The Hole in Homeschooling

My name is Angela…and I was a homeschooler.

I will freely and enthusiastically praise this educational choice. It has equipped me to handle million dollar accounts in the business world, complete an extensive list of undergraduate and graduate school courses, and tutor people from all over the world. I view myself as a fairly well-adjusted individual, and if others think I am slightly peculiar, I generally take it as a compliment.

In my newest job at a university, I have come to realize that homeschooling has left me ill-equipped in one very important area. One skill exists that no matter how many C.S. Lewis books I read, how many levels of Age of Empires I conquered, or how many chickens I raised in my kitchen, I was not prepared for. That task?

Opening a locker.

Part of my job consists of setting up for special events in another building on campus. This is an obstacle course which requires great cunning and dexterity: load up the cart with all necessary supplies from the office, locate the right elevator which will lead to the automatic door, push said cart across cobblestone thoroughfare picking up the hand sanitizer, papers, and saucers that rattle off in transit, chase the fifty napkins that the wind whips across campus, carry the thirty pound table up a couple flights of stairs, frantically search for the Jason Deli’s caterer who was suppose to arrive ten minutes before, and try to regain some sort of professional composure before the special speaker and students begin to arrive.

At each stage of the process, a fearful voice keeps repeating: Please let me not need to open the locker.

LockerThe locker is a three number combination locker. It houses the extra supplies that we keep stashed in the other building in case of emergencies. It is also the most complicated contraption ever created.

Turn right three times to reset. Turn left to the first number. Turn right all the way past the first number to the second number. Turn left to the third number and apply pressure. The lock will release.

How many times, wild-haired and winded, did I try following those directions? How many times did I suction-cup my ear to the locker door trying to hear the tumblers clicking like the safe-crackers in Old Westerns? How many times did I slam my hand against the stubborn door and then look around hoping no one had seen me while also desperately wishing someone would appear to help? As thirsty students waited for cups, I had to decide whether to race across campus in heels and hosiery or beg my manager to open the locker for me.

“It’s just like any high school locker,” a student assistant told me one day.

How I wanted to grab fistfuls of my hair and scream in frustration:


Instead, I took a deep breath, nodded vaguely, and pasted on my sweet “Of-course-I-know-what-you-are-talking-about” smile which has served me so well in infiltrating the world of public-schoolers. I promptly went back to my office and scheduled a time on my calendar to practice locker-opening.

Today, I am pleased to announce that I can now successfully open my locker about half of the time. My panic is subsiding and is better channeled into strategizing how to stack items on the cart so they won’t blow away, carry the water dispenser so I don’t slosh water down the front of my business suit, and exude confidence that I don’t always feel. I can now add locker opening as a skill on my resume.

So my advice is this: if you homeschool or have been homeschooled, consider this very important life skill. You never know when it will come in handy.








The Deceitfulness of Cabbage

Now that I have reached the prestigious age of 24, I am recognized by most of the world as being an adult–or at least adultish. I’ve survived college, bought my first non-clunker car, and have so-far managed to hold down a job in corporate America. (We’ll leave off admitting to the “still living at home” part for the present.)

As a responsible, respectable young person, I do what responsible, respectable young people do. I go to the grocery store and buy (most of) my own food.

On this particular day, I headed to the local Aldi’s on my way home from church to buy what I usually buy myself for a week of nutritious lunches. First passing the massive amounts of chips, I pick out a tasty looking bag. Next comes the cookies lined up and looking scrumptious. A package of these joins the first. Weaving my way up one aisle and down the next, I finally arrive at the produce section. Like every week, I grab some strawberries, lunch meat, tomatoes, and a head of iceberg lettuce. My trip was quick and cheap–just how I like it.

Sunday evening came around, and I was preparing my lunch for the next day. After discovering how mushy bread gets when it is in sandwich form for five hours before being consumed, I moved over to a type of sandwich wrap/taco-like creation. Not much flavor, but it does its job.

Popping open my strawberries, I took out a few, washing and dicing them for easy eating. Next, the carrots were plopped in a Ziploc bag, and the chips and cookies went next. Finally, I ripped open my head of lettuce. It had a strange shiny texture to it–almost like what waxed fruit looks like.

Hmmm, I thought to myself, it must not be quite ripe yet. Since a chicken and tomato wrap seemed rather lonely, I decided to take the lettuce along anyway. The color was good; the texture just seemed a little funky.

Monday arrived much too early, as always, and the hours ticked away until noon. Adjourning to my lunch-eating corner, I pulled out my materials and began assembling my wrap. The tomatoes weren’t quite ripe either, and my eyes didn’t make my stomach grumble with pleasant thoughts of what was to come. With a shrug, I took my first bite.


