I Am a Hipster.

I Am a Hipster. Oh, yes. Yes, I Am.

In just a few days, my oldest is going off to college. She spent the first two years at our local community college. She had an amazing time and made some terrific friends. It was the perfect way to begin her college career (and it’s also PAID FOR!!). But now, she is ready to take her next step and attend the university she has dreamed of attending. It also happens to be one of the biggest universities in the country.

I should know. It’s also where I went. No, I’m not having anxiety or anything. That’s not saying I won’t absolutely miss her being around. I know I will desperately miss her. I will wonder what she is doing, who she is hanging out with and if she is happy. But, I also love watching her grow up and become her own person. That’s been my job, right? And I can’t be more excited for her.  

But so much has changed since I went off to school.

Seriously.

For example, just head to your local store to help your student outfit their dorm or apartment. They now have GREETERS to introduce you to each college’s “suggested list of items.” Really. The lists are sorted by school and provide amazing detail on the various dorms: room sizes, bathroom availability, and measurements of the windows. What? Are you giving me measurements of the windows in case the kids are going to buy new CURTAINS? Crazy.

After our new greeter-friend leaves, my daughter then has to ask: “Hey, Mom. What did they do back in the ‘olden days’? You know. When you went to school?”

Although I wasn’t amused – since I am still not feeling old enough for an “olden days” reference – I explained that we pretty much just raided our parent’s house.  My grandmother crocheted me a blanket for my graduation, so that went. My mom found extra blankets and bedspreads in the linen closet. I know we had to buy those dreaded EXTRA LONG sheets, since who has those?

By now we are standing near the area where there are all sorts of storage units. I’m amazed by the assortment in front of us.  

“Check that out. That looks so much like the milk crate unit I had, but it’s so modern.”

“Mom! Seriously? You had REAL MILK CRATES for storage? You are such a HIPSTER!!”

milk cratesFor a second, I didn’t realize she was talking to me.

Hipster? Me? Why, yes. Yes, I am….

Then  I had to fess up and tell her the real story:  I mustered up the courage to ask my BFF’s mom – who owned the coolest pizza joint in our rural town – if I could “borrow” a few of her red milk crates to take with me to school. It was a gamble since I knew these things were rare. She agreed and managed to save me four over the course of the summer, but there was a hitch. I had to return them when I was done with them. But the excitement!! I was the owner of an actual a storage unit!

So, really. No cool retro hipster here. We just made do with what we had. It was the 80s and that was just what you did.

But hey, if my soon-to-be college junior thinks that her mom is a hipster, I welcome that thought.

At least for a while.

The World Ain’t All Sunshine and Rainbows

So it’s been a while. Yeah, I know, a looooooong while since my last post. But believe me, I haven’t forgotten about my blog. But, as they say, life got in the way.

Last fall, I decided to accelerate my studies and take TWO courses in my master’s program at Columbia instead of continuing at my one-course-per-semester clip. That made me eligible to embark on the ACP – the Advanced Communications Plan (think Communications Thesis) – in the spring. And graduate.

GRADUATE.

And graduate earlier than I planned! Imagine that.

Finally!! Graduation...

Finally!! Graduation…

You see, this hasn’t been your apply-and-take-a-few-classes-after-work-and-do-a-little-reading-and-hand-in-a-few-papers-and-poof-you-get-a-degree program. Not saying there are many of those out there, but this was about as intense as any masters program gets. And I started planning for this 10 years ago.

Back then, I was working for an amazing boss who wanted me to attend a conference in Chicago. Not that I would turn down a trip to the Windy City, but neither the speakers nor the topic sparked my interest. And it wasn’t cheap. As someone who likes to push that so-called envelope, I presented him with another plan:  for LESS than the conference cost, how about I take a course instead?

And that’s how my quest began.

I started taking courses on the weekend toward a Certificate in Marketing & Branding from New York University. This way, I got a taste for post-college life and tested the waters of juggling family, work and school.  I figured if it was too much, I could get a certificate at the very least while gaining a great learning experience. Plus, I’d get to spend some time in NYC. Win-win-win.

This just fueled the fire. I loved EVERY moment of it. I couldn’t wait to board my NYC-bound commuter train at Hamilton, NJ, and get my next assignment. I taught myself how to navigate the subway and PATH systems (although seriously? The Village is not the easiest place to look like you know where you are going when emerge from the subway!).

After getting my certificate, I still I wanted more. So my next step? Applying to a master’s program. I was shooting for stars now. I remember crossing my fingers and saying a prayer as I sealed those envelopes, each complete with all the required information, including references from my gracious NYU professors and my stellar professional mentors.

