Thursday, May 17, 2012

Graduation Part II

We graduates sat and waited for 7:00. Time was slow. We were hot. At about 6:30, various people talked to us, including the Dean. Got us all riled up. Super fun. Then a woman announced that if we have a difficult name, to line up with our name cards and tell the person how to pronounce it. Well, Montano isn't that difficult. I figured the worst that could happen was they'd pronounce it "Mon-TA-no" ("a" like in 'cat') rather than "Mon-TAH-no ("a" like spawn), but I really do prefer the MonTAHno so I got in line. When I presented my name card to the reader, she said "Stephanie Montoya." Really? Because... there's no 'y' in my name, nor does it end with an 'a,' so.... I told her "no, MonTAHno" and she said, slowly, "Mon. Ton. Oh." and I said yes. She made a mark on my name to help her remember the pronunciation.

I returned to my seat, and shortly after, we were given instructions on how to proceed. The ceremony began right on time. First the faculty left the room into the arena, then the GED graduates, then the rest of us. When we were told to stand, I started to feel some bouncing in my gut. I was so excited! We walked out of the room, around the corner, into the arena, and tears struck the moment I heard the talented quartet playing Pomp and Circumstance, and it was just as exciting as when I was walking down the aisle at my wedding while my aunt played the Bridal March on the piano. People were cheering as we entered, and I searched the audience for my family.

I was directed to a seat on the end of the row on the right side. We had to stay standing forever while the remaining graduates entered. My feet hurt so bad. I should have worn flats. I couldn't find my family. Finally I spotted my bestie, Kim, way high in the stands in front of me, behind the quartet. I was so glad she was on the same side as I was. Kadin and Kevin were with her, and I could tell Kim was looking for me, so I started waving like crazy. Finally she saw me and waved back and showed Kadin and Kevin where I was. Yay!!

The graduates were seated and the first speaker spoke. Still couldn't find my family. About 30 minutes into it, I checked my phone, and Kim had texted me that my family was with her. I looked up and saw my sweet Anna first, then the rest of them- Matthias, Melanie, David, Mom and Dad. I started waving again until my kids saw me, and they blew me kisses and signed "I love you." I love them! They're so great!

The President spoke, the Dean spoke, and some other people spoke. I enjoyed everyone's words except the student speaker's. Probably mostly because I was jealous that she got to speak and not me! ha. I kept thinking I would have done a better job, but I'm sure that's not the case.

Finally it was time for us to walk. First the GED students walked. Then the rest of us (which was most of us) had to stand and wait our turn. My feet began burning after about four minutes, so I took my shoes off till I had to move. I waved to my family as I walked past them which was just before the stairs to the stage. I climbed them and Kayla behind me whispered "don't fall!" Ha. I handed my card to the reader and as soon as she said "Stephanie," I stopped hearing anything at all. I wanted to make sure I was walking to the right places so I was following where people were pointing. I made sure to point to Teresa who sat with the faculty behind the podium. I actually did hear her call out my name, now that I think about it. I received my CWI folder thing, shook the Dean's hand, got my picture taken, and returned to my seat, where I had to stand again until everyone's name had been called. Off went the shoes.

It was then that I realized I had no idea if the woman said my last name correctly. When we were all seated again, I texted Kim to ask if she said my name right. No, Kim said! I couldn't believe it! After the tutorial and everything! I would be more merciful since she had a lot of names to read if my name wasn't so simple. Oh well.

Later, I watched the video my dad took and she said "Stephanie J Montoyo." Well, it was closer than when she practiced it, anyway. I just don't get the "y" sound...

We stood again to move our tassels to the left side and scream and cheer, and then confetti fell from the ceiling all over us! The music and the cheering and the confetti was so perfect. What a great night!!

After that, the faculty lined up on either side of the aisle, where they stood clapping for us as we walking between them. When I got to Teresa and Darci, I gave them hugs. Standing near them was also an instructor I'd had last semester for Business Computer Applications class, Linda Benson. She was also proud of me and gave me a hug too. We were led back into the room we were first in, and then outside to find our families. Anna was the first to spot me and she took this picture. ha!

Mom and Dad were with Anna, and Melanie and David weren't far behind. They said they hoped Matthias was with Kim! ha, so we walked on, looking for Kimmy. When we spotted them, this is how I found the boys:


Kimmy took this one for me:

Oh, I love that one. Anna may not love it, hehe, but I do, even of her and her cheesy grin! So cute.

Kadin snapped this one:

Oh, my Kimmy. She was so excited for me! She didn't treat my graduation like a burden and she wouldn't have missed it for much of anything. She kept telling me how proud of me she was and what a good example I am to my kids. She's a wonderful best friend and a cherished blessing in my life.

