The Big U of K

You may not have noticed, but I sent my son to college recently. I held it together pretty well, considering how strongly I feel about my kiddo. The outpouring of calls I got was very touching … people checked on me for several days after the move to make sure I wasn’t committing empty-nest seppuku.

The entire experience of sending Kory to the University of Kentucky still seems a little unreal. If there is anything I can remember about my upbringing, it is that UK is the best team, the best school, the gold standard for athleticism and education. This is mostly due to my father’s passion for UK’s basketball team, despite the fact that he attended Bellarmine, and my sisters attended U of L. My brother made it to UK, for a while, but I didn’t appreciate the impact at the time. Sitting in freshman/parent orientation, I appreciated the impact. It was a really amazing experience.

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(Non-Kentucky readers – the rivalry between UK and UL is explosive. Think OSU v Michigan. Russia v USA. Cats v Dogs.)

I am a visual person … words and images resonate with me. So, when I see the UK blue and white, or the Kentucky Wildcat, I feel genuinely happy. It’s not just a pleasing color combination, it’s an affirmation of things I’ve heard since I was a little kid. I’ve also watched the basketball team do some pretty amazing things. Football, not so much. Nobody’s perfect.

I hear people say derisive and, frankly, horrible things about the college and team I was raised to love. I try to separate the passion for sports from … well, the rest of humanity. Sports fans are a little nuts … it’s like religion.

The sports, however, are not the important thing here. There are several important things going on, and I have only recently been able to take the space I need to reflect.

– I was a teen mom. I spent a couple of years doing a really crappy job of raising my son, and if his grandparents hadn’t stepped in I have no idea where we would be today.
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– I did, eventually, get it together and make Kory my priority. It’s the smartest thing I have ever done.
– My boyfriend, partner, and best friend Chip has been around since my boy was funny-looking (he was kind of purple as a baby), and neither Kory nor I would be where we are today without him.
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– When I was Kory’s age, I was pregnant, living in a crappy apartment, and wondering how to pay bills on minimum wage. Kory is a pre-med student at a renowned university and, from what I can tell, loving every minute of it.

I see some really sad comments on social media sites about my son’s school. Things like “I support UL because I went there, you support UK because you went to Wal-Mart.” I’ll save my thoughts on Wal-Mart for another post, but to the rest, there are many reasons to support a team or university. Few of them involve where you actually went to school. Most of them involve the values or lessons you learned while growing, and a team can be a positive influence in many ways. It gave me a way to relate to my father.

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It gave me a legacy to pass to my son.

I should learn to keep my mouth shut …

No time at all passed between my last post and a series of events that ensured I was unable to “just chill” and enjoy having finished school.

First of all, our house was burglarized. While it may have been something of an overreaction, I took that as a sign that it was time to move. I found a bigger house with a yard for the dogs in a nicer neighborhood … the only catch was the carpet in the kitchen. And the bathroom. Carpet.

Say it with me: Who does that?

I agreed to rent the place if I was allowed to replace the offending floor covering with something more appropriate. Chip graciously donated a large chunk of his vacation and considerable skill to the project. My kitchen is now lovely, and the bathroom isn’t half bad either.

Additionally, the second floor smelled like a rabbit hutch. Have you ever smelled rabbit pee? It’s gross. It took three and a half gallons of Nature’s Miracle (which is a wonderful product) to rid the carpet of the stink. What a pain.

Home invasions and moving aside, I also went from being a full time student to a full time employee without blinking – actually, I  started working before I’d even finished classes. However, the job for which I was hired was billed as: proofreader/copy editor/technical writer. What they actually wanted was: a proofreader. Highly technical documents in nine languages where all the proofreader does is look for stray commas and the like. Ick. That isn’t what I went to school for, it was boring as all get out, and frankly, I sucked at it.

As it happened, my former boss from Technology First (where I interned as a student for two years) left the organization for a new opportunity. That left his position open, and I jumped at the chance to fill his shoes. I love it, and I think I’m really good at it. My title is Communications Coordinator, but really I am responsible for half of everything the organization does. It’s crazy and busy, but it’s a ton of fun.

