Saturday, November 2, 2013

Allies in Life

As we enter in this month of Thanksgiving I'm reflecting on everything that I have to be grateful for and everything that I have achieved in life.  I have to say that my Bachelor's degree in Social Work is one of the things that I really cherish.  It was hard won. Only about 34% of Texans have college degrees and I'm happy to be one of those lucky ones. 

Luck has indeed played a big part in my life, but there were also so many people along the way who helped me develop into the person I am today.  As we say in the mentoring world, these are the people who helped me to develop the assets I needed to overcome the many and varied challenges of childhood and young adulthood. 

Of course, there are my parents who created the expectation that I would go to college one day and gave me the structure and boundaries I needed to get through high school and become a relatively highly functioning grown-up. They also helped shape my parenting skills that have played a huge part in keeping my 3 girls on the right track. So far. ;p

Some of my K-12 teachers were a huge influence.  My 3rd grade Math teacher, 5th grade English teacher, 10th grade Geometry teacher and 12th grade English teacher in particular were exceptional and life-defining.  I deeply appreciate their passion and commitment to teaching with gusto! They all brought learning to life with such individual authenticity that I still remember them vividly and fondly today. Providing the praise, encouragement and support I needed academically increased my self esteem to the point that I was driven to keep going and do even better. I owe them so much. 

There was also a special adult who was kind of a "Big Sister" to me in high school although I didn't  realize it at the time. Her name was Mary. She came along at a time when I was feeling very sorry for myself, and probably was insufferable around most adults. She listened, sympathized and hugged and it made all the difference at the right time. I might have gone down a different path without her. I used to babysit her kids. She probably has no idea what she did for me and I have no idea where she is today. 

I also have my ex- husband to thank for encouraging me to finish college even though he secretly thinks women are inferior to men and should mostly just be barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen. Every once in a while he does a good deed. 

I ended up at at Texas Tech University in 1991 - seven years after I had graduated high school - with almost 100 college credits from 4 other colleges and universities that I had accumulated initially as a student at San Antonio College for 1 1/2 years and then a military spouse who had moved 6 times in 5 years.  My travels including being stationed overseas where I took some awesome classes at the University of Maryland that were very "hands-on." My favorites were:
  • "Population Biology," a junior level course that took us to the white cliffs of Dover where we collected and analyzed the white chalky rock - some of which I saved and have in a glass vial in my library today. The professor was a zany nutcase but we learned a lot. 
  • "The History of Britain" was also a favorite, which incorporated a series of arduous but exciting bus trips around the country that took us to many, many historic sites including my all-time favorite, Westminster Abbey. I heart History. And how cool is it to take the history of Britain in Britain by traveling to to historically significant places?!
When I arrived in Lubbock I was determined to graduate, finally, from college, but I had many random credits and no major. I met with a guidance counselor who told me that, as a military spouse, I should become a teacher or a nurse because there would always be a school or hospital somewhere around no matter where I happened to be stationed. She probably thought she was giving me good advice, but I was underwhelmed. I took home the course catalog and read it cover to cover and was intrigued by the description of the course on Social Work Policy, which I immediately signed up for. 

I became a BSW candidate and I definitely would not be where I am today without Dr Jerry Matthews of the Texas Tech School of Social Work. But first I must give a shout out to Dr Roberto Bravo. He was determined that I would minor in Spanish and not waste my "ear for language" on a "duplicative" Sociology minor.  I didn't. Although I can't really speak it anymore I understand if people speak slowly enough, and an extensive knowledge of Spanish is helpful living in San Antonio.

I'm not sure if I was convinced that I'd really actually graduate at Tech. A Bachelor's degree was a dream, sure, but part of me felt that this was just another school at just another duty station. And there'd be another. And another. But Dr. Matthews told me to get it done already and get out into the field (I had been working at banks up to this point; there are always banks wherever you go). And most importantly, Dr. Matthews let me take 2 summer classes concurrently (that were supposed to be taken consecutively) from home while I was convalescing from a C-section after having my middle daughter, Lacey.  These two classes were Human Behavior and Development I & II, and the concept of virtual learning or taking a class at home was unheard of in 1993 (I graduated only having used a computer once, but that's another story). I practically memorized the textbook and it has a special place on my library shelves today. I got like 105's on every test I went in for. I was determined to make his faith and investment in me worth it!
When I went in for advisement meetings he gave me the confidence to reach for the degree in a way I really hadn't done before. I began to think it was possible to make it happen before I had to move away with my Air Force husband again. And I did! In December 1994, 10 1/2 years after graduating from high school I graduated Summa Cum Laude - a perfect 4.0 - from Texas Tech University with a Bachelor of Social Work! 

As a technical aside, I have to acknowledge the contribution of the harried secretary to the Dean of my college who finagled an interview  for me with the Dean in which I was able to convince him to let me take the CLEP tests for freshman English and Biology.  It helped that I was 6 months pregnant with one kid and had a 4 year old in tow. He gave me permission to test ("1 time only" which was all I needed, Hello?) for 11 hours of biology and English credit. I had to study my ASS off with only 48 hours notice before the tests but it was worth it. I still cant believe I got 8 hours of Biology by taking tests. I'm pretty sure I could have CLEP'd every English class they had to offer, but biology!? These CLEPS were necessary to replace classes I had already taken but that didn't transfer for actual credit - which was just criminal if you ask me. 

Finally, I give thanks to the mom who birthed me as well as my paternal grandmother (whom you met already in this tribute blog). From what I have heard and seen in pictures, they lovingly nurtured me from birth to age 3 which we all know are such critical, critical years. I may not remember any of it but I wouldn't be who I am today without it. I'm absolutely sure that without the foundation they gave me I would not have had the resiliency I needed to get through the rest of my childhood. My Granny also sowed the seeds that grew into my compulsive need to decorate for the holidays, but that is also another story. 

So thanks to all these people, from me. I hope that during this month of Thanksgiving that anyone who reads this is compelled to thank the ones who mentored them and helped them get where they are today. And if anyone is compelled further, to give back, you know where to call:  Big Brothers Big Sisters at No one can do it all alone. We all need allies in life.

My next post will be about all the people I met in books and how they shaped my life.  Books are my best friends - for which I am very thankful! 


  1. Indeed you have a lot to be thankful for!! Congratulations :D

    1. I am also thankful to have you in my life now, even if it is on a very limited basis. You're right..I nurtured the heck out of you from birth to age 4 (along with Granny's and Grandpa's invaluable help). Having had two boys, the day you were born you woulda thought you were a future queen! Your journey through life is an inspiration and a tribute to all who helped you along the way. Thank you for including me as one of those people.

    2. Of course! I wouldn't be here without you!