musings

How should I respond to this request?

Today’s post might be a bit convoluted, and some might think I’m petty to write it. I’m going to write it anyway, because I’ve got nothing better to do. To those of you who manage to finish it and follow all the twists and turns, I offer you the gooiest of cookies.I just want to get this off my chest.Fair warning. It’s going to be long, and it might come across as self-indulgent and obnoxious.Those of you who know me probably won’t be surprised.

One night in May 2014, I was living in Texas, hanging out on Facebook, when I accessed the page for my alma mater, Longwood University. I remember being worried at the time. My husband, Bill, was about a month out from retiring from the Army. He was on “terminal leave”, which meant he was using up all of the vacation days he’d amassed before it was time to separate from the service. He was also job hunting, and it seemed like the pickings, even in Texas, were slim. I’d gone to Longwood’s Facebook page to take my mind off of my nervousness about the potential financial ruin that might face us.

At that time, we were also planning our third, and most recent, space-a “military hop“, a great perk for military families that allows servicemembers, retirees, and their dependents to hitch a ride on government aircraft for next to nothing. Because Bill was technically still on active duty in May 2014, he was “category three”, which placed him at a high priority for getting a flight. Once he retired, he’d be “category six”, which meant our chances of scoring a flight to Europe or Hawaii would be significantly lower. We planned to fly to Germany and wander around Europe for about ten days, then come back to Texas and plunge into post-Army life. At the time, I thought this last hurrah to Europe could be our final opportunity to visit there for awhile. I had no idea that within three months, we’d be moving to Germany.

That May night in Texas, as I was perusing Longwood’s Facebook page just before we took off on our third military hop and Bill left the Army, I shared a snapshot with Longwood’s community that I had taken in New York City, back in March 1994. The picture was snapped at the back door of a Broadway theater. I was with several fellow members of Longwood’s auditioned choir, the Camerata Singers. We’d just seen the Broadway production of Tommy, starring Michael Cerveris.

The Camerata Singers were in New York because it was the end of our spring tour. The choral director at the time, Dr. Donald Trott, would use spring break as a means of promoting Longwood to high school students in Mid-Atlantic states. Our choir would spend the week traveling by bus to different high schools and churches in Virginia, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey, where we would perform concerts for church parishioners and students, staying at their homes rather than in hotels. It was exhausting, but great fun and a wonderful opportunity for us to bond. Then, at the end of the week, we’d spend a couple of nights in New York City and catch a Broadway show.

The first two years out of the three I went on spring tour with “Cams”, everyone saw the same show– Phantom of the Opera my first year, and Miss Saigon my second. My third year touring– which was my senior year at Longwood– we were allowed to choose which show we wanted to see. I remember a lot of my fellow “Cams” went to see Les Miserables. Only four of us chose to see Tommy, a Broadway show based on the 1969 rock opera by The Who. I wasn’t close friends with the other choir members who had gone with me to see the show, but I did happen to be the only one in our group who’d brought a camera. A couple of them were musical theater majors, and they’d sent a note backstage for Michael Cerveris.

Before I saw him perform on Broadway, I had known the American actor Michael Cerveris as the British character, Ian Ware, on Fame, an 80s era TV show that I’d loved as a kid. He’d moved on to bigger and better things. I got to shake hands with him because the musical theater majors I was with were studying under Pam Arkin, an actress who was teaching at Longwood at the time. Pam (as everyone called her) knew Cerveris because they’d acted together and were friends. Mr. Cerveris graciously met us and posed for pictures. It was definitely a memorable moment in my college career, so twenty years later, I shared it with the Longwood community on Facebook.

In Bacharach… can you blame me for wanting to visit again?

A couple of days after I shared that post, Bill and I left on our Space A flight to Germany, which took us on a wonderful journey through eastern France. We visited Reims, Epernay, Dijon, Lyon, Nimes, and Nice. Then we flew to Frankfurt and visited Bacharach, an adorable medieval village I’d discovered in 1997, after leaving the Peace Corps. It has the distinction of being the very first town I ever visited in Germany, and I’d been telling Bill about it for years. We’d never had the opportunity to go to Bacharach when the Army sent us to Stuttgart from 2007-09. Since, as of May 2014, we weren’t sure if we’d ever get back to Europe, I wanted to make sure Bill saw Bacharach. We ended up having a very special experience there, which I wrote about on my travel blog.

