Project 52 – 24 – Back to Work After Baby’s Birth

November 30th, 2016

It’s time for Project 52, Week 24!

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24 weeks ago, on my 52nd Birthday, I decided to start Project 52 — since there are 52 weeks in a year, each week this year, I’d reflect on one year of my life. This week, I’m posting about the year I was 24, June 1988 to June 1989.

One thing that’s struck me — when I was in college, it felt like I’d waited SO LONG to ever find a boyfriend. Now, reflecting on those years, my goodness, I was SO YOUNG when I got married and had a baby! That gives me hope. Though now it feels like I’m single SO LONG since my divorce. If I do remarry some day, I suspect the time single won’t seem so long at all. Better enjoy it while it lasts!

The year I was 24 was a very hard year. But I’m going to intersperse talking about that year with pictures of my adorable baby. There were definitely compensations.

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I did still have the summer off. Josh was born in March, and Biola paid me for the complete semester (though some came from California’s Disability payments). I hadn’t planned to teach in the summer anyway, and I think I’d had my pay stretched out over the whole year.

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That reminds me that 1988 was an election year. I’d been raised that the Christian way was to vote Republican. But living in downtown Los Angeles, and now feeling very poor was influencing my thinking. I remember listening to the presidential debates, and the Democrats made a lot of sense. I think that Family Medical Leave was already an issue (though it didn’t get put into place until Bill Clinton was elected). I’d been given good maternity leave, but I couldn’t imagine what we would have done if I hadn’t. And Steve had to take vacation time to be with me and the baby. (Last year my brother got paternity leave from Intel after the birth of his daughter. What a wonderful thing!)

I remember some time in those years, Focus on the Family put out one of those “Congressional Scorecards” that were distributed in church. They rated it against people who voted for Family Medical Leave, saying it would be bad for business. Excuse me? Should the organization be called “Focus on Business”?

On top of that, having lived in the inner city for a couple years gave me a lot more sympathy for illegal aliens. Amnesty had happened under Reagan, and our church had held Citizenship classes for that, besides our English classes. I also saw hard-working people, not freeloaders.

And I did not want to put my baby in daycare. We spent a long time thinking it through and decided that Steve would quit his job as a messenger/supply clerk at Canadian Imperial Bank, and I would keep my job teaching at Biola. That way, Steve could put more time into the Pacific Brass Quintet, anyway. After a couple months, he went back part-time. I was able to put all my classes on Monday/Wednesday/Friday, and Steve worked Tuesday/Thursday, so we didn’t have to use daycare.

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About that time, they started putting a Dependent Care Tax Credit into the tax code — but that didn’t help those of us who worked less between us to take care of our baby ourselves. (The Child Tax Credit didn’t start until Clinton was elected. I think Earned Income Credit got better then, too.)

I realize now that Biola’s pay for an Instructor with a Master’s degree was terrible. Our rent was $700 per month, which was a huge percentage of our income. And we got taxed on that the same as if we lived in a cheaper place. I’m pretty sure that’s when our debt started… which lasted our entire marriage. Sigh.

Anyway, I wondered how people who didn’t have a Master’s degree managed to make ends meet (not realizing I wasn’t really getting paid at a Master’s degree rate). And what if they had to put their child in daycare?

I actually hadn’t decided who I’d vote for by election day. But when the day came, I voted after work, and by the time I went to the polls, we already knew Bush had won the election. So I voted for Dukakis as a protest. That was my first time voting for a Democrat. But I don’t believe I ever voted Republican again.

That summer, we dedicated Josh to God at First Evangelical Free Church in Los Angeles, where we’d gotten married. Even though we moved out of the city, we continued to worship there and stayed with our wonderful small group — which now had a total of four babies.

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Also that summer, my headaches started up again. This was one thing that made it a hard year. I’d lost them the last half of my pregnancy. But that summer they came back worse than ever. That was when they stopped reliably going away at night, so it was when I had my first three-day headaches. The third day of a bad headache is when I start to feel desperate.

I had friends who would go to the Emergency Room for headaches, so I tried Urgent Care. I think it was the second time I did that that I was given Demerol and Vistaril. They told me to wait in the lobby ten minutes — and five minutes later, I almost fainted. They said my heart rate dropped dramatically. They worked over me for awhile and brought me back and told me never to take those drugs again. They sent me back to my car in a wheelchair, with my headache returning! So I rather lost faith in the Emergency Room for headaches.

But I did have an adorable baby at home!

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Josh was learning to crawl!

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In the fall, I went back to work. Here are a couple of pictures from the math and computer department picnic.

My sister Wendy must have been a Computer Science minor? I’m pretty sure she was an English major, but she was at the picnic.

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And even Dr. Wu held the baby!

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While I was on maternity leave, the professors had shifted around the classes I’d be teaching. I ended up with three classes I’d never taught before, one of which I’d never even taken. (Remember my Senior year when I felt bad for dropping a math class, Operations Research? That was the very class they now had me teaching.) The only class I’d taught before, College Algebra, had a new textbook, so I still had to prepare new notes. When I said something to Dr. Thurber, the department chair about this, he said, “Oh, you can do it.” Even I didn’t realize just how incredibly hard it would be.

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So I was working Monday/Wednesday/Friday, and Steve was working Tuesday/Thursday. The trouble was, I had to try to watch Josh and clean house while preparing for class (and learning the material ahead of the class) and grading papers. When Steve watched Josh, he just tried to watch Josh.

On top of that, I’d been brought up hoping I’d get to stay home with my babies some day. Steve had not been brought up hoping for that. He wrote up something later that I really liked, when he got tired of being called “Mr. Mom.” It was titled, “Just call me Dad.”

I always felt that the intensive time with Josh was wonderful for Steve as a Dad. The first time I left to go to work, Steve asked, “What do I do?” I told him he’d figure it out — and he did. From then on, we each had our own style, and Steve didn’t look to me to figure out what to do with his kids. We never called it “babysitting” when he was with his kids. I was always proud of him as a loving and involved father. And me getting out of the way and heading off to work helped that happen.

It was also, admittedly, very nice to get out of the house, guilt-free. My baby was with their Dad. Or mostly guilt-free. One day my friend Sue Danielson came back from a trip to Canada, where she’d visited Green Gables. I was the one who’d introduced her to the Anne books. She brought me back The Blue Castle, which wasn’t available in the United States at that time. I sat in my office at Biola all afternoon and finished the whole book. Steve wasn’t real happy with me when he found out I hadn’t actually been working.

I do remember it was a beautiful and vital piece of sanity restoration. I was extremely stressed out.

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And working full-time, but not at work every day, was hard for other people to understand. Someone at church said, “I heard you’re only working Monday/Wednesday/Friday,” and she asked me to take her English class on a Tuesday one week. Ridiculously, I agreed — one time. Another time, I did some babysitting for a friend on my “day off.” I learned that year that I needed to say NO to things like that. It was taking every spare minute to prepare for all those classes.

I’m sure there was also some postpartum depression going on. And those headaches. I don’t think I ever took sick leave for a headache — I don’t think I would have gotten paid. But at least I had every other day “off.” It didn’t make it easy to do the work at home, though.

But my baby was wonderful and learned to climb the stairs.

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That year was the one time I remember that, in a fight, I told Steve, “I hate you.” I did apologize. I did many many more times say, “I love you,” but eighteen years later, Steve informed me that three times in our marriage, I’d said those words. Sigh. That was the only time I remember doing it, and I also remember that I was an emotional wreck.

[I definitely wish I hadn’t ever said those words. But I don’t actually think it made a good excuse for having an affair.]

But the pictures mainly show happy times. Josh’s first Christmas was quite adorable. Steve was super busy leading up to Christmas with the Pacific Brass Quintet. They recorded another album for Nordstrom’s. If we hadn’t lived in California, he would have made a living wage. But if we hadn’t lived in California, there wouldn’t have been so many malls to perform in.

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Josh still had almost as much fun with the box things came in. This was the box for the London Fog raincoat Steve bought me at Nordstrom’s, which I still wear.

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This pony to ride on lasted our kids for years, too.

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After Christmas at home, we went to Phoenix. Here’s Josh with Aunt Stephanie.

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I thought it was really funny to check the size of our Carry-on Baggage.

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These are at Becky’s house for Jason’s second birthday in January:

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Here’s our small group! By now the Rauseos had moved to Maryland. We’ve got Art (wife RuthAnn taking the picture?), then Tom and Audrey (expecting Jonathan soon), then me, then Jeannette, and then Claudia and Fernando.

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I love this one of Josh with Gramp E.

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And more fun:

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And Kathe and Joe came to visit — with their dog!

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This one, we had fun with the heights:

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Around February, Josh learned to walk: (That was back in the days of walkers. Josh had enjoyed the walker since they were about six months old. This baby liked to stand!)

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And was always fun to hold:

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Josh was pretty obsessed with switches. We used to put the rocking chair and a barricade of sofa cushions at the foot of the steps, for safety. The chair itself was an attraction.

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When I needed to go to the bathroom, I’d move the cushion barricade and use the bathroom at the top of the stairs. When I’d come out, Josh would be halfway up the stairs. The compulsion to climb was irresistible. But one time, I came out to discover Josh had gone down the stairs and was frantically turning the stereo knobs. They jumped a foot high when I came down! I was very impressed that Josh had calculated I’d be busy for awhile! This picture was taken at a different time, when Josh used a toy to achieve the goal.

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And more of the switches compulsion:

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Based on the pictures, there were numerous trips to see Gram E. and Gramp E. Here’s at the Phoenix Zoo:

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Feeding the dog, Sonny:

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And this one shows just how much Josh and Gramp E. enjoyed one another:

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Darlene came to visit. I think she’d moved to the East Coast by then, rooming with Kathe’s Mom. When she first left, she told us it would only be for a year. Right, Dar!

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In this picture, I think I was babysitting Jason. I tried the, “Let’s pretend we’re sleeping!” game. It apparently didn’t work for long, alas!

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Sometime in there I started selling Discovery Toys. I was hoping to find a way to quit teaching! I ended up buying all the toys for Josh. Josh was very good at puzzles from an early age.

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And by June, Josh had started the cute trick of memorizing books and saying the last word on each page. The Tom and Pippo books were favorites.

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Sometime around the end of the year I was 24, my sister Wendy graduated from Biola. And I marched in the graduation with the professors, getting to wear my Master’s hood again. Here are all my sisters but the youngest, and Jason in front looking a little perplexed. It’s me, Becky, Wendy, Abby, and Marcy.

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Because we were having such a hard time, in 1989, Steve started researching other possibilities. He auditioned with a brass quintet in Seattle, a symphony orchestra in Ohio, and an Air Force Band in Virginia. Changes were coming….

Project 52 – 23 and Becoming a Mother

November 23rd, 2016

It’s time for Project 52, Week 23!

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23 weeks ago, on my 52nd birthday, I decided to start Project 52 — for this year, I’m reflecting each week on one year of my life.

Last week, I covered the year I was 22 and got married. That year ended, and this one began on my 23rd birthday, June 14, 1987, when I walked in graduation to get my Master of Arts degree in Pure Mathematics from UCLA.

That summer, my friend Jill got married — and I got pregnant! (No, those two things weren’t actually related.)

[Now, I have to gripe here a little that I was made to feel a bit of an idiot for getting pregnant so quickly after marriage. Can I just say that birth control is not 100% effective, okay? I did see a doctor to get put on the pill — and was told that for women who get migraines, going on the pill gives her a higher chance of having a stroke. I listened to her and stayed off the pill — and I’m glad I did. 25 years later, I was having an irregular cycle, and a gynecologist wanted to put me on the pill. I mentioned this I’d been told so many years before. The new gynecologist said that’s not an issue any more, because the pill has a lower dose of hormones now. Well, I took it without incident for a few months, but then let my prescription run out. In the few weeks I was off it, I had a neck injury, a vertebral artery dissection. Only I didn’t know it. I just knew I had a bad headache that wouldn’t go away, centered in my neck. But the day after I went back on the pill, I did, in fact, have a stroke.

All that is to say that using less reliable methods of birth control when we were young was actually a very good choice.]

We were still living in downtown Los Angeles. I was working at Biola, teaching Math and Computer Science classes. Steve was working as a messenger and supply clerk at Canadian Imperial Bank — and getting busier and busier performing with the Pacific Brass Quintet. I believe that was the first year they got a deal with Nordstrom and recorded a Christmas album, “A Nordstrom Noel,” which was sold in Nordstrom stores. They performed in Nordstrom stores all over southern California (as well as other malls and shopping centers), especially during the Christmas season. (When Steve later joined the Air Force and got the day after Thanksgiving off, it was such luxury!)

