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Serving our Country – TWO Amazing Young Adults Share Their Experiences
Aug 2nd, 2010 by Liza Wiemer

WHERE IN THE WORLD IS RICHARD KERN?

Richard Kern is nineteen years old, a ’09 graduate of Nicolet High School, Glendale, WI and is a student at the US Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point Long Island, NY – He is currently serving on the Green Dale – heading toward Hyuga Valley around Japan – thanks Jeanne McDonald for this information – and here’s the link to track it:

http://www.sailwx.info/shiptrack/shipposition.phtml?call=WCZ5238

GIVEAWAY:

 

New York Times Bestseller WAR, By Sebastian Junger

 

In honor of the two young men interviewed for this post, I will be giving away a SIGNED copy of Sebastian Junger’s New York Times Bestselling book, WAR.  Enter by leaving a comment below about this post or your own personal (you or someone you know) experience relating to military service.  You also may enter by posting or linking on Facebook, Twitter, etc., but please let me know.  For more information about WAR see Amazon: http://tinyurl.com/2edjms8 Goodreads: http://tinyurl.com/2dn3lcx or Sebastian’s official site: http://www.sebastianjunger.com/ Giveaway ends August 16, 2010, 8 PM CST – GIVEAWAY IS CLOSED – WINNER HAS BEEN RANDOMLY SELECTED

 

Richard Kern

 

For as long as Richard Kern could remember he knew that he would go to college and serve his country.  This desire for both, stemmed from his relationship with his parents, his involvement in scouting, Badger Boys State, and his love of history.  He said, “My desire to serve didn’t start from 9-11.  I am grateful for the way my parents raised me and for this amazing country.  It’s because of those things that I wanted to give back.”

In addition, paying for a top-notch education without some kind of financial aid was not a possibility for Richard and his parents.  At the beginning of his senior year (September 2008), Richard applied to every Federal Service Academies. There were essays to write, recommendations to obtain from a senator or congressional representative, (Richard received one from Wisconsin Senators Feingold and Kohl and Congressman Sensenbrenner) tests, and of course, the applications themselves.  The process was long and difficult.

Richard received a full scholarship – approximate value of $230,000 – to the US Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point Long Island, NY.  This was just the beginning.  Though receiving this honor has been a tremendous experience, keeping it means a lot of hard work!  Some young men and women are unable to maintain the stringent requirements and either drop out or are disenrolled.  Four years of study is crammed into three years.  One year – broken down into four months and then eight months – is spent at sea gaining as much hands-on experience as possible.  Besides his responsibilities on the ship’s deck, Richard has extensive sea projects that must be turned in.  Upon graduation Richard is under contract to serve the US government for up to eight years.

The Merchant Marine is under the auspices of the US Department of Transportation, but there is also a connection to the US Navy.  A Merchant Mariner serves on ships that transport goods from ports all over the world.  Service to our country may be paid back through a “an appointment as a commissioned officer in the U.S. Naval Reserve, U.S. Coast Guard Reserve, or any other Reserve unit of an armed force of the United States.” http://www.usmma.edu/admissions/facts/serviceobligation.htm

So what’s the experience been like?  Richard describes the Merchant Marine Academy as one big family – a giant fraternity.  There is a ZERO tolerance policy for underage drinking and for drugs. [Zero tolerance for drugs.  First alcohol offense gets you into A.A. meetings and the second alcohol offense gets you kicked out.] Before entering Kings Point everyone has a physical and is given a drug test.  His first year (or plebe year as it’s called) is tough. “As plebes, we’re the bottom of the totem pole.  Cleaning bathrooms is just one of our duties,” he said.

The “Indoc” experience was the biggest test both mentally and physically.  Plebes would experience IT – individual training – when even a loose threat could be reason to have you “on your face.”  [It’s a lot more than just push ups.  Basically a sweaty, painful few minutes.] “The experience could push you to the brink, but it also brings you closer to each other – tests each other.  If a person breaks, then you know you can’t rely on him or her.  If you endure it together, it makes you stronger.  There is a trust that forms and brings you closer to others that is unlike anything you experience in high school.

“Many of us have two shirts with the names of all the individuals printed with all those who start out as plebe candidates.  By the time we reach first classman many names will be crossed off the list.”

