College Bound? READ THIS.

“I’m not telling you it’s going to be easy – I’m telling you it’s going to be worth it.”  -Art Williams

College living at it’s finest! (Note the paper calendar taped to the wall. Sorry HGTV.)

Congratulations!  You’re about to embark on an exciting adventure!  And if you’re anything like I was at age 18, then you had one foot halfway out the door during senior year.  I originally offered this advice to my niece when she made her BIG move, but I thought I would offer it again here.  (Original post January 5, 2017.)

  1. Moving away from home/going to school takes guts. Not everyone can do it. Not everyone should do it, but having the courage to walk away from everything you know and try something new/exciting/scary and uncomfortable deserves some major props. In doing this, you have already proven one thing: you are WILLING to take chances. Kudos.
  2. In many ways you’ve been preparing for this your whole life and in many other ways you’re not prepared at all. This is okay. In fact, it’s better than okay. It’s absolutely normal.
  3. Good things will happen and bad things will happen, too. How you deal with these things will make all the difference. My favorite quote is by author Og Mandino. It says “Count your blessings, proclaim your rarity, go another mile, USE WISELY YOUR POWER OF CHOICE, and one more–to fulfill the other four–do all things with love…love for yourself, love for all others, and love for GOD….You Are the Greatest Miracle in The World.” You can always choose. Remember that no hole is too deep, no place is too far for redemption.
  4. Never date a man with hair longer than your own. Random, I know…but really. Who needs the competition? I actually came up with this rule while visiting friends at K-State. I can’t remember what the circumstances were exactly, but it’s a rule that has served me well. BTW…man buns are now included in this one!
  5. Talk to God (a lot) and don’t forget to listen, too. Although I think you should go to church, I have to admit that I didn’t attend while I was in college. I can honestly tell you that I missed out and I would definitely do this part differently today. Nonetheless, I did a whole lot of praying during that time and LISTENING to God, too. This saved my bacon more than once and I am eternally grateful. Looking back I can clearly see God at work during my college years. Make your relationship with Him a priority.
  6. Practice the “pause.” I didn’t come up with this…I’m not sure who did, but it makes a lot of sense and it may actually save your life someday. “When in doubt, pause. When angry, pause. When tired, pause. When stressed, pause. And when you pause, always pray.”
  7. Keep an eye on your drink. Again, another random one…but this is vital. There are bad guys (and girls) out there. People who do not have your best interest at heart. People who will try to use (and abuse) you and hurt you to satisfy their own evil desires. These people will buy you drinks and worse, they may even spike your drink. I made it a practice to never, ever, EVER accept a drink from a stranger (and eventually I didn’t accept any drinks at all.) It was not always well received. I’ve been called countless names, been yelled at, and made fun of. I didn’t care. In fact, it just proved that this was someone who I definitely didn’t have any business hanging out with. If someone wants to buy you a drink, great. The two of you can go up to the bar and order it together. At a party, keep in mind that you are perfectly capable of pouring your own drink. Carry a water bottle (drunkenness is overrated anyway.) Be on guard. Protect yourself…and look after your friends, too.
  8. You’re not expected to peak now. While these clearly are some of the best days of your life…they’re not the only days of your life. Someday you might choose to travel, land your dream job, become President, meet an awesome guy, have a fabulous wedding, start your own business, become a mother…the list goes on and on. Life is a series of journeys. Never think that your best days are behind you…always look forward.
  9. Trust your gut…that’s the Holy Spirit at work. Look people in the eye, but more importantly watch what they say and do. I wholeheartedly believe God speaks to us and a little warning light goes off when we’re in bad company. Do not ignore this! Women (especially) tend to discount this small little voice. We want to be nice, we want to give people the benefit of the doubt, we don’t want to seem childish or afraid…you get the point. So we make nice…and often times this puts us in very vulnerable situations. If it doesn’t feel right, it isn’t right. End of story. You owe no one an explanation.
  10. Finally, know this…you can always go home. ALWAYS. There is no shame. You’ve stepped out once, you can and will do it again. This IS life. Having a home base is a luxury not afforded to everyone. You have a family that would move mountains for you (just ask.) This is an incredible blessing.

