We have to begin this journey over 50 years ago when my father was in grade school.
My father grew up in a time when dyslexia had a different name. Horrible names like “stupid”, “idiot” and “lazy”. My father was a brilliantly gifted artist and athlete. But when he was 16 he couldn’t take the name calling anymore and sadly became a high school dropout. This decision led to other decisions that ultimately caused his death at the young age of 21.
But in a small moment of happiness he met this little girl when she was 20. She was vivacious, lovely and also a gifted artist. My mother also struggled in school but for an entirely different reason. She had a slow growing tumor in her brain that eventually took her life at the age of 25.
But I promise a happily ever after is coming, you just have to wait a little while. You see they had a little girl~ Laura. I was never adopted and became a ward of the state through the California Foster Care System.
I grew up in a small town where a good future was working in the farming industry or getting on with the county. Although I had wonderful people who raised me, there was no personal champion that shaped dreams of college within me. I too learned differently but with other challenges. Yet I loved to create art and was good at writing. This led to advanced English classes, and a position on the school newspaper. I decided that I wanted to be a journalist and knew I would have to get a higher education. Eagerly I visited my high school counselor to get on the right path. He crushed my dreams swiftly with a few sentences: “That’s great, but I see you’re a foster kid. So, who’s gonna pay for university? You’d be better off doing secretarial work maybe.” At the time I believed he was the expert. That same afternoon I dropped out of newspaper and began cutting classes. Thankfully, I did graduate a few months later. I drove my own self to the ceremony so there really are no cap and gown photos as so often occur with this rite of passage. This is as good as it gets.
A few weeks later, at the age of 17, everything I owned was packed into a car. I had a job with JC Penney’s and plans to start American River College in the fall. I was completely alone. A recipe for disaster to be sure. My college career was derailed as my car broke down so I had to skip classes to work extra hours to fix it…yadda, yadda, yadda. I met a boy and married him within 3 months. Soon enough it was just me and this beautiful girl.
I wanted to lasso the moon for that darling girl. I knew deep down that I would need a college education to do that. Like many before me, I worked full time, raised my child and took one class at a time. I was exhausted, but determined. A few years later Prince Charming unexpectedly arrived. But of course there was a hitch. He was moving to Crete, a small island in the Mediterranean Sea. It meant my education would have to be put on hold…sort of.
After I quit crying over the fact that there was no Target or McDonald’s and we often had no electricity or water, I embraced the culture. As I was homeschooling, I began taking my daughter on amazing field trips to such places as the Palace of Knossos. A small flame began to flicker inside of me. I loved the old and ancient architecture. I wanted to insure that future generations would be able to stand on the steps of the Parthenon. I read and researched Greek art and architecture like nobody’s business. We then learned we were moving to Germany. I got a job with the USO at Landstuhl Hospital setting up sightseeing trips. Almost every weekend I went with soldiers and their families to places like this:
I was always researching, always learning. Just not in the traditional sense. Along the way we added our Sweet Boy to the family. We then moved to a small town in middle Georgia. I wanted to spend my days being a fabulous mother and go to design school at night. But the closest campus was over 2 1/2 hours away. There were no online programs at the time either. It was as if my education wanted to come to a screeching halt. But I refused to give up. Once again my education consisted of library books and field trips. I took a week long course in one day decorating and real estate staging and opened up my decorating business. I also began writing a small newspaper column entitled “Homekeeping”. But I was still made to feel inadequate by others who sneered that I wasn’t a real designer. Mr. Decor would try to comfort me by telling me “Laura, you are truly one of the smartest and creative people I know.” Easy for him to say, he had a masters degree. We then moved to Phoenix. I learned that Phoenix had not one, but three different schools that offered interior design degree programs. I researched the programs and eventually settled here.
My first class was Introduction to Interior Design. There were close to 50 students in just that one class. By the end of the semester it had dwindled down to about 20 students. While you might think this is a fluffy degree, let me assure you, it’s not. It requires grueling hours spent on projects and research in addition to all the general education requirements that are standard. Last night there were only 3, yes THREE, interior design degree graduates. (Congrats Amber and Timea.) For those of you who are perhaps new to my blog, this past semester was the worst ever. The classes were almost impossible. But they were nothing compared to the car accident I was in, which was closely followed by a devastating blow~ my dear foster mother passing away unexpectedly. I was so close, yet I still seriously entertained the thought of giving up.
Looking back over this long journey there were many, many times that there was just one set of footprints in the sand.
Once again I survived these past few weeks only by the grace of God. He arrived in the form of my blogging friends who blessed me with comments, cards, emails and phone calls of encouragement.
Thank you all for urging me on to the finish line. I couldn’t have done it without you.
(It took a little while for me to cross the podium. If you look closely I was hugged by many who knew my journey.)
So what are my future plans? I will soon begin studying for my LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification. Yes, more school. As many of my regular readers know, I am a strong advocate for green living. I also need to find an A.S.I.D. mentor I can work for so that I can complete the 5,280 hours of required work experience needed before I can begin studying for the NCIDQ, which on a small scale is kind of like a bar exam for designers.
Then I will somehow have to figure out how to talk the director of ASU’s design program into allowing me to study historical design and renovation. Because the dream still flickers within me to save the architectural gems of design that are being torn down at a rapidly disheartening rate.
But in the meantime I am on a PAY IT FORWARD mission. I was a girl who learned differently, who at times faced massive obstacles. I now want to inspire others to make their dreams, whatever they may be, a reality. I know someone is out there thinking “I can’t.” But hopefully they will read this VERY long post and believe “I CAN”.
While some might think the picture below isn’t very good, to me it tells a very precious story. My sweet boy is looking out at me on the center of the field, I am dressed in my cap, gown, red High Distinction tassel and Phi Theta Kappa (3.9 GPA/honors) scarf, signing “I LOVE YOU”.
I also have to share that I am the VERY, VERY proud mom of this darling girl. We graduated together. There are NO words for this priceless experience. She is also off to ASU.
My Sweet Boy looks like he’s about to bust a button.
Of course we celebrated by strutting our stuff...
…and letting our silly side show.
I am turning my comments OFF because my goal is not to receive a pat on the back for myself, but to be an inspiration for others.
Live your dream,