“The best part about being a Merchant Mariner is the tremendous opportunities for our future.  We can go anywhere – from State Department diplomatic security to the Bering Sea with the US Coast Guard. We stand for discipline, integrity, professionalism and companies dealing in shipping know that they can rely on our training.  Ninety percent of all of this world’s wealth is transported by ship.  We’ll be responsible for a lot of it.  In addition, at any time we can be responsible for transporting military equipment for the United States government.”

“Some of the most difficult parts of being in the Merchant Marines is not seeing family and friends, sometimes for a very long time.  It also can be frustration living so close to each other with hardly any personal space. “

I asked Richard what separates him from other young adults his age.  He said, “I was fortunate to go back to my high school and talk with some of my teachers.  One of them pointed out that he sees many former students with no direction.  I have a direction and purpose in my life.  I know what I will be doing for the next ten years.  In my opinion, there’s definitely an advantage to knowing what you love and that you’re working toward that goal of accomplishing it.”

On a personal level, we talked about boyfriend-girlfriend relationships.  It’s not something that Richard sees for himself.  “It’s one thing if you come into The Academy already in a solid relationship, though many don’t last.  I just don’t feel like it’s fair to start a relationship when you know that so much of your time is going to be at sea.   Probably 10% of our school is women.  At this point, I see my chances of meeting someone as slim to none.”

KYLE PECUS – Currently Serving in Jalalabad, Afghanistan in the United States Army – 13B Cannon Crewmember

Military Service Right Out of High School

To learn more about Kyle’s unit:  13B Cannon Crewmember

Kyle Pecus is an ’06 graduate from Cambellsport High,  Cambellsport, WI.  He just celebrated his twenty-third birthday, July 31st 

Kyle Pecus in Iraq

 

Rank:  Specialist or SPC
Time in Service:  4 years
Time left:  2 years, 3 months
Plans after the Army:  UW-Milwaukee, not sure of a major yet

A note from Liza Wiemer – The Q & A was done via the Internet.

What advice do you have for other young adults who are thinking about choosing the military after high school?

I’d have to say that unless you are dead certain you want a combat job, definitely pick a job that is going to help you out in college/your career field.  So many times, I see people who join and they know they’re only going to do three years and get out and be a cop or a med student or something, but they pick jobs that won’t help with their career choice.  Tell the recruiter what you want to do with your life and ask what kind of jobs they have in that field!  If you want to be a nurse, be an Army nurse.  That way you get paid to train as a nurse, get paid as you do a nursing job, then when you get out the Army will pay for your nursing degree and you already have 3+ years of experience, putting you way ahead of the power curve.  Honestly, I think that the military is the best way for people who can’t afford college to get it for FREE.  And if you like doing your job in the Army who knows, you might even do your 20 years and retire.  Either way, you’re set up for success.

What were your reasons for joining the US Army after high school graduation?

One of my main reasons for joining out of high school was a lifelong interest in the military. Ever since I was a kid, I loved watching military shows, The History Channel, and I always wanted to try it for myself.  I always had a slight preference towards the Army for some reason.  I had the feeling that if I went to college (after HS) and got a degree, I really wouldn’t have a reason to enlist and I’d never get around to it.  September 11th cemented my decision to enlist.

Kyle Pecus

 

Why did you choose MOS 13B Cannon Crewmember?

Continuing from my last response, I definitely wanted a combat job, something where I’d get my hands dirty – blow stuff up and kill the bad guys.  I originally wanted to be an Apache attack helicopter pilot, but it requires at least two years of schooling and I didn’t want to wait.  I then had to make a decision between my next two favorites, 19K Armor Crewman or 13B Cannon Crewmember.  It eventually came down to the fact that I really didn’t want to be cramped up inside a tank, and historically field artillery had always caused the most enemy casualties.  I didn’t feel at all bad for the Taliban!  Dropping shells on them from miles away had a certain appeal to help out the infantry guys who might be fighting for their lives and put the hurt on the enemy.  And I also thought being a few miles away from the fight might keep my mother sane.  For the most part, I was right.

Where have you served and for how long?

Today (the day I write this) actually marks my four-year mark in the Army, as I left for basic training in Fort Sill, OK on July 19th, 2006.  My OSUT (One Station Unit Training, basic training and AIT in the same place, something the Army is doing away with) lasted until November 2nd.  I reported to my first duty station, Fort Campbell, KY, home of the 101st Airborne, two (very!) short weeks later. I’m still in the same unit, which kinda drives me nuts, but I really like the area around Campbell.  Fort Campbell is actually more on the Tennessee side than the Kentucky side and I love TN!  Great place to live.

