I thought I would post a poem

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Fractured
millions of mirrored shards
spinning and crashing
Frenzied
endlessly random clutter
whirling and soaring
Faded
soft-edged pieces
dim and quiet
Forgotten
untold blank spaces
dark and empty
Forever
just beneath the surface
perfect and bold
All memories
All mine

Kelly Schweiger 2016

Read What YOU Want

keep-calm-and-love-reading-64.pngAlways.Read.What.YOU.Want.  Did you catch that? YOU, and only you.

I believe that you gravitate toward certain books at certain times of your life. I also believe that the more and varied your reading is, ultimately enriches your understanding of the world and your place in it.
So try new genres and try them more than once. I have personally found that what I like to read (or what I don’t like) changes often. I will pick up a book that a few years ago I would not have liked and discover that now, at this point in my life, it offers me something that I need. Have you ever read the same book at different times in your life and see the book completely differently than the first time?  No matter your age…explore! There is so much out there….jump in the deep end and see what happens.  Use books to explore places, feelings and experiences that you never have had (or never will).  Read about things you don’t understand, are curious about…explore new ways of thinking. Read romance novels, Young Adult novels, memoirs, comic books, graphic novels, historical, sci-fi, fantasy, how-to, autobiographies, and comedies.  Don’t be a prude. Don’t look down on what someone else is reading or be embarrassed about what you are reading. Just.Keep.Reading.
I have that same rule for my children. I do not restrict or steer them in any particular direction with the books they choose to read. I know, I know…what if they read something that is too mature or disturbing for them? Yes, that could happen. Usually kids are pretty self regulating but if they do, be there to have that discussion or answer their questions. 09fdd2f1ef320f8cc8f3e9be4df32603.jpg Let them work through it and watch their mind open up and the learning take hold.  When you see them reading, ask about it. Get a dialog going.  Whether they are reading something way above their reading level or below…if they are enjoying it and getting something out of it, that is all that matters.    I know sometimes this is hard. When your child wants to do his book report on a Captain Underpants book but is reading way above that level, you might cringe. You might want to show off his reading skills. Try and remember the important thing is he IS reading and he IS enjoying it. The foundation is what is important.  When your child reads Dickens and they come to you upset or concerned about poverty, class, despair, or loss; be there to talk about it and suggest other titles that may expand upon what they are curious or concerned about.

Take your child to a library or bookstore and let them wander, explore, see what jumps out at them. Let them pull books out and look at covers, read the synopsis, compare to those around it.  Let them choose without judgement.  If it is way above their reading level, read it together. Keep a list of words they don’t yet understand or can’t sound out. Talk about that. Look them up in the dictionary (or google them). This will make them curious and eager to learn and read.

Kids are natural learners.  They are also more thoughtful then many give them credit for. Set them loose and watch. Magic will happen and you will have yourself a reader for life.

 

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Disney….AGAIN? Why?

keep-calm-and-think-disneyI have a confession. I love (may actually be obsessed with) all things Disney.  Yes I am closing in on 50 years old and have 4 grown children. Yes there are a million fascinating, educational, cultural places in the world to visit and yes I would like to see them all BUT I know the feeling that a trip to Disney World brings into my life.  I know, and crave it.

I have only been to Disney World in Florida (but would love to see other Disney properties).

Yes. Disney World is expensive….very much so. But all over the internet are blogs that say it costs $5k to $10k for a family of 4. REALLY??? SO not necessarily the case. If it was we would never be able to go. Yes the tickets are pricey, especially if you only visit for 1 or 2 days(the longer you stay the cheaper they are per day).  However we went to a  large amusement park last summer near our home (a supposedly cheaper alternative) and the 1 day ticket was only $35 cheaper per day….AND you could not bring in your own drinks or food, and some rides and activities cost extra! There was also a lot less to do, much less quality entertainment, not very clean. There was little to no theming and the grumpy or bored teenage workers left a lot to be desired in the customer service department.

