Tag: college

If We Were Having Coffee #14 – 8 ½ Months

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If we were having coffee, I would have a number of choices to offer your today. I have a breakfast blend, a butter toffee, a house blend (somewhat dark), and a caramel pecan roll flavored coffee. For creamers, I have French Vanilla and Italian Sweet Crème. I’m going with the house blend and Italian Sweet Crème. Let’s head out to the back porch and enjoy the morning shade. It’s uncharacteristically cold out this May morning and the forecast rumor is snow but coffee will surely warm us.

I haven’t had a coffee share post in a few months, instead opting to read a few each weekend. Since my thoughts today are related to a coffee share post 8 ½ months ago, I though it only appropriate to drop by this venue for today’s post.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you about how lost I felt 8 ½ months ago after saying goodbye to my oldest son when we dropped him off at college. At the time, I was bouncing back and forth between how excited I was for him and selfishly wallowing in the sad reality that is just one recurring stage of parenting; continually letting your child go.

Through this forum, I had received many kind words of support, both from people who have been there before and from those going through the same thing. It helped and I am forever grateful.

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you it wasn’t all that bad. We had daily texts and were able to see him numerous times over the last 8 ½ months. There were school breaks, weekend shopping trips, and a few times we drove down just to take him out to eat. There was the occasional phone call or FaceTime. It worked. One hundred and twenty miles away was not that far. We survived. And grew. All of us.

We picked him up at school Friday May 6th. He was both excited to come home for the summer and sad to leave a new friend who would not be returning next semester. We moved him down there in our car and moved him back home in a new SUV. He asked if it was “ours” which tells me everything is the same despite being different.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you we got his grades a few days ago. I could brag. Really, I could. Suffice it to say I am proud of him along with all he accomplished and figured out his first year in college.

I suppose I should have expected nothing less. In the meantime, we are going to enjoy the next 3 ½ months.

Until next time…

B

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Weekend Coffee Share is hosted by Part-Time Monster

Pictures courtesy of Pixabay and my son

Do, or do not. There is no try.

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“Do, or do not. There is no try.” – Yoda

For anyone seeking inspirational guidance or motivation, there is no shortage of information out there to help an individual or group pursue a desirable goal or achievement. That information may come in the form of famous quotes, one liners from movies, written works, slogans, or music. There is also no shortage of individuals or groups willing to offer guidance and/or motivation. They might be professionals (speakers, authors, educators, etc.) who receive a fee for their actions or they might be family members or friends seeking nothing more than the enjoyment of helping or watching someone succeed. Those same friends or acquaintances might even be on the same journey or endeavor. Your running club, the gang at the gym, your writer’s group, or your classmates. There is also a third person offering guidance or help. Yourself. Wait, that’s the first person. And yes, that’s my attempt at writer humor.

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“I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by a conscious endeavor.” – Thoreau

I’m thinking about this subject for a number of reasons. I have numerous friends at any given time trying to elevate their lives and I am always respectful and supportive because at any given time, I am usually trying to do the same. Currently, I’m writing, refocused on my health, and recently agreed to pursue a professional certification at work. The writing has no end goal other than finish, then start the next, then finish, and repeat. The focus on health is for no other reason than I want to be around for some time. The certification is another story. I don’t need the certification. I have many years of experience, a degree, and have always taken on more responsibility than originally asked. I’m at that stage of my career that is comfortable and secure provided I perform and remain relevant. Due to some added job responsibilities, I felt I needed to study up on some new things as well as refresh my memory on others and in doing so, was offered an opportunity to take a course leading to certification. I have plenty of motivational sources for writing and my health but the certification effort will be solo and with that, so will my motivational source. No worries there.

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I’m also thinking motivational speak this weekend because I am trying to be there for my son. Last August we were dropping him off at college and here it is already finals week. His first year of college is almost over with and I have been sending him short texts offering words of encouragement as he crams for finals. That is probably all I can do at this point. He’s endured hours of motivational speak from both me and my wife. I say motivational since most of it was meant to be encouraging but some of it was more facts of life type speech. I won’t call them lectures. More of a life talk and that is always harder but my wife and I have not wanted to sugarcoat anything with our kids.

Fifty percent of the kids he graduated with last June that are going to college, will not finish. At his orientation for college last year, the staff let us know that approximately twenty percent of the freshman class would not return for their sophomore year for a number of reasons. Facts of life. Through research of our own, along with what my son has learned this year from others, there are certain classes in the program he is in that will weed out students from continuing in the program. After next week he will have completed four of them. There is another critical one next semester but I’m confident he will do OK. He is on an academic scholarship that demands a certain GPA be maintained in addition to being in a program that demands a specific GPA be maintained for all classes taken related to the program. My son is well aware of this and well aware of the consequences should he not meet those requirements. The program GPA is what it is and there is nothing mom and dad can do about that one. The financial scholarships are what they are and cover a good portion of his costs. The rest is being paid by student loans and Mom and Dad. We’ve made it clear that we will not make up the difference should he lose his scholarship. This is a partnership in my mind between the school, the government, my son, and my wife and me and there are expectations for each vested party. One of those Dad things I say to him all the time is there is no practice life. This is it and what you do or don’t do counts. Or maybe I’m repeating something I heard in a movie or song, or something I read or some other life lesson I try to share hoping he makes the connection and seriousness of it all. That and reminding him to enjoy himself and make memories in the same conversation. It all seems to be a contradiction of sorts.

My son gets all this. He budgets and balances his time. He reaches out for help if he needs it and he crams when he has to. That impresses me. No safe zone, no sugarcoat, no bullshit. He is realizing something now that takes others years to even conceptualize. His hard work in high school only gave him the opportunity he has now in college. Nothing more. The rest is up to him and only him and that demands more hard work.

