Wednesday, September 2, 2009

A Summer of....something

This is what I say when people ask me how my summer is/was: "It was....something!" Truly it defies description when I think back on all the things that happened, were brought to light. that changed, that dissolved, that got stronger and, well, firmer. ;o)

Sometimes it sucked to get up and go to work at the golf course. Sometimes it totally rocked! All in all it was a great experience, and I learned a LOT. They want me to come back next year, and it is likely I will. I am playing that by ear though, since there is no point in making a commitment at this point in time anyway.

I accomplished (am still accomplishing!) a lot in my own garden at home. I am pretty close to finished in the front, and have begun thinking about and planning for the back, now. The thing is, though, we are just not sure what will be happening in a year and a half when Phil and I both graduate, so I don't want to put as much time or money in the backyard as I might otherwise...all for naught. But the main thing is that i think I have caught up after my hasty return to school LAST Fall semester. Not finished, by any means, but caught up. It feels good!

Matt leaves for IWU tomorrow. TOMORROW! Steve and I are driving him out there on a Thursday night, and Friday is move-in day. He, um, hasn't really started packing, yet, lol! He's really excited, I am really emotional, Steve is real "Let's get this over with." Phil has mixed feelings. Things will definitely be different, no doubt.

Phil decided it was in his best academic interest to return to the public school. Steve is thrilled, I am less-than. But I support his decision and know why he wanted to make the change, and so far he is doing fine. He is loving playing keeper for the soccer team, joined jazz band, and has a very ambitious schedule of classes. But I am going to really miss my Faith family.

Steve has had a difficult Summer. It was a time of revelation and personal confrontation, and it has not all been good although it is better now. I have not completely processed it all, and I can hardly do it without taking it all in the tiniest chunks, if at all. I think we are fine as a couple- I just don't know about the rest of it. I am still bewildered by all that has transpired, and am trying to keep moving forward.

School, so far, has been a saving grace. It has been a huge blessing to get back and see "my peeps" again, friends old and new. The Hort department seems to be thriving, and this is a good thing. I have an extremely heavy course load, but not a whole lot very, very academic. The hours I will be spending there this semester will be many, but if my health stays good there is no reason not to be completely successful. I am taking: Turf Management; Trees; Shrubs' Hort. Science (a breeze after Botany!); Intro to Hort. Related Ocupations; Hardscapes then Graphics when Hardscapes is finished; a Survey of Nursery Operations; and a three-day Field Studies trip. It is a lot to keep track of, but so far, so good. I am not putting off any of my projects, knowing I have THREE collecting projects due at the end of the semester but that a good, solid frost will put a near end to the collecting.

School keeps me busy in a healthy way; it makes me feel like I am really working toward our goal of getting me in the workforce; and it gets me in cntact with people in a way I would not normally have contact, and this has been good for me. Some things I still have to guard myself carefully from, but I still ove being stimulated intellectually. I love to learn.

Friday, July 3, 2009

My goodness, six weeks?

I hate when I miss so much time because i then feel like I have to tell about everything that has happened, I know I am going to forget something important, then I don't want to write at all. But this si silly. I am either going to do this, or I am not. So.

My son has graduated. He is registered at Indiana Wesleyan for Fall. He got a job! Yay! Phil is taking College Algebra over the Summer, he is working on Fridays for some friends doing yardwork, he is playing soccer on Sunday afternoons and Tuesday evenings, and playing lots of WoW. Steve has some time off work and is reading, visiting our former neighbors, some great retired folks that we get along with very well. This afternoon he and at least one boy are taking a little road trip around Lake Michigan. Steve will visit some family, Matt will meet up with some cyber-friends he has been communicatioing with for months. Phil will enjoy the ride! I will stay home. Only a little part of me wants to go. The greater part of me wants everybody to get da heck outta here and DO sand SEE something! And I freely admit, having no one here for a few days will take a LOT of pressure off me and feel like vacation.

Only last weekend was the first weekend in six that I have not had company for graduation or open house, or travelled for a second open house or registration. It was WONDERFUL to stay home! I have seen the flipside now, and understand how full-time workers don't want to go anywhere after they have been working all week. I guess I don't mind the going somehwere, but this every weekend stuff was getting exhausting.

Graduation was emotional. There were only eleven kids in his class, and many of the guys spent significant time over here over the years. I was not only watching my son take a big step into adulthood, I was saying good-bye to a whole slew of pretty cool kids. Oh, I am sure I will be seeing them around, but not like I used to. This is difficult for me.

The internship part of my job is over now, I am waiting on my boss to complete a final evaluation and I have to do a little paper to turn in, then I am done with all that! I will continue to work there on the golf course; no reason for me to quit, and they are depending on me to stay on until I cannot swing both working and going to school. I am looking at about 16 to 17 credit hours again this Fall, so that day will come much sooner than they would like, I am sure. I'll have to wait and see how my schedule will work out at school, maybe I can work Saturdays, or something, doing some planting and transplanting.

