Category Archives: Appreciation

It’s Time


I can hardly remember a time before my mother was regularly ill–probably when I was in elementary school.  And over the last 3+ years her already poor health began to slide faster and faster.

It’s a harsh reality that most of us navigate this type of crossroad at least a few times in our lives.  But this is the first time I’ve had to walk the kids through the loss of a family member.  How to talk to them about her illness?  How to protect them?  How to help them find peace?  Along the way, I adjusted how much I shared with them based upon their respective ages, from 10 to 17, but I always answered every question honestly.  I continually reminded them that they had made their grandmother happier than anything else in her life–which was the absolute truth.  And I worried about how I was going to tell them when she was gone.

Still, her consistent conviction on just about everything–and, let’s be honest:  formidable stubbornness–had me convinced that she would somehow outlive us all.  But in October, when her doctor recommended that she begin to consider hospice care, it became soberingly clear that we were actually approaching the time when my mother would not be with us anymore.

One day, my mother’s health reached a point where there was no other choice, and she was admitted to the hospital for comfort care, with no expectation of going home.  After being non-responsive all day, she opened her eyes just long enough to see me at her ICU bedside and she struggled to speak her only sentence of the day, and her final words to her first-born:  “Don’t worry about me.”  An amazing gift:  Hooked to hospital monitors and fading quickly, her priority was still to help me.

So, trying to help my trio, my message has mirrored my mother’s:  It will never be the same…but it will be okay.

Post script:  My site has been on hold for too many weeks because this became the post that I could not finish, but also that I could not skip.  The final version follows Hemingway’s iceberg approach….less stated may not be more, but it is enough.  Now it’s time to publish and move forward.

It’s good to be back.


Filed under Appreciation, Transitions, Writing

The Great College Search–Part Two: The Road Trip

I seldom offer a caveat at the beginning of a post, but please consider:  All of the impressions below were OURS.  The aspects of each campus that we considered positive might not impress you or your student, and our concerns might be strengths to someone else.  But the intent of this post is not so much to ‘rate’ these schools as to share my experience accompanying my daughter on this once-in-a-lifetime journey.  So here we go….

This time next year, our oldest child will be living on a college campus somewhere, leading her own life with a new level of autonomy, freedom, and responsibility.  But the question is where?

So this summer, my daughter & I set out on a 3-part road trip.  We considered making this a family journey since her sister is only 2 school years behind and 5th grade brother is always up for going just about anywhere.  But in the end, her mom & I agreed that this trip needed to be one parent-one rising senior, and we decided I would go.

My Alma Mater

We live less than an hour from the University of Maryland, and our first tour was of my old campus in College Park.  First, we sat through a brief introduction and a pretty inspiring promotional video, available here:   University of Maryland Impact

Then we started walking, touring dorms, classrooms, the library, and the student union–all of the usual college tour landmarks.  Two resources that stood out along the way were the grammar hotline (Call from your dorm for help sorting out the wording of a paper?!) and the Math Success Program (free walk-in support with anything related to math).

Why I will be glad if my daughter becomes a Terp:  Maryland is a BIG school, a top-tier public university with world-class facilities, a wide range of entertainment options, easy access to opportunities in the nation’s capital, and as many majors as you can find anywhere.  The size of the school offers options, enough options to allow any student to redefine him/herself several times over during a 4 year undergraduate experience.

McKeldin Mall–University of Maryland

Bonus & Disclosure:  I am a two-time Maryland grad, and I bleed red, white, black, and gold–a Terp For Life.

Something to consider:  College Park is a quasi-urban campus, just 15 minutes from Washington, DC.  As a one-time commuter school that is transitioning into more and more of a residential school, Maryland experiences a constant ebb and flow of car and foot traffic with the neighboring community.  Although safety is a concern ANYWHERE, I would worry more about my daughter more at UMCP than at some other schools–at least until I know she has routines in place to protect herself.