There are a lot of inspirational quotes or passages I could share with him this weekend. Most of them I have already shared. My personal favorite is something many attribute to Nelson Mandela but is actually a passage from a book by Marianne Williamson:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world.” 

In classic tasteless fashion, as can be so prevalent in my household at times, I opted for words of encouragement that were not so profound but still offered some motivational insight:

“Time to nut up or shut up.” – Tallahassee

Photos courtesy of Pixabay and GoErie

 

 

 

If We Were Having Coffee #12 – The Write Place

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If we were having coffee, I would have a number of choices to offer you today. We have a breakfast blend, a donut shop blend, a dark roast, and a Kona blend. Since many of you don’t drink coffee, I also have tea. What kind of tea you ask? The kind you drop into a cup and pour steaming hot water over. I need to learn more about tea. As for me, I’ll have a dark roast with pumpkin spice creamer since it feels more like an October morning than it does a September morning.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that we got to see my son last week for his birthday. We traveled to see him at his college, took him shopping, and then went out to dinner. We brought him home for the weekend since we had a three day weekend. Coming home with us was a last minute decision on his part but he wanted to get back to school on Sunday afternoon versus Monday so he’d have a day and a half to study. We also took his girlfriend with us. When he first got home and went upstairs to his bedroom, he came down and complained that his room was a mess. My wife reminded him that he left it that way but she still felt bad.

He got to spend a little time with us, time with his girlfriend, and time with some of his friends. We took him back Sunday afternoon, along with a few supplies he needed and got to see what his dorm room looked like after a few weeks on his own. His desk area looked academic, as did his dorm mate’s. The rest of the room was organized with the exception of their beds. Apparently college students don’t make beds. I helped unpack the few supplies we got him and my wife made his bed. He walked us downstairs and we played a quick game of pool, hugged goodbye and my wife and I were home by 5:30. I think that is the first time I have ever played pool with my son. I enjoyed it.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that last Monday was a lazy day for me. I wrote a post then read a book the remainder of the day. Not so for my wife. She also had Tuesday and Wednesday off and had decided she was going to clean upstairs. We have two bedrooms upstairs, one being my son’s and the other being used as my wife’s “woman cave” for scrap-booking and crafts. There is also a small landing outside the two bedroom doors that has been filled with junk for years it seems. I seldom go up there. Her mom came over to help and I graciously stayed out of their way (hid is more like it).

Although my youngest has hinted that he wanted to move upstairs, we want to leave things the way they are. I think it’s important that my oldest has his room to come home to on breaks and summers. He’s dealing with enough change.

When I got home from work Tuesday evening, my wife was very excited to show me upstairs. My son’s room was immaculate, her scrap-booking/craft room was organized, and the landing was clear with one exception – it had my son’s desk. Really it’s my desk that I gave him a few years ago to give him an area to do homework in his room. The right place. It helped him develop good study habits.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that my family has been very supportive of my writing. I haven’t had a designated writing place or an office like I’ve had in other homes we’ve had over the years. I’ve been writing while sitting in a recliner, sitting at the kitchen table, sitting at the dining room table, or sitting outside on our deck.

My wife’s gift to me Tuesday evening was a spot to write. The right place. The write place.

I freaking love it!

B

My Desk

Weekend Coffee Share is hosted each week by Part Time Monster

I Wish I Knew Then …

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I wish I knew then what I think I know now…but would I have lived life any differently?

By this time next week, my wife, twelve-year-old, and I will be waking up to a different dynamic in our home. My oldest will be gone. He’ll be waking up in a dorm room, probably both excited and nervous about the journey he is about to start. This upcoming experience, from my parent point of view, led me to thinking about my own journey that literally started the evening I returned home from my High School graduation. I left home that night, which is a story in itself.

A Letter To My Eighteen-Year-Old Self

I’ve read a few similar posts like this over the last year and they’ve always made me wonder what I might tell myself, assuming that was even possible, and, would it have made a difference? It did for John Conner in the second Terminator movie but that’s Hollywood. This is real life, and my thoughts and influences at that time were what guided me… Then.

Let’s just pretend for a few minutes that it’s possible. A letter from the future, to be opened and read that very first day on my own.

Dear Bill,

If you’re reading this, you’ve decided to leave home. You’re probably a little confused by now and wondering just what you’ve done. Last night was a turning point in your life. It wasn’t the first and it certainly won’t be the last. Standing on that football field after graduation only to find nobody was there is something that will eat at you for some time. I’d like to tell you why it happened like that but I don’t have a clue. My biggest advice is to get over it or you’ll spend too much time and energy wondering why. And while you’re at it, you should find forgiveness sooner than later. Trust me on this one.

So where do you go from here? What path should you choose? Regardless of what I tell you, you’re a stubborn kid and are going to do what you want. “No regrets” is what you’ll tell yourself later in life but you will have a few. And you’ll get over them. What words of wisdom do I have to share with you? Patience is something you won’t learn until later in life so I’m going to be brief or you will probably quit reading this. There are a few things however that you should know.

* Let’s establish one ground rule first. You’re eighteen. Although you think you know everything, you don’t. The reality of it is – you never will, and that’s okay. Lifelong learning should be your mantra.

* Adults. The first thing to know is that being an adult doesn’t automatically make one wiser, kinder, or more mature. Far from it. Some of the same BS you experienced in high school will continue throughout your life. I would love to tell you something different here but it’s just a fact and the sooner you realize that the better.

* Despite your wishes to pursue a career in the arts, you’re going to fall into a technical career. Embrace it. I know you fought this idea but you’ll learn to love it and it will provide you with a great living and you’ll be very good at it. You will travel, see many places within the U.S. and get to see a few places abroad. It can be as fulfilling as you want it to be. The best part is you’ll never lose the arts. Read. Write. Play the guitar. Who knows what can happen

* You convinced yourself that college is just high school with ashtrays. It’s so much more. So you f’d up and passed on scholarships. It would have been much easier on you had you just attended college immediately after high school. You’ll take the long route and still attend college albeit part-time. You’ll graduate. And with honors.

