Joyful Moment #612

I collect joyful moments like some people collect stamps. I put most joyful moments in a small book. Some of my joyful moments are also written on this blog. I had another joyful moment today. It was #612. It happened as I wrote in my journal.

I have been a journal writer since I was a child.  I’m not perfect at it, but I try to write once a month. As I was writing today, I felt joy on reflecting  why 7-year-old me set the goal to record the events of my life once a month.  I set the goal, because of a conversation I had with my father’s step-dad.

Grandpa Adams picture

Grandpa Adams was sick and his health was deteriorating.  This is how most visits to the grandparents worked at that age. I would say hi and then run as fast as I could past Grandma and Grandpa to play outside. This time was different though.  Grandpa asked me to sit by him for a minute. He shared that he kept a journal. He asked me if I kept a journal. I told him no. Grandpa looked at me and then solemnly gave me two promises. He told me that if I kept a journal I would remember my childhood. Grandpa also said that if I kept a journal that I would have a happy life even if sometimes I had bad experiences.

It was a deep conversation to have with a little kid. It made an impact on me. That night I asked my parents to get me a journal from the store. The brown book with the brown flowers is the journal my parents bought me.

My journals

As I was writing in my journal today, I felt joy that I can record my ordinary life. The act of writing it down somehow makes the ordinary turn into “extraordinary”. I get to be the hero (and sometimes the accidental villain) in the great story called my life.

Grandpa Adams’ words came true. I remember many things from my childhood. I also believe that I can have a happy life even if sometimes I have bad experiences.

 

The Intelligence Test

Pizza Slice

The Intelligence Test

By Amee Lynne Shelley

The yellow flyer was posted outside my History of Western Civilization class.  Students who volunteered to take an intelligence test would get lunch and a $25 gift card.  It was the perfect incentive for a broke college student. I already knew I was a genius. This intelligence test was nothing to fear. I signed up for it.

I showed up at the designated place and time.  The Department Chair thanked us for volunteering and then introduced us to our examiners. Mine was a doctoral student named Steve. He was tall and wore a brown sweater. He had brown rimmed glasses that made him look very smart. I pushed my glasses up a bit on my nose. I was smart too. The intelligence test would prove it.  I followed Steve to a small table in the corner of  the room.  After a few hours, the test ended. I went back to the waiting area.

The pizza came while I was waiting for Steve. The other students and I quickly grabbed the hot slices and put them on our paper plates.  I chatted with a cute computer science major.

“It’s taking Steve a long time,” I thought.  “Why can’t he just hurry up?”

Finally, Steve walked into the room. I jumped up. “What did you find?  Did it prove I’m exceptional and one in a million? ”

Steve smiled.

My heart stopped. I knew that smile. It was the fake smile.  I gave that smile to the annoying neighbor kid that lived next to my parents.  He had talked for 20 minutes nonstop about his Lego blocks. I wanted him to just go away, but I couldn’t figure out how to exit the conversation. I had given Lego Kid a fake smile. Steve was now fake smiling me.

“Let’s go back to the testing room,” Steve said.

I walked behind Steve into the room. The walls were brown. We sat down at the table and Steve adjusted his rimmed glasses. I took mine off and nervously fiddled with them.

“The intelligence test was first developed in 1904 by two men named Alfred Binet and Theodore Simon. On this assessment, we look at your score and compare it to scores of other people who took this test. The mean is fixed at 100. Two-thirds of the people will get scores between 85 and 115. Your scores fell within the mean range of intelligence.”

I looked at Steve. He gave me another fake smile. I knew what it meant.  Steve thought I was average. I must have starred long enough for him to worry that I didn’t understand what he had said.

“Let me explain it a different way.” Steve got up and walked over to the whiteboard. He drew a bell curve. This is all the people who took the test. Steve put a little x in the middle of the curve. “This is you. Your score fell within the mean or average.”

