Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Unsolicited advice!

Today I am going to offer some unsolicited advice. If you are thinking about college yourself or sending a child off to college in the near future, please read this. Anyone else, just read it cuz you love me and find my words so captivating. Thank you.

When people talk about being "ready" for college, I can't help but wonder if they truly realize what "ready" means. To be truly ready for college, one must be ready in so many ways: academically/intellectually, emotionally, socially, and financially. College ain't cheap, let me tell you. As the Director of Billing and Collections for a small private college, I can't tell you how many students, both traditional undergraduate and adult evening students, are not prepared for the financial commitment of 2-4 years of college. I can't tell you how many people think they should just be able to go to class and not pay their bill.

For traditional undergraduate students, one of the best pieces of advice that I can give to you or your family is to never make your decision to attend a college based solely on your interaction with a recruiter. They are great people, but it's their job to sell the school, literally. Same with coaches for any and every sport - if they want your child on their team, they're going to charm him/her and you. That's their job, to convince you why our school is the best choice. But if anyone tells you not to worry about the finances, don't go to that school. It's absolutely ludicrous to not worry about the finances. Your tuition needs to get paid - and trust me, the Business Office is not going to care much that Johnny is the star quarterback/pitcher/insert-other-important-position-here... you get my point. After you decide on a school, call the Business Office, Student Accounts Office, or Financial Aid office - or better yet, visit them! It's a good idea to get friendly with these people and it's a guarantee that they will be more likely to remember you if they see you face-to-face than by simply having a phone conversation. Ask them what the policies are - if you are late getting started/accepted/registered for classes, etc., what will happen? Do they assess late fees? Do they cancel courses if you aren't paid in full? Would you be better prepared if you waited and started the following semester? Don't forget to save money for books - and ALWAYS buy them online if at all possible, you'll save a TON of money!

Also - if your child's main reason for attending college is to play a sport, don't send him to a private college. There are local sports leagues that your child can join and not end up owing almost one hundred thousand dollars after playing for four years. This drives me nuts - not to mention that when kids come to college with no bigger ambition than to play sports, they end up not doing well academically. Well, guess what? It's required to have a certain GPA to play sports - so before you know it, the kid is kicked off the team, and then he really has no motivation and there goes an entire year down the drain. At my school, that year would cost you roughly $26,000.00 right now. Please - don't come to college to play sports! Come to get your degree and while you're there, have fun playing your sport! Please - don't come to college if you can't afford it. I know that sounds harsh, but it's what I really wish I could say to people when I'm at Open Houses and things like that. If you have to work for a couple of years, if you have to build up credit so that you can secure loans - do it. If it means enough to you, you will.

Now - don't go thinking "Oh sure, she probably had mommy and daddy pay for college, blah blah blah" - WRONG. My parents divorced when I was a teenager and my mom worked nights so she could afford to keep our home. My father was a drug addict and didn't help with anything. College was never mentioned to any of us, I never took SAT's and I never expected to earn any type of degree. I went from being an honors student in elementary/middle school to a little shit barely able to earn my diploma in high school. After I got married and had my first child, I decided NOW I was ready for college. It was something that I wanted to do, for me. I went to community college and applied for Financial Aid. I accepted all of the federal loans they offered and did a payment plan for the rest. I earned my Associate's degree, but it took me almost 7 years. I gave birth to my daughter a week before final exams one Spring. So when I hear girls say "I just found out I'm pregnant, I have to withdraw....." I just have to bite my tongue. No, you don't. You make your life, you make your decisions, you decide what's worth it, you know? When I did get my Associate's degree, I decided that I was going to go on for my Bachelor's but only if I could get it done in 2 years. I looked at several schools and had to turn down the one I wanted most because they would not accept all of my credits from my existing degree. The one I did choose, where I work now, accepted them all and started me as a junior. Two years and several thousand dollars worth of loans later, I graduated Summa Cum Laude with a BA in Psychology. And I believe I was the first one in my family to earn this degree. My sister is earning hers now, and I'm so proud of her.

So anyway, for our evening students, we have a completely separate program where students can complete their degree in a quicker format. The tuition is a little cheaper, but students are expected to pay for each class up front. This almost never happens. I happen to be the main point of contact for students in this program, which I love because most of them are adults like me. I have a really great relationship with most of them, but there are those few who just crawl under my skin and get to me. They are the ones who get mad every time they realize they owe money. They are the ones who are never happy with your advice or suggestions and simply want to bitch and moan and complain about every stinkin' thing. Yet... they keep coming back. I live in a city of colleges, it's not like they are stuck with us. *sigh* I had one student call the President's office on me because I told her she could not take another class until she paid her bill that has been in collections - FOR FOUR YEARS!!!!!!!!!!!!! I shit you not. So if you're an adult, or even if you're not, and you're considering going to college through one of these types of programs - please know you have to pay for your courses. Again, don't listen to recruiters - they just want to get you in a classroom, they don't care how your tuition gets paid. Again, after you decide on a school, call the Business Office, Student Accounts Office, or Financial Aid office.... see above for a repeat.