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* The eighties. I could write a book on this subject. Suffice it to say it will be called a decade of decadence for a reason. You’ll live to tell about it and it will make great writing fodder someday. Just be careful.

* The nineties. This is when you are going to find yourself, not that you were lost. You’ll find true friendship and a long lasting love. How will you know? For this first time in your life, you won’t be looking for any of it.

* You will be a father and it will be the greatest high you’ve ever experienced. You’re going to be scared, and for good reason. Understand why you are scared and the rest will take care of itself. Embrace both the responsibility and challenge that parenthood will bestow upon you.

Tata, Nana, & Me

Tata, Nana, & Me

* As time passes, and it will at an alarmingly faster rate, never forget where you came from. It’s easy to get caught up in a life that most of society deems successful. Much of that is overrated. You’ll figure out what truly is a measurement of success.  

* Understand a few guiding words and make them a part of your being. Love, live, learn, listen, light, character, forgiveness, compassion, loyalty, friendship, respect, ethics, and passion are but a few.

* Simplicity. I saw a Hispanic comedian once who described the mystery of Mexican Food. He was asked what a taco was and he said: meat, lettuce, tomato, onions, and cheese in a tortilla. A burrito? Meat, lettuce, tomato, onions, cheese and beans in a tortilla. A tostada? Meat, lettuce, tomato, onions, cheese and beans on a tortilla. Do you see where I am going with this?

It’s all going to work out kid,

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If We Were Having Coffee #10 – Shrimp Tacos

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If we were having coffee, I could offer you a few choices today. We have a donut shop blend,  a medium roast cinnamon crumb cake, and caramel pecan roll. I seldom have flavored coffee but I did try the caramel pecan roll this week with a sweet cream. Not too bad. I’m going with the donut shop blend and french vanilla creamer.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that we dropped the ball on getting my son’s transcripts for college squared away. I wrongfully made the assumption that his high school had handled it considering he took college level classes in high school. When we got his class schedule for his first semester, we noticed they had him down for an english comp class which we knew he had already taken. A quick phone call to the registrar’s office confirmed that they had not received official college transcripts, only the classes listed on his high school transcript stating they were college classes. We completed the process to get his transcripts, the college received them, completed their evaluation, then promptly changed his class schedule this last week.  He transferred in 36 college credits but only 18 of them will count towards his degree program. They are considering one more class which would give him 21. This should lighten his load a little each semester. It all worked out.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you I celebrated my wedding anniversary this last week. Twenty years. We had a busy week so we decided to celebrate it with a late lunch on Saturday. There’s probably something more appropriate we should have done for our twentieth but we will have to bank that idea for a bit. Literally. We decided we’d do some shopping Saturday morning followed up with food. M wife wanted crab legs and lobster so Red Lobster became our only choice.

We do shopping a little different than most people. We decide what we are going to spend and withdraw that money from the bank before we go and then divide it between us.  This keeps us grounded and I don’t have to continually add up what I think we are spending during the day as we swipe cards. Our primary goal this weekend was twofold: a laptop for my son and an anniversary meal for my wife and I. The additional shopping was just to make the most of our time in the city; filling the gap between getting the laptop and eating.

We got him a nice Lenovo laptop that should meet his needs for college. I had a marketing class once that discussed the evils of extended warranties. I never purchase them. During my son’s college orientation, in which parents were included, we attended a hour session on IT concerns. It was highly recommended that we purchase one so we did. There is a Best Buy near his college so we bought his computer at Best Buy. I suppose it gives us a level of comfort that he can have the Geek Squad fix his computer, quickly I hope, should anything go wrong.

After that, my wife shopped at Hobby Lobby with her mother, the kids shopped at clothing stores, and I spent my money in Barnes & Noble. I picked up a book on short stories, a James Rollins book, and a book by an author I have never read: Scott Turow. You have to love the bargain priced book section at B&N. Buying so many books in print over the summer has made me realize I need a Kindle since both my wife’s Kindle Fire and my Sony eReader have died.  That and new releases I want to read by a few friends of mine: Erin Sandlin and E.L. Wicker.  Next month we will have to replace my wife’s Kindle and I think I will get the simple reader with the back light so I can read in the dark.

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If we were having coffee, I would tell you our late lunch was perfect. My wife and mother-in-law had lobster and crab legs, my youngest son had something called The Admiral’s Feast (his eyes are always much bigger than his stomach), my oldest had a hamburger which is a departure from his normal adventurous eating habits, and I had a lobster bisque, shrimp tacos, and a beer.

Twenty years of being married and the simplicity of tacos and beer sums up my attitude towards most things these days. Life can be as complicated as you choose to make it. As I age, I choose to simplify it. It works for me and has obviously worked with my marriage.

A fly just landed in my coffee. Time for another cup. A fresh cup. How about you?

Until next time…

B

photo credit: Red Lobster

 

If We Were Having Coffee #9 – Four More Weeks

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If we were having coffee, I would have the usual flavors on hand to offer and a few choices for creamer.  We tend to always have French vanilla but we also have raspberry chocolate flavored creamer that is quite tasty with a donut shop blend. I’m going with a breakfast blend and French vanilla. Let’s head to my back porch and enjoy the morning shade.

It’s been about four weeks since I have posted anything which I believe is a new record. I’ve tried  to be consistent for the last year and post every week or at worst, every other week. It’s not that I haven’t had anything to say. Quite the opposite actually considering how much has happened over the last four weeks.

