Holiday Gift #2 for 2022

Holiday gift #2 for 2022.

Quick recap: my holiday gift #1 post featured bags by Baboon to the Moon. See the post here.

As the holidays approach, I’m taking stock of things I see and things I love…things I think will make the perfect Christmas or Hanukkah gifts. The second item I’m featuring this year is a fire pit from Solo Stove. I actually mentioned this item in a post last holiday season, but because we get so much joy from our Solo Stove fire pit, I’m featuring again this year. It would be a great gift for Dad or even for Mom, if she likes to spend time outdoors in the evening like I do. Or maybe you have a college student or other adult in your family who lives in a house and likes to entertain?

We have the Solo Stove Bonfire 2.0, which is their most popular size of fire pit. According to the website, it’s perfect for backyards, and I can attest to that fact. My husband and I have cocktails or coffee out on our patio…just the two of us or with friends…almost any night we are home, and in the fall, winter, and early spring the Bonfire 2.0 is the perfect smokeless fire pit to keep us warm. It is about 19.5 inches in diameter and heats about 5-6 people. We love the warmth and ambiance it offers when we are out there stargazing, and we love that, when our daughter is home, she and her friends enjoy gathering around it too.

With a chrome finish, the Solo Stove Bonfire 2.0 is attractive and useful. Plus, because it’s not too big, it’s easy to clean…easy to dump the ashes. Always wait till there is no sign of heat or fire before dumping the ashes. We usually wait till the next time we are ready to use the fire pit to empty the ashes. That way, we know we won’t be inadvertently starting a fire in the garbage can, in the yard, or anywhere else.

Is it actually smokeless? For the most part, yes. My husband would not want to use it if it created a smoky fire. He hates the smell of smoke more than anything. When I first purchased the Solo Stove Bonfire 2.0, he was skeptical. And when I first built a fire in it, it seemed like a fail. It was smoky…at first…but once the fire took hold, the fire pit did what it’s supposed to do, and we had a smoke-free fire. However, because my husband gets nervous about burning ashes flying through the air from wood fires, we went in a different direction and purchased Duraflame logs to burn in the fire pit. I was skeptical, but after I realized how easy they are to light, I was sold. And the fire with the Duraflame, because it doesn’t require smoky kindling, starts out smoke free.

Solo Stove makes several different sizes of fire pits, so if you think the Bonfire 2.0 is too large or too small, there are other sizes that could work for you. Their Ranger 2.0 fire pit is 15 inches in diameter, so it’s a little smaller, so it’s most portable. For a larger fire pit, they offer the Yukon 2.0, which has a 27-inch diameter, making it more easy to accommodate up to 13 people!

And if you’re wondering about pricing, the Ranger 2.0, at the time of writing, is on sale at the Solo Stove website for $199, a savings of $100 off the regular price. The Bonfire 2.0, the one we have, is on sale for $239, a savings of $160. And the Yukon 2.0 is on sale for $439, saving the purchaser over $300 off the original price. To see the website, click here.

Because we enjoy our Solo Stove fire pit so much, this gift goes in the category of “highly recommend.” You can’t go wrong with it, and if you do things the easy way, like we do, and get the Duraflame logs, it’s super easy to have instant warmth and ambiance on your patio any time you want it.

But I don’t know how long the sale will last, so if you’re considering it, go ahead and purchase it now! I believe the recipient will think it’s a great gift, and they will thank you for years to come!

Happy shopping!

College Fall Break

College fall break.

This morning, I walked into a local breakfast place and literally ran into a girl my daughter went to high school with. I was surprised to see her, because she is supposed to be in college hundreds of miles away. I’m sure I audibly gasped before giving her a big hug. She quickly explained that she is home for fall break and asked, “When is Milly’s fall break?” I replied, “She doesn’t get one.” Her eyes widened and she asked, “What? I thought everyone did!” Well, my daughter doesn’t.

When we moved her into college, I knew she wouldn’t get a fall break. I had already looked ahead at the academic calendar for fall, and I realized that while she doesn’t get a fall break, she does get a full week for Thanksgiving, which I think is ideal. I thought nothing of it. Why does anyone need a fall break, anyway? It never occurred to me that she might need it! Did we have those extra days off when I was in college? I don’t remember.

But she does need a fall break.

As it turns out, it’s midterm exam season, and she is worn out. She was sick with the flu last week. She is ready to come home and sleep in her own bed for a few days, but she doesn’t have a fall break. I’m going down to the football game this weekend, and I thought that might be enough to carry her through to Thanksgiving, but no…she wants to come home for a weekend visit.

So yesterday, I purchased her an airline ticket to come home next weekend. After completing the purchase, I said, “Maybe I should just stay home this weekend, since you’re coming home next weekend?” She said, “No. Please come to the game!” That’s all it took. As soon as I heard those words, I knew I was definitely going. Done! As parents, we know that as our kids get older, every minute with them is valuable, and if she wants some time with me, I’m taking advantage of it. So I’ll be leaving Friday. I’ll return to Charlotte Sunday, and next Friday, I’ll pick her up at the airport in Charlotte. She’s needing some Mama and Daddy time…and that’s OK.