When I called my Mom to tell her I was pregnant, she started telling me about how the month before she’d thought she was pregnant and was so disappointed when she was mistaken. 6 weeks later, she called and told me she was pregnant. I burst into tears.

If you don’t understand how painful it was for me to have my mother pregnant with her 13th child the same time I was pregnant with my first, I’ll just say, trust me, it was horribly painful. I had many dreams while I was pregnant that the baby was really my Mom’s baby. But I am happy to say that after my baby was born, those dreams stopped entirely. But I didn’t go visit my parents while my mother and I were both pregnant.

But we did go visit Steve’s parents in Phoenix that Christmas. They were all ready to be doting grandparents.

Here’s at our house before we went to Phoenix. I was cutely round at this point. It took a long time for me to show with that first baby. Those maternity jeans I’m wearing in this picture were size 4. (They’re maternity jeans, but I don’t think I could fit into them now!)

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Our anniversary was in January, so we went to Big Bear and stayed at Knickerbocker Mansion.

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More frolicking in the snow together!

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On the actual day of our anniversary, Steve’s sister came by with a friend named Don Argus who was an architect and we all went to see a Frank Lloyd Wright House in the Los Angeles area.

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Though that night, Steve took me to a wonderful dinner show with singers.

We were both pretty scared about becoming parents, but I remember that time as very happy. I completely lost my headaches during the last half of that pregnancy. I thought I was cured. I later read in Oliver Sacks’ book Migraine that this is common (and, oddly, the last half, not the last trimester) in a first pregnancy. (And indeed it didn’t happen with my second.) It was glorious while it lasted. And definitely saved me more pain than a mere 12 hours of labor. (This also did not work in my second pregnancy.)

We were so young and in love!

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I didn’t get much bigger than this:

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The church ladies threw me a baby shower. We were still attending First Evangelical Free Church of Los Angeles.

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Speaking of church, I almost forgot to mention that before we even got married, Doris and Steve Rauseo invited us to join a couples’ small group. It started up after we got married, and that way we had (slightly) older couples walking the journey with us. The group was Doris & Steve Rauseo, Audrey & Tom deRivera, Claudia & Fernando Calderon, and Sheri & Hank Winkenwerder. That group got us off to a good start as a couple. I often wished we’d had a group like that after we left Los Angeles, but I didn’t find another one until after our marriage had ended. When we were part of that group was when Steve and I talked the most with each other about spiritual things, I’m afraid.

Anyway, Claudia was expecting a baby the day before me, and Sheri was due a month before. I was due on March 31st. But Claudia had the baby in the middle of February, with Sheri having her baby a few days later.

March 31st was Easter — so I’d planned to teach until Easter break. But after an ultrasound, the doctor moved my due date up to March 24. So we planned for my last day teaching to be March 18. Then the other professors would take over my classes.

There was no real precedent at Biola for an instructor to take maternity leave. I knew that staff got 4 weeks before and 6 weeks after. Well, like I said, I worked up until March 18 — and then Biola paid me full salary (minus what I got for disability — so I ended up with full salary) for the rest of the semester. I had the summer off before I had to go back to work, so I ended up with six months with my baby.

I know I gave tests that week before I handed over my classes, and I must have graded them before I left Biola, because I don’t remember grading them later. However, I do remember that I hadn’t done *any* nesting, and hadn’t even done the week’s laundry. But on Saturday, March 19, on Steve’s parents anniversary, my water broke and we headed to the hospital.

I figured if Josh had come sooner, I could have quit teaching sooner, and if Josh had come later, I could have gotten a little bit ready for their arrival. But no, Josh was even at birth wrapping their grandparents around their little finger.

[This brings up some awkward language. So far, in Project 52, I’ve been calling my friends by the names they had at the time. Childhood friends get their maiden names until they get married. Kathy got her original spelling until she changed it to Kathe. Well, more than a year ago, my firstborn Josh changed their name to Jade and told me that she is and always has been female.

No, I did not see this coming. But I firmly believe that no one knows better than Jade what is true about herself. And — once I think about it, it does make sense. Though I would believe her even if it didn’t make sense to me, because I’m not the authority here. Jade was an extremely sweet child. Now, I also believe firmly that boys can be and are very sweet. But, well, she says she’s female, and it does make sense.

So — I’m going to call my firstborn child by the name we knew her by at that time, Josh. But I’m going to try to use the pronoun “they” in all its forms so as to avoid using the word “he” which we thought applied to her. Does that make any sense? If it gets hard to follow, I’m sorry.]

At 11:25 pm on March 19, 1988, Joshua Steven Karl Eklund was born.

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I think I got to stay in the hospital a couple days, but then we brought our baby home, to a house unprepared.

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In those days you had to prove you had a car seat for your baby and knew how to use it before they’d let you go home. Josh was so tiny!

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We had moved from Los Angeles to a 2-bedroom apartment in Whittier not long before Josh was born. The baby’s room wasn’t ready yet. I was going to get it ready after I quit teaching and went on maternity leave. My friend Ruth loaned us a cradle, which was just right for our tiny baby.

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In those days, taking a picture inside always meant using a flash. I remember when Steve took this picture, because it woke Josh up — and Steve took it right before he had to leave for a brass quintet gig. There aren’t too many pictures of Josh sleeping after this one!

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Josh was born with bright eyes. The uncharitable called them bug eyes. I’m convinced their eyes were unusually developed for an infant, and the world was just so interesting!

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On March 31, Easter Sunday, instead of being born, Josh had their first visit to church. Steve was performing with the brass quintet in an Easter service at another church. Steve’s parents and sister had come to see the baby.

Steve’s parents decided to be called Gram E. and Gramp E. (E for Eklund), and they were doting grandparents indeed. Since my own parents were busy with their own new baby (their 13th child, Melanie, was born on April 30, 1988.) — it did my heart so much good to see Gram E. and Gramp E. love on Josh.

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We had lots of visitors. Here’s where Doris and Sheri from my small group came and brought their babies. Doris had ended up getting a jump on the rest of us by adopting a baby, with a lot less than 9 months warning.

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And I so remember when Josh started really intentionally smiling. It was the day they turned six weeks old — after sleeping through the night the very first time. I woke up at something like 7:00 am and hadn’t heard from Josh and was afraid they were dead! But soon I heard little waking-up noises, and I felt so rested and wonderful after a *whole night* of sleep. Apparently Josh felt wonderful, too, because after eating, Josh treated me to smile after smile! I tell you, that was one of the happiest moments of my life. Well-rested and my baby was smiling at me! Heaven!

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And this one I feel slightly guilty about. Josh would sometimes get stuck in the startle reflex. Here’s a full-on Startle. They couldn’t get themself out of this. And instead of picking them up and comforting them, I got my camera and took their picture. (But so cute!)

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In May, Josh had their first plane ride when we went to Phoenix for Stephanie’s wedding to Bruce Stockhouse.

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With Gram E at Stephanie’s wedding:

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And I’ll finish with a few more smiles from those early months:

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Here’s Josh with Aunt Wendy:

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And so I became a mother — of a brilliant and bright-eyed child who was already intent on finding out what the world was all about.

Project 52 – 22 – Mission, Marriage, and a Master’s in Math

November 16th, 2016

It’s time for Project 52, Week 22!

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22 weeks ago, on my 52nd birthday, I decided to start Project 52 — for this year, I’m reflecting each week on one year of my life.

Last week I covered my only full year in grad school at UCLA. I started the year in a PhD program in Math, but figured out by the end of the year that I’d rather get out with a Master’s. I also got engaged to be married to Steve Eklund.

This week I’m covering the year I was 22, from June 1986 to June 1987. Without a summer job, 1986 was the ideal year to go on a summer mission. I’d already decided to go before Steve asked me to marry him, and when he proposed, he told me I should still go.

The mission I went with was Door of Hope International. I’d long been interested in the work they did bringing Bibles to Christians behind the Iron Curtain, ever since a representative had spoken during a chapel at Brethren High School. I went to their headquarters in Austria, in the village of Spittal an der Drau, for six weeks and did office work and some computer programming for them. Different groups came through, getting ready for trips smuggling Bibles in custom-built RVs. For the six weeks, I’d walk to the post office every day, sending letters to Steve and hoping for some back. (They came in clumps.)

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I fell in love with Austria. And the German language. And, well, everything about it.

This is Goldeck, the mountain behind the house where I was staying:

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Here is a monastery at nearby Millstatter See. We had Apfel Strudel at a café by the lake.

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And the lake:

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Another day, we hiked by the Drau:

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We often went to the castle in the village, Schloss Portia. The castle grounds were a lovely park.

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But what I really really wanted to do while I was there was take the cable car up to the top of the mountain behind the house. (I watched this cable car every day.) I wanted to hike down. Wouldn’t that be a perfect hike? Downhill all the way!

I did get a couple of fellow-travelers to go to the top with me, but they had no interest in hiking down. I’d have to come back some day! But here’s the ride up the mountain:

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There’s a station in the middle where you change cable cars. This is past that.

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From this picture, you can see the village of Spittal an der Drau and, behind the ridge, the lake called Millstatter See.

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On top, there was a hang-gliding competition going on. Those hang gliders were the only people I envied up there.

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It was amazing. I walked around.

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Found a quiet place where I could belt out “The hills are alive…”

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And could even hear cowbells.

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The ride down was beautiful, too.

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An incredible day, though I left with such a longing in my heart to come back some day and take the cable car up and hike down.

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I finished up the trip with an excursion. These guys took me to Beograd, Yugoslavia, on their way to smuggle Bibles into Romania.

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Here’s the Danube seen from a fortress in Beograd:

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They dropped me off in Budapest. Now, back in Los Angeles, for a few months my housemates had taken in a woman from Hungary named Kiri. Her sister Popi and her mother lived in Budapest. Popi was a professional tour guide who wanted to start leading tours in English. So I got my own personal guided tour of Budapest! As well as wonderful hospitality.

Popi’s in the middle here, with her mother on the right. On the left is a friend who hung out with us, whose name I don’t remember now. She didn’t speak English, but we all had a lovely time together.

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Just the girls:

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She showed me all the sights in Budapest. I especially noted St. Stephen, the first king of Hungary, because I was missing my own Steve so much.

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On my whole trip, I became a big fan of European ice cream. In my letters to Steve, I’d tell him about each wonderful ice cream discovery. Then I told him that I’d gained 50 pounds, and was somewhat offended when he believed me. (At the time, I could eat anything and didn’t gain weight. It was nice while it lasted.)

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This is on a ferry on the Danube, with the Parliament building behind me.

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This was on an island in the middle of the Danube.

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And this was there as well.

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That night we played cards. This you can do even if you don’t speak the same language! Lots of laughing.

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And we also went to a café and then messed around at the castle overlooking the city.

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A little more sight-seeing the next day before going back on the train to Austria and then home.

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I got back in time to be in my friend Jennifer’s wedding. She modeled her dress at the wedding shower.

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In September, my Grandma Hatch passed away. I was actually in the room with her when she died. My parents had moved her to a hospital in Long Beach, and I was visiting when she passed away. All but one of my Dad’s siblings made it to the funeral.

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Here are the cousins who were there (by no means all the Hatch cousins). No, I can’t quite identify everyone in this picture.

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And here’s my immediate family, with Becky’s husband Dave, and my husband-to-be Steve included. Becky is pregnant with Jason in the picture, the first grandchild.

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Then I went back to school at UCLA for one last quarter in my Math Master’s program.

Meanwhile, Steve had kind of a rough time finding a place after he graduated, but eventually he got an apartment in downtown L.A. and got an office job at Payless Pet Supplies, where my roommate Karen worked. Unfortunately, it was a not-well-run small business, where the paychecks would often bounce. He finally quit just before we got married — but then found a job as a Messenger/Supply Clerk at Canadian Imperial Bank downtown. On the side, he performed with the Pacific Brass Quintet. They played in malls, especially at Christmas time, and gradually developed a good business.

At the end of the quarter, when I’d finished my coursework, I re-took my Analysis Qualifying Exam (having passed the Algebra Qualifying Exam). I did not pass! I’d try again in May.

And once classes finished, it was time for wedding showers!

Ruth threw me one.

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With high school friends at Ruth’s house:

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This is at Becky’s house:

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And for Christmas, we went to Steve’s parents’ house in Phoenix, and they threw us a shower.

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I forgot to mention that on June 7, 1986, two of my housemates, Audrey and Joan, got married (each to a different man) in a double wedding. So we got new housemates — a married couple with a 3-year-old daughter moved in, Randy and Suzanne, and their daughter Sarah.

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Here’s Sarah with my stuffed animal collection.

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Then on January 3, 1987, I married my best friend.

