Online Dating for Dummies Part II

On Wednesday, I closed my computer after clicking on that magical PUBLISH button for my last post and my phone started buzzing. “Who could that be?” I wondered dreamily. None other than Mr. NYC of course. Coffee in Central Park on Saturday? Done and done. If I could write a letter to New York City regarding how my time has been these past two weeks, it would go something like this:

Dear New York City,

You’ve been good to me. 

Yours forever,

Em

p.s. Can we get rid of Times Square? It’s dirty and touristy and I don’t like it. We’ll keep the New York Times though.

Now, down to business. Do you have your ice cream? This second post will require something a little more substantial. I’d recommend Ben and Jerry’s Half Baked, or anything with brownies will do.

Story #5 The One Who Broke My Heart and the One Whose Heart I Broke

Stories from my life that I told years ago, I can never tell in the same way again, even if I wanted to. It’s not the story that changes, but the storyteller. The colors of emotion change with it too. I have learned to be so thankful for this as I have experienced a few tough break ups. One in particular comes to mind as my most trying. If I told you the story last year, the color would be grey and the lighting dim and I would be heartbroken all over again. But when I tell it to you now, I think you’ll see more spring. You’ll see that it served an important purpose. And perhaps part of the reason it all happened was for you.

I was dating this guy 2 years ago. He was the first guy who really seemed to see what I saw in the world of travel. We had a lot of fun together and my heart skipped a beat to think that it could lead to something more. It didn’t. It was over almost as soon as it began. I was sad for a little while. Then, he left for one country and I went to Uganda with my dad for two weeks, which ended up being one of the happiest times of my life. I met so many family members there and my outspoken, happy, and wild spirit fit in quite nicely amidst my new Ugandan friends. I felt at home. I am sure that God planned it this way because this time strengthened me and rebuilt me into something slightly different than what I was before the guy. Sometimes God will break us in order to strengthen us into more of what he intended us to be. I became a lot less sad and a lot more free to experience life with abandon. My spirit was awakened again and I returned from that trip with a new attitude towards dating, what I call The-Why-Not Attitude. I signed up for eHarm a couple of weeks later and of course, it was with my best friend and a pint of ice cream that I answered all of those ridiculous questions. I was excited. I was enjoying life. I was free.

It only took a few weeks of checking that inbox to receive one that immediately sparked my interest. He was obviously a writer. He noticed things about my writing that no one else did. He was a traveller too and the same kind as me. He would want to immerse himself in cultures and in families. I couldn’t help but think over and over again as we wrote to each other, “What! You too? I thought no one but myself” (Clive).

We were enraptured with each other. We would sneak away from people and places whenever we received an email. One time, I think he snuck away from dinner at a restaurant and sat on a toilet to read my letter. Another time, when internet was scarce for him, he wrote letters in his journal to take pictures of for me later. We skyped too. For hours. He was travelling a lot for work, so for one solid month while he was in South America, we would skype during the evenings. We read books to each other and even watched a movie together. The quality was terrible, but it didn’t matter. Neither of us could believe the other existed.

And all of this, before we even met face to face. We continued to write and we started planning. He would let me in on his work decisions and started to ask for my opinions. He planned to come and meet my family for Thanksgiving and I was so happy and he was nervous to meet my family, but in a good way he assured me. Ah, if only Ella were here now. I know just what she’d say, “If we’d thought a bit of the end of it when we started painting the to-o-own. We’d have been aware that our love affair, It was too-oo-oo hot no-ot to coo-ool do-o-o-own”  But we didn’t think of it. We were just so taken away by that early phase that we didn’t take our heads out of the clouds for even a moment to see that we were perhaps biting off a bit more than we could chew at this point.

Then it all caught up to us. We had been writing and talking for a little over three months now. Thanksgiving was approaching and with it, all of our hopes and fantasies of what it would be like to be near each other and it was too much and he ended it. The poor guy. He did not intend to hurt me. He was hoping for all the same things as me. He did not intend to woo me and then just run, but that’s how it felt at the time. But I know it broke his heart to break mine. It was shattering for both of us. Completely shattering.