Can you do “Disney on a Dime”?  No you can’t.  However, you can do it cheaply.  You can stay very very affordably if you stay off site (and there are many perks to staying off site too!)  There are many tips (such as earning Disney point on a Disney Chase card) that will help. As will websites devoted to deals and discounts.

But that is not what this post is about.  THIS post is about the why.  I hear that all of the time. “WHY would you want to go back?” “WHY would you want to go at all?!”  “WHY don’t you do something else?” “WHY go there its so childish (or commercial or touristy or whatever)?”  What on earth is so special about Disney anyway?

To me the number one reason is the feeling that the place illicites in me. I feel happy, giddy even. I feel child-like and amazed. I can step into this world and leave behind the stresses of the real world.

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Epcot Germany- 2016 trip

 

 

So here are a few of my whys:

  1. The Atmosphere.  The all encompassing theming, the happy faces of the Cast Members(what Disney calls their employees), the smiles of the other guests, the music, the colors, the beauty of the grounds, the cleanliness, and the nostalgia.  All of this works together to create a happy carefree feeling. The sights, sounds, smells pull you into  the stories you know and love and that you could only experience from the outside up until now. I also find that since we have been there several times over the years that it is also filled with memories and when we returned this year after 4 years our adult children spent a lot of time reminiscing. “Remember when we got hot chocolate and sat right there to watch the Christmas parade?”  Remember when I saw Buzz Lightyear right there and I was so excited?”  “Remember how Mom was afraid of Tower of Terror and now its her favorite?” This shared family experience is wonderful!
  2. The Rides and Attractions.  Really? The rides?  Yes, really.  While Disney has it’s share of simple, basic amusement park style rides (although themed SO much better), Disney does what other parks don’t….they include everyone.  Most of the rides can be enjoyed by the little ones and the senior citizens and everyone in between. This makes visiting with your children a unique experience at each age. They have a few ‘thrill’ rides of course but so many more rides that are more an experience.  The differences start while you are waiting in line…the theming and decor, music, comfort features(fans, misters, water fountains), and believe it or not the way they trick you into thinking you are ‘almost there’. Add in the CM’s who play the role the ride calls for to a T. It contributes so much to the overall experience.  The creepy ‘servants’ at the Haunted Mansion, the very ‘punny’ river boat drivers on the Jungle Cruise, and all of the other CMs who give just the right touch to the ride they are working. The rides are FUN and….wait for it….many are educational!  Of course there are also amazing shows of all kinds….and fireworks that will blow your mind.
  3. The Food.  Disney definitely does not have typical theme park food. From quick service menus to luxurious fine dining. The offerings include the simple to the exotic and the sinfully rich to the  healthy and light. You can choose to grab a quick bite on the go or you can have a multi course meal. You can enjoy an eating experience (such as eating in a ‘car’ at a sci-fi drive in for example) or you can dine with your favorite Disney Characters.  Don’t even get me started on the foodie adventures offered at Epcot. YUM!  There is even a festival once a year devoted to Food and Wine!
  4. The Variety.  Disney offers many theme park/resort/adventure experiences across the globe. There are parks in multiple countries, each featuring a mix of favorites and new experiences. There are resorts around these parks as well as other vacation destinations. You can take a Disney Cruise or go explore the world with Adventures by Disney.   Add to all that the fact that Disney holds true to Walt’s vision of innovation and change. The parks, attractions and other offerings all change and grow and this makes each visit fun and exciting.  There is always something new to see and do.

Of course I can go on and on…I really could. I will resist the urge and just say don’t knock it until you try it.  You can have a very posh all adult experience, a goofy (literally!) childlike wonder filled experience, or an educational and cultural experience. The choice is entirely yours.

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Guest Blogger – Noah Schweiger

My youngest son, Noah was the Salutatorian of his graduating class this June.  I thought he wrote an extremely heartfelt and relevant speech for the graduation ceremony.