While we were traveling through Europe in 2014, I got a message from Kent Booty, a writer for Longwood’s alumni magazine. He thought my story about meeting Michael Cerveris was pretty cool, and he wanted to interview me. I remember explaining to him that I was in Europe at the time, so I would have to talk to him once we got back to the States.

Sure enough, once we were back in Texas, I had a long phone chat with Mr. Booty. I explained what I had been doing since I graduated from Longwood in 1994. From 1995-97, I was in the Peace Corps serving in the third group to go to the Republic of Armenia. From 1999-02, I was at the University of South Carolina, earning dual master’s degrees in social work and public health. I had some big career plans back then. But then I met and fell in love with Bill, and became an Army wife six months after I finished my studies in South Carolina. Over the course of twelve years, we moved seven times to four states and Germany. I never got to use my master’s degrees the way I’d planned. Instead, almost every penny I’ve earned since I finished graduate school has been made from freelance writing, which is a lot more portable than social work and public health are, but tends to be less steady, isn’t very prestigious, and doesn’t always pay well.

Crazily enough, just a few weeks after we returned to the States from our space A trip, Bill got a job offer in Stuttgart. I remember telling Kent Booty that we were going to be moving back to Germany. I was excited about it, since it meant we wouldn’t have to live in our cars and we’d get to live in my favorite of our past duty stations. He congratulated me for Bill’s success, and that was the last I heard from Mr. Booty. He never did write an article about me for the alumni magazine. I honestly couldn’t blame him for that, and wasn’t surprised, given that I have pretty much been a housewife since I finished graduate school in 2002. I understand that part of Mr. Booty’s job is to market Longwood to prospective students, and most students are hoping to be gainfully employed once they graduate from college. I sure was when I was a college student. My role as an “overeducated housewife” is probably not very impressive to most people.

Imagine my surprise last night when I got a message on my contact form for this blog, and it was from Kent Booty. He was requesting an interview, and it’s pretty clear that he doesn’t remember talking to me back in 2014. In fairness to him, I don’t really share my name freely on this blog, although if one searches long enough, it’s pretty easy to figure out who I am. Even if I did share my name openly, he probably wouldn’t remember that we spoke in 2014. I’m sure he talks to a lot of people, and most of them are more memorable and impressive than I am. I even realize that he might have been turned off after talking to me, because I know that not everyone can take my over-the-top personality or cackling laugh (people tell me my laugh is the one thing they remember most about me).

I have a feeling this unexpected contact came about because I recently reposted an article I wrote about how an adjunct professor at Longwood changed my life. What I wrote in that article is absolutely true. My life literally changed for the better because I chose Longwood. In fact, last night, I was telling Bill about the many wonderful ways my time at Longwood has blessed me since I began studying there in 1990. Bill’s college experience, by contrast, was not quite as rich.

Bill attended his first two years of school at a now defunct military college in Boonville, Missouri called Kemper, then transferred to the much larger and more prestigious American University in Washington, D.C. He earned his bachelor’s degree in 1986, and that was pretty much the last he’s heard from the school, even though it’s probably a lot better known and is definitely a much more expensive school than Longwood is.

Conversely, I have had a bunch of cool Longwood related experiences, even twenty-six years after I graduated. When I decided to join the Peace Corps in 1995, I asked my former advisor, Dr. Massie Stinson, to write a recommendation for me, which he gladly did. I exchanged letters and emails with him throughout my time in Armenia, and even brought him a copy of the Peace Corps cookbook I published while I was there. A couple of years after I came home from Armenia, Dr. Stinson wrote me a recommendation for the University of South Carolina, a school he had also attended. We exchanged emails for awhile until his health failed. When he passed away in June 2013, I sent a message for his family through Dr. Martha Cook, who had also been one of my professors. Dr. Cook and I became Facebook friends, and still communicate almost daily. I have noticed that many of my fellow Longwood friends from the 90s still chat with professors from that time, even though a lot of the professors have retired.

I took this photo from the teacher’s lounge at the school where I taught in Yerevan, Armenia, Ruben Sevak School #151. One of my former students from this school now works for Peace Corps Armenia.

I remember being in the teacher’s lounge at the school where I taught English in Armenia, reading a letter I received from Longwood’s then president, Dr. Patricia Cormier. She had reached out to alumni to ask them what they thought about changing Longwood’s name from Longwood College to Longwood University. I remember writing back to her, telling her that Longwood would always be Longwood College to me, but to the Armenian students I was teaching, the word college denotes “high school”. So I supported changing the name to Longwood University. Dr. Cormier wrote the most beautiful and personal letter back to me, which really raised my spirits at the time.

