Tuesday, December 3, 2013

#GivingTuesday: Working at a Local Nonprofit

I love my job. I am the Marketing and Development Manager at the Museum of World Treasures in Old Town Wichita, KS. I don't know why I started as a business major at Newman University -- the Communication department was where I was destined to end up. Changing my major and jumping head first into the department was one of the best decisions I've ever made.

The Museum of World Treasures is the one of the only family-friendly attractions in Old Town. Happy to be there!

I'm thankful to have completed my degree and actually have a position doing something relevant to my education (which is not common for new grads around the area). I never dreamed of working in a history museum, but now I can't imagine my first full-time career position anywhere else. Not everyone gets to work with 500 million year old rocks, shrunken heads, or a T. rex every day, and Ivan is one of my best buddies.

Ivan the T. rex was found in South Dakota only five feet under the ground.

Today I had the opportunity to promote #GivingTuesday, a national campaign to add a day of giving to the shopping line up of Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday. Did you give to a nonprofit that is meaningful to you? If you support the Museum's efforts of providing quality educational programs, exhibits, and school tours, please consider donating online here before Dec. 5, 2013. If you are interested in donating to the Museum at any other time, please call 316.263.1311.

Here's my #UNselfie for #GivingTuesday. I give because I'm #TeamIvan!

Wichita is blessed to have so many art and culture driven organizations. These nonprofits are very important to the development and growth of the city, but need help and support to thrive. To help generate revenue, the Museum rents out banquet space on the third floor. Raymond and I are excited to be planning our reception around the space. There will be dinosaur wedding photos (and maybe cake toppers)!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Thanksmas or Christgiving?

Raymond and I hung Christmas lights on my duplex last weekend, and last night I turned them on. No shame! Unlike some people, I have no problem mixing Thanksgiving and Christmas. What's the difference between last night and next weekend, anyway?

Every year at Christmas my family visits Silver Dollar City in Branson, MO. These are just a few of the thousands of trees covered in twinkling lights. We used to go over the Thanksgiving holiday, so it's possible my parents felt the same as me about combining the winter holiday love. I'm thankful we were able to go last December, as it was the last trip we made with my Dad and gave us all some wonderful memories (including snow!).
It's not that I don't love Thanksgiving -- I do -- but I don't see what's wrong with extending the Christmas season and making Thanksgiving part of it. I love Christmas so much that I want to enjoy the lights, tree, and warm candlelight longer than four short weeks. Besides, it takes at least one of those weeks just to get all the decorations out of the box.

Last year my parents and little sister spent Thanksgiving with me in Dublin, Ireland. The pub we stopped in for dinner had this "Thanksgiving" special! None of my family ordered it, but I had been in Europe for three months already and wanted a taste of home. It was delicious, as was the red lemonade in the picture, something you can only order in Ireland.
Last November only confirmed my opinion about merging the two major holidays when I was in Europe and the German Christmas Markets went up the first or second week of November. England obviously does not celebrate Thanksgiving, which allows them to enjoy the German beer, hand-crafted sweets, and carnival Christmas festival for at least two or three weeks longer than it would culturally be allowed in the USA. Tell me, what's wrong with celebrating Christmas for as long as possible?

The German Christmas Markets in Europe can go on for miles! Raymond and I had the chance to visit three or four different markets while in Europe. Birmingham had the largest outside of Germany! Oh, what I would give for some of those Christmas sweets or German beer here in Kansas...
Tomorrow I will take more glittery Christmas goodies out of their boxes and joyfully place them around my small duplex. In a couple weeks I will enjoy a delicious spread of food for Thanksgiving, including all my favorites (my mom's turkey, cream corn, Raymond's mashed potatoes, and LOTS of pie). And all the while, my phone will play Christmas songs that not only make me happy, but also very, very thankful.

Monday, November 4, 2013

DIY Thanksgiving Yarn Wreath

Welcome to November! I hope you had a great Halloween and enjoyed an extra hour of sleep on Sunday morning. I know I did!