Immediately after my son’s college orientation, I had to work in Texas for a week. I got back home on July 4th at about one in the morning and thankfully had the next week off of work.  On Wednesday morning of my week off, my son left on a trip to Ireland, Wales, and England.  I didn’t write about it then for obvious safety concerns but he had a blast.  He texted us daily and sent loads of pictures each day of his travels, including a few letting us know he was of legal drinking age while there. He returned on Thursday of the following week and then we were in a mad dash preparing for his graduation party on the 18th.  He wanted Mexican food so we made enough food for about a hundred people to each have three tacos, beans, and rice.  We only had about sixty show up so needless to say we put some in the fridge and froze much of the rest.  We’ll be eating burritos and tacos for the next month, which really isn’t a bad thing. I think when it comes time for my youngest son’s graduation we just might have it catered.

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If we were having coffee, I would tell you that in spite of all the craziness of the last four weeks, I have been reading books each evening to wind down.  We bought a bag full of used books at a local SPCA fundraiser and I’ve read James Rollins, Dan Brown, Lee Childs, Brad Meltzer, and an author I had never heard of: Jeffrey Archer.   I haven’t been writing so reading was a welcome break.  I needed that.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that it is the next four weeks that have me concerned. Four weeks from yesterday, we will be dropping off our son at college.  We only have a few minor things to take care of now prior to his move in and hopefully will be able to enjoy his last four weeks with us somewhat stress free. I keep thinking there is more I need to talk to him about but all I can do is pray that his mother and I have done our job correctly and we are sending off a very grounded, respectful, and capable young man.  Well I suppose there’s one last thing… we need to teach him how to do his laundry.  Beyond that, I know he will be fine.

Four more weeks and life around here will return to some normalcy.  I think.

Bill

If We Were Having Coffee #6

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If we having coffee I would once again have a number of choices to offer you: a few different breakfast blends, a blueberry blend, a Columbian blend, a cappuccino, and that decaf breakfast blend that just won’t go away. I’m going with Seattle’s Best Breakfast Blend and Irish Cream creamer. I’ll have to venture to the Pacific Northwest someday.

I’ve been traveling a little bit more for work this last month. A few day trips, a conference near Pittsburgh, and a trip to Cincinnati. I have another trip to Houston coming up which I always enjoy. Great Mexican Food and Whataburger highlight my trips to Texas. They are also as close as I get to my home state of Arizona so I take advantage of the culture similarity. Traveling there is a teaser that makes me a little homesick.  I get that way every now and then.  Although I love my life in New York, and it is home now, Arizona will always be my first home.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you we are busy planning all the things that go along with a senior graduating high school. June will be a busy month. I think we have most of the college details nailed down with the exception of some last minute local scholarships we know my son is getting but are unsure of the financial award yet. They all add up and thankfully will lessen the burden on my wife and me.

We are planning his graduation party for this summer and will most likely have it at a fire hall near my house.  It’s common to rent a fire hall up here. The cost is reasonable, and the money supports a volunteer based fire department.  We’ve never planned a party like this so we are treading on an unfamiliar path. It’s exciting.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that all of this college preparation and graduation planning is bittersweet.  I am proud of my son for all of his accomplishments and the opportunity he has earned in being accepted into a very selective program at the university he will be attending yet I am saddened by the fact that he will be gone.  I know this is part of parenting but it doesn’t lessen the sadness I am feeling. Maybe as that dorm move in date gets closer, the excitement will trump the sadness.  Maybe not.

All I can hope for is that my wife and I have prepared him properly for the journey he is about to take. It’s been a little tough on us because we could not speak to him from experience.  My education was done entirely through a combination of night school and online classes while my wife’s was done while working prior to our children’s birth then finished up once they were in school. Neither of us know what it would be like to live on campus. What we do know though is what the priority will be: school. We both have confidence in him.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that there will come a morning in late August where my wife, my twelve year old, and I will wake up and start our day a little differently than we have every other morning. There will be something missing that morning and unselfishly, it will be a good thing.

A short two hour drive away, my son will be waking up in a dorm room and starting his day a little differently than he has every other morning.  I can only imagine the thoughts that will be going on in his head that morning. The excitement and nervousness that his first day of class is about to start will most likely be overwhelming.

And then, like every other school morning, his cell phone will ding or vibrate, and there will be a group message that either my wife or I start that will state: Love you all, have a great day!

And we will all respond like we always do and there will be some sense of normalcy returned to us for the remainder of the day.

I wonder what his morning coffee experience will be like that day.

Until next time…

If We Were Having Coffee #4

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If we were having coffee, I would have a number of choices to offer you today: a Kona Blend, a Breakfast Blend, Hazelnut, Maxwell House’s House Blend, and I still have that box of decaf.  We had family over for Mexican food yesterday and bought a number of different flavors to satisfy a house full of coffee drinkers. I will have the hazelnut this morning.

I would tell you a how a writer friend of mine explained what a Kona Blend was to me and likened it to using a Monet for a doormat. I understand now, but instantly thought a Monet doormat would make a wonderful impression. No disrespect to Monet or all you art aficionados of course.

Friends. I would ask you if you thought you could be friends with someone you’ve never met. Well could you? I can and feel I have made friends with a number of beautiful souls over the last year. Strangers, acquaintances, and friends. I won’t get into semantics.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you I am not as depressed as I initially was after completing the FAFSA application for financial aid awards from the two universities my son was accepted to. There is this magical formula that decides what our expected family contribution should be that almost sent me over the edge.  Financial aid award packets arrived this week. I also did some research on tax breaks, federal work study, and additional scholarship monies my son should receive. My son did his part in earning a very large merit scholarship and he has made his decision on which school he wants to attend now with the more expensive of the two private colleges now being cheaper. I knew it would be his first choice anyway. He loved it despite the fact that they don’t allow freshman to have cars on campus. No worries though because the school  gives free bus passes to students.  He will be able to get to the mall and we can postpone getting a new car and giving him ours for a year. It will still be very expensive but bottom line is it’s doable for us with some minor household changes. We are excited for him and feel very blessed at the opportunity afforded him.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you how upset I was at the recent events at a university in Kenya. I just can’t fathom what happened and it saddens me; a shopping mall last year and now a university with innocent people dying for what? Both acts defy any sense of reason. There was a HBO documentary on television the other night about the incident at the mall. Stories of how an act of terrorism brought about acts of heroism and human spirit. Muslims, Christians, Hindus, blacks, whites, mothers, children, store employees, police officers, and students.

