Stay at Home Student-Dancer-Tutor-Author-Mom

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My son graduated from Rutgers-Camden’s Honor’s College in 2010, and my daughter will be graduating from Princeton University June 2014!  I am so grateful to God that my husband and I have raised two wonderful, self-sufficient children.  I was a stay-at-home mom from the time they were born until now.  It probably would make more sense for me to call myself a stay-at–home-student-dancer-tutor-author- mom.  For the first 14 years of my marriage, I went to school part-time until I got my degree.

Getting my Bachelor's Degree in Psychology from Rutgers-Camden, 2001

Getting my Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from Rutgers-Camden, 2001

The next 13 years, I ran a tutoring business from my home.  Before I registered the business, I asked my children if they were okay with me teaching other children in our home afer school.  I explained that they both did so well in school, that I felt I had the time to help other children in our neighborhood.  They were excited about it.  In fact, I even employed them for awhile because to be quite honest with you, there were many things they knew that I did not know like how to operate those fancy new calculators.  When I taught algebra, I was still drawing graphs by hand!

With the cooperation of my own children, I managed to tutor about 25 students a week for quite some time.  It was the ideal job for me.  I was home every day my children came home from school and…oh well, let me correct that because my daughter refused to ride the school bus when she was in middle school.  She said the kids were too crazy.  I thought she was exaggerating until I started picking her up from school.  Crazy was an understatement.  She insisted on going to prep school for high school, and even though it was an academically sound school, my daughter discovered that those students were crazy, too.  A different kind of hateful crazy. I will have to write a blog on that some day.  After a huge truck almost ran into her car on 295 and she drove on the curb a few times, I started driving her to and from school every day.  I don’t like driving at all, but I would do anything to make my children’s lives more comfortable.

And I did.  For the past 26 1/2 years, my husband and I put our children first. That doesn’t mean we didn’t do anything for ourselves.  We vacationed alone sometimes and we had our individual hobbies, but it was completely different than it is now. Now, it is our turn. Well, sort of lol

We have a grandson on the way, our first grandchild.  My son and his wife are having a baby boy! I am so excited, and my husband is just nuts because his name is going to be Jeffrey! Folks keep asking what “Super Little Jeffrey” is going to call me.  My daughter calls him “Super Little Jeffrey” because my son was always called “Little Jeffrey.”   Maybe we will just call my son by his nickname so we can call his son “Little Jeffrey,” until he gets to be taller than his dad like my son.

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My family and I are celebrating my daughter’s 22nd birthday at Vedge in Philadelphia.

What was I saying? Oh yeah, I am going to have my grandson call me, “Grandmom!”  Yes, I am!  That is what I am going to be, and I am proud of it.  I don’t want to be called “MeMom” or “Glam Mom” or any of those even stranger names for folks who don’t want to be known as grandmothers.  Well, I am speculating, maybe they have other reasons for not being called Grandmom.

So…another question folks ask me is if I am experiencing empty nest syndrome.  Not really.  I feel like my nest has been empty for 4 years.  My daughter was in school all fall and winter and she studied overseas in the summer.  She has spent more time away from home than at home over her college career.  The great thing is, my sister had a baby a few years ago.  I call him my nephewbaby. He and I are very close.  Now she has a baby girl, who looks just like my daughter when she was a baby.  And my grandson is on the way, and guess who is lucky enough to be watching him? Me!  His mother is working on her PhD, so “Super Little Jeffrey” and I are going to have a wonderful time.  So when is it my time?  Rearing the children in the family IS my time.  It is the joy of my life!

My niece, Sage  Who could have empty nest syndrome with this doll baby around?

My niece, Sage Sojourner Robinson
Who could have empty nest syndrome with this doll baby around?

I still tutor from time to time. I just don’t have the mental stamina to tutor 25 students a week anymore!  I also teach dance, and as you probably know, I am an author.  I am the president of the Women’s Ministry at my church. My husband and I are taking some classes (MIT) together and I am going back to school to get my Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing at Rutgers-Camden.  My goal is to publish more books and teach Creative Writing at a university.

Well I have been just writing this without editing, so I hope you weren’t too bored.  I haven’t been on here in awhile so I figured I would catch you up on some things.

By the way,Camden’s MFA program is great. You can check it out here: http://mfa.camden.rutgers.edu/

I am also diligently working on my next devotional.  Maybe I will share an excerpt from it this week. You can let me know what you think about it.  Honestly.

Oh, i am too..tired to revise or even read this over tonight. I hope it makes some kind of sense.

Oh well! Sleep Well!

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No Blessings are Small

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“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

Matthew 25:23

“When I was little, I thought it was cool to live next door to an abandoned house,” my son smiled across the dining room table.

Every Sunday my husband and I have the family over for dinner after church.  I particularly enjoy it as we get closer to the holidays.  The house is decorated with red poinsettias in large vases and the wooden banisters are lined with pine garland, pinecones, and red berries. Laughter and holiday music travel from floor to floor, wood hisses in the brick fireplace, and balsam-scented candles burn in every bathroom. Outside is quiet, and the red metal sleigh and six reindeer light up our front lawn like noon. There are no sidewalks, the streets are wide, and our neighbors are not close enough to hear our private conversations. Things are so different than they were decades before.