I can't stress enough how important it is to be prepared. We have had the younger kids in our offices crying because their parents told them they paid the bill/secured a loan, etc., but they didn't. We've had adults in our offices crying because they thought that loans were "automatic" and that they'd never have to pay a dime the entire time they attended classes. We've had sports players quit school and leave angry because they were promised a particular position on the team - or just promised they'd MAKE the team - and then they didn't get the position or make the team. Ask questions. Get the important answers in writing. Don't be afraid to ask for proof of promises. Most importantly - make sure you are prepared for success, you cannot afford not to be.


Sunday, January 25, 2009

Cards for today!

More Valentine's Day cards:
This is Anya from Pink Poison - isn't she precious???

And more birthday cards:
That's all for today! Peace!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Just for fun...

I'm doing some more stamping today and will post pics of the cards later on this evening. For now, I figured I'd post this list, just for fun! I'm not going to "tag" anyone... if you want to do it, just do it. No pressure. LOL Here's the deal, it's a list of 100 things and everything that I have done is in bold:

1. Started your own blog.
2. Slept under the stars
3. Played in a band
4. Visited Hawaii
5. Watched a meteor shower
6. Given more than you can afford to charity
7. Been to Disneyland (I've only been to Disney World)
8. Held a praying mantis
9. Climbed a mountain (OK it's Mt. Wachusett and it barely qualifies, but it IS a mountain....)
10. Sang a solo
11. Bungee jumped (no freaking way!!!)
12. Visited Paris
13. Watched a lightning storm at sea
14. Taught yourself an art from scratch (stamping!)
15. Adopted a child
16. Had food poisoning
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty
18. Grown your own vegetables
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France
20. Slept on an overnight train
21. Had a pillow fight
22. Hitch hiked
23. Taken a sick day when you're not ill
24. Built a snow fort
25. Held a lamb
26. Gone skinny dipping
27. Run a marathon (I did do a walk for cancer.... but no running was involved)
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice
29. Seen a total eclipse
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset
31. Hit a home run
32. Been on a cruise
33. Seen Niagra Falls in person
34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors
35. Seen an Amish community
36. Taught yourself a new language
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied
38. Seen the leaning tower of Pisa in person
39. Gone rock climbing
40. Seen Michelangelos David
41. Sung karaoke
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant
44. Visited Africa
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
46. Been transported in an ambulance
47. Have your portrait painted
48. Gone deep see fishing
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling
52. Walked in the rain
53. Played in the mud
54. Gone to a drive-in theater
55. Been in a movie
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business (card-making is my business!)
58. Taken a martial arts class
59. Visited Russia
60. Served at a soup kitchen
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies
62. Gone whale watching
63. Got flowers for no reason
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma (all 3!)
65. Gone sky diving (again, no freaking way!!!!!)
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp (don't think I could handle that emotionally, can barely watch it on TV)
67. Bounced a check (cough, cough, JEREMY....)
68. Flown in a helicopter
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy (I'm a wicked pack-rat)
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial
71. Eaten caviar
72. Pieced a quilt
73. Stood in Times Square
74. Toured the Everglades
75. Been fired from a job
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London
77. Broken a bone
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person
80. Published in a book
81. Visited the Vatican
82. Bought a brand new car
83. Walked in Jerusalem
84. Had your picture in the newspaper
85. Read the entire Bible
86. Visited the White House
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating (do fish count? hee hee)
88. Had chickenpox
89. Saved someone's life
90. Sat on a jury
91. Met someone famous
92. Joined a book club
93. Lost a loved one
94. Had a baby
95. Seen the Alamo in person
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake
97. Been involved in a law suit
98. Owned a cell phone
99. Been stung by a bee
100. Read an entire book in one day

So that's it! Now you know more about me than you probably even cared to know! hee hee

I'll be back later to share the cards I make today. Have a happy, lazy, relaxing Sunday!
Peace - Jenn

Monday, January 19, 2009

Update on Trevor

I haven't updated you all in quite some time about Trevor and the school issues and all that. In this case, no news really is good news. Trevor was transferred to a private school that specializes in kids who have social and emotional issues, some of those kids have Asperger's just like Trev, back in October. He has thrived at this school - he got into trouble ONCE, but realized very quickly what they won't tolerate and hasn't had another problem since then, and that was early on, about 3 or 4 weeks into it. It's been about 3 months now, and Trevor's grades have improved from the C's, D's and F's that he WAS getting to mostly A's and B's! The work that he was getting in the "special" programs they put him in at the public school he attended was not to his level, to say the least. It made me angry to see him not being challenged and motivated to live up to his potential, but every time I complained I was brushed off by being told "he's getting the same work that the kids in the regular classes are getting."