A few years later, I was living in South Carolina. I had just finished grocery shopping at Publix, and was loading my groceries into my car, which had a couple of Longwood decals on it. A lady came up to me and asked me if I had gone to Longwood. I said I had, and she beamed, telling me that her very best friend, Dr. Patricia Cormier, was the president there. I never had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Cormier, as her tenure as president was after I had graduated, but I remember her strong leadership and how she had transformed the campus with many new building projects.

I remember Dr. Ellery Sedgwick, another English professor from whom I’d never taken a class, writing to me because I’d sent a letter to the English department asking if anyone would be willing to donate books to my school. He sent a very kind letter to me, affirming that Longwood would support my mission in teaching English. I received several boxes of textbooks from the English department, which I donated to my school.

I also remember an incident involving the late Phyllis Mable, back in the summer of 1999. I was working as a waitress at The Trellis Restaurant in Williamsburg, Virginia. Ms. Mable came in for lunch and sat in my section in The Garden Room. I recognized her immediately, because she was truly unforgettable. I told her that I would soon be moving to Columbia, South Carolina for graduate school. A few days later, I received a handwritten letter from Ms. Mable, wishing me luck and offering me support. She had taken the time to look me up and sent me that note to let me know that Longwood was proud of me. It made my day.

I remember being at Longwood to welcome Drs. Charles and Lisa Kinzer, when they joined the music department in the fall of 1992. I was a junior that year, and even though I wasn’t a music major, I was allowed to take a lot of courses in the music department, including sight singing, which was taught by Dr. Charles Kinzer (who was then still a Mr.). His wife, Lisa, was my accompanist for my voice studio with Dr. Patricia Lust. I last ran into Dr. Lust back in 2000… and yes, she still remembered me six years post graduation. Dr. Lisa Kinzer is now a professor at Longwood and is still my friend, many years after we first met. I have often told Bill about how amazingly talented the Kinzers are. I would love for him to get to hear them perform sometime.

And finally, I realize that I still have many, many true friends from Longwood. It was the kind of place where it was easy to meet and bond with other students. My late father was a graduate of Virginia Military Institute, and he was friends with many of his “brother rats” his whole life. I may not be quite as bonded to my Longwood buddies as my dad was to his brother rats, but I still have so many genuine friends from my Longwood years and lots of wonderful memories. My husband, on the other hand, doesn’t have any connections to American University… not even long lost college buddies on Facebook.

My husband has gone on to have a successful military career and, as of a few years ago, caught up to me in diplomas having earned a second master’s degree from Regis University. We have an amazing life together, although I have not yet managed to set the world on fire with my own career. Bill is still astonished when he sees how connected I still am to Longwood, and how every year, I am even prouder to be a graduate. He has often commented at how personal the Longwood experience is, and how amazing it is that I can still reach out to the Longwood community for friendship and support.

And yet, I still don’t think Kent Booty would want to write an article about me for Longwood’s alumni magazine. He’s already spoken to me, but apparently found me entirely forgettable. Six years after our last conversation, I’m still just a housewife, although I’m living an enviable life. I pretty much do whatever I want every day. I live in a safe, beautiful, European country which affords me the chance to see other safe, beautiful European countries. My student loans are paid off, and now Bill and I even live in Wiesbaden, Germany, very close to the picturesque town of Bacharach, so we can visit there easily. I live in a comfortable home, and spend my time writing, making music, and playing with our dog, whom I’m hoping will have a new “sibling” soon. Bill and I are still healthy; we love each other; and it’s not a horrible thing for us to be stuck in the house together during the pandemic.

I’m still proud to be a Longwood graduate, and I treasure my four years there. I’m not sure any prospective students would admire me for being an “overeducated housewife”, nor do I think my story would necessarily encourage anyone to apply to Longwood, but I can’t deny that my life has been vastly enriched by the small school experience. It still is, many years post graduation. So, if Mr. Booty happens to read this post and still wants to talk to me, I’m sure to oblige. But I will completely understand if he doesn’t, and I’m happy to keep writing about Longwood on my own space. There’s more than one way to be successful in life. Maybe I am not very impressive to the average person, but in my own way, I’ve achieved successes and had experiences way beyond my expectations. And that is all I ever could have wished for.

