Skill U: 8.1

Honey Walker | Van Windenburg Estate

Week Eight, Day One – Senior Year

Editor’s Note: Honey’s journal entries are numbered according to week and day of the week. As she does not keep daily entries, gaps appear in the numbering. Please see the Table of Contents for the full listing of entries.

eight-one01

One semester left. I’m ready.

This morning, I was looking back through my journals of this adventure I’ve had. I can’t believe how young I was just four years ago! I was skinny, too–I didn’t yet know that musicians needed to be strong!

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I couldn’t really play the violin–my bow angles were all wrong, and I didn’t know how to relax when I held the instrument. If I could give my younger self one piece of advice, it would be, “Relax, Honey.”

Honey Walker

That goes for working out, too. Back then, I thought that the harder I strained, the stronger I’d get. I’ve learned now that the key to strength is relaxation.

Honey Walker

I was so awkward socially, too, and I didn’t know that relaxation is also a key ingredient of charisma! I remember that whenever I was with my dorm-mates, I was always thinking about what I would say next. I was afraid to let there be any pauses in our conversations because I didn’t want them to think I was boring. Somehow, I thought that it was up to me to keep everyone entertained.

Honey Walker

I didn’t know, either, that I’d become myself through this journey.

When I read that email from my dad, confessing that the real reason that he wanted me to go to college was to honor of his first love, his high school sweetheart, whom he let go so she could enroll in the university, I had this fear–or maybe a false premonition–that by following her destiny, I was somehow losing my own to become a clone of her.

But that didn’t happen. My dad didn’t let that happen. When he wrote to me a few semesters later to advise me that, when the time came, I needed to follow my own heart, even if meant choosing something different than what he would choose, that was his way of setting me free. It was so hard for me to read that and really understand what he meant because it required that I choose independence. I somehow always had this idea that I’d be Dad’s girl, living the life he wanted me to live.

The funny thing is that, in a way, I am living the life he wants me to live, because I’m living the life that’s right for me and that is of my own choosing. So in a way, I guess I’m still Dad’s girl, even though I am living my life now.

Coming to Windenburg was the choice that set me onto my own freedom.

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I knew the moment I landed here that I’d come to a place where I could find my true self. I knew this was home.

I’m so grateful that I have one more semester with the Villareals before my career takes me away. I’ve grown so much through caring for and knowing this family. How is it that in caring for others we find ourselves?

I’ve discovered what I want to do with my life: I want to play music.

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I’ve experienced the healing of music, and I’ve been able to share that with others. That, for me, is the essence of what I am here to do.

Jacques told me the other day, “Ma petite, your music touches the very soul!”

I feel he may be right–I mean, not about my music, in particular, but about all of music! It connects us–it brings our souls into harmony with the rest of the universe.

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I was talking to a cellist the other day who told me that he wanted to play that instrument because he wanted to feel those vibrations through his body.

“When I play Bach’s cello suites–any of them, but Suite Number 1, in particular–you know how Bach was when he wrote in G major–then I feel that all the cells of my body are brought to resonate with the celestial music that is always around us, that comes to this earth from the heavens itself.”

I have to agree! I feel that way when I play the partitas for solo violin.

In my Medieval Cosmology class we learned that the ancient astronomers believed that it was the planets’ love of God that moved them in their spheres. I think there is more to that than mythology: I feel that it is a description that gets at the truth of the matter. When we play music, especially sacred music, like what Bach wrote, then the love for God fills us–it fills every space within our body, and we are brought into harmony with all that is.

What better way to live than this? What better purpose than to bring this wholeness to others?

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I am full of gratitude! Thank you, Dad, for insisting I come to college. Thank you for allowing me to find my reason for being here on this beautiful planet.

What a long journey I’ve taken from that little girl who felt she always needed to work so hard to prove herself every step the way! Now I know that we all walk in grace…

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Skill U: 7.6

Honey Walker | Van Windenburg Estate

Week Seven, Day Six – Senior Year

Editor’s Note: Honey’s journal entries are numbered according to week and day of the week. As she does not keep daily entries, gaps appear in the numbering. Please see the Table of Contents for the full listing of entries.

seven-five17

Kaylee and I have been hanging out a lot during my free time–and, surprisingly, even though I’ve got this professional internship, I seem to have a lot of free time!

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I’m still upset about what happened the last time we went out. It started out as such a great day! We were going to the ruins, and Kaylee asked if I wanted to have anybody join us, so of course I thought maybe my best friend, Darin, would want to come with.

Kaylee and I were having so much fun, talking about music and working out and taking photos, and then, I noticed that Darin was just standing behind us, glaring at me.

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Next thing I know, he’s screaming in my ear!

“Why did you even invite me if you don’t want to be with me?” he yells.

He’s saying all these horrible things about how I’m ignoring him, and I don’t care, and I’m a worthless friend. I just sort of shut down inside and closed off, so I don’t even remember everything that he said. But it was awful. I can’t believe the names he called me–I just can’t even write them. It was too horrid.

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I’ve never been yelled at before in my life–not like that, at least, not such a personal and direct attack from someone I loved and trusted–so I didn’t really know how to handle it or how to process it.

I just pretended that it didn’t happen and went right back to my conversation with Kaylee. Dominic Fyres joined us, all friendly and happy.

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And then Darin lets loose again, really cutting into me.

