My secret life

secretI have a secret.

It’s not a very well-kept one, but I rarely talk about it because it’s a little embarrassing. Then again, it’s not.

Ready? Here it is: I’m a grandmother and a full-time college student. I’ve gone into debt to become a certified Special Education teacher in Indiana.

wgu-indiana_257x244I attend classes online at Western Governors University. I love my school. I’m proud to be a Night Owl. And I’m thrilled to live in a time that allows me to attend a college that lets me learn how I learn best: at my own pace, in my own way, during the middle of the night when I have the time to study and from the comfort of my home or wherever else I may be.

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I’m not the type of student who enjoys sitting in class listening to lectures. Let me read the material and digest it myself. I get bored listening to someone regurgitate what’s already there in black and white. Attending online classes is sheer joy.

Except for math. I definitely need hand-holding when it comes to higher math. But WGU gives students all the tools we need to succeed and I’m proud to report I’ve passed all my maths!

A personal faculty member is assigned to each student and mentors us the entire time we work toward our degrees. Additionally, each course has its own course mentor to help with the course material. Every professor is a phone call or email away.

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Why go to school so late in my life? I have seven granddaughters. I want to set an example. Plus, as a pastor’s family, we have no retirement because my husband’s churches have been small rural congregations with small budgets. Grandma’s gotta bring home the bacon for her old age! I’m going to be old whether I’m going to school or not, so why not fulfill a life-long dream?

I also want to have a more credible platform when writing books. I hope to write more books such as the one that will be released in April 2015: Autism: Practical Help and Spiritual Hope for Parents.

Right now in my classes I’m getting ready for field placement experience. I’ve already done 30 hours at community college, and I hope to negotiate a way to get credited for those. If not, it’ll still be fun to do them again. I love being with the students in the classroom.

wgu-gofurther-logo-png_1ekignctt4rrg1w9wq6ewg7l7mThis week I’m having fun substitute teaching in a special education classroom at the elementary school. The fact is, I love the classroom as much as I love writing. There’s room in my heart and life for both.

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Yes, I do have degrees from seminary (Doctorate in Christian Ed), but to be a certified teacher in Indiana, I needed to take more classes. I’m not sure when I’ll graduate, but I’m determined to finish. My ultimate dream is to get higher degrees. But as with book writing, the future and what I will accomplish is all in God’s Hands and in His Time.

Who knows? Maybe the rapture will come before finals!

Now that’s a graduation ceremony I don’t want to miss!

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The most excellent back to school giveaway — win a $25 Amazon Gift Card!

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I love giveaways. I’ve won lots of things online and I think it’s great fun to offer them.

In honor of back to school, I’m giving away a $25 Amazon gift card!

All you have to do is click on the different ways to enter below, follow the directions and you’re entered!

Contest ends September 1. I’ll post the winner on September 2.

Have fun!

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Back to school

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I’m waxing nostalgic about the twins going back to school on Tuesday.

I resent that classes start so early in the summer. Seems to me they should take less days off during the year for teacher in-services. Why can’t they do those before the school year begins? Why cut a kid’s summer short?

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One of the reasons this is an “ugh” for me, is that I’ve finally gotten the twins into a good routine this summer. And now, we have to learn a new one.

It’s not that easy with kids with autism. Change in routine is very difficult for them and for their whole family. So now, instead of chores in the mornings, they’ll have chores and homework in the hours after school, and it’s super difficult getting them to cooperate because they’ve held it together all day at school. There’s just nothing left for them to give when they get home.

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But laundry still has to be done, and messes cleaned up and toilets scrubbed. Then there’s the hygiene. Basic stuff for regular folks. I know at the end of the day the idea of doing dishes is a struggle for me. And it’s so much more difficult for the boys.

technology-infused-classroom-cartoonWhile you’re reading this, we’re most likely at the local super center finishing up our school supply shopping. And getting new shoes. Tomorrow, the boys go to their first day back to school. And I’m sad. I enjoy having them here. I enjoy the lazy summer days and watching them help their Dad in the yard. It feels like school steals all that away.

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Which is why I enjoyed homeschooling my kids so much. I loved having them around. I loved the freedom of being able to jump in the van and go to a museum or library or the forest. But I know that the twins are attending classes they truly need now to be well-equipped to be more independent.

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It’s not about me. It’s about them and their future. And I’m just whining.

I’ll get over it. I always do. We’ll hit our stride somehow and find a new way to cope with new routines.

Peanuts_TeachersHow about you? Do you have circumstances in your life that force you to change up your routine? How do you deal with it? Let me know!