She simply needs a reboot. And she needs to sleep in her own bed. And she needs some of her favorite foods…Mama’s grilled cheese sandwich with tomato soup, some roasted veggies, cake batter popcorn (recipe here) and some homemade mashed potatoes…not all at the same time, of course. I’ll be going to the grocery store next Wednesday to make sure we have everything I need to make her favorites. And we will sit outside and have a charcuterie board for dinner Saturday night before she goes out.

I have a friend who has a daughter who is a sophomore at another college, and I vividly remember her telling me that when her daughter was a freshman, she would come home occasionally, and she seemed most excited about sleeping in her own bed. In fact, my friend said her daughter made “snow angels” in her bed the first time she came home from college, saying, “I’m just so happy to be back in my BIG bed!” Those twin beds in college dorm rooms are adequate, but who doesn’t love their own big bed in their own bedroom at home?!? Our daughter has slept in a queen bed in her own room her whole life, so I’m sure she is excited to sleep in her own big bed, with her own blankets and her own sweet dog, who misses her terribly.

So no, she doesn’t get an official fall break. She won’t get an extra two days off to come home, but we will create a fall break for her. She will be home for about 52 hours (the same amount of time I was in labor with her, by the way…don’t ask), and we will try to make it as special as possible. We will try to make her comfortable. We will give her lots of hugs. We will prepare all her favorite foods. And we will just love her. There’s no doubt in my mind that we will be happier than she is that she is home. We are thrilled to have a weekend with her…which will really be just a few hours that we get to see her, but that’s OK. There will be lots of hugs.

And she just called to tell me we will have a bonus! A friend is coming home with her! We will have lots of extra laughs, and I am going to call the friend’s mom right now to find out what her favorite foods are!

They just didn’t want to wait till Thanksgiving. We will welcome them with open arms and help them “reboot” to finish out the weeks till Thanksgiving. Sometimes, college students just need to be loved.

Come home, baby!

College Homecoming

College Homecoming.

Lawn decorations on sorority row. Tailgate tents on the quad. Grills smoking. Families and friends gathering. A parade through campus. Band playing.

All these things contributed to a festive atmosphere when I went to the University of Alabama this past weekend for Homecoming. It had been a long time…10 or 11 years…since I had traveled there for Homecoming, but I was so happy I went this year!

When I was in college, we got dates to every football game, so it was always fun, but the Homecoming game every year was more exciting…more festivities, more excitement, more parties. It never occurred to me then that “Homecoming” was actually a time to welcome back alumni. I just thought of it as the football team was coming back for a home game after an away game. Thinking of “alumni” was just not on my radar. And with good reason…I was young and self-centered, just like most young people.

The fact that Homecoming is really for alumni hit me after I had a child. Taking her to the Homecoming football game in 2011 was the perfect opportunity to showcase my alma mater to her. And as anyone who has ever visited the University of Alabama knows, it is a beautiful place…worthy of showing off. My daughter was just seven years old at the time, but she loved football…not much choice in my family…you either love football, or you’ll be miserable during football season, because watching football is what we do. So when she was seven, my daughter and I went with my friend, Angela, and her daughter, who was nine years old at the time.

I remember we made our way around sorority row soon after arriving. The lawn decorations are impressive every year, and little girls love them, so we made sure ours got to see all of them that day. The lawn decorations are a lot different than when I was in college. Back when I was in school, the lawn decorations were as tall as the house! We had to climb on scaffolding to “pomp” tissue paper into giant chicken wire structures to show our spirit for Homecoming week…outside with music blasting till wee hours of the morning…boys helping us till wee hours of the morning. It was great fun in the 1980s, but now, it seems they do most of the “pomping” indoors, and the much smaller structures are placed on the lawn afterward. No more scaffolding…kind of a shame, because it sure was fun!

That Homecoming in 2011, we walked over to the quad and visited friends who were tailgating. We ate lunch in the alumni tent, and we ran into lots of people we knew from our college days. That is what Homecoming is about…visiting your alma mater to see people and visit with college friends you don’t see on a regular basis.

And this year, we did exactly that…spent time with friends we haven’t spent much time with over the last few years. I even managed to spend a little time with a friend I had not seen in 20+ years…one of the sweetest souls I have ever known. In fact, she is the very friend who told me after a bad breakup in my late 20s, “Just think! You get to fall in love again!” I reminded her of that when I saw her, and I told her how much hope it gave me after that breakup. Now, it’s what I have told my 19-yr-old daughter to say to her friends after they go through bad breakups. Because really…there’s nothing like that “falling in love” feeling.

We ended our Homecoming visit with a little tailgate time with a friend who had folding chairs that rock in her tailgate area. Not gonna lie…it was fun catching up with her, and it was hard to get up from those rocking chairs when it was time to leave! There’s something extra relaxing about a rocking chair…and I could have drifted off to sleep right there. But we needed to get moving, so I had to get up.

