Advice for the College Bound

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So many of my facebook friends (or their kids) are heading off to college in the next few weeks, and I feel the need to give you all some advice, from someone who has been on both sides:

1. Let your parents be a little crazy when they drop you off. Sure, they’re embarrassing, but they love you. You’ll be in their shoes someday and only then will you really understand. Until then, just smile and accept it. It will be over quickly.

2. Find your passion. Being able to make a living doing what you love is pretty rare, but if there were ever a time to try, it is now. Sometimes we randomly decide at age 5 want we want to be a doctor (or an engineer or a lawyer), and then we head off to college and discover that literature (or theatre or art or education) makes our heart sing. Don’t worry too much about your future paycheck, worry about your future happiness. THAT is what will make you rich. Take your chances (or make your mistakes) when you are young. Both are much harder when you’re older.

3. Whether you live on or off campus, get involved. Don’t rush home every night or weekend – make friends, find activities, groups, clubs, etc. Grow.

4. Study. I’m not saying you have to tie yourself to your desk and never venture out, but I promise you that you will regret it if you screw up this opportunity. Maybe not for a long time, but you will. Even if you got straight As in high school without even trying. In fact – ESPECIALLY if you got straight As in high school without even trying. College is a whole new ballgame. There will be another party tomorrow and the next day and the next day for the next four years. You can miss this one.

5. That said – have fun! You won’t have opportunities like this again in your life, so seize them when you can.

6. Everything in moderation. Your parents aren’t stupid. We know there are parties and lots of things you probably shouldn’t be doing. We also know that you will probably do them. Be safe, and don’t let the partying become the #1 thing. Consider the consequences of your actions.

7. CONDOMS. Get the giggling out of your system now, because I am serious about this one – CONDOMS! This goes for you too, ladies – even if you are on other methods of birth control – CONDOMS! Do not even consider for a minute having sex of any type without protection. There is too much at stake. So get your ass to the drug store and buy some right now. If you are embarrassed, then you aren’t mature enough to be having sex anyway. But if you must, get a friend to buy them, get your parent, your older sibling, your aunt, me – I’ll buy them for you, for Pete’s sake! But you MUST use condoms.

8. No means no.

9. Form your own opinions about Greek life. If you are interested in a fraternity or sorority don’t listen to anyone who tells you that they are stuck up, or stereotypical, or that you are “paying for friends” (someone told that one to my 11 year old). There is good and bad in everything, and if you think you would enjoy it, go for it. I was in a sorority in college and I loved it. That said, if you AREN’T interested, don’t let anyone push you into it. You’ll be fine without it.

10. Listen to your parents and professors. We aren’t always right, but we do know a thing or two. I know you are at the age of thinking you know everything and that we old folks are out of touch, but I promise you, we know a few things. Listen. I’m not saying obey, necessarily, but LISTEN.

11. Eat healthy food as often as you can. I love pizza and fried everything, so you have my sympathy here. I know you can walk into dining halls and restaurants and get all the carb-y, batter dipped, deep fried, sugarcoated deliciousness your heart desires. But I am begging you – eat some (non-fried, non-cheese-coated) vegetables.

12. Coffee is not a substitute for sleep.

13. Be frugal. Your parents are paying a lot of money for you to have this opportunity. You yourself may have student loans that you will be paying for many years to come. We want you to have everything you need, but believe me – it’s expensive. Maybe not each individual thing, but all of it together? EX-PEN-SIVE. So if we give you money, don’t blow it all on $7 coffees, then call home because you need money for school supplies.

14. When in doubt, wash it on cold.

15. Don’t be a total slob. And believe me – no one in the world would call me “neat,” so I understand. But you have to live with another person, and it’s best for everyone if you are considerate.

16. If you need help, ask for it. If you are struggling in a class, or socially, or emotionally, ask for help. Your professors, your parents, your advisors all want you to succeed and be happy. Don’t wait until it’s too late. If you feel like you are having problems, or not keeping up with your classes, ask for help NOW. Particularly when it comes to classes – your professors will be far more likely to sympathize and be helpful now than a week before the end of the term.

17. If you see someone else struggling, help them.

18. Read something other than what is required by your professors.

19. Register to vote, follow current events, watch the news, read the paper, and when it’s time, vote. Your voice matters.

20. Don’t plagiarize. Not even a sentence. It’s a stupid thing to do and your professors WILL find out.

21. And finally – this one is very important: CALL YOUR MOM! She misses you.

That Time I Finally Understood Where My Mother Was Coming From (#372)

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I remember a day WAAAAAAY back when – probably around 1979 or 1980 – when I was finally allowed to walk around Kennywood by myself with friends. It was an exciting day. I went with a friend who was a family friend – our parents had been friends since childhood, so we had known each other pretty much since birth and despite her being a year younger (huge to a child), we were good friends.

