Citizen Media Center: Advice and insight into my future plans needed


Good morning all,

As most of you, know my background is in media. Studying media’s transition out of the Industrial Age into the Information Age over the last 5 years as a journalist got me interested in how interactive multi-platform media and the Internet will impact institutions everywhere. It soon became clear a solid education in new media literacy is critical for citizens to thrive in the Information Age.

I’m currently researching technology use in education. I’m especially interested in helping K-12 educators and parents get the training they need to seamlessly integrate technology use in the classroom that teaches these skills without students having to take a specialized media literacy class (although that would be ideal).

I also want to parents give parents tools/knowledge they need teach their children how to navigate the Internet and be a more informed, engaged, critically thinking citizen, both online and off, in the Information Age.

My goal is to open a non-profit citizen media center (after I graduate from BSU) that teaches media literacy skills ranging from subjects like digital citizenship, to how to write blogs, video/audio production, critical thinking, and information filtering/aggregating, etc., to the community.

I asked TechBoise if a panel discussion or event is planned around the topic of technology use in education because I’m interested in what is already being done in our community to address these issues, and to get advice/direction/insight on how best to accomplish my goals.

Any insight you can offer to the topics I mentioned in this email would be greatly appreciated. Thank you for your time, and your interest.

All my best,
Shannon Morgan

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Baby mine

**Originally written September 28th, 2007**

6 years ago today, after 22 excruciatingly painful hours of labor, and one emergency cesarean section, I gave birth to a 9 lb 11 oz baby boy. After they took my son from me, they wheeled me off to recovery where they tried to convince me to get some rest. I refused, demanding that they bring my son to me so that I could see him, and hold him for the first time.

They kept saying, “Mrs. Morgan, you’re exhausted and you’ve been through a lot. You need to get some rest and we’ll bring your baby to you when you wake.”

I looked the nurse dead in the eye and said, “Lady, I haven’t stuck with anything for 9 months of my life before, and I want to see what I’ve created… now bring me my baby.” Apparently I was forceful enough that they knew I was steadfast in my decision and brought Jaiden, wrapped in a blanket to my bedside.

They handed the bundled piece of Heaven into my aching arms; I wearily, but excitedly pulled the blanket from his face to catch the first glimpse of my baby. I had fully expected to see a little brown infant, with brown hair and brown eyes… I was certain he would look just like me. To my surprise, what I found was a white baby, with blue eyes, and strawberry blonde hair.

I looked up at the nurse and said, “Are you sure this baby is mine?” She laughed, checked the bracelet on Jaidens ankle to the one on my arm, and said, “Yes Mrs. Morgan… this is your son, Jaiden.”

I looked back down at my first born child, took his tiny little hand in mine, and held him close to my heart. Of course he was mine; I could feel how much he loved me and was surprised by how much I already loved him.

I was terrified to become a mother. I wasn’t ready. I was scared. I was certain I was going to royally screw this kid up! I felt that way through my entire pregnancy, all the way up to the moment my labor began. However, the first time he opened his eyes and looked into mine, all that disappeared – I knew I was going to be a fantastic mother. How could I not? I’d never loved anything in my life as much as I loved this person who I grew inside my body.

From that moment on the two of us were inseparable. I quit my job so that I could be with him every moment, every second, every minute of his life. I didn’t want to miss a thing. I taught him to laugh, I taught him to sing; I taught him to dance, and play, and imagine anything his heart desired. He was my best friend, he was my reason to live; he was truly my Everything.

Yesterday my son reminded me that today was his birthday and said, “Mom, you know I’m a big kid now right?”

“Yes Jaiden, you’re a big kid… isn’t that exciting?!” I exclaimed.

He relied, “Well… yeah, but Mom… will you still love me when I’m 6 years old? Because the other day you told me to stay your baby forever, and I don’t want to be 6 if I can’t be your baby forever.”

I laughed, gave him a warm and loving smile and said, “Sweetheart, you cant help but be my baby forever. You are a part of me, and I am a part of you, and no matter how big you get, you’ll never be too big to be my baby. A mother has never loved her son as much as I love you.”

