Comforting Memories

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Chelle Leary wears the costume her grandmother made for me in 1976.

Every once in a while our children will do something and we are brought back in time to when we were their age. This week that happened to me.

My youngest, Chelle, is in a literature class in high school. They are reading The Great Gatsby. This week for extra credit they could dress as a character from the book. Chelle wanted to dress as a flapper. I told her where two of my dresses were hanging in storage that she could try on. One of the two dresses was made by my mother for me when I was her age.

I took dance classes growing up and by high school I had put together a “Charleston” routine and performed it at the end of summer variety show at our swim club. My mother took an old slip of hers, and added fringe to make a flapper style dress. I wore that dress again in the Sparta High School senior variety show in the Spring of 1977.

Two nights ago Chelle put on the dress my mother made for me in 1976. My husband took a photo. As I was telling her about the dress I remembered I was in the local Sussex County newspaper wearing the same dress. I found the clipping in an old scrap book. That is when the memories really started flooding in.

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In the newspaper photo above, to my right is my good friend Michelle “Chelle” Chaudoin. My friend Chelle was in an in air place collision of two small planes while she was a student at Arizona State University. She died May 4, 1980 just three years after the photo was taken. I was with her parents and grandparents the night they received word that, in fact, it was Chelle in the plane that went down into a lake that day. I’ve written about Chelle Chaudoin and a neat reunion at The Citadel a few years ago.

I sent both photos to my friend Chelle’s mom, Jodie, who is a widow now and in her 90’s. We had a wonderful exchange of memories and both agreed that my daughter, Chelle, is far more sophisticated than either my friend or I was at her age.

My mother died just over 27 years ago and never met any of my children. Moments like the one this week, seeing my daughter in a costume my mother made for me, reminds me that through our memories our loved ones are never far from us.

NOTE: We pronounce Chelle = Shelley

 

 

The Citadel: End of the Year Tips for Parents

2015 ready to say good bye

Members of the Class of 2015 turn to face the Corps of Cadets.

Each year about this time I receive an interesting mix of questions. Families of seniors write with graduation questions. Sophomore and junior parents have fewer questions but the ones they do have revolve around either the BVA process for junior year or early questions about Ring Weekend for rising seniors. The knob families are gearing up for Recognition Day, and the parents of high school seniors have matriculation Day questions.

Senior families:

The graduation schedule is posted on the school web site and should answer most of your questions. You only get 8 tickets per family. some large families set up a computer/TV combination in a rental home so the people who are not at graduation can see the live stream.

The school posts a link to the Balfour graduation announcements. They did not have the site updated early enough for many families so many have used a different company that offer better prices and plenty of options: Signature Announcements

I refer parents to the link to Emily Post Graduation Etiquette for an explanation about the difference between announcements and an invitation. Since the tickets are limited it is customary to send announcements a day to 2 weeks after the graduation to let friends and family know of the milestone reached by your graduate.

On graduation day be sure to ask your graduate where they want to meet you when the ceremony is over. The place is packed and if you have a designated place to meet it can cut down on the time it takes to find your grad is a sea of people.

For more tips and photos just enter Graduation in the search window of this blog page. Here is the post I wrote after graduation last year: Graduation for the Class of 2015

Dismissed

Class of 2015 Dismissed!

Junior families:

The biggest question that I’m asked is about the ring payment.The Citadel Alumni Association will send a bill in late August once the registrar lets them know who is qualified to receive their rings in October. Hopefully you or your cadet have been saving up. The cost of the ring has been in the $1,000 range the past several years. The payment is due before Ring Weekend.

BV and Summerall Guards with Jason

A few 2014 Summerall Guards, 2015 Bond Volunteers pose with ’89 grad, Jason Perakis, before their run Friday of Corps Day Weekend.

It is customary for the cadet to escort their mother through the giant replica of the ring the Friday evening of Ring Weekend. The schedule of when each company goes through the ring is posted early in the new school year by the cadet activities office.

For photos of dresses and other activities of the weekend, see this post: Parents’ Weekend at The Citadel, 2015

Sophomore families:

There isn’t much parents need to know before junior year. If your son has plans to become a Bond Volunteer Aspirant, you can expect them to spend a good part of their summer physically preparing. I’ve posted several entries about the process you might find helpful.

