So this is the continuation of my graduation story which begins in the post below. Even if you don’t feel like reading all of it there are some cute pictures– scroll down.
Before I start on the next part of the story, I saved one other picture because I didn’t want it to get buried down at the bottom. Every now and then I get a picture of him (in this case, A took the picture) that I just adore beyond measure. This is one of them
Okay is that not too cute for words? I’m going to get this blown up big and hang it on his wall, lest he ever start to think about attending another University.
And on with the story…
Well it’s now nearly 11pm May 1st and I haven’t really slept since, oh, I guess it was Thursday night. Yeah, I didn’t sleep. I couldn’t sleep. I remember listening to Andrew breathe in the pack n play a few feet away. And I watched the clock as it turned 1am, 2am, 3am, 4am… well you get the picture. I may have dozed off slightly between 5 and 6 but then it was time to get up, dress, repack the room and reload the car. We did in fact manage to get 4 people, one of whom being a 20 month old, completed dressed in nice clothes, with everything loaded by 7:08 am which I think is pretty damn impressive. A even got pulled over on the way back north but managed to squeak by with a warning. I had just finished getting my cap situated on my head and my hair looking okay when the FHP guy stops us. He takes a look at us and goes, “Y’all headin’ to a weddin’?” Umm… it’s the new look. Mortarboards instead of veils. It’s all the rage. Eh, I guess that’s being pretty rich of me to joke considering he let us go without writing what would have undoubtedly been a very hefty ticket.
We made it there in time and then began the nerve wracking “radio silence”. Okay so not really but in the instructions for graduates which I read no less than 10 times, it said not to bring anything and not wanting to lose my phone I figured it was safer in the car. So we picked a meeting place (the giant oak tree outside the O Dome) and I hopped out of the car. Now here’s the insanely stupid part, one I’m almost afraid to admit. I go to pull on the gown and didn’t realize it had these funky sleeves with deep pointy pockets (like, picture Death minus the hood and the scythe). I went to stick my hands in and realized it was stitched and thought, “Oh crap, they forgot to put holes in mine!” (Yeah remember how I hadn’t had any sleep ) I quickly realized of course it had holes and THEN what a perfect place those sleeves would have been to put my phone! Sheesh!
Well I wandered around for a while and then it hit me that I didn’t know a damn person in the place. Wow talk about lonely– sit through God knows how many hours without talking to anyone? I started looking around for someone who looked friendly, determined not to be completely boring the whole time. But everyone seemed to be in a huddle with their friends. I wandered over to the basketball practice courts and found my spot next to the other light blue hooded people with the College of Education. I was standing near a woman, someone who looked outside the traditional college age range. She was alone, too. Then she offered to fix my hood for me. I told her I was so thankful because I didn’t know anyone. She said she didn’t either, that she’d done her whole degree online. Well long story short (ha who am I kidding?) She was not only my classmate from my final course but also my PARTNER in the final section. Talk about small world and random chances!
The ceremony started and we processed out. The pictures aren’t much to see… I’m just a little dot. They did all the Doctorate degrees first (which took forever) and then started on the Master’s degree candidates. Here’s me walking across the stage followed by a zoomed in version of the same picture.
Have you ever tried so hard to remember something that it made the memory slip out of your mind even faster? That was kinda how it was for me. It felt a little like slow motion walking across the stage. Now I realize at this point I’ve been typing these posts for nearly an hour and you’re like, geeze lady all you did was get a Master’s degree. But it was kinda more than that. And this is where I’ll tell the other part of the story in the most cryptic way possible.
See, I’ll get back to the graduation stuff (there’s not much more to tell really) but first I want to head down a different path for a minute. See back in 2004, I found out that there was a job available at my school but I lived in NJ. I had been married just around a year and things were going well in that aspect of my life but I was lonely and depressed about not having a real job or purpose in life and A was TDY almost constantly so I was completely by myself most of the time in a strange state with nothing to do besides work at Pottery Barn. So when the job opened I knew in my heart that I had to have it and A was nothing but 100% supportive, willing to live away from me to make it work. So from the very first moment I started at my school I took a leap of faith to get there.
