Teachers, mentors and investing in the future with somebody else’s money

College is expensive. Doing my best to help...
College is expensive. Doing my best to help…

I gave away thousands of dollars in the last two nights. Felt real good, too.

Gonna give away a little more next week. This could become a habit.
Of course, it’s not my money. I’m just doing my part with the local scholarship foundation. I help them evaluate applications and they found out I liked to talk in front of people, so Bazinga! – I became a presenter.
Having sent three kids through the school system and trying to help a couple of them find money to go to college, I remember the uphill struggle. College is expensive – make that EXPENSIVE.
Back in the day when I started my higher education, I was lucky enough to earn a scholarship that paid for classes, books and some of my housing. I went to a state college (now a university), got a whopping $1,800 per year that covered my tuition and books and had money left over.
These days, California state colleges are no longer the cheap alternative. The average undergrad pays more than $6,500 a year, not counting books or auxiliary class charges. Graduate school is even more. Ivy League schools are over the top; parents of students at these schools are basically buying the equivalent of a new car every year, just to keep their child on track for higher education.
So every little bit helps.
Part of the backstory to the scholarship granting process is reading applications. They both inspire you and break your heart. It also brought out my multiple personalities. The writer in me looked for style. The skeptic in me looked for holes in their stories. The supervisor in me looked for reasons to promote each student. The teacher in me looked for lessons they had learned. The mother in me looked for ways to help every single one.

The writer herself back in, well, the Nixon Administration
The writer herself back in, well, the Nixon Administration

And as someone who went through the college experience twice – once when I left high school during the Nixon Administration and again a couple of years age after raising my three children and deciding I really wanted to take “finish college” off my bucket list – I wanted to help each and every applicant have that experience.
The money we gave away came from fundraisers, appeals, memorial contributions; all donations from a supportive community. We wanted to give as many students we could a little bit of help, and those who needed a little more, enough to get them on the path to changing their lives and reaching at least some of their dreams. Not everyone who applied earned a reward, but I hope they learned from the attempt and will be determined to keep asking the world around them not for a handout, but for guidance and support to keep them going.
I got involved with the scholarship group because one of my mentors asked me if I would. Scholarships may be scarce, but mentors are all around us. Mentors can help us no matter where we are in our lifelong education process. I shared my feelings about mentors with the students, asking them to not only find them, but respect them and become mentors themselves.
Mentor is another word for teacher. When kids are small, it’s easy to point to the people who give them knowledge and skills as teachers. When you’re older and out of school, the process changes slightly and fate drops in people here and there to give you more tools and help you mold the way you approach things like working, parenting, growing and succeeding.

But when we’re older, working, removed from school and just keeping up with the band called Life, they become “mentors.” And when we become mentors, we gain the satisfaction that we’re paying back some cosmic debt. I wished I had a chance to tell the students how many times mentors have changed my life for the better. Look for them, I should have advised. They’re kind of like angels, you don’t always know they’re there to guide you until it’s too late.

My alma mater, Washington High School, circa 2011. It's been around since 1891; the facade was rebuilt to mimic the style of the original after it was severely damaged in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. Photo by  Whitelily519(AmeliaChu)
My alma mater, Washington High School, circa 2011. It’s been around since 1891; the facade was rebuilt to mimic the style of the original after it was severely damaged in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. Photo by
Whitelily519(AmeliaChu)

Third time’s the charm, right?

February 11, 2015

Beginning again.

It’s like getting back on the bike or the horse or behind the wheel after a disastrous crash in which you were the casualty. But the muse within can only stay inside so long.

I am a writer. Not just because I have this uncanny ability to make fingers match keys that make things found in dictionaries and more often than not, fall into an AP style cadence.

Not because I made a living (kind of) as a working journalist and news director for 20 years.

Not because I embrace sayings like “punctuation, then quotations” or “people who, things that” as my mantras.

No, it has something to do with my love affair with words. They express. They embellish. They soften. They comfort. They confront.

“Comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable” is another literary tattoo. That and “If your mother says she loves you, check it out.”

Yeah, I’ve always been a skeptic, long before my English teacher in high school said that I was a pretty good wordsmith. That character trait helped me when I embarked on a non-writing career arc of trying to be a cop. I studied law enforcement when I started college in 1971. Worked for LAPD for a while as a police cadet (the first female to do so, btw). Added pre-law to my studies when the physical part of trying to be a cop challenged me. Stopped chasing sirens and dead bodies for several years as an academic and instead pursued them with a reporter’s notebook. Decided to finish the college thing after a 32-year hiatus and got a degrees with a focus on writing.

Yup. Took that long to come to my senses.

This isn’t my first blog. I used to despise bloggers because I was a newspaper columnist, which I thought held me to a pretty high standard. I had followers. Some have become close friends. To me, bloggers had no accountability and I was responsible for my media outlet’s credibility. Captain America wasn’t the only one with a big shield and superpowers.

I softened my stance when my daughter became engaged the first time, launching a blog named “MOB Mentality” – as in Mother of the Bride. It was a way for me to wax poetic about a special time in our lives and hopefully let others know that if I could laugh at my experience, so could they. You might think that it was a freeing experience and in many aspects, it was, but it was also confining. In difficult situations, I refrained from expressing my true feelings so as to spare those people creating the problem. I found that to be more confining than enjoyable, so when the nuptials took place, I closed down the blog.

The kids divorced a year and a half later. Thankfully, the blog had nothing to do with it.

I stayed out of the blogging game with two subsequent engagements – that of my son and my daughter’s second engagement. Both of them are now married to people who make them blissfully happy and that’s how I want it to be.

During my degree pursuit, I had to blog for a class (a limited audience). Being fond of attention, I didn’t get nearly enough to make it worth my while, so that one was abandoned too. What can I say, sometimes I can be like the people I used to cover.

That’s not what I have planned for this blog. Bring on the world.

Thankfully, blogs today have evolved into credible and helpful sources. As newspapers, radio and television resources consolidate, thanks to America’s corporate greed, blogs have risen to fill the void. I find myself reading many of them daily, taking bits and pieces of knowledge, humor and life.

The title, Rockbottomreminders, is homage to my former newspaper column, which was entitled Rock Bottom. The reminder part is another attempt to let people know that my observations aren’t too far off from what they might be thinking or believing. It’s also close to the name of a defunct musical group, the Rock Bottom Remainders, whose musicians have included amazing writers Stephen King, Amy Tan, Dave Barry and Matt Groening, among others. They played their last gig in 2012. Their rock and roll lives forever on YouTube.

That said, I hope this gives me a little more discipline, something freelance writers struggle with constantly. At least I do. It will give me a chance to poke the bear with the proverbial stick while letting the muse pour forth her thoughts, opening the common jugular vein that pounds life into every writer. Hopefully people will comment. I promise not to use bad language if they don’t.

To this table, I bring the perspective of a baby boomer; raised in the ‘50s and ‘60s, I am AARPs favorite target. I am poised at the corner of Reinvention and Renaissance and know now how my mother’s perspective changed when she reached her 60s. You tend not to care quite as much about being careful, filters don’t work as well as they had to in the past and your audience learns more about the real you.

I’m going to cover politics, arts, consumerism, lifestyle and, one of my favorite phrases from junior high civics, “man’s inhumanity to man.” Sadly that’s still a daily dilemma.

I may make peace with the Oxford comma.

I might touch on religion (disclosure: lapsed Catholic with some great stories), will definitely mention Disney and I am an unabashedly proud pittie mama.

I abhor breed-specific legislation, discrimination and lima beans.

I believe we should have a reasonable expectation that our elected officials will do what we ask them to and be held to the consequence of being removed from office if they don’t.

And I can’t wait to hear what interests you.

Let’s make this a mutual learning experience, shall we?

Here we go……