An Afternoon She’ll Forget- But One I Won’t

Grandma Pat (G. Pat) was born in 1920. She was born in England and came to the United States with her parents and her stuffed animal bear, Teddy. She can tell you everything about her trip over on the ship and her friends she played sports with growing up in Minnesota, but what she ate for dinner just a few hours earlier, you’ll need to remind her. Memory loss is common for someone who will be 95 in just a couple weeks. It can be frustrating and scary for us but it’s worse for her. I am lucky to have two grandparents in their 90s and even luckier that I get to spend time with them and actually know them well.


G. Pat walking with Dan down the aisle at his wedding.

Don’t Stop Moving
While I was grateful to be able to spend in afternoon on the couch and occasionally take the dog out or for a walk, G. Pat could not sit still. She said she wasn’t used to sitting so much, that she’s usually up doing little projects around the house. For the last few years she’s volunteered at resale shop, helping customers, organizing donations and keeping the store clean. If you’re ever needing the motivation to get up and do something, think of G.Pat and don’t ever stop doing things.

Keep The Political Conversation Going
I spent most of the afternoon talking with G. Pat and playing with the dog, while I took care of my laundry. G. Pat told me about the book she was currently reading – John Adams. Coming to the U.S. my great-grandparents knew of politics in England, but politics in America was not a common conversation in G. Pat’s childhood home. It’s hard to imagine since today there are shows and books and magazines dedicated to political discussion and social media platforms available for public dialog. G. Pat did not have as many resources to learn about U.S. politics.

Grandma with Morgan during the professional family photos at Dan and Meg's wedding.

Grandma with Morgan during the professional family photos at Dan and Meg’s wedding.

Her book choice this time, she still reads a ton, was so she could get a better understanding of American political history outside of her formal education. We went on to discuss our disgust for Donald Trump and our fear of many of the other candidates this election. “That face, that smile…it’s just yucky” G. Pat said of Trump’s face on the cover of a magazine on the coffee table. She thanked me for sharing my views and talking with her about these issues- she understands that me, my siblings and my peers are the future of the country. She was pleased to hear that political discussion was not only so common among young people but that we are actively involved in discussion, rallies and generally voicing our opinions.

A Coke A Day Keeps the Doctor Away
About this time we both needed to eat. Without wanting to deal with crowds, loud restaurants or actually cooking a meal, we agreed on carry out from a local bistro. Two Chicken Clubs and a Pear Salad. I helped my grandma up the stairs to the bar where we ordered for carry out, she looked right at home ordering from the bartender. I know that in her day, her and her friends used to have big picnics with lots of food and beer- maybe alcohol tolerance is genetic ;-)

Back at home, we set the table and divided up our orders when I asked her what she’d like to drink. “I’ll take a Coke. I know I shouldn’t be drinking this stuff, but I do enjoy a Coke about once a day,” She said seating herself at the table. I smiled and just said there were worse vices to have. She happily agreed and added “they’re lucky I gave up the bourbon, I used to drink that stuff straight. My dad always said, Patricia if you’re going to drink it, drink it straight. So I did as my dad told me, never ordered a mixed drink.” She took a sip of her Coke and we enjoyed our dinner.

Getting old might be scary, but G. Pat still looks beautiful.

Getting old might be scary, but G. Pat still looks beautiful.

Getting Old is Scary
10 hours earlier Mom and Dad left to drive to get all her furniture packed up and into her new home. G. Pat was getting anxious and worried as snow started to fall for the first time this season outside. She repeated several times what she knew and what she didn’t know about how the day was scheduled. I was in the loop on a few more details getting text updates from Mom and Dad, but it was clear G. Pat just didn’t remember what Dad told her many many times over the last few weeks. I answered her each time she asked with as many details about the rest of the nights plans as I could trying to keep her in the loop and calm. As a granddaughter, hell even as a person, it was hard to listen to her repeat herself over and over without any memory of asking 30 minutes before.

As she’s often told me, it’s scary getting old. She’s lost many friends and now moving to a new, unfamiliar place well that would be scary for anyone. A high school graduate heading off to school, a college graduate taking a job in a new city, attending an event or function by yourself, moving into an apartment by yourself, all these experiences are intimidating. Add memory loss and a whole lifetime of habits and independence, yea that would be a scary time. She’s one strong woman though and I have a feeling she’s going to be just fine.

