Tuesday, February 02, 2016

College Application Update in Haiku

college scholarship haiku
A friend of mine started this Facebook group, Haiku Moms, and it's been a fun distraction as well as a creative outlet. As far as the college stuff goes, I'd say all of the applications are in, though I'm not sure if my son agrees. I think he does, though, especially after DH and I explained that any future applications will be on his dime. At this point he's been accepted to several great schools and he's excited about a couple of them in particular.

It's still near impossible to figure out how much any given school will cost. I have a note from a recent Financial Aid Night at school, that many people typically pay about somewhere around 50% of the sticker price at schools. It's like shopping at Kohl's. Did you get the 15% coupon or the 30% one? It seems like most everyone gets a little something off, whether it's because they took a certain class in high school, got a certain test score or come from a certain background. So what does the sticker price mean, anyway? Even the Net Price Calculators can only give you a general expected figure, though some schools do have price calculators that can estimate grants and merit aid.

Needless to say, we've encouraged my son to pursue some scholarships and a few weeks ago, I "live haiku'd" my side of the experience. In talking with friends who also have high school seniors, my experience seems to be a universal one. It's a bumpy road, this whole "getting your child ready to leave the nest" thing. Even when it's clear your child is itching to spread his wings.


What's the hurry, Mom?
Scholarship applications
Not due til midnight!

"Hey, look at this, Mom."
"Your finished scholarship app?"
"Funny Twitter things."

Scholarship essay
Just about ready to send.
Due in half an hour.

Essay deadline met!
Will brilliant child's efforts
Reap handsome reward?

Oh, and in the meantime, my sophomore took the PSAT last fall and left an email address that leads to my inbox. Since scores were released a few weeks ago, my inbox has been deluged with email from schools that want to "get to know him." Seriously, I'm getting about a dozen messages a day offering a free quiz to choose a major, a free booklet sharing tips for a great college visit, etc.  Each one has a "hook," but I'm not biting and neither is he because I delete the messages.

I imagine that once the thrill of the attention wears off for students (like in maybe two days?), these messages just become a pain. For me, it's a bit confusing as several of the schools reaching out to him are schools my older son has applied to. I'm tempted to ask them to wait until we're finished with child number 1 before they starting wooing number two.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Thoughts from an American Muslim Mother

Given the hateful, anti-Islamic rhetoric that is being spewed right now, I followed the lead of my friends Jeanne Marie and Kelly, who posted messages on their Facebook walls offering support to their Muslim friends. I decided to reach out to a Muslim woman I know. We've never shared a meal or gone for coffee or out for a meal, but every Jewish holiday, she sends me an email with good wishes. I am embarrassingly bad about reciprocating. And yet, without fail, there's a Happy Chanuka! or Happy New Year! from her in my inbox.

So I sent her a note expressing my concerns about the current wave of religious intolerance and offering to support her and her friends where I could.

A simple act of kindness can bring unexpected results. Whereas I thought this was a rather small gesture, it apparently meant a lot to her. More than I could have known. (That's a good Life Lesson right there.)

Our email exchange will become a real-life dialogue with a group of local Muslim and Jewish women later this month. I urge you to reach out within your community as well. NPR aired a story the other day about what happens in the Muslim community when we let the media in its Trumpified glory do the talking for us.

This here below is also what happens. Please read my friend's reflections on her community. I am sharing this with permission.

The overall feeling many of us are going through is fear, dejection, depression, and helplessness. I hate turning on the TV with my kids around because bigoted remarks are being made openly and unflinchingly over and over against us--we are being bullied, so to speak, through news and media/social media and no one seems to understand the impact this is having upon the psyche of the Muslim community and its youth. I just can't believe what I've been hearing ever since 9/11 and it has gotten much worse!

And even worse than that, we hear the bigotry spewing from mouths of people in leadership positions! The world has become brainwashed into thinking Islam/Muslim is now synonymous with terrorism--no one even seems to think twice about it now (sadly, not even many Muslims, so you see the psychological damage that's already taking place) even though countless terrorist acts are being committed in our nation and worldwide by people who are not Muslims--recall Dylan Roof and the ideologies he prescribed to when he decided to kill African American church members, the massacre of over 70 people in Norway by Anders Breivik, or the genocide occurring in Burma.

