And be one traveler, long I stood

The Road Not Taken

by Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear,

And as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same.

And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference

I was born in Columbus, Ohio in October of 1980. My parents had just gotten married a year or so before, and they wanted to start a family. I was the first. My brother, Robert (you’ve seen his picture in the blog), was born in early October 1983.

In about 1985, the Navy transferred our family to Charleston, SC. I am not exactly sure of that date, by I can place it with a few milestones. As a side note, I have an excellent long-term memory. I remember being an only child, and my mother’s pregnancy with Robert. I was 2 when this happened. How is it then, that now I can’t remember where I left my keys, and sometimes I have to email my husband to call my cell phone so I can find it and ask him where my keys are? In any case, that is the year that I started kindergarten (I was 4, and the school cut-off date to turn 5 was November 1, so I cut it close) and that my youngest full brother John was born.

It gets a little fuzzier here because there are no real time markers, but I believe we moved to Maryland when I was in the 2nd grade or so (so, 1987?). I believe this because I remember taking an intelligence test, after which the teachers told my parents I was really ready for 4th grade. My parents made me stay in the 2nd grade because they feared that I wouldn’t fit in socially, despite the fact that the 2nd graders were already older than me. I have a lot of good memories from that period of my life. I was in the “Happy Feet Jump Rope club” at school. We actually had a jumping routine we did to music for the parents to watch. As an adult, I now feel sorry for my mother having to watch that stuff.

We moved back to South Carolina when I was in the 5th grade. This stands out to me because we I went to 2 schools in one year due to the lack of availability in military housing. The first school I went to in Summerville, SC counted 5th grade as elementary school. The military school I went to in Goose Creek (when the military housing opened up) counted it was middle school, which was a huge deal to me. It was there that I took up acting in the school plays. I was usually the lead role because of the aforementioned memory and a rather well-developed ability to project my voice. I also used to be a diva, and I wasn’t afraid to sing a solo or two for a crowd. Now I won’t sing in front of even my best friends when we play Rock Band. Interesting how time changes a person.

We moved to Arkansas when I started 9th grade. I was 13 then, nearly 14. I actually cried on my first day of high school. I was in a place where I knew no one, I was going to a different type of school, and we were there because my parents had just gotten divorced. Plus, I really wanted to stay in South Carolina. I saw no redeeming qualities about a state that was so far from the coast. Have I mentioned that I love the ocean?

I learned a few things in Arkansas. The town we lived in (and my father continues to live in to this day) is Manila. When I was there, it was a town of about 3,000 people, most of whom were over the age of 60. Our trailer backed up to a cotton field. Many (but not all) of the houses there were dilapidated. I knew of people who lived in homes with holes in the walls and floors. I came to understand the rural “God and Guns” mentality, and I learned that poverty still exists in our country. I also learned that a lot of people are defeated by the circumstances they grew up in. I knew so many kids with promise who dropped out of school because they took up drugs and alcohol, some of the few pastimes in that sort of area. Many of these kids were parents before they completed high school. I also spent a little time living with a couple who were, by my definition, wealthy. The husband played golf all the time (I learned then and there that I liked golf a great deal). They took me in as a boarder because of some of my life circumstances and their desire to make amends for whatever had enticed their son to commit suicide. These were good people, not crazy messed up people. I learned there that money does not buy happiness.

After 2 years in Arkansas, I came to a cross-roads. I applied for and was admitted to the Arkansas School for Math and Sciences. That same year, I was given the opportunity to live with my mother and her new husband in Hawai’i. I was 15 and hadn’t seen my mother since I was about 11 years old. Take a guess at which road I chose?

On my way to Hawai’i, I stopped at an intermediate point in Mascoutah, IL. My aunt and uncle lived there, and were trying to figure out how to facilitate my journey to my mother’s house. While I was there I participated in a church play (it pays to be the Pastor’s niece). My aunt told me a lot about the history of my mother’s side of the family. It’s kind of dark, with many bright spots that continue to shine today. It certainly helped me to understand some of the things that were to happen in the future. Sometime during that month (or so) that I stayed with my aunt, my mother confessed that she had started a new life with her new husband, an old Girl Scout leader of mine. She had 2 more kids whom she had given John’s and my middle name. Not a good omen.