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In which I don’t take a park ranger seriously and he is not amused

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We made it to Mount Rushmore. But before we went there we swung over to Sturgis. I kicked myself for not bringing my bookmarks to my book, The Pastor’s Wife Wears Biker Boots. I didn’t know I’d be going to Sturgis. I learned a lesson: take bookmarks everywhere. Everywhere. Note to self duly noted and ingrained.

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It was a great time to drive through Sturgis because the raucous activity hadn’t started yet. So many motorcycles to see, so little time! We may try to come over next year with bookmarks and books. I hope it can happen.

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We drove on to Mt. Rushmore and Mama Ellen wasn’t steady on her feet, so we needed to request a wheelchair at the information desk. This is how the conversation went:

Me: Do you have any available wheelchairs?

Ranger: Do you have a license to drive?

Me (smiling): Yes, do you have wheelchairs?

Ranger: Are you a licensed driver?

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You have to understand something. I live with a man who always answers questions with questions and loves to tease, so I thought the guy was asking me if I had a license to drive a wheelchair.

Annoyed, he asked me again, “Are you a licensed driver? You have to be a licensed driver to borrow a wheelchair.”

Finally my husband stepped up and said, “You need a driver’s license?”

The guy nodded and Mr. Himself handed him his license.

At which point I became annoyed and irritated. Why didn’t the ranger just ask me for my driver’s license in the first place?

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I felt a little miffed at how he talked down to me. And it put me in one of those feminist moods. You know, the kind where you think, “He wouldn’t have talked to me that way it I were a man.” Or, “If I were an attractive bombshell, he would have been more direct and done all he could to help me.”

A woman knows when she’s being condescended to. She just knows.

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But, we did get to see the giant presidents’ heads. And got pictures before it started pouring rain. Mr. Himself got irritated with me when I didn’t want my picture taken at one point. I’d let that rude ranger put me in a mood for a bit. And then Mr. Himself got in a mood. But we got over it. Family vacations. Interpersonal communication skills. <sigh>

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Isaac and Isaiah with bust of Mt. Rushmore sculptor

Now we’re driving through Hell Canyon. We hope we’re heading the right direction to Yellowstone. Hard to tell because there’s no available 4G anywhere. You’d think with as many people travel this route there’d be something, but it’s rather desolate. It’d be a great place to live if you don’t want anything to do with modern conveniences. Don’t know that I want to live in a place called Hell Canyon, though.

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Day 2 in which timing, location and miracles are everything

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Before you delete or close this window, please know that I’m aware there’s nothing more droll than reading about other people’s vacations. But this isn’t that kind of post. I promise. I just have to tell you what God did today (Wednesday, July 30, 2014).

Since we didn’t know for sure when or if we would be making this trip, we didn’t make any hotel reservations until we got on the road. We also didn’t know that this is the same week that motorcyclists all over the United States would converge to South Dakota’s badlands for the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.

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Hotel reservations that a person can reasonably afford, are difficult enough to acquire this time of year. Families visit Mount Rushmore and Yellowstone Park every summer, and getting affordable rooms for five people isn’t easy. But couple that with the Sturgis event, and it’s nearly impossible.

But Praise God, we did find some rooms that allowed a roll-away bed! You have no idea how much of a miracle that is!

i_90Today we drove for twelve hours and if you know anything about I-90 going west through Minnesota and South Dakota, you know how desolate it is. There are very few towns along the route and I couldn’t get internet access most of the way. There weren’t a lot of places to stop for gas and nowhere that we could see to go when your tires shred and fall apart while going 70 mph.

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Not our tire but same thing happened to ours.

God is so amazing! We heard the thu-thunk of the tire shredding but the car stayed in its lane. What is even more amazing is that we were only about five miles from a Walmart Supercenter which has a tire replacement service. And even more and more amazing–there was not one customer in front of us!

I don’t know how many Walmart Supercenter’s are along rural I-90 , but I venture to guess our tire shredded near one of the only ones. Seriously.

Isaiah, my son with autism, told me that when he heard the tire shred he felt God telling him not to worry, that the angels were holding the tire together and the car on the road. Pretty cool.

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My grandmother had a copy of this painting of a guardian angel protecting children hanging on her living room wall. I always loved it.

Everyone is having a good time so far. Mama Ellen (who has Alzheimer’s) has kept me in stitches with her funny questions and comments. The twins have been amazingly good and patient. There wasn’t much to see along I-90 except beautiful prairie, corn and wheat. But there was a junk art exhibit near Montrose, South Dakota. Pretty weird stuff.

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Now we’re tucked into our beds ready to close our eyes and drift off to dreamland. I’m going to snuggle under my blankets content with a peace that God knows what He’s doing, and He’s never surprised. I can depend on Him to take care of me. No matter what happens.