Keep Asking Questions
Even when her memory was as good as any of ours, G. Pat would still ask lots of questions. When we visited she’d ask my siblings and I what we liked for breakfast or what treats we enjoyed. Sure enough the next trip she’d have that cereal or snack at the house for us and she’d proudly display all our options the first morning of our trip. She still asks lots of questions, but now she does it to understand or gain more clarity of what’s going on. Some questions I now come to expect, where I’m living now and what phone number she should use to call me. She’s always said, “if I don’t ask, then I don’t know.” For Grandma and really for anyone, asking questions doesn’t make you stupid, not knowing to ask does. I will always happily answer her questions knowing she’s just trying to understand and spend more time with me.

She’s been at her new home for almost two days now. She’s still scared, but everyone is friendly and we unpacked most of her apartment so she’s almost settled. Just like any intimidating situation, you can’t face it being scared, eventually you have to overcome your fear and keep on living. At 94 going on 95, she’s starting a new chapter of her life – I hope I have her longevity and and strength as I take on my own challenges.

How to Have the Best Relationship with Your Kids

Before you start reading this you may wonder, why am I taking parenting advice from a 23 year old who isn’t married and doesn’t have any kids of her own. While I am not a parent, I am giving you the view that you’ll probably never get honestly, the side from the kid.

You too can join your kids at college football games and maybe even the pre game before :-)

You too can join your kids at college football games and maybe even the pre game before :-)

Don’t Just Say No: This is a hard one. You want to give us the world, protect us and make sure we have everything we need. It’s better if you trust us (like my parents do) and let us make our own mistakes. If you keep telling your kid “no you can’t wear that” or “no you can’t go there”, guess what they’re going to do? That’s right there going to figure out how to “wear that” and “go there”. Instead make sure that they know you trust them, saying okay you can do that and if you need me, if anything goes wrong I am here for you. Plus by saying no all the time, your kids just won’t ask anymore if they know what the answer is going to be. They’ll start making up lies to tell you so they can go where they want and wear or see who they want. Even for adults trust is a really hard thing to develop, so developing it early between parents and the kids goes beyond high school, it’s for the rest of your lives.

And maybe even take a trip with just your kids. You too can take selfies on top of Rockefeller.

And maybe even take a trip with just your kids. You too can take selfies on top of Rockefeller.

No Questions Asked: We had a policy growing up, we could take the car on weekends as long as if something went wrong or if we needed our parents we could call. Any time of night, for any reason – no questions asked. The most important thing is that everyone is safe, no one got hurt and probably a lesson was learned. My brother, sister and I almost never needed our parents to come get us at 3 in the morning in a random place, but it was always nice and comforting to know that if we needed them they’d be there. We weren’t totally on our own if something went south. Plus it builds the trust that you’re all on the same side and it’s not this horrible consequence if we tell you we did something wrong.

It’s Okay to Say the “A” Word: Especially for high schoolers, alcohol is something that they are faced with. Parents, don’t worry so much about this. The more you tell them this is bad don’t do this, you can’t drink- they’re going to be interested in why they can’t, what’s so bad about it. Plus, you keep pushing for them to not try it while they’re at home, with friends you’ve probably seen or driven somewhere and with parents you may know from sports or school functions- that means they’re going to try it when they get to college with kids you don’t know, from families you’ve never met, in a place that is foreign to both of you. Not safe. Encourage them to be smart about it. No drinking at a bar at 17 isn’t safe. Driving drunk is NEVER okay. And don’t push it too far, just enough to try it and have a good time. Trust me, they’ll get to college and it won’t be this big mystery that they need to spend a lot of time exploring because they’ve already tried it. And they’ll be able to control themselves while they’re still making friends and learning their way around.

I love my family, won't trade them for the world!

I love my family, wouldn’t trade them for the world!

It’s really these three big things that helped me to see that my parents, while yes they had the final say on things and yes I checked with them before making any big decisions, were 100% in my corner. If I need advice, help or just someone to drink a beer and relax with it’s not just my friends I can go to, it’s my parents. Try these three things and your kids might see you a little differently.

