Above average is the new average 


Sometimes I think I’m so smart and I know so much about so much. For years I’ve been talking up college to my kids and encouraging (can be read as pushing at times) my kids to get good grades so the can go to college. “Get good grades so you can go to college ” should  be tattooed on my forehead for as many times as I’ve said it.

And I thought my kids were doing pretty well. I mean not as good as they could be. We all know our kids are geniuses and they don’t always work to their potential -another good tattoo “work to your potential”. But I really thought BC my kids had grades above average they would have their pick of colleges. But I found out different – I had no idea -and I thought i did.

Before I go on I will preface this by saying that my kids may opt to go to a community college regardless of what their averages are. It may make sense for them for various reasons -most of the reasons being they may not be ready to live away at a four year school – oh and money. We have also explained to them that they will have to help pay for their higher education bc a full ride is not coming from mom and dad. We are unable to provide that. So we have a great deal of research to do.

Also, though I have always told my kids they should go to college and have given them many reasons why having a college degree can be a very important asset when trying to get a job, I also realize college is not for everyone. And some kids aren’t ready for college when they graduate from high school. I want my kids to follow their own path and i hope that they will get to work at something they love. I just know that it is hard to know what that might when you are a teen. My daughter does know. At least she has a plan A. But her plan A could morph into plan B later i life. I went through a number of iterations when it came to my career.  Each shift coming at just the right time.

But since we don’t know at the start of high school what the end of high school plan will be: college, gap year,learning a trade, taking time off to work, etc. we have decided that college would be the thing we work for. So we have stressed the aspect of having a good GPA- and what I have found is that a 3.0 average limits the college choices!

We may have some options but I am finding that the options are less BC my kids 3.1 and 3.2 weighted GPAs aren’t considered above average anymore -they are just average. If you look at the website collegeboards.org you can look up colleges and look at where the student measures up to their requirements for admission  – grades , test scores, eye color(ok that’s a lie ) and what I saw was a list of GPAs and next to them what percentage of freshman with that GPA range got admitted to that school and my kids GPAs were at the low end for admittance. Basically anything under 2.99 was toast. I found a few schools that accepted kids with lower GPAs but not the average GPA of 2.4 that I had.

If I had the GPAs my kids have back in my day -another tattoo “back in my day” – I would have been in heaven. As it was I was accepted into 4 colleges with my 2.4 and only 860 on my SATs.

When did 3.0 become the new average?

With college being big business masquerading as institutes of higher education (ok that’s harsh but kind of true -you can get a good education but look at the cost!) and with so may to choose from you would think that there would be more places for kids with GPAs in the 3.0 level and lower to go.

I don’t want to get started on the cost of higher education – but have you looked at it? It is so ridiculous!  I know we should have started a college fund years ago- and we had every intent of doing so. But with the cost of about six years of private school for all 3 kids we never got around to it then add in the bad financial years we have just encountered along with a serious illness tossed in – it never happened and the kids are in the middle of high school. So here we are- and I cannot get over the cost of school. Nor can i get over the amount of planning that goes into the preparation for college. There are the grades and the service hours and clubs and test scores. There is the college choosing process that requires attending college fairs and college tours. There is the application process, the financial aid/scholarship process, sorting out what school can be afforded after the acceptances and aid money comes in. Its a job!

Hard to believe in some countries higher education is free. Some here would argue that it comes with higher taxes and likely true but I am not going to lie- I would love to see free education or very reduced education costs in the US. I would rather not have my child strapped with debt at the end of the college years. Some states have incredibly inexpensive schools but the costs still add up when you add in tuition and fees, room and board.

I have friends who have multiple kids in college and that will be us in a few short years when my boys graduate high school we may have 3 in college all at once. I don’t know how people do it.

The other day my mother sent me an article about Germany opening their free universities up to US students. I asked my kids if they would be interested in going to school in Germany.

“No” was the unified answer. Really? No wandering spirit I guess!

But I might not have to worry about any of this because my kids might not have the grades to get into a 4 year college bc even though I thought they had pretty solid GPAs. Maybe this phenomenon has occurred BC today many more kids are going to college than they were  back in my day (see tattoo). So perhaps this has created so much competition that schools can choose the kids with the higher GPAs BC there are so many applicants to choose from. It’s kind of scary.

