I’ve Already Graduated from College

I’ve already graduated from college.

When our daughter was in third grade, she came home one afternoon and asked me to help her with a math problem. She didn’t ask for help often, and I was happy to oblige. I sat down and worked with her, showing her how to do a problem. When I finished, she just looked at me and said, “That’s not how my teacher does it.” I said, “Well, that’s how I do it. I won the math award in high school…I know what I’m doing.” Again…”that’s not how my teacher does it.” My response? “Then ask your teacher in the morning. I have already passed third grade math.” And honestly, that was the best response for lots of reasons, the main one being that I don’t know how to do “new math.”

It reminded me of my mother when I was in school. I remember asking her for help with geometry, and her response was, “Honey. I don’t remember. That was 30 years ago. I’ve already passed geometry.” And with that, she turned back to continue watching Dynasty, because what Krystle Carrington was wearing was important. At that point in my life, I guess I thought moms retained every bit of math knowledge they had acquired in school. I guess I expected her to be able to recall the Pythagorean theorem on demand…30 years after passing her geometry class. My daughter has not asked me for math help (or any other kind of help in school) since. I guess, if she needed help along the way, she asked a classmate or a teacher.

And now, she is finishing high school in the next few weeks and preparing to leave for college! Exciting times at our house! She is enrolled, but she has lots of things to do before she can go off to college.

Back in the 80s, when I was applying to college and preparing to leave, I did it all. I don’t remember my parents helping me at all. Sure, they paid for everything, but I did all the legwork. I remember brochures and packets coming in the mail from different colleges and universities. My mother put a bag in my room to deal with that. Every day, after the mail arrived, she would bring all the brochures and packets up to my room and drop them into the bag. Every now and then, I would weed through the information and throw away the information from the schools I wasn’t interested in. When I applied to colleges, I simply asked her for checks to mail with the applications. I wrote the checks, and she signed them. I’m not even sure if she knew which schools the checks were going to. And that was OK, because I was the one going to college. She had already graduated from college.

Now, as my daughter is preparing to leave for college, I have joined some Facebook parent pages for her university, which is also my alma mater. I have written about the parent pages before. They are annoying, to say the least. Moms asking how to send baked potatoes to their kids’ dorms. (Not kidding.) Moms asking where their kids should park. (Not kidding.) Moms asking about tutors for their kids. (Not kidding.) Moms asking how to do their kids’ schedules. (Not kidding.) Moms asking how to drop/add classes. (Not kidding.) Rarely, there is someone who asks a question or shares information that is useful.

Why did I put “not kidding” behind each of those items I listed? I will tell you why: because those are all things the kids should be handling themselves. And do you know why? Because they are the ones going to college. Fortunately, my daughter hasn’t asked me to handle anything for her (I don’t have any login information for her student account). She likely knows I would say, “That’s something you need to figure out like I had to do when I went to college. I’m not going to college; you are. I’ve already graduated from college.” Does it mean I don’t care? No, it means the opposite. It means I care enough to let her do it herself. She needs to learn to solve her own problems. She needs to know how to get her own questions answered. She needs to be responsible for herself. I have full confidence in her, because I have let her figure things out for herself for a long time. Heck, it’s easier for them now than it was when we were in college! Now, all the information they need is on the website!

Back in the good ol’ 1980s, if we had questions about college stuff, we had to search through the university catalog. Or get the university phone book and make some calls to get answers. If we were wondering about where to order a baked potato to have delivered to our dorm, we had to find the yellow pages and look it up. Only, we couldn’t look up “baked potato delivery.” We had to look up restaurants and search for one with an ad for delivery. We also had to have some idea of which ones offered baked potatoes. Or we could walk down the dorm hall asking people if they knew where we could order a baked potato…that often worked. But back in the 80s, our moms were not ordering food to have delivered to us. No way. Honestly, I’m not even sure my mother knew the name of the dorm I lived in freshman year! No joke.

All this also makes me think about something that happened when our daughter was about six years old. My friend, Wendy, and I had taken my 6-yr-old daughter, Wendy’s 6-yr-old son, and my twin 6-yr-old nephews to Great Wolf Lodge one weekend. When we took them to dinner, my daughter was holding her own plate, but standing next to me at the buffet. Wendy’s son was holding his own plate but standing next to her at the buffet. I looked around for my nephews and saw one at the prime rib station, asking the server for a slice of prime rib. The other one was navigating the salad bar on his own. When we sat back down, Wendy and I talked about how awesome it was that they handled it all on their own! I called the nephews’ mom the next day and said, “Wow! They handled the buffet like champs!” And I still remember her response. She said, “That’s what happens when parents ignore their kids. They become self-sufficient.” I laughed, because I knew she didn’t really ignore them, but she didn’t baby them. They handled things for themselves at six! And I learned a valuable lesson. l didn’t ignore my daughter, for sure, but I let her handle things on her own. Those same nephews are off to college this fall too, and I feel sure they can handle anything that comes their way.

When we get my daughter moved into the dorm in August, I will feel pretty sure she can figure things out. She can handle it. She has always been a decision-maker. She is like me; she can make a decision…it might not always be the best one, but she can make a decision, and that is a life skill. Why can she make decisions? Because I have always stepped back to let her make her own decisions. I might present the facts before she makes it, but she makes her own decisions. I’m proud of that, because “the road of life is paved with flat squirrels who couldn’t make a decision.” If your kid is about to leave for college, and you haven’t let them make life decisions, you have a few more months to let them practice, so they don’t become a flat squirrel.

I’ve already graduated from college.

Finding a College Roommate

Finding a college roommate.

It’s that time of year…the time when lots of high school seniors who are going to college are searching for roommates. My own daughter, fortunately, found a roommate from another Charlotte school soon after they both decided to go to the same college, so we don’t have that stress. But there are still lots of people looking. How do I know this? {Deep breath} I know this, because {another deep breath} their parents are posting their photos and bios on college parent pages, trying to find roommates for them. {And another deep breath) I’m not judging, but my daughter would definitely stop talking to me for a while if I did that.

