Tuesday, February 5, 2013

# 399 - Aptitude, Attitude & Altitude

Years ago, I sat in the worship center of the church behind my parent's house and listened to a sermon by Brother Ernest Weedon. This particular sermon would stick with me, permanently. Pastor Weedon talked about a plane's ability to fly and how three things for successful flying can also be applied for successful daily living.

He explained that we all know about attitude, having a bad attitude is usually not good for a person who has it, nor is it pleasant for others subjected to the person with a bad attitude. We often hear the term "Check your attitude at the door."

Personally, I was the mom who constantly said, "Your attitude needs an adjustment."

Then, the pastor informed us that planes use "flight attitude" which helps to determine if the nose of the plane is pointing upward or downward, referred to as nose-high or nose-low attitude. If the nose of the plane has the right attitude, it will soar into the sky and go places we dream about! Furthermore, if the plane's attitude is right and is positive, and the plane is being flown by someone who has made the most of their aptitude, which is their natural ability or taught ability to fly the plane, then the plane will reach a greater altitude as the plane's distance from ground level widens.

So, our altitude in life can be determined by our aptitude, which is our capacity for learning and altitude can be gained by our attitude, the direction we are pointed. If we are pointed in the wrong direction, our attitude will need an adjustment because we won't be making the best of our aptitude and our altitude will be limited.

Okay, keep all this in mind...

aptitude - innate or acquired ability
altitude - the height of thing above reference level
flight attitude - nose-high or nose-low will determine direction of plane, the right attitude will cause the nose of the plane to go upward so the plane can soar.


This past weekend, we had major excitement on the home-front as our youngest made a trip home from college to take her GRE, which is the exam required for a college student to enter GRADUATE SCHOOL!

Where did time fly? This is my youngest child I'm talking about...How could SHE be going into graduate studies? I thought I dropped her off to preschool YESTERDAY!

This year has been a pivotal year; my oldest daughter, Heather, got married to a wonderful man and she is now expecting her first baby, so I'm going to be a grandma! And my youngest is taking her education to infinity and beyond!

Back to this past weekend...studying for this graduate entrance exam had Stefie in shambles. She's actually a great college student, very focused and driven, but she is like her sister and her mother, she stresses too much. However, I don't blame her, she has a lot to stress about.

On top of her regular studies so she can graduate this summer, she's been working in an internship with high-risk teenagers. So, in between going to many classes on campus, studying, writing research papers and preparing for class exams, she has to work several hours per week with high-risk kids, then she had to find "extra" time to prepare for the GRE.

Last week, as she was taking practice GRE exams and not doing so great because of her test-anxiety, I found myself telling Stefie to not worry about passing the GRE. In fact, if she didn't go to graduate school, then life would still continue and she'd simply go in another direction. No biggie! After all, LIFE is what happens as we are busy making plans!

I told her that she would be OKAY, no matter if she passed the GRE or not! Even if she failed the graduate school entrance exam, the world would keep spinning, politics would continue to stink, and she would head down another path in life.

So, she came home Friday night and I sat with her as she tried to go through pre-test sections of the GRE, and let's just say that this mother was not exactly helpful. It was also not helpful that we had to leave the house in the morning to take her to the University of Houston Downtown for her to take the four-hour long GRE, and the night before the test, she and I were still awake at 1:00am taking a pre-test GRE for practice.

Stefie studying and taking a practice GRE exam
with the requirement that she use her hot pink ink-pen
to take notes. If only every potential graduate
student knew this secret. It must work.

Regardless, that Friday night, I stayed up and tried to help her with the practice exams. And let's just say that my strong academic side is writing, reasoning and anything with words, except math word problems. However, my assistance with the practice exam caused Stefie to get an all-time low score on the writing portion of the GRE, but I magically and mysteriously helped her get the highest math score she'd yet to receive on a GRE practice exam.

Go figure. I despise math. I still use my fingers and toes for counting, well, it seems like it. I could not understand how I hurt her with the writing portion, but helped her with the math portion. Well, I don't exactly hate math, it's simply a subject I detest with heated vengeance. At any rate, I could not explain how the mix up with her results occurred.

I didn't know what to tell her, so I went to sleep.