What do you like the most about being in the Army?

Tough question!  I’d have to say the friends I’ve made, the experiences I’ve had.  I can’t imagine my life without the dozens of friends I’ve made in the Army, some of the funniest, craziest people on the planet for sure.  Sometimes work really sucks, but you all get to suffer through it together and it all brings you really close.  Depending on your job you get to do some amazing things that you’d never do in an office building!  During my 15-month tour in Iraq, we did everything from combat patrols and tower guard, to kicking doors and jumping out of helicopters.  The raids were definitely my favorite part; it’s hard to find something that exciting stateside and it’s something that I’ll never forget.  Also, the pay isn’t bad.  In the Army, you’ll never be rich but if you handle your finances responsibly, you will never be poor.  I’m saving up through this tour to build up a Mustang I bought, and it’s nice to have that kind of disposable income.  The Army, at the very least, always puts a roof over your head and provides food to eat, so what you do with the rest of your check is up to you!

Many find it difficult to be in a long distance relationship, but you’re in one. What’s that experience been like and how do you make it work?

Not going to lie, sometimes things are very hard!  When I’m stateside we usually only get to see each other once every two or three months, so it kind of sucks but at the same time it makes seeing her that much more special.  Before I left for Afghanistan, she drove down to Kentucky twice and I drove up to Wisconsin for a few days so we got to see each other a little bit.  It helps that she’s as tough as nails and probably the most honest and loyal person I’ve ever met!  We’ve been together for just over three years.  She and I met at the grocery store I worked at in high school.  We both went to the same high school but I really didn’t meet her until the day I was working the cash register at work and totally butchered her mom’s order and had to do everything all over.  I knew I made a great impression by showing both her and her mother that I couldn’t work a register.  We didn’t start seriously dating for a few years after that though.

Are you a person who thinks about the future and future plans, or do you live day to day? Why?

That really depends on what we’re talking about.  I try not to sweat the small stuff and live each day one at a time, but when it comes to big things like career choices or large expenditures then I definitely like to plan ahead!  If I thought about future plans all the time, I’d probably go nuts. I still have six months until I set foot in America again, so I’m not going to fill my thoughts with fantasies of a winter wonderland while I’m baking in the Afghan sun.

Date Rape, Alex Knepper, is Rape – With or Without Alcohol, No Matter What…
Apr 7th, 2010 by Liza Wiemer

I personally know three young women, teenagers actually, who have been raped.

Each knew the perpetrator.

Only one involved alcohol.  Poor judgment – yes.  But to say that a young woman has no right to “cry date rape after you sober up the next morning” is ridiculous.  This is what American University’s Alex Knepper said in his controversial article published in AU’s The Eagle, titled Dealing with AU’s Anti-Sex Brigade.

Let’s get this straight: any woman who heads to an EI party as an anonymous onlooker, drinks five cups of the jungle juice, and walks back to a boy’s room with him is indicating that she wants sex, OK? To cry “date rape” after you sober up the next morning and regret the incident is the equivalent of pulling a gun to someone’s head and then later claiming that you didn’t ever actually intend to pull the trigger.

To see the full article, click here:  http://tinyurl.com/ycnup39

Alex Knepper is an articulate young man.  Few would want to face him on an opposing debate team…  He has a way of twisting words to make what he is really saying into something else, and I think most people would have a tough time arguing against his points.  This doesn’t mean that he is right.  Not even close.  He responded on national TV, addressing the firestorm of controversy.  See the following video of how, in my opinion, he twists his written comments to justify his words:


Watch CBS News Videos Online

It is absolutely ridiculous that Knepper asserts that a female who goes back to a guy’s room is “indicating” that  she is interested in having sex.  He stated in his TV interview that he said “indicating” because “men cannot know what women don’t tell them” and “at anytime a woman can say no.”  “At that point it constitutes rape.”

Many of these sexual encounters don’t take place in someone’s bedroom.  Sadly, these events are often public displays.  If a girl is so drunk, does she even know where she is?

