Friday, March 21, 2014

Big News - Big Adventure

In 1989 my family hosted an exchange student from Sydney, Australia. She and Robbie were born the same month, both ran, and they hit it off wonderfully. In 1991, I participated in a similar experience and lived in Adelaide, Australia for 11 months.

I fell in love with my host family, friends, school, climate and culture. I found it ironic that the agency I went though advertised all sorts of opportunity/support for culture shock when arriving to your host country, but nothing for the return. My return home was difficult (total understatement...don't believe me, just ask my parents). You see, a lot had changed in those 11 moths, both at home and within me. My desire to return to Adelaide was strong; unfortunately, so was my naïveté, immaturity, and lack of knowledge as to how to go about it.

After completing my LPN(1998), Mandi and I spent around 2 months in a Australia. I even sat for a job interview while we were in Sydney. We stayed with friends in Sydney and Adelaide. I rented a car and drove with Mandi along the Great Ocean Road. It was a beautiful drive. She liked one cassette tape that I had dubbed for her. It had the Sound of Music soundtrack on one side and Veggie Tales on the other and that was all we listened to for the days on our little road trip.

It's hard to imagine today, but in 1999, the internet was nowhere near what it is like today. When I sought information about licensing and visas, I had to do so by making several international long distance phone calls, request the information and then wait weeks for a little pamphlet with vague snip it's of information.

I finished my RN and although I still desperately wanted to return to Adelaide to live, work, and raise Mandi, I knew the timing wasn't right. I had earned my associates degree in nursing and knew that the minimum of a bachelor’s degree would be required for a work visa.

Let me shed a bit of perspective on the situation. I started taking prerequisites and non-course requirements for the associate degree nursing program in 1993. I worked while going to school. Thankfully I had lots of family support, my parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles all helped. When I graduated with my associate’s degree it was 2000. I applied and interviewed for the nearest RN or BSN program. It was an hour-plus drive away and decided I needed to take a break from school. I needed job experience and I needed to not be being pulled in so many directions at the same time

Then Mike and I met. I got distracted. I lost site of a dream that had been a strong motivator in much of what I had accomplished. After Sam's time at Children's Hospital my motivation to continue my education was rekindled. It was great too as the University of Washington offered their RN to BSN program at several satellite locations which really cut down on the commute time.

Things were going fine, but somewhere in there I started floundering. Then, someone asked me "What are your dreams?" And I didn't have an answer. I had no goal, limited motivation...I was coasting. Coasting has its benefits, but not in the long term. That was when my buried dream of returning to Adelaide was rekindled.

In August of 2012, I filled out and "expression of interest" on the Australian immigration website. In November I started contacting nursing agencies to see about employer sponsorship. I was told that only nurses with a "specialty" such as emergency, dialysis, or ICU experience could get sponsorship. So I'd contact someone else and was told the same thing. Come the third time being told this, I started believing it.

I went ahead and sought to get licensed in Australia believing this might help in getting sponsorship. It took me nearly a month to gather all the required paperwork, a week or so for notarized copies to ship overseas and another 8 weeks before I received and approval letter. That letter arrived in April of 2013.

This wasn't enough. On the visa website there was a checkbox indicating if your skills had been assessed by the appropriate agency. This agency is not the same one that does the licensing. I applied to have my skills assessed after getting my BSN in June of 2013. After paying the fee (not a minimal fee either!) learned that I would have to sit and pass and English competency exam.

There was only one testing site for the exam in all of Washington and it had a three month waiting period! Talk about nothing happening quickly here!!! Then I remembered our neighbours to the north. Vancouver offered the exam at multiple testing centres biweekly. I sat for the exam in July and...FAILED!

Apparently this is not unusual for native English speakers as our understanding of the language doesn't always line up with the actual test. *Ugh!* I have pretty fair test anxiety. Paying for and taking the stupid test once wasn't fun and taking it a second time was near torture; however, in August I passed. WooHoo!

