Sunday, January 26, 2014

Year of Dates: January 2014

Tonight was our first date night of 2014.  The month is almost over, but tonight was the first time we had a chance to work it in.  We actually planned to do this earlier in the month, but then we had car repairs to be made on the day we had planned the date, so we had to put it off.  You know...old married people reasons to skip a date night.  ha ha!  Seriously though, that's how life is.  If we don't make an intentional effort to have a date once a month, it will never happen.  We have good intentions and talk about it, but unless it's on the calendar, we will forget about all our good intentions.

Today we decided that after we both got home from our evening of commitments, we'd have our date.  That mean we were in the kitchen at 9:30 cooking grilled cheese sandwiches and busting out the legal pad, but we did it!  To me, focusing on making it happen is just as important and special as the date itself.  Seeing my husband take the time to stop everything else and spend devoted time with me is what it's all about, y'all.

So this month's date was Grilled Cheese & Goals.  I should tell you that my husband makes a mean grilled cheese sandwich.  We call them "Larry's Famous Grilled Cheese" around our house.  I don't ask him to cook often but when I do, it's either grilling something or making grilled cheese sandwiches.  Yum!

Tonight we sat down over plates of ooey-gooey warm cheese sandwiches and made some plans for the coming year.  We talked about spiritual, physical, financial, relationship and home goals.  We got some things on paper that we'd like to see happen this year.

It was brief, but the time spent was sweet.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

College Decisions

Savannah is struggling with college decisions.  I guess most high school seniors go through this, but it's my first time to have a child dealing with this, so her stress is my stress.  I'm walking this path with her, trying to take it all in and learn as we go.

Before we go any further, let me say that I am ALMOST to the point where I can say "My child is nearly ready to move off to college." without hyperventilating.  It still freaks me out and makes me cry, but I have reached a healthy level of sanity in these discussions so I don't have to stop and take a moment to breathe into a brown paper sack these days.  {grin}

How it all began:
While she was still in 10th grade she started receiving letters and brochures and post cards from colleges all over the country.  I'm not really sure how that happened, but it did.  We just laughed and tossed the majority of them in the garbage.  After all, it was a TAD premature for us to start considering a college decision when she didn't even have her driver's license yet...and before she had taken the SAT!  Many of these college mailers were from places we had never even heard of!  None of us were ready to consider shipping her off to Rhode Island or Montana or Crazy Drunk Frat Boy Party School, USA when she was 15!

Then, later on.......
Her 11th grade year rolled around and we thought maybe it was time to start at least talking about it.  But over and over, she told us that she had no idea what she wanted to be, no idea what she'd major in and she just wasn't ready to start talking about it yet.  We didn't push the issue and reminded her that 99% of college freshmen don't have any idea what they're going to do and those who do still usually change majors halfway through college.  So in 11th grade, at age 16, that's totally fine!

And then the clock started ticking.
Boom!  Just like that, she's a senior.  I'm telling you, moms of young ones, it happens SO fast.  Just yesterday, she looked like this.

First day of 2nd grade & playing with her buddy Melissa during the same year.

And now...well, she does not look like the same kid.  She's beautiful and talented and so very smart.  Folks, I'm telling you, she's the kind of kid that every parent wants to have.  She makes me proud to be her mother every single day.

A picture the photographer, her beloved "Aunt" Tara, snapped with her phone during their senior pic photo shoot last week.  Seriously?  So beautiful...and I don't mean the lighting.  (Although that is nice, too!)

Last summer, we visited 2 schools.  Both are 4 year universities.  One was a local state school, 10 miles from home.  We were shuffled around in a herd of other people who had also come for a tour.  It felt like she'd be lost in a giant crowd of people there.  Everything was cold & sterile-feeling.  The tour felt weird and it just didn't "fit" her.  The other was a private Baptist school, about 1 1/2 hours away.  We were greeted with a sign that welcomed her by name.  The employees were warm and friendly and spent HOURS with just us---not us & a crowd of others.  The campus is small and we ALL fell in love.  I would have loved to go to school there myself.  Heck, even my 12 & 13 yr olds were saying they wanted to go there!  It was SUCH a great fit for Savannah.  Small town, solid faith-based school, required chapel time every week...all the things she was hoping for in a college.  She applied that day & we waited a few weeks before we got the official word that she was accepted!! 

Of course money was an issue. Any private university is INCREDIBLY expensive!  The school gave her an automatic scholarship for about 1/2 the tuition, but even that left us with a huge bill.  We advised her to get busy filling out scholarship applications because anything she doesn't get in scholarships or grants will have to be covered in student loans.  We just don't have the money to pay to send her to school.  It breaks my heart that we can't write a check and cover it, but we can't.  We had it settled in our heads (Savannah, too!) that she would go to the private school and one day would deal with student loan bills.

