Why You Should Go to Your High School Reunion

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Not my class. Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons.

I recently attended my thirtieth high school reunion. I can’t believe how much time has gone by since I threw my white mortarboard into the air; my insides filled with the helium of elation and the possibilities life would unfold at my feet.

I went to a small high school. There were only 210 graduates in my class in a school that accommodated four shore towns. You can imagine having a small class brings good things and bad; you know everyone in your class and most of the school. Wherever you land in the popularity hierarchy is pretty much where you stay until the end. For teens, your status is often very important. Even though I really didn’t care what people thought of me (still don’t) and my big mouth was proof of that, I still wanted to find the place where I fit in. Four years is a mighty long time to wander the halls staring at the same faces. I was absolutely not popular in high school – I was a baton twirler – need I say more? No one was looking to follow me anywhere, but I did have “friends” in many of the cliques. And thankfully I had a few good friends who let me sit with them at lunch.

Despite my lack of popularity and boyfriends (someone at my twentieth reunion asked me why we didn’t date in high school. Really???? I wasn’t on your radar, dude. You never asked.) I didn’t have the worst time in high school. Sure, while I was there I hated it. I begged my mother to let me go to a new school which only garnished her squealing laughter in reply. But with the benefit of the beautiful and powerful hindsight, I realized high school wasn’t so bad. No one tied me to the flag pole during gym class. Yup, that happened. I bet that kid doesn’t attend his reunions.

Sure, I had people who didn’t like me, and made sure to tell me on a daily basis. I’ll leave them nameless. Thanks to the healing powers of time and Facebook, I’m now “friends” with them. I got into a few fights – all verbal. I knew I could never win a fist fight, but I absolutely could outsmart someone with my big, scary, mouth. Which was the tactic I employed when Paulette wanted to fight me in the bathroom because my guy friend beat up her guy friend on my behalf. As if I had anything to do with that – and just for the record; her guy friend was a jerk.

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My classmates 30 years later!

So, I look forward to attending my class reunions. Who cares what happened thirty years ago? It’s time to get over it, seriously. We’re all adults now and every one of us has realized whatever we made a big deal out of then doesn’t mean squat now. We’ve all been in the path of mistakes, bad choices, life’s sense of humor. We understand what’s important, and if we don’t, well sucks to be you, I guess.

You know what else is great about reunions, you get to see everyone still has the same personality just with less hair, more weight, and highlights. It was nice to watch my classmates interact with the same flair and genuine caring of each other they displayed long ago.

Okay, not everyone was caring back then. I’m sure I wasn’t either. (I should apologize to everyone’s head I bit off during 1983-1987. Forgive my immature, hormonal, over reactive, no filter comments.) But those of us that repeatedly show up to our reunions, who are excited to catch up with each other, were basically all friends back then too. My sister’s grade has never been able to pull off a reunion. I really do believe those of us who show up all got along. It’s special.

Reunions are for forgiveness. Forgive yourself for worrying so much about everything back then. Forgive those that said stupid things that hurt your feelings because they were trapped in brains that hadn’t developed logic or reasoning yet. Forgive yourself for not doing things that weren’t cool because you didn’t want to be judged, but really wanted to do.

Find the moments of joy; football games on Friday nights, parties, good friends, the prom; hanging in the Wind Mill parking lot (okay, you’d have to have been from my area). Focus on those times and forget the rest. The less than pleasant stuff doesn’t matter thirty, twenty or even one year later. Really, it doesn’t and it had nothing to do with you anyway. Let it go. (Unless you were the kid tied to the flag pole. That mattered, but you still need to work on getting past it. Don’t continue to give the bullies the power. They suck. Not you.)

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Jennifer, Betsy, Me, and Ginger – still friends!

I will tell you: I walked into the reunion with my BFF. Almost immediately, she dashed off to speak with someone and I stood there in the middle of the room alone. For a brief moment, fear dragged its cold hand down my back. I was back in high school sticking out like a sore thumb. I didn’t know what to do. Run for the bathroom? I took a deep breath and shook it off. Hell, it was thirty years later. I might look older, have a few more wrinkles, but I had this. I marched over to Ginger and we hugged as if no time had passed at all.

I was home and this crew shared some of my best times.

Thanks for the memories, Shore Regional Class of ’87. I love you tons!

 

 

 

In Honor of Best Friends Day: Friendships Are Like Paper Plates

  I’m a firm believer that friendships are disposable. I know that sound harsh, but look at it like this; some friendships are like paper plates and some are like your good stoneware. A paper plate serves a purpose and when that purpose is over or the plate is a bleeding mess you toss it. But […]

In honor of National Best Friends Day, one of my favorite blog posts is making a return visit. To all my stoneware: Thank you for your beauty, integrity, and taking up space in my cabinets. I love you all! S. 