Kory has also started driving, which is wonderful from a logistic perspective yet terrifying from a parental perspective. I alternate between being thrilled that I don’t have to play taxi to freaking out if he’s home fifteen minutes later than expected. It’s a roller coaster.

All told, I fervently hope that there will be few major changes in my future. I’m just fine with things the way they are, and I don’t need any more milestones.

Somewhere in there we took a vacation to North Carolina, which was sublime, and I will post pictures soon. Kory and his friend Kevin learned to surf. It was awesome.

Now What?

When most students graduate college, at least those who are not immediately embarking upon adventures in graduate school, they experience a plethora of emotions.  First, accomplishment.  We are members of the 22% of Americans with a bachelor’s degree.  That’s not a huge percentage, and a four-year degree is a big accomplishment.  Second, freedom.  I used Wikipedia as a source for the statistic in the previous point, and it felt goooood (actually it didn’t, and I’m itching to go find a more reliable source, but that would defeat my purpose).  Taking that last final and realizing we will be able to read for pleasure again, or not read at all if we so choose, creates a sense of euphoria. Third, anxiety.  After the “school’s out” high wears off, we begin to wonder what we’re going to do with our shiny new degrees, a prospect that can be terrifying.  The economy is still struggling, and the market is flooded with degree-holding job seekers, some of whom have the real-world experience that puts them ahead of younger graduates.

Luckily, I fall into the category of recent graduates with real-world experience and I landed a terrific job in the exact field I wanted.  Not only does this mean I get to do something I love, it means I get to stick my tongue out at all the naysayers who claim a liberal arts education is worthless in the current economic climate.

So, you might ask, what’s my problem?  My problem is that I’m only a few weeks past that stressful “last” final, and I already miss it.  Not because I don’t like my job, and not because I hate the “real world,” but because there is still so much to learn.  If there is a downside to my job, it’s that I read all day and am not terribly inclined to read for pleasure (or education) at home (at least not yet, I know I have plenty of time to adjust).  But while I was in school, there was always something new, even if it was something I didn’t like, and there was always something to talk about.  While technical writing is precisely what I went to school for and I love it (most aspects of it, anyway) it does not make for terribly enthralling dinner conversation.  I was inspired at school … I would come up with new ideas all the time or jot down things to write about or books to read “when I graduate.”  Now that the time has come, I find myself struggling with what to read, or write, or do with my spare time.

I find myself looking for “the next big milestone.” My brain seems to have a checklist (as I’m sure many other brains have), and now that it’s ticked off “graduate” and “get a job” it’s searching for the next accomplishment to cross off the list.  While that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it’s making me a little nuts.  I’m so overwhelmed with worrying about the next big thing, I’m not taking the time to enjoy my life as it is right now.  I can pay my bills, I have a caring network of family and friends, and if there is any justice my son will have his driver’s license in a couple of weeks and I will no longer be a taxi service.  (Okay, that last one comes with its own anxiety, but it’s been a long time coming and I am ready for that boy to drive.)

My solution is this: just chill.  I can write a book if I want to, and it doesn’t have to be this week.  I can move to a nicer place if I want to, but my current place isn’t bad and I’ll save money by staying there anyway.  I just need to breathe for a while, and exist in the now.

 

 

Facebook Killed My Blog

Here’s how blogs happen:

People have stuff they want to share.

People create blogs so they can share interesting information and photos with others

People read blogs.

That’s pretty much it, but since Facebook, Twitter, and other social networking sites have become so popular, the need for a blogger to share her or his thoughts has become superfluous. When the “Cliff’s Notes” version is conveyed via Tweet or status post, who needs the full volume? And photo uploads are much easier via Facebook than WordPress. However, since no one in my family will deign to join Facebook, I will continue to post the odd summary of my life here and there.