There are tried and true methods for high school seniors to find roommates, and those methods do not include their parents posting photos and bios on parent pages. They also don’t include the moms doing it for them. Seriously, I’m not judging. I just think it’s something the students need to do. If your soon-to-be college freshman needs a roommate, here are some ways for your child to find one:

  • Ask friends if they know anyone. You might be surprised at how small the world is. Several people have asked my daughter if she knows someone going to a particular college, and she has been able to make some connections. If your child knows someone who is already a student at the university he/she plans to attend, that person might have friends who have younger siblings who will be freshmen next year. If your child is going to college in a different state, he/she might reach out to people he/she knows who live in that state. For example, if your child is going to college in Florida and knows three people who live in that state (cousins, family friends, etc), they can ask them for suggestions. It’s even OK for moms to ask other moms if they know anyone…it’s OK to help them get started, but the kids need to carry this. They need to do the reaching out.
  • Post your declaration on your college’s Instagram for incoming freshmen. This one is easy for most soon-to-be graduates. Most of them are accustomed to navigating social media, and if they’re not social-media-savvy, they need to be. Lots of communication in college is done via social media. Get with the program. Most colleges/universities have public Instagram accounts where incoming freshmen can post their photo/bio. Many of them are called State University Class of 2026. I know lots of people who have found roommates using Instagram.
  • College-sponsored roommate selection services. Lots of colleges and universities have a selection service that helps students find roommates. At my daughter’s university, it’s called My College Roomie. The process starts with creating a profile. Next the incoming freshman completes a questionnaire. Based on his/her answers, matches will be generated, and they can reach out to their matches by sending messages through the service. I have heard of other college having the same type of program. Your student should look at his/her school’s housing website to see if a similar service is offered.
  • Facebook groups. Facebook is another great social media resource for finding a roommate. Again…your child needs to do this…not the parent! If you aren’t the person who actually needs the roommate, you don’t need to do the search. If your child doesn’t have a Facebook profile, he/she will need to create one before joining Facebook groups. I have seen at least three Facebook groups for roommate searches at my daughter’s university. In the search bar, your child can enter “university name, roommate,” and specify that he/she is searching for a group. Some possibilities for groups will likely appear.
  • Roommate Search Apps. And lastly, there are roommate search apps. Two that I have heard of are RoomSync and Roomsurf. I think they work a lot like online dating sites…create a profile…maybe complete a questionnaire. Matches are made.

Worst case scenario, your child doesn’t find a roommate before school starts, and he/she gets assigned a random roommate. That is not a disaster. It often works out great. If your child ends up having a random roommate, it could be a new, forever friendship. You never know where a new friendship will blossom.

Sure, mom and dad can help a little along the way by asking people they know, but personally, I don’t recommend posting your child’s photo/bio on a parent page. Personally, I think that shouldn’t even be allowed on parent pages, but since I’m not the administrator on those pages (thank you, Lord), I don’t have any say-so. I’m not judging. This is one of those things that falls under “things your college student needs to do on his/her own.” That’s just my opinion, and it’s worth what you pay for it.

And very important: tell your kids to be themselves when searching. Do not misrepresent yourself. If you don’t drink, say you don’t drink. If you go to bed early, say you go to bed early. If you prefer quiet space, tell potential roommates that. If a potential roommate says he/she likes to get up and run several miles every day, it’s OK to admit you can’t even run to the mailbox. Be who you really are.

Good luck to everyone looking for college roommates for Fall 2022. It’s an exciting time! These students will remember their freshman-year roommates for the rest of their lives…good or bad…but hopefully good.

Now I’m Getting Nervous

Now I’m getting nervous…

It’s no secret that I have been looking forward to my daughter’s high school graduation. She has been at the same independent school since she was four years old, so she really thinks she is ready for graduation. Plus, she is an only child, so when she graduates and goes off to college, we become empty-nesters. We start a new phase of our lives. It’s a phase we are excited about.

And up until now, I’ve been nothing but excited. I have been looking forward to summer vacations. I have been excited about how much she is going to love college. I have been looking forward to the adventures my husband and I will have…traveling to different places…the possibility of living somewhere else (not right away, of course, because we know our daughter needs to be able to come back home during her freshman year). There’s a lot to look forward to.

But earlier today, I was talking with a friend whose only child, a daughter, is a sophomore in college, and she gave me a warning, “No matter what you think right now, you are going to miss that girl when she goes to college.” And it hit me. She’s right. I’m going to miss her. I’m going to miss her like crazy. We have been together almost every single day of her life. Soon, she will be leaving me behind. I’m happy for her, but now I’m nervous for me. It’s uncharted territory for me.

I wrote recently about how I have one job. I’m a mom. And that has been my one job for eighteen years. But now that’s about to change. I’m not officially being “fired” from that job, but the job description is going to change. She won’t need me daily; frankly, she probably hasn’t needed me daily for a long time. However, once she goes off to college several hundred miles away, I will likely go months without seeing her in person or giving her a hug! She will be fine. I’m worried about me.

God prepares us for this. As they grow up, kids gradually become more independent. Even in elementary school, they start going to friends houses without us. They go to sleepovers with friends. And then, before they can drive, we drop them off at places to meet friends regularly. Then, they learn to drive, and everything changes. As soon as our daughter turned 16, she was off to the races…we hardly saw her anymore, because she had the freedom to move around the city at will. Four months after she got her license, though, COVID hit. Because she couldn’t spend as much time with friends, she did a lot of driving around. She even invited me to go for drives with her. We looked for places to drive around…sometimes just driving around town, and other times driving into South Carolina to see what it looked like when states started to re-open during the pandemic. South Carolina opened way before North Carolina did, and we drove around looking at the lines outside restaurants!

