Not What I Planned

Isn’t it funny how some days just don’t go as you plan?

Yesterday was such a day.

I stayed up until midnight night before last
so I could be up to wish Glory a happy birthday on the 26th….. which set me back in my energy to get up on time on Wednesday morning.  I was supposed to have Joy at school by 8:00 so I can be at my own class by 8:15.   I was awakened by a phone call at 7:50.  nice.

Even though the day BEGAN later than it needed, class was awesome as we celebrated with my instructor, Sherrie.  We had a cookout with all the classmates from our class and her partner/instructor, Jason, and all of his cohorts.  I’d guess we had a celebratory group of around 60 people. 

And, yes, I’m the one who brought the Birthday Banana.  Sherrie has everything and anything she needs so I wanted to bring her something original for her 50th.  I decided she would probably only receive one birthday banana so I might as well be the one to bring it!!

Throughout the morning, we played mandolin, ate grilled meat, sang songs, laughed, took photos and watched wax melt away atop a cake of black while we serenaded the birthday girl.

By the time I arrived home, we began getting things in order for celebrating Glory’s big day!

Funny thing is, I bought $35.00 worth of rib eye (don’t think I’ve ever spent that much for ONE meal for FIVE people)  … BUT … no charcoal lighter fluid for the grill.  By the time Glory got back from running errands (which included buying charcoal lighter fluid), it was getting late and I realized that I hadn’t even baked the sweet potatoes.  *facepalm*
In the end, we put aside the birthday dinner plans and ran to Sonic for dinner!

Waving flames atop a cake of chocolate, through and through

The big present for the big day was:
an Ipod Touch.
We usually keep gifts to a minimum on most birthdays, but for the big two (16 and 18), we go a little bigger. It was bought for her a few months ago and set aside for her.  Glory was SO excited! Ryan and Glory ... syncing up her new iPod Touch

As the years roll by, I’m learning that so much of what we plan for our lives
never comes to fruition.
There are the small disappointments
that won’t be remembered in a year (like forgotten charcoal lighter fluid)
or the earth-moving disappointments like a spouse walking out,
a life-altering, debilitating disease
or the loss of a child
that change the entire trajectory of our lives.
No matter the tragedy,
we make the choice
in how we react.
Grieving takes time … but we should strive to keep moving
towards healing and recovery.
Sometimes, we can find ourselves bogged down and discouraged or bitter and angry
because the death of any dream is often hard to watch.
This life …. is often not what we had planned for ourselves
or envisioned for our loved ones.
When we can learn to let go of our dreams
and let God hold our hand as we walk this tumultuous path of life
we’ll find that the replacements for our dreams
can hold glory and strength.
We might not have chosen this path,
but the beauty that is gained
has the potential to outweigh the pain of the tragedy.

So, our day wasn’t what we had planned.
If I had told Glory a month ago
that I was planning to take her to Sonic for her 18th birthday,
she would have been sorely disappointed.
As it turned out, Sonic ended up being a perfect choice!

And we’ll be having rib eye, sweet potatoes and asparagus with homemade hollandaise for dinner soon!  YUM.

School Joys

i smell inquisitivenessThe first and second days of school have come and gone, and we’re good.

I went in with Joy Friday morning.  I walked her to breakfast and we sat together while she nibbled on a biscuit, sausage and tater tot. Children sat at tables and nervously  kept their eyes on their food, eating with little conversation. It was awkward, but certainly normal atmosphere for the “first day” of anything. biscuits and beautyWe got to her room just in time for the bell.

And I walked away. Hours seemed to tick by slowly for me while I worked at home.

I find myself, since being a single mom, panicked at times… with the sudden flash of wonder, “Wait! Where is Joy?”  She might be at the pool.  She may be with away for the day. She may be in her room, playing with a friend or watching tv in the party room. And now an added place of destination, school.  It takes me a minute to acclimate and remember where she is.  After twenty years of almost always having the children right here beside me, it’s an odd feeling to have them in so many different places.  With the bigger children, they’ve earned it.  It feels right.  They’re responsible and grown and able to care for themselves.  For Joy, it just doesn’t feel natural.  It’s an adjustment.

I do not have school on Fridays. I am sorting bills, filing paperwork and putting my desk in order. After the bills are finished, I’m on to finish my stamping table/craft area and then clearing out bookcases of years’ worth of accumulated books for homeschooling.One of Joy's teachers, on the left, with another Mom and student

Upon asking Joy how school went on Friday, I expected the colloquial “fine” that would require more prying.  Instead, I got an observant answer of, “I was quite surprised that it wasn’t what I had expected.  It was pretty boring.”  This was to be expected for the first day.  The reins begin tight, to establish order.  There was a good deal of talking done to explain what is expected and how things should be done.  I don’t think textbooks were even cracked open.  And I completely understand.

