Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Personal Heroes and Villains of 2009

This has been quite a year for me. I had hoped to do another Christmas newsletter, but for one reason or another, I didn't get it done. Be it laziness, lack of motivation, or just being too busy, it just didn't happen again. Even then, I have been reflecting a lot about this year because I am truly happy to see it end. That's not to say some wonderful things didn't happen, but some pretty awful things did happen; things that have been more difficult to deal with than I ever thought possible. So I got to thinking about the people that really affected my year -- the good and the bad -- and why. Without further ado here is my personal list of 2009 Heroes and Villains.

Grandma & Grandpa Derby: Of course most my family (particularly my immediate family) is always up there, but this year my Derby grandparents really saved the day. When we found out we could possibly lose our house last year they did not hesitate to offer us a place to stay. When the unthinkable finally happened in May of this year, they not only helped us move, but opened their home to us for virtually nothing. It hasn't been perfect as we have meshed two households and two largely different ways of doing things, but we've made it work. They have sacrificed so much just to make sure we have a place to live and continue our lives and that we have the resources to get on with our lives from here. Words cannot express how grateful I am for all they have done for us just this year, not to mention for pretty much every year of my life. I do not know where I would be right now without them!

Elwin & Diane Robison: Moving was not a pleasant experience, but it was made even more unpleasant by not having money to rent a moving van and the fact that we were moving out of the house we had lived in for 26 years. This is where the Robisons stepped in. Not only did they volunteer countless hours to help us pack, but they also donated the use of their van and trailer to help transport things from our old house to Derbys. And no, this is not the first time they've come to the rescue. They've always been there and I'm grateful especially for the help they were in moving. Diane was especially helpful in getting things organized and helping Mom decide what to keep and what to get rid of, not to mention a moral support.

Charlie Carey, Nate Jeppson, & Christopher Bowers: These were three members of our local ward (congregation) who helped load and unload the many vanloads we had to take from the house to Derbys over the month we moved. It was so comforting to know we had some support from our ward family at a time of great need. It also made moving go just a little bit quicker. Thanks for just being there!!!

Erica Woolf: Erica was one of my friends from the Master of Arts in Teaching program I completed this May at Kent State. We first met as members of the same cohort in the Summer 2008 semesters and had our classes together for Fall semester 2008 and Spring semester 2009. When she found out about what was going on with us needing to move, she almost immediately offered her truck to help. When I actually asked her if we could use it, she not only brought it, but helped us move even though she lived around an hour from Kent and had two young daughters to take care of. Not only did I enjoy her company (and her adorable daughters!), but having her truck that day was a great help in getting some of our larger furniture items out of the house quicker. I miss you Erica!!

The Aamodt Family: I have to list the Aamodt family because they helped without even really knowing it. I had just found out we would be losing the house when I was down visiting Andy & Heather in April when Grandpa Aamodt died. Being down there, I attended the funeral with Andy & Heather. The Aamodts welcomed me like an I was family (I had previously met them at Andy & Heather's wedding) and really helped me keep my mind off what I would be facing when I got back to Kent, even when they were dealing with the loss of a loved one. I saw them again about a month and a half later when Mom and I attended Heather's graduation from medical school in Baltimore. We literally walked away from our home of 26 years for the last time and went straight to Maryland. Again, the Aamodts (including Grandma Robison!!!!) treated us like family and helped Mom and I feel loved and wanted. Looking back, I am glad we decided to do that even though it made the last few days of moving a bit hectic. I can't say enough about how the Aamodts helped keep my mind off of what had just happened.

Basically, all my heroes were those who helped us in some way and showed us true examples of what it means to be Christlike. Thank you all for being such great people and living what you believe.


GMAC: GMAC was the mortgage company that is responsible for the loss of our house. True, my dad shares some of the blame for accepting such an insane mortgage, but in the end GMAC is the company approved it and who obviously felt that money was far more important than keeping people in their home. Not only did they do nothing to help us get an affordable mortgage, but they did a short-sale on our house, selling it for less that $5,000 more than we paid for it in 1983.

The Colliers: Many would argue our former neighbors were just taking advantage of an opportunity that presented itself. Indeed, they even stated they bought our house for practically nothing for the neighborhood's sake to prevent it from becoming a rental house for KSU students. Whatever their reason, they did buy the house which resulted in our being forced to leave. On top of that they had the audacity to claim I was trying to burn the place down when I removed the motion detector lights on our front porch we had installed and I left the exposed wires there in the ceiling (apparently they were touching when they saw them). Before this all happened, I had a good relationship with them. We occasionally talked and seemed to all be on the same page about neighborhood security after Mr. Collier's parents (his other neighbors) got robbed in the middle of the day last summer. But the way this unfolded tainted my view. They had a chance to really be heroes or at least appear more benevolent when we needed a miracle, but instead it felt like they swooped in behind our backs and took full advantage of us like they couldn't wait to rid the neighborhood of us. They claimed they bought our house with every last cent they had for their destitute son, yet as soon as we left suddenly had money to replace every major appliance and make extensive repairs and upgrades to the house. Did I expect them to buy the house and let us stay? No, but I would've walked away feeling better if they had at any time talked to us and let us know they even cared, like finding out if we even had a place to go. Had my mom not gone over and talked to them we would've moved and they would've never said a word.

