Monday, March 31, 2008

On Teamwork, Joy for my Daughter, and What We Want to BE When We Grow Up

It's all been a whirlwind. I can't believe a whole week came and went...

A huge dream has been realized. This is a major turning point for our family, all three of us.

Today, my daughter, who is 19, had her first interview for a job as a LPN.

A LPN!!!!! It's official!!!!!!!!!!

On Monday, she took her state exam...HUGE...she took two courses just to prep for the exam. We all held our breaths. We prayed. We allowed unlimited computer access, bought prep books,blah blah blah, and the big day finally came.

We sweated collective bullets while awaiting the results...two whole days of not knowing!

I got the call from R while I was on the road at work. She sounded sad.

She is a HUGE faker....I'm glad she was faking!!! She learned she passed!!!


It sounds bad to say it's one of MY dreams come true, but being the poster child for having bypassed completing a college education or trade myself during the years when I put a husband through graduate school and had/raised a baby, after 13 years of which life pulled a wrenching switcheroo of divorce and subsequent boinging me right into the job scene unprepared(minus experience and letters behind my name)....well, I just wanted my daughter to have some help with direction WHILE she figures out the many things she MOST wants to do.

I'd never had much help on the parental front with things requiring direction. Oh to have had some wise advice and some direction during my early years, as I had set off into life. Life's been full of a lot of lessons :)

I'm so beyond the point of expecting to find enough money to pay the bills by doing "my dream" (I have so many dreams! none of which are moneymakers in and of themselves), and my own reality has been that had I utilized some varied opportunities as I went along, I'd have a lot more choice about doing a job I enjoyed more. I now believe we can have multiple and changing talents and careers all throughout the years, none of which has to be the sole bearer of the title "what I know I want to BE."

I wanted to breed horses. To be a writer, a poet. To speak foreign languages. To create beautiful artwork, paintings, pottery, sculpture. To have horses to ride every day of my life. To live where you don't see your neighbors' houses, out in the wild, or a cottage in a glen or a rocky hillside. I wanted to travel the world. I wanted to paint the world with meadows of wildflowers. To have bison and wild horses roaming nearby. I wanted to marry a farmer. I wanted to be a professor holed up in a room full of dusty books, overflowing paperwork, writing papers and giving brilliant lectures. To teach creative writing. To inspire students to think for themselves, outside the box. To innovate, find solutions creatively. To be a home decorator. I wanted to be a biblical scholar. I wanted to start an orphanage. To be a counselor. To be a midwife. A naturopath. I wanted to design buildings. I wanted to have a really large family, complete with adopted children, some possibly with handicaps and international backgrounds. I wanted to go into Romanian or other orphanages and turn things around, see miracles happen with a lot of elbow grease and love. To make sandwiches weekly for the homeless. To be an investigative journalist on the front lines of a war or reporter covering abuses and stir action. To go to Jerusalem and pray at the wall. I wanted to live self-sufficiently, back to the land. To build a log cabin by hand, drink from a stream, not have a car and only get around by horseback.

LOL...ok I'll stop there...

I've not necessarily stopped wanting these unrelated things. But I've not had a boring life. And I did plan for the above, at various points in life, but the course of life has been different than expected.

My wants narrowed down very boldly a few years ago to something very basic:

I wanted to be able to survive. A few years ago, I found myself on the brink of being months from being homeless and losing custody of my daughter for the sole reason of being unable to afford a roof over our heads and food to eat.

That'll put a whole new spin on the What To Do When I Grow Up subject. So when R neared the end of high school, and a fantastic opportunity presented itself, I saw it as a gift...and really really amazing gift from God. That is how I see my present marriage, and the fact my husband is more than a stepdad...he's a team leader forgeing forward FOR and WITH us all. Without his strength and agreement and decision-making, this would have been an opportunity missed.

Rachel had a big opportunity three years ago...
When you have a daughter who gets really excited about science, nature, how things work, and challenging academics AND when that daughter gets an opportunity through a high school program to simultaneously enroll in a health sciences program geared towards nursing...she has an opportunity to have a skill FOR FREE and schooling FOR FREE while still in high school that, by the time graduation arrives, puts her mere months (8 to be exact) from being a full fledged nurse.