He smiled, crawled up into my lap and I rocked him back and forth for a while. He asked me to sing the lullaby I’ve been singing to him almost every night since I first learned I was pregnant with him. It’s the song from the movie “Dumbo,” when he goes to visit his Mom in jail and she nuzzles him in her trunk and wipes his tears away… it’s called “Baby Mine.”

“Baby mine don’t you cry…Baby mine, dry your eyes.

Rest your head close to my heart, never to part, sweet baby of mine.

Baby mine, how you grow… you’re so sweet, goodness knows.

Rest your head, close to my heart, never to part, sweet baby of mine.”

At 11:22 pm, on September 28th I created a miracle. His name is Jaiden, and I’ve never been more proud of anything I’ve done in my life.

This blog is for my son… I love you Jaiden.

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A personality assessment I took for Leadership 101

**Originally posted October 17th, 2007**

I had to take a personality quiz for my leadership class, apparently, my personality type represents a little over 2% of the population. I think that’s kind of neat. Mr. Lapray, if you’re reading this… it should provide you with some insight as to why I’m such a pain in your ass at work. ;o)..>..>..>..>
The Portrait of the FieldMarshal Rational (eNTj)
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Copyrighted © 1996-2007 Prometheus Nemesis Book Company

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[Margaret Thatcher]

Of the four aspects of strategic analysis and definition, it is marshalling or situational organizing role that reaches the highest development in Fieldmarshals. As this kind of role is practiced some contingency organizing is necessary, so that the second suit of the Fieldmarshal’s intellect is devising contingency plans. Structural and functional engineering, though practiced in some degree in the course of organizational operations, tend to be not nearly as well developed and are soon outstripped by the rapidly growing skills in organizing. But it must be said that any kind of strategic exercize tends to bring added strength to engineering as well as organizing skills.

As the organizing capabilities the Fieldmarshal increase so does their desire to let others know about whatever has come of their organizational efforts. So they tend to take up a directive role in their social exchanges. On the other hand they have less and less desire, if they ever had any, to inform others.

Hardly more than two percent of the total population, the Fieldmarshals are bound to lead others, and from an early age they can be observed taking command of groups. In some cases, Fieldmarshals simply find themselves in charge of groups, and are mystified as to how this happened. But the reason is that Fieldmarshals have a strong natural urge to give structure and direction wherever they are — to harness people in the field and to direct them to achieve distant goals. They resemble Supervisors in their tendency to establish plans for a task, enterprise, or organization, but Fieldmarshals search more for policy and goals than for regulations and procedures.

They cannot not build organizations, and cannot not push to implement their goals. When in charge of an organization, whether in the military, business, education, or government, Fieldmarshals more than any other type desire (and generally have the ability) to visualize where the organization is going, and they seem able to communicate that vision to others. Their organizational and coordinating skills tends to be highly developed, which means that they are likely to be good at systematizing, ordering priorities, generalizing, summarizing, at marshalling evidence, and at demonstrating their ideas. Their ability to organize, however, may be more highly developed than their ability to analyze, and the Fieldmarshal leader may need to turn to an Inventor or Architect to provide this kind of input.

Fieldmarshals will usually rise to positions of responsibility and enjoy being executives. They are tireless in their devotion to their jobs and can easily block out other areas of life for the sake of their work. Superb administrators in any field — medicine, law, business, education, government, the military — Fieldmarshals organize their units into smooth-functioning systems, planning in advance, keeping both short-term and long-range objectives well in mind. For the Fieldmarshals, there must always be a goal-directed reason for doing anything, and people’s feelings usually are not sufficient reason. They prefer decisions to be based on impersonal data, want to work from well thought-out plans, like to use engineered operations — and they expect others to follow suit. They are ever intent on reducing bureaucratic red tape, task redundancy, and aimless confusion in the workplace, and they are willing to dismiss employees who cannot get with the program and increase their efficiency. Although Fieldmarshals are tolerant of established procedures, they can and will abandon any procedure when it can be shown to be ineffective in accomplishing its goal. Fieldmarshals root out and reject ineffectiveness and inefficiency, and are impatient with repetition of error.