Another obvious problem with Knepper’s statement is that if a woman is so inebriated it is impossible for her to give consent.  Without consent, then any intercourse is rape.  He mentions five glasses of jungle juice.  Is the guy standing there counting?  Is he handing them to the girl and watching her drink?  Even worse, is he slipping something into her glass so that she won’t even remember?  Unfortunately, this takes place every single day and the lines have been blurred so much that women in this situation are often not believed.  Take a look at this article titled:  Hook-up Culture At Boston University Leads To Skepticism About Sexual Assault – http://tinyurl.com/ykbphxt

Drinking and driving do not mix.  Sex and being wasted do not mix either.  The consequences can be dangerous and life altering.  I’ve written about this before in Binge Drinking, Hook-ups, and Self-Esteem http://www.whorublog.com/?cat=74

We need responsibility.  We need to think about our actions.  We need to think about the consequences.

We need respect.

Rape is not okay, with or without alcohol.

Do You Give Away Your Personal Power? TAKE IT BACK!
Feb 22nd, 2010 by Liza Wiemer

WHO CONTROLS YOUR LIFE?

Oh no, Mr. Bill! Who's intimidating you?

Dear Liza,

Love your blog.  I have a story I need to share with you.  I know a beautiful, confident, bright college student who has always been well-liked, dated guys she wanted to, and had a close circle of friends.  She had and has a lot going for her.  

After high school, she moved out-of-state for college and everything changed.  She met a guy that she fell head-over-heels for and after a few months things started going downhill.  He started to control her life – who she saw, who she talked to, where she went, and he called her cell-phone a million times a day to check up on her.  He even moved into her apartment.  He used her car and stopped working. 

Pretty soon she lost all sense of herself.  This once confident girl has no longer saw how special she was and is.  I am telling you this happened very quickly, surprised her parents, and all of her friends.  No one would have ever thought she would become prey to an abusive boyfriend, but it happened. 

She has had a happy ending.  She was able to get him to leave her apartment, and they gradually broke up.  It wasn’t easy.  Fortunately, she was able to come out of this experience with next to no physical scars – emotionally it was a lot harder. 
Just wanted to share this with you, since others can definitely learn from it.

Best, BH  

This story is a very important one, not just because this scenario happens every day, but also because it epitomizes a key problem for a lot of us.  Nearly everyday I interact with people who are struggling with feeling out-of-control, vulnerable, or victimized.  I’ve experienced it too.  Getting out of these situations are not easy, but it can – no – it must be done!

Who or what is consuming your life?  Are your thoughts, conversations, and emotional wellbeing focused on negative interactions?  If yes, you have little or no control over your personal power. 

Are you sitting down, ‘cause I have EARTH SHATTERING NEWS! Lol! You’re a human being, not an alien, not an angel, not perrrfect!  We’re here on earth to grow, to make a difference, to change our lives for the better, and help others.

Don’t give away your personal power. 

Don’t give away your personal power.

Don’t give away your personal power.

Here’s the thing.  The minute we start seeing ourselves as less than someone else, when we live in fear, or when we are overtly critical of others, we give away our personal power.  Someone else consumes our thoughts, emotions, energy – and the direction we ultimately take in life can be deeply influenced by our perceptions.

Scenario 1 – You have a friend who is critical of almost everything you do – what you wear, who you date, where you go…  All of a sudden you can’t make any decisions unless that person approves of your choice. 

Scenario 2 – You have spent half of your life arguing with your brother/sister and the other half not speaking with him/her.  You hate him/her, you’re sick of him/her, s/he’s just mean, mean, mean.  Well, maybe you luv him/her, because after all, s/he is your brother/sister.  But, s/he’s destroyed your life, hasn’t cared about you, forgotten your birthday, been totally insensitive to your needs, and s/he’s a selfish, rotten brat!  Oh, and the whole world is going to know it too!

Scenario 3 – Pressure – you feel pressured to have sex with your boyfriend/girlfriend or hook up without any commitment to any relationship/friendship. 

Scenario 4 – You live in fear, stuck with whatever you’re doing because you would rather not take any risks of changing.  After all, you might make a bad choice, worse than the already bad scenario you’re in now.  You hate your job or school, but why change if the next one might be worse?  You’ve got an abusive boy/girlfriend, but no else will love you, right? Fear keeps you stuck in dead-end relationships.

Scenario 5 – Abuse – you’ve been emotionally, physically, or sexually abused and the painful experiences consume your life.  Does s/he deserve your nearly endless energy/emotions/thoughts directed toward him or her?

