Weekly Photo Challenge: Nostalgic

My oldest son will start his senior year of high school this fall, and is fine-tuning his list of colleges to which he intends to apply.  I cannot help but feel a little nostalgic as I look back at this first day of school photo from when my eldest started his kindergarten year.  His little brother wanted to take a photo, too, and thought it was all fun until big brother climbed onto the school bus.  Little brother was so upset he was not going with him that he grabbed a handful of rocks off the gravel driveway and threw them at the bus as it departed!

First Day of School

 

Along with that feeling of nostalgia, though, is the excitement of looking forward to the next stage of life, for both my children and myself.  Each stage may close some doors, but also brings new opportunities.  What is life without change?  Embrace it and enjoy the journey.

Ciao! ~ Kat

This post was in response to the Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge.  ”Nostalgic” was this week’s theme.  Everyone is welcome to join in the Challenge; further details on how to participate and links to others’ responses are found here.

Life Lessons: Success Is Letting Go of Perfection

I was disappointed when the sunset did not contain the brilliant colors it had displayed earlier in the week, as I stood on the icy shoreline of Lake Superior with camera in hand.  I thought, “Is this all?”  Seemingly flat colors, uninteresting cloud formations, no breathtaking moment as the sun dipped below the horizon.

lEarly Spring on the shores of Lake Superior

But, the longer I stood on the shoreline, the more I appreciated the “imperfect” scene.  I knelt on the hard-packed ice and snow to examine the delicate mounds formed by the water and wind, battling to keep hold as Spring fought to take over, and enjoyed the solitude for a time.

Early Spring on the shores of Lake Superior

As I sat and watched the changing light across the ice, I thought about conversations my oldest son and I have had in recent weeks, as the scores from his standardized college tests are revealed and he continues evaluating where he might be interested in applying to college in the Fall.  We are blessed in many ways — so blessed we are unlikely to receive any financial aid from colleges to help with expenses, and not so blessed that we can write  the check for private college tuition, room and board.  Closing that gap between the reputable public universities in Minnesota and neighboring Wisconsin, and the private college price tag if that is where he decides he wants to go, comes down to our son successfully competing for merit scholarships.

Early Spring on the shores of Lake Superior

We are proud of our son (OK, son #2, if you happen to actually ever come across this blog, we love you and are proud of you, too, but a post can only be so long) — he has done his job as a student, challenged himself with his coursework, is a competitive athlete and knows how to draw a bow across a string to produce a beautiful melody.  He also realizes that there are many others who will be applying to college with resumes just as impressive . . . which brings us back to standardized test scores.

When I learned of his ACT score, I was pretty darn impressed.  However, being the over-achieving first-born, his immediate reaction upon reviewing the score sheet was, “I can do better, I am going to take it again.”  Frankly, he does not have a lot of room for improvement, but while my husband and I are trying to support and help provide guidance through this process, we do not want to dictate.  So . .  . registration for another round of the ACT was completed, with SAT scores pending in the meantime.

Early Spring on the shores of Lake Superior

This week, the SAT scores were published, and he again did very well.  I gently suggested he just “leave it be.”  He was well within or above the upper half or top quartile of the statistics for schools he is considering at this point, and he meets the thresholds for most competitive scholarships.  We talked about what the numbers meant, we revisited our discussions regarding what he is seeking in a college environment, and what were his impressions of the schools he has visited thus far.  Is another point or two on the tests, when you already have crested the threshold most folks consider more than sufficient, going to truly be a game-changer?  Are you wanting to do it to seek another feather in your cap without really needing that feather?  Could your time be better spent elsewhere?

We had a similar discussion earlier in the year concerning an opportunity for a select talent-based group that would involve a significant amount of additional time investment his senior year.  I finally asked him — “Do you want to try to qualify for this opportunity for the sake of being able to tell people you are talented enough to do so, or because you actually want to spend the time doing that activity?”  It would mean taking time away from other activities, perhaps detracting from the level of performance he desired in those other areas.  I reminded him that leaving room for some fun and downtime as the year goes on is important, as well.

