Friday, May 27, 2011

On Being Accepted

A little over three months ago, I turned in my application to the RN program at Pasadena City College. Remember that?

On Wednesday, I received notification that I'd been accepted.

I've come this far.

I feel very, very blessed. Even though I did work hard in my classes and I earned straight As, there were lots of other people who worked even harder than I did. (Of course, those people have more time than I do.) Most, but not all, of the people I go to school with have only school as their main focus in life right now. I, of course, have to juggle a whole lot of other things. I have limited time to actually leave my house and attend classes. I have limited time as to when I can study. But I have to say, that like the loaves and fishes talked about in the New Testament, when we give all we have to give to the Lord, He makes it more than enough.

Going to college in California right now is not easy. There's a lot of unrest in the college system because of budget concerns. Hundreds and hundreds of classes have been cancelled, more each semester, and now most community colleges are dropping their summer and winter intersessions. Pasadena has been flooded with students from other schools trying to get into needed classes, and there's not enough room. Registration for classes is on a priority basis, and based on the number of credits I have, I haven't been at the top of that list.

And yet.

And yet, I was able to get in to every class not only that I needed, but when I needed it with my schedule. Other students tell me how impossible that is, how they'd been trying for several semesters to get into a Physiology class or a Microbiology class. Micro, in fact, was my closest call. By the time I was able to register, the class was full and I was wait listed. I showed up to the first day of class and there were about twenty of us on the wait list, wanting to add. The professor told us she would call roll at the end of class and however many enrolled students didn't show up, that's how many new names she would add in their place. I sat through that class, in the front row, praying and sweating it out. At the end, there were two available spots. Two! By school rules, she had to draw names for those two spots. My name was the second one drawn.

When it came time to submit applications to nursing programs, I only applied to PCC. Other people thought that was risky. Most people submit to four or five different programs, but I just felt like PCC was where I was supposed to be. Even though the odds were stacked against me. There were between 600-700 applications for 60 available openings.

I suppose my testimony in this whole thing is that when we follow the promptings of the Lord, a way will be provided for us. It doesn't so much matter how difficult the science classes are when you never thought of yourself as a science person. It doesn't matter how full the classes are, or how unlikely the odds are. That day, two and a half years ago, when I had the impression that I should enroll in college again and pursue a nursing degree, it was one of the clearest, most precise impressions I've ever had. And the only real thing I take credit for was the fact that I followed it. From that point on, I've never been doing this on my own. And I am very humbled that with His help, I have done what I thought I could not do. Now we move on to the next step.

The Nursing Program!

Monday, May 23, 2011


Yesterday was not a good day. I cried a lot; I felt despair come surging my way.

In the evening, Lyndsay had a meeting at the Stake Center, so I drove her down, and being all puffy-eyed, I sat in the car for the hour and a half and did my menu plan and grocery list for the week. I moved to the backseat of the van so nobody would see me in there. I just wanted some time alone.

Every now and then, I looked up from my list making to watch people arriving in their cars and walking through the parking lot towards the church. Some I recognized, others I did not. At one point, my attention was drawn to a woman, head bent down, walking ever so slowly. She was older than I am, but I didn't think she was old enough to be walking with such trouble. I felt sorry for her as I watched her. She was in the parking lot aisle over from me, so I couldn't see all of her, just her waist up, but she looked like she'd been pretty in her youth, and continued to take good care of herself. I wondered if her hips hurt, or her back, or what it was that compromised her mobility, and I thought how frustrating it must be for her to get anything done during the day at such a snail's pace. I went back to my menu.

About an hour later, that same woman came walking back through the parking lot, this time in the same row I was parked in. She was still walking with care, head bent down, one slow step at a time. But this time, I could see all of her.

Attached to her hand was another hand, a little tiny one, maybe that of an 18 month old, or two year old child. She was walking with a little child, slowing her steps to allow the toddler to take her own. Her head was bent down to watch over the child as she took each careful beginning step. I think she was a grandma.

