My Seven Years of Silence

I can remember when I started this blog in February of 2009.  I was so excited to begin my new journey as a “blogger.”  It’s not that I hadn’t written anything prior to this endeavor.  My dreams of writing began when I was about eight years old.  It began with a short fictional tale and ranged to silly rhymes, serious essays and even some heart-felt poetry.  I began journaling about my life’s experiences when I hit my teens, and I kept a journal faithfully throughout high school, college and graduate school.

Life took an interesting twist when I graduated with my master’s degree in journalism from Regent University in Virginia Beach, VA.  I made the decision to reject the traditional career approach which would include teaching journalism or working at a local television station as a journalist. Instead, I accepted a one-year job position in an English-language kindergarten in South Korea.  Up to this point, I had collected quite a list of e-mail contacts from people with whom I shared a mutual desire to stay in contact. As I shared my news with them, they all wanted to hear about my new adventure.  And so began the “Cristina Cobb Newsletters” that I would write at least once a month to tell of my adventures in South Korea.  My first year turned into a second year which eventually became four years before I left Asia to return to the U.S. to become Mrs. Stephen Meier. My writing continued as I converted the Cristina Cobb Newsletters into the “Meier Wire” newsletters.  These newsletters were always sent by e-mail until I decided to try blogging for the first time.

If you took the time to click the link listed above, you’ll see that Stephen and I were already living in Ecuador at the time.  We had two children and we were both working at the Alliance Academy International in Quito.  Besides being a mom and a wife and a secondary teacher (two high school and two middle school classes) while trying to study for my qualifying exams in my Ph.D. program, I somehow managed to find time to write regular blog posts.  Sometimes, I struggled to write something simply to get words onto the screen.  Other times, I could feel my thoughts flow like a fluid stream through my fingertips as my typed words appeared on the screen.  It brought me such joy write about our family adventures and to find an outlet for my journalistic endeavors.

Time went by.  I passed my qualifying exams and was approved to begin the REAL work on my dissertation.  I had another baby.  We left our three year home in Ecuador to move to the “unknown lands” of southeast Texas.  I stopped working to stay at home with my three growing toddlers.  Stephen had his first position as an official head of school.  He would come home and ask me almost every day, “Have I told you that I love my job?”

I kept writing my blog.  Then I had another baby in early 2013.  I began in earnest to complete my dissertation.  The promising doctorate degree in communication always seemed to loom somewhere in the foggy, far-off future.  Sometimes it felt like it belonged in a galaxy far, far away.

During that time, the importance of blogging began to fade to the back of my wishfully thinking mind. I was a stay at home mom.  I should have had plenty of time to write.  But I was tired.  I had so many great story ideas that would come to me as I was changing a diaper, or making a meal or driving my kids around town.  By the time I would find myself sitting in front of the computer, my brain was numbed by exhaustion and the heavy weight of all that I needed to do to finish writing my dissertation.  I. WAS. TIRED.

Yep.  And so I jotted down notes here and there that never quite got far enough to become blog posts.  Hence came my final blog of 2013, which reads more like a bullet list you might find on Facebook.  Okay.  It’s actually a bit too long for a typical FB post, but you get the general idea.  That was when I took a break from blogging.

Fast forward two more years, and I finally graduated with my Ph.D. in Communications.  Since I had so much free time on my hands and I had three of my four children attending school, Stephen suggested that I try a part-time job working in the after care program at school.  We also suddenly realized that we were going to have to find a new home to live in, because the owners of our current home of four years were making plans to sell the property.  The door opened up for us to start hosting international students (most of them were coming from China).  We agreed to take in three teenage boys (one in middle school and two in high school).  We moved to a two story house within a few blocks walk from school.  It had a huge master suite that would work perfectly for our international students to share.

