Tuesday, November 24, 2009

To Thine Own Self Be True

One of my first "assignments" for school is to write a letter to myself that I can pull out if and when I get discouraged to help me remember why I wanted to pursue my college education in the first place...Super K, I've needed to write myself a letter for a long time anyway so I hope you don't mind if I incorporate your assignment into the one below:

Here goes...

Dear Self,

You've certainly taken the scenic journey to your college education, that's for sure. You started down this course 20 years ago with your college prep work in high school and graduation with honors. Do you remember that? Do you remember how going to college was pretty much a given? Do you remember being accepted to every college you applied to, do you remember the goals and dreams you had for yourself back then?

Life has a funny way of derailing the best laid plans sometimes, but take heart in knowing that God has you exactly where He wants you to be. A lot has happened since you last attended college. You got married, had three more kids, and moved 1400 miles from home to follow your husband's job to Colorado...only to find yourself and your children living in a daily hell. You finally found the strength, courage, and confidence to leave him but ensuring safety required you run away from home and start all over.

Do you remember how many times you prayed for a "do-over" while you were living in hell? Do you remember pleading with your Heavenly Father for an opportunity to do things different? Do you remember begging Him for the chance to go back to school and finish your education? I remember and I'm here to tell you that you have been given a great gift despite the difficulty. Your Heavenly Father has heard your prayers and is answering them, even if you can't always see how.

You have been given the opportunity of a lifetime; a chance to "make it right". Don't blow it this time!!! I know you're going to get discouraged, I know you're going to want to quit sometimes but, may I remind you, you don't quit ANYTHING very well. No reason to start doing so now, is there?

When it's difficult and you feel like giving up, please remember why this college education is so important to you. Please look at the precious faces of your beautiful children. That's likely all it will take to remember. Think about how getting your degree can change their circumstance, how it will absolve you of any financial dependence on Ex Knight, and how NOT having it is the one thing you've always regretted. Think about how miraculous getting into school was in the first place. I KNOW that you DO NOT believe in chance or coincidence so I implore you not to kick a gift horse in the mouth. Show your gratitude to your Heavenly Father for having given you this opportunity by excelling. You've taught your children that anything worth doing is worth doing well; here's another chance to lead by example.

You aren't afraid of things just because they are difficult. I mean just look at what you've been through the last few years. I know that you have struggled, but I also know that struggle hasn't been in vain. You have a great support system. You have countless masses that believe in you and want to see you succeed. Allow our belief in you to buoy you when you lack the ability to believe in yourself.

You love what you do. You love web design and animation. It's always been your favorite part of your job. You are creative beyond words. You are smart, talented, and capable. All that you need to be successful is already inside you because you are a child of God. Never forget that...even when a class is challenging and you want to give up. Need I remind you that you give up about as easily as you quit?

You have always valued the most what you've worked the hardest to get. I mean giving birth sure was work wasn't it? Your college degree will be no different...it will take a lot of work and perhaps even some sacrifice to obtain, but I promise you it will be worth it in the end. I know that you know "all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose." You and I both know you have been called to HIS purpose, now act accordingly. With hard work, dedication, and the spirit of excellence you have about you, you will soon realize your dream of a college degree and better life for your children.

You CAN do this! I believe in you!

The power of ONE word

Many many years ago in a galaxy far far away there was a high school. In that high school there was a teacher, an English teacher actually. On that teacher's desk was a poster I vaguely remember. Something about how one word could spark a million or something like that. I began thinking about that poster recently after a conversation I had with my Bishop turned into an event that will forever alter my circumstance.

Allow me to explain...

Two weeks ago I was meeting with my Bishop to plead for financial assistance, sadly something I have to do more often than I would like given current my current economic status, and we were talking about what could be done to change my circumstance. The financial dependence I still have on Ex Knight is infuriating most of the time but ESPECIALLY when he fails to pay the amount of support he is supposed to pay and my children suffer as a result.

"Go get a job!" you say right?!?!? Easier said that done when you have no verifiable work experience and no education and are trying to find employment in an economy such as ours....anyway back to the story.

So the Bishop and I are sitting in his office and he counsels me to pursue education. I explain that I've tried but I can't find an accredited program in the field I want with an online option at a price I can reasonably afford to pay back anywhere. The Bishop then says he KNOWS they are out there and I need to keep looking for "regionally accredited online degree programs". That one word - regionally - has made all the difference.

