Wednesday, February 22, 2012

My "Mini" Job

Since September, I have worked as a Scholarship Advisor.  I walked into a conversation between my old boss and the school counselor:  they wanted to give the seniors more help with scholarships, and I was the perfect match - I wasn't bogged down with lesson plans, but I could help them with their essays for scholarships.  I took the job because I could work from home and only go into school once a week.

I call it my "mini" job, because I only work 5-10 hours a week.  5 hours a week is manageable, 10 hours a week is too much.  And the past two months, it's been 10 hours a week because we're in the middle of scholarship season.  I'm running a little haggard, and and these are some of the things I've had to say to seniors:

Yes, you really do have to fill out the college application.  Writing down what college you want to attend, and giving the paper to your teacher is not enough.

I sent FIVE different emails about FAFSA...What do you mean, you haven't checked your email since November?

No, the school does not automatically send in your transcripts to every college.  You have to ask the secretary to send them.  Please ask nicely:  it is not her fault the deadline is today. 

You don't have to decide on a career today, but you do have to apply to college today.

If you want to go to college, you really do have to fill out all the forms.

If you are attending FAFSA Night, please bring your social security card.....what do you mean - you don't know if you are a U.S. citizen?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Huckleberry Jam

I opened a jar of huckleberry jam today for no special reason.  I've had it since last summer, waiting for a special occasion.  In six months, we've had family dinners and celebrated "small victories", but I've never opened the jar.  Today I opened it; I needed to feel special.

I woke up at 4:30 to an odd sound - by the time I made it to Noel's bedroom, she was covered in throw-up.  Poor dear, she still hasn't learned to sit up when she throws up - she just lays there, cold and smelly.  I got her out of her jammies, into the bath, and put all the blankets in the washer.  After her bath, we cuddled on the couch until she fell asleep at 6:30.  I slept for a half-hour until Juliet woke up.

This is how most days have been for the past month - Noel is sick for a couple of days, Juliet takes her turn, and Scottie and I alternate between stuffy noses and stomach flus.  I was exhausted this morning, so when I opened up the cupboard and saw the huckleberry jam, I opened it.  I put it on some bread, ate it, and felt better.  Special even.

I don't kow why we save things for the "special event".  We save the best china, the good ice cream, and our cute outfit.  I have a pair of jeans that I only wear on dates with Scottie, and a sweater that I haven't worn for eight years, because I'm nervous of it getting shabby.  Instead, I've been wearing a horrible brown sweater, while my Swiss sweater sits in a nice tupperware under my bed.  I think it's time to get it out and start enjoying it today.  Along with the Huckleberry Jam.

Friday, February 10, 2012


I was on a panel this last week, interviewing scholarship applicants.  It was an amazing experience to speak with seniors from diverse backgrounds, and yet all possessing similar, hopeful futures.  One girl in particular impressed me.  She had a disease called HLH (the full name is Hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis; no wonder they've given it an acronym).  She needed drug therapy in 6th grade, chemotherapy in 7th grade, and finally, a bone marrow transplant in 8th grade.  While she was in the hospital recovering from the surgery, she suffered from a brain bleed, permanently affecting her short term memory.  She started 9th grade free of HLH, but struggled to learn and retain information.  

She told us how she would go to class everyday, tape record the lectures, then listen to them at night to understand the information.  She did this everyday, from freshman to senior year.  She wants to become a Life Coach for children who are in the hospital for treatment similar to her own, and hopes to help them.  When we asked her if she had an obstacle to attending college, she simply said:  "Myself.  I have to overcome myself everyday." 

I was struck by this statement, and have mulled over it since.  I was impressed by this girl's determination to succeed in her education; she truly was overcoming her limitations on a daily basis.  It reminded me of a quote by Thomas a Kempis:

"He who is living without discipline is exposed to grievous ruin....Who hath a harder batttle to fight than he who striveth for self-mastery?  And this should be our endeavor, even to master self, and thus daily to grow stronger than self and go on unto perfection."

Although I was the one asking the questions during the scholarship interview, I learned from this young girl's example.  The jewel of wisdom she shared:  we don't overcome our weakness in one grand moment, we simply work at it everyday.  I think I've always known this, but to see an 18-year old have the courage to go to school everyday, keep studying when her brain can't remember something that happened five minutes ago is an example I want to hold onto, and overcome my limitations everyday as well. 

Friday, February 3, 2012

An Award?

