Something Spectacular

Graduating from college at 49 is nothing spectacular. People much older than I have

Cynthia Petersen, graduated May 20, 2012 from Mount Mercy University in Cedar Rapids, IA with a BA in Journalism

done it. But changing the course of my life is. And that is what I believe I have done.

Some people talk about fate, and destiny, and believe that “everything happens for a reason.” I, for one, believe that we are the creators of our own destiny and that life is what we make it. But I didn’t always think that way.

Seven years ago, I looked at where I was and I made up my mind that I wanted to make my mark in this world. I wanted to do more than just exist. I wanted to do something spectacular.

I spent years taking life as it came, raising 4 children, and dealing with life’s little tragedies.  But I learned how to remain calm in a crisis, and I became a problem-solver. I learned how to manage my money and how to make ends meet. I was a mediator, a counselor, a housekeeper, a chauffeur, and everything else that a mother does.

Now I realize that I was preparing for something spectacular.

I wanted to be my own boss and so I thought opening a restaurant was the way to go. I spent hours upon hours on the computer researching how to write a business plan, and why a marketing plan was so important. I chose all the plans for my restaurant; what I would name it, where it would be located, who my customers would be, what my menu would entail, how much everything would cost. I did everything I needed to do to make my restaurant a success. But in the end, it came down to a lack of funds.

And though it hurt me to have to give up that particular dream, I can see now that I was still only preparing for something even more spectacular.

As I got on my knees and prayed to God for chance to see my dream come true, I included that if this didn’t work out, I would go back to school and get a degree. (My father had said to me one day after reading an article I wrote, ‘Forget the restaurant, go back to school, become a writer.’)

And the rest is history. I graduated Sunday with a BA in Journalism. But not only did I graduate, I also received the President’s Award from Mount Mercy University’s president, Dr. Christopher Blake, one of the top three awards given to graduating seniors. I was also nominated for two other awards; Who’s Who in American Colleges and Universities, and the Sisters of Mercy Award.

Getting the award itself was nice, but the satisfaction that I had done something to change the course of my life was what I really received that day. This was what I had been working for the past four years; that I had done something spectacular.

And I’m not done.

Most of you know that I started my own business last year and began publishing a community newspaper in February this year. Every lesson I have ever learned has prepared me to take on this huge undertaking.  But I still couldn’t have done it without going back to college. It was the last piece to my puzzle.

Something spectacular? You bet it is.

But it doesn’t stop there. It has only given me more reasons to find out what else life has in store for me and what I have in store for life.

Should she or shouldn’t she? (That is the question)

My youngest daughter is getting married. She and Johnny ditched the traditional courtship and went straight to starting a family. So with two kids, their own house, and a foundation for a happy life, why get married now?

I have been married more than once and have come to the conclusion that maybe I’m not the marrying type. So I am curious why Lori and Johnny want to get married.

“I love him and we want to make it legal,” was her reply.

She said she knows they don’t have to get married. Society has made it quite acceptable to live together and have children “out of wedlock.” (Incidentally, they were “married” by a Buddhist monk, which isn’t legal, but they are married in the eyes of Johnny’s family, who are Laotian.)

But marriage seems to be the next step for them. (My oldest daughter has three children with her significant-other, and I’m not sure they will ever get married. But that’s OK, too.)

At Lori’s bridal shower, we played a game where those attending wrote marriage advice on a piece of paper, and then they were read by Lori.

The advice included, “Never go to bed angry,” “listen to each other,” and “compromise,” but the one that received the most laughter was, “Always sleep naked.”

But while some of the advice was meant to be comical, much of the advice was sincere and offered realistic insight to what a marriage is about. My advice included working together to find solutions to their problems, but there was so much more I wanted to tell her.

What I learned from being married didn’t come until after I was divorced. Being able to see my part in why the marriage failed prepared me for future relationships. I learned how my attitude about my relationship had a lot to do with how I reacted in certain situations.  I saw how being able to communicate and be honest about how we feel is crucial in being able to work together to reach common goals. I realized that equality in relationships is essential in staying together; everything has to be 50-50.

But it’s not just what you do in a marriage that will determine its success. Attitudes about relationships and love also play a part in how your view your marriage, such as what kind of marriage your parents had and your beliefs about what marriage is really all about.