And seeing the whole picture changed my entire perspective. Likewise, there must be so much to my picture that I just can't see, and I must trust that someone is holding my hand.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


I get to hear piano music pretty much all day every day in my home in various stages of accomplishment. Sometimes I forget how lucky that makes me.

Despite the fact that I've been teaching for over four years now, on Sunday I held my first piano recital. I selected music for each of my students over Christmas break and then we got to work in January. Several of the students were assigned pieces that were quite above their skill level, but I can state with authority that when you really believe in a child's abilities, and you pour that belief into them, they will rise to the challenge. And then the gifts--of confidence, self esteem, discipline, diligence, endurance--are all theirs.

Lyndsay warming up for the recital

Take Bryce, for example. Such a cutie. At barely 10 years old, he's a great student and a hard worker, and has progressed steadily. When he left my house the week before Christmas, I handed him Scott Joplin's "The Entertainer", which I love, love, love. It was way over Bryce's head, but I thought the chords were written in a way that Bryce could tackle with a lot of hard work. When he opened the sheet music and saw all those notes his freckled face turned bright red and his eyes bugged out of his head. He laughed nervously.

"You can do this, Bryce," I told him enthusiastically. "You're going to love it."

When I sent him away that day, I admit that I carefully examined my motivation. I wanted him to reach, but I certainly didn't want to set him up for failure. That piece was pretty hard. But when he showed up the next week, we started tackling it line by line, really taking our time. His little hands were getting quite the workout, stretching for all those chords, and it was painfully slow. But no matter, I knew he could do it. I could picture him playing that song and every week I told him so.

One week he came to lesson and all the inside pages of his sheet music had been obviously crumpled up and smoothed back out. I started laughing. "Had a bad week, Bryce?" I asked him. His face turned red again and he admitted that maybe there had been a time during the week when "The Entertainer" had gotten the best of him. "Well, it looks like you showed it who's boss," I said, "and not because you crumpled it up and threw it across the room, but because you went and got it and smoothed it back out. Good for you." That made me love Bryce even more.

Well, he did it. Let me tell you, the first time Bryce played "The Entertainer" all the way through for me, I had tears in my eyes. It took him five months, but he could work that song, and he had it memorized. At the recital, he blew them away, and I was so proud of him. "Do you see what you can do?" I asked him afterwards. His face turned red again, and he handed me a card, with a handwritten note inside that read,

"Thanks for being such a great piano teacher.
When you gave me "The Entertainer" I thought I could
NEVER play it. I probably never could have without you."

Every student felt so proud that night. Little Nico in his black bow tie was a crowd pleaser as he worked over the main title from Star Wars and Beethoven's "Ode to Joy." What a little performer! He loved the applause, and didn't seem at all affected by nerves. He had all of his pieces memorized too.

Alex and Steven, the darling little Thai brothers, that I worried and worried over. I even switched one of Alex's pieces the week before the recital, but they practiced so hard and really came through. Didn't even want me to sit next to them on the bench as they'd been asking me to do in the weeks leading up to the recital.

My darling Rebecca played her Schumann and Grieg pieces flawlessly, and curtsied with perfect grace. Even the students who made mistakes handled them with courage and confidence. What a pleasure it is to have gotten to know and come to love each of these little people and to have had something to do with helping them learn to play the piano. I hope they fill their own homes with music for the rest of their lives.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Try, Try Again: A Garden Post

Yesterday afternoon, I brought in a sugar snap pea for each of the kids to try, fresh off the vine. Conor loved his so much that he promptly took a bowl outside to gather every one he could reach. And then recruited Aiden for the ones he couldn't.

The garden has been slower going this year than last, but not because I haven't tried. I've been battling the wild. Well, squirrels and crows. They dug up most of my seeds and seedlings, and I've had to replant a few times. Once the green really gets going, they leave the garden alone, but all that tempting dirt means bugs and grubs, and they just can't resist. Anyway, I thought I'd show you what's starting to grow in my treasured garden.