The next morning, I woke up. It was Thanksgiving Day and it was far from what I expected. I was not even sure of how I would survive waking up let alone living happily through the day with my family. Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday and I feared it would be stained. I slipped out of my bed and crept on the cold floor. It was still dark and gloomy outside but the darkness was beginning to walk away from the light. I creaked down the wooden steps and looked out our frosted windows on our white front doors to see what looked like a shimmering down blanket, covering the earth. It was magic. I just thought about that. The snow. The coolness. My blanket wrapped tightly around me. That moment was lovely. That was a good moment. I thanked God for that moment. Next moment. I had to bake my apple pie. Peel those crisp green apples. Make that beautiful, flaky crust. Listen to music. Spend time with my niece. Those moments were beautiful too. I thanked God for those too. Next moment. Next moment. Next moment. I thanked God for all of those.

Now let’s talk. What went wrong? Why did something that seemed so wondrous and magical come to an end? Well, there are probably many reasons, most of which I don’t even know. One reason though is that sometimes things happen and we may never know the fullness of why, but God is faithful and He sees more than we do. After all of this happened, my dad would often say to me, “Don’t discount the hidden hand of God.” And really, this is the best reason of all. Another reason accounts for the difference between men and women. I am still not exactly sure how men are in this area (women aren’t the only mystery), but women’s hearts are touched through an emotional appeal. That’s all that this person and I had. Emotional appeal over and over again. My heart was touched and then it was a lot of responsibility to take care of my touched heart. Add that to not knowing each other in a natural setting and starting immediately with romance instead of friendship and you’ve got a beautiful, but fragile glass castle that is about to be hit by the wind of reality. We only saw the sweet, romantic, beautiful parts of each other. We did not endure any part of life together, not even boredom. Then when a real life family meeting approached, it hit against our glass castle and it shattered. It only took a little bit of wind.

What a good lesson for me to learn! And for him too, I am sure. The danger of staying online too long. Dear one, my hope for you is that you would allow the sweetness and romance that we desire so much to grow out of a trusting friendship that has been built over time and with hard work. And we all know that trust comes with the territory. If you find someone who takes the time to prove his loyal and pure friendship to you, without having to receive all of the benefits that come with intimacy, then perhaps he is someone who is worthy of receiving the benefits of your love, but it should not be given until that friendship has been proved. As Elisabeth Elliot would say, your love has a price tag and you never go on sale. When we start with this attitude, then we spend more time building a strong foundation. We set the cornerstones. We reveal a little more of our heart. We pour the concrete. We show a little more of our feelings. We lay the stones walls. We reveal even more. Until one day, we take a step back to see that instead of a glass castle, we have built a strong and magnificent stone castle…probably in the South of France. And that’s the kind of place you want to live in, run to, and bask in, not a glass building that causes you to fear every time the wind blows.

Story #6 “I Know, It’s Probably not the Best Thing to Put on a Dating Site…”

Every time I have seen this phrase, I think, “oh geez, what could it be?” And I always like what I read after it. Once it was, “I know, it’s probably not the best thing to put on a dating site, but I admire my mom for how she raised my siblings and me.” Are we not supposed to mention our mothers and fathers? Oops. And another time it was, “The most influential person in my life was my late wife. I know it’s sad, and probably not the best thing to put on a dating site, but I’m a much better man because of her.” Why not? Are we calling this kind of thing baggage? When I opened my profile settings to include matches who had children, I actually hoped that there would be widowers who could say something like this about their late wife because like the first comment, it tells me something important. Both of these men have had positive relationships with women they honor the women in their lives. Therefore, it is safe to assume that they would most likely honor me as well. So, I would argue that those comments are actually the best things to put on a dating site, but only if you are looking for a woman who desires to be honored and who would also honor you. We tend to attract people like ourselves.  The widower went on to say that he hopes to meet another woman who will spur him on to be a better man of God. Ummm…ATTRACTIVE!! DING DING DING!! Who wouldn’t want a man like that?

We need a rewiring in our dating brains. We turn dating sites into marketing schemes. We go to our profiles and we fashion people there who will receive the most possible likes/winks/smiles/pokes/whatever, but we fail to make the most important connection with just one person because we omit the intimate truths that truly make us who we are. We hide those things to share later at a specific point in time when it is socially acceptable to admit that you actually like your mom or that you are a widower who had a beautiful wife whom he will and should remember and honor forever.

