Some Days are Really Fun

I was so excited to be able to meet 1991 graduate of The Citadel, Morris Robinson. photo by Stanley Leary

I was so excited to be able to meet 1991 graduate of The Citadel, and opera stand out, Morris Robinson. (Note THE ring on his right hand)
photo by Stanley Leary

Last night my husband and I attended the Atlanta Opera’s presentation of Rigoletto. It is not normally a topic I would write about on a blog mainly dedicated to helpful information for parents of Citadel cadets. But this opera actually has a tie to El Cid, the person cast as Sparafucile, Morris Robinson, is a 1991 graduate of The Citadel! (see this video of Morris talking about his time at The Citadel then becoming an opera singer)

Due to a really fun turn of events we not only attended the opera, but my husband and I went backstage afterward and met Morris after years of following him online. We also met a few other cast members.

Today was definitely a fun day.

Dorie and Todd Thomas who played the lead role of Rigoletto. photo by Stanley Leary

Dorie and Todd Thomas who played the lead role of Rigoletto.
photo by Stanley Leary

Dorie with Scott Quinn who played the Duke of Mantua in Rigoletto. photo by Stanley Leary

Dorie with Scott Quinn who played the Duke of Mantua in Rigoletto.
photo by Stanley Leary

For a real treat see these videos:

O Holy Night, Morris Robinson, Bass

Chicago Live Performance of Old Man River

Social Media, Parents, and Cadet Life

Padgett-Thomas Barracks at The Citadel photo by Stanley Leary

Padgett-Thomas Barracks at The Citadel
photo by Stanley Leary

2015 marks the 4th year that I have posted and will moderate a group for new parents of incoming knobs at The Citadel. The group for parents of the Class of 2019 has over 30 members already.

The original intent of these groups still stands, to offer parent to parent advice to incoming parents of knobs. Attending a senior military college is a strange process for parents with no military background like me. The Facebook groups are an easy way to get general information out to fellow parents.

The Facebook groups for the individual classes of parents were started by me, and are supported by a few select friends who each bring a unique perspective as a parent of a graduate. I started with the 2016 class. There are now groups for the classes of 2016, 2017, 2018 and now 2019. I am no longer the administrator for the 2016 and 2017 groups. members of the class are moderating those groups now. By this summer I’ll pass on the reigns to the 2018 group to a couple of parent members. I also administer the Military Parents of The Citadel group.

The Citadel is a military school and a leadership school. That means that the cadets are expected to learn to advocate for themselves. In this environment more so than nonmilitary schools, the students are expected to take ownership in their process. Social media can be a blessing and a curse for the parents and the cadets.

With the advent of social media like Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and others, we’ve become accustomed to instant information. Skype, Facetime, and smart phones are wonderful tools to stay in touch. In years past when the knobs had a bad day, or hour, they had days before they could vent to family and friends. By the time they did get to phone the problem had worked itself out. The rules have changed over the years and knobs are expected to carry cell phones with them now. This change happened out of an interest in increasing security. All across the country after the Virginia Tech tragedy campuses changed how they handled security.

2007 was the last year knobs were not allowed to have cell phones first semester. That is the year my son was a knob. The knobs did have access to email and Skype. The difference I’ve seen in the knobs and parents now versus eight years ago is that with instant communications the parents worry more, not less. The knobs can now text their frustrations to parents in real-time. The big problem is they rarely let their parents know when a problem has been resolved leaving the parent to worry. With the increase in connectivity some parents get overly involved with their cadet’s experience at the school.

I am not advocating no communication. I am telling new parents that it is important for them to remember not to join the knobs on their emotional roller coaster. They will need a loving ear to vent to once in a while, but will also need their parents to serve as a rock to help them stay the course when it gets tough.

Each knob is different, and will process the experiences differently. Each year during the first “challenge week” formally known as “hell week” knobs leave, but far more stay than go. It is a tough time for the knobs and their parents. I do remind parents that knobs are at a college, not going to war. It is a very tough system. The knobs are yelled at throughout the year. They are not given encouragement and must find the strength internally to deal with the 4th class system. There is no universal experience there, but everyone who has gone through four years at The Citadel will tell you it was tough.

