I was born in Omaha, NE, the third (and some say the best) child. My father was in the Air Force so the family did a lot of moving during the very early years. We lived in Arkansas, Illinois and returned to Nebraska all before I started the first grade. That wasn’t the end of the moves and, because of family changes, I attended four different schools in two states before the end of the second grade.
I feel blessed that one of those schools was a one room school house, like the ones you see on TV in shows like “Little House on the Prairie”. My brother and sister sat a couple of rows behind me and at night my sister would teach me multiplication tables to show off how smart I was. I was even entered in the fifth grade spelling bee. My class there was large – three of us: Nicky, Vicki and Nikki (pronounced nee-kee).
It was a lot of fun attending that school. Everyone played Red Rover during recess and we created variety shows for our parents. I even got to do the Charleston with the “big” girls in the 7th and 8th grade. It was an adventure I’ll never forget but we were a family of five living in a two bedroom trailer so we moved half way through the year while I was in the second grade to a new, split level house in town.
A few years later, when my step father retired from the Air Force, we moved to his home state of Mississippi. This was a serious shock to the system. I had never seen prejudice before and this town had only recently integrated the schools.
My family “borrowed” an address so I could attend one of the nicer public schools but I was still a “Yankee” to most of the kids. One substitute teacher, while calling roll, stared at my name for a small eternity before she called out “Mon-KEY?” Needless to say, the kids thought it was great and several called me “Monkey” for weeks.
It was a difficult adjustment, but I was used to being “the new kid” and it wasn’t too long before I was recognized as “the smart kid” as well. I loved math, science, writing – just about everything in school except PE. In Junior high I started beginner band but dropped it a year later when I thought it would conflict with getting to join the brand new gifted and talented class.
I was looking forward to the next year and starting high school. By then, both my brother and sister would be away in college and I would be the only kid left at home. I didn’t know just how much change was about to take place.
The middle of my freshman year, my stepfather had an affair and my sister came back to live with us temporarily when she got married and her husband went to basic training. During the Christmas break, we packed the van and moved back to Arkansas to be near my grandparents and start over. We found a little duplex in Berryville, Arkansas and my mother and sister went to work in the chicken plant in the neighboring town.
At the end of the year, we were able to buy a trailer and put it on an acre of land across the dirt road from my grandparents’ farm. I had gone from being a city girl with the latest Atari and cable TV to a farm girl who baked bread and canned green beans.
Every morning I would get up and run up to the barn to milk the cow. I’d hand off the milk to my Grandma and get a quick shower, microwave some Chef Boyardee for my lunch, grab a breakfast bar and run across the road to meet the bus. The next thirty minutes were spent solving Rubik’s cubes for the little kids on the bus. After school, grandma often had fresh baked cookies or homemade doughnuts waiting for me and the cow was waiting to be milked again. There was no cable TV and if I wanted to call a friend it was a long distance call, but it was a happy time.
When I graduated from high school as Salutatorian (my only B coming from the coach teaching driver’s education), I earned a scholarship and received enough financial aid to attend the University of Central Arkansas. I majored in computer science because the job market was strong and I didn’t want to live my life working at the chicken plant. I discovered there were other nerds like me and for the first time in my life I was surrounded by a large group of friends. I got a job working in the computer science lab to subsidize my expenses and finally learned to drive. I thrived on college life and completed my BS in three and a half years.
I also met my first husband. He was the brother of one of my friends. A group of us had planned a weekend trip of canoeing, but my friend said her brothers needed us for a co-ed softball tournament. They didn’t have enough girls to play and, of course, one of our friends was a softball pitcher. We canceled the trip and joined the team. Luckily, I didn’t have to play after all. (Remember, PE was the only subject I didn’t like.)
William and I were instantly infatuated with each other. We both loved computer science and math and could talk the same nerdy talk. He was going to school in Fayetteville (4 hours away) so our relationship was long distance. We spent weekends together and had enormous phone bills and when I graduated in December, 1986, we got married and moved into married student housing on the University of Arkansas campus.
Finished with school and newly married, it was time for me to earn a living. I went to the employment office and filled out an application and then sat down for an interview. The state employee looked at my resume, looked at me, and then said, “Computers? Huh. I think the bank has a computer.”
I was sent to the local chicken plant to interview for the “Part-time, Night, Insurance Clerk” position. It wasn’t exactly what I was looking for but at least it was a paycheck. Sadly, it was only a paycheck for a couple of months. This chicken plant produced frozen dinners and as the summer months approached, the need for frozen dinners decreased as people started barbequing outside. The night shift was laid off.
Dallas Texas, here we come!
It was a scary time. No job and the money I’d saved while finishing school was almost gone. There weren’t any jobs available for software engineers in Northwest Arkansas so I took a job as a car hop at the local A&W. Yes, I could make a great root beer float, but I was not making enough money for two people to survive. My husband was a full time student with only a $100 stipend from the Army Reserves ROTC and I was making $100 every two weeks. That’s when the internship happened. A company in Dallas offered my husband a paying internship for the summer and it included reimbursement for the move. They even found us an apartment we could afford. The internship turned into a full time position at the end of the summer so I decided I had better find a job of my own. After a few weeks searching, I had my first real programming job, writing dental office software for a small company in Garland, TX called Dental Plan.