Cutler Real Estate: I know, the real estate company was just doing their job, but I guess I still see them as accomplices in this whole thing. Basically, we were not on the same team; their goal conflicted with ours so I had no motivation to work with them. Clean the house? Don't mention any major problems? Oh and having our privacy constantly invaded was just wonderful. I just loved having complete strangers walk through our entire house so they could pass their judgments and take inventory of what we owned.

Nancy Miller
: Ms. Miller was one of the people I had difficulties communicating with last year whom I referred to as the "OGS Contact" in my post "My Angry and Accusatory side". While I already had a negative impression of her going in to 2009, it wasn't until April that she truly cemented her villain title. That was when I got a letter informing me that I wouldn't be graduating in May with my classmates. Why? It wasn't because I was missing any credits or hadn't taken the right classes; it was because my advisor hadn't changed my prospectus (list of planned classes) to include the substitutions we had agreed on and because a professor (who also happened to be that same advisor) hadn't changed my grade from an incomplete to a letter grade before the University's arbitrary deadline. In other words a simple matter of paperwork. So simple, in fact, that when it finally did get taken care of by my new advisor in May, it took all of one day for her to do it. Nancy Miller, though, is one of those people who seem to delight in putting students "in their place" as subjects and minions of the University. She has her little fiefdom and woe unto you if you dare question her royal highness. When I did come to her, she was not nice in any way and basically treated me like a total idiot, like somehow I was supposed to know everything about how the MAT program worked even though I had never been in graduate school before. Nancy Miller had a chance to be a hero by realizing that the spirit of the law (making sure students have all the necessary credits to graduate) was more important than the letter of the law (the arbitrary deadlines). All it would've taken was a few mouse-clicks and maybe a letter to someone who needed it. But no, exercising her power was far more important than showing any kind of sympathy or compassion, even as I dealt with one of the most difficult events of my life. And no, my negative experiences with Nancy Miller were not unique. Every other student I talked with who had to deal with had the same opinion I did of her. She was very pleasant and professional to her colleagues, but that pleasant nature vanished when she dealt with a lowly student. I hope one day she gets to see how her actions affected those she was supposed to be serving in the Office of Graduate Student SERVICES. See also my post "Wow can this year suck any more?!?"

Linda Walker
: Dr. Walker was the aforementioned advisor and the professor I first blogged about at the end of the Fall semester last year. I usually referred to her just as my professor and/or my advisor when I blogged (also see "Enduring to the end"). She was my professor for one class Fall 2008 and she was the director of Music Education for KSU. I ended up having to do an additional 10 reports as her way of being gracious and not giving me a D in that class because of my mix-up in not turning in the required reports when I thought I had (A 'D' would've essentially been a failing grade and prevented me from graduating without retaking the class). I did them and turned them in as agreed on and waited for the grade to be changed. Well, the deadline came and went and nothing was changed, which contributed to my not officially graduating until August, as I previously mentioned. She also nearly botched my student teaching when she assumed it was the College of Education's responsibility to find me a supervising teacher. Only after I raised the red flag did that get taken care of and not a moment too soon. Had I waited any longer I may have had to repeat student teaching for no fault of my own. Of course she never apologized for that. But that seemed to be the story of my time with her as my advisor. Not only did that nearly get botched, but most of the time I felt like she was clueless about what I was supposed to be doing. Granted, I was the first music student to go through the MAT in 10 years. I knew that, so was very understanding and patient at the beginning. But I could only have so much patience when that person wasn't doing what she needed to to help me get through the program and had such an obvious dislike and disdain for me by the Spring semester I started wondering if I'd ever graduate. And then to top it off, I make a small mistake not turning in an assignment and she acts like I'm the world's worst student. All she needed to do to be a hero was do her job and she failed miserably by not attending meetings (she admitted that to me) and letting her personal feelings influence how she did her job in relation to me. I wonder if her resignation as director of Music Education at the end of the Spring 2009 had anything to do with me, but all I can say is that resignation came a semester too late. The icing on the cake was she couldn't even find the time to send me an e-mail that she was no longer my advisor after I had sent her several about getting the Prosepectus problem taken care or. The MAT director was the person who let me know that. It's sad because I initially liked Dr. Walker after working with her in high school through choir. Even initially as my advisor we got things taken care of and problems solved, but the more we met and talked, the more things got worse, especially after the whole report fiasco. It's a scary thought when the person who has complete control over your graduation obviously doesn't like you.

Basically, the people who made my villains list are people who affected my life negatively but had the chance to be heroes had they made different choices. Instead they chose to follow their own emotions or what the world dictates should happen rather than choose compassion, benevolence, or understanding. Basically, they took the humanity out of our interactions. It was frustrating, sad, and disgusting all at the same time and I'm glad it's over and I don't have to deal with these people anymore. Dealing with the above has taught me a lot about what forgiveness really is and how hard it can be and how much I need to work in it! Time to move on to bigger and better things!

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