And here is the 2nd description the website gave…

“I don’t care to sit by the window on an airplane. If I can’t control it, why look?”

ENTJs have a natural tendency to marshall and direct. This may be expressed with the charm and finesse of a world leader or with the insensitivity of a cult leader. The ENTJ requires little encouragement to make a plan. One ENTJ put it this way… “I make these little plans that really don’t have any importance to anyone else, and then feel compelled to carry them out.” While “compelled” may not describe ENTJs as a group, nevertheless the bent to plan creatively and to make those plans reality is a common theme for NJ types.

ENTJs are often “larger than life” in describing their projects or proposals. This ability may be expressed as salesmanship, story-telling facility or stand-up comedy. In combination with the natural propensity for filibuster, our hero can make it very difficult for the customer to decline.

TRADEMARK: — “I’m really sorry you have to die.” (I realize this is an overstatement. However, most Fs and other gentle souls usually chuckle knowingly at this description.)

ENTJs are decisive. They see what needs to be done, and frequently assign roles to their fellows. Few other types can equal their ability to remain resolute in conflict, sending the valiant (and often leading the charge) into the mouth of hell. When challenged, the ENTJ may by reflex become argumentative. Alternatively (s)he may unleash an icy gaze that serves notice: the ENTJ is not one to be trifled with.

Functional Analysis
Extraverted Thinking

“Unequivocating” expresses the resoluteness of the ENTJ’s dominant function. Clarity of convictions endows these Thinkers with a knack for debate, or wanting knack, a penchant for argument. The light and heat generated by Thinking at the helm can be impressive; perhaps even overwhelming. Experience teaches many ENTJs that restraint may often be the better part of valor, lest one find oneself victorious but alone.
Introverted iNtuition

The auxiliary function explores the blueprints of archetypal patterns and equips Thinking with a fresh, dynamic sense of how things work. Improvising on the fly is something many ENTJs do very well. As Thinking’s subordinate, insights are of value only insofar as they further the Right, True Cause celebre. [n.b.: ENTJs are capable of living on a higher plane, if you will, and learning to value individuals even above their principles. The above dynamic suggests less individuation.]
Extraverted Sensing

Sensing reaches out to embrace that which physically touches it. ENTJs have an awareness of the real; of that which exists. By stilling the engines of Thinking and iNtuition, this type may experience the Here and Now, and know things not dreamt of nor even postulated in iNtuition’s philosophy. Sensing’s minor role, however, puts it at risk for distortion or extreme weakness beneath the hustle and bustle of the giants N and T.
Introverted Feeling

Feeling is romantic, as the ethereal as the inner world from whence it doth emerge. When it be awake, feeling evokes great passion that knows not nuance of proportion nor context. Perhaps these lesser functions inspire glorious recreational quests in worlds that never were, or may only ever be in fantasy. When overdone or taken too seriously, Fi turned outward often becomes maudlin or melodramatic. Feeling in this type appears most authentic when implied or expressed covertly in a firm handshake, accepting demeanor, or act of sacrifice thinly covered by excuses of lack of any personal interest in the relinquished item.
Famous ENTJs:

U.S. Presidents:
Franklin D. Roosevelt
Richard M. Nixon

Benny Goodman, “Big Band” leader
General Norman Schwarzkopf
Harrison Ford
Steve Martin
Whoopi Goldberg
Sigourney Weaver
Margaret Thatcher
Al Gore (U.S Vice President, 1993-2001)
Lamar Alexander (former governor, US Secretary of Education)
Les Aspen, former U.S. Secretary of Defense
Candace Bergen (Murphy Brown)
Dave Letterman
Newt Gingrich
Patrick Stewart (STNG: Jean Luc Picard)
Robert James Waller (author: The Bridges of Madison County)
Jim Carrey (Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, The Mask)
Steve Jobs
Penn Jillette
Fictional ENTJs:

Geordi LaForge (STNG)

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A speech I gave about the importance of teachers at an awards ceremony.

