Would you like to translate this into another language?

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Better Off Being Invisible?

Some days you just need to write for the sake of writing.  What? I do that everyday. Umm.  Yah. I guess I do. I don't usually come here with any agenda per se. I just go for it. Well, unless someone has left a comment that I need to respond to or has sent me a question. That's what's been happening lately, and I'm grateful for the topics to write about. Thank you!

This morning, I woke up just moments before my alarm went off.  I prayed for motivation last night before I went to bed, and man, oh man, I was rewarded in spades. Motivation is my middle name. Now, if I can just keep it up. It's going to be one amazing day!

I got up and showered. In the shower, my first realization was the fact that #1 is still gone. Ugh! Great sadness. She'll be back the day after tomorrow. We haven't heard from her, and I'm assuming we won't. I'm wondering how her experiences have been. If this were girls' camp or youth conference or something like that, I wouldn't worry, but it's not, so I do.

That's alright. Can't worry about things I can do nothing about, but was that the Spirit I was feeling that first night and should I have done something, or was it just a mother's angst? I guess I won't know until Friday. What can I do now except for pray a lot? I have to admit though, this feeling is effecting (or is that "affecting") everything I'm thinking and feeling right now.

Okay, changing the subject....

Last night we went to a meeting. #3 was one of many girls in our stake who were recognized for completing Personal Progress and receiving their medallions.

As we went to the back of the room when the meeting was over, I walked toward a group of women from my ward. Maybe they didn't know I was coming, but they all turned and walked away. Actually, one looked me straight in the face, didn't say a word, and walked away. Please remember, #1's absence--actually not so much the absence but my self-doubting about Spirit vs. angst--is effecting my perspective. To explain the phenomenon, I'm pretty sure I had my powers of invisibility fully operative, so that has to be the reason.  They just didn't see me. I know none of them would do something like this on purpose.

**Note to self: fix invisibility issues.

Has anyone else ever had this same problem? I'm pretty sure I'm not alone. Actually, I'm pretty sure I've probably been the one who, unknowingly, has turned away from people. I would never do that to anyone on purpose. I know how it feels, and I know the thought pattern that occurs when you're the one being turned away from. It's pretty awful.

Well, I've decided two things. I've decided that I'm glad I'm my biggest critic because that means that no one else thinks these same lousy things about me, or at least not to the degree I do.  Phew! Glad you all don't know the truth. If you could get into my head, you'd be shocked at how much I can dredge up about  myself and why invisibility might just be a good state of being for me.  The other thing I've decided is, thanks to our Stake President's words last night, I'm going to choose to be happy. Even though I can dredge up a thousand and one reasons why I'm socially undesirable, darn it, I don't have to dwell on them. I can move on and find ways to make sure you're not invisible to me.

So, there, you've heard my plans for the day. I'm going to be happy. I've decided that the best place to get my invisibility fixed is at the temple. I'm never invisible to Him, so I'm heading in for a tune up. I'm going to work on getting my perspective upgraded and turn my thoughts to somebody outside myself.

It IS going to be a good day!  Now, to get the house cleaned up before I leave, so I can truly leave my stressors behind.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Training Common Courtesy

I remember being very afraid of adults when I was a child. They intimidated me so badly. I couldn't even look them in the face. Talking to them was out of the question. They were different beings from a different world, and I was definitely an outsider.

When I was in third grade, my teacher, Mrs. Fitzgerald, the lady who, before lunch, would tell us to go "warsh our hands," shared with us some very important words--"warsh" was not one of them. On the very first day in her class, she taught us "please" and "thank you." I often think back on that day. It left an impression. Those two phrases empowered me. These were two of the many keys to that different world to which I didn't belong.

I somehow knew that if I used "please" and "thank you" in the correct context and at the right times, I could communicate with the alien adults around me, and they might not even understand that I wasn't of their world.

Those words became part of me. More importantly, Mrs. Fitzgerald empowered another generation.

From the time they are babies, I teach my children to say "please," "thank you," "excuse me," "I'm sorry," and "you're welcome." I want my children never to feel that they don't know what to say. These words are always appropriate no matter what age person you're talking to. I want them to understand the context of these words and phrases, so they can use them with confidence.

