SERENDIPITY

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Serendipity. That word sums up my life—at least my adult life, starting with my going off to college. In rural Oregon in the 1950s, it was decidedly out-of-the-ordinary for loggers’ kids to go to college. Just graduating from high school was pretty wonderful. Boys went to the woods or took over the family farm; girls got married and had babies (usually in that order). But I won a scholarship that would pay about a third of my tuition and fees at a small state college. It was worth $50. Fifty dollars!! But that made all the difference.

Somehow my mother managed to come up with another $250 to complete the amount needed for my first term at school. Actually, when I started out, I think I had no idea of really finishing. It was just an adventure “to see what it was like.” But after that first term, I was hooked. I begged and borrowed and managed to last out the year. And the next three—with lots of help from various sources.
By such means are lives changed. Fifty dollars. It is still mind-boggling!

JOB? VOCATION? OR CAREER?

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Thousands of people trudge off every day to jobs they either hate or find incredibly boring. I cannot even imagine what that must be like. Well, OK, maybe I can: In college I had a part-time job in the gym handing out towels as athletes entered the locker rooms and retrieving the soiled ones as they left. Borrrring. And smelly. In general though, I have been very, very lucky. I have had two careers—no, vocations—that I have absolutely loved. A job is what you do for money. A career is just a label. But a vocation is a calling. You know: the kind of thing you’d probably feel compelled to do even if you didn’t get paid. For me they have been teaching and writing.

I loved teaching high school English and social studies classes—until the tedium of marking and grading essays and administrative bull**** drove me out. (Mind you, it took nearly 40 years for that to happen!) But preparing lessons and the classroom itself? Pure joy. It doesn’t get any better. I loved the subject matter—and it is true: to learn something really well, try teaching it. Want intellectual stimulation? Walk into a classroom where young people are arguing vehemently over whether Hamlet was mad or whether America’s immigration policies in the ‘30s encouraged the Nazis.

And writing? It’s pretty wonderful too! You create these characters and then try to enjoy their achievements (and yours) only to have them rebel and go off on their own erring ways. Gives you a better perspective on God’s handling of Adam and Eve! Anyway, it is challenging and engaging and FUN!

OLD HABITS ARE HARD TO BREAK

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Pencils    Everyone tells me I need a blog. So here I am trying to “blog.” I don’t have a clue. I guess you just spill your guts about whatever pops into your mind. So I have this blank sheet of paper in front of me—and a blank mind. Yes. I said “blank sheet of paper” because that’s the way I write: with lined composition paper and a No. 2 pencil.

Big ChiefThat’s the way I started when I was in 6th grade back in the dark ages. Mapril Easton and I filled pages and pages of Big Chief tablets with rambling tales of horses and cowboys and Indians and pioneer settlers. Mapril’s mom was our teacher in a one-room school complete with a wood stove and a three-hole outhouse. Straight out of Little House on the Prairie, only in rural Oregon. While Mrs. Easton worked with younger kids, Mapril and I would ignore that list of math problems she had given us and lose ourselves in making up adventures for Dangerous Dan and his wonderful horse Rusty or some such.

So that’s how it started: Lined paper and a No. 2 pencil. Today, of course, there is another step—one involving a computer with which I have what can only be described as a love-hate relationship!