Livin’ the dream & putting in the work

Life just keeps on going. It’s on my list to be better about updating this blog. My hope is once a week, but that’s a long term goal. Right now there are other priorities. I keep my Facebook and Instagram going.

My mom & me.

School started in the fall for all three schools at different schools – elementary, junior high and high school. Then I started school, too! It’s been a dream of mine to earn a master’s degree since I was a small child. I know that sounds silly. People look at me strangely when I say that. It’s true though. When I was a toddler my mom and I lived in a camper behind her friend’s house while she got her master’s degree. I really don’t remember it. My dad worked in oil and gas so he traveled a lot. When he had time, he’d visit us or stay with his in-laws. When my mom agreed to marry my dad it was on the condition that he not hamper her from getting her master’s degree. So he worked hard and made it possible for her to do that, even with a small child.

I always admired that story. I remember in kindergarten being asked what I wanted to do when I grew up. I replied that I wanted my master’s degree. That’s it. I don’t think I even knew what I wanted to do. I just knew I wanted that extra degree.

When I was in fifth grade, my dad got laid off from his job. After giving him about six weeks to contemplate his next step, my mom told him he had to figure out what he was going to do next. He replied that he never wanted a job where he was required to wear a hard hat or steel toed boots. So, he decided he needed some higher education. For two years he went to a community college that was a 2-hour drive from our home. He’d leave on Monday and return home on Thursday or Friday, depending on his schedule. For two years my mom provided for us. She’d tell me it was because she had that master’s degree. I know things were tight and my grandparents helped out from time to time with things like my braces. Still, to me, my mom was a super hero because of that master’s degree.

Visiting with Gov. Sarah Palin in the Alaska Governor’s House for a Christmas celebration.

When I graduated from college with a bachelor’s degree in 2005, I was all set to go to graduate school. I had been accepted and was ready to go. Then, I got the job offer of a lifetime. Instead of staying in one place and going to graduate school, I packed up my car to the brim and headed north – to Alaska. I had the opportunity to run a community weekly paper that was disbursed to more than 20 small communities in Southeast Alaska. I lived in the capital city of Juneau for nearly three years. I grew up so much, and got to experience even more. I took a plane flying lesson, went down the longest continuous zip line in the world, went salmon fishing and even interviewed then Gov. Sarah Palin a few times before anyone in the Lower 48 had ever heard of her.

When I moved back to Texas, in the community where I had graduated from college, the thought of going to graduate school was always there. However, the cost did not match the benefits. It would be very costly and not impact my salary at all. So for a decade I just lived my life, as anyone would. I got married, had a child, changed jobs, lost my parents and adopted two more children.

Then I went back to full time work at the very university that I called my alma mater. With a master’s degree allowing me to be promoted at work and financial assistance for being an employee, I finally had my window to get that graduate degree.

Sydney working on a puzzle while I work on research papers.

So here I am, more than halfway through my first semester of graduate school in communication. It hasn’t been easy. That first week I was completely deflated. My kids had to sacrifice time and activities. I felt old and dumb. However, our family has found a new routine. The kids are so great at making sure I have the time I need to get my work done. They are my biggest cheerleaders, as is my husband, John. I’ve also realized I’m not too old or dumb at all. I find the rigorous work a challenge and a delight. Learning has been amazing, and opened up that part of me that was dormant for so long. My age and experience has been a blessing. Instead of going through graduate school because it was the next logical step, it really has more meaning. My research is in foster care, which I feel will help me be a better advocate. The long writing assignments don’t scare me because I’ve found my vast writing experience is very useful.

While it’s not without its challenges, I’m loving going to graduate school. I’ve found that I tend to downplay it or just complain. I had a brief but important talk with my dear friend yesterday before church. I realized I need to celebrate this time in my life. I need to tell people that while this isn’t easy, for me, it’s worth every step.

My students at the college I are inspiring, as well. They boost me up. They leave me sweet notes of encouragement. They make sure I know I am cared for as much as I care for each of them.

I don’t get to do all the things I want, and I’m even missing out on things I want to do with my kids. That stings the most. However, my kids are watching me live out my dream. They are proud of me. My husband is proud of me. I’m proud of me too!

So, if this site isn’t updated often, know it isn’t for a lack of caring. It’s so I can do the hard work to make it better. I’m out there learning the things I need to be a better advocate for foster care and adoptions.