Once I began searching for REGIONALLY accredited on-line degree programs I found the perfect fit. I was so impressed by what I saw (and remember I don't impress easily when it comes to colleges) on their website I clicked on the chat to speak to a live person. Soon I was asking that live person more questions than they could answer and I was transferred to the man who would later become my admissions counselor. Super K is what we'll call him, because I think he is just that...super!!

Super K and I spoke on the 8th of this month and he encouraged me to prepare for a January entrance. I was hoping I might be able to attend in April but that January entrance was sitting in the back of my mind eating away at me. The sooner I go to school, the sooner I can get a credential, the sooner I get that credential, the more employable I am, the more employable I am, the sooner I can eliminate any degree of financial dependence on Ex Knight.

Super K sends me an invitation to the school's placement test...they call it an assessment but REALLY we all know it's a test and the application and I drag my heels a lil about getting it done. Finally I go ahead and take the TEST (Super K you guys really need to call it what it is...a TEST) and Super K calls me with my results. Being somewhat of a brainiac, I'm sure I've done ok, but it IS a test and I've been out school a long time so my skills are a lil rusty. Super K informs me I have knocked it out of the park, scoring in the top 10% of test takers and when I come to school in January (he was bent on the January date for some reasons...Super K do you get a bonus or something for having a certain amount of students enrolled for Winter quarter?!?!?) I can go straight into my degree program! WUHOWWW!!!! I was THRILLED.

Now the only obstacle was finding the monies to go. I immediately began praying that if attending this school at this time was what Heavenly Father wanted for me and mine, the obstacles would be removed and asked a few people I know to be vigilant prayer people to do the same. I am here to tell you God answers prayers because one by one the obstacles came tumbling down and I will be attending school, as Super K pushed for, in January! I still can hardly believe it!

The program I found has the same accreditation as one of the big state schools where I live, the cost of tuition includes books and software, I can test out of classes, (which I will TOTALLY be doing for College Algebra and a few others), my current tuition rate stays locked if I take 4 classes a quarter, and whether I take 16 credits a quarter or 24, I'll only pay for 16! It's almost too good to be true isn't it?!?!? I thought so too, but found another student in an online program at the school who says no, it's not...it is indeed THIS good!

I'm THRILLED!!!! I cannot wait. Just ask Super K, he'll tell you how I've been a pain in his neck! So, here's the plan...test out of 7 credits, two quarters of 5 classes, two quarters of 6 classes and then throw a big ole party to celebrate the achievement of my Associate's Degree. That leaves just 88 more credits for my Bachelor's Degree...another 2 quarters of 5 classes and 2 of 6 and then an even bigger party as I celebrate having earned my Bachelor's Degree. The only regret I've ever lost sleep over finally resolved!

All this, because of the power of ONE word...regionally. I am so grateful to the inspired counsel from a loving Bishop, Super K for believing in me enough to push me for a much earlier entrance, and most importantly, for my Heavenly Father who cleared the obstacles out of the way to make this long time dream a reality!

160 miles = million dollar memories

Throughout this entire process, the one thing that has bothered me is all the family my children have essentially "lost" or effectively been distanced from due to Ex Knight's poor choices. The Mini's fear what will happen if Ex Knight ever learns where we are and his family is like the Mafia without the organized crime. If they tell one of his people where they are, it will spread quicker than wild fire and soon he will know our whereabouts. He claims that all the threats he made were done in anger and he'd never act out on them but he's said one thing and done another enough times that claim has no merit. Better to exercise caution in all things Ex Knight related I think.

Anyway...so here a while back the kids had a 4 day weekend. I decided to make a road trip. I come from a HUGE family...my mother's parents had 8 kids, my father's parents had 5. I have 11 aunts and uncles...you can imagine the cousins I have. Not all of whom have met my children!!! On this extended weekend, I decided it was time to make a road trip. Some of my cousins now have their own families and it was great fun getting to introduce our children to each other.

I was moved to tears seeing the light and joy present in the eyes of my children as they played with their 2nd cousins and their parents and I. We laughed and laughed and laughed over those 4 days and the Mini's forged new relationships with family that have likely left an indelible impression on their hearts and minds and I am thankful for the opportunity to have made the journey.