Because teenagers are social creatures, we were not particularly strict about the COVID restrictions. She needed to see her friends. She needed to spend time socializing, so we let her. I joked that she spent the summer of 2020 trying to catch COVID but never caught it. I felt sure she would bring it home to me and my husband during those first few crucial months, but we never got it. Actually, I did have it in late January of this year, but I didn’t get it from my daughter.

Pandemic restrictions lifted, and school eventually went back to “normal.” She has been going to school dances and sporting events. Her social life has resumed in full force. She is hardly ever home, but we usually see her for at least a few minutes a day. Lots of times, I don’t even know when she will be home after lacrosse practice.

And now, she is taking another step toward independence…and so are we! We are going to have lots of free time on our hands. It’s going to be scary. It’s going to be fun. But even while we are having fun, I’m sure I will miss our little girl who’s not so little anymore. She is three inches taller than I am and ready to face the world. We just have to get ourselves ready to face the world in a different way…and really, that’s the scary part. I’m going to have to reinvent myself!

Yes, God prepares us by making their independence gradual…so gradual that we hardly notice till they’re ready to fly the coop! And now it’s almost here…

Once we get her to college, we plan to take a nice, relaxing vacation to “celebrate” our new status as empty nesters. Hopefully, we embrace the freedom…

The future is bright!

The Glory of Hem Tape

The glory of hem tape…OK, so they call it “Fabric Fuse Tape,” but I call it hem tape, because that’s what I use it for.

I’m on a college parents Facebook page. It’s a page on which parents of students at my daughter’s future college can post about different things. Sometimes…occasionally…I get helpful information. I also see lots of ridiculous posts where parents are looking for roommates for their kids or trying to do other things for their kids that they should be doing themselves. It can become quite comical. But recently, someone posted that her daughter needed to know where she could get a long formal dress hemmed within 24 hours. Good luck with that. If she had Fabric Fuse Tape, she wouldn’t be in a panic.

One thing that will definitely be in my daughter’s “emergency kit” (not her first aid kit, but the kit with safety pins, extra buttons, rubber bands, etc) will be hem tape. And before we take her to college, I plan to make sure she knows how to use it. Call it trashy. Call it cheap. But hem tape has saved me on more than one occasion, so we keep it in our house all the time.

What is hem tape, you ask? It’s special double-sided fabric tape you can use to hem clothing items. Since I’m 5’2″ on a tall day, I have to hem pants on the regular, and if I don’t have time to take them to the alterations place, I do them myself…with hem tape. The kind I use (link shared at end) comes straight from Amazon. When I need to hem an item, I turn it inside out and fold it where it needs to be hemmed. Then, I cut two-inch sections of hem tape and apply them one by one around the inside of the new hem, pressing them firmly in place with my hand/fingers as I go. No ironing needed…just firm pressing…and it holds. It’s no joke. I have “hemmed” a pair of pants in less that ten minutes when I needed to get out the door. It works even through washes.

A couple of weeks ago, our daughter had her Sadie Hawkins Dance at school. She had purchased a lovely dress that crossed at the hem in front. It was a short dress, so if the crossed hem opened while she was walking or sitting, it would have been indecent. She asked if she should pin it with a safety pin, and I said, “No. I have the perfect thing.” I got out the hem tape and cut a short tape. She was already wearing the dress, so it was easy to figure out where to place the tape. We held the two pieces of fabric together and placed the hem tape strategically…and she didn’t have any issues with it the entire evening. No, it will likely never detach, but it’s not an issue, because she can get into and out of the dress with it there.

I have lots of pants of different weights on which I have used hem tape. Heavy denim fabric? Check. Lightweight fabrics? Check. And i’ve used it when jeans came with frayed hems I didn’t like. Just fold under and apply hem tape…it will hold indefinitely.

So yes, we have hem tape all over the place at our house…in my bathroom drawer…in “the” kitchen drawer (you know, the one with all the paper clips, safety pins, thermometer, etc). I had never used it before a few years ago when I ordered it. I had gone to the alterations place at prom time, and the line was out the door. I didn’t have time to wait, so while I sat in my car contemplating what to do, I looked on Amazon and placed my first order for hem tape. It totally saved us.

So yes, I have it on the list of necessary items in the college emergency kit…and I think it should be a staple in any home.

To order your Fabric Fuse Tape (hem tape to me) from Amazon, click here.

Late Night Grilled Cheese

Late night grilled cheese.

Last night, my daughter and one of her friends came back to our house to sleep after going to a party. They got home around midnight. My daughter poured herself a bowl of Reese’s Puffs cereal, but her friend requested a grilled cheese sandwich. I was flattered that she asked and happy to make it. All my daughter’s friends know I make a “special” grilled cheese. I know you’re thinking “it’s just grilled cheese,” but if you’re thinking that, you have never had my grilled cheese.

The girls went upstairs, taking their food with them (they remembered to bring their plates and cups down), and a little while later, my daughter texted me asking if some friends could come over for a little while. She asked, very nicely, if I would prepare grilled cheese sandwiches for her friends. I was secretly thrilled she had asked, so I responded, “Tell them to come on over, and tell them to come in through the garage. I will get the grilled cheese ready. Y’all will need to stay in the kitchen and keep it down to a low roar, so we don’t wake your daddy.”

Y’all might think I’m crazy. (Trust me when I say it wouldn’t be the first time someone called me that.) My husband certainly does. He thinks midnight is too late to be awake, so when I tell him we are having visitors after midnight…well, he just can’t process that concept. Who in their right mind would let teenagers come over in the middle of the night for grilled cheese sandwiches? I can tell you who…me! I love when they want to come to our house! I’m a total night owl who loves her daughter’s friends! I love that they request my “special” grilled cheese! I’m always happy to see them. So when I closed the door behind me on the way to the kitchen, I told my husband to go on to sleep. He said, “Make sure the door is locked and the alarm is on before you come back to bed.” He then rolled his eyes at me, and I closed the door.

