Archive for July, 2014

Oldest Son has been getting a ton of college mail for the past three years or so. I may not be exaggerating. All together, it may actually total a ton by the time it’s all said and done. He’s saved every single piece of it and once he reaches a decision, plans to celebrate with a bonfire composed of all of the aforementioned college mail. The way it’s going, that fire will last all night. The Eternal Flame will have some competition.

It amazes me how these colleges find him. There are probably letters from at least one college in every state, including Alaska. Well, maybe not Hawaii. I would have remembered that one because I would want to go with him. I offered to go to Oxford or Cambridge with him, but was flat-out denied in a sort of horrified way. All of his test scores have been sent out, therefore encouraging well-respected and EXPENSIVE colleges to recruit him, which is all well and good, except for the expensive part. We are not rich people. We’re not even on our way to being rich people. We do, however, want Oldest Son to have the experience of going away to college and to be able to choose a school that’s not within driving distance. His brothers also want his bedroom.

There are a few ways to accomplish this. The most obvious way is through scholarships, which he, being a good student, is likely to get. His test scores are all fabulous, which is not inherited from me, and will soon find out if he is a National Merit Scholar, which pretty much guarantees some financial help. He does not want loans, does not want us to take out loans, and wants to graduate with no debt.

He’s also explored another way of paying for school which does not involve loans. The military. In particular, the Marines.

Now, I have no problem with our military. I respect, honor it, and am so very grateful for it, actually. Each branch is composed of amazing men and women who have pledged their lives to defend and protect our country. We would not have the freedoms that we do without our armed forces. It is a calling that countless members of my family have followed and I could not be more proud of them. Three of my grandparents, a few cousins, a brother/cousin (I’ll save that for another post, it’s not what it sounds like), and generations of my ancestors extending back through the Middle Ages have all served in the military, from knights for King Richard II through President Obama. That being said, it’s hard to imagine my baby boy, as big and hairy as he is now, facing down Iraqi insurgents in the desert when I still have to remind him to pick up his dirty clothes and clean his room.

Several months ago, he sent a postcard to the Marines for a “free” T-shirt. At the time, I warned him that they would call, recruiting. Imagine his surprise when the call came a couple of weeks ago from a local Marine recruiter with the offer of paying for college in exchange for four years of service after graduation. Oldest Son spoke with the gentleman on the phone for a while and then scheduled a meeting. Immediately, every scene of every disturbing military movie began going through my head, Platoon, Full Metal Jacket, you get the idea. My (not so) little boy was going to do that??? I texted my brother/cousin, who was a Marine, and set up a phone call between the two of them so that Oldest Son could hear what it was really like. I was worried that he would take the offer and run without any thought to the realities of military life, not that I’ve lived it, but giving four to six years of your life to something isn’t a snap decision. I would be so very proud of him, but also terrified at what he may potentially go through, as I’m sure every mother whose child has expressed an interest in the military has felt. The phone call went well, but I was still concerned.

The meeting with the recruiter took place the following week after Oldest Son got out of work. It went for almost three hours. Yes, indeed. According to him, he got all of the information that he wanted and made sure to bring me a lovely booklet entitled, “A Parent’s Guide to the Marine Corps”, which really doesn’t help a whole lot. However, I needn’t have worried too much. The military isn’t his first choice, he told me, but it is a viable backup, in case he doesn’t get the scholarships he needs to go to the schools that he wants. The hardest part for me is learning to let go and let him make his own decision about it. In less than a year, I won’t have a say. He can march right down to the office, sign his name, and we can’t do a thing about it. He’s coming in to the time of his life where we must let him decide what is best for him. We can guide him, offer advice, and make our feelings known, but I want him to choose the path that’s right. I wasn’t given a lot of help or choices when I was in this stage of my life and I don’t want that to be his experience. We’ve raised him to be an independent thinker (to my detriment, sometimes, especially on curfew issues) and he’s got a pretty good head on his shoulders.

This, I think, is the scariest part of being a parent. When they’re little, you, the parent, have complete control. You make all of the big decisions for them: wearing a coat when it’s cold, bedtime, eating healthy food, going to school every day even when you don’t feel like it, sharing, cleaning up your own mess, admitting when you’ve done something wrong and taking steps to fix it. All of these things, hopefully, shape them into good people who will contribute to society in good and even awesome ways. The frightening part comes when they have to do it alone, with no help from you. We’re almost at that point and while I’m not ready to let go of his hand just yet, I think he will be okay. And if he does choose to join the Marines to get the education that he wants, well, Semper Fi.

Stay tuned.

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We have a jogger in our neighborhood whom we’ve christened “Naked Jogger”. He’s a person that has jogged very frequently during every week, in lots of different weather, for many years. We say hi all the time, but we don’t know his name. Why label this gentleman as “Naked Jogger” you ask? Well, about six or seven years ago, he had a pair of shorts that were a little, er, worn out. In spots. As he was jogging, certain man bits were visible. I’m not sure how he didn’t know that some man bits were showing, but I really don’t think that he did. Whether he was distracted (he’s REALLY focused on his running) or whatever, when I called him on it (my kids and my cousin’s child was there, for heaven’s sake), and asked if he wanted a towel, he seemed genuinely surprised and hasn’t appeared with any bits showing since. But since that unfortunate incident, he has been christened by our family as “Naked Jogger”. He’s a very dedicated runner, usually shirtless and with a set of noise-cancelling headphones. He jogs for blocks and blocks, over hill, over dale, seemingly without stopping. I envy his endurance and willpower.

