I, too, was nervous to leave her as I felt like she was my child and I was responsible for her well being. I trusted the family and was so honored that they were going through the trouble to share this experience with her, as she is a ballerina in Japan.

She had a wonderful time and was very happy when she returned home. The American girls also enjoyed her company and thought she was a very good dancer with great form. I am thankful for good friends and our community and that Akie had a good experience.

For dinner tonight, I made a spiral glazed ham, homemade mashed potatoes with gravy, steamed broccoli and cauliflower with hollandaise sauce, and traditional Japanese rice!! She loves rice and I love to serve it for her with every meal, to provide a taste of home. The cool connection I noticed tonight, was that the rest of my family also enjoyed rice with their dinner. Akie has rubbed off on us and I love it.

At school today, Akie learned to play the card game, War. After dinner Charlie found a deck of cards and they played together. Juliana and Charlie and Akie also did a round of the cup song, that she learned last week, passing the cups between them as they played. This was very cool to watch.

I am so happy she is here and am going to miss her when she leaves. I am thankful that Juliana was curious about hosting an exchange student and that we all agreed to go on this journey together.

Love this life.

Namaste

Goodbye, Hello

My friends Yin and Yang were with me all day today.

First thing this morning, we reluctantly said goodbye to Charlie as he loaded the bus to go on his overnight adventure to science camp. He was excited and nervous and so were we. I am hoping he has a great experience and I’m sure he will be ok.

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Then early this afternoon, we anxiously awaited the arrival of our Japanese student and were so happy to finally meet her when she arrived.

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It’s been a day filled with mixed emotions.

I am happy and tired.

Charlie, I miss you.

Akie, I am glad you are here and hope you enjoy your time in California with our family.

Namaste.