The three month wait to have all my paperwork reviewed seemed like an eternity. In November I got the letter saying that my skills were the equivalent to an Australian RN or something of the sort. To be honest I don't really remember the specifics, just that the outcome was good.

I then updated my "Expression of Interest" and in December of 2013 received an invitation to apply for a permanent working visa. More fees! Each family member that would be traveling with me had to pay a substantial fee just to apply...non refundable! I also had to supply scanned original documents regarding my education, employment, marriage, etc, etc, etc. It's a good thing that I was now keeping all of that in the same folder.

Each person in the family also had to undergo a physical by an approved physician...and pay another fee. Thankfully I could once again turn to our neighbors to the north for the physical exams as it was slim pickings for approved physicians here in Washington state. Shockingly and thankfully that went off without a hitch. *Yeah!!!*

In January 2014, Mike and I filed for our FBI clearance letter (another requirement...another fee...just a little one this time). It was rather interesting though. We had to go to our police department and pay a fee to be fingerprinted and then send the fingerprint cards off to the other Washington for processing. That was easy enough. Eight weeks later I received a letter saying I was not a criminal. Mike received a letter saying that his fingerprints were unusable.

Back to the police department we went. The fee was waived and his fingerprints redone. While there we learned that fingerprints tend to fade with age and that certain careers have a tendency to wear off fingerprints sooner than others. We only had to wait around four weeks this time. We then got the letter saying that Mike is not a criminal. The results were not a surprise to either of us. :)

Five days after scanning and emailing Mike's FBI results, on March 16, 2014, we received an email with attached important documents stating that we have been approved for a permanent skilled working visa. Both Mike and I were all grins.

It felt so good to have all that hard work pay off. And that's it. We're moving to Adelaide, Australia. Mike and I have an agreement to give it a go for two years after which time we'll evaluate how it is working out for the whole family and decide at that point if we want to stay longer or try someplace else or return to the Pacific Northwest.

Now to purge belongings, pack keepsakes, paint and list the house and lots and lots of other tasks along the way to our new adventure.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

A New Right Leg

For years I have tolerated painful vericose veins in my right leg.  Wow, that sound like a commercial.  Anyway, last year I decided I'd had enough and called the vein doctor to get it taken care of.  Thanks to my insurance I was forced to wear compressin stockings for three months before they would approve the surgery.  My doctor assured me that this would not reverse anything.  It's just something the insurances frequently require.

That was in Auguat. It took a bit longer to be able to coordinate my actual surgery.  Today was the day and I am so thankful as my right leg has regularly hurt even when it's elevated.  

When I arrived I had to undress from the waist down.  I was provided with pretend disposable panties. They were basically a small rectangle of cloth with a string of elastic around the middle, one size fits none.  I had to laugh about the perception of modesty knowing full and well that I might as well be butt naked.  And yes, the gown provided barely closed in back.  It was really rather amusing.

The procedure was done without anesthesia, just a bit of Valume and local injections of Lidocaine. It was odd being awake for it.  There were two veins that had a lazer inserted in them and were fried on the inside from the ankle to the groin. This wasn't too bad.  It was neat to watch on the ultrasound screen.  The circulating nurse was a quilter so she and I chatted throughout.  

After the lazer came the treatment of all the smaller wacky veins that had developed.  There were lots of little sticks with Lidocaine for these.  It was odd to feel the "pinch" and then feel tugging and pulling.  I asked the doctor if he was doing latch-hook on my leg.  It was a similar sensation as when getting a tooth filling.  Pinch then tug, pull and pull and pull and snip  The whole procedure took two hours.  I was surprised it took so long.  To this the doctor said "Yes, you provided us with lots to do."

I do have incisional pain, but already the constant aching in my lower leg has subsided.  I'll have to wear support hose for two weeks, lift no more than 25 pounds and take it easy for the next month.  I'll be off work for two weeks which is fine.  The part that is tricky is the lifting.  James weighs at least 35 pounds and I carry him frequently to the car, to place in his car seat or grocery cart and even just so he can sit on my lap.  He's been running a fever with cough since Tuesday too and it feels weird to tell him that I can snuggle, but that I can't pick him up.  Tonight he was limping around with me saying that his leg hurt.  I acknowledged his empathy. 