He starts accusing me of being heartless, and two-faced, and not having any morals, and not caring about the feelings of others, and throwing in every curse word you can think of. I was just floored. I’m still so shook up. I thought we were best friends!

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“I’m sorry to have wandered in on this,” Dominic says, “but maybe there’s something I can do to help. Seems like the two of you could use a little intervention. Are you OK being talked to like this, Honey?”

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And I realized, no! No, I was not OK with being talked to like that–not by my best friend and not by anybody. And what was worse was that Darin seemed to be feeling great, as if he were actually enjoying this! He was smiling!

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It was as if he had enjoyed hurting me and was getting pleasure from my feeling upset, wounded, and angry.

I’m so glad that Dominic was there.

He said, “You know, Honey, you don’t have to just stand there and take it. Speak up, girl. Let him know how you feel.”

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“How do I feel?” I said. “You want to know how I feel?”

I’m kind of embarrassed now about what I told him. I said I felt like a violin bow that had had all its strings broken when it had been played in a moment of passion–and for why? The music wasn’t even good.

Darin smiled the whole time.

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“Look,” he said, “I’m sorry I yelled.”

He went on to say that Kaylee and I were so wrapped up in our conversation that he felt left out.

“We hadn’t meant to ignore you!” I said.

“I know,” he admitted. “I just want you all to myself sometimes.”

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When I think about it, I realize that pretty much every time Darin and I are together, it’s just the two of us. We get into these deep conversations, and the world around us disappears, and it’s just him and me–alone in this bubble of idea and thought.

This was maybe the first time when he’d been with me when I was enjoying talking with someone else. Even the times when he was with my parents, he was usually just talking alone with my dad, or hanging out by himself in the garden.

We managed to patch things up OK that afternoon. I told a corny joke about violins and dark rosin that he found hilarious.

But I felt weird when I left.

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The Villareals’ home, with Max and Hugo studying peacefully in the living room, felt like a sanctuary to return to.

Even though Max and his dad will sometimes yell or say hurtful things, we understand that Max is just letting off steam, and that Jacques has got some imbalances, so he doesn’t always mean what he says.

With Darin, he meant what he said. I’ve got a feeling that maybe he even means all those hurtful things he said–or at least, his intention to hurt me was real. He really doesn’t want to have to share me as a friend.

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I’m not sure I can handle that. I like having him as a best friend–or I did, because of all the ideas that we share. But now, I’m not so sure.

If he makes some kind of ultimatum, or if he continues to hurt me, rather than to honestly express his feelings in a way that doesn’t inflict harm, I might need to let our friendship go.

That would be sad, but I’ve got a lot of other friends, ones who are willing to share me with others and ones who can express their feelings without hurting or blaming me.

seven-five03

It’s strange–I feel like I’m learning some really basic social skills right now, things that a lot of teens learn in high school.

I realize that I’ve spent the last three years so focused on college, my education, and music that I really didn’t get a lot of other life experience.

I’m having to make up for that now.

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Skill U: 7.4

Honey Walker | Van Windenburg Estate

Week Seven, Day Four – Senior Year

Editor’s Note: Honey’s journal entries are numbered according to week and day of the week. As she does not keep daily entries, gaps appear in the numbering. Please see the Table of Contents for the full listing of entries.

seven-four01

I’ve started working! I thought that once my internship started, I’d be so busy that life would feel tough, like it did during freshman year, when I was always so stressed about everything.

But life now has a lightness to it, a breezy quality, just like the air here on the island.

Of course, there’s still things that need to get done: that crazy fridge still needs fixing often, and meals still need to be made, and dishes washed, and the kids need to be reminded to do homework and take showers. But even that feels easy.

seven-four02

I have so much free time that I’ve started reading for pleasure again.

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I had almost forgotten the joys of losing myself in a book.

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Of course, the more I lose myself in fiction, the more I find myself, for it feels like every story of a person is the story of me. Or maybe, it’s that when I read, I really do lose “myself,” and I find instead that part of me that I share with everyone–that universal that we always search for in music, art, and literature.

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I guess that’s really what I wanted to find when I went to college: that universal shared experience that lies within all great art.

I got an email from my dad the other day that brought such a feeling of fulfillment.

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Hey, babee!

You sound so happy in you’re messages. We–me and yer mom–we always new you’d get there. That’s what I was always tryin to tell u. Just keep following that pointer inside that shows you ur own tru north.

You did. Now u got yer guidence and its yours. Tru u!

I love you, Honey.

Your Dad–that’d be me.

I know it was my dad’s faith in me that helped me get to this point of happiness. His faith didn’t prepare for happiness actually being a thing: somehow, when I saw how hard my dad always worked, I thought that I would always be working hard. I never realized that finding my own true life would be accompanied by a feeling of ease.

I mean, it’s not like I’m lazy. I do a lot. It’s just that a feeling of “rightness” has entered into everything so that it makes it feel like there’s this ease–or maybe harmony–in everything.

It reminds me of music. When I get a challenging passage, I’ll practice it over and over until I can play it with ease. So maybe that’s what’s entered into life right now!

It seems like the kids have picked up that same feeling of rightness.

Max is happy and mostly staying out of trouble.

seven-four07

Hugo and Luna are among the top kids in school, and they’re starting to get offers from colleges for when they graduate.

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Yesterday morning, I was cleaning house, and Luna kept following me.

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Every room I was in, there she was.

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Finally, she followed me outside, where I was going to empty the trash.

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She wrapped me in a big hug.

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“What’s this for?” I asked.