TAKE YOUR PERSONAL POWER BACK.  We’re human beings.  Unfortunately, not everything in life is going to be perfect.  As I said, if it were perfect, then we would be angels. 

WE DO HAVE PURPOSE AND MEANING in our lives.  I am a firm believer in using whatever God-given talents we have to make this world a better place.  No one is meant to be the same as another.  Do we want to be a force for good or for… – No, I don’t even want to think about it. 

NO VALUE TO YOUR LIFE?

One of the saddest things that a person could say is that s/he has no value, no meaning, or purpose in his/her life.  I hear it more often than you could ever imagine.  Perhaps it’s because we are looking for something so grandiose that we lose focus of the small things that make a difference?  I’ll never forget standing in line at the grocery store before a major holiday.  The lines had to be fifteen people deep when I noticed a woman struggling to unload her cart.  A baby was sleeping in her arms and a toddler was fidgety and whining.  I walked from the back of the line to the front and offered my help.  The look of gratitude in her eyes and the relief I saw on her face were unforgettable.  As I zigzagged back to my cart several people said that they thought about helping her too.  (Obviously, they didn’t.)  It was a simple act, but it had value for me, and hopefully for the woman, too.  We can all do these simple acts of kindness. 

What are your talents?  How are you using your skills to make our world better? 

When you are in control of your personal power and use it for good, a spark of light shines in the darkness.

So, who have you given your personal power to?  How has it affected you?  How are you going reclaim it? 

Maybe you need to say, “No, I don’t want that drink.”  Or, “I want to go home (even tell the person you’re not feeling well – believe me, you’re not lying – cause you’ll feel a lot worse if you do something you don’t want to do!)

Maybe you need to say, “Yes, I am breaking up with you!”  “Yes, I can work one night this week and on Sunday, but I am trying to get into college so I need time to study.”

What words do you need to practice, say, and follow through on?

Perhaps? “I’m tired of being angry all the time.”  “I am not going to spend another minute thinking about how so-and-so hurt me.”  “I am in control of my life and with whom I interact.”  “I will no longer associate with so-and-so.”

These are just a few suggestions.  I know it’s not easy.  If you find yourself struggling, please speak to a trusted teacher, minister, counselor, or professional.  It’s time to take back your personal power!

Hope this helps! :) Liza

How Can I Figure Out What To Do With My Life, When I Can’t Even Decide What To Wear?
Feb 16th, 2010 by Liza Wiemer

How Can I Figure Out What To Do With My Life, When I Can’t Even Decide What To Wear?

Sometimes Classes Aren't Enough!

*First, thanks to a reader for suggesting this topic! <3

Perhaps you’re a student approaching the possible dreaded decision of what to do after high school.  Or, perhaps you’re in college and you haven’t declared a major yet. Okay, so let’s tackle these different scenarios.

You’ve already been asked about a million times what you’re going to do with your life, what college you’re going to attend, and/or what you would like to major in.  “Fun” isn’t exactly the answer most people would expect or appreciate, but you might have a little “fun” throwing it out there.  Lol.  “I don’t know,” is a viable answer, but most people don’t seem to buy into it.

You’ve been in college for two years, and you still don’t know what you want to do.  The four-year-plan seems to be looking more like the five or six-year-plan.  Now what?  Should you declare, even if you’re not sure you’ll be happy with your decision?

Here’s my best advice:

I’m not going to tell you not to worry about it, but I am going to tell you don’t spend too much time dwelling on it.  Plans can and do change, but having some kind of plan is helpful.

1.  Know yourself.  What are your interests?  Do you like to: Read, write, dance, sing, play a musical instrument, socialize, hibernate, debate, cook, play sports, paint, watch sports, sail, create science experiments…  Computers, films, fashion, the beach, photography, politics, your faith, warm weather, cold weather…

The more you know about yourself, the better decisions you can make.  If you want, make a list of you likes and dislikes.

2.  Be willing to explore.  You might think that you’d like to be a writer, but take the opportunity to try out different courses.  A cousin took a linguistics class her freshman year and fell in love with it.  She ended up getting a dual degree in business and linguistics.  Another friend was interested in being an English major, but she found that Art History were one of her most favorite courses.  Now she integrates Art History in her writing.  A family member uses www.ratemyprofessor.com and saw that an Archeology professor received high ratings.  He took the class and loved it.

Don’t be afraid to change majors. When I was touring colleges with my elder son we heard an admissions director say that 90% of all students change their majors.