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Ex, stupid people

Some men are really threatened…

This morning, as I was enjoying the pancakes Mr. Bill made us for breakfast, I happened to see a post in the Duggar Family News group about The Transformed Wife– aka: Lori Alexander. It was about how Melania Trump is the “best” first lady because she keeps her opinions to herself and is a good “help meet”.

I don’t pay a lot of attention to Lori Alexander, who preaches incessantly about how women belong at home, raising babies and baking cookies, rather than working or studying at a university. Lori Alexander is, at best, a hypocrite. Obviously, she thinks it’s okay to share HER opinions with the masses via Facebook and YouTube. But it’s not okay for a first lady to speak out about anything. Of course, Melania Trump did some rather powerful non-verbal communicating when she posed nude… and when she wore her infamous jacket that read “I really don’t care. Do u?”

I decided that I wanted to see what Lori’s followers had to say about her post. The people in the Duggar Family News group are pretty much against Lori and her ilk. But before I had a chance to find the post about Melania Trump, I ran across this post:

To be fair, Lori didn’t write this; she just shared it.

Now… before I go any further, I want to state that I agree that not everyone needs to go to college. I also agree that it’s ludicrous to saddle young people with five figures worth of debt. However, although I ended up not using my education in the way I’d planned, I can’t say college or graduate school was a waste of time or money. I don’t think my degrees made me “dumber”, either. I got a lot of value out of both of my university experiences.

I am immensely grateful that we were able to pay for my education and I no longer have to worry about student loan debt. I don’t envy today’s young people, who are still mostly expected to earn degrees, but will have a harder time paying for them as the chasm between poverty and wealth continues to widen and the middle class disappears. When I think about how much money I borrowed for my education, I think I got a pretty good deal. I was very lucky, especially since that debt is now gone.

I couldn’t help but laugh at some of the comments on this thread, particularly from men who think like Lori does. Behold, the unedited comments below:

Men should attend a college to attain a degree that enables them to work. Women should make the house a home.

The first step, perhaps, is to remove Federal guarantees for student loans, and allow banks to discriminate based on the degree to be earned.  That, of course, will spoil gender equality in the outcome.

Universities/Collages don’t teach real education anymore and haven’t for a long time. They indoctrinate students with worldly teaching that only hurts the student, especially later in life, more than they help. Some are good, but the majority of the crap they teach are so ungodly it is dangerous. The kid doesn’t stand a chance, because the public school education is the same way. UNGODLY EVIL is taught in both school and collage. When they are teaching kids the garbage of homosexuality and that God makes mistakes and makes some a sex they were never supposed to be, like he’s an idiot or something, it will only harm kids more than it will help them in life.Truly pathetic. I am so glad that my sister Home schools.  But unfortunately, even seminaries don’t teach true biblical education much either. There was a report that came out a few years ago that stated some seminaries are teaching the bible as a theory and not a face. That is the saddest thing. It IS fact and they should be teaching it as such. It is truly sad how this country is going down the toilet. (ETA: Collages? Sounds like he made a lot of them in school.)

But the real beaut of a comment comes from a guy named Ben who wrote this tripe…

Sounds like he read Princeton Mom’s book and took it to heart… except he doesn’t think women should go to college at all, even to find a mate.

When a woman confronts Ben for his misogynistic opinions, he posts this:

This post was not for you, snowflake, move along.

Wow… what a dick. So then a woman named Mary confronts Ben, and he continues…

You mean someone was impregnated by this insulting shitgibbon? She must not have been very smart.

Unfortunately, I’ve run into a lot of men who are intimidated by smart women. It’s a very common attitude, particularly within the military. I can’t even express how many times people from the military community have given me shit over the name of my blog. Personally, I think the attitude that education isn’t worth pursuing and that smart women are unattractive really reveals a lot of insecurity and outright fear that some men have. They can’t stand the idea that a woman might be in charge at some point. And some men think the more educated a woman is, the less “feminine” and attractive she is:

I’m going for my PhD. It’s funny how so many women in my class are older and single. These women feel that they deserve an educated man but my male classmates and I feel that as educated men, we deserve someone younger and more feminine.

When I read these kinds of responses on Facebook, I feel even more grateful that I found a husband who values intelligence in a woman. His first wife was a high school dropout and finally finished college after about twenty years. I don’t know if the extra education helped make her a better person. I just know that her lack of education wasn’t a good thing when she and Bill were married. Ex isn’t a dumb person, per se, but she lacked a lot of sophistication, common sense, and basic knowledge. She and Bill would have been mismatched even if she weren’t narcissistic. They had vastly different interests and Bill is way more intellectual than she is. In fact, I think he’s more intellectual than I am. He’s definitely better read.