"Please" and "Thank you" were uttered before this happened
From the moment they learn to request things, "please" is required. They quickly learn that that word is like payment to mom. If I don't hear it, they don't get it. The moment I hear it, if it's something they should have, I hand it to them, but I don't let go until I hear "thank you." Yes, I'm a bit ornery about it, but I figure it will have long-term blessings to their lives and the lives of those around them.

Along with all of this, I understand that, as a mother, one of my main purposes and tools is to set the example for them. I can teach them to do this all I want, but unless I do it myself toward them and everyone else around us, I will fail miserably.

As time goes on, it seems that our world is becoming less and less civilized. I believe that language and how we use it plays a huge part in this. The more polite our language, the more civil we become.
Language isn't the only factor to civility, but common courtesy is HUGE. If we can respect others through our words and actions, our world will become that much better. We moms can make a difference in this world every day. Even with just a couple of words.
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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Training Obedience

#7 has had a few naughty days lately. She's just about to turn three, but at this point, I would say she's mastered the 2s. She wants what she wants when she wants it and she expects everyone else to bow to her will. It's pretty darned obnoxious.

I got to thinking about how we've handled this in the past. I have to admit I've done better with some children more than others. It's had a lot to do with my energy level in a lot of cases.

As I've shared many times before, I feel that a lot of parenting is taking not-so-good habits and training them out of the child--reteaching them good habits in whatever positive way it takes. We've basically tried to teach our children to do the good thing until they can't remember that they ever did the less-good one. Sometimes this takes a long time.

With this obedience thing, it requires a parent to be up and moving a lot. I will ask the child to do something. Lately with #7, it's been responded to with a blank stare, a turning and walking away, or a straight out "no." My mother-by-marriage taught me that "no" is never an acceptable answer from a child to a parent.

So, here's how we, ideally, face any and all of these responses.  We get up, take the child by the hand, and guide him/her to do the thing that was asked.  For example, if the child was asked to pick up a toy and gives the blank stare response, we get up, take the child by the hand, walk the child over to the toy and wait for a few seconds. If the child makes no motion to stoop to pick it up, we then take the child's hands and help with the picking up too. Hopefully the child'll get the point, but I have to admit, there are many times when he/she doesn't.

After the toy is picked up, we thank the child and praise him/her for doing a good job.

The other thing I have to share is that often the child (mine happen to be a bit more on the stubborn side--not sure where they get that), will meet you with resistance--planting feet, crying, etc. I never let these things stop me. I don't get angry, I just become more matter of fact about what the goal is.

I want the child to see that obedience feels good and really doesn't take that long so that as time goes on, he/she will learn to do it him/herself the first time he/she is asked.

So, we're off on the fun adventure. I'm on my feet a lot more these days. Oh how I wish that blowing out those three candles'd end this phase, but I know the truth. I also know, though, that the more consistent I am with teaching obedience, the sooner things'll improve.


We saw our eldest off to a week at outdoor school as a counselor. This is probably great practice for seeing her off to college, but I could not sleep last night.

Since she was a baby, I have made sure that everywhere she's gone, she's been with people I trust--whether it's been nursery when she was 18-months-old, soccer practices at 6 years, camp at 12 or EFY at 14. It's wonderful to know so many trustworthy people. I've truly taken them for granted....until now.

This is the first time that I have left her in the care of no one I know. It's a bit unnerving. I just have to trust that she can take care of herself.

Chances are we won't hear from her until Wednesday. She has her phone, but it's confiscated when not in use. There's about an hour each day (Wednesday and after) when she'll have free time and be able to call us.

She's with two of her friends. I guess there's my solace. I trust her friends. She picks good people to hang out with, and I'm proud of her for that.
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Thursday, May 24, 2012

Confessions: Unpinterested Twit

I'm kind of a twit when it comes to Twitter.  I have an account, but I haven't a CLUE how to use it.

I also have a Pinterest account, but I'm either doing it wrong, or I have no interest in Pinterest. I'm guessing it's the first.

I get the feeling that either they'd be dangerous for me, or I'd be dangerous for them.