3.  Use Internet and social media sites to learn about yourself, integrate your interests/passions, and connect with people.  Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, MySpace are all great social media sites, but how are you using them?  If they’re just for socializing with friends, then you’re missing a huge component that could help you figure out what you want to do with your life, or at the very least, utilize a talent that you possess.  Nicole, who started www.wordforteens.com in 2007 when she was thirteen, uses her passion for reading and has created a highly successful YA book blog.  It includes author interviews, giveaways, reviews, and some cool personal interests – she’s a Johnny Depp fan. J  Nicole utilizes social media sites like Twitter (555 followers as of today) to share her thoughts and connect with readers/authors!  Pretty amazing!  Blogging is a great way to share your interests with others.  Anyone can utilize social media sites like Nicole has – to connect with other people who have similar interests.  Want to know more about scuba diving? Use social media to learn more and it is an effective use of your time to discover what you do and do not like about a topic.

4.  Take responsibility for the decisions you make.  Want to know how this connects with figuring out what to do with your life?  It may seem simple, but it’s not.  If you make poor choices, the consequences can be severe.  How can you have direction if you are getting into trouble, drifting, vegging, doing drugs, binge drinking?  I can’t begin to tell you how many incredible, bright teens/YA end up making poor choices and find themselves in such difficult situations that they can’t dig themselves out – at least not for awhile.  The key is to ultimately take responsibility for the choices you make and THINK FIRST!  Do something active, positive, even if that means going on a walk through the mall to figure out what kinds of things you like and don’t like.  And gasp – do it alone so that you’re not influenced by what a friend thinks.    

5.  If you’re passionate about something, pursue your passion.  Please, please be passionate about something.  Apathy is your enemy.  Care about something!  Dogs? Art? Music?  A family member loves film/multi-media.  We encouraged him to use his talents to: 1. Start his own business, which he did when he was fifteen.  2. To find a college where he could excel in this area.  We knew that if he really loved film, then he would need to integrate it into his academic life too.  He’s now at BU in the Business Honors Program and getting a second degree in Communications with a focus on film.  If you don’t utilize your passions in some way, you’re going to be awfully unhappy.  Whether you find a club, play intramural sports, take art classes, join an a cappella group, find some way to engage your passions.

5.  I’ve said it in other articles on this blog, but it’s important to mention here, find mentors/role models!  You want to be the best writer?  Great, a wonderful ambition – maybe you’re close, maybe you’re interested, but don’t know how to get started, or maybe you’ve already won awards or have been published. If you really want to excel, continue to grow and learn, choose top authors and read their work – study it, digest it, understand it to the best of your ability.  This goes for many things in life.

6.  Surround yourself with people who have the same interests, but aren’t so competitive that they can’t be supportive.  Negative, self-centered, egomaniacs have a tendency to surround themselves with people who reflect their beliefs or whom they can bully/boss around.  Choose your friends wisely.  Don’t give your personal power up to anyone! (Look for a future blog piece coming soon!)

7.  Volunteer.  I’ve known many teens/YA who have discovered what they want to do with their lives through volunteer  work.  Many have used these experiences to get paying summer jobs.  There are thousands of non-profit organizations, many through churches and synagogues, that are in desperate need for volunteers.  Ask around your high school or college – I am certain you can find a perfect match for you. 

And last but not least… 

8.  Your experiences can shape who you are, but they don’t need to define you.  Mistakes happen.  Hopefully the consequences of those mistakes won’t be life changing.  Learn from them and move on.  People don’t make decisions or changes because of fear.  Most fears are in a person’s head.  Ask yourself what is or isn’t real and then be willing to at least explore different possibilities. 

Hope this helps.  :) Liza

Words of Wisdom for my (any) College Student
Aug 27th, 2009 by Liza Wiemer

Another thing to cherish - photograph beautiful things, capture memories through art.

Another thing to cherish - photograph beautiful things, capture memories.

Where have the last eighteen years gone? At 5:07 A.M. this morning I sat at our kitchen table going through iphone apps when my son asked me if I had any last minute Words of Wisdom before he left for Boston University. At that moment, I had none.
“Are you going to keep looking at that iphone?” he asked.
“It’s a distraction,” I said. “Plus you’ve taken care of everything with my phone.”
“That’s just one thing you’re going to miss about having me around,” he said. And he’s right. He also wanted to know where my tears were. They were there, I just didn’t want to show them because inside I was a mess and I’m not big on teary good-byes.
So since he asked, I’m going to try and deliver those Words of Wisdom.