Story #7 How We Wish It Would Always End

I met Michael on a site called Coffee Meets Bagel. We decided to meet up for..you guessed it. Ice cream. Duh! And not just any ice cream, but East Coast Custard. The date went well. Michael was kind and quite the gentleman, but we didn’t really have anything in common. We enjoyed each other’s company, we laughed and we learned about each other and had genuine interest in the other person’s life. A few days later, I got a text from him saying that he was open to hanging out more and I wasn’t interested so I decided to try a little experiment. Women usually have the hard time of not being straightforward with men when they just aren’t that into them. We close doors but leave windows open because we assume that they’ll be hurt like us. But then we just end up hurting them more. I decided to be straight forward, just to see what would happen. My return message read like this: “Hi Michael, thank you for treating me to ice cream the other day. I had a great time getting to know you. I don’t see this going any further, but I appreciate the time you gave me. I hope you do get to go to South Africa one day and good luck with your family’s company.” After I sent this I was pretty nervous. I’d never been so straightforward before and I confess, I was afraid his feelings would be hurt. Then I received his response: “Hey Emilie! Thank you so much for being honest with me! I think you’re a great girl and I had a nice time too. Good luck with everything!” I was so encouraged. We didn’t owe each other anything more than respect and honesty and that’s what we gave to each other. 

As we meet people, I think honesty is the best thing that we can give each other. Don’t sugar coat or wait to long to say and definitely don’t leave people hanging. That is just immature and unkind. It doesn’t matter if you went on one date or 10. When someone gives you their time, you owe them some honesty. The discomfort that it takes to be straightforward is the least you can give to someone who is genuinely interested in you.

Phew. That was a lot. We got through it together though. Now go and enjoy some Ella for me. I’ve got dinner plans to get to and in the morning, I’ve got the continuation of what could be another little fun story in the making, no matter how it turns out ūüėČ    

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Online Dating for Dummies Part II

Online Dating for Dummies Part 1

Yes, for you. Online dating for YOU!

After a couple of years of clocking in to the online dating job from time to time, I have racked up some good, some bad, some funny, and some downright ugly examples of online daters. A friend mentioned that I should write about some of my experiences because sometimes they really do seem to just jump out of a book. I was toying with the idea of writing a dos and don’ts list for the online dating impaired but really, if we’re being honest, we are all a little impaired. Online dating can be awkward, unnatural, and downright confusing. And since we are being honest, it’s not just an online problem. It’s an offline problem too. We can’t seem to relate to people in real and meaningful ways in our everyday lives. Even when the connections present themselves in natural, face to face situations, we still choose the awkwardness of an online photo and profile.  Is this less of a risk perhaps? And since when was relating to people so risky? Or rather, when was that risk not totally worth it? 

While I was in Fiji, Ira and I were perusing the aisles of eHarmony, as girls will sometimes do, and one of the boys walked past and saw the rows of pictures and asked what we were doing. Ira smartly replied, “Shopping.” Well, we thought the conversation would end there when he continued after catching a glimpse of one specific match, “Well, what does he sell?” “Erm…”

Needless to say, the dating scene is uncomfortable for many of us out there, but why not try to make it a little less strange and a little more encouraging. Yes, you read that right. Encouraging. Because as much as I have been discouraged from online dating, I have also had extraordinary moments that have given me hope for my generation in the realm of relationships. Moments when I met great guys, even if they weren’t my guy.

So, grab your pint of ice cream ladies. And gentleman, grab some paper and pencil. You may want to take notes ūüėČ

Story #1 Random Guy Whose Name I Don’t Remember (The Guy You Don’t Want to Be)

I got back from school a few nights ago and decided to check my inbox on eHarmony. Maybe that cute guy from New York wrote me back! Maybe he noticed how smart and extraordinary I am. Well boo, the New York guy didn’t write me back, otherwise, I’d be on a date instead of writing this post! But…dun dun DUN! Guess who did write to me! A guy whose name I can’t remember. Why can’t I remember his name? Read his email and you tell me:

Hi! You’re about to be impressed I’m sure ūüėČ Here are a few worthy details about me: -Rescued orphans from burning buildings -Toppled fascist regimes for the sake of the oppressed -Single-handedly defeated an alien invasion for the sake of all humanity (you’re welcome) I can personally guarantee all of the above is unverifiably true. Here is some boring stuff: -Looking for something long term. I know I am a sexy beast but not on here for that so please contain yourself -Good job! If you want to know what my interests are, just ask!

Well, where to start! First, thank you, I did do a good job containing myself. I feel very proud. Second, unverifiably? Not a word dude. Unverifiable, but not unverifiably. But you didn’t know you were talking to a linguist so I’ll let that one slide. Third, I would love to answer your questions about me…oh wait. You didn’t ask any questions about me. You showed zero genuine interest in me. You did however show that you are very interested in yourself and wow, I get to ask you questions about you if I want. Not a great first impression. Fourth, women who will make for great friends and future wives are not interested in your laundry list of accomplishments. Whether you are trying to be funny or not, we care more about your character and your genuinely tender heart.