I was pulling one of my favorite hoodies on over my pajamas as I walked into the kitchen and started getting out all the ingredients. Just as I had gotten started, I heard my daughter and her friend come downstairs and meet the guests as they came in through the garage. They came into the kitchen and started laughing and talking…music to my ears. Now I understand why my mother loved to have my friends over. Even after I became a full-fledged adult (in my forties), she loved when I had my friend, Angela, meet me at her house for a visit. I guess Angela and I revert back to college-age, because Mother always said, “I feel like I have college students in my house again!” She loved it.

There are lots of reasons I like to see my daughter’s friends walking into my kitchen. I’m glad they feel comfortable showing up here whenever they like. I’m flattered they like my “special” grilled cheese. (Yes, it really is special, and I won’t give away my secrets.) I love hearing them laugh and talk. But most of all, I am especially happy that they know I am a friendly face for them, and our house is a safe space. During the late night visits, I always take the opportunity to remind them they can call me to pick them up anytime they need a ride. And I hope they will remember these nights fondly years from now. I have mentioned before that my next-door neighbor once told me the friends of her grown children tell her some of their best high school memories were made at her house. I want these kids to say the same thing. I want them to have good memories of coming to our house to hang out. I want them to feel comfortable rehashing their evening fun while I “cook.” And yes, I want them to laugh about my willingness to make grilled cheese sandwiches for them at any hour.

Juniors and seniors show up on a regular basis. The seniors that come for visits are going off to college soon.But I’m not just making memories for them. I’m getting to know them all better, and I’m making memories for myself too! What I’m really hoping is that they will come visit me when they come home from college over the next few years. I’m hoping they’ll ring my phone and ask if they can come over for a late night grilled cheese.

And while they’re here, I hope they’ll say, “Some of my best high school memories were made at your house, Mrs. Mattei!”

Everyone Isn’t Going to College

Everyone isn’t going to college.

Consider this my own little Public Service Announcement: Every kid who is graduating from high school right now is not going to college. Sure, lots of them are, but lots of them aren’t, and we need to be mindful of that.

If you encounter a high school senior in the next month or so, don’t ask them where they’re going to college. In fact, don’t ask that question, even if you know they are going to college. Some of those who are going are struggling with the decision. And the ones who aren’t going to college, I’m sure, get tired of that question. Why do we now assume everyone is going to college?!? For some of them, college is not the best option, for any number of reasons…and we need to remember that.

So next time you encounter a high school senior, I recommend you ask, “What are your plans after graduation?” If they are going to technical school, they can tell you all about that. If they are going into a branch of the military, they will be thrilled to tell you about that. If they are going to college and know which one they are attending, they can share that information with you. And if they haven’t decided on a college yet, they can say, “I’m still deciding where I want to go to college.”

But remember…everyone isn’t going to college.

Mike Rowe, one of my favorite celebrities ever, because he is real and tells it like it is, is a big proponent of technical schools for young people. Some people need to learn a trade or a skill. Many of those people who become plumbers, electricians, carpenters, welders, or HVAC repairmen will quickly start making money and socking it away in the bank while college students and their parents are still shelling out boatloads of money for a college education…sometimes, one that doesn’t make the student any more employable. Lots of those vocations are needed. Lots of people can walk right into a good-paying job if they have the necessary skills. (If you’re not familiar with Mike Rowe, he is the host of Dirty Jobs, a television show about real jobs in this country, and he is also the author of a great book called The Way I Heard It. I read the book in the early days of the pandemic, about this time two years ago, and it was worthwhile, easy reading. Pick up a copy if you like reading good stories. You can order from Amazon here.)

Ultimately, my goal as a parent is to help my daughter become an independent adult who makes a contribution to society. Does that mean I expect her to become the next gazillionaire? No. It means I want her to be able to support herself in a way that works for her, and I want her to feel like she is doing something to make life better for other people too. Is my goal for her to be “happy”? Of course, I want her to be happy, but I think we are happiest when we are independent contributors to society…so it all goes together. Do I think she will be financially independent right after college? Maybe…maybe not. What I want for her is personal independence. I want her to know she is in charge of her own life and her own destiny. I want her to know how to function in the world…and how to ask questions when she needs to ask questions. I want her to know she doesn’t know everything, but as long as she knows where and how to find out what she wants/needs to know, she’ll be good. She leaves for college in August, and I am excited for her.

But while she is going to class and enjoying college life, there will be lots of kids who graduate from high school at the same time who immediately go to work. Some of them might be entrepreneurs. Some might be inventors. Some might go into a family business. Does the fact that they don’t go to college make them “less than”? No. It simply means they are choosing a different path.

So just like we applaud these kids’ college choices, let’s applaud those who make other choices. Let’s be happy for the kid who opts to join the military. Let’s celebrate the kid who has always known he wanted to be a welder, and he is finally going to technical school to learn that skill. Let’s be excited for the girl who is on her way to cosmetology school.

Let’s be thankful we live somewhere that people can make their own choices.

Down to the College Wire

Down to the college wire.

It’s April 1. College admissions decisions are out there for most schools, and now it’s time for lots of high school seniors to make their final choice. My daughter decided long ago, so we were happy to step off that hamster wheel, but she has friends who are still deciding. God bless them. Some of them are having a difficult time for lots of different reasons. Some didn’t get into their top choice. Some got into none of their top choices. Some got into every school they applied to and can’t decide which one is best. It’s just not easy. It’s an adult decision…the first adult decision lots of them have ever made. They feel alone. They know they are embarking on a new experience, but it can be scary, and they are afraid of making the wrong choice. You see that guy in the feature photo for this piece? He’s sitting there alone…that’s how lots of them feel right now… like they are alone. They need support from the folks who love them.

I’m no college counselor. I’m simply a parent of a high school senior, but there is one thing I wish all kids would consider: they need to find the best choice for themselves.

I hear lots of seniors saying their parents want them to go to one college, but they want to go somewhere else. I hear lots of them say they don’t want to disappoint their teachers/college counselors. I hear lots of them say they want to pick a school by how it’s ranked in US News and World Report. Who am I to say they’re wrong with their methods of decision-making? So no, I’m not going to say they are “wrong.”