“I just want to thank you,” she said. “Remember what it was like when you first got here? How our dad was always wandering around like he was lost? How Max was always yelling at us? How me and Hugo were lost at school and couldn’t keep up with everything at home? Look at us now. That’s because of you, Honey.”

I feel blessed. Look at what my mom and dad gave me. Look how lucky it was that I found myself here in Windenburg. Look how amazing that I’ve been able to make a difference in the life of another family. I wonder if this is love.

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Skill U: 6.7

Honey W. | V.W. Estate

Week Six, Day Seven – Junior Year

Editor’s Note: Honey’s journal entries are numbered according to week and day of the week. As she does not keep daily entries, gaps appear in the numbering. Please see the Table of Contents for the full listing of entries.

six-seven01

One thing I’ve discovered during my “discovering me” project is that I like to face forward. Rather than looking back, I like to stand facing the horizon, looking into the oncoming current of time.

Another thing I’ve discovered is that when it comes to men, I’m clueless.

My own feelings of attraction puzzle me. Well, it’s not so much the feelings–it’s who activates those feelings. Married men are off limits, right?

Yesterday during my workout, I noticed that Geoffrey Landgraab had come over to watch. I immediately started focusing on my form.

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I was feeling pretty good.

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I glanced over at him, and that’s when it struck me.

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I was flirting. I was flirting with a married man. Not only that, he’s my dad’s age. Or older.

Crum. Am I attracted to older married men?

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A little while later, when we’d moved over to the weight machine, Don waltzes by, wearing just a towel. Seriously?

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And there was Geoffrey again, standing there with a smile, watching while I did leg curls. Fortunately, Kaylee had set the stack to a really heavy weight, so I had to concentrate to complete my reps, but I saw out of the corner of my eye that Kaylee was quietly chuckling to herself. Close the open book, I kept reminding myself.

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Next thing I knew, Nancy Landgraab was there and Geoffrey had wandered off. Move along, nothing to see here, I felt like saying.

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And then Don comes back down the stairs.

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And he is wearing the cheesiest grin when he walks right between me and Kaylee.

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I read in the paper this morning that he and the other fitness trainer were getting married, and I’d remembered seeing her upstairs in the gym that day, so I guess his cheesy grin and bath towel had nothing to do with me at all, which is a huge relief. If I’m clueless about men, I don’t want somebody who’s never been clueless to be the one to bring me into that whole world.

After the workout, Kaylee suggested that we head over to Lady’s Night at the Llama. It sounded like fun.

“You might meet somebody cool,” she said.

She left as soon as we got there. “Man, I’m really bushed,” she said. “Besides, look! There’s Jacques! See? Somebody you know!”

And there was Jacques, there for his club meeting, wearing his hearty boxers and bunny slippers. And he’d been so good about dressing appropriately, lately.

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Of course, Nancy Landgraab was there for Lady’s Night.

“Haven’t you heard of ‘No shirt, no shoes, no service?'” she moaned. “And what about ‘no pants’?”

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But no one else seemed to mind Jacques’ apparel. Everybody knows the Villareals, after all.

I had a pretty good time. No guys showed up, and I didn’t really talk with any of the women except for the bartender, but they’ve got this amazing jukebox there, so it was fun night, after all. I hardly ever go out. I can see why–it wasn’t all that fun–but still, it was fun enough for a now-and-then type of thing.

six-seven13

Saturday, we were all bushed. In the afternoon, all of us except Max took long naps. Hugo didn’t even change out of his work clothes–just crashed right there on the sofa.

I had a wish to talk with my friend Charles. I don’t know him that well, but I’d like to get to know him better. I invited him over.

After chatting a bit, he and Max danced. Max had these new moves he wanted to show him. And I worked out.

six-seven18

It’s the last day of my term of discovery. During senior year, I’ll have an internship as a music performer. I’m hoping to get to play with a quartet or maybe even a symphony, but Dr. Dean says a lot of the time, I’ll just be playing solo gigs at private parties.

That’s ok–at least I’ll be playing music and getting a head start on my career.

So, I’m not that sure what I’ve discovered about myself. I learned that I like to have a goal to work towards. I learned that I make friends easily, but I’m really not all that social. And I’ve learned that I am completely inexperienced and oblivious when it comes to romance.

I’ve also learned that I like to face forward. When I look back, I get a little nostalgic. But when I turn around and greet each day, I see life spreading out before me, inviting me with an inquisitive look. What does life want today?

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Skill U: 6.5

Honey W. | V.W. Estate

Week Six, Day Five – Junior Year

Editor’s Note: Honey’s journal entries are numbered according to week and day of the week. As she does not keep daily entries, gaps appear in the numbering. Please see the Table of Contents for the full listing of entries.

six-five14

When I run, everything falls into place–I just feel the road under my feet, and it all becomes quiet, and I’m not worried about anything.

One thing I’m discovering about myself during my “discovery semester” is that without a specific goal, I feel lost.

So I’m focusing on fitness. At first, I just wanted to be strong and healthy to support my music, but now I’m starting to see fitness as a goal in itself.

My friend Kaylee has been an inspiring mentor. I love it when she yells at me to “Push the barrier!”

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She’s such a sweet person that she hardly ever yells, but sometimes, when I’m in a really good workout rhythm, she’ll tell me, “Dig deeper. Keep pushing,” and her energy gives me that little edge I need to take my workout one step further.