 

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My senior prom. Thirty years ago. (Time flies.) These girls were my besties back then. Betsy, on the left, is stoneware. Loren, on the right, also stoneware. I love them both dearly. Meredith, the one next to me, paper plate. Her plate got tossed thirty years ago. Just the way it goes. 

 

I’m a firm believer that friendships are disposable. I know that sound harsh, but look at it like this; some friendships are like paper plates and some are like your good stoneware. A paper plate serves a purpose and when that purpose is over or the plate is a bleeding mess you toss it. But your stoneware comes out every day, sometimes three times a day and is probably in your favorite color. Stoneware helps you, supports you, is reliable, loyal, accepts you for the cook you are, and heats up like a hot flash for you. You might buy thousands of paper plates over your lifetime, but you’ll only have a setting for twelve of that stoneware.

You don’t know when in your life you’re going to find that perfect set of stoneware. You might have to buy it in pieces. Some during high school, some during college, maybe even a piece you picked up along the way. But don’t look for a bargain. Stoneware is worth the price you pay. And if you do get it on sale, well, then, lucky you.

Paper plates are easy to find. They’re every where you look and they’re cheap. But they will always and forever be only paper plates. Don’t hold any grudges over them, though. I’ve had some paper plates I’ve loved over the years, but they still had to go when their purpose was served. I trashed paper plates in middle school, high school, college, from the countless jobs I’ve held, neighbors, committee groups, the list goes on and on. The best thing about paper plates is when you’re done with the package another package miraculously shows up in your cabinets. Right when you needed them the most. Paper plates are great-fill ins when you don’t have time to wash your stoneware. But when you’re making lasagna for dinner and the cheese won’t stick together and is running off the spatula nothing will do, but your favorite stoneware dish.

My stoneware set is much smaller than twelve, but I’m okay with that. We’ve been together a long time. My stoneware never disappoints me and is as vibrant as ever. It’s always there when I need it, shares secrets with me, makes me laugh, and reminds me why I bought it in the first place.

I’m thankful for the paper plates too. They’re quick and easy. They’re fun.

I often wonder if my Noodges have started buying pieces of their stoneware. Many times I look at the selection in their hands and think, “Dear Lord, that is a paper plate if I ever saw one. Put it down.” And sometimes I think, “that could be a keeper.” But that will be for them to decide. And I know for myself, there have been times when paper plates were disguised as my favorite stoneware. It wasn’t until the bottom leaked that I realized I’d been holding an imposter. I guess that will happen to my kids too.

How about you, faithful reader? What’s in your cabinet?

 

 

 

Why It Pays To Be a Helicopter Parent

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Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

If you Google “are helicopter parents bad” a huge list of articles from places like Forbes, Psychology Today, and the Huffington Post (Not a fan of everything coming out of HP) saying being a helicopter parent is the worst possible thing you can do for your child. I’m about to tell you why it isn’t so bad.

Some people may describe me one of those parents who do too much for their children. I drive them to the bus stop even though they’re both in high school now. (In my defense, the bus stop is not near our house, we don’t have sidewalks or street lights and the majority of the school year the bus arrives in the dark.) I do their laundry, make their lunches, I’ve been known to bring things to school when they’ve forgotten something. I have also been involved at school; Class parent, library volunteer, Girl Scout leader, PTA volunteer, Band Parent volunteer, and probably other things I’ve long forgotten. Oh, chaperone for class trips! And I wouldn’t let Noodge 1 fly with the marching band on his first band trip at the age of 14.

Am I ruining my children’s lives? Well,the verdict is still out on that. Ask them in twenty years.

But here’s what happened. Noodge 1 forgot his marching band uniform on the bus on Friday and didn’t realize he left it on the bus until 6 pm Friday night. He needed that uniform for a performance on Sunday. A performance, if missed, that takes seven points of his grade. Yes, they get a grade and credit for being in the marching band. This isn’t your average extra-curricular activity.

I could’ve let my son sink. In fact, many of you and all those articles say let him sink. It’s how he learns. Let me tell you what, you need to know your kid before you make that decision.

Because I’m involved in my kids’ activities I’ve had the great fortune to get to know people. Nice people. Moms like me. (And a few moms nothing like me.) So I sent a text. And we were able to get him another uniform. Mom to the rescue.