But then God threw us a monkey wrench.  Isn't He funny like that?

In November, out of the blue, she was offered a full ride scholarship to another local school.  This one is a junior college.  She had not applied there.  They came looking for her!  She was offered the scholarship based on her grades.  We encouraged her to take it --- after all, it's FREE SCHOOL.  She could always transfer to the Baptist school for her junior/senior years!  She is such a sensible, responsible girl that she couldn't help but recognize how much wiser it would be to accept the junior college scholarship.  She asked adults in her life what they thought.  Everyone gave her the same advice and she talked about it with us at length.  But honestly, every time she talked about it, you could hear the resignation and disappointment in her voice.  She and I literally laid in the kitchen floor talking about it for 2 hours on the day she received the scholarship package and letter.  It was so sad to hear her say that she had always thought of this school as her last choice and now she was going to go there.  She never complained or whined about it.  It was just as if she realized that this was her best choice but not her first choice.  Life is full of things like that:  situations that weren't our first choice but turn out being what we do.  We tried to help her see the bright side, reminding her that while this wasn't her first choice, it meant her potential student loan bill payments would be drastically reduced in the future and she wouldn't be paying on them into her 50s like most of us do!  There's just not much way to beat FREE.  Plus, she could stay at home and not have to pay rent anywhere.

For at least a month, she sort of shrunk and looked like she might cry every time the junior college came up.  Let me say again that she was not griping and complaining in the least.  You could just tell she was sad.  My kids have spent most of their lives being told no about things we couldn't afford to do.  Don't get me wrong.  They have never missed a meal or gone without something they need.  But there have been lots of camps or retreats or church events or new clothes that we've had to say no to.  I'm not talking about indulgences or extravagant things (although we've said no to those things, too.) I just mean things that would've been great experiences for them that we couldn't afford.  Larry and I are hard workers, but the money has always been tight so Savannah is accustomed to hearing "I'm sorry honey, but we don't have the money for that."  This felt like she was having to give up something really special and important to her because we can't afford it.  And as her mama, that is hard.  However, I believe it grows my children to face that reality and find ways to make new plans, earn money to put toward a new goal, learn the value of responsibility and saving money.

 We finally told her to look into some other state/public schools if she wasn't totally convinced about attending the local junior college.  After all, maybe one of those schools could offer her a large scholarship as well!  And since state/public schools are MUCH, MUCH cheaper, a big scholarship there could mean free or nearly-free school, too!  We got online & started searching public schools that she might consider.  She's applied to quite a few of them, but they don't make acceptance decisions quickly like the private schools do, so now it's a waiting game.

She decided to chance it & applied to 1 more private school, just to see how they compared money-wise to the Baptist school.  Today she received an acceptance letter from them with scholarship information.  Again, she was offered a big scholarship based on grades, but even with that, it leaves her in the same position as she was in with the Baptist school.  Still super expensive...and when compared to getting 2 years of school for FREE, it just doesn't compare.

On Monday, we are visiting the local junior college to go on a tour and talk to the scholarship lady to get the details on what all her scholarship covers.  (Maybe she could still move into the dorm here since she is really hoping to get the full "college experience", but she readily tells me that it would be silly since it's 10 miles from home!)  I'm sure we will come home with a lot to think about and talk over.  Fortunately, we have a couple more months before she must make a definite choice about where she will attend school next Fall.

It blows me away that just yesterday I was reading "What to Expect When You're Expecting" and tonight we were pouring over pictures of dorm rooms and campus maps and the majors offered at another school.  I am stunned by how quickly we've moved from those first wobbly steps across the living room floor to caps and gowns and tassels and college applications and SAT scores.  Somebody really should slow down this ride!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Prayer Time

I'll be honest.

I love to pray for my friends & family...mostly because it keeps me from praying like this:

Dear God,
me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me.

But even though I enjoy praying for others, lately I've found myself distracted and struggling to stay focused when I pray because I have always got something else going on.  Right now, at 10:34pm, music is playing in the girls' room, the TV is going in the next room, the washing machine/dryer are running.  My boys (the big one & the little one) are talking about the TV show they're watching.  You get the idea. There's always something to distract me.

So in the past couple weeks, I found a new time to pray.  And it's working!  Instead of blaring my favorite Adele CD or the local Christian radio station, I spend my commute time every morning praying.  My husband and kids are first, then I pray for whoever else has needs that I know of.  If I end up with any time left (I often don't), THEN I will turn on music.  I have a long, winding country road to make my 20 minute commute to work and really look forward to my time spent talking to God in the mornings.

When is your most dedicated prayer time?