Knob families:

It won’t be long until your son or daughter will cease being a knob and become a regular 4th Class cadet. Recognition Day is coming up. If you attend, remember it is not a day to interact with your cadet. If you go, watch from the sidelines, take photos and be in awe of how they have grown as a class in one short academic year. This year I am looking forward to being on campus and joining some 2019 families for lunch that day.

Tire Flip

Cadets work together to flip a tire during the “Gauntlet.” photo by Stacy Carter Photography Studios

A heads up about sophomore year: It is a different type of tough.They aren’t knobs but if they have rank they are the lowest ranking officers. Many refer to it as knobmore year because it doesn’t seem a whole lot different than the year before. Parents like to call it knob-no-more, but I’m told by many cadets and grads that knobmore is a better description.

A few words of caution. . . It is a year when they do get a little bit a power. It can be a time when they will run into the discipline system a bit more. Grades can slip sophomore year because they don’t have anyone telling them what to do like they did the year before.

Families of high school seniors:

Congratulations! You are about to embark on quite a rollercoaster ride called Knob Year. Please join the Facebook group called, The Citadel: Parents of the Class of 2020. Please send me an email to let me know you are the parent of an incoming knob. The group is only for parents of knobs, not extended family. You’ll meet other parents who will become your friends. A few parents of grads are in the group to help answer questions. We have a variety of different backgrounds.The Citadel Family Association also has a Facebook group you can join. The Area Reps are parents throughout the country who volunteer to be a support to knew parents. Once you know your son or daughters company (on Matriculation Day) you will have a CFA parent volunteer you can also contact for help and support.

Knobs and Mark Clark statue

Knobs line up after getting their heads shaved Monday of Challenge Week, 2015

He Wore the Ring

 

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Tami Mendez, Pat Conroy, and Dorie at a book signing at The Marcus Jewish Comminity Book Festival.

He wore the ring and captivated the imagination of his readers. The Lords of Discipline inspired young men and women to seek out the unique challenge of attending The Citadel, the Military College of South Carolina. He turned a phrase like no one else. He packed the house each time he appeared at book festivals.

Pat Conroy died last night after a short confrontation with pancreatic cancer. The news spread across The Citadel social networks like wild fire last night.

I have to admit I did not know much about Pat Conroy before my son set his sights on attending The Citadel. Like many high school boys my son had read The Lords of Discipline and was drawn into the mystic of the military school. While after the publication of the book Pat endured ridicule and on campus and around Charleston, from my observations his book was the reason young people wanted to attend the school. Sure it was tough and the tales of the rituals He described were harsh. For the student meant to attend a military school his story spoke to their need to challenge themself in a way only a military leadership school could.

During my sons knob year an educator friend suggested I read The Water is Wide as my introduction to his writing. I was hooked. I read everything Pat Conroy wrote my son’s knob year at The Citadel. His books helped me understand why my son and so many of his friends were attracted to The Citadel and it’s culture. When I got to his book, My Losing Season, I found I had more in common with Pat than I realized. While he played college basketball for alosing team, I was a manager for a men’s college basketball team. He even wrote about people I knew from the University of Richmond, my alma mater and the nemesis of The Citadel in his book. After reading My Losing Season I was moved to write to Pat Conroy. I doubt he ever read my letter. I felt compelled to write to him. I had never written to another author, but his books and his complete vulnerability in sharing his very personal stories touched me deeply.

My first Parents Weekend in 2007 I was visiting with my son’s host family at a tailgate party. I shared with his host parents and their good friends how much I enjoyed Pat’s books. As it turned out they were friends with Pat for years. They told stories of Pat visiting them while they were serving overseas. They also told stories of his generosity and caring for the Corps of Cadets. I didn’t realize it until much later in the afternoon, but the tailgate we were attending was hosted by Mary and Greg Smith. Pat wrote about their friendship in his books.

