College Application Responses

We’re done with Valentine Day and Super Bowl. Monday is President Day. But these are not important days for three young adults in my family.

“February 25 and 26 are the most important days of my life, Nonna,” my granddaughter declared this past weekend, her voice shaky.

This young girl who’s seventeen and two of her relatives who already turned eighteen are anxiously waiting for college application responses, the emails that would change their lives, or at least decide of their futures, and announce if they have been accepted or rejected by the colleges of their choices.

  • Review for college admission is based on:
  • Secondary School Academic Performance
  • SAT or ACT scores.
  • Extracurricular Activities: Consistent involvement throughout high school that demonstrates a student’s interests and passions, as well as how applicants contributed to their school, community and/or family.
  • The quality of thought in the admission essay.
  • Personal Background and Experiences: Students who show the potential and desire to succeed in an academic environment. Students who can be learners, leaders and thinkers.
  • No one single factor determines an admission decision.

I remembered my own children receiving the famous long-awaited letters with admission decisions from various colleges. Now everything is electronic.

So here I am, waiting and fretting with my first grandkid who is about to leave the family nest.

While the children are worried about the next steps in their lives, their parents are tabulating their bank accounts. “Do you realize how expensive colleges are now?” they often complain, conveniently forgetting that their own parents have gone through these anxious moments to pay their tuitions. “Oh, but now, fees are outrageous. They better get some scholarships to help.” Do they realize how much pressure they put on these young ones?

As a loving grandmother, I’m siding with my grandkids and praying they get accepted to the colleges of their choice, and start the next phase of their lives on the right foot.

I still have my tassels worn on graduation day caps, the yellow from Northeastern University in Boston, and the blue one for my Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of Cincinnati. They are proudly displayed in our home office.

Wishing our young ones good luck for next week and best wishes for a successful and happy future.

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Travel with Mona, visit Jerusalem and the Holy Land

Many trips to Israel and the Middle East had often been canceled or postponed because of political turmoil or instability. When a Canadian friend told us about a group from Montreal organizing a guided tourist visit to the Holy Land in March 2010, my husband and I found it an excellent opportunity to finally travel safely through the region.

We flew from New York to Amman, Jordan, where we met the eighteen people coming from Canada. The next day we boarded our comfortable bus and visited Petra that I described in a previous blog. From there we continued along the King Hussein Bridge between Jordan and Israel. The security was very tight with x-ray scanning, questioning and bag searches and passport control.

Monastery of the Temptation
 The sycamore-fig tree or  Zacchaeus tree

We stopped for lunch in Jericho, commonly known as “the oldest city in the world” (8000 BCE) and the world’s lowest city (1200 feet under sea level).” Jericho is a Palestinian city in the West Bank, an important historical, cultural, and political center located northwest of the Dead Sea. It is truly a place where the ancient past comes in contact with the immediate present and where the fragrance of oranges and citrus permeates the air.

After lunch, we spent the afternoon at the Dead Sea shore. The sea water is rich in minerals and salt, and so muddy. The mud is cleaned and sold as an anti-wrinkle facial cream at $90 the small jar. [Yes, I bought a jar. It didn’t erase a single line.]

The Dome of the Rock or Masgad El Aksa. A cabinet within the building houses a hair from the prophet Mohamad’s beard. Another tradition suggests it’s the mountain where Abraham nearly sacrificed his son Isaac.
A view of Jerusalem from Mount Olive

Finally we entered Jerusalem in the early night and checked in our hotel that was fully booked for the week. For our bad luck, millions of Christian pilgrims and orthodox Jews had flocked to Jerusalem to celebrate the Catholic Easter, Orthodox Easter, and Passover that all occurred on that same week in the year 2010. The hotel manager had programmed the elevators to stop at each floor in respect for the Jewish patrons who were not allowed to operate the lift. Imagine the slow traffic, going up and down.

In the morning we boarded our bus and headed to Nazareth where we visited the Basilica of the Annunciation and in the lowest floor an ancient house that tradition says is the site of the angelic announcement. Not far from it, we visited the Church of St. Joseph, the site of the Holy Family’s house and St. Joseph’s workshop. Later we had lunch on the Lake of Tiberias, and then drove through the verdant hills of Galilea, where we visited three more churches.

Lunch of fish on the Lake Tiberias known for its rough waves.

We spent the evening on the shore of the Jordan River. Many pilgrims wore a white robe to be baptized or renew their baptism vows in the Jordan River.

Sea of Galilee, also called Lake Tiberias, through which the Jordan River flows.

The next day, we stopped by St. John the Baptist Church, built over the house where he was born. We climbed 154 steps to the Church of the Visitation. Inside the church, 41 plaques, each in a different language, bear the Magnificat.

We visited the Museum of Jerusalem and saw the Dead Sea Scrolls, then admired a small model –maquette– of Old Jerusalem, with the Temple, Pilate’s fortress, Herod’ s Castle, and the walls of Jerusalem.

We continued to Bethlehem and the Church of the Nativity.

The Church of the Nativity is built above a cave which may have been the place of Jesus’ nativity.
The church was built by Queen Helena in 329, and renovated by the Crusaders. The cave includes two lobes, one with a star marks the place of Jesus’ birth, the other marks the place of the manger.

We passed by the Shepherd’s Field where the sheep and goats used to grate.