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Here I am ahead of time with my sisters, Becky, Wendy, Abby, and Marcy. I had a hard time deciding who would be matron of honor, since I’d been maid of honor twice. Then it turned out that Becky was pregnant and expecting a baby two weeks after my wedding day — so I decided to ask Kathe to be my matron of honor and asked Becky to read Scripture in the service.

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Here are the bridesmaids. Across the back, I’ve got Coral and Colleen, who were my Biola roommates, and were candlelighters. Then Ruth, Darlene, and Jennifer from high school, Jill from Biola, my sister Wendy, and Steve’s sister Stephanie. In front is Kathe, friend since elementary school, and flower girls Abby and Marcy. I had two sets of flower girls and ringbearers, a dark-haired pair, Abby and Peter, and a blonde pair, Marcy and Robert.

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We got ready in the house where I was living, and walked half a block to the church. It was a very happy day.

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Here are Robert and Marcy in action.

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Since we met in the Chorale and Steve was a music major, we had friends doing the music, including a brass ensemble. My good friends Debby Scott and Debbie Olson sang. We also sang the hymns “O, the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus,” “Take My Life, and Let It Be Consecrated, Lord, to Thee,” and “Be Thou My Vision.” Pastor Doug Moore married us.

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And so the two became one. And, YES, I keep repeating this, but it was a very happy marriage for a very long time. I still don’t regret that decision.

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Here’s my whole family of origin at the wedding.

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Here are my housemates Tammy and Karen, who helped at the reception.

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And this picture of my brothers always cracks me up.

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We spent our wedding night at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. The next day, we drove up to Yosemite, and we ended up driving into Yosemite Valley in a blizzard. My first time riding with Steve driving in a snowstorm — and he always got me there safely.

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That blizzard filled the valley with snow — and then we had sunny, beautiful weather all week.

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Of course, as a southern California girl, I was pretty excited by snow. This was our first snowman we built together.

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And we made snow angels.

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We even took a snowshoeing class.

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We were off to a wonderful start.

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On the way home, only about 15 minutes from home, traffic on the Harbor Freeway came to a sudden stop. Steve stopped on time — but a drunk driver a few cars behind us didn’t and rammed a line of cars into each other, including us into the car in front of us. And that driver was uninsured. (Good thing we had uninsured motorist coverage.)

I got whiplash and didn’t want to leave it untreated this time, so we went to the doctor Steve had found in the phone book when he needed a blood test. Well, that doctor turned out to be an ambulance chaser, and had a lawyer on call. He had us come in for “treatments” twice a week — basically heating pads.

It did feel good — but the “pain and suffering” determination (and the doctor took a third and the lawyer took a third) ended up paying for our wedding, and my student loans. I felt slightly guilty about it — but since my insurance company wanted to triple my insurance when I got married, I didn’t feel too guilty, and after that we switched to a cheaper insurance company.

A few weeks later, on January 22, my first nephew, Jason, was born. I had a baby shower for Becky in our apartment downtown. Here’s Jason with my sister Marcy.

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And in February, I started teaching back at Biola! That first semester after I got married, it was a temporary position, but I taught full-time in the Math and Computer Science departments. In my spare time, I studied and studied and studied for my Analysis Qualifying Exam. And third time’s the charm — this time I passed with the highest score.

And so, on my 23rd birthday, June 14, 1987, I received my Master of Arts in Pure Mathematics from UCLA!

I liked having a hood!

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My parents and my sister Wendy (and Steve) came to my graduation.

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And whew! That was a big year!

Project 52 – 21 and a Grad Student!

November 9th, 2016

It’s time for Project 52, Week 21!

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21 weeks ago, on my 52nd Birthday, I decided to start Project 52 — for this year, I’m reflecting each week on one year of my life. (I can’t believe how quickly my years in school have gone by!)

Last time, Week 20, I had just finished my undergraduate years at Biola University, and I was dating Steve Eklund, who was a year behind me at Biola.

I’m writing this during Election night 2016 (and am very distracted), which reminded me that last week I forgot to mention that 1984, when I was 20, was the first time I voted in a Presidential election. I voted for Ronald Reagan. I was still very conservative (as I was raised). That was the first time I voted for a Republican for President, and also the last time. And that year I was 21 was the year the seeds of liberal thinking got started.

I also realized last week that I forgot to talk about how Steve and I used to hide pennies for each other to make our days. That was from an Annie Dillard quote, and I remembered that fun this week.

That summer, I moved into the houseful of girls on Biola Avenue, the same one I’d lived in the summer before, and roomed with Jeannette Sadler again. I had been accepted to a PhD program in Math at UCLA, but UCLA didn’t start until the very end of September, so I spent the summer continuing to work for Biola University Computer Services. In fact, they gave me a big raise when I graduated. (That annoyed me a little bit, because I was doing the same work.)

That summer, I remember I paid off my student bill and was able to get my diploma. But, you say, didn’t you have a full tuition scholarship? Yes I did, and another $2000 scholarship through my Dad’s work, but there was still about $900 to pay for living in the dorm, and I paid it myself — finishing that summer, when I was working full-time.

Here I am in my office:

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(I’m rather proud that I paid the majority of my tuition and fees at Biola. Between a half-tuition scholarship the first three years, a full-tuition scholarship the last year, a four-year scholarship of $2000 each year, paying the remainder myself the last year, living on-campus the first year, and paying $5000 in student loans after graduating. My parents did pay a whole lot, but I still took care of most of it.)

The picture above is celebrating my 21st birthday at my parents’ house. Here’s another. I have enjoyed reading to kids for a very long time.

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And the day after my birthday, my roommate Coral got married! I was one of the bridesmaids.

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Finally, as September ended, I started at UCLA! I moved into a house in downtown L.A. with five other girls, mostly from Biola. Audrey and Joan and Tammy, I’d known from Biola. Karen was my new roommate, and she’d gone to UCLA as an undergrad. Robin was the other housemate.

The house was near USC, so I still had a commute to UCLA. It was a block down the street from First Evangelical Church of Los Angeles, which Steve and I started attending. Remember how I’d been attending Christian schools since 3rd grade, so didn’t have any non-Christian friends? Well, one of the great things about First EV Free LA was that it had a vibrant, growing Spanish-speaking congregation — people who were coming to Christ and whose lives were being dramatically changed. There was also an English congregation, which was, honestly, dwindling — mostly people who had been attending the church since before white folks moved out of the inner city.

I don’t have many pictures from that year, but here’s one of my roommate, Karen:

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And here are Joan and her fiancé, Dan:

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Starting at UCLA was a little overwhelming. Though I never minded being the minority, there were only five women in the incoming grad school class of 120. Most of those were Master’s students, not PhD students like me. I had a teaching assistantship. The first quarter, I taught homework help sessions and graded papers. But I got good reviews, since I was a native-born English speaker, so the rest of the quarters, I got to actually teach a College Algebra class of about 20 students, with some supervision.

My very first college class had a mentally unbalanced girl who would start laughing uncontrollably during class, as well as an older guy with narcolepsy who’d start snoring. Remember that I looked about 13 years old (maybe 15 by now). There were a couple times that my students told the girl to be quiet. She also got an F — didn’t write answers on her tests. I didn’t feel good about that — but that was the worst situation I ever had in all my years of teaching math — my very first class. Though I find it interesting that I remember some of the other students in that class especially well, because they were kind to me in that awkward situation.

But the worst part of that year was that I was getting daily headaches. I finally saw a doctor at UCLA, but they pretty much just said, “stress.” This was before any of the triptans had been approved, and nothing worked. I was taking 8 or 9 Excedrin every day.

(I should add that I was taking quite a lot of Excedrin my last year at Biola, too, but now it was starting to affect my life and I felt like I couldn’t think straight.)

Somewhere along the way — I think it was after my second quarter — I decided to “settle for” my Master’s instead of staying in the PhD program. The thing was: What do you do with a PhD in Math? You pretty much better plan to teach — and I didn’t think I wanted to teach.

Also, to get a PhD, I’d need to pass three wicked hard qualifying exams and a language exam (two language exams? I don’t remember.) and then work on a dissertation. People were there who’d been in the PhD program for seven years. They were at school at all hours.

To get a Master’s, I’d only need to pass two qualifying exams and take enough classes. That was it. I was even able to finish the class load after only a year and a quarter.

So — I was feeling lots of pressure. I was trying to spend time with Steve, who was still at Biola. Here I am talking on the phone, probably to Steve:

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There was also some pressure, because I got to live in that house, with only $100 monthly rent, to do some work with the church English classes. That was how they reached out to the neighborhood, and why the church was growing so rapidly — they ran English classes and citizenship classes. The pastor, Doug Moore, was a wonderful man, bilingual, who’d grown up in Chile as a missionary kid. I was used to intellectual, academic sermons. Pastor Doug preached from the heart, and lives were changing.

But I didn’t speak Spanish, and I was trying to learn graduate-level mathematics. And teach math courses. And pass my qualifying exams.

And that first round of qualifying exams, in June 1986 — they told me I failed them both.

Mind you, the Master’s level exams were over undergraduate material. One was on Abstract Algebra, and the other Analysis. However — I talked with an advisor about my answers — and talked them into more points on the Algebra exam. I’d done it correctly, just not the way they’d planned for the problem to be solved. So I did pass the Algebra exam.

But the big event of the year I was 21 happened on April 6, 1985, when Steve Eklund asked me to marry him.

It was the day of his Senior Recital. (Did I mention that he was a tuba major?) After the recital, we went out to eat at A & V’s Pizza with my parents and his parents. And Steve hadn’t done it yet, so he asked me to go out of the room — and there in the parking lot behind the store, he asked me to marry him and I said yes!

He’d bought me a ring, but it was too big — It fell off as soon as I put my hand down! But we got it sized. Our parents had all known it was up. (He had asked my Dad for my hand.) And they were happy, and Steve’s parents always made me feel welcome and loved.

So that was the year I was 21. It was one of the hardest years yet, but had some wonderful moments. Make no mistake about it, I was very much in love. I was a lot more interested in being a wife than in being a doctor of mathematics.

Oh, and that brings me to my officemate, Thomas Haller, from Zürich, Switzerland. (He always called me Miss Hatch, but I didn’t take the hint and just called him Thomas.) When I tried to explain that I’d decided to settle for my Master’s, he said, in his thick accent, “So, you want an easy life, Miss Hatch?”

I protested that wasn’t it at all, that I had just figured out I didn’t want to devote my life to mathematics — but that always did feel a bit of a failure.

(Thomas is the one I used to quote years later when I was grading papers, to make myself laugh. One day I was there during his office hours, and he was patiently explaining concepts to the undergrads. When they left, he said to me, “What they do not realize is that they are too stupid to understand.” I laughed so hard — No matter how much we thought it, the American teaching assistants would not have said that.)

Well, I feel like tonight’s post is disjointed — because I’m currently horrified and saddened by how the present-day election is turning out. On the bright side, 31 years ago I got through daily headaches before Imitrex was available. So maybe I can get through this.

Project 52 – Out of my Teens, Silly, and In Love

November 1st, 2016

It’s time for Project 52 – Week 20!

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20 weeks ago, on my 52nd Birthday, I decided to reflect each week on one year of my life for the next year. I’m having lots of fun doing it, and it has amazed me how quickly my childhood went by! And now I’ve finished reflecting on my teens. This year I’m going to reflect on the year I was 20 years old — June 1984 to June 1985. It was the year I was a Senior at Biola University.

Being a Senior in college wasn’t as liberating as being a Senior in high school. In high school, I felt more overshadowed by my older siblings, but really didn’t in college, even though they also went to Biola. Since we had different majors, we didn’t have the same classes, and since Biola was a bigger place than Brethren High School, not too many people who knew me knew my sister or brother.

But being a Senior was still great!

But I’m getting ahead of myself. I ended my junior year having realized I just fell for Steve Eklund. And we went out to lunch because I won a sort-of bet. Then he headed home to Phoenix. Instead of moving back to my parents’ house, this summer I moved into a house on Biola Avenue with five other girls. I shared a room with Jeannette Sadler, just for the summer. I walked every day to campus and worked full time at Computer Services. (It was renamed from Data Systems.) Becky still worked there, too, so I still got to spend time with her, even though she’d graduated and was married.

And — I see by my journal that Steve called me on my birthday! That was exciting. And he wrote me letters that summer!

That summer I went to Disneyland three times. The first time was with Elizabeth Daniels, my friend from Chorale and the dorm, and with Jeff Petersen, my Math Brother (a fellow math major). I don’t remember why the three of us went, because I hadn’t remembered that Jeff and Elizabeth were friends — I think I was the link. Maybe Jeff wanted to take me to Disneyland and I had a day with Elizabeth and she was about to leave for good? (She just graduated, I believe.) I don’t know how it happened, but I’m quite sure Jeff drove us and we had a really great time.

