“This is the best day ever,” Rochelle said when we had a picnic at the park. With the simple food we brought we all enjoyed the nice warm sunny weather that comes infrequently during the winter times. I must say even when the days are cold kids like to get out and play. As a mom I like to see their smiles, giggles, hear their laughter and feel their warm love. It’s a great feeling to know that I’m doing a great job as a mother, even if I sometimes feel insecure or down because I’m only a stay home mom. Sometimes I feel like I’m not supporting my family enough so I feel eager to work. I often times forget that my role as a mom is very important too. To nurture a kid is not an easy job – there’s a lot of frustration and patience involved. However, when my kids show me their affection all my sacrifices are worth it. I’m not saying that my kids are perfect and I not saying that I’m a perfect mom because we are not. Rochelle and Chantelle have their bad spells and they push me to the limit but I show them tough love. I want them to know that I’m in control but at the same time I want them to learn to make decisions. While they are young I want to imprint in their hearts and mind that I love them so much despite of not getting their ways.
I always try to think of a ways to make Rochelle and Chantelle happy without buying the most expensive toys. Family swimming, everyone can have a great time and the good part is that it’s very inexpensive. Another one that we love to do is playing at the park. We are so blessed that there’s so many parks to choose from and going to one of them is free. Nap time is a fight that’s why books comes handy. I read them stories and sometimes we make our own stories. Or simply have a mommy and daughter talk. And one of our family favorites is riding our trailer bike to the library. I’m very fortunate that I have girls that love books so we go to the library is very often. I need the exercise, so the more pedaling we do the happier and healthier I get.
As many of my readers may know, my wife Marissa is from the Philippines. One inter-cultural marriage fact that I learned early on is that when you marry a Filipina, you also marry her family. Some may see that as a negative, but I don’t, not at all. I look at it as a direct opportunity to dramatically change lives for the better.
One thing I made very clear to Marissa from very early in our relationship was that although I was happy to help her family and expected that to be a part of our relationship, I was not interested in subsidizing their lifestyle. I don’t need more dependents than I already have. So we agreed on a set of guidelines for assistance. We help with infrastructure, education, and medical emergencies, but not ongoing living expenses or entertainment.
We have chosen to focus our primary efforts on education, particularly when that education can lead to a high paying job abroad. While it would be good and admirable to work toward improvement within the Philippines, poverty and unemployment are so endemic that it’s very difficult to find opportunities to move up without going abroad.
Our first project was sending younger sister Sheryl to nursing school. We have been paying her educational and living expenses for a few years now. She will graduate in May of this year. And yes, guys, she’s still single. Hard to believe, but true.
Now we are looking forward to who we can help next. We have decided to focus on our brother-in-law Reggie. He is married to Marissa’s younger sister Moneera. He and Moneera live in Santa Cruz, Ilocos Sur, Philippines, which is in Northern Luzon. They met in college as they were completing degrees in Education. Reggie now teaches English and Social Studies at a private high school.
Reggie is well educated, speaks good English, and is generally a very capable guy. But his salary is around $150 per month. He and Moneera can’t afford to live on their own, so they live with and support his elderly parents. They now have two children, so with his parents there are a total of six mouths to feed and a household to maintain, all on only $150 per month.
Reggie is unable to afford a car or even a motorcycle, so he either walks or rides a bicycle to work. They have no medical insurance, so if anybody gets sick, they have to ask for help from relatives in the US to be able to go to the doctor. They have enough to buy groceries, LP gas for cooking, and basic household supplies and that’s about it. Family members in the US help out when they can, but in this difficult economy we usually don’t have much to spare.
Although there are other jobs he could potentially get, the pay wouldn’t be that much higher, and the additional cost of living would quite probably exceed any gains. The only way to make a significant improvement is to work abroad.
The good news is that there is unfilled demand for teachers in the US, particularly math, science, and special education. As you might imagine, the challenges of special education often scare off or discourage local candidates. As a result, those positions are difficult to fill.
Marissa and I have met several Filipinos who have obtained employment visas to come to the US for teaching jobs. We thought that might be an opportunity for Reggie, so we started asking around. According to the teachers we talked to, the biggest demand is for special education. We asked Reggie if he was interested in taking on the challenges of teaching special needs kids. He is very willing to do so, and looks forward to the opportunity.
One of the Filipino teachers that we met was kind enough to tell us what qualifications are required and offered to put in a good word with his employers when they start hiring for next school year. There are several ways to meet the required qualifications – an undergraduate concentration, a postgraduate certificate, or a Master’s degree. As Reggie has already finished his undergraduate degree and did not pursue that concentration, the best course for him will be the certificate program. The Master’s degree would be nice, but it would take quite a bit longer and isn’t required from what we can tell.