My yard is beginning to come together, at least the front yard. It is slowly taking shape to becoming what I envisioned the landscaping to be. There will always be changes to make, plants I just HAVE to have, new beds to start. And I won't even talk about the backyard. I am still battling monsterous weeds, and cannot seem to get my problem areas to a please where they are basically self-sustaining. The weedseed bank is astounding, and I have logistical troubles like a chainlink fence that keeps the dog in but allows all kinds of stuff to migrate from my yard to the neighbors and vice versa. Oh and did I mention the weeds? To top it all off, my rose obsession is still in full force, and it clouds my judgement to no end. Seriously, when I should be spending energy developing a design for a new bed all I can see is roses!!! It is seriously hampering my creativity. I don't know how to make it stop. But I am sure I will have fun figuring it out!
So, that' about it. Just skimming the surface, really, nothing too deep, nothing profound. Nothing all that interesting. But now I feel free to begin again.

P.S., I am trying to read "Northanger Abbey," a Jane Austen novel. I guess is is not exactly challenging, but it is not quite fluff, either. I really need soem intellectual stimulation- I feel like I am atrophying a bit. Likewise, my devotions need to pick up. What i really need is a good Bible study, but I typically don't enjoy women's Bible studies for their lack of challenge. SOMEthing's gotta come up soon. Maybe I'll start one myself.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Why can't I embed a slideshow from Photobucket?

Okay, I am trying to get another slideshow (or two!) to load and I came across this while I was experimenting. Seems I can embed from Youtube but not from Photobucket. Yet. Go figure.


Sayin' Stuff

What do you say on a semi-public blog when some things aren't really meant for public knowledge? How do you say the hard things without being misconstrued? How do you express the deepest emotions without giving away the key to the secret garden of your soul?

I feel like I walk this line every day. On one level I have much less profound to talk about because I do physical, grunt labor on a golf course for forty hours a week. I have greatly reduced time for philosophical or spiritual discussions; in fact, it is hard just to keep up with my devotions. On the other hand, this shift in paradigm, from home-mom to working gal, has given me tremendous fodder for thought. Additionally it has instigated changes in our family life that are not all for the good. It has helped reveal some cracks in the foundation, so-to-speak.

So I guess I have put off my blog because I A) only have my "job" to talk about which isn't interesting to much of anybody, or B)the only thing left is some intensely personal thoughts.

So, it is what it is. Mother's Day has come and gone, and my kids were real sweet and took me (and Steve) out for dinner. As a member of the Women's Ministry Neam I was once again partly responsible for pulling off our annual Mother-Daughter Luncheon, and it was amazing. We had a huge turn-out, and a specially-penned song for our special music. A gal in our congregation literally sat down and just wrote this amazing song. It sparked an emotional meltdown the first time I heard it; I heard it two more times, then once again in church on Sunday and I lost it. I lost control of my emotions and had to excuse myself. I don't know how to deal with this except by hitting my kneees and crying out to God, by burying myself in the Word so I have the wisdom and strength I need to get through the day.

It comes to this, today. I am tired. Not as much physically as I was when I first began, although there is that, but emotionally, mentally, spiritually exhausted. I feel alone in my trials, and that is the biggest part. How does one feel alone in a crowd? Alone in a house crowded with men young and middlin'? Well, it happens. Not just to me but to many, many other women out there, enough it might surprise you. Never underestimate the power of loneliness in a woman's life.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Thinking about eternity

It's an inconceivably long time, isn't it? As a Christian I believe in eternity, and also believe that there are but two choices once our earthly bodies have passed on: Heaven, or Hell. Jesus taught significantly of both, and knew his coming and dying and resurrection were a gift of grace that would grant each of us an eternity in the presence of God should we but believe IN Him. Not believe Him, but IN Him. An important distinction.

I am thinking quite a bit about eternity tonight; it is never a morbid thing with me. We are all
terminal
...just that some of us are granted more time than others. Chris Rice is a talented musician who sings often about living in the now but looking always ahead. A favorite song of mine, from his album "Run the Earth, Watch the Sky," is called Nonny Nonny. The whole song is amazing and emotional, but one line keeps popping out at me:

"Something tells me all these years of memories
are only the first sentence of eternity"

Today's sermon was given by our brand-spanking-new associate pastor, and his exhortation was evangelism, and not using excuses in order to not do hard or scary things. "We talk about what we love." he said. "Do we love the Gospel? Do we have a good enough relationship with Christ that we want to tell everyone about it?" (These are not exact quotes, but pretty darn close.) Ouch. No, I am always afraid. This is not an excuse.

