First Jobs: What do you remember?

First Jobs: What do you remember?

What do you remember about your first job? My first job was as a sales clerk at our local JCPenney store in the early 80’s. I remember when I interviewed and was hired, the manager said, “I have just the place for you!” Waiting to hear what he said, I heard “the lingerie department!” I was a little shocked, but that is in fact where I was sent and worked for several years. We had a big, 2 story Penney’s that was an anchor store in our mall. I worked at least several Christmas Eve’s right up until close (6pm) when I had to rush off to church to meet my family there for the 7pm service. I think I preferred an opening shift rather than closing because at closing we had to empty our cash drawers, count it, put in a record of our count, and take the cloth bag of money to receiving which was upstairs.  Still, I learned a lot about inventory, mark-downs, sales, and customer service. We also had our share of kooks that would call the department to “discuss” lingerie.

My youngest just finished his third week of work at his first job. He is a stock boy at one of our local grocery stores. Last night I surprised him by showing up in the store where he worked to pick up a few items. He just happened to be the first person I ran into upon entering the store and was less than thrilled to see me! I got, “really mom, you had to come here?!” Yes, I told him. This store is the only place I can get my decaffeinated tea bags! I was amused. He was not. But, by the time I finished, I had run into him at least twice more and he was smiling by the time I left! The next time I see him “at work” won’t be so awkward!

First jobs are important.  I believe that they tone set for expectations that can influence the rest of your working life.  Obviously, one of the most anticipated benefits for young people is to be paid some money for their hours worked. This naturally leads to the application of any money management discussions that might have come before working commenced. Most of us work to pay our bills. When you are a young teen, you do not have many of those, but enough to get one started saving and making decisions on what to spend some of your hard-earned dollars on purchasing. In this day and age, most likely that is going to be smart phone bills, gas money, and paying for dates and/or entertainment. The expectation in our house is that most of the money earned will be saved.

But, there are so many more intangible benefits to holding a job. They include being told what to do by someone other than your parents, being held accountable to the expectations set forth at the place of employment, being prompt, working when scheduled, and learning to interact in a polite, socially acceptable way when customer service is the priority.

Yes, as adults, we work our whole lives. But, I  do think it is important to have a first job when you are young enough to help you form some idea of what you’d like to do (or not  do) with your life. There is incredible value in that experience. So, while we don’t expect our youngest son to work a lot once school starts in a few weeks, we do expect he will continue to work, learn to manage his money, and look towards his future, just as our other two sons have done.

What did you do for your first job? What do you most remember about the experience?

The Flu

The Flu

Influenza has visited our home! The timing could not be worse! This week, term and semester finals are scheduled at our high school and my sophomore is down with the flu!

It is never a convenient time to be sick. But, there are some times worse than others and this is one of those times! We should have seen it coming, but didn’t. A headache, feeling “really” tired, a developing cough were all precursors of the full-blown illness that arrived two days ago.

Yesterday, my boy who usually bounces out of bed in the morning, full of energy – energy enough to dance around the kitchen – requested to stay home, stating “he felt awful”. and his legs were “hollow”.   We acquiesced, having this be the first day in quite a while that he has been absent.

Yet, when you are missing school the day before final exams, you still study while laying on the couch. So, that was our boy’s day yesterday.  Sleeping, eating sparingly, and studying, while sipping ginger ale.  He missed performing a skit in Spanish – one that he had helped write over last weekend. Later he found out that his group performed the skit with out him.  Last night, I saw a strong possibility that he would have to be out when his final exams were taking place today and tomorrow.

After posting a call for help on Facebook – had this ever happened to anyone else – missing finals for an illness? How was it handled, I wondered? Thankfully, friends responded and I had some knowledge of what would happen if he could not take his final exams.

I emailed his teachers and a vice principal because I could not find a policy about this on our school’s website. I heard back from staff promptly. My son is a good to great student. He studies, does his work with quality, and completes assignments on time. In other words, he cares about how he does in school. Being out during an “important” day such as a final exam day, was not like him at all.  Thankfully, his teachers all knew this!

By this morning, we were sure it was the “flu”. He had all the common symptoms. I woke him up and saw that he was still ill.  Despite that, I had to talk him out of going into to school today – he is taking AP Calculus and that term final was to be this morning.  I could see what he was contemplating – his responsibilities as a student, and respect for his teachers, contrasted with his need to feel better.  We knew what would happen if he did not show up for the test. He has time to complete it – even after the term ends. That is why I asked yesterday – so we could make an informed decision. But, he must have really felt bad this morning because after reviewing his options and knowing he had a window during which his finals could be made up,  he returned to sleep. And, is still sleeping now, three hours later. It was a good call to have him stay home.

He has the flu. The tests can wait.

Soccer Socks

Soccer Socks

Found on the floor,

under the bed,

& in the laundry


Stinky & stiff,

inside out,


sometimes torn or 

pocked with holes.

Balled up,

One inside

the other.

Maroon or White,

for games home or away.

Black and Blue,

not bruises,

but more socks

for practice, practice,

and more practice.

I tell my player,

“Turn them right side out.

They stink,

those soccer socks of yours.”



Parent Teacher Conferences? Be there?

Parent Teacher Conferences? Be there?

We have always viewed the education of our sons to be a team effort – between us and their teachers. But, what if a member of the team fails to show up?

Today is the first parent teacher conference day for fall term at our high school. It is a time I have always enjoyed. I know that sounds weird, but our boys have typically done well in school and also have been known to be kids the teachers enjoy having in class, so it is nice to chat with different people about their progress.  I also really like a lot of our teaching staff, on a personal level.