I do, however, want to remind them they are the ones going to the school. Their parents won’t be attending. (If their parents are paying, affordability might come into play.) Their college counselors and classmates won’t be sitting in their desks in the classrooms, living in the dorm, or going to athletic events. Each senior needs to make his/her decision based on his/her preferences, because guess what? US News and World Report isn’t going to college either. What US News and World Report thinks is most important might not be what you think is most important. Different people like different things!

And as these kids (yes, they are still kids) make their final decisions, we need to offer them support instead of shaming them for their choices. I know lots of kids who get into “highly ranked institutions,” but they choose a school with a “lower ranking” because it offers other things they want. My own daughter would never get into an Ivy League school, but that’s OK, because that’s not where she wants to be anyway. And there are other kids who do get into Ivy League schools but opt for something else where they will have a different experience. Big sports are important to our daughter, and she would laugh at Ivy League football games. No offense to the Ivy League people of the world, of course, but she likes to watch more competitive football. I have lots of Ivy League friends I love, but even they admit SEC football is awesome.

Some kids want to go to schools that are more outdoorsy. In North Carolina, one school that is “outdoorsy” is Appalachian State University. I know lots of very successful people who went to school there and loved it. Is it a Top 50 school, according to US News and World Report? No. But it’s number one to those people who love it. All kinds of people go there, though…not just the “outdoorsy” people. I went to the University of Alabama. Again, not a Top 50 school by US News and World Report’s rankings, but I think it’s number one! It’s fun! It’s absolutely gorgeous…looks like a movie set. It has a wide array of majors and lots of opportunities in different areas. And it’s geographically diverse. I made some of my best life memories there and certainly made lifelong friends from all over the country. Over 65% of the student body is from out of state. The weather during tornado season is iffy, but most winters are pretty mild, and the sun shines a lot. Some people (like me and my daughter!) don’t want cold climates. And come on…football season is crazy fun there. Also, BarstoolU just ranked it as the number one party school in the country. Lots of people likely think that’s shallow. I think it’s important to have lots of options for fun, and so does my daughter.

Some of these kids might get into “highly ranked” big colleges/universities, but some of those same kids might think a smaller, liberal arts college would be a better fit for their personality. Don’t look down on them for choosing what is best for them. Applaud them for knowing themselves! You can’t put a square peg into a round hole. Or maybe you can, but the square peg likely won’t be happy there. And ultimately, don’t we want our kids to be happy in college? We want them to be happy there so they will stay there. We want them to be successful in college and beyond.

On the flip side, I was talking with a woman a few days ago who was in distress that her daughter wanted to go to a college far away. She wants her daughter to be happy, but said they don’t have any idea how they will pay for transportation costs. Yes, these kids are still kids, but they are pretty reasonable too, and they often understand that affordability counts too. Guess who is not paying your child’s college tuition? The college counselors at your school aren’t paying it. Their friends’ parents aren’t paying it. And their friends are not paying it. Some of them truly need to go to the “highest bidder,” meaning they need to go to the school that offers them the most money/financial aid.

And I recently spoke with another parent of a high school senior who was trying to make the decision for her daughter, saying, “She wants to go to XXXX University, but I just think she would love XXXXX University. I wanted to go there, but my parents wouldn’t pay the out of state tuition.” She’s trying to push her daughter into going where she wanted to go. Ick. We can’t live vicariously. We, the parents, aren’t going to college. We need to remember that too.

Here’s the skinny: each kid who is deciding on a college right now has different factors to consider. They have different priorities and different interests. Let’s applaud them for their decisions; this is one of the first tough decisions they will make in life.

We’re getting down to the college wire. Again, I’m not a college counselor, but I know it’s a tough time for lots of teens. Celebrate their decisions.

First College Friends

First college friends.

With my daughter preparing to graduate from high school, I’m looking back at my own college experience in anticipation of hers. One thing I often find myself telling people about? The first friends I made in college. The year was 1985…

I moved into my dorm at The University of Alabama on a hot August day. My parents took the trip with me. We took two cars, both loaded with my worldly…one for me to keep there, and one for my parents to return home in. I don’t remember the “check-in” process at the dorm. I feel sure I had to go in, get a key, and sign some forms before we could start hauling stuff up to the room.

I was one of the first ones on my floor that day. My room the first one on the left when we got off the elevator. My roommate, Fannie, had not arrived yet, so I walked into an empty room. We started unpacking things…compared to what girls take to college today, I took very little, so the unpacking didn’t take long. While we were unpacking, a cute, friendly blonde girl approached my doorway and introduced herself as Dianne from Delaware. She was absolutely adorable, and if I remember correctly, she had been attending summer classes before the start of her official freshman year.

Dianne was one of those people who made the college adjustment a lot easier for me, and she always knew how to pull an outfit together. I remember her tying a red sash on one of my dresses for a football game…and she did it perfectly. She was fun and outgoing…and still is. Back then, we liked to have dates for football games, and I remember one date of hers who drove up in front of the dorm and honked his horn for her. We were on the third floor, so we could hear the horn clearly. I can still hear Dianne screaming out her window for him to “get out of the car and come in to get me like a gentleman”!

The influx of girls started picking up throughout the day. Susan, a girl who lived down the street from me at home, was just down the hall…a nice, familiar face who became a closer friend in college! We had been friends in high school, but we became real friends in college.And Fannie arrived in the afternoon with her mother and her older sister there to help her move in. I was lucky. Fannie was outgoing and adorable. Thank the Lord!

We all rushed and pledged different places. Back then, Bid Day was on a Saturday, and Squeal Night was one big party. Fraternities had parties, and we all got “set up” on dates. Thankfully, it’s not done that way anymore…now Bid Day is on a Sunday, and the girls go on a “retreat” with their new pledge sisters immediately…undoubtedly a good thing. But back in 1985, a sophomore sorority member set me up with a pledge at her boyfriend’s (her boyfriend was a senior) fraternity house, and the fun began!