Our former senior pastor, who is now on the mission field in Zambia, shared this quote on his Facebook page: "Heaven above is softer blue, earth around is deeper green. Something lives in every hue that Christless eyes have never seen." he did not attribute it, but I think it fits perfectly. 1 John tells us that if we do not love then we do not know God, for God is love. Conversely, if we do not love then we do not know God. If we really truly love our fellow human beings, we want them to hear the good news; we want them to understand the world in a way that makes sense. We don't want them to live in ignorance of their spiritual fate.

This week I will pray for an opportunity to share the gospel, the wisdom to see an open door, and the courage to speak the words we Christians are commanded to share.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Onward...upward?

I made it through my first five working days...barely. Thank goodness I had a weekend after my first day, then a three-day weekend this past week. I have never been so fatigued without being sick in my life. Fortunately, every day I spent at work I felt a little stronger and lasted a little longer. By Thursday I could go a full eight hours, and felt fantastic afterwards! Unfortunately I felt rotten on Friday. Now, on Sunday afternoon, I finally feel ready to head back to work tomorrow morning, bright and early. I am glad I am almost done with the toughest of the mulching jobs. I have to say my enthusiasm has been severely tempered by a deep dose of reality. Huh. Go figure.

Another Easter has come and gone, and I had a disappointing weekend. First, I felt so bad, physically, last Sunday that I totally missed the part where it was announced we were having a Good Friday service, during which we would partake of our monthly communion. Then I have felt so badly this weekend that I did not spend the time in prayer and meditation that I should have in preparation for the Easter memorial.

I am pretty sure I am getting sick, since I still feel run-down and have glands swollen in places I didn't even know I had glands. I hope all this poopy-face attitude crap is just a by-product of hormones and trying-not-to-get-sick. Otherwise it's going to be another long week.

Before I forget, here are links to the photographer's blog where Matt's portrait-taker has posted four sneak previews of our photo session on Saturday, and to her website directly. What a talented young lady!

http://browneyesphotography.blogspot.com/

http://www.browneyesphotography.com/index2.php?v=v1

Monday, April 6, 2009

Feeling my age

I guess I missed the message at home that I didn't need to come to work today...the weather was supposed to be pretty rough, windy, cold, and possibly rainy or snowy. By the time I got it figured out about the message the weather had turned much more friendly, and I put in four hours. Wow. I was till feeling Friday when I cleaned out a couple more (big!) beds and spread two yards of mulch. Apparently, contrary to my personal philosophy, I am not 25 anymore. When did that happen?

Saturday, April 4, 2009

It's Getting Difficult

It's beginning to come down to the wire for Matt's graduation. I underestimated the difficulty. Today I spent some time cleaning up some scans of photos for a slideshow of Matt growing up. While I was doing this I would glance over at the top of his curly head, snoozing in the recliner. My heart already hurts.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Internship

Today was the first day I got to actually get my hands dirty at my new job. Despite not feeling well and fighting a nasty headache ubntil lunch time when I could take something, I loved it. I absolutely LOVE the people I work for and with; my boss is super-accomodating? "Anything you need, Shannon? Anything you want? Just ley us know what you need, and we will get it for you!" I think they are just very, very happy that I am so enthusiastic about my job. I really love it, even though most people consider it boring grunt work. It was grunt-ish today, just cleaning out beds around the clubhouse, but there is so much opportunity coming up to learn some amazing things and be involved in some major re-landscaping there at the golf course. The weather was gorgeous, but the wind did blow. I guess that's what happens at Prairieview: the wind blows. And doesn't stop.

I have my own golf cart with a BIG dumping bed on it, my own tools, heck, even my "own" shed! What I love the most is feeling valued and appreciated, even on the first day.

I hope they feel the same way on my last day.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Facebook is the New Evil

...but really Windows Vista is! I am SO sick of it freezing up on me!!!!!

But, wow. I am starting this entry all over again after an epic fail on the part of Vista. Again. Very aggravating!!!!!

So it has been almost a month since I done my appointed task of recording the minutiae of living and thinking so that readers can laugh...or vomit.

First there is Facebook. Originally addicted once my son set up my own account, I am rapidly discovering that too mmuch information is just too much. There has got to be a limit on knowing every little thing that is happening to the people I know, every moment! Twitter must be a hundred times worse...it gives me googly-eyes to even think about it.

Then there is school. Busy, busy busy! Spring break one week, during which I travelled to New Mexico for some "just me and Jesus" time. (Sorry, Mom, hope you understand!)I'll talk about that amazing trip later. Probably. Then six tests one week, three semester projects due the next week, and now finals. I finish finals just in time to start my new job, which I am, technically, excited to begin.

Then the reality of my sister's daughter's situation set in. Gracie is seven, and suffering from a condition so rare that only four other people in the whole world have ever been diagnosed with it. It's a nasty painful thing involving tumors in the bones of her spine. It is not cancer, but it is terminal. The only thing is that no one really knows how much time Grace has. I suppose the same could be true for any of us, but in the meantime she wastes away and suffers excrutiating pain. I pray constantly for relief for her pain and for strength for my sister and our family.