Some would frown on my urging her to try this. Had she been left to just decide for herself without some persuasion, she'd have done what I'd have done at her same age, given the initial impulse...probably have decided that I didn't know what I wanted to "be when I grew up" and therefore have passed it by because I wasn't sure I wanted to do all that. Maybe later.

As "later" to myself and her stepfather loomed, and we have (lets just say) limited means as far as being able to send her to college, we saw an opportunity for her to have a HUGE skill she might very well thrive in.

We sat her down at that time (it was just before her junior year) and basically presented the pros and cons for at least trying the program. She had to face her immediate future, and wrestle with the realities of what getting to college would require. My years of prepping her for going to college after high school were still in was her expectation, not just ours. But divorce and financial setback had narrowed the monetary scope of choices. It's hard to have that conversation with a 16 year old. She considered the program, and we all discussed it over the course of a month or so.

As that school year approached, and she had a deadline to decide on her classes, she was undecided, still thinking she had to KNOW what she REALLY wanted to do...when she grew up. I told her that my thinking on that had changed over the years, myself, and I see life now as a palette for all SORTS of things to do (and when did I grow up? that year eludes asked her the question "What do you have better to do in the meantime?" Really, at that point, she was not particularly passionate about any particular thing, and doing the program wouldn't bump her from some other activity or opportunity. So I basically DARED her to try it....for 2 weeks. We toured the school, went to the meet-n-greet, met the teachers, talked to former students.

R looked a little apprehensive at the outset. These former students all had something in common...they were very self-assured. VERY self-assured.

Then R spoke with a girl who was still in her senior year of high school, and was attending the trade school, too. That girl had not known what she really wanted to "do," either. But her home situation was such that her mom was having a hard time, her home life wasn't good, and she really needed to have a skill for life that was all too real ...and to be able to be independent quickly once out of high school. She said the program was the best thing she'd ever done. She was not a poster child of over-achievement...she was gritty and "normal" ...and my daughter really listened to her at that point.

So, it was atttempted. The first couple of days' reviews were lukewarm. The "how did it go" question was met with a shrug and not much else. But after day 2, she became more and more lively about her classes. Getting up for a 5 o'clock bus was no picnic, nor was keeping some honors classes in the afternoon AFTER health science classes...she was bused by the public school system an hour's drive BACK to high school every day, so that's 3 bus rides a day. And she had to keep all her other grades up, which she did.

We were partners with her, too. She didn't have her drivers license at that time, so guess who got up to take her to that 5 o'clock bus? Yep, moi...and I'm not famous for being a morning person. I'm not patting us on the back, since R did the work and saw this through...a big committment. But it's been family teamwork, and that part feels GOOD :)

All that to say that R gained an amazing amount of confidence. At the outset, when she had weighed the pros and cons of trying out the program, she had expressed her strong doubts. Some of them were doubts about whether she could handle cleaning up after people who are ill. And doing things such as adult diaper changes, cleaning up bedpans, etc. I can't say that anyone, if faced with such realities, makes those things at the top of their lists of dream jobs.

Anyway, she tried the program for the agreed-upon 2 weeks, and decided to stay in...SHE decided, not us. And she stuck it out. And then delighted in regaling us with nursing details at the dinner! She gained a lot of maturity as she gained skills and knowledge, and it wasn't long before she thought nothing of the concerns she'd been a bit dubious about beforehand.

It WAS a LOT of work. It had times of difficulty now and then as she'd have to get her head around some math or a skill that needed more practice. She kept getting up those early mornings, and it became a special time for us together as we waited for that bus in the wee hours. We always started her day with a prayer together, both of us half asleep. Then she'd get on the bus (to fall asleep during the hour drive), and I'd get ready to head to work myself. J pinch-hit on days when his different schedule would allow. He's a trouper, too!

R really excelled. At the end of the first year in health sciences through the vocational program, she took the state CNA exam.