I cut him off.  “I know the definition, ” I snapped.

I wanted to cry. Steve ,the future psychologist, thought I was dumb.  Those smart people who invented intelligence tests back in 1904 thought I was dumb. My little x was stuck right in the middle of average land on the Bell Curve. Was I even smart enough to be in college? What if Steve was right? What if I really was just average? Could average people grow up to be incredible? My plan for being famous and brilliant seemed to be farther away than when I first walked into the exam room.  Maybe I was fraud who had somehow tricked a college into letting her in?  I bit my lip and swallowed more tears. I may be average, but I wasn’t going to cry in front of smart Steve. His x was probably way up there at the top near the genius people like Albert Einstein.

“Was it an interesting experience,” the Department Chair asked as he handed me my gift card. “Worth a few hours of your time.”

I looked beyond him and saw the trash can spilling over with pizza boxes and greasy paper plates. I thought about Jacob and Esau from the Bible story. Esau had sold his birthright for some dinner. Had Jacob worn a brown sweater that day?

“Yeah,” I lied as I swallowed more tears. “It was educational.”

I starred at my $25 gift card on the way home. It wasn’t enough. If it had been a $10,000 gift card or a million-dollars, it still wouldn’t have been enough.  No sum was worth the discovery that I was just an average girl.

 

 

Random Thoughts on the day before

I’m turning 39 on February 27th. It’s kind of weird to be turning 39. I don’t know what to expect for my 39th year of life. When I was 15, I wrote my life history.  It wasn’t your normal life history. Instead of writing about my past, I wrote the life history for my future. It was 25 pages long and included a month by month analysis of my life from age 15 until my 20th year high school reunion at 38. I ended my life history at 38.  I had quite the epic life that included normal dreams like going to college, getting married, having twins and some not-so-ordinary plans like being an ambassador to Russia and fighting aliens in order to save the world. The last line on my life history was this. “She retired at 39 from her job at the space station. Amee’s little family, which included her handsome husband and their four kids, moved to a tropical beach paradise planet where they lived the rest of their lives in absolute happiness. The End”. It sounds delightful and I only have one more day to make it all happen.

When you are young, you know you will grow up but it’s a far-away fantasy thing. You believe anything is possible including intergalactic space battles and two sets of twins.  I am now twenty years removed from writing my life history. I still have a dreaming heart, but I’m old enough to realize that some things will probably never be. Unless there is a quick miracle in the next 24 hours, I won’t be fighting aliens above planet Earth or be the mother to four children.

I’m not really, really old yet but I’m not young anymore either. I’m standing in the middle land staring at my future that I never thought to imagine when I was 15. The future is really unwritten from this point on.

Amee on the path

I love this photo of me. My very talented Aunt Marla took it  when we were on a hike. I’m on the path but I can’t see behind the curve. I have to just keep going on and hoping that the view and journey will be marvelous.

Life is kind of like that sometimes. Here is my future. Unwritten. Unexplored and ready to be beautiful.  I hope to make it a good one.

 

 

September 11th

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“Dad, I’m coming home. The world is falling apart and teacher college forgot to tell me what to do when that happens.”

I was crying when I called my parents. I had been driving to work when I heard that the Twin Towers had been hit by an airplane. The man on the radio announced the attack and my whole body started to shake.  I was no longer the confident, unstoppable graduate with a new car, a cell phone and my very first teaching contract. I was a frightened little girl who needed her parents.  My Dad answered the phone.

“You can’t come home yet, Amee. You’ve got a classroom full of kids and a job to do. Those kids need to know that their teacher  will do her best to take care of them. Once school is out, come home and Mom and I will give you a hug.”

I didn’t like that answer even though I knew my Dad was speaking the truth. I wanted to go home, and I knew I had a job to do.  I had to go to school.  I needed to acknowledge any fears the students brought up and then I had to follow our normal classroom routine for the day. It was what I could do to help. Dad offered to pray with me. He said a beautiful prayer. He prayed for the firefighters, for the people trapped in the building, for the people who were scared, he prayed for me, for my students, for our country, for the President, for every one who was impacted, for our family members who lived in New York City and that the world would have peace.