The school offers several resources for cadets and parents if they have questions or encounter problems on campus. While I encourage parents to let their knob or cadet handle their problems with minimal intervention, I also tell them that they know their child and if they have a concern to address it with the appropriate person on campus. The Ombudsperson’s office is a good place to start if you are not sure to which person or office to direct your question.

A big mistake parents of all classes of cadets make each year is posting too much information to the parent Facebook groups. While each group encourages members to keep the information shared to the group private, the fact is, some groups have hundreds of members. There is no way to keep members from sharing information with their cadet, a spouse, and others.

The best rule of thumb is not to share specific information about your cadet to any group. It is also not a good idea to air grievances to any group. You never know who will see your post. There is the very real potential that what you post to a group will reflect poorly on your cadet on campus. It should not happen, but every year it does. I post a warning to the groups I administer each year not to post specific information about your cadet, even a prayer request about your cadet because they are sick. Each year someone over shares and there is negative repercussions for the parent and/or their cadet.

If you have a grievance with the school send a note to the appropriate department on campus. If you need to vent about a situation send a private message to a friend or a group of trusted friends.

To find help on campus, you can see this link.

Graduation 2015 Notes for Citadel Parents

Seniors in the Class of 2008 march in the Long Gray Line.

Seniors in the Class of 2008 march in the Long Gray Line.

Graduation for The Citadel, Class of 2015 is just a few months away. The questions about graduation week are picking up on the Facebook groups and in my private inbox. Most of the questions parents have including the schedule, ticket information, etc., can be answered on the Commencement 2015 page of the school website.

A few important tips follow:

  • If you haven’t done so already secure your hotel or lodging accommodations ASAP.
  • The seniors have to be out of the barracks before Friday. Check with your cadet about  their plans to move out.
  • Events for graduating seniors begin Thursday before the Saturday graduation. See the Schedule of Events prior to arrival to plan your trip.
  • For Legacy graduates, Commissioning cadets and cadets who receive Lifetime Memberships to the Citadel Alumni Association, see the Special Events For Selected Groups schedule for important information.
  • Baccalaureate is Thursday, May 7.
  • General Information about dress, parking, accessibility, etc.
  • Some cadet companies have parties planned for graduation weekend. Check with your cadet and their friends to see if something is already planned. Some families rent beach houses and host a gathering too.

The cadets who will commission into a branch of the military traditionally give a silver dollar to the person who renders their first salute. You can find helpful information about that tradition on several web sites. Marlow White: The First Salute – the Silver Dollar Tradition, A site that sells coins for the first salute: First Salute You can also find them on Amazon.com and coin dealers.

In the next several months the commissioning seniors will also have to purchase their dress uniforms. My son handled this on his own. I’m sure if your cadet has questions they can get information from their ROTC office on campus.

The commissioning service for the Army is usually the largest group and they start off early Friday morning. Be sure to arrive up to an hour before the scheduled start time to get a seat. The chapel fills up early. The cadet and the two people who will pin their bars on sit in a designated area, the other guests sit behind the commissioning cadets. The services for Navy, Marine and Air Force cadets are not as crowded.

Previous blog posts about graduation:

Senior Parent Notes

The Citadel: Recognition Day and Ring Weekend

Celebration, Tradition, Ritual: The Long Grey Line

Citadel Parent Crafts Her Own Graduation Ritual

Graduation Day: No Longer the Mother of a Cadet

 

 

2014 in Review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 53,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 20 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Reflections on the past, looking forward to the future

The front of our annual Christmas card this year featured our daughter in her Hogwarts robe casting a spell on her brother, while I, in my clerical robe and stole, held up my hands to stop her and Stanley documented the action with his camera. A totally silly photo. Taylor's sign reads, "I should have been adopted." since he is always shaking his head at our silly antics.