So I asked him if I could post his speech as part of my series of young guest bloggers.  He agreed, probably because I am his mom. I don’t care if that was why…I am glad he did.

 

So here is his speech. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. (and yes, I cried)

 

17.jpgI would like you to meet Noah Schweiger.  Noah will be attending Misericordia University this fall and will be majoring in Speech and Language Pathology. He is a quiet, thoughtful, quirky, intelligent, gentle young man. He has kind heart and a massive capacity for helping people. These are the thoughts he chose to share with his classmates:

 

 

 

“When you walk to the edge of all the light you have and take that first step into the unknown, you must believe that one of two things will happen. There will be something solid for you to stand upon or you will be taught to fly.” These words by poet Patrick Overton are a great way to describe our situation here today. All of us are taking a step into the unknown, into that new darkness. All of us are splitting up, and going our own way. Some of us are going to college, others into the military, or into the workforce, even the parents here today are taking a new step when they walk their child down this aisle to receive their diploma. Change, in and of itself, is always scary and difficult. Yet life is always changing. Every day is different from the one before. Every day is a new unknown.

Some in here will take that step into the unknown and find themselves on solid ground. For them, things won’t change very much at all. A few will take that step and soar like an eagle, adapting to the changes in their life with ease. Most of us however, will take that step, and not find solid ground awaiting us. We will have trouble flying at first: leaving home, the weight of college debt, boot camp, or real world bills, pulling us down. Some of us will struggle to learn. Some will find the many changes overwhelming. Some of us will feel that they may never fly.

Remember that you have, up until this point, consistently conquered each and every change that life has thrown your way. So don’t panic. If you feel as though your wings are not strong enough, then think outside the box.  Maybe to fly you need to simply build yourself a plane.  Find another path to take. There is always another way if you take the time to look for it. Each choice you make and path you take has its own risks but it also has its own rewards. Denzel Washington once said, “Nothing in life is worthwhile unless you take risks. FALL FORWARD. Every failed experiment is one step closer to success.”  Just because you don’t fly easily doesn’t make you’re a failure. It makes you wiser. You’ve had to learn a different way to succeed. I believe everyone sitting here today will succeed in their own way, at their own time. Every single one of us will fly, but no two of us will do so in the same exact way.

I know almost everyone here is worrying about the unknown future that awaits them. Will I like my roommate, will I like my classes, will I succeed? There are a limitless number of worries for everyone sitting here. However you will never know what will happen if you don’t take that step into the unknown darkness. Esmeralda Santiago is right in saying: “How can you know what you are capable of if you don’t embrace the unknown?”

How can you know? Everyone is scared to go off on their own, to feel alone. However you are never truly alone. You have your family, friends, and loved ones. You aren’t the first to take these steps, and you certainly won’t be the last. Although everyone has different experiences every day, those who have taken similar steps as you will be able to help. This year I was the lead of the Drama club play. I had never had to say more than 20 lines on stage in front of an audience. This year I had close to 200 lines! It was one of the most nerve-racking things I think I had ever done at that point in my life. However that doesn’t compare to my sister. In college she went to Italy for the summer. No one in our entire family had traveled so far, let alone by themselves. Not only that, but she is just returning from living for two years in Arizona. Again she left, on her own, to an unknown place with unknown people. She didn’t have a place to live, she didn’t know the area, and she didn’t know any one there. She had so many unknowns, so much darkness, and no one’s foot steps to follow, but she knew we were there for her, supporting her choices every step of the way. She is a great example of diving into the darkness and coming out on top. She not only survived the unknown, she thrived.

When you feel overwhelmed and afraid by what is happening in your life, take a moment to reflect on all of the examples of strength and courage the people in your life have shown you. Think about how many challenges and ‘unknowns’ your parents face every day. Yet they endure. They face each new day bravely…and usually with a smile. My parents and my older siblings have an amazing way of getting through all of the challenges they face with love and laughter.  What better example could I have?  You too have footsteps to follow and people who will cheer you on and support your choices.  Today, maybe we should take a minute to thank them for all that they do and for helping us get this far.