Anybody give lessons?
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Getting to the Core of Mothering

I woke at 5:30 this morning. My alarm didn't go off; I just woke on my own. I was so happy about this. My goal is to be up and moving before my children are. If they wake before me, I feel that I'm already behind in the game.  Lately I've been waking at 4:30 just to get ahead. It's been pretty lovely.

This morning, I got up, got dressed and washed my face. By 6:00, I was downstairs at my desk and computer to read the scriptures. This is the pattern I try to follow every morning lately.

I sat down, opened the laptop and decided to take a stop at Facebook first. I have a friend who went into surgery the other day for breast cancer, and I wanted to check in on her first thing to see how she's doing. She's been on my mind.

I got to her page. My eyes just happened to glance at the pictures of her friends. It was then that I noticed something wasn't right. One of her friend's names was "nielynn." What? The can't be right! I turned my head and found that it wasn't "nielynn," it was "Jennielynn." Uh oh! I'm in trouble! I knew I was destined for a KILLER headache. I have only experienced this kind of optical disturbance with my very worst migraines--less than ten times in my life. It's almost like there's some kind of blockage in my line of vision. My eyes will not focus on everything I'm seeing.

I went upstairs, took an Excedrin and laid down on my bed. No headache yet--just a pressure in my eyebrows.

I asked the Warden to wake the middle schoolers. They don't leave for school until 8:40, so I typically let them sleep a little longer than the others. I actually make them responsible to wake themselves at this point. If they miss their ride, they can figure out how to get to school. I figure they are old enough to do this and high school is just around the corner. I want them to learn from their mistakes before things really start to matter.

The middle school-aged kids came into my room, and I gave them options of how they could help the most. By this time, my eyes were freaking out, my brain was dizzy even just laying here, and I felt extremely nauseated. #6 was sent for a "puke bowl." I took another Excedrin (two pills were now on board--a pretty rare occurrence).

One of the jobs that was taken on by one of the middle schoolers was to wake one of the younger brothers. This is not an easy job--some of my kids just sleep harder than others.

Next thing I know, I hear unhappiness downstairs. The middle schooler had taken the job of waking younger brother VERY seriously and was determined to do whatever it took to wake him. It was clearly going too far.

I called younger brother up to talk to me and share what had transpired. He did. I didn't like the tactics middle schooler had resorted to and am sure middle schooler wouldn't have liked the same thing being done in the same situation, so I asked to have a little chat with that child.

As I spoke to middle schooler, the thought occurred to me that I needed to share a portion of my parenting philosophy with that child. Funny thing is that until I wanted that child to act as my agent, I didn't realize just how often this thought occurs to me in my interactions with my children. After I shared it, I found that this is my foundation as a mother. This is part of my core beliefs. This is why I interact with my children the way I do.

It's found here (read the highlighted portion--in other words, venture down the page a ways).

Here are a couple of additional thoughts on this....."Betimes" means early on, or I think of it as as soon as you see it's a problem--get on top of it; deal with it. In other words, don't ignore things. "Unfeigned" means not faked; genuine; sincere. "Reprove" means to rebuke, or basically call the error to the person's attention. In my mind, to "reprove with sharpness" means to be very straightforward not mincing words but getting to the core of the issue.

This scripture, in the very first highlighted verse says, "the priesthood." I, to be honest, kind of ignore that part because I think this principle holds true for anyone in their interactions with others. This is how we should deal with anyone and everyone, but most particularly with our children--those who are closest to us that we sometimes take for granted.

So, this morning, I read this passage to the middle school child. I shared that there must be persuasion (not force) because every human being has his/her right to choose, but in choosing, there are always consequences and those consequences seem to follow the kind of choice that was made--bad follows bad and good follows good. It's just kind of how life works.

I also shared that with that persuasion there must be patience and long-suffering. Our challenge is to be patient and gentle with every person that we come in contact with. That must be our focus.

After all was explained, younger brother was called upstairs. I persuaded middle school child to follow what the scripture said, to "show forth an increase of love." An apology was uttered and accepted and the challenge was given to middle school child to be patient and long-suffering in the future.

It seems strange to me that until I had to share it, I didn't realize just how much I lean on these words. Now that I've shared it with my middle schooler,  I see that I don't think there's a day that goes by that some part of this passage doesn't pop into my head.

