Saturday, May 1, 2010

B.S. of a Different Kind

This is me, being a true Wildcat.
After all the pomp and circumstance was over,
I realized I hadn't embarassed my kids once that day,
and felt a sudden urge to do so. My need to embarass them today is
filled by posting this picture :)
My biggest fan and my strongest supporter. Also, my sweetie :)

It takes a village to raise a child,
but it takes a supportive family
for a Mom to get a college degree.

Last weekend was one of the most amazing weekends I've experienced thus far in my life. That's a pretty strong, bold statement, however, it's completely true. In fact, it was so overwhelmingly wonderful, it's taken me a week to be able to sit down and put into words the way in which it was so.
Friday, April 23, I graduated from Weber State University with a B.S. in Social Work. Hard as I try, I cannot find the words to adequately, and unfortunately for the reader...succinctly, describe what this means to and for me. I've been there before, graduating with a Bachelor's degree, that is. In fact, last time it took me seven years to achieve a degree, in comparison to the one year it took for this degree. Guess I have my seven year degree to thank for that. In fact, if I split the difference, I can say it took a total of eight years....four years achieve these two degrees, however, I don't know why I would need to do that. This degree is no less valuable, no less deserved because it took a short time to achieve.

The thing is, this degree has exponentially more meaning than the first one. After reflecting on why this is, I've come up with several reasons:

This degree was in a field of study I chose. Actually, that's an untrue statement. This field chose me. Since graduating with my first degree in 1989, I've had a series of jobs (including that 12 year stint as a stay-at-home mom.) Every single one of those jobs had, at it's foundation, the essence of social work. Every job included linking individuals with resources, counseling, advocating, and promoting change. The serendipity of it all is so wonderful to realize now, and affirms for me the fact that this new career is far more than a way to earn a's a vocation....a calling. I feel social work in my bones.

This degree is more meaningful because I worked so hard to achieve it. Let me expand on that statement by saying that this is not a hard major. It doesn't require calculators, periodic tables, or mathematical instruments of any kind. It does require a tremendous amount of writing and introspection. It requires that an individual reach into the innermost parts of their mind, heart and soul to see what biases might be lurking there that have the potential to interfere with effectively helping their fellow human being. This process contributed to a significant amount of personal growth for me, as well as being the inpetus for being able to find a greater capacity for forgiveness, both of myself and others.

This major required a number of presentations. I am absolutely, in no way, a public speaker. It is not an overstatement to say that I have, in the past, had a phobia about public speaking. Although others, such as Chip, have told me they'd never know this about me, it's the truth. However, during the past year I have had to get up in front of my peers and professors and try to have something worthwhile to present to them. It's a testament to the fact that the thought of doing something is oftentimes far worse than actually doing it, and in doing that thing that scares us, we transcend it. While I'll never feel totally comfortable as a public speaker, I'm so grateful to no longer be gripped by fear at the thought of doing so.

Life is a journey, and this degree came to fruition after a few years of rough traveling for me. I realize now that this period of my life was my soul's way of trying to get my attention, to let me know that things weren't as they could be. After years of gently nudging and being ignored, my soul was screaming at me to make some serious changes. If anyone resonates with that statement, they'll know that while this can be the catalyst for some wonderful changes, it can also be an extremely painful experience. So it was for me. Happily, however, I can say that my journey is much smoother these days and much of this occurred while pursuing this degree.

Lastly, I think I've clearly communicated that I learned a lot about myself from this experience of going back to school and earning a degree. Better yet, however, is what I learned about my family. I learned my husband is one of the most supportive people I know. I learned he truly cares about my self-growth, and shows this not only in his words but in his actions. I learned that he sees tremendous potential in me, and does what he can to bring it out. I learned that my kids are extremely capable of caring for themselves and each other. I learned my kids have an enormous capacity for compassion. i learned that my kids know how to work together as a team...sometimes putting aside their own wants and needs for the good of the whole.