Let me leave you with something I’ve learned from my parents, brothers, and sister: be brave. Go out and do new things because every step you take will bring you a different experience. You might as well take as many as you can, and learn from each one. There are no wrong steps to take as long as you learn and grow with each one. Remember that you will never have to take a single step alone. You will always have family, frienDSCN0035ds, and loved ones to help you when you need them. So try to spread your wings and fly because they will be the wind under your wings. I’d like to end with a quote from Mother Teresa. Something I want everyone here to think about: “Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.” Thank you.

All Work and No Play

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We have all heard the saying “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”, but how much truth is there is this old adage? I often feel that in today’s society the rush to grow up and DO something or BE something or GET AHEAD is being felt at a younger and younger age.   Our children seem to have schedules so completely jam packed that they must pencil in a very structured and observed ‘play date’.

No longer are kids allowed to be, well kids. What on earth is this headlong rush into growing up doing to this generation of children?  Academic success is a noble and important goal for a parent to have for their child and for a child to have for himself.  However, that goal should not be at the expense of allowing that child to learn through play, creativity and…well…boredom.     I feel as though important life skills are being tossed aside in the obsessive quest for the gold star on the next test.  While it is fantastic to get an ‘A’, it is also fantastic to be able to share, socialize, occupy themselves when alone, and handle their own emotions. Kids require ‘free play3.jpgplay’.  They need to run, jump, fall, build, create, argue, negotiate, win, lose, and basically figure out life in the safe microcosm of a playground or back yard. They learn how to solve problems and discover their own interests when allowed to play freely and with natural curiosity and excitement.

More and more schools are finding behavioral problems, stress, and anxiety among even the youngest of children. They are trying desperately to fix a problem that some unstructured exercise and playtime could have drastically improved.  Even though research shows that preschool age children learn and develop best through play experiences, more and more schools are shifting toward an academic based program.  Common Core standards have increased the pressure on schools, teachers and students to get rid of anything that is not furthering that agenda.  Many children are not developmentally ready for reading in pre K and kindergarten, yet that is now required.  There are more than 90 standards a kindergartener is expected to meet before moving into first grade.  “Desk time” dominates the school days in many places across the nation. This flies in the face of research on how very young children learn.  Active, play based, hands on, experiential learning should predominate the youngest students day. kids-at-play.jpgEveryone is worried about their child being an early reader…getting that jump start. However, being able to read well requires strength in a child’s oral language skills.  Social interaction and free play foster strong language skills, broadening their vocabulary and understanding of grammar.  Field trips, play, hands on projects all contribute to the life experiences that a child draws on for understanding the world. Using their whole body to play helps them to understand how their body works and how their body interacts with the world around them.

 

I am all for academic excellence. I want my children(and all children) to succeed.  I also want to be able to have an intelligent conversation on a variety of topics with my child. I want them to have experiences that are different than mine. I want them to develop opinions and insights and then share them with me and with the world.  I want them to be able to function in society. To contribute.  To handle what life throws at them.

I firmly believe that balancing their academic learning with allowing them to play, pretend, and explore and BE the child that they were, has helped them to be the adults they are today.

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Guest blogger – Connor Swagler

So I have been tied up with end of the school year mayhem and the graduation of our youngest son. noah.jpg

Needless to say the blog has sat idle for a few weeks.  I have been gathering ideas for a new post (which I am currently writing but is not quite ready to be posted just yet.

 

I decided to ask a few talented young people to be guest bloggers. I am so thrilled to share their thoughts and their words with you. Watch for them in upcoming blog posts over the next few months.

Today I would like to introduce Connor Swagler. He is a Communications major at Misericordia University and my son Jacob’s roommate.  I have known Connor for much of his life and he is a smart, creative, thoughtful young man. He has a giant heart and a wonderful, quirky way of approaching life.  I am so happy he agreed to share his poetry here.  So, without further ado, may I present Connor Swagler!!