And in many ways every single aspect of my career and this path that I’ve been on with getting my degree has all been about faith. And those times that I wasn’t sure I could do it, it was all about faith. So this past week, when my boss approached me with, I don’t even know what to call it– a proposal of sorts, I felt again that I was being led by the Holy Spirit. Now those of you who know me, even those who know me really really well, know that I don’t get outwardly religious often. It’s a very private thing for me. But this particular moment felt so strong that I’m certain my prayers for guidance were being answered on the spot. You see, not knowing who exactly reads this and having promised secrecy I will not go into the details of this proposal but suffice to say it requires yet another leap of faith.
So as I turn back to my graduation story, understand that this isn’t about graduation much at all as it is about the closure of one life chapter, the transition to the next chapter and the faith involved in the whole process. Because as I look back on every major life milestone I’m finally starting to see how everything pieces together and that may very well be a miracle in and of itself.
So I walked across the stage and believe me when I say I’m not exaggerating this or trying to be dramatic but I felt like everything slowed down and got quiet.
I had told myself, “listen to where the shouts are coming from, then you’ll know where they’re sitting” but I didn’t hear anything at all. I shook hands 4 times and said thank you to each person. I was smiling. I didn’t trip and fall. The rest is a haze. I do know that I felt what I did not feel the other 2 times I have taken part in the grand tradition of graduation. I know that THIS time was different because the chapter really did end and I really do feel done and truthfully that is the most I could have possibly asked for.
The rest of the ceremony felt long. It was terribly hot under the gown and I was tired, no, exhausted, but happy. After I found everyone and we walked back to the car. While they were waiting, A took a few more pictures of Andrew in front of the Bull Gator. He had been so excited last night when I told him that today we’d see more Gators. In fact he woke up asking about them.
And of course more Chomp (Can’t wait to bring him to his first game!)
Then we went and took a few more pictures after. This was a neat drive by photo. I jumped out of the car and A took the picture from the window as he was driving. Impressive! And here’s where I’ve gotta say he did everything in his power to make today absolutely the best! He definitely succeeded beyond my wildest expectations!
I also have a picture here after my undergrad graduation. I need to find it at some point.
Sign on campus
And one last one of me
This evening, A surprised me. We went out to dinner and instead of it just being us I showed up to find my whole family was there– EVERYONE! This is what I never got the first two times around. I got everyone together all in one place plus two very dear friends. I couldn’t ask for more than this.
They say nothing’s perfect. But today was. And I can only hope and continue to pray that the start of this next story, this next journey of faith, will be as wonderful and as filled with hope and promise as today.
Well it has been the type of day you never forget and I mean that in a really good way.
This promises to be a long entry, mostly because this is for me and I don’t want to forget it.
I guess you could say it kinda all started back in 1999. It was the day before my high school graduation and though it was not altogether unexpected, I received the news that my grandmother had passed away. She had been sick and it was not so much a terrible shock as it was a sense of emptiness of losing someone close to me. We went to her funeral 2 days after I graduated. By that point I had decided I was done with everything related to high school and I didn’t want to think about them anymore. I didn’t even bring my yearbook to get signed– not a single signature in my senior year yearbook. I thought about my grandmother and her funeral and heading off to college and graduation itself was a blur.
Fast forward 3 1/2 years. After what remains to be 3 1/2 of the most amazing years of my life spent in Gainesville I graduated on December 21, 2002 in what proved to be a bittersweet (mostly bitter) cold and windy but crystal clear winter day. I recall the exact outfit I was wearing, and the friends I was sitting next to. I remember the stress of moving my remaining possessions home with me after the ceremony ended and I remember many family arguments. I don’t even remember at this point, what they were about. All I know was that after 3 of the happiest years of my life living in a place where I finally felt like I discovered the who I really was, I just remember the stress and the arguing and the going home and feeling completely empty. It felt like I’d just spent all this time finding the true me and then losing it all over again. Every time I went home during college for Christmas or the summer it was always a transition period, a limbo between happiness for being home and longing desperately to go back. It’s not so much that I was a different person in each city. I certainly was not. But just that there is an irreplaceable feeling of pulling off I-75 on Archer Road and driving into town and feeling like anything is possible. That’s the magic, the pull, the addiction of being a college student.
And when I left I knew I wasn’t done. I knew one day I’d go back and that it would undoubtedly be at Florida because even though I nearly went to U of Maryland, somehow I always knew I could only be a Gator. And I knew I needed another shot at graduation and having real closure on that chapter of my life. So when I applied for my Master’s degree program, in the back of my mind I knew from the split second I got my acceptance letter that I would attend the final ceremony. I would understand it more fully and appreciate it more deeply.