Lastly...for real this the fact that I am a changed person from pursuing this degree. I like the changes that have taken place. I like the fact that they took place gradually and gracefully. I like that the feeling these changes evoke is one of coming home, and being comfortable...even my own being. I couldn't ask for more.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

68 Years, 20 Miles, 1 Hr. 20 Minutes

I spent a good part of the day today "working." It was a beautiful, sunny, warm Saturday that found me at a duatholon in North Salt Lake, and getting paid to be there. However, I wasn't participating in the duatholon. I had the opportunity to serve as support crew for one of the participants at the agency at which I work/do my internship. This event is considered instrumental to this individual's treatment plan and overall well being. The agency arranged it and paid the fees for him to participate. I like that. This agency provides transitional housing for homeless veterans.

This individual, whom I will refer to as C., is 68 years old, and an avid bicyclist. He claims to have begun cycling before it was "cool." He told me today that he can't remember a time when he hasn't love riding a bike. He regaled me with stories, on the drive down, of six day tours across Wyoming. 100 mile rides across more states than I can remember, and a recent adventure that found him with two flat tires in Logan Canyon. I recall a few months ago when all of the participants were invited to a dinner in Roy. I, along with other staff members, transported approximately 17 individuals in agency vehicles; however, C. chose to ride his bicycle.

This duatholon was extremely exciting for C. He has trained tirelessly for weeks. He cross-trains....some days he would walk 10 miles instead of riding his bike. He has planned his food intake for days to assure he was sufficiently fueled. At yesterday's group, he told all of us that he was going to get a good night's rest to assure he had sufficient energy. This morning he told me he kept waking up all night, afraid he'd not hear his alarm, and ended up getting out of bed at 5:15, even though we didn't need to leave until 6:45. He came equipped with several packages of Gu, an energy gel used by athletes. Perhaps the most exciting thing for C. was the t-shirt. He was so excited to receive the race shirt and, in fact, wore it to the race today. He was taken down last night to pick up his registration packet so he was prepared for the day.

He was amazingly calm this morning as we drove to the race, and he managed all his gear and his bike without any assistance at all. (Please remember.....I am a runner, therefore, a bike and a tote bag seem like a tremendous amount of "gear" to me.) C. was registered for the bike only portion of the duatholon; he was one of twenty. He is never seen without his newsboy cap, and it was worn today underneath his bicycle helmet. His bike is used and old, but in good working condition.

When it was all said and done, C. had an incredible race. He said he's been bitten by the racing bug and I reminded him it's just the beginning of race season, which he seemed very enthusiastic about.

I so wish I could post pictures of this day, however, for confidentiality reasons, I can't. If I could you would see C. pre-race, underneath the Finish Line, pretending to run over it; C. crossing the finish line on his bike; C. raising his bike above his head in triumph at finishing the race; C. standing on the podium (at our request) with a medal (at our request) hung proudly around his neck. After all, he is 68 years old and he bicycled 20 miles. Out of 20 people, he was the fifth best performer. Out of all the participants aged 65-69, he was the fastest. Out of all the people who participated today, I'd wager to bet he's the only one who's homeless. I think a medal was in order.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

God Willing

I decided I'd better blog again before I'm retiring this pair of running shorts. That, and the fact that my niece, Vanessa, will be returning to school and she'll give me a really hard time for not blogging for so long.

I'm thinking about our friend, Jim Roman. Jim is somewhat of an icon in North Ogden. He's 90+ years old and walks five miles a day. I first met Jim about four or five years ago, during a run. He was in his late 80's then....I think. His age, according to him, changes depending on the day and time of year you talk to him. However, near as I can tell, he's in his early 90's.

Chip and I see Jim almost weekly on our runs. In the summer months, I see him pretty much daily. We always stop to visit, and our visit always starts off with a handshake. I wonder if he's a little hard of hearing because he watches your mouth when you speak, however, he always seems to understand what you're saying and he has an incredible memory.

He walks with a cane, which he insists is to ward off stray dogs, and is finally wearing a reflector vest, courtesy of his granddaughter. He's been walking five miles a day for over 25 years, after experiencing a heart attack. He claims to have never missed a day....I'm not too sure how accurate that statement is. However, in some ways I wouldn't be surprised. Now matter the weather or the temperature, he's out there. In the winter months, he wears a snowmobile suit.