And how can you reveal your character and tender heart you might ask, guy who is taking oh so many notes? It can be as simple as what this next guy did in story #2.

Story #2 Random guy who I will probably write to later tonight (The Guy You Want to Be)

Even though Mr. NYC didn’t write back to me…yet…another man did and he showed his character in a simple and modest way with this email:

Hi there! Have you been to the Cleveland Botanical Gardens yet this summer? They have a collection of treehouses installed that look really impressive. Seems right up your alley. ūüôā How are you enjoying teaching first grade? My mother finished up her teaching career in first grade. She had been teaching third prior to that, and when she told her third graders at the end of the year that she was moving to first, they were all upset because they thought she was being demoted! She loved first grade because she saw such a huge progression in her students’ reading ability from the start of the year to the finish. -Random guy who I’ll probably write to later tonight

Notice anything different here? A world of difference, right? He obviously read my profile, he shows genuine interest in me, and he spoke warmly about his mom. Three gold stars for guy #2! This kind of email actually makes me inclined to hear about his accomplishments because I am sure he has them, but he did not feel the need to boast of them. Instead, he started a conversation with me. Simple as that. He made it easy for me to respond by asking two questions, one that made a connection to something that I like and one that made a connection to what I do.

Man on the other side of this computer screen, if you want the girl to write back, make it easy for her in this same way. 

And maybe you are already doing this and just aren’t getting a response from anyone. Take heart! I know it’s tough for guys too. We girls can be a major let down when we don’t notice the good ones. I’ve heard my brother’s stories too and I pray that we can all hold on to hope. We don’t need twenty. We just need one. In the Lord’s timing.

Story #3 I Got Matched with the Same Guy Again!

Oh wait, no. You’ve just seen this same photo over and over again. You know the one, with the guy, smiling and holding the big fish that he just caught.

Top three photos that guys post onto their profiles:

  1. Look at the fish I just caught!
  2. Look at me standing next to my cool red, fast, car!
  3. Look at me…in my bed??

The photos that we actually want to see:

  1. This is me with my family on my mom’s birthday.
  2. This is me living in another country during that year after college.
  3. This is me, NYC guy with dimples…

Okay, the last one was a joke. But in all honesty, we are looking to see a life outside of things and toys. We are looking to see if you have people in your life whom you care about and who care about you. We are looking to see if you have interests outside of work and we are looking to see if you love life and if you can think deeply. Show us these kinds of photos. I know you’ve got them.

Story #4 The Second Andrew

I get matched with a new Andrew everytime I log on to my profile and I’ve dated TWO of them so far! While I was getting to know the second Andrew, he spoke about his small group and how many young people attend his church. Andrew and I lived 2 1/2 hours away from each other so I just had to ask, “Why don’t you date any of the girls from your church?” His response was, “Well, what if something went wrong? That would be really awkward.”

Hmm. Yes, that could be awkward and it would be a challenge for sure, but what if things didn’t go wrong? Or better yet, what if you took the chance, things went wrong, and you both grew beautifully out of something so hard?

Andrew and I had zero friends in common. We would drive far to see each other every weekend and we had zero accountability. That led to some dangerous moments here and there between a cute blonde girl and a tall, muscular hockey player. We also never had the gift of getting to know each other surrounded by the people who know and love us best and for me, that is no way to get to know a potential best friend/boyfriend/spouse. It didn’t make sense to me that he would pass up some great girls who were already in his circle of friends. That could lead to something wonderful. He would have accountability, friends to be honest when it wasn’t a good fit and honest when it was. And this actually provides more safety as I consider the hearts involved. If you have people looking out for you, they will help you to relate to each other appropriately and with caution as you progress through the getting to know you process. If we are going to ever learn how to relate well in potential relationships, we need help from the ones who know us best. I don’t think that this is an endeavor to process alone. That is why Ira joined in on the online shopping process with me. She was able to say, “NO, pass that guy up!” or “Oooo, that could be a good one for you.” I need the help of those around me as I date just as I need help in every other area of my life.

Story #5 The One Who Broke My Heart and the One Whose Heart I Broke

To be continued…mwah ah ah.

Tune in on Friday to hear more stories that I hope we can all learn from, but until then, post your own fun, crazy, encouraging dating stories in the comment section or shoot me an email with your funny tales.  