She and I have decided to form a music group.

“I love music,” she said, “and I’ve been so focused on my work as an athletic trainer that I’ve never really taken the time to develop musical skills.”

“This will be perfect,” I said. “This way, I can mentor you in something I know!”

six-five03

When she came over for our first club gathering, I worked with her on the violin for a bit, but then, next thing I knew, we were in the workout room and she was giving me pointers on my stride.

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Later that week, my left shoulder started feeling really tight.

“Oh, geez!” she said. “I hope it’s not rotator cuff syndrome.”

We reviewed how I hold the violin, how I’ve been working out, and my stretching routine.

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“Look,” she said. “I think we can handle this through a few minor adjustments to our work out. We can always try Feldenkrais, if we need to, but I think we can take care of this with just a few tweaks to technique.”

Don Lothario sauntered over to watch us. “I don’t see nothing that needs any tweaks.”

Was he flirting with me?

I just kept focused on maintaining core strength and posture while doing my reps.

six-five11

Later when I stopped by the pub for a snack, the bartender shared gossip from the global village.

“And I’ve even heard that Don Lothario has children with two different women!”

Whoa! I wasn’t sure if that was TMI or Just Enough Information. I think I’ll continue to focus on form when he’s around, though.

six-five13

When I started this project of discovering myself this semester, I really suspected that I’d be discovering myself in love. But that hasn’t happened.

I haven’t even seen my gardener friend all term.

And I find I’m just not all that interested in the guys my age. The guys I’m interested in are older. And some of them are even married.

six-five12

So I’m just waiting on romance for now. No need to fill my life with extra complications before I graduate. Maybe later, once I’ve graduated and established my career, I can start exploring other ways of relating with people.

For right now, my friendship with Kaylee and taking care of the Villareal kids are satisfying my social needs.

I came home from a run the other evening to find Luna and Hugo hanging  out in the front meadow, doing homework together.

“It’s nice out here,” Hugo said.

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Luna and I sometimes watch movies together. She loves to watch romantic movies, and then she gets all forlorn feeling because she doesn’t have a romance in her life.

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“Do you think I’ll ever find love?” she asked me the other evening.

“Of course!” I replied. “Look at you! You’re beautiful inside and out! You’ve got so much to offer.”

We talked about how love will come when the time is right. There aren’t a lot of teens to choose from in Windenburg–the other kids her age just seem a little immature or unfocused. I’ve got a feeling that once she becomes a young adult, she’ll be able to find someone who is just right for her.

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Max is doing great, too. He’s keeping his grades up, and he spending more and more time just being a kid.

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I love seeing how happy he gets with the simple things like watching cartoons and playing with toys.

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The Villareal home, big as it is, keeps me busy, too–there’s always something to fix or clean.

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It’s grounding and rewarding, though, to have these daily chores to attend to. Plus, I love having a project I can complete. After fifteen minutes of scrubbing, the shower is clean, and the job is done.

six-five07

During my workout yesterday, I was thinking about the first time I used a weight machine. I was straining and twisting and pulling with everything I had, and the only thing keeping me going was thinking of my dad, the ex-Marine.

Now, I focus on form. I draw from my core and synchronize my breathing with the movements. Kaylee taught me that. Moving like this, with steady focus, incorporating strength, breath, technique, and the power of the mind, this feels like how I want to move through life.

six-five18

It’s not so much a matter of resisting with brute force, it’s more like harnessing all the available energy, facing forward, setting intent, and moving in flow.

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Skill U: 6.2

Honey W. | V.W. Estate

Week Six, Day Two – Junior Year

Editor’s Note: Honey’s journal entries are numbered according to week and day of the week. As she does not keep daily entries, gaps appear in the numbering. Please see the Table of Contents for the full listing of entries.

six-two18

“Congratulations!” Dr. Dean said. “I knew you could do it!”

She’d invited me to meet her at the café after class on the first day of the semester.

“I’m so proud of you,” she said. “I knew when I first met you that you had what it takes.”

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I wasn’t feeling so sure. It still hasn’t sunk in that I’ve achieved academic success. Or maybe it has sunk in, but it suddenly seems not to matter.

“It’s no big deal, right?” I said.

“What do you mean?” Dr. Dean replied. “It’s a huge deal! It’s a really tremendous accomplishment.”

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“I don’t feel accomplished,” I replied. Truth was, I felt sort of empty inside, at least in terms of my education. I felt great about my work as an au pair, I felt inspired by my new fitness goals, I felt as in love with music and the violin as ever–I just wasn’t feeling motivated or into school.

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“Listen,” Dr. Dean said. “You have achieved a high degree of academic success, and you’ve done it early. For a long time–for two and a half years–that’s what’s been driving you. I’ve seen you moving forward with a single focus. And now, you’ve met that goal. As an undergraduate, you’ve reached the pinacle.”

I listened, and the feeling of emptiness within me grew.

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“So, for a long time, what kept you moving forward was this goal, am I right?” she asked.

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“I never had a concrete, specific goal,” I replied, after reflection. “I didn’t even really know what ‘academic success’ meant. I just didn’t want to drop out, so I pushed myself to be my best.”

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“Well,” Dr. Dean laughed, “you did great, even without knowing what success was, specifically, you’ve achieved it! So, my question to you is, now what?”

I told Dr. Dean about my commitment to my au pair duties and about my interest in fitness so that I’ll be up for the demands of performing.