It’s been 15 years since that fateful day on September 11th. The world has experienced a few more fall apart moments.  The lesson I learned from my Dad during 9-11 has stuck with me. I’ve thought about it several times over the years.

There are times in life when things occur that you have no preparation for and no idea what to do. When you don’t know what to do, I try to remember my Dad’s words to me on 9-11. Say a prayer and then keep going on trying to do your best. At the end of the hard day, go home to get a hug.

 

Joyful Moment #201

It’s time for a joyful moment. I love those automatic doors that swing open and shut all on their own. The logical side of me knows there’s a mechanical,  scientific reason for how the doors detect your presence which triggers a switch to make them open. The magical side of me still loves the thrill of the doors opening for me. It all stems back to being four years old. I went to the store with my mother and Aunt Becky. The doors automatically opened at the entrance to the store. It was the first time I had ever realized that doors could open all by themselves without me pulling on them. It delighted me so much.  I knew as I walked through those magical doors that I was a princess. After all, why else would the doors open for me?

Today I went to the grocery store. The doors opened up for me and I smiled. I must still be a princess.

Crown

 

The Christmas Candle

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Each night for the 13 days before Christmas, my siblings and I would sit at the dinner table. In the middle of the table sat a burning candle. Mom would read us a few scriptures to teach us about Christ.  Then we’d sing a Christmas song. One year Mom told us that when the candle was all the way burned down to the bottom with nothing but a little wax left that she would make us a special cake. We were all very motivated by the idea of cake so the next night we each came to the kitchen table with our own candles. As Mom would read, we’d take our candle’s flame and gently encourage the Christmas candle to burn faster. This went on for a couple of nights as my poor mother tried to read us the words of Christ and we tried various means to make the candle burn faster.

The Christmas candle was taking forever to burn all the way down to the bottom so we decided to met before mom’s readings and burn it  on our time. We felt guilty about just burning the candle though so one of us read the Bible while the others started burning little holes into the Christmas candle. Mom came in and saw what we were doing. We thought we might be in trouble but instead she just laughed and said, “Wonderful! I’m raising a bunch of pyromaniacs who read their scriptures”. Then she went and got a lighter and joined us in our quest to burn that candle all the way to the bottom.  (By the way, lighters can burn candles faster than other candles can burn candles. We got to eat cake that night!)

(This cute little Nativity set was a present from my awesome sister Jenny.)

 

My latest challenge is connected with Advent.  The 30 days before Christmas I’m remembering Jesus by reading some scripture verses and doing 30 days of kind deeds. The hope is that this will make Christ the focus of my Christmas celebrations.  So far, it’s been a good experience.

And no, I’m not going to tell you what I did for my good deeds because it’s suppose to be anonymous.  I’m also a little selfish because I want all those blessings in heaven.  Don’t have any idea what I’m talking about? That’s okay.  I will fill you in with the Bible story. When Jesus gave the Sermon on the Mount he said people who do good deeds get rewards in Heaven. There’s a catch though.  The angels don’t write it down on their heavenly Ipads if you blab all around town about it.  Oops. I just told the entire internet all about my good deeds challenge. Somewhere there is a little angel who is hitting the delete button.

This challenge really has made this Christmas special though. What are you doing to make Christmas a wonderful time for you?

 

 

 

On Mother’s Day

Beautiful

I love my Mom, and I hate Mother’s Day. I love my Mom, because she is a wonderful, fun, intelligent, woman who has taught me many good things. I love her very much, and like most kids I try to come with the perfect gift to convey my love. Yet, I hate Mother’s Day. Before you start throwing guilt at me, let me explain. I’ve seen too many strong, amazing women, use Mother’s Day as a weapon instead of a way to honor the women in their life. I’m included in that list. I’ve spent too many Mother’s Day feeling depressed about my infertility and too many years comparing myself to ‘perfect’ people with their ‘perfect’ lives.