The 2015-2016 school year was now upon us and I was busy taking care of seven kids ranging from the ages of 2 years to 17 years old.  Somehow my dreams of carving out time to write didn’t quite pan out the way I envisioned.  Piles of unfolded laundry and seven sets of empty lunch boxes would call out to me each night.  And, yes, I was still tired.  VERY. TIRED.

The kids grew.  They went to school and learned “stuff.”  We traveled, visited and experienced the Texan culture that surrounded us. We had “Texas-sized” adventures on weekends and holidays.  Our lives were full, but my blog was not.

The next school year would be the first time that Seth would attend school.  He was the first of our children that I would even consider sending into Pre-K 3.  I kept my oldest at home with me until he started kindergarten.  Luke and Grace both started attending school when they were in Pre-K 4.  But Seth was desperate to catch up with his siblings and he really didn’t like being left at home “alone” with mom.  He wanted to be in on the the “education” action.  So, I gave in and enrolled him to start in the 2016-2017 school year.

You would think that this would be the year for me to jump back into writing with a huge splash.  Instead, I avoided the blogging pool altogether by agreeing to teach Spanish at the school my children and international students were attending.  My contract to teach elementary Spanish soon became an agreement to also teach middle school Spanish.  All my classes were crammed into the morning hours so that I could take my three year old, Seth, home after lunch every day to take his nap at home.  I thought I might have time to write during those precious few hours of down time.  However, I soon realized it was the only time I could prepare dinner.  At 3pm, I had to get Seth up from his nap so that we could go back to school for the after school program where I was also working.  Our three international students were involved with school sports or getting help with their homework and our four children attended the after care program with me.   The program ended at about 6pm; which was just in time to reheat the dinner I had prepared a few hours earlier.

It was the busiest year I have ever had in my life so far.  Exhaustion crept into my life like a dense fog that wouldn’t let go.  I found myself working in automatic mode, sleeping less than four hours a night for weeks at a time.  I found I couldn’t write anything worthwhile or creative.  I just tried to survive.  For the first time ever, I started experiencing migraine headaches. Stephen and I attended a weekly Bible study that I barely stay awaked in enough to appreciate fully. If I slowed down or sat down too long, I would fall asleep.  I. WAS. EXHUASTED.

Then, Stephen began talking about a school in China that was interested in him.  In February of 2017 (eight years after I started my blog in Ecuador), he told me that he really wanted to move to China to work at this school.  My exhausted mind could not handle the idea of moving.  My frayed emotions rejected the change in pace it even though we both knew I desperately needed it.

We moved to mainland China in July of 2017.  Stephen and I were both working at the same international school that our four children attended.  Learning a new culture, and new language and getting our bearings in a new country was a time consuming task.  The lack of individual freedom of expression made a constant impact.  The “great firewall” of China kept us from using Internet sites we had taken for granted while living in the U.S.  Any site connected with Google was completely blocked.  Video and audio streaming was severely limited.  All social media sites created outside of China was blocked.  We found ways to work the system, but there were times when we were disconnected from the rest of the world.  It just didn’t seem the time to start adding to my blog again.  I was also a bit paranoid about “big brother” hacking into my computer and tracking my every written word.  It’s not hard to feel paranoid in a country that is constantly adding more and more face-recognition cameras in every public venue and tracks individual cell phone use for its citizens.

Our time in China ended with a door of opportunity opening for us in the middle East.  I finally wrote a blog from my home in B.J., China as we wrapped up our final days living there. Then I wrote a couple posts about our big move to Ankara, Turkey.

And here I am now.  Stuck with the same emotions I have been feeling over the past few years.  The same questions swirl around in my head as I read through the paragraphs I’ve typed so far.  Is this what I really want to say?  Does it really matter anymore?  Who really cares what I have to write about anyway? Insecurities sneak in to steal my confidence and sense of accomplishment.