Very few seem to believe (or if there are many, we don't hear them drowning the rhetoric that supports otherwise) that some of these perpetrators are violently reacting due to geo-politics, and a sense of helplessness and hopelessness. They live under oppressive regimes & inhumane conditions and they have nothing to lose.

Some have suffered severe trauma and have seen horrific things committed in unstable or war-torn environments; and now they've found a cause that gives their lives some meaning and a way to implement some sort of justice. Leaders of these organizations carry out their message in hopes to target these vulnerable people who will support their cause. And we know that when emotions become so raw, it may lead to horrible consequences--whether it's taking ones own life or the life of others.
And like any other community, mental health is an issue in the Muslim community as well, so those who are mentally ill are prime targets. However, somehow these factors are overlooked and an entire group of people are now being targeted, their faith and religious figures being attacked as the root cause of the crimes--because that seems like the most simple answer to something far more complicated which we are unwilling to confront.

Very few media outlets effectively publicize the many Muslim organizations and people who are condemning these acts or it falls on deaf ears. Hate crimes against Muslims seem to fall under stricter guidelines to even be labeled as hate crimes. Some Muslims here do think the terrible possibility of internment camps for Muslims is coming down the road.

When you look the history of the Jewish Holocaust and the internment of the Japanese here on US soil, the things we are seeing out there today are following the exact same pattern that lead up to these events. I attended Anne Shimojima's presentation of the Japanese internment camps at the library. When I mentioned this very real fear that American Muslims have, she said she is not aware of any laws that can prevent this from happening again; meaning, technically, the US government can take such action.

The question is, will America and the world be able to avert such a human disaster?

The Muslim community understands it has to confront these movements because these violent organizations prey upon OUR "own," our youth--we have countless seminars for people to educate them on what to look for in the community, how to help our youngsters cope with stress. Do people really think we want to lose our children to such movements? These groups may be angry about some legitimate issues, but do people really think the entire Muslim world feels this is the way to solve problems? The inciteful message being sent out in answer to these questions is "Yes--that the core value of Islam is to kill non-Muslims!"

I recall a Chicagoland Muslim mother crying and pleading with ISIS to leave our children alone after her son was convicted for planning to carry out an attack--but that is not something publicized and played over and over and over again to show America that Muslims are struggling on two fronts--protecting our own children and fellow Muslims from such organizations and protecting ourselves from racism and bigotry from the rest of the world.

If you look at my son, he will remind you of Ahmed Mohammed, the boy who was falsely arrested for a clock he made that an educator suspected was a bomb--and after the truth was discovered fairly quickly, no apologies were made by the police or the school, which never even followed protocol if a bomb was suspected to be on school grounds. What is going through this bright, young man's head?

Will I live a life worrying that my children will be targets? Will they be denied jobs, basic rights as they get older?

So that's what's going through some of our heads right now. We never thought we'd see such a day.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Dear Santa, A Book Review

I know my kids are older, but I still can't resist a good picture book. Indeed, I miss them and still tend to linger over them at the library (hopefully not looking like a creepy childless stalker in the children's section). So I was intrigued when I got offered a review copy of Dear Santa, Love, Rachel Rosenstein (affiliate link) by Amanda Peet and Andrea Troyer, illustrated by Christine Davenier.

Admittedly my first reaction was, Amanda Peet is Jewish? And then Amanda Peet is a playwright in addition to being an actress? Already, this book was educational.

Dear Santa is an adorable picture book that many Jewish kids and their parents (me!) can relate to. Young Rachel Rosenstein enjoys her family's Jewish traditions, but she really, really wants to celebrate Christmas.

Oh, how I yearned for a Christmas tree as a child. I lobbied for years, eventually coming full circle by the time I was in college. "No Christmas tree or Chanukah bush in my house. Ever."