“But I really don’t know what to do for the next year and a half of school!” I said. “I mean, am I just marking time? Do I graduate early? What?”

six-two08

“You still have another year and a half,” she replied. “But since you’ve already cinched the valedictorian slot, it’s not like you need to accomplish a lot. But there’s more to education than academic success, right?”

“What do you mean?” I replied. “Isn’t that what ‘education’ is all about? Getting good grades and increasing our skills?”

“No!” replied Dr. Dean. “There’s so much more to it! There’s discovering your passion, seeing who you are in relation to other people, learning about different ways of thinking! There’s so much more!”

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I hadn’t even thought about that; I’d been so focused on developing my skills that I hadn’t thought there were other things to discover about myself, other people, and the world around me.

“Do you think I could take some time to just be?” I asked.

“I think that’s exactly what you might do!” Dr. Dean said. “You know, there are professional internships, and you might enjoy applying for one of those in music for your senior year. But what if you took this next semester to give yourself some time to explore and discover, with no pressure, no expectations, simply with curiosity and openness.”

“Wow,” I said. “I have never done that in my life!”

six-two07

I put what I call “The Dr. Dean Discover-Me Project” into place the next morning.

At breakfast, I slowed down, and we all simply hung out and talked before the kids went to school. I learned so many new things! I learned that Jacques (M. Villareal) loves to play with toys! He invented this story with Luna’s golden pony that made all of us smile.

I learned that Luna and Hugo sometimes dream the same dreams! The night before they’d both dreamed about garden gnomes!

I learned that Max’s sweet side comes out when he listens to me tell stories about my own childhood.

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When I went for my morning jog, I discovered how much I love the feeling of running. I love the rhythm. I love when my thoughts stop and I hear my breathing, my feet on the ground, the wind and the birds! I love the way the blood rushing through my veins feels. I love the sun and air.

six-two02

While I was cleaning Luna’s room, Jacques came in and gave me a big hug.

Ma fille,” he said. “You are family.”

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After chores, I sat upstairs and read a romance. Oh! There are so many flavors of life I have yet to sample!

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I felt young when I sat listening to music before my workout. I have so much yet to discover!

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Think of life! Think of all of life before me! Filled with moments, and each moment, ripe, containing all-that-is, with so much potential! So much to discover!

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I’ve been in college for two-and-a-half years, and I feel I am just now standing on the threshold of true learning, true discovery. My education has not yet begun!

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Skill U: 5.7

H. Walker, Von-Windenburg Estate

Week Five, Day Seven – Junior Year

Editor’s Note: Honey’s journal entries are numbered according to week and day of the week. As she does not keep daily entries, gaps appear in the numbering. Please see the Table of Contents for the full listing of entries.

five-seven23

Dr. Dean was right. Before the end of the semester, I completed all the requirements to be valedictorian. I didn’t really feel satisfaction or joy. I just felt sort of empty. It hadn’t exactly been my goal, but once I’d achieved it, I realized that I didn’t know what my goal was. Now, it seems like all I need to do is just mark time, and then I’ll graduate, and then what?

I also noticed that with all of my focus on my music and au pair duties, I’d been neglecting any other kinds of activities, and I’d gotten out of shape. I think I must have gained about twenty pounds. I don’t mind for appearance’s sake: my mom’s a little bit heavier, and I think she looks attractive. But I just don’t feel as healthy as I used to.

I started noticing that I’d get out of breath after long practice sessions, and I was worried I might not have the physical stamina for really demanding pieces, like Bach’s partita for solo violin.

If I wanted to be able to keep up with music, I was going to have to get fit.

five-seven22

I started with a sunrise jog–it felt incredible to run while the sun was coming up over the bay.

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I want to take my physical fitness as seriously as I take everything else–I mean, I don’t want to over-train, and I want to be sure that my fitness supports my music.

At the gym, I talked with one of the trainers.

“So, my goal is to be a performer–on the violin,” I told her. “So I need to be in shape without getting too bulky or tight in the upper body.”

“Not a problem!” she said. “Focus on cardio. Add a little yoga for flexibility, and do weight training to build up strength. Don’t stress your muscles–just stay within the range of what feels good, and you’ll do fine!”

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So, I’m feeling pretty good about my fitness routine right now, like I’m on track to be able to keep up with what the music will demand of me.

Things around the house were going really well, too. Jacques has been spending a lot more time with the kids now, helping them with their homework and talking to them.

I started thinking that maybe they didn’t need me, and I should start looking for my own place soon. I don’t want to get in the way of their being a family.

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Then one morning, I overheard shouting coming from Luna’s room, where Hugo was doing his homework.

Jacques was yelling at his son, saying all sorts of strange things about how Hugo didn’t uphold the family values, how he was a disgrace–really hateful, untrue accusations.

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The au pair placement company had told me about Jacques’ mental illness. So far, all I’d notice was behavior like walking around in his Speedos or boxers and talking to himself or acting like he was seeing things that weren’t there.

But they’d warned that his particular form of imbalance could lead him to sometimes lash out at others.

They stressed that this was one of the main reasons for having an au pair in the family, to help provide some stability for the kids during times when their dad was particularly unstable.

I could see that Hugo was upset. We’d never really talked about his dad’s behavior before, so I wasn’t sure how to start.

I decided to focus on helping Hugo feel better first.

“Remember how when I first came here, I thought the family business was a vineyard?” I said.