My kids have an advantage in that they are Asian. So that is a box we can check on the application that may be a benefit to them – I hate pulling the race card but we know that colleges have quotas they need to meet and they do ask it on the applications. Also there are scholarships for minority students and adopted students – which my kids are. If you look there are scholarship opportunities for almost everything under the sun. You just have to search them out- and as I noted above that is a lot of work!

When I told my son Luke that he needs to work harder to get his GPA up so he had more choices of colleges to apply to – he looked uncomfortable-

“What?” I asked him.

“It’s just so stressful” -Luke doesn’t like stressful. He likes Xbox.

“Welcome to life ” I said.

But later I thought about my days in high school and I remembered little about worrying about grades. I was on the “let me slide by without trying -and let me go to parties and meet boys plan in high school “(not a tattoo).  I had stress but not like kids do now. And I got into college and had a great time in high school (despite the drama) and I had a great time in college and I graduated and got a job and grew in my career and was able to support myself just fine.

Why does it have to be so stressful for my kid?   At this point at age 15 1/2 he isn’t sure if he really wants to go away to college (see above) so why push it when community college could suit him well and he can transfer to a 4 year school for his last 2 years.? I don’t want it to be uber stressful for him or my other kids. High school is supposed to be fun. Right? We are rushing our kids into adulthood but when they get there some stagnate and are slow to mature – maybe BC they never got a chance to just enjoy their time in high school and college BC the pressure to always be looking ahead and planning ahead was so great.

I’ve digressed I know -but I am so shocked that the B average of today isn’t the B average of my youth. And I wonder can my kids make the grades they need to go to a four year school if that’s what they want to do? Did I find out this information in time?

And does it really matter if they don’t make the cut? What will the outcome be? Maybe they will go to a community college and then a 4 year or maybe after a couple years they will opt to work -my daughter  will leave high school with a cosmetology license. She can have a career right out of high school.  Thank God for the tech center in our county public school system and those opportunities they provide.

What I want for my kids is that they can support themselves and a family when the time comes- that doesn’t have to mean a college degree but we all know that is now the norm- a BS or BA almost expected of our kids.  I hope that if their dream is to attend college they will get to do that. If they choose another path thats also great.  What really matters most to me is that they have as much love, joy, and happiness as possible on this crazy ride we call life. Because its a ride and a half.

(And I will always think 3.2 GPA is pretty darn good.)



Thoughts on busy-ness

Whew long time no post. I actually wrote this post a week ago but didn’t have time to edit it- how apropos to the topic of this post! —

Kevin, my husband, and I were chatting recently and he said something that made me think.

“When I talk with people I rarely ever tell them anymore that I’ve been busy because it seems like everyone is busy and my being busy isn’t more important than there busy ”

Well…wow – that’s true I thought to myself. Then I began to do a self check  as I do when someone says something very smart -do I push my business out there in convos I asked myself-and by goodness gosh I do. Because I’m freaking busy. Like so busy that I forget all the stuff I did in a day and sometimes even become paralyzed with all the stuff I need to do. I’m so busy that I’m taking time to write this in the car in a traffic jam inYork PA as we drive back from helping my mom because when I get home I’ll be too busy or tired to write. But Kevin’s is right we are ALL busy and my busy does not trump your busy.

I need to stop putting my busy in other people’s face.  Unless I want to vent a little. Venting feels good.

So now I wonder am I busier or has middle age just made me more aware and less resilient than when I was young?

When I was young I could get up and head to work after being out late the night before – I could work a full day and then go home walk my dog and head to the gym and maybe even go out again to meet some friends.I used to drive back and forth to the beach in a day -I baked in the sun in-between.  I took night classes for my MBA after work. I never got an MBA -I got married and then things got super busy.

Why do I feel so much more busy now? Perhaps it’s because I have others to worry about -kids, husband, aging parents. I manage their schedules, I worry about their health, their grades,college possibilities(I have a whole other post just about that), I drive people around. And I work. It’s insane and maybe my menopausal brain can’t process it all as well as my younger brain could.

