It was three years ago that I wrote, in an unintentional, yet consecutive series about my anxiety at being away from my family outside of Portland as I embarked on my freshman year at Stanford. As I recall it, that anxiety grew as that trip to the south bay grew nearer. I've always been confident in my decision to attend school far away from home. Nevertheless, I was quite nervous and my entries at that time show it.
The time has come prepare for my return trip to Stanford for my senior year. That sounds strange for me to say; my senior year. I've had the equivalent of kindergarten through 12th and three years of college. This is to be my final year of undergraduate studies. Of course, there's law school to come, but this one really seems monumental to me.
* * *
Last summer I began a tradition with my sister, Angela (Angi). We share a love for the Oregon Coast and we've begun an annual trip to Seaside and Manzanita during the summer.
This year, not to be outdone, Jessica and I have begun a girls weekend camping trip. We went to Lost Lake at Mt. Hood this year, but have decided to explore some other campgrounds in the future.
When it comes to my brothers, we've connected more on local excursions. My youngest brother, Keith, and I took a trip to OMSI and spent some time with him. Brandon is extremely busy, but we've hung out a couple times. Kevin and I have had some very in-depth conversations about both his business and his girlfriend.
I'm fortunate that throughout the school year, I am able to visit with and spend time with my oldest brother, Brian, as well as his wife and new baby daughter -- my niece, Amanda.
* * *
When heading down to Stanford to move me into my freshman dorm those three years ago, my parents and Monika made the trip. We took two vehicles; my parents took their SUV and I took my car, as I was going to have it with me at school. During the trip, we made three stops -- Roseburg, Medford and Redding -- before ending up at my oldest brother's apartment in San Francisco. That gave us four legs of the trip.
My dad and I got the chance to drive the second leg of that trip. We talked about everything that a father and a daddy's little girl could talk about, and then some. At the midway point, mom joined me in my car and we had the chance to connect and have a lot of conversation.
However, the first and fourth legs of the trip belonged to Monika and I. She was in her seat in the back and we got a chance to talk, joke around and listen to music -- notably some song covers performed and recorded by our sister, Jessica. We had an amazing time. It was wonderful to hang out with her and have our own special time.
* * *
I'm heading south on the sixth of September; ready to embark on my senior year. As I drive my Jetta toward the bay, this trip will be much like the first.Why? I'll get to that momentarily.
There's a lot going on for me at school. Certainly, it's not an adjustment. However, this is my year. What I mean by that is that within the next nine months, I will formulate two thesis (political science and american history) and complete my pre-law course program.
As I was forced to tell a blithering idiot recently, I realize "pre-law" is not a major, but is is a program which has been designed to both help me get into the best law school possible and prepare me for what I will find when I get there.
* * *
I decided quite a while ago that my youngest sister deserved something special this summer. It must be daunting seeing her two oldest sisters go off to college and her next-oldest sister, enter her junior year in high school -- becoming immersed in her studies, softball team, and tae kwon do (Angi is quite busy these days). I wonder what goes through her mind as she can only watch the hustle and bustle of her older sisters' lives, possibly to only be able live vicariously though them.
She doesn't complain. In fact, complaints are just something you won't hear from her. She may have them in her mind and perhaps even her heart. However, she never voices them. She never even questions. I fully believe this girl trusts her family completely and wholeheartedly.
Yes, Monika deserves something very special.
She's going to get just that. With help from a couple family members, as well as from the family of someone else special to me, Monika is going to get something very special.
* * *
When I leave for the bay on Friday, September 6. My youngest sister will be with me. I'm taking her down with me on her summer vacation which will last nearly two weeks. Not that she actually knows anything about it yet ... but let me tell you about Monika's vacation.
We'll leave early the morning. The weather promises to be nice enough to put the top down, so that is the plan. We're going to stay the night in Crescent City, just over the Oregon-California border. We'll be staying at the home of my boyfriend, Alex, and his family. I was able to speak to his mom and she even insisted. Perhaps the most special part about this for Monika is that she will be the first member of my family to meet Alex. She will be the barometer by which my family regards him. I should note here that while I trust her judgment, I am a bit nervous about that!
We should arrive in Crescent City early in the afternoon. Alex has promised to be our tour guide and show us all around his hometown. His mom is going to prepare a special dinner. I think Monika will really enjoy that.
We'll leave early Saturday morning, heading down the northern California coast, cross the Golden Gate Bridge and end up in Daly City at our oldest brother and his family's house .