So when the time finally came to graduate I knew this was my last shot at getting it right.
And I’ve gotta say that’s a lot of pressure to put on one single event but it was perfect in every way.
Yesterday we left on our drive to Gainesville. This was to be Andrew’s first visit. I knew when I had him that one day he’d get to visit my former home and I knew that graduation would be the perfect first time. We started at the bookstore. Oh how I wish the new bookstore had been around when I was there on campus. There is an undeniable feeling of academia everywhere on campus but nowhere else do you feel it as much as when you’re surrounded by BOOKS.
I had had these anxiety ridden dreams that I would get there and they would have no record of me. I guess that’s part of doing an online degree program. I knew the people really did exist somewhere and it certainly helped that I could recall the buildings and places as well as the basic policies and procedures but the fact remains, until yesterday I never once spoke to a person face to face and so I was a little worried I had somehow made a mistake. There was even a dream once where I imagined it all. It’s not like there is more proof when you physically attend class. No actually I’ve left a digital trail 10 miles long from this program. But sometimes when you don’t deal with people in person you start to disassociate yourself from the whole process. I guess I’m not really explaining this too well. It’s pretty hard to describe. I wonder if any one else who has done this felt this way. I tend to think they have.
But worries were needless (as they often are for me). And my cap and gown (and hood!) were ready and waiting. I got my portrait taken and I also had one taken with Andrew and A. Afterall, they were such a huge part of this whole thing. I know all my children will be special and God willing that I have more, I know that Andrew, aside from being my first precious child, will always hold the unique place of being my graduate school baby. He went through this whole thing with me. And in some ways, suffered my stress, my anxiety, my workload right along with me by missing time he could have spent with me had I not been preoccupied with finishing. Today was every bit as much about him as it was me, at least in my mind. So anyway, I got the pictures done and picked up a cap and gown and off we went to visit Century Tower, for those who didn’t know me then, A proposed under Century Tower, on a cold rainy Saturday in February in front of all my friends. It was and remains to be the most amazing surprise, no, the most amazing ANYTHING anyone has ever done for me.
So naturally, we had to go there! Here’s A showing Andrew where it happened:
Then taking a seat on the bench along the side.
Then we walked through UMA to the area where the band used to warm up on Game Day before the march to the stadium. We had to wait for 3 girls to get done with their “photo shoot”. I definitely felt a little self-conscious when we were standing there waiting for them because I don’t really look older to most people without any points of comparison but I felt 29 when I’m standing there next to these 22 year olds in cocktail dresses who were most definitely without children. Actually, I guess self-conscious is the wrong word because I felt more proud than anything.
Finally it was our turn to take pictures. At first Andrew was very tentative around the ah-gee-ya (alligator). It had not occurred to me that he would not understand it was fake. He didn’t cry or fuss like he was scared but he was not in a hurry to touch it either.
“Are you sure about this?”
Finally, I convinced him it was okay to touch it and we sat on the Gator which is a pretty generic picture but hey, we needed to have one.
So then I wanted to get a picture of him hugging the gator. Now I can’t really explain why I thought this would be so cute but I wanted the picture. So A decided to show him it was okay to hug the gator.
STILL not convinced he gives it a shot…
The hilarious part (at least for me) was when he finally stood up, satisfied that it was indeed safe to hug (and on his own accord, kiss) the gator, and he turns to me and say, “ok Mommy, Ah-gee-ya sleeping”
OOooooohhhh my dear child!! He now thinks the gator was safe to touch because it was sleeping. My dear God in heaven, please do not let my child ever come across a living Gator. He will undoubtedly rush up to give it a kiss on the snout!
Of course he did some Chomp too…
We finished with the pictures, walked back to the car and then went out to dinner. I have got to say, Gainesville has so many more restaurants than it did when I was there. I don’t think I would have been able to survive with that many good places to eat. I was so dirt poor as it was the first time around. We ate at Fridays or Chili’s a lot because that was pretty much all there was. Now there is every restaurant I’ve ever heard of and plenty I haven’t. We picked Carrabba’s for pre-Graduation dinner. Andrew was getting very tired though so we ate fairly quickly and headed back south to Ocala because I waited too long to get a hotel room and they were completely booked solid anywhere near the city.
