Admission Impossible

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Part Deux

It used to be that once you got accepted to college you had that last semester or two to relax, slack off a bit, and finally enjoy yourself without all that pressure to get into the school of your choice.

Ah, the good old days. I remember Senioritis running so rampant at my high school that even the teachers stopped showing up those last few weeks. My Biology lab was empty, except for a note on the chalkboard that read: “Gone to Maui. Will the last person in class please turn out the lights?”

I still use some of those stolen beakers for mixing my more exotic cocktails.

Ah, those were the days.

Apparently the good OLD days. There is no more slack for slackers, the Los Angeles Times reported this week. As if conquering Admission Impossible weren’t enough, now students have to remain focused–or face the consequences.

The article said that starting this month, some universities are revoking admission offers to students whose grades were good enough to gain acceptance when they applied, but whose final exams and transcripts took a fourth quarter dive.

For example, my alma mater, UCLA, has begun to send out letters informing some students that their academic record no longer meets the standards for admission.

Oops! Bummer.

I guess these days college admission is not a done deal until those final grades are in. Talk about a harsh cure for Senioritis. When too much partying couples with too little studying–a.k.a. Senioritis–it can actually put your college admission in remission.

Of course, Senioritis has infected the college-bound since, oh, the beginning of time. But with a high-stress admissions process that now begins in kindergarten–at age 7, Koss is already behind, having yet to master a third language or a fifth instrument–today’s seniors may be more tempted than earlier ones to let up once they get in.

And of course colleges have always threatened kids with rescinding their admissions, telling them college acceptance is conditional, they have to keep up with their studies, blah, blah, blah. But until now, it was just an idle threat.

Slackers beware: after hundreds of years of “conditional acceptance,” schools are finally making good on their threats. They really are. In addition to reading the Los Angeles Times article, in order to verify the authenticity I did extensive research on this (asked my dad), reviewed my files (back issues of Oprah Magazine), and consulted my advisors (a small boy named Koss and a turquoise fish named Beta).

It’s a new era. There’ll be no more slacking during your senior year of high school. You may think you’re done. You may have gotten a thick envelope with a relentlessly perky congratulatory letter from the admissions office. Your parents may have even sent in a nonrefundable deposit.

Worse yet, you may have excitedly told strangers on the street where you’re going to college. (How embarrassing!) You may even already be wearing your collegiate colors with pride, having bought out the student store logo wear department.

You’re in. They said you were in. You have the letter encased in an acid free scrapbook to prove it. But remember, you’re not quite done.

It’s the end of an era–no more slack for seniors. High school won’t be the same anymore.

Of course, college isn’t exactly the same either. At an average of more than $20,000 per year for tuition, room and board, it’s enough to make me want to stay poor. I just hope that by the time Koss graduates high school there are scholarships for students who excel in computer games and doing math while twitching. Otherwise I’ll have to win the lottery, sell a kidney–or encourage my son to slack off during his senior year.

Email email if you know anyone who’s had their college admission invitation rescinded. For more of Leslie’s columns visit
Originally appeared in the Santa Barbara Daily Sound on June 29, 2007

Summer is Finally Here

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© Yarko12 | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images

Gotta Go!

No more pencils, no more books, no more teacher’s dirty looks–and no more teachers saying “no” when kids have to go. School is finally out for the summer, and kids are free to pee to their hearts’ content once again.

I had no idea that bathroom breaks were such an issue.

As a card-carrying member of “the Amazing Mini Bladderini Family,” I cringed–and almost immediately felt the urge to pee–when I read the headline in USA Today: “Teachers can say no when kids have to go.” Yet there it was in black and white.

What is it with teachers and peeing? Almost everyone I know has a “holding it till I was about to burst” story from elementary school. Then there was a huge controversy in Norway when a teacher wanted boys to sit to pee. It dominated the news for weeks. But I thought those days were over in the United States. I guess not.

We’re still wacko when it comes to potty breaks in school. A short time ago, a sixth-grader in Magnolia, Ohio wet his pants during a standardized test after a teacher refused to let him use the bathroom. In Charleston, South Carolina, a teacher made students pee into a trashcan during a lockdown drill. And in Sacramento, an eighth-grader recently urinated into a Gatorade bottle in a classroom corner because his teacher had refused to dismiss him.

All I can say is, “Ew, yuck!”

Since when is peeing a privilege? I always thought it was a right. A biological imperative, in fact.

I get that teachers have to balance classroom control with the varied and hard-to-predict potty practices of their students, but is it really that complicated? If you’ve gotta go, you’ve gotta go.

And yet, not all teachers see it that way. They say that the reasons for limiting bathroom use are to keep children from cheating on tests, disrupting the class, getting out of doing class work, or getting into mischief.