SPECIAL NOTE:  You cannot live on Ramen.  You will try (we all do.)  But I repeat, you cannot live on Ramen.  

Remember, there are a lot of people rooting for you, kid!  You got THIS.  Welcome to your next adventure!

The old is gone.  The new is here.  2 Corinthians 5:17

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Closing Time (Every New Beginning Comes from Some Other Beginning’s End)

She believed she could, so she did. –R.S. Grey

A young woman who I know AND love is about to do something BIG and brave…and I couldn’t let this occasion go by without penning a few thoughts…because what’s the point of growing older (and wiser) if you can’t drop some knowledge on a youngster, right?  Amen.

myrandaMost of these musings came to me at 2am.  I mention this as both a disclaimer and an explanation to the randomness of these points, but let me start at the beginning.  I remember the day you were born.  Driving down the highway to the nearby town, your aunt and I talked excitedly about our soon-to-arrive niece.  I’m pretty sure we didn’t know exactly what to expect, so when we were invited into the delivery room we stood dumbfounded.  Now that you know us (and my aversion to all things medical) you can probably guess that we declined and opted to do the next best thing–MAKE A SIGN!  We sat in the hallway with a poster board and some markers scribbling a “welcome baby” greeting just for YOU!  From the beginning, you were so loved.  For years, our whole family life revolved around you.  When I would come home from college, you were one of the people I most looked forward to seeing.  I liked to rock you to sleep and quietly sing the KU alma mater song…because I found the song both hopeful and soothing (and I wanted to make sure you grew up to be a Jayhawk fan.)  Funny how things come full circle…it was this memory that actually brought me to write this blog which I hope will be equally hopeful and soothing to you as you ironically prepare to move to Manhattan, Kansas!  So here goes:

  • Moving away from home/going to school takes guts.  Not everyone can do it.  Not everyone should do it, but having the courage to walk away from everything you know and try something new/exciting/scary and uncomfortable deserves some major props.  In doing this, you have already proven one thing:  you are WILLING to take chances.  Kudos.
  • In many ways you’ve been preparing for this your whole life and in many other ways you’re not prepared at all.  This is okay.  In fact, it’s better than okay.  It’s absolutely normal.
  • Good things will happen and bad things will happen, too.  How you deal with these things will make all the difference.  My favorite quote is by author Og Mandino.  It says “Count your blessings, proclaim your rarity, go another mile, USE WISELY YOUR POWER OF CHOICE, and one more–to fulfill the other four–do all things with love…love for yourself, love for all others, and love for GOD….You Are the Greatest Miracle in The World.”   You can always choose.  Remember that no hole is too deep, no place is too far for redemption.
  • Never date a man with hair longer than your own.  Random, I know…but really.  Who needs the competition?  I actually came up with this rule while visiting friends at K-State.  I can’t remember what the circumstances were exactly, but it’s a rule that has served me well.  BTW…man buns are now included in this one.
  • Talk to God (a lot) and don’t forget to listen, too.  Although I think you should go to church, I have to admit that I didn’t attend while I was in college.  I can honestly tell you that I missed out and I would definitely do this part differently today.  Nonetheless, I did a whole lot of praying during that time and LISTENING to God, too.  This saved my bacon more than once and I am eternally grateful.  Looking back I can clearly see God at work during my college years.  Make your relationship with Him a priority.
  • Practice the “pause.” I didn’t come up with this…I’m not sure who did, but it makes a lot of sense and it may actually save your life someday.  “When in doubt, pause.  When angry, pause.  When tired, pause.  When stressed, pause.  And when you pause, always pray.”
  • Keep an eye on your drink.  Again, another random one…but this is vital.  There are bad guys (and girls) out there.  People who do not have your best interest at heart.  People who will try to use (and abuse) you and hurt you to satisfy their own evil desires.  These people will buy you drinks and worse, they may even spike your drink.  I made it a practice to never, ever, EVER accept a drink from a stranger (and eventually I didn’t accept any drinks at all.)  It was not always well received.  I’ve been called countless names, been yelled at, and made fun of.  I didn’t care.  In fact, it just proved that this was someone who I definitely didn’t have any business hanging out with.  If someone wants to buy you a drink, great.  The two of you can go up to the bar and order it together.  At a party, keep in mind that you are perfectly capable of pouring your own drink.  Carry a water bottle (drunkenness is overrated anyway.)  Be on guard.  Protect yourself…and look after your friends, too.
  • You’re not expected to peak now.  While these clearly are some of the best days of your life…they’re not the only days of your life.  Someday you might choose to travel, land your dream job, become President, meet an awesome guy, have a fabulous wedding, start your own business, become a mother…the list goes on and on.  Life is a series of journeys.  Never think that your best days are behind you…always look forward.
  • Trust your gut…that’s the Holy Spirit at work.  Look people in the eye, but more importantly watch what they say and do.  I wholeheartedly believe God speaks to us and a little warning light goes off when we’re in bad company.  Do not ignore this!  Women (especially) tend to discount this small little voice.  We want to be nice, we want to give people the benefit of the doubt, we don’t want to seem childish or afraid…you get the point.  So we make nice…and often times this puts us in very vulnerable situations.  If it doesn’t feel right, it isn’t right.  End of story.  You owe no one an explanation.
  • Finally, know this…you can always go home.  ALWAYS.  There is no shame.  You’ve stepped out once, you can and will do it again.  This IS life.  Having a home base is a luxury not afforded to everyone.  You have a family that would move mountains for you (just ask.)  This is an incredible blessing.