I continued munching on my sandwich wrap as I tried to figure out what was so loud and crunchy about it. Could it possibly be that the tomato was more unripe than I thought? Making it through half a wrap, I decided that a chicken-only wrap wasn’t too bad after all.

That evening, I began preparations for the next day. Pealing open the lettuce again, there was that same lime-green color. That same waxy texture. That same tearing sound when I ripped off a piece. I studied it a bit more. Perhaps I was wrong. Perhaps it was going bad.

“Is lettuce supposed to look like this?” I asked as I carried the head out into the living.

My sister took one look at it and laughed.

How is one supposed to tell which is which?
How is one supposed to tell which is which?

“That’s not lettuce,” she said. “That, My Dear, is a cabbage.”

A few important lessons were learned that day:

1. Make sure you know what you are buying (Just to clarify, nowhere on my cabbage did it say “This is a cabbage. Beware.”)

2. Watch out for sadistic supermarkets that place the lettuce and cabbage next to each other.

3. Finally, cabbage sandwiches will not be catching on anytime soon.

P.S. Don’t even get me started on the deceitfulness of Chicken of the Sea! 🙂

The Joys of Job Hunting

For the last three and a half months, I have been seriously job hunting. Actually, ever since graduating college, I have been looking for a good position to get settled into. With a background in creative writing and no strong career callings, deciding on a life trajectory has not been easy. Our little town of Ortonville did not offer many opportunities, but once I arrived in Dallas, I was sure the perfect job would present itself. As I applied for my 55th job, I was getting a bit discouraged. Suddenly, the 14th job I applied for three months previously came through, and I began my new job last week. While I was waiting for it, I had some other memorable job interviews in the meantime. Here are some of the questions I was asked and how I responded. Perhaps they will help you in your next interview.

The all-powerful resume!
The all-powerful resume!

1. Shepler’s Interview: What do you know about western wear?

The question took me by surprise. I was sitting across from a lady in cowboy boots and plaid, and she was interviewing me for a a copy writing position with this western fashion store. I had researched the brands sold and the history of the business, but I wasn’t prepared for this open-ended question. Truth-be-told, I knew nothing about western wear. I had lived in Michigan the last ten years, for heaven’s sake! With a swallow and a stammer, I said something like, “My Aunt Connie has horses, and she has Levi jeans and stuff.” The words slipped out before I could completely develop them. It was  a total guess. For the next three days, I was guilt-ridden. I had no idea if my adopted aunt had Levis, but I figured everyone had owned a pair at one point or another. When my thoughts were confirmed, I was greatly relieved. Needless to say, I was not offered that job.

2. The Dallas Standard: If you had a week and unlimited funds to do whatever you wanted, what would you do?

As a final interview question, this one was a fun to answer. While I wasn’t sure about my interviewer’s personality, I answered truthfully: the Lord of the Rings tour in New Zealand is what I’d do. The answer elicited a smile so I suppose it was well-said.

3. Numerous Interviews: When did you experience conflict in the work place and how did you deal with it?

While it might sound unbelievable, I don’t usually experience conflict in the workplace. Perhaps it’s because I try to take a learner perspective in my positions or because I’ve never been in one job long enough to take sides in an epic coworker battle. I’d love to tell a story of an obnoxious college student who refused my writing tutor advice and we had to arm wrestle to win the debate, but that has never happened. My response to this question is usually some vague answer about getting contradictory directions from coworkers.

4. Neiman Marcus Interview: If you were an animal, what would you be?

Dressing for success!
Dressing for success!

As the girl in the orange rimmed glasses asked me the question, I stared back at the three people facing me. This was the first time I had been asked this, and the three sets of eyes were staring at me in expectation. I tried to come up with some witty response, but nothing came. Suddenly, I remembered the animal I always told my family I wanted to be. “I’d be a duck,” I stated. “I’d be able to fly and be in the water, and they are just so much fun to watch.” My response was met by three deadpan expressions. The silence stretched, and I began to feel very stupid. Finally, one of the other women spoke up. “Yes, a duck would have a good life–especially if it lived on a golf course.” She paused for a moment. “I think I’d be a turtle.” The conversation went on from there. I realized how much fun a room full of writers could have as they discussed random questions.

As my job search has drawn to a close, I am pleased to leave the endless applications, repetitive questions, and interview prep behind me. In the meantime, perhaps you can form a response to the above questions so you won’t be in the same situation I was.

Bring Back the Pen Pals



As the world shrinks and communication becomes more convenient, old ways of keeping in touch are evaporating. Telephone calls are giving way to texting, face-to-face meetings are shifting to social media, and even emailing is becoming less common.