Now don’t get me wrong, I believe that children should be free to pee, but the mischief menace is no myth. While it’s possible they may have been lighting matches to get rid of the odors, after five fires were started in the bathrooms over the course of five days, a school in North Carolina (what is it with the Carolina’s and peeing?) started requiring students to have an adult escort when they went to the bathroom. The students protested by wearing numbered t-shirts reminiscent of those worn by prison inmates.

OK, so that may have been a bit drama club, but serious academic research done at the University of Iowa is showing that children are developing bladder problems because they are being denied the opportunity to go to the bathroom at school. As a result, doctors are seeing more and more urinary tract infections, incontinence, and damaged kidneys caused by infrequent trips to the bathroom.

The right to pee movement even has a de facto spokeswoman named Laurie A. Couture, a New England-based teacher, social worker, mental health counselor and political child advocate who is urging students to sign petitions when necessary and talk to their parents, teachers, and principals to stand up for their rights to “bodily integrity.”

Of course teachers aren’t really free to pee whenever they feel the urge during class time either. Perhaps that’s the real reason behind those gigantic grins on their faces this summer.

To audition for the Amazing Mini Bladderini Family, share your holding it horror stories with Leslie at

Originally appeared in the Santa Barbara Daily Sound on June 22, 2007

A Holiday for Dad

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© Vasic | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images

This Father’s Day: It’s All About Me

Searching for the perfect Father’s Day gift? Men are always so hard to buy for. Plus, let’s face it, unless it’s a 500-foot plasma screen or comes from Victoria’s Secret, they pretty much have the same, “uh thanks” reaction to any gift you buy them. That’s why this year I’ve come up with a brand new philosophy about Father’s Day gift buying: it’s all about me.

My first suggestion was that my husband take our son away for the weekend to do manly things, thus leaving me with the house to myself. “How about a father-son camping trip?” I suggested sweetly. “You could go fishing, hiking, maybe even rock climbing. It would be a great bonding experience.”

My husband thought I was kidding about the camping trip, which in retrospect isn’t all that surprising, given that his idea of “roughing it” usually involves a golf club. Once I got him to stop laughing, I suggested he teach Koss to play golf– thus another way of leaving me with the house to myself for long periods of time. Perhaps they could golf in Palm Springs or Pebble Beach, or an affordable place like Bakersfield, I hear it’s lovely this time of year.

He laughed again. He still didn’t realize that I was serious. This Father’s Day was finally going to be all about me.

I tried another tactic. If they weren’t going to leave the house, there were all kinds of excellent father-son bonding opportunities right under our own roof. “How about steam cleaning the carpets, painting the bedroom or organizing the pantry,” I suggested sweetly.

That time they both laughed–hard, until milk came out of their noses–like they thought I was kidding or something.

Maybe they didn’t want to be indoors all weekend. I tried again. “You could fix the fence together, or build a hot tub, or plant a rose garden and then strew petals all around the house.” More snorting. Honestly, you’ve got to be so patient with the male species sometimes.

“What about building that shed you’ve been talking about for the past seven years? Then you could clean out our storage unit and maybe even have a garage sale.”

I liked that idea a lot. If they did the garage sale then they could use the money to send me on little getaway to a spa or something.

Suddenly, the light bulb I keep on my head for these occasions lit up: I finally had the perfect Father’s Day gift idea! I would send my husband and son on a little trip to massage-therapy-gourmet-cooking school.

Brilliant. I’m sure I’m not the only one here who knows that when I’m happy, then everyone’s happy (I know there must be some corollary to that, I just can’t think what). And what could make my hubby happier than having me blissed out on massages and food? What can I say, I’m a giver. Happy Father’s Day!

Originally appeared in the Santa Barbara Daily Sound on June 15, 2007


Lillian & Jon Lovelace, courtesy Santa Barbara Magazine

Lillian & Jon Lovelace, courtesy Santa Barbara Magazine


You won’t find their names plastered on buildings and placards around town, yet, in their quiet, generous way, Jon and Lillian Lovelace give graciously of their time, intellect and millions to a wide range of worthy organizations.

“We’re a little bit camera shy, publicity shy,” Lillian, explains.

Click here to see the story in Santa Barbara Magazine.

“A lot of people seem to do it [donate] to get their names in the paper. We’d like to be helpful without getting our names in the paper,” says Jon.

The arts rank high among their interests. Lillian, whose eclectic collection of modern art and Pacific Island artifacts decorate their Montecito home, was on the board of the Santa Barbara Museum of Art for 20 years and is now a sustaining trustee. In addition to fine art, the Lovelace’s share a love of music, dance and theatre and spend about a third of their time traveling around the world combining philanthropic and cultural endeavors.