And some fantastic women and me:

They're so great to have attended.
Why didn't someone tell me my cap was crooked??

I snapped a few more photos, trying to get everyone who was there. Everyone seemed like they were in a big hurry to leave so I was trying to hurry. This one was just Melanie and David till one millisecond before the photo was taken:

Ha! That Kadin! He cracks me up.

Dad and Kevin were trying to sneakily avoid the camera. Not on my watch!

Isn't my mommy pretty?

Well Mom and Dad had to go. Melanie and David said they had a bit of time to kill after all. I was starving. So I said we should all go to Perkin's. It was about 9:15 I think, and dusk. I said everyone should meet me there. I was going to take care of my keys issue and see them soon. While the kids and I walked alone back to my car, I called the insurance company. I have roadside assistance with my car insurance and it covers lockouts. I've had to use it twice already in the last year.

Stay Tuned for Part III, where I will tell the rest of this story, which is crazy I tell you!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Graduation! Part I

Well on Friday, I had my celebratory barbecue. I really don't like being a hostess. But I love my peeps and I love food and I wanted to celebrate this life milestone! I invited pretty much everyone I know. About ten people who said they would come didn't come but I still had a great turnout. I tried to operate my new grill but my dad and friend Kevin had to save the day because it was scaring me, what with all the flames.... haha. For my own purposes, here's a list of my guests: Mom, Dad, Cameron, Casey, Rebecca H (Christine's sister) and her two kids, Kim and Kadin, Kevin, Jeff and Astrid et al, Jenny and Bethany, Shiloh and her girls, Heidi from school and her two kids, and Michael. I hadn't met Michael before but I participate in a Facebook group for LDS midsingles in the Treasure Valley and I invited anyone who wanted to come and he came, which was cool of him. Seems like a nice fella.

Matthias was at a father and son campout with Chris. So nice of him to take my boy! But Anna was with me and we had a great time. Here's some proof:

 Anna totally picked a bunch of weeds from the narrow side of the house. 

It was way fun.

Saturday, I woke excited. I would be graduating that evening! I couldn't wait. I got off work early, thanks to VTO, and I went shopping for a dress to wear. I went to Ross so I bought three dresses..... oy..... I love them all so much! Originally I had five dresses that I really wanted. I'm so blessed to be able to afford three new dresses! Of course, they were only $15 each.... man I love Ross. :)

I mentioned in my previous post that I have never participated in a graduation as a graduate. I was sooo excited, people. I drove to the Taco Bell Arena and didn't even get lost. I parked and put my keys down to grab my cap and gown, made sure I had my phone and my camera, and stepped out the car. I lock my doors wherever I go and I of course locked them then, and about four seconds after I shut my locked door, I realized I didn't have my keys. I looked in the window and sure enough, they were resting on the passenger seat. Doesn't that just figure? I can't have a perfect day! I'll always do something to sabotage perfection! Well, I put it out of my mind and followed some people who were dressed in black robes like me. I got to the check in table where I was supposed to get a card with my name on it. I told my name and they did not have a card for me.  I was frustrated because I'd had so much trouble getting to the point of graduation to begin with. Somehow, the school didn't have my typing test that I took with them so to them, I hadn't completed a required course for my program. It was a long process but we figured it out, or so I'd been told, but when they told me they didn't have my card, I inwardly panicked a bit. But they told me to go somewhere else and write out a card, which I did. I hoped that my name was in the program.

After that, I turned to find a seat and that's when I saw Joy, a woman from my classes, and Teresa, the best instructor ever ever. This semester I had three classes with Teresa. She is AWESOME! Joy took this photo for us (Look! I look like a graduate!):


I'm kinda bummed about my hair because I had it SO CUTE before I got there. Don't know what happened, maybe the wind outside.

Anyway, that's Teresa, and I just love her. She was a wonderful instructor; very knowledgeable, kind, compassionate and skilled. I will miss seeing her seven hours a week! Normally, I'm quite shorter than she, but I had on these amazing heels I'd just purchased. :)

Teresa had seen the program and assured me my name was in it! YAY!

Then Joy, Connie and I found a row of seats together and waited for some others from our class. So here's the three of us.

Wonderful women they are! So proud of them!

I kinda felt like I was in a Harry Potter movie, seeing so very many people in robes and caps. It was very exciting. I was a graduate! I was looking around at the hundreds (around 600 total) of graduates, and I was so proud of them all! I love CWI for very many reasons, and one of those reasons is the great diversity of people. All ages attend, all religions, all family stations, all walks of life (except, perhaps, the very rich). I was thinking of all the stories that were in that room with me. All the trials and the joys, and I was just so proud of every single student there! Look what we did!, I wanted to shout. Look what we all did! We made it through despite our unique challenges, and we're all here now, at our graduation! I would bet that to most everyone there, graduation meant so much more than completing a few academic courses. I wanted to know everyone's story, and to tell them all how incredible they are to have done something great with their lives.