Then last week we had to put one of our two cats down. He was sort of a loner, kinda doing his own thing most of the time, so his lack of presence is not as noticed. But what a sweet, gentle cat he was. There was not a mean bone in his body, and he was exravagantly beautiful. A month ago he was perfect...by the time we knew he needed to say goodbye he was a shade of his former self, and suffering greatly. In the light of Gracie's situation it is easy to remember that he is just a cat, and better him than her. But he was still precious to us, and we do miss him.

Littlecat:



Grace in 2005:



Tuesday, March 3, 2009

No Clever Title

It has been a week since I blogged. I would like to say that I regret it, that I haave so much to share, and start writing.

Monday, February 23, 2009

4-H and beyond

I have known for weeks that tonight I was scheduled, with another Master Gardener, to give a demonstration and talk about propagation to a local 4-H gardening club. I wasn't really nervous, and I didn't mind at all doing it. But I always feel underprepared, and that does lend some tension to my situation.

I should know better by now that things always go better than I think they will; tonight was no exception. My partner did some hands on with Morning Glory seeds then helped each one of them divide and replant a daylilly. It was a tough act to follow, since my portion was more talk and less action; I spoke on dormancy, and roses, why and how people take cuttings and when NOT to take cuttings. Then I showed them how to begin a rooting. But the kids were so good, very attentive listeners, and had all kinds of questions! They ate it all up, and were very grateful. And quite a range of ages there were, too. All the way from 12 or so down to five or so. It was awesome to talk to kids who were dying to learn about plants. It's amazing to see our future gardeners at work.

Friday, February 20, 2009

More unexpected blessings

A friend took a trip to Honduras with his daughter this week, serving with a medical mission that gives poor Hondurans a chance to consult with eye doctors, dentists, general practitioners, and each one is exposed to the Gospel. The kids can also have their hair washed and cleaned of lice. Everyone I know who has been on a trip like this tells of the ways they see God working in the people they meet and in their own hearts, and it makes me want to go. In lieu of being able to go, I usually end up helping cover the Sunday School class that is left without a teacher for this time. This is no small task, because I am typically a poor preparer, and am just not a teacher. I just am not. I did it for a couple years before finding that it just wasn't my forte and I was doing the kids a disservice by not having someone more qualified in my role. Not that I didn't enjoy it, mind you.

Well, this particular class is a daunting one for substitutes. First, they are junior high age. Enough said on that, right? Second, they really love their teacher. His shoes are tough ones to fill! He assures me it will be fine, and the kids essentially set their own schedule for the class, sort of.

He was not kidding. These kids knew exactly what to do, someone had brought doughnuts, they made their cocoa, and wwer ready to crack open their Bibles and get learning! Every kid in the room participated in reading aloud, and during their question and answer time, every kid had either something to ask or something to answer. It was awesome, the way these kids were hungry for the word of God. You should have seen their eyes light up when I pulled out my exhaustive concordance and explained how to use it!

The whole experience was awesome...and I never thought I would say that about junior high sunday school. I can't wait to do it again this week.

What a week!

The majority of the Hort department is away on the Milwaukee Field Studies trip. I opted to stay home because I knew this was going to be an overwhelming semester, so I got three days off from school! Woo hoo! One might think this would be a time to relax and enjoy this time...but no way! So much to do, and catch up on. Practically all the first day I worked on my big semester project for Nursery Management. Once I got started I didn't want to stop! It was loads of fun, and seriously, not sarcastically. Our job was to design a nursery layout that would efficiently use all of sixty acres, growing at least five genus of trees. Rotation and planting schedules, initial planting costs, harvest times, final sale cost, pests and diseases associated with our plant choices, irrigation, etc., etc. All were considerations we had to work through. It was a blast. Wish I had sixty acres and a half a million bucks ot get started! :o/

In addition to my school work I have some serious housekeeping tasks to catch up on, mainly my filing. Today is the day given mainly to that task, although I still have to fit in a trip to the vet for our cat (who developed a nasty case of dermatitis and is just miserable), a trip to barn to observe how Tuesday is after a minor injury to her ankle, an appointment later this afternoon, and making sure ducks are in a row before I leave tomorrow for an all-day visit with my mom.

Geez. I can't wait for school to get back in session so I can have a break.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Undeserved Blessings

It's official, the job at Prairieview is mine! I am both very excited, and eager to get started, and humbled deeply. See, I know how exactly this job fits me as a person and as a student, and the tremendous benefits it will provide me in the way of experience. Ths job seems literally created just for me and handed over on a silver platter, thanks be to God. But I know I don't deserve it. Not the job, necessarily, but the blessing it so obviously is. I have been weak, selfish and less-than-faithful. I know how many people are struggling for employment, and for this to fall in my lap almost seems unfair. But I AM grateful...grateful beyond words. I am fully aware that God has his reasons for me to be in this place at this time, and that place in that time. I only pray that my heart and ears will be open to opportunites to glorify Him.