Online Dating for Dummies Part 1

Neverland

Screen Shot 2016-01-15 at 1.25.17 PMWhen I was a younger kid, I had this dream that I flew off to Neverland on the Jolly Roger. I was a lost girl and with my friends, I was captured by Captain Hook and whisked away to a magical land. There were dark wet caves and hideaway hollows and cool rushing waterfalls and flowers of every size and color and shape. There were bright little crabs that crawled atop boulders and birds with vibrantly colored songs in their hearts. The jungles were dense and green and humid and we all wore bandanas on our brows.

When I dreamed all of this, I thought well of my imagination for dreaming up something so out of this world, so far from reality, so very magical. But I never imagined that reality could one day be the equal to my childlike hopes. 

December 27, 2015

I had been excited to see the Bouma waterfalls since I arrived in Taveuni and finally, the time had come. We travelled by ship, or rather, by Toyota Hilux, crammed in like sardines and we made our trip to the other side of the island. The air started smelling more sweet than hot and everything became slightly damp. We landed by a small house where we paid our fee to walk to the waterfalls and found 10 or so quarter sized black frogs on our way across the street to the entrance. Our initial walk was a fine grassy path lined with beautiful trees. Bamboo, ginger, ferns, coconut. There were beautiful flowers along the way too like the hanging red ginger flower, and a white flower that caught my eye that was a sort of cross between a rose and a gardenia.

We heard the sounds of rushing water and saw a wet bridge up ahead surrounded by dense green and brown forest. It was when I heard the birds start to sing as they swooped in and out of the high trees that I realized upon which dream I had stumbled. The waterfall was powerful. We climbed over rocks and boulders to get to a hollow behind the fall. It was majestic, just watching the water pound into the pool and cool us with wet whispers. I had to close my eyes for a moment just to attempt to know and understand the moment.

Then as any good lost boy or girl does, I jumped into the pool beside the waterfall. It was thrilling enough, but I immediately had to struggle against the strength of the water as it pushed me away from the fall and toward the rocks. Then again¬†as any good lost boy or girl does after finally getting out of the water once again, I jumped into the pool a second time, because sometimes it’s fun to just play for a while in Neverland, when you’re not being chased by pirates.

After our fun, we began our muddy¬†hike¬†up to see the second of the waterfalls. But instead of a hike, it was really a treasure hunt. About every 10 steps or so, a frog would jump out of our way on the path and the occasional purple crab guarded her home. We were surrounded by trees I’ve never seen before,¬†nutmeg, passionfruit, wild sandalwood, bamboo, banana more ferns (some whose leaves grew right side up and some whose leaves grew upside down). I found a large two-toned leaf, vibrant red on one side and dark maroon on the other, perfectly divided along the stem vein.

We finally came through to the second waterfall, that fed into the first one. It was lined with mossy boulders and hanging above where the water fell down over the cliff, was a sturdy looking branch that waved to me to come and sit down. I started climbing over the mossy boulders around the cool pool until I came over the largest one to find at least 20 purple crabs, standing ready to karate chop me if I came any farther. It halted my excited tracks. I just shook my head and laughed with such joy over this crazy and unexpected life.

It was an adventurous and overwhelming day. I couldn’t get home fast enough to write it all down, every detail of what I saw and experienced and I couldn’t wait to share it with you my dear adventurous Reader.

Until the next adventure,

M.IMG_6483

 

Neverland

Magic

Sometimes, life is filled with magic.

November 30, 2015 My first Day in Taveuni

I arrived at Taveuni airport a little before 9 in the morning. I came with 7 other passengers on a small jet plane that shook a bit as we flew across the islands. It was so loud, that talking to any of the other passengers would have been futile. There were three couples, from the first row to the third and then me and an Australian surf bum, wearing an iconic Indiana Jones hat and covered in a thin layer of dirt from traveling. The scenery below us was simply ridiculous, with the South Pacific and all her coral and scattered islands.

IMG_0565-0
After an hour, we landed pretty smoothly at the airport, which was really more of a grouping of benches beneath a brightly painted overhang. One of the Fijians asked if I was Emilie and he told me that JK would arrive soon. I only waited about 10 minutes before the rugged Toyota Hilux pulled up. The kids jumped out to greet me with hugs and we drove back around the island to the house.

As we pulled into the driveway, I heard singing and it didn’t register that the song was for me until I stepped out of the truck and suddenly had a Leia around my neck. The Fijian staff sang for me and then the kids sang for me. When I walked inside, I was handed a coconut with a straw sticking out of the top. It was overwhelming. People who didn’t even know me were so happy that I was finally here.