I suspect Ex was spurred to get her degree because she knew Bill had married someone who is educated, and she couldn’t stand that. Because suddenly, after many unsuccessful fits and starts with school, she was talking about getting a PhD… in education, of all things! I think the PhD dream was eventually overcome by events, but I heard she did evidently take a stab at graduate school. I don’t know if she finished or what she’s doing now. I don’t even think about her much anymore, since younger daughter finally started talking to Bill again.

Bill did look up his still estranged older daughter and was dismayed to see his ex wife posting, especially since he thought he’d had her blocked. It turns out that Ex now fancies herself a “public figure” and was apparently posting to her daughter’s Facebook page with her “public figure” account. Bill took a peek and noticed that Ex is now into sea glass and purports to be highly educated. Maybe she is. Maybe that education has improved her. I can’t see how it would hurt, unless she found new ways to be manipulative and cruel. Ex used to tell Bill that she was the smarter one and she should have been the one to have a degree. And she also claimed that she was offered a full scholarship to Rice University and had gotten into West Point. Both claims, I suspect, are 100% bullshit, especially since she blamed other people for the fact she wasn’t able to take advantage of those opportunities. It was her adoptive father’s “fault” for not paying for her room and board at Rice. As for West Point, I’m not sure what her excuse was there. I doubt she would have lasted five minutes on that campus.

It doesn’t necessarily take education to make someone intelligent. I’ve known a lot of really smart people who never went to college. I’ve also known stupid people with PhDs. I just think that higher education should be a choice for those who are capable of pursuing it and want to put forth the effort, and yes, that includes fields that other people think are “worthless” or “stupid”. I wonder if it ever occurs to the folks who disparage fields like gender studies, theater, or modern dance that those fields do provide jobs for some people. After all, someone has to teach those classes, right? And if we stop letting people study those fields, more people will be out of work.

I don’t think college is just about becoming employable. For me, it was a valuable rite of passage, and I left school with many wonderful friends, enlightening experiences, and more knowledge and maturity than I had when I started. Maybe I could have had similar experiences if I’d just taken a job in my hometown, but chances are good I’d still be living in that hometown if I’d taken that route. That was not where I wanted to spend my life.

I don’t regret going to college or graduate school. I’m sorry it’s so expensive in the United States. I think a lot of that has to do with the capitalistic mindset that so many people have in the U.S. Many people think that the more you spend on something, the more valuable it is. A lot of people think the United States has the best healthcare in the world. They’re surprised when they find out that the U.S., for all its spending on healthcare, actually has pretty poor healthcare outcomes when compared to countries like France and Italy. Likewise, a lot of people think spending more money for an education at a private school is better than going to a community college or a publicly supported school. In some cases, maybe it is better, but private universities often come with a much higher price tag unless a deal can be struck or scholarships are earned.

Count me among those who value higher education for everyone. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a college education. There’s a lot to be said for trade school. I do think that everyone, male or female, should have skills that can be used in paid employment. Plenty of women planned to get married, have babies, and stay home to be “help meets” like Melania Trump (snicker), but then something happened to their marriage. There’s more than one way to get through life, but I think it’s best to prepare for disaster. I see becoming educated as a way of taking care of oneself… and I think it’s very foolish for women to opt out of preparing to be independent. And if some guy doesn’t think that’s “feminine” or “attractive”, then that’s a sign that he’s probably not someone whose DNA should be mingling with those who can get pregnant.

Yuck. Exhibit 1 of an untalented white man who is scared to death of an accomplished woman with a brain…

Anyway… I really think the core issue is that a lot of men– particularly white men– are afraid that women and people of color will eventually make them less relevant. And that scares the hell out of them. So they preach about how women should stay home and raise babies instead of using their minds. It’s pretty sad, if you ask me. Almost as sad as the above video. Gotta watch some Keb’ Mo’ to clear my mind…

That’s more like it.
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musings

Going for it…

Yesterday, I came across a funny comic about English majors. In the interest of not violating copyright laws, I’m linking to the comic rather than sharing it in this post. I’m glad I found it, since it gave me some food for thought.

Ha ha ha… Avenue Q is literally the story of my life.