We didn’t stay for the game. We were spending the night at Angela’s house in Montgomery, and because we had a 90 minute drive ahead of us, we opted out of the game. We drove home on the winding road from Tuscaloosa to Montgomery, reliving the moments of the day…doing what we call “Post Game Wrapup” of our day. And while we talked about the fun of the day, we reminisced about college too. We had lots of good times at the University of Alabama back in the 1980s. That’s when Angela and I became friends, and we each remember different funny things that happened, so we laughed a lot on the drive.

We barely got to spend any time with our daughters, both of whom are students there. We saw her daughter for about an hour, and literally saw mine for a total of about five minutes! But I was happy…if she’s not clinging to me, she’s happy. I drove back up the next day to spend Sunday night in a hotel, so we had more time to visit. Then o came home Monday night.

It was a successful Homecoming. Yes, the team won the football game, and that’s definitely necessary for a successful Homecoming, but it was mostly successful because we got to see people we care about…people with whom we shared fun experiences in college.

And that’s what Homecoming is about.

Gallbladder Surgery Changed My Life

Gallbladder surgery changed my life.

At least 12 years. That’s how long I had been suffering with gallstones. I knew it the first time I felt them. Every time one moved through a duct, I suffered. Over time, I figured out some of the “triggers” for my “attacks.” Bacon, eggs, avocado, red meat, fried foods, salad dressings, and even some grains were triggers! I know there are vegetarians in the world, but honestly, if you’re not eating bacon occasionally, you’re missing out on one of the great joys of life…and I went years without bacon.

I often meet my friend, Linda, for breakfast, but over the past few years, I had to order egg-white omelets and no bacon. Sad. Don’t get me wrong. Egg white omelets are good, but occasionally, it’s nice to have a real omelet.

Soon after that first attack, I asked my primary care provider to order some tests to check my gallbladder. I felt positive that was my problem. She ordered an ultrasound, and nothing showed up, so life went on. I should have demanded that she order more tests, but instead, I “limped along” for a few years.

Then I changed primary care providers. I decided the one I had was not working to improve my life as much as she was working to improve her own. But while I was between providers, I made an appointment for myself with a gastroenterologist to see if I could get my gallbladder removed, and the PA in that office told me they only removed them in emergency situations. Wow. That is an insane answer. I even said, “You’d rather I end up in an emergency situation in Mexico or the Bahamas or Panama or Peru?” But I moved on.

Over the next couple of years, I had friends in Charlotte tell me they’d had their gallbladder removed, and they were not in an emergency situation. I suffered regularly, wondering when the next “attack” would be and wondering if it would become an emergency situation. When “attacks” occurred, I used my own home remedies. I took over the counter painkillers (and worried about my liver). Sometimes, I mixed apple cider vinegar with apple juice and drank it…yuck. I took Goli Apple Cider Vinegar Gummies (to see more about them, click here). I turned on the seat heater in my car. I got in bed and waited it out. If someone had told me to stand on my head and juggle jars of pickled pigs feet (yes, pickled pigs feet are real), I likely would have tried. it.

So finally, in January of this year, I’d had enough. I made another appointment at the same gastro office but insisted on another provider. And we got real tests underway. The original ultrasound was unremarkable, showing gallstones but nothing wrong with the actual organ. But boy was that wrong! The second test, the HIDA scan, showed that I had only five percent function of my gallbladder...five percent!

I had surgery at the end of August after many delays due to COVID in my household. Without going into any details about my internal organs, I will say the surgeon said it was obvious the gallbladder needed to go. There was quite a bit of scarring, she said, proving I had suffered for a while. For anyone who might be having their gallbladder removed, I’d like to say it was pretty uneventful and easy. After the laparoscopic procedure, I came home and relaxed, taking narcotic pain relievers for less than 36 hours. Two days in, I strolled three miles in the afternoon. The next day, I rested. In fact, I operated on that “alternating exercise days” for the next nine days until I met a friend in Miami for a Caribbean cruise.

At that point, the only pain I had was when I rolled over in bed. Nothing severe…just a reminder that I’d had surgery. But after the first couple days of the cruise, all pain was gone, and by the time I came home, the only reminders were the tiny incisions on my abdomen. At my follow-up appointment soon after my return, the surgeon called me a prize patient! I had done everything I was supposed to do, and my incisions were healing nicely.

And now, I’m seven weeks post-surgery. I feel no pain. Knock wood. It’s amazing how much different I feel!

But the whole reason for this post? If you suspect you have gallbladder problems, force the issue. If you don’t get the answer you want from one doctor, go to another. Don’t just sit on your heels waiting like I did. Gallstones can turn into a very serious situation if a stone gets lodged in or blocks a pancreatic duct, causing pancreatitis, which is very painful. And don’t be afraid of the surgery. No one was more frightened than I was. I had never had general anesthesia before, and I was afraid, but I’m so glad I did it.

I now meet friends for lunch and eat without worrying about how I’m going to feel afterward. I’m still not much of a red meat eater. I prefer fish and chicken, so at least that good did come from the issues. But when I got to lunch with my friend, Linda, at Bricktop’s, I can order the deviled eggs appetizer with maple sugar bacon…and I enjoy every bite, because I remember life without bacon and eggs! I truly feel like I have my life back, as corny as that sounds. I say prayers of thanks regularly.