Yet here I sit making minor adjustments with bills, getting rid of some premium channels, adjusting our phone plan by getting rid of our land line, and postponing the new car. We are spoiled as a country and I wonder how many people here realize how fortunate we really are as we continue to complain about such trivial crap in the greater scheme of things.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you about a touching post I read the other day on Facebook by one of my friends from graduate school.  She had commented about how she couldn’t imagine what the families of those Jewish children who died in a fire in Brooklyn last month were going through and said she was praying for both them and their families. She is originally from New York City and is also a mother of two kids herself.  She and her husband are Muslim. Her husband is also an officer in the Marine Corp. What does that have to do with anything? Nothing yet everything.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you I welcomed the day with more snow. Much of it had melted over the last few days with warmer spring weather finally arriving. The forecast called for less than an inch of snow today. They were wrong. I think we already have two inches. I love it. Some of you are already planting flowers or gardens. For us, our first planting isn’t until May. It will all work out.

Lastly, I would tell you Happy Easter or maybe Happy Passover. Regardless of your religious convictions or non-convictions, beliefs or non-beliefs, I would just want you to have a happy day.

Until next time…

The view from my kitchen window this morning

The view from my kitchen window this morning

 

Part 2 – NoWri, Arizona Tea, & Passion

I’ve been blogging in the past with no real pattern. What I mean by that is I typically write about whatever is on my mind that week.  I’ve decided to do something at least somewhat predictive starting now. The first weekend of the month, I will write something about my kids. Not with the intent to make this a “Daddy Blog” but the reality of having kids in the house provides too much writing material to ignore.

I wrote a post last month about my son HERE. If you read it, you will understand the rest of this post because it’s an update.  I could have titled this “Adventures in College Searches” but will leave it as Part 2.

Things Change

Back in October, we visited a school my son was interested in for their Physician Assistant (PA) program and while visiting discovered he could probably play soccer there, at least during the first few years while the academic program is less intense. At that time, it quickly became my son’s first choice school. And mine.  Easy to say at that moment considering we hadn’t even visited other schools with PA programs yet.

A recap from my previous post: my son wants to be a PA. He is in a pre-med type program for high school seniors where he is taking college level medical classes and shadowing medical personnel.  The educational path to becoming a PA is a tough one. A student can either be accepted into a PA program as a freshman and endure a rigorous five year course of study (BS/MS) or they can transfer in with a BS degree and endure a rigorous three year course of study and end up with the same BS/MS. Five years versus seven years.  My son wanted the five year program, his plan “A”, which is extremely competitive. He also wanted to stay within a two to three hour drive from home which limited his choices to four colleges.  His plan “B” would be a BS degree in Biology at a number of great colleges within that same geographical area. The plan “B” schools have been recruiting him heavily, one even offering a full ride academic scholarship (tuition and room and board).

So back to our first college visit, we left there very excited and at that moment,  I would have bet money it would be my son’s school of choice should he be accepted. That was until we visited the next school.

Bigger is Better

On a Saturday morning in November, my son and I drove two hours to an open house at another college.  It’s a very reputable school known more for their engineering programs but their medical programs have been growing and their PA program is now ranked nationally.  They are Division I school with a large campus and about 15,000 undergrad students.  We were overwhelmed.  Dining options galore, massive clubs and intramural sports, student housing that rivaled upscale apartments, a beautiful rec center for working out, a Barnes and Noble on campus (a full size B&N with a coffee shop) and during the tour, we passed by a hall where sorority girls were playing whip-cream Twister, one of the girls looking up and jokingly asking my son if he wanted to play.  Oh yes, that happened.

We ended the tour and went to the B&N for a coffee and discussed the day’s events. My son also bought a hoodie from the school. He was hooked and I honestly don’t think the whip cream played a part. We left and made the two hour drive home and started to compare college #1 to college #2 as I was quietly contemplating how we could swing the extra $14K a year college #2 could cost. Should he be accepted of course.

Senior Day

Once again during November, my son and I ventured off to a third school.  They were having an open house for HS Seniors on a Tuesday that high schools had off in observance of Veterans Day. Sadly my wife had to work. College #3 had a different approach to open house.  They started off with a very detailed presentation of their PA program.  They didn’t sugarcoat the program and they let the kids know right away how difficult the odds were to be accepted into the program and more importantly, how difficult the program was once accepted. They also let us know that for transfer students, that Plan B my son had should he not get accepted as a freshman, had even worse odds:  1000 applicants for 20 seats in the program.  I prayed my son got accepted in as a freshman because Plan B odds certainly did not appear to be in anyone’s favor.

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After the program concluded we were to take a tour and while standing in the hallway, my son whispered something to me that impressed me. He told me that he liked this PA program the best. Not the school yet, but the program.

The campus was small, approximately 2100 students, very close knit, moderate dining choices, typical dorms and very nice apartment style living for upper classmen, beautiful classrooms, a renovated library commons, and a new rec center being built since the old one would have to be used by athletes with the college’s move to Division II sports. During our tour, we had a very nerdy kid and his mother with us and when we toured the apartments, mom asked numerous questions regarding safety, would his bedroom have a door that could lock, and knowing the floor was co-ed, wanted assurances that the four people sharing a four bedroom apartment would be of the same sex.  The poor kid kept quite the entire time.