“You were so naive!” Hugo laughed.

five-seven15

We joked for a bit. I told Hugo that I was really proud of him–not because of his good grades, but because he worked so hard, and he was kind.

“You’re a really good person,” I told him, “and I’m proud to know you.”

“Do you think I could do whatever I want?” Hugo asked. “For example, could I open a restaurant someday?”

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“Hugo, you can definitely do that! You’ve got such a knack for food. Everybody will want to eat at your restaurant!”

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He seemed to feel renewed confidence. His dad came in. He didn’t apologize, but they sat together quietly. And Hugo didn’t seem upset anymore.

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After breakfast, Jacques gave his son a hug.

“So proud of you, mon fils,” he said.

I wondered how Hugo would make sense of this inconsistent feedback. Does he know to trust what his dad says when he’s feeling good and to ignore the things he says when he’s off-balance?

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That night, I overheard Jacques telling Hugo this strange story about corpses and brides and empty vats of wine. Hugo looked like he didn’t know what to make of it.

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When Jacques finished the story, he was upset, and Hugo looked sad. They were both a little embarrassed.

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“Do you think my dad will ever be OK?” Hugo asked me the next afternoon.

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“I think your dad is the way he is,” I replied. “We can help by keeping things running smoothly, helping to make sure that he gets a healthy diet and plenty of sleep.”

“But what about the things he says?” Hugo asked.

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“Well,” I replied, “maybe we can learn some discernment. Like we can tell when he’s upset or in one of his unbalanced moods, and we can not take what he says then so seriously. And then, when he’s feeling good and he’s saying kind things, we can realize that those are the words from the true Jacques. How does that sound?”

“OK, I guess,” said Hugo. “I just wish I didn’t have to always wonder who’s talking, my dad or the illness, when I’m talking with him.”

There are other ways that the family can still benefit from having me around.

I came home from a jog the other morning to find Max doing dishes in the sink. The dishwasher was broken, and the family was standing around feeling miserable, with a big puddle of water on the floor and sparks coming from the dishwasher.

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“I’ll fix it,” I said.

“I knew you would, ma chère,” Jacques said.

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When I was on my morning run today, I thought about how life always provides something.

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Just when I was thinking that I’d met all my goals, and there was nothing for me to accomplish, life stepped up and showed me that there’s s much.

There’s my fitness.

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There’s providing support and stability for the Villareal kids.

There’s keeping the home clean and in good repair and keeping the fridge stocked with healthy choices.

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And there’s leaving room and space for growing.

After breakfast that morning, Luna was cleaning the counter.

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“I can’t let you do everything,” she said. “One day, you’re going to leave, and then I’m going to need to take over. So I’d better start learning how to keep the house clean now, so I’m ready to step in when it’s my turn.”

five-seven03

I guess she’s right. Three more semesters, and I graduate, and Luna and Hugo will be graduating from high school at the same time. That gives us a little time to help everybody learn what they need to learn so that when I go, I won’t be missed.

Gosh. Becoming a grown up is hard.

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Skill U: 5.4

H. Walker, Von-Windenburg Estate

Week Five, Day Four – Junior Year

Editor’s Note: Honey’s journal entries are numbered according to week and day of the week. As she does not keep daily entries, gaps appear in the numbering. Please see the Table of Contents for the full listing of entries.

five-four09

“What do you think you’ll write your speech on?” Dr. Dean asked me when we were taking a break during our lesson.

“Speech?” I felt a sudden fear. Was there a requirement in one of my courses I wasn’t aware of?

“Sure!” she said. “Your valedictorian speech!”

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“Are you nuts?” I asked.

“Not at all,” she replied. “Think about it. You are a mere point and a half from meeting the requirements to be selected as valedictorian for your class. You’ve mastered the violin, you’ve completed the musical master program, and you’ve befriended the world. All that is left is to increase one more level in guitar and half a level in piano. At the rate you’re going, you’ll do that by the end of this term. So unless you plan on dropping out between now and the end of senior year, you are looking at being the valedictorian, like it or not.”

five-four07

“So that means I’ll need to give a speech at graduation?”

“That’s the tradition.”

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Fortunately, I’ve got plenty of time to decide what I want to say.

I know that, out of gratitude for Dr. Leslie Dean, I want to talk about the value of finding a good mentor. I could never have made it so far so quickly on any of these instruments without her skilled guidance.

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I want to talk about the importance of enthusiasm and honesty.

“Don’t seek praise,” I’ll say, or something like that. “Seek instead honest feedback, so you know what stinks about your work and how you can make it better.” Only I don’t think I’ll use the word “stinks.”

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I want to say something about how contagious dreams are. Or maybe it’s striving for excellence that’s contagious. At any rate, I’ve noticed that Hugo and Luna have started taking their studies very seriously.

“Maybe I’ll go to college!” Luna said the other day. “I’d love to be a fashion designer, and Honey was telling me how important math is to design. Do you think I’m good at math, Hugo?”

“Well, you’re always earning A’s. And you seem to love it.”

five-four03

Then the next day, I overheard Hugo say, “You know, I think I’ll go to culinary institute. I’d like to open my own restaurant some day. So a good solid education in the business management of restaurants would be useful, non?”

Mais oui!” said Luna. “And there’s a lot of math in business management.”

five-four04

Then, one afternoon, Wolfie, one of Max’s Renegade buddies, came by after school.

“Is this what the villainous Max Villareal does after school? His homework? With sissy and bubba? I thought you were the leader of our gang, not some nerdbrain doofus head.”