As I've been writing this, middle schooler has walked younger brother to school. When he returned, I asked him if he was "patient" and "long suffering." He reported that he was. Phew!

My vision is still strange and the headache portion has emerged, but it's nice to know that at least one of my children is prepared a little better to act as my agent with a little more patience, gentleness and long-suffering.

I've heard people say that children don't come with an instruction manual, but you know what, I think they're wrong.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Yaddi Yadda

"By the end of the week it'll be half strength" was what #4 was told when he went in to have his ear re-checked yesterday. It looks great and you really have to look to find the owie. The doctor took out the last remaining stitch (they put the dissolving kind in). The doctor who stitched it up really did a FANTASTIC job.

After the doctor's appointment, I took #4 to Arby's. He commented on how great it was to be "just the two of us." I agreed. He's such a sweet personality. So great to be around.

I got the cash system figured out for the month and went and got the money to fill the envelopes, so we're in business for the month. We usually take our kids out to eat at least once a month, but I found that we didn't use the eating out money last month, so we had a bit extra. Nice deal! I love it when that happens.

Did you know that Monday nights after 4pm, the Outback Steakhouse allows one child to eat free for every paying adult? Well, they do. I love the Outback! I was THRILLED to hear this news. We went there for our Monday night FHE activity. The kids had never been there. Our server was FANTASTIC!

I don't know if anyone else feels this way, and maybe it's just the part of the world I live in, but with the economy being what it is, people seem to be more grumpy these days--even people on the job at certain businesses. I've gotten so I kind of brace myself. Well, this was not the case at Arby's. They were SUPER nice--smiling, saying all the nice things that make you feel like you're welcome there. It was a nice change of pace.  Yay Arby's. I might just go back...soon.

Like I said, we're back up and running with the cash system. Last month was just a little too monetarily crazy with the events of March. Things seem to be ironed out a little bit better now, so it's nice to be back on track. April just felt very insecure. The cash system makes me feel in control, and I love it.

Last year, with American Mothers, we had the opportunity to help with the float decorating for the Portland Rose Festival. Next week it all starts up again. It can't get here fast enough. Seriously, it's SO FUN!  If you're in the Portland area and want to be part of things this year, let me know.

Here's the float we helped with last year....

See that purple and that blue?  Yup. I wore purple coconut and blue coconut home in my hair a few nights in June of 2011.  Good times.  Good times.

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Monday, May 21, 2012

It Only Takes One

Someone shared the idea of doing Family Home Evening--the meeting/lesson part--on Sunday evening and then doing a family activity on Monday night. We've decided to give this a shot.

Last night, the Warden shared what he taught for his class at church for our lesson. The lesson was on charity. With it, he shared this...

He asked us to notice where the coach was originally standing. He said that he knows a woman who was at this game. She shared with him that the moment he noticed the girl having problems, he sprinted across to where she was.

Most likely, he didn't even know who she was, but he was not going to let her fail.

It is clear that Coach Cheeks didn't have an excellent singing voice, but he didn't let that get in his way. I'm sure that wasn't even a thought in his mind. It seems that all he wanted at that moment was for that girl to succeed.

As you notice, when the girl starts to mess up, the crowd begins to jeer.  It's kind of like when a kid drops his tray in the school cafeteria. Other kids feel uncomfortable and don't know what to do, but instead of feeling sad for the kid, they clap and laugh. I HATED this in elementary school. What a terrible human reaction!

The thing I love the most about this scenario is that all it took was that one man coming forward and being courageous enough and caring enough to help her out--just give her a tiny push in the right direction--and the crowd joins in too. He set her up for success.

I'm feeling this is what this world needs. Instead of "throwing someone under the bus," why don't we give them a hand up a step? I'm grateful for this little reminder.
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Saturday, May 19, 2012

Gonna Get His Jedi On

It's a parade day, folks. Did I ever tell you that the Warden's and my first date was to a parade? Yep. It's true.

Unidentified Flying Objects
Unidentified Flying Objects (Photo credit: Alan Tippins)
With #5 being a Jedi now, we're headed with the other Star Wars characters out to McMinnville for the....are you ready for this?....