Here’s what we didn’t know when we started college: we didn’t know which friendships would last. There are some people I have been in constant contact with, and there are others I haven’t, but there are some who are never strangers. That sophomore girl’s senior boyfriend? His name is Richard, and he’s one of those people who, despite going years with no contact, has never been a stranger…we just pick right back up where we left off. Way back in 1985 and 1986, when he was a senior, and I was a lowly freshman, I thought of him as a father figure. Funny, I know. He was all of 22. But when you’re a naive freshman, it’s nice to have an older guy who has your back. And he did. I often referred to him as my campus “Dad” back then.

I’m still friends with Dianne, Susan, and Fannie. When Dianne is in Charlotte for work, we meet for dinner. I hear from Fannie and Susan occasionally. We don’t all see each other often or even talk often, but I definitely count them among my friends. And that “Dad”? Well, as luck would have it, he lives in Charlotte too! We reconnected through Facebook years ago, and in 2012, when we were both at the Alabama-Georgia SEC Championship Game in the old Georgia Dome (Alabama won the game!), we met up at halftime, and it was like time had never passed! We have gone to dinner with our spouses. We have met up at football games. My daughter has given his daughter some “hand-me-downs,” which means clothes she probably wore once. And just like my freshman year in college, I always know he’s there! I don’t know what I brought to the friendship, but I’m glad to know he has found me worthy of friendship for all these years. Does he know he was the first guy I met in college? I don’t know if he knew it before, but he knows it now! A treasured friendship, indeed.

I hope my daughter will find the same kind of friends I found in college. I was lucky to make these first college friends and lots of other great college friends in my four years there. College is an experience you can’t repeat, so I’m glad I got the friendships right the first time! Saying a prayer my daughter will have the same great luck I had!

And yes, those friends are some of my favorite things. I need to schedule a dinner with Richard and his wife…texting him now.

Movies for My Senior

Movies for my senior.

We are not a movie family. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because two of us have Attention Deficit Disorder, but we just don’t sit down and watch movies very often. Sure, during COVID shutdowns, I forced our daughter to watch a few movies with me (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Clueless and Sliding Doors, all of which received two thumbs up from her), but generally speaking, we don’t watch movies.

However, we are nearing her high school graduation, and I feel like we are under the gun. I feel like there are movies she needs to see. This occurred to me tonight as I was making our daughter one of my famous grilled cheese sandwiches (yes, they are famous among the teenage set in Charlotte)…and singing the theme song from the 70s movie, Car Wash…because that’s what I do…I sing while I work. But while I worked and sang tonight, I realized I’ve been remiss! I should have shared more of my favorite movies with her! She leaves for college in four months, and I need to squeeze in some classics from my youth (and a few others) before she goes! We talked about it tonight, and she agreed to watch some of them with me over the next few months.

So I sat down and made a list, but as I made the list, one movie would lead to another! The list is now at more than 35 must-see movies. There is no way we will watch 35 movies in the next few months, so I will start with some of my personal favorites.

  • Sense and Sensibility. I know this one is unexpected, but this is one of my all-time favorites…the one starring Emma Thompson. I am a firm believer that every woman on earth should read Jane Austen’s novels, and the best way to get started is by watching this film adaptation. The scenery is beautiful. The people are gorgeous (Mr. Darcy!), and the story is one of the best ever. If you think I’m crazy for having this one at the top of the list, you haven’t seen it. Watch it. And after you watch it, read the book. You’ll understand the language and characters better after seeing the movie. And when you finish reading Sense and Sensibility, move on to her other novels… Pride and Prejudice while the rhythm of the language is fresh in your brain…then Mansfield Park, Emma (also a movie starring Gwyneth Paltrow, and the modern-day Clueless is loosely based on it), Persuasion, and Northanger Abbey.
  • Risky Business. Anyone who was a teenager in the 80s knows this is an essential film. Tom Cruise became really famous after making this bit of cinematic history. Other great teenage movies from the 80s were, of course, the John Hughes films: Sixteen Candles, Pretty in Pink, and The Breakfast Club. Come on…Mr Hughes directed the stories of our lives! He introduced us to relatable characters! We knew those people! Another great? Fast Times at Ridgemont High, for sure…didn’t we all know some version of Spicoli?

I dug a little deeper and came up with lots of other favorites. Some have cultural significance, and some don’t. Anyone who was a teen in the 80s knows St Elmo’s Fire, with its Brat Pack cast, had a huge influence on our lives. Throw in About Last Night for more Brat Pack action.

But there are other favorite movies that are not based on the 80s. Muriel’s Wedding, starring Toni Collette, is a less-known film that I think offers a great story and some wisdom to go with it. And every time I see my friend, Kristi, we have to watch Brooke Shields in Endless Love…what a teenage love story that is!

I’m sure everyone has their own favorites. Please feel free to share! Here is my list of essentials. I’m sure I have forgotten some…

