Tag: college

Graduation Blues

These blues have little to do with sitting on uncomfortable bleacher seats for two hours. I’ve never sat comfortably through a single graduation ceremony. I think a stiff backside is a requirement.

As usual, the robes were black, so no actual “blues” there.

Okay, the ticket was blue after all.
Okay, the ticket was blue after all.

Maybe it was just a rough day because the sun smiled on the ceremony and I was stuck in the covered grandstand.

Or it could have been the overcrowded seating area and being unable to sit with my husband. At least we had a seat, thanks to a kind gentleman who moved people aside to give us three seats together (even though there were four women needing them.)

In fact, the biggest blues factor could be the noise coming from the “guest” bedroom.

Our empty nest is no longer empty.

The positives

  • Graduation day was gorgeous.
  • Since he graduated from a Christian college, there was prayer, scripture reading and a Christ-centered focus throughout the speeches.
  • My son graduated cum laude AND he won award for the Outstanding Marketing student in the graduating class.
  • Delicious meal with family at Red Robin after the ceremony.
  • He finished. He has a lead on a job. He’s moving on to the next stage of life: adulthood. (He might not see that as a POSITIVE in a few years).
  • I am proud.
  • I’m not spending the week totally alone while my husband is traveling – again. (Would you like to hear more about this in a later post?)

The not-so-positives

  • He keeps talking to me when I’m trying to work.
  • He rolled his eyes when I asked him to clean the bathroom.
  • There are boxes scattered in the hallway and junk in the living room (by JUNK, I mean game systems and related wires, controllers, etc.)
  • I’m not totally alone in the house – meaning, I will have to cook. I can’t just enjoy easy meals. (See this post for details.)
  • The guest room is a cluttered mess. AND there is no longer room for a guest.

Let’s face it, the positives have everything to do with graduation and the “nots” are all about adjusting my schedule and home. You know, to adapt to having an adult child residing here again.

When have you experienced mixed feelings about a life event? Isn’t anything ever all positive?

Banning Unrealistic Expectations

Unrealistic expectations about body image

In a society where expectations rule decision-making processes, it’s past time to understand the difference between those that are realistic and unrealistic. We owe it to ourselves and our families to put a ban on setting unreachable standards.

Beginning on March 10, a series of posts about expectations has been featured on this blog. The links will be provided here, but for those of you joining discussion today, let’s recap.

It doesn’t take a genius to realize unrealistic expectations are dangerous. They derail dreams and avalanche over hopes. Not just for young people either, but the danger to them is greater because they are still forming their values and personalities.

One expectation that seems to be gaining momentum is the idea that everyone needs to go to college. Even human resources department feed this fiery craze by making a college degree required for an entry-level position. Nothing is more damaging to a person than to have a boatload of student loans for a costly degree that doesn’t net a career placement.

A high school diploma is essential. Unfortunately, bureaucrats making exit exams a requirement to attain one have boarded the crazy train. Too many courses required for a high school diploma have no practical value. It’s time to return to the basics of education rather than making high school all about preparing for college (see previous paragraph about college expectations).

Another thing that discourages many teenagers is the push toward knowing what they want to do as an adult. Some high schools build four years of education around what a 14-year-old says he wants to be after he graduates.

How old were you when you knew what you wanted to do for a living? Are you doing that thing you first dreamed was so awesome? It took me right at 40 years to finally follow my dream.

Along with all these unrealistic expectations, I wrote a post about things we should expect. None of these have to do with the economy; all have to do with character. Every human on earth should be expected to work hard, be responsible and accountable for their choices and actions, and show respect to others.

Unfortunately in our world, decisions about graduation requirements and acquiring a college degree to sort mail are above our pay-grade. In our push to have everything handed to us, we’ve handed the control to government and industry.

If we really want to keep unrealistic expectations from ruling our lives, we need to take back control. I’m not talking about a revolution. Let’s start small, bucking the system by becoming involved.