We’re still researching the cost. At this point my estimate is $800-1000 for tuition and $400 for room and board. Then he’ll have maybe $500 in visa related expenses and $800 or so in travel costs once he gets a job and the visa. All in all, I estimate that the total cost will be between $2500 and $3000. That’s a pretty big chunk for Marissa and I to come up with, but when I look at the impact that it will have on his life, it’s worth it. If he can get even $30K per year in the US, he will be able to support his parents and save to bring over Moneera and his children.
If you found Reggie and Moneera’s story inspiring and would like to help them, please use the donate button below. They would very much appreciate it. Even a small amount will have a big impact.
Rochelle drew these animal pictures for a recent homework assignment. Mom and I thought the squirrel was dead, but she said no, it’s a sad squirrel. I definitely agree that it looks pretty sad, but for some reason, I just crack up laughing every time I look at it. I don’t understand why, but that’s what happens.
Oldest daughter Rochelle received her first achievement award at Kindergarten this week for the momentous accomplishment of writing her name without tracing over an outline. Hopefully it’s the first step toward a distinguished academic career 🙂
Some of my readers with sharp eyes may have noticed that I post on both stankavich.com and mikestankavich.com. If you did happen to notice, you may have wondered why I have two blogs with essentially the same domain name. My intent is to write about topics of personal interest, promote my consulting services, and promote future products on mikestankavich.com. I intend for stankavich.com to be shared with other family members as a place to talk about family events and funny/interesting things that my kids do. I don’t intend to promote any products or services on stankavich.com.
So today, I am posting a video of my oldest daughter’s kindergarten achievement award on http://stankavich.com, and I am posting a review of Dave Navarro’s 7 Steps To Playing A Much Bigger Game on http://mikestankavich.com. I hope you enjoy your visit to whichever blog interests you. Of course you’re always welcome to read both 🙂
It’s finally time to just make it go away. I’ve had this house on the market since July 2007 and haven’t received even one offer.
This all started back in 2007 when my family and I decided to rebuild and move into our rental property, as I explained in Housing Bubble Hits Home for the Stankavich Family blog post a few months back. The construction project made sense based on the property values back in 2006, but we all know things have changed since then.
We didn’t get in a hurry to sell because we still needed a place to live. So we didn’t get very aggressive on the pricing. As a result we ended up trailing the market all the way down to where we are today. After we had to drop the price below the amount owed, I just waited out the project to finish our new home, and now that that’s done, I need to get the best reasonable offer that I can and get it in front of the lenders. There is absolutely no way that I can afford both house payments – I’m completely tapped out from the overruns on the construction project.
I’ve been working with Dianne Yake from Easy Street Real Estate. This is the first time that either she or I have tried an auction, but we feel confident that we have prepared well, but we don’t really know what to expect. It should prove to be interesting. I found Richard Geller’s Mortgage Relief Formula website and ebook very helpful in learning more about short sales and auctions. We are pretty much following his recipe for our auction format.
I’ve got a website up at https://www.kwyk.net/bp for pre-registration. I’ll be adding code today to allow bids to be placed online and for registered bidders to be able to review the bidding history. If the website proves to be useful, I’ll pretty it up and extend it into a customizable service offering for others to use for their short sale auctions.
OK, so I moved. Is that an excuse? Well maybe. Trying to manage a full time job, two kids, moving, and keeping a long-time consulting client happy dealt my newly formed blogging habit a severe setback. But I’m happy to announce that recovery is in now in progress. Things still may be slow
Photo by lisaandalec
for another week or two as I focus on getting a short sale done on my old house. We are happy with our new house, and I’m surely happy to have FIOS.
I have several post ideas and some new websites to bring up over the next few weeks. I plan to blog about the short sale, my killer new home network, and whatever else comes to mind. As soon as the new webs are up I’ll post some links.
For Thanksgiving I went abroad. True, it wasn’t very far abroad, but it required a passport and they don’t celebrate this American holiday. In fact, I wasn’t trying to escape Thanksgiving; it’s one of my favorite American holidays, but a co-worker invited me to Toronto area for the break and as a long-time fan of Canada, I grabbed the opportunity.
I spent most of the break at Nina’s home. Her father and stepmother were most hospitable. They even prepared a Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday night with turkey, vegetarian turkey, stuffing, potatoes, and pumpkin pie. Nina’s stepmother works at Canada’s top lingerie retailer and she gave me a wonderful fuzzy bathrobe and pink slippers which I put to use immediately. I also saw several good movies at Nina’s house–"Prince Caspian," "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" and several others. I loved "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" which I certainly heard about in Taiwan and it’s hard to imagine how I failed to see it there. (For some reason, incidentally, I can’t remember which animal in the title is crouching and which is hidden, so I’ve taken to calling it "Crouching and Hiding Animals." Whatever the case, see it; it’s good.)