First College Birthday

First college birthday.

If you’ve ever read me, you know our daughter is a college freshman. She experienced her first college birthday yesterday, when she turned 19. Let’s hope it didn’t set a precedent for college birthdays.

She called me at 7:00 yesterday morning, the morning of her birthday, saying, “I woke up a little while ago and can’t go back to sleep.” She is more of a night owl than an early bird, and 7am is way too early for her to just “be awake.” I knew something was wrong. Because I knew she had been coughing a sniffling a little for a couple of days, I said, “Go get the thermometer out of your cabinet. I feel pretty sure you are running a fever.” Moms know these things. She checked her temperature, and sure enough, I was right…she had a fever of 100.9…a legit fever. I knew she had a COVID test in her supplies too, because I had purchased them along with $700 of other medical supplies before moving her into her dorm, so I said, “Take the test real quick, just to rule it out.” As soon as she had the negative result, I said, “Take some Tylenol and go back to bed.”

Seriously, it’s hard for a college student to be sick in a dorm instead of their own bed at home…especially a freshman, but not gonna lie…it’s hard for the moms too. I wanted to jump in the car or on a plane and get there as quickly as I could. I asked, “You need a mommy hug! Do you want me to come down and get us a hotel room for a few days? I can take care of you!” I explained that since my husband was out of town, it would have to be the next day, because I would need to board the dogs and get things in order, but I could do it. She said, “Absolutely not. I will be fine. I’ll figure it out, Mom.” I guess I did something right as a parent…somewhere, somehow, I taught her to “figure it out.”

She called me a few hours later and said she was feeling better and had gone to her 10:00 class. I knew it was the Tylenol in her system making her feel better, so I explained to her that she was likely to “hit a wall” soon. It was time for the meds to wear off, so I told her what else to take at that point.

It was sad. She had big plans for her birthday. She managed to drag herself to the Big/Little Reveal at her sorority house that evening, but she didn’t feel like going out to celebrate. Fortunately, she has made some great friends since she arrived on campus two months ago, and they went out and brought her a cookie cake to celebrate her birthday. They had all planned to go out to dinner, but that birthday dinner was postponed. And my daughter texted me, declaring her birthday a “do over.”

I’ve had “do over” birthdays, so I get it, and seriously, shouldn’t we all have the right to declare our birthday a do over?!? I think her “do over” has been rescheduled for this coming Saturday night. In reality, that will probably work better for her and all her friends, since it’s a weekend. They won’t have to worry about staying out late, because they don’t have class the next morning.

But last night, she called me after surviving her sick-away-from-home birthday and said, “I’m going to watch a movie and go to bed. What should I take?” I told her to take some NyQuil, and she took it while we were on the phone. Laughing between coughs and sniffles, she said, “I never thought I’d be taking a shot of NyQuil on my birthday.” After taking it, she settled in to watch Sense and Sensibility, a movie I have been trying to get her to watch, because it is one of my favorites of all time. Emma Thompson adapted the screenplay from the Jane Austen novel, and she did a fabulous job…plus, she’s the star. It’s an incredible film. My daughter, I think, is very much like the Marianne character. I want her to watch it to see the similarities and how Marianne changes in the story. I knew she would fall asleep before the first scene was over, because she had taken the NyQuil, but at least she was willing to try to watch it. Maybe I can get her to sit down and watch it tonight without NyQuil. ***You can rent or purchase Sense and Sensibility (the one from 1996) at Amazon Prime here.***

I’m just glad our favorite girl seems to be on the road to recovery. Maybe the illness kept her from getting into some kind of trouble or accident on her birthday? I like to try to find “sliding doors” (a reference to a movie called Sliding Doors, starring Gwyneth Paltrow, and you can also rent this on Amazon Prime here) logic in things, meaning little things that happen to change the timing on things can change the course of life. She’ll celebrate her birthday with friends this weekend, and when I get to town in about ten days, I’ll take her out to dinner with some of her friends…or not, if she’d rather just the two of us hang out.

I think it’s safe to say she will remember her first college birthday…the one that included taking a shot…of NyQuil. She was sick on her fourth birthday too…strep throat…and it made a lasting impression. I took her to a Disney on Ice Show, even though she had strep, because we weren’t going to be around anyone…and she threw up all over herself while we were there. She still talks about it. That one was a “do over” too.

Making memories…somehow those “not so great” birthdays make an impression.

Since College Started…

Since college started…

Y’all remember that I wrote about my daughter, a freshman in college, having a medical issue when a heel blister became infected shortly after sorority recruitment ended. Thanks to a great roommate and advice from said roommate’s dad, my daughter went to the local urgent care for treatment in time to head off the infection before it reached her Achilles tendon and became something more serious. You’ll likely remember that I also wrote about the car accident she was involved in when she came home for the weekend a couple of weeks ago. Ten minutes after a friend picked her up from the airport, they were in an accident. Fortunately, everyone was fine.