Later, we swung on the rope swing and walked down to see the goats hanging out by the coconut trees. We picked mangoes on our way down to the main road and ate them.

I slept really well in my new bed that faces the ocean to the west.

December 4, 2015

We went paddle boarding today at my family’s rocky beach. I carried the board down to the beach on my head and we had to slip it through some small spaces between trees at certain points. We made it to the shore and I found a new love on that board. You wouldn’t believe the view that I saw as I paddled through the deep clear blue waters and watched the scenery of islands pass by. Natalie rode on the front for a little bit and then Daniel too until he wanted to tip over. We fell off and he immediately started freaking out afraid of sea snakes or stingrays. haha. When we finished, we brought the paddle board in and spent the afternoon sun on building sand volcanoes and castles.

We started getting tired right as we heard a familiar buzzing sound, only to look up and see JK’s drone buzzing around the beach. We practically ran up the hill to the truck and picked some ripe pineapples on our way. The kids showed me the Qui Qui plant that fakes its death if you step on it or touch it. It literally withers right in front of your eyes until it feels safe again. If you touch it with your bare feet though, you get a thorn in your foot. We rode back up the hill to the house in the bed of the truck with the boards and fruit and mosquitoes.

We ate Mahi Mahi for dinner with fresh greens from the garden and taro chips that make your throat close if you eat too many. So naturally, I ate a few too many.

Since it was Friday, we practically fell asleep to Sherman and Mr. Peabody and Daniel kicked me in the face a few times as he fell asleep on the couch. When we woke up the next morning, Kennon asked me during our breakfast of crepes and lychee juice, “What did we watch last night?”

And sometimes life isn’t filled with magic. I have roughly 20 mosquito bites all over my body…21. And a terrible ant bite.

(I tried uploading photos but the Internet won’t allow it, so check out my instagram @emmbot)

Magic

The Day I became a Fijian

If I told you my story, you would probably laugh. You’d probably join in with my friends who have gasped at the things I’ve done with, “Wow that’s ballsy!”

You would probably cry at times too during the trials, but only for moments because around the corners you would find little gifts and big ones too that have met me on the road.

And if you really listened to my story, you would realize at some point along the way that none of it has to do with me.

And here is the part of my story that brought out the Fijian in me. 

I believe in doing something that scares me every single day. Once that meant showing up on a boy’s doorstep in Pittsburgh to give him a taste of what he was losing and once it meant answering a phone call from my bank. Both moments had me sweating bullets, but both left me braver and more ready to live my life with gusto. Sometimes, I have chosen the scary moments and other times, they have been thrust upon me. This was a moment of the latter.

It was Monday, October 19th, exactly 4 days after I completed my student teaching and 4 whole days of being on the job market. At 3pm, I received this text from Morgan Heberle,¬†“Hi E! Are you on the TMC alumni site? I just saw this job posting. NO IDEA if you’re even looking for anything, your name just popped in my head as I read it. No need to even respond if you don’t want. But wow! Doesn’t that sounds amazeballs?” I didn’t even know we had an alumni page.

I read the ad, which sounded ridiculous. Family from San Diego, graduates of TMC looking for a governess/teacher, all expenses paid, including family vacations, living in a beautiful villa in Fiji. Some of you might think, well duh! No brainer! Right? The timing was perfect. The situation fit me perfectly. I am a teacher, am great with kids, I love being a part of a family, and I have been trying to live near an ocean my whole life! So there you have it. A nice little story of how the white girl got a fun job in Fiji. That’s a sweet story.

Wrong. I’m not even close to being done.

I told Morgan I would send them my resume, but that it probably wouldn’t work out because the stipend they were offering wouldn’t even cover my minimum student loan payments. I sent my resume that same day and got a response that same day, asking for a Skype interview. I agreed and I got to talk to the family for about an hour. It was clear that we had a lot of similar ideas about everything, God, education, childhood, etc. But was that enough? Nope. I was still concerned about the money. After a day or two, I received an email from Irina, the mom, that expressed their interest in me and inquired of my interest in them. I responded cordially, expressing that I would love everything about the job but that I could not take it due to my student loan payments. I knew I needed to be faithful to that.

The end…

Just kidding.

The next email from Irina was brief:¬†“How much are you hoping to pay on your student loans each month?¬†

Freakout ensues: OH MY GOSH! What!?!? I thought that that was it! What if this actually happens?!? What if they want me enough to pay more!?!?! AHHH!! STOP EMILIE!! CALM DOWN! Nothing has even happened yet. Ugh!