**Originally written December 10th, 2007**

Good Evening distinguished guests, thank you for coming to the 2007 ASBSU Faculty Recognition Banquet. My name is Shannon Morgan, I’m the Chief of Staff for the Executive Branch of ASBSU and was asked tonight to speak about the importance of the student teacher relationship.

When I reflect on profound positive paradigm shifts I’ve experienced in my life, I can vividly see the teachers who helped to guide me there.

Believe it or not, when I was in high school, I was the loud obnoxious kid in class. I would be the one in the back, cracking jokes and distracting everyone from what the teacher was saying. You know… the kind of student you want to chuck an eraser at.

In lieu of eraser chucking…my theater instructor, Tom Willmorth (who some of you might recognize as being an actor for the Idaho Shakespeare Festival) pulled me outside of class and said:

“Shannon, I know you’re a smart girl so it’s about time you pull your head out of your butt and start paying attention. Your education is important, and you should give it a little more respect than you currently are.”

Shortly after this conversation I pulled my grades out of the toilet, had a part in every play from my Sophomore year to my Senior year, went on to become the president of the drama club and graduated on the honor roll.

More importantly, I left high school with aspirations of going to college, which was something I never believed I could do before I met Tom Willmorth.

As sometimes happens in life, rather than jump right into college like I had planned, I took a detour for a few years. I met my now ex-husband, got married, and had those two beautiful children sitting over there. (My babysitter canceled on me at the last minute so my 3 and 6 year old were there at the Banquet!) After being a housewife for six years, I found myself thrust out of my domestic environment and onto the campus of Boise State University.

When I first got here I was terrified and completely uncertain of what I wanted to do with my life. I took English 101 my first semester, where my instructor Marc Dziac, helped me uncover a passion of mine that I had long since forgotten: my love for writing. When I told him I was going to apply to write for The Arbiter but didn’t think I was good enough, he gave me the extra push I needed to have the confidence in myself to go for it.

Because of his support and encouragement, a year later I could call myself an award winning journalist and have enjoyed a very fruitful career at The Arbiter.

My third semester here, I took Forensics and Debate from Professor Marty Most. In my first debate round at my first tournament I completely froze up and bombed miserably. Afterward I freaked out, locked myself in the bathroom and swore I would never debate again. After composing myself, I went to give Marty the bad news.

He looked at me and said, “Why are you psyching yourself out? Those are just a bunch of kids in there. You’re an intelligent, determined mother of two. Are you really going to let them intimidate you? Listen… no one here can take this win from you but you.”

My debate partner Sean Watson and I went on to take third place in the novice division at that tournament and I have since decided to go to law school, in part because of my experiences in his class.

This semester I’m taking American History from Professor Blaine Davies, and I cant tell you how excited that man has me about studying history. He makes learning it exhilarating, its obvious to his students that he really has a passion for teaching. He is truly excited for us to share our thoughts with him.

I wait with eager anticipation to get my graded papers back from him because he always leaves me these cool comments. Its obvious that he’s actually interested in what I have to say, and isn’t just treating my paper (that I spent hours, upon hours in the library writing and scrutinizing over) as just another paper he has to grade in a stack of many.

I can’t tell you how cool I think that is, and how much I appreciate that he values my time and effort as much as I do. For a non-traditional student with two kids and NO time, such as myself, any bit of positive feedback from a professor can make the difference between pushing myself to get the A, and tuning out in front of the television because Im absolutely exhausted.

Sometimes students need that extra incentive, and help cultivating the confidence in themselves that they have that extra 10% required to do their best work.

Tying this all together, I feel fortunate that throughout my life some of my greatest moments were shared with my teachers, most of them work here at this University. I love Boise State for giving me these moments and helping me to cultivate the passion and drive I have to not only get my education but apply it to my life in a way that helps me grow as a person.

I’m going to be sure to instill in my children the knowledge that our education is valuable, and that if you engage the people who devote their lives to teaching you, the rewards you receive go far beyond what you learn in your textbooks.