Here are Elizabeth and Jeff on the Teacups:

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Here I am with Jeff:

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I bought myself a Winnie-the-Pooh on that trip!

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And one more of Elizabeth and Jeff and a friend:

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That would have been early in the summer.

Then, according to my journal it was June 28, 1984, Steve came back to L.A. to visit!

I’m not sure where he stayed, but he specifically came to see me — and my friend Debby Scott. Yes, that Debby Scott, the same dear friend who had become the girlfriend of the last two guys I had a crush on. Now a new guy I had a crush on was coming to see me and her.

I don’t remember what we did that day. Some driving around with Debby. Steve did spend more time at my place and we went to get Debby and then drove around and he went back to the house where I was living. And we talked of cabbages and kings and I had a wonderful time — but I was still terrified inside that I was going to get a broken heart.

In the evening, he was invited to a party at his friend Anne’s house. She was the same band friend he’d brought with him when I’d invited him to my open house in the dorm. He invited me to go to the party with him. But I remembered how I felt about Anne coming to my open house, and I declined. Besides, I seem to remember that I had a migraine.

He did call me later from the party. Which, now, makes me wonder why I was so scared about getting my heart broken. But as far as I could tell, he came to California to see three girls, and I was only one of the three. Besides, I was now getting where I just assumed that if I fell for a guy, he was going to like Debby Scott better!

Anyway, it was lovely and solidified in my mind that I really liked this guy. He continued to write to me that summer. And I continued to have a wonderful summer.

The next trip to Disneyland was a double date. The one picture I took on that trip is at the top of this post. The date was with a guy named Louie.

Louie was one of those guys who was plenty nice, but I thought of him as “too nice” (which doesn’t seem fair, but there it is). Anyway, he asked me on a double date, which I wasn’t real thrilled about doing, but figured it would be fun — then the double date was with the one guy at Biola that I actively loathed. (I actually don’t really remember why. Just that I really didn’t like him.) And he brought a high school student as his date.

So I didn’t have the greatest time in the world — didn’t really feel in my element, but Disneyland’s always fun, and we ate at The Blue Bayou in the Pirates of the Caribbean.

(Later that fall the guy I didn’t like asked me out in the cafeteria when other people were around. I really didn’t like it when guys did that, because it’s hard to say No. But you can be very sure I did say No!)

Then the super-duper wonderful trip to Disneyland was later in the summer with the S.I.K.s!

The S.I.K. Club had been formed the year before with my sister, Batty Becky, and me, Silly Sondy, and the Mammano sisters Jolly Jill and Jovial Gina. Our theme was Joy and our method was feeling free to be Silly. We made a calendar full of silly holidays for August, so I’m sure the trip happened in August on Disney Day.

Here are Becky, Jill, and Gina at the entrance to the park:

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We’re inside! With the Matterhorn behind them:

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We tried to get pictures with characters. Here I am with Gina, Jill, and a Little Pig:

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Becky, Gina, and Jill are trying to pull out the Sword in the Stone:

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One of the really fun parts of that trip was that every time we heard Snow White’s wishing well start singing… “I’m wishing….”

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… we’d all sing along, in Snow White voices.

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Here are Gina and Jill in the row ahead of us on Big Thunder Railroad:

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After a snack:

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With Splash Mountain behind us:

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And with Brer Bear:

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And then, after a wonderful and silly summer, school started again. I was back in Sigma Chi dorm with Coral Nightingale. Here’s Coral with her boyfriend Jo:

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But I went back to the dorm early, since I was working full-time on campus anyway. And once Steve got back we did hang out together a little bit. And — I asked him to go hiking with me.

You see, in the Student Handbook every year, there was a list of local hikes. One of the hikes was on Palos Verdes peninsula, right near my parents’ house. (Or at least closer to my parents’ house than it was to Biola.) I’d long thought it would be fun to go try that out, but hadn’t found anyone else interested. Well, Steve had a car. I suggested it to him as something fun to do (Somehow I managed this without feeling like I was being too forward. It was NOT a date.) — and he agreed.

I do remember that something like the day before we went to Palos Verdes, we were hanging out at La Mirada Park, and I got really frustrated inside that we were doing all these things together, but he didn’t seem to be “interested” in me.

But I took a deep breath and had my quiet time and decided, the next day, that I wasn’t going to ruin it by wanting what I didn’t have, but to just enjoy the moment.

And it worked. We had an incredibly good time hiking by the ocean. In the first place, it’s amazing what’s hidden there at the bottom of a cliff. You have to hike over some rocks, but it’s secluded from the crowded beach. There were some old rusting cars that had gone over the cliff in spots! But mostly it was rocks and sand and cool stuff. There was one little cove full of pebbles where the waves would go out with a huge rolling sound as all the pebbles tumbled back toward the water.

The beach was full of flotsam and jetsam. At one point, we found a square piece of wood, just the size of Steve’s hand. He got the idea to carve a message on it. So he started gouging into it the words SEND HELP, with SEND above HELP.

When he’d started writing SEND, he noticed those were his initials. Which got me to notice that the letters downward were my initials. (S. H.) So here’s what he carved:

S.E.N D
H.E L P

Of course whoever received the message would know who was asking, since it had our initials.

Then he ran out on the rocks that led out toward the ocean and threw it with all his might.

While he was running out, it looked like he was walking on the water. The sun was shining on the water and it was a lovely day, and I didn’t have my camera, but I snapped a mental picture in my mind and can still see it in my mind. It was a perfect moment.

After that, every now and then we’d say to each other, “Help is on the way!”

Oh! I just remembered — that was the first time we read Oscar Wilde fairy tales to each other.

Steve had brought a little paperback book of Oscar Wilde fairy tales, “The Selfish Giant and other stories,” and we stopped at various places in our hike and he read me some of the stories.

Like I said, a perfect day.

And most of the time I was able to thoroughly enjoy it and not be sad that he wasn’t my boyfriend already.

So then classes started. I was no longer in Chorale. Though my schedule ended up being so full, for the first time I dropped a math class — Operations Research, the very class that was happening during the time Chorale met. (I felt horribly guilty dropping a class. But with the load I had plus working, it was a good choice. Though the particular class I dropped did come back to haunt me years later.)

I’d been getting asked out a lot my Junior year. But that fall, it slowed down. I strongly suspect I had stopped putting out “available” vibes. But I did have one last date with someone who wasn’t Steve. Calvin Dyck, a violin major, asked me to go to a concert at the music building.

Now, I had been so burned in the past every time I really fell for someone, I fully expected to see Steve there, with a date. That just felt like what would certainly happen. Well, Steve was there — but he was not with a date. And I didn’t feel like it was fair to Calvin that he’d brought me, but I was thinking about Steve. I also didn’t like it that I couldn’t really talk with Steve after the concert like I wanted to.

So I decided that I really shouldn’t go on any more dates for awhile. It wasn’t fair to them. But very soon after that, it was a moot point.

On Friday the 13th in October 1984, I went to my friend Karla’s house nearby in La Mirada, I think to look at pictures she’d taken of Israel. I think Steve gave me a ride to her house on the way somewhere else — and then he showed up later to take me home. And Sam, his roommate, was with him.

Well, we dropped Sam off at his dorm, but at my dorm, Steve asked me if I wanted to go for a walk. And we walked behind the dorm and under the road to La Mirada Creek Park. It’s a narrow park with bridges going over a creek. And there’s a little bit of woods on the other end of it.

And somewhere along the way, Steve asked if I was cold and said we should walk very close together and put his arm around me. And I was laughing inside because all through high school I’d tried to get guys’ jackets by being cold and it finally worked. But no, mostly I was crazy happy because he put his arm around me!!!

The next day, Saturday, October 14, 1984, we went on our first real date. It was a double date with Sam — and Debby Scott. But I wasn’t even a bit scared of Steve knowing Debby now.

Sam drove, and Steve and I sat in the back. There was a point somewhere in the evening when Sam saw us holding hands in back and did a huge double-take but didn’t say anything to us.

We went to Datilo’s for dinner — a wonderful little place in Whittier where you could watch them make pasta that was right next to a used bookstore. After dinner and browsing in the bookstore, we went to see the movie Roxanne starring Steve Martin.

And yes! We were finally a couple.

Not too long after that, guys on Steve and Sam’s dorm floor got a lead on the Biola Egg. This was a giant concrete egg that various groups tried to control. I got to go with them the night they snagged it and took pictures. They didn’t have it long enough to paint their own logo on it.

(Oh, and the day before we started dating, there was a “Flattops for Jesus” fund-raiser for missions. One of my friends dared Steve to get his head shaved and offered $20 — so he got his head shaved. I decided I really did like him, because I started dating him in spite of this. He really did look better with longer hair.)

Anyway, here we are with the Biola Egg:

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Here’s Sam:

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And Steve and me. Yep, we were in love:

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1984_11photobooth652So, it’s kind of funny, but I don’t remember as many details once I started dating Steve. I did visit his family in Phoenix that Christmas — because my family went to Phoenix to see my Grandma.

We read more Oscar Wilde fairy tales to each other. That summer I’d joined Book-of-the-Month Club, and the book that convinced me you could tell a book was good by the description came — Momo, by Michael Ende. When I’d read a little bit of the book, I became convinced it would be a good one to read aloud, so Steve and I began reading it aloud to each other, alternating chapters. I remember that we were almost finished when it was Finals Week. We thought we didn’t have time — and then we had to do it anyway. Because Momo is a book about Time Thieves who convince people to frantically save time — and then steal it. Which is why when you are always in a hurry you actually have less time.

Spring semester, we took a Bible class together. I think it was the one on Eschatology. Anyway, each year at Biola, I’d only had one term paper per year — but that year there were something like six papers in that class alone, and I had papers in two other classes (even a math class!), so I had eight papers that last year. Now I’d done all-nighters with my previous year’s papers. But that was a bit much with so many. But for the Bible class papers, I typed Steve’s for him as well — typing both our papers on the computers at my work place.

So we did some almost all-nighters at the Computer Center. A lot more friendly than doing it by myself, even if it took longer with the extra typing. We did manage to get work done.

That was also the year I did a paper on the Fibonacci Numbers and Steve did a Music paper on the same thing — relating to the Music of the Spheres or some such. We did research together.

I should say here that I remember a lot of that time as frustrating. We were saving sex for marriage, and it was a lot harder than I thought it would be before I’d ever had a boyfriend! (Funny thing about that.) I do remember times when I thought if only we weren’t Biola students and all our friends Christians, because no one else would think anything was wrong if we went ahead and had sex. But I had to be honest with myself that it would really mess up my relationship with God.

Fortunately, we were both on board with that. I don’t think we could have pulled it off otherwise. But when one was weak, the other would slow things down. And we tried not to be Tired and Alone.

I thought at the time that saving sex for marriage would mean I’d know I had a husband with self-control and wouldn’t ever have to worry about him having an affair. It was a nice theory. But anyway, I’m happy we did that, and it was a good solid start to our relationship.

And I want to say some of the things I liked about Steve. At Biola, I didn’t have to worry about whether a guy was a Christian or not. (You had to fill out a statement of faith to apply.) When I first met Steve, I’d often want to eat dinner together on Sunday nights, and he finally told me that he fasted on Sundays. That was one of several quiet ways he tried to serve God without parading it.

Here’s a picture from Easter 1985. We spent it with my family.

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I don’t know what we’re all looking at, but Becky was there, too.

And in May 1985, I graduated from Biola University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Mathematical Sciences.

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I wore Mickey Mouse sunglasses.

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My parents and Abby came. Abby seems happy that I let her try the sunglasses.

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Here’s Steve, me, Jill, and Jeff. Jeff graduated that day, too, but must have already taken off his cap and gown.

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And with Steve:

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And so, I graduated!

I had spent the last couple months applying to grad school. I’d been tempted by schools on the East Coast, but when it came right down to it, I was scared to go so far, and didn’t really want to leave Steve on the West Coast. (He still had a year left at Biola.) I ended up applying to PhD programs (That’s normal for Math majors) at Cal Tech, USC, and all the UC campuses. I had an interview at Cal Tech and did not do well and did not get accepted. I did get accepted to all the others — and chose UCLA.

So graduation felt a little anticlimactic. I’d be working at Biola University Data Systems one more summer — then back to school again.

All in all, it was a lovely and very silly year.

Project 52 – 19 and Joyfully Silly

October 25th, 2016

It’s time for Project 52 – Week 19!

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19 weeks ago, on my 52nd Birthday, since a year has 52 weeks, I decided to post each week for the next year about one year of my life. I’m having a lot of fun remembering and thinking about where God has brought me.