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Early in our marriage we did not have as much as we have now, but we loved each other deeply, trusted God completely, and took care of our “small” blessings. And even though there was a row of abandoned houses to the right of us, we took care of our brownstone like it was a palace.

My son didn’t mind living next door to an abandoned house because he imagined he was Batman, hiding out in Wayne Manor. Besides, my husband and I often glorified our town, saying some of the greatest people in the world lived there, he and his sister, and we made life as enjoyable as we could for them in the place my son often called “Gotham City.”

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When a developer came in and finally restored the abandoned properties, my son thought it was an adventure when displaced rodents escaped to our house for shelter. It was a very interesting time in our lives, but I definitely would not describe it as “cool.”

Earlier on, I set the scene for how we live now because it is relevant for you to know how different it was in the early years of our family. There is a glaring contrast that is important to note, especially if your present situation at all resembles the scene I am about to describe.  If it does,  reread the beginning of this devotion and ask yourself if it is possible for your current situation to lead you to a better place.

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Our first home in “Gotham”

My husband and I were in our twenties. We owned our inner-city home and took great pride in it, but since it was over one hundred years old and next door to a row of abandoned houses, there were sometimes problems.

One night, I woke up because my husband had gotten up to go to the bathroom.  Our bedroom door was cracked, so there was enough light from the hallway to create shadows on the walls.  While in bed,  I saw something circling around the ceiling. In my delirium, I thought it was the shadow of a rat that was running around on the floor.

After my eyes focused, I realized something flying.   Of course, I thought it was a bird because I really wanted it to be a bird.  I gasped and pulled the covers up around my mouth and nose before I screamed, “Honey, there is something flying in our room!”

My husband ran from the bathroom and turned on the bedroom light.  It was a bat!  I had never said so many expletives in one sentence in my life!  I screamed, twisting and turning under the covers.  I figured the bat would have a more difficult time attacking a moving target. Every now and then I peeked out of the covers. It was no longer circling the room smoothly.  Its wings hit the walls, sounding like someone smacking leather gloves together erratically.

My husband was telling me to calm down, but I couldn’t hear him over my own cries. He eventually fetched me from the covers and guided me out the room as I screamed with a blanket over my head.  Once I was on the other side of the door I thought of every horror movie I had seen with bats attacking humans. I asked my husband if he were okay.

“Get me a towel!” He yelled. “Hurry Up!”

I opened the door just enough to squeeze the towel through.  A few seconds later, I heard my husband whipping the towel through the air. I envisioned him in his blue-stripped pajama pants, jumping on the bed and holding the fluffy lasso angrily with one hand. Every now and then, I would hear a crash.  It sounded as if he were in a battle with Goliath (1 Samuel 17), someone much bigger than he.  The last crash I heard was the lamp being whipped from the nightstand onto the floor. There was silence.

“Oh God!  Are you okay?  You didn’t let him bite you, did you?” I had visions of black and white movies from my childhood with handsome vampires, wearing black capes.

“I’m fine, Dear.  I got him.”

I opened the bedroom door cautiously just as my husband was opening the towel. He looked into the bat’s face.  His leathery wings were still.  I had a moment of remorse.

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You think we would have moved after that ordeal, but we didn’t.  Instead, we lived through similar nightmares.  Not long after we got rid of the bat, there was a sewer rat in our upstairs bathroom.  We caught him sleeping in the wall behind the toilet.  He had eaten the paint and plaster.  Thankfully he couldn’t eat through the steel mesh that trapped him inside the wall like a cage.

Every night for a few days, I heard the rat chew through the wall.  I had no idea what it was at the time.  It sounded like a couple men trying to break in the house.  I only heard the sound at night when my husband went to work.  On the third night, my husband’s night off, the sound seemed to get louder and closer.  We walked in the bathroom, trying to determine where the sound was coming from.  We peered behind the toilet.  Its thick body slept exhaustively with its tan, black, and gray fur rising up and down between the mesh with each breath.  I was both sick and astounded.  Suddenly, it got up and stared at us with its fingers wrapped around the steel wire. I could not speak, and I struggled to digest my dinner.

“That thing is huge!” My husband yelled, noticing it was the size of a fat house cat. “Hurry up and get me the uh- Raid!”

I remember thinking, Raid is for ants, but okay

My husband shook the can of Raid a few times before removing its red plastic lid. He sprayed the creature in its face, thinking it would run back through its tunnel in the wall.  Instead, it clawed at the steal and showed its teeth. We both cussed like two teenagers discovering new words.

Convinced that we could not scare the rat off, we called my father-in-law.  Now, my father-in-law was not an exterminator, but he did have a gun. Unfortunately, we later discovered there were hundreds of rodents, looking for shelter.  To solve the problem, we would have had to shoot them all, so we eventually, called an exterminator.