Jim goes out ice fishing with his son pretty much every weekend in the winter. He claims they always catch their limit and then stop for breakfast on the way home. Jim plants a garden every summer and still mows his lawn.

Chip told him he's like a rooster, because he wakes up as soon as it starts getting daylight. He's never forgotten this, and always refers to himself as "the rooster" when we visit with him. He loves to give Chip a hard time when I'm running alone, and asks me if I wasn't able to drag his "lazy butt out of bed." (The reality is that Chip has most likely run before me, or he's WAY ahead of me....)

Last Sunday, while doing a long run, I saw Jim. As usual, we chatted about the weather, commenting on how much longer the days were getting, and how nice it is to have the sun rise a little earlier. We said our usual, "See you in the morning" and he looked at me and said, "God willing."

I thought about this comment as I finished my run. Isn't it the truth? We never know what the next moment is going to bring, not to mention the next morning. I wondered how it would be to think in those terms about everything. Not in a gloom and doom way, but in a grace filled and grateful way. It made me remember, once again, how every moment truly is a gift that's given freely and when it's's gone. I also thought about how that comment probably has different meaning for Jim than is does for me.

Every summer I think I should take my camera with me on a run, and ask Jim if I can take his picture and post it on my blog to inspire others. Maybe I'll ask him this summer....God willing.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Saying Goodbye to an Old Friend

I am retiring my running shorts. As you can see, they are well used. Yes, those are holes. And yes, those holes are in a very precarious place. However, you non-runners, rest assured....running shorts have a liner in them.
I've had these shorts since summer of 2004. I bought them at, of all places, at Ross Dress For Less. It was one of those strokes of luck where you're there on the right day, at the right time and find the perfect buy for the perfect price.
I have loved these shorts. When I bought them, I was about 10 lbs. heavier than I am currently. I loved how they felt as I lost those 10 lbs.....loose and flowing but with a nice waistband that never felt too big or too small.
These shorts have a little pocket in the front that have carried keys, cell phones, sports gels, sports beans, and other misc. items.
I ran my first half-marathon in these shorts, as well as my most recent half-marathon. I have worn these shorts, literally, for almost every run the past six years. In addition to wearing them in the summer, I wear them over my tights in the winter. That little extra bit of clothing does wonders to warm a cold rear-end in the winter months.

I ordered a new pair of shorts this week and received them last night. They fit beautifully. They are the same brand, the same color, and "supposedly" the same short as my former pair. We'll see. I've tried them on. They fit well, but they're different. For one, they are just a tad bit longer and don't have the notch cut out on the side. And of course, there's that obnoxious drawstring that I swear my old pair didn't have, although upon further inspection I have realized they once did, I just took it out. I'm sure these shorts face the same fate.
There are many runs and many miles ahead that will determine if the "new" shorts make the cut, and if they can be put in the same category as the "old" shorts. I just know that it's not going to feel the same getting dressed for my run in the morning. It won't be mindless. I'll be aware that I'm putting on different shorts, that they're a little bit longer, they don't have the notch cut out, and they have that obnoxious drawstring.
It's hard to say goodbye.

Monday, January 18, 2010

I Will Not Should On Myself

In life there are things I need to do. There are also things I want to do. Fortunately for me, oftentimes these are one in the same. Then there's the "shoulds." I should do this, I should do that. I should make that phone call. I should make that visit. I should send that e-mail. I should go here. I should go there. I should, I should, I should.

I don't trust the shoulds. Mostly because I have learned to distinguish a should from a need or a want. Far too often, a should is someone else's voice or someone else's agenda. Far too often, a should is given credence in order to quiet that voice, meet that agenda, or please someone else, oftentimes at the expense of my needs and wants. Shoulds are optional.

That being said, I don't discredit a should when it enters my thoughts. I have learned to pay attention to it, sit with it, and see if it really has the potential to be a need or a want. I ask the Who, Why, and What questions. Who is telling me I should? Why should I? What purpose in life will it serve?