I literally can hardly wait to get started! After filling out my application (as a formality; apparently I had the job before I even set foot in the door! :o) )they took me on a tour of the golf course so I could get a glimpse of the magnitude of the job ahead of me. It's pretty daunting; the beds have been neglected for many years, and even "low maintenance" native perennials are not "no maintenance." But I will have an awesome supervisor who will provide me with detailed lists of what needs to be accomplished each day, and that is absolutely perfect for me! Let's get cracking!!!

Monday is a big, big Botany exam. This is a very in depth course, and we have been learning complex systems for five whole weeks before taking this first exam. This means that there is going to be a LOT of material on this exam. I don't know if this is typical for this instructor, but maybe he will be open to taking smaller exams more often in the future. And of course there are a hundred thigns to do this weekend that are all important and pressing, lol! Just one of those things.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Trees Are People Too

Okay, not really, but they certainly all have their very own personalities; shaped by genetics, culture and environment none is exactly alike. God's handiwork is so blatantly obvious when you consider the wealth of biodiversity, yet much of the world turns a blind eye and deaf ear. Such a pity.

I did much better on my tree ID quiz than I thought. I had all the names down, but putting them to the correct tree was going to prove much more difficult. A couple of foolish blunders, and a couple of complete blanks. But all in all not too bad, considering that when the Trees class took their first test most of them completely boombed it. (This is for Nursery Management.) Now if Botany will only go so well....

Tomorrow I go to the golf course to fill out my application and take a tour of the course, but today on the phone it was mentioned that the interviwers were "tickled with me," and the job is practically mine. I am afraid to be too excited for fear that it will be taken from me through some technicality or aspect not considered.

This leads me to consider God's generosity. It is abundantly clear to me that I did not get this job, but that God provided it for me.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

An unexpected turn of events

Today was Interview Day at school, finally! I have been geting geared up for it for over a week, and was finally starting to get nervous. Interview Day for Hort, and Diesel Technology, is when prospective employers come to the school and sit through a series of first-interviews with students who are interested in working for them. The slots are twenty minutes long, and they get a chance to meet six or so students, learn about their majors and their employment wishes, and decide whether they want to schedule second interviews. Kinda like Speed Dating.....except not. :o)

Well, I went into the day knowing that my first interview was going to be with a company I REALLY wanted to work for. Small and rural yet a complete package as far as landscaping goes...and desperate for good help, including a Landscape Designer. I had another interview with a local golf course, and one more with the greenhouse manager at school.

Something totally unexpected happened: the landscape company seemed to have little interest in me, and I wasn't surprised. I do not, after all, have much experience and wasn't really qualified for the type of position they wanted filled. But the golf course....wow! Turns out I was exactly the type of person they were looking for to help rehab, redesign and restore the landscaping on the course! It was an excellent interview, and they really liked me. They asked me to come in and fill out an application, and they won't have to ask twice!!! I relish the thought of working for them. It is some design work but not on a large, formal scale, but it is much more working outside taking care of the plants, coming up with ideas, doing some planting, learning some pruning, garden-type maintenance. Things I am very, very qualified (and eager!) to do.

So, I didn't expect this. But, I did, first thing this morning, pray about the day and relinquished all control to Jesus. "This day is yours, Lord, to do with what you will."

I am surpised at the turn of events....but then again, not really.....

Friday, February 6, 2009

Blast from the Past

Yesterday my son signend me up on facebook, so now I am one of gazillions on "the illustrious facebook" as our Sofe so put it. It's fine, I will probably enjoy it. But an early surpise came in the form of finding an old aquaintence, a youth pastor from way back and the man who married me and Steve, Pastor Pete! It was wild to look at his facebook page and remeber some of the past. He and his wife married barely a month before Steve nd I, and we were PP's very first wedding he performed! Now he has five kids and is in Florida again after a stint in New England and the Middle Eastern Seaboard. What a trip.

Tonight was Family Fun Night to benefit the seniors at the kids's school, and I was asked to be in charge of planning, organizing and preparing the meals to be sold. It is a huge undertaking, one I always underestimate. But I think our seniors did excellent work, and likely made a LOT of money! I learned a lot about planning meals for many people, especially when you don't know how many people will be there.