There are a lot of people rooting for you, kid.  Team MO is firmly in your corner!  You’re going to do great…I just know it.  Do your very best, make good choices, and have lots of fun.  You are so loved.

The old is gone.  The new is here. 2 Corinthians 5:17

 

Graduation Speeches Are So Long (But Maybe It’s a Good Thing)

Under all speech that is good for anything, there is a silence that is better….  –Thomas Carlyle

Let me start by saying that I have mad respect for public speakers.  It takes a great deal of time, thought, composure, and courage to share your ideas and perspectives with audiences both large and small.  It is no easy feat to step up and out into this arena, which is probably why public speaking is high on the list of our “greatest fears.”  It’s one of those occurrences where we are typically happier on the receiving end and offer pity to the “poor soul” up front with a microphone.  Often times though, it’s equally uncomfortable for both parties…and yet this is exactly where many of us will find ourselves this graduation season.

The whole idea causes my mind to take a stroll down memory lane.  First, as a sixth grader giving a pseudo-valedictorian speech to my classmates as we prepared to advance to junior high.  I can remember pouring my thoughts onto a few sheets of wide-rule notebook paper…the usual platitudes intermixed with memories of sixth grade antics.  I can recall wearing my hair up (an attempt to look more sophisticated, I’m sure,) donning a flowery dress and trying very hard to speak slowly and clearly.  My palms were sweaty and I hardly recognized my own voice over the loud-speaker.  The event venue, a school gymnasium, seemed extra cavernous and despite the dozens of parents and family members in the audience…there were moments where I felt like I was all alone.  Time passed so slowly…each second its own eternity.  The whole speech couldn’t have been more than seven or eight minutes and while it concluded with applause, I always wondered if maybe they were just happy that it was done?  I know I was.

Twenty plus years later, I can still see the faces of those who spoke at my high school graduation ceremony, but what they said is a complete blur.  Classmates, community leaders, administrators…their mouths were moving, but I have no idea what they spoke of that day.  What I can clearly remember are my sunglasses:  mirrored wannabe wayfarers.  We wore our graduation caps toward the back of our heads to accommodate our extra-large mall bangs and adding sunglasses (and not disturbing the bobby pins) was not easy.  It was an extraordinary, bright, sunshiny day (I remember that)…and I NEEDED those sunglasses.  Gathering in a long line, I remember looking at the faces all around me and realizing I didn’t know everyone’s names (a sad fact that weighs on my heart today.)  Obviously, it was loud as we paraded onto the football field with music and cheering family and friends in the background, but as soon as the ceremony began I was lost in my own thoughts.  Deliberately taking in the moment, I was convinced that I would never experience anything like this again.  I looked for my family in the stands.  I smiled at my best friends.  I scoped out a cute boy.  I looked at the sky…a lot.  This day could never be duplicated and in some ways both the world and time stood still.  There was a charge in the atmosphere (one that would eventually lead to a thunderstorm and tornado warning that night.)  And while the message was lost on me, I silently prayed that the valedictorian would just keep talking.  That didn’t happen.  And in a blink of an eye, I found myself preparing for yet another graduation.