I spent a year in Hawai’i. It was there that I had my first job. I worked around 30 hours a week and kept an “A” average in school. Despite all of this, my mother did not really want me living with her and tried to rid herself of me by any means possible. She finally succeeded when my step-father was discharged from the military. They left me with a family from church whom, I learned later, my mother barely knew. They told me to stay the night with the other family, and if I decided I wanted to go with them the next day, I could meet them at the airport. The church family took me to the airport the next day, and I had every intention of getting on the plane for Washington (state, not D.C.) despite the friction we had. I didn’t find them at the airport. A few DAYS later my mother called the church family and explained that they took an earlier flight. I see.

I lived with the church family for the rest of the school year and for half the summer. At some point, it became likely that they would be transferred to China, and because I was not their legal child, I could not go. They arranged to send me to my mother’s parents in Florida.

I spent my final year of high school in Inverness, FL. It was there that I learned where my aunts, uncles, and mother were coming from. My grandmother told me a lot about what life was like from her perspective, how she raised her family and the trials they endured. My grandfather told me about where his family came from and he expressed his side of the same stories my grandmother told. It was all terribly interesting to me then, and still is to this day. Despite our disagreements, my grandparents taught me a few things I try to keep in mind today.

During a PE class in the Florida high school, I had a collision with another student. The regular teacher was out that day, and the boys were playing rougher than usual. I tried to sit out, but I was threatened with detention if I didn’t participate. Being the good kid I was, I reluctantly stepped in to a game of Frisbee football. Seconds later, I was knocked to the ground with a torn ACL (anterior cruciate ligament). I went on to have major knee surgery that summer before college. The worst part was, the kid who knocked me over never so much as apologized. That event had a two-fold purpose in my life. First, it taught me to trust my instincts about the safety of a situation. The second thing it did was prevent me from joining the military.

I applied to several colleges in high school. I had great SAT and ACT scores. I knew that I could get into whichever college I wanted, so I decided to go where the school tried the hardest to recruit me (and to give me a good deal – college is expensive). There was a military school in Roswell, NM that sent several department heads on a mission to recruit me. I think I received 5 calls in all, including one from their PE department! The thing was, I needed to be able to attend boot camp that summer, and I couldn’t due to the knee surgery. Given that we entered into a war not long after, I am grateful that things went the way they did.

Instead, I went to Tallahassee to attend Florida State University. It was there that I earned a bachelor’s degree in Biology and met my husband. It’s also where we found and adopted Buttercup and Wesley.

I worked at various odd jobs in Tallahassee. Mostly, I was just trying to get us through until Michael graduated from grad school. Sometime during the dissertation process, it became clear that Michael wasn’t going to be able to complete his doctorate (although he is ABD – all but dissertation) and he had to get a job. He worked for the Board of Administration for awhile, but it became clear rather quickly that we needed to move on. Michael is probably the luckiest person on the planet, because out of nowhere he got an email asking if he was still looking for a job. Apparently someone from Charles Schwab had gotten a look at Michael’s résumé and like what he saw. Within a month the company moved us to San Francisco.

Living here has been a huge learning experience for me as well. I had never lived in a large city before, so there was a whole new frame of mind to experience. I had to get used to a certain level of crime. I learned to understand the wine culture (a bit). I’ve learned to take more responsibility for the environment. San Francisco is also where I got my Serra and got involved in kitten foster care.

Why did I tell you all of this? Well, I have an announcement to make. As of sometime mid-March, Michael and I are moving just south of Denver, CO. He is still going to be working for Schwab, just in a different location. The really great news? We can afford a house out there! We’ve known about this for about a month now, and we’ve been surfing real-estate porn like mad people. I just couldn’t tell my readers about this because it wasn’t all set in stone yet. Now that everything is solid, I am thrilled to put it in writing! I’ll talk more about the decision to move in another post (this one is getting long as it stands).

Hooray for us!

P.S. If you happen to run a kitten rescue group or shelter foster program in Centennial, CO or the surrounding areas, leave me a comment (with your email address in the appropriate field). I am hereby offering my services as a foster parent. I also have skills in writing manuals for foster programs (I’ve written 2 manuals and I don’t mind writing another), and in designing and teaching classes for shelter volunteers. I am a huge supporter of No-Kill, I just haven’t wanted to make my blog political. The best part – I’ll foster kittens in any condition. I’m not afraid of behavior or health issues. I like to take lots of kittens at once, and I’m not afraid to fall in love with each and every one of them.

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