I have to admmit that I didn;t want to do it. After all, I have three big exams coming right up next week, including almost sixty trees to be winter-ID'ed and common and botanical names memorized, Botany, and Nursery management. It is a LOT coming on all at once. Oh, and let's not forget interview day on Wednesday! But it's good. Tomorrow I will have to study. I love my classes, and can't wait to work in the field.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Circling Back Around

And I don't mean circling the drain! Ha ha! During some research for a school project I came across a landscape and design company not far form here, a homegrown business that has been viable and growing for several decades. The deisgn portfolios they offered for viewing online were lovely, too, and just my cup of tea style-wise. When I realized they had just hired a Landscape Designer from Kish two years ago I thought, "Dang! Guess they won't be needing anyone for a summer internship!" Then, when we driving to a basketball game, we happened to pass right by one of their offices. "Oh," I said, "there's ______." So, imagine my delight to discover they were on the list of interviewers for our interview day at the school! The best part is that because they are significantly more westward than most students in our department, I didn't have a lot of company on the list to interview with them. This means not a lot of competition. Woo Hoo! My delight quickly turned to excitement, which threatened to bubble over my imagination. What if? What if? Now I am a little afraid to keep wanting it, because I don't like to deal with the disappointment. It is a lovely small company, I am not looking for an ambitious career, and it is a relatively close drive. I dreaded the thought of potentially commuting to the suburbs for a minimum wage job.

If there are any praying types out there, please feel free to offer one on my behalf. May I interview well, and may their hearts be moved to hire someone with little formal training, more practical experience, and a whole ton of passion and willingness.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Off to University

Last weekend, besides being one in which I royally screwed up, was the weekend Matt, Steve and I travelled to Indiana to visit the campus of Indiana Wesleyan University. Matt has friends there, and his best friend had visited and decided he wanted to go there, giving the campus and the people rave reviews; naturally Matt wants to go, too. So it fell to us as partents to visit the campus for ourselves and visit the department in which he wants to major. I am pleased to report the college is everything he said it was, and more. We have no qualms at all about sending him off instead of doing two years at the community college first, except maybe the financing. We weren't quite prepared for that, but we'll figure it out.

So Matt has work to do: take the ACT again and see if he can gain another point ( to bump him up a scholarship level), send in his applications, GET A JOB, save for his room board and books. It's coming on fast.

Know what else is coming on fast? MY semester. Holy cow, we are a third of the way through already!!! In less than two weeks there will be an interview day at the school for the Hort department, and I am very, very excited to be facing the opportunity to work outside the home. Not that I mind the home...but I absolutely LOVE what I am learning at school, and am anxious to put my learning to practical use.

Another thing that took me by surprise is my floral arrangement class. I expected it to be easy, and it is, but I also thought I would not really get into it. In fact, I enjoy it very much! I am not particulraly good at it, but I certainly enjoy it. And because our (hefty) lab fee covers all the materials we use in class we get to bring home our arrangements! Last week was a bud vase arrangement and I knew we were going to be gone for many days anyway, so I left it at the school. So many compliments! This week we made two so I took one to the school again. I hope they don't get sick of them. What's REALLY funny, though, is that since this class is a required one for all Hort majors, even Turf Management, there are quite a few guys in the class. Maybe even more guys than gals. But they take their work very seriously, and some are very meticulous and have a great eye! The instructor said that oftentimes girls like arranging better, but guys end up being better at it for whatever reason. Go figure.

Wow...whoops!

I have gone longer without logging in to blog...but this is the first time I have actually forgotten to do it! That usually sounds the death knell for my ambitions, but this is important to me. I thank God for the reminder, especially since I have had such a big week.

Yes, my last post was an emotional one...that was a bad day for me as I examined my heart and came face-to-face with my short-comings. God be praised, my friend was very forgiving...what a godly woman! She had every reason to be angry, but she wasn't. My blubbery apology touched her, and she assured me that they lots of cameras at the party and many people were taking pictures. Like I told her, the biggest thing was the trust...I want to be able to do things to help others, and if I constantly fail I cannot do that. What a sobering reminder of how much God carries me every single day, through the big stuff and the not-so-big stuff.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

A Harsh Thing to a Dear Friend

Last night around ten o'clock I had a revelation that immediately nauseated me and sickened me in my heart. Months ago a friend asked if I would take photos at their anniversary party, and I said yes, even though I had my reservations about the quality of the finished product. I had it on my calendar, we spoke two days beforehand...and I still forgot. I mean, not even a niggling feeling about having forgotten something important. Not until ten o'clock that night! I am embarrassed to my core, and my basest instincts scream at me to never show my face at church again. I know that is the absolute most immature thing I could do, and I will face the hurt I have caused others, but I know there is nothing I can do to make it up to her; there won't be another 25th anniversary, her family has gone home. I can only apologize from my heart. I know she will forgive me, but I can't say the relationship won't be damaged.

This has always been what I consider my deepest flaw-remembering important dates and appointments. It happens a lot, but usually in batches. It is humbling to the extreme, much like the apostle Paul's renowned thorn in his side. I resolve to never let things like this happen again, but I have to face and accept that I am unreliable. The biggest kicker is that I really, really like to do things for other people, to serve them and make them happy. When I allow things like this to happen it lessens my opportunities because poeple cannot trust me to come through for them.

The thing is, how to I keep from using this as an excuse? How do I refrain from saying "Oh well, I will probably forget anyway so I won't even try." I have to be honest, at this point in time I am really wrestling with wanting to give up all my volunteer duties. I can't fail if I don't participate. Maybe that's why I didn't formally exercise for years, and why I am so inconsistent with my Bible-reading.