I rescued him because something bigger was going on. A more important learning lesson for both of us. Just the idea of losing seven points was enough of a consequence for him. You see, he’s my rule follower. Always has been. I keep waiting for that to change. Especially as he entered the teen years. It hasn’t. Most likely it won’t. Sometimes I wish he would, but he is and always has been an old soul.

His reaction to the idea of losing seven points worried me. Leaving a uniform on the bus wasn’t the end of the world and a very fixable problem since I knew the right person to ask for help. He didn’t see it that way. He had a committed an unthinkable act being so irresponsible. And he didn’t know how to handle how he felt.

Now we were dealing with the lesson; how to handle stress. Much more important in my book. Especially since I come from a long line of Italian people swimming in stress. What can I say? We’re hot-blooded passionate people.

Allowing him to blow a simple thing out of proportion, and punish himself over it, (the rule follower thing) without the tools to change that thinking process wasn’t worth my taking a stand not to help him so he could learn a lesson. He learned it. All by himself. I just saved him extra anguish he would’ve piled on over nothing.

Mistakes happen and what I think childhood often is a time when we’re taught mistakes are bad. “Don’t forget your gym clothes or you’ll get in trouble.” We all forget things. More importantly, we need to learn not to sweat the small stuff. Do we need to learn to follow rules? Yes. Should we make kids learn to fear making a mistake? No way.

Now, if you have a kid who could care less about making mistakes, doesn’t worry about the consequences, I don’t have answers for you because I’m not an expert. I know my kids. I try my best to be the best parent I can and pray everyday I don’t screw up too badly.

I may be a helicopter parent at times, but there have been enough times I wasn’t. My kids know I’m not an open threat. That’s good enough for me. I won’t let them go down for making an honest, harmless, fixable mistake.

What I hope I showed him was be nice to people, give of your time, be helpful because someday you might be the one asking for help. Show your appreciation for their kindness. (We gave our savior a big bag of truffles.) Don’t sweat the small stuff.

And mom is always near by flying her helicopter.

 

The College Tour

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Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

We went looking at colleges recently. Noodge 1 is a junior in high school and I’m under the impression this is the time to get serious and check things out. There’s a lot of pressure to pick the right school. I have a friend whose son is also a junior and she’s been on a binge to see as many schools as possible before Christmas.

But anyway, looking at colleges is the right thing to do, so we’re at it. As long as we’ve seen every school he’s interested in by marching band camp next summer I’m good. We can skip the discussion about how ridiculously expensive school is. It is. That’s that. The Coffee King and I have made our requirements known. Though, the cost of school is a very important discussion and if you want to have one here at the blog, that’s fine, but please have one at home too.

You know for me, the most important thing was how clean the dorms were. Okay, not THE most important, but I’ll admit I elbowed a few people out of the way to make sure I took a look at the room on display. I controlled myself and stayed out of the bathroom. But I will be sending Noodge to school with bleach. Mark my words.

It isn’t easy to choose a school. (Here’s an article from The New York Times about how to pick a college. I’m not a huge fan of The Times, but how badly can they screw up this information?) For us, we’re looking at location. I want him to go to school in my backyard. He wants to go anywhere. We’re compromising. Anything withing five hours. The Coffee King had to weigh in and talk me off the ledge. I know, I know. I’m a controlling, paranoid mother. What can I say? I take my job very seriously.

Degrees offered is also important. Noodge has an idea what he wants to do. He’s changed his mind several times already, which is fine, but based on today’s desires we have a place to start.

The ugly cost is a factor. How much money the school offers in aid is important. It might be the most important component for some people. The schools seem to give financial aid information at their orientation, but if they don’t, make sure to ask. Internships and opportunities as well as activities for the students should also factor in. One big thing for Noodge is the campus itself. He likes a traditional campus more than an urban campus. That rules out plenty of schools. Oh, and size is a factor for some students. He goes to a very large high school so a larger college isn’t intimidating and a smaller one is fine too. Every kid is different. Make sure to find out what the teacher to student ratio is. Some kids will thrive in a lecture hall of three hundred and others will drown.

Helping my child to pick a college is like every other stop on this journey of motherhood. I’m leading with my heart, offering advice, and praying. The rest is up to him.

I mentioned earlier Noodge has been changing his mind about his career choices. Nothing wrong with that, but I’m learning changing his mind isn’t so easy for him. I don’t know if it’s because he’s told people what he wants to do and now that story is different, but over breakfast, while we were away, we talked. Really talked. I led with my heart and gave advice. I told him the decision was his. He didn’t have to explain his career choice to anyone.

It’s okay to change your mind. You don’t have to know what you want to do with your entire life at sixteen. Do what makes you happy because you’ll be doing it for many years, many hours of the day. Life is too short to hate what you do. And if you start doing something and you decide you don’t like it, change it. You’re going to be okay. Dad and I are proud of you.