So I told them how much I wanted to pay each month. I then waited nervously. Of course it’s too much! Of course they will choose someone else who doesn’t ask for more.

Wrong again.

“Okay! That’s doable for us. We think it’s more important to pay more for the right person.”

uuummmm…I’m sorry, what?

They doubled their offering stipend. They doubled it. DOUBLED.

So now we are probably on the same page, right? I took the job, everything worked out and I am going to be really tan. No. I struggle with getting tan. Darn Swedish skin!

Instead, this is when I became a little bit more like Moses. “No God, they can’t offer enough money.” God says, “Okay, problem solved, money is no longer an issue. Go. Enjoy this gift.”¬†“Okay, but God, they want me to come November 12th. That’s too soon. I need at least a month” “If time is what it will take, here is time. Stay in Cleveland until after Thanksgiving.” “Well actually I just don’t know these people. So I’ll make some calls to some professors who might know them.” “Whatever…I already know what ¬†they’ll say.”¬†Of course, they all had wonderful things to say. “Well, okay so they’re great, but I don’t know if I can commit to more than a year. I’m too scared.” “FINE! Only commit through June. ACCEPT MY GIFT ALREADY!” And in the calm, wise words of 9-year-old, Henry Clay, “Geeze! It’s just 6-months of your life. Stop overthinking this!”¬†

So now, no tricks, no games. I’m moving to Fiji on November 28th and I can add another scary thing that I have done to my list! Thank you God for such a gift.

I’d love to hear the scary things that you have done! Let me know in the comments section!

Now swoon with me over these pictures.

Check out my Fijian family’s blog : www.sheafamilyfiji.com

The Day I became a Fijian

I’ve learned that life really is a storybook

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When I was in my later teens, I went through a phase that lasted until a couple of years ago. I preached that fairytales do not exist, that Disney has ruined us all, making us fall in love with romance, but not with responsibility, with fluttery feelings, but not with constancy.

I experienced this as a firm reality through romantic relationships. I saw guys romance and then run, woo and then retreat, be different than the rest and then the same.

I based my entire mentality on this particular sort of love and its flippancy towards its victims left in its cold, awful wake.

But,¬†‚ÄúNow and then, in this workaday world, things do happen in the delightful storybook fashion, and what a comfort that is.‚ÄĚ

This quote is one of my favorites from my favorite book, “Little Women,” by Louisa May Alcott. It was said at a moment when all the hearts of the March women would burst if one more drop of happiness were to enter their hearts. It was Christmas and Beth had been improving in health and wishing in her quiet selfless heart that Mr. March would come home from war and Jo wished for love in a fairytale sort of way and for someone to see her vividly (I understand Jo the best out of them all) and Laurie hoped for extravagance. Hannah knew from the beginning of the day that it would be fine. Jo and Laurie brought laughter in their typical snow maiden building fashion, Beth brought the quiet sunshine that would only be fully realized in her passing, and Hannah, well Hannah was the prophetess of the day. She was right. The day was lovely and sweetly happy. As the day progressed, it continued in the same way. Jo offered all her gifts with grandeur and ridiculous speech.

The only thing that would cause their hearts to burst from within would be if their father returned to be with them. Soon enough, Laurie exclaimed that he had one more present for the day. Mr. Brooke entered with Mr. March leaning on him for strength to walk. Jo nearly fainted with her dramatic and somewhat disgraceful sort of love. Meg was constant with hers in her calm, appropriate and joyous manner. Of course it was Amy who ran into her father and knelt down to kiss his boots in her childlike sort of love. Hannah wept in her broken sort of love and Beth tenderly cried and laughed in her satisfied and pure love. And Mrs. March thanked Mr. Brooke for his faithful care of her husband and with her mature love, she was full.

It was in this moment that I think every woman knew in her own way that the storybooks do not come close to replicating the perfection of this sort of special existence on this particular Christmas day. The past bitterness was melted away because of it and looking back, the painful moments and years suddenly became bearable and even accepted with open arms due to this one fairy tale moment. The love experienced was not the kind that has victims, but the kind that creates heroines, the kind that makes a person free, not afraid or wearisome, the kind that lifts and allows a person to learn how to fly.