Locally they are strong supporters of the Santa Barbara Dance Theatre, Camerata Pacifica, Music Academy of the West, UCSB Arts and Lectures, and the State Street Ballet, as well as having served on the boards of the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) and the Getty Museum in Los Angeles, where Jon served as chairman of the board during the construction of the Getty Center.

“If we can be helpful, when something strikes Lillian’s fancy or something that she’s connected with, as with me, we get involved with that,” says Jon, who is also very supportive of wilderness preservation groups like the Nature Conservancy, the Sierra Club, and the Yosemite Fund.

Jon, Lillian and their four grown children (Jim, Jeff, Rob and Carey) were avid hikers and campers when the kids were young. “The outdoors has always been an interest,” says Jon, who ranked number 354 on Forbes list of the 400 richest Americans and recently retired from the Los Angeles-based Capital Group, one the world’s largest mutual fund management companies. Jim and Rob now work for the Capital Group, which was founded by their grandfather, Jonathan Bell Lovelace, in 1931.

The Lovelace children are also involved in giving back to the community, through organizations such as California Institute of the Arts and Idyllwild Arts Foundation–it’s a tradition of generosity that goes back generations. “My family was very much involved in social action and caring about other people and giving back to the community. They instilled that that was important. Jon’s father was involved with philanthropy and hospitals,” says Lillian.

The Lovelace’s have carried on the legacy of supporting healthcare by donating generously to medical institutes around the world, including Sansum Clinic and Phoenix of Santa Barbara, which provides care for mentally ill adults.

“I think that mental health is an area that is vastly ignored, it’s kind of a scary thing and not something people like to talk about. They used to not talk about cancer but now anybody can say cancer any time they want to but there’s still some avoidance of talking about mental health problems and I think that it needs all the support it can get,” explains Lillian, who majored in psychology at Antioch University, where she is now a sustaining trustee.

While many of the Lovelace’s philanthropic efforts have started with this type of a personal connection, there really is no typical scenario for their involvement. “It depends very much on the situation–there’s no single type of organization or way we try to help,” says Jon.

The Lovelaces–they married 56 years ago and used to celebrate their anniversaries in Santa Barbara until they moved here from Whittier in 1972 after their son Jim developed an allergy to the smog–share a strong interest in travel and the arts, often meeting up with their children to catch a performance or an exhibit somewhere in the world. They like films as well, and were investors in their friend Garrison Kellior’s 2006 movie, A Prairie Home Companion, starring Meryl Streep.

Friends like Kellior are an important part of the Lovelace’s lives.

” We mentioned family but we have so many wonderful friends that we’ve met over the years,” says Lillian.

“Throughout the world, actually,” Jon says.

“We’re recluses that love people,” concludes Lillian. Or perhaps people who love life.

Originally published in Santa Barbara Magazine

A Master at Mothering

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© Sasanka7 | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images

Mr. Santa Barbara Remembers Jane Crandell

Though she’s been gone for more than 40 years, the memory of his mother still brings a twinkle to the eye of 84-year-old Larry Crandell.

“My best role was not as a father, not as a husband, but as a son. Of all the things I’ve done, I think I did that better from the time I was 15 until my mother died when I was 40-something,” he says, as he recalls his childhood with Jane Crandell, who, for the most part, single-handedly raised Larry and his younger brothers Sam and Marty.

Life in Newark, N.J. was tough for Jane, who provided for her three growing boys by working as a shoe clerk for $19 a week. She had to take two buses to get to her job, but according to Larry, she never complained.

“My father was an alcoholic who ended up in a veterans hospital,” says Larry, explaining that his father lived away from the family from the time he was six years old. “My mother was a third grade dropout.”

The family got by with help from government relief (the precursor to welfare) and Jane’s six days a week selling shoes. “The phrase, living hand to mouth doesn’t do it justice. She literally waited on, took shoes off and put shoes on people all day long,” says Larry.

But even though money was tight, ” I don’t remember my brothers or I ever feeling sorry for ourselves,” he says.

This is probably in part because Jane was so completely devoted to their happiness. “She used to be asked questions like, ‘you know you’re a reasonably attractive woman, why didn’t you date?’ And she always had the same answer: I found everything I could possibly want in life with you three boys,” Larry says.

Despite what was obviously a hard knock life, Jane saw her sons through rose-colored glasses. “She spoiled the daylights out of us. She saw us through the gauze of affection and love and in those days single mothers didn’t keep families together. I’m sure economic times were the cause of families breaking up,” says Larry.

“She had an automatic up-grader, so that whatever we did was that much better. The freedom I gained started with that she thought everything each of us did was perfect. That’s what she said and I never heard artifice from her,” he says. “Her most recurring phrase … ‘not because he’s my son,’ prefaced a million compliments that my mother made about one of us. ‘Not because he’s my son,’ that’s the way I remember her.”

Larry credits his mother for much of his self-esteem. “I really am surprised when people don’t like me–and that I got from her. I know that.”