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My best friend Jacob and I once had a conversation about relationships, because I had gotten turned down by a lady with the response, “I don’t have time to date anyone now.” He told me about a conversation he had with his grandfather. His grandfather mentioned to him how he couldn’t understand how someone could live their life and say things like, “I don’t have time to find someone to spend my life with.” What he wanted Jacob to take from the conversation was, that there really isn’t a point to preparing a life for yourself in the future if you don’t have someone to share it with. That really hit deep in me and I loved what he had said. After the passing of his grandfather the idea suddenly hit me, to take that concept and work it into a piece, from my experiences and his grandfather’s lesson on life.

This piece I sent into my college’s poetry publication, “Instress” and it was printed to my delight, however I never got to give Jacobs grandfather the proper credit for the inspiration to even conceptualize the piece.

Thank you Grandpa Schweiger! You are dearly missed…

 

For: A Busy Woman

by

Connor Swagler

 

It’s not that I’m tired of being alone,

It’s just that with me you have a home,

I know you’ve never had a place to call your own,

And I know that you’ve gotten comfortable with the rhythm that you now roam,

Why secure a future just to be by yourself?

Sure you haven’t found anybody else,

But you’re twenty there are plenty of things you haven’t done as well,

Plenty of time left to do it all in case you couldn’t tell,

To be honest I don’t know all that much,

But there is something about you that really makes me blush,

From how you’re always in a rush,

To that face you make when I drive you nuts,

Never giving up because you don’t fall for easy stuff,

Last to raise your fist but not afraid to hit,

Never say the word maybe,

Only yes or no that’s it,

I love how when you speak it’s always consistent,

Like with letting the word shit slip,

You always reach out to catch it as if it’s in view,

I’m not exactly sure if I’m getting through to you,

About how cool I think it would be to carry your books around school,

So could we spend a little time together just us two?

 

 

I usually write poems about specific people that have entered my life and work off of my emotions and general creative flow. However with this piece the creative flow took over and changed the inspiration. I started writing this about a specific lady from my past, but when I started to write, it turned more into a connection I’ve felt towards the important lady partners of my past that showed me how to feel , or that it’s not strange as a human to “Feel on a Thousand”, and that I should work with it. So then I thought how many ways can I love somebody? The idea to throw the numbers into the work just felt right to me, because let’s be honest you can’t list all the ways you like someone, you just feel it.

So this is my attempt at expressing the ways I have loved. I couldn’t think of a title for this piece, so I made it untitled with the number of where it falls with the rest of my untitled pieces and it just so happened to be my tenth and I ended on ten, which made the whole piece really feel right to me.

 

Untitled 10

by

Connor Swagler

 

I just can’t get her out of my head,

I don’t think she’ll ever find her way into my bed,

Not that that’s your place,

If I ever put you in your place that place would be my heart,

I can’t really explain it but I’ll give it a shot,

Where should I start?

How about with one?

You’re the one person I want to be with,

Us two could be good for each other,

There have been three times I tried to tell you this,

But fourth times the charm?

Hopefully the fifth time will end with a kiss,

You give me enough strength to take down six men,

And then there comes the seven days in a week,

That you make me weak,

Which takes me down to my knees,

The eight continents of Earth couldn’t hold my affection for you,

I added one more because there just wasn’t enough room,

Ninth grade was when I met you,

Here’s to another ten years because just these won’t do,

So I plan to make a million more moments with you.

 

 

Been There, Felt That

 

Graduation.jpgYou blinked and now it is here. It is that time of the year…graduation time.   Now as a mom who has been through this several times I thought I would let you know something. It will be alright!  Really!

I was there, when our first child graduated and we left her at college…all alone (I can still remember the feeling as we drove out of the parking lot!) I cried my eyes out, we all did. How could she be old enough to be off on her own? What if she gets sick? Would she make good choices and do well at school? Would she be overwhelmed? How would our tight knit family do with a member missing?