Monday brought the delving into books. She had homework.  It was better. Many subjects will be review for a bit, and she needs that. We all do.

God is gracious to carry us through
that which we don’t understand,
do not like,
or do not know the way.

I do not understand, like or know my way through this,
but it is the way that we must go.
And so I trust and take another step.

Loosening Apron Strings

My homeschooling mother’s heart is in peril. Today is the day.  School begins.Having lunch after another immunization shot at the hospital last week

This is what must be done.  That I may finish school and work, Joy must go to a building full of 450 children and be taught, instructed, befriended, directed and led by others.  I must go to school and then get a job because I am now alone. I’m not the first woman to be in this position. I’m not the first homeschooling mama to be in this position. That doesn’t make it okay with me. It doesn’t make it natural. It doesn’t make it any more easy.

But, I know that nothing happens in my life that doesn’t first get God’s okay.
While not His first choice, He has allowed it.

It seems so unnatural … this letting go … of my child so young.

It is too early.

This child of mine                     ……… she’s only nine.

We went to Open House on Wednesday evening.  The school is beautiful and right around the corner.  The teachers were nice. The books were nicely laid out on the desks, waiting for the children to come and dive into them. But, I won’t be there.

I won’t be there to encourage her along. I won’t be there to talk to her about unkind words spoken, prejudices lived out or foolish decisions.  We will have to talk about these topics when they come up in conversation at home long after the event has passed.  Many opportunities will be lost.

That is homeschooling:  living with family (home) and teaching (schooling) at the same time. The picture:  a mom, wearing the proverbial apron, with children at her side.  I believe it is important. For me, the choice to homeschool was a little about distaste for government control, a little about dislike for the teaching of certain topics against my beliefs and somewhat about  protection of innocence …. but A LOT about wanting to instruct and mold my children’s character as they grow and develop because I believe it is my God-given privilege and responsibility. You absolutely cannot do that at a distance or in three to five hours in the afternoon and weekends.

But what I believe, does not matter. I do not have a choice.  Rather than her letting go of these strings because she’s ready to reach for other things and venture away from my side, I have been forced to drop the apron to the floor. It will lie pooled at my feet by days end.

But, I trust.  As I know that God has allowed this,
I know He, too, will be faithful to fill in the gaps
and use this for Joy’s good
and His glory.

And so we prepare.  It’s 6:17 and she’s been up since 6:00. Excitement quietly wafts through our home. She’s marking last minute purchases. Her tousled hair that finished drying while she slept is now awry and a yawn graces her face. As I snap shots, she asks, “Please do not take photos of my crazy mane … I’m such a bedhead.”

Be thinking of us throughout the day, would you?
Thanks. And blessings upon you.

New Friends

One of the things that I’m really enjoying about school is that it has put me into circles of people that I haven’t been privy before now.

I’ve spent my adult life in a pretty protected circle(s).  I have stayed home with our children all week and gone to church on Sundays.  My outings were usually with children in tow, as we traveled to homeschool co-op/meetings, park days, sporting events/practice, neighborhood events, church gatherings, Bible studies, and club meetings. This has been, in part, an intentional decision for the sake of my children.  It has also been by default, as most homeschoolers where we’ve lived in the last twenty years have been Christian.

Now,  my two big kids are grown.  Joy and I are left at home.  She is going to public school.  I am in a state upper level school.  Things are definitely changing.

With this change, comes excitement for me.  While I’ve loved my friends and “circles” through the years, I’ve always felt like there are SO many other people in the world that I was missing out on enjoying.  People who live a life different than mine. My circles have been homeschool families who eat organic, know Abeka from Bob Jones, and second guess immunizations. Or they have been church families who pray over meals and spend Sunday mornings in a Baptist sanctuary.

But, my world is so much bigger now and I’m so thankful.

Jon is one of my new friends.   He has a lip stud, drives a pimped out car and uses obscenity in everyday language. The point is that he is very different from me – and I really, really like him.  He and his wife are BOTH full time students AND work full time. They’re incredibly hard working and very talented.  They are both creative and artistic – articulate and interesting.  And I would have never had the chance to meet them, much less enter their “circle,” in my past.Mary and Jon

God arranged that we might be friends.