When I thought about writing this post, what looms large is this is the year I met my ex-husband, Steve Eklund. I was telling some work friends that this was coming up, so I was thinking a lot about it. They asked why I would do this. So let me give some reasons. Here are some things that come to mind:

1) We were SO YOUNG when we met!

2) I really did spend a lot of my life with Steve.

3) I said all along, all during the divorce process, that Steve was a very good husband for a very long time. THIS IS TRUE!

4) Remembering the happy times is a way to reclaim those years. Yet I’ve come far enough in the healing process that on the one hand I can remember the happy times, but on the other hand I don’t want to remarry Steve again.

5) But I am very thankful for the happy times. And they lasted a long time.

6) This is *my* story. There’s something valuable about telling my story. Steve was part of that story for many years, and I’m not going to throw away those years or that part of my story just because the marriage ended badly.

7) Have I mentioned how much fun I’m having doing Project 52? I’m hoping this is a transition time in my life. (Hoping, because I would like, some day, to marry again, and that would start a new phase.) And it strikes me now that the year I was 19 was a similar time in my life to the time I’m going through now, at 52.

I didn’t really meet Steve (to talk to) until the end of the year. So my junior year at Biola was the one year I was a teenager and didn’t have a crush on anyone.

That summer, I lived back at my parents’ house and worked full time at Biola University Data Systems as a programmer. I didn’t commute with Becky, because she was married. But the summer before, Becky and I had moved out into one half of the duplex behind my parents’ house. They finally decided that they needed to let the little kids have those bedrooms! We’d had renters in the duplex for years, but the summer of 1982, they finally had Rick move to one side and Becky and me to the other. Then I moved into the dorm and Becky got married — but that summer before my junior year I lived in the duplex — and that was the very last time I lived at my parents’ house in Wilmington.

And my Dad got me, cheap, a 1969 Fiat Spider convertible! It was bright green, and it made me happy to live in Southern California! Almost every day I could drive with the top down. Driving in to work was a whole lot of fun with that car — which I only had for 6 months. (More on that…)

That summer, Becky started working at Data Systems as a data entry operator, so we often had lunch together.

I also went backpacking with the college group at church. I especially had fun with Marian and Jill on that trip.

Here’s the group:

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And here I’m having a meal with Jill and Lance and college pastor John Shumate:

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That summer, having lunches with Becky, was when we started the S.I.K. Club with sisters Jill and Gina Mammano, who were also around Biola that summer. I won’t reveal what S.I.K. stands for except to say that it was about embracing silliness and living life with joy.

We felt sorry for August, because it doesn’t have any holidays — so we made our own August Silly Holidays Calendar and thought up ways to celebrate them. We had days like August Sillies’ Day (instead of April Fool’s Day) and Hog’s Day (instead of Ground Hog Day) and Narnian Independence Day and Footloose and Fancy Free Day.

That was about the time I developed the Sparkle Theory. My Sparkle Theory goes something like this: Every human being desperately needs Sparkles. An easy way to find those sparkles, for girls, is to find them by thinking about some guy. When there’s not a guy in your life (Remember, this was my one year without a crush on anyone.), you need to consciously look for Sparkles.

And I’ll confess, I was trying to keep myself from imagining something where there didn’t really need to be anything. I did go on quite a lot of dates that year. Usually not with the same guy twice, though.

But that summer, we ate lunches fairly often with a guy named Dane who was my year at Biola and worked as an Electrician. I was somewhat tempted to let myself get a crush on him. We were good friends, and Dane later took me on two or three dates. The ones I remember were an outing playing Disc Golf at La Mirada Park and a trip to Magic Mountain. The trip to Magic Mountain was fun! And the physical proximity of going on rides did turn my head.

But — Dane was taking other girls on dates as well. And I can’t complain. We girls at Biola were old-fashioned enough not to ask guys out ourselves. And we’d complain that we wanted guys to ask us out. So Dane, at least, was doing that. In practice? Well, looking back, I remember my friendship with Dane fondly — and those dates. (And I’m not sure there wasn’t another date or two that I don’t remember!)

One of the most clever times I’ve been asked out was when somebody got on the mainframe computer when I was at work and sent me messages from an unidentified person — and asked me out. It was a math major a year ahead of me, Mark Debonis, and he asked me to go to a movie with him.

The movie was Yentl, about a highly intelligent woman not being feminine enough to attract her best friend, a man she loves deeply and truly. (Ouch!) And — also at the movie on a weeknight in a practically empty theater was Dane and another girl. Okay. (Good thing I didn’t really have a crush on him. But it sure distracted me from my date with Mark.)

But I’m getting out of sequence! The year started, of course, with Chorale activities like the yearly trip to Yosemite.

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Here’s a picture from the annual bike ride in Yosemite Valley:

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That year, my roommate was Coral Nightingale, a nursing major from Florence, Oregon. We lived in Sigma Chi dorm on the third floor. I found it was really fun to blow bubbles out the window of my dorm room and duck if anyone came by to notice them. (Bubbles really dance around if you blow them from the third floor. Hmm. I should try that from my balcony some day.)

Coral had a boyfriend, Jo Suzuki (whom she later married), so she didn’t mind that I was busy with work and Chorale folks. That year, I started getting to know my fellow math majors better — mostly guys — and started mostly eating my meals in the cafeteria with them.

It was when Coral was my roommate that I looked in her nursing books and realized that the headaches I’d had most of my life were migraines. I was taking a lot of Excedrin at that time, though it usually did the trick.

I started taking upper division math classes that year. Those were mainly only offered every two years — so most of the Senior math majors were in the classes with us Juniors. I took two of my favorites, Probability and Statistics, that year.

Another class that sticks in my mind was Creative Writing. My friend from commuter lounge days and fellow S.I.K., Jill Mammano, was in that class. The teacher, Doc Saunders, encouraged us to think about getting published. I’m still thinking about it! (And have taken steps toward it. And have gotten short pieces published.)

I remember that early on they asked us to write a short piece about an emotional experience. I wrote about the joy of driving my convertible. I’d named my little Fiat “Ebenezer,” which means, “Stone of Help,” from the verse in I Samuel, “Hitherto hath the Lord helped.” It was my reminder of God’s love and how far He had brought me.

The teacher had me read it aloud and remarked that I was the only person in the class who wrote about a positive emotional experience.

[I mentioned that there are parallels between that year and my life now? Well, the S.I.K.s really focused on Joy and finding Sparkles. And now my small group is going through a study on Joy. I do think that Joy is excellent for getting you through a time of singleness.]

But about that car. I think it was in December that I was driving to my parents’ house. I was on Eubank Avenue, waiting to cross Pacific Coast Highway, just before Banning Park. A truck was having trouble making the turn ahead of me, and used up almost the entire green light. It turned yellow before I even got to go — but I was tired of waiting, so I went through.

It’s a long intersection. PCH has six lanes at that point. Most of the cars did wait for me to cross the intersection. But somebody was driving in the right lane — the furthest lane from me as I went across the intersection. That car didn’t see me crossing the intersection, because the cars that were waiting for me blocked his view. My convertible was a very small car. (That was part of what I loved about it. It fit me!) But the cars that were waiting for me were all bigger — the guy driving in the right lane surely didn’t see me. And he hit my car at the front right corner. And then we sort of bounced and he hit the back right corner as well.

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Sigh. I felt terrible for going through the yellow, so said it was my fault at the scene. (Don’t do that! Oh well.)

I felt fine at the scene. But my car didn’t have a shoulder belt, only a lap belt. I hit that belt so hard, the skin was broken under my pants. My sunglasses flew to the right corner of the car.

The next day when I woke up — I felt AWFUL. I don’t know how my feet and legs and arms got bruised, but they did. (Hit the pedals? The steering wheel?) I went to the health clinic and they told me to see a doctor, but I never did work that out.

That Saturday (a couple days later) was the big Putnam Exam — a math test competition all math majors took. And I was leaving the test early to audition for the Wizard of Oz. Well, I didn’t get the part of Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. I could hardly move, let alone dance. I think I did get the highest score on the math test (since Mark Shimozono had graduated). But I mostly remember riding to a pizza place in Dr. Thurber’s car that evening — and thinking he was starting and stopping horribly abruptly — because every little stress on my neck hurt.

So anyway, I was back to getting rides from friends. But it was fun while it lasted.

Chorale Tour that year was to Arizona. I hiked around the rim of the Grand Canyon with some others.

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Notable in that picture is Sam Powell, standing at the back. Sam had been my assigned dancing partner for Third Half, the “variety show” the Chorale did every year. I wasn’t thrilled by the assignment — Sam seemed pretty odd. But as I got to know him, I discovered he’s actually a really intelligent and thoughtful person with a quirky sense of humor. Sam was in my West & the World class as well. And Sam had a roommate named Steve Eklund, who was also a year behind me and new in Chorale that year.

I think I first noticed Steve on Chorale Tour to Arizona, because Steve was from Arizona. (Well, really from upstate New York, but he’d lived in Arizona since high school.) We had a free day at the Grand Canyon — and Steve spent it hiking to the bottom of the canyon and back. I was slightly envious. I also remember Heidi Ridenour telling me she’d had a good talk with Steve. She said that he doesn’t talk much, but when he does, he has good things to say. I took note.

And I said that I went on more dates that year? I remember because of this picture that I went to Spring Banquet with Curt Schoellerman, a math major who was a year ahead of me.

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Curt had been engaged most of the time I’d known him, but the engagement had recently been broken off. Which was awkward for me. Curt was super nice — I thought of him as too nice, which doesn’t seem fair. Anyway, it was nice to have a nice date to Spring Banquet.

And then the big event of the end of the year was when I got the President’s Award. It’s a full-tuition scholarship offered to one Senior. They interviewed some of us in the running for it, so I knew I was being considered.

I remember that the Sunday before the announcement, we had a Chorale concert and I talked with Steve Eklund some, but I was very distracted, thinking about the announcement the next day. He even called me pulchritudinous, and I thought I knew what it meant — but took it as an insult instead of a compliment. Oops!

The next day, the class before chapel (when they would announce), I was jumping out of my skin. Anyway, they announced that I’d won.

A couple days later, there was some sort of banquet for alumni, and the Chorale was singing, so they made an official announcement and invited my parents and took pictures. In this picture is Biola President Dr. Clyde Cook. (The one at the top of the page includes Biola Chorale director Loren Wiebe.)

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It was about that time of year (the very last month of school) that I started getting to know Steve. He and Sam and I were all “non-Europe” people. The Chorale was going on tour to Europe after school let out, but some of us couldn’t quite bring ourselves to ask our parents to let us go. (I may have asked and gotten a No.) Anyway, Mr. Wiebe dismissed the Non-Europe people early, so I’d have lunch with Sam and Steve and a few others on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.

And May 17, my dorm was having an Open House. I invited Steve to come, and told him we’d be reading from Winnie-the-Pooh.

Steve came and Sam came. Steve brought a couple of friends from band, Ann and Len. And we read from Winnie-the-Pooh. And when they left, I realized that I had just fallen for Steve Eklund. (What can I say? He does a really great Eeyore voice.)

Now, Steve had brought a girl (and a guy) to my Open House. (Don’t do that when a girl invites you to her open house.) My radar told me she liked him. But she and I never did really hit it off. (And remember: I had a history of guys I liked liking someone else better.)

That was May 17, 1984. The next week was Finals Week. I’d finished a Final exam on Thursday and came across Steve and Ann and a few others hanging out in front of the music building. (Steve was a music major and much more enthusiastic about band than he was about Chorale. That was the only year he was in Chorale.)

Steve had a postcard from his sister. I think it was a picture of her graduating. He said, “I bet you can’t guess what school this is. I’ll buy you lunch if you do — either one of you.” (Speaking to Ann and me.)

Well, that was silly — I had no idea what school it was. So he said “I’ll give you three yes-or-no questions.”

We established that it was a Christian college on the East Coast, but I didn’t actually know of any such schools. Then Nate Lewis (from the Chorale) walked up to us and saw the post card and said, “Oh that’s Gordon College! My sister went there.”

So I immediately asked my third Yes-or-no question, “Is it Gordon College?” (This was fair. I mean, Ann could have asked the same question. I was quickest.)

Steve wasn’t terribly gracious about me getting it right, given my dubious method. He said he’d show my meal ticket at the cafeteria. But when we got to the cafeteria line, he had left his own meal ticket in his room. By the time he got back, we were already in the cafeteria.

So — we made a date for him to take me to lunch the next day, May 24, 1984.

When it came up, his car was in the shop, so we walked to the Mongolian Barbecue, up next to La Mirada Park.

And had a wonderful time.

That night, as it happened, I had a dinner date with Curt to Bobby McGees. That was a super nice (and expensive) place, where the waiters dress up as characters. And the whole time, I was thinking about what a good time I’d had at lunch with Steve.