Maybe attending a school board meeting to share your views about ridiculous standards is a start. Everyone pushes you to write or call your congressman. How many do it? How many have well-constructed, reasonable arguments to present?

If you’re a parent, you can start by teaching your kids about responsibility. Theirs. Don’t perpetuate the fallacy that government will fix all their problems. Those bozos on Capitol Hill have demonstrated how to make mountains out of molehills and accomplish very little that benefits the average citizen.

Don’t let the media convince you to look a certain way, buy certain clothes, or drive a certain car. Check out those Hollywood icons and athletic superstars. An unhappier bunch of people you may never find. These are the trendsetters we want marking the path for us to follow?

 Can we ban unrealistic expectations in our world? Share your thoughts. Let’s talk it over.

What do you want to do when you grow up?

When I first started school I wanted to be a teacher. Who wouldn’t want to boss everyone around? By fourth grade, I loved making up stories, so I decided I wanted to be a novelist. Later…solving mysteries seemed exciting, so how about becoming an FBI agent?

Like most kids, my thoughts about the future vacillated from one end of the realistic spectrum to the other end of unrealistic. Dreams are grand. Dreams inspire us to reach higher.

Dreams are dreams. Expectations are a 1000-pound weight on a tired swimmers back. Throw them into the sea of swarming high school students who think they know everything. Is it any wonder kids drown?

When you know your purpose

I wrote my first “book” when I was nine years old. I filled dozens of spiral notebooks with short stories, longer stories, poetry and general musings from that time until after I graduated from high school.

Writing has always helped me express my emotions and sort out my problems. It’s safer to bleed your secrets on a sheet of paper than divulge them to people. A pen ranting on notebook paper gets a person in much less trouble than a verbal confrontation.

My yearning has always been to write. I used that yearning to write copy for a non-profit newsletter, lessons for classes I taught at church, and plays and skits for the youth group to perform.

I submitted a few stories to contests when I was younger. Tried my hand at writing articles and even wrote a novel. Rejection letters deterred me. My family needed me to be present in the moment rather than rattling around my make-believe worlds.

Most people don’t know what they want to do until they’re at least in high school. Some people don’t discover their “calling” until the age of 40, 50 or beyond.

If you’re 18 and don’t know what you want to be when you grow up, big deal. Don’t decide you won’t grow up until you do know. Follow a path. Experiment with different things. Purposelessness has a purpose when you’re using it as a barometer.

How to find your purpose

Some people volunteer at the animal shelter and they know they want to be a veterinarian. Others volunteer at the veterinarian office and decide they love animals, but doctoring the four-legged creatures isn’t how to express it.

The only way to find your niche is by doing. Try sports. Try theater. Try writing for the school newspaper (I did). Sing in the choir. Play in the band. Sell lemonade and deliver newspapers.

My oldest son found out he didn’t want a manual labor job after he worked at one for the summer. It inspired him to work hard in school so he could go to college. How did he know he wanted to be a computer programmer? You’ll have to ask him. His dad is and he always wanted to follow that path. Go figure.

My husband went to college to be an electrician. Yep and he ended up as a computer engineer. Electrical engineer or computer engineer. Slight difference, right? He’s been happy with the choice.

Some people like to do many different things. That could mean they would be happy in multiple fields. It might involve tons of experimentation before they find the right fit. Don’t give up. Keep trying.

You never know until you try. Words to live by – just saying.

What stands in the way

Let’s face it, when you’re a teenager, plenty of things stand in the way of finding out your genuine heart’s calling.

A short list:

  • Teachers: you know the one’s I’m talking about “You’re the best artist I’ve had in years”
  • Parents: “Writing? But what will your day job be?” “You’re going to take over the family business, right?”
  • Friends: “You should go to Western because I’m going there.”
  • Money: You either have it or you don’t. Don’t let that limit your vision.
  • Locale: If you live a million miles from nowhere, it’s hard to know if you’d like a career in the city or some other more urbanized setting.
  • Other nay-sayers: “What can you do with a degree in history?” “If you don’t go to college, you’ll never amount to anything.”

