Tag Archives: college

Together again

Once upon a time, more than 30 years ago, there lived three young women who attended The Catholic University of America. Late at night, when their brains buckled under the weight of René Descartes and Saint Thomas Aquinas, they turned to music to unwind.

Within the concrete walls of 109 Zimmerman Hall, the tenor voice of Jonathan Edwards soothed our worries and helped give meaning to our lives. The turntable situated between the room’s two barred windows in the Brookland neighborhood of Washington, D.C., spun folk and rock inspiration from all the great modern philosophers—Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne, Neil Young, and, yes, Jonathan Edwards. (Not to be confused with the 18th century theologian of the same name).

Jonathan Edwards, theologian

Jonathan Edwards, musician

Jonathan Edwards’ album, Jonathan Edwards, had been in the record collection I took to college. It had come out in 1971, with just one song, “Sunshine (go away today)” having made the top 40. Everyone knows that one song, but few, I’d say, know the other 11. We played that album until there were no grooves left. Whenever the pressures of college life bore down, on us and our friends across the hall, 109 Zimmerman became our shanty.

Six of us went to see him at The Cellar Door in Georgetown in 1979 and managed to get back stage. As a friend of mine likes to say, “Buy me a glass of wine and I’ll tell you the story.”

Anyway, last Friday night, we three girls from 109 Zimmerman got together again—for a Jonathan Edwards show in Annapolis. While sipping cranberry juice, club soda and iced tea, we went back in time. We reminisced and sang. We laughed and lapped up Edwards’ stories, some of which we had heard, as others caught us up on the songwriter’s life and adventures of the last 30 years. We marveled at his still-smooth voice and his wailing harmonica, agreeing with his own characterization of his musical genre – “hard folk.”

One roomie’s husband, who graciously tolerated the reunion, picked up our dinner check.

We didn’t go backstage.


Filed under Family and Friends, Music

Happy new year

Everyone knows the real New Year begins the day after Labor Day. January 1st is just a date that brings a new calendar but not much else of significance.

Historically, school starts the day after Labor Day, though many jurisdictions have bumped it to August. Congress is back, Washington traffic will build to its usual awful and the white shoes of those who observe proper etiquette are aptly stored in boxes until next May.

It’s time for resolutions. Last Labor Day, I gave up coffee, but the old demon has dripped back into my life. Time to filter out that and other bad habits that brewed over the summer—the trips to Baskin Robbins, the chips and dips, the carbonated beverages.

It used to be that Labor Day was marked by the Jerry Lewis Multiple Dystrophy telethon, but this year it was a condensed telethon sans Jerry. In honor of Jerry—and because I was a little down—I spent much of yesterday on the sofa, watching a marathon of Jerry Lewis movies on Antenna TV.

Several times over the weekend, I heard from parents who had dropped their freshmen off at college. While sitting with a friend Sunday night, we traded observations about how the college drop-off has changed over the last 30 years.

After filling multiple carts at Bed Bath and Beyond, parents now haul truckloads of electronics, appliances, shelving and bedding (coordinated between roommates) into kids’ dorms, make their beds, set out their color-coded file folders on their neatly organized desks, hang bulletin boards, place their folded tee shirts and underwear into school-issued dressers, set out mailing supplies for writing Grandma, and leave them behind with hugs, tearful goodbyes and as much advice as we can hurl at them while pulling out of the parking lot.

I shared with my friend a memory of moving into my freshman dorm. Granted, I was just moving across town. Regardless, on the night before classes began, I packed one large turquoise pleather suitcase, grabbed an afghan I had crocheted that summer, watched Jerry Lewis sing his ceremonial “You’ll Never Walk Alone” and drove myself to college.

It’s the day after Labor Day once again and I’m looking forward to a happy New Year. It was kind of a weird summer for me, so I’m not particularly sorry to leave it behind. Here’s to a new school year, to resolutions, to fabulous fall fabrics. And to Jerry Lewis.


Filed under Food, Health, Holidays, Movies, Television and Radio

Power to the people

Please excuse Monica’s absence on Saturday, as she was unable to produce a blog update.

If you’ll also excuse the excuse, I’ll tell you where I really was on Saturday. I was stuck in the 1970s and couldn’t get out. 

Saturday morning I woke to a world without Internet. Something struck an electrical transformer in our area and we were without power for most of the day. One of my friends from college was staying with me and two more college chums were expected at my house for dinner, one of whom I hadn’t seen in more than 25 years.

I tried to shake off the guilt of not delivering a blog by adopting my 1970s work ethic: “I’ll worry about it later.” My friend and I then walked into town, strolled through the farmers market and stopped to listen to some live folk music.

When we got back to the house and discovered that power was still not restored, and guests were expected within hours, I looked again to the ’70s for inspiration. Friends coming for dinner + no electricity = fondue.

Fortunately, power came on, my friends came shortly thereafter. Until the clock struck twelve, we relived our time in college during the ’70s. We looked at old photos, listened to Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne, Marshall Tucker, Southside Johnny, Steely Dan, The Outlaws and Little Feat, and, over fondue, we shared the memories that each song conjured. We turned on Saturday Night Live and reminisced about the casts and skits of old, which we had watched together more than 30 years ago on a 13-inch black-and-white TV, in Room 109 of the since-demolished Zimmerman Hall.

I confess, for just those few hours, I pretended the blog hadn’t yet been invented.


Filed under Family and Friends, Food, Movies, Television and Radio, Music, Technology and Social Media

Pomp and circumstance

Tomorrow is the big day–my son’s college graduation.

In the movie Parenthood, the grandfather, played by Jason Robards, observes this about being a parent:  “You never get to spike the ball in the end zone and do your victory dance.  It never ends.”