I believe her parents took us and set us loose. My parents were coming later, after work. We made our way around the park, and ended up meeting up with some of HER friends (I knew them all, but we didn’t hang out, or really have a relationship). It started off OK, but there was an odd number of us now, and before long, it was me who was being forced to ride alone (or not at all in the case of the 2-riders-or-none rides like the Thunderbolt). And eventually, somehow (I don’t really remember how it happened), they dumped me.

A few hours before, I felt so grown up, walking around this seeming huge place without an adult! But now? Now I was scared. I was surrounded by strangers and I had been abandoned by my lifelong friend. I was embarrassed, as if it were somehow MY fault that they had left me. I don’t remember how long I walked around that park like that. It seemed like an eternity, but it was probably about an hour or two before I saw my parents running towards me. They had spotted me walking alone and crying, and it scared them to death.

I remember that my parents spent the rest of the night riding every vomit-inducing ride the park had, just to try and make me feel better. And in the end, the night finished with me becoming best friends with the girl who still holds that spot in my heart (an awesome story for another day), so it all worked out, I suppose. But not for my mom. She was PISSED. I don’t know if she ever said anything to my friend’s parents, or just let it go, but I remember how very, VERY pissed she was.

And she stayed pissed. Even though I forgave my friend, my mother did not. She never trusted her again, never suggested that I invite her over, pretty much never liked her at all after that. I used to roll my eyes when she’d make a comment. Even many years later – as an adult – if I mentioned this friend, she would say, “I always remember how she left you in Kennywood.” And even as an adult, I would roll my eyes and say, “It’s FINE, Mom! It was years ago! It was no big deal – nothing bad happened!” But now I’m a mom, too, and I understand that something bad DID happen – her baby was hurt. And moms have a hard time forgetting when someone hurts their baby.

Recently, one of the girl’s friends said something extremely unkind about her. It really hurt her feelings (and if I’m being honest, it hurt mine a little, too). She didn’t say it to her face, but someone who heard it told her. And when the friend heard that she knew, she walked up to her, said, “I know you know what I said.” And walked away. No explanation, no apology, nothing. At some point in the next day or two, the girl forgave her friend (which is the right thing to do, of course), but now I get it. I get where my mom was coming from. The friend changed her story at some point, claiming she never said it – that the girl who relayed it made it up, but I don’t believe that based on her reaction when it happened. And like my mom, I will never forget. I will continue to be cordial, but I have no inclination to invite this girl over, or to extend any other sort of invitation. I’m glad that my daughter is kind and is continuing to be friendly, but like my mom, I can’t forget her face, her tears, her pain. And despite the fact that she looks and sounds exactly like me when she says, “It’s FINE, Mom!” I know that for me, it will never be fine.

And that’s OK – I’m the mom. It’s my job.

But she’s a MOM!

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OK, I‘m about to do something I never imagined I would do in my lifetime. I am going to defend Kim Kardashian. Before I do, I want to make it clear that I am not a fan. That is – I’m not a fan of the whole Kardashian “thing.” I’m not a fan of the “thing” in general. The Kardashian/Hilton/Honey BooBoo/fake reality show/famous-for-being-famous garbage.

Don’t get me wrong. I do watch competitive (non-celebrity) reality shows like Survivor and Amazing Race. It’s the ones like I just mentioned that drive me insane. The rich people do everyday things – isn’t it entertaining type. The let’s exploit little girls and parade them around like tiny hooker dolls type. The redneck idiot ‘murrica type. The catfights and the ignorance and the hook-ups and the paparazzi – they all make me want to scream.

So you’d think any chance I have to jump all over Kim Kardashian I would. And when she poses fully nude & oiled up for a magazine and blasts it all over the internet, it seems like the perfect opportunity. But I’m sorry, I won’t be doing it.