This weekend, she decided to go stay with my friend, Angela, in Montgomery, two hours from her university. According to her, “everyone” was leaving town for the weekend, and I know she was happy to have some time with a mom she’s close to.

And then, just as she should have been driving back to her university yesterday afternoon, she called to tell me she had a nail in her tire and only 21 pounds of pressure. Ugh. Literally, I thought, “It’s always something!” Angela said they were on their way to get the tire taken care of, so I tried to relax, but to top it all off, a certain cell carrier was having difficulty with one of their towers in the Montgomery area, and calls were virtually impossible. I couldn’t hear them. They couldn’t hear me. It was frustrating, to say the least. And my daughter needed to get back to school, because she had a 10:00 class this morning.

I was in the car when they called me. I had just dropped some food at a sick friend’s house, and I was on my way home. I just thought, “Why do things like this always happen? Why does she have such bad luck?” So I prayed. I prayed for patience. I prayed that my daughter would be safe. And I realized after praying that maybe God was protecting her by letting her have a nail in her tire. Maybe the delay actually saved her somehow. Maybe the delay helped her avoid an accident.

The first tire store they went to was too busy, so they went to a second one. Luckily, that one could help! I was thrilled, and I sat down to relax. But then…I started getting texts asking, “Where is the wheel lock?” What?!?! My daughter was texting, “Where is dad?” And, “They can’t find my wheel lock in my car! They can’t do anything without it!” I kept trying to call my husband, and he didn’t answer…of course. I had made it home from the food drop-off, so I got in my car and drove to where my husband was throwing a frisbee with a friend. When I arrived, they were getting in their cars to leave. I drove up and asked, “Where is the wheel lock in our daughter’s car?” He said, “It should be in the glove box.” Nope. They had looked there. They had looked in the back hatch area. Nothing. Finally, my husband said, “Tell them to check in the center console.” They found it. Of course, all communication had been over text or on terrible phone service because of the tower issues in Montgomery, adding to my frustration.

***If you don’t know what the wheel lock for your car looks like and don’t know where it is, you need to find it now! You don’t want to be searching for it when you need it!***

Seriously, before they found it, I had visions of myself having to get into the car and drive six hours to Angela’s house so my daughter could take my car back to college in the morning. I could then get hers fixed (because my wheel lock fits her car too) before driving two hours to the university, getting my car back, and driving 7 1/2 hours home. Just the thought of having almost 16 hours of driving ahead of me made my head spin. I was not happy. My husband couldn’t understand why I was so frustrated, but I knew he wouldn’t be the one making the drive. He actually said to me at one point, “If I were you, I’d start driving.” What the what?!?! If you were me?!? How about if you were you? A friend was with us, and I’m sure he thought I was off my rocker, but honestly, I was the one who was going to handle everything. I knew it was all on my shoulders if they didn’t find the stupid wheel lock. But they did. Thank the Lord. And I could take a deep breath and relax. I literally came home and had two glasses of wine.

I feel like I have been “putting out fires” since she went to college in August. Surely, this won’t keep happening. Surely, things will settle down. Is she going to have a crisis every couple of weeks?

Maybe we have learned something from these crises? I know now what the wheel lock looks like for my car! And our daughter knows where to find hers! (Yes, I made sure she got it back after the repair.) Maybe we have both gotten some extra education since college started!

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Writing My Way Through Tough Times

Writing my way through tough times.

If we live long enough, we all experience heartache at some time or another. It might be in the form of a breakup, or it might be in the loss of a loved one. I experienced a few breakups as I grew up, just like most everyone else, but my first big, real heartache was when my daddy was diagnosed with and eventually died of pancreatic cancer in 2006.

He was officially diagnosed in February of that year, and he died on October 2 of the same year. Today is the 16th anniversary of his death…a tough day for me, and a reminder of the heartache I managed to survive. I suffered. It was the most painful thing I had ever experienced…losing my daddy. I was the mother of a toddler, but I was afraid I was losing my mind. I made lots of plans, because I thought I needed to stay busy. I ran myself ragged. But I learned.

When my mother fell ill 11 years later, my friend, Angela, who has also lost her father, said, “Get ready. It’s going to be tough when you lose her.” I vividly remember turning to her, saying, “It’s going to be tough, for sure, but I feel like I learned something when Daddy died. I feel like I developed some coping skills.” And after Mother passed, I learned I had, in fact, developed some coping skills. I had learned not to run from it. I had learned from my experience with Daddy’s death that I needed to just drop out of the world for a little while and process it. So that’s what I did after Mother died. I have written about it before. I literally gave myself permission to recover quietly and cancelled all plans and went to bed for a month. Don’t get me wrong. I was functional. But I didn’t feel like being social, so I wasn’t. I did what I needed to do for our daughter, but for the most part, I stayed home. And after a month, I “pulled up my bootstraps” and rejoined the living.