Farther From Home

A few days later we drove 3 hours or so to State College, PA.  We stayed in a hotel the night before to ensure we would be on time for Spend a Summer Day at Penn State.   To begin the day, we parked in the football stadium lot, then caught a designated shuttle bus across campus.  We climbed out of the bus, walked through two lines of applauding students, high-fived the Nittany Lion, then walked into the largest lecture hall I’ve ever seen (even as a Maryland grad) for the welcome presentation.  Then we started walking, taking the obligatory tour of campus.  Two highlights were the writing center (the student gets help with the paper; the professor receives notice that the student took the time to seek help to do well) and the 6-tier dining plan (with options ranging from a light meal or two per day for students living off campus to what our guide called “the linebacker plan”).

Why I will be glad if my daughter becomes a Nittany Lion:  Penn State offers similar advantages to Maryland as another large, well-respected, public university.  But what sets Penn State apart from other schools is the universal sense of identity and loyalty.   The ‘summer day’ event was staffed by scores of volunteers who all appeared to be students and alumni, literally ranging in age from their teens to their eighties.  University Park is also a more ‘enclosed’ campus than College Park; although the school neighbors a college town, there was little evidence of non-university traffic on campus.


Old Main–Penn State University

Bonus & Disclosure:  We were familiar with Penn State because my daughter had stayed and played on campus for a Memorial Day weekend volleyball tournament 6 of the last 7 years.  We both had stayed in dorms, eaten in dining halls, and walked the campus through those experiences.

Something to consider:  The dorms at Penn State, at least the older dorms that are most likely to house freshmen, are not particularly comfortable.  Small, dark, lacking air conditioning–not posh.  But a greater concern is that while freshmen are required to live on campus, housing is not guaranteed for all 4 years.  The university has built relationships with local realtors and apartment complexes, but the possibility of needing to pursue this may be noteworthy for some students and their families.

To be continued….In my next Dad Knows Better post:  traveling south, some smaller schools, and why this trip matters in our big picture.

1 Comment

Filed under Appreciation, College, Safety, School, Uncategorized

Savoring Time


Serving at 17

Over the Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Birthday weekend, I took my 17 year old daughter to Richmond, Virginia for her first major tournament of this year’s club volleyball season.  Thousands of girls from elementary school 12 & unders through college-bound 18 year olds compete every year over 3-day holiday weekends from January through May.  This is nothing new for our family:  some combination of us has accompanied at least one of our daughters to these travel tournaments for the past 7 years.  (Our now 14 year old played club volleyball for 3 years before deciding to focus on swimming.)

But this year is different.

Most girls do not come back to play for their club teams as 18 & unders during their senior year of high school.  Clubs that routinely run 3-6 teams of 15, 16, and 17 year olds often run only 1 or 2 teams of 18s because many girls who are not planning to play for their colleges close out their club careers in 11th grade.  Why?  The biggest reason is that the club season is difficult to balance with senior year commitments and events, and the tournament schedule runs right up to, or even beyond, graduation.

hitting at psu

Flying at 15

My own daughter loves volleyball above any other sport or activity she has ever tried.   But she has also thrived in 3 years of high school drama courses, and she has never been able to go out for one of her school’s shows.  After her high school volleyball season ends next November, she plans to focus on drama (along, of course, with school, college applications & decisions, and being a senior) for the rest of the year without the commitment of 3 volleyball practices per week, local single-day tournaments every 2-3 weeks, and 4-6 multi-day tournaments requiring overnight travel.  So she is 95% sure this is her final year of club and right now she is comfortable with the feeling that it is time to walk away.


Looking young at 14–3 quick years ago.

As I watched her matches in Richmond, I thought about how much her volleyball career has meant to my daughter…and to me.  As a former high school volleyball coach, I was fortunate to be able to coach her teams for her first few years of club.  And now, long after I sent my favorite player on to play for other coaches, I still regularly remind her that I will always be her biggest fan…and critic.  But these days I (usually) wait for her to ask for my feedback or instruction.  We both understand that they aren’t our matches anymore–they are hers.

So I savored this year’s January tournament, and I thought about how we are headed into a season of likely ‘lasts.’  Good times, challenges, and even disappointments have added up to a great ride for both of us since she was 10.  It’s true that I am very much aware that there are far fewer of these days ahead than behind.  But even though it is almost time to turn the page, we’re not quite there yet.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Activities & Sports, Appreciation