I started this bad habit after a memorable Sunday School lesson where a well-meaning teacher made a list of “Good Mother behavior” and “Bad Mother behavior”. I was not brave enough to say that the bad list wasn’t really that bad. Instead, I just sat there and felt bad as I mentally compared myself with the good list. There were so many things on that bad mother list that I did or I wanted in my life. I wish I could go back and put my arm around the 12 year old me. I’d tell her the truth. That most of us are doing the best we can. I’d tell the younger me that your ability to be a good mother has nothing to do with how you decorate your home, feed your baby, the way you provide for your family or what you study at school. It has to do with how you treat the folks you interact with every day.

So in honor of Mother’s Day and all the other days in the year, I’ve written a new list. Bad mothers lock their kids in basements for years without food and water. The rest of us are more good than bad. Here’s a little poem.

Good Mothers try

And sometimes they just survive

And that is okay too, because

We are all good mothers.

Memory Lane

Have you ever done something absolutely crazy, but it felt right and in the end you are glad you did?  Last summer, the Accountant and I went on a road trip to visit his awesome relatives in Vancouver.

Image

While we were driving through a beautiful forest, when  we saw two young people hiking  with large backpacks and a little hitchhiking sign.  We passed by them.  I tried to ignore the feeling, because I could just imagine the end of our tragic tale. Two bodies found  after picking up kids with backpacks. Nathan said exactly what I was thinking. “We have to go back and pick up those kids. I really don’t want to get murdered, but it feels right to give them a ride”. Continue reading

My Greatest Hits of 2013

2013 is over.  As I’ve read other people’s blogs today, I’ve noticed they have re-posted the 5 best posts of 2013.  This was easy for me to pick the posts. I only have 5 followers and they are all relatives.  So, I just called one of those relatives and asked what they wanted to see again.  (Drum roll, please)

(1.) The Dress

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For today’s brave activity, I got rid of my old Winter Formal dress. The dress has been in my closet for the last 15 years. It is hopelessly out of date and no longer fits me.   Read the rest here.

(2.)  Popcorn

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The Accountant and I are doing a home renovation project. It smelled like a construction site so I decided to try burning a candle. Read the rest here.

(3.) Be Brave and Laugh at Something

I had surgery this last week.  The whole thing was not fun so I decided to make it more fun by dressing up like a flower child for my grand entrance to the hospital. Read the rest here.

(4.) Slow Cooker Tip of the Day

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Here is a tip for using a slow cooker. Slow cookers only work if you turn them on. Read the rest here.

(5) Boxes Aren’t Just for Little Kids

Hidden

We got a package in the mail.  Boxes are not just fun for little kids. I just had to know how much of me would fit inside of it. Read the rest here.

2014 will be a great year!

The Dish Fairy

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We have a dish fairy at our house. The dish fairy jumps in and does a household chore when it has been forgotten for some reason. Sometimes I’m the dish fairy and other times the Accountant is the dish fairy. It usually works except for the week that neither of us wanted to do the dishes.

Day One

Accountant:  Do you think the dish fairy will visit us?

Me: No. The dish fairy is on holiday. I bet the dish fairy has a friend that might be willing to do them.

Day Two

Me: Don’t use that regular plate. Here is a paper plate.

Accountant: Two minute sermon on the environmental consequences of using paper plates

Me: (gave him a big hug) You’re adorable ,but I’m still using a paper plate so we don’t have any more dishes to do.
Day Three

Accountant: (as he is washing a dish) What do you think about us working together to clean up the kitchen?

Me: (grabbing a rag to help dry the dishes)   Equal partners in all of this house stuff.  Yeah, I can live with that.