Just as we arrived at the hotel it started to POUR down rain and I do mean pour. We got soaked carrying everything up to the room but when all was said and done the 4 of us (my mom was with us too) got in bed for the evening and I had the sense that I was mere inches away, after having come miles, for this final event.
To Be Continued….
The Gators own the college athletic world!
In 364 Days, one school has accomplished the greatest feat of all time– capturing 3 National Titles– Basketball, Football and Baksetball. Is there any doubt what school that could be? Nah, it’s UF. Of course, “We’re not conceited, we just really are that good.”
Last night the local news did highlights in Gainesville where it described that the police department had already “greased the light poles” to prevent celebrating students from climbing up the poles and hurting themselves. Now, only a school that has won 3 national titles in the last calendar year would even think to do something like that. How freakin’ awesome can you get?
I’ll have to say, the feeling of pride only gets bigger and bigger. I only wish I was still there celebrating out on University Ave. with all of the students but I’m celebrating with the Gator Nation instead!
The most pleasantly shocking news of the evening is that people are now calling this one of the greatest sporting achievements of all time! OF ALL TIME! It doesn’t get any better than that!
So what has become a trend in this blog… GO GATORS! 2007 National Basketball Champions, 2006 National Football Champions, 2006 National Basketball Champions! Congratulations, from the proudest Gator Grad around!
My Gator flag had humble beginnings.
I moved into an different apartment for my last semester of college. Such a temporary situation did not warrant my usual homey decorating. I had the bare necessities and a few things to keep the gigantic room from looking so plain. On one mid-day trip to Walmart I found a 3×5 foot Gator flag which seemed to be a good solution for my vast expanse of bare walls.
After graduation the flag came down and was packed up along with the rest of my posessions where it stayed boxed for many months. It made the trip home and then it made the trip to New Jersey and back home again a year later. It wasn’t until we moved into our current home that the flag found its way out into the light of day once again. It hung on a wall in our garage, greeting me with orange and blue every day when I returned home from work.
But then a request came from my world traveling husband: Please send the flag. And so I packed it up, along with a few other important things that are lacking in that particular part of the world namely Quaker Oatmeal. Ten days later my dear Gator flag had traveled the 10,000 miles to the middle east where it was immediately hung in the name of troop morale.
Yet the flag did not know that it had a job to do. The flag had to wave alongside the stars and stripes in the name of the Gator Nation.
And so it did.
On Saturday December 2, 2006, as the Gators were beating Arkansas for the SEC title, my Gator flag flew in their honor over Afghanistan.
Then, on Monday January 8, 2007, as the Gators went down in history as the only school to hold titles in both Football and Basketball at the same time, my flag flew over Iraq.
My Gator flag is now world traveled, too. And while it doesn’t stand for the same as the red white and blue it waves proudly at home once again.
GO GATORS!!!!!!! (Part 2)
If I had to make a list of the top 10 greatest nights of my life, last night would be on there. Yes, yes I know it’s a football game but for the Gator Nation it was more than a game, it was a dream come true and it was history in the making. History rarely looks as beautiful as it did when the Orange and Blue took the field last night. Now the Gators are the first school in history to hold National Titles in both Men’s Basketball and Football at the same time. That is almost too fantastic for words.
As I watched the news features and hooplah this past week I felt nothing but pride for my team, my Gators despite the fact that literally no one even hinted at the idea of a Gator win. Ohio State seemed to underestimate the team on all fronts and they weren’t alone. I hope the Big 10 learns from this dramatic ass whooping– the SEC is the tougest conference in College Football. People said OS forgot to show up last night. I don’t believe that. I believe they did and they were beaten. And if you’re going to be a Hesiman winner, you don’t get to forget to show up to the biggest game of your life. Nope, the Gators won because they are the best team in College Football no ifs ands or buts! Being there would have been the only thing to make it better. Those Orange helmets and those Gator Blue jerseys, in all their HD glory, bring tears to my eyes. Some people dream of winning the lottery. Some people dream of fame and fortune. I dream of watching the Gators win National Titles.
Last night was a dream come true.