I’m certain its through education we change the world. I’m proud to be here tonight to recognize teachers who are helping to do that, and to thank them for inspiring us all to be better people, working together to create a better world.”

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Production Day or the Oscars?

**Originally written June 4th, 2008**

Today was a good day.

I woke bright and early this morning at the happy hour of 5:30 AM. Once the coffee was hot and ready, I settled into my computer chair and put the finishing touches on two articles that will appear in the first issue of The Arbiter which comes out tomorrow.

I have to say, this is one of the proudest and most reverent moments of my life.

Reflecting on where the day led me leaves me with a calm nostalgic feeling. Not only did I publish my first issue as Editor-in-Chief but I saw my son graduate from Kindergarten and shared the entire experience with him.

When Mrs. Smith called Jaiden to the front of the classroom to present him with his graduation certificate, she shook his hand and asked him what his favorite part of Kindergarten was. He paused a tick, smiled, and exclaimed, “Breakfast!”

Soon after, we were pillaging the celebratory milk and cookies when I noticed Jaiden looking up at me, beaming ear to ear – ecstatic I had come to share this right of passage with him. I had to miss a marketing appointment with my sports team and an interview for our lead photographer position to make time for his ceremony, but I had to be there for Jaiden. It was so important to him.

When it was time to leave, he begged, “Mom can we spend the WHOLE day together, please?” His wide and innocent blue eyes stared up at me, anticipation burning just beneath their calm exterior.

He was so happy. How could I say no?

I knew today would be insane at the office. Section editors would run from the production room to the editors’ office to find photos and graphics … popping in and out of my office to ask questions about this or that, and trying to tip-toe past the podcast studio in order not to disrupt a recording. We would have copy editors changing headlines, production demanding their dummies, and the business manager cruising by reminding everyone to fill out their time sheets.

Not to mention photographers uploading photo’s, graphic designers drawing illustrations, sales people checking ads, the marketing director pitching us ideas about promoting the Blue and Orange tab and writers asking the difference between a nutgraph and a summery lead.

Now envision a wide eyed and curious six year old thrown into the middle of it all, wanting desperately to be part of it. If you immediately imagined sheer and unadulterated hell, you would be mistaken. My son was The Shit, today. He watched movies, drew pictures, recorded podcasts and conversed with the staff. With a few minor exceptions, he was well behaved.

I was so happy to have him with me. I’ll be able to cherish the memory of the most profound moment of my life with the two people in my world who mean most to me, my children. We picked Zoie up from daycare at 6:30. Jaiden had crashed out on the couch by 10PM but the Doobies Scoobers was alive and kicking all night with us, and was spry and bushytailed even when we left at 1:30AM, after we finally exported the paper.

On top of being able to have this awesome experience with my kids, I was able to feel overwhelmed with pride at how well my staff did today.

Please allow me to express my gratitude…

I have to say, Charlotte Taylor, you are an amazingly talented Managing Editor. I don’t know what I would do without you. When you came back so early from your other job, just in time to help with final checks, I felt a 10,000 pound weight come off my chest. You are very good at what you do and we are so lucky to have you. Thank you, thank you, thank you for being so absolutely wonderful!

My editors, Colby, Jenny, Tabbie, Sherika, Dale, Bob, Mary and Kirk … it is my privilege and pleasure to work with such a brilliant, gifted, and innovative group of people. I sit here in awe of what you were able to do today. Thank you also for making our first issue so wonderful.

Francy, Chris, Laura … thank you for being morally, aesthetically and intellectually superior people. 😉 Chris, thank you for saying, “You can synergize my balls,” or at least for tolerating me thinking I heard you say it and laughing incessantly about it for hours.

Lindsey, and David … holly cow, thank you for holding in there and being so completely bad-ass! (I feel bad for Lindsey, her eyes were so red when we quit this evening/morning that she could have given Cruela Devill a run for her money.) Seriously … wow, what a talented and brilliant pair of Production managers I have. We took some lumps today and came out swinging. Way to pick up your skirt, grab your balls and get it done. Thank you for your iron will and desire to learn.