It was also his mother who encouraged and helped develop Larry’s quick wit, which he regularly brings to Santa Barbara’s stages as master of ceremonies or auctioneer for more than 50 local charity events a year, tirelessly raising money for causes ranging from the YMCA, the Boys & Girls Clubs, Hospice, Hillside House, the Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table and just about every other nonprofit in town.

“We lived in a fourth story walkup with the tenements and I have this vivid recollection of her trudging in with two bundles of groceries and I asked the same joke six days a week. ‘Is dinner ready?’ and she would roar with laughter, every single time,” he says.

The Crandell’s were an affectionate family, thanks in large part to the example set by Jane. “When we went to the candy store to lavish three pennies on candy, it became de rigueur to kiss her goodbye. The candy store was two doors down,” says Larry.

Larry says the only resolution he’s ever kept, since age 15, was inspired by his mother. “I decided that I would never show impatience. … Somehow I had a picture of a woman who worked 10 hours a day, six days a week and carried a sick husband and three little kids on her back … Yet, she was so empathetic and so desirous of us being happy, even for the moment. And so that as I reached adulthood, I vowed not to show impatience.”

In many ways, Larry celebrates his mother’s life every day, but her birthday, October 19, has a special significance. Each year on that date, he tries to spend an or so by himself, just thinking about her and all that she gave to him. “She would have been 111 this past October, but she only lived to be 67,” he says.

“I’m not doing it intentionally, I don’t think, but when I think of her, I smile. … I think the best part of me is like her.”

Originally published in Coastal Woman

Floor Women Only

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© Netris | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images

Have you ever wished there was such a thing as a bar for women only, where you could order a cosmopolitan with “an extra shot of vodka and hold the testosterone?” Guys are great and all, but every once in a while I have those days where I’ve had more than enough of their gaseous noises, dirty socks, smelly armpits and male answer syndrome.

OK, “every once in a while” might be a bit of an understatement.

Every time I wipe the shaving cream off the sink, I dream of sleeping on a bed of rose petals, and waking up to the quiet gurgling of a chocolate fountain, instead of my husband’s snoring.

That’s my version of a mental man-vacation.

My actual man is on a manly vacation somewhere on a river north of nowhere right now, which means it should be my turn next. If I ever actually got to go on a girls’ weekend away, I might choose a resort in Mexico, a spa in Palm Springs or maybe wine tasting in Napa Valley or even sunning myself on the French Riviera, as long as I’m dreaming.

But until last week I never really thought about Michigan as a girls’ getaway hotspot.

Then I heard that J.W. Marriott Hotel in Grand Rapids announced that it would be devoting its entire 19th floor–bar included–to female guests. Their spokeswoman, Andrea Groom, told the Associated Press that with women comprising over half of all business travelers, the all-female floor will allow women to “relax over a drink without getting hit on by guys.” The rooms will feature female-friendly amenities like “jewelry holders” (How did I ever live without one of those?) and “special hair dryers” (Are they pink? Do they color your hair while they dry it?), chenille throw blankets, “special bath products,” a stool in the shower for leg shaving, and copies of Oprah and Cosmopolitan Magazines beside the bed instead of the Gideon’s Bible.

OK, I made that last part up, but the rest is actually true. And so is this: staying in the Marriot’s man-free zone will cost you an extra $30 a night. It costs extra to be surrounded by women? I lived in a sorority house with 80 other girls, and well; let’s just say we could used a shot of testosterone with our morning coffee.

Will women really go for the Club Femme? Let’s just say I’ve got my reservations about the idea. They’ve certainly gone for the all-women gym concept with Curves, which has become the world’s largest fitness franchise in large part because of their “no men, no mirrors” gimmick.

I’ve never really gotten the appeal of the women-only gym. I’ve joined a lot of workout places over the years–and gained and lost the same 20 pounds–and the most fun I had was at an almost all-male (unless you count the transvestites) gym in West Hollywood. There was man candy everywhere I looked. But it was calorie-free, since this particular group of guys only had eyes for each other.

Despite the political incorrectness of it all, businesses with gender specific target marketing are popping up all over the place. There is Knockouts Haircuts for Men, a chain dubbed “the Hooters of haircutting,” which features scantily clad, well-endowed stylists and free beer. Before you laugh, get this: last year Knockouts ranked among the top 30 per cent of America’s fastest-growing franchises.

Would the female equivalent be Mani-Pedi-Eddie’s with Chippendales-trained technicians to chip away your old polish? That sounds fun and all, but I’d trade it in a second for a nice, hot, uninterrupted bath on a 19th floor that I had all to myself.

OK, maybe I’d be willing to share my floor with a box full of chocolate men–as long as they only had eyes for me.

Originally appeared in the Santa Barbara Daily Sound on June 1, 2007