It seems, however, that it has picked me because yesterday morning at o'dark thirty, Lizzy and I were off to see college #4: The University of North Florida in Jacksonville.
Please note that our opinions are only our opinions and no one should base theirs on ours. (huh?)
We got to the campus at 8:30 after a 2+ hour drive. We almost left the campus at 8:45.
The presentations weren't due to begin until 9:00 so we decided to take the housing tour while we waited.
Can you say, "Deal killer?" Lizzy could only describe the housing situation as 'a rape scene waiting to happen'. There was no apparent security and all the room doors opened to the outside courtyard. The "study lounge" was a little room in the middle of the courtyard with plastic chairs and tables, a stove and a small window set into the heavy steel access door. It looked like the observation room at an nut house institutional facility.
While the campus was quite pretty (it's a wildlife refuge...wildlife? college campus? same sentence?) and the swimming facility was fantastic, there was nothing anyone could say to get Lizzy past her initial reaction to those dorms.
As with any trip, no matter how long or short it may be, there is always the quote of the trip. The quote for this trip came when Lizzy and I were discussing campus security and comparing what we had seen today with that of other schools. "That's part of the difference between a $5,000/year school and a $50,000/year school." I said. "In that case, I'd rather be in debt than dead." was her response.
Sometimes a weekend away feels like just that, a weekend away. Other times it feels like a real vacation. That's what this past weekend felt like: a real vacation.
In the continuing college tour, we headed south to Miami to visit the University of Miami. I had some apprehension about going to Miami...it's too far, it's too crowded, it's too dirty. Granted, we weren't in the heart of Miami, but boy was I wrong! It only took three hours of primo knitting drive time and we were in an urban, tropical paradise. I always forget how much Miami reminds me of home. My Panama home, that is.
Coconut trees loaded with coconuts, mango trees laden with blossoms and parakeets flitting about in the trees.
We spent Saturday afternoon wandering around Coconut Grove and returned there in the evening to have a wonderful dinner at an Argentinian Steak House. The array of meats was mind-boggling. Lizzy and I sampled the sweetbreads, blood sausage and tripe in addition to the more standard offerings of beef, pork, chicken and fish. Unfortunately, we had eaten our fill before the roast pigs were ready for carving.
Sunday morning was spent wandering through a park and then enjoying a local art show before Lizzy and I headed off to UM.
Not only is the University of Miami an incredible academic institution, the campus is beautiful. There are lakes, streams and unbelievable facilities. I want to be 17 again! I want to go to school there!
This is the Wellness Center (inside and out).
All the shuttle buses at the university are powered by bio-diesel. Be still, my heart!
While Lizzy and I toured the campus, the Michaels headed off to the Miami Seaquarium. They saw seals and otters, parrots and turtles. When I asked Michael what his favorite thing there was, he said, "The whale. It was HUGE!"
We did a lot in a mere 35 hours and to top it all off, on the way home, we had a beautiful rainbow over our heads!
For Valentine's Day, young Erik gave Lizzy an enormous chocolate chip cookie that said "I Love You" in the middle with their names on either side. He also gave her a pot of lovely red tulips. (My absolute favorite flower that I can't grow here!)
Every time I see tulips, I am reminded of an occasion when Lizzy was little and in the process of potty training. I had a picture in the bathroom of pink tulips in a blue pitcher. While sitting on the toilet, Lizzy looked up at the picture and asked, "Mommy, what are those called?" "Tulips." I answered.
The funniest thing I head today was from a relatively new swimmer on the team. Normally on the football team, this kid has made a between-season switch to swimming.
Today he swam his first 100 yard event. The length of the pool is 25 yards, so four laps are required to complete this event. Upon completion of his swim, another swimmer was complementing him on his time. He responded, "That sucked! I lost count after the first 25 and had to keep watching to see when everyone else stopped swimming!"
Searching for colleges has now become almost a regular pastime for Lizzy and myself. Sometimes it's online, often it's via the mailman and twice now it's been an actual visit to a campus.
Last weekend we visited my alma mater. Good old Florida Southern College. Not only is it the home of the Mocs, but it is also home to the largest collection of Frank Lloyd Wright architecture in the world. (Can I hear the collective 'oohs'?)
As with any place, it's changed a lot in the 24 years which have passed between then and now. As I entered Branscomb auditorium for the first session, it occurred to me that the last time I was in that building (my graduation), my whole life was ahead of me; now, half of it is behind me. I tried not to wax too poetic on what I have to show for those years, but it was difficult not to consider what I had anticipated and envisioned versus what really happened. It's all good. Different, but good.
One of the things that was still the same was this melaleuca tree which grew outside the dorm which I lived in during my sophomore year. It's almost an L shaped tree and the branch which grew along the ground served as a bench on which we sat, talked and generally watched the world go by on many, many evenings!
I liked that that tree was still there. The bark is shiny and smooth from the countless bottoms that have perched on it. Where some of the buildings had been torn down and others put up, this old melaleuca remains.
During my freshman year, I had the great opportunity to have an absolutely fabulous history professor. Dr. Santosoussa taught with every part of his being. I've often told Lizzy about how he could teach about the American Revolution and act out each part himself - jumping from desk to stage in elaborate sword fights and then run behind a pillar to shoot as if from behind a tree. I never, ever missed one of his classes.
I had the good fortune to see Dr. Santosoussa during our visit and made it a point to tell him what I remembered and how he has become the benchmark for every other educator I've known since. He laughed that the one thing that really makes him feel old these days is when he realizes that he's now teaching the children of his former students.
Another of my professors was Dr. Johnson. I did not see him during my visit, but I spoke to students of his. As with Dr. Santosoussa, I have never forgotten Dr. Johnson, but unlike Dr. S, Dr. Johnson is a whole story unto himself!
It's been some time since my mom has driven, but she has fiercely fought against her car being sold. She has been so adamant about not getting rid of that car that the subject has become pretty much a moot point. We all figured that her fury about selling this car was because by getting rid of the car, it meant that she had reconciled herself with the fact that she would never be able to drive again.
Okay, so we were wrong. Not the first time and most certainly not the last.
Last Friday when Lizzy bounced into her grandparents house to show off her brand new driver's license, my mother surprised us all by giving her the car. She told us that this had been her plan all along. It was her car to give away and she wasn't going to let "those men" make the decision about what was going to happen to it.
I should have given her my car and kept this one! It is a true "only driven to church on Sundays" car. Like new and only 28,000 miles on it!