When you get that “alert” that your child’s college is on lockdown

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University of Utah campus view.

Last night my daughter texted me to say her college was on lockdown. Then, I began getting “alerts” from the University of Utah. It’s one of the worst feelings when you get notifications of a lockdown at your children’s college. Not only did I lose a night’s sleep with worry, but I’m so sad that our kids have to live through this. We never envisioned our kids living through terror-filled nights when we sent them off to college.

Other moms I know had an awful night, too, as we waited for news about our kids. We prayed for them to be safe. We commiserated by text and Facebook and I wish the world wasn’t such a scary place. Thankfully, my daughter is safe along with the children of my friends.

If you missed the story on the news today, a man with a long history of crime and run-ins with the law was camping with his wife in the canyon above campus. The wife left him for the University to report a domestic dispute. The husband must have followed her because next there was a shooting of Chen Wei Guo, a 23-year-old foreign exchange student from China.

In an article in the Salt Lake Tribune, you can learn more details. Can you imagine sending your child to the United States as a foreign exchange student and finding out that he’s been shot and killed?

“University of Utah officials, fellow students and friends were coming to grips Tuesday with the Monday night shooting that left a student dead at the mouth of Red Butte Canyon.

“ChenWei Guo, of Salt Lake City, would have turned 24 on Sunday. 

“Guo was parked in his vehicle near the gate at the mouth of the canyon when 24-year-old Austin Jeffrey Boutain attempted a carjacking, police said. During the encounter, Boutain allegedly shot Guo, who suffered fatal injuries.”

Last night reminded me of a horrific night while my son was at the University of California at Santa Barbara a couple years ago. Here’s how that story unfolded:ucsb

View of the UCSB campus.

Friday night, I had tucked myself into bed when the phone rang. It was my son — a student at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

 

“Mom! There’s a drive-by shooter. A guy in a black BMW is randomly shooting people in IV! We can’t get home. Everything’s on lockdown.”

This was not a call I was expecting. Nor, one I wanted to receive.

Saturday afternoon, he called again. “I just went to the store. We’re on lockdown again and I can’t get home.” 

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 A view from a dorm room at UCSB.

Friday night the lockdown was because of the shootings and crashing of the BMW. Saturday, the police were removing deceased male roommates who had been stabbed from the killer’s apartment building.

l followed the story closely on the news. It’s almost all I could do for most of the weekend. I don’t understand why it happened, or how it could have been prevented. I believe we all tried to find a cause for this horrific tragedy to try and make sense of what had happened when that was impossible.

My heart and prayers go to all the families at UCSB. It’s been a tough year. I think the great academic accomplishments of the school are being overshadowed by tragedy. There’s too much trauma for students to digest. I wonder how these events will affect our kids in their future lives? Read about the academic accomplishments of UCSB in the LA Times here.

Just a few weeks ago, I got a call from my son during the Deltopia riots. I wrote it about Deltopia here.

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A Deltopia party picture.

Add that to the weekly emails about a meningitis outbreak, and it hasn’t been a stellar year for UCSB parents, students, or the faculty.

The frantic fear in my son’s voice is not what I envisioned hearing. I am sure this is not isolated at UCSB, but just becoming more common at universities across our country. Is this the new normal for our kids? They aren’t experiencing the carefree college years that we did. Where did that world go?

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The view of the beach from UCSB campus.

Maybe if this is the new norm, as awful as that sounds, we need to be more aware and prepared. I don’t know the answer to any of this, but I’m thinking our kids need to know what to do in the case of an emergency. Are colleges adequately ready to support our kids in times of danger? The alerts let them know when something is going on and does tell them what to do. That’s something that wasn’t around back when I was in college.

How would you prepare your kids for emergencies when they’re away from home?

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Parents Beware: Coaches Are Watching You, Too

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Signing day.

It’s college recruiting season for swimming and articles are tweeted and posted hourly of recruits signing with universities. I ran across an interesting article from USA Today about parents and recruiting called “How college coaches evaluate parents” by Fred Bastie, owner and founder of playced.com, a college recruiting company.

In the article, Bastie interviewed Pat Fitzgerald, the football coach at Northwestern University who said, “An increasingly larger part of the evaluation of the prospect, for us, is evaluating the parents. It’s a big part of the evaluation.”