There was a jarring note in Nina’s break, however. The Ontario government insists on requiring her to start driving again with a learner’s permit for a year instead of renewing her expired Alberta license. Rather than give in to this insanity, she will be checking with both Alberta and New York to look for easier ways to get back on the road again.
On Friday, I went to Toronto to see Nancy, one of my favorite students from Sichuan days. She was one of the students who joined all the English activities and became a good friend. Later she took Karen (the other foreign teacher) and I touring in Chengdu, Sichuan’s main city and her hometown, and to some other famous cities of Sichuan where we had many memorable adventures (monkeys stealing a bag with toilet paper and bottled water on Emeishan, a mysterious cigarette burn in a hard-to-reach spot on the guy Karen hired to carry her luggage, a big argument with the monastery guesthouse about why foreigners and Chinese should not be forbidden to stay in the same room, etc.) Later, in her final year of university, Nancy jumped on a train and rode three days to visit me in Xinjiang in China’s far west where I taught at that time. This Toronto trip was the first time we’d seen each other since those China days, so I was excited about the visit.
Nancy gave me directions to her friend’s house where we met up around noon. From there we went downtown by subway where she showed me the University of Toronto campus and then we went to the old Chinatown for lunch. We met a schoolmate of hers from Sichuan, who vaguely remembered me from the university, and he treated us to an authentic Sichuan restaurant in Chinatown. The owners were from Chengdu even. May the taste buds rejoice! I had my favorite eggplant dish and other taste sensations that I can’t rhapsodize about enough. After that feast, Nancy and I went to get tea. I bought two varieties at the Chinese supermarket and then I got a bubble green tea from a tea brand I knew from Taiwan. That store was my downfall. They had special offers of the buy-two-get-one-free variety, and I came away with an embarrassing selection of teas. Later, Nancy and her husband gave me a porcelain tea kettle, so now I have all my tea needs met for a very long time indeed.
Friday evening I enjoyed my Chinese version of Thanksgiving. As it happened, one of Nancy’s friends, Mei, had invited friends over for a meal featuring turkey and stuffing, which it seemed she did very well, but what do I know? I’ve never cooked turkey myself. It looked great, it smelled great, and I believe it tasted good. Yes, I did try it, but I have little to compare it to. After all, it’s only the second time I’ve tasted turkey. Mei also cooked a number of other dishes, mostly Chinese dishes or variations of Chinese dishes. They were all lovely. She specifically showed me how to make a braised hot pepper dish that I remembered from my Sichuan days. I will definitely make that one of these days. If anyone wants the recipe, I remember how to do it! Incidentally, there were six of us at this feast–Mei,Nancy and her husband, another couple from China, and me. I felt like I’d gone back to China for the evening.
On Saturday (i.e. Sabbath), Nancy accompanied me to the Toronto Chinese Church. I was disappointed to have an English sermon with Cantonese translation, but pleased to meet a couple that I knew from Taiwan, where they’d gotten acquainted. Kathy is a Canadian from Hong Kong who taught in Taiwan. Yungda, her husband, is Taiwanese. Back in Taiwan, he had introduced me to his father as a good auto mechanic, and I gratefully used him as my mechanic the whole time I lived in Taipei. I think of his services longingly here in New York.
After church, I had another lovely meal that raised my gratitude to the Toronto Chinese community to new levels. I had Xinjiang food, a cuisine that I couldn’t even find in Taipei and had despaired of ever eating again short of an expedition back to the Silk Road. It was so lovely that I took a small take-out container back to share with Nina. She tasted it and liked it, but luckily for me, she forgot to finish it, so I did that myself back in Union Springs. The next day I set myself to mimicking the taste in my own cooking. I’m getting closer. I’ll keep you posted.
My culinary journey was almost over, but not quite. Saturday night I ate at Nancy’s house and had another selection of Sichuan fare–tomato and egg soup, tofu, cold seaweed with spices, and another cold dish that defies English description. All delicious.
I should also briefly mention Nancy’s cat. He was bashful and skittish at first, but I discovered the way to his heart. I ate peppermint patties left over from their Halloween stash, crumpled up the foil into little balls, and tossed them across the floor where the cat gleefully batted them around until they finally lodged themselves in inaccessible locations. Of course, then I was forced to eat another peppermint patty to keep him happy.