You saw the Sugar Snap Peas above. These are garden peas here, and this will be one of my projects today, to harvest and shell them. There are a ton of plants here, around 90, all along this back bed. I planted 8 seeds to a square and there are 12 squares. These peas have been very productive.

Here's some surviving spinach, with some newer spinach seedlings tucked in around it. You also see some cilantro in the back there, and a tomato plant that will be caged.

Here's more cilantro. I have a goal to make my own salsa/pico this year, so I planted lots of cilantro. I planted lots of parsley too, seedlings that I grew inside the house, but within a few hours of transplanting, they were all gone. Stupid squirrels like parsley, I guess. Cilantro, not so much.

Here's some of the Swiss Chard. This is Fordhook Giant Chard, but I also have rainbow chard seedlings growing in there too. Can't wait for that shot of color to the garden.

Some lettuce.

The glorious beans! I have two beds with beans in them. This bed has 12 squares, 4 plants to a square (some didn't come up, but most did) of regular green beans.

I counted 102 plants that came up, of the 116 I planted.

This second bed of beans, which actually comes first, has 16 squares of beans, 4 to a square. These are called Dragon Tongue beans, which are green beans with purple stripes on them. Can't wait to see these. They're new to my garden this year.

Next to the Dragon Tongue beans are two volunteer Cherry Tomato plants. This is where the Cherries were last year and about 200 new plants have come up since then. Every day I pull new ones out, but I left these two and will cage them very soon. They have blossoms already. I don't want more than two Cherry Tomatoes, because to me, they're really the most worthless of tomatoes. Way too juicy for sauce, can't slice them. They become snacking/salad tomatoes and they produce so abundantly that I figured two plants was enough.

I'm giving peppers a try again this year. Last year I had zero luck with peppers. Something kept eating the leaves off. I have jalapenos (for my salsa) and red bells growing, and so far, so good.

Here are two squares of leeks, something else that didn't work last year. I started the seedlings inside this time, and they seem to be okay so far. I've found that I really love Potato Leek Soup with Bacon, so I wanted to grow my own leeks.

This is the second bed, with the green beans, Swiss Chard, red bell peppers, lettuce, and yellow pear tomatoes.

This is the first bed, with the Cherry tomatoes, the purple beans, the jalapenos, and leeks.

This is the third bed, with the Sugar Snap peas, spinach, cilantro, and then the Roma tomatoes, a Striped tomato, and a red slicing tomato.

This is another look at the third bed. These are the Roma tomato plants.

Oh, look! Some blueberries!

It's a lot of brown still right now, but by next month the green will really be taking off!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Me, Only Older

Yesterday was my 38th birthday. Kind of surreal, but then again, not really so different from 37, or even 36 for that matter. I think, I hope, I'm getting better with age--that makes the whole aging thing worth it.

I actually like my birthdays. I think it's fun to celebrate being me, having been born into this world (I thanked my mom for that), living another year, getting all the fun, sweet attention. I wasn't expecting much in the way of celebrating this year, though, because my birthday fell on a busy school day. I have class on Friday nights and leave the house at 4:30pm, not to come home again until 10:30pm, and then have to be back at school by 8am Saturday morning until 1pm. Not really conducive to our traditional family party.

I was up the night before trying to watch BBC's Titus Andronicus and follow along in my copy of the play. Being so exhausted from allergy medicine, I went to bed fairly early. Lyndsay came in to kiss me goodnight around 9:30pm--she had been studying for her AP US History exam in the morning--and I don't think I made it even another 10 minutes with Titus before falling asleep.

In the morning, when I came downstairs to take the kids to Seminary, I saw this on the table:

Sweet Adam. He snuck out late at night after I'd fallen asleep so that I would be surprised. The best part was his heartfelt letter. Always my favorite. It made me cry, both because of the sentiments and because he thought to make it a surprise.

