Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Remembering Why

I am lucky enough to walk through the most lovely of cemeteries to school each day. Tree-lined, meticulously maintained, and full of headstones and grave markers both new and old, the daily walk to and from school has become a ritual of sorts for me. I know the names of those who rest there near the shaded lanes almost as well as my old friends. Perhaps in a way, they have become my friends. Each day as I pass them by, I am reminded of how short life is and how fortunate I am to still be alive, breathing, living, and learning. On my walk to school, my mind is cleared of all the troubles at home and the presence of their headstones unburdens me in some way, cleanses me. On my walk back home, I am once again met by my familiar friends who remind me that at home, I have two warm, wonderful boys who are waiting for me to be their mother and a husband who loves me beyond reason.

When I go to the camups another way, it never feels as if I have "arrived." When I go home, it is a similar experience. It is almost as if the cemetery is a portal of some kind for me, a place for me to let go of one the scholar role and put on the mantle of Mother.

As I walked to campus today, I was stopped in my tracks by the beauty of the cemetery. It was around 10:30 a.m. and the sky was that unspeakable, startling shade of sapphire blue that it gets each fall here in the valley. The sycamores leaves were starting to cascade into deep piles. There was new snow on Mt. Naomi. At the end of the lane I was walking down, the ground gently falls away into a panoramic view of my little corner of paradise. There are many stone benches that families have placed here instead of headstones and there is one in particular under a towering pine tree that is well-placed for maximum viewing of the valley. I had to sit there and watch the clouds rolling in from the north. The whole scene was nothing short of...breathtaking.

As I inhaled the sharp scents of fall--woodsmoke and pine on chilled norther air and exhaled the worries of my world, I remembered. Sometimes I get so caught up in the busy-ness of earning a Ph.D. and essentially being a single mom I forget. Today, today I remembered and remembering was good.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

By Small & Simple Things

Alma 37:6-7

" Now ye may suppose that this is foolishness in me; but behold, I say unto you, that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass; and small means in many instances doth confound the wise. And the Lord God doth work by means to bring about his great and eternal purposes; and by very small means the Lord doth confound the wise and bringeth about the salvation of many souls."

Once again, the Lord delivers an answer to my question. I read this scripture this morning ~ last night I went to bed pondering how and why stopping payments into a 401K while getting "gazelle intense" to pay off debt causes a person to succeed in the long term. When a person pulls out the calculator and does the math, it doesn't make sense. The "wise" person with the calculator kicks and screams and says, "No! It can't be possible to get ahead if you don't contribute to the 401K!!! No, no, no!"

However, the Lord has directed his people to get out of debt as quickly as they can and stay out of debt. To me, getting out of debt as quickly as possible means scraping together as much money each month as possible, including stopping the payments to the 401K. For us, this would be such a small amount each month in comparison to all the rest of the $$ we toss at debt. Will that hundred dollars or so really make a difference in the overall debt picture?

Is this one of those instances that a small and simple thing like stopping 401K payments until we are out of debt really will bring great things to pass, even though others might consider it foolish? I know that the Lord is the same yesterday, today, and forever and that the Lord "doth counsel in wisdom over all his works, and his paths are straight, and his course is one eternal round." (Alma 37:12) I must remember that if I keep his commandments, one of which is to get out of debt as quickly as possible, that "ye shall prosper in the land." (Alma 37:13).

I guess that when Mr. Amazing Man gets home, we have a few things to tackle, one of which is temporarily stopping payments to his employer retirement until we are debt free, student loans and all.

I stand corrected.

Mr. Amazing Man wrote me this, after a brief conversation on the phone shortly after my pity-party session:

First of all, sometimes the dumbest things come out of your mouth. What makes you think that you are remotely in competition with my job, past or present? It absolutely flabbergasts me that you could think something like that. (You should have seen the look on my face.) Now, I'm not disputing that you think that. I know you do because you told me. It's just that it is NOT TRUE, so don't waste your time imagining or thinking that it is true. Perhaps I'm horrible about telling you and Matthew and Luke how much I love and miss you guys. I'm sure I am. Truth is, you three (and you're at the top of the list, cute and wonderful as Matthew and Luke are), are the most important things in my life. I simply do not have the either the words or the ability to tell you three how much I love and miss and cherish you. It is the most wonderful thing in the world just to BE WITH YOU. And thinking of you, when I'm away is almost as good. It is such an absolute warm fuzzy to think of you three and what you're doing and what we'll do when were next together.