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Family vacation–an exercise in character building

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We were supposed to leave yesterday. Finally, about an hour ago, we squeezed ourselves into the car. All five of us. We’re going to travel 5100 miles.

Together.

In a car.

5100 miles.

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Now, mind you, we all have special needs. Two have autism, one has Alzheimer’s, one has ADD (my husband) and one is riddled with a genetic propensity toward anxiety. (I come from a long line of nervous people.)

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My husband has ADD. I don’t know if you’ve ever ridden in a car driven by someone with ADD.Straight lines are an abstraction. I don’t know how we don’t get pulled over for suspicion of intoxication. Why on earth would God pair a woman with anxiety issues with an ADD man? The only explanation I can think of is that He thinks it’s funny. Especially when my spouse hits those rumble strips on the side of the road when I’m in deep thought/sleep.

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Or when I look up from reading and we’re 2.5 inches from the back of a semi trailer.

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Not to mention the stuff he listens to on the radio.

Oh, Dear Heavenly Father, deliver me.

If it’s not the comedy station singing songs about racoons praising God in church, it’s barber shop quartets. I mean, I don’t mind for ten minutes or so. I love all types of music. But after eight hours I’m ready to strap myself to the top of the car. It’d be much more tolerable, I assure you.

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Mothers take vacations to rest from getting ready for vacations. I’ve done more laundry in the last week than I did all year. And I’m one of those people that has to clean the house before a trip. I mean, what if I die and don’t come back? I can’t leave this earth with people thinking I’m a slob.

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And then there are the dogs and cats. Who will take care of them? Even as I type this I have a knot in my stomach and a lump in my throat thinking about how much I’m going to miss them and how much they will miss me. I’m worried about the kittens going feral and the dogs’ hearts being broken. Two weeks is a long time to be away from one another!

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I did, of course, provide for someone to come in and interact with them each day, and to care for the house. My house won’t sit empty (so if you’re planning on robbing me, don’t try it. My dogs will eat you and my house sitters are armed and dangerous). But will those people cuddle the fur kids enough? I wish I had the money for a nanny cam! That way I could see them every day and make sure they aren’t being neglected. Unfortunately my house sitters don’t know how to use skype.

They’re low-tech folks with good aim.

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I did lose it once this morning when people were arguing over which flavor of Pop Tart to put in the trunk and which to put in the backseat. (Don’t worry, the gun was locked up at the time.) And I may have raised my voice a little when people ignored me about helping with chores. (Clean the house, people! Clean the house!)

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Now we’re finally on the road and I’m posting from inside the car. A first for me. I love my phone’s hotspot capabilities! (The bill, not so much.)

I need your help. I’ll be in the car with these characters for at least six to eight days. I need to know: how do you survive family vacations?

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The case of the disappearing fingerprints

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There’s nowhere to hide.

Unless, maybe, you don’t have fingerprints.

Years back I wrote a novel during NaNoWriMo where one of the characters had to scan her hand to access her office. I was rather proud of my cutting-edge technological knowledge back then. In those days, such a premise was nothing more than science fiction.

It ain’t no more.

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As I work toward my degree in Special Education, I have to go through an extensive background check to student teach. Part of this background check (required by my college, not the school–I already substitute teach with a basic background check), is to be fingerprinted.

image-2I was already feeling a little bit disappointed I was going to do this because I prided myself in living off the grid as far as my fingerprint identity goes. (Not that I could truly live off the grid. Google my name and there I am in all my glory.) I expected to go to the police station and do the ink fingerprint routine. I was worried about it ruining my manicure.

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I needn’t have worried. They no longer do ink fingerprinting for background checks in the United States. Now they use biometric scanning technology. The future is now.

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I was greeted by a very kind, older gentleman who looked a bit like a character from a sci-fi spaceship movie. He gently placed my hand on the scanner and manipulated it to get the right position and scan. We soon learned that I’m one of the difficult ones.

I’m missing fingerprints on my little finger and ring finger.

!!!

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Not my hand but this person has no fingerprints.

Turns out, not having fingerprints is actually a genetic condition called Adermatoglyphia.

But that’s not what I have because my other three fingers and my thumb have prints. Apparently, through years of playing the piano and typing, I’ve worn my fingerprints off on those two fingers! I thought it was piano playing but my husband reminded me that on my computer keyboard I wear the letters off where those two fingers on each hand land: q,w,a,s and o,p,l, and ;.

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If my fingerprints are rejected, I’ll have to go in and scan them again to prove that my fingerprints don’t scan. Then, I’ll have to submit paperwork to prove I exist as my name. (I don’t know why they don’t do this in the first place.)

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There are other reasons and occupations that causes our fingerprints to disappear. Aging causes us to lose fingerprints. Apparently it’s difficult for older people to use biometric identification technology because their skin is thinner and the ridges on the fingers not as pronounced.