When spring began this year, we didn’t see Naked Jogger. It’s kind of like the first robin of spring. The trees grew buds, we looked for Naked Jogger, but he wasn’t there. We mentioned him from time to time, but no one had spotted him since the weather turned nice.

Then, one day, last month, there he was… WALKING! Yes, Naked Jogger was not running, but walking and had his shins taped/wrapped up. We’ve come up with many theories as to why this is so. Shin splints, perhaps? Surgery? Accident? We just don’t know. We were glad to see him, but it was sad to see him without his jogging mojo. No spark, no focus, just… sad.

But then, he did come by, jogging, last week and we secretly cheered. Yay, Naked Jogger is feeling better! All is right with the world! Then, yesterday, again with the wrapped legs and walking. What is up with that??? He looks sad, but we have a spark of hope that one day, he will jog down the sidewalk again, sans leg wraps, wild and free (with man bits covered), and focused on his breathing.

Bring back the mojo.

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So, we dumped our land line. I’m still not sure how I feel about that. We’ve kept our same house phone number (so if you have that, nothing has changed for you) but now instead of the familiar cordless phone that sits on the small cabinet in the kitchen, we have a tiny cell phone that sits on the small cabinet in the kitchen and will be, for all intents and purposes, our house phone.

Why get rid of the land line and get a mobile when it’s just going to sit at home? For one thing, it’s cheaper. The way the plans are set up, it’s definitely more cost-effective to have a mobile instead of the land line. Another reason is that Marty can take the “home” phone with him when he goes places. Those who know us know that we are not “phone people”. I’ve had a mobile for eleven years and I usually forget I have it. It’s for my kids to get ahold of me or as an emergency number, but I’m not on it regularly. There really wasn’t a reason, in my mind, why I would want to be “connected” all the time. I still don’t. With the home phone being a mobile, if I can’t answer, perhaps he can.

Along with replacing the land line, I got a new phone, too. Mind you, I’ve had this particular phone for more than 7 years. The one I had before is the one I had when I was pregnant with Andrew, so I had that one for about 4 years. Hopefully, this one will last for another 7 years, at least.

I hate that the technology companies use sheep mentality to get people to buy the newer, faster, more data, models. Why??? It’s just going to be outdated in a few months. I can’t understand buying something for hundreds of dollars only to have to replace it because a newer one is coming out. Is it peer pressure? Status? I’d rather keep a dinosaur of a phone and spend my money on travel or new windows or something substantial. The only reason I have a new one is that my old one was wearing out. I don’t even know if I could get a new battery for it anymore. As for this one, it’s not terribly fancy. It is a smartphone. I don’t have data, but I can get wifi when there is some around. I have unlimited text, which makes my boys happy. Because my old phone was go phone, every text or call I made cost some of the $25 that I would pay in advance. With this plan, we still pay $25 a month, but with a lot of minutes (more than I’ll ever use), and they can text me as much as they want, which makes in nice when one of them has an overzealous baseball coach who likes to send 10 text messages every single day. (Not that I’m still cheesed about that, but really? How many baseball messages do I need?) It takes pictures, too, although they’re not very good.

Anyway, I might not like it, but things change whether we want them to or not. There is a choice in the matter. We could choose to pay more and stay in our old ways, but that doesn’t make financial sense, especially if I’m ever going to get back to London one of these days. We didn’t have to change our tvs to models that could pick up the new signal, but there are shows that we like, so we did. What I hate is feeling forced to do it. My minimum technology lifestyle was doing just fine until “they” decided that everyone had to change or be left out. A bit bully-like to my thinking. I wonder if my grandparents felt that way when they gave up their rotary phone, or if my great-grandparents fought against having indoor plumbing for as long as possible until the kids finally talked them into it. I still remember the way things were when I was little: rotary phones, the introduction of cable tv, cordless phones, compacts discs instead of tapes, the list could go on.

Technology has always changed, but not anywhere near the pace that it is these days and some of it is good and necessary. I just saw on the news where doctors had made a new ear for a young girl out of her rib cartilage and were growing it in the skin of her wrist. They had already made her a new nose. That would have been impossible 10 years ago, but with new medical technology, it’s going to become more normal. Now, mobile phones aren’t as important as medical advances like that, unless you’re a Kardashian and have to post selfies every half an hour, (Why? Have they changed? Who really cares?) but for some reason, the companies that make these phones want us to continually buy the newest model, only to outdo themselves a few months or a year down the road in order to get more of our money. I’m not giving in to that, as much as I possibly can. For now, I’ll work on figuring out how the new phones work and not get bullied into updating any time soon.

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