I’m just not one to get all het up about this stuff. I personally don’t care who poses for whom, wearing or not wearing clothes. Kim Kardashian can paint herself purple, shave her head, and ride a buffalo naked, and pose for all the photos she wants. I don’t care. Do I want to see the photos? Probably not. Does that mean that no one should see or want to see them? Definitely not. The solution is simple. If I don’t want to see them, I won’t look at them. And before you go on about how they are popping up in facebook feeds whether you want them or not – so what? It’s the human body – we all have one. The photos aren’t porn. She’s not shoving anything into an orifice. She’s not breaking any laws. You see similar images (though maybe not that butt-shelf trick) in any museum. I’m not saying it’s the same as Manet’s “Olympia” or Titian’s “Venus of Urbino,” but anyone who is familiar with the work of Gustav Klimt (or even better Katsushika Hokusai’s “The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife”) knows that even fine art can be erotic (and sometimes bizarrely erotic). So right off the bat, what I am saying is that I am not bothered by nude photos as long as they are taken knowingly and willingly, and everyone is an adult. My only caveat is that people be careful with what could get out there and be seen. Clearly that isn’t a problem for Ms. Kardashian, since she tweeted the shit out of her photos.

I’m less bothered by her photos (you could effectively describe my attitude as “Have no shits to give”) than I am about people’s reactions to her photos. One reaction in particular:

“She’s a mom!”

I have seen comments and posts and tweets galore raging about Kim’s nude photos and the majority of the people who are up in arms about it seem to be so solely because she’s a mom. Which makes me want to ask one important question:

Why are the rules different for moms?

If you are opposed to nude photos – fine, whatever. If you are OK with nude photos as long as the subject has no children – Um…what? Why? If a woman is beautiful/sexy/erotic/sensual, etc, she doesn’t stop being those things just because she has given birth. She doesn’t stop being a woman, and she certainly doesn’t stop being a person. If we’re going to play the mom card here, why don’t we say that moms shouldn’t skydive, or bungee jump, or swim on the ocean, or…the most dangerous activity of all drive/ride in a car? Those are dangerous things. You can be hurt or killed, and if you were, your kids would suffer.

That’s the argument that is being used regarding these photos – her poor child will have to grow up knowing those photos are out there! The horror! To that I say, “so what?” Chances are that because YOU are appalled by it, your kids would be appalled by it. But those same chances tell me that a woman who feels entirely comfortable with baring all and sharing it with the world (whether it is for art or porn or – in this case, most likely – total fame-whoredom) – is going to raise her child with the same attitude – that it is no big deal (that it is art/that it is natural/that it’s an easy way to get more fame and money). Regardless of their opinions on the matter, her kid will care far less than you do. Also – not your kid, o stop worrying. That child will grow up with plenty to east, a roof over her head, and more luxuries than you or I could even imagine. As long as she is not being physically abused or neglected –it’s not your business or mine.

Kids may tease her about it someday. When she’s 11, one of her male classmates may pull out the photos and show to his friends. Maybe she’ll be embarrassed. But every one of us knows that an absence of these photos is no guarantee of an absence of teasing or bullying or embarrassment. The may tease her because she short. Or tall. Or for the way she pronounces her Rs. Or because he dad is a jerk. Or because she didn’t know the answer to a question in class. Or because she drank from the water fountain on the right and today all the cool kids are drinking from the left. If there is one constant ion life, it is that kids are assholes. And she’ll be embarrassed of her parents – nude photos or not. ALL kids are. We make stupid jokes. We pull out baby photos. We sing loudly (and badly). We drive them to school in our jammies. We kiss them in front of their friends.

So in the grand scheme of things, these photos are a drop in the bucket. It seems to me that the people crying mom are simply trying to force their own sense of morality onto someone else and justifying it by saying they are just thinking of the children. If you’re worried about children, worry about your own. Or the millions of others without enough food, or a home, or medical care.

In fact, if you’re worried about the kids? Here’s a great place to go and help some:

xmas

It’s a far better use of your time and energy.

Old

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Old. I’m feeling old lately. Not the number –the number never bothered me. It’s the life experiences that are getting me. I have a son who is a senior in high school. He’ll be going away to college next year. WITHOUT ME! Also – have you looked into tuition costs lately? Don’t. If you’re my age, it will kill you.

I find myself looking at everything he does right now as his last. His last first day of school. His last first halftime performance. His last bus painting. His last homecoming, etc. It helps that I am busy (I’m doing the Christmas musical again (and Emily got the lead this year – yay!), plus I am chaperoning band activities, plus driving everybody everywhere. Burt in those precious few minutes of free, alone time I have (usually in the car), I find myself getting wrapped up in the overwhelming emotion and worry of all of it. To the point of physical symptoms – near panic attacks, where I waver back and forth between OMG, he’s graduating! He’s going away to college! Will he be safe? How will we pay for this? These, I know, are normal worries. But in my warped, obsessive mind, they build and turn into – OMG I’m old and my life is almost over! I DON’T WANT TO DIE! WAAAAAAHHHHH!

It’s about as fun and attractive as you are imagining.