And so in January 2010, I walked into my first classroom at Columbia University to begin my MS in Strategic Communications. The experience was surreal. I felt alive and I felt challenged. I made friends on that first day who would later be sitting beside me at graduation, three and half years later. We were in class together, in group projects together and studied together in the library. I know they will be my friends for life.

But, I will not kid you. The path was not easy.

I had long days, long commutes and long hours of studying.

I was among some of the brightest and smartest (and youngest) people in the communications industry.

And some questioned why I would go back to school. Why I would go back to school now. Why I would go all the way to New York. Why would I spend all this money on education (as my youngest sister calculated, I could have the nicest little red sports car for what I had invested so far!).

But this was MY journey.  

As amazing as my journey was, I would be lying if I didn’t say there were days that I wanted to quit. With mountains of reading to do, assignments that seemed impossible, unplanned circumstances, and challenging group projects all occurring while trying to juggle work, family and school – plus a second job I picked up to help pay for school – I wanted to give up, throw in the towel and call it a day at times.

And, you would think with all the memorabilia I own from my undergraduate school (We Are Penn State!), that I wouldn’t have wasted a moment after getting my acceptance letter to trek up to the Columbia bookstore. Not true. I didn’t buy one thing for a year. Not a t-shirt, not a backpack, not a lettered notebook.  I think in the back of my mind, I didn’t actually realize that this was real. This was happening. That I deserved to be here.

And then I remembered this clip from one of my favorite movies. Because, after all, although I go to school in the Big Apple, I am a native Philly Girl.  And sometimes, you need to realize that “it’s about how much you can take and keep moving forward…that’s how winning is done.”

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So, my unsolicited advice for anyone who thinks that they are too young, too old, not experienced enough, or whatever that reason is that’s holding you back … just kiss that goodbye. If you want it bad enough, you can do it.  Believe in yourself. Go out and get what you deserve.

Now, I need to run. I need to get back to my job search! Anyone in need of a brilliant, dedicated and experienced communications professional with a *new* Columbia master’s degree, a sparkling personality and a sarcastic sense of humor? Message me!!

Goodbye, 9th Grade Brain!

So it’s the start of a new school year. And with it, comes all the craziness of a new school year, new schedules and new routines.

But I will embrace ALL of that, if I can kiss that 9th grade brain goodbye.

Let me explain.

My youngest daughter seemed to struggle with incredible forgetfulness during her freshman year of high school. INCREDIBLE forgetfulness.

  • Forgotten – and important and mandatory – homework, project and take home exams.
  • Left behind UNIFORMS.
  • Lunch money that didn’t find its way into a back pack.

You get the idea.

I just didn’t remember my oldest doing this. As in, at all.

So, we managed to muddle through the school year, with running said “forgotten insert item here”  to the school. Sometimes it was me. Sometimes it was her grandparents (thank you, Mom and Pop!). Sometimes it was her aunt (thank you, Laura!). And sometimes it was her dad. It seemed we all took turns.

And I still didn’t remember my oldest doing this.

And then it was June.

Instead of getting better, it got WORSE.

On one of my trips into the school, I remarked to the extremely kind woman who sits inside the front office doors that, “You know, I think my daughter secretly wants us to be BFFs. Why else would she want me to see you – every day?”

We both laughed.

And then it was the last day of school and she was almost done. All that stood between her and summer was two finals.

Out the door she flew, headed to the bus stop, a big smile on her face.

Then I got the txt.

The PANIC txt.

MOM!! I forgot my calculator!!!! And I have a math final, like soon!!

Seriously???

So I made a quick side trip to school before heading to work. My new BFF buzzed me in, and looking at my bag, she asked what brought me in today.

“Oh, it’s a calculator today.”

“OHHH,” she said seriously. “You need to head around the corner for that.”

Wow….I must be getting VIP treatment now. As I rounded the corner into the main section of the school office, I stopped dead in my tracks. I just could NOT believe what I was seeing.

An ENTIRE SECTION of the counter was covered.

Covered with calculators.

Each with a little sticky note, bearing a child’s name.

A child who, too, had forgotten his or her calculator.

I did a quick count. My kids go to a fairly small high school but still, the results smacked me in the face. Just about 1 out of every 4 of the 9th graders – 25% – had forgotten their calculators that day.

The Ultimate Curse of the 9th Grade Brain.

