Tag Archives: College

Series: College Life | Firsts…

I’m in my last semester of college for my BA in English. I have five, yes five, English courses this semester…and a husband, three kids, and a dog. And four of those classes have long book lists so needless to say, I have little time for anything.

With all that said, I miss being here. I am trying to make time to blog but honestly, I’m exhausted. Physically and emotionally. Especially since my last blog which told of another huge loss I’m dealing with. It’s still hard. It’s going to be hard. It’s life. Anyway, a professor from one of my writing classes gave us a writing exercise in class a couple days ago and I wanted to share it all with you…

The exercise: Write about a first or firsts…

“It was ice cold and stark white in the delivery room. Even though I hadn’t started pushing yet, I was already exhausted. It’s indescribable how those sharp, stabbing pains in my stomach and back had stolen any umph I could muster up. It was all I could do just to breathe through them.

Speaking of breathing, I hate that word. I hate focusing on breathing. There was a time in my life when holding my breathe was normal. It was safe. Here was this doctor standing beside me telling me to breathe. Frankly, I wanted to rip his lungs out and say, ‘You try breathing!’

Not to mention my husband standing there with an empathetic look. All I could think was he’d gotten me into this mess — he better figure out a way to get me through it. I wanted to stab him every time the knots got tighter inside. I felt like my body was attacking me, which I’d felt many times before, only this time, it wasn’t my body. It was this strange creature growing inside my body causing this crazy whirlwind of physical and emotional feelings.

I screamed at the doctor, ‘Just get him out!’

I was twenty-two. I wondered what God was thinking letting me have a kid. Didn’t He know how screwed up I was? Why would He trust me with an innocent little kid. I couldn’t even keep a cactus alive, but God expected me to keep a baby alive?

‘Push…’ I hear the nurses say, ‘You can do it…breathe, just breathe.’ I swore if I heard one more person say breathe I was going to smother them all with the extra pillows they’d stuffed behind me.

And then…

I saw these tiny red toes and heard this wimpy, pitiful cry. It was the first time I’d given birth…the first time I’d really known what love was…the first time I had a reason to breathe.”

So there you have it. That’s my creative story of firsts. Though portions of the story may be somewhat exaggerated, when I write, I write from my heart. So yes, that little creature that turned my world upside down…he gave me purpose. He gave me a reason to fight. We’ve had our moments. I’ve had my really crappy mom moments and he’s had his drive me crazy moments. He’s seventeen now. He’s a senior in high school. He’s a volunteer firefighter. He’s training to be an EMT. He’s a good boy. I’m thankful, but still surprised God trusted me to raise this kid…and his two siblings.

Through all the hard in life, in marriage, in parenting, in loss, in grief, in darkness…through it all, I depend on beauty like this to help me breathe again.

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Series: College Life | Adulting in a Kids World…

I’m going to go out on a short limb here and guess that most of my readers are middle aged women. There may be a few stragglers from other categories and that’s okay too (in fact, I welcome all!).

But I seriously doubt very many teenagers are dropping by and hanging around. However, I find myself surrounded by a sea of teenagers and young adults.

Why? I’m glad you asked…

College. That’s where they hang out these days.

Okay, so maybe they’re not just hanging out. I’m sure that’s not all they’re doing, in fact, being one of these “students” myself, I’m just about certain they’re doing much more than just hanging out.

They’re doing papers (or at least should be).
And papers.
And more papers.
They’re probably studying, at least a little.
They’re not sleeping very much (notice the papers and studying above).
They’re playing sports.
They’re working jobs.
They’re drinking coffee (and probably some things they shouldn’t)…and lots of it (again, notice the papers and studying).
They’re looking for boyfriends and girlfriends and just friends in general.
They’re trying to adult.
They’re paying bills (or maybe begging for coffee money from mom and dad).
They’re finding their way around in a semi-adult world.
And because they’re still kids, they’re partying, making friends, playing, etc.

In the community college atmosphere, I saw this, but ever so slightly. Being on a big 4-year campus, I’m dead in the middle of college life. Wow, culture shock?!

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When I first came to “Uni,” which is what I think these kids use as short for “University,” (I still haven’t figured out what “Sovi” is but I think maybe it’s the Student Union? Anyone that wants to help this “old” gal with college lingo, feel free!) back in August and the weeks that followed, I thought, “No way…I’m too old for this!”

