College Life Replays: The Drop-Off and Wrong Way Home

Remember when the days were long
And rolled beneath a deep blue sky
Didn’t have a care in the world
With mommy and daddy standing by
When “happily ever after” fails
And we’ve been poisoned by these fairy tales…

Bruce Hornsby  and Don Henley

It must be the time of year. Proms, graduations and summer vacation are a mere seven weeks away. That’s 42 days, folks. All this looking forward sentiment actually has me looking backwards.

Western Michigan University

Western Michigan University (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Nostalgia hit me back in March. A favorite vintner and business owner, Gerard Giacona (Filipo Marc Winery), chatted with me about his son’s anticipated graduation from Eisenhower High School; and his son’s plans to study journalism at my alma mater, Western Michigan University.

Then, last week a number of my fellow and extremely distinguished j-school peers began swapping memories on Facebook. The stories being shared about the years we spent as writers, editors, business managers and advertisers for the Western Herald, the student newspaper, took me back to September 1989, which was the start of my freshman year.

The Drop-Off

My parents had just dropped me off and helped me move into my 12- by-12, dorm room. For the next seven months I would be living at Ackley-Shilling, a residence hall in the Goldsworth Valley 1 segment of WMU’s campus. There was no telling what stories would unravel in the seven months that followed.

Illustration Credit: Western Michigan University, http://www.wmich.edu

Kalamazoo — my adopted city — offered a diverse mix of neighborhoods to explore; Ackley-Shilling sounded more like a foot disease than home, and no parental supervision meant freedom.

Wrong Way Home

After three weeks of learning the WMU/Kalamazoo party scene, my roommates and I earned a coveted invitation — from the hot guys on Ackley’s sixth floor — to a mega keg party. Some wannabe-Greeks hosted these lovely brew fests at their fake frat house on Lovell Street near Waldo’s Campus Tavern and Kalamazoo College.

At midnight a roommate, a couple sixth-floor friends and I cut ourselves off from the Milwaukee’s Beast (sorry Best) keg. The four of us exited the party and started to walk back to Ackley, which was to the west. Unfortunately, a collective decision was made to go east.

Photo credit: Google Maps

This flirty stroll was expected to take approximately 30-minutes or so to complete. One hour later we were wandering Kalamazoo’s downtown pedestrian mall, garden hosing, and cop dodging. Our walking tour also included a stop at the infamous Burger King — on South Westnedge — where Elvis Presley was allegedly sited after his passing.

More scenes from freshman year are coming soon. My 40-year-old memory can only remember so much. But, you can be sure, future scenes will include post-game riots during WMU-Central Michigan Homecoming weekend, Bonus Fries at Maggie’s Campus Cafe, and the student-lead, sit-in following an incident where a professor allegedly bit a student.

Advertisements

Literacy For All Minds

In order to develop my own writing capabilities and to better explore literary genres, I read; or at least I try. Sometimes my daily reading is limited to elementary-level readers and picture books. But, hey,  developing a love for literacy in young minds counts for something, doesn’t it?

Anyway, Issa’s teacher has a literacy program called Book It, which I love. In collaboration with all the second-grade classrooms, Issa’s teacher uses the program to help parents and students explore literary genres, together, and to help students build a love for reading. At the conclusion of each month, students submit a book report on what they read. This month we’re reading about Ireland and about how my grandmother’s great grandparents migrated to Oceola Township, Michigan from Ireland’s Fermanagh and Westmeath counties in the mid-1800s.

Like my daughter, I consider myself to be a student; and use various forms of literature as a component to improve my knowledge of various subjects as well as writing itself. Also, I enjoy having the opportunity to chat with successful authors about their professional journeys.

Therefore, I am introducing, Book It, a spin on Issa’s school literacy program and a new blog category. It will contain book reviews. My first will be on Kate Policani’s, The Lustre.   She is a new blogging friend I admire; and she put me on her list to be a part of her virtual launch party, which includes a chance to review the story before it is released to the public. I’m busy putting up party decorations to help all of you get into the frenzy. I’ll let you know when my Book It party room is ready for all of you to have a look at The Lustre.

Girlfriends, Chocolate Martinis, Education and Bingo

Last Thursday, I took a much-needed break. I left my hubby in charge of putting the kiddos to bed, abandoned my NaNoWriMo characters on some beach near Jakarta, and squealed my tires as I zoomed off to catch up with two girlfriends.