Though I was proud of them all, I was mostly proud of my class. These are the women I've spent the last 8 months with, and I love them and I will miss them! Here's a few more of them:
L to R: Kayla, Connie, Me, Teresa, Darcy (our department head, and a fantastic woman, looking here especially Harry-Potter-esque), and Joy. The other women in our class that showed up later were Elizabeth, Christina and Lia, and I wish I'd had a picture with them as well, but I didn't get one.

This is already pretty long and I have so much more to say so I'm ending here for now. Thanks for reading!

Education Story

And on this day, May 12, 2012, I am a College of Western Idaho graduate. A graduate! Me! I graduated!! I have a Professional Technical Certificate in Medical Administrative Support. And I graduated.

I began my higher education at Snow College in Ephraim, Utah in 2000. For the first time in over four years, I went to classes in classrooms. I had been home-taught during grades 10-12. Before that, I attended private schools, and before that, I was homeschooled following kindergarten and 1st Grade, when I attended Bennion Elementary School in Bennion, UT.

Snow College was, at first, a terrifying and greatly exciting time for me. The terror quickly faded and I loved my time in the classroom. I loved everything about school. I loved the freedom, the homework, the learning, the tests, the finals, even. I loved the professors and the students. I loved my roommates. I loved that I made the Dean's List every semester I was there. I loved the smell of campus and the taste of A's. I loved Ephraim. I loved the Spirit of Snow College.

I naturally chose English as my major. I love words, and since Kindergarten, I've dreamed of being a writer. So, English major it was. I intended to get my associates at Snow and then continue onto a Master's degree from USU. In addition to wanting to be a writer, I also wanted to be a professor.

But, things don't usually happen as planned, and due to circumstances I need not discuss here, I dropped out after a year of school. It was a very difficult and sorrowful decision, but I still know it was the best one. I moved back home to Nampa with my parents and started working at Blockbuster Video. The following Fall, I started school again at Boise State. I did poorly that semester, because I met and fell in love with my ex husband, Randy. All I could think about was him. He asked me to marry him in November, and I said yes of course, so I didn't return to school the next semester, but got married in March of 2003.

Then happened the whole marriage fiasco.... Oh, and two fantastic kids. :)  When the divorce began in 2007, I knew I'd need something better for my kids. I moved to Rexburg in 2008 and started school in January 2009 at BYU-Idaho. I knew that I needed to change my major because I didn't want to be in school for the next 6 years trying to get a master's degree in English, and I knew that a bachelor's in English was about as good as a GED. I changed my major to Communications with Public Relations focus, because that way I'd still get to write.

It was so great to be back in the classroom again, but it was so different as a mom. I had to work out daycare and work and homework and housework and I had to fit feeding my kids somewhere in my schedule. They were 5 and 4, still so young. I was driving back to Nampa every other weekend for my ex's visitation. Every month was a huge financial struggle because I wasn't using student loans. And I was going through an insane custody battle with my ex. I was in Rexburg 2 years, 2 very dark and trying years, the most trying of my life. And so in the middle of my 3rd semester, April of 2010, I'd had enough. I was burned out, deflated, depressed. I couldn't take another day of school. I interviewed for a job in Meridian and I got it, and I moved home about one second after my two weeks' notice with my employers was complete. I never wanted to see another text book again.

That didn't last long. The very next year, I applied at CWI, and was accepted. I didn't attend that year because I focused, instead, on buying my house. The following Fall, last year, I began again my education. But I knew I wasn't going to finish a degree. The very idea was too daunting to undertake. I singed up for the Medical Administrative Support program, wanting to get a better job than the one I had, and return to school several years later when the kids are older.

And now.... I'm a graduate! This education train ride has paused for a time. I'm done with school for a while with both thrills and saddens me. To me, this graduation of a professional program means so much more than one year of school. To me, it represent the blood, sweat, and tears of education that began 12 years ago. To me, it's a testimony that I can do anything I want to do. To me, it's an example to my children, and of what I want for them. It's a representation of my love and dedication to them, my sweet, sweet angels. To me, it's a reminder that God is always with me. Look where He's taken me now!

Today is a very, very special day for me. Yes, I'm proud of myself. I'm so grateful to God for this beautiful opportunity, and for helping me through school. Today, I FINISHED something that I started. Today is the best day of my life, and today is the first day of the rest of my life! (I totally just now made up that phrase. Never been used before, nope.)

Tomorrow I will write about the graduation itself, because, my goodness, do I ever have some stories. :)