A million thoughts, questions, concerns and insecurities rattled around in my head. We soon discovered that she not only survived but thrived in college. She blossomed into an adult with her own thoughts and opinions and she discovered many new facets of her adult self.  We also survived. We realized that we saw her often enough and she did call, text or facebook regularly. We also discovered that we liked having an adult child. Getting to know this side of her was exciting and fascinating. We enjoyed hearing about all she was learning and experiencing.

When our next two children graduated and headed off to college…well we cried, but not as hard or as long. We now knew what was ahead and that the secret is to look forward with excitement and hope not behind with sadness or loss. Getting to know these brand spanking new adults and see them try out their new wings was a blessing.  If you did a semi-decent job raising them, they will bloom where they are planted. They will (generally) make good decisions and do well. They will keep in touch. They will involve you.  So be present…when you get a phone call, ask questions, listen, pay attention.

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Now the trick is our youngest child is graduating high school in the next few weeks…..the last one to leave the nest. That means we will have (between college breaks anyway) an empty nest.  Wow. We have had at least one child at home full time for the last 26 years. Talk about a major change!  But know, I know….it will be ok. Really!  It is just another new chapter, another new season. Although it will be hard, and I know there will be tears, I am so looking forward to seeing my ‘baby’ grow into an amazing man in his own right. I plan on taking it all in.

So here are a few bits of advice from a veteran Mom of four…take them or leave them as you see fit.

  • I had read this and many, many teachers, professors and veteran parents have said it…and now I believe it is true…when you drop them off RESIST the urge to visit or have them come home for the first month or so. Experts say that the more freshman students see their parents/family when they first get to college, the harder time they have adjusting and the more homesick they become.
  • You will miss the ordinariness of everyday interactions and that is normal. It will be hard and very strange at first. It will not be very long before you are adjusted to your ‘new normal’.
  • Don’t ask them if they are homesick. With so much excitement and activity they may not be. The power of suggestion can definitely change that!
  • There WILL be a ‘crisis’ phone call. That A student gets their first failing grade, they have a cold or flu, a professor was dreadfully unfair, some social catastrophe has occurred, or they are just plain overwhelmed. When the call comes, be understanding, listen, give advice if needed and then STEP BACK. Don’t jump in the car and race off to the rescue for these mundane mini freak outs. Part of growing up is handling the ups and downs of life. Express support, but give your children time to solve their own problems—it will ultimately benefit them. Colleges have all sorts of support at the student’s disposal. Of course if it is super serious, go. However most of the time the crying person on the other end of the phone needs to know that YOU believe in them and their ability to get through it.
  • Expect Change. They may change majors, roommates, friends, dorms, or even schools etc. You may also see changes in their attitudes, ideas and beliefs. That is all normal. Part of this experience is figuring stuff out and making changes is part of that. You helped them develop character and now they are searching for their calling.
  • When you do visit try and meet their friends. Offer to take them out to burgers or pizza. These are the people in their life…and friends do matter. These are the people your child is spending their time with. Take the time to get to know them.
  • Encourage your child to get out of their rooms and join some clubs, attend some school activities, volunteer, or participate in whatever might interest them. Try new things. They need a healthy balance of school work and non-school work to be happy and to grow into their best self.
  • Remind them to always remember their morals, their values and their integrity. Hold on to those. Remind them that they ALWAYS have a choice. Remember that the choices they make can and will be positive or negative and they determine that outcome. Remind them to be an adult includes taking responsibility for their choices.
  • Be present! I said this before but it bears repeating. These moments are a blessing. Be involved, be engaged, ask questions, read about the new topics and ideas they bring home. Enjoy the fact that these young adults are so willing to share what they are thinking about the world.

 

So go, take lots of pictures (and tissues) and enjoy this special day, this wonderful achievement. Be excited for them…and for you.

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