Sara Bulla from "Live to Write...Edit When Necessary" gave me "The Versatile Blogger" award awhile back.  This is incredibly nice, since I have no idea what I'm doing on here.  I started the blog one night when I was up late working, got tired of working, and thought a blog suddenly sounded like a good idea. It's like the student that needs to study for a test, but suddenly finds it necessary to sharpen ALL his pencils, or rearrange his sock drawer.  That's how I was - I wanted an excuse not to have to work.  And so, I started a blog.  Little did I know that a blog would demand work...

A week later, I complained to my husband that I didn't know if I should continue.  What's the point?  I wondered.  After some discussion, my husband convinced me that if I didn't have a blog, I wouldn't write at all.  I graduated in English and History, taught for several years, but wrote very little because I was so busy correcting essays by 9th graders.  Now that I'm not teaching, I thought I should try to write.  Maybe even submit an essay to a newspaper or magazine.  So, I continued to blog, so that I could remember how to write something besides a lesson plan.

I think blogs are like people - each has a different personality.  I don't want to have 20 friends that act and dress the same, nor do I want to check out 20 blogs that read alike.  So, I stopped worrying about what other blogs were about, and tried to find out what my voice sounded like.  I love some blogs because they are funny, some for the updates on their family life, and some because they are so beautifully written that I read a post multiple times before moving on.  I did stop trying to make my blog "all one thing" and just started writing, finding my voice on paper. 

So, when Sara Bulla gave the award, it felt really good.  Like at least one person liked what I was writing, and that maybe I should just keep going.  Thanks, Sara.

The deal with this award is that I'm supposed to share 7 random facts about myself.  This is why the post has been awhile in coming - I can't think of anything random about myself.  Oh sure, I know I'm a bit random, but when you're supposed to come up with random things, you lose the randomness of it.  So, here is my best shot:

1.  I am something of an ice cream addict.  I will eat it any day of the week, for any reason.  I can list all the Ben & Jerry's flavors, current and discontinued, and hope to one day be hired as their official "ice cream taster".  

2.  I worked one summer as a mail delivery person.  I survived by listening to books on tape and eating from taco stands en route. 

3.  I worked in Switzerland for two summers.  I loved everything about living in the Swiss Alps, and I really loved the food.  I'm a little ashamed to admit that a deciding factor in going back the second summer was to eat muesli and nutella every morning. 

4.  I have never broken a bone, although I am somewhat accident prone.  During my first semester in college, I was in two mountain-biking accidents, got hit by a car, and took a trip to the E.R.  When I switched my major from Recreation Education to English during my junior year, the trips to the E.R. reduced drastically. 

5.  I have a bad habit of cutting my hair.  Whenever I can't get to a hairdresser, I snag a pair of scissors - even kitchen shears - and go to town.  It's a good thing my hair is naturally curly, and can hide the crazy lines. 

6.  When I was in junior high, my best friend and I would hang out at the library in our small Montana town and listen to old records of jazz and big band artists.  Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Nat King Cole, Billie Hollday, and Ella Fitzgerald were some of our favorites.

7.  I found every excuse to show my students scenes from "Fiddler on the Roof" while teaching.  I could connect it to Chaim Potok's "The Chosen", or the Russian Diaspora.  I also found it helpful to dance during "If I Were a Rich Man" or "Tradition" to extend the learning experience.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Email Addresses

I remember the first e-mail address I had:  'br' for my name, and landcruiser because I was a bit obsessed with Landcruisers from the 70's.  I thought my email address was so cool, and email was relatively new, so I had no idea about any rules of creating an email address.

Fast-forward 15 years, and I'm now working part-time as a scholarship advisor.  I work mostly from home, and communicate with students via email.  I started noticing that some addresses were less than professional, and had to have this funny conversation with students about the impression they can give over the internet.  Many times their scholarship applications are linked to an email, and the first impression to give a scholarship committee should be something other than "dadshoneybunny@___", "", "pretty.princess@____", and my personal favorite, "djpoopmonster@____". 

For a high school kid, impression is everything.  They want to dress and speak to convey their personality, so having to tell them that "dadshoneybunny" doesn't establish the picture of an intelligent senior was met with some resistance.  Some students keep two email accounts - one to communicate with their friends, and not lose their "cool image" status, (though you have to wonder how the coolness factor is related to being called dadshoneybunny), and one to communicate with teachers, colleges, and the like.  But for my young friend that holds onto the "djpoopmonster" name, I can only hope whoever reads his scholarship application has an affinity for the unusual and underage.