There’s a tradition at the University of Kansas…maybe it’s more lore than tradition…that advises students not to walk through the Campanile until graduation day.  Those who choose not to heed this advice, “risk” not graduating at all.  (In my mind, I equate it with dropping the “spirit stick,” like in the movie Bring It On.) If you know me, you know I wouldn’t dream of breaking tradition.  While the landmark is one of my favorite places on the campus, I vowed to not pass through it until that special day.  So, when it arrived, I was ecstatic.  The opportunity to walk through its doors was symbolic in countless ways…a memory that I truly treasure.  (I secretly relive the moment every time we visit the campus.)

Me and Kimberly at Graduation 1997The forecast called for yet another extraordinary, bright and sunshiny graduation day.  (Newsflash:  It’s also very humid in Lawrence, Kansas.)  Thinking ahead, I decided to wear a red tank top and a pair of cut off jean shorts under my graduation gown.  Not your typical graduation attire…oh well.  I had a paper fish on the top of my cap (so that my grandmother could pick me out of the “sea of students” making their way down the hill.)  I wore comfortable brown sandals as we walked in a procession according to major.  (If I close my eyes, I’m practically there all over.)  As you can imagine, a large university has an especially long ceremony.  There were many, many speakers that day.  We took our seats under the hot sun and fanned ourselves with the graduation handout.  I remember thinking (again) that I would never experience anything like this.  I looked for my family in the stands (futile with this many people around.)  I smiled at my friends and remembered that the cute boy in my life at the time was sitting in the audience.  And, of course, I couldn’t resist looking up at the sky.

campanileEverything moved in slow motion.  The audience’s applause were my only signal that one speaker had finished and/or another speaker was being introduced.  They just kept going…probably offering up similar platitudes to the speech I gave way back in sixth grade.  “Reach for the stars, believe in yourself, this isn’t the end…it’s only the beginning,” at least that’s what I imagine they said.  Honestly, though, I have no idea.  Another motivational speech in one ear and out the other.  But what I do know for sure is that the sky was the best shade of blue that day.  The breeze was satisfying in a way that you can only appreciate when you’re wearing the color black in the heat.  Joy and relief abounded in every direction.  And while most of my classmates could hardly sit still, I remember thinking that I wanted to stay there forever.  I regret that I didn’t take more pictures back then…although I am grateful that we didn’t have the distraction of smartphones.  And just like that, it was over.  The speeches stopped and real life began again…a new chapter.  I threw my cap (paper fish and all) high into the afternoon sky and never bothered to retrieve it.  I congratulated the eight-year old girl inside of me for accomplishing her goal of graduating college and securing her “dream” job.  And just like in the movies, I had a hard time leaving that day.  There were several glances back over my shoulder.  Last looks.

Fast forward all these years later and I now find myself attending these same type of events.  I see students waiting (some anxiously, others joyfully,) parents reacting emotionally, spectators sitting impatiently, and speakers searching for new and interesting ways to connect with the audience…to say something worthwhile and meaningful.  Maybe even something unforgettable.  Having done some public speaking in my adult life, I feel a little guilty when someone approaches the podium.  Guilty that I didn’t pay attention back then…knowing all too well how much work actually goes into preparing such a speech.  Yet today I finally realize that maybe the graduation messages of my yesterdays were not actually lost on me.  Perhaps, delivered in that moment was the exact message that I needed to hear after all.  When the speaker took his/her place at the podium I was invited to sit, to pause, to reflect and to savor.  It was an opportunity to take a deep breath and fully absorb the moment…each participant processing the occasion in their own unique way. Graduation and commencement, (often used interchangeably) in truth speak to two different ideas…one an ending and the other a beginning.  And I can’t think of a better way to mark the importance of that moment than by fully taking in the present.

Congratulations, graduates.