But then, walking into the kitchen, I saw dishes in the sink that I'd left clean before going to bed. Weird dishes, like bowls and beaters, and I said out loud, "What the heck?" I looked around and didn't see anything, so I opened the fridge. And there I saw:

This little tiny cake. Lyndsay had kissed me goodnight and then come back downstairs, the night before her big exam, and secretly baked me a chocolate cake, so that I wouldn't have a cake-less birthday. Her gesture melted my heart. I love that the frosting on the sides is melted off because it was so late at night that she couldn't stay up long enough to let the cake cool all the way. I love my Lyndsay.

That was a good enough birthday right there. But then I got some money in the mail from my mom and decided to quick go and treat myself to a pedicure before I bought gas with it, or milk. And then a friend called and said she was coming to pick me up for lunch in ten minutes.

When I got home there was a gift waiting for me from my friend---a new canning set! Think of my mad jam making skills now! And then a beautiful bouquet of Gerbera daisies arrived from Amber! I'm the luckiest girl I know, I think. So, with a heart full of birthday happiness, I went off to school to spend the rest of the evening, and miracle of miracles, guess what? She let us out an hour early! And Adam was waiting up for me. . .

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

My Four Scouts

Scouting takes up a significant portion of my mental energy. In scouting, each time a boy earns a new rank, whether it be Wolf or Bear in Cub Scouting, or Star or Life in Boy Scouting, he presents his mother with a rank advancement pin in front of everyone at a Court of Honor. This is not just because the Boy Scouts of America is fond of mothers, but because most of these boys would never earn an advancement without the blood, sweat, and tears of their mothers and we deserve that pin as much as they deserve the patch. Or, at least almost as much.

I do think the Scouting program is a good one for boys. Boys would rather do anything but work hard, it seems, but get them going and get them focused, and even they become surprised and impressed with what they're made of. Hard work pays off in the form of not just merit badges, but confidence and new life skills. I think it is something commendable to begin something like Cub Scouts at the age of 8 and see it all the way through to Eagle, and I want each of my boys to do that.

Problem is, I'm pretty much towing that line alone.

Adam isn't so much a supporter of Scouts. Too much work for him, but he supports me in supporting Scouts, so I can work with that--and a nudge to not utter a single negative sentiment to the boys. They can't know they have an ally. My stepson's mom isn't too big on scouting either. I know she wants Sean to achieve in scouting, but the way to that goal falls largely on us, and no small amount of force is required, let me tell ya.

Like most moms, probably, I keep up on merit badge requirements for the boys, Scout meetings, Scout camps, Courts of Honor, and monthly merit badge manias. I also do all the purchasing of all the scout paraphernalia and all the bloody attachment of those hard-earned patches and badges. Man, do I hate it when a boy grows out of a shirt.

Maybe you noticed that there's an extra boy in the photo above?

That's Brad. He's Dylan's best friend. He doesn't have a mom around, and his dad isn't very active in his life, so Brad spends a lot of time here with us. He eats dinner with us many nights each week. We pick him up for Church, YM activities, Seminary, and Scouts. He spends movie nights with us and weekends. Sometimes the kids balk at another Dylan around the house, but mostly, we treat Brad as if he was one of the family. And when it's time for a Court of Honor, I have to get Brad ready too. I took him to his house to get his uniform, which he brought out in a balled up mess. So, I ironed it, got him all ship-shape. Then I fed him, with all the others, and when he thanked me, I told him it was no problem, and I couldn't wait to see what he got me for Mother's Day.

Those four boys will earn their Eagle Scout awards! (And Conor will too, but right now I'm enjoying my hiatus from Cub Scouts.) Dylan is almost done (one more badge and his project!), Brad about halfway, Sean just behind that, and Aiden is tearing up Scouting with his youthful enthusiasm and a list of all the badges he wants to earn. We had our Scout Camp meeting last night, and all four of these boys are off for a week at the end of June to earn more merit badges! Yes!

And when they do start earning Eagle, I think instead of a pin, I'd like a cruise.