I've been thinking a lot lately.
Some things have changed. I don't feel comfortable sharing them all.
But I've been surrounded by moments. The sort that sneak up, and if you aren't paying attention, disappear and leave no trace. But if you catch them, and hold them while you can, they leave beautiful marks decorating your soul, feeding your strength and straightening your back so that you hold your head up.
I went to the local college and did a placement test. I spoke to a counselor. I spoke to a Financial Aid advisor. And heard encouragement left and right. I decided to go back to school to be an ESL teacher. My scores were more than needed to be approved to be an English tutor to other students. The tutoring wasn't even my idea, the counselor suggested it.
I placed my hand on my forehead in embarrassment at my math score. Only a 45 in Elementary Algebra. Is it the word "Elementary"? Is it the fact that I took Pre-, I and II level Algebra in Middle School?
Why was I embarrassed at this score? The counselor looked in my eyes and said "How long ago did you take those classes?" Over half of my life ago. With absolutely no real life situations needing that skill. And I only have to take 1-2 Math courses for my degree, whereas others have to take more because they didn't get that same score.
It's that moment when someone puts it in perspective for you. You don't have to be a genius in everything. You don't even have to be a genius at all. You just have to keep trying. Pushing forward. You don't have to smile if you don't feel the urge to. But you don't have to frown just because there is a challenge. That's what keeps you strong and reminds you that you have been forged in fire and came out stronger.
A fire like this one...
I made this fire with my own two hands, no help from any man, no chemicals or lighter fluid or starter sticks. Just a match, kindling I found with the kids, and fire wood. And on the first try, it started. The flame licked the side of the leaves, jumped into the twigs, and lapped up onto the wood.
I made a fire.
I felt an urge to look up to heaven for a moment. And smile. Whisper "Woman make fire." Ridiculous words that can easily scoffed at. But I whispered them anyway with a tiny bit of pride.
Warmth eased from the fire onto me and the two little blanket wrapped giggles who hugged me. Laid their heads on my chest and relaxed. Safe. Warm. Leaning on me for their strength.
Me. The one who won't take out the trash, who has never changed a tire, mowed the grass, and who cries to this day when the ant dies in Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.
A moment of clarity. A strand of my hair falls on the hair of my older daughter. It reminds me of dappled sunlight on the forest floor. Her hair the cool, welcoming, mysterious shade, mine the swaying burst of light that the sapling needs to grow.
We cooked hot dogs and marshmallows on the fire that I built for them.