The UFO Festival

I'm TOTALLY cracking up this morning because I had to share that news with the Warden.

My brother sent me a message via Facebook informing us about the parade. The thing is, though, he sent two messages, and I only got the second. It said to meet at 5th and Evans. Hmm...I've never heard of 5th and Evans in Portland, but okay, maybe it's across town.
During the 2010 Starlight Parade of the annual...
During the 2010 Starlight Parade of the annual Portland Rose Festival, in Portland, Oregon, a few Royal Rosarians accompany the float carrying the 2010's festival's Queen. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yesterday I sent my brother a message asking him what the parade was. We have quite a few coming up here in Portland with the Rose Festival coming up. I thought maybe it was just something having to do with that, but no. We're going to go hang out with the world of UFOs.

It's going to be a fascinating day! I'm excited about it.

I'll make sure to have some pictures for you.
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Friday, May 18, 2012

I Am Not a Commercial Vehicle

Last week, our big ol' van (affectionately known as "The Beast") was having some mechanical issues. So much so, that it had to be towed into the shop. I have a AAA membership and actually, the day before this, had received my yearly renewal forms in the mail. I called AAA to see if they would come and tow it to the shop for us.

I was told, "I'm sorry. That kind of van is considered a 'commercial vehicle,' and with your current membership, we can't tow it."  What?!  Excuse me?!  Here I've been paying for a service that they can't even provide?!  CRAZY!

I assured the gentleman on the other end of the phone that I use it daily and it transports my children. I don't use it for commercial reasons. It's a "family car."

It didn't matter what I said. They weren't going to tow it. I would have to look elsewhere, and so we did. We called other towing companies. It would cost us $400 to have it towed to the shop in the next town.

I'm finding that this experience is part of a much bigger lesson that I'm learning right now.

The other day, my daughter was present when a girl spoke up in front of her entire class and said, "All Mormons look good when they're outside, but inside they're all very different than what they show outwardly." When my daughter shared this with me, I laughed because of all the Mormons I know, that daughter's one of the most genuine I know. There is no pretense.  She is who she is inside and out. Enter the front door or enter the back door, and you get the same girl. I can't say that about all LDS people, but I'm pretty confident about her. That's her personality.

It is fascinating to me how we, as human beings, are so comfortable with lumping people into groups. Somehow everyone is either a "family sedan" or an "SUV" or a "Jeep" or a "motorcycle" or, heaven forbid, a "commercial vehicle." I'm not saying I'm not guilty of lumping because, after all, I am human, but I guess I'm just trying to illustrate that we all do it, and it needs to stop. Just because we're part of a group doesn't mean we're all the same. We are not all commercial vehicles.

In the situation with the van, I believe AAA should have looked at my situation--me, as an individual, and truly judged my need by my circumstances. I think anyone hearing this story would feel the same.

Here's another issue to ponder....Once a number of years ago, I went to Time Out for Women. This is a women's conference sponsored by Deseret Book (an LDS bookstore), so needless to say, the presenters are LDS and nearly everyone who attends is LDS.  We, to avoid parking at the Convention Center, rode public transportation (namely the light rail train system). I was with one other friend on this particular day.

It was clear that the nearest group of women to us, on the train, were going to the same place, but it was also very clear, as I overheard their conversation, that none of them were very familiar with that part of town.  I could hear them struggling to know which stop to get off at. This group of four women jointly decided to take the stop two sooner than they should have. I didn't say anything because I wanted to see what would happen(I guess sometimes I'm just evil like that), and I knew they were going to get where they wanted to go. However, it was fascinating to me that they weren't the only group of women who got off at that stop. They, being the group closest to the door, drew all of the other groups of women off the train at that very same stop. My friend and I, being a bit more experienced with that train and its stops, remained...alone.

We rode the two more stops and were let off right in front of the doors--right where we needed to be. The other women were still quite a ways away. After watching all of those women get off the train that day, I decided that we, when we associate with a group, tend to be sheep. We follow without question especially when we're unsure. We trust that others know more than we do, and we, ignorantly, follow. These kinds of circumstances, more often than not, tend to bring some difficult outcomes.