Halloween was interesting. I did have a lot of Trick-or-Treaters, and the little ones were so darling! Unfortunately only about half of them actually said "trick-or-treat" and only one in five said thank you. I think next year I might put a sign on the door that says "don't bother if you're over 10." Think that would get my tires slashed? Did you have similar experiences with kids at your door?

Here's my DIY Thanksgiving Yarn Wreath

I originally planned on making this wreath for October but never got around to it. I love having something on my front door and hung a ghost up instead. When the ghost had to come down it was time for me to actually complete this project.

Unfortunately I was not thinking ahead enough to take pictures while I was working on this, but it's REALLY easy and anyone can do it!

For this project you need:

A foam craft wreath
Fake flowers
Pins (I used pearl pins because they are pretty but any old pins will work)

Here's what you need, plus the foam wreath and flowers of your choice. Like my colorful rug?

First, pick out your foam craft wreath or reuse one you already have. This wreath can be whatever size you want. I picked mine up at Hobby Lobby with a 40% off coupon making it a grand total of $3. I've occasionally seen these even cheaper at Walmart. If you haven't downloaded the app for Michaels and Hobby Lobby, do it now! You can have an infinate number of 40% off coupons without looking through the ads every week!

This is what I used, found at Hobby Lobby.

Next, pick out whatever colors of yarn and flowers you want. My mom gave me these from another project, so they were FREE! Before you spend money on yarn make sure you ask your mom, gma, aunt, best friend who knows how to knit -- someone probably has extra yarn they would just give you to get it out of their craft room. If you have to buy some, you do not need expensive stuff and you do not need a lot. I used four colors and when I was done it barely looked like I had touched the rolls.

Now for the assembly:

1. Start by tying your first color around the foam (tie it to itself, don't cut it!). Start wrapping. It's that easy. Wrap the yarn until you like how much is covered. I used about the length of my finger but mostly just eyeballed it. If you want to be really particular you can use a tape measurer. Sorry, I forgot to take pictures of this part!

2. When the first section is long enough, cut it and partially knot it to itself. I used an under-over-through type knot but it doesn't have to be extremely tight, because now you tie your second color to the loose end. Tada! Both are secured. 

3. Wrap, tie, repeat. Do this all the way around the wreath. When I got to the end I wrapped a large section with brown because I knew it was going to be covered with the flowers anyway.

You're almost done! Make sure all your knots are tight and cut off the loose extra yarn. Next, rip your fake flowers apart. Seriously, don't get super expensive ones because you are just taking the flower petals off the green plastic stem. You can use fabric flowers if you're crafty and have time to do that. 

4. I dismantled three or four of my fake purple flowers and stuck a pearl pin straight through the middle to hold it to the wreath. I've done this before on a couple other projects and it has always worked like a charm.

Congratulations! Your wreath is done. You can jazz it up with other crafty things like letters or ribbon if you want, but I just hung it up like this. You can also secure the yarn/flowers with a glue gun if necessary. I love how it turned out, it's a great addition to my front door for the month.

Let me see your pictures if you give it a try, or I would love to hear your your tips and suggestions to make this better. I'll be trying something new for Christmas in a few weeks, I can't wait!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

New Blog and It's My Birthday!

First, Happy Birthday to me! Second, welcome to my new blog. The good news is that I have an all-new design that incorporates something I love: travel. The bad news is that you're here because the web template for Sunflower Skyscraper became corrupted and broken, meaning I have to delete it. Don't worry, it's not the kind of broken that will hurt your computer, only that the design became corrupt and I could not fix several problems with the layout and background images.

Raymond recently started his own blog (you can find it here) but he might have some guest posts as soon as I convince him to write them. Here you can find our life "postcards" and things we want to share with family and friends. 

Last year on my birthday Raymond and I rode a 45 minute bus to the city center to find the most American food around in Birmingham, England -- Chinese take-out! Then he found me a piece of red velvet cake in one of the bakeries. It was nothing like my mom's but the best we could find. I just looked at pictures and realized apparently we also saw the new 007 movie, weeks before anyone at home. The same day I talked to my parents and they told me they were coming to visit for Thanksgiving. That was the best birthday present I've ever received!  

