Friday, April 30, 2010

So, What Did I Decide? (If you're looking for pictures, you'll be disappointed)

Despite offers of admission from both Columbia and Vanderbilt, I decided to attend the University of Utah. Crazy, right? Let me explain.

Let's eliminate Columbia pretty quickly. I didn't want to go there. I didn't consider it.

Vanderbilt. I really, really wanted to attend Vanderbilt. It has the highest ranked Sped program in the highest ranked School of Education in the country. I wanted to live in Nashville. I was excited about going there. I was offered a Department of Education grant that would cover my tuition (expensive; Vandy is a private university) as well as provide me with a $700/month stipend. In exchange for the money I would have been required to work 20 hours/week for the department and I would have to commit to teaching for four years after graduating or my grant would be converted to loans. And I wouldn't be able to have a job while in school.

$700 a month isn't bad, but according to the Financial Aid office at Vandy, it costs about $18,000 a year including all expenses (housing, food, insurance, books, fees, transportation, personal, etc.). Even though these expenses are almost always overestimated, I knew that $700 a month was not going to be enough to pay for housing, utilities, texts, and insurance- four very, very basic expenses that I can't get around. I would have to take out substantial loans to survive. I don't want to take out a loan to pay another loan (car payment). I'd rather be able to work part time. In addition, the grant only covers my speciality (my TVI- that's Teacher of the Visually Impaired) credits, not the 15 licensure credits I need too, so I would have to get loans to pay for those.

I had to let Vanderbilt know my decision by April 15. The University of Utah didn't make their decisions until March 15 and it took my letter forever to get here because they sent it to my address in Hawaii (what's the the point of asking for a forwarding address and forwarding date if you're not going to use it?) so eventually I just called and told them I needed to know if I had been admitted. I had been, of course (Hello? Vandy and Columbia? How much would I have laughed if I'd been turned down by the U of U?).

So I didn't know what to do. I thought and prayed. About a week and a half after I talked to the U, I called and talked to the program advisor and asked her about funding. I wanted to know if they had gotten their Department of Education grant. They still haven't been able to apply apparently- something about the government has yet to release the forms for this year (which must mean Vanderbilt was offering me old money they had saved up). I let them know why I was asking (another school had offered me funding) and we talked about some other things I had questions about. A few minutes after I hung up, Jan called back and told me that she had just been to talk to the head of the Sped department and had received permission on the spot to offer me a Deans Research Assistant Scholarship as they really wanted me to attend the U because I was their most competitive applicant (let's pretend here that they received A LOT of applications . . . they didn't). Said scholarship covers tuition (important for the U as I'm not a resident and tuition there for the first year would be just as high as Vanderbilt), fees, and most of insurance (my part is approx. $200/year). I would have to do ten hours a week of work for the department and I would be able to work twenty hours a week elsewhere if I thought I had to. Plus, it also includes almost $1,000 a month stipend and there is no post-graduation service requirement.

Decision making just got a million times more difficult. Add to this the fact the Erie's co-breeder lives in Draper, Utah. If I went to Utah, I'd have her right there to help me learn all the things about owning a Vizsla (hunting) and a show dog.

But I wanted to go to Vanderbilt!!! (That was a really big whine.)

So I prayed a lot. I talked to friends from all over. I talked to family. I posted on FB. I had a professor who was absolutely adamant that the best decision was to go to Vandy. This professor's opinion is very important to me- he was the one that taught me that not only should I strive for the very best education available, but also that I was qualified to get it. I really respect his opinion and that made things more difficult too.

I read the scriptures. I thought several times I was ready to make a decision . . . "Seek not for riches but for wisdom, and behold the mysteries of God shall be unfolded to you, and then shall you be made rich" (Doctrine and Covenants 6:7; one among many scriptures that I felt were leading me towards Vanderbilt). A blessing I received once: "Do not settle for anything that is mediocre in your personal life, your education, and in the important choices that are before you." Vanderbilt?