Tonight at ward council, we discussed the term "traditions of their fathers" that's found so often in the scriptures and how this habit, of following the traditions of our fathers, gets us into so much trouble in our lives. The bishop shared the fact that for years, we, as members of the Church, have had topics that we have refused to discuss. Our parents didn't discuss them with us, and so we don't talk about them either. He explained what some of those topics might be.

I believe this is very true. We want our children to live in a little bubble safe and free from all that surrounds us, but when it comes down to it, someday our children will break out of these bubbles we've so lovingly built for them. When they do, there's going to be all kinds of ugliness that they aren't prepared for.

Like I said in this post, I don't believe that LDS people are bigots. I don't believe we mean to be judgmental. I truly believe that, for the most part, we're good people, we're just uninformed and sheltered. We tend to feel that ignorance is bliss. Like I said, we want to live in a world of sunshine and roses, but we somehow think we can avoid the sunburn and thorns. We want to pretend they don't exist, and sometimes I wonder if we ignorantly believe that if we ignore them long enough, they will all go away.

In believing this way, we're getting off the train two stops too early.

I guess I need to ask the question....What are we afraid of?  Are we really going to go hide in the closet thinking Satan'll just eventually give up and go away?  Nope. We all know that's not going to happen. How long are we going to do this?

The truth of the matter is, we all need to open the door and confront him head on. Then the questions arise, how do I feel about this issue and that?  There are some HUGE issues out there, and they just seem to multiply daily. With an LDS man running for presidential office, people are going to have questions and they're going to make judgments. We're going to be lumped. Is this fair? No. I know it's not, but remember, we're all human.

If we want to avoid be lumped, we have to stop cowering in the corner. We must get some, as my husband would say, "Cajones," and figure out what we truly believe. We must, each of us, be bold when questioned about how we stand. Bold enough to not be intimidated. Of anyone in the world, we should know, and we should be strong in that knowledge. I'd also like to add that we are not alone. I had once heard that the LDS faith was the fourth largest religion in my state (Oregon), but according to this website, it looks like we might rank second to Catholicism, and I truly don't believe that we are alone. I believe there are many who aren't LDS who agree with us. Then why are we being so silent?

I'm thinking it might come down to this....How do you, as an individual--not as a sheep, feel about the issues that are facing us? How do YOU feel about abortion? How do YOU feel about homosexuality and same sex marriage? How do YOU feel about  temple ordinances? These are some of the questions I'm asking myself right now. These are topics no one has ever made me face until now. So, how do I feel? How do you feel? What do we know that will help us defend what we believe?

These are just some of the things we need to face. If you don't know, maybe it's time to open the door. The great thing is we don't have to go fearfully or blindly. We have power and prayer behind us.

One thing I learned from my adolescent literature class was that the written word is one of the best ways to formulate opinions about things. We can take our time and ponder what is written. We can talk to people we trust, those who already have formed opinions on these issues. We can add their knowledge to ours. Knowledge IS power.

I can tell you that anything facing us now has been addressed in one of the recent sessions of General Conference. The Family: A Proclamation to the World is an inspired document. It holds so many answers for us. We have so many places we can go to get answers. Most of all, we can go to our Heavenly Father and have Him direct us to what we, as individuals, need to know. Really, with all that behind us, how can we go wrong?

It is not our place to preach and be sanctimonious. It is just our place to be confident in our beliefs. When someone asks, we should have answers. We should have our OWN opinions--not some sheep-ish response. They should fit us as individuals and must be based on truths that we have come to understand for OURSELVES. They need to be individual--as unique as each of us are. Our answers are not "commercial vehicles."

In this day and age, we, as families and more especially as individuals, cannot afford to be sheep. We cannot afford to be lumped. We cannot allow ourselves to be considered commercial vehicles. The time has come for each of us to open the closet door and face what has been unspeakable, but the only way to do that is to face it in private with the Lord first. He knows us for who each of us are and will teach us what is true. He's never let us down.

If someone confronts you and you don't know how you feel, it's okay to say, "I'm not sure. I've never been asked that before. Let me think about it, and I'll get back to you on that."

Really, what do we have to be afraid of?

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Steps in Life

As I prepared to graduate from college with a Bachelor of General Studies (arts and letters) degree, I was frequently asked, "What is your degree in?" and "What are you going to do with it?"