Listen to me; be silent, and I will teach you wisdom.  Job 33:33

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Flood of Thoughts (aka Back to School Panic Attack)

Apply your heart to instruction and your ear to words of knowledge.  Proverbs 23:12

Back to School 2015

Back to School 2015

I have a LOVE/HATE relationship with the whole “back to school” thing. I LOVE that my kids have the opportunity to grow and learn under the guidance of some pretty amazing teachers. I HATE that summer break is over.  I LOVE that my kiddos are social butterflies…it’s good for them to be with their friends in the classroom and it takes the pressure off my role as “entertainment director.”  I HATE that we have to wake up early.  I LOVE having the house to myself for a few hours a day…and I HATE having the house to myself a few hours a day…you get the picture.  So this morning as my daughter was packing up for her first day of 5th grade…something tripped my panic button hard–this wasn’t just the first day of 5th grade…no…, this was the first day of her last year in elementary school!  I HATE the panic button 😦

As luck would have it (I’m saying this sarcastically,) we walked to school this morning…thus giving me plenty of time to think and let the panic button go to work.  Was she prepared?  Was she nervous?  Would this be a good year?  What really makes a school year good?  It wasn’t long before my panic attack became a full blown list of “did I tell her….?”  So for my sanity (because this “back to school” thing is all about me,) I’ve come up with a few thoughts to share with her (after school, of course.)

  1. School is about learning.  Sure you go there to learn the “school” stuff, but you will learn so much more. You’ll learn about yourself.  Each day you’ll grow in discovering who you are, what you stand for, and all that you’re capable of accomplishing.  You’ll find out what you like and what you don’t like (and you just might be surprised how the categories break down!)
  2. No one said you have to know everything…so give yourself a break.  Some things will come easily.  Other things will make you work (hard.)  Both are good.
  3. Relationships are tough, but worthwhile.  Getting to know a new teacher will take time.  Building friendships take time.  Discovering who to avoid…well, that takes time, too.  Not everyone will like you and you probably won’t like everyone.  Either way, be kind.  You never know what someone else is going through. If you want a friend, be a friend.  It is far better to be remembered for being a “good guy” than a total jerk.
  4. Pay attention.  Learning requires focus.  Don’t assume anything.  Ask questions.  It’s okay not to get it the first time.  Practice, preparation and performance are related.  Don’t get behind.  If you need help, say something.
  5. Trust your instincts.  God gives us that little voice for a reason.  Tune your ears and your heart to it.  Remember that peer pressure can be a trap.  Comparing yourself to others is never a good idea.
  6. Think before you speak.  Words can hurt.  Offer grace and understanding at every turn.  Compassion for others goes a long way.  Be a helper.
  7. Even good kids make mistakes.  You’re not perfect, none of us are.  Making mistakes goes beyond the classroom.  You know where I stand on drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, etc.  Likewise, you should realize that lying, cheating, and disrespect will also not be tolerated.  At the same time, I love you and together we can work through anything.
  8. It’s okay to pray at school.  I’m not telling you to get on the loud speaker and lead a revival, but don’t be afraid to ask God to guide you throughout your day.
  9. School is your job right now.  As your mother, I will be on you to do your homework, study for tests and remind you not to take short cuts.  This is important for you now and in the future, but school performance is not the sum of your worth.
  10. Attitude is everything.  You get what you give.  You will have bad days.  Life is unfair.  How you navigate through the good and the bad says a lot about your character.  You can do this.  I believe in you no matter what.

So my LOVE/HATE relationship with this time of year continues.  I LOVE that I have the opportunity to share these thoughts with my daughter.  I HATE that she’s growing up so fast.  I LOVE watching my kiddos move forward on this journey toward adulthood.  I HATE that tomorrow morning my son will have his first day of eighth grade.  I can hear the panic button gearing up now….

Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education. Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

 

 

Back to School Essentials (7 Must Haves You Won’t Find on Any School Supply List)

Casey First Day of School 2009

Casey First Day of School 2009

It’s that time of year! And the back to school vibe is so pervasive you can practically smell it…(and it ain’t rosy!)  Alarm clocks set, buses running, backpacks on and lunches packed, this is show time!  So whether you’re Best Dressed or Total Mess, Ready Freddie or Nervous Nelly, the school bell’s ringing and there’s no stopping it.   Like most dutiful moms, I’ve done the shopping and the supply gathering, made sure the kiddos have been the recipients of stylish haircuts and good shoes, and we’ve definitely run the gauntlet when it comes to Back to School Night.  Still, there’s a few things that I wish I could bundle up and tuck into the backpacks of my children (and every child for that matter.)  You won’t find them on the shelf at any discount store, but they might just make all the difference.  So load up on these seven BIG back to school necessities….

1.  To Thine Own Self Be True.  Let’s motivate our children to walk into the classroom with a sense of self.  Remind your children WHO they are and WHAT they stand for.  Let’s be authentic and real with one another, forget the game playing.  The mean girls garbage, the bullying and the backbiting.  A good majority of us are capable (even at a young age) of understanding what is acceptable and what isn’t.  Parents be an example.

2.  Be Kind, Rewind.  Remember this saying from the days of video rentals and VCR’s?  Might I suggest that we urge our children to adopt this little mantra as a way of extending grace to one another and ourselves?  One of my favorite exercises in kindness invites us to think BEFORE we speak.  We can effectively offer kindness by pausing to check ourselves, especially when dealing with a difficult person.  PAUSE…and ask, “How does this sound out loud?  Am I treating others the way I want to be treated?”  I often remind my kiddos to be kind to themselves, too.  Sometimes we’re our own worst critic.  Kindness is a wonderful gift.

Sean First Day of School 2005

Sean First Day of School 2005

3.  Mind Your Zzzz’s and Eat Your Peas.  Do your children a favor and help them develop healthy eating and sleeping habits.  Numerous studies show that students learn better and have a more positive school experience when they get enough sleep and eat regular, nutritious meals.  I’m just as guilty as the next Mom.  McDonald’s is soooo easy and convenient and one more episode of their favorite show won’t hurt…or will it?  Remember, grown-ups we ARE in charge!

4.  Game Plan.  Having a strategy for homework, school projects and extra-curricular activities is vital to maintaining a sane household.  We’ve all had that child come home and have a breakdown because they’ve procrastinated on a project, didn’t pay attention to a lesson in class, or flat out fell behind.  Let’s encourage our children to be proactive, make a schedule and take pride in all that they do.

5.  Don’t Take Yourself Too Seriously.  This applies to kiddos AND parents.  There’s nothing like laughter to diffuse a tense situation.  Finding the joy and the fun in life is critical to a person’s overall well-being.  Make time to laugh, giggle and create good times (and good memories) with one another.  Remember, it’s not all rocket science.

6.  Your Loved Ones Have Your Back.  There’s nothing quite so overwhelming and utterly terrifying as feeling alone and like no one understands.  Create an atmosphere in your home and in your relationships where each person knows their value and worth.  Most parents (guardians and caregivers) would go to any length to protect the children they love.  I want my children to succeed and you want your children to succeed, too.  Fostering a safe and loving environment can be the catalyst that moves a child in a positive direction.

7.  You Gotta Have Faith.  We’ve all heard the term separation of church and state, as well as the countless other arguments about keeping religion out of school.  Fine, but that doesn’t mean you have to leave your personal faith in the school parking lot.  Let’s remind our kids that God is present and active in our daily lives, not just at home or at church, but all the time.  It’s okay to carry your Christian values into the school building.  Christ’s example of grace, mercy and love will be a welcome addition to any education environment.  Looking out for one’s neighbor, a spirit of forgiveness, and a desire to treat each other justly and with respect will make any school year one to remember.  I tell my children it’s perfectly acceptable to say a silent prayer before a tough test, for a classmate going through a trying time and especially for our teachers and administrators.  In our home, we pray for our schools, our classmates and teachers before bed each night…why would we stop between the hours of 8am and 3pm during the week?  I want my kiddos to know that there is a 24/7 God who knows each of us, loves us dearly and has a wonderful plan and purpose for our lives.

So as we snap and post those first day of school photos, let’s be intentional about making this THE school year where we put first things first and load up on all the essentials for our best school experience yet (kiddos and parents alike!) 🙂

Intelligence plus character…that is the goal of true education.  –Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.