  • Airplane!-slapstick comedy circa 1980. It’s stupid. It’s funny. It’s iconic.
  • American Graffiti-a coming-of-age film set in the early 1960s in California. It’s all about cruising in Modesto in one night. Released in 1973, the cast is stellar. It was produced by Francis Ford Coppola and directed by George Lucas. It’s a must-see film for every American.
  • Animal House-An American classic. No one should go to college without seeing this film. John Belushi and great music…need I say more?
  • Back to the Future-released when I was a teenager, this film is a classic. The sci-fi concept takes the lead character (played by Michael J Fox) back in time, via a Delorean car turned time machine, to the 1950s, where he meets his parents as teenagers. It’s funny and thought-provoking.
  • The Bad News Bears-I think this movie gives kids a glimpse into life in the 1970s, when people smoked everywhere and a drunk might just be your little league coach. Not one kid on that team had a helicopter parent!
  • Breakfast Club-John Hughes…no need to say more. Teenagers today are very familiar with the film, and Nickelodeon’s Victorious even did a parody of it a few years ago.
  • Caddyshack-How many times did I watch Caddyshack as a teenager? It was on HBO all the time, and if nothing else was on, I could always settle in and watch Rodney Dangerfield and Bill Murray. And everyone remembers the poop in the pool scene. It’s a funny movie, and people make references to it all the time, so everyone needs to be familiar with it.
  • Dirty Dancing-I had friends in college who saw this film on the big screen multiple times. The music is great. The setting…a resort in the Catskills…is fun. And the characters are well-defined. I think this movie wasn’t supposed to be a hit, but it was a sleeper! Women fell in love with Patrick Swayze, and the music from the 60s will keep you dancing in your seat. Again…lots of references come from this movie. “I carried a watermelon.” “Nobody puts Baby in a corner.” You knew it before I said it.
  • Endless Love-I will be the first to admit it’s not the greatest movie. But the story is intriguing, and don’t all teenage girls love a good love story? This one has lots of twists and turns. Must-see. ***For another Brooke Shields movie, I would say Blue Lagoon, but I’m not sure I can sit through it again.
  • Fast Times at Ridgemont High-Another coming-of-age film, this one is set in California. The screenplay was written by Cameron Crowe, who went undercover at a high school in San Diego. Anyone who grew up in the 80s knew someone like each of the characters. Some sheltered teenagers of 2022 will be shocked by some of the storylines and candor, but others will likely shrug. And didn’t all boys fall in love with Phoebe Cates when they saw this movie?
  • Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner-This film is an American classic. I took my daughter to see it on the big screen several years ago, but she fell asleep. She needs to see it again, as it addresses racism and the struggle for equality.
  • The Goonies-I’m almost embarrassed to say this: I have never seen The Goonies. I’m not sure how this one got past me, since it was released right after I graduated from high school. I have friends who think this is one of the greatest movies of all time. This one might be one of the first ones we need to watch.
  • Groundhog Day-So this movie is not from my teen years or even college years, but it is one of those movies everyone needs to see once, in my opinion. Bill Murray (again!) stars as a weatherman who is reporting on Groundhog Day from Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, but he keeps living the same day over and over. He hates the town and the people who live there, but wakes up there repeatedly. After reliving the day many times, he finds a way to make it work for him as he seeks a relationship with Andie McDowell’s character and ends up falling in love with the town in the process.
  • Imitation of Life-Based on a novel by Fannie Hurst (one of my favorite books, by the way) that was a bestseller in 1933. Mrs. Hurst was a celebrity in the first half of the 20th century as a bestselling female author and activist. The film was released in 1959 and stars Lana Turner. It doesn’t cover all the intricacies of the book, but the story is good, nonetheless. It’s a story of the difficulties of motherhood, living a lie, the harsh realities of life, and friendship.
  • Jaws-I saw this film shortly after my 8th birthday. My parents dropped off me and my 6-yr-old brother at the theatre (Eastern Shore Cinema in Daphne, Alabama) on a Saturday for our weekly double feature…which meant four hours of free date time for them. So yes, we saw Jaws unaccompanied, because back in the 1970s, parents didn’t hover over every move their kids made. And my mother hovered more than a lot of moms, but the movie theater was our babysitter. I’m sure my daughter will think the special effects of this one are funny, but this movie is a classic. She has to see it. Lots of life references come from this move, like, “We’re gonna need a bigger boat.”
  • Karate Kid-Wax on, wax off. Another classic, she simply needs to see this David and Goliath film. There are so many great things about it: love, mentorship, discipline…
  • Mean Girls-Another one I’m embarrassed to admit I have not seen. My daughter has seen it and simply cannot believe this one got past me. She has proposed we watch it together. Deal!
  • Moonstruck-This is one of my favorite films of all time. So many great lines came out of this film. The characters are well-defined, and the plot has twists and turns everywhere. Cher, Olympia Dukakis, Danny Aiello, and Nic Cage are all great in this movie. “Do you love him, Loretta?” “Yes, Ma, I love him awful.” “Oh God, that’s too bad.”
  • Porky’s-Not exactly a classic, but every teenager in the 1980s saw the original Porky’s movie and the sequels. We can all name the characters: Meat, Peewee, Mrs Ballbricker, Honeywell, Cherry Forever…the list goes on and on. It’s raunchy. It’s stupid. But teenagers found it hilarious in the 1980s. The original was the fifth highest-grossing film of 1982 behind ET, Tootsie, An Officer and a Gentleman, Rocky III…and ahead of Star Trek II, 48 Hrs, Poltergeist, and The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas! All those movies were great, but Porky’s hung in there! (And even though I’m not mentioning any of those movies in my list, they could all be added at any time!)\
  • Pretty in Pink– iconic 80s teen film. My daughter has seen it, but we might need to see it one more time before she goes to college.
  • Private Benjamin-Goldie Hawn stars as a spoiled widow who joins the US Army. Eileen Brennan is her wicked drill sergeant who fully expects her to fail, but of course, she beats the odds. It’s a movie about female empowerment. Near the top of the list.
  • Rear Window-Obviously, not a 1980s teenage movie, but a Hitchcock film that’s thought-provoking. Also, The Birds, another Hitchcock. Oooh…and Vertigo! Maybe we should just do a Hitchcock home film festival.
  • Risky Business-I mentioned this one already, but it’s just so good!
  • Say Anything and Some Kind of Wonderful-two great 80s movies about teenage love. Must see.
  • Sixteen Candles-a personal fave, even though this film could never be made today.
  • Smokey and the Bandit-It’s silly. It’s politically incorrect. But it’s a young Burt Reynolds looking like a mustachioed porn star in his black Pontiac Trans Am. Sally Field is adorable. Jerry Reed is funny. And who can forget the late, great Jackie Gleason?! “let me have a Diablo Sandwich, a Dr Pepper, and make it fast! I’m in a xxxxxxx hurry!” Must see. (This one will be on the big screen at my local theater in May!)
  • St Elmo’s Fire-New college graduates who are friends face the world. The Brat Pack.
  • Top Gun-80s, Tom Cruise, fighter jets, motorcycle, love, bar scene, volleyball scene. If you know, you know.
  • The Way We Were-This one was released in 1973. Robert Redford and Barbra Streisand. This film follows Streisand’s character, Katie, as she changes from activist to conventional wife back to activist…through her relationship with Hubble Gardner, a man for whom life is easy. One of my all-time faves.
  • There’s Something About Mary-a fun cast and hilariously immature plot line make this movie one of my favorites. It’s just stupid humor that you can’t unsee. And for the rest of my life, every time I hear Build Me Up, Buttercup, I will think of this movie.