I decided it’s not very nice to your date to spend it thinking about someone else, and that you really shouldn’t go out with two different guys on the same day.

And then the school year ended, and I wasn’t going to see Steve again for awhile. Would he answer letters….?

And that year my sister Becky graduated:

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And so did the Math Brothers who were a year ahead of me. This one’s of Mark (not a math major), Travis, Mark, and Nathan:

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And this one’s of Curt, Dale, Dr. Thurber, and Jim:

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Did I mention how much I enjoyed being one of only a few women in my classes? It may have messed things up a little that I mostly got higher grades than they did, but my Math Brothers meant a whole lot to me. (And the ones pictured were just the Seniors. I still had some good friends left in my year.)

So… I’d had a footloose and fancy-free junior year, and then let my heart get snagged right at the end of the year. Alas, but my junior year was also my last year in Chorale. The following year, they’d scheduled an important upper division math class right during Chorale. For the summer, I arranged to share a room in a house on Biola Avenue. So my days of living in my parents’ house were over.

I was ready to leave my teens behind.

Project 52 – 18 and Living in the Dorm

October 18th, 2016

It’s time for Project 52 – Week 18

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18 weeks ago, on my 52nd Birthday, I decided to post each week this year about one year of my life. I’m doing this for myself — reflecting my life and writing my story, giving each year one week to ponder over it.

This year we’re covering the year I was 18, from June 1982 to June 1983. I’ve been thinking about the year I was 18 for more than a week. How to summarize that year? Well, it was an emotional year — both very good emotions and very bad ones. And in the lowest times, God helped me through.

One thing that makes me extra nostalgic for that year is that the two people I spent the most time with that year (and only that year — they both left Biola the following year) have since passed away. My roommate Colleen Jenks died of a brain tumor on March 18, 1998. And just a few years ago I was pointed to an online obituary of my friend Bob Guentherman.

But back to that year. That summer was when I *finally* got my driver’s license. And June 1, 1982, I started working at Biola University Data Systems as a Student Programmer — doing computer programming for the university — programs for financial aid, class registration, car registration, chapel attendance, and the like.

The first month I worked there, my boss Sue Danielson was on vacation in Europe, so I spent most of my time reading manuals. But once she got back, the work began. I did love programming, and I was good at it. Figuring out puzzles of how to do what needs to be done given the language constraints is always fun. I continued to work there the rest of my years at Biola. When I started, it was going over COBOL programs, but before long we got Cognos products, Quiz and Quick and built reports and data entry screens with those.

I did make lasting friendships. Colin MacDougall was the other student programmer when I started, and after he graduated the others I worked with were Carolyn Rosscup, Tom Caylor, and Dave Young. My bosses Sue Danielson and John Veale were mentors to me as a college student.

I was still active in my church, now part of the college group. I went on a backpacking trip in the Sierras. I’m not sure if that year was the trip with Bob Sprague leading or if it was the year John Shumate led the trip and we watched a meteor shower out on a stargazing rock in the middle of the Sierras — but both years were wonderful experiences. And the only times I’ve gone backpacking in my life. But I did love it! (Though I pretty much decided I prefer day hikes — and drive to a place where you can see stars.)

And I moved on campus! Colleen Jenks and I were roommates. (Pronounced CO-Leen)

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I’d had Intro to Computer Science with Colleen the year before, but since then she’d switched from being a math major to an English major. I knew Colleen was a kindred spirit from the time during Freshman year when she had let me rest in her dorm room and I saw Anne of Green Gables books on her shelf. Colleen was full of fun and a complete prankster at heart.

Here’s a picture of us late at night in our PJs in front of the library:

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She was not, however, a Morning Person.

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Colleen actually would let me play records and sing to music in the morning while I curled my hair — while she was still asleep! So I should never ever tease her about how she was able to still sleep while I was doing that. But, well, I still think the picture’s funny.

Once when she was sleeping, she said something to me in her sleep. I didn’t understand what she said, so I asked, “Pardon?” She clearly didn’t understand. She sat bolt upright and said, “PARDON?!?”

This, though, is just Colleen studying:

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Now, at the end of my Freshman year, if you remember, I’d gotten quite a crush on Dan Daniels. He knew about that and didn’t return my feelings, though we wrote each other some during the summer. (That was the year I went backpacking with Bob Sprague’s group. I remember now that I wrote to him about the waterfall we saw when I went backpacking.)

I moved on campus early during Orientation week, and Colleen wasn’t there yet. But Dan Daniels had moved in. And he had a car. That first night, he drove me to dinner along with two friends of his. One was a friend he knew from Texas — Bob Guentherman, a transfer student a couple years older than me. The other was some guy I never saw again.

I think it was the second night I was on campus (during the day I was probably at work), Dan took me and my friend Debby Scott to the Bonaventure Hotel in downtown Los Angeles — just to walk around and to ride the glass elevators.

And there before my eyes I watched him fall for Debby. Not long after that, they were boyfriend and girlfriend.

Okay, that was hard. In no sense did Debby “steal” him from me. He already hadn’t fallen for me. It just happened. And I liked Debby. Remember that I was only 17 when I met Dan and looked 13. Debby seemed more beautiful and more girlfriend material. It felt like Dan made the right choice. And that was what was hard about it.

But meanwhile, guess who turned up in Chorale on the first day we met that year — Bob Guentherman! I was pleased to see him, and he seemed pleased to see me. I do remember that when we went to A & Vs Pizza, as we did every year at the start of the year, I was assigned to Bob’s car to drive over and felt very lucky.

For once, I didn’t fall for him over one exciting conversation. But it wasn’t long before my crush on Dan had been replaced by a crush on Bob. And a very good friendship with him, I must add. I ate a lot of meals in the cafeteria with him and his friend (my friend, too) Mark May, who was also new in Chorale that year.

Chorale did our traditional trip to Yosemite.

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On the way to Yosemite that year, I got the people in the car I was riding in to read Winnie-the-Pooh aloud together, with each person taking a different character’s voice. Lots of fun! That was also about the time I first read A Wrinkle in Time, on Dan Daniels’ recommendation.

The Yosemite trip always finished up with a Communion service by the river.

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So another great year began. I was working in Data Systems. I was in Chorale. I was living on campus.

I used to get a ride with Karla Waldahl, who lived in La Mirada, to church on Sundays and visit my family, then get a ride back home. I did decide that first year living in the dorm that I would live in my own home, thank you very much. So I never called my parents’ house “home” any more. When I went back to the dorm, then I was going home.

Oh! And another baby was born to our family in November. I remember singing Chorale songs about the newborn Jesus and thinking it was extra moving to sing those when there was a newborn in my life.

Marcy was Number 12, but I never did live with her. (That next summer being the only exception.)

Here are some pictures from Christmas at my parents’ house:

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And Baby Marcy, about 6 weeks old:

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Abby opening a gift:

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Then, in January, I was in two weddings. First on January 4, Ruth got married to her high school sweetheart John Bridges.

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Then on January 15, I was maid of honor when my sister Becky married Dave Friese.

Here are the bridesmaids:

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Here’s the wedding party:

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And here are my Grandma and Grandpa Bates with ALL of their grandkids — at least all the ones who had been born yet:

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Biola takes the whole month of January off classes (during which time I worked full-time), but that year I was pretty busy with weddings, too.

And my friendship with Bob was still growing. I think he was around during Interterm in January. I still lived on campus that month. Somewhere along the way, Bob and I started meeting every night at 9:00 and going for a walk. Now that I think about it, we probably did it all during Interterm when neither of us had much homework.

We’d usually go across the street to La Mirada Park and walk around. As a girl, I couldn’t wander around at night — so it was nice to have a guy along.

When we first set it up, I thought for a bit that it meant I was getting a boyfriend. Well, that didn’t happen. But I *did* have a friend, and I enjoyed those walks and talks tremendously — and liked Bob more and more as we continued to do them.

Well, some time, probably early in second semester, Bob said it was time to stop. He said “nothing was happening” between us. So we were on very different wave lengths. I was falling for him harder and harder. But he didn’t feel that way about me.

And then he fell for Debby Scott.

When Bob and I started walking every night at 9:00, Debby and Dan were still dating. Well, they broke up. And then Bob and Debby got together. Bob was a lot nicer about it than Dan had been. And I am quite sure it happened after we had stopped meeting every night.

Again, I in no way, shape, or form blamed Debby for this. It just happened.

But WOW! It hurt!

Looking at it now — Three of my very best friends were already married. (I should add that they were all a year older than me.) And I’d never even had a boyfriend. And I had this friend I was crazy about who was spending time with me every night — and then he goes and falls for the same friend that my earlier crush fell for. The same beautiful, funny, clever, lovely person with the gorgeous voice. OUCH!

(And I’m still friends with Debby. She’s a wonderful, vibrant person with a sparkle in her eyes.)

However, I was taking a Psalms class with Dr. Ed Curtis. I was also memorizing the Psalms and having my quiet times in Psalms. And right around the time that Bob and Debby started dating, we covered Psalms 73 in class — and it was God’s word to me.

Whom have I in heaven but you?
And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever.

Yes, God helped me through that time — and laid the foundation for me to remember to turn to Him when I went through much deeper heartbreak years later.

God is faithful.

And the year finished off with Chorale Tour to the East Coast!

We started in Boston:

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Here’s Dave Kennedy with a statue:

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Then we went to New York. This is from the boat to the Statue of Liberty:

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And here are my dear friends Bob and Mark with the Twin Towers behind them:

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After that, we drove down to North Carolina. Now, my dear friend Kathe was living with her husband Joe in North Carolina at that time. We made a plan that she was going to come to our concert there, and then I would stay overnight with her. She would drive me up to Washington, DC, where the Chorale had a free day, and then I would join the Chorale again.

Well, on the day Kathe was going to drive to the concert to meet us — her car broke down.

It was another huge disappointment. I was crying in the bus the next day. And didn’t get much sympathy. It seemed such a stupid meaningless reason to not get to see my dear friend.

But — we were singing about trusting God and how Jesus is Lord. During the concert, I was deciding — would I get mad at God over this, or would I trust that He had a plan, that this didn’t sneak past Him. And, singing the songs, it’s pretty hard not to realize that I can trust Him.

So I was with the Chorale in North Carolina:

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And in Williamsburg (Little did I know how often I would come here years later!):

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And then we got to Washington, DC. Here’s the whole group singing “Spirit of God, Descend Upon My Heart” on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. I’m in the second row, sixth from the left.

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In those days, you could walk around the Capitol:

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Here’s Becky Geringer and Bill McIntosh:

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And Bob (from Texas) at the Texas statue:

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But best of all was that Kathe was able to meet me in DC — and I spent the rest of the day with her!

Here we are at the US Botanical Garden:

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That was the very first time I visited the Botanical Gardens. It was Kathe’s idea. Just a couple weeks ago, I took my sister Becky there, and have been there with other friends, too. Kathe started it, in 1983.

And here I am on the plane back with my dear friends Elizabeth Daniels and Debbie Olson.

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And when we got back, Bob broke up with Debby, who had not been able to go on the trip.

And after the year ended, Colleen transferred to Oregon State University. And Bob also switched schools. I only saw Bob one more time — He came at the start of the year the following year to withdraw.

I wrote to Bob many, many times over the years, and he never once wrote back. He had given me fair warning. When I first met him, he was surprised that Dan made the effort to look him up. Bob said that he just lets old friendships go. I said that I don’t do that at *all* — that I still have kept my best friends from third grade. So I guess I didn’t really listen to him saying he *didn’t* do that. I tried many times to get something from him — even one last time when Colleen died, because they were both from that same year of my life — but nothing.

And it turned out that Bob was gay. I figured that out somewhere along the way. I believe that was essentially why he broke up with Debby. And it is very likely why he was so able to resist my charms even when we went for walks every night!

I was sad that he never told me so. But to be fair, I was a young idealistic and Pharisaical evangelical — and when I realized Bob was gay, I thought it was a tragedy.

Still, somewhere years down the road, when my perspective had drastically and completely changed, it would have meant a lot to talk about it. Some day in heaven I’m going to spot my friend and tell him I’m so happy he got to have a 26-year relationship with his partner and sing in a choir and have a great life. And his friendship with me did brighten that year of my life. I look back at it with much more happiness than anguish.

Colleen and I did write letters. Often! And she and her parents came and visited me in Illinois a few months before I moved to Germany. It was after her first bout with cancer and before the bout that killed her. Colleen went on to become an English teacher at a high school — and she was a Fabulous one!

Whew! That was my Sophomore year at Biola University, the year I was 18. The year I learned about heartbreak, but that God really would take me through it. That was a lesson that would help years later.