Every little girl wants her own fairy-tale, and that doesn’t seem to change as we mature. Movies, such as “The Vow,” and “The Notebook,” tug at our hearts and makes us want that kind of love for ourselves. But many waste a lot of time and energy running after something that isn’t real.

For years I searched for that kind of love. it was only after countless heartaches that I realized that my efforts were pointless. The kind of love I was looking for didn’t exit. The idea that there is someone out there who will devote their life to you and fall at your feet every time you walk through the door is ridiculous.

But I have found something very close to the perfect relationship. We have a mutual respect, a live-my-own-life, do-what-I-want kind of relationship that allows me to have it all. We have our own space, but we know the other is there when we need them. We have a lot of fun, too.

Marriage? Maybe it isn’t for me, but I know how Lori feels. Just because it didn’t work for me doesn’t mean it won’t for her and Johnny. I hope it does, because I know couples who have been married 50-60 years and have something I will never have. But I guess I can’t have it both ways.

(Below is a clip from Lori’s Bachelorette Party. It has very little to do with this blog, but it is hilarious.)

Lori’s video

A tribute to my mother

My mother turned 81 years old this year. Her health is declining and she rarely leaves the house. She has her faithful companion, Bindi, an Australian-Border Collie mix, to keep her company. She feels isolated much of the time, shut out from the rest of the world, with only her visitors and the TV to fill her in on what is happening outside her domain.

My mom’s health began to decline after my father died three years ago. She went into a deep depression and told me that she had nothing left to live for. Though we assured her that she did, she just hasn’t quite gotten over the fact that her partner of almost 50 years is gone.

Eighty-one years is a long time and my mother has filled a very colorful life. She grew up during the depression and still tells stories of the family not having enough to eat and how her dad hunted squirrel and rabbit, which they ate without even thinking twice about it.

She remembers the day Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, how the newsboy shouted on the corner downtown about it.

She remembers when my dad had his accident in 1967, and almost died, and how they struggled to raise nine children.

She remembers losing a son, how it felt to get that phone call. And she remembers how after every tragedy, she picked up the pieces, put them back together again, and moved on.

And she is doing that now.

My mom is nearing the end of her life and is trying to accept it. With her limited mobility, it must be excruciating to ask others for help, especially when she has always been the glue that has kept our family together.

My mother has taken care of everyone  else her whole life, and now it’s time for her to be taken care of, but she can’t stand it. Her independent nature is apparent as she struggles to carry on her everyday life.

My mother has been through so much and I’ve asked her before how she ever got through it. Her answer to me? “I just did, I had no choice.”

The thing that stands out most to me about my mother is the strength that she possessed when her world was falling apart around her. Her perseverance to maintain order in a world of chaos amazes me. And so does she.

Happy Mother’s day, Mom. You have no idea how many lives you have touched throughout your life. And know that when you didn’t think I was watching or listening, I was. And I still am.

Bullying can follow children into adulthood

Bullying is a learned behavior. We learn it from other children, our siblings, even our parents. And if we don’t experience consequences, it continues on into adulthood.

Children who bully others usually are victims themselves, often masking their pain by projecting it to others.

Unfortunately, many don’t see the toll bullying takes on someone until it’s too late.

I was bullied by the kids at school when I was little. I was an easy target because I quiet and intimidated by nearly everyone. I grew up with a fear of confrontation that followed me into adulthood. It has taken me years to build up my self-esteem and confidence back up.

When I told my teacher about what happened, they tried to get us to “talk it out.” I quit telling anyone because it often just made it worse.

My daughter went through the same thing with a boy on the school bus when she was little. She didn’t want to make a big deal out of it, but the boy wouldn’t leave her alone. I called the bully’s mother to tell them about the incident. What started as a gesture to clear the air ended up with the mother accusing my daughter of being the bully. I could see that I wasn’t getting anywhere and started taking my daughter to school. As I see it, she wasn’t running away, just coming up with a solution.

It’s sad to think that children are ending their lives because they don’t want to face the torment of a bully any longer. The young man who ended his life two weeks ago must have thought the same thing. Trying to “fit in” is bad enough without people making fun or you or chastising you for being yourself.

Those who did the bullying should be held accountable.

One of the solutions to the problem is staring us in the face. It lies within the parents, teachers, and others who influence children’s behaviors. Maybe if we correct the problem as it arises, we can stop the cycle of bullying.