Make Something of Yourself

Education has to be a priority in this nation and around the world. It seems one of the first budget cuts made when collegegradgovernments have to belt-tighten are education  programs and programs for the poor.

Fast-forward to college and a tuition bill is eye-popping. Unless you start saving for each child at birth (if you can), a student will be scratching and clawing for every scholarship, grant or loan dollar he or she can find. Now, some U.S. governors are picking and choosing who should get tuition breaks. Check out this column by LZ Granderson.

The costs for higher education are staggering. Something must be done – but what? Will our children have that hard-earned degree and nothing to show for it but

enormous debt?

Recreational Shopping

I’m convinced there are people who like to shop and others do not like to shop. There is really no gray area. I suppose I am on the ‘like to shop’ side. I really like to shop online – for cloths, gifts, even the car I ended up purchasing started with an online inquiry. A new Whole Foods planned for Cherry Hill will get me to the store for recreational shopping.

WholeFoodsWhat is ‘recreational shopping?’ A former colleague of mine used that term once about going grocery shopping at a market that had different items other than the usual canned corned and deli counter. I’ve enjoyed recreational shopping at Guido’s, a specialty market in Stockbridge and Pittsfield, MA; Wegman’s – the grocery chain has traditional items, but the store is really an experience. Shopping at Wegman’s on any given day at any time makes you feel as though you are in an airport. There are so many different people shopping (if I were single I might think it’s a great place to meet a guy).

Now, a Whole Foods Market opening in 2014 in Cherry Hill, NJ. The store will be about a mile from our home. There’s already a Whole Foods in Marlton, but if you’re like me, you like to grocery shop in a pretty tight geographic radius around your house. It’s been years since I shopped at Whole Foods. I remember the gorgeous displays of fresh (organic) fruits and vegetables and wonderful dairy and baked products. I am certain Whole Foods will give Wegman’s a run for their money tomatoessince the stores will be about a mile apart.

For me, Whole Foods will be recreational shopping: I’ll go to buy special items I probably can’t get other places. I will not be shopping at Whole Foods for paper goods or cleaning products and probably not most meats or canned products. One thing is for sure, I will still shop within a very tight radius of the house – unless I want to run to Trader Joe’s – for now, my favorite place for recreational shopping. I’ll save that for another day.

Coming Home

The parenting rules blur when your son or daughter is in college. You may want to guide them, offer advice from your years of learning and experience and prevent them from making mistakes you may have made. Well, forget it. For the most part, your college-aged children want you to let them go.

We have one child – everything is one and done; we go through experiences once and move on to the next experience. Since September, I’ve learned that our son rarely wants to hear our advice. He’ll listen to our friends or just about anyone else when it comes to college-aged advice – but not us. After I got over my slightly hurt feelings along with the desire to impart my wisdom on our son, I’ve realized, he just wants us to LISTEN.

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Son & grandparents – Dec. 2012

He called us last week. We talked – or mostly HE talked for much of the 30-minutes. We asked questions showing our interest – he answered. In an earlier call, he went on about how the spring semester is so very different from his fall semester. In my had I was thinking, “Gees, didn’t I tell him that?” Of course I did; taking a look at his spring course selection, I knew he’d have a ton of reading and I told him so. This got more intense when he made the honors program. He did NOT want to hear that from me. He had to experience the challenges himself. No warning from mom was going to penetrate his defenses.

Which leads me to my final revelation. Weeks ago, our son chided us for making plans so far in advance: vacations, dinner reservations, parties, etc. He called last night – Tuesday – to say he was thinking about coming home this coming weekend and did we have any plans. That is HUGE for him. Normally, he’d call us 15 minutes before – or after he wanted to do something. I can clearly see that he is starting to manage his schedule and look forward.

So, when he calls, I listen – and take notes. That way I am forced to listen; I have a record of what he talked about and I can ask good, relevant questions that engage him in the conversation. I guess I’m growing up, too. And I can’t wait to see our son this weekend.

 

Ya Got To Have Friends

Nearly 24 years ago, Doug and I met. We met through a group that formed out of the kindness and creativity of a man named Carl. That group of singles – then called Voorhees Single Professionals – was created long before the internet, Match.com or any other online dating service. Carl created the group out of a desire to connect single people in their 20’s and 30’s to a social life that was tough to find beyond the bar scene at the time. An earlier article in the Philadelphia Inquirer mentioned the beginning of the group in the fall of 1989.

Day10_20100817_27Tonight, more than  23 years later, Carl, his wife Ramona, Rick, Mary, Doug and I – who all met because of this group – had dinner together. I am exhausted. It was as though we had just left a group meeting and had planned weeks of events. We now are planning to get together for a boat ride – the six of us – on the Chesapeake – this coming summer. Ramona volunteered to start a Facebook page so we can begin to plan a September 28th ‘reunion’ of sorts. We want to revisit what Carl started so many years ago – a group of people who want to get together for social activities – a MEET market he proclaimed at the time – NOT a MEAT market – which was the big problem for singles.