I shared the comic I linked to in the first paragraph in this post. A friend of mine from Sweden, who now enjoys a good life in the United States, made the comment that people who are considering a degree in English should reconsider. If one wants a “good paying” job, one should major in hard sciences or business. If I had followed that advice I either would have never been accepted to college, or I never would have graduated. Not everyone has the ability to excel in scientific disciplines. Even if I thought I could stand to take a bunch of math and science classes and would have had the ability to pass them, a life in the sciences probably would have made me miserable. I don’t have the temperament for it, nor do I have the aptitude. I was born to create.

I was an English major. If I had to do college over again, I think I would have majored in music, yet another degree that people tend to think is “useless”. Personally, I admire music majors. I knew a lot of them when I was in college, and they were a very hardworking bunch. They were all taking multiple one credit classes that met three times a week! Music is a valuable skill, though. It brings people joy, and it’s not something everyone can do. I majored in English because I love to write. I always have. But I was never interested in reading novels, analyzing poetry, or teaching. I figured I’d major in English because it was more practical than music is, although I’ve since changed my mind about that notion. I now think music is the more “useful” major.

And yet, my English degree was very beneficial when I went to graduate school. I had good writing skills and was often praised for writing coherently and accurately. I was able to get work as a technical writer, which helped pay for my next two degrees in public health and social work. Public health, in particular, is a field staffed with folks from other countries who may be brilliant at math and science, but not so brilliant at expressing themselves on paper in a way that laypeople can understand. That was where I came into the picture. I took their technical data and translated it into something the average person could read. In that sense, majoring in English wasn’t such a dumb idea after all.

A degree in the humanities can be excellent preparation for further formal study. They work especially well in law, business, or human services. Had I not wound up an “overeducated housewife”, I probably would have fallen into grant writing or research. I doubt I would have done direct practice as a social worker, despite having a master’s degree in social work. But that degree, if one thinks big enough, can be used for other things. The trick is to have the courage to think outside of the box and be good at marketing yourself. You have to believe in yourself first, too. It’s hard to convince others that you can do something if you don’t believe it yourself. Actually, in a weird way, my English degree did help me to attain the lifestyle I have. My husband liked me because he thought I was articulate. Later, he became a fan of my fiction. Would he have been as attracted to me if he hadn’t liked my writing? Maybe… but being able to write sure did help a lot.

My science loving friend has multiple degrees in physics. He makes a good living. He confided to me that he would love to study another area of physics, even if he doesn’t actually want to work in the field that interests him. He says his wife supports his idea of retiring early and going back to school. He has the money to do it. His concerns are looking “foolish” to other people for pursuing yet another degree and upsetting his colleagues at work.

As I read my friend’s response, I couldn’t help but remember my beloved Uncle Brownlee. Man… you want to talk about someone who lived life on his own terms? That was Brownlee. He never earned a college degree. Instead, he simply did what he loved, and he excelled. Looking back on it, I think he had a lot of courage. I also think he died having lived an excellent life.

Brownlee was a born musician, but he was also extremely gifted with his hands. He could build anything, and he had a knack for masonry and electrician work. When I was a child, he managed the Natural Bridge Hotel and Conference Center. He had that job for a very long time. I’m sure there were parts of it that he didn’t enjoy, but his gifts for fixing things probably were immensely helpful. Later, when the hotel was sold to a private company, he took a job working at Virginia Military Institute, where he was in charge of the physical plant. I remember in the 1990s, when VMI went co-ed, my uncle was instrumental in altering the facilities to accommodate women.

In 2000, Laura Fairchild Brodie published a book entitled Breaking Out: VMI and the Coming of Women. My uncle is mentioned in that book because it was up to him to build the women’s bathrooms in the barracks. They couldn’t build them as they would for men. Women have periods, so hygiene is an issue. I remember talking to Brownlee about what he had to do to make the facilities work for women in a way that would satisfy the health code, yet be fair to the men at the school. Brownlee didn’t have college degrees, but he was a master of construction. He and his team figured it out. VMI has been co-ed for over twenty years now… and Brownlee helped! Not bad for a guy who didn’t spend a lot of time in school.

Brownlee was also in a band, and he made money with his music. He was mostly self-taught, but he was really good at what he did. He was able to spend his last years on projects that interested him. When it came time to depart his life, he probably had few regrets. He was not one of those people who said, “Man, I wish I hadn’t spent so much time at the office.” My Uncle Brownlee was very fortunate, but I think he was also determined to live his life his own way. He was able to do it, and be a role model to others.