He breaks down the troublesome parents into five categories:

The Helicopter Parent
The Sideline Coach Parent
The Scouting Director Parent
The Sports Agent Parent
The Lawnmower Parent

I remember my daughter’s college recruiting experience and I’m pleased to say that we did not do the things listed in this article that wave red flags in front of college coaches.

Isn’t it sad that some parents, who are honestly trying to help their children, could be the reason their child misses a chance at a scholarship or a spot on a team? I remember when my kids were younger, like 13 or 14, and at a swim meet with college teams and coaches. I was at the end of the lane, enthusiastically cheering for my kids and their teammates. One mom with two kids around the same age, pulled me aside and said, “Don’t you know that the coaches won’t want your kids because of you standing at the end of the lane cheering?”

At the time, I thought she was crazy. My kids were too young to be thinking about college and surely no coach cared what I did. I went on cheering. I do not think being enthusiastic is a red flag to a coach. And I was probably right that no coaches were looking at a 13-year-old who barely made it into the meet.

When I interviewed coaches for an article for SwimSwam magazine, many of them expressed concern about helicopter parents, but several coaches had another take. They looked at how the athletes treated their parents. One coach passed over a child for being rude and obnoxious to her mother. In that case, it wasn’t the parent who ruined the opportunity, but a kid who acted like a rude, spoiled brat. Of course, you have to consider someone raised that ungracious child in the first place.

In my opinion, it’s not the parent who coaches want to avoid dealing with, but it’s how well the children of overbearing parents will adapt to being away from home for the first time. It’s how well they’ll handle adversity and be productive, giving teammates. In the article, it states something our own club coach has said, “There are only two people the college coach wants to talk to: 1. the athlete, 2. the athlete’s coach.”

That said, what role do you think parents have in the college recruiting process?

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My daughter and friend on a recruiting trip.

 

 

Why do 50% of kids not return after their freshman year of college?

My Alma Mater. University of Washington.

My Alma Mater. University of Washington.

 

With the school year beginning, it’s worth taking a look at some pitfalls our kids may face their freshman year of college. I originally wrote this story in September 2015–and the stats haven’t improved since then.

I wonder why so many kids fail college? I was shocked to read a statistic from ACT that 50% of freshman students do not return for their second year. Then, 30% of those remaining, do not graduate within five years!

Why? What can we do to better prepare our kids for college? There is so much pressure on our kids to get into great schools.You’d think with the great expense, and all their work to get in, it would be a breeze once they are there. But, it’s not.

My daughter and friend on a recruit trip.

My daughter and friend on a recruit trip.

Here’s my list of why I think kids fail their freshman year:

ONE

Too many kids go to college. I do not think everyone should go. When I was in high school the majority of students did not continue their education past high school. They were able to get jobs, support themselves and their families without a college education. Today, a college degree has become the norm and standard. There are many kids who would be better served to work for a few years, and then decide if they want to go to college. By having everyone go, and not everyone is equipped to go, some kids are set up for failure.


TWO

High school doesn’t prepare kids for college. The work is often spoon-fed by teachers in little lumps of daily assignments and reading. Having a syllabus with a couple dates on it and no day-to-day requirements is more what college is like. It takes discipline, motivation and self-determination to not procrastinate but to work and study in advance of deadlines.

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A gorgeous location. UCSB.

THREE

We do too much. As helicopter, hovering parents, we are afraid to let our kids fail. We don’t let our kids learn from their mistakes. They need to have more chores, part-time jobs or something to do besides homework. Some of the crazy, heavy AP schedules don’t allow for real life experiences. Plus, we cater to our kids’ every needs—even to the point of helping them complete projects or assignments. My conversation with four-time Olympian and former University of Texas head coach Jill Sterkel included some great advice that you can read on SwimSwam here. She believes in letting kids work out their problems in a less high-stakes environment. We need to give them room to do this.

FOUR

Millennials mature later, according to Kari Ellingson, Vice President at the University of Utah. I attended a talk by her at orientation with my daughter. I wrote more about her talk here. According to Ellingson, “It used to be people matured around 19, 20, 21. Today it’s 26, 27 or 28.” It’s no wonder they can’t handle the many demands of laundry, getting their own food, studying, etc. Maybe our kids are not mature enough to handle the responsibilities of college at age 18?

