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It’s no big secret I graduated Penn State recently. It’s no big secret it was a fourteen year effort, with a few years taken off in the midst of that to be momma to Little B while he was till an itty bitty little thing. Reflecting on the work and effort that it took to get there, though, left me in tears. 

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Not so much terrible awful, snot running down my face kind of tears. But tears of gratefulness that left me overwhelmed with how much those around me loved me and supported me through countless papers, exams, projects, and too many amazing books to list right here, right now.

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School was a glorious thing, in itself. I’m the kind of girl who gets excited about learning, who picks out books at the library at random just to learn something new. The beginning of each semester saw me excitedly sharpening pencils and preparing binders for syllabuses, and calendars, and all the notes that would eventually fill it. 

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But school was also the thing that competed day in and day out with the things that I felt, for the time being, were more important and yet held too much importance and worth to be taken lightly. It was a dance that I had to perfect over the years and which, at times, left me exhausted and burned out. 

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I had to balance school with housework, with errands that needed to be run but which I dreaded because it left me less time for things I considered more important. I had to balance school with my health, which I often neglected, and which I never deemed important enough to put high on my list (and a horrid mistake I wish I’d incorporated into the dance more smoothly, instead of abrasive moments of realizing how poorly I was taking care of myself and how it was affecting the whole dance). 

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I had to balance school with dating my beau, with making time for him, for taking care of his needs, for taking care of our marriage. More often than not it was evenings when I could finally sit down to work on my schoolwork and evenings when he had time to spend with me. Placing the computer within the vicinity of most of the household activity was a huge must so that I could type away or read while still trying to be a part of everything else going on. 

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I had to balance school with being Momma to LB. Motherhood is a beautiful thing, but one which requires infinite amounts of patience, energy, and time. Time to listen to all the little stories and things that make your child’s eyes alight with wonder and joy. Time to watch as they perfect their work on the balance beam during gymnastics or do something glorious on the flag football field. Patience for things that take them so much longer but which are worth the effort expelled for them to practice and reach things on their own. Patience for the moments when they are testing the limits and one must meet those moments with grace and wisdom. Energy for the countless games of Nerf or building forts or art activities, outdoor shenanigans, and everything in between. Energy, especially for good books to round out the day, his little head nestled softly on his head, and momma trying hard to keep from yawning while I knew good and well I just wanted to snuggle with him, go to sleep, and ignore the pages and pages of reading waiting for me downstairs. 

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I had to balance schoolwork with B’s own schooling. Homeschool is a beautiful, wonderful, glorious thing. i will ever be grateful for the ability to stay home with B and partake in his education, to mold the young man he’s becoming, to not allow the socialization agents of society dictate his beliefs, the things he’s exposed to, the things he might have accepted without another thought. I will ever be grateful for the amazing friendships formed, for both us. The crazy amounts of time dedicated to play, to discovery, to field trips, to activities, to new experiences otherwise not seen if he’d been in a schoolroom with same aged peers, so many hours of his day, in and out. 

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Above all, I always knew how important his schoolwork was in comparison to mine. It was never a thing I took lightly but it competed vividly with my own schoolwork. As B and I pored over websites, worked on projects, or read books together, educating him fully in the things deemed necessary and important for his future, for the formation of his identity, my own books sat more often than not neglected in a corner for hours, until the jobs of momma, wife, and teacher were completed. 

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My family always came first and balancing that with the needs of my schoolwork being high up on that list were always present in my mind. Being organized was a must. Being healthy enough to have the energy to meet the demands of the day were infinitely important. Having the grace of God was important above all because without Him none of it would have been possible. The understanding and patience of my own little family saw me through many a long night. 

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And without the support of my loved ones I would have faltered and possibly given up hope of every finishing. But support in excess I had. My mother called me frequently, asking what classes I was taking, asking how an exam had gone, encouraging always, admonishing just as often to finish what I’d started. When I completed my Associates her fear that I would stop was evident, and I was not going to let her down. Or myself. Or my family. They were the pebble in my shoe, not so much much giving discomfort, but constantly reminding me of what I could do. The amount of encouragement was insane, and I’m ever grateful for that. 

