There were many special occasions that we celebrated while visiting in Ohio for the past few weeks, from Father's Day to a Surprise Baby Shower to a Retirement (more on all of those later)...
But to me, the most significant celebration was my sister's graduation.
My sister, Natalie, just graduated with her Associate's Degree in Natural and Historical Interpretation from Hocking College. I am so incredibly proud of her!
This degree means so much to her and is the result of hardwork, determination and sacrifice.
Being a single mother of two young boys, it was no easy feat for her to finish her degree. After some difficult life circumstances, she took a few years off of school. Realizing that she needed to earn her degree in order to give her children the life they deserve, she made a huge sacrifice, with the help of my parents and sister.
She moved away from home (and lived in a dorm, where she was by far the oldest student at 27) for 10 weeks to complete the one quarter of school that she had left. To leave her sweet babies for that long was gut-wrenchingly hard for her. But she did it! Instead of opting to put the boys in daycare, my youngest sister stepped up and watched them during the days and my parents took over in the evenings.
Every weekend Natalie would make the 4 hour (one way) drive home on Friday evenings to spend time with her boys. She'd leave Sunday evenings to head back to school.
I can't imagine how hard that must have been for her. And I know that it was also difficult at times for my family to watch both of her little ones. But, she perservered and finished out her final quarter with straight As!
Our entire family made the LONG trip down to watch her cross the stage and finally graduate. You can be sure that she got the loudest applause in the house with this crazy bunch rooting her on!
My 88 year-old Grandma was even able to make it to Natalie's special day. (How cute does my Grandma look in her trendy, new dress?!)
Natalie all ready has a job working for the Parks system near my parents house as a Naturalist and is planning on taking classes towards a Bachelor's degree in the Fall. Her love of nature, children and education combined will make her a great Naturalist or Outdoor Educator, I'm sure of that.
I am so proud of not only how far she has come, but of the woman she has become. I love you, Natalie!
(And yes, I cried at her graduation.... Ha!)
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