We left the apartments and toured a few more buildings, each area drawing more embarrassing questions from mom.  The last building we toured was the freshmen dorm.  Nice floorplan with two dorms sharing a common bathroom between the two. One dorm had two beds and the other had three with the decision of whether or not a kid gets a two bed room or a three bed room being based on how early a student got their housing deposit in.  Nerdy kid’s mom was just relieved that at least for her son’s freshman year of college, the dorm floor was not co-ed.  Nerdy kid finally spoke up too.  He asked the tour guide “who cleans the bathroom?” I only wished this woman and her son could have been on the previous college tour with us just to see her expression as we walked by the game of whip-cream Twister. I understand her concern about girls. At this college, males only make up about twenty five percent of the population. Three girls to every guy.

A short trip to the book store for a school t-shirt and we were on our way back home. Within a few days my son received an email that said due to the large number of qualified applicants to the PA program this year, it would be to his advantage to get his application in by the middle of the month instead of the December 1st deadline stated on the department website.  He did.

Quick advice to parents who have not been through this process: your child will want to buy a shirt or something from each school you visit.

Urban Campus

We scheduled a visit to the College #4 for the Tuesday during Thanksgiving week. The whole family went this time and the visit would include a meeting with an admissions adviser, a tour of the campus, and a meeting with a faculty member.  Beautiful urban campus, about 3,000 undergrad students, Division II sports, great dining choices both on campus and off, standard freshmen dorms and upgraded upperclassmen apartments, plenty of intramural sports to choose from including club soccer and indoor winter soccer on a turf field in their newly renovated and expanded rec center, beautiful classrooms and labs, and random people all saying hello to us.

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The application deadline for this school was November 1st and my son applied on time for it. The week before the visit, he had received a letter saying he was accepted to the school and would be placed in the pool of qualified candidates for the PA program.  No surprise on being accepted to the school but we were happy he was being placed into the qualified pool of candidates.  One different aspect of their selection program was they didn’t have an interview process.  Seats were offered to students based purely on their test results, school transcripts, GPA, class ranking, recommendations, and an essay.  After hearing my son speak publicly twice in the month of November, I squashed any doubts I had regarding his ability to speak in a professional manner.

We ended the tour in the building where the PA program is housed and were greeted by a faculty member who just happened to be the current chair of the program.  She explained the program, answered questions, and left us with a positive feeling about the school.  As we exited the building, I turned to my son and told him in an unofficial way, he just had an interview.

We headed to the bookstore so he could buy a school t-shirt and drove home. Yes, that’s three now.

The Calls

During the drive home, my son received a phone call from College #3. They had accepted him into the school, placed him into the pool of qualified PA candidates and wanted to interview him for a seat in the PA program. They scheduled the interview for the third week in December.  This was great news but so many weeks away.

The next morning, my son and I went hunting.  A tradition during Thanksgiving week. We were up early and had hiked back into the woods while it was still dark. Late morning I received a text from my wife to call home and that it was an emergency. I called and she said the University we had visited the day before had called and said there was some confusion with an updated transcript they had received from his high school two days earlier and they weren’t having any luck contacting the school. They said it was important because during our visit there, I had stated he had scored higher on his ACT test (we had just gotten the new score the week before and I had asked the high school to update his transcripts and forward to the two schools he had applied to).  Panic time. The college was trying to wrap up their selection process before the Thanksgiving shutdown so they could send out acceptance letters on December 1st. I told my wife to call them back and let them know the high school was closed for the Thanksgiving holiday and that I would email him the official test results within the hour and if that would not suffice, give him my son’s username and password to the ACT site and he could verify and print out the higher score himself. I radioed my son and said we needed to head home.

Back to that higher ACT score. In my previous post, I mentioned my son was retaking the test to try and get a higher score.  His first score was high but one simple point higher made a difference of additional scholarship monies at college #2 and some Plan B schools.  What I didn’t write about in that post was my son retook the test under circumstances that were less than perfect. He had a personal issue the night before both his ACT test and first sectional soccer game. Typical teenage problems arose that had my son getting almost no sleep the night before and in tears up until the moment he got out of the car that Saturday morning to take his test.  I honestly felt he would bomb the test.  He didn’t. He scored higher in a few of the subjects, remained the same in others, and got his one point higher score.  I really wonder how well he would have done being in a better frame of mind?

One point. Turns out that one point made a difference at College #4. When my son and I got home from hunting, my wife had great news for us. She said she had called the University back and they said they were done with it and were proceeding based on all his other credentials and his one point higher ACT score. He would be offered a seat in the PA program.  He did it!  I didn’t want an asterisk attached to his acceptance so I immediately emailed the school and attached both of his ACT test results along with his username and password. They emailed me back within an hour, thanked me, wished us a Happy Thanksgiving, and confirmed what they had said verbally over the phone to my wife.  Somehow, it just didn’t seem real yet or maybe I was just being too skeptical. My son wasn’t skeptical at all. He tweeted it on Thanksgiving Day, ending it with #thankful.

Thursday of this past week, my son received a package in the mail. It was his official offer for a seat into the Physician Assistant program at Gannon University. It also contained a substantial scholarship offer.  Official and so real now. There will be no need for a Plan B.

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So where are we now? We are paying the deposit with Gannon to hold his place in the program and my son is still going to follow through with the interview at college #3: Daemen College.  Two very different colleges but both with PA programs ranked in the top 55 in the U.S.  If my son is accepted to Daemen, he will have some tough decisions to make.  My gut feel is he will be accepted. As for the other two schools, after being accepted to Gannon he didn’t even apply.  Although the thought of playing Divisions III soccer was exciting to both him and us, he told us he just couldn’t picture himself at the first college after visiting the others and he wasn’t going to choose a school just for that. As for College #2, he is being realistic about the additional monies that school would cost.  It will come down to Daemen and Gannon. My son is making a list with pros and cons of each school since he loved both along with their PA programs. Soccer is still important to him but he is content playing intramural or club ball. Since both schools are Division II, it would have been challenging to make the team, although something tells me he could have if he set his mind to it, and even more challenging due to the rigorous demands of the academic program he is entering. Academics comes first, his hard work is paying off, and we are extremely proud of him.