I’m in the the middle of life- middle age. Nobody warns you that being in the middle isn’t only the sagging body and wrinkles that seem to come overnight. We are often caring for growing children and caring for aging parents. We often work full time while juggling the other stuff. Nobody warns you how that can keep you up at night and super busy during the day.

But isn’t our world just busier overall? Or is just my view of it that has changed?

Middle age, oldster, youngster.  We are all busy. My own daughter works two afternoons a week and one day on the weekend while going to cosmetology school while she still taking her high school courses.  She is busy. I don’t remember being that busy as a teen.

Sometimes I think the technology that I love so much makes us that much busier BC we have so many things that can be done right at our fingertips. Just take the app Yelp. Awesome app. But if I want to find a restaurant near where I am or going I can just look on the app but lo and behold the app shows me lots of restaurant choices and then I need to read all the reviews. In the olden days I may have asked a friend for a recommendation or I may have just stopped at a place that looked good. Now I get out the app and check how many stars a place has. I leave nothing to chance and I spend lots more time making sure I choose just the right restaurant. I love (many emoji hearts) my smartphone but you get what I am saying -yes?

Let’s face it, we all are on the busy train going somewhere. Until we aren’t.

Sometime in our lives we might actually miss the busy because we can’t physically get on that train anymore. I have been derailed a time or two temporarily. When I had cancer and was getting treatment life as I knew it kind of stopped. I had to limit my focus on my health and my family and my recovery. Other stuff had to take the back seat.  I began to miss the things that I had fretted about before. I saw things in a different way. That being busy may be stressful but being unable to be busy is also stressful.  As I recovered I was so happy that I began to have the endurance to be busy. I thought I would be able to temper my busy with my new look on life that having a serious illness can give a person. But no – I seemed to have jumped back on that busy train – it can suck us in so fast.

There needs to be a balance – I suppose- and I look hard to find it. I do know that when I get overloaded with things my mind sometimes goes inert. I become unable to do anything unless I break each thing down into smaller tasks. Or I delegate something to someone else. Maybe this is a good thing. This inertia. It at least gets me to realize I need a break.

Busy isn’t going to stop I am afraid. So maybe there is a way to enjoy it whilst in the middle of it.

All of us need to take some time to unplug and breathe. Spend time with the family if you aren’t so sick of them BC you’ve been driving them all over or picking up after their messy selves. Read a good book. Or binge watch a show. I know that is not unplugged in its true sense but for me it’s a distraction from my own crowded mind. And there are so many great shows to watch- yes?

I even try to meditate but thats a work in progress for me. I have read how good that is for cancer survivors and I maybe a good way to still my mind. Oddly, for the months that after I completed my cancer treatments I was able to sit still for long periods and just be. Maybe this is as close to good meditation that I will ever get. Time would go by and I would just be sitting…sometimes at the end of the bed and other times at my desk. I would lose track of time and an hour would be gone. It was rather strange. Unfortunately this was during a time that i was frustrated that I could not tolerate busy at all. I was tired out from the treatments and I became depressed as well. Which is not uncommon after cancer treatments I have since found out.  I would become tired and overwhelmed after doing just a few things. So my ability to just drift into some zone wasn’t as much as a blessing to me as a curse back then. Sometimes now if I am tired i can get into that zone- but again I lament about wasting time and not getting things done.

I am sure some of this sounds familiar especially to women.  We want balance and when we go to take a breather – we often feel guilty.  I am trying to learn my limits and allow myself to take some time out of the busy. I actually appreciate the busy more when I give myself that break.  Right now I am finishing this post sitting in my mothers sunroom. Its so quiet. I hear the faint sound of traffic outside and my golden’s soft snores. I came for an overnight with my husband to check on my mom but these visits have also become a welcome break from the home-front for a day. I can get a moment to breathe and then go back recharged to my busy life.

I really want to appreciate my moments even the busy ones because I have the opportunity to be busy.

So I’ll try not to tell you how busy I’ve been unless I need to vent once in a while.

My busy doesn’t trump your busy and really now that I’ve written all this stuff about busy – I realize busy isn’t bad at all. Being busy can be a gift. We just need some balance.

Adventures of a little dog….