Since 2007 I have had the opportunity to hear Pat speak at book festivals. He has signed books for me and thousands of others. I am very glad now that during an open mic Q&A at the Marcus Jewish Community Center Book Festival I gathered my courage to go to the mic in front of 2,000 people to thank Pat Conroy. At the time my son was a cadet and I was the chair of the Georgia Citadel Parents Group, a group that started years ago through the Atlanta Citadel Club. When I started at the mic I said, “I am the chair of the Georgia Citadel Parents group.” Pat interrupted me and to great laughter in the crowd said, “Oh Boy, here it comes.” I went on, “My son and many of his friends are now at The Citadel, many because they read your book. I just want to thank you.” To my surprise the crowd gathered began to applaud loudly.

I am saddened today to know of his passing. I rejoice with legions of his fans that he lived and wore the ring.

 

Caring for the Messengers

This past weekend Sue Klebold, the mother of Dylan, one of two young men responsible for the horrific tragedy at Columbine, was interviewed on ABC’s 20/20 Friday night. Her book will be released this week. For the families of the victims of Columbine, and many other victims and survivors of mass shootings, it was a tough weekend. Every time a shooting happens of any type the people who were impacted whether they lost a loved one, were injured themselves, or were there, relive their experiences. That includes the people who tell their stories, the journalists.

The general news consuming public makes an assumption that because gathering the news is their job, traumatic events don’t affect the reporters and photographers. Just because it is their job doesn’t mean jourmalists are immune to human emotions. That would be like saying soldiers don’t deal with PTSD or emotional issues because it is their job. Nothing could be further than the truth.

Thanks to the work of the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma and several studies on the subject, more and more journalists are finding the support they need. Dr. Anthony Feinstein published his book in 2003, Journalists Under Fire. The book was the result of his study of war correspondents. He found a significant minority of war correspondents meet the criteria for PTSD.

Dave Cullen, a reporter and the author of the book Columbine, wrote an incredibly open, honest, sometimes painful, look at the pain and emotions he experienced during his time covering the Columbine tragedy and in researching his book. Each time there is a shooting he revisits his grief. In his article in the Daily Beast he gives us all a glimpse at the grieving the survivors of these types of mass shootings revisit each time another one happens.

I’ve written about my call to support journalists and others here before. Moving forward when people question me about why I feel called to support journalists and why journalists would need a chaplain, I’ll point to this very powerful and personal account.

My hope in writing this reflection is that the next time you read a story, watch a report, or listen to a story on the radio that discusses a horrible tragedy, you’ll think not only of the victims but the people who respond to the story. The journalists don’t just write about the stories, but are also deeply impacted by what they witness and cover.

Articles about Dorie’s ministry:

To journalists on the frontline, Atlanta chaplain offers lifeline

2014 Pioneer in Ministry Award

2014 Columbia Theological Seminary Pioneering Ministry Award

The 2014 Columbia Theological Seminary Pioneering Ministry Award proclamation.

No Fun February

2011 BVA Cuts Day

The members of the 2011 BVA’s are put through their paces by the 2010 Summerall Guard. photo from Facebook, Feb. 2010

In the past couple of days I’ve gotten quite a few private messages from parents who are hearing of a discipline situation on campus. I do not have first hand knowledge of what happened. What I can assume is some cadets were accused of breaking a rule or rules. In the course of investigating the situation a ruling was made and consequences were given.

The rules and procedures for investigations is outlined in the Blue Book section 6, if you’d like to read through them. There are separate procedures for Honor Violations. The cadets are expected to know, and follow, the rules on campus. If there is an infraction there is a procedure to write it up, a procedure to respond, and depending on the type of infraction, procedures for a review or board meeting to address the situation.

The system is built to reward good behavior/actions and consequences are outlined for breaking rules. There is also an appeal process. A PowerPoint presentation about the Discipline System can be seen on the school website.

It is never easy to hear your child broke rules, and its even harder if you don’t believe they did it or weren’t treated fairly. At a leadership school like The Citadel the system is designed for the cadets to know the rules then follow the process and procedures, including the appeal process if they do not agree with a ruling. It can be very hard on parents to take a back seat as their student navigates this process.

I am not a graduate of the school. What I can share with you are my observations of this system as an outsider. I know many cadets who have gone through what I would consider minor violations that still resulted in a battalion transfer, to major lapse in judgement that led to a two semester suspension. In all cases it was tough on the cadet and their parents. In the cases I know of the cadets handled the situation far better than their parents. The cadets took their punishments, learned a lesson and moved on. In some cases they ended up doubling their good friends because they ended up claiming affiliation with two companies.