So I guess I can compete. And I do say the stupidest things sometimes.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Simply Put, I Can't Compete

So I was looking at some pictures of Mr. Amazing back before he married me, back when he was an action guy. He still is an action guy, I just don't get to see pictures now because...well, I don't know why actually.

At any rate, I was going through an album of his with Professor Poopy Pants, looking for pictures to put in a little photo book for him so that he can remember what his dad looks like and I was left with a very disheartened feeling. The pictures were amazing ~ they were from all kinds of exotic locales of him doing all kinds of things: scuba diving, HALO jumping with oxygen masks into the ocean, shooting guns of all kinds, skin diving, lounging on beaches, blowing things up, fast roping out of helicopters.

First, I miss him. Terribly. Second, now I see why he doesn't want to find a different job. Third, how can I compete with a job like that? Fourth, I really am always going to be sloppy seconds to that, aren't I? Doesn't matter how thin I am, how accomplished I become, how competent I am ~ I can't compare to a life like that.

Being married to an international man of mystery sucks. Bottom line.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Ye Shall Hold Your Peace

“And Moses said unto the people, Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will shew to you to day...

“The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace.

“And the Lord said unto Moses, … speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward” (Exodus 14:13–15; emphasis added).

So how is it that I can "stand still" in my life? How paradoxical that in one breath the Lord commands me to stand still and then in the next tells me to go forward. What application does this have in my life? It never ceases to amaze me how I always find scriptures that admonish me to "fear ye not" when I am seeking for further light and knowledge. I am still left wondering how I can stand still and move forward at the same time though. Guess that leaves me with things to ponder about today while I go about my daily work.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Some advice

  1. Don't have your major professor's nanny watch your child as well.
  2. Don't loan your extra car to your major professor for 6 months just after you get it registered and insured.
  3. Don't trade your extra car to your major professor's nanny for child care.
The nanny is now telling me that the car won't pass inspection for her to register it in her name and needs about $700 worth of work done on it. passed inspection less than 6 months ago and I have driven it a grand total of 3 times during those months.

I am a little steamed to say the least that she would expect me to shell out the money to fix it, especially when I traded it to her for below fair market value AND I haven't been driving it for the past 6 months--she and my graduate adviser have been driving it. It passed inspection just fine in January. Is it unreasonable of me to feel this way?

Monday, June 18, 2007

Sitting Shiva for Boo Bear

Today Boo Bear turns 15. I did nothing to mark her birth except privately mourn my loss throughout the day. I told no one. I did not even mention it to you. How could I? What would you have said that you have not already said? What more could you have done to ease my pain than you have already done?

Each year I take inventory of what I have accomplished since she was born--I always ask my self, "Was the sacrifice worth the returns?" Most of the time, especially when I see my boys playing together, I have to answer NO. It was not worth it and I made the wrong decision. I guess this is a question that can only be answered completely by both myself and Boo Bear in the future, if the time ever comes. Maybe she thinks the sacrifice was worth it--if she does, then maybe I can forgive myself.

Until then, I will continue to sit my private shiva.

"Instrumentalities of a Higher Law"

"After we have done all we could do for the cause of truth, and withstood the evil that men have brought upon us, is still our duty to stand. We cannot give up; we must not lie down...To stand firm in the face of overwhelming opposition when you have done all you can, is the courage of faith. The courage of faith is the courage of progress. [Those] who possess that divine quality go on; they are not permitted to stand still if they would. They are not simply the creatures of their own power and wisdom; they are instrumentalities of a higher law and divine purpose."