Then, I remember how much I love writing.  I remember the thrill of painting a verbal picture of a specific moment of time that might catch someone’s interest and fill them with wonder or inspiration.  Now, I don’t think all my posts are quite that impactful.  Some of them are just plain silly.  But every once in a while, I will find something to write about that really shines like a jewel among the rest.  And that’s enough motivation for me.  For those of you who took the time to read this whole thing through, thank you for joining me in this small journey through the history of my excuses for not writing.

Yes, I think I will make it official. This is the end my seven years of silence on WordPress.  Hello, 2020.  I’m coming your way.

A Day Late and A Dollar Short

In case you didn’t hear about it on someone’s Instagram, SnapChat or FB post, this past Saturday (August 10) was “National S’mores Day.” I didn’t think about it too much at the beginning of the year when I was creating cute little calendars for my four children to hold onto for the 2019 year.  I was just trying to add as many fun and interesting “celebrations” as I could find for my kids to enjoy.

It wasn’t until the beginning of August as we finished settling into our new home in Ankara, Turkey, that it hit me that there might be groups of people celebrating this gooey and sticky tradition who might be interested in playing a card game to go along with their sweet tooth (as soon as they wash the melted marshmallow and chocolate smears off their hands).

Now, this isn’t a card game that you will find in your traditional stores.  Stephen created the game with the help of a computer art designer, and he bought the copyright so that he could sell the game through the on-line game site known as “www.gamecrafter.com” at the following site:

https://www.thegamecrafter.com/games/classic-smashin-s-mores
smashinsmores_deck

First, picture yourselves playing this game as your stomach digests graham cracker mixed with chocolate and marshmallow.  As you and your fellow card holders flick cards into a middle pile, you wait patiently for a graham cracker card to be laid down, followed by a marshmallow card and a chocolate card and then finally another graham cracker so that you can slap the deck before anyone else does.  You either hope to win by collecting all the cards in the deck or gaining three coins (one for every s’more that you smash).  It’s a fast pace and fun game for everyone.
smashinsmores_cardssmashinsmores_frontcard(the cost for one deck of cards is less than $7 dollars USD!)
https://www.thegamecrafter.com/games/classic-smashin-s-mores

Secondly, remember that every deck of cards that is purchased is helping our family to regain our financial foothold as we transition into our new jobs as Christian workers in an international school in Ankara, Turkey.

I know I am a few days late to be advertising for National S’mores Day.  We are most definitely more than a few dollars short of living “in the black” when it comes to our financial situation.  We are amazed at the ways in which God has supplied our needs over and over again. Several people have stepped up and given us generous donations to help us with our big international move from Far East Asia to the Middle East.  But we are struggling with debt and the gap in our salary between our jobs that ended in early June and this new one that technically does not begin until the beginning of September.

If you cannot support us on a monthly basis, consider purchasing this fun game that you can play with family and friends, knowing that the money you used to make your purchase is helping us with our moving costs and getting started in this new adventure of learning a new culture and language.

Take a moment to visit the site to find out how to make this fantastic game your own:

https://www.thegamecrafter.com/games/classic-smashin-s-mores

If you are interested in helping us out beyond purchasing our game, you can click here to find out how to help us on a one time basis or a monthly basis.

 

 

 

From the Far East to the Middle East

Location: Portland, Oregon
Date: June 24, 2019

IMG_8349

Another school year is completed for the “MK” Meier family living in mainland China. A flurry of selling, discarding, and packing intermingled with as many final goodbye meetings that we could cram into the schedule for the first two weeks of June. As we prepared for our summer break, it was more than just a preparation for summer activities. We were preparing to leave China behind us for good.

Stephen and I have felt for quite some time that this would be our final year living in China.  As we prayed for God to show us where he wanted us to go next year, the opportunity presented itself for Stephen and I to work at an international school in Turkey, and we found our hearts being drawn to that opportunity. Although we do not know very much about Turkey, our research has shown that it is a unique Middle Eastern Country with a mix of European and Asian cultures. Unlike many other countries with a heavy Muslim influence, Turkey operates as a democratic government based on European models rather than an Islamic one.  This will be change from us after living for two years in a strictly communist environment.