Project 52 – Seventeen Going on Thirteen!

October 11th, 2016

It’s time for Project 52 – Week 17!

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17 Weeks ago, on my 52nd Birthday, I decided to start Project 52 — for 52 weeks, I’m going to reflect each week on one year of my life. I’m having lots of fun remembering and reflecting on where I’ve been — laying out one year each week.

It’s fun to give each year equal weight. As I’ve lived them, it seems like each year gets shorter!

I realized after I posted last week that I forgot to mention that the 11th child in our family, Robert, was born September 18, 1980 — at the beginning of my Senior year. I’m not sure all that this forgetting signifies. Maybe I was starting to be less excited about my Mom having kids so often? It also may not be a coincidence that there are no pictures of me during my Senior year of high school in our family photo album. But a new baby was born that year.

Anyway, there also weren’t many pictures of me taken my Freshman year of college. The summer before college, I did work at McDonalds, walking distance from our house, walking down the street and through the park. I still did not get my driver’s license that year, believe it or not.

I went to Biola University — the same place my older brother and sister went. I had played with ideas of applying to Cal Tech or Point Loma or Seattle Pacific College or somewhere on the East Coast. But when it came down to it, I applied to Biola and I lived at home.

None of my friends from Brethren went to Biola. Darlene and Jennifer went to Point Loma. (Though Darlene went to my church when she was in the area.) I think Ruth already got her own flower shop that year. Some friends did go to local schools like Cal State Long Beach and Long Beach City College.

I did have Rick and Becky at Biola, and Becky’s friend Jeryl, and even T.C.G.I.H.A.C.O. (though I got over that crush early in the year and became good friends with him). But I was a Math major and a Freshman, and none of them were, so I didn’t have the same classes.

So, that first year of Biola was a year of making new friends! I was a commuter without a driver’s license. Most often I got rides with Becky, but sometimes Rick and sometimes my Mom. But the big event that shaped my years at Biola happened right away — I was accepted into the Biola Chorale!

The Biola Chorale is their elite by-audition-only choir. That year, there were only 4 Freshmen in the Chorale, so I felt very lucky to make it! I will never forget the morning I found out I had made it. They were posting the list after Chapel. At chapel, being new, I met another new girl (though she was a transfer student and a bit older than me) named Elizabeth Daniels. It turned out that she had also auditioned for Chorale, so we went to look at the list together — and both got in!

I think that was also the first meeting of Chorale. Mr. Wiebe (the director) said that the group was so good that year (so few new people), we were strong enough singers that he had a seating arrangement *not* in vocal sections, but boy-girl-boy-girl. I was sitting next to Jeff Kreeger, one of the most handsome guys I’d ever met! (He had a girlfriend I soon learned. But very intimidating for a 17-year-old Freshman to sit next to!) And when he opened his mouth, he had one of the most meltingly beautiful tenor voices I’d ever heard. Fortunately, he was super nice, and so was Brian Adams on the other side of me. They passed out music in an intricate arrangement of “Spirit of God, Descend Upon My Heart.” I barely made a sound and was just so afraid they’d figure out I didn’t belong there at ALL! Well, Brian leaned over and told me, “You should know we sing this song every year, so everyone else already knows it.” That really did help!

Fortunately, we had a piano at home, and I spent a *lot* of time going over my parts. Oh, and my brother Rick was also in Chorale that year — though sitting pretty far away from me. But he drove me to some Chorale things.

I also met Jill Mammano that year, as a fellow commuter student.

I was a Math major, but since I’d taken AP Calculus AB, they gave me one semester of credit for Calculus. But they didn’t offer second semester Calculus fall semester, so I had to sit out a semester. I did take Intro to Computer Science that semester with Dr. Woo and met some people who I’d later learn were my fellow math majors. People like Jeff Petersen and Kevin Penner, who later became my dear friends. But also in that class I met Colleen Jenks, who’d be my roommate the following year. She changed from a Math major to an English major after that semester, but I knew she was a kindred spirit when she let me rest in her room one day and I saw she had the Anne of Green Gables books on her shelf.

Of course, in Chorale I made many friends — Elizabeth Daniels (already mentioned), Debby Scott, Debbie Olson, and many others. It was an instant social group as well as a group that made wonderful music. Not being a music major, I didn’t have any illusions that mine was one of the better voices — it definitely wasn’t — but it was so wonderful to get to sing with so many beautiful voices. The Chorale had bonding social events at the start of the year like a trip to Yosemite and then many concerts. Our tour that year was to northern California.

But one of the biggest events of the year happened in January, when Kathe married Joe Barsotti in Virginia — and they bought me a ticket to come out and visit and be Kathe’s Maid of Honor! (I should add that Kathe is a year older than me, so she was 18.)

It was the first time I’d ever been on an airplane. And since I was born in Washington, DC, I was extra excited to get to see Washington, DC.

I had a wonderful week with Kathe before her wedding! It turns out I did take pictures during that trip.

Here’s Happy Kathe:

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This was the Rehearsal Dinner:

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And the reception:

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Second semester, the big event was that I got to be in Biola’s production of The Sound of Music!

The role I hoped for was Liesl, of course. Since I actually was 17 years old, I thought I could perfectly play “16, Going on 17.” Well, the part I got was Louisa, the 13-year-old. And, yes, I looked 13 years old. (I put my hair into ponytails, and that was all it took.)

It turned out to be hugely fun. Louisa only has 9 lines, but she is in fully half the songs and is on stage for half the scenes. She even has solo lines such as, “I flit, I float, I fleetly flee, I fly.”

Rick was a Drama major by that time, and he was Assistant Stage Manager for that production, so he gave me rides to many of the rehearsals.

At one point, Rick tried to arrange a game of Diplomacy that he was moderating. He let me play, and the rest were a bunch of guys. I think the game petered out, but some time around that time I met Dan Daniels at the music building. He wasn’t a music major, but had been talking with his roommate Mark Oglesby who played the organ and Mark’s girlfriend Coral Nightingale — who was later to become my roommate. Anyway, one night while I was waiting for my ride, I got to talking with Dan, who had been in the Diplomacy game. We had a great conversation, and I fell hard for him.

Dan never did fall for me back. But he remained a good friend. And especially notable was a day at the end of the year after I pulled my very first all-nighter.

It was because of a term paper. I stayed up to write it and type it — and ended up staying up all night. I think that was the paper on Jane Austen. I’d had plenty of time to write it — and I ended up using the time to read all her novels. Then I wrote the paper the night before — and finished typing it just before we needed to leave to go to Biola.

Well, I had a Calculus test that morning.

I mentioned that I only got one semester credit for AP Calculus? Well, most of second semester Calculus was stuff I’d learned in high school — and had studied super hard in order to pass the AP Test. So I knew it very well. (The only new thing was infinite sums and infinite series, which we hadn’t gotten to at the time of this test.)

But that test — after staying up all night — was by far the hardest math test I’ve ever taken. I went over and over and over the problems. I just couldn’t think straight! I did end up getting a 90 on the test — but that was the lowest score I’d ever gotten on a math test up to that time. And I didn’t know I managed even that at the time.

After the test, I think it was Jeff Petersen who said something like, “I bet that wasn’t any trouble for you!” — and I burst into tears!

So, yeah, I was a basket case! I turned in the paper in English class. But I still had to wait around until Becky was done so I could go home. And that was where Dan Daniels proved to be a True Friend. I called him up. He heard the distress in my voice, and he came to the food place in the Student Union, and he recited a chapter from Winnie-the-Pooh from the Expotition to the North Pole where Tigger bounces Eeyore into the water!

It was exactly the right response. Though it did make me fall all the harder for him. (I mean, how perfect is that? He recited Winnie-the-Pooh! From memory!) But above all, it was kind. By that time, he may have known I had a crush on him — but he was willing to come out and cheer me up anyway.

(I will insert right here that Dan went on to marry young and last I heard had 9 kids. I’m happy for him. But I’m so, so, so glad that he didn’t fall for me back and didn’t marry me. I’ve spent enough of my life taking care of lots of kids. But anyway, he was a wonderful friend to me that day.)

Oh, another thing that happened my Freshman year was that my GPA already got messed up, which was a relief. I had a 1-credit P.E. class and got a B. So in college I never ever was trying to maintain a 4.0.

I had English 101 Criticism & Composition with Mr. MacDougall — who my brother and sister had recommended. I also got an A- in that class. (Same effect on GPA as a B in a 1-unit class.) I thought that my scores must have been beaten by Betsy Bauman. I found out years later that she’d gotten a B in that class, so my A- must have been the highest score. Which seems like overly hard grading, but he was a great teacher.

And that’s all I can think of to say about my Freshman year at Biola. Except that some time during that year I begged and begged — and my parents eventually agreed to let me move into the dorm my Sophomore year, and I was going to room with Colleen Jenks!

Project 52 – Sweet Sixteen and a Senior!

October 4th, 2016

It’s time for Project 52 – Week 16!

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16 weeks ago, on my 52nd birthday, I decided to start Project 52 — for 52 weeks, I’m going to reflect each week on one year of my life. I’m enjoying it a lot — a chance to look back and reflect on where God has brought me.

Tonight I’m covering the year I was 16 and a Senior in high school at Brethren High School in Paramount, California — June 14, 1980 to June 14, 1981.

The picture above was the only one I could find from that year with me in it. (Though if I looked in my yearbook I could find more.) That’s taken at Hume Lake during the summer — I’m in the front left corner of the front “human chariot.” My friend Darlene is on the front right corner, and Jennifer’s right behind me.

I did go to church camp at Hume Lake that year, but didn’t participate in Summer Servants again. I think I might have begun working at McDonalds that summer, which would have explained why I didn’t have time for Summer Servants.

My mind has drawn a veil over working at McDonalds, so I won’t talk much about that! My Mom used to say that her Dad used to say that you should start with a bad job to learn to appreciate good ones later, and at least McDonalds makes me appreciate every other job I’ve ever had. I started there the same time my sister Becky did, though we didn’t usually work the same shifts.

I remember my Senior year as being pretty wonderful. At last I was at the top of the heap! No brothers and sisters went to the same high school with me. Now Rick and Becky were both attending Biola University — still living at home, but commuting out to La Mirada.

I love my brother and sister, but did have a tendency to feel overshadowed. So being a Senior myself was a big deal.

Also, that year T.G.I.H.A.C.O. had graduated and was gone — I had to get over him. The Church Guy I Had a Crush On still went to my church and was going to Biola, so I saw him occasionally, but had to put my focus elsewhere, and that was a good thing.

Looking back, I was too busy having a great time to pine over guys that year. In fact, there were a few guys in my circle of friends and the people I hung out with. I did get a date to the Junior/Senior Banquet (and I had the year before, too), so that was something — but not the boyfriend I wanted. But looking back, okay, I didn’t find someone who loved me romantically — but I had a large wonderful group of people who loved me and cared about me as a friend. Hmmm. That’s kind of like my life today.

I do think that having a large circle of close friends and acquaintances you care about is a side effect of going to the same Christian school for six years. Many of my classmates from Brethren are my Facebook friends today — Our graduating class had about 85 people, and we got to know one another well.

Let’s see… my Senior year had so many good things. For academic classes, the highlight was AP Calculus — the only AP class that Brethren offered. There were five of us in the class — myself, Christine Van Aalst, Alan Purucker, Casildo Guerrera, and Gabriel Hui. I started listening in Math Class that year! The wonderful and quirky Miss Royer was our teacher — and she got married after we graduated. She was older, so this was a big deal. Her name thenceforth was Mrs. Smith. But I did love Calculus class and got a 5 on my AP exam. The seeds of the math major I was to become were sown.

My other achievements in math were getting the top score on the MAA exam for my high school for the third year in a row — and winning a silver pin. I’d been on the Math Team all four years of high school. That year I did a chalk talk on De Moivre’s Theorem. I didn’t win an award at the Math Field Day that year, but I had the year before on the Binomial Theorem, and I did progress to the finals. Oh, and I won all three of the pencil-games tournaments at the end of the year — Five-in-a-row Tic Tac Toe, 3D Tic Tac Toe, and Hex.

And it wasn’t just about doing well in math — Math was fun! I do think that taking Calculus over a whole year in high school rather than a semester in college (or Trigonometry… or Algebra II) gives you more time to really enjoy it, see how awesome and fun it is.

And I was in Choir again, and the ensemble Ecclesia. I was still taking voice lessons. When our choir sang at my church, I got to sing a solo, and I sang a solo at the choir festival in the springtime. I was never a star — but I did enjoy that. And I’ve always loved singing in choirs, especially choirs that sing to the Lord.