And most days, I still feel that way. I mean, after all, I’ve got a husband, three kids, a dog, Bible studies, friends, church stuff, writing, part-time work with photography and subbing, and on and on. I don’t have time for this. And I don’t. But I do.

So all this time, I’ve been thinking how great it is that these kids are schooling while they’re young because at 38, I feel way too damn old! Ya know, these “youngin’s” have all the advantages…

But…

On my hour long morning commute (an hour if traffic’s good – one way | sometimes I find myself sing to Dori’s tune…“just keep driving, just keep driving!”), I have lots of thinking time (which is exhausting in itself but oh how sweet a time it can be!). This morning, I was thinking of how hard it’s been for me to adult in a kids world. I’m exhausted. I’m the girl that has always stayed up until midnight or later and never thought twice about it. Now, I find myself ready for bed before my kids are even in bed (and they go at 8:30p)! Actually, to say I’m exhausted has to be an understatement. I don’t even know a word to define how tired I am and words are my thing (after all, I’m an English major – though that doesn’t mean I’m a pro at this word thing by any means so don’t hold me at fault there, lol).

So, back to my morning drive…this morning, I was thinking…maybe I’m actually the lucky one here. Maybe instead of these kids having all the advantages, I actually am the one with the advantages. I started thinking about all the things in my life that are settled and the peace that comes with that…and how for these kids, nothing is settled.

See, I am married. I don’t have to hunt for the perfect man. I already have the perfect man for me and he’s my biggest supporter and encourager (if that’s not a word, I’m making it one!). I don’t have to date and wonder if this guy is going to be the one or if he’s the biggest jerk ever. I don’t have to go to parties and drink (been there, done that, worn out the t-shirt and realized it’s only by the grace of God I survived any of that) to have fun or wear minimal clothing to try and attract all the wrong people. I don’t have to wonder if I’ll ever have kids…I have three and certainly couldn’t do this college thing if they weren’t such awesome kids. I don’t have to worry about how I’m going to pay the bills because my husband works so hard to make sure we are taken care of and I’ve got student loans that I know I will one day have to and be able to pay back. I don’t have to worry about where I’m going to live or what I’m going to drive.

Point being…there are so many things these kids have to worry about. That list above is tiny compared to all the worries and pressures they have. I don’t have to worry about those things. Sure, I have to adult but part of that means I also have a lot more stability, security and certainty than they do. I have a family that supports me, helps around the house and in every day tasks so that I can do this adulting in a kids world thing, who pick up my slack. I’ve got friends, young and old, who are praying for me daily. I’ve got a church family that has been one of the greatest blessings from God. The support and encouragement has been amazing. I feel like I have a group of cheerleaders encouraging me daily, with the “You can do this!” and “You’ve got this!” comments.

And I’ve been down enough long, hard roads and made enough wrong turns that I know…without a doubt, somehow, I can do this and that even if I don’t, it will be okay. I don’t have the weight of what if’s on my shoulders. Most of these kids can’t say that. They don’t have that comfort or peace.

So, while I’ve looked at this thinking from the perspective of “I’m too old for this…” I think I’m realizing these “youngin’s” don’t actually have the advantage. They may have more energy (or drink more coffee) but I have peace and security that only comes through life experiences and an unfailing trust and faith in the God who has brought me through the darkest times. Kudos to me for adulting today!

While you’re here, would you please say a prayer for me…that I can be a light to these kids. I don’t know their backgrounds. I don’t know their struggles. But I do know my own and I know how hard things can be. And I know what it’s like to go through the hard times alone, without the support of family and friends. I imagine, like myself as a teen, many of these kids are facing some of those same struggles I faced. Please pray that I can be some kind of encouragement to them, a light in whatever their darkness might be.

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It’s been a while…an imperfect update!

First, I have to say, I sure have missed this place!  And it’s been great to hear from some of my readers checking in with me.  I’m hoping to get back into the swing of things around here.  So, let me update you…

My last post was back in May.  Since then, with three kiddos out of school and one mama in school, we’ve been swamped with summer fun and school work.  I started back to school after an almost twenty year vacation.  Over the summer, I was enrolled in our local community college for two classes.  What I failed to realize is that summer classes run on an 8-week schedule vs. the standard 16 week schedule which meant I had double the work so it was basically like taking a full load … that plus having three kids to entertain.  Thankfully, we managed without any major drama or boredom.  And I’m happy to report I made A’s in both my classes.  I’m registered for full-time in the fall :)

This fall, we’ll begin not only a new journey with me going to school full-time, but also with our oldest and youngest.  Our oldest son will be heading into high school – yes, freshman year!  He’s excited about it, for now.  Our middle son will be in 4th grade and is very much ready to get back into a routine.  Our youngest, the sweet baby girl, will be heading off to preschool.  I never did preschool with the boys, but since I’m going to school this year and with her having a late birthday and missing the cut-off for kindergarten, not only does it give me flexibility for school, but she’s so ready to be in a classroom setting with new friends and fun adventures.  Just hoping the hubby can keep up with us being all over the place!