Nina and I returned to New York without incident even though we did hit some nasty weather in New York, snow which turned to sleet which turned to rain as we drove closer to Syracuse. But I had my last cup of Tim Horton’s mocha, a bottle of Kao Tao green plum tea, and between the two of us, we had 2000 iPod selections to DJ from my stereo all the way back. So in conclusion, it was a very pleasant trip.
Is Rochelle a four year old phenomenon of children’s literature, or just a kid with a vivid imagination? Probably the latter, but either way, you may enjoy the stories and poems that she composed for her mother.
A Poem for Mommy
By Rochelle Stankavich
Roses are red
Violets are blue
Dandelions are yellow
Tulips are pink
Daffodils are black
Rainbow sugars are sweet
And so are you
Love you, Mommy!
The Happy and Sad Party
By Rochelle Stankavich
There was once a little girl. Her name was Tracy. It’s Tracy’s sleepover party. The best part for her is making new friends and making music. The instrument that she likes to play is her drum. She has lots of books too. Her mom’s real name is Angthra and her big sister’s name is Thruta. Someone spoiled the party. It was Tracy’s little sister. She opened the water and spilled it and that’s not good because it made a big mess. Then everybody went home without presents. They did not even taste the cake that Tracy’s mom baked. There was no sleepover party.
Jack the Snake
By Rochelle Stankavich
There was once a scared boy. His name was Wayne. Twinkle was not scared. Wayne was scared of Jack the Snake. Twinkle got an idea. She said, “I know, I know, I know! Jack can put on a helmet and ride a bicycle.” Wayne said, “That’s not a great idea.” Twinkle said,” I have another idea; we can feed Jack the Snake when he is hungry.” Wayne said, “I give up; maybe it will be okay.” “Let’s try it”, says Twinkle. Wayne said, “Okay”. Twinkle got a basket of food. They threw the food to Jack the Snake and he ate it all. “The food was yummy,” said Jack and he said thank you. Jack the Snake said, “Now I can go play with a balloon. He bounced and bounced until he flew away in the air. Jack the Snake said, “Help! I need to get down. Please help! You need to help me down before I go far, far away.” Twinkle and Wayne used pogo sticks to reach Jack. Twinkle caught Jack but she needed more weight, so she yelled to Wayne for help. Then Wayne reached them but they spun around and around until they get down safely. Jack said, “That was a fun ride.” Then Jack looked to see what was going up in the air, it was the balloon. “Oh, no! How will we get the balloon now,” said Twinkle. Jack the Snake had an idea; maybe we can use the zippy scooter that bounces. So they rode their zippy bouncy scooter and they zipped and zoomed to catch the balloon.
The Bee that Could Not Fly
By Rochelle Stankavich
Once there was a bee that could not fly. His mom could fly. His daddy was a gladiator. His mom said, “You go outside, go on, don’t be shy.”
“I am a little shy, I don’t want to go out and play.”
But his mom put on his jacket, and said, “Now go out and play. You have to run and run and run until you get your exercise.”
“I’m tired; I want to go inside now,” he said. “I got a good exercise.” After he got his exercise now he can fly.
I Am a Hungry Bee
By Rochelle Stankavich
Now you should listen with me.
Long ago there was a bee. The bee was hungry. The hungry bee looked around hoping to find some food. She sniffed around and she smelled a yummy food. She thought it was a hamburger, and it was. She munched it and she said, “Ummm. I’m not hungry anymore. I’m going to tell my mommy that there is a hamburger in my tummy.” She raced to the house and she could fly. But she got a hiccup and that made her fall down. She cried and cried and cried until her mom rushed to her. “You cranky little bee! Why are you not careful? Go inside and play with your computer.” The little bee said, “Will that make me feel better?” Her mommy said, “Yes, it may.” She went inside and played with her computer. Then she said, “Mommy, I’m hungry again; I want some bread.” And her mommy gave her a peanut butter and honey sandwich.
I’m feeling intellectual these days because I’ve been reading works by seventeenth-century philosopher and mathematician, Blaise Pascal. I actually picked the book up to read during our school basketball game–in case there were slow moments–and I thought a volume from the Great Books series would be appropriately eccentric. So I started reading Pascal’s Pensees. Later I took the book home and discovered his Provincial Letters where he imagines a Parisian writing back to the provinces about an ongoing intellectual debate, a controversy between the Dominicans, Jesuits and Jansenists about theological minutiae. It sounds deadening, but it’s actually quite clever and even witty. It became something of a bestseller among the elites of Pascal’s day–though also very controversial–and ultimately led to some censuring of Jesuit behavior. It’s got an intellectual wit that’s appealing even if the original controversy is light-years away from one’s current life.