During the last two quarters, I’ve been in a class of 20-25 people sitting at computer monitors in a room with all had our backs to the middle of the room as we faced our monitors on a counter that encircled the room.  Our instructor, Sherrie, put me between Odell (40, this year)  and Jon (27), as resources for help.  At first, Jon was pretty quiet, but as the weeks ticked by, we have talked more and more. He is a one of the voices for Delta’s baggage claim department.  He’s doing well in the program and will make a fantastic graphic artist.  He’s really a neat guy and I’ve enjoyed getting to know him. Me and Odell

Odell is a talented wedding photographer and a great guy with a house full of kids, working hard on sustaining a strong second marriage with a huge heart of gold. Right now, he’s in the program to gain more skills so he can expand his business.  It will be so exciting to see his business morph into something even bigger in the future.  I’m very comfortable with him…I could really see our families hanging out together.

Sean (23, I think) is another new friend I’ve made through the program.  He’s a world traveler and always looking for a new adventure. He’s also one of the most “inclusive” people I’ve ever met.  He never meets a stranger and is quick to pull alongside someone on the outside to include them.  He has an energy for life and exuberance that are contagious.  I thoroughly enjoy him.  In fact, he came to watch me at the race over the weekend.  We’ve met at a couple of  parties and he may join us on a family camping trip, that includes a kayaking trip on the Congaree in South Carolina, in the fall. SeanThese three new friends are people that I could call if I needed help.  They are people whom I would extend a hand if they were in need.  They are fellowship and encouragement.  And they are in my life because God has chosen to bring me into new circles.

With all the difficulty that my current situation could bring, I choose to find the positive  including the wonderful new friendships that have been made. I am choosing to find the wonderful blessings that God is pouring upon me and my family.

These new friendships are definitely blessings.

Glory’s Graduation 2009

Saturday was so nice.  The graduation ceremony went well. Everyone was in the right place at the right time. The church was full of well-wishers.  Most students shared words of gratitude to their parents.  Glory was very nervous, but spoke as well. I felt it was important for her to speak, not to make sure that I got my “thanks,” but because there are seldom opportunities to speak in front of a large group of people like that.  It’s very good practice and everybody should stretch when they can and do something difficult.  This was definitely difficult for her.  But, she did well. On the Stair at First BaptistEvery group has a different order of operations for graduation.  The Central Savannah River Area Home Education Association opens with prayer and a slide show before moving directly into the graduates.  The parents come down with diplomas in hand, present them to the graduate and then step back while the young man or woman proceeds to the podium.  They have a minute or two to share.  Afterward, the graduates turn their tassels and file out in a processional, escorted by their parents.  Slideshow snapshotThe slide show is comprised of three photos from each child.  Generally, there is a baby shot, pre-teen era and then a current photo of each child.  I still remember the day this photograph was taken.  Glory was around five months old.  She and James were so cute. Snap! Snap! Snap!  One photo after another was taken ….. and then, out of the blue, she turns to him, leans over and kisses him! She had never “given” a kiss before, only been kissed herself. It was SUCH a sweet moment.  Even at two and a half, James knew it was a big deal for her to give a kiss!!  Oh, how my heart swelled.  My Mom and Dad with our familyIt’s always so nice to have my Mom and Dad visit us.  They only come once or twice a year.   Our family is always going in different directions between the four jobs held and four different school schedules. Add to the mix my parents busy schedules and the seven social lives and it’s simply quite difficult to get everybody together.  I treasure the time that we do have to visit and catch up.  The CSRA HEA graduating class of 2009

We had an impromtu, planned-at-the-last-minute cookout after the service.  It was really nice to sit and enjoy family and friends.

And so, one chapter closes and another begins.  What does the future hold? What happens next?  Right now, all Glory has on her mind is her summer plans.  She’s lifeguarding at our neighborhood pool and coaching the swim team.  Though this is the start of the summer, truly summers fly by lately.  We’ll need to begin to make plans for next year.  It will be here before we know it.

Only nine more years and Joy will be walking an aisle in a graduation robe.  Oh my……

Graduation Admonition for Glory

High School graduation for the homeschooler in our area is a two fold event. Saturday at two o’clock, the graduates walk, but  Friday evening, we have graduation practice followed by a rehearsal dinner.My two big kids - doing a self-portrait with a phone

Rehearsal dinner is such a special time.  After dinner, parents have the opportunity to step forward and share a few words for the graduate. We were blessed to have my parents join us for the evening.My little Joy-boat, coloring as she listens to a Mom and Dad edify their daughter

Last year, I was a little nervous and wanted to go ahead and speak quickly.  I think I jumped up second or third.  We were told to keep our message to around one minute.  I practiced at home and did my very best, only to find that other parents missed that time line instruction and spoke for much longer.  Though, looking back, I don’t believe that I would have added any more to my words.  What I shared with James was just right for him.Sweet Glory, listening to other parents speak about their love for their children

This year, I wasn’t nervous at all. This year, I was next to the last person to walk forward to speak.  I was so thrilled to have the chance to stand up and share my carefully chosen words. Last year, I got a little choked up as I spoke to James.  This year was different.  As I spoke, tears freely streamed down my face, but I was able to continue to speak.