I know it is hard to hear, or read posts, from parents of cadets who have gotten in trouble. It is tough when they are going through the situation. With time lessons are learned and life goes on.

As I’ve gotten older I’ve learned to be less judgemental and more compassionate. Unless something has happened to you or your cadet remember, you never have the full story. I’ve also learned that sometimes, even if it is your cadet involved, parents don’t always get the full story.

A side note about February. . . .the cadets and alumni have a term for it, “F’d up February.” It is a tough school all year long but in the winter it is even tougher. Early morning PT is even worse in freezing temperatures. February is often the time when cadets in the discipline system because of infractions that happened late first semester find out the results of the review or boards and begin their punishments.

Fortunately as the days get longer and the tempuratures warm the mood on campus improves. Spring break is followed by Recognition Day, then graduation. The good news is we are just about halfway through February.

If at any time you have concerns about what your cadet tells you, call the Commandant’s Office. If you want someone to talk to about your concerns the Ombudsperson’s are also a good resource.

Welcome to the Parents of the Class of 2020

Knobs and Guidons

Knobs in the class of 2019 study their Guidons.

For the past four years each January I post a group for parents with high school seniors about to enter The Citadel in August. The group for the parents of the Class of 2020 is now live.

If you are the parent of a high school senior, or a transfer student, entering The Citadel in the summer of 2016, please request to join the group. I do ask that everyone send me an email to verify they are the parent of an incoming knob. That email address is: dorie (at) dorielgriggs (dot) com

The Citadel: Parents of the Class of 2020

Supporting Your Cadet through January and February

Sunset behind the boat house

Before I leave campus each visit I stop at the boathouse and go out to the dock to take a few photos. It is such a tranquil place on a campus not known for it’s tranquility.

Each year at the beginning of second semester I field questions and concerns from parents worried about their cadet. Sometimes the worry stems from a call or text home saying the cadet wants to transfer. Other times it is homesickness, and still other calls come in with concerns around depression. If you suspect clinical depression is the problem the cadet should be evaluated by a mental health professional.

I’ve mentioned these dynamics in other posts over the years. After the winter furlough is one of the toughest times for all the cadets. On top of the tough daily grind of cadet life, it’s cold and dark too.

As the days grow longer, the cadets morale tends to improve. Parents are wired to try and fix the problems of our children. For parents of cadets the hardest adjustment is realizing you are no longer the fixer of problems. The cadets are at a leadership school and are learning how to solve their own problems. Your role becomes a supporter/confidant one. You can listen to your cadets concerns, but the majority of the time you are not the one to fix the problem. Guiding them through the process of how to fix the problem is the most help you can provide.

In the eight years I’ve supported parents, first as the parent of a cadet and now as the parent of a grad, I’ve noticed a pattern to the types of concerns that arise each semester. I noted this pattern in an earlier post in the Fall. The second semester problems focus on the food service versus the laundry, and academic problems. At some point toward the end of February the focus is on Spring break, Recognition Day and Graduation.

Many parents voice their concerns over the food quality and want to fix it by contacting the school because they foot the bill for tuition room and board. While I understand this train of thought, I have also learned that sending a student to a leadership school means the student is the one to guide their own process and experience. Every situation on campus at The Citadel has a set of rules outlined in the White Book. (Mess Hall, pages 56-57)  The cadets job is to learn the procedures and follow them to resolve what ever issues they have. It is hard for the parents to watch this process.

Last year a young woman cadet addressed a gathering of donors to the Brigadier Foundation. In her address she explained why she had a different perspective on cadet life than many of her classmates. Hear her comments on the link, especially at the 3:40 mark forward.

I know other cadets who went through all four years navigating the laundry and food service situation because they did not have the financial option to go to a pay laundrymat, or order take out for dinner. These graduates are now successful business people living on their own.

While I understand that parents have certain expectations when they are footing the bill for tuition, room and board, I’ve also seen the tremendous educational value of cadets learning to advocate for themselves.

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