My parents and little sister came to visit over Thanksgiving 2012.

I'm so thankful my parents did come to visit for Thanksgiving. We made some wonderful memories, and they are especially powerful as we lost my dad in April. It has been such an interesting year, full of adventure, joy, but also sadness. I'm thankful to be home and celebrating with friends and family in Kansas this year. Also, I think my mom may have made me one of her famously delicious cakes for tonight.

Make sure you subscribe for email updates in the box on the right side of the page. Thanks for stopping by on my birthday, please let me know what you think of the new design in the comments section below!


Saturday, September 21, 2013

#Runningfordad 5K Dash+Dine

We're winners! Not really, but we did both finish the 5K Dash+Dine race this morning to benefit United Way of the Plains, so we consider that winning. A group of Museum friends joined us for a great morning.

Think the shirts were bright enough? This was just past the finish line!

Go Team Ivan! Dillon Noller placed 3rd for his age category (impressive!).

This was Raymond's first 5K and I'm so proud of him. We've been making our way to the gym on a regular basis for about four months now and feeling great. We're a team, and we want to be a strong and healthy one!

Raymond: "I did it! Whoop!"

Finish line of his first 5K!
After graduation we created healthy goals to work towards together. Finishing a 5K together was one, and we've been trying to make more meals at home and eat less sugar and fat. After the first month we started to really feel the difference and more energy. I've been #runningfordad since April.

The cooler weather makes me want to go run around and do everything outside, so I'm glad we had the chance this morning while supporting United Way. They're a great organization in Wichita, and taking donations for their annual campaign right now.

Go team Ivan!

Monday, September 9, 2013

I said yes!

Well, he must of liked it.. because he put a ring on it!

That's right, much to my (and everyone else's surprise) Raymond proposed last weekend while we were visiting his family in St. Louis. If you know anything about us, you know that of course I said YES! He picked the ring and I could not be more thrilled with the new bling on my hand or my husband-to-be.

The only people around to take a picture took a blurry one, so... engagement selfie!

I know what you're asking. Do we have a date? No, of course not, he only just asked last week. There's a lot that goes into planning a wedding, and the first thing is to establish a budget. We're still working on that part before we make any decisions. The only thing I have picked is my dress, and that's because I worked in the bridal store for a couple years.

He picked it! I LOVE it, plus he got it at outlet prices -- so proud, I taught him to sale shop!

For any recently engaged gals, the most useful planning website I have found (other than Pinterest -- follow me here) is theknot.com. TheKnot allows you to set up a planning profile, and even has an app to help track check lists and budget sheets. I know this is going to be very helpful throughout the planning process, especially being able to log all wedding-related expenses via iPhone.

He proposed at the St. Louis World Fair Pavillion, and yes, he did get down on one knee! Are you married? We would love to hear your best planning tip or suggestion in making ours a life-long, happy marriage. Please leave a comment!

Yep, my ring looks great with a TREX! Here we come IVAN!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Moving Slowly

For weeks I have been attempting to write "Part 2" about losing my dad, and I just haven't been able to finish the post. I guess I took a hiatus from the blog because I felt I couldn't write about anything else until I finished adressing what happened in April. This week I realized that isn't true.

I'll write about April when I'm ready (which obviously just isn't yet). Every time I've sat down to write about those three weeks of hospice care I just become overwhelmed with grief and can't finish more than a couple paragraphs, most of which I delete the next time I look at the post. 

Grief is terrible and life consuming, and something that everyone deals with differently. I've slowly been learning this in the last five months. They say there are some general "stages" that most people go through when dealing with loss, and I still feel like I'm stuck in shock and disbelief. It was only this week that I really listened to loved ones who said that it's okay for me to feel like I just lost my dad yesterday.

My dad and I at Silver Dollar City, one of our favorite places to visit in summer and at Christmas time.

I have good days and bad days, but every day feels like a giant mountain to climb. I never used to feel like this before my dad died. Now, I feel maxed out on stress all the time and lose patience easily. The first few months after losing my dad I was extremely forgetful, which isn't like me. There were a few different days when I called Raymond after work to see what I should pick up from Walmart for dinner, and in the ten minute drive home I completely forgot to even go to the store.