It’s Time We All Grow Up

Now as a working adult, one of the big kids, I notice more and more each day how easy it is to forget. You forget your keys, to send an email and about that important meeting, but those are the little things. What about what you learned when you were just a kid, still memorizing math tables and playing tag at recess. The truth is, most of us learned everything we needed when we were small, and the bigger truth is that we all forgot.

1. Treat Others The Way You Want to Be Treated

How many times did you hear that growing up? That if you had nothing nice to say don’t say anything at all and that you had to think about it from their point of view or putting yourself in their shoes as the metaphor goes. How often do we think about this today? So often do we only think of ourselves that we loose sight of the feelings and treatment of others. We’re so quick to frustration that we don’t realize we’ve probably been in the same position as the person on the other end.

2. Race Issues are Not About the Color of Our Skin

I’ll race you to the end of the park and back, first one back is the winner. Ready, go! You run your hardest, pumping your arms and feeling the rush through your hair and face. You tag the tree and sprint back towards the finish line where a crowd of your classmates has gathered. You look next to you and see he’s still right there, matching you stride for stride. Who wins, who stepped across the finish line first? These are race issues.

3. Keeping Asking Questions

Remember that cute and then really annoying phase we went through, maybe now your kids or grandchildren are going through where all they want to do is ask why? Well … why don’t we ask more questions? Why is this done this way? Why do you think that? Is there a better way? In class we were told to ask questions because chances were someone would have the same question. What happened, no one asked the question and look where that has gotten us. It doesn’t show stupidity to ask a question, it shows stupidity when you assume you have the right answer only to realize you were wrong.

4. Paint With All the Colors of the Wind

Disney was onto something when they had Alan Menken and lyricist Stephen Schwartz compose “Colors of the Wind” for Pocahontas. The whole song tells the story of actually getting to know people even when they are different from you, and actually appreciating our natural resources for something besides what we can make with it. These are songs written for children, messages that children understand, so why is it so difficult for adults to remember?

5. If At First You Don’t Succeed, Try Try Again

Looking into the eyes of the youngest generation, you want to give them everything, make sure that they have every opportunity. One of the biggest lessons you taught them to reach these opportunities was, to do their best and keep at it if it was something they really wanted. Making the basketball team, getting every word right on the spelling test or having the best lemonade stand. Why when the going gets tough, do adults just quit when children try harder? Why when two sides can’t agree, do they just sit in their own corners and give up working together. Can you imagine if two 2nd graders were partnered up for a project, even though they didn’t get along, would the teacher let them work on it separately? Hell no. They would make them work together because you’re taught to make compromises and work out your differences when you’re younger.

Take one more minute, remember your favorite playground game growing up. Remember your favorite ice cream bar when the ice cream truck came rolling down the street. Remember the fun you used to have with your friends and family. The make believe games you’d play. Remember all the wonder and ideas you had about the world. Now think about where you are today. Would that child, you from years ago, stand by your behavior today?

Children are wonderful for so many reasons. They give us hope, they make us laugh and as much as we like to think we teach them, they teach and remind us way more often. Take an extra moment and be patient with the person next to you, you have no idea what life they’re going through. Don’t assume someone should be treated a certain way just because of how they look. Be curious. Your way and your ideas may not always be the right or only way. Plan A doesn’t always have to work.

By no means are any of us going to be perfect, I know that I am not and I loose my patience with people all the time. That’s why I am writing this, to remind myself, to remind you and hopefully the person that you pass this along to, how we can all grow up a little and be kids again.



My Last School Night

It’s been awhile since my last post, but I was busy. In the last five months I finished my last semester of college. WHAT?! Tomorrow I will take my very last college final and in two days I will graduate from the University of Wisconsin – Madison.

I suppose now is as good a time as any to tell the story of when I knew I was where I want meant to be. When I was in 7th or 8th grade we came to Madison to visit for my brother to look at the school and audition for the music department. We parked next to the Humanities building. For those that have never been to Madison, this is notoriously one of the ugliest buildings on campus. Originally built during the nuclear bomb threat era it looks like a bomb shelter and has zero architectural value. Anyway it was April in Wisconsin so that means rainy/slushy and basically an extended winter. I sat in the backseat as my brother and mom ran through the rain into the ugly building. I watched as students hustled to class and into buildings. I looked up at the bridge that runs over Park St. at the engraving “University of Wisconsin – Madison”, to this day I get chills but looking up at that bridge and looking around that street I felt it. I wanted to be here. I wanted to walk over that bridge and be one of those students hustling through the rain to class. During my four years here every time I walked under that bridge I reflect on this trip my family took to UW Madison and get chills thinking back to that day in April and I just think, I made it, I did it, I am where I am suppose to be.  