What can we do to help our kids be prepared for success in college?  I’ll talk to some more experts and will get back to you!  What do you think are the reasons why so many kids fail in college? I’d love to get your feedback.

My kids not wanting me to take their pic on the UCSB campus.

My kids not wanting me to take their pic on the UCSB campus.

Here’s What Happens When You Disagree With a College Student

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I’m thankful for my beautiful neighborhood.

I’m surprised when people aren’t grateful for all our country has to offer. There is opportunity here for everyone. We have a standard of living that many people from other countries would be thrilled to enjoy. It seems not appreciating our country is especially true for college students. I recently posted a comment on a college student’s FB page — big mistake — when they were bemoaning the problems in our nation. I mentioned something about looking at all we have and being thankful.

Guess what happened next? I got a piling on from outraged kids saying that because we have an affluent society doesn’t mean we should be racist.

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I’m thankful for my kids and friends. Especially the ones who sail!

Excuse me? Did I mention anything about racism? Did I say it was okay to be a racist? Let’s be clear. Racism is bad. It’s evil. It’s wrong. But, what I was thinking about is the fact we can choose which path to take. We aren’t forced into a job, career or marriage. We have choices. We also have clean water and air.

These kids sitting in their exclusive ivory towers on ivy league campuses with the latest iPhones and laptops seem to enjoy ripping about how awful our country is. I read about it in the paper on a daily basis. How would they enjoy living in a part of the world without a toilet or running water? Where they wouldn’t have a grocery store, a Starbucks or cell service? How would they survive?

My hope is that they take their idealism and go to a country where life isn’t as easy. I’m sure a lot of places in the world would welcome them and could use their help. Maybe then, they would appreciate what we have. Maybe they will understand and show empathy for the people who came before them, and the changes we have made. No, we aren’t perfect. No person is perfect. But, we are truly blessed.

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Beautiful UCSB, where my son attends college.

I’m very thankful for my family, friends and country. I’m thankful to live in this part of the world, where we aren’t concerned with basic survival. I’m thankful that we have freedom of speech and wish we could have more civil discussions and agree to disagree.

With Thanksgiving around the corner, I think it’s a perfect time to reflect on all that we have.

I have a beautiful home, two wonderful kids, a loving, kind husband. I’m grateful for my friends, my community and for those who serve our country and have kept us safe.

What are you thankful for?

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I’m thankful for the times I get to watch my daughter swim.

So You Want to Grow up to Be A Writer?

imgresMy son has been veering away from his math major, running headlong into English Lit. The hard sciences are where the jobs are — so they say. Last night he called me and said he enjoyed teaching his class at UCSB on the “Cult of Individual,” studying Ayn Rand, Kurt Vonnegut and Richard Yates. He said the students are loving his class, too. He sounded so happy and excited.

imgres-2 imgres-3Isn’t that what we want? We want our kids to be excited with their education. Yes, but we also want our kids to be employable and be able to be financially independent when they finish this thing called college.

My biggest fear. My son would want to be a musician or a writer. A fall off his bike and a broken hand took care of the professional musician route. Now, he’s in love with writing.

My son a few years ago at Junior Lifeguards.

My son a few years ago at Junior Lifeguards.

As a writer myself, I’ve got mixed feelings about this. I write everyday. My degree is in editorial journalism. I’ve written all of my adult life — I’ve worked for public relations and advertising firms and in-house. I’ve written press releases, newsletters, plus tv, radio, print and billboard advertising, short stories and children’s fiction. I love writing. But, do I want my son to be a writer? It’s a scary thought.

It’s tough to make a living. I think it’s harder today than it was when I first started. But, maybe that’s true for most fields. What I do know? It’s his life and he’ll figure it out.

After the Whirlwind the Dust Begins to Settle in My Empty Nest

University of Utah

University of Utah

We were caught in a whirlwind of activities and travel, running away from our empty nest. We went to the beach, Mexico, Utah, Las Vegas, Santa Barbara and Utah in that order in the past two months. Wheew!!! It makes my head dizzy to think about it.