The job was great and I was employee number six. At a company that small, everyone does a little of everything so I gained experience in technical support, printing, shipping and, most importantly, software design and development. As the company grew, my role as a developer also grew and I eventually became the senior developer, providing customized solutions for dental offices that needed something a little different than the base package provided.
During my years working for Dental Plan, I also became the mother of my two children. After my first child was born, I was lucky enough to find a baby sitter less than a block from my office. When I had to work late, the boss’ wife would come in and play with the baby until I could finish my work. While I was pregnant with my second child, my husband spent three months in Virginia for military training and my mother moved from Arkansas to stay with us and help out. It was the best thing that could have happened for my kids. They never saw the inside of a day care and always had a parent waiting for them when they came home from school. We didn’t plan for it to be a permanent solution, but it was the best solution for everyone so Grandma stayed.
Dental Plan grew and was eventually bought by a large company from New York with plans to take the best that we had to offer and shut down the rest. My pay was below market by a large margin so it was time to move on. A former coworker had gotten a job at Lacerte Software and called me to see if I was interested in joining him. Two interviews later and I left Dental Plan and became a developer for Lacerte. A few years later, Lacerte Software would be sold to Intuit, makers of TurboTax and Quicken. Lacerte Software was known for the professional tax software product called, surprisingly, Lacerte. It was a perfect fit for Intuit, providing a professional tax product that served a different demographic than their existing professional product. For me, it was a year of changes.
Changes are often difficult but later, when you look back, hopefully you can find something good that came out them. For me, the sale of Lacerte to Intuit meant stock options and a bonus for staying. It also meant stability that I needed that year since it was also the year I got divorced. After catching my husband in an affair, he decided to leave and I faced the uncertainty of being self-sufficient. For those of you who have seen the movie, “Run Away Bride” you will understand what I mean when I say I figured out how I liked my eggs.
The next few years were filled with work and kids and taking care of “my” house. I found an older house in Richardson with enough bedrooms that both of my kids could have their own room and one more for my mother. We knew we were going to face challenges the first day in the house when the faucet for the washing machine sprung a leak and flooded the game room. A week later the sewer pipes from the house stopped up and we had floaters in that same game room. I made friends with the plumber and replaced the flooring in the game room. That first year we saw a lot of that plumber as he made numerous visits to repair bad pipes and clean out the drain pipes.
My kids were in a great school that was within walking or biking distance from the house. My mother was living with me so I didn’t have to worry about finding daycare for them and she helped with the house work and yard while I spent long hours at work.
I was single and not too sure I liked that part of my life. I joined an online dating site and started reading profiles of single men. I went out on a few dates, but none of them were Mr. Right.
I finally decided that maybe being single was what God intended for me after one particular date.
I had been chatting online and on the phone with Ralph (I honestly don’t remember his name). He seemed like a nice guy so I agreed to meet him for a date at the Olive Garden by the mall. When I arrived, a very nervous tall guy greeted me and promptly informed me that he had purchased new socks and a new belt for the occasion. This was not starting out very well but we sat down at our table and ordered. He reached across the table and took my hand into his sweaty one and attempted to hold it throughout the meal. This can make eating your pasta a little difficult.
We chatted and he told me that he was between jobs and had a great deal of debt. His debt was so bad, that he couldn’t get a place of his own and was sharing an apartment with a lady friend. He told me that “if we started dating seriously, we would not be able to eat at fancy restaurants like Olive Garden. Instead, our dinners out would be at places like Burger King.” It didn’t matter that I earned enough to afford the occasional dinner out at “fancy” places. He had gone back to school to learn how to be an administrative assistant.
The more we talked, the more I realized we had very little in common and I wasn’t interested in a second or third date. I didn’t want to hurt his feelings though. He had spent some time telling me how every girlfriend he’d ever had had dumped him on a holiday and it was around some holiday like July 4th. He asked me to walk around the mall a little so we could talk further and I agreed. We took his car across the street to the mall and as he drove, he said “You know what I really need to shop for? A NEW MATTRESS!!” This was not what I expected to hear and in light of his money situation I suggested he check out Sam’s Club. Then he saw it – Mattress Giant. “LOOK! There’s a mattress store! Do ya MIND??” He whipped the car into a parking space in front of the store and jumped out. I told him I would wait while he shopped and then developed a headache and needed to go home.
I was done with dating.
(Jeff adds this comment - True story: When Monique and I were picking a place to meet for our first date, I couldn't understand why she flipped out when I suggested Olive Garden. :-0 )
The rest of the years leading to the present flew by as my kids grew up. My life was focused on them and work. I had very little time for anything else. I chaperoned football games and the band trip to New York. I discovered that I love football and quiet evenings at home. At work I gained experience in many different areas involved in software development. I found a new church home and became actively involved as a deacon.
After my kids left home, I decided I knew how I liked my eggs and I was ready for a relationship with the right man. Two dates later, I met Jeff and the rest is history.
Copyright 2013 Jeff and Monique