The front of our annual Christmas card this year featured our daughter in her Hogwarts robe casting a spell on her brother, while I, in my clerical robe and stole, held up my hands to stop her and Stanley documented the action with his camera. A totally silly photo. Taylor’s sign reads, “I should have been adopted.” since he is always shaking his head at our silly antics.

The past two months have been filled with activity, some good some difficult. My health and the demands of my chaplain residency have kept me from writing as often. I hope to be back on a regular posting schedule with the start of 2015.

The Monday before Thanksgiving while at work at the VA hospital I began to feel funny. To make a long story a bit shorter, it turns out I was experiencing atrial fibrillation. My heart raced up to 160+ beats per minute and stayed that way for 4 hours. Since that day I’ve had a few other trips to the emergency room, several tests and I meet with the cardiologist this coming Tuesday, which also happens to be our 19th anniversary. While I am still learning what all this means, it does appear that it is a fairly commonly condition. One that can be managed fairly easily.

I am now looking to the next six months and starting to explore what will be next for me when I complete this residency. The path for many people after finishing a year of clinical pastoral education is to become staff of a congregation or to go into full-time chaplaincy. My stated goal at the beginning of this year was to start a nonprofit and continue my call to be a supportive presence for journalists and also for parents of cadets at The Citadel. I am not ordained, and do not plan to pursue ordination, in any denomination so full-time chaplaincy with an established organization is not a possibility.

The first step in starting a nonprofit is to find who else is meeting a need. There are several organizations that provide training and professional support for journalists. The Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma being the leader in that area, and the Ochberg Society provides peer-to-peer support. I’d like to see a network of clergy, all faiths, and therapists, who are trained in the particularities of the world of journalism so that they can be an effective, caring presence, when a journalist needs support. I’m not sure how that will pan out. I’ve learned that by me stating an intention or an idea, it may spark an idea in someone else and before you know it, a team is formed. I may end up pursuing guest lecturing to journalism programs and newsrooms.

The same idea applies supporting new parents at The Citadel. This next academic year will be my 8th year of supporting a new class of parents of knobs. The first three years I was the chair of the Georgia Citadel Parents Group and also the Cadet Retention and Recruitment Chair for the Citadel Family Association. Since my son graduated in 2011 I’ve continued to help new parents, but not as a CFA volunteer. Once your cadet graduates you are no longer a CFA member. I posted the information I shared with parents in Georgia to this blog site the fall of 2011. I began getting a lot of emails with questions and decided to start a Facebook group for the Class of 2016 parents to make it easy to answer questions in one place. Three years and three Facebook groups later, for the Classes of 2017 and 2018, I’ve just added one for the parents of the class of 2019.

While I do feel a call to do this type of support for new parents, it is very time-consuming and completely unpaid. I’ve begun to wonder if I could make this a nonprofit venture and ask for some financial support from the parents who join the groups. Since I am still in the investigative stage I welcome any feedback my readers have on this matter. I’m not looking to make tons of money from this venture, but at least enough to make it a part-time venture and cover some of my expenses. In simple terms if each member of the Facebook groups donates $10, I’d have a decent part-time income. Let me know what you think in the comments section or send me an email with your thoughts on starting a nonprofit. If I do go the nonprofit route, I will be looking for potential board members with expertise in nonprofit law, fundraising, and other areas.

Please join me the next several months as I explore the next steps in my journey. I’ll continue to post helpful tips for parents of cadets at The Citadel, but will add entries about my own journey as well.

Best wishes to each of you for an exciting year!

A more "normal" portrait of our crew.

A more “normal” portrait of our crew.