However, one thing about PT conferences in our district has bothered me for several years. I am not sure about what the administration’s message to staff is about their attendance .  As in any district, many of our teachers also coach our athletic teams.  Starting in middle school, it became obvious that teachers with coaching jobs were allowed to prioritize their coaching obligations over their classroom obligations.  The prioritization is evidenced by the coach – teacher not being at conferences at all, or being at conferences for only an abbreviated time frame – namely, after practice.

This bothers me. All of our students have these teachers for classes, but only a certain percentage have them as coaches.  Should not your teaching responsibilities come first?  In middle school, we never saw one of our son’s science teachers because he coached both fall and spring sports. He had abbreviated hours for PT conferences, but these hours conflicted with the hours we were able to attend conferences.  Yes, there is some communication stating that if families cannot make conferences, they can contact their child’s teacher with any concerns.  But, what if it is the teacher that simply does not attend  conferences? I think this action sends families the wrong message. The message from the teacher is that my athletes are more important than my classroom students.  This is wrong. Despite having student altheletes, now at the high school level, we continue to see this and continue to feel that it is wrong.

And, it does not stop at coaching. One year, my son’s English teacher was at a professional development conference during PT conferences. I hope it was important and something that would benefit student learning to have her miss conferences. And occasionally, but routinely, there are empty “tables” at conferences with the teacher’s name – they just are not there – no rhyme or reason stated. A few years ago, a world language teacher was absent during conferences, he left a sign up list for parents who stopped by his table to chat. It stated he would contact us. We were not contacted. Were others?  There has also been a recent trend to have club fundraisers at PT conferences. I understand why a fundraiser, especially a food related fundraiser, would be scheduled during this time. Lots of people attend conferences. However, again, if the teacher is an advisor, their place is at their table to greet parents and inform them on their students’  progress, not scooping out barbecue. We learned a couple of years ago that trying to get a progress report over the barbecue table in the parking lot would be fruitless. Frustrating.

Look, I know teachers have lives and other obligations after school that might preclude their attendance at PT conferences.  And on the flip side, to be fair, it is a two-way street.  It is a very long day for teachers, when you teach all day and then have to stay into the evening to discuss your students with their families.  I can empathize with that. And, I know that some of those conversations have to be hard. I also know that sometimes the teachers sit for hours have no one approach their table for a conference. Families have to show up, too! I totally understand all of that. We have also seen a veteran teacher stay for conferences when he shouldn’t have, due to being very ill. Honestly, we thought he was going to pass out on us! So, I am realistic. I know that there will be some teacher absences, some very legitimate reasons for teachers not being at parent teacher conferences.

I just wish the message was different. I can honestly handle most of the reasons for absence with the exception of the coach who is with their athletes instead of their classroom students. And, for all those to might not experience this, how lucky you are!  Thank your teachers for their dedication!



Caving: Follow the Rules! A Reactionary Post.

Caving: Follow the Rules! A Reactionary Post.

Have you ever been spelunking? How about cave exploring? They are one in the same!

Major newspapers have recently written and posted articles about an ordeal a young college student in Indiana had while spelunking. Reading these articles prompted me to post on this subject, having been spelunking several times in my life.

My first time caving was when I was about 30 weeks pregnant after our move to Wisconsin eighteen years ago.  Being a self-proclaimed science nerd, I was more than willing to go in an effort to explore our new mid-western surroundings and check out the stalagmites and stalactites. After all, we already had a precocious five-year old who was ready for some Earth Science.  It would be a great experience for him, too.  So, off we went one hot summer day to Niagara Cave in Harmony, Minnesota. It was very cool and although the experience ended for me more quickly than our group (I got a little claustrophobic and diaphoretic, having to ascend before the tour was over), I went back two more times over the years – always with kids in tow.

Other than memories of dank darkness, narrow passageways, dripping water, and cool temperatures (which are a relief from summer heat whether you are pregnant or not), I remember being told the rules.  First and foremost, the one repeated several times was to stay with your group!

This brings us back to the publicized articles found in the digital editions of the New York Times and Wall Street Journal about the recent incident with the Indiana College Student who was left alone in the cave when his group exploration was over.  Yes, he was left. The buddy system did not work. Obviously, numbers (bodies or students – whatever you want to call them) were left unaccounted. It sounds like the pressure of our overscheduled days reigned over getting the group out and on their way to their next obligation or activity. There were a lot of safety checks not performed. He is lucky. I am glad he was found and is alright. But, you know what really gets me is that the articles totally gloss over the fact that HE LEFT THE GROUP!  It is mentioned once in the New York Times article but then, that is it!  Where is his responsibility in the incident?

You do not leave a group in a cave! He was not an experienced spelunker. The light shines on yet another great example of our youth being so focused on their own needs and wants that safety for themselves and others becomes an afterthought.  This focus could have had dire consequences. Yeah, you are not enjoying that part of the cave, your back hurts, etc., etc.. Stay with the group!  It will be over soon.

I am sorry but I think the newspapers do some disservice to us all in telling this story in the way the details were shared.  HE LEFT THE GROUP.  I think it demanded repeating, at least once, if not more.

Obviously, the student leaving the group with which he was exploring to find the other group was a huge mistake. It was his mistake. His mistake was compounded by the mistakes of others in the group for failing to account for him upon exiting the cave.  Luckily, for all, the situation was not fatal.  I am really not sure which – the group or the student – bears the greatest weight of the responsibility for his being left behind. Again, you do not leave your group! Ever.

The moral of the story? Spelunking is fun. Kids love it. You can experience awe and wonder about our earth and how it forms in any number of caves across the country. It is generally a safe activity.  It is the type of activity I would, and have, highly encouraged for enriching our youth. But, there are rules. The rules are there for safety – yours and others.  Follow the rules and. most likely, you will not have to find yourself in a situation that could threaten your life, or leave you considering crickets for your next meal.