The times I called my mother in tears, for a broken computer (which she had supplied to begin with) which funds were lacking to replace. She immediately mailed me her own laptop, telling me over and over to not worry. My statistics class from you-know-where, perhaps I called her everyday in tears, knowing if I didn’t pass I’d have to take the class over and over and over until I passed with a C. Passing with a C was my mantra. Never before in my life had I worked so hard or wanted so keenly a C, a C!, in a class. Brooks was deployed at the time and spared from most of my grief and anguish and stress. 

And my ever present, without being present sister. Has anyone ever loved their sibling the way mine loves me? I doubt it. She loves without limit, without question, with a love that burns with passion and is never ending. How many times did she send us funds when money was so tight and I worried about homeschooling and going to school and not contributing financially to the family? How often did she send things, did food arrive at my door, because she knew, just knew that was needed? Too many times to keep track of. In fact, at one point she even provided us with a bank card so we could use it in an emergency. She blows me away with her generosity, her thoughtfulness, her wisdom, her LOVE, her availability to respond to my crises when present and to calmly provide solutions. She was by far one of my biggest supporters and cheerleaders.

My boys were amazing. Little B was so incredibly good. Never did I have to admonish him to keep busy so momma could work on schoolwork. When he had “free play” in our schedule he knew momma was busy doing school. He would play and keep himself busy so I could get my stuff done. He was always a huge help in the house, keeping his room clean, his bathroom tidy and wiped down, helping as asked. He never complained that I was doing schoolwork, never. He never ever made me feel guilty about balancing my own school with being Momma. Guilt, as a result, was never a part of the equation. I may have been aggravated at times to balance it all but never guilty. I never felt as if I shortchanged him and I’m ever grateful for that.

And my wonderful, beautiful, funny, smart, ever supported best friend: my beau. How could I have done it without him? His patience and love and support was always the salve I needed on the wounds of tiredness, of sleep deprivation, etc. He was the cheerleader who always knew exactly what to say, who was incredibly patient when the stress of school led my OCD into overdrive. When he saw me cleaning in a frenzy he knew I needed the extra patience to see me through whatever it was that was dragging me down. When I was short with him he knew how to bring me down to earth, if y’all know what I mean. Between the deployments and his work schedule when home, and homeschooling B, and my school life sure was interesting, but man oh man, did it not make us closer? Our marriage warmer and stronger?

I know so. 

So, Thanksgraduation was a thanksgiving dinner to celebrate and thank those who supported me the most during my journey to my BA in Psychology. It was a moment to reflect and be grateful. I am ever grateful.

I’ve been asked over the years, why am I so happy, so often? And really when I’m asked I’m always taken aback, because who am I? And I don’t mean that in a negative, self depreciating way. Not at all. I just mean that I’m always stunned that someone would look at me, just another one of God’s children, in a way that merits the looks I am given when asked that question. I am always touched and humbled when asked so. And it’s an attitude of gratefulness that makes me exude joy, who leads me to see the glass as perpetually half full, which leads me to not take anything for granted. I kid you not, when I run that dishwasher or put in a load of laundry, I thank God for those things that make life easier. When I tuck B into bed, it’s with a silent prayer of thanks, for my little boy, for another day, for a good book to share, for the moment. And even when things are bad, there are things to be grateful for, things that add a silver lining to even the bleakest of moments. Hang on to that and before long the sun will be shining and you will be filled with a joy that takes your breath away. 

God is so good.

So, gratefulness is the word and the action that brought me to tears during my graduation celebration. Not just for running the race well, and completing it well, but for all the things that fell in to place to make it so, for all the support and love bestowed on me, for the hands that all saw it through. 

Life remains ever sweet. 

Always. 

 

 

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