Steve Norell … man … you sir, there are no words for. Thank you for donating the ad for the Virginia Tech candlelight vigil, which was the first time I realized what a talented, intelligent, witty, giving and loyal member of the team you were at The Arbiter. There are a million things I’ll miss about you when we stop seeing you around the office, but I’ll definitely miss your dry sarcasm and eye for detail (that I’ve come to respect immensely over the years) most.

Jeremy Webster (er… I mean Oliver) thank you for not flinching when I told the new Production staff you would saw off your right arm and give it to me if I told you The Arbiter needed it. Thank you for busting your ass to accommodate our tremendous amount of requests for graphics and illustrations, and working well over what you are required to for us because you love The Arbiter so much.

Danielle, thank you for buying water for the fridge, and surviving my minor melt down over missing SlimFast and H2o. Thank you for being so kind to my son today and for keeping him entertained with computer games so I could write my Letter from the Editor, and for taking him on adventures across campus on various errands.

Brad, Lindsey, Dwight, Troy, and everyone on the business side from sales to distribution … thank you for your support and sheer determination to blow the summer sales goal out of the water. Thank you for providing us with 18 pages of beautiful newspaper to pour our hearts and creativity into.

Dwight, there are few people on this planet I respect more than you and your wife. With all you have been through, you haven’t let The Arbiter slip an inch. Above and beyond what you do for us, the Brandon Titus Memorial Ride, and various other charities you devote yourself to, you serve as an inspiration to us all on exactly how exceptional the soul of a man can be. Thank you for being my friend, mentor, and confidant. I’ll never forget when you loaned me $15 for gas last summer when you caught me crying in the podcast studio because I didn’t know how I was going to get to work the next day. I’ll never forget the kindness you have showed me over the years and I hope that I will make you proud of where I take The Arbiter as Editor-in Chief.

Brad Arent … thank you for believing in me when I didn’t believe in myself. Thank you for pushing me when I wanted to give up. Thank you for learning to navigate my stubbornness and focus my passion. Thank you for serving as a role model and example to me that someone with children can work towards their dreams and be a good parent at the same time. Thank you for playing yahtzee with me and my dad in North Carolina and for tolerating my Starbucks addiction. Thank you for being as wild about Rob Curly as I was at CMA in DC. Most of all, thank you for all the times you would daydream about where the future of journalism was going with me, and plot how The Arbiter is going to beat it there.

Wow … there are so many people I have yet to thank, but its 3AM and I have to get to bed. I’ve almost been awake for 24 hours and most all of it was spent at The Arbiter with people I respect and care more for than I have words to express.

Thank you everyone for sharing this experience with me. Thank you to my staff for tolerating my need to have my children with me today as I experianced this milestone in my life. I’m certain I’m the luckiest, happiest, and most fulfilled person on the face of the earth this evening. It feels damn good to be alive.

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An insomniacs reflections on a decade: high school reunions, a new car & a fresh outlook

**Originally written on June, 8, 2008**

I can’t sleep. My mind is racing with ideas and memories and I cannot quiet them no matter how hard I try. I just finished the most amazing weekend of my life, chalk full of rich experiences and profound moments of reflection.

My high school reunion, my son graduating kindergarten, my best friend gave me a car, I published my first issue of The Arbiter as Editor-in-Chief and best of all, I caught up with old friends who provided me new insight into who I am and where I am going.

Lately I’ve had an intense desire to appreciate life. Everything I encounter feels like a weighty and important occurrence. There are lessons to learn behind every interaction I have with people who filter in and out of my life.

It was right around my birthday that I started to notice this shift in my thinking. Turning 28 and reflecting on the years between 18 and now has filled me with an immense gratitude and feeling of accomplishment. I can’t help but marvel at how much I have changed and evolved in a decade.

I think I’m finally at a point in my life where I’ve made peace with my demons. The things in my past that I wasn’t sure I would ever be able to forgive myself for. It’s a really good place to be. I’m noticing things about my life to celebrate each day. I think this is only possible because my mind has shifted from a state of chaos and frustration to a state of confident focused euphoria and thirst for adventure.