I’d like to say i’m in shock. I’d like to say that I never saw it coming but the truth is, I felt all along that the Gators would lose against Auburn in the game last night and it’s certainly not for lack of wanting them to win. It’s not even me being pessimistic or negative. The truth is, the Gators don’t like being at the top and last night’s game simply fits into the natural progression. Five years, ago, October 13th 2001, merely one month and 2 days after 9/11, the Gator nation was finding something to cheer about. For a few short hours it seemed, the Gators were on the top– number one in the country. Then in a few shorter hours, hours that quite possibility took years off my life, the Gators ended up losing to Auburn in the last few minutes of the game. Heartbreakingly, the Gator nation got in their cars, busses, and RVs and drove sadly back to Florida. That year the Gators came within inches of progressing to the national championship. That’s why i’m not all that worried about last night’s game. There is still plenty of hope in this Gator fan’s heart. But I’d still like to know just what it is about being at the pinnacle of success that makes a win so hard to hold on to (or perhaps in this case, makes the football so hard to hold on to). Ohio State has been number one for weeks and it doesn’t seem to make them falter. USC, if I’m remembering correctly, spent last year at number one. But early in the year when the Gator basketball team hit number one they lost the following game not unlike last night when we held the number two spot going in. But again I say, I’m not losing hope. I know we can still go all the way. They just have to get their swagger back, gotta remember that their Gator nation still loves them and for goodness sake, they’ve gotta go beat the hell outta Georgia. And then win the rest of ‘em, too. It’s time to show the rest of the world what I’ve known for years– It is ALWAYS Great to be a Florida Gator!
Ah, it’s that time of year again! College football! My Saturdays are now booked until Christmas. Afterall, there is always a game to watch!
So tonight miami and florida state open the season by playing each other, a courageous feat if you ask any of the fans of these respective teams. I myself am left with the daunting task of deciding which team I’d rather see have it’s ass handed to it. It’s quite a tough decision. I have again reached the conclusion that the best thing for everyone would be for a giant hole to open in the center of the football field and have both teams (none the wiser to the potentially disasterous outcome of such an action) dive headlong into the dark abyss never to be heard from again. Yeah, that’s what I want to see happen.
But I digress. These teams are doing little more than saving their own asses by playing each other so early in the season that the outcome will be a mere memory by mid October. Everyone knows that the early games count for next to nothing. Especially not this one.
Florida opens it’s season with two no name teams and then heads up to the rather unfriendly town of Knoxville (a place, incidentally, where I once met a woman in overalls and missing more than half her teeth who, when asked a question replied “oh honey, I don’t read. They also do not have arm holes in their rain ponchos but again this is beside the point). Florida is faced with a division battle that makes or breaks the chances of an SEC title. miami and fsu, playing in different divisions, lose essentially nothing but a little pride that will be more than made up for after 10 weeks of stomping the other wussyass teams in the ACC. Why not try playing some real teams and playing them at the END of the season where a loss will dash any hopes of a run at the BCS. Try playing Georgia at the end of October or even taking on fsu in the final game of the season– that’s when it really matters!
Yesterday was officially named “Gator Day” in the state of Florida to honor the National Championship victory of the men’s basketball team.
And now for the bragging rights…
Florida (as in “University of”) is one of only 7 schools to win a National Championship in both Football and Basketball!
Florida is the only school in the state of Florida to win a NCAA Basketball Championship.
Billy Donovan is one of only 3 coaches to both play in a Final Four and win a Championship.
Joakim Noah set a record with number of blocks- six total and five were in the first half!
But nothing beats the feeling of seeing my team successful in the national spotlight. They made me proud beyond words and not because I’m a huge basketball fan or anything like that, but because I’m a Gator. It’s great to be a Florida Gator. It always has been and always will be.
There are very few things in this world that I could not live without. My family and friends (cats included) are the most important things (people) in my life. I try really hard not to be caught up in material things. But lets face it, things are fun. So I wanted to give a “shout out” to all those things that I could live without but would really not want to: In random order: Read the rest of this entry »
I remember a time in college. It was a Tuesday around noon and I met up with a group of friends for lunch. We were trying to decide where to go eat. Some people had classes that afternoon so it limited our possibilities. When they asked me when my next class was I paused for a second and said, “Thursday”. Yeah, I was one of those people who crammed all my classes into 2 days of the week. It was somehow not worth the stress. Anyway, Today I got home from work and looked at my ever present To Do list. I thought to myself, well I have a little while to do these things. I thought back to this previous story and contemplated a conversation… “When do you have to work again?”