I felt kind of silly not to be able to answer those questions clearly, and to be honest, I never intended to graduate to move toward a career. I know in this world we live in that's a very strange thing to hear a responsible adult say. So...maybe I'm not a responsible adult, or maybe it's just that my motive in graduating wasn't to end up in a job. My biggest goal was to continue doing what I've been doing--being a mom. I just felt that going to school was important at that point in time. That impression wouldn't leave me.

I went into this most recent part of my schooling with the idea that if something were to happen to my husband, what would I do? How would I support my family? The degree was for emergency purposes only. I wasn't sure what I would do, but I knew I'd be much better off if I could at least prove that I had the stick-to-it-iveness to get a college degree--even if it took me five times longer than the normal person (so, maybe I'm not normal--do we really have to ask that one?). I just knew that a degree would make me a little more employable.

I guess, along with all of these thoughts--holding off on getting a real degree--was the hope that somehow I'd end up falling into doing the thing I loved to do the most. I just hoped something would land in my lap and direct me into what I should be doing that would bring me fulfillment. I knew that chances were slim that this would ever happen, and that I should probably just be decisive for once.  I should just pick something and hope that it would be wonderful and right.  How do people do this? How did the Warden know that he wanted to go into education? How did he know this from such a young age? Why didn't I know what I wanted to do? Was there something wrong with me? Am I just lousy at committing? Was I just deficient? I mean, if I didn't know what I wanted to be when I grew up, I'd never really grow up, right?

When I was in my early 20s, I met a man who taught Japanese at a local high school. He taught writing to his students. When he met me, and I was so newly returned from Japan, he invited me to come in and teach conversation to his students. He was fascinated at how quickly missionaries learn to speak a language and felt that I could help his students do the same.

After my first day in class, he approached me and said, "You should be a teacher. You're a natural."  I considered his words and thought, "Hmm....Maybe this is the thing I should do." I enjoyed it. It was fun. Relating to students was a BLAST! I pursued it for awhile, but finally concluded that it was too confining.  I guess I'm a bit of a free spirit. I want my freedom. I want to be able to do what I want to do when I want to do it. Does that sound bad? I'm a bit too antsy to be stuck in a classroom everyday doing the same routine day in and day out.  Again, is something wrong with me?

This morning, the Warden and I met with a CPA. She consulted us on what direction I should be taking with this new opportunity in writing. It was all very exciting. I'm definitely learning some new things here, and there's no doubt I have much, much more to figure out.

As we talked, I kept looking over at the Warden. I would turn to him and say, "You'll remind me of this, won't you? You've got this figured out, right?" He would nod reassuringly and tell me that he would help me.

We had a good laugh over this as I confessed that with all of the tax stuff I'm like "a deer in the headlights." "Sure," the CPA responded. I was a little surprised by this that's-to-be-expected kind of answer. "You're a creative."

Now, I'd never heard of "creative" being used as a noun--always as an adjective. "A creative," now that sounds wonderful. Artists are "creatives," photographers are "creatives," but me? Wow! I like the sound of that. Before this, I wouldn't even have used the adjective "creative" to describe myself.

I continued to share the fact that I don't play Monopoly with the Warden, and he won't play Scrabble with me. I'm grateful for someone who complements me so well. My brain doesn't think in numbers; it thinks in words. It thinks in stories. That's how I learn, and that's how I share what goes on in my brain.

So, here I am....I've had handed me what I love to do. I love to create through words. I'm loving the work I've done so far. I love the freedom it gives me.

The most remarkable thing about all of this is the timing of it all.  I'm thinking back to jumping out of bed the other day and how the next step (grabbing the sock) didn't come until I had made the first step (getting out of bed). I'm thinking back to how the trip to Japan all fell into place (earning the money, creating the cookbook, getting the tickets and the passports and how I didn't know what would come next until I had finished the previous task)....I had to take each step to know, in my heart and mind, what the next step should be.

Maybe this is the same. Is it possible that, in order to know what should come next in my life, I had to take certain steps in order to get to this point--go back to school, start a blog, reconnect with people through Facebook, and finally graduate from college? Maybe that's how all of life is. Maybe.

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