I’ve transitioned from a place of looking back at my past, or stressing out about my future, and found a peaceful refuge in the moments I experience as they come. I’ve started living in the now, you might say.

I like growing older. I appreciate my gray hair and the lines on my face. I cherish the fact that I’ve made so many mistakes and learned so many lessons from them.

The phoenix and I have a great deal in common. Each time I’ve been burned I was resurrected. Every cycle provided me with wisdom and insight into what I want to accomplish with this life. I no longer fear failure. I don’t believe in failure. The only way you will fail is to doubt yourself and never try.

This isn’t to say that life isn’t still terrifying at times. I am still unsure as to what role romantic love will play in my life, if I ever want to get married again, or if I’ll have more children. Over the past few weeks I decided to start dating again and have had some incredible experiences with some genuinely lovely and honest gentleman. However, I’m still left feeling like now is not the time I need to be concerning myself with true love or happily-ever-after.

It’s nice to indulge in the company of an intelligent and attractive member of the opposite sex, but I can’t help but wonder to what end I am dedicating this time to them. I suppose overall I am afraid I will be distracted from my ultimate true love, journalism.

I’m the Editor-in-Chief of The Arbiter. Do you know how long I’ve dreamt about this? It’s amazing; I’m one of the few people I know who absolutely adores their job. The best part is I don’t work a 9-5. You never really punch out for the day when you’re a journalist. Everywhere you go and every experience you have is an article waiting to be written. It’s fantastic, I really can’t tell you how much I revel every moment I have at the newspaper.

I’m not sure if there is enough room in my life for The Arbiter and a boyfriend. Only time will tell I suppose. I’ve given up on trying to control the future. If I meet a man and suddenly fall in love, I suppose that will be another adventure and opportunity for the Phoenix to rise from the ashes. I won’t prohibit myself from having that experience but it is the one thing I can honestly say I’m still afraid of.

Whats nice is it appears most everyone else I know is just as screwed up and confused about love as I am. So at least I know I’m in good company.

For now, when it comes to love and relationships, I’m content in charging full speed ahead with confidence that I’ll be able to discern the frogs from the princes I meet. I’ve learned enough to know that getting involved in a bad relationship has everything to do with how wide you have your eyes open when you get into one in the first place. I can afford to be patient and picky, I’m worth it.

At this point I just enjoy my moments as they come, whether they are at work, on a date, with my friends, in a classroom, or with my children. There are so many wonderful facets to my life right now, I almost feel guilty for being so happy.

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The Queen of our Urban Tribe: Debbie Andrews

Aunt Debbie … how can I describe the woman took me in when I was broken, defeated and beyond all hope of recovery and shaped who I am today? How do I put into words the gratitude I have for her for all she has contributed to my life?

She is the queen of our urban tribe.

Debbie is my best friend Jim’s aunt. I met her when I was 14 or 15 years old, my sophomore year of high school when Jim and I became friends. When he took me to meet her I was incredibly nervous. She was, and is, so refined and ladylike. Back then her world was 180 degrees from mine. Making the drive from Evergreen trailer park in Caldwell to the Lakewood subdivision in Boise was quite the paradigm shift.

Her home was a picture of perfection. It was like walking into a page of Better Homes and Gardens. She had a perfectly manicured lawn filled with bright, vibrant flowers and lush green grass. Her couch complimented the rug on the floor and the art on the walls.

She had a china cabinet. I had never seen one of those before. I used to love to sit and watch how the soft light made the plates look as if they were Aztec gold. When she had me over for dinner the first time, I was petrified. I tried to remember all the manners I’d learned on TV, and practiced them before I went over.

She prepared super and served it on her best china; we ate with her finest silverware and placed folded cloth napkins in our laps, which matched the candleholders on the table. Jim and I weren’t just a couple of poor kids from the trailer park to her. We were guests.

Debbie, and her children, Rob and Tom, and Jim and I said a prayer before dinner then began to eat. She asked me what college I planned to attend after high school. I told her I was to poor to go to college and was probably going to enlist in the military to pay for school. She said, “Poor is a state of mind, you can do anything you set out to achieve.” I’ll never forget that. When she spoke it was as if she already loved me, and we had just met.