Early Spring on the shores of Lake Superior

So it goes with life, as we feel the pressure to climb ever higher on the career ladder, add another degree to our resume, lend our name to another non-profit or corporate Board of Directors . . . the list goes on.  Is that pursuing success, though, or pursuing society’s (or friend’s, family’s) concept of what success should be?  Life is about trade-offs.  We can perhaps have it all, just not at the same time.  Having it “all” or being a success is not always the corner office, not always the top box on the organizational chart.  In my office hangs a wooden sign on the wall with a quote attributed to Abraham Lincoln, “Whatever you are, be a good one.”  To me, that is success.

Saying something is “good enough” is not always failing to realize your potential, sometimes it is recognizing that “good enough” is being the best you are, whatever you are, and being content with that.  Continually finding reasons for discontent, for imperfection, living life by a string of “if only” thoughts, is a great way to let life pass you by before you realize it is gone.  Even in high school, while we want our children to fully realize their talents and opportunities, setting goals and aspirations for the years beyond high school, we hopefully also want them to spend some time enjoying life now.  Life can quickly become a treadmill of expectations, with that perfect concept of “success” always just out of reach.  Step off the treadmill once in a while, maybe even explore the road less traveled, and help your children learn to do the same.

“The thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself.” ~ Anna Quindlen

Ciao! ~ Kat

Weekly Photo Challenge: Future Tense

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The daily mail delivery definitely is a portent of the future in our house lately. This photo is a tiny sampling of college brochures from recent deliveries that my high school junior has not yet filed away for future reference, or circular filed, depending on his interest. Once your child takes any of the standardized tests for college admissions, a wide array of mail, email and telephonic communications flood the household.

It is such an exciting time in life for a teen. It is a balance of enjoying the present, with high school friends and activities, while also looking ahead to where life might take him, reflecting upon what he wants to be or do when he “grows up” along with where he wants to go and how he wants to get there. Ahhh, to have your whole life ahead of you!

You can participate in this week’s photo challenge by clicking Weekly Photo Challenge: Future Tense.

Ciao! ~ Kat

Weekly Photo Challenge: Delicate

As I sat listening to the noteworthy performances of our high school’s music ensembles at their annual holiday concert this weekend, I could not help but reflect on how life is so very delicate.  In the photo below, my son is no older than those innocent children in Connecticut whose lives were taken in Friday’s horror-filled events.  Several times during the holiday program, I felt tears well in my eyes thinking of all the families who would not have the opportunity to see their children play and sing . . . who would not have them to hug and hold this holiday season.  The loss and sorrow that the community of Newtown is feeling is unfathomable, and my heart aches for them.

North Shore of Oahu

For all the times I have viewed this photo in the years since I took it, I do not believe I ever noticed the little bird, perhaps some variety of sandpiper, running across the sand in the foreground.  This tiny little creature is just going about its daily life, my 7-year-old son is staring out at the vast ocean as the waves roll into shore, licking closer to his shoes with each turn, and the tides keep time with the moon and the sun . . . . reminders of the delicate balance of the forces and creatures of the natural world, including all of humankind.  The shocking headlines remind us how quickly the delicate balance of life can be shattered, and how each day is more precious than we care to imagine.

Thoughts and prayers going to all affected and touched by Friday’s events in Newtown, Connecticut. ~ Kat

Kat’s Weekly Reflection of Gratitude: Life Moves Pretty Fast

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop to look around once in a while you could miss it.”  ~ Ferris Bueller (From the movie, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off)

North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii

Many years ago as we drove along the North Shore of Oahu, we stopped at one of the empty beaches and watched the mesmerizing surf.

North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii

My husband and two sons walked along the edge of the surf and started racing the water as it licked at their feet.

North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii

The waves won that race, but more joyful losers have probably never been seen.

Whenever I look at these photos, I reminded of one of the pleasures of travel – escaping the day-to-day distractions and demands of life, and finding time to be completely mindful of the wonder of the moment.  Whether it be for an hour or for a day, the sights to see, things to do, and places to visit need to be set aside from time to time.  The favorite travel memories are usually never found in the guidebooks.

Ciao! ~ Kat B.