 I go back to the doctor tomorrow to have the dressings looked at.  Sam said she wants to go with me so that she can see what the doctor did.  I love her curiosity regarding health science.  As for Mandi she simply said "ewww" and did not want to hear ANY details.  It's funny how siblings can be so different in some ways yet so similar in others.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

A Super Cute Sewing Project

A while back my Cousin Kelly showed a darling photo of a sweet little infant's dress that had been made from daddy's dress shirt.  It was absolutely darling and it made me sad that there are no infants in the house I could make one for. 

Then, when I was going through a box of things for Goodwill I saw one of Mike's old dress shirts and the idea started rolling around in my head to try and sew Sam a dress.  So I searched the net for ideas.  The nice part about doing a web search before trying a project is that you get to learn from successes and mistakes made by others. A mom of one site said she had used the dad's shirt and a Simplicity pattern. I loved that idea as I have a bunch of patterns I thought I could use as guides. I also found an awesome site with loads of tutorials called MADE.  Love it, seriously!

Looking at a handful of pictures I noticed that ALL of the dresses had little puff sleeves.  I do like puff sleeves on little girls, but Sam is getting a bit older and she has been choosing less Shirley Temple looking dresses.  Instead of puff sleeves, why not use the shirt cuffs? 

The bodice whipped together fairly quickly.  I love love love that the buttons and button holes were already perfectly done thanks to using Daddy's dress shirt.  I wanted to be sure that I was on the right track regarding size and had Sam try on the bodice.  She was so sweet at she said " Mom, I like it, but I don't like the color.  Is there any way to use a different shirt?" I suspected that she would like the finished project, but couldn't convince her of my vision.  I told her I'd just make the give the dress to someone else.

Many of the dresses I saw online were A-line dresses, which is fine, but they look a little more "toddler." So when I had deconstructed Mike's shirt I left the bottom of the shirt intact when cutting the bodice portion.  I did this with the intention of using the width of the original shirt to gather and add a little volume and shape to the dress. 

The skirt portion of the dress was inspired by some of the fashions Sam really likes at Naarjite Kids.  I trimmed the the front so that the skirt would hang lower in the back.  I was debating on adding additional fabric for the skirt to give it more depth; however, when Sam tried on the bodice I held up the remaining shirt and it was not long enough on its own, so I'd have to add that extra layer.  I chose a sweet pink with white print that Grandma Lois had given me years ago when she stopped sewing.  I cut this piece longer in the back mirroring the back length of the shirt.  I gathered both fabrics separately and got sewing.

Sam LOVED the finished product.  It has a modern look that is perfect for my big girl.

Oh, and I moved the breast pocket to the skirt, adding elastic near the top so that it would lay nicely on the gathered fabric.

After seeing Sam's dress, James asked what I was going to make for him.  *sigh* there aren't a bunch of quick to sew projects for boys.  I looked through the MADE site again and found that it did have lots of boy fashions as well.  Pants!  That was the answer.  

I raided the Goodwill bag again and found a pair of grey slacks of Mike's.  I think he actually wore them on our first date.  I again dug through my pattern box and found a simple pant patterns that I had used for Mandi, Alyssa and Myles when they were little.  The pattern was size two so I modified it a smidge.  I wanted to add a bit of character and used the idea to add fun pockets as had been shown on the MADE site.

James LOVED his new pants.
He especially loved the pockets.  This boy doesn't hold still.

It warmed my heart that they were both so pleased with their new fashions.  I loved that that I was able to whip them up in an afternoon and an evening.  It also felt great to repurpose the old clothes and give the kids a special feeling to be wearing Dad's clothes remade just for them. I'd love to get a photo of them together whetting their new sweet little ensembles...maybe for Father's Day.