Tag Archives: education

A Bird in the Hand and a Dream from Long Ago

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Walking into work this morning, I found a little bird standing on the sidewalk, just swaying in the cool breeze. It seemed dazed, so I decided to check on it. I eased up on it, expecting it to fly away; but it didn’t even twitch. I thought the little thing had surely died standing up. So I reached down and picked it up. It was definitely alive and even alert, and it promptly moved around in my hand so it could wrap its feet around one of my fingers. It almost seemed pet-like – not afraid of me at all. Its little head was covered with cobwebs, so I determined that it may have gotten caught in a web somewhere and fought its way free or may have smacked one of my building’s dirty windows.

Once I realized it was alive, I set it down next to a tree trunk and walked into my building. I set my things down at my desk and got settled but couldn’t stop thinking about the little thing and how helpless it seemed. People walk their dogs in this area, and I couldn’t stand the thought of this little creature being a pet’s snack. So I decided to go check on it once again. There it was – still standing beside the tree trunk where I set it several minutes earlier. Its eyes were closed, and it was swaying in the breeze once again. I reached down to pick it up, and it assumed the position on my finger as it had earlier. It was very alert and kept looking at me but made no attempt to fly off. It was so very sweet!

bird   bird 2

Down in the River Market area in Little Rock, there are huge planters full of a variety of flowers along the sidewalks. The tops of the planters are waist-high, so I decided that under all of that foliage would be a safe place for my new little friend to hide. I thought if it needed to rest that would be the best place. Before setting it down, I scratched its little head and chest for a few minutes and watched it close its eyes. It really had no fear whatsoever – or was too exhausted to care. After a few minutes, I tried setting it down on the dirt in the planter. I expected it to jump off of my hand when close to the dirt, but it never did. So I picked it up with my other hand and set it down. It gave a little hop once it was close this time and made its way under the greenery of the pink flowers. I felt like it was safe and went back inside.

I decided to go check on it again during my lunch break but could not find the little thing, so I am hopeful it is now flying high somewhere after resting most of the morning. As I held the little bird this morning, I remembered being four years old and telling my papa that I wanted to be a veterinarian when I grew up. I grew up on a farm with lots of animals; and our veterinarian, Dr. Gray, was at our home regularly. He was a large-breed vet, so he would come to care for our cattle, goats, and hogs. If I was out of school, I would always accompany him and my papa out in the pasture to make sure everything was done well. 😉 He would always explain everything he was doing and had more patience with me than he should have. We had one of the biggest bulls I’d ever seen, and Dr. Gray was not afraid of him at all. That bull would roll over and let Dr. Gray trim his hooves and horns. It was a sight to behold! I would also take short road trips with my papa to pick up medicine at Dr. Gray’s office that was in a neighboring town. I remember sitting on his counter and visiting with him regularly. I sincerely thought Dr. Gray had the coolest job on the planet – “playing” with animals all day.

I’ve been in my profession in one way or another for over 20 years now. I developed an affinity for writing when I was in junior high school and always dreamed of authoring. However, I think about those childhood dreams of being a veterinarian often, especially on days like today. As I grew older, I realized that Dr. Gray really wasn’t playing with those animals at all and that sometimes he had to make difficult decisions about ending their lives. Knowing that, I just didn’t think that profession was for me. I determined my career field when was young, and my dreams of veterinary medicine took second place to pen and paper. I often wonder if my papa had continued to farm if I would have changed my mind. I guess I will never know.

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Welcome to Educated Country!

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I grew up on the heels of my mother and grandpa, especially after my father left Arkansas for a much bigger Texas and a much younger woman and not necessarily in that order.

My summers were spent diggin’ potatoes, shuckin’ corn, snappin’ green beans, shellin’ peas and tending to our variety of livestock animals, which included cows, hogs, goats, chickens, turkeys, and guineas (looks like a combination of a chicken and a turkey). We raised most of our own food, including the meat; and everyone was expected to participate in the raisin’ and the killin’. My job, during my early childhood years, was to sit on the board on top of the five-gallon bucket to keep the headless chickens from running away.

However, things changed in 1985. That summer would be the last garden our property would host, and the remaining animals were sold or killed. My grandmother passed away unexpectedly in September of that year; and my papa remarried the following February. (Yes, that was only five months of “mourning”, but please don’t judge him. He was married to a hateful, bitter woman for 42 years; and he deserved some happiness.) Papa moved to the nearby, small town to live with his new wife; and they planted a garden on her property. My mom and step-dad (the man who I affectionately call Dad) worked all the time and really didn’t have time for a garden. I occupied my summers with reading, writing, and dreaming of leaving my small town.

I graduated high school in 1988 and attended a nearby university. College was expected of me even though I had no clue what I wanted to do with my life, but I only attended college for three semesters. I just wasn’t ready for it then, and I was incredibly miserable. Three years later, I was still in my small town, working a low-paying job and dreaming of more. An aunt of a close friend offered me an opportunity to move to Dallas, Texas, to attend a trade school (computer applications); and I jumped at the chance. Within two weeks of talking to her, my car was loaded; and I was on I-30 headed southwest. It was a decision I have never regretted.

I returned to my hometown after a year of school in the Big D. I was offered a decent job in Little Rock making good money for the time, but I knew I still wanted more. In 1994, I started working as a technical writer/editor for one of the largest corporations in Arkansas; and in 1996, I returned to school at the same public university – only taking two classes per semester through my company’s tuition reimbursement program. At that pace, it would take me several years to complete a degree; but I was determined. My major? Writing of course!

After a company-wide layoff from that corporation, I graduated with a BA in Professional and Technical Writing in 2002 – one day after my 32nd birthday. I finished the last 42 hours of my remaining degree plan in 11 months. That fall, I started teaching freshman composition at a public community college. That job prompted my desire for even more education. So in January of 2003, I started pursing a master’s degree; and I graduated two years later. I started teaching writing full-time that year at the same public university I started at in 1988. Talk about full circle…

I have taken some other classes here and there. I started and postponed a PhD in 2009, and I completed a graduate certificate in Conflict Mediation in 2012. I absolutely love school and love learning. However, as I have aged, I have come to realize that learning doesn’t always require a classroom. In fact, I would wager that the education I was allowed to receive in our garden and on our farm as a child was just as valuable as my formal education at a university.

There are days that I long to return to that lifestyle – raisin’ our own food and living off the land. I miss the simplicity that life offered. I now feel caught in the middle of the these two, dynamic worlds. I seem to function easily in either, so I’ve come to understand that both have made me who I am. I wouldn’t be the same woman without the farm or without the formal education. During a luncheon a few years ago , one of my former corporate supervisors referred to me as “Educated Country”. I was initially offended and probably didn’t take it the way she meant it. However, I have grown to love the title and have since embraced it as a pretty accurate description.

This is my commitment to document my country heritage and how my education plays a role. Welcome to Educated Country…