Anyway, Rachel manages a visit to a mall Santa, sneaks up a few Christmas decorations at home, and even prepares a snack for Jolly Old Saint Nick, to no avail. In the end she comes to realize that her family isn't the only one that doesn't celebrate Christmas, and in fact there are lots of cool holidays celebrated by people of different religions and cultural backgrounds. Like so many kids before her, Rachel (mostly) makes peace with her lot in life.

If you have a child like Rachel (or me), this is a wonderful book to normalize those Christmas yearnings.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Tap in, Turn up with the Chicago Sinfonietta

Chicago Sinfonietta Tap In. Turn Up.
Photo via Chicago Sinfonietta
This is a guest post by my husband. We were invited to this performance as media guests. The Chicago Sinfonietta took a back seat  on a recent Monday night at Symphony Center for Tap In. Turn Up., an incongruous blend of dance and symphonic music. With the orchestra visible on stage, two Flamenco dancers and a tap dancer distracted us from the swaying of the violin bows and the flapping of the conductor’s baton.

First, Wendy Clinard performed a sinuous flamenco to Roberto Sierra's Fandangos, her pink-sleeved arms elegantly posing like twin flamingos to the lull of the music.

Similarly, tap dancer Cartier Williams crept onto the stage, arms writhing in ballet-like poses to the slow segment of Stravinsky’s Firebird. I was unclear if he was poking fun at ballet or just passing time until the vibrant parts of the piece.

Soon the tempo picked up and Williams was clacking feverishly across the stage, his ankles a blur as he machine-gunned multiple beats beyond the orchestra’s ability to keep up. I don’t know that the tapping enhanced the music, but it was certainly more fun to watch.

Williams was all energy and rhythm until finally, he threw himself off the stage. It almost looked like a mistake, but it was pure performance. He slowly tapped his way across the first row, up the stairs to the stage and back behind the conductor’s podium as he concluded the finale segment to a standing ovation.

Instead of taking a nap, which I would have done after all that dancing, Williams joined Clinard and Flamenco dancer, Marisela Taples, for a tap/Flamenco hybrid dance to Alexander Borodin’s Prince Igor. Although Clinard and Taples employed a green shawl as a prop, their movements didn't seem to tell a story and their interactions with the tapper didn't bring out the most interesting elements of each genre. But the tapping was fun.

At intermission we took a communal tap-dancing lesson thanks to the Chicago Human Rhythm Project and then the Sinfonietta finished with Rimsky-Korsakov's dance-free Scheherazade.

Although this was more familiar than the earlier tunes (and as much as I like classical music), I was primed for something more visually appealing to keep me at the edge of my seat. Although I was awake the whole time, my step- and sleep-tracking watch claims I slept through the last 33 minutes of the performance. But I swear I didn’t.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

The 2016 Coca-Cola Scholars Award and Other Scholarships

As a high school senior I remember poring over thick reference books at the library in an attempt to find scholarship opportunities. In the end, the winning formula was the advice that's still dished out by my son's school college counselor applied: Think Local. I was awarded money from the PTA and the Rotary Club. And at the end of freshman year of college, I earned a scholarship from my university that brought my tuition costs down to a pittance for sophomore and junior yeas of school.

If your child is on the hunt for money to help cover the costs of college, see what your local civic clubs and parent organizations have to offer and encourage your child apply for those scholarships. Apparently, these smaller scholarships are often left behind as masses of students put their energy into applying for national scholarships. I know, in the scheme of college costs, a $200 scholarship is a drop in the bucket, but it will still take a dent out of book fees, activity fees, dorm fees, technology fees or whatever other fees a university can dream up. So encourage your child to pursue those.

Of course, there's no need to hunker down over big old books anymore. These days, all it takes is a Google search to follow the (potential) money. Along those lines, FastWeb has been recommended as a go-to source for scholarship information.

And don't forget the the schools themselves. There are many opportunities for merit scholarships for high-achieving students. But be mindful that college applications are often due by November 1 in order for students to be considered for merit scholarships. Merit scholarships are often granted for things like achieving a certain ACT/SAT score or a class rank. Easy peasy money if your child fits the bill, but your student's application must be turned in promptly, often months before the official college application deadline.