The six of us met at our house for drinks and appetizers for about an hour. Our kitchen was filled with non-stop talk. Catching up; talking about our children – successes – failures; things on the horizon. When it came time to leave for our dinner reservation, we continued to talk. The car ride went by in a flash.

At the restaurant, we ordered and continued to catch up on each others’ lives. We talked about people who have passed away; who’ve divorced – but best of all, we reminisced about how each of us met. To remember those days as if they happened yesterday makes you feel as if everything that you’ve gone through – suffered through – survived – is even more meaningful.

What it all comes down to is – as the character Billy Crystal played in “City Slickers” said is ONE thing: if it were not for Carl and his one idea to put an ad in the local shopper’s guide and reserve the community hall in Voorhees on that September night in 1989 – none of us would have met. Our lives would be completely different.

Thank you Carl – forever; we love you. And we’ll plan that reunion for September 28, 2013.

The Art of the Thank You

You know the saying, “Everything I need to know I learned in kindergarten?” This is so true. We learn the alphabet; how to count; we learn ‘please’ and ‘thank you.’ Parents reinforce those lessons at home (hopefully). There is a lost art: writing ‘thank you’ notes. There is a wonderful CBS segment on writing ‘thank yous.’ Spend a few minutes and watch the segment – it will get you thinking – remembering HOW to write ‘thank yous’ and perhaps inspire you to pick up a pen (remember those) every now and then.

In the snail mail today, we received thank you notes from our nephews and niece for the holiday gifts we shared in December. Oh, the smile on my face after I read these precious words. I hope you enjoy them as well.

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When Do You Stop Worrying?

The book I read to my son over and over when he was little had a memorable verse: “I’ll love you forever; I’ll like you for always. As long as I’m living my baby you’ll be.” It seems no matter how much time passes, I am always thinking about how he’ll turn out. Will he make the right decisions and choices that will lead to his happiness? Will he get in over his head with his schedule? Is what he is doing already in college sustainable?
I suppose this is all about letting go. He is 18 and testing his limits. Right now he’s succeeding beyond all our expectations and probably his own. He’s discovering the world is his oyster and he wants to take advantage of every opportunity.
The hard part is tripping and falling on your face. While he’s done his fair share of that already, I just hope and pray he finds everything he’s looking for. Perhaps he doesn’t know what IT is just yet, but it will be wonderful to hear from him when that light bulb goes off. I long for the day when we may hear, ” Hey, Mom and Dad, thanks for everything you did to get me here. I couldn’t have done it without you.” I may not say this out loud to him but, “as long as I’m living, my baby he’ll be.”

Simple Things

Tonight was for simple things. Pizza and salad with the family; a pleasant glass of wine; a son who is excited for his accomplishments; a son who tells me (without asking) that he’ll be home around midnight (with MY car).

Being a low-maintenance person is a good thing. As you age, you learn that letting go and just letting things happen is a good thing. Being grateful for a family and friends who I enjoy spending time with is a good thing.

Just a short post tonight – so I can enjoy more good things this weekend.

Always With Me

It may be grim, but I have been reading the obituaries for years. Perhaps because I was in the news business or just out of morbid curiosity, I would read the ‘obits’ on the way to work when I was a full-time radio reporter/news anchor. the practice has continued through the years. Sometimes I’d spot a former neighbor or the mother of a friend or a teacher from my past. I’m always filled with wonder about how someone lived their life; who loved them; who is grieving their loss.
Death is a fact of life as the saying goes. How we choose to remember people in our lives after they’ve passed is a very personal thing. I am fortunate to have both of my parents. Memories, old letters and cards and items they’ve given me through the years become more precious. I cherish my dad’s fireman boots and his Philadelphia Fire Department helmet – the old-fashioned kind that weigh about 10 pounds; I cherish my mom’s handwriting on recipe cards and postcards I’ve collected through the years.

(L-R) Ken Breskin, Doug Breskin and Greg Breskin; Doug's 40th birthday, Feb. 1999

(L-R) Ken Breskin, Doug Breskin and Greg Breskin; Doug’s 40th birthday, Feb. 1999

My husband lost his dad in October of 2000. His death came after a fairly short but painful illness. I’m certain not a day goes by that my husband doesn’t think of his dad in some way.

We were spending holiday time with his family, including his sister and brother when Doug showed his brown, leather gloves to his sister and asked,” Do you know where I got these?” The gloves were his dad’s. I never knew that those leather gloves meant so much to Doug until he said,” When I’m wearing them, I imagine I’m holding dad’s hand.”