It is this kind of love that causes me to reform my belief that fairytales are for those who do not want to face life. Quite the contrary, it is for those who choose to face it with gusto, with courage to love and to be free not to enslave the one who chooses not to love back. The experiences that have hurt that I expressed in the beginning are changed in this light too. They do not stop me from loving fully, but they inform me that to throw away my Jo-like personality, with all its drama and ridiculous wild beauty, for the sake of these disappointments would be a great sin indeed. It would be a choice to keep all to myself, to lock myself in a solitary room to not ever be hurt but also to never be truly loved by others, romantic and otherwise. I would miss out on a Christmas Day like the one that belonged to the March family forever.

“Love Jo all your days, if you choose, but don’t let it spoil you, for it is wicked to throw away so many gifts because you can’t have the one you want.”

I’ve learned that life really is a storybook

what I miss the most

Every once in a while, a moment comes, when all of my memories flash before me. They are all clear as day and I cannot believe it has already been a year since I left Prague. I want to introduce you all to the 10 things that I miss the most. They are in a particular order.

10. Public Transportation. I loved stomping down 5 flights of stairs from my flat to get to the ground below and wait perhaps 2 minutes for a tram or I would walk a couple of blocks to get to the green line metro. It was so freeing. So wonderfully easy and casual. I do enjoy my car here in America, but there, I didn’t have to get my oil changed.

In Prague, there are some cultural rules to keep in mind while riding the public transportation. First, do not look at anyone unless you know them. This is a private time for everyone. It is supposed to be quiet and people are supposed to be able to hear their silent thoughts without an interrupting stare. Second, if you are with a friend, don’t make it known that you are either an American or a Spaniard by talking so loudly that the car behind yours can hear you making a raucous. (Truly, every time I saw a loud group, they were either from America or Spain. It was ridiculously consistent).

9. Pastries and espresso. My soul misses them. My waistline doesn’t.

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I often met the students that I tutored at a cafe called PAUL (Pah-ool). I would order kávou s mlékem.

8. This guy. So many words in those wrinkles.

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7. The history. I first visited Prague during my semester in Israel. For the most part, I was staring at ancient ruins (piles of rocks) in Israel and then I went to Prague and thought, “WOW, it’s so modern!” Then I returned to America and thought, “Uum, 1980’s stuff is vintage?”

In Israel and in Prague, there is history everywhere you step and there is so much pride in the people because of the wealth of history. The first picture is of my friend Lydia who, thank God, came to see me and encourage me while I was sick. She is in front of the famous statue of Jan Huss in Old Town Square. The second picture is of me signing my name in an art piece created from the candles people burned at V√°clavsk√© n√°mńõst√≠¬†(Wenceslas Square), in remembrance of the former beloved president of the Czech Republic, V√°clav Havel, who died during my time in Prague.

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6. Moments like this one:

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As I explained before, it is uncommon to start a conversation with anyone on public transportation, especially with a Czech person, but I’m not very good at following rules. This man was quite interesting. He talked most of the time about all the languages he knew and all the books he’s studied. He was thoroughly entertaining and full of himself. It was magical. It was so strange that Cindy took a picture, who was sitting from your vantage point as you look at the picture.

5. My oh so fun friends! This is Sheila. She is a missionary with SEND. We mostly laughed together, which is the best medicine. In the picture, we are eating at a Czech restaurant down the street from where I lived and on her plate are potato pancakes with brie cheese on top, a typical Czech meal.

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4. My students. In the picture is Pavla, the sweetest woman you could imagine. She is petite and has 3 children (one too many in Czech eyes). This may sound funny, but for our lessons, we read The Diary of a Wimpy Kid and talked about the idioms and other things unique to the English language.

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3. Anna. I will tell you more about her soon. She deserves several posts.

2. My church family. The picture below is the very first meeting of the church. It was a special evening. You’ll find me in the middle. Cindy and Mike are beside me on my left. Zdenek and Martina are in the front row on the right. They are so important to me. They invited me into their home and lives. We even had a lot in common because Zdenek studied in California, and for those of you who know me intimately, you know that everyone I get close to always links back to California. It’s the strangest thing.

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In the picture below, you will see some of my students and also my brothers and sister. They were my support. Each one chose a different one of my classes to attend and they shared their faith with their fellow students. It made such a difference to know that I had at least one person in my classes who understood and was there to encourage me.
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1. My family, the Yurkovich’s. Mike, Cindy, Luke, and Elizabeth. They have two more daughters, Rachel and Hannah who are not in the picture but who I also consider family. They helped me find an apartment, figure out public transportation, they fed me, the gave me coffee, and they took care of me as they would their own. How rich my life is because of them.

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what I miss the most