Throughout college I filled my days with work and school from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. and that was my normal. I handled it well, thrived on it even, but I simply cannot do those hours anymore. If there is one thing in particular I've realized I need in order to heal, it is time at home or the gym, away from other responsibilities or commitments, to focus on myself. For weeks I tried to deny this, feeling selfish, and my grief and feelings of stress grew to enormous levels. 

Exercise has helped, and in June Raymond and I started going to the gym six times a week. We haven't quite kept up that intensity throughout August, but we have at least made an effort. Several friends thought I was obsesive about the gym in June, but I needed something else to focus on and give my mind a break from 24/7 grief.

And it is 24/7. I can work, and socialize, and go to the gym, but it's always there. If you have never lost someone close to you, you probably don't understand. That's okay. I'm glad, for your sake, that you have never had to go through something like this, but I also ask your patience and kindness. There's no time limit on grief, although I read today that most people will only put up with your grief for about a month and that's the most they can handle. How could I have even started to deal with the loss of my dad in four short weeks? If you have dealt with serious grief, then you know what I'm saying... and thank you for understanding. 

I can go through daily life, working hard and trying to sleep, but that doesn't mean I've even barely started down the long path of dealing with this loss. Every season and year will bring different memories, which are lovely and painful at the same time. 

Sometimes these moments sneak up on me during a perfectly normal day. On Friday night I drove past a high school football game, and it reminded me that it is fall sports season (meaning golf). Immediately, just by driving past a back-to-school scrimmage, I was transported to a world full of golf memories with my dad. He was so busy at work, but he always made time to go to my tournaments.

My first golf tournament in college, my parents were so excited that they drove all the way to San Antonio to see me play.

Every day is just plain hard. I post this in hopes that other people I know who have lost a parent in the last year understand that they are not alone in feeling like every day is a struggle. 

Monday, July 15, 2013

Eleven Rainy Months

Losing my Dad, Part 1
by Rachel

I guess I'm ready to break the silence. Hello, world. If you would like to know what I've been posting to the internet in my absence here, please check out my work blog for the Museum of World Treasures.

My parents, photo taken June 2012 (two months after the first diagnosis).

There are many reasons why I haven't written a personal blog in so many months, and there are also reasons why the posts stopped so suddenly. 

My dad died. 

It is difficult to find sufficient words to describe the last year of my life, or even just the last six months since I came home from England. It's hard to make the words in this post even feel as if they are flowing together to form sentences, but at the same time I feel as if I could write an entire book about the most traumatic thing that has ever happened to me (my dad would tell me to stop being dramatic if I had said that out loud). As long as this post is, it is only a summary of the months leading up to the day the doctors told us it was time for hospice care. 

When we found out that my dad had cancer in April of 2012, there were so many questions and so few answers. Not only did he have cancer, but it was a rare and therefore less-researched kind (bile-duct cancer). What treatments could we do? How long would we have? Why was this happening to my dad, the most health-conscious and fitness-concerned man I know? 

The summer brought few answers, but some treatment options. He went to chemo at least twice a month but continued to work full time, or as much as he could, even with his laptop in bed in the hospital. He continued to work as he was able until the week we were told that the only option was hospice care. That was also the first week he took pain killers throughout the entire ordeal. 

My mom, dad, little sister, and myself in London November 2012.
 I struggled over the decision to go abroad, but at the time he seemed to be doing so well. We had hope that we could have as much as several years, although they would be filled with chemo and treatments. It was hard to leave, but I had faith things would be the same when I returned at Christmas, and my dad encouraged me to take the opportunity.

I will forever be grateful that my parents were able to come and visit me over Thanksgiving in England. For that week, I was able to show my dad a world of new and exciting things that he had only read about and seen pictures of. Together with my mom and little sister, we toured the Tower of London, drank Guinness in Ireland, and explored London by the Underground. My dad was struggling as the cancer and treatments took their tole, but hiding it from the world and doing his best to continue on as he always had. Over and over again he repeated throughout the last year that sometimes we cannot control what happens to us; what we can control is how we react and whether we allow things to devastate us or whether we continue to move forward and grow as human beings.