His attitude has improved greatly, he rarely complains about going to school and his headaches have reduced drastically from daily to maybe every other week. Trevor has learned that he loves Math and that his strengths lie in all things mathematical - he can do complicated problems in his head and doesn't understand why it's important (and required) to SHOW THE WORK on paper... he thinks he should just be able to write the answer down and that it's silly to have to spend time proving how he knew it. LOL This is definitely a component of Asperger's, and would have frustrated me years ago. Today, it makes me laugh - and just be firm in my explanation to him that whether he likes it or not, part of being in school is proving how you know the answer to something. He doesn't have to necessarily AGREE with it, but he does have to do it.

Socially, he's come a long way. I believe that starting fresh at a new school has helped a lot, the kids didn't have any pre-conceived notions of Trevor and so were more willing to give him a chance. Trev had a history of inappropriate social behaviors that made him a target for a lot of kids. When someone was laughing at him in a mean way, he'd tend to think they were being nice - and vice versa, if someone was trying to be nice or smile at him, he'd assume they were "talking about him " or "looking at him" in a bad way. It was very hard for him to read social cues - what came naturally to most kids/adolescents was foreign to Trev. Trevor says what he means, too, which is also not always appropriate. Once we (Trev's parents) educated ourselves about Asperger's, we were able to be much more helpful to Trevor. We were able to begin to actually teach him what things aren't appropriate and why - it was really difficult for him, at first, because he was 14 years old when we got the diagnosis. So he was stubborn and adamant that "there's nothing wrong with me!" But after a year of me gently explaining to him over and over again that he's right, there isn't anything WRONG with him, but that he does have some issues that he needs to work on that make his life a little more difficult, he is finally making an effort. By this I mean he tries to listen to what we tell him - it has not been easy, and there have been days when I felt like I just wanted to run away from it all. I bet he felt the same way - and probably still does now and then! LOL Because he's also a teenager - so he's got all that teenage crap going on along with just trying to accept that he has Asperger's and that his life might give him more challenges and roadblocks than others.

But he's come a LONG way. He talks things out now - he makes a huge effort to function in social situations, something a year ago he would have had trouble with. He knows that some things are not appropriate to say - you can't help THINKING them, but you CAN help SAYING them. He has learned to make an effort to make the first move in social situations, by saying hello to someone or asking a question. He still sometimes asks too many questions, but we're working on that. He is also working on the TYPE of questions to ask.... for example, it's not uncommon for him to ask someone how much money they make or whether someone int their family has ever been to jail.... LOL You get the drift. He wants to know - and it's hard for him to truly understand that some things you don't just come right out and ask. He's very literal, too. That used to exasperate me, but now I smile when he corrects someone who has just described something as "black as night" by telling them that "night isn't really black, it's more like the absence of light" or some similar conversation. I usually try to take the person aside, if it's someone who doesn't know/understand Trevor, and explain to them that he's not trying to be fresh or argumentative, he's truly trying to help you understand that night isn't really black. This is part of why he got into trouble in public school, teachers and administrators don't like kids who don't fit the mold, kids who can't sit still or be quiet and accept everything that they are told. Trevor questions everything, and his new school encourages that - they discuss it, openly, in class. The classroms are maybe 10 kids each with 2-4 teachers or aides per class. I've only heard Trev complain about one particular aide - not bad considering the ratio was probably opposite in publich school, where he only LIKED maybe one teacher/aide! LOL