Here is what I shared with Glory:

I’ve said it time and time again, Glory,
If you were for sale at Wal-mart
You’d be called “Party in a Box”
NOT because you’re always looking for a party
OR because you take control of a room of people and create a party
but because
w h e r e v e r  you go
in w ha t e v e r  you do
you enjoy yourself
and those around you.
You MAKE life fun.

I still have a card that was given to me
by my own mother and father
several years ago on my birthday.
I remember the tear that rolled down my cheek when I first read it.
It had this verse inscribed inside:
Many daughters have done well
But you excel them all.
Proverbs 31:30

My dear child,
You are my friend.
You are my fashion consultant.
You are an excellent secret keeper.
You are music in a quiet room.
You are a ray of sunshine even in the darkest corner.
You are a joy wherever you go.

You are nervous about what lies ahead
BECAUSE   you   compare   yourself   to   others.

You wonder if you know enough
If you are smart enough
IF you can do well enough.

You, my love, have no reason for concern.
You spread joy wherever you go.
You enjoy life.
You are strong.
You learn quickly.
You are a hard worker.
You are an excellent friend.

As my own mother and father once told me,
I share with you ….
Many daughters have done well
but, in my view
YOU exceed them all.

Field Day at School

Last Thursday was Field Day at Augusta Tech. I was excited about field day for the two weeks prior it’s arrival!  I couldn’t wait for Thursday to arrive. James has two teachers this quarter.  One didn’t mention field day AT ALL.  The other mentioned that he wouldn’t be taking roll.

Then there is Sherrie, my instructor and program director.Sherrie with one of our Tug O' War teams

She may just be Field Day’s #1 Cheerleader.  But then again, anything she’s a part of, she’s the #1 Cheerleader.  She lives loud and with enthusiasm.  There are no “bad days.”  We may learn more from certain situations, but that makes the rough days, good days.  I like her outlook.  Yep: She’s my instructor.  She’s my advisor.  She’s my friend.

So, we prepared.  We discussed who would bring what food.  We planned. We designed, voted on and printed our team t-shirt. And we got excited.

The winning t-shirt design was created by Marshall, who is pictured above in the plaid shorts, standing beside Sherrie.  It was very clever.  The back read:  THIS IS WHAT TEXT LOOKS LIKE BEFORE IT HITS THE PAPER.  Naturally, it was printed backwards.  Clever, huh?  Here are two other shirts that were clever.  Can you tell which programs they represent? Engineering & Cardiology

Outlook is everything, isn’t it?  James mentioned to a friend at school how excited I was about Field Day.  He said that the guy gave him the “ruffled brow” look.  The friend didn’t get it.  If he went, he may not have had as much fun as I did, either.  I was looking forward to the day and so I had a great time!! And though James is in another program, he wore one of our t-shirts and hung out with our group.  I was really glad that he did.Water Balloon Toss - and break!!

The day was filled with all sorts of silly and serious games.  From Checkers and Spades to Horseshoes and Water Balloon Toss.  We had some serious Tug o’ War games, Tricycle Races and an Egg In Spoon Relay.

The grillmaster pointed out that, on a rec area that probably has over 100 acres, we chose to play limbo within five feet of the grill! He made us move. Vincent trying Limbo by the grill with Sherrie's help

The crem-de-la-crem of the day is the Paper Boat Race.  Any department at school can make a boat out of paper (like cardboard boxes).  The boat can be waterproofed, but it must be made of paper.  The boats are manned and raced around the lake.  Oh My! What fun!!  Our boat, manned by Sean and Vincent, won fourth place. Our program (Printing and Graphic Design) definitely had the best cheerleaders.  We cheered for every event, but we REALLY cheered at the boat race. Our Paper Boat - and the boats on the water preparing for the START!

We brought home a hand full of ribbons – I think there a few in each category with lots in the second and third place ranking.  But most of all, we were there and we were a team.

Squire and the Scroll

We had a medieval feast at our homeschool co-op the other Friday.  All the kids dressed as Lords, Ladies and peasants.  There was an official food taster appointed and a Lord and Lady of the Day.  The kids created family crests. Moms created foods that would have been served during medieval times.