Aside from school and summer fun, I’ve had a great deal of changes just with myself.  Back in March, this crazy notion to stop drinking Diet Coke came up one day when standing in the middle of my kitchen.  I don’t know if it was God telling me or what, but in that moment, as I went to refill my cup with my constant soda of choice, I knew I needed to opt for water instead…so, I did.  I haven’t had another drop of Diet Coke since (sorry to the Coca-Cola company for any loss in profits my sudden rebellion may have caused).  The next day, I started a journey of changing my eating habits, making better food choices and eating less.  That same day, I went for a walk.  That walk led to a habit that brings us to today.  Just 5 months later, I’ve lost over 45lbs.  Physically, I feel much better and I’ve enjoyed replacing my old clothes with new ones.  It’s definitely been a journey and I’m so grateful that God put that desire in me back in March.  Now, to keep it up!

Here’s a recent picture of us minus the 14 year old who was away on a mission trip to Morehead City, NC…
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On another note, mentally things have been quite the struggle.  Many of you probably gather that I’ve spent a lifetime struggling off and on with depression.  This year has been no exception.  The roller coaster of emotions, thoughts, feelings, ups, and downs, has been one wild ride.  It’s a battle but one I’m just gonna keep on fighting!  I have noticed when my eyes are focused on the world around me, things are much harder but when my eyes are focused on God, even though my circumstances may be the same, my outlook is much better.    Prayers in this area are greatly appreciated!

And last but not least, I have a techy tip/review for ya!  Most of you know I’m a gal who loves technology.  I’m a huge fan of all the new gadgets.  I’m pretty quick to learn my way around the latest and greatest.  With school starting back soon and me having a couple classes on campus, I was a bit leery of hauling my regular laptop to and fro with me each day.  Little funds to spare on new electronics had the hubby and I looking at 2-in-1’s and Chromebooks.  At the local super gadget store, we made our way around all the coolest compact options.  I went in knowing exactly what I wanted to be able to do with a tablet or laptop, what I’d need and what I didn’t need.  The prices on the smaller laptops, tablets, etc. were a little more than I wanted to pay but on the plus side, they offered the option of Microsoft Word programs.  I was unfamiliar with the Chromebooks for the most part but the price sure was right.  After several “geeks” discouraged the purchase of any Chromebooks, I was still undecided.  We finally found an employee that was knowledgeable with the specifics of the Chromebook and he was able to answer all my questions…

Chromebook

Can I edit Word documents?
Can I save documents in .docx?
Can I create documents with hanging indents and edit headers and footers?
Can I save to the hard drive or to a thumb drive?
Do I have to be connected to Wi-fi to use all the features?
Can I print from it?

The answers all came back positive for my needs and he also assured me I had 14 days to play with and make sure it would do everything I needed it to do and if it didn’t, I could bring it back, no questions asked.  That sealed the deal and we came home with a new addition to our family – a nice little Chromebook that will be accompanying me to college.

The pro’s…

It does everything I need it to do.  Several of the guys who tried to steer me away from the Chromebook said it was very limited because you can’t add programs, can’t do Word stuff, etc.  That’s all true.  You cannot add any outside software.  You also cannot add Microsoft Office.

But to correct them, you can add some things.  There is a Chrome Store which has items in it much like the Google Play Store.  You can add apps from there and use them.

One of the apps just happens to be Word Online.  Using this app, you can in fact type Word documents.  The biggest difference is that instead of it being an actual installed program, you’re using an app that runs off the Chrome internet browser.  There may be some limited features that are lost this way but it does everything I need it to do.  And, if I don’t want to use that, the Google Docs seems to be an okay alternative.

I can also save my documents as a .docx file which is what most of the college professors have requested.