Very sweet.

And Nobody Got Hurt

Parenting an 18-year-old is no box of chocolates. No matter how many times you try to press to your young adult that the truth is better than a lie, he or she seems to want to test you every single time. Our son is no different. Without divulging details, Adam has tested our trust several times in the past months (and probably years), and I can only hope nobody will be hurt in the end. The problem is, every time he tells us where he’s going or who he’ll be with, I wonder, “Is that REALLY what’s going on?”

Whether finding out he was with a friend who wrongly took a parent’s car out that ended up with damage or drove to a young lady’s house when he said he would be with the guys, you have to wonder, “Is this how we raised him?” Of course it’s not. Of course we taught him telling the truth is always the right course to take in life. We taught him lies only get bigger AND that we’ll probably catch him in the lie. We often have and will catch him.

Understanding why young adults lie is difficult. We were that age once of course – which holds absolutely no weight when you tell your son or daughter that fact. A

Frontal lobes- not fully developed until around age 25.

Frontal lobes- not fully developed until around age 25.

major part of the problem is simply that young adults’ brains are still under construction. Yes, they think they know everything and you could not possibly understand anything they are going through, but that again points to their maturing brains. In an article I found on a U.S Health and Human Services site called “Maturation of the Prefontal Cortex,” you can read plenty on the development of the brain, risk taking and this part of the anatomy that some call “The CEO of the Brain.” This section of the referenced article sums this up – albeit clinically:

“Adolescents take risks to test and define themselves. Risk-taking is both beneficial and harmful. It can lead to situations where new skills are learned and new experiences can prepare them for future challenges. Risk-taking serves as a means for discovery about oneself, others and the larger world. The natural and normative proclivity for risk-taking plays a central role in adolescent development, making it a time of both great potential and great vulnerability.”

This fact does not make me feel any better; the researchers say the mortality rate for 15-24 year-olds is more than TRIPLE that of the rate for grade school children. Friends, we cannot live in fear everyday that something horrible is going to happen. We can only love our children; let them know we care and are concerned about their behavior and that there will be consequences for risky behavior and choices.

For now, I can be thrilled and quite proud about one very special achievement: our son earned a very respectable cume of 3.53 in his course work for his first semester at college.

The Freshman and the Freshman Parents

Image  One and done. That was the baby plan for us. We have gone through all the parenting and child-rearing activities for the past 18 years once and then moved on to the next challenge. Now, it appears this chapter is even more challenging than potty-training. This is parent training.

During the past weeks and months, chatting with other parents who are either sending their oldest or only child off to college for the first time or sending a second, third (or fourth) child off to college, the experiences wind up in the same place: Our child was: 1. NOT ready, 2. NOT ready to pack, and 3. had virtually no clue on how life without the parental units to back them up would be like.  For me, all of that has led to a potpourri of emotions.

I’ve gone through wanting to ‘help’ our son by making lists or offering advice on a myriad of topics ranging from choosing classes and finding the syllabus and textbooks to relaying tales from my college years and roommate dilemmas. Apparently none of what I say has any bearing on what my son will need for college. I am beginning to reconcile all the emotions into an understanding that somehow, our son will be OK. Getting through the freshman year is the toughest part of college. Transitioning from 12 years of school in which teachers usually had the students’ backs and there were checks and balances to be sure students progressed as expected. That of course, is NOT the case in college. It’s like a job but with a sizable tuition bill and certainly no pay check (that amounts to much).

The game changer for our son (I hope) is Widener University’s Presidential Service Corp. Adam applied and was accepted into this program and received a sizable scholarship to participate in this program. He’ll be teamed with a group of students in the program and they will not only carry out 300 hours of community service during the school term but have a social and support network to keep the students moving toward the goal of graduating with a social consciousness that can help a student find his or her passion in society. Adam seems to be looking forward to this program. He’ll have a group of like-students all ready for him to get to know, work and socialize in various teams. We’ll see how things go.

Has Adam connected with his roommate? No – but not for lack of trying. E-mails, texts and Facebook messages have gone unanswered. What are THAT student’s parents thinking? Is Adam packed? No: you DON’T want to know what his room here looks like. Move-in is Friday morning; 72 hours and counting. Has Adam completed all of the required online questionnaires and other items? No. Does he know his mailing address? No. BREAKING NEWS- Adam JUST informed me of his P.O. box and his adviser’s name and email (just for our records; not for becoming a helicopter parent-which we have never been).

My husband’s thinking seems to make some sense to me: as long as Adam has a change of clothes, linens for his dorm bed, a pencil, some paper and a toothbrush, he’ll survive. Move-in is Friday. Will I survive? Let me know how YOU are doing and I’ll report back on MY progress.