Saturday morning, the morning of the exam, I woke up in her room...we had crashed there after staying awake for hours working on her GRE preparation...and I gave her my usual "weird" parenting pep talk. Part of it included me singing a Pointer Sister's song, "I'm So Excited!" So, we laid in bed, singing a Pointer Sister song together, kicking our legs in the air, bellowing as if the day had a most wonderful moment in store for the two of us!

I told her to embrace an out-of-the-ordinary approach and an unexpected attitude toward this test; I told her, "Celebrate being ABLE to take this test! Be thrilled that you made it this far, so young, so intelligent and so capable of taking that GRE test! It's a blessing to know you are BRAVE enough to face that test head-on and not worry about passing because you are already getting to do something AWESOME!"

And we had a celebration breakfast with doughnuts that Deputy Dave rushed out to buy that morning. Well, Stefie ate a Kolache and a bag of donut holes, she loaded up. And, every few minutes we'd sing, "I'm so excited! And I just can't hide it! I'm about to lose control and I think I like it!"

Gotta love the Pointer Sister's enthusiasm!

The three of us got into Deputy Dave's truck and we drove to the University of Houston Downtown. On the way there, I told Stefie the story about Aptitude, Attitude and Altitude that had been told by our pastor so many years ago.

Another pep talk.

Except, I believe I got the vocabulary mixed up and caused Stefie to give me a couple of perplexed expressions as I spoke about flying a plane, which was kind of weird to her because she knows I have a major fear of flying, but she listened and got the general idea.

No matter what, that story of aptitude, attitude and altitude still hits me squarely in the chest when I start making bad decisions.

At the campus, we had a maze of about fifty buildings to navigate through to find the testing center. Now...I attended this campus approximately 19 years ago, and I am quite confident in saying EVERYTHING HAS CHANGED! I guess a lot can happen to a campus in about twenty years.

That campus is MASSIVE and has so many new or changed buildings that I felt as if it were my first time on campus, almost. With help, we found the building Stefie needed for her test and as we walked toward the building, Stefie told me in a stern voice, "Mom, you can't talk to the check-in people because you will be telling them my life story as I stand there and it's already kind of embarrassing that my parents have driven me to take my entrance exam for graduate school."

I stand there horrified. Family support...embarrassing?

Actually, after she made her little speech, I was in hysterics because she was right. I would have been nervously rambling, "This is my daughter, Stefie. She drove in from her university yesterday evening by herself, which is a three-hour drive, one-way, and she is still so young, but you can see that she's ready to take the GRE! I'm so proud we're here at the university I attended a long, long time ago, and my husband, who is also Stefie's father, will be here on campus the entire time, just in case you need to reach us for an emergency. We'll be within earshot of any siren-intercom system that is boomed on campus and we'll come running. In fact, take a look, I wore my running shoes today! Just for my baby! And she wore her comfortable "test-taking" clothes, yet she still looks stunning in the color green! Plus, she's having a great hair day...and could you seat her far away from any distractions?"

Well, maybe it wouldn't have been exactly like that, but I'm sure Stefie pictured something along those lines.

Sigh. Kids. I children.

And she told me this about ten minutes after she had dialed the number to the testing center to pinpoint their location, but after she dialed the number on her cell, she thrust the phone in my hands while saying, "YOU ask the questions!"

I must say, this was a mom-puppet kind of day!

In the end, us parents went up the elevator with her and she filled out all her forms to take the GRE as her dad and I sat next to her in the lobby. I didn't speak with the testing staff, and for the record, I never intended to speak with them...Stefie is quite capable of doing so herself. However, Stefie barely weighs 90 pounds and she looks thirteen, so Deputy Dave loves to make comments such as, "I'm so proud of my baby girl, maybe she'll have her PH.D. by the time she is 18!"

Believe me, people stare at her and believe that she's about to go into graduate school at around 13 years of age. As we tell Stefie, having children means parents get to have cheap entertainment, indulge us!

I told Stefie to be happy that her family is so supportive! We are the kind of family that will rally next to the one having a hard time or the one who needs our support, hence our willingness to go onto "Randy to the Rescue" with our oldest daughter this past year. Even if weird, if it's important to our kids, we will buckle down and get it done. Hence our roles as set-up and clean-up committee for our daughter's wedding. That's the kind of family we are...get it done.