My son looked at me and said, “Thank you.”

“For what?”

“For giving me advice and being so nice about me wanting to do something else.”

Since we were in a public place it took all the strength I had not to grab him and hug him. My heart swelled as I watched him taller than me, stronger than me, smarter than me, with his unshaven face, (It’s No Shave November and though NSN is an organization helping cancer awareness I think Noodge and his friends just want to compare their ability to grow a beard.) The little chubby baby I held in my arms is almost a man.

“It’s what I’m here for.” A stupid grin plastered across my face. As we left the restaurant, I gave him an aww shucks shoulder bump.

My boy is leaving the nest soon. No matter which college he chooses, I know he’ll be fine. Me on the other hand…..

 

 

We’re Screwed

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Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

Recently I was having a conversation about school with Noodge 1. He’s a junior in high school. This is the year that counts. Harder classes. The grades colleges focus on.Blah, blah, blah. But I’m concerned. Always have been. Kids today don’t know how to write well.

I teach creative writing classes to students of all ages. I was also an adjunct professor a few years back. I’ve published three novels. I know a little bit about writing. As a mother and a teacher, I’m shocked at how little time schools spend on grammar and sentence structure. Not to mention, idea development and cohesive thinking. I know you’re going to say it’s the aptitude test and the schools don’t have time. I don’t care. They need to.

While Noodge and I were talking he mentioned his friend who was writing a paper for history class. An AP history class. That stands for Advanced Placement. Those AP classes can mean possible college credit. Noodge’s friend needed to draw a conclusion in his writing. That’s fine. No worries so far. Until the young man stumbled for the correct word.

What did he write, you ask? He said, “We were screwed.” Yes, ladies and gents. Screwed. The young man could not, did not know how, to come up with a synonym for screwed in a paper that should be college level. Don’t be mistaken, this was not dialogue. Screwed was the only word he knew. And obviously he doesn’t know what a thesaurus is.

Who let this child down? Was it pure laziness? Perhaps. Or is it something more? Are we so busy worrying about The Tests that we side step what’s important? How are these kids going to get their point across in the real world?

Or is the problem that schools squash the love of reading and reading is the best way to build vocabulary. Our high school has implemented a new philosophy in their English department. Allow the students to choose books they want to read. Revolutionary! And about time, I’d say. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a need to read the classics. Charles Dickens is one of my favorite authors and if it wasn’t for high school I don’t know when I would’ve found him, but if my only exposure to reading had been Canterbury Tales I’d be washing cars for a living instead of writing. I’ll tell you that. Chaucer is not on my list of top ten favorites. No offense to Mr. Chaucer.

I wonder what the history teacher said to Noodge’s friend. Did the teacher pull this boy aside and explain there are better ways to say, “We’re screwed.” Or did the teacher just take points off. Or maybe the teacher laughed and gave him extra credit. It’s all in the perspective, I suppose.

If I had been the teacher, I would’ve pulled the young man aside and asked him to come up with something better. I would’ve challenged him to use that big brain of his. No short cuts, no easy way outs.

Our kids need to know how to write well developed, thoughtful sentences. They need to know a paragraph holds one idea at a time. It isn’t necessary to repeat themselves in every paragraph to make a point and please don’t start each new idea with “Then.” Stay away from the verb “to be.” And for the love of all things holy, you cannot create a theme in a piece of writing by copying another author’s style.

It isn’t easy to teach writing or anything for that matter. I do blame The Tests for short changing our kids and I blame those that push those tests for selfishly motivated reasons. Let’s go back to the old way of doing things. Everything old isn’t bad and everything new isn’t great.

Because if the younger generation can’t write a lousy paper for history class, then you bet we’re screwed.

 

 

 

Is Being Older Irrelevant?

23917309952_de5cbd4619_kI miss being young. I don’t miss everything about it, but I long for the time when my entire future was out in front of me. When I had every possibility in the palm of my hand like the first snowflake of the season.

There are certainly plenty of years still ahead of me and every day my eyes open is another opportunity to accomplish all I’ve wanted to. But those years of being young were simpler times. I miss the ease in which the days passed only bombarded by the trivial mishaps being a teen brings. Of course, there isn’t a teen on the planet that will tell you their lives are easy and I was no different. It is only with the filter of age and time that we can look back at the rough edges of teen life and see only the soft smooth picture that remains.

Things that were important then no longer matter now. I suppose what matters to me today will not matter five years from now either. Or perhaps matter less. The present moment leaves its sting like no other.