There were four drafts in my WordPress dashboard when I started this one; I haven’t been able to find the time or the attention to finish one. I’m going to combine them and hit the highlights of the last few months, so that the three people who read this blog will have something to look at other than Chip’s traffic cone imitation.

I swam with dolphins during my last visit to the keys. It was incredible.

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We got an early morning visit from a wild dolphin too. I was amazed by the number of people who responded “in the wild?” when I said I’d gone swimming with dolphins. They don’t *generally* swim up to the boat and offer rides, folks.

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You’d think I’d get tired of taking sunset sailing photos, but I don’t.

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I highly recommend Bahia Honda if you’re ever in the keys; it’s beautiful.

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I really wanted to find these kayakers so I could give them this picture … another postcard-quality shot from the keys.

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For a full account of my adventures in the Keys, read Misty’s post, because there’s just really no point to typing that up again. Sooner or later I’ll post the photos the Dolphin Research Center folks took, although you can see some of those on Misty’s blog too.

I also visited my parents, and found an amazing pear tree collection just a few streets from their house.

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Just turn your head to the side when you look at it. I’m busy, okay?

I have enjoyed a very brief reprieve from school work, but Summer Term starts Tuesday and I already have reading to do. While I’d like to promise I’ll be a better blogger in the future, we all know how that goes.

Fill In the Gaps

I’m ripping off a project that another blogger ripped off of another blogger who ripped it off of someone else. Or something like that. I found it here, and I’ve been intrigued with it ever since.

As an English major, I am utterly annoyed when someone quotes or mentions some great piece of literature and I have to respond “I haven’t read it.” Similarly, when great contemporary works are mentioned I feel as though I’m falling down on the job if I don’t keep up. I realize I can’t read every influential piece of literature in existence, but I feel that attention should be paid to those works which have formed the basis of the literary world. The contemporary works that continue the tradition of great literature are even more impressive, for they manage to recreate age-old plots in ways unique enough to astonish us all over again.

The idea is to read 100 books in 5 years that are all “important” pieces of literature – to “fill in the gaps” in one’s literary background. Obviously this is a subjective matter, and I have yet to compile my entire list, but I’m soliciting suggestions. Meanwhile, I’m picking up books like Pride and Prejudice whenever I can so I actually have the books to read when the times comes. I figure this way I have something to read at all times, and the things I read can contribute to this list rather than to the deterioration of my IQ. As some of you may know, I have a tendency to read junk when school isn’t in session.

Aside from all that nonsense, the quarter is plugging along and SOS is gaining members thanks to the t-shirts, so thanks to all who donated! I’m writing so much for school this quarter, blogging is difficult to fit in, but I will try to be a little more diligent with updates.

In the mean time, you can check out this link if you’d like to see some truly adorable photos of Vicki and Joslyn crossing the finish line for the Derby Festival Marathon. Huge congratulations and admiration are due to Vicki for running the marathon, and the same to Chip and his l’il bro Joe for tackling the mini!

Employed

I’m officially employed again, or at least I will be after I fill out the requisite mountain of paperwork.  I just accepted a position as a tutor at Wright State’s University Writing Center, where I will guide young collegiate minds through the challenges of academic writing.  I’m hoping this will give me some insight as to whether I would rather teach or run screaming from the field of academia to rejoin the corporate world after graduation.  Wish me luck!

Good Samaritan

Some days, I am simply appalled by the way human beings treat one another.  Most days, really.  But today I saw one of those things that restores your faith in your fellow human.  I was leaving school and a man had pulled his car over to retrieve something from the road.  At first I thought he’d left a backpack on the roof of the car and lost it as he pulled off, but then I edged closer and saw him gingerly pick up what was literally the biggest turtle I’ve ever seen in the wild (not that the WSU campus is “the wild,” but it’s not exactly a zoo or a pet store, either).  Seriously, this bad boy was the size of a hubcap.  I’m going to have to start carrying my camera with me at all times just for instances such as these.

Anyway, here’s to you, Good Samaritan.  I’m sure the turtle appreciates it even more than I do.