“It’s a club,” said Max. “Not a gang. And homework is cool. Plus, math is fun.”

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“So I’m thinking I should start preparing for college,” Max told his dad that night. “Even if I just take over the family business, I’m still gonna need a good education, right?”

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“I think I know some of the points I want to mention,” I told Dr. Dean.

“Good!” she said. “I’m so excited! I’ve never had a student of mine make valedictorian before!”

five-four05

It feels sort of like a hoop to me–and like this big scary burden waiting out there. But I think I can turn my view around. I think if I just relax and focus on everyone else besides me then maybe I’ll be able to discover what’s really important. And if I can share that, maybe inspiration will flow through my words and touch somebody! I’d rather just play my violin and speak that way, but if I need to speak with my voice, I hope that by the end of my senior year, I’ve found the voice of inspiration, so that when I open my mouth sparks from something greater than me will fly out and everybody catches on fire with the light of dreams!

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Skill U: 5.2

H. Walker, Von-Windenburg Estate

Week Five, Day Two – Junior Year

Editor’s Note: Honey’s journal entries are numbered according to week and day of the week. As she does not keep daily entries, gaps appear in the numbering. Please see the Table of Contents for the full listing of entries.

five-two05

I had so many feelings that I wanted to express to Dad about my decision to stay in Windenburg. I hoped my letter captured them all. I knew Dad would support whatever I decided, but I also wanted him to understand.

Staying here makes sense academically, especially now that Dr. Dean is here. It’s the best of both worlds: I get the classical tradition and culture that Windenburg offers combined with the attention to modern technique that my old dean insists on.

five-two02

I’ve begun composing, and through my compositions, I feel that I can express insights and ideas that I haven’t been able to fit into words.

five-two17

Something about the landscape here spurs all sorts of musical creativity. I find inspiration everywhere!

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Windenburg opens me up to life: all my senses become sharper, more keen, more alive to every little distinction.

five-two08

I also love being part of a family without being part of it. It’s hard to explain. The Villareals have made me feel that the Von-Windenburg Estate is my home. I’m not a guest or employee–though I do have responsibilities and I work for my room and board. They treat me like I belong. And at the same time, I am free from all the tangled dynamics that family members feel with each other. I can simply enjoy and appreciate being with this family without feeling the burden of family destiny.

I also love to be able to encourage healthy habits and patterns. The other day, when I came upstairs to the room I share with Max, I found his dad helping him with his homework–that was a first! They were both smiling and joking.

five-two25

I spend a lot of time reflecting on the ways that Mom used to set limits while also encouraging me to grow. She did this effortlessly–at least it seemed effortless. So with the Villareal kids, I always think, “How would Mom handle this?”

The other day, Luna told me that she’d just joined a club and she wanted to go to an outing with them. It was Saturday, she’d just earned an A in school, she’d finished her homework and extra credit for the weekend–it seemed like the perfect way to celebrate.

“What’s the club?” I asked.

“Partihaus,” she answered.

five-two20

Now I’ve heard a lot about Partihaus. I’m friends with one of the members, Marcus. And I’ve met Paolo. I’ve heard that club can get pretty wild. The two women in the club recently had kids, and Marcus and Paolo are the dads. Maybe being parents has settled them down a bit, but I didn’t want to take chances.

“Tell you what,” I suggested. “How about if the club meets over here? We’ve got plenty of room to dance, and I’ll cook up a nice lunch.”

five-two19

“I guess that would be ok,” Luna said.

“If she’s having a hang-out, I want one, too,” Max said. He’s in two clubs, the Renegades and the League of Adventurers.

“How about if you invite over the Adventurers?” I suggested. The Renegades are notorious for sabotaging plumbing, and I didn’t want to spend the afternoon fixing things.

“Can we play in the closets?” Max asked.

“Sure.”

“Will you make cookies?”

“Ok.”

“Deal,” said Max.

five-two16

Luna slid into a cool chick attitude as soon as Paolo came over.

five-two18

But the five of them just hung out in the back bedroom, dancing.

five-two12

Elsa, one of the little Adventurers, kept popping out of the closet.

“Turn the music down!” she yelled. “We’re on our way to find Marco Polo and they didn’t have Techno on the Silk Road!”

five-two15

“Did you say the Silk Road?” shouted Lucas.

With closet doors banging, kids yelling, and music blaring, it was a funny mashup Saturday afternoon.

“When are all these people leaving?” Hugo grumbled when he got home from his landscaping job. “I just wanted to sit quietly at the table and do my homework.”

five-two11

“Things will settle out soon,” I said. “In the meantime, enjoy your spaghetti. Then maybe you could go into the basement and watch cooking shows or head outside and relax by the pool.”

five-two10

In my letter to Dad, I tried to express what this is like: how it feels like a fun creative challenge to help these kids get what they need, individually and as a group. I guess the word is fulfilling. My work as an au pair is fulfilling for me: I’m learning and using my creativity, and I’m helping. It feels like, for now, I’ve got a purpose here.

Then there’s Max.

five-two06

When I first arrived a year ago, he seemed like the saddest, angriest, most miserable little boy. Now, he’s happy.

five-two07

He still yells at his sister sometimes. I asked him what he was feeling when he yelled at her. His answer surprised me.

“I like the face she makes! Her eyebrows go up and her mouth goes down!”

“But do you know that face shows that she feels hurt and surprised?” I asked.