The biggest thing here, though, is not my humility. I get regular drenching doses of humiliation. The bigger question for me is "How does this make me more reliant on God?" From where I sit, at this moment, I don't know what that means.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

On knowing where you belong

Growing up, I always felt different from most other people, particularly of my own age. I was an only child until I acquired three step-sisters all at once, and even though we loved each other, and always felt like I belonged, I still felt different. I married young, at eighteen, and by nineteen had birthed my first child. I was not generally a girlie girl, but did love the times we could dress up for a photo or special occasion. By the time we left the Navy behind and joined the civilian world, we discovered that most people "in the real world" that were our age were only just beginning to start their families. Now I am young-ish woman with a son leaving for school soon and another to follow in a couple years. Most people we know in such a situation are ten-ish years older than we are.

I am a Republican who does not fully identify with her party, a Christian who holds views that might be considered a tad hippy-ish, a middle-class gal who longs for less and not more. I am still not girlie, although I do still love to dress up on a Sunday or a special occasion. I would rather garden than shop, build than crochet, camp than motel. I have accepted that I am a unique individual, as I am understanding better that everyone is unique.

But. This past week I came very swiftly and confidently to a place where I could say "Yes, I have made the right choice." The Hort program students took a whole day and attended the MidAm trade show sponsored by the Illinois Landscape Contractors Association. At the end of the day my feet were blistered and aching, but my head was a-whirl with the plants and products, with the terminology and creeds of the horticultural culture. After speaking with employers in the Student Career center I have come to realize that this path I prayed about and set myself on was the absolute right thing to do. I find myself feeling so right about it in a way I have almost never felt about my earthly walk; (spiritually its another whole matter.) I have only ever come close when working with horses; deliberately setting out to train an animal to do something or respond in a certain way, and having success...knowing in my heart that "this is right, and good." I have always known, however, that working with horses professionally was not ever going to be an option for me.

Additionally, I am making connections in my class and with others in the program. Some of them are even my age! (Or close to it.) It is refreshing to be in a group of people who are not always like-minded about everything horticultural, but all have a common thread and common walk. (Much like being with my church family, I might add.) I am eager to get going. By next Monday, a week after our first day at school, we will have missed a day to weather, a day to MidAm, and a day to holiday. Lets go......my future is waiting!

Monday, January 12, 2009

One down, forty or so to go....

I made it through Day 1 back to school! Unfortunately my first day back is also a Monday, the day most heavily weighted with classes...five of them, to be exact! So I was there from eight this morning to four this afternoon...and I am sorry to report I was two minutes late for that first class. I am so ashamed.....

It's going to be an interesting semester. First, I discovered that the Horticulture semester has been condensed from sixteen into ten weeks, to leave more room for the summer internships. Then I discovered that this Thursday the whole Hort department, essentially, will be attending the "Mid-Am" trade show in Chicago, a showcase for companies in the horticultural business. Yeah, I think I can spend my day there instead of in class! Twist my arm! If the snow doesn't wipe us out tomorrow I go back for four more classes. Seventeen hours really fills up the week. I am glad I will have Fridays off from school, although not off from lunch duty at the kids' school.

On a different note, it has been in interesting week or so personally, as well. As far as ministries and volunteering go, it is time to get back in the swing of things after the holiday down-time. I was SO looking forward to our church's annual Week of Prayer. Knowing I had volunteering on Tuesday evening and a meeting on Thursday evening, I made it a point to go out and catch the Wednesday evening prayer time. Except, upon arriving at the host home, I discovered that the gathering was over already...scheduled for the afternoon instead of the evening. How in the world did I miss that???? Well, the hosts, ever the gracious souls, had pity on me and invited me in to their home for fellowship, even though they were still entertaining anohter couple, some dear friends of their's. At first I was hesitant and nervous, but it didn't take long to relax and join the conversation. What a wonderful eveing it turned out to be! I learned more about the host couple, and got to know another couple, as well. It was great hearing them tell stories from their days teaching school, and of their conversion experiences. Before I knew it two hours had gone by and it was time to go home. I am very grateful to them for their hospitality and grace. And we even got to have some prayer time before we left.

Monday, January 5, 2009

And Bingo is his Name-O

I know this is my third post in one day...but I HAVE been sick, and these three really don't belong together. And I really want to talk about my dog Bingo. See, he will be twelve this year, and 2009 could be very different for us in that it is realistic that we could lose him this year.

My friend Marybeth was one of the first people I met and liked when we moved to Illinois in January of 1997. We met at the library, in the children's section, and she invited me to join her informal bible study. I readily accepted, and met a few more amazing women in the process.