Dining in Charleston: A Wish List

photo by Stanley Leary

The bar area of Coleman Public House photo by Stanley Leary

Each time we visit Charleston we try to find a new place to eat. On a recent trip we enjoyed dinner at The Coleman Public House in Mt. Pleasant. A good friend recommended it and we were not disappointed. You can read about a few other restaurants we enjoy in this previous blog post: Where We Dine When We Visit The Citadel

Traveling with a 16-year-old who is fairly picky means there are some restaurants I’ll just have to try when my husband and I visit. On that same weekend visit I hoped to eat at S.N.O.B. but one look at the menu, which looked fantastic to me, and my daughter asked if we could go somewhere else to eat. The manager was very nice and offered some kid friendly options, but she decided she really wanted a more casual meal. I was so impressed with the manager and staff that I wrote to their main office. They sent me information on all three of their restaurants. They are all on my list to visit on future trips to the city. Gift cards to these restaurants and others would make a terrific thank you gift to host families, cadets or friends.

High Cotton, Maverick Bar & Grill, 199 East Bay St., Charleston, SC 29401; 843.724.3815

High Cotton Charleston is high steppin’ Lowcountry living. It’s a feeling of warmth and celebration that begins the moment you step inside. You’ll find it in our gracious, knowledgeable servers, expertly paired dishes and a remarkable wine and cocktail program. Brunch served Saturday & Sunday. Dinner is available seven nights a week.

Slightly North of Broad, 192 East Bay St., Charleston, SC 29401; 843.723.3424

Slightly North of Broad, an eclectic Lowcountry bistro that brings together local ingredients and thoughtful, expert presentation with a contagious energy. The dining room, an extension of the kitchen, where culinary skill, considered wine program and warm service meld together. Lunch served Monday-Friday. Dinner is available seven nights a week.

OVPH exterior Shot Old Village Post House, 101 Pitt St., Mt. Pleasant, SC 29464; 843.388.8935

Old Village Post House is a neighborhood tavern and inn nestled in Mount Pleasant’s historic Old Village. In feel and décor, it’s as comfortable as your best friend’s home – from the original worn pine floors to our lively tavern. Brunch served on Sunday. Dinner available seven nights a week.

Gifts for Citadel Cadets and Graduates

Wearables

Each year around this time I am asked about gift ideas for cadets. While each cadet and graduate will have different likes and needs, I’ll post a list of suggestions. I have not purchased from all these companies and this post is not an endorsement of their company, just a listing of companies who offer Citadel related products. These ideas also hold for graduation gifts, and appreciation gifts for senior mentors, classmates and recent graduates. The Citadel Bookstore is a great place to start for gift giving. The photos in this entry of the bookstore were taken over parents weekend, 2014.

Here is the list in no particular order:

The Citadel Bookstore – Diploma Frames, gift frames, glassware, jewelry, etc.

Citadel Alumni Association Merchandise – Alumni gifts of all types Including the Big Red Flag

The Citadel Miniature ring and pendant

For junior and senior cadets: Citadel Alumni Association Lifetime Membership

LaHart – jewelry, crystal and glassware

Football Fanatics – wearables

Original Collegiate Art by Brenda Harris Tustian

Summerall Guard merchadise

Philanthropic giving – various cadet related funds. Give in honor or memory of someone. See this previous blog post for links.

Citadel Bulldog apparel by CBSSports

Citadel Sports gifts by Planet Sports Team

Citadel Golf Accessories

SoCon Gear

Bulldog embroidered pants, shorts, shirts and skirts by Pennington and Bailes

Palmetto Boards ‘n Bags – Customized corn hole boards are a popular gift for any Citadel fan.

Bottle Breacher – A fun gift for a graduate in the military

Spirited Signs – A company owned and operated by a Citadel alum.

A decal by Spirited Signs.

A decal by Spirited Signs.

Historic Nutcrackers – Citadel Cadet Nutcracker to be available after January 2015. Contact the company for more information.

Combat Humidor a great gift for a deployed alum.

Through Their Eyes – a new book by George Steffner

I have learned that Carolina Cadets is not currently stocked with their full range of nutcrackers and ornaments, but she does have the 48″ Cadet Nutcrackers. You can contact her through the Facebook page for her cake decorating business.

Diploma frame Diploma Frames Citadel Book F-Troop Book Citadel/Military related books Gift items Jewelry watches License plate frames Artwork Sketches Stuffed Bulldog mascot Photo frames

 

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