My Senior year I also took Drama class. I was in two plays that year, and in both got the second-best female part — the best going both times to Debbie Carmichael, who totally deserved them and who is still acting today. The Drama class did a version of Pilgrim’s Progress written by our drama teacher, and I was Hopeful. The choir did our annual “May Festival” — with acting and singing — and I was the mad scientist Dr. Kreps, which was a silly and fun role.

Here’s a picture from choir tour to San Francisco:

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The friends in the picture are Kristen Harris, Darlene Sasaki, Ruth Douglas, Lorie Gibson, and John Roussopulos. This is the first picture I’ve come across of Kristen — she was one of my best friends that year. We had P.E. together that year (some of the only Seniors in that class) and we used to sing 2nd Chapter of Acts duets in the locker room — much to the annoyance of everyone else. We used to have a lot of fun debating which of us was the most beautiful and which was the most humble. We were so superlative in both, it was hard to decide!

Next are a couple of pictures from Senior Ditch Day at the end of the year to Laguna Beach:

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Seeing Dan Deguisne in the first picture (third from the left), I’m reminded that he drove us to school that year. He probably drove his brother Terry and my sister Wendy (8th grade) as well, but I don’t remember that so much! I still did not have my driver’s license.

Baccalaureate that year (a church service honoring graduates) happened on my birthday, so I was actually 17 and a few days when I graduated. I was co-valedictorian with Gail Karber and Marty Rindahl. I gave a speech where I referenced Psalm 84 (I was memorizing in Psalms that year):

“Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
who have set their hearts on pilgrimage.
When they pass through the Valley of Trouble,
they make it a place of springs;
the autumn rains also cover it with pools.
They go from strength to strength,
till each appears before God in Zion.”

And I have to say that, looking back on the pilgrimage of my life, God has made each Valley of Trouble a place of springs and has brought me from strength to strength. Little did I know then what I was in for! But God has been faithful.

However, looking back on that year: What great friends I had! (And still have! Those friendships lasted.)

Project 52 – 15 and Fabulous!

September 27th, 2016

It’s time for Project 52, Week 15!

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15 weeks ago, on my 52nd Birthday, I decided to start Project 52 — For 52 weeks, I’m going to reflect each week on one week of my life.

This week, I’m looking at the year I was 15 and in 11th grade — June 14, 1979, to June 14, 1980.

My sister Becky came to visit me last weekend (I mean this weekend, during my 53rd year.), and it reminded me that Becky was a huge part of my life growing up — pretty much until I moved away from California. This was a good thing, but it also always felt good to do my own things. In a big family, it’s very easy to feel overshadowed, and I think I enjoy doing independent things on my own more than most — in part as a reaction to that.

But the summer after I turned 15, I started on something that Becky was not doing — Summer Servants.

We’d started at First Baptist Lakewood the summer before, but the summer before my Junior year, I wanted to do Summer Servants — an intense 6-week program where you went on *all* the youth group trips as well as a training week at the beginning and training in between trips. The leadership expected us to be evangelizing new kids who came to camps and on trips.

In the beginning week, we learned to share our faith with strangers using the Four Spiritual Laws. Yes, I went on day trips — one was to a beach — and accosted strangers with a partner and “led them to Christ.” No, this does not suit my personality type. I wonder what happened with those people all these years later.

Some good things Summer Servants did was have a big focus on each person having daily Quiet Times, spending time with God, good teaching, and getting me out and among other kids my own age. Darlene was going to my church by this time, but I don’t think anyone else from my high school was in Summer Servants, so I made some new friends.

And — I gained a second crush! One for church and one for school (same TGIHACO from previous years). Interestingly, they both had the same first name. But it was pretty harmless, since neither one was “interested” in me in that way. At least with the guy from church, we had some great conversations about spiritual things. I knew he had a heart for God. And he actually stayed a great friend.

[A few years later, when I was in college and getting sad about how this guy still didn’t “like” me, a friend suggested that instead of praying God would change his heart, I should pray that God would change my heart. I did, and God did. I liked him very much, but no longer had a crush on him, and it no longer hurt that he didn’t “like” me that way. Though I might have done well to hold out for a guy with a heart for God like he had.]

But the trips with Summer Servants were memorable and wonderful. And I started bringing my camera!

Oh, and that was also when I learned that if you brought a magnetic chess set on a bus trip, you stood a great chance of getting to sit next to an intelligent guy! (Including the one I had a crush on.) I played many chess games that summer and enjoyed who I ended up sitting next to that way. Of course, it probably didn’t help me seem very attractive that I won most games. And it also probably didn’t help that I enjoyed winning. But what can you do?

Our first trip was to Ensenada, Mexico. The girls slept in this hangar, and the boys in tents outside.

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I remember praying Psalm 91 about the “terror of night” — bugs! But we were fine.

I don’t remember all we did there, supposedly helping missionaries, but we did make a trip to an orphanage.

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The blonde is Yvette Gold, another junior in Summer Servants with me.

For our next trip, we split up the boys and girls, and the whole youth group was invited. I don’t remember where the boys went, but the girls went to Kings Canyon.

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I think that trip was only a few days, and a beautiful place and a good time — but one night I decided to sleep in the bus instead of the tent — and woke up with 50 other girls trying to sleep in there, too — It was raining! That did not work. And I felt like I was there first, but that logic didn’t work, alas!

And then, in the middle of the summer, Kathy came to visit!

By now, Kathy had moved from Catalina Island to the East Coast, to College Park, Maryland. But she came back for a trip, and we got our foursome back together and went to Disneyland.

Here are Kathy and Abby on Dumbo:

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And here are the four of us, now nearly all the same height: Kathy, Abby, me, and Darlene:

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Kathy’s visit hit a time when the Summer Servants were at home, and all during the summer we had Wednesday Night extravaganzas at church. They involved crazy games. We were all on teams — I was on the Gold Team — and always a meeting at the end that included a testimony and an invitation. Kathy came on Wednesday night:

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The next trip was the big summer camp trip of the summer, Hume Lake!

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My sister Becky went on this trip, and so did lots of other folks from Brethren High School, including my friend Jennifer. I’m not sure if Darlene went that year, but she did the next.

Wild games were also the norm at Hume Lake:

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As well as great speakers and big meetings. But we also had lots of fun on our time off, doing things like hiking to the Little Brown Church. (This is Valerie, a 12th grader at Brethren):

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We also went rowing:

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The final trip of the summer was just for Summer Servants, summing up the summer. We stayed in a cabin near Lake Tahoe:

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Here’s the place where I’d have my Quiet Times when I was at Tahoe:

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On our last day at Tahoe, we went tubing down the Truckee. I *loved* it! The part I did was mostly calm and peaceful and wonderful — ending with rapids, which I loved even more.

But we stopped at that point and let people who didn’t want to navigate more rapids stop and go back to the bus. The rest was more rapids. Well, I was starting to feel sick and was really tired, so I went back to the bus and slept. I was always sorry afterward that I did that — because I proceeded to get super sick anyway. Might as well have gone — I couldn’t have been any sicker!

The next week was one of the most painful of my life.

I’m not sure if the pain was quite as bad as the previous year when I was sick for a week because of a sunburn, but it was close. I came down with pleurisy — which is a searing pain in the lining of your lungs every time you breathe. Like with my sunburn, I slept in my bean bag chair — this time because it didn’t quite hurt as bad if I didn’t lie flat.

For years after that, whenever I got a bad cold, I’d get occasional lung pain, which always frightened me that I was getting pleurisy again — though I never actually did. [And how lovely to realize, now, that it’s been decades since I felt that kind of pain in my lungs.]

And we had one more trip that summer — but this time a family trip. Our family actually tried camping in a tent!

There were still ten children — Rick (now in college at Biola but living at home), Becky, me, Wendy (now in 7th grade at Brethren), Randy, Ron, Jeff, Nathan, Abby, and Peter. It was around this time that the habit of family summer vacations, most commonly to visit Grandma Bates in Oregon, had pretty much stopped. But we did try camping at Crystal Lake.

And Becky and I went for a hike!

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Once we reached the summit, we refused to believe the distance we’d traveled was as small as the sign said:

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After that eventful summer, I started 11th grade, with Becky in 12th grade. We were both in A Capella Choir together — and that year I got chosen for Ecclesia, the smaller ensemble. Jennifer was in Ecclesia with me. Becky and I were both taking voice lessons with Miss Wells by then, and we sang a duet at the ACSI Choir Festival in the Spring. That was just one of many duets Becky and I liked to sing together over the years. Since Becky played the piano, we would sing Second Chapter of Acts songs together. We also had a book of Bill Gaither songs with parts that we’d sing from. This was just the natural result of all our years of singing hymns together in the car on the way to church.

That Fall, Becky was chosen as Homecoming Queen! I was so happy for her! I walked around crying. (I hope I wasn’t trying to put the focus on me. I was genuinely happy for her.) Now, it did perplex me how everyone at Brethren seemed to think Becky was so “sweet,” but well, she didn’t give me her public face. Anyway, since no one at all had ever complimented me on my looks (that I remember), perhaps it is no wonder that I focused more on intelligence.

That year I took Math Analysis with the 12th graders. I kept my rivalry going for top scores with Glen Gibson. I also took Physics — and there were only 2 girls in a class with about 20 boys. Yes, I did enjoy those proportions. Mr. Elliott, who’d taught Chemistry the year before, was the teacher. I kept trying to suggest that we should go to Magic Mountain for a Physics field trip, but he never did go for it.

Have I mentioned that by this time I was a roller coaster fiend? With Magic Mountain my favorite amusement park because it had the most roller coasters. But living in southern California, we got lots of chances to visit all the parks. Here’s Darlene after “Encounter 80” — where lots of area churches got together and went to Magic Mountain. I think that was the year that Colossus opened — one of my favorite roller coasters of all. (Though much much better years later when they let you ride it backwards.)

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And this was probably some type of ditch day, but here’s Darlene and Ruth and Ruth’s brother Tom at Knott’s Berry Farm, with Montezuma’s Revenge in the background:

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And here’s Ruth at a trip to Universal Studios:

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And there was another Youth Group trip in winter. Ruth and Darlene went with me to Winter Camp.

Oh, and that must have been the year of my disastrous day of skiing!

Every time I fell down, my skis fell off. Well, my first time on the ski lift, just as I was getting ready to sit on the lift seat — they stopped it because it hit some other lady. So instead of sitting on the seat, I sat down in the snow and my ski came off. So the guy running the lift picked me up, put me in the lift, and handed me my ski. So I went up holding one ski terrified I was going to drop it. Of course I fell down at the top, getting off with only one ski.

Some day I will have to take actual ski lessons. That time we tried to have Ruth show us how and, well, it didn’t work. (Ruth and I don’t actually think the same way. I want step-by-step how-tos. Ruth wants to wing it. That didn’t work well for me.)

But the rest of Winter Camp was super fun. My favorite thing was innertubing down a hill!

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Here are Darlene and me going over a “jump”!

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Winter Camp included more meetings with great speakers and singing. Here’s Becky and some other friends:

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Here are Darlene and Patty with a snowman that was the best we could do. We didn’t know anything about snow, but this was not good packing, so we just piled up some chunks.

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And we also had good times in our cabin. Here’s Darlene:

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And here’s the entire cabinful of girls:

1980_01-winter-camp6

Look at that! By then I had given up my glasses. I started wearing them in 4th grade and quit in 11th grade because my eyes had gotten better. [I was very sad at 50 or so when I learned it was a continuum — the eye that was most nearsighted at 15 is the least farsighted at 50. By now at 52, I need to wear glasses all the time again. But it was a nice respite.]

And I found this picture of a view from my window taken that spring:

1980_05-my-view

Here’s a picture of Senior Square after the traditional toilet papering at the end of the year.

1980_06-senior-square

I was super sad about that year’s seniors leaving, including TGIHACO. But there was also excitement that now we would be Seniors and that thrilling feeling of independence with no older siblings at my school.

I was a Junior Honor Guard at graduation. Since they didn’t count P.E. in GPA, I was tied with straight As. I was very sad that they were leaving — but that day, two days before I turned 16, I got my first kiss. Tracy Bunn was going around giving hugs — and kisses — much to my surprise. But I was a bit satisfied that I could not, after all, say I was “Sweet sixteen, never been kissed.” Though a surprise kiss when you aren’t expecting it — and don’t respond — definitely wasn’t the best kiss I’ve ever gotten. But it was the first.

Looking back over the whole year, that was a good one! One of the lovely things about all the church activities was that it was cool at that church to be wholeheartedly seeking to please the Lord. They caught us young. In fact, it was either that year or the year before that I got baptized.

And God was good to me. Yes, I kept praying for a boyfriend. But I had so many good friends and so many interesting activities. Lots of friends and lots of fun.