WORDS OF WISDOM

1. Dream HUGE. We have always said you can change the world and we meant it and mean it still. But dreams cannot come true without ACTION. You need to make them happen by setting clear goals, staying focused, working hard, and staying determined until you accomplish it. Once you do, find new dreams and make them happen.

2. Success and Failure: Life is full of both, so learn from them – they’re a part of the journey. Be excited for your successes, but keep moving forward. It’s okay to be disappointed by failures, but don’t let them hold you back for a second. Continue to put one foot in front of the other. As long as you do, you’ll be just fine – no, great. Remember the world is big enough for lots of people to be successful. Rejoice with them, admire them, and then do your own thing!

3. Promises: Your word means everything. If you tell someone you’re going to do something, then do it. If you can’t, have the courage to be honest, even if you’ve given your word. Your credibility is at stake. We all know people whose word means nothing. Don’t be like them.

4. Enjoy and Value Life (Family, Friends, and Humankind) NOT Things: There is nothing wrong with enjoying nice things, but ultimately relationships are the most important. Grandpa Jack taught us that. He had very little materially. His greatest treasures were his family and friends. Our successes were his successes, our pains – his pains. So, be tremendously successful and enjoy the rewards – but don’t put the material rewards above people. True friends are those who listen, support you, are honest but kind, and want to see you succeed too.  Be a true friend.

5. Give: Give of your time and when you start earning a living give financially too. (Even when you don’t have money, set aside at least a penny a day so that you’re thinking of those who are less fortunate than you and acting on it in a small, simple way.)  Do some work for a non-profit organization or volunteer, even if it’s an hour a month.

6. Receive: Let others give to you and be gracious about it.

7. Laugh: Dick Chudnow, our cousin and the founder of ComedySportz, once brought a giant leaf to cheer me up when I was in the hospital. He said something like, “The rest of the plant was too much to carry.” It was the best present I could have received. If life’s getting too serious, find things to laugh about.

8. There is a Mind, Body, Spirit Connection: Your outlook on life has a huge impact. You are what you think… Think negative thoughts and hold on to them, then you will become them. Attitude may not be everything, but it extremely important.

9. Surround Yourself with Mentors: Learn from others who know more than you, respect them, don’t be afraid to challenge them and ask questions – but always – always with the respect they deserve. Then you can make your own decisions.  Mentors are not just academic.  They can be individuals you admire.  I have always admired Aunt Barbara and Uncle Don – and modeled who I wanted to be as a parent after them.  Choose great role models.

10. Learning is a Lifetime Quest: You’re off to college, a new beginning in your life journey. Never stop learning and never stop asking questions or seeking answers. Keep your mind fresh and seeking new challenges. Only stop learning when you’re dead.

11. Love: A soul-mate is someone who brings out the very best in the other. Someone to grow with, learn from, trust, share the same values, hope, support, give to and receive from. Someone who has the power to hurt you because she knows where you are most vulnerable, but doesn’t do it. The same goes for you. Be flexible, be respectful. You may not always be IN love, but with respect, love will be there for you.

12. Be Forgiving: Forgive us for not always being the best parents (we’ve done our very best), and ask forgiveness when you need to. Whether you are forgiven isn’t up to you. Those people who have hurt you, forgive them. They may not ask for forgiveness first or ever, but that’s okay. Forgiveness is something that comes from within.

13. Small Things in Life are Important: Holding the door open for someone, smiling at a stranger, changing a diaper, calling a friend to say hello, saying “I love you” or “I’m thinking about you,” are all very important. These things can alter someone else’s life for the better, so value them. Making a blockbuster movie will be absolutely incredible, but no more valuable than some of the small things in life.

14. Remember Who You Are: We have a strong heritage and faith. Be proud of it, maintain it, nurture it, and respect it. Let it be your guide. Celebrate and continue to grow and have a true mentor.

15. Take Care of Your Teeth: I think Grandma Lena once said that!

Recycle, Enjoy Down Time, Meet New People, Be Kind, Be Flexible, Do Things You Love, Have Fun, Have Fun, Have Fun, Have Fun… Study, Study, Study, Study… This is the best that I can do for you right now. I reserve the right to revise this list and add to it!

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