For Christmas that year, I had received a gift from a friend. It was a book called My Future Listography: All I Hope to do in Lists. When I received the gift, I thought it was cool, but when Mother died five days after Christmas, the book took on more meaning. It’s a journal, of sorts, and it’s part of a series of Listography books. Each one contains lists to fill in, and this one is full of lists about the future. Examples of some of the lists: What countries do you want to visit? What films do you want to see? What fictional characters would you like to hang out with? But after Mother died, the book became good therapy for me. Sounds crazy, but it gave me things to think about in the future. It made me see past the state of gloom I was in and look to the future. It really helped me move through the grief. It helped me realize that the act of putting my thoughts out there could help me heal. To order My Future Listography, click here.

And because of that, I started my blog. Writing things down…or typing them, in the case of the blog…was therapeutic! My Future Listography had brought me through the initial trauma of losing my mother, and writing the blog helpted me continue to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Since losing my Mother on December 30, 2017, I have given copies of My Future Listography to lots of friends when they have been going through tough times…breakups, death of a loved one, or even new empty-nesters who are having a hard time. Sometimes, they look at me like it’s a weird gift, and maybe it is…but several times, people have called me later to tell me how much it helped them keep putting one foot in front of the other…keep looking toward the future. We know time helps with heartache, but knowing there is life ahead of the heartache can help too. When someone is in the middle of grief or heartache, they aren’t necessarily thinking about the good things ahead, but this journal can help them see what the future might look like.

I have a friend who went through a terrible breakup two years ago, and I gave her a copy after the relationship ended. There’s something about a relationship ending that can seem particularly dismal. It can feel like everything you believed about someone was wrong…a lie. Later, we realize that’s not always the case; sometimes, there are just extenuating circumstances that cause relationships to end. And as with my friend, sometimes we need to be reminded that there is a bright future ahead. She called me months after the breakup and told me the journal of lists had helped her. Now, I keep a few handy to give as gifts, because you never know when someone you love is going to experience something bad.

Sometimes, we just need a reminder that better things lie ahead.

The Door is Always Open

The door is always open.

It’s Saturday. It’s a college football weekend, and one of my daughter’s friends just came in for a visit. It’s a friend who went to a different high school here in Charlotte, but she’s also a friend Milly had as a toddler, so we’ve known her for a long time. I saw on the BeReal app last night that she was home, when I saw a picture of her in her living room with her parents. *If you’re not familiar with BeReal, it’s an app through which you take a picture showing what you’re doing when it sends you a notification at the same time it sends all your friends a notification. Not only does it take your picture, but it takes a picture of what’s in front of you, too. Kind of cool.*

After seeing her BeReal post, I texted her, “Omg! You’re in Charlotte?!?” She texted back, “Yes! I’ll come see you tomorrow!” And from there we made plans for her to come over between 3:30 and 4:00 this afternoon. I was excited. I haven’t seen her in a couple of months…since before all the new college freshmen (like my daughter) left for college. At about 3:30 today, I stuck a small brie wheel in the oven and put together a charcuterie board…one of my favorite things to do. Plus, everyone can find something to eat on a charcuterie board, right? At 3:45, the doorbell rang, and I literally ran to the door to greet her with a big hug. Two months is a long time when you’re used to seeing someone on a regular basis. I then went into the kitchen and took the charcuterie board to the table. The brie was ready to come out of the oven, so I took it out and drizzled creamy caramel sauce over it and around it, adding spiced pecans around the edges before taking it to the table.

And then we talked…and laughed…and talked and laughed some more.

I remember when I was in high school, and my parents would tell me how much older people (parents) love when younger people (their kids’ friends) make an effort to spend time with them. I literally remember them telling me that. And now I’m living it. I was so flattered that this young lady took some time out of her weekend to come laugh with me. We have known her most of her life, and I absolutely adore her, so it was great to catch up with her. She got me up to speed on her freshman year, and I was thrilled to hear she is doing great.

We even Facetimed my daughter who is visiting my friend, Angela, in Montgomery today. Her college is playing an away game, and according to my daughter, lots of people left town, so she went to see Angela. Just like I was thrilled to have the friend visit, Angela was thrilled to have my daughter come in. We all Facetimed together, laughing and taking screenshots during our conversation. I could see the happiness on Angela’s face, and she could see the happiness on mine! I remember even when I was in my forties, my mother was always so happy anytime I visited and Angela came over. Laughter filled the house, and Mother always said it felt like we were in college again. She loved it. Today, I felt like I had one of “my kids” at home again. It warmed my heart to have her here, if only for a little while…truly made my weekend.

So if you have never told your kids how much parents enjoy visits from their kids’ friends, tell them now. I hope more of our daughter’s friends will visit when they are in town, and I’m really looking forward to the Thanksgiving break and the big holiday break, when we can hopefully have groups of them over, and laughter will fill our house again. I hope they’ll visit.

The sweet young lady who visited today has no idea just how happy that visit made me. Her mother and I are friends, so I will text her and tell her how much I enjoyed the visit…and how flattered I am.

Looking forward to more visits from young friends to liven up our house.

The door is always open.

Visiting Our Daughter in College

Visiting our daughter in college.