Now… I’m not a dummy. I know that not everyone is fortunate enough to live like my uncle did. In fact, I’d say that life is becoming more and more about staying on the hamster wheel, which I think is very unfortunate. I don’t think life should only be about working. It’s probably like that, though, because people accept it, and because things have gotten so expensive that constant work is a necessity. There are other factors at play, of course. For instance, it’s not lost on me that I’ve been able to live my life the way I have because I’ve been both very lucky and privileged.

Many people lose sight of the fact that their lives are eventually going to end. Sometimes life ends very suddenly. When it comes time for you to die, it’s unlikely anyone is going to care about the extra time you spent at work. But if you don’t spend that time at work, you run the risk of being edged out of your job. I get that, and the anxiety that comes with it. I wish that fact would change, but it’s going to take changing a lot of hearts and minds to make it happen. People are going to have to overcome their fears and think bigger. Most people don’t have the time or the courage, or they have other people who depend on them. I understand, although I also know that major change requires individuals to change their thinking.

If you are in a position to do something that interests you, I think it’s worthwhile to go for it. You never know where those paths will lead. My friend is fortunate enough to have been successful in his career. He has the time and the money. He just has to make the decision to go for it. In that sense, he’s a very lucky man. As we were discussing this, I was reminded of something else… maybe something he hadn’t even thought of as he was pondering whether or not he’d look “foolish” for pursuing another degree.

Here’s this guy with multiple degrees in physics. He’s had a successful career in robotics, but he wants formal study in a different area of physics, even though he doesn’t necessarily want to have a job in that field. What if he went back to college to study another area that interested him and ended up being an inspiration for someone younger? What if he was in a position to help a young student understand a concept in physics that he or she might not otherwise get? I’ve mentioned this before, and I’ll say it again. Sometimes life’s experiences are about something far beyond the obvious.

Look at my situation. I went to graduate school thinking I’d launch a career in public health, social work, or both. I wound up getting married and writing this blog. I’d always wanted to be a writer anyway, although I will admit it’s hard on my ego that I didn’t turn into “someone”. Maybe some people think what I do is pointless, stupid, vain, or a waste of time and energy. Some people have expressed as much to me. They don’t see the big picture. They haven’t thought outside of the box. They aren’t “going for it”.

I absolutely do use my education. I don’t use it in the way I thought I would, but I do use it, and other people benefit from it. More than one person has thanked me for writing some of the things I write. I’ve had several people tell me that I’ve gotten them to think more or differently about certain things. More than one person has said they have learned something new from my posts. I’ve also heard from people who don’t like what I do, yet they were affected enough to leave a negative comment. In that sense, what I do matters to someone besides myself. So what if my dad or my ex landlady thinks I’m a slovenly person who is wasting her life? What do they know? Have they taken the time to really think about it? And frankly, why should they care if it’s not their life and I’m not costing them money?

I think we should stop wasting time with people who can’t broaden their perspectives and see the big picture. Life isn’t just about your job. The people you work with, more than likely, aren’t going to make decisions based solely on what works best for you. Why should you make decisions that only benefit your employers or co-workers? It’s your life. You don’t have all the time in the world. If you have the opportunity to “go for it”, you might as well give it a try. But I realize that this “advice”, of which I am loathe to give anyone, anyway, might ring hollow to anyone who is struggling to keep the lights on and the plumbing working. Sometimes life takes you on a journey you think will lead somewhere… and you go somewhere very different. It turns out okay. In fact, sometimes it even turns out better than okay. It might be part of the master plan. Or maybe you just took a road less traveled and it made all the difference.

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education

Gaming the system… a couple of moms flunked the test.

I suppose it’s about time I offered my opinions about this college admissions scandal involving Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin. If you haven’t been living on a distant mountain top, you’ve probably already heard about it. Apparently, both of these well-known actresses are in deep shit with the feds because they paid bribes to get their daughters’ college admissions packets shored up so they could attend elite universities. Huffman is married to actor William H. Macy, who apparently wasn’t involved or arrested when federal agents showed up to take Huffman into custody. Loughlin is married to fashion designer, Mossimo Giannulli, who was reportedly complicit in the affair.

Huffman and Loughlin are probably the best known of the dozens of people caught in this sting. Both are beautiful, successful, and most importantly, wealthy, actresses who live in California. Loughlin reportedly wanted her daughters, Isabella and Olivia, to attend a top flight college because she’d never had the opportunity. As for Huffman… I really don’t know what the motive was. I guess she just wanted her daughters, Sofia and Georgia, to have the “best” education. Unfortunately, these parents all resorted to cheating and bribery to get their daughters ahead. Sadly, I think their tactics have backfired spectacularly.