After seeing the way my son’s eyes lit up when he saw the indoor turf field at Gannon, my money says he will go with the first school that accepted him.  We’ll see. We are just so blessed and thankful he is getting what he wants.  He earned it.

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Update: 12.26.14

My gut feel was right on his acceptance to Daemen College’s PA program. His interview went well and he got his acceptance letter this week. Merry Christmas. He applied to the two PA programs he liked best and was accepted to both. He has choices now. We will help him with the financial aid process at both schools so he can make a better informed decision.  I have a feeling the two schools will be fairly equal on paper. As parents, it’s very tempting to intervene and influence one over the other. We are not going to do that since we honestly feel he couldn’t go wrong with either school. It really comes down to where he wants to spend the next five years and that, must be his choice.

 

 

 

NoWri, Arizona Tea, & Passion

NoWri

No, I am not prepping for November. In fact, this has nothing to do with NaNoWriMo but I will take a moment to wish the best of luck to all of you who are signed up for it. For me it simply means no write. I haven’t been writing the last two weeks nor have I even made an attempt to post a blog until today. This weekend might be different for a few hours early Sunday morning and allow me to get a few words in before anyone gets up. The rest of the day will be more of the same thing I have been experiencing: no writing.  These last two weeks life has gotten in the way. I will accurately predict that life is going to get in the way for the next two or three weeks as well. I should probably rephrase that since it conveys a negative connotation. Life has gotten/will get in the way in a wonderful manner. My son’s life. My son’s future.

My priorities?  Family, job, writing, and then everything else and in that order.

My WIP will still be there in a few weeks. For now, I consider myself very fortunate to be having life get in the way.

Arizona Tea

May 2012. My son had just finished his JV Baseball season and was meeting his teammates so they could all turn in their baseball jerseys to the coaching staff. The kids decided to play a pickup game of basketball afterwards in the gym and my son got hurt. He suffered a minor concussion and fractured some weird bone near his wrist and thumb that would have him wearing a cast for a good part of the summer. A cast that went all the way to his bicep. His plans for junior league summer baseball gone. A few weeks later, he got an excuse from the doctor allowing him to participate in gym class doing lower body exercises. This was important because his gym teacher was giving him a zero for every gym class he couldn’t participate in. Yes, that kind of gym teacher. Allowing him to do lower body exercise meant he could work out in the gym or walk for extra credit to make up for the two weeks of zeroes. My son felt lower body exercise also meant he could play indoor soccer in gym class and his gym teacher let him. Bad decision. An hour later the school nurse was calling me to pick up my son.  He had gotten clocked in the head with a soccer ball that put him flat on his back.  He was in the nurse’s office when I got there and was somewhat out of it. After a trip to the doctor and some tests at the hospital we found out he had just gotten his second concussion, and only a few days before finals and regents.  Two concussions in less than a three week span.

With the help and understanding of his teachers and the school nurse, he got through all his testing and surprisingly pulled good grades and finished his freshman year.  The next few weeks were trying in that he would get massive headaches and just cry. He was acting weird, doing things he hadn’t done before, saying things that were inappropriate, and although funny now, he was listening to country music after listening to nothing but rock and rap. For lack of a better way to describe it, it was like he had no “shut off” switch and had regressed three or so years. My wife, having just finished nursing school, was very understanding and in tune with what was going on with his condition. I, on the other hand, was in complete denial about how serious his concussion was.  As for my son, his only worry was soccer camp would be starting in a few months and he was going to be pulled up to varsity as a sophomore.  Or so he thought.

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I had to run into town to get a few groceries one morning and my son wanted to come with me. On the way in, he found the country station on the radio and I had to listen to him singing along to “something bout a truck” as it blared over the speakers.  As we were standing in the checkout line, my son asked for tea.  He had been drinking a lot of tea lately. He then went on a rant, a very loud rant, about all the flavors of Arizona Tea and how Arizona Tea was not from Arizona, but we are from Arizona, and now we are in New York, and Arizona Tea is from New York, and “isn’t that ironic dad, isn’t it, isn’t it” and on and on and on… all while curious customers looked on. I let him grab multiple cans of cold Arizona Tea and checked out. Groceries now loaded in the car we drove home, me very quiet and him singing to country music between sips of his Arizona Tea.

When we got home, I went in my bedroom, closed the door and I cried.  I cried like I hadn’t cried in years and at that moment, I could have cared less if my son ever played a sport again. I just wanted him back.  I wanted him back to normal and I was scared.

Sports were important to him and like any supportive parent, important to me because they were important to him.  I’m not living vicariously through him. I played baseball and football as a kid. I never even watched soccer until my son decided he wanted to play and because of that we have grown to love the game. I grew up thinking soccer was for the sissy kids – west coast, different time, different era and my own teenage ignorance at the time.

Towards the end of summer, our doctor released our son to play soccer with one stipulation: no heading the ball. My wife and I discussed whether or not we even were going to let him play. His head, or more specifically his brain, is what mattered to us and his brain is what would be opening doors to college, not sports. Through many family discussions and my son pleading with us to let him  play, we agreed, provided he wear this special head band designed to reduce the impact of a ball to the head and that he in no way heads the ball. There would be no moving up to varsity for my son but the JV coach was extremely happy to have my son again on his team. He played the entire year on defense without heading the ball once and was selected as MVP for his team: on offense. Yes you read that right. He scored more goals than any other offensive player despite playing defense. He went on to play baseball that year both for his high school and for a Senior League team over the summer that ended up winning the NY State Championship. His team went on to the East Coast Regional and performed respectively losing to a team that went on to play in the Senior League World Series Championship game in Maine. My son wanted to play in that game just to play in the beautiful stadium that was largely paid for by a famous author we all know:  Mr. King himself.