“Yeah!” he laughed. “It’s so funny!”

Still, he doesn’t do it too often. Usually just when he’s bored or feeling tense or hungry.

When I first got here, he was getting a D in school and was close to flunking out. We got calls from the principal every other day about his attitude and poor schoolwork.

It took a lot of effort, but Max is really smart. The other day, he came home with an A.

“Where are your clothes?” I asked him. He was dressed in a robe.

five-two01

“It’s the Royal Robe of Honor,” he said. “It’s what dignitaries get after they complete the greatest adventure.”

I still have no idea where that robe came from and what he happened to his regular clothes! But we haven’t gotten a call from the school about it yet, and he was happy, so I’m hoping everything is ok. And that A is something for us all to celebrate.

These are some of the big and little joys that I’d hoped I’d conveyed in my letter to Dad. I just wanted him to understand how rich life is for me here, how everything fits.

five-two04

After I put the letter in the mail, I realized I’d forgotten to tell him the most important change that being here brings.

That change is me.

When I think back to who I was a few years ago when I first stepped onto campus–how scared and unsure I was about everything–and then I compare that to who I am now, words just can’t come close.

five-two03

I feel like I was a cardboard person back then, just trying to find myself and be brave enough to be me. And now! Now, I feel that I know what “me” means. I’m not sure it’s something I could express in a letter to Dad if I tried. It just might be something that I have to say in music.

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Skill U: 4.6

Journal of H. W. | honey.walker@skillu.edu

Week Four, Day Six – Sophomore Year

Editor’s Note: Honey’s journal entries are numbered according to week and day of the week. As she does not keep daily entries, gaps appear in the numbering. Please see the Table of Contents for the full listing of entries.

four-six04

“When the children earn marks of très bien in school, we will have a big party to celebrate,” M. Villareal said, “and you will bake the cake!”

“But I won’t be here when they bring home their A grades,” I replied. “The term is nearly over, and I’ll be returning to my old school.”

Impossible!” he shouted.

“But it’s impossible to stay, isn’t it?”

I must admit everything was working out so well here, especially now that our old dean was here as a visiting professor, that I really wanted to stay.

four-six03

I had earned A’s for this year, and I had a good head start for next year’s A’s, too.

Life was a lot better for me here. I fit in. I’d made so many friends–way more than I had ever made back at my old school, when I’d been too shy to even talk to anybody other than my dorm mates.

And the culture accelerated my learning.

And then there were the Villareals. They were doing great.

four-six08

It made a difference to have somebody cook and keep house for them. And the kids had started to do well at school. They got along with each other, too.

I liked to think that all of the good habits and patterns we’d established this year would continue, and that they’d continue to thrive without me next year. Or maybe they’d get another au pair who would do an even better job.

“I don’t like you anymore, Mademoiselle Honey Walker,” M. Villareal said to me at breakfast. “How can I like someone who would abandon us just because the end of her school program has arrived? Non! I detest you! You and your abandoning ways!”

four-six09

He has a flair for the dramatic, so I didn’t take his declaration seriously at first.

But while I was practicing, I began to think of how sad he and the children had seemed before I came.

Luna had told me that she had given up trying to fill in the spot that her mom had left. She could never keep up with the cleaning, and no matter how much cooking she did, it seemed they always ran out of food. Nothing was enough. Rather than try to do something she wasn’t equipped to do well, she had simply stopped trying. “That’s why Max was always yelling at me,” she confided. “He wanted me to be somebody that I couldn’t.”

Taking care of the house and the children hasn’t been a burden for me–it’s been fun! I love the way the counters look when they’re clean. I love trying out new meals. I find it rewarding to help the kids with their homework, to encourage them, and to listen to them.

“I’m afraid you can kiss your good grades good-bye!” Jacques said to Luna the next morning. “You will be so busy cleaning and cooking and taking care of your brothers, you will have no time to study. Au revoir, très bien! Bon jour, insuffisant!

four-six07

“Oh, Dad, what are you going on about? You know we did just fine before Honey got here, and we’ll do just fine after she leaves, too.”

“Ah, the delusions of youth!” said M. Villareal. “To be young! To be always in denial!”

four-six10

If I could choose, I realized while I was cleaning the kitchen, I would stay.

four-six06

I like being here. It feels like home.

Maybe I could choose! Maybe I could stay, at least for another year!

four-six05

I called Dr. Dean. She’d been offered a two-year position here, with the possibility of extending it.

When I asked if she thought I could stay for another year, she said that it was a bit late–there was so much paperwork that had to be done.

“But I’d sponsor you in a heartbeat,” she said. “Let me do some checking and get back to you.”

I practiced while I waited. Scales are the best thing for helping me sort through what I really want. It became clear: I really wanted to stay, not just for the Villareals, but for myself.

When Dr. Dean called to say that she’d pulled a few strings and it was a done deal–I could finish up my studies there if I wanted–I was delighted!

I ran downstairs to the wine cellar and found M. Villareal.

“What would you say if your kids could earn A’s after all, and if we could have that party, and if I could bake a big fat blanc et noir cake because I’m not leaving, after all?”

four-six02

“You would stay?” he asked. “You would do that, for a miserable old man and his rotten brats?”

four-six01

“Well,” I replied, “I could say that I would do that for a nice older gentleman and his three remarkable children. But the truth is that I would do this for me! And if you’re willing to have me here for another term or two–or even until I graduate–I would love to stay!”

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