I read in one article that Lori Loughlin and her family would probably suffer more from this than Huffman and Macy will. That’s because besides Loughlin’s acting gig, the family is heavily tied to corporate America. 19 year old Olivia Jade has a very successful Instagram gig with millions of followers, as well as a burgeoning YouTube channel. She has publicly stated that she doesn’t even care about going to college and, in fact, isn’t available to attend classes due to her work schedule. Why she couldn’t just work, instead of taking away another student’s spot at a top tier school, is beyond me. She’s absolutely gorgeous, and obviously making more than minimum wage… at least for now. There is no shame in working and/or skipping college. It looks like Olivia Jade is about to learn a hard lesson, Paula Deen style. Brands are already distancing themselves from her. What’s more, if she ever did decide to pursue a more “normal” profession, are people going to take her seriously? She’s been publicly outed as an academic fraud! Lori Loughlin has been dropped from Hallmark and will not be making any appearances on next season’s Fuller House episodes.

What is especially sad to me, though, is the idea that the children of Lori Loughlin, Mossimo Giannulli, Felicity Huffman, and William H. Macy feel like they even need to attend a school like the University of Southern California. There are so many great schools in the United States. It just seems like a shame to me that they had to resort to fraud to find one that suits their needs.

I have written in depth about my college experiences before on my old blog, but here’s a very quick recap. When I was 18, I wanted very badly to go to James Madison University. I didn’t have the grades or the SAT scores, so I went to less competitive Longwood College (now Longwood University) instead. It turned out to be a fabulous place for me. That’s where I learned to sing. Discovering that gift and having the chance to develop it changed my life. If I had gone to JMU or Virginia Tech, I sincerely doubt I would have ever had that opportunity. Mike Pence, who debated Tim Kaine at my alma mater in 2016, might have helped put Longwood on the map. Alas, he called my school “Norwood” instead. For that gaffe alone, I’d never vote for him, not to mention his penchant for calling his wife “Mother” and obsession with controlling the uteri of all women.

Twenty-five years after I graduated, there are still professors there who remember me. My husband, who graduated from much better known American University, often marvels at how close-knit and nurturing Longwood obviously is. I keep in contact with several former professors, thanks to social media, and still have so many friends from those days. To me, that is a big part of what college is supposed to be about, besides learning. If you don’t care about college, why go? Especially if you’re already gainfully employed!

Olivia Jade Giannulli is only 19 years old. She’s legitimately beautiful, and simply being that beautiful will open a lot of doors for her. Add in the fact that she has very successful parents who are obviously interested in seeing her succeed and you have someone who really didn’t even need to be a Trojan. Maybe she could have gone to college later, if she wanted to, but she’s clearly not even ready for college and doesn’t want to be there.

And then there are the schools themselves. Clearly, this is something that has been going on for a long time. How seriously can a person take the colleges that were identified in these scams? Obviously, the admissions staff lets these frauds through. I have mentioned that I once worked as a temp at the College of William & Mary’s admissions office. I know how overwhelmed those offices are, particularly at this time of year. But the whole reason for having an admissions office is to find the best students. Somehow, Olivia Jade and her sister got into USC as “athletes”, even though they weren’t actually athletes. How does that happen?

I read that Lori Loughlin and her husband paid about half a million bucks to get their special snowflakes into USC. I bet she’s going to pay a hell of a lot more, once all of this is said and done. Felicity Huffman supposedly paid about $15,000 to help her daughter cheat on her SATs. Although she was considering helping her younger daughter in the same way, she ultimately decided not to. I think Huffman has done her older daughter a huge disservice, since it will now be harder for people to trust that her accomplishments are her own. In her desire to “help” her daughters get the “best”, she has saddled one of them with the stigma of public humiliation. That will probably be difficult for her to overcome.

Well… everyone makes mistakes. This mistake is definitely a “whopper” for Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin and all of the other people out there who felt they needed to cheat in order to get their kids into the “right” college. Maybe I haven’t set the world on fire with my own post collegiate endeavors, but at least I know I got into my school entirely on my own merits. There’s a lot of value in that knowledge. I think Huffman and Loughlin would do well to watch some public television or something… they need to be reminded that cheaters never win.

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