My mom’s dog ,Suki, was pretty confused that first night after I left my mom in the hospital after her back surgery.  Kevin and I walked into the door of my mother’s house and went to get Suki from my moms bedroom and she looked past me and Kevin in what I think was a search for her mom.  My mom and Suki hadn’t been apart much in the four years that my mom had her. They were a set. So it didnt surprise me that Suki would spend much of that first evening in my moms home popping her head up at every small sound in hopes that maybe my mom would walk in the door.

But it made me a little sad for her.

I had no way of telling Suki her mom was ok and they would be together again soon. Well- in a few weeks after my mom got through recovering in a Rehab Hospital. I kept trying to sit quietly with Suki while sending her pictures in my head of what my mom was doing. I tried to settle her with my words of assurance but she didnt understand.

Suki was a rescue dog. My mom and step dad (who recently passed) fell in love with her on Petfinder. They had been looking for a corgi mix. It had be a few years since their chow corgi etc mix had passed and I knew my mom was missing having a dog.  The time had to be right as both had health issues and the size of the dog needed to be manageable.

My mother ever the Anglophile had a soft spot for corgis ever since she saw the royals of England kept them as their breed of choice. So when they saw Suki (aka Foxy) online it was love at first site. She was the perfect size -about 15 lbs- and a good age -4- not too young not to old. So after a call to the rescue Foxy began her life as Suki -which means beloved in Japanese – with my mom and stepfather.

She looked part Corgi and we still wonder what else is in her though i am convinced there is terrier in her. She has an affinity for sticking her nose in small spaces and chasing my chickens and ducks. There may even be some chihuahua in there. We have talked about getting her DNA done. Maybe we will.

Suki came from another family where the owner got sick and couldn’t care for her anymore.So I  wondered if the  absence of my mom would be more upsetting for her because she had the loss of an owner in the past.  I know I was putting my human feeling on her but that first night I know she was confused and distressed.

I am thankful that she knew Kevin and me because I think that may have helped her some during her time of distress. She finally settled down late in the night. In the morning she ran back to my moms room and jumped on the bed and looked at me. I decided to feed her in there but she didn’t eat much. I knew it would take some time for her to adjust to this new situation.

After breakfast we took off early to get back to the Maryland to get home before the blizzard that was on its way to dump a ton of snow on our farm. We  put Suki in her crate in the back of SUV and off we went.  Rudy my Golden Retriever -had also accompanied us to PA so he was some company for Suki when we were at the hospital and in the SUV driving back to Maryland.

Suki did well on the trip. She didn’t whine or pant. She seemed to take the ride as an adventure.  Suki seemed to settle in quickly. She let my other dogs -all much bigger than she-know who was boss. She has this major growl – it sounds more lioness than tiny dog but it gets the point across very well.

The one thing I admire about dogs is their adaptability.  They have such a way of dealing with change. Suki claimed our bed that first night as a safe spot and she curled up a began to snore -and she does snore.  She got up in the morning to a giant blizzard but still managed to figure out a good spot to do her business. She didn’t cry or act upset that my mom wasn’t around. I was glad. It’s a thing dogs do for survival. I wish I was an ounce as adaptable.

She would sometimes stare wistfully out the window of my office. I suspect she was staring at all the birds because my feeders are just outside that window but I did wonder sometimes if she was thinking of my mom. She would perk up when a car came but that’s just dog curiosity -I think -but she was certainly cute staring out that window.

When I told my mom about how well Suki was settling in she was worried Suki might forget her. I assured her it would take more than a few weeks for her pup to forget her. But she still worried. They hadn’t been apart ever for this long. I told my mom this is Sukis big adventure.

Suki could easily be a farm dog except she may want to eat my chickens and ducks. She likes to chase them that’s for sure. The birds soon realized that the little fierce thing that was chasing them was on the other side of the fence so they have begun to become somewhat immune to her sudden moves.

Weve weathered a blizzard  and we have had nice  walks up the lane to meet the neighbors horses. There was a lot of growling by her at first glance at the horses.  She was just feeling her shortness I think. We walked in the fields. She has gone to Tractor Supply where she was well received. Of course that’s Rudy’s favorite place and he knows if he sits nicely or puts his feet on the counter he’ll get a treat. Suki was a bit surprised that she would get a treat  just for standing in line. She left with a new harness and some yummy canned food.