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His junior year in HS, he moved up to varsity soccer.  He refused to wear his “special” head gear but told us he wouldn’t head the ball. He lied, but only a little. I can count the times on both hands that he headed the ball that year.  For spring, he decided to do something different. He ran track after playing baseball for ten years.  I think he felt it would be tough to top the high he experienced being a state champion the previous summer in baseball.

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By now you all are thinking this entire post is a father bragging about his athletic son. Wrong.

Passion

Friday October 17th was my son’s final home game during the regular soccer season. His high school has a tradition called senior night for every sport. For soccer, prior to the game, each senior is escorted onto the field by their parents. The announcer introduces the athlete and his parents, then goes on to list all the sports they have played in high school. The announcer also states the future plans for the student athlete, advice the player has for underclassman, and a statement the player has for his fellow seniors. The event is somewhat bittersweet for most athletes and parents because often it is the last time the student will play on his home field. Our team won that night so it seeded them higher for sectionals meaning one more home game at a minimum.

When they announced my son, they announced he had played JV soccer for two years, Varsity Soccer for two years, JV baseball for two years, and Track for one year. The announcer then went on to say my son was going to pursue a career in the medical field. He wants to be a Physician Assistant or Nurse Practitioner.  What wasn’t announced is that in addition to playing sports, my son is ranked third in his graduating class, has an extremely high GPA, played in the concert band, played in a jazz band, sang in choir, performed in a school musical, sings in an a cappella group, in National Honor Society, is in student council, has taken both honors and AP classes, has taken numerous college classes, was selected to NY Boys State this past summer, and was selected to a pre-med program for high school seniors that takes up half his day then returns to his high school for three classes in the afternoon. He is also being recruited by literally a few dozen schools for academics.

As my wife and I stood on the field with my son, I was proud. Proud of what he has done in high school, proud of the young man he is becoming. And walking to the stands, I fought to hold back the tears as I remembered a very vocal rant about Arizona Tea a few years earlier one Saturday morning in the checkout line.

The next morning my family was up at 5:00 to drive two hours for an open house at my my son’s  first choice college. He is applying to their PA program. This is part of his plan A. He will apply to four schools that have PA programs and are within a few hours drive. If accepted, each one has assured us they are willing to offer him a substantial scholarship based on his class standing, GPA, and SAT/ACT scores. Plan B should he not get accepted? He attends any of those same schools or others, pursues some sort of bio medical undergrad degree and continues to apply to the PA program as a transfer or to a school that has a Nurse Practitioner program. The difference will be a five year BS/MS PA program versus a potential seven year program (and more money). Either way, I’m confident he will succeed.

So this is what has been taking up our time: college applications, essays, scheduling visits, developing alternative plans, etc.  I’m praying my son gets his first choice. He deserves it. He’s not perfect. In fact, there are plenty of times his mother and I get angry with him. He’s a teenager. We take the good with the bad and the good far outweighs the bad.

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That first choice school he wants so desperately to be accepted into is a Division III school and just happens to have a soccer program that sucked. Two years ago they had eight players on the team and begged kids to play. This year they had twenty five players and did win some games.  If selected to the school, my son will try and make the team and most likely would according to a few of the players he talked to during our school visit. My son doesn’t care how good the team is. He just loves to play and the realization that he could be playing soccer in college is exciting.  You see, my son is not your typical “skilled” soccer player.  His coach once told him he had no soccer skills at all. What he lacks in skills, he makes up for in being aggressive and his passion for the sport. He is also extremely fast and rarely gets beat. This is why he plays every minute of each game.

That passion is what my son has for everything he attempts and that is what soccer means to me.  Watching him play soccer captures every personality trait he possesses that has helped him excel academically and in his other extra-curricular activities. That passion is what I hope my son expresses in the 750 word essay he will submit to earn an interview. And if he gets that far, hopefully that same passion will be prevalent during the interview and lead to his acceptance into the school of his choice.  I only pray that the individuals that make up the selection committee see the same kid with passion that I and so many others see.

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As I write this, my son is at his school re-taking his ACT in an attempt to get one point higher than he got the on the first attempt. That one point means additional scholarship money to one of his plan B schools. After that he has a cappella practice for three hours then comes home to rest for an hour before we head to his second sectional soccer game.  His team won the first one on Wednesday night against a team they were expected to beat.  Tonight they will be playing a team that is only seeded slightly below them.  It could very well be his last soccer game in high school and I am going to soak in every minute of it.  Win or lose, my son will play with passion.

Liam, if you ever read this – I love you and couldn’t be more proud of you. May you never lose your passion.

Bill

UPDATE – 10.31.14.  My son’s team won their sectional game last Saturday on his home field. If you understand playoff brackets, this put them in the semi-finals, which basically means the final four teams out of sixteen teams. On Wednesday evening of this week, his team played against the #1 ranked team in our section and I believe the #4 ranked team in the state.  We had to travel to a neutral field about an hour away. They were 0-0 at the half, 1-1 at the end of regulation, then lost 2-1 in overtime.  It was an amazing game despite the loss. His last High School soccer game. He was depressed for the bus ride home to the school, and depressed on the ride from his school to our house. We got home around 10:15. My son dropped his soccer bag off on the stairs, and continued over to the computer with his school bag.  He let the game go and worked on homework until midnight while my wife quizzed him on medical terms.

Photo credits  other than the ones I’ve taken – Our local newspaper (Daily Reporter) and Google Images

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