What other things have you heard that made it difficult to find your true calling? If you have advice or experience, please share it in the comments.

Expecting Your Kid to Go to College could be the Wrong Idea

Image from caveviews.blogs.com
Image from caveviews.blogs.com

College. Everyone needs to go to college. This is what the media, the president, and most teachers tell young people.

In grade school, they start talking to you about college. What college are you considering? What do you want to be when you grow up? Yes, you need a college degree to be a fireman. Yes, you need a college degree to be a doctor.

Everyone should want to go to college. Wrong. False expectation. All America is doing by putting this expectation on their children is damaging them. Especially at a super-young (pre-teen) age.

Do I think it’s wrong to talk about college to seventh and eighth grade students? Of course not! It’s time for them to think about it. They are old enough and mature enough (sometimes) to consider the future.

When you get to high school, you have some control over your class schedule. Knowing what  you think you want to do later in life will help you make decisions about that.

Know what? A huge percentage of high school students have no idea what they want to be when they grow up or what they’re going to do after high school. Some forty-year-olds have neither grown up nor figured out their future plans.

Yet, this pressure for them to make a decision exists. Don’t they have enough stress? Give them a few years to figure it out. This expectation that young people need to know what they’re going to do with their lives by the time they’re 12 so they can be shaped into that pathway often defeats the underlying purpose.

When we force this issue, here’s what happens: Kid: “I like skateboarding. I like riding my bike and doing tricks. I’m going to be the next Tony Hawk.” (I have actually heard seventh-grade boys say this.) Adult: “No, you’re not. Less than one percent of people can go pro in that field.” (Kid effectively discouraged from dreaming but not even a millimeter closer to discovering the true ambition for his future.) Read more

Expectations: Drowning our Young People’s Dreams

Image courtesy of sodahead.com

Expectations. They’re like a ball and a chain around our neck pulling us to the abyss beneath the sea. Why do we put so much emphasis on to me?

This is an especially important topic for young adults who are the audience for the books I write. They are in a phase of their life where they are searching for their own personal identity and all these expectations are flooded.

For the next several weeks I want to post once a week about a different expectation that we place on our young people. We’ll discuss why it exists, what is good about it, any bad sides to it, and if there’s a solution to placing such an expectation on the backs of our children.

Expectations have validity. I worked in education for years and data proved that when you expect your class to achieve certain standards, they work to meet those expectations. Not 100 percent of the students, but overall, young people want to rise to the challenge.

They want to accomplish. They want to be validated by adults even if they snarl at them and pretend that they are the dumbest people in the world. That is all part and parcel of being a teenager, but in the back of their minds, they know that you have something that they don’t: life experience.

They want to meet your expectations. Problems arise when we throw too many expectations on them. Suddenly, there’s no way on earth they can ever meet them. If we place such high expectations that even a genius could never attain them, why are we disappointed when the seventh and eighth and ninth graders can’t reach that mark?

The benchmark. The state benchmark is a lie. Can you tell I’m not a fan of standardized testing? I personally find this expectation that you aren’t deserving of a high school diploma if you cannot pass a series of standardized tests (most of which are based on tons of information that you will – let’s see – never again need to know in your life) is ridiculous.

Why do we want to set our kids up to fail? Why are the bureaucrats deciding what information is important for kids to know? I’ll tell you why. Because in Japan and China, kids go to school 10 hours a day six days a week and they turn out to be incredibly gifted in science and mathematics. They come up with all sorts of innovations and Americans feel like they’re falling behind.

So let’s raise the standards for the average kid. You can bet that’s going to make the people who are gifted rise to the top. Not at all. It is guaranteed to discourage the guy in the middle, our average citizen.

You know the guy who is going to be a worker. Guess what? Society needs worker bees. Society needs someone who is willing to ring up your groceries at the store or stock the shelves. Who will assemble that car (you need a new one every five years) if someone isn’t willing to work on the line?