My two girlfriends and I met at Nick’s 22nd Street Steakhouse, in Shelby Township, Mich., which I’m going to plug. Not only did they take good care of us there, martinis are half-off on Thursday nights. Regular price is $7.50. You do the math.

While I slurped down two chocolate martinis,  my girlfriends caught me up on family matters, tempered my enthusiasm for running in the Freeze Your Fanny 5k in January (so far I have no takers – not good), said I was insane for trying to run a mile in five minutes on my elliptical, and gave me their viewpoints on our crumbling national education system.

Our elementary-school-aged children are students in the highly-acclaimed, Utica Community Schools, the second largest district in Michigan.  As we discussed various triumphs and challenges in relating to school personnel, we turned our conversation to the No Child Left Behind policies as well as a special education millage that was voted down November 8.

The conversation left me with a different opinion about the No Child Left Behind legislature. While I agree with giving children equal access to a competitive education experience, I do not agree with lowering the standards our students are expected to meet. I believe our standards need to be set higher. Resources need to be committed to helping children achieve at those higher standards. Otherwise, our students will continue to lag behind those receiving their educations elsewhere.

Where does Bingo fit in? The PTO at my daughter’s school organized Bingo for last Friday. Approximately 100 students — including my daughter — bought tickets to play. Once play was underway, it was pandemonium. You would have thought we were at the Eisenhower Eagles football regional playoffs in Walled Lake, which we really were in spirit. Our school’s physicial education teachers called numbers for the game and kept us updated on the Ike game score. The commitment all parents have to the ensuring our students receive a high-quality education that prepares them for our competitive global economy is truly appreciated.

NaNoWriMo: Week 2 – Where It All Started

It all started in eighth grade, actually. That’s when I really knew I wanted to write. My English teacher was the first to point it out.

She read an essay I wrote — to the entire class — about a short story the class had read together. To this day, I still remember writing it. I had arrived early at my grandma’s home for a family reunion. Since my cousins had not yet arrived and I had this to write, I sat down and wrote.

Toward its completion, there was one word I wanted to use. It would give the essay that extra you-know-what. But, being brought up in a Catholic household, using the word was frowned upon. Plus, this essay was for my eighth grade English class. Would the teacher send me to the principal’s office or send a note home to my mom? The word in limbo was Hell.

In the end, I said the Hell with it. It went in. My teacher didn’t call my mom or issue me a detention. She read my essay along with two others to the class. I believe the difference was my choice of words. I took a risk.

To me, the success stories in the creative world are all about taking risk. Those creative forces — writers, filmmakers, actors, photographers, artists, designers, stylists, painters, chefs, etc. — who inspire me all push the envelop to evolve, develop their talent, and achieve their goals.

At the start of my freshman year at Western Michigan University, I took another risk, which was to write for the student newspaper, the Western Herald. Originally, I planned to stay away from the newspaper’s office in the basement of the bird cage until sophomore year. The rational, safe side of my brain said to get a grip, focus on studying, and adjust to “college” life.

My intuition said, go for it! Why wait? So, I went for that initial orientation and picked up my first story assignments from the entertainment editor and then progressed to writing news and feature stories. The risk taken afforded me the opportunity to meet and work with some of the finest, creative forces spinning our planet today.

Plus, I…

received freelance writing opportunities at a community newspaper in my hometown;

attended campus and sometimes city events (sports, cultural, concerts, etc.) for free;

watched — with active engagement — my more esteemed peers cover a student-lead, campus-wide protest and sit-in;

learned not to mix fruit-based alcoholic drinks with grain-fed brew;

went trick-or-treating at the then-university president’s home;

covered the 1992 elections;

influenced slumlords renting to students living off-campus to take complaints about horrific living conditions seriously; and

admitted to the guilty pleasure of wanting to know what was happening around me before anyone else.

Here’s a shortlist of links to some of my j-school peers…

http://blog.mlive.com/knapescorner/index.html

http://www.twaingirl.com/

http://fountainsportfolio.blogspot.com/

http://redwolf5150.livejournal.com/

http://www.cheerswineconsultants.com/Cheers%21_Wine_Consultants/Home.html

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Kalamazoo-Gazette/114253861922693

http://www.thecenterformichigan.net/about-the-center/

http://colleaguesinternational.org/

My inspiration for this post all started from viewing a photo a former Herald colleague shared on Facebook. See the vintage Mac below? We all used to write our news copy on dinosaurs such as this.