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.

A decade as one

Left: John and I on our wedding day, Aug. 8, 2019. Right: John and I late last year.

My mid-20s were filled with adventure and hard work. When I graduated from college I moved to Southeast Alaska on my own. A few years later I moved to the Texas Panhandle to run a community newspaper. I was ambitious and dedicated to my work. However, something was missing. I wanted to be a wife. I wanted to be a mother. I met some people online. Usually it didn’t amount to much. I didn’t like it when I’d write a nice, long email and get back a two word answer. I met a guy from another state, and that went OK for a while, but it ended very badly. After that experience I decided meeting someone online wasn’t for me.

One day a longtime friend called me. She told me she wanted me to create another online profile and try again. I said no. She went on to say she just had a feeling and she didn’t want me to miss out on something wonderful because of a bad experience. I told her I would create a profile and do it for one month, but that was it. I searched for various dating sites and decided to create a free profile on one in which I had never heard of in the past. If I had never heard of it, others probably hadn’t either. The chances of meeting someone were slim.

So I thought.

My dating profile photo.

I received a message one day from a guy. He said he wasn’t the person on the profile, but saw me and had to say hi. I wasn’t impressed. Since you can create a profile for free I thought it was pretty lazy to send me a message from another person’s account. I never replied.

A few days later, I receive a message from another profile. This time the guy said he was the same from the other message, but he created an account so I could learn about him. We went on to email back and four for a month. When we finally met in person, it was the first time I knew what he looked like, as he didn’t know how to upload a photo. However, I really fooled him with my profile photo. I didn’t post a cute one because I really wanted to avoid attention. I posted a photo of the 0ne and only time I went to salmon fishing in Alaska. He was excited because he thought I liked the outdoors. I fooled him!

Fast forward and we are now celebrating our 10 year wedding anniversary. We don’t have a big, elaborate engagement story. We talked and decided to get married. A few weeks later, John gave me a beautiful ring to make it official. I give him a hard time about it, but I actually really like it because it shows how we work best. We talk and work so well as a team.

Our friends Brad and Elizabeth made us an awesome video for our 10-year anniversary. Thank you! We enjoy it so much, and have watched it several times.

Life with John has been full of surprises. We’ve had a lot of ups and downs, but he always makes me calm down and laugh. He goes along with my crazy ideas, but will tell me when I need to stop. There is so much I could say about my darling husband. Instead, I’m going to list 10 reasons why I love him. I’ll go the cheesy route since it’s been a decade. These are in no particular order.

  1. John can cook very well. From polenta to brisket, John has some skills in the kitchen. He is getting a reputation at our church for his culinary skills, as well. He has won first place for brisket at our church barbecue cook-off, and people loved the food he made to fee VBS volunteers.
  2. He loves his family so well. He treated my parents like his own. John always showed up when my mom or dad needed him. One of my favorite stories of John was one my mom told me just weeks before she died. My mom had a gift certificate for a pedicure. She really wanted to go get one and was driving again, although she was prone to falls. She went to get a pedicure and about 20 minutes later, John walked in. He came to say hi and make sure she was doing OK. She just gushed over that moment because she knew John did it on his own and because he cared for her so very much. He’s always been such a solid, stable force for Sydney and me. He has been for our other girls, as well. When I told him I wanted to adopt an older child out of foster care, he didn’t make me feel even a little crazy. He simply said “I know that’s been on your mind, I was just waiting for you to ask me.”
  3. He is steady in my storms. I deal with anxiety and have my entire life. However, it grew to a nearly unmanageable level a few years ago. I still struggle with it, but it’s better than it was. John tries really hard to step up in small ways so that I don’t spiral. He sees me having a hard time, and he steps in and up.
  4. John’s love language is acts of service. He is always so willing to do simple things for me, as well as others. He will bring me lunch to work or run an errand for me. Once he left a dollar beside my purse before he went to work. I called him about it and he told me that he knew I liked to stop at the local convenience store for their coffee, which is only 86 cents, but I was trying to save money. He had a dollar in his pocket and knew I wouldn’t get coffee on my own. He thought that was silly since it was so cheap, so he left the dollar for my coffee. It was so simple, but the fact that he thought of me and wanted me to “treat” myself was so sweet.
  5. He’s great with kids. When I first met John, I knew he was a person of good character because everywhere we went babies and dogs flocked to him. It was the funniest thing. He is always so patient and kind with kids. He took a week’s vacation to lead eight second-grade boys at church camp. He also talked me into serving with him at church by co-teaching the kindergarten and first grade class at church. He loves our kids so well, but he also pours his energy into the children of the church.
  6. Speaking of church, John has really grown in his Christian faith. He has put in the work to study the Bible and be active at church. He has really led our family so well. He is now a deacon and takes that very seriously, helping out at church and in the children’s ministry however he can. He has helped our girls find their faith. I am so proud of him and the work he does to be a true man of faith.
  7. John is a very hard worker. Sometimes I try to tell him to just rest. He has worked very hard throughout our marriage to move up in his company and provide for his family. Not only that, but he works hard at home and in serving others. He always finds a way to provide for us, and never complains.
  8. He does housework! When my mom died I was severely overwhelmed. I was thrown into caring for my disabled dad, as well as dealing with grief and the exhaustion that goes with it. John didn’t make me feel bad about that. He just picked up the slack. It’s not unusual for him to clean up the house to do the dishes on his day off. He knows when I need help and he quietly steps in and does it.
  9. John puts me in my place. He knows when he needs to be blunt with me. If I’m discouraged or upset, he knows when to just tell me how it is. I know it’s done in love, and honestly, I need that a lot. He has a way of making me stop, look around and come to my senses. This doesn’t just apply to a situation involving others. If I am doubting myself or putting myself down, he is quick to correct me and point out the good.
  10. Has an open mind and heart. John is very loving and caring. He loves his people well and fiercely. As I mentioned earlier, he was very open to the idea of adopting older children. He also doesn’t let a person’s background or situations get in the way of him caring for them. He doesn’t care where you come from. He only cares who you are. If you are in his circle, you have an advocate and friend. He will fight for you, and protect you. You are one of his. It’s such a beautiful thing to witness.
Our family – including a sweet friend who is like family – enjoying a family
night at the local water park. Things sure have changed over 10 years,
but it’s so very awesome.