There’s no doubt that’s true.  But tomorrow will be pretty darn close.

As much as I look forward to watching my son walk across that platform, there’s something else I am looking forward to.

Yes, the all-important commencement address.  I’ve heard very few in my lifetime.  My father was the commencement speaker at my high school graduation and, while he was a big hit, I’d heard him speak a few times before.  I didn’t participate in my own college graduation exercises because I was already working full time and didn’t consider it important.

This time of year, I enjoy reading the various commencement addresses.  These speeches are intended to give young adults advice for succeeding in their professional lives and motivate them to high achievement.

Let’s get real.  The graduates are sitting there numb from exams and term papers, perhaps a little hungover, and exhausted from clearing away the leaning towers of pizza boxes and other debris that’s piled up all year, in anticipation of their parents’ arrival.

A commencement speaker with any hope of stirring these men and women had better make it pithy, punchy and to the point.

I’m no Kurt Vonnegut  (who reportedly never delivered that famous Wear Sunscreen speech at MIT), but I’ve often wondered what I’d say if I were in front of an audience of graduating seniors. 

I thought back to something I did when my son went off to college four years ago.  As the nerdy, over-involved mother I am, I jotted a list of keys to success, typed it out and framed it to sit on the desk in his dorm room, so he could look at it every day and be inspired.  I think it came home sophomore year, never to be read again.

10 Secrets for Lifetime Success and Happiness

  1. Drink water – eight glasses a day will keep you healthy, inside and out.
  2. Read the paper – know what is going on in the world; be informed, keep a global perspective.
  3. Say your prayers – ask for guidance and give thanks.
  4. Say no – to options that are destructive to yourself and others.
  5. Say yes – to opportunities to do good for yourself and others.
  6. Count your blessings – at the end of every day, think of three things you are thankful for.  Even when you have a bad day, you will always find something good, however small.
  7. Make eye contact – look people in the eye; it will help you to be a good listener.
  8. Keep God at the center – let him, not you, be the focus of your life.
  9. Help the needy – be attuned to those who are vulnerable and tend to them.
  10. Call your mother – she worries.

Maybe I’d add “watch your grammar.” 

If you had one piece of advice for today’s college graduate—perhaps something that has worked for you or something you would have done differently—what would it be?

In the meantime, I will enjoy the big day and might even do a little victory dance.

Reminder:  Word Nymph doesn’t post on Sunday.  Did I mention my son is graduating?


Filed under All Things Wordish, Family and Friends, Movies, Television and Radio

Chain-free zone

Good morning and greetings from Boone, North Carolina.

My husband and I are here for our son’s graduation from Appalachian State University.  I just couldn’t let the festivities begin without telling you a little about this charming place, where we’ve been coming a couple of times a year for the past four years.

Not everyone knows about Boone or Appalachian State.  App State entered the national consciousness in 2007 when its then-two-time Division I-AA national championship football team beat the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor in the season opener.  It was the largest upset in college football history and landed the Mountaineers on the cover of Sports Illustrated.  Later in the season, they won the championship for the third year in a row.

Appalachian State sits high in the Blue Ridge Mountains of western North Carolina, in what’s known as the Ski Capital of the South.  The student population is about 15,000.  One of the institution’s most famous alumni is Steven J. Dubner, co-author of Freakonomics.

Boone itself is artsy and bohemian.  It’s surrounded by a number of elite resorts, so there’s a cultural dichotomy that sometimes causes friction on the local political scene.

I think what stands out most about downtown Boone is the absence of chain stores and restaurants.  Up and down King Street, Boone’s main avenue, you’ll find one character-filled small business after another.

On King Street, you’ll find no Gap; just The Jean Pool.  There’s no Abercrombie; there’s the Mast General Store.   I was sad to see that the second-hand store, Love Me Two Times, has closed its doors.  There’s no CVS; just Boone Drug, which still has a lunch counter.  There’s no Panera; it’s Our Daily Bread.  There’s no Hair Cuttery; there’s Split Endz.  No Starbucks, only Higher Grounds and The Beanstalk.  No Chipotle; only Black Cat Burrito. The closest Chili’s is an hour away, which is fine because there’s the The Boone Saloon.   And if are you are looking for a cheap place to stay on King Street, you’ll find no Days Inn; only a nondescript  motel with a sign that reads:  2 people 1 bed $29.

What more can I say?


Filed under All Things Wordish, Family and Friends, Marketing/Advertising/PR, Travel

Wormhole in the empty nest

I have waited 21 years to say this:  my son is graduating from college this weekend. 

It is hard to reflect without cliché.  So I won’t wonder where the time went.  Not exactly anyway. 

Instead, I’d like to send a message to parents who might be preparing for an empty nest in the coming months.  It’s a tough thing to say goodbye to your baby, who at times might also be acting like a three-headed adolescent monster, bless his heart.

Four years ago I thought my life had ended.   I couldn’t imagine not having our only child around every day. 

The February before his 2006 high school graduation, I saw an ad for a writing contest on the subject of motherhood.  I can’t recall specifically what it called for, but I took the opportunity to channel my dread and anxiety into an essay.

It undoubtedly provides no comfort to know that, for me, reality played out far worse than the dread.  I wished someone had told me how hard it would be to experience the separation.  Thankfully, someone did assure me it would get better.  And it did.  Someone else assured me that, like all adolescents who live in a wormhole for years, my son would come out on the other end, once again pleasant and respectful.  And he has.

To parents on this side of Orientation, pace yourselves.  While the college experience does go by quickly, it can be a long and arduous trek, as you and your child navigate your way though a changing relationship and work together to seek solutions to problems that inevitably arise.  But take comfort, little by little, you will adjust to your empty nest, your child will come out of the wormhole and so will you.

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Filed under Family and Friends