It still didn't feel right. And I was extremely reluctant to possibly accept $60,000 in loans to get a teaching license. Maybe someday, if I'm really lucky and work for an extremely high paying school district, I'll make that much in a year, but it's not likely.

One of the things that I was concerned about was my ability to pay loans back if I have a family in the future. If I do get married and have kids, I want to be able to stay home with them. That would be impaired both by my service commitment as well as the amount of loans I would have- it's unlikely a future spouse could make enough money to support us and pay back both mine and his student debt- and that's assuming I was okay asking someone to do that, which I wasn't.

I went to the LDS Church website and searched for "education debt." I found an article where President Hinckley talked about just this thing: a young woman who had been accepted at several prestigious grad schools and her first choice would have required her to get into substantial debt. She chose a different, less expensive option because while she recognized that such large debt might not impair her chances of getting married, it would most likely prevent her from staying home with her children in the future. Exactly what I was thinking!

I prayed and prayed and prayed and really did not feel like either answer was right or wrong. What the heck was going on here?

Talking to different people about it helped a lot. I talked to Tonks (umm, that would be Lindsey) a lot- she had a great deal of really good advice ("Sometimes when things seem too easy, and everything falls into place, it's because that is the right choice."). Finally, at one point, the day before I had to notify Vanderbilt I said to her, "You know, maybe I got my answer a long time ago. When I first decided I wanted to be a TVI, I decided I was going to go to the U. Maybe I'm not getting an answer now because that prayer was actually answered a long time ago."

When I prayed about that, there was relief and confirmation. I had my answer. As disappointing for me as it is to give up a Vanderbilt (a "Southern Ivy"- that was another whine) education, for whatever reason (many of which I actually do see), the University of Utah is where the Lord wants me. I'll be able to graduate with quite manageable amounts of debt, I'll be close to home, I'll be near Erie's breeder and will be able to pursue goals I have there (I've wanted Erie for much longer than I wanted to be a TVI), there's a great Institute program at the University of Utah, and I'm rather excited about the research I'll be doing at the University. It will provide me with opportunities very few TVI students get.

Plus. . .

. . . there's more Mormon boys in Utah ;-p

Sunday, April 25, 2010

19 weeks

She has creepy eyes in most of these. Sorry!

Woops, that's the not the 19 week old. But she deserved some recognition too and see how much she wanted her picture taken? I love Cami-lam.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Look at Me!

Erie is doing great. I've been planning on updating about her for a while but now that I'm doing it, I really don't feel like it. So real fast: she's a sweetheart but she needs to learn to keep her feet and her teeth to herself, she loves practicing obedience exercises, and I've become quite efficient at sleeping through her "I want my breakfast" whines.
Enjoy the photos.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

It's about Life

We hear so frequently around Easter sentiments like "Jesus died for our sins" or "He gave His life for us." That's true. And His death was necessary. Without it He wouldn't have been able to do the important part. But it is not the most important part- if the only miracle Jesus had managed during that tragic and joyous weekend was to die, we wouldn't be celebrating anything at all. He would have been just another man.
Along with the act of the Atonement (when Jesus actually took our sins, griefs, pains and illnesses, and all burdens upon Himself; in other words the act that enables us to have eternal spiritual life) the real miracle of Easter- and the reason we celebrate it- is the resurrection. There is a reason we call it Resurrection Sunday. Yes, death is a necessary precursor to resurrection, but people die all the time. The event we celebrate on Easter is a miracle and sacred to us because Jesus Christ was the first person ever to be resurrected and through His resurrection we will all live eternally as well.
When we celebrate Easter, let's not dwell on the fact that Christ died. Everyone dies. People even sometimes die for other people. Not everyone can gather all the problems in the world upon him or herself and carry that immense burden, then suffer torture, and crucifixion and then live again.

Remember that- He lives again. That is the message and the miracle of Easter.