As college was wrapping up for me in 2012, I made some commitments to friends. We swore that we would stay in touch. As distance, state lines, jobs, and life separated us, we tried to maintain our friendships. While we still do Facebook, phone calls, and emails, letter writing has become a favorite method of communication. Nothing beats bringing in the mail and finding a postmarked letter from Michigan, PennsylvaIMG_20140811_203306nia, or North Dakota. Here are some of my top reasons why people should bring back pen palling:

1. It is personal. Nothing reminds someone that they are important like receiving a hand-written (or typewriter typed) letter in the mail. A friend is not posting some status that all 564 of her friends can read or trying to get general information about sports or television shows. Opening a letter and curling up in an armchair to hear about a friend’s life from across the world reminds you that someone is thinking about you and took the time to share his or her adventures.

2. It’s thoughtful. Writing a letter takes time. It is not a bullet point outline of life events or a day-by-day snapshot of what has gone on. While a person can dash off an email about a job that needs to be done or a special event, a letter requires a person to think about life. Instead of capturing just the events, a letter allows the writer to analyze what happened, why something happened, and what the follow up is. The receiver is able to crawl inside her friends thoughts and really understand the sender for who she is.

3. It’s timeless.  Having a pen pal is having a written record of a friendship. The struggles, heartaches, and successes are all captured on paper that will last for a lifetime. As one of my pen pals from school moved to Pennsylvania and then to North Dakota, I’ve kept tabs on her throughout her travels. As I moved from Michigan to Texas, she’s kept track of me. The discussions we’ve had about jobs, family struggles, dreams, and hopes are all captured in a log that we can share and remember as our friendship continues to grow as the years go by.

IMG_20140811_203611Being a pen pal is a big commitment. It’s choosing to dedicate time and thought to a friendship when other methods may take less time and aren’t as taxing. However, the benefits and depth of a long-distance relationship grows as friends put the time in to keeping in touch and reminding the other person about how valuable they are. Let’s bring back more pen pal partnerships!

Me and Theophilus

Recently, a very dear friend of mine departed. We survived blizzards, navigated treacherous territories, sang opera, and shed many tears together, but after five years in my possession, he began to give out on me.

Who was this beloved friend, you ask? Why he was none other than my ’97 Chevy Lumina. As a three generation vehicle, he served me and my family well, but after the last diagnosis, it was time for us to part. While driving an old car was terrifying and frustrating at times, it did teach me some important lessons. Here are some of the best: Theophilus 014

1. Cars have many parts! While I may not be able to fix them myself, I now know what a spark plug looks like, how a battery is changed, and what it feels like when the EGR valve, CAM sensor, and Crank Sensor go bad. I can add oil, jump start a vehicle, and (theoretically) change a tire. The mysterious world of car engines is still mysterious, but I know much more than I did before.

2. I need help. Whether is is calling my father when the car wouldn’t start, discovering which of my friends are related to a mechanic who might take pity on me, or finding guys at work who will help me change a tire, an old car helped me make friends (or enemies, depending on how you look at it).

3. I am not in control. From missing class because my car is stalled to begging God for each extra mile as the car is spluttering and muttering at 70 mph when I am in the middle of nowhere, an old car taught me how little control I have over everything.

Theophilus and I have sadly parted ways. He’s gone to one of those friends who put hours into resurrecting him every time he died. While I will miss my first set of wheels, I’m looking forward to a (hopefully) safer vehicle for this next stage of my life. However, I will always be thankful for the lessons my first car taught me.

The View from Below

Recently, I was weaving my way through the throngs of people at a church I was visiting. Hundreds of congregants and I were shuffling along trying to get from Point A to Point B. Suddenly, I heard a small voice:

“Look! Rainbow toes!”Picture 005

My eyes were drawn to the preschool girl next to me. She was in her best rose-covered Easter dress with matching headband, and she was dragging her mother through the crowds pressing forward. Somewhere, amidst the trousers and ladies’ legs, this little girl had noticed something. She had noticed my multicolored toenail polish.

I hadn’t planned to break out my flip flops that day, and I didn’t think anyone would notice my abused toenails. While most “normal size” people were too busy searching for a path forward to notice my feet, those toes were right in the path of this particular young lady that had her eyes focused on something no one else was looking at. This singular observation rippled into a nice conversation among strangers that left us both with smiles on our faces.

As you go about your daily routine, try to see things from a different perspective. Whether it’s looking higher than normal or lower, always be alert. You never know what you’ll notice that no one else ever will. It may be a perfectly lovely surprise!