As Stefie handed in her clipboard and stood at the waiting area to go back to take her four hour test, I used my IPhone to take a picture of her...a sort of Pre-GRE photo opportunity. I think she rolled her eyes at me.

Hey, I didn't use the dang flash!

As she disappeared from sight, I began all the typical mom worries, "I sure hope they let her go to the restroom whenever she needs because a four-hour test is a LONG test when you have to pee! Maybe I should go ask, just so I can make sure it won't be an issue."

I decided to let Stefie sort out her own potty issues, I'm sure to her relief. Then, Deputy Dave and I decided we'd better leave the area before we got kicked out of the building and possibly off campus.

The good part was...we had said a family prayer together before we got out of the truck at the university, so I kept saying my prayers under my breath throughout the day, not praying that she'd pass, but that the Lord would be with her throughout the test and give her a calm demeanor, a mind of clarity and His Blessing!

For the next four hours, Deputy Dave and I walked around campus. Lots of walking. I think my pinky toes nearly rubbed completely off my foot, due to the running shoes I never wear. However, along our campus stroll for the hours to come, we enjoyed seeing all kinds of weird things iconic of "Houston." Later, the things we observed will be a part of more blogs because we saw a LOT.

Fearless squirrels on campus. No kidding.

Finally, we arrived back at the designated building around the time she should have been finished and she eventually emerged from the glass doors and walked over to meet us beneath the attached covered pavilion we had just taken a seat under. She looked exhausted, fried. We both stood up and held our breath. Then, she gave us this sad look and said, "I PASSED! I AM GOING TO GRADUATE SCHOOL!"

Holy Guacamole! I ran over to her and we hugged and hugged and hugged while knowing this moment was incredibly important to her future! Then, I could finally give the OTHER side of the speech I'd been reserving because there is no doubt that her having a master's degree in her field WILL make all the difference in the world for her profession; she will have an edge that will be tremendously needed in today's competitive working environment.

We hugged the most wonderful celebratory hug, and I felt this immense surge of pride toward my daughter...she didn't let test anxiety stop her...she didn't let all her responsibilities get in the way of that test...she didn't let the what-if's hold her back! She faced her fears and her feeling of possibly being inadequate, but she PROVED that she is GRADUATE SCHOOL MATERIAL!


Her dad was beaming. I know he soaked in the moment with huge satisfaction. He was wearing his "I'm Going to be an Aggie Grandpa" shirt and thinking about his grand-fetus that is growing in Heather's non-existent belly that will soon be very existent and watching his youngest daughter take another step toward her own ballooning future with a higher education due to her own determination!

And I was beyond ready to shed my running shoes in favor of flip-flops.

To celebrate, we three went to Red Lobster because Stefie LOVES their Snow Crab, but she looked as if she could've fallen over in the booth and slept two days.

I am blessed. I will not take my blessing forgranted. My children are a huge part of my blessings in life, graduate school or not. It's just a bonus on top of what is already magnificent.

Their love, sweetness and independent accomplishments have proven that they were raised well enough to tackle some of life's most daunting challenges. Any parent knows how this is hit or miss. Life can sure throw us curve-balls. But, my girls are obstinate. Where did that come from? Hmmm. If an obstacle is put in their path, they figure out how to either get around it or remove it, eventually they figure it out and keep going.

Thank you Lord for answered prayers and for revealing a bit more of your will, which included the confirmation that I am no longer built for running shoes.


Allison of A Farmgirl's View said...

What a great post! I could just feel that mama pride coming through your words :) Brought a tear to my eye since my oldest is now in college. Congrats on the new adventure of grandparenting :) Sounds like you are a great mom and God will equip you to be a fabulous Grandma! I'm so glad I stopped by to read :) Come on over for a visit if you can.

Stacie, A Firefighter's Wife said...

Yeah! Great job! I love the attitude/plane analogy!

Becky's Barnyard said...

How wonderful! I know y'all are really proud.

Vickie said...

Lana - I would say a Standing Ovation is in order for Stephie! Congratulations to her and you and David, too! I know y'all are so proud and excited for her!