View from University of California Santa Barbara

View from University of California Santa Barbara

Now that we have stopped running, I’m anxious to start some big projects. Emptying out the guest room and redoing the bathroom and walls. The first part of this project means I have to go through boxes and closets and books and make decisions about what to toss and what to keep.

images-2We have an armoire with a BIG TV and VCR and drawers full of movies that entertained the kids for years. I feel somewhat sad about tossing out all the Disney classics, but they’re never going to be watched on a VCR again.

images-3I have shelves of books that have followed me from childhood. The complete set of Anne books and Narnia Chronicles I will keep. I still enjoy reading them.  I’m holding on to A Little Princess and The Secret Garden, too. I think my husband wants me to get rid of them all, but they are like dear friends that I cannot part with.

images-8images-7I keep avoiding this chore of going through the “guest room” which at one point in our 22 years here, was called the “computer room” because before kids in 1992 it was where my first Apple computer lived. Now I’m on about Apple number nine, wanting to return to work in my computer room. I’m coming full circle becoming the person that I was before. It’s a great feeling, but a little scary, too.

One of our earlier Apples.

One of our earlier Apples.

Things Your Daughter Will Be Surprised to Learn about High School and College Sports

My daughter diving in a competition with her club team at the East LA City College pool.

My daughter diving in a competition with her club team at the East LA City College pool.

I Am Woman Hear Me Roar or You’ve Come a Long Way Baby, Part II

Isn’t it strange that women swimmers a few decades ago ended their swim careers in their teens, while it’s not uncommon to have women compete in their 20s and 30s today?

I was talking to Bonnie Adair — a former swimmer who held 35 National Age Group records during her career — including the 50-meter free for 8-and-unders that stood for 29 years. She quit swimming at age 19. Contrast that to say Olympian gold medalists Dara Torres, who swam in her fifth Olympics at age 41, Natalie Coughlin, still competing at 32, or Janet Evans who swam in the 2012 Olympic Trials at age 40.

Dara Torres

Dara Torres

 

Janet Evans

Janet Evans


What has changed so much in swimming since the 1970s that gives women the ability to still compete throughout their 20s and beyond?

Natalie Coughlin

Natalie Coughlin

I interviewed Bonnie Adair, the head coach of Loyola Marymount in LA, for another writing project I’m undertaking. She began swimming at age five and was an amazing and gifted swimmer. She said after she graduated high school she wanted to train for her third Olympic Trials. She lived at home with mom and dad and commuted to college — so she could still swim with her club team, Lakewood Aquatics coached by the legendary Jim Montrella.

images-6She noticed one day that there were no guys in her training group. They had all gone to swim on scholarship at colleges such as UCLA and USC. The girls did not. Why not, you ask? Because they didn’t have college swim teams for women! 

images-7Isn’t that stunning? My daughter, age 18, is swimming right now — this very minute — at a D1, PAC 12 school (Go Utes!). It was always her dream — since she was five years old — to swim in college and go to the Olympic Trials. She took it for granted that she had the opportunity, and that if she worked really hard, she could possibly achieve those dreams. She’s made the college dream come true and she has a couple seconds to drop for Olympic Trials 2016.

I was shocked and stunned to realize that these dreams were not remotely possible for women just a few years older than me! Their swim careers were cut short if they wanted to have a college experience where they lived on campus and were away from home. It was difficult or nearly impossible to keep competing with a club team for many years past high school.

images-5When I was in high school, we had no pool or high school swim team, boys or girls. I remember we had girls track and field and tennis. Cheerleading was the big thing for girls to do. Cheer tryouts was one of the horrors of my teen life, a total embarrassment that makes me cringe remembering being put on exhibition in front of the entire student body.

We didn’t have girls basketball or golf and I played golf. Since I didn’t make the cheerleading squad, I tried out for the boys golf team with my lifelong friend and fellow golfer Christy.  We were allowed to go to all the practices with the guys. We were the last group out on the course  — a twosome.  We were never included in any of the tournaments or competitions. I honestly don’t know if we were that much worse than the boys — or if it was because we were girls.

I wrote about how far along we’ve come from the time my parents told me I was going to college to get my MRS degree and when girls were required to take home ec in high school in “I Am Woman Hear Me Roar, or You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby!” Our young women take all of this for granted. They are truly lucky and blessed to be alive today in the United States.

Of course, the main reason there are women’s collegiate sports today and weren’t say before 1972 can be summed up as Title IX — which has its benefits and its unintended consequences. This will be discussed on another day.

bathing_beautiesWhat high school and college sports did you participate in? Were there girls teams for all the boys sports?