Before I go off on a rant about this issue, I will stop. I plan to discuss this whole “everyone needs a college degree” expectation in a future post.

What I’m looking for here today: commenters to tell me some expectations that they see heaped onto our young people. I’ll be happy to discuss your suggestions in the later blog posts. They can be positive expectations or expectations with negative consequences.

Please join my discussion. Parents, grandparents, teenagers (if you’re out there reading my blog), young adults: what are some expectations that were placed on you as a teenager? Did they help you succeed? Did they discourage you? Were they reasonable or unreasonable?

Your input is invaluable to me on this most important topic.

CLEP Exam Pros & Cons

Since it’s nearing the end of the year and I’m more interested in spending time with family than coming up with new content – sorry- I’m going to run some of my older blog posts again. This post netted me more views than anything I’ve ever put on my page. Why?

If you think college tuition is outrageous ($1,000 for one class!), you’ll probably be interested to learn about CLEP Examinations. Many colleges and universities (2900 according to collegeboard.org) accept these exams as credit in place of many basic knowledge or entry level classes.

What is CLEP?


CLEP is an acronym for College Level Examination Program. It’s a way to earn college credit by taking an examination to prove your proficiency in a subject. The length and format of the exams differ depending on the subject. The information I have lists 33 different tests ranging from Biology to Business and Calculus to Composition.


In my case, I’m taking the “History of the United States 1: Early Colonization to 1877” exam on August 23. If I pass the test, I will earn three credits and get to skip the 100 level history class required for my degree.


Where can I learn about CLEP?


To learn the basics about CLEP, visit www.collegeboard.org. They offer study guides and listings for testing centers. I downloaded an iBook with a sample test and the list of topics covered on my test for $5.99.


Before you invest in the test, you’ll want to check in with your college advisor to be sure your college is one of the 2900 that accepts these examinations for credit. Even though taking tests is loads of fun, it isn’t free, so you won’t want to waste the money if it won’t shorten your college course list.




The major benefit to taking a CLEP exam is the money I will save. To take the exam, I will pay $80 for the test and $15 to the testing center (since I test at University of Phoenix and am not a student there, I have to pay a testing fee). To get the same credit by taking the college course, I would spend $966 for the class and then another $80 to $120 for the textbook. That’s savings of nearly $950!


It also means one less class I have to take. This translates into finishing up my degree requirements in less time.


According to The College Board, the test I’m taking is a relatively easy one (a 2, on a scale of 1 to 5, where a 5 is hard and 1 is easy). Their study sites say I should be ready for the test with a week of study. So one week of study versus eight weeks? I’d say that’s another big benefit.




The major drawback for CLEP is that preparing for the test is an independent endeavor. I won’t have an instructor to seek guidance from. There are no interactive discussions to help me understand difficult concepts. In fact, I don’t even have a textbook to study.


I am using www.ushistory.org for my study sessions. This website has a topical list of articles written by expert historians. I also have my sample test and there are online sample tests, as well. I’m hoping that my skills for reading and retaining information have been honed sufficiently from the past two years of online classes, so that I will be able to absorb the information needed before the test.


If you don’t pass the test, you can retake it in six months and still save over $800 (if your college credits cost the same as mine).


As far as I can see, the pros are heavily outweighing the cons on this list. I’m glad I made the decision to pursue credit through the CLEP. If you’ve taken a CLEP exam, I’d love to have you weigh in on the subject below. Was it worth the money and time savings? Do you have any tips to share with future exam takers?

After Graduation

This time of year, people all over America are asking the question, “What happens after graduation?”

Does this middle-aged coed have an original question?

Well, no, but my answer comes more quickly to my lips than what a high school graduate might flippantly toss into conversation. I might even have a more definitive plan than many college graduates.

Unfortunately, I’m not one of those who have a job waiting for me on the other side of graduation. Of course, I don’t really want one, either.