I can print from it.  Setting it up to work on my cloud enabled printer was a breeze.  It took less than a minute to get that working!

It’s size is small and it’s lightweight – both appealing to me since I didn’t need another full-sized laptop.  I have a regular 15.6″ laptop that does everything and then some.  I didn’t need that made over.  I wanted something compact that would just get me by.  This is exactly that.

If you’re looking for something small to type on, play with social networks, a few games, blogging, etc., then this little guy is perfect and you can’t beat the price at less than $200.

The con’s…

For me and my needs, I haven’t found any yet.  For some, I would say the inability to add outside programs will be a drawback.  The inability to use other browsers, some games, loading Microsoft Office, etc. may be frustrating.  There are ways around those but if that’s what you’re looking for, then pass this little guy by.  And for the photographer in me, I have to say, this is not the machine for editing photos.  First, you can’t add Photoshop or Lightroom.  Second, it’s just not meaty enough for that.  If you’re serious about photo editing or photography, you’re probably not looking at these anyway – at least not for that :)

All in all, if you’re just looking for a small, easily portable companion for Facebook, email, music, browsing and maybe a little writing or blogging, this guy can’t be beat.  In fact, this little update is being brought to you directly from my new friend, the Chromebook!  (I did edit my photos on my main laptop, but saved them to the cloud and poof, they made it here!)

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With all that said, I hope life is treating you okay.  I look forward to bringing you more of my imperfectness soon and until then, may you find many blessings in your day!

xoxo,
Jen

 

Discerning Direction…

Discernment

Several months ago, what I thought was never an option became a reality.  I checked into the idea of going back to school and went through all the steps.  I looked at many different options, local community college, online college, etc.  After tossing between options, I had finally decided to do online school.  It was settled.  I finalized everything and registered for classes but something wasn’t right.

As excited as I was about the idea of going back to school, the closer it got to all the fall deadlines, the more a storm was brewing inside.  I just couldn’t find peace about it all.

I had already been leery and hesitant from the beginning but because doors kept opening flawlessly as I delved further into this whole process, I figured it was meant to be.  After all, I was going back to school to do exactly what I want to do and to do it in a way that would give God all the glory.  It had to be what He wanted me to do, right?

Well, without peace, I began doubting and questioning everything.

This morning, I called and dropped the classes I had registered for and declined any financial aid.  I am officially not going back to school.

I didn’t think I would feel sad about it but I am, kind of.

The thing is, now I have peace.  I had to figure out what I really want to do and where God can use me and how to put it all together.  What I realized was I was going to have to spend 6 years in school for a Bachelors Degree followed by a Masters Degree – all to do exactly what I’m doing now.  I was going to pay out a lot of money, put my family in debt and create financial burdens all while my kids are still small or nearing their own college days and I was going to do it when what I really want to do, I can do without going through all of that.

I want to help.

Plain and simple, I want to help.

I want to be an ear for women. 
I want to be a shoulder to cry on. 
I want to be a testimony to others who are struggling to overcome. 
I want to be proof that we can really get through anything, maybe not alone and maybe not how we imagine, but we can get through it. 
I want to be a voice, for those who feel they don’t have one. 
I want to put words to paper that tell stories through my eyes, God’s stories.

I want to write, teach and speak.

I can do all of those without stirring up so much turmoil in my own heart and without putting such a burden on my family.  I won’t have pretty little letters that follow my name but I will have a lifetime of experience and a heart that bleeds love, empathy and understanding.  And, I have God on my side.

While I still feel a little sad, I am at peace and the exciting thing is, I can take a few classes here and there to help me with learning but without the pressure of finances or degree completion.  I can simply focus on the places where I feel God can truly use me and not worry with making an A to pass a class.

When I considered going back to school, I didn’t think of the things I would be giving up or putting on hold in order to dedicate time to school.  When it finally hit me, all the things I was giving up were exactly the things I wanted to do … teaching during Wednesday night classes at church, helping with our Women’s Ministry, lending an ear and encouraging support to others, writing, blogging, reading – oh how I have developed a new love for reading!

It seems kind of silly now, looking at how much time I have put into the past few months of preparing to go back to school and suddenly deciding not to go – it’s all been worth it.  I learned a lot through the process.  Every day that I can learn something else about this thing we call life is just one more day filled with blessings.  Just because I won’t officially be going back to school doesn’t mean I won’t be learning.  As long as there is more to learn, there is more life to live!

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