Make Time

Busy, busy, busy…we all lead busy lives. Sometimes, we’re busy sitting on our butts watching TV, but we all claim to be busy all the time.

This morning, I took a break from busy. About a week ago, a friend I haven’t seen in a long time sent me a message asking me to meet for coffee. We checked our calendars and decided today would be the day. So at 9:15 this morning, I met a friend at Cafe Moka, a cute little coffee shop in the Waverly shopping center in South Charlotte. Apparently, I was the only person in Charlotte who didn’t know about it, because it was hoppin’! You can see the website here.

This particular friend is sweet and funny, so I was looking forward to seeing her. When I arrived and saw her smiling face waiting in a little nook of the coffee shop, I smiled. At that moment, I knew this was something I needed…to catch up with a friend I haven’t seen in a long time…really catch up without distractions, and it was great.

A few days ago, my husband was going through some old photos on his phone, and he came across some from summer of 2008. They were pictures of our daughter with her preschool friend…and there, in the third picture was the daughter of the friend I was meeting for coffee today! My husband texted the pics to me, so as soon as I arrived, I showed them to my friend. She enjoyed looking through them and then said, “I have no recollection of this!” The pictures were made at Carowinds, a local amusement park (see the website here). We ran into my friend and her daughter near an attraction that is no longer at Carowinds…small convertibles on rails that the kids believed they were really driving. Even though they weren’t really driving them, they were a vision of the future.

And now we are officially in the future. My friend’s daughter is now a senior in high school, driving a real car and preparing for college. My own daughter just got her driver’s license two weeks ago…driving herself to high school in a real car instead of waving as she drives past me in the cars on rails at Carowinds. Time flies. And that’s exactly why we need to stop and “smell the roses.”

Time passes so quickly that we often forget to stop and spend some time with the people we care about. Sometimes, I look at my calendar and see the things I need to do instead of the things I want to do. In reality, we need to put forth the effort to do some of the things we want to do and spend time with some of the people we want to see.

But today, I put forth the effort. Today, I enjoyed a little time over coffee with a friend. And it put a smile on my face for the rest of the day…just what the doctor ordered!

 

 

 

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Sweet Sixteen!

Our daughter is a high school sophomore, and she and lots of her friends are turning 16. No one is more excited than she is. In fact, if I asked her right now how long till her birthday, she could likely tell me how many days and how many hours. More importantly, if I asked her how many days till she can test for her drivers license (a few days after her birthday), she might know down to the minute.

Lots of friends have told me stories about watching their kids drive away on their own for the first time. For some, it’s scary and nerve-wracking. Others say it’s exciting, knowing their children are gaining more independence. One friend has told me how upset she was when her son drove to school by himself for the first time, because it hadn’t occurred to her that the last time she drove him was the last time.

While we are excited for our daughter, there is a little apprehension. She’s 16, and her brain still works like a 16-yr-old. Driving is a big responsibility. We have done everything we can to prepare her for this moment. While North Carolina requires young drivers to log 60 driving hours while they have their learner’s permits, we have required her to log 120 hours. It gives me a little peace of mind to know she has logged double the required number of hours. We have reviewed different situations in driving:

  • Always STOP before turning right on red when clear.
  • When the light turns green, look to make sure cars aren’t coming before driving into the intersection.
  • Plan your route before you leave home.
  • Avoid difficult left turns.
  • At a certain shopping center in Charlotte, never use a particular entrance/exit.
  • When coming around a bus in said shopping center, be aware that cars might not see you and will turn in front of you.
  • Slower traffic keep right.
  • When brake lights come on in front of you, immediately put your foot on the brake…and watch for brake lights two or three cars in front of you.
  • Don’t follow closely.
  • Avoid high traffic areas when possible…and high traffic times too.
  • Don’t play loud music; you need to be able to hear what’s going on around you.
  • Pay extra close attention in roundabouts. You might know what you’re doing, but it’s difficult for lots of people.
  • If you’re not sure you can fit into a parking space easily, just drive farther out in the parking lot. You’re healthy. You can walk.
  • No cell phone usage or other distracted driving.
  • Be smart/use good judgment.
  • Pay attention to road signs!

There are so many things to know/learn when driving. I remember when she was younger, she once asked me if driving is difficult. I explained to her that no, the act of driving is not difficult; it’s the other drivers/cars on the road that make it difficult. Anyone who can drive will know that is true. You never know when someone will follow you too closely or stop unexpectedly in front of you. You never know when a car will turn in front of you or change lanes on top of you. And we all make mistakes while drivingwe just have to hope we don’t make big mistakes. And if you’re wondering…yes, I’ve taught her all about the courtesy wave…when someone lets you into traffic…when you make a mistake that affects another car…courtesy wave.

So here we go…in a few days, if she passes the test, she will be driving by herself. Several of her friends have failed the driving test the first go-round, so we aren’t counting on it being a sure thing. My husband will take her to the DMV, and they will call me afterward. He navigates government offices better than I do. He also navigates cell phone stores better, but I’ll save that for another day.