WHAM. The "A" student didn't pass. This test was supposed to be a piece of cake. She had missed the easiest of all skills tests...weighing someone. She knew ALL the hardest skills, performed them perfectly, did great on the written. But according to the book, she was supposed to TALK the patient through stepping up onto the scale and helping them step down...TALK them through it. Weighing someone!!!

She was crushed. And humbled.

And honestly, it was a take even the small things seriously and not for granted.

She passed it on the second try.

She entered the LPN phase of the course the next fall, all along keeping up with her high school grades and some honors classes. She had a few bumps along the way, as reminders that not everything comes easy, but thankfully, she's a natural. She's developed an interest in health beyond the doctor's office, and is interested in herbs and natural foods. She's taking great care of her own health and fitness. She found things she loved and didn't love about nursing. In short, she's a natural, and she has a useful and wonderful skill...yay!!!!! She may choose to NEVER do this again in her whole life...but IF she DOES do it, she is a terrific nurse. She may choose to go forward and become an RN, or to specialize in some particular area. She really enjoyed assisting in surgery, and is looking into that as a specialty. How NICE to be 19 and have some tangible options (I'm so grateful to God!!)

She loves photography, and we want her to have the experience of college.

God has been so good to us...the three of us. He provided other opportunities in the form of scholarships, and now college IS a present reality. Wow, I'm SO SO grateful, as a mother. Humbled and GRATEFUL...

R is on her very first job interview for I type!

I hope she has only good as she steps out in this next new phase.

We've tried to be the best team possible with her the last few years. J has worked hard to fund her gasoline and scrubs and book fees, etc...a weekly expense as the portion of classes AFTER high school were no longer free. Clinicals had to be driven to, and daily classes...all an hour away. And gas ain't cheap!

He's walked her through getting her first back account, balancing her first checkbook, trying to establish a small and modest credit history, giving her some pointers here and there. He's been big on her safety, and after some really awful murders and abductions not far from here, she takes her home and car safety lessons from him a lot more seriously. He got her a cell phone for emergencies when on the road. We loaned her our vehicle for the commutes. He warned her about traffic tickets and was there to reiterate that same conversation after she had gotten a couple..and had to pay them herself. He's taught her about budgeting...she kept EVERY receipt for EVERYthing before he would reimburse her expenses, to teach her to be aware of the real value of spending and budgeting and help her to SEE it rather than just be handed money. He allowed her to manage her small amount he gave her..and to mismanage it and to learn the lessons in miniature, so she wouldn't be unfamiliar with those realities in upcoming years. He taxied her to appointments and to the employment office recently.

And he OFTEN met with teenage attitude during many of these conversations and lessons...but that has diminished a lot as R's urge for independence has met with real life situations, and she sees the benefit of them now.

We had held our collective breath as her program drew to a close. Graduation from the program never guaranteed her passing her state exam. Now that she has passed, it's been difficult for us to realize it's over...the big HUGE team effort that's been going on DAILY for the last 3 years.

On to the next step, eh? :) Life's an adventure!

I had a long cry last night. This has occupied all our lives so much the past years, and so has the push to get things wrapped up for us financially and get moved to some land. So many stops and starts.

MUCH to celebrate along the way. MUCH for which to be grateful!!

I'm having that pre-empty nest ache in my heart. I have no intention of standing in the way of my daughter's path forward, out into her life that will be her own story to write. I pray God figures into it, always at the center, and that she'll be safe...and very very happy.

R's ability to go get a job now will free us up in a lot of ways to retire the rest of our debts more quickly. J hopes to be out of debt by this time next year...I am praying that there will be none left by the end of THIS one.

My job is more to my liking now. I've been given a permanent assignment, and was allowed a lot of input as to my schedule. And s ometimes I get to drive the company vehicle home, which helps alleviate the gas costs of that long commute. My whole work day or night involves driving the company vehicle, and guess what I do for the county? Code enforcement, namely finding regular watering violations. I know that sounds ludicrous to some, but we do have a drought here (even with the spring rains, overall the water table is very low), and we also have luxury communities where folks simply don't care that their irrigation systems dump streams of water into the sewers long past their lawns' abilities to retain any more moisture...we're talking about HOURS of watering, any day of the week.