I’m sure I have forgotten some of my favorites. Please feel free to submit your own recommendations. Of course, there is no way we will be able to watch all these before she leaves for college, but we can watch some of them!

Emergency Numbers for Dorm Rooms

Emergency numbers for dorm rooms.

Like so many other parents, I’m getting emotionally and mentally prepared to send my daughter off to college. She is going about 500 miles away, to a big university in another state, and I am excited for her. However, I also know she needs to be prepared…not just academically and emotionally…she needs to also be prepared for emergency situations. Sure, she’s not leaving for several months, but it makes me feel better to talk with her and get ready in advance. Because of that, I sat down with her and thought of different situations that could happen and reviewed how to handle them. We got some ideas from the parents’ Facebook page too. We are making a list of essential places along with phone numbers and websites. We will laminate it, so she can hang it in her room. To make life a little easier for other students who are going off to college far, far away, I’m sharing the info here:

  • Resident Advisor Contact. This should be at the top of the list. If anything happens in the dorm, and your student needs a housing contact, their Resident Advisor is the first person to contact. They are trained to create a welcoming environment and assist with any situations that arise pertaining to dorm life. Roommate smoking in the room? Talk to the RA. Someone making too much noise during quiet hours? Talk to the RA. It’s always good to have their phone number and email address handy.
  • Parents’ Contacts. Recently, my daughter received a call from a college roommate of a friend of hers. The roommate said, “XXXX has had too much to drink and needs to go to the hospital. I can’t get into her phone to get her mom’s number. Does your mom have her mom’s number?” Indeed, I did. I gave the number to the roommate, and she was able to contact the girl’s mom. Therefore, I cannot express strongly enough that roommates need to have phone numbers of each other’s parents in their own phones, and it’s a great idea to have parents’ numbers posted on a list of emergency numbers hanging in their dorm room.
  • Nearby adult family/friends. My brother lives two hours from the university my daughter will be attending. I have college friends who live in the same town as the university, and I have friends whose children are students at the university. I will add their names and numbers to the list, because you never know when your child will need some moral support, a health advocate, or help with something else. It’s always good to know there’s someone who has your back nearby.
  • Urgent Care/Doctor/Student Health Center. The names, addresses, and contact info for all of these need to be included on the list. If a student gets sick with the flu, they need to be able to see a doctor. Or maybe they have a stomach bug? Of course, with telemedicine, they can often “see” a doctor online, thank God. But if they need to actually see a doctor in person, you don’t want them to waste time trying to find them online. They can just look at the list, call the office, and go!
  • Emergency Room. Obviously, there are some situations that require a call to 911…broken leg, possible back or neck injuries, lots of blood, bad falls, etc. But sometimes, there are situations in which a roommate can get your child to the emergency room. Maybe it’s a kidney stone or a bad case of the flu. They need to know where several emergency rooms are, because the first one they go to could have a long wait. We found two nearby emergency rooms for our daughter’s list and one that’s a little farther away but usually less chaotic (according to the parents’ page).
  • Emergency Dentist. No one expects to fall and break a tooth, but it happens. You don’t want your child to waste time trying to find the info for an emergency dentist. Find one now. We found two near the university she will be attending, and we added them to the list.
  • Mechanic. If your child is taking a car to college, you should know things happen. I took a car to college, and during that time, I had two flat tires that had to be repaired. I also had an issue in which my brake lights were staying on. It was an easy fix (a button was sticking under the brake pedal), but I wouldn’t have known how to fix it on my own. Find a reliable auto service place to help your student. Add that information to the list. It’s also a good idea to have a AAA membership for your student, and they should have the emergency roadside service number if their car has it.
  • Pharmacy. It is essential to find a pharmacy near your child’s college or university. I have written about this before. We use a local CVS in Charlotte, so we will pick a CVS near her university. I’ve been in a jam in another city before, and I was thankful I could have a CVS in the area access my prescription and fill what I needed. To me, a good, reliable pharmacy is every bit as important as a good, reliable doctor or dentist. The phone number definitely needs to be on the list, but especially if you have a child who takes life/death medication.
  • Food Delivery. I know…you might not think it’s important, but I do. They will definitely figure this out on their own, but it’s cool for them to have a list of a few places on the front end, for those nights they just don’t want to eat in the dining hall. Don’t get me wrong. I hope my child will opt to eat on campus as often as possible, but I know what it’s like to want food from somewhere else. My friend, Angela, and I used to order from Wings & Things every Sunday night in college. At $7.49 for each of us in 1985 (about $17 in today’s money), it was too expensive to eat all the time, but we could order once a week!
  • Other not-so-urgent things to know: there are other places that can be essential for life in college. A lot depends on the type of person your child is and what they enjoy. I feel sure mine will need to know about all the local boutiques…not an emergency, but essential. She will need to know where a local laundry drop-off service is located. She’ll need to know where the safest gas stations are located.

I’m sure I have forgotten some, so feel free to send me additions, and I will edit/add. All these numbers also need to be in your child’s phone. I will have mine add them as EMERGENCY DENTIST (name). If I know she is prepared for unexpected situations, I can rest more easily.