Where will we be working?

We will be working at the OASIS International School of Ankara (http://oisankara.org/) which has been established since 2004 and teaches primarily international students living in Turkey with a few Turkish students who hold dual citizenship. We are currently processing all our paperwork in order to get two year working visas for Turkey. Through the OASIS branch of the Network of International Christian Schools (NICS), we will be entering Turkey as educators and staff members for the international school.  The “M” word is generally discouraged when describing what we will be doing in Turkey.

What will we be doing?

After eight years of leading different schools as the headmaster, Stephen has agreed to be the middle school principal at this school and I (Cristina) will be the high school guidance counselor. Although Stephen was offered a headmaster position at more than one school within the U.S. for next year, we felt very strongly that God was sending us to Turkey. Based on that choice, Stephen was willing to accept the position as middle school principal for the next two years. Stephen loves being an administrator and whatever administrative position that he is given, we know he will thrive.  We are excited to see what God will do through him as he becomes part of the secondary administrative team at this school in Turkey.

We are also excited for me (Cristina) to step into this new role in which I will be helping 10th through 12th grade students finish high school well and prepare for college.  I spent several years studying third culture kids (TCKs) in their transition between high school and college and observing how the use of social media either helped or hindered their development from teenager to independent adult. These studies were used to help me earn my doctorate in Communications.  I am excited to be able to interact with students in a similar capacity once again.

Our children have not quite grasped this big move yet, but we are looking forward to what they will learn and experience, as well. Jared will be in middle school as a seventh grader.  Luke will be in fifth grade, Grace will be starting third grade and Seth will be in first grade in the elementary part of the school.

What do we need?

We are looking for both prayer and financial support for the following trips:

1) Praise that our trip from Beijing, China to Portland, Oregon was smooth and we did not lose a single one of our nineteen suitcases and six carry-ons.

2) Prayer for safety as we travel from Portland, Oregon to Gainesville, Florida by car for about 7-10 days of travel across the U.S. (we own a vehicle that we plan to use this summer)
*CLICK HERE: Our summer travel schedule is provided.

3) Prayer for smooth travels and provision for all our travel needs.  We cannot send any of our belongings to Turkey in crates because we’ve been told that large packages get confiscated and/or stolen.  So, the only way to bring everything we need to turkey is to carry it with us on the plane.  We are estimating that we will be carrying an extra six to eight pieces of luggage along with the 12 pieces of luggage that we will already be carrying with us. Each extra piece of luggage will cost us approximately 200 dollars.

If you are interested in becoming part of our financial support team in helping us GET TO TURKEY, please click the link below.  NICS has provided a U.S. tax deductible way for you give both on-line and through the mail.

Follow us on Facebook as we take pictures of our summer road trip across the U.S. Pray with us as we prepare to move to Turkey. Stay connected so that we can continue to communicate as friends and family in body of Christ.

BECOME A PART OF THE MK MEIER FINANCIAL SUPPORT TEAM.

A Trip to Chicago

As the weeks of October began to fly by,  Stephen came home announcing that he was planning on attending a conference at the end of the month that would help the school develop a HomeStay Boarding program. He was really excited about this concept, because it was something that he had a vision for since his years working at Shenandoah Valley Christian School in Virginia.  A HomeStay program would open the door for international high school students to attend particular schools in the United States.  The idea was not to use a dormitory to house these students, but to ask local families to take in one or more students into their home.  Each family would be given a certain amount of compensation by the school for room and board and they would be responsible for making sure the student had transportation to and from school.  This would all be included in the tuition charged to the students’ parents.

Stephen used Southwest to find an affordable one-stop flight to Chicago.