Guess that means it’s official. I’m old.

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The elderly have a difficult time passing biometric screenings for visas and passports. India is having a difficult time identifying its residents with the now-required biometric scanning technology.

I was glad to learn I wasn’t alone. However, it’s now a major headache to get approved for much without your fingerprints. I’m sure they’ll eventually just scan our eyes or faces but it may take awhile to develop a database. Although, with facebook tagging, it may be closer than we think. (Each time I post a pic of my granddaughter, facebook thinks it’s her mother.) In regard to scanning our eyes, if someone has had cataracts removed, iris scanning doesn’t work, either.

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Bricklayers and massage therapists often wear off their fingerprints. It’s not a unique thing. Another problem I had with the scanner is that I have exceptionally small hands. It’s something I inherited from my grandmother and I’m rather proud of it. I should have much larger hands for someone my size. I wear a size 4.5 ring. It makes it difficult to buy costume rings, but it’s worth it.

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So when the guy did my fingerprints and had to roll my fingers for the second part of the scan, they weren’t read very well. I’m still waiting to hear if my fingerprints were rejected. The finger printer said they most likely would be.

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I have to drive 45 minutes to get to where they scan my fingerprints. It’s going to be a hassle to re-do them only to have them rejected again. Finger(prints) crossed the good prints will be enough to identify whether or not I’m a crook. In the meantime, I’m working on getting an original birth certificate sent to the powers-that-be to prove I’m a good egg.

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Here’s a good website to learn more about losing your fingerprints: Can You Lose Your Fingerprints? – Scientific American.

And here’s a video from Fox News:

Have you ever been fingerprinted for a passport or visa? For any other reason? How did it go?

What do you think is the next thing in biometric technology?

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Dad is Fat by Jim Gaffigan 5/5 stars

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There are just so many reasons why this book is epic.

  • First of all, it’s written by a dad.
  • Second, it’s written by a dad who loves his kids
  • Third, it’s written by a dad who adores his wife
  • Fourth, it’s written by a dad who is a conservative who takes his kids to church
  • Fifth, it’s written by a dad who is a comedian in secular clubs and on TV — and he’s clean.
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Click to enlarge and read

In the book, he talks about how he never intended to be “family friendly,” he just is.

It’s full of hilarious anecdotes and tons of love for his wife and kids.

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His wife loves children and he loves his wife. Now they have five children together. And he seems to be a wonderful husband and father. I hope it’s true. I hope it’s not hype.

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The writing is pretty average. But the humor combined with the fact that he’s writing about a rare thing these days–an intact family–he gets all five of my stars.

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I am always impressed when someone can take ordinary everyday things and tell a funny story. He does that in this book.

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This would make a great gift for fathers everywhere. And if they don’t like to read, this book is also on CD/audio. They might enjoy listening to it on a road trip or on the way to work.

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I’m baaaaaaack

It’s been too long since I got to blog and I miss it! Juggling life and a book deadline are a huge challenge. But with God’s grace, I’ve emerged from the cave with my mind still intact.

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(Okay, fine, so that’s a subjective opinion. But just because some people think sitting on the roof singing “Yellow Submarine” is crazy doesn’t mean it is.)

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This deadline was extremely difficult for Mr. Himself. I’m hoping next time I get a contract my deadline won’t be so pressing. But hey, when you get the rare-these-days publishing contract you can’t exactly make demands. If they need a book by a certain date, you’ve got to make it happen.  Still, Mr. Himself felt very neglected. Poor fellow. I felt bad.

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How my husband sees himself when I’m on a deadline

I have a lot to consider as I go forward. I need to somehow keep my family happy while I pursue the dream. And I think it’s harder for women than for men.

What say you?

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Why I don’t trust mascara

There are a few things in life I don’t trust.

Take mascara for example.

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How do I know which one to buy?

There’s mascara that makes your lashes long, others that make them thick. Then there’s 24-hour mascara, waterproof mascara and smudge-proof mascara.

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But how do I know they really do all those things? I mean, what if every brand of mascara is really just the same thing mixed in the same pot and put in different tubes with different shaped brushes?

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Fact is, there’s no way of knowing, really. As a conspiracy theorist, I believe it’s quite plausible that all makeup comes from the same makeup factory and put into different boxes while the owners laugh themselves silly at us. “Look at those easily-duped morons! They think they’re getting Cover Girl or Revlon when it’s all made from the same stuff in China!”

There’s no other point to this post. I mean, it just hit me today that buying mascara is dicey business. There are no guarantees that I’m getting something unique and special for my money.

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Life’s like that. You take your chances. You’re never guaranteed anything, are you?

So why should mascara be any different?

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