Later the hotel offered us a tour of Jerusalem by night, with a stop at Mount Olive. We crossed some villages, stopped by Victoria Hospital and Masada. We saw a temple, built by an American philanthropist on the model of the initial Temple of Solomon. It is said that the Masgad el Aksa, the mosque with the golden dome, was built on the location of the former temple.

On Holy Thursday, we returned to Mount Olive, visited a Jewish cemetery, walked by the Eastern Wall, and the Wailing Wall.

A Jewish crowd
A Christian crowd

We spent Good Friday walking through the Via Dolorosa and visiting old churches, and spent Friday evening and Saturday in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre .

Strolling along the narrow lanes of Via Dolorosa
A view of the Church of Holy Sepulcher
from Mount Olive
The Chapel built on top of Christ’s Tomb in the center of the Holy Sepulcher

It would take ten blogs to describe all that we’ve seen and learned during that week spent in Jerusalem and its surroundings. An amazing trip that will remain imprinted in my memory forever.

My latest published books are part of the Love Plans.

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Family Christmas

In elementary school, one of our teachers used to ask the class to write a paper about the meaning of Christmas. What does Christmas mean to you? This sentence still echoes in my ears after so many years. I had no trouble filling the pages, writing how my grandparents organized Christmas for their family of six children and families. Christmas meant getting together with the many cousins, enjoying a fun time, a delicious dinner, innumerable cookies and desserts. “Christmas is family time,” my grandmother often repeated. Yet she always added to her guest list the friends and neighbors that were on their own on Christmas day.  

And then my grandfather passed. A year later, my mother took over. The Christmas get-together moved to my parents’ house, with my grandmother’s menu and a few new recipes. By then I was married with small children. So were the invited cousins. The reunions continued, with thirty guests attending, all related — my children playing with their relatives, creating life-long bonds of friendship within the family.

When my dad passed, Mom lost the desire and energy to prepare big gatherings. It was my turn to maintain the tradition that came with a lot of work but so much joy for children and parents. For the last thirty years, I’ve been starting the cooking and baking three weeks before Christmas. Even after we retired and moved to Florida, our children and relatives kept visiting for the holidays. This year, I will entertain twenty-five guests on Christmas Eve, relatives and a few lonely friends. My daughter will handle the Christmas Day dinner. The family reunion continues with my grandchildren befriending the cousins’ kids.

Christmas meant family togetherness for church, dinner, and play, when I was a school kid, and it still has the same meaning. My grandmother must be smiling from up there at my grandchildren and her many descendants bonding together.

Yes, the holiday preparations can be exhausting. What do you do after a long day of preparation? Wouldn’t it be nice to lounge in front of a fire or curl onto a couch or even in bed with a sweet romance novel, forget the latest lousy news and escape into a warm Christmas story that would cheer you up and reassure you there is still love in this world?
Wishing you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Here are a few warm Christmas stories to lift your heart:

 

 

A Tale of Two Students … And College

Often people think that success in college and life depends upon how well students do in grade school and high school. If they aren’t making A’s in grade school, then they might as well forget going to college or getting a high-paying job. Right or wrong?

Two of my grandchildren are almost the same age. They went through grade school and high school together. The girl was at the top of all her classes. The boy was at the bottom and we wondered if he would even be able to graduate. (One grade school teacher kept putting him on a chair outside in the hallway.) He got through high school by going to a “Choice School,” which was offered at his high school. There should be more of these.

Students Learn Differently

The girl started college with an athletic scholarship. The boy started college, but didn’t make it past the first day, as he could not concentrate in the classroom. Being in a large group of people made him physically sick.

Students

He got some part-time jobs and ended up being a video editor for an online company. When he worked by himself, he could concentrate and learn. He signed up for a well-known online university (Full Sail University) to get his BS. This college runs year around, no breaks, offers only one course at a time, and is very strict. Because he was working as a video editor, he knew how to read instructions and follow them exactly, which is one of the things he had to do in that college. It made him careful to follow the teacher’s requirements. He also figured out how to get an academic scholarship from them.

This June the young woman graduated Magna Cum Laude, with a BA in Business Administration. She was already working while in college and went immediately into a good-paying full-time job (and got married).

This November the young man graduated, with honors, top of his class, and has his BS in Digital Videography. As a video editor he worked his way through college and now has a good-paying full-time job with benefits, and a raise because he has his degree. It is a YouTube company that makes videos for children, with many of his edited videos going viral. He studies books on finances and is saving up money to buy a condo.

My Point Is

Not every child does well in a classroom situation. Not every child can bring home that A. But success in grade school or high school is not an indicator for success in life. Don’t discourage a child from going to college who barely made it through high school. These kids often find that college is easier for them than high school, especially if they get into the right college. With all the online courses offered, people don’t have to go to a brick and mortar university, and some of the main universities (such as U of Arizona) offer online education as well. Don’t get upset with a child who is truly struggling in school, but look for an alternative educational path that matches your child’s interest and style of learning. Help him find his niche.

~  ~  ~  ~  ~

One of my books, Christmas on Cougar Mountain, is about a father with a child who is struggling in school, and the young woman who shows him that the child is not dumb or a problem child, he only has a different way of learning. I keep this book permanently free as I feel the message is so important for young parents (and many teachers) to hear. Enjoy this book and encourage others to read it also. The answer does not lie in drugging these children, but in helping them learn using their learning style. That might involve searching for alternative schools.

Christmas on Cougar Mountain

Available in the Amazon Kindle Store