And, of course, there was entertainment.  Juggling and story-telling were both part of the morning’s entertainment along with magic tricks and a few jokes.

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Beth Brown was the coordinator or the day.  And she was also part of the entertainment.  She  read a wonderful story, The Squire and the Scroll. As she read,  the room began to settle down. Page after page, she went deeper into the story.  Having not heard the story, I listened closely as she read line upon line, page after page.

The underlying theme of the story is based on the fact that the Squire knows the scroll well because he reads it often.  It impacts his every thought, decision and action. He considers his next move based upon what he knows from the scroll.

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As I listened, I can say that I almost experienced a physical sensation of a light turning on, the room coming into clearer focus or a fog clearing.

As I’ve become involved with Facebook and blogging, I’ve had dreams about them.  I might wake up in the night from the midst of some conversation involving people I know and have been re-acquainted with through Facebook.  Or I might be typing and picturing the Facebook screen or my blog.  I have also been experiencing dreams that involve Photoshop or Illustrator.  I dream that I am working on a project.

These dreams have struck me as odd.

My day-to-day life has not experienced great change in focus over  the last twenty years.  While we have moved often, my primary focus has been caring for my children, helping my husband and taking care of daily activities in our home.  So, I guess my dreams have been similar.  I dream about things that are a part of my life.  Most of my dreams are promptly forgotten upon waking.

But, because my dreams have been different of late, I’ve noticed them and remembered them more.  They have been more memorable for me because they have been different. They have been different because I have spent a considerable amount of my day focused on something that is new and out of the ordinary for me.

As I stood there listening to Beth, I began to consider my time in the Word of God. I’ve always wanted to read the Bible more. And I have certainly felt a conviction that I need to be doing so. But, I’ve never considered how it might truly change my life.

But there I stood, in a room full of children dressed in velvet and cotton, listening to a friend read an elementary school storybook, knowing that I could easily change my life with one simple step.

Through Facebook and the daughter of a friend, I came across a man who has a very different approach to reading his Bible.  This system is based on reading through the Bible at a fairly quick, steady speed.  You are asked not to re-read, cross reference or look up context or definitions: simply read (that is a freeing thought, isn’t it?)  Using the system, you read ten chapters a day from different sections of the Bible. As you read, you begin to form a more whole picture of the entire Word and it’s themes and characters.

I have been reading using this system for weeks now.  So far, I haven’t read ten chapters in a day. I have read one chapter some days and three to five on others. But, I have read more scripture in the last few weeks than I have in the entire year prior. And I’m thankful.

Like the Squire, I desire that my thoughts be tempered by the Scroll. I want my words to be His words. I desire that my reactions reflect those penned in the Bible. I want to be Holy Spirit moved, controlled and directed. I want to spend enough time in the Word that it permeates my thoughts,  fills my dreams and directs my actions.

Through a simple book read to a group of wiggly children, I saw that this can be a reality.

What do you do in your dreams?
Do you make time for reading your Bible?

Loving School

James at schoolI am absolutely loving school.  James and I even ride in together on Thursday mornings because our class times overlap.   I’m so thankful that he doesn’t mind riding to school with his Mom ; )

His classes are becoming more difficult as he delves into terminology and actions that he doesn’t know.  He’s going to school for computer networking.  He’s awesome at building, creating and putting things together, so he’ll do a well in this area.

School is just becoming more and more fun for me.  We’re given challenges/assignments as we learn how to use new programs.

We spent a few weeks in Adobe Pagemaker.  That was uncomfortable in the beginning, but I caught on well enough. I could certainly use a good bit more practice, but I got my feet wet.

Circus PosterLast quarter, I worked in Photoshop some, so I’m fairly comfortable this quarter… well, at least, I’m not LOST.

I thought I’d show yesterday’s assignment. We were given specifics (11×17 poster) and information (circus, September, Hale St) and told to make a poster.

I tend to think “outside the box” anyway, so I expect that my stuff will often be different from what everybody else is creating.  My dad always used to ask, “Why do you have to be different?”  It wasn’t that I “had” to be, I just “was” (and still “am.”)    Though it took me many years to understand that it was okay to be different, I’m finally wonderfully, perfectly happy being different and am thankful that God created me that way!

When given the assignment, I immediately thought “vintage” rather than current styles.   So, this is what I came up with.  I liked the background sunburst because it suggests “big top” in shape without showing a circus tent. The colors in the trapeze artist were fun and cheerful!

So, here’s a glimpse into what’s going on at school with me.

How about you?  What is some new skill that you’ve learned lately?
Have you considered going back to school?  Would is your area of interest?