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.