* * *
My most proud moment in regards to Monika is that over a year ago she started making a concentrated effort to connect with Brian. They're 20 years apart in age and she has always looked up to him. They've never lived in the same house, as the rest of us have with each other. All of my siblings seem to have a special connection with each of the others. This was Monika's attempt to establish that with her oldest brother.
While she's not yet six years old, Monika has her own e-mail address, netbook computer and cell phone. WAIT! RELAX! There are strict restrictions on her usage of them. E-mails are used only to talk to family (including cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents). Her netbook is used to help her learn and send said e-mails; it's monitored regarding its internet capabilities. Her cell phone is for family only. She can only contact those numbers which have been previously approved by our parents, who have password supervision. Of course, she can use the phone's camera to take her own photos.
It was actually when Monika wanted to connect with Brian -- as well as her grandparents and cousins -- when this arrangement was set up. Conditions were set for her usage of the above-mentioned devices. It's been agreed by my parents, Brian and myself that she has exceeded our expectations as to her responsibility. See, Monika is someone who understands why we place those restrictions on the devices. She understands that while she is not allowed to do certain things in regards to technology, she can send an e-mail on her netbook to her grandparents. She understands that her phones can be used only to contact her family. She understands that it's for the the sake of safety that those restrictions have been set in place. She also understands that, at her age, she is fortunate to have these privileges.
All that being clarified, I received a text nearly every day from my youngest sister telling me to have a great day. A smiley face is always included. Not once have I failed to smile and feel my heart get just a bit warmer. Each member of my family has spoken of receiving the same message from our princess.
Monika also has used this privilege to send e-mails and texts to Brian and his wife, Charlene.
* * *
We are due to arrive in Daly City around 2 p.m. on Saturday, the seventh. After a nap (I know I'm going to want one), we have a special surprise for Monika. She, Brian, Carla and I are going to head south to Palo Alto to the Stanford-San Jose football game. San Jose St. already has win under its belt. It's the season opener for the Cardinal.
It also will be the first (hopefully of many) Stanford football game which Monika will attend. That's right, Monika gets to watch a Stanford football game, live. Thanks to my friend and roommate, Julie, my sister will have her own ticket which will let her accompany me to the student section.
Cardinal football has been a huge part of my time at Stanford. I spent the first two years of the college football seasons watching a legend -- Andrew Luck -- lead Stanford into a new era of supremacy. Quarterback Kevin Hogan, a stalwart offensive line and the nation's most experienced and outstanding defense are continuing the progress which has been started.
Monika will get to see it live, at 5-3/4 years old, for the first time. If I didn't already possess such love for my school's team, I would envy her for that!
Over a nearly two-week period, my sister is going to see a lot of things. Remember, we will have already crossed the Golden Gate Bridge (she's been across it before, but it's been a couple of years).
* * *
As many know, I am the oldest sister -- third oldest overall -- of eight children in my family. I'm actually the first of my immediate family to go off to college. My brother, Brandon, is a year younger than me and goes to Portland St. My sister, Jessica, is a sophomore at the University of California at Berkeley, on the north side of the bay and an hour drive from my Stanford. She attended Cal's season opener against Northwestern, a tough loss in which the Bears showed a lot of character and promise, for being so young they are.
Jessica texted me after the game that she was proud of her team. they faced a tough and ranked team, and showed a lot.
I watched the game from my family's living room and I have to say the same. Jessica has told me she plans to go to every home Cal game, the Big Game at Stanford, and possibly the Pac-12 championship game should her Bears earn that right.
* * *
Monika will get to spend time with her oldest brother. She'll get to hang out with her sister-in-law. She'll get to see her 4-month old niece, Amanda. Jessica says she'll make a couple trips to Brian and Carla's house.
Jessica is also treating Monika to something special. A week after going to her first Stanford game, Monika will be Jessica's guest at Cal's game in Berkeley against Ohio St.
The only football games Monika has attended have been a couple Portland St. games along with the family since our brother, Brandon, attends PSU.
Monika will fly home on September 18.
* * *
I love to be able to share this time with her, and give her the opportunities to spend time with other members of her family. My youngest sister is so well-behaved. She's earned and deserves her own vacation.
Though we're leaving in just four days, I've not told her. That will be tonight. I wanted it to be somewhat of a surprise. I also want her to have a few days to prepare, pack and maybe even tell her friends around the neighborhood. She may even send her grandparents an e-mail about the trip.
Truthfully, I've had the hardest time trying to keep this as a secret. I'm kind of bursting at the seams!
I can't wait to see her reaction and I can't wait for this vacation.