Marybeth is an avid dog person, and they had several of their own dogs, gave puppy classes and dog obedience training, and was raising a puppy to be a companion dog at the local nursing home. It was after we had moved out of our apartment and into our first house that she told me the nursing home dog was not going to work out. His personality was just too timid, and he had had a traumatic (for him) experience that set his conditioning back months. In the last couple of weeks they had taken in a stray collie who was going to be the perfect nursing-home dog. Would we like to have Bingo for ours? Well, "Heck yeah!" or something very similiar, was our response. He was already eight months old, completely housebroken, and well-socialized. Besides that he was cute as a button! I loved that I had already known him, and knew the handling he had received at Marybeth's home. It was a no-brainer- we had our first dog. The nursing home residents had already been calling him Bingo, so we kept the name.

Bingo was an "Oops!" dog from one of the local ranches, half Corgi and half Jack Russell Terrier. He was a 20 pound dog with the energy and attitude of one much larger, and would chase and bring back a ball until he was on the verge of a stroke. When we moved to the country he was in his element, trotting along beside my horse as I rode, scoping out every rat and snake hole we came across. He took special delight in taking off after deer like he was actually going to catch one. One summer day he very, very gently raided a rabbit's nest and brought us the babies, one-by-one, unscathed but too young to survive apart from their mom. The possums he was not so gentle with, and displayed his terrier savagery whenever one ventured too close to the house. He didn't think anything of taking on a full-grown raccoon, either, so we had to be extra careful to be sure he didn't have the opportunity.

Now we are in town again, and he is old. His face has greyed significantly, and he is much happier to just lay in the sun and sleep. Ball-chasing lasts two or three throws in the summertime. But mostly he doesn't act his age. He is not stiff or slow, he is still curious and engaged. He still loves to get out and take brisk walks around the block. But his weight has been a problem lately; we doubled his meal-sizes just to get him to maintain, and it finally seems to have stopped his weight decline. He developed a couple warty bumps that are probably nothing, but this past week a son's friend found a lump on his neck. He may have one or two others besides.

So this year we may face some hard choices with Bingo. My first decision, is whether or not we want to have any cancer testing done. If we do and it is positive, we will know better what to expect. There won't be any "heroic" surgeries, nor will there be expensive or debilitatiing chemotherapies, there will only be keeping him comfortable while he approaches the finish line.

Even without the testing, we know. Every time we pause to watch him peacefully sunbathe, or laugh at his antics with the squeaky toy his granny bought him for Christmas, we soak it up. I better understand Jesus' mother "treasuring these things, and pondering them in her heart." We tuck the little treasures away, now, to save for a day we know is not all that long coming.

School

It is only a week before I head back to the classroom to begin a whole new segment of my college journey. I have a goal, now, (see previous postings)and a prescribed course of action set down by the Horticulture Department at school. I am nervous and excited! I was only excited until a few days ago when I started making my tree flashcards. Because I am beginning the hort program in Spring semester, the other students will already have taken their Tree Identification class. When I registered for my classes I asked the instructor to provide me with their list of trees so I could be a little caiught up, and he was hapy to oblige. "Great!" I thought, "I am already a bit of a tree geek anyway, so this should be easy to do." 100 flashcards later my hand is cramping and I am just finishing up copying the overstory trees! It will be at least another hour to get through the understory and evergreens trees, but that is not even having begun the actual memorization. Scientific and common names, thank you very much. I better get crackin' like a tree branch in an ice storm....

So far so good

So far 2009 has felt a lot like, well, 2008. I, as well as countless others, I am sure, always have this sense around the end of December of anticipation, of renewal, of expectation. Its the same sort of feeling one gets around their own birthday each year, if one is already so inclined. But when the day comes, we all realize...gosh, I don't really feel any older than I did yesterday. Or, gee, the first day of 2009 doesn't really feel all that different than the last day of 2008.
Well, it's true- day to day we seldom feel any different unless we are battling pain or illness; in fact, we seldom are different from day-to-day. Most often it is in the course of a month, or a year, or even a decade that we actually see signs of physical, emotional or spiritual progress. Looking backward to January 2008, a LOT has changed in my life...as it probably has for most people.
I hate making New Year's resolutions, as I have already shared. But it IS a logical time to examine my life, where i have been this last year, where I would like to be this next year. Common sense tells me that changes need to be made in my life, and now is as good a time as ever to begin.
For instance: I need to lose some weight, this much is true. I am already spending time on the treadmill and trying to make dietary changes. This morning I had steel-cut oats for breakfast instead of pancakes. When I want ice cream it is two scoops now instead of three. By March I would like to be down to one scoop!
I also need to be better organized, so I have spent time this vacation cleaning up and cleaning out.
I need to cook at home more often, so I ordered that side of pork and quarter-beef that I have put off doing because of the cash outlay; now we will have meat in the freezer at any given time, and what with the new menu-planning program and assigned meal preparation, we should meet that goal handily.
So, no resolutions for me- but change will come nontheless, and hopefully for the better.