Faith vs Fear

Faith vs Fear

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Of Mentors and Support Groups

In addition to all of the family stuff that happened last month, one of my best friends and mentors at work retired after 25 years. She taught me everything I know about proofreading and magazine production work, and it was hard to see her leave. Today we had a luncheon for her, and it was so much fun to visit with her and others who used to work at the magazine, including 2 long-retired former bosses whom I greatly admire.
One of the benefits of working for the same company is the feeling of shared history with coworkers. Most of us have children the same age, and when they were growing up we would get together for lunch and share stories and child raising techniques. It was truly a case of "it takes a village to raise a child." My children used to say they had 10 other mothers and fathers who were interested in them and their well-being.
I started working at the LDS Church magazines as the typist (though it worked into being a typesetter/production job) when I had 3 very young children and was in a deeply troubled marriage. My family lived in another state, and my coworkers became a surrogate family. They helped me through the bad marriage, divorce, single parenthood, remarriage, broken and blended family issues to numerous to mention, missions, marriages, babies, military deployments, David's illnesses, and my schooling. I cannot imagine how I would have survived without their loving support and many kindnesses. They are truly Christlike people, and great examples to follow.
We have been blessed to live in wards (local congregations) with friends and neighbors who lend helping hands when they are needed. They are fine examples of people who live their religion.
Our extended family of parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles and cousins have also been a great support and are all that anyone could ask for in a family. They understand that families are meant to work and play together and to give each other support and encouragement in good times and bad.
Support groups on the web have also been very helpful, especially one for military parents. They have been a godsend when my boys have been deployed. It's so nice to find others across the country who are having similar experiences, and to learn and grow from each other. I also appreciate the sites that I have found that discuss mental illness and all of its issues.
I feel truly blessed by all these and others who have enriched my life. I have never really felt alone, even in the midst of the trials that come with life.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Recovering from all the excitement

In addition to the graduation last week, we had some other big events take place: Our youngest daughter married the week before; our daughter Lara who was visiting from Mexico went back home; our son Brian graduated and was commissioned an Army officer in Kentucky (same day); and we became empty-nesters on Mother's Day weekend. Mother's Day is a tender time for me and usually comes with tears, mostly because I miss my mother who passed away when I was 21. Fortunately, David understands, and we reverse roles: he takes care of me emotionally.
David came through the last month of big stress really very well, but it's starting to take a toll on him. He had a couple of bad days and nights, including one involving fishing on the Jordan River (his latest hobby) at 10:00 p.m. Fortunately, our hero dog Riley was uneasy and pushed him back toward the car and home. (It's a little difficult to ignore a 90 lb. dog nudging against you.) I figure if that's as bad as he gets, we're all right. He has noticed more noises, and mood swings, but, as he says, he gets up every morning and fights to be normal. He's doing a good job of staying on top of his moods with his meds and talking through it with me. 
I've been stressed as well, and I notice that when I'm over tired and stressed I have a hard time concentrating on tasks at hand, and I am more forgetful. (A bad thing, since I tend to be absent minded anyway.)
Right now, we're gearing up for a big Memorial Day trip to the parks of Southern Utah. He always stresses over upcoming trips, so we'll see how this goes. It started out as a trip for just the two of us, then he decided he wanted to have the kids come, too. At this point, it's us, David's ex, Bette, 2 of our daughters, and 2 grandchildren. I can hardly wait for this weekend!

Since I am a sometimes (ok. always) gushy mother, and so very proud of my children, here are a few pix from our month.

Katie and her new husband, Kevin

Ben (a graduate engineering student) and Brian (a poli science graduate and new officer)

Brian, being commissioned by his twin, Ben, and his wife, Tania

The first salute to his ex-Marine brother, Jonathan

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Graduation Thoughts

I graduated yesterday at age 53 from the University of Utah with a BA in Mass Communication. It was a bittersweet day, filled with the excitement of finishing an almost-6 year project, reflecting on the past, looking toward the future, and sharing it with loved ones.

After the commencement ceremony

In front of the communication building, where I spent a lot of time.

With my dad

David McCullough, the historical writer, received an honorary degree and was the commencement speaker. For a history buff, it was a real treat. He compared our accomplishments with the building of the Brooklyn Bridge—the first man-made wonder in America. Here are some of the comments, among the many, that I appreciated:
"Had the American dream been handed to us all in tidy order, all done up with everything set to operate perfectly in perpetuity, we would hardly be the people we are."
"History can be a great source of inspiration. Learn from the past and don't take the 'familiar' things for granted."
"And make it your practice to ask people about themselves and what they've learned from experience. Don't ever forget that there isn't a man or woman, no matter their appearance or station in life, who doesn't know something, or how to do something, that you don't."

I loved my time at the U. I thought it was invigorating and exciting. My older sister, Barb, came for the ceremony, and after the commencement, but before the convocation where I actually walked across the stage, I showed her around the campus. It's a beautiful campus, set high on the hill, with a lot of trees and a combination of old and new buildings. She worked as an educator in the community college in Washington for 28 years, and was instrumental in talking me into going back to school. We agreed that one of the things we love about colleges is the enthusiasm and passion of the students, as well as expanding horizons.

I decided to go back to school thirty years after getting my associate degree from Ricks College (now BYU—Idaho) when I started feeling stale, and the youngest two were in high school. I suppose it was a form of mid-life crisis, but I also knew that if I didn't do something to update and further my work skills, I would end up in a dead-end job. So with the help and encouragement of family, friends, David, workmates, professors, and other students, I went to school part-time and had a wonderful, successful experience that has already helped my career. (By the way, my final grade in the statistics class was a lovely C! I feel really good about that, especially considering that I had only one (1) hour to study before the final.)
David has been great about supporting me, and we agreed that after we settle in to being empty-nesters, I may go back for a Masters degree in a few more years. I already have a project in mind: interviewing and writing about the affect of bipolar disorder on spouses.