I don’t think it helps that my baby is in her last year of elementary school. I’m not ready for middle school. They have boobs on middle school. I’m not ready for boobs. Or dates. Or hormones. Elementary school has enough drama. Hold me!

And I think losing my grandma recently is contributing. I mean – grandmas die – it’s normal. It wasn’t so much ME losing my GRANDMA that is bothering me, it’s MY MOM losing her MOTHER. I think you can subconsciously think – my mom still has her mother, therefore she must be pretty young still, therefore *I* am practically a baby! Then you realize that if your parents are old enough to lose their parents of totally natural causes, then your parents are aging. That they are mortal. That you are again and mortal. Fuck this getting old shit.

However, the one way getting older is a win is technology. My generation is pretty technologically savvy. Maybe not s much as the kids who have never known a world without mind-blowing technology, but we were there when I happened. We can handle it. The kids don’t get that, though. They think that we are idiots when it comes to technology. Just like we thought our parents were stupid about new things. But what I have discovered is that what we thought was stupidity was actually Parenting 101. Listen up, kids, because I am going to let you in on a little secret:

You only think your parents suck at technology. It turns out we’re actually pulling a fast one on you. We can sit on the couch and eat a cookie, while we call you in to hook up the blueray or set up the new computer, or update our new phone. And all we have to do in exchange is accept a little ribbing about how old we are. GOOD TRADE!  And now that you know, don’t go pouting around about it like babies. Because when WE were kids, we had to get up and walk all the way across the room to change the channel every time our dad decoded to see what else is on (and dads always care about what ELSE is on). You’re getting off easy. You’ll get the same privilege when you’re my age.

Christopher M. Panatier

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I didn’t know Christopher M. Panatier. I had never even heard his name until I heard it read along with 2,965 others. And though I know I heard it read, I don’t know that I really even took notice of it. 2,966 is a lot of names. It’s especially a lot of names when we’re talking about people who lost their lives.

Christopher Panatier was 36 on that day. Ten years younger than I am now. Many, many years younger, I’m sure, than anyone ever imagined they would lose him. Christopher was a foreign currency trader for Cantor Fitzgerald. I imagine he left for work that day in the towers thinking the worst thing he would deal with was traffic, or irritable clients, or a busy day. Instead, he – along with almost 3,000 others, lost his life in the one of the worst tragedies we have seen in this country.

Christopher was a husband, a father, a son. He married his high school sweetheart, Carolyn, and they had two children, Annie and Christopher. His children were only 6 and 4 when they lost him. Too young to lose their father. Especially to lose him that way. Too young to even understand how something like that could happen. But really, there is no age, no amount of knowledge or wisdom that could ever make sense of what happened that day.

Everyone who talks about Christopher seems to mention what an amazing, adventurous, and funny man he was. People were drawn to him.

So even though I didn’t know Christopher, I am remembering him along with the other innocent victims of the September 11th 2001 attacks. He was a good man, a good husband, a good father, and a good friend. Because of that, his legacy lives on.

He will be remembered not only for how he died, but for how he lived.

This post is a part of Project 2,966. Go there to see more tributes.

Sad, not Selfish

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You’d pretty much have to live under a rock to not have heard about Robin Williams’ suicide. And any time there is news of a suicide, I inevitably see comments on how selfish suicide is. I understand that sentiment – it’s a terrible thing for a family who is left behind. I’m ashamed to say that there was a time when I made the same comments. Then I met my old pal depression.

I have written about depression before – what it is like, what it does to your life, your friendships. And maybe only people who struggle with depression can understand, but saying that suicide is selfish just isn’t that simple. People don’t commit suicide for spite. They don’t think well, I’ll fix them, I’ll kill myself. Or at least rational, mentally healthy people don’t. If they did? Sure – that would be selfish. But for someone who is suffering from depressions (and suffering is truly the word for it), their minds don’t work that way.

You might think about suicide and your attitude would be “I could never do that to my family, they need me, it would be selfish” But the mind of a depressed person works differently. They think, “I can’t believe what I am doing to my family – I am a burden. They would be better off without me. I am doing this for them.” Because that is what depression does – it lies to you. It tells you that you don’t deserve to be happy, that you aren’t worth anyone’s time or kindness or love. It tells you that the world would be a better place without you. And because you are in its grips – you believe it.

Let’s stop saying that suicide is selfish. When someone dies from cancer, we don’t say how selfish they were for leaving their family like that. Because cancer is a disease. Well, guess what? Depression is a disease, too. And suicide is nothing but a tragedy.

If you are feeling like suicide is an option, please call 1-800-273-8255 (TALK) for the National Suicide Prevention Line http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/