(Teachings of the Presidents of the Church--Joseph F. Smith [1998], 107-8).

This is why I have persisted in school, even when the weight of it felt as if it was crushing me. I can't give up--I can't quit, because I know the Lord called me here for a specific purpose--one that I don't understand or know at this point. All I know is that earning a Ph.D. in this field at this time is fulfilling a higher law and a divine purpose. I am not simply a creature of my "own power and wisdom." Trust me-- I am way to0 lazy and like being a stay-at-home mom too much to be motivated enough to get a Ph.D. without some fairly specific and direct input from the Lord.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

The sure provisions of my God

I just watched a video on youtube that has left me crying--it was a mashup of pictures, videos and music about the war in Iraq. I can hardly see through my tears...I don't know what to say except please don't come home to me in a casket. Please. There are many burdens I have endured and many that I know I must, but I don't know that I could survive that. And regardless of what you or I like to believe, it is a possibility.

Having said that, the only thing that gets me through these difficult days of having you gone is the sure knowledge of that your work is a call from the Lord. There is an extra measure of comfort provided because of this and I cling fast to it, like a life jacket it ever raging waters.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Trying to get motivated

Which is really ironic considering the fact that I have to grade 30+ papers about motivation. Simply put, I am tired of reading about motivation and think I need to go take a nap. Or at least fold the laundry and get Luke out of bed for the morning.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

"Let our hearts be stout, to wait out the long travail"

The prayer given by FDR on 06 June, 1944

My Fellow Americans:

Last night, when I spoke with you about the fall of Rome, I knew at that moment that troops of the United States and our Allies were crossing the Channel in another and greater operation. It has come to pass with success thus far.

And so, in this poignant hour, I ask you to join with me in prayer:

Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity.

Lead them straight and true; give strength to their arms, stoutness to their hearts, steadfastness in their faith.

They will need Thy blessings. Their road will be long and hard. For the enemy is strong. He may hurl back our forces. Success may not come with rushing speed, but we shall return again and again; and we know that by Thy grace, and by the righteousness of our cause, our sons will triumph.

They will be sore tried, by night and by day, without rest -- until the victory is won. The darkness will be rent by noise and flame. Men's souls will be shaken with the violences of war.

For these men are lately drawn from the ways of peace. They fight not for the lust of conquest. They fight to end conquest. They fight to liberate. They fight to let justice arise, and tolerance and goodwill among all Thy people. They yearn but for the end of battle, for their return to the haven of home.

Some will never return. Embrace these, Father, and receive them, Thy heroic servants, into Thy kingdom.

And for us at home -- fathers, mothers, children, wives, sisters, and brothers of brave men overseas, whose thoughts and prayers are ever with them -- help us, Almighty God, to rededicate ourselves in renewed faith in Thee in this hour of great sacrifice.

Many people have urged that I call the nation into a single day of special prayer. But because the road is long and the desire is great, I ask that our people devote themselves in a continuance of prayer. As we rise to each new day, and again when each day is spent, let words of prayer be on our lips, invoking Thy help to our efforts.

Give us strength, too -- strength in our daily tasks, to redouble the contributions we make in the physical and the material support of our armed forces.

And let our hearts be stout, to wait out the long travail, to bear sorrows that may come, to impart our courage unto our sons wheresoever they may be.

And, O Lord, give us faith. Give us faith in Thee; faith in our sons; faith in each other; faith in our united crusade. Let not the keenness of our spirit ever be dulled. Let not the impacts of temporary events, of temporal matters of but fleeting moment -- let not these deter us in our unconquerable purpose.

With Thy blessing, we shall prevail over the unholy forces of our enemy. Help us to conquer the apostles of greed and racial arrogances. Lead us to the saving of our country, and with our sister nations into a world unity that will spell a sure peace -- a peace invulnerable to the schemings of unworthy men. And a peace that will let all of men live in freedom, reaping the just rewards of their honest toil.

Thy will be done, Almighty God.


Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Therein lies the rub

And I ain't talking about that scrumptious rib rub my Samoan-Mexican bagpipe playing brother-in-law makes either. I am talking the kind of rub that leaves you in a jam, a pickle, a tight spot, between the proverbial rock and a hard place.

We are currently searching for a department head--it turns out that this has been a far more educational experience than I ever imagined! To watch the politicking and posturing which has occurred over the past year has been interesting to say the least. I realize that my department is vastly more serene than many others out there and frankly...that frightens me. I keep asking myself, "Is this what I have to look forward to the rest of my professional life?"

Simply put, I am going to be up a creek without a paddle if what I have a feeling is going to happen actually happens. Even more, I can see the raging rapids and the careening water fall dead ahead of me and I am not sure how to jump ship and still survive.

I called my new-and-improved dad tonight to talk about gardening but ending up asking him what I should do. He has been around the academic environment enough to know a few things and he gave me some great advice:
  1. Go see the Dean of Graduate Studies, our old department head. Talk with him about my concerns and fears about what will happen with my adviser not getting tenure (pretty much a given at this point).
  2. Find a new major professor who will work with me and mentor me in the things that I need to learn.
  3. There isn't a professor in the department who wouldn't find me an asset to their research.
  4. I need to be "selfish" in this matter--my professional future is at stake and my family's happiness as well. (For new-and-improved dad tell me to be selfish about something is startling to say the least--I was left speechless after his talk.)
So how to do I tell my adviser that I think I need to make alliances with other professors so that whif (when + if) tenure doesn't occur (which is becoming an increasing reality), I am not left in a department that doesn't like my adviser (and by association) most likely doesn't think that highly of me?

Sunday, April 08, 2007

These Are the Times

These are the times that try men’s souls.”
—Thomas Paine

This past school year has been a crucible for me, one that has tested me and pushed me to the utter limits of what I though I could handle in my personal life. It has most definitely been a time that has tried my soul. Academically, things have been fine, it is in the “family front” that I have be challenged. Daily, I have had to reconfirm my commitment to my education and to the process of becoming a Ph.D. Daily, I have had to take up the yoke that has been laid upon my shoulders and push forward, believing, hoping, and trusting that I am doing what it right and what is good for my family.

“ What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods.”

Heaven certainly knows how to price its goods. Fortunately, for those willing to pay the price, the dividends and return on investment are worth far more than one could have imagined. What holds value to me—what is dearest to me? Most certainly my husband and my children—of that there is no question. Certainly the innumerable freedoms I enjoy, purchased by the daily breath of men like my husband. But what about the things that lie outside of those realms? What “proper price” have I had to pay?

My health—I paid the price of having any more children to restore my health. Consequently, I value the children I do have even more so, knowing they are the only ones I will ever have. I value the ability to move freely and without pain because I know the dear price I paid to obtain it. There are moments that I see a new mother with her tiny baby and question the price I have paid, but then I remember how limited I was by the chronic pain in my daily life and my ability to care for my family. Memories of this remind me the price paid for health was worth it.

I value education. The price I have paid for my education is a relationship with my siblings who will not interact with me because I am no longer “one of them.” The further I moved into my schooling, the further the moved away from me. In time, it has become a chasm of difference—I only wish I could convince them that they too can have everything I have, if they are just willing to do the work, pay the price that it takes. They don’t seem to make the connection that education is what has made the difference in my life; it is what has given me options for my future.

I value honesty, integrity, and love in both my personal life and my professional life. The price of honesty was paid for in the crucible of my early home life. Consequently, honesty is one of the things I value most in my colleagues. The price of integrity was exacted in my brief first marriage to a man who had anything but integrity. The price of love—I continue to pay this on a daily basis as a mother, a wife, a citizen of the community and of the world. Professionally, this value is shown by trying to continually show others love by being dependable, reliable, and doing my best work.

“The harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.”
What are my strengths personally, as a professional, and as an educator? Perhaps the most common thread through those three areas is a continual optimism in the face of insurmountable odds. This strength has supported me through excruciatingly difficult moments in my life and has lit the way in the darkest moments. My “find a way, make a way” attitude has led me to accomplish things that no one ever expected or that I even dreamed of.