I’ve halfheartedly sent out a few resumes and responded to a few jobs that interested me on LinkedIn. My heart screams, “No! I’m going to write.”

My mind cajoles, “It’s a trap! How will you live without a regular paycheck?”

It’s nice that my son’s roommates have jobs waiting for them. They had been interning at this company over the past summer (or two). My son hoped he might be able to find employment there and just continue his comfortable living arrangements after graduation.

No regular jobs are available, but they’re looking for interns.

I wonder if he’s been submitting resumes and cover letters with more enthusiasm than I’m displaying. After all, he really is just starting out. He needs to get a job so he can become completely independent of his parents and be ready to pay back those thousands of dollars he borrowed in student loans.

I have a husband. My husband is an engineer. He makes good money. I have a small amount of debt from my degree, half of which was accrued so I could contribute cash to our youngest son’s education.

What happens after graduation?

I’m getting on a plane and flying to Boston, MA. After a few days there, I board a transatlantic flight to Amsterdam and then Munich. While my husband works, I will soak in the German culture. I plan to see a few museums, gardens and castles.

When I get back to the United States, I’m going to go to a friend’s wedding. The day after that, my friends and family will celebrate the multi-graduation occasions at a barbecue.

Two weeks after that, I will co-host a large garage sale with my sister. Hopefully, my house will be garnering much attention from interested buyers. If that’s the case, it may not be many weeks after the sale that I’ll be packing up my house and moving.

Amidst all of this, I will finish my WIP. I will edit the manuscript and get a copy ready for the classroom of beta readers I’ve been promised at the middle school where I will no longer work.

What are your plans for after graduation? Or perhaps you just have summer plans you’d like to share. I love hearing from my readers.

Still Learning at Every Age

This is borrowed from Carla Foote the blog manager for Weekly Refill.

“Apparently when Michelangelo (painter, sculptor, architect, poet – original Renaissance man) was 87 years old he said, “Ancora imparo” – I am still learning.

Reasons to stop learning (most of us won’t articulate these, but they are in the back of our minds when we step back rather than forward towards a learning opportunity):

  • Fear – of what others will think, of looking stupid, of being wrong, of not being able to accomplish whatever we want to learn
  • Time – to accomplish something new, we need to set aside time, make it a priority and stop doing activities that are less meaningful
  • Settling – the comfort and safety of the known can cause us to settle for staying stuck, rather than trying new things
  • Lack of      imagination – we have never pictured ourselves doing the new thing – being a lifeguard, writing a book, climbing a mountain, speaking in front of a crowd, telling our story

Reasons to keep on learning:

  • Stretching – it’s as good for our minds as it is for our muscles
  • Stewarding – we have gifts and influence we can invest for the kingdom, in every season of life
  • Serving – the lifeguard learns so she can save a life – I learn so I can serve my community in some way”

What are the reasons you give for either backing away from new experiences or embracing them with gusto?

As a middle-aged college student, I’ve obviously decided that I have more to learn. In fact, when I graduate next month *cheesy grin* I will still want to keep learning.

If I stop learning, I believe I’ll shrivel up and die. My brain craves new information and experiences. I don’t want to ever say, “I’m too old for that.”

This old dog is happy to learn new tricks.

The End is in Sight

From UO News Bureau

It’s finally here. I thought I’d be so much more excited, but the exhaustion seeping from every pore chains my exuberance.

This is my last term as an undergraduate student.

As usual, I have two classes. Both of these classes were my top picks and I hope they’ll end up being as enlightening and enjoyable as I imagined. Read more

Feeling Pressure: Learning to Perform under It

Image courtesy of 123rf




















“One of my professors assigned two papers that are due at the same time.”

This from my youngest son, a young man who believes he’s headed into the marketing industry. I’m sure once he’s there, his employer will never assign him multiple projects that share the same due date.

Yeah, right. What universe does he plan to live and work in? Certainly not the American one. Read more