Trevor has a clinician assigned to him who he can go to at any time. They have a separate room where the kids can go to sit and chill out for a few minutes if they just need to get away. They work on points systems and the kids with the highest points get the most freedoms. They have "Fun Friday" where they can play pool, play with the school therapy dog, watch movies, etc. He has made quite a few friends, which has probably been the best thing about it all. He has not had any of the awful experiences that he had in publich school (being hit in the head with a metal lock, being accused of smoking pot by a principal and then proving said principal wrong with a drug test administered by a doctor, etc.).A few weeks ago, we moved to a new town, West Boylston, just one town over from Worcester. West Boylston does not place children at the school that Trevor attends, so we had to have a meeting with WB to discuss why we would like Trevor to stay where he is. One of the women ended up visiting Trevor at his school about a week ago, and I'm really hoping that she sees why we want him to stay there. They have allowed him to stay temporarily and are even providing the bus for him (they have to pay the tuition and bus now because they are the home district school), and they have been wonderful about it all. I just hope with all my heart that they come to the conclusion that Trevor's best interests are being met wonderfully where he is. He has been through so much, I just can't imagine disrupting him now that he's finally feeling good about school, about other kids, about life! We will have another meeting in a few weeks where they will tell us if they agree to leave Trev where he is, or if they think they can provide him the appropriate education that he has a right to. If they want to move him, we won't accept that and we will ask for a mediator. The mediator would come in and hear both sides and make a suggestion. If we still can't agree, we'd have to go to court. But in the meantime, Trevor would be able to stay where he is. So the bottom line is that he'll most likely be able to at least finish out this year where he is... but I'm hopeful that he can finish high school where he is. He's only got 2 years left, I would love for those 2 years to be as successful as this year is turning out to be!

I know I always ended up so long-winded when I'm talking about Trevor, and I apologize for that. But I'm so passionate about it, about everything we've been through! A few people have said to me that Trevor is lucky to have us as parents, and I agree! LOL We're certainly not perfect and God knows we've made mistakes - but we're willing to make them and learn from them and move on with life! And you know, we are just as lucky to have Trevor for a son! The kid has a heart of gold and would give you the shirt right off of his back. He's got a really quirky sense of humor and he makes me laugh all the time. He might complain about emptying the dishwasher, but he'd be the first one to dig my car out of a snowbank if I got stuck. He's unique and special and handsome and bigger than me for crying out loud and I just love him to the ends of the earth. Thanks for reading this far. Peace!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Valentine's Day Cards and Ange's Walk for Breast Cancer!

I have been a busy girl today! We got some more snow last night and I don't usually go anywhere when it snows, so I put on my favorite fleece pj pants and barricaded myself in my stamp room and started on my Valentine's Day cards. Here are some of the results:

And then just because I got sick of making Valentine cards, here are a few generic cards I made:

My cousin Angela is doing the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer, so from now until March 30 I will donate 100% of the proceeds from the sale of my cards to her to help her raise the $1800.00 that she needs to raise in order to walk. If you feel led to donate ANY amount at all, please click here - Angela's Avon Walk for Breast Cancer. If you would like to help out by purchasing some cards, please e-mail me at JennBorj@yahoo.com (cards are sold in assorted or themed packs of 10 for $15.00 plus shipping, if necessary). Thank you! I've blogged about Ange a few times before (for the most recent, click here), she's not only my cousin but one of my BFF's!!! I'm so proud of her for doing this walk, and I want to do anything I can to help her. Go Ange!!!

Well, it's not even 4:00 p.m. yet so I think I'll head back to my stamping room and see how many more cards I can crank out today. Peace!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

New year, old friends!

Happy New Year! I ended up having a stupid migraine for almost 3 days and slept right through New Year's Eve, etc. Never even had my wine or boneless chicken wings! LOL But we had our celebration last night, instead. Jeremy and I went out to a local bar with my sister and her husband and some friends - Timmy and Shannon, George, Kevin, and Melanie. We had an absolute blast. These are some of my friends from high school, and I just absolutely LOVE how you can go years without seeing friends like this, and then just pick right up as if no time at all has gone by. I love these people, they will always have a special place in my heart. Tim was one of my very best friends in high school, and we went to one of my proms together. See, aren't we adorable? This is like 1989, I believe. We were 17 - TWENTY years ago. OMG.
I wish so much that I had taken a picture of him and I together last night, so that I could have posted that next to this. Next time! LOL Tim married this awesome girl named Shannon who I just love, she is a hot shit and we had such a good time together last night. Jeremy hit it off with her, too, and he can be SUCH a grump but she had him laughing and talking and it was just such a fun night. I cannot wait to do it again!!!

Back to work for me on Monday and back to school for the kids. I can hardly wait - I am sick of being home, I like having about 2 weeks off. After that, I just start to get annoyed. Although if Jeremy was not laid off and the kids were in school, I'm sure my annoyance level would have been decreased significantly.... hee hee Anyway, I'm anxious for us all to get back to a routine and stuff. The kids need to start going to bed at night and waking up in the morning - that girl of mine would stay up all night and sleep until dinner every day if I let her!

Hope you all had a happy and safe New Year's celebration! Peace.