I have never had a small dog. I have had many dogs over the years and they have always weighed well over forty pounds. So having a little girl like Suki is new and it’s pretty cool. She does manage to take up more space in the bed between Kevin and I every night and sometimes I wake up and see her laying up next to Rudy at the foot of the bed. Sometimes I would wake squished and hanging half off the bed with Suki pushing at my back and Rudy laying in the path where my legs  needed to be.  I have no idea how I ever sleep at all. No wonder I’m so tired!

But small dogs are pretty cool. I have not gotten used to her in the fray with my other dogs though if they step wrong she tells them off. I know little dogs hang with the big guys all the time. It’s amazing that this 17 pound ball of fluff could be boss over the five big dogs but she has set her intentions.

One thing about little dogs is their portability. It’s been easy for me to take her places. She fits in any car even if  it’s stuffed with junk. She would prefer to ride in my lap even if I’m driving so the passenger has to hold her or we put her in her crate for the ride.

We took Suki to visit my mother in law. Suki took to her right away and part of me thought how great she could be as a therapy dog. She’s the perfect size and perfect temperament. Well she can be a little tiny bit  leery of men at first but that only lasts a minute then she is right up next to them asking for pets.

Suki and my mother-in-law

My mother in law said ” Tell your mom I really like her dog”. I think so – since no dog would ever be allowed to jump up on the couch mom Sweeney’s home and Suki took the liberty without any human correcting her.  Suki decided my mother in law would be her friend. She just seems to have that ability to engage a person without being nudgie ( a thing i work on with Rudy all the time)It is amazing how dogs can brighten a persons day. It certainly seemed a good thing for my mother in law.

Years ago I did therapy dog work with my greyhound Jay jay Star – she was a natural- she was calm and her breed drew attention wherever we went so making our rounds in a nearby nursing home was an easy choice. She became quite popular with many of the residents. Of all the things I have ever done therapy dog visits were one of the most gratifying and heartbreaking all at the same time. I loved making people smile but I often got into the car and cried – nursing homes aren’t always the easiest places to visit. But for some reason I think I would like to  do this work again someday. Being with Suki made me think about it a bit more.

Last week when we went to see my mom in the rehab hospital we were able to have my mom wheeled into the vestibule of the building to have a visit with Suki. It was a big moment because my mom was so fearful Suki would not remember her. I was pretty certain that she would remember and she didn’t disappoint.

Is that you up there , mom?

She jumped up on my moms lap and it was clear she knew who she was. I think Suki was confused as to why my mom was at this place and not at her home and when we had to take my mom back into the building Suki was not happy. Kevin had to pick her up and put her back into the crate in our SUV because she kept trying to pull him back into the building. I felt badly about confusing her but I think the visit was good for my mom. She had been visited regularly by a few different therapy dogs while she was in rehab and by the way she spoke about the visits I know it was a highlight of her day – but not the same as having her own beloved dog next to her.

My Mom and Suki

Suki’s visit with us is coming to an end this week. My mom has a discharge date from the rehab hospital. It will be time for both of them to get on with life together. I will miss her. She was an easy charge.  She has been comforting in her littleness. But having six dogs here made me feel a bit outnumbered so it will be nice getting back to a more mangeable(?) five.

The last few weeks have been tough for my mom and it was often hard for me too as I couldn’t do anything to fix my mother in her discomfort. She had to get stronger and more mobile on her own with the help of her therapists.  I am a fixer – a planner- I don’t like it when I can’t make things better. And as I learned – sometimes you have to stand back and let life happen and help where you can. In my case taking care of my moms dogs was a way I could help and Suki helped me feel less helpless in a difficult time–didn’t I tell you she would make a good therapy dog?

The next furniture victim

I didn’t get good before and during photos for this project but this was another Asian piece we had. It’s not a great quality piece but I use it for storage. I fought with this from the start. I tried black semi-gloss on the body and green chalk paint on the drawers and I hated it. So I finally ended with chalk paint all over and I distressed it to reveal the black paint and I didn’t distress the drawers. I accidently Used a coat of crackle paint on top as I mistook the jar for varnish. I’ll read better next time. I sanded that coat lightly and covered it w two coats of varnish – you can see a little crackle up close but barely. I added new knobs and I like it the after much better than the before! 