There's a reason that students are attracted to the big-name scholarships: money. Take, for example, this scholarship from Coca-Cola Foundation. I caught wind of it after a Twitter chat last year and asked them to remind me when it as open for applications. Which is to say, this is not a sponsored post, but info I think is worth sharing. You can bet I shared it with my high school senior!

The Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation grants 150 high school seniors a $20,00 scholarship. Nice, right?

But what is even better about this scholarship is that its value extends beyond the financial reward. Along with that generous amount of money, the honorees are invited to Coca Cola Scholars Retreat, a program that brings the winners together for a few days of fun, networking and leadership training. What an amazing network to be a part of.

This year’s Coca-Cola scholarship application is now available online at Coca-Cola Scholars. They are looking for "150 high school seniors who are socially-conscious and servant-minded leaders. Coca-Cola believes in investing in students who are leaders, both academically and in service to others."

The application process is completed online, but involves a lengthy questionnaire, so don't delay. The application for the 2016 Coke Scholars is October 31, 2015, so don't delay!

Monday, September 21, 2015

College Admissions Slush Pile

Now that we're my son we're (it really is a family affair to some extent for pretty much everyone I know) in the thick of the college admissions process, I decided it was time to clear out a few distractions. Namely, the large and growing pile of printed material that's been keeping the US Postal Service in business for the last 1.5 years. Neither rain, nor sleet, nor snow, nor darkness or night can prevent college recruitment materials from filling our mailbox.

Behold, a pile roughly 14 inches high built of postcards, letters, brochures, and hope. Just as starry-eyed writers send off manuscripts that never garner more than a glance from editors at the big publishing houses, so, too, do colleges send my son college recruitment materials. They present their best, sunniest, most culturally diverse and glossiest versions of themselves, only to be piled up and crushed under the weight of one the ones that come after.

At first I passed everything on to my son without comment, but eventually I realized he only bothered to open a small amount. He also began to clarify his vision for the types of schools that interested him, so I began to filter lest he run out of space to store his clothes on his bedroom floor.

Small liberal arts college? Not his thing. Design school? Nope. Large state universities outside of the Midwest? Straight to recycling. (Sorry, UT Austin.)

In recent months, the postcards have been replaced by denser materials, some as thick as small books. If I can still recall the details next May after my son has committed to a school, maybe I'll share a few of the biggest hits and misses. Hint: if I spend more time wondering how much time and money it took to produce and mail your piece than actually reviewing its content, it's a miss. 

Not pictured is the pile of materials from schools of interest. That was about 5 inches high, mostly due to multiple mailings:  Come to open house for prospective students! Check out our summer program for high school students! Visit our fabulous campus! That's been pared down to relevant application information and visit days that are still in the future. 

And thank goodness, because now my sophomore is already starting to receive college recruitment materials!

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

One Difference Between Having Toddlers and Having Teens

One difference between having toddlers and having teens is that when the kids are little, it's easy to gain weight from snacking on their unfinished meals. You remember the crusts they didn't want, the big bowl of Mac and Cheese they never finished?

(Oh, I loved those. I can't imagine buying the blue box stuff without kids in the house, but it is a guilty pleasure/comfort food even if the "cheese" is like 95% artificial gunk.)

With teens it's the opposite. I'm about to bite into my sandwich when a man-child suddenly appears by my side. Can I have a bite? A teen boy does not take a mere nibble; he leaves me with crumbs.

When they were little, we were very firm about not eating again after dessert, or at least a certain time before bed. Now at 10:00 at night, I hear the microwave beeping. Time for second dinner! They either eat the evening's leftover dinners or grab a frozen meal.

Fruit will be consumed if it's rinsed/peeled/chopped and put out in a bowl. But God forbid they have to do that themselves. This, like waking a certain child up most mornings, kills me on a certain level, but I know if I don't bother preparing fruit, they'll consume every processed carb in the house instead. Actually, they'll eat the fruit and then hunt down the processed carbs anyway because their growing, athletic bodies are calorie-burning machines. They have several before their metabolism catches up with them.

At any rate, if I look like I've lost weight, it's because my boys have eaten all the food.

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