I drive by those homes, with their amazing tropical plants, and smile a wry smile when I see the silhouette of herds of deer munching down on manicured lawns and sculpted raised beds. All that "perfection" of landscaping, and the deer still have a I see opossums, raccoons, rabbits, owls...and more deer...nightly, and smell the night flowers and feel the warm breeze. I do have to say that I'll be able to stick with this job for a prolonged period because I get to be close to where I want to be the most...outside the box (for me, the corporate world feels the most like a box, but that's me; others often enjoy it). Ideas crowd my head, but the setting is peaceful enough to allow for thoughts to drift and just to ENJOY the moment, oftentimes. And so, I'm grateful! This is my job to help us get out of debt so we can get our hands down in our OWN dirt somewhere...and it's looking closer.

It can't get here fast enough...that's how I feel so often. That's "what I want to do when I grow up."

But maybe the "growing up" part is the journey in getting there.

My daughter is growing up too fast. She's taking some new big steps. But she doesn't see herself as a Grownup.

I'll be 42 next weekend.

I wonder if I'm grown up yet :)


tina f. said...

Congratulations! You have every reason to be proud!

edifice rex said...

Well, "knowledge is power", and even if your daughter does not pursue this career she has the skill if she needs it and has learned great people skills by the sound of it. I think you all made a good decision and I wish I had had that kind of interest in my life from my parents when I was coming up. I think my life has turned out great and what it is meant to be but some caring attitude from my parents would have probably given my some much needed confidence.

Granny Sue said...

Please congratulate your daughter for me. What a saga! You must be so proud of her, and so satisfied that the efforts of the whole family have paid off.

My path in life has some similarities to yours. I grabbed an opportunity when I was 36 to go to college; at 42 I started a Masters degree. It's never too late, Robin, to live those dreams.

What I think is so funny is that after getting the masters and working for 17 years to move up and up, I want to just quit it all and be a storyteller and stay-home granny. That's my new dream!

But you, your husband and your daughter are inspirations. A lot of kids need to read your post.

Robbyn said...

Thank you, Tina!!

Rex, yes, parents can really be a catalyst...or not. I've made a lot of mistakes in parenting...with an only child, she's the child I guess we made our mistakes with and learned from?? That said, we've ALL learned, and I'm so so happy she has something to give her some great open doors. If she wants to be the best basketweaver around, I'm all for it! (In fact I'd love to learn that, myself...) Thanks for the insights...I like my life, too, and learned as much from what my parents didn't do as from what they did right :)

Granny Sue...yes, we're happy :) I'm enjoying getting to "know" you here and am so glad every time you stop in. I think storytelling is an amazing skill, and LOVE that you are preserving local oral histories and stories that would otherwise be lost (and we'd be the poorer without) hero!

Wendy said...

I'll be forty-one next month. It sounds like we're in a similar place - that trying to figure out what we want to be "when we grow up." I know what I want to be. I want to be a suburban homesteader, and I guess, in a lot of ways that's what I am, but doggone it all, that doesn't pay a lot of money, and debt reduction really is the key to the "Good Life" I'd like to live someday.

With regard to your daughter, I can only say congratulations. I have two adult children. My son will be twenty-two in June. He went to college for a semester, actually flunked out, and now he's kind of just floating around working in restaurants while he figures out what he wants. My dauther, who will be twenty in the fall, is a mom and will be celebrating her first anniversary this summer. She opted out of college. I'd hoped she'd learn some trade. When she was in high school, she was taking flight lessons and also college classes through the Early Study Program, but she chose her boyfriend over a more financially secure future as a pilot or airline administrator. She seems happy, and I adore my granddaughter. It's hard to know when to try to get them to go in a different direction and when to let them live their lives.

Sounds like you did a good job of achieving that balance with your daughter. Congratulations!

Robbyn said...

Wendy, ...ah love! That's always at the top of the list of what we hope for our kids, for sure :)