–You can see the cans of paint on top of the piece in the after pics. I’m onto painting the walls – they are in need of freshening!   

It’s always something….

gildaThe new year really came in like a steam roller for my family. From the loss of my father-in-law in late December to some issues with my teens to my mom’s back surgery which came just before a blizzard which drove me from being able to stay to manage her care post-op to getting home to deal with two and half feet of snow that hit our area and kept my kids out of school for a week – it has been an eventful new year thus far.

What a difference a week makes. Here we are post blizzard and the roads are cleared, the snow is melting and the kids are back in school (thank God).  My mom has been moved to a rehab hospital in Lancaster, PA where she is making good progress towards regaining strength and mobility. It is a slow process but she is in a very nice facility and seems to be comfortable there. The next road for us is to find a place for her to live in Maryland near us as we would like to have her down here before June. So that means a lot of research and visiting places. Not to mention the packing up and decluttering of her home in PA so we can get that sold as quickly as possible.

I am again reminded by my friend Donna – “It’s always something” – a quote she sent me recently from the beloved Gilda Radner playing Roseanne Rosannadanna.

It is always something.

I remember when I saw the slogan “Shit Happens” years ago on a bumper sticker on some car someplace. I remember thinking how funny that was. But I don’t think I realized how true that was at the time. Shit had happened in my life but up until then the crap hadn’t really hit the fan. As we age shit really does happen and some of us get a lot of shit and some of us are luckier and we get less. But it Happens. What a wise quote – it grows with you – and we aren’t alone because everyone has shit happen! It is comforting in a way – yes?

It really comes down to how we handle it all – right? Some days we want to put our heads under a pillow and not face the day, sometimes we long for a bottle or ten of vodka so we can drink ourselves into oblivion and forget the shit that surrounds us. Other times we stand with mighty fists trying to face down our shit and other times we plod through just trying to get to the other side.

It is always something – it is always going to be something. And that really stinks when you think about it. But it is what makes life life. We are just always trying to deal with – or duck – the shit. Sometimes there are things to be learned from these events and sometimes they are just things to get through- maybe in the end we are wiser,stronger, more grateful, more loving, or we have an epiphany and sometimes maybe we are in shell shock for a while. I was in shell shock after my cancer battle- it took a while to make my way back to feeling like I was living life not just getting through the day. Maybe sometimes we get through but we are left with questions. I know I sometimes just have endless questions and I drive myself crazy with the asking because sometimes there are no explanations.

For me what gets me through the hard times is faith. Orange slushies and wine are a help but my faith in the fact the someone wiser and greater than I has my back is what I cling to when crap hits the fan. (I know some are reading this and wondering how I can write about my faith and crap in the same sentence- well it kind of feels good. And both are part of my life).

Faith may seem cliche’ to many and maybe it isn’t the go to for all of us. Faith is an important tool in my “dealing with life” toolbox. Sometimes when I am drowning in crap I forget to rely on my faith- it is when I am feeling so lost and like nothing will give that some little niggle comes into my head that reminds me that I have a wonderful God watching my back. I may not like the circumstances I am in and I may not get the outcome I pray for but faith is what calms my waters. We all should have some type of go to.

Whats gets us from one end to the other of this life- where it will always be something- takes a good amount of strength and hopefully a sense of humor (and hopefully a go to) because it is so much more fun to laugh than to cry. Have you ever had a good cry and then it pivots into a laugh – maybe bc someone said something silly to try to cheer you up or you are in the midst of a good cry and your dog farts and you have to laugh or urn to another room? It really is so weird – this life. That we can ball our heads off one minute and then snicker like a ten year old in the next.

This life – it can be ugly and depressing and scary and sad and it can be so joyful and gorgeous and silly and light- there is crying and there is laughing – sometimes life is faith and crap in the same sentence. Life is amazing…

and I am grateful for it….well maybe not the crap part…but the rest is pretty cool…