This past weekend, I went to visit our daughter in college. If you have read anything I have written lately, you already know she is a freshman at my alma mater. In fact, you probably know she participated in sorority recruitment and pledged. You probably know she had a medical emergency soon thereafter, and soon after that, she was in an automobile accident while I was out of the country. That was a couple of weeks ago. I would say it has been a couple of quiet weeks since, but I don’t want to jinx it, so I’m not going to say it.

I arrived in Tuscaloosa (she goes to the University of Alabama) Friday evening and checked into the hotel, prepared to go to the football game against Vanderbilt Saturday. We do not have season tickets to the games, because we usually only go to a game or two a year, but I do have connections to get good seats, so I scored some club level seats for four of us…my daughter and a friend, me, and my friend, Angela.

For those who don’t know, it’s commonplace for freshmen girls to have dates with freshmen boys for the football games at Alabama. Our daughter had a date for Saturday’s game, so I knew I probably wouldn’t see much of her before the game, and I might not see her much during the game either. In talking with some other parents before the game, I discovered lots of parents don’t know that. One mom said she couldn’t believe she had traveled all the way from Virginia to see her daughter, and she was barely spending time with her. But I was prepared. I knew that would be the case. Heck, I barely saw her when she was still living at home! Plus, I remember college. I remember just wanting to be in the thick of things. I loved my parents, but hanging out with “old people” when I could be having fun? That was not on my agenda. It’s not on my daughter’s agenda either!

And as my friend, Lauren, says about our daughter, “The wind wasn’t blowing hard the day that apple fell from the tree!” Honestly, I had fun in college, but our daughter is a lot more fun and less reserved than I was. She just flies by the seat of her pants, and she doesn’t want to miss a thing. So was it a big surprise to me that she didn’t want to spend every moment with me? Not at all.

Truly, I decided the trip down to Alabama was really for my own peace of mind. She didn’t care if I visited or not. Do some parents get their feelings hurt by that? I’m sure they do. But I told our girl in advance that I didn’t expect her to spend a lot of time with me. I told her I wanted her to do what she wanted, but I’d love to have a meal or two with her.

Here’s the funny thing: I am absolutely thrilled that she didn’t want to spend lots of time with me. You can think I’m crazy, but let me explain. It goes back to the old “no news is good news.” If she doesn’t want to spend a lot of time with me, it means she is happy where she is. It’s not that she doesn’t care about me. It means she is so secure in the knowledge that I love her that she feels free to do what she wants. I’m cool with it. I think I wrote once about something I heard Dr. Lisa Damour, a well-known author and psychologist say. She compared the world to a big swimming pool, and the edge of the pool represents parents. Our kids dive into the pool (the world) and swim right out. Sometimes, they get tired or scared, and they swim back over to hold onto the edge of the pool (parents) for a few minutes. But soon, they’re swimming back out to the middle of the action. That’s my daughter in the world right now…except she isn’t swimming over to the edge very often…and that means she is feeling pretty confident about her swimming ability!

Before the game, my daughter and her best friend were with their dates at their fraternity house. I was visiting friends in other places on campus. I had “transferred” two digital tickets to my daughter, so we didn’t have to wait for her to go into the stadium. Angela and I went to the stadium a little while before game time, and at about kickoff, my daughter and her friend came strolling into the club…starving. So they grabbed some food from the buffet and sat down with us for a few minutes before going to their game seats, where we joined them a little while later. At halftime, they announced they were going back to join their dates, and we didn’t see them again that night. Our team won, and we left the stadium happy. The next day, we all had brunch together, and after all the fun had died down Sunday night, she went out to dinner with me and then came over to the hotel and watched a movie with me, snuggled up in bed, just like old times.

All of this is my long way of saying that if you visit your child at college and he/she doesn’t spend a lot of time with you, say a prayer of thanks. Be thankful that they are so happy where they are and so comfortable in their relationship with you. Be happy that they are out swimming in the middle of the pool all by themselves! There will still be times they need to swim back to the edge, but it’s not today.

I’m saying my prayer of thanks right now.

*If you’re interested in reading some of Lisa Damour’s books, you can purchase them on Amazon here.*

Teen Wardrobe Controversy

Teen wardrobe controversy.

Recently, one of my favorite psychologists, Lisa Damour, the author of Untangled (see the book on Amazon here), posted something on Facebook about how to address your preteen/teen daughter’s wardrobe choices. And wow! It stirred up some controversy on her Facebook page! I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, because everything seems to stir up controversy these days. Below is what she posted. And you can listen to the relevant podcast here.

Courtesy of Lisa Damour’s Facebook page

If you have ever read anything I have written, you know I am the mother of a teenage daughter. She’s 18 now…almost 19…and a month into her freshman year of college. She has always been a “real” teenager. She likes to have fun. She likes to spend time with friends. She likes to laugh. She likes to go to parties. Somehow, between all the fun, she manages to do the things she is supposed to do too. Thank the Lord.