If I knew then, walking the halls of my small high school the smell of wax, cooked food and sweat in my nose, what I know now, I would have made different decisions. Not all the decisions. Some were good ones, but others I wouldn’t do again. Even armed with knowledge I’d be bound to make mistakes. We can’t eliminate risk all together though I’ve certainly tried often enough.

There is a level of fun associated with being young that no other time in our lives allows for. Somewhere along the path while I wasn’t paying attention fun slipped away. It wanted to play hide and seek and I was too busy to join in. Shooing it away, telling it to come back later. Fun has found a younger person to play with now.

I may miss being young because our society reveres youth. We disregard the older generation as passe; a burden to contend with. Their stories are thread bare and time wasters. Their skin folded and creased with years of living and not smooth and firm and dewy. They are easily manipulated, not adept with technology. They walk too slowly, drive badly, can’t hear or see you. We are told to fight getting older as if years of wisdom is a war to battle instead an honor to bestow. Society has decided an air brush yields more power than knowledge.

My class reunion is next year. I’m looking forward to it. Many people aren’t interested in returning to the place where they had pimples on their skin, awkward words stuck in their mouths, and two left feet. I think I want to go just to be near the people who knew me when I was young. It was with these people I grew up. We hear music that transports us back to football games on Friday nights, we remember parties on the beach, we wore clothes in neon colors and jeans washed in acid, we read books about children locked in attics and scary clowns. We went to movies on Monday nights with a date.

These were the people in my life long before I had teenagers of my own. My classmates don’t think I’m wrong because I’m old and out dated. Won’t tell me I don’t understand them because they know I was once that age. They won’t roll their eyes at me when I share my memories because those memories are theirs too. My stories aren’t boring and tired because they played a roll in them.

I am not young. That burden is for someone else to carry now. I need to read with glasses when the light is dim, I have eliminated cheese fries from my diet, I hung up my baton a long time ago. I am older, wiser in some ways. I have done some living and have plenty more to do. I have a lot to learn because the older we get we realize we don’t know everything. But I will tell you this:

I am not irrelevant.

 

Marching Memories

Snares 2015I miss being in high school. I do. Well, a part of it anyway. I miss twirling my baton during halftime at football games and marching in the parades. It’s been many years since I wore the silver sequins of my captain’s uniform, but I still have my baton and my twirler’s jacket. I even pull the baton out from time to time and give it a spin. I still marvel in the way it catches the light as I toss it in the air. I loved the sound of the crowd clapping and cheering as we marched on the field. I have those memories tucked away, but sometimes I need to bring them out and dust them off.

Now, I’m living vicariously through my son and next year I’ll add my daughter to the mix. He’s in the high school marching band. He plays in the drum line and Noodge 2 will join him in the color guard. The marching band just finished their competition season placing 2nd in the State Championship. Many students were disappointed in their placement. They lost by such a little margin. But it’s what the band director said in an email that got to me. I’m quoting him:

What’s most important…do not let the opinion of a few individuals change the feeling that you had when you marched off that field. Scores and placements come and go. Trophies eventually get thrown away or recycled, but that feeling…..the feeling that you get when you are out on that field…playing your horn….performing your work….playing your drum….DOIN’ YOUR DUB STEP…..That will remain with you long after your high school years are a thing of the past.
How right he is. It’s been so many years since high school and I still remember the feeling during my senior year when the marching band and the color guard danced during our performance and the crowd shot to their feet cheering and clapping for us. It was, at the time, the greatest moment of my life. No one had ever clapped for me like that before. I was a part of something far bigger than myself. I loved it.
I envy my son in so many ways. He’s at the start of his life where all things are still possible. He’s making the memories he will dust off when he’s my age. He’ll look back on a simpler time in his life and smile. He is lucky to be a part of something much bigger than he is and excel at it. Second place isn’t chump change.
I love being able to watch him be a part of the marching band. I also love my girl will twirl a flag next year. How lucky I am to be a part of their magical moments. To watch them perform, be able to hold their heads up proud to be a part of this band. To know, they are good at something. To make friends that may last a lifetime. Someone to share the old memories with some day. “Remember when,” they’ll say and laugh.
It’s sad when you realize a stage of your child’s life has ended and they’re onto something else. No more Thomas the Tank Engine trains, no more American Girl dolls. Soon, high school will be over and no more marching band for me to watch and cheer for. My Noodges will be all grown up and onto something else that most likely won’t involve me.
In the meantime, I’ll be at the football games and the competitions. I wear the school colors with pride. I’m supporting my marcher. And when it’s all over and the uniform is hung up, I’ll sneak into the closet, pull out my baton and give it a twirl.