Organization has always been a natural strength for me. I have a natural proclivity to look at a system, be it in manufacturing, education, or home management, and then quickly indentify processes and areas that would be improved through better organization. Many people jokingly think that I am a highly organized individual because I have some kind of disorder. They are mistaken! In fact, I am as organized as I am because I am lazy at heart. I work very hard at creating an ordered and organized environment because organization (having a “system” in place) means that I have more time to spend doing the things I would rather be doing!

A passion for the process of education and for gaining knowledge is a strength I hope follows me until the end of my life. I hope to be like Theodore Roosevelt who when he passed away, was found to have several books under his pillow. An avid reader across broad disciplines, his passion and thrill in discovering new things never left him. It is my hope that as I continue on my life’s path, my passion and excitement for reading new and interesting things never leaves me and that I can live true to my personal admonition to get all the knowledge I can while I can. This strength is definitely an asset as an educator as my students frequently “borrow” my passion and enthusiasm for the subject until they can discover their own.

The ability to interpret others quickly and accurately is a strength that helps me in both my personal and professional interactions. The skill was learned in my early years by being hyper-vigilant of the behaviors and moods of my parents—it was a matter of survival then and fortunately serves me well in adulthood. This natural ability to “read” others coupled with my organizational skills and the knowledge and wisdom gained in my schooling has provided me the opportunity to serve in various leadership positions.

“However, the fault, if it were one, was all our own; we have none to blame but ourselves. But no great deal is lost yet.”
It is said that our greatest weaknesses can become our greatest strengths and this is certainly true in my case. Most of my strengths have grown and continued to be strengthened by my weaknesses. My organizational skills are fed by my desire to be lazy. My leadership skills are fueled by the reactive process of being hyper-vigilant of other’s mood states. My unfailing optimism is driven by the need to prove that I am someone worthy to be loved. Professionally, my need to order and organize my environment could be perceived as being controlling or meddling in other’s affairs. My hyper-vigilance of other’s states leaves little room for self-disclosure. My optimism can leave me blinded to options that I might not have considered.

Fortunately, as Thomas Paine said over 220 years ago, “no great deal is lost yet.” As long as a person is continually striving to overcome their weaknesses, there is always hope. While I may have messed up in the past by acting imprudently or not quickly enough, there will be many opportunities for me to stretch and grow in the future. Hopefully, with careful consideration for the future I will never have to exclaim that a great deal has been lost.

“Wisdom is not the purchase of a day.”
As I sat down to write this paper and was contemplating a title, the words of the great patriot Thomas Paine immediately came to my mind. There have been many moments over the past eight months when I have seriously doubted my judgment in returning to school. There have been many conversations with my husband about the wisdom and sanity of our lengthy separation. For both of us though, we have concluded "If there must be trouble, let it be in my day, that my child may have peace." We have decided that we will be the change that others are seeking. While his work is conducted at the end of a barrel, mine is conducted at the end of a pencil—we both seek to bring peace to our troubled world, affecting this change by different means.

The process of more closely examining my career path, my values, and my goals has provided me an excellent opportunity to assess my intentions for returning to school. It has also afforded me the opportunity to clarify exactly what it is that I am hoping to gain from the process and what I hope to be able to give back to the university and my field of study. These exercises have allowed me to conclude as Thomas Paine did when he exclaimed, “I thank God, that I fear not. I see no real cause for fear. I know [my] situation well, and can see the way...This is [my] situation, and who will may know it. By perseverance and fortitude [I] have the prospect of a glorious issue.”

Paine, T. (1776). The Crisis. Retrieved on April 9, 2007 from

Monday, March 19, 2007

Flow: From There to Here

Flow: From There to Here

Occasionally, each of us experiences moments of transcendent clarity, moments that define and shape the direction of our lives for years to come. Almost fourteen years ago, I had that kind of experience when I graduated from cosmetology school and embarked on what I thought would be a life long career in the fashion and beauty industry. As part of maintaining my skills, I attended an industry show featuring a well-known artist. Emblazoned across the backdrop of the stage in six foot tall red letters were the words education offers options.

