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Monthly Archives: February 2013

Now what?

I voted for the first time in the year 2000.

Three months later, I got a jury summons.

Uck.

The cool thing about it was that it paid $25 per day, which was a lot of money as far as I was concerned.

The drawback was that I hadn’t even graduated from high school.

Who knows how long this jury thing could last?

I didn’t want to get behind in school, so I pushed myself to get ahead, just in case I was selected for jury. I pushed myself so hard that I completed roughly a week’s worth of reading assignments each day, and by the time jury rolled around, I was nearly done with the curriculum. I completed my last assignment the first week of March.

I was not chosen for jury, so that left me with a lot of time that was full of a lot of nothing.

At that time, my family was attending a huge Evangelical Free church, and one of the pastors had invited us for dinner one day. We hadn’t interacted with anyone at any church for several years, so it was a little weird to be there. The pastor and his wife were sweet people who treated all of us younger ones like we mattered and like it was ok to contribute to society in one way or another. They kept asking us questions like, “So, what grade are you in?” and “What’s your favorite sport?”

For me, the most baffling question of all was, “Well, what are you going to do now?”

I had explained that because of the jury duty thing, I had worked hard to get done with school early. When I answered the “what are you going to do now?” question with, “I don’t know….” the pastor’s wife said, “I have an idea!”

She explained that the church was in need of people to help out with child care during their women’s Bible study, and she felt that I would probably be good at it.

I didn’t give a definite answer at the time. Because of the mindset of the people in charge of the church I spent the first 10 years of my life at, I saw myself as property of the men in my life, and I felt that I needed to have permission to work. I didn’t know a single “Christian” woman (meaning a woman who believed the stuff I had been taught all my life) who worked.

Looking back, I can see this was a pivotal moment in my life. I was being offered normalcy from a “worldly” perspective, but if I wanted to be “normal” to the world, I was going to have to choose to become “abnormal” to everybody and everything I’d known before.

What’s a girl to do?

Finally, I decided that there were certain advantages to working — even ones that would serve me well as a wife and mother, number 1 being that I was assigned to work as a tutor to home schooled kids from first grade to 4th grade. I would be learning how to teach — good skill for a future home-school mom, right?

I went to work faithfully every Tuesday morning, gathered my students together and we would learn together. I worked with a set of twins — one who was ridiculously advanced and the other was ridiculously behind. When this little boy had been in public school, his teachers had told his mom that he would not be able to learn at the same rate as his classmates and she should not expect him to satisfactorily complete the year. The mother told me all this and she said, “Just do the best you can with him. I’m not going to hold it against you if he can’t finish the curriculum by the end of the year.”

I worked with this little boy and I had the pleasure of answering his questions and explaining things as he went through his curriculum. He learned math and phonics. He had a hard time with reading comprehension, but we would talk about what things meant and every single time, he would “get” it. I loved to hear his laugh every time a lightbulb would begin to glow. This little boy also had behavioral problems, but after the first couple of weeks, those completely disappeared. He was having so much fun learning that he didn’t have time (or the desire!) to rebel. After working with him for only two months, he completed his curriculum, was much more disciplined (meaning he was able to sit still long enough to learn something), and he had discovered the joy of learning.

I consider those two months to be one of the most successful periods of my life. There’s nothing quite as satisfying as seeing a kid go from being a holy terror in school to being anxious to learn.

The Bible study was over the end of May, and I decided to spend several weeks with my grandparents. They had several guests that summer, so I got to know lots of relatives, step-relatives and step-relatives-by-marriage. My family does family. If you’re related to one of my relatives, you’re my relative, even if you’re only cousin Agnes’ step-cousin’s wife’s brother. If nothing else, we know who you are and we care about what’s going on in your life. (But maybe that’s just the small-town thing. When you sneeze in a small town, somehow, within a few hours, someone will have sent over some chicken noodle soup and everybody’s calling to ask how your cold is today.)

That summer, I helped Grandma prepare for a big old family reunion. And after the party was over, I went home to find a “real” job (You know — one that paid more than $12/week) and figure out what I was going to do with my life.

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Posted by on February 25, 2013 in My Story

 

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Learning to Drive

When I turned 16, my dad and brothers went card shopping. That’s card with a D. Not “car.”

It was a momentous enough occasion that I got not one, but TWO birthday cards. The first one said something along the lines of “In honor of your 16th birthday, here’s the car keys and 50 bucks. Have a good time.” On the inside, it said, “Just kidding HA HA HA HA”

The second card was your typical boring, sappy “My little girl just turned 16” kind of card.

My sixteenth birthday came and went.

So did my 17th.

And my 18th.