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1994

You have probably surmised that “Gotham” was not a safe place to live, but we were blessed there; God was doing great things for us (Proverbs 20:27). We didn’t have a ton of money, but we were able to save and take our children on trips because our mortgage was only $393 a month. We were not perfect, cussing and fussing under stress, but as contradictory as it may seem, most times we were joyful because God was with us then, just like He is with us now (Hewbrews 13:5). We didn’t feel that our lives were any less valuable because we lived in a depressed area. We knew God examined our hearts (1 Samuel 16:7) and not our finances.  He is not like people who determine your value based on your material wealth (Luke 16:15). God values you and loves you unconditionally.

No matter where you live or how you live, do not determine your worth based on your bank account.  Instead, ask yourself if you have the capacity to love.  Love is what is most important when you consider the quality of your life, so trust God, and do not fret about your “small” blessings. If you take care of them, bigger ones will follow (Matthew 6:33). However, bigger blessings are not always material.

You may be blessed with immeasurable things like freedom, peace, wisdom, and love.  If that does not excite you and you would much prefer huge houses and fancy cars, remember, those things are temporal (2 Corinthians 4:18). The danger in desiring worldly riches above everything else, is the danger of rejecting  Godly love. If money is your heart’s desire, you may turn people away who can only afford to give you love.  To turn them away would rejecting  love (1 Corinthians 13:4-7), the greatest gift of all.

When I met my husband, he had more love in his heart than he had money in the bank. Had I rejected him when he told me I was going to be his wife, I would have missed out on a multitude of immeasurable blessings. Yes, we had to contend with rats, bats, and even more incredulous adversaries, but we had an unceasing love for each other and God, and I am grateful He has blessed our faithfulness.

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By Shawn R. Jones

 website: www.shawnrjones.com

Author of the devotional book, Pictures in Glass Frames   http://t.co/BxiNwWRG

and the poetry chapbook, Womb Rain, 

http://www.amazon.com/Womb-Rain-New-Womens-Voices/dp/1599242699/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1337717218&sr=8-1

 

Arms up

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It was the first time I had ever been frisked.   My husband was next.  Neither of us said anything.  Then about fifty of us were jammed into a small area where guards, holding semi-automatic weapons, stood above us on a balcony. I would call the area a room, but it didn’t have a ceiling, just the blue sky, which would have been nice just about anywhere else in the world.  At first, there were three walls, battleship gray.  Then the fourth wall, a steel door, came thundering down, “SHUMP!”  I jumped, grabbed the right side of my neck, and scanned the crowd.  The other visitors looked angry, but not afraid.  It was definitely a part of their routine.   

Glaring down at us, the guards bellowed, “Tighten up! Tighten up and be quiet!” We got as close as we could get to each other.        

To my surprise, my husband yelled back at the armed guards, “You can’t talk to us like that!  We’re visitors! We’re not prisoners!”     

I was trying to blend in with the crowd.  I thought that would be easy since most of us were minorities, but once my husband spoke, I knew he would give us away.  Even though we were from the city, neither of us had a strong urban dialect.  I squeezed his hand, signaling him to be quiet.  I was shocked by what happened next.  The other visitors cheered my husband on.  He had become their spokesperson.  Tattoos, gaudy jewelry, gold teeth, and tight clothes stood in agreement with him.  He had gained the support of a group of visitors who looked rougher than the prisoners we met on the other side of the wall.     

“They don’t want you to come here,” my husband explained to the people around him, “so they want to make it as unpleasant of a visit as possible.  This is absolutely ridiculous-“     

The guards continued to bellow commands from the balcony as I grew increasingly nervous. I turned my rings around and pulled nervously on my string of secondhand pearls.  I should not have worn any jewelry, especially not pearls.  No other piece of jewelry could say, “I have lost touch,” more clearly than a string of pearls on a brown neck, but ironically, I wanted to make a good impression on the cousin I had not seen in twenty years.     

In my memory, he was the cousin who took me to his “clubhouse” with his group of “cool” friends.  It was an abandoned house that smelled like a combination soot and urine.  Yet, I felt special being there, climbing broken steps to the top floor and kicking through bits and pieces of someone else’s past.   At seven-years old, I was a tomboy who just wanted to fit in.  There were no adults around to draw the line between danger and fun. So when the cops came and my cousin held out his arms for me as I escaped from the second floor window onto a dirty mattress, I thought that was fun, and when he whizzed me home on the handle bars of his bike, I thought that was fun, too.    

He was my cousin who introduced me to the streets of Atlantic City before mischief became murder.  We were from the same place and the same family, but when my mother and I moved out of the housing projects to the suburbs, my cousin and I didn’t see each other as often.  He and I lived drastically different lives, but my affection for him never changed.  He was still the cousin I looked up to.  I really didn’t know the man I was visiting in a maximum security prison with a 30 year sentence.  So when he walked into the sunlit prison yard, bright orange and strong, I hugged the little boy who once held out his arms for me.

 Age 7, dressed like a cop

Ironically, it is the only photo I have of me at this age.

By Shawn R. Jones

 website: www.shawnrjones.com

Author of the devotional book, Pictures in Glass Frames   http://t.co/BxiNwWRG

and the poetry chapbook, Womb Rain, 

http://www.amazon.com/Womb-Rain-New-Womens-Voices/dp/1599242699/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1337717218&sr=8-1