Therefore, Stephen was off to Chicago from Monday, October 24 to Wednesday, October 26. The conference was hosted by Wheaton Academy in West Chicago. Stephen was able to attend various workshops concerning all the logistics of bringing international students into a U.S. school system and finding host families to take care of them.  He got to meet some of the international students who attend Wheaton Academy and talk to administrators from schools where the HomeStay Boarding program is working.

The keynote speaker of the symposium was none other than Dan Egler, who had once been a secondary principal and director of the Alliance Academy in Quito, Ecuador.  Stephen had first met Dan Egler at various events held in Quito for ACSI.

Stephen returned to Lake Jackson very excited about starting this program at Brazosport Christian School as soon as possible. He has a vision for 15 international students to start attending the school as early as the second semester of this year. It took a few meetings to convince some of the teachers at BCS, but everyone is on board for this new project. The school currently has a handful of international students, but all of them live at home with their parents who have moved to Lake Jackson, as well. So, the biggest challenge right now would be finding the host families who would be willing to take on one or more students right after the Christmas holidays.

It’s an amibition plan.  But those of you who know Stephen know that he doesn’t every dream little. Keep him in your prayers as he works to make this project a success that will help the school grow.

 

The New Head of School

“Have I told you I love my job?”

The question brought a smile to my face, but I tried to keep it hidden.  Stephen used to ask me this question constantly when we were living in Ecuador and working at the Alliance Academy.  We had been living in Lake Jackson for over a month before I heard this familiar phrase being directed at my person.  I was actually starting to get a little concerned.  Was Stephen finding the job more difficult than he expected?  Was it not everything he wanted it to be?

But, no, here was that question again, and now I know that Stephen is enjoying his new job at Brazosport Christian School (BCS).  We arrived in Lake Jackson on July 8th and Stephen began working on July 12. Classes began on August 17 and things have been busy ever since.  Stephen is working on promoting the school in anyway he can.  At its highest enrollment, the school had over 300 students.  Now, BCS has approximatel 190 students total.

Recently, he had the opportunity to attend a dyslexia conference.  He was interested in attending because of his own issues with dyslexia and also to help students who might have this problem at BCS. He has also become involved with the Chamber of Commerce in Lake Jackson and joined a pastor’s prayer group.  He keeps a busy schedule throughout the week.  He tries to get to work before 7am so that he can get some work done before students arrive to start classes at 8am.  Most of the time, he is able to come home for lunch to see Cristina and the kids, and then returns to work until 4pm before coming back home.

In spite of the financial difficulties we continue to face because of moving and relocation expenses, Stephen feels that he is in the place where God wants him to be.  He has said that this is giving him great experience in running a school. He knows this is where God wants us to be and we’ll stay here until he wants us to go somewhere else.

Stephen takes in the view with Grace from the top of the playground.

 

Stephen’s Busy Schedule

Stephen poses with a "cool" shaded Luke.

Stephen always manages to stay busy.  He leaves the house at about 7:45 each morning and (except for a lunch break) often doesn’t come back home until a little before 6pm.

After returning from his conference in Florida at the end of January, he felt he had been equipped with more tools to proceed with the development of curriculum at the school.  He has put into effect a curriculum mapping program to help continue to improve each subject area that is offered at the school. 

This is also the time of year in which current teachers are required to let the school know if they will be continuing in their position for next year.  Several vacancies have opened up in the secondary department in the past few months and Stephen has been involved in the searching and recruiting of new teachers.  Slowly, but surely, we are getting those positions filled.

Now only is he interviewing new teachers to come to the school, he has also been interviewing new students looking at transferring to the Alliance Academy next year.  His days are usually filled with meetings of different kinds and he doesn’t get to his administrative paperwork until the end of the school day when everyone is gone. 

He has also began searching different international schools for openings in secondary administration, especially high school principal or director/head master of a school.  Many of these positions hire a year in advance.  So, he is beginning his search this year for the 2011-2012 school year. 

We still plan to stay in Ecuador for at least one more school year.