So glad I’ve been able to find a few.
You know who you are. 😉
Someone asked a question today that got me thinking–What HS graduation/going to college gift would you recommend for a first-gen student?
The question took me back to my graduation day.
We had a party at the house after the ceremony. Family and friends to come over and eat sandwiches and potato salad and cake. I got an address book and stationary and a dozen cards with cash tucked inside.
I had no idea that day, but the best graduation gift I received was a brown leather portfolio.
It was a gift from one of my Mom’s coworkers. I remember opening it and thinking how professional it looked. I tucked it carefully into my bag and took it to college with me. I was afraid to carry it at first. I didn’t want to scuff it, ruin it. But after awhile, it went everywhere with me.
And as my college graduation approached, I would use it especially for interviews and important meetings. I feel silly admitting it, but carrying that portfolio was sort of like putting on armor. It gave me confidence. It helped keep that nagging Imposter Syndrome in check.
It’s nearing the end of its life, beginning to show signs of wear. But it has served me well, helped propel me forward. I’ve written thousands of pages of notes, earned degrees, negotiated contracts, attended conferences, received promotions.
Twenty years later, it’s sitting here on my desk.
Another semester is ending, so yeah, I’m probably feeling extra sentimental. Students have been dropping in to check in as the year wraps up. Some are sharing exciting news–they’re graduating this weekend, going onto grad school, starting new jobs, taking a break from the studying to go on much-needed vacations. Others are facing uncertainty–grades aren’t where they need to be, financial aid is in jeopardy, family issues are making things complicated. I love that they feel comfortable coming in to my office, sharing their news, asking for advice, just wanting to touch base one more time before they scatter for the summer.
You know, when I look back on the whole of my own college days, it was the best time of my life.
Now, don’t misunderstand me. My life is pretty great now. I’ve got an awesome husband, two fantastic kiddos, a sweet hound dog, a loving family, an incredible group of friends, and a job that I absolutely love going to every day. But not one bit of this would be possible without the time I spent in college, without the connections I made, the lessons I learned, and the foundation I built there.
It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. I soared higher than I ever thought possible. And I crashed, burned, tried to get up, stumbled, fell back down, and had pick up the pieces and build something brand new there too.
And you know what? It was all worth it. Every. Beautiful. Painful. Moment.
And the best part of it is that it led me here, to this place, where I get to spend my days working with college students, helping them navigate this crazy transition, helping them begin to understand that our mistakes don’t define us–they give us perspective. I get to help them learn that failure is not a dirty word as long as you own it and learn from it and use it to make better choices tomorrow. I get to be the person I needed (the person I found) when I was young and scared and confused and looking for someone to walk with me on my journey.
So don’t be afraid of the wreckage. It’s an important part of the story too.
So the kids’ school had a dance tonight. Family-style, everyone’s invited preschool-5th. Cadence had Swim Team so we arrived a little late (and H-man was at home since school days tend to wear him out and we thought hanging out at home with Daddy and watching hockey was a better alternative than an over-tired meltdown in the school gym).
It was a lot of kids running around and eating snacks, dancing for a bit, and then chasing each other or running races around the room. There was a lot of intermittent flossing, and one large group dancing a perfectly choreographed Macarena.
And then this happened…
Biggest hit song of the night? Baby Shark.
That’s it. I’m done.
Keep writing. Keep writing. Keep writing.
And this is where the words get stuck. It’s getting late, the kids are barely in bed, my eyes are heavy, and I just can’t get my brain to cooperate and put these swirling thoughts in any sort of sensible order.
If you want to know the truth of it, I’ve got New York on the brain. We booked tickets for a trip this summer. It will be our first trip out East since Richie & Diane’s house was sold, since we wrapped up the details of the estate and said our goodbyes. I think we’ve sort of been avoiding a trip because we both know it’s going to be hard–going for a visit and not having the old house to go back to. And honestly it’s been easier than it should have been to avoid the trip. We’ve just been so busy. Isn’t that always a great excuse?
But now we’re going. It’s going to be fun, because we’re heading back to Concordia for a Band Bash reunion. Stevie’s getting some of the old bandmates back together, and we’re excited to see everyone and be back on campus for awhile and to get a chance to tap back into the place we love so much and miss every day.
Every damn day.
But it’s always bittersweet to go back too. I mean, we’re not surprised. We’ve been 12 years gone. But somehow everything has changed and nothing has changed. We just left yesterday, but we’ve been gone a lifetime.
And even if it’s a little painful, it’s always good to go back. It’s a homecoming. I crane my neck to catch that first glimpse of New York City in the tiny airplane window, and my heart keeps a beat every time.
And walking around campus–that place where I celebrated the best days and survived the worst days and learned more about myself than any other place before or since–I always get this feeling that I am exactly where I am supposed to be, surrounded by the people who love me and supported me and taught me how to be my very best self.
Let the countdown begin.
We signed Henry up for Happy Feet winter soccer this year. Cadence was a little older when we first found the league. She was always the social butterfly and excited to meet new people and try new things, so she dove right in and loved it immediately. The winter league is awesome because it gives the kids an opportunity to run off some of the excess energy that comes from being cooped up in the house in the frigid winter months. And since Henry was finally old enough this year and has been doing so well with his swim lessons, we figured we’d sign him up.
We figured it might be hit or miss with H-man. He’s been kicking things around the house since he started walking, and even used to practice soccer moves with Cadence when she was still active in the YMCA league. But he’s also our shy guy–quiet, introverted, slow to warm up to new people and experiences. Technically, his first practice should have been last week, but he was down with the stomach bug. Today, he seemed excited when we got him dressed and grabbed his new soccer ball to head out the door.
We were excited to see some kids from school, and Henry was having a blast kicking the ball around with me and Cadence before all the kids arrived and the coaches called the teams together to start practice.
Our big mistake today was not getting H-man down for a nap. This dude is a rock star sleeper, and he still needs a little midday nap to keep him sane (to keep all of us sane). He definitely should have had one after being up late and getting so wound up with our dinner guests last night. At one point around midnight, he was talking in his sleep to Beebe. Then, he woke himself up, yelled for Stevie, and demanded a fresh cup of water. We heard him talking and meowing to his stuffed cat for 10 minutes or so before he finally fell back asleep.
But no such luck napping today. Henry’s game started at 2:00, and he had about 20 minutes of excitement in him. After that, he spent most of the time walking around the floor in a daze, occasionally kicking at the ball as it rolled by or taking off in a momentary sprint. But he’d get distracted every time the ball left his orbit or one of the other kids tripped and fell down on the floor. He spent half of the game hovering near his coach, occasionally holding her hand as they followed the ball and the crowd of other kids up and down the floor.
My favorite moment? When he saw one of his friends fall down and made a beeline over to help. Seeing Henry take the other boy’s hand and call over to tell us his friend was okay…this Momma’s heart melted. I honestly don’t care if Henry kicked that ball or scored a goal today. I don’t care if his team won. If he learned something, if he had fun, if he showed kindness to his teammates and respect to his coaches and opponents–that’s all that really matters.
It was a good day. 🙂
And next week, we’ll see what difference a good nap will make.