The only reason I felt compelled to learn to drive when I was 18 was because one day, I was sitting in the passenger seat of a vehicle when the vehicle started to roll slowly forward. No one was sitting in the driver’s seat, so I had to figure out how to get the dang thing stopped. And I had no clue which pedal was the brake and which was the gas.

Long story short, I did get it stopped, but I was completely freaked out and I was convinced that I needed to learn how to drive.

So I got a learner’s permit. I aced the test. It was awesome. They didn’t even let me answer the last few questions because I had gotten all of them right.

Shortly after that, my dad took me to an empty parking lot in our little red Ford Maverick.

The old Ford had no padding on the seats.

It was a good 10 years older than me.

It squeaked every time it went over a bump — or when you turned the wheel.

And it was a stick.

Dad wanted me to learn to drive a stick because he was convinced that once I tried an automatic, I’d never go back to a stick.

He was right.

At any rate, my first task as a new driver was to drive in a large figure-8 pattern, and not kill the engine in the process. It was pretty simple. I got the hang of the stick shift really quickly, with the exception of parallel parking and stopping and starting on a hill.

After driving in figure-8 patterns for a while, we decided to call it a day. And my new task was to drive home — without killing the engine. And, of course, without killing anybody. Or hitting anything.

It helped that home was a straight shot from the empty parking lot, roughly 6 blocks away in a residential area (no traffic) and only one intersection that you’d be likely to find other cars.

For several months, I drove that awful, squeaky little Ford with no padding on the seat through Fargo traffic. I drove around the mall, where the traffic is crazy. I drove on the back roads. I drove up and down Broadway and 13th Avenue South. I drove down 12th Avenue North, and one fateful day, the light at the top of the hill turned red, just as I was approaching the bottom of the hill. Somehow, I managed to keep it running and keep it from rolling backwards. And I nearly got a standing ovation from my little brothers in the back seat when we were safely through the intersection.

After I’d learned the ins and outs of driving a stick, the neighbor decided that it was time for me to advance to bigger and better things. (This is a great example of how “it takes a village.”) He let me drive his automatic. And he didn’t make me take the back roads.

My dad was freaking out in the back seat.

I was having the time of my life.

And the neighbor was alternating between laughing at Dad and instructing me.

We managed to get where we were going. No one died. No damage was done.

And after that experience, I refused to drive the squeaky old Ford with no padding on the seats.

The next step up was a big old boat of a car. The boys and I called it the Banana Boat because it was yellow and it was enormous. I attempted to take the road test to get my actual license in that car, and it did not go well, considering that the parallel parking space was just inches longer than the car. It didn’t help that I got the Wicked Witch of the DOT for the test. She was gorgeous, with curly brown hair and the greenest green eyes you could ever imagine. But she was as spiteful as she was beautiful. And I failed. Because the car was too big for the parallel parking spot.

I tried again a few weeks later and this time, I got a different test person. She asked why I didn’t pass the first time and I said it was the parallel parking and the car was too big for the space. She said that she intended to pass me because it’s not my fault the car is too big.

I did pass that time. I think I might have cried — I was that nervous about the whole thing.

Later that afternoon, I decided to go shopping. All by myself.

I got in the car, fastened the seatbelt, put the car in reverse — and promptly backed into a tree.

Fortunately, I like to use hyperbole, so I didn’t actually back into the tree. That part was slightly exaggerated. The corner of the front bumper scraped the side of the tree, tearing off a big chunk of bark.

A few years later, the tree had to be euthanized because it had been overtaken by Dutch Elm disease.

And that, my friends, is the baddest bad thing I’ve ever done.

 
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Posted by on February 23, 2013 in My Story

 

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Aside

Treasure the moments you have with those you love.

You may never have another chance.

*****

Something happened today that reminded me of the day that I moved to South Dakota.

The day I moved to South Dakota, my closest friend passed away.

The difference was that the day I moved to South Dakota, I was completely numb.

And today, I immediately burst into tears and wondered how I was supposed to go on with life.

Life does go on, and I’ll be fine.

I suppose the difference was that I saw my friend two days before she passed away and I knew she wouldn’t live much longer. The events of today were completely out of nowhere.

Tonight, I comfort myself with this:

You number my wanderings;
Put my tears into Your bottle;
Are they not written in your book?
Psalm 56:8

He knew what would happen today and He knew exactly how I would feel about it. Not only is He paying enough attention to me that He’s aware of what happened and how I feel, but He’s close enough that He can reach over and wipe the tears from my cheeks. And He treasures me to such an extent that He wants to keep my tears.

Post #56

 
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Posted by on February 2, 2013 in Current Events

 

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