Graduation Day with my parents, I love you both so much and wouldn't have the success I do without you!

Graduation Day with my parents, I love you both so much and wouldn’t have the success I do without you!

As I reflect on my time here trying to think about the lessons that I learned and what I will take away from the last four years, obviously I received a great education. I will graduate with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Environmental Studies and Strategic Communications/Journalism with a certificate (or minor) in Entrepreneurship. I took some great classes learning about subjects like why people form the opinions that they do, how sustainability matters to business, how environmental issues impact people and how to create a marketing or digital campaign book. But the truth is that college is so much more than the classes that you take, it’s about the people that you meet, how you spend the time that you aren’t studying or in class and the decisions that you make.

I met some of my best friends in college the very first day I was on campus. From there it snowballed into finding my family away from home full of friends from Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, Texas, Michigan, California and all over the country. We were there for each other’s first college parties and college boyfriends. We held each other’s hair back during those nights and stay up late watching movies when we just wanted to stay in. We took part in our first Jump Around together – and on Saturday we’ll get to do it on the field! They were there to celebrate the big birthdays and the tiniest accomplishments. The best part is that these friendships will last longer than the four years we spent on this campus. I hope every college student finds a family similar to the one I found.

Ever since freshman year one of my favorite sayings is “don’t let school get in the way of your education”. To this day I stand by that. Of course there are some nights you have to stay in studying (this night being one of them). But you can’t go seven days of straight studying and homework without A. losing your mind and B. missing out on the rest of your education. Going out and meeting new people, having new experiences and trying something new is what college is truly about. Those days spent wandering around campus or partaking in a pick up game of frisbee of soccer or going to an event you’re only kind of interested in, this is how you figure out what you really want to do.

I sit here at my desk, on my last school night EVER thinking back to my first night college. I had my bed bunked above my desk and dresser in a hot cramped dorm room. I looked over the Gordans dining hall looking west thinking I am here, I am a college student. Now… four years later I am almost a college graduate. How did that happen!? You have to treasure those moments where things feel new and scary. You learn a lot about yourself when you’re uncomfortable and in a new environment. I suppose that is what I learned more these last four years: I am capable of much more than I think. Even in my weakest moments when the world seems like it can’t throw me anything else, it does and I still manage to succeed and have time to sit back on the terrace and have a drink. When everything feels like it is going to hell you can’t sit back and feel sad for yourself you have to step up. You have to recognize everything you have accomplished, all the amazing people that you have met along your way and all the opportunities that are in front of you. College is about learning about yourself and being comfortable in your own skin. Living life with regrets is fine, just as long as you stand by your decisions and are proud of where they got you. My college experience was definitely a roller coaster full of the tallest peaks and the lowest lows, but here as a 22 year old on the eve of her last college final I can say that I would not change anything about my college experience.

I want to thank my professors and advisors who answered all my questions and helped me along the way. I want to raise a glass to my amazing friends who I would never have been able to get through college without and that I can’t wait for this summer and the rest of our lives. My amazing boyfriend who always has my back and believes in me. And lastly and most importantly my family. Without them I would not be graduating on Saturday and would not have been able to pick myself up after those harder falls. I love you all so much, your support means the world to me.  I cannot wait to see where my life takes me, but I know that wherever I go both my school and home families will be there for me.

In the words of one of my favorite musicals:

“Something has changed within me
Something is not the same
I’m through with playing by the rules
Of someone else’s game
Too late for second-guessing
Too late to go back to sleep
It’s time to trust my instincts
Close my eyes and leap!

It’s time to try
Defying gravity
I think I’ll try
Defying gravity
And you can’t pull me down!”


Most recently, as I begin the last semester of my senior year of college, I started writing for the online news site Beacon. Beacon is a subscription based news site. I am writing about environmental issues and why everyone should care about them.

Please feel free to check out it and reply here or on Beacon to let me know what environmental subjects you’d like me to write about. Thank you for all your support!

Beacon Profile