I was still incredibly nervous. I tried to stop my knees from shaking under the table as my heart pounded out of my chest. I kept thinking her house was way to fancy for me, I felt out of place, awkward and unworthy.

Just then, Deb’s son Robbie (who was about 6 at the time) stood up at the table and tapped his butter knife to his water glass, then said, “Excuse me … my dad said it was ok to play with my balls,” then sat down and continued to eat like it was normal dinner conversation.

We all burst out in laughter. We laughed so hard our tummies hurt. From that moment on I never felt nervous or out of place with them again.

In fact, now when I spend time at Aunt Deb’s, I feel like I’m home. She never minded that I added “Oreos and Vanilla Creamer for Shannon,” to her grocery list. She took me to BSU to go to college fairs and asked me what my dreams were. She inspired a light in me I didn’t know existed.

She had taken Jim in and gave him a home and changed both our lives forever. Debbie has always been a role model and mentor for me. I observed every detail of her character and worked to assimilate pieces of her into me. I watched how she smiled, laughed, danced and truly celebrated life at every moment. She is strong, intelligent, wise, and beautiful.

Her children and I share an equally powerful bond. I’ll never forget the boys chasing each other around the house in hula-skirts and whitey-tighties. Robbie is a few years younger than Tommie, and when they were boys he would run up and grab my leg and ask me to save him from Tom who was out to give him a weggie.

When my marriage ended, Rob and Deb took the kids and I in and nursed us back to health. Robbie would play with Jaiden and Zoie on days I couldn’t bring myself to get out of bed. He would listen to me cry and hold my hand as I recounted the tragedy I’d experienced to him. At 14 years old, he was a rock that I clung to while I held to the last bit of my sanity.

I taught him to make spaghetti and introduced me to new music. His friends would come over and beg me to make them homemade buttermilk pancakes while I told them stories about my life.

I had them debating politics and listening for deeper meaning in song lyrics, and they’d keep me entertained on nights I didn’t have my kids and wasn’t quite ready to enter the world as a single mom on welfare. When Tom would come home from college to visit us, we’d stay up all night laughing and telling “remember when” stories. We’d jump off the roof of Deb’s house into her swimming pool, and wrestle in the living room.

Their home was like a halfway house for me as I went through my divorce and geared up to enter college and start my new life. I would prepare meals for our family and care for the house while Rob was at school and Deb was at work. Zoie was just a baby when we moved in, and would crawl through the house tipping over plants so she could play in (and eat) the dirt. Jaiden would wake in the morning and tip-toe into Deb’s room so she could tell him nursery rhymes and teach him to write his name.

Debbie has a veracious work ethic. I would admire her seemingly endless energy as she put in a 60-hour week only to come home at night and clean out the pool or organize some cabinet. I’d tempt her to the fireplace to share a glass of wine and plot out my future. Because of her example, I believed I had a future.

She is a single mom of two boys who educated herself, and built a successful career which afforded her some of the finer things in life. But to her friends and family, the finest thing Debbie creates is the love she gives everyone around her. She is honest, caring, sincere and real. I’ve hung on her every word since I was a girl, taking painful care to observe her in action so I could be as successful as she is.

Because of her, I say, “Hello, my name is Shannon, it’s lovely to meet you.” And, “I’m doing well, thank you for asking.” I stand tall with my shoulders back and speak with confidence. I can be elegant and charming, or wild spirited and adventurous. I work hard; I play hard, and I value my education.

I love with all my heart, because that’s what she taught me to do. Debbie believes in me and always has. When I was an adolescent girl from the trailer park, I felt like if someone like Deb saw value in me, maybe I should see value in myself. That, for me, changed everything.

She gives me an endless supply of strength, confidence and love.

Deb and her family have given me so much. I fear I will never be able to express how much I love them and value their presence in my and my children’s lives. As I sit in front of her fireplace and write this, I’m overcome with a humble gratitude for how truly blessed I am.

Thank you, Debbie.

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