Not too long ago, I made the commitment to myself to only be involved with those people, organizations, and causes that I deeply believe in. All the more reason for me to evaluate a should when it enters my mind. If it let myself, (and I am no different from anyone else) I could spend my weeks, days and hours meeting everyone else's needs and filling everyone else's agenda but my own. I have been there and done that.

I am at a point in my life where my credo is "To thine own self be true." I am also at a point in my life where I trust myself with this credo, because I believe I have my priorities straight and a pretty good idea of what I need and want in order to be who I am and who I want to be.

Therefore, there will be no more shoulding on myself.....because....I shouldn't :)

Saturday, January 9, 2010

The Heart of Our Home

I like our home. It's just the right size for our family and provides each of us our own space. We've lived in our home for almost five years and completed finishing the basement two years ago. Since that was quite a laborious endeavor, we laid low in regards to home improvements for a couple of years. However, lately we've become motivated once again to make some changes to our home that hopefully are an expression of who we are. We painted the master bedroom over Christmas break, and I'm in the process of painting my office downstairs. After just finishing the first week of Spring Semester, I have a feeling this paint job is going to take a while.

I must say my favorite room in our home is the kitchen. Our kitchen is spacious and bright, and it's what sold me when we first looked at buying this house. As must as I love the aesthetics of our kitchen, I really love it for the function is serves as the heart of our home. Our kitchen is our family's gathering place. I don't think this is unusual for a lot of families. The entire family can be found here at any given time doing homework, surfing the net, reading, cooking, baking, etc., almost always with some music playing in the background. As a family, we've had some very profound and significant conversations, cried many tears and shared many laughs in our kitchen.

One of the things that feeds my soul the very most is something that is actually quite common and ordinary and takes place in our kitchen. On any given night, (at the current time in our lives it's usually on the weekends), I will be in the kitchen cooking, surrounded by my family. Sometimes we're totally engaged in one another and sometimes each of us is totally engaged in our own "thing." Sometimes I sip a glass of wine as I cook, Chip joins me, and the kids have their beverage of choice. Sometimes we listen to NPR podcasts and sometimes to music. Sometimes there's a dog at someone's feet, a cat on someone's lap, or a dog and chasing each other through the kitchen. While all those dynamics may change, the constants are the wonderful smell of a meal cooking, the end of a day being near, and the fact we're all in the same room together.

I've come to realize this is sacred time. This is the time we spend to regroup from being "out there" all day and all week. This is when we refuel our bodies with food and our minds, souls and spirits with the knowledge that we're loved and accepted as we are and for who we are. Bruised egos are rubbed, hurt feelings are patted, successes are celebrated and dreams are shared. So much LIFE takes place during this time, and it all happens in the heart of our home...our kitchen.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Julie, Julia and Me

Over the Christmas break, we rented several movies to watch. One of my favorites was "Julie and Julia." I absolutely adored this movie, most likely because I absolutely adore both eating and cooking. Besides being entertaining, this movie affirmed my love for cooking (and made me want to do more of it), and really got me itching to blog more.

This blog was set up to be a family blog and it has served that purpose. I've tried to keep family members near and far updated on the ever so ordinary goings-ons of the Fuller family. However, I consistently find myself wanting to process my thoughts and observations in addition to posting a travel log or reviewing our monthly calendar.

So, I am making a New Year's Resolution to blog at least once a week. I'm sure some of these posts will be updates on our family, but I hope to get in some writing time as if I don't do enough of that for school.

So, along those lines, and in keeping with the theme of Julie and Julia, I just want to say that while I loved that movie, it would have been the icing on the cake if the main character had actually gained a few pounds during the course of her 365 days of cooking each and every one of Julia Child's recipes. I mean...come could ANYBODY not gain weight cooking with real butter every day? Even if you only sampled the food, there's the tasting that goes on while cooking to assure the flavor is good, and those tastes all add up. I know it's Hollywood, and in Hollywood you can cook and eat gourmet French food for a year and still look amazingly thin. However, in my humble opinion, it would have made a good movie even better if Julie would have shown her real passion for Julia Child and her cooking by plumping up just a tad.