As I sat in my chair, I hardly noticed the artist working on the stage because he was eclipsed by the message in those words. For the entirety of the show, I turned the phrase over and over in my mind and when I left, I knew exactly what I had to do. The very next week, I went to the local community college and enrolled in classes. This might not seem like a monumental event in many people’s lives, but in mine it was breaking the traditions of generations of women in my family.

As a high-school drop out at the age of seventeen, education seemed like a dream to me—after all, my mother had only graduated from high school, my grandmother from the ninth grade, and there is no record of my great-grandmother ever attending school. Indeed, we do not even know her name, much less anything about her education. Considering the area of the country she was from and the times in which she lived, it is doubtful that she ever attended school. Girls from small towns like Flea Hill in backwater North Carolina simply weren’t afforded the option of education of any kind, especially when their daddy was the town drunk.

The message of that moment at the industry show was very clear in my mind: education was the only thing that would prevent me from repeating the story of abuse and poverty which had been my mother’s story, and my mother’s mother’s story, and so on down the generations. The only way I would break the degrading cycle which generations of women in my family had endured was to get all the learning and understanding I could.

Although formal education had never been a strong tradition in my family, I was raised by a mother who valued and nurtured a deep love of reading widely and deeply. Despite the poverty of paycheck in my family, my mother tried to ensure that we were surrounded with books from the library and ample opportunity to explore and learn from our own experience. Many of my earliest memories are of playing school with my many siblings and as I grew older, I became the “teacher” of our little “classroom.” I taught several of my younger siblings how to read, how to do simple math problems, anything I was learning in grade school was fair game for me to teach the little ones at home.

Early in my undergraduate career, I suddenly found myself the divorced mother of a five month-old little boy. Suddenly my career trajectory of singing with major opera houses in Europe was altered and I had to find a new path. I marched down to the advisement office and declared, “I need to graduate as soon as possible. Considering the class I already have, what department will get me out of here the fastest?” My advisor laughed with me and then went to work finding which department would accept the vast majority of my credits so that I could graduate the soonest and “get a real job.” This lead me to change my area of study from vocal performance to psychology, a change that I will be forever grateful for.

After years of pursuing a performance career, I suddenly found a renewed interest in education and the learning process while earning my “accidental degree” in Psychology. Through my extensive work in the animal behavior labs at Utah State University, I gained a solid foundation in the principles of applied learning and behavior theory with a heavy emphasis on quantitative research methods. While acknowledging that numbers tell and important part of the story, I began to wonder where the human face of psychological research was. Even though I was trained as an applied behavioral researcher, I questioned the ability of behaviorism to account for many of the learning phenomena within my own experience.

In my studies for my Masters degree in Instructional Technology, I found the human face and voice of the learner in qualitative research methodologies. I also discovered that quantitative research validates the story of qualitative research while qualitative research authenticates the numbers of quantitative methods. In my further studies of instructional design and learning theory, I discovered I had a serious predilection to know why and how it all fit together. I found myself drawing diagrams on napkins and on the backs of menus and leading impromptu study sessions for fellow IT students about the relationships between learning theories and instructional design theories.

After graduating, I left school to work in the field as an instructional designer for a large firm. It was challenging and rewarding work, but I was frequently left with the same questions unanswered and a yearning for a deeper understanding of adult learners and how their life history affects their ability to self-regulate the learning process. Consequently, when the opportunity presented itself to return to school to earn a Ph.D., it was an easy decision—I had realized that if I wanted answers to my questions I was going to have to research them myself!

My path to graduate school has truly not been one that I have set out on a predetermined course. Much like a river, I have flowed with the landscape of my life as I have tried to navigate through the seemingly insurmountable challenges placed in my way. While my path as a scholar/mother has been circuitous and tumultuous at times, from the moment I read the words “Education offers options,” I have never wavered in my belief that I would eventually end up exactly where I am today.