My dad and I when he came to visit me in London.

I came home on December 20 and had a wonderful Christmas with my family. We took our annual trip to Branson, MO, although we worried it was too cold for my dad. It was the last time we would all be together in Branson, the place where my parents cultivated years of precious family vacation memories. 

My parents celebrated Christmas in Branson with the entire family.
 Everything began to change quickly in January. I started my new job at the Museum of World Treasures, moved into a new house, and started classes in Kansas again. Unfortunately this time of change also marked the first time in 2013 that my dad went into the hospital. He was re-admitted time and time again throughout the weeks of January, February, and March as they fought various infections and problems associated with the cancer. 

It was chaotic and stressful for me to try and balance a new job, school, and needing to be with my family as much as possible. Sometimes I felt like I wasn't doing a very good job at any of those roles, but I did just as both my parents had always taught me to do: I fought on, sometimes blindly, and kept going.

Things got worse over the weeks. The days at the hospital began to outnumber the days at home, but we still had faith and my dad was ready to keep fighting to do whatever possible to beat the cancer, or at least live with the cancer. And up until the end I truly believed, with everything in me, that he was going to and that cancer was not going to take my dad from us at only 57 years old. 

The first weekend of spring break Raymond and I were scheduled to visit his family in St. Louis. My mom called the morning we were supposed to leave and asked me to cancel the trip. We found out that day that the unthinkable had happened: the doctors said there were no viable treatments left, and that they were recommending hospice care.

My family had already weathered many months, but that day the storm got worse.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Our last 1st day of school

Today was our last first day of school, at least until we decide on grad programs. How exciting! The best part of my day was seeing all our fantastic choir friends again after a very long break.

We missed singing with the Chorale and Troubadours, and now we're ready to jump right back in! Today we received some plans for the spring musical, and I can tell you it's going to be a great one. I can't wait to get into some of the music, and I'm so thankful for one last semester with the amazing group.

Some other exciting news is that thanks to the blessing of a couple amazing people, Raymond and I have the opportunity to go see Jersey Boys in a couple weeks! I cannot explain how much I love this show. We first saw it on Broadway in NYC, and we both fell in love! I'm giddy that we get to enjoy it another time.

Tomorrow I have my first science class in four years. Can you tell I'm a Communication major? Everyone keeps telling me not to worry about it, but it's been a really long time since my Sophomore high school Biology class! Can I get an Amen???

I've loved being at home with my family, but I'm moving into town at the end of the month so that I can be closer to school and work during the week. I'll miss sitting with my dad every night, the overly full fridge and my awesome mom who surprises me sometimes with a packed lunch (hey, sometimes it's okay to feel like you're still a kid). It's only a 20 minute drive though, so they won't be able to keep me out unless the change the locks. I love my family! :)

Check out Jersey Boys, it won't disappoint!

Big Announcement!

Raymond and I have had a few really exciting weeks since returning to the Midwest. He comes in on the 3am train early Sunday morning, and we start classes the next day. It's great getting back into things, but also a little exhausting!

I'm posting an update over my lunch hour at my NEW JOB that I absolutely LOVE. Since I've been here a week already, I think I can officially announce that I'm the new Marketing Assistant at the Museum of World Treasures in downtown Wichita. The team I'm working with is fantastic and I'm proud to get the chance to market this amazing Wichita gem! If you haven't been to visit in awhile, come on in! There were four exhibits redesigned in the last year.

I've been loving the weather in Kansas, as it's mostly dry and sunny. It is colder than England, but I have better hair days due to the dry air! Spring will be here before I know it, and I'll be planting flowers. I do love my tulips.

I know lots of students have already started classes this week. I actually just took my Finance final a couple days ago for one of my classes back in England! I have one more project to submit online, and I'll officially be done with those classes!

Something I missed while I was in England? Pandora Radio.

Check it out, I even have my name on the door!