As I talked to yet another lovely secretary, I learned that indeed, these calculators ALL belonged to 9th graders.

She smiled sweetly and told me not to worry.  Summer was coming, and 9th grade would be over soon.

I called my husband on the way home, still dazzed by this. He reminded me that our oldest DID experience this same 9th grade forgetfulness thing. 

I had just forgotten.

It’s All About Respect: Lessons from a Kid of the 60s/70s

I missed the initial report on the viral video that shows the grandmother-like bus monitor being bullied by a group of 11-year olds.  Then I listened to my coworkers discuss it. And then I watched it myself.

What I saw horrified me.

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A group of 11-year old middle school students taunted this grandmother-like woman. They teased her. They made comments about her hair, her hearing aids, her weight. They mocked her. They even POKED and prodded her.

Matt Lauer asked if any of the students came forward to apologize. They have not.

And then, like most viewers, I stopped to ask myself how and why this has happened?

The answer is very simple:   As parents, we are failing our children.

It’s as simple as that.

For although this occurred in upstate New York, this could have happened in any of our neighborhoods.

For today is the age of the Trophy Generation.

And for all the positives that have gone along with this, this type of parenting has left out instilling a sense of respect and kindness to others in our kids.

If you don’t think so, then ask why bullying is such a problem in our society and in our schools today.

It wasn’t back in the 60s and 70s.  

Sure, we had our occasional bullying episode but it wasn’t anything close to the near epidemic we have today.

Growing up in the 60s/70s in suburbia was an amazing time to be a kid:  walking to school with my friends and then playing outside by ourselves until our parents called us home. Our days were spent making up games, riding our bikes and roller skating (remember when skates still had keys?). 

No electronics. No phones. And no parents hovering over us.

Geez. That just messed up my whole nostalgic image (sorry, Mom).

We also had each others’ backs. And we practiced respect and kindness to others since it was instilled in us – and expected – at home.

So I’d like to pass along a few things that stuck with me from my childhood that I’d like to pass along to the parents – and the kids – of today.

  1. Show respect. People will remember you for it and appreciate it. Call people older than you by Mr., Mrs. or Miss (Aunt and Uncle are also acceptable for people closer to you, with approval from your parents)
  2. Manners are important. Use them – especially PLEASE and THANK YOU. They are not just nice sounding words; they mean something more.
  3. Write thank you notes. If a person took the time to buy you a gift, take the time to write them a note (ok, so in today’s world, an email can work. Just remember to make it genuine and heartfelt. Tell them what the gift means to you).
  4. Look out for the little guy:  Protect those who are smaller or younger than you.
  5. Practice the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you (or don’t do something nasty to someone since you wouldn’t like it either).
  6. Build good character: No one said life would be easy. And it’s not always easy to do the right thing. But both build character and having a good character is priceless.  (And seriously, if I only had a dollar for everytime my parents told me that it “builds character,” I would be living on a beautiful island!!)
  7. Stand up for yourself: Don’t do something because all your friends are doing it; do it because it’s the right thing to do.
  8. When you do something wrong, say you are sorry. Apologize in person. Look the person in the eye and make it meaningful.  (And it’s never too late to say you are sorry. You need to make it right).
  9. Behave in public: You never know who is watching (someone always is and sometimes it’s someone your parents know).
  10. Don’t lie: It’s easier – and nobler – to tell the truth. And no one likes, trusts or respects a liar (besides, you will always get caught).

 As for the kids on the bus, I suggest you start with #8.  It’s not too late. I know of a sweet woman who at the very least, deserves a genuine apology.

Sometimes Simpler IS Better

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I was watching TV with my girls last Saturday morning (late morning, of course; remember, I have teenagers!) and naturally it got into a battle of who-wants-to-watch-what.  I made some kind of comment that we wouldn’t have been having that kind of conversation when I was little.

They stared blankly at me. They completely didn’t get it.

“When I was growing up, we only had three stations. Four if you count the PBS station. ”

“WHAT?!!

“That is just crazy!!”

“How did you ever LIVE??”

Seriously? How did I ever LIVE?

When I was growing up, we had some of the BEST TV and some of the BEST TV commercials.  

And my friends and I all knew this was true because there was always an amazing show on any of those 3 channels on Saturday morning. You also didn’t meet your friends outside to play until your “shows” were over. And it was the only time you stayed inside because it was the only time cartoons were on.

Today?  We have HUNDREDS of channels. And sometimes you can’t find even ONE decent show on.

Pretty sad.

 

PS – Thanks to my friend, Deb, for the tip!