She’s the perfect daughter for me, but does that mean she’s perfect? No. I’m not the perfect mother or a perfect person, either. But somehow, we survived the middle and high school years. Does that mean we never disagree? Nope. We disagree. When she was younger, we even disagreed occasionally about wardrobe choices. And just like Lisa Damour, I tried to find a way to say things nicely. Was I always successful? No. Sometimes, I probably said things like, “You look like a hoochie mama.” I know. Not kind words, but they got the point across, and chances are, they probably started a “discussion.”

Even when she was four years old, she had a mind of her own. This is not a story of which I am proud, but it happened. One Sunday morning, as we were getting ready to go to church, I said to our daughter, “Pick out which dress you want to wear.” She argued, “I don’t want to wear a dress. Everyone else doesn’t wear dresses to church.” You know what I said next. “Well, I’m not everyone else’s mother, and we wear dresses to church. Now, go into your closet and pick which one you want to wear.” Her dresses were beautifully organized (back then) and hanging in an orderly fashion in her closet. I followed her into the closet, where she promptly and defiantly touched each dress with the tips of her fingers, while saying some things I won’t repeat. ***Here is where I need to tell you my husband had a brain tumor at the time and because of it, lacked judgment on when and where to say things. He had no filter.*** I’m not kidding. I was horrified (I knew where she had heard it), but I also found myself about to laugh. I made a quick decision to ignore the obvious ploy for attention. I turned my back for a moment before turning around and asking her, “Did you pick a dress?” She did, and I never mentioned the offensive language to her, because I didn’t want it to get any attention. I did, however, tell her preschool teacher (at our church!) the next morning when I dropped her off…gave her a heads up that my daughter, my sweet little 4-yr-old daughter, might teach her classmates some new words. Lord, help us.

We didn’t have much wardrobe controversy for several years after that. I had given up on ruffles and bows long before…when she, at 1 1/2 or 2, declared they were “for babies.” I did manage to get her to wear a hair bow for picture day in Transitional Kindergarten, but only because I told her she could take it out immediately after pictures, which she did. In third grade, on picture day, she didn’t want to look prissy. That was a bit of a battle. We finally agreed, much to my dismay, on a blue t-shirt with a sequined pocket. Sadly, it’s the picture that appeared in the school lunchroom on her checkout page every single day when she made a purchase…all the way through senior year…that damned blue shirt with the sequined pocket.

When she got to middle school, I’m sure I had to veto some ensembles, but not likely because they were skimpy…just not appropriate for the occasion, whatever it might have been.

Then along came high school. She got taller, and the clothes got smaller.

The shorts got shorter and tighter. The shirts got tighter and shorter. The heels got higher. It happens. Frankly, I probably would have been more worried about her if it hadn’t happened. And yes, there were times I had to stop her at the door and say, “You’re not wearing that.”

Some people think we shouldn’t expect our girls to be responsible for what other people think of how they dress. I get it, but I’m not one of those people. I think there is a time and place for everything.

When our daughter was in high school, if she wanted to wear short shorts and a crop top or tube top, that was fine…as long as she is just hanging out with her friends. She didn’t need to walk into better retail establishments dressed like that. She didn’t need to go out to dinner dressed like that. She didn’t need to meet parents of dates dressed like that. It’s simply not appropriate, and I don’t think it gives off the impression she wants to give in those situations.

She’s in college now, so I only get pictures after the fact. I have no say-so. I have no opportunity to nix an outfit choice, but so far, I’ve been pleased with the photos she has sent me. Generally speaking, she knows what is appropriate and what is not.

Come on. Let’s face it. What we wear does say something about us. Every time I get dressed to go somewhere, I am very aware of what I look like. Sometimes, I am dressed like a casual mom, and I know it. Sounds silly, but jeans and a gingham shirt are not going to a fine dining establishment. A comfy, cotton dress? That’s not going either. Sneakers? Nope. I can wear all of those to the grocery store, a sporting event, or for running erands, but if I’m going to a fine dining establishment, I want to dress like I know what I’m doing.

Even when I go to the doctor, I tend to try to dress up a little. It’s about respect, right? I don’t have to be a beauty queen, but don’t we all know people get treated with a little more respect when we look like we have made some effort to look our best? I can’t speak for everyone, but if I look good, I feel good. It’s just the way I roll. If I’m dressed sloppily, I tend to feel sloppy.

So yes, I have been known to stop my daughter from walking out the door dressed in certain ways…when she was younger. Don’t get me wrong…I’m pretty easy going. But if her date’s parents are coming over or picking her up for dinner, she needs to look like she wants their respect. I think this is what school dress codes are all about…teaching kids how to dress appropriately, but most schools don’t seem to care anymore. Later, when our daughter goes for a job interview, she needs to look like she has some self respect.

If you don’t respect yourself, how do you expect others to respect you?!?

If you don’t respect yourself, how do you expect others to respect you? That’s my message to her. Fortunately, this is not a conversation we have had much in the past couple of years…mostly when she was a young teen.

So yes, I agreed with Lisa Damour’s post. Not everyone did, and that’s OK. We all have our own opinions, and that’s what makes the world go ’round.