The bad news is that I won’t have that car time to chat with her. Now, when I bring her home from school or sports practice, that drive time is a little decompression time. We catch up. She likely won’t be a passenger in my car very often for the rest of her life.

The good news? I won’t have to drop everything to pick her up somewhere. She can drive herself to and from school and sports practices. She is excited. She is gaining some independence, and I can have a cocktail on the patio in the afternoon!

Don’t we all remember when we got our driver’s licenses? Don’t we all remember how it felt like forever till we had them? It’s a milestone. It’s a big deal. It’s what makes the sixteenth birthday a special one. And I’m excited for her to spread her wings!

Now, she just has to pass the test.

Taking the Back Roads

This past weekend, I met some friends in Atlanta for a concert. Of course, we had a fabulous time, because concerts make us feel young, but the drive from Charlotte to Atlanta and back can be less than pleasant. I love driving, and I especially love driving alone! I can listen to the music I want to hear. I can open the sunroof. I can think. But there is nothing relaxing about driving on I-85 between Charlotte and Atlanta. The trucks! The speed! The stupid slow drivers in the left lane! Note to all: if I’m having to pass you on the right, you’re doing it wrong. The left lane is the passing lane and should be moving faster than the right lane. I don’t care what the speed limit is. If folks are passing you on the right, get your butt over into the right lane.

So this time, I tried something different. I opted to drive on back roads instead of the interstate till I got south of Greenville, South Carolina…and it was downright relaxing! No jockeying for position. No crazy speeds. No idiots driving too slow in the left lane. No trucks. It was glorious! I enjoyed it!

Along the way, I passed through towns like Rock Hill, SC, Clinton, SC, Saluda, SC, Pelzer, SC, and more. There were actually things to see along the way: beautiful, historic homes and churches; the historic downtowns of small towns; old train depots; a funeral home with folks gathered outside; a large horse on top of a pole…maybe the symbol of someone’s farm? I saw folks riding horses along dirt roads that ran parallel to the road I was driving. There were big signs advertising upcoming championship rodeos, and another sign for the I-77 Speedway in Chester, SC. I saw old high schools and their football stadiums…probably home to their own version of Friday Night Lights. Big, round hay bales were rolled tightly on farms. Cows grazed. Local restaurants…some of which had long been shuttered and some that appeared properous…dotted the roadside. Teenagers sat on tailgates outside convenience stores. I could smell the fresh air…instead of diesel fuel.

Did it take me a little longer to get to and from Atlanta? Sure it did. Was it worth it? You bet. A drive that should have taken me about three hours and 45 minutes took about 4 1/2 hours. I opened the sunroof and cranked up the tunes, and I enjoyed the ride…passing over rivers and lakes I had never seen. I didn’t even know most of them existed!

And as I drove, I thought about how the folks who live out there on those roads can actually see the stars at night, and I was a little jealous. I love sitting outside in the dark and relaxing while watching satellites and rockets pass overhead. I love seeing planets, constellations, and stars, but it’s difficult to enjoy stargazing when there’s light pollution around a city.

Next time I go to Atlanta, I will take the same route. Yeah…it will take me a little longer, but I will be going through towns where life doesn’t seem so “dog eat dog.” I’ll go through places where it doesn’t seem every man is out for himself. And I might just stop at one of the mom and pop restaurants for lunch.

I’m Not Always Wrong…

Sometimes, our teenagers surprise us with rare compliments. They might not even realize they’re doing it, but we, as parents, hear it loud and clear!

With a Target just two miles from my house, I shop there frequently. I’ve lived in the same house for 19 years, so I’ve been through that Target parking lot countless times…sometimes three times in one day.

Recently, as I was driving to Target on a Saturday with my teenage daughter in the car, I entered the parking lot from the entrance that has a four-way stop at the top. At this particular four-way stop, I could choose the left-turn only lane or the right turn/straight ahead lane. It’s only marked on the pavement; there are no signs. But I’m very familiar with it, so I know the right lane is for right turns or going straight ahead, and the left lane is left turn only.

On this particular morning, I pulled up to the stop sign in the right lane, and another car was in the left lane. We reached the stop sign almost simultaneously, so it was our turn at the same time. I moved forward to go straight, and I thought he was turning left, since he was in the left-turn lane. To my surprise, just as we were clearing the intersection, the car from the left lane came speeding past me, clipping the front of my car as he scooted in front of me. And he didn’t stop! My teenage daughter was surprised too, saying, “Wow! Imagine a guy in a [luxury car] doing a hit and run!” I followed him, and when he stopped by the Target sidewalk, I put down my window. He put his window down and yelled, “I had the right of way!” I replied, “You hit my car! AND you didn’t have the right of way!” He argued with me for a second, but I suggested we both park our cars and offered to walk back down to the intersection and take a photo for him. He said he would walk down too. And he walked with me.

When we arrived at the intersection, he could see he was wrong. It is clearly marked on the pavement. He turned to me and said, “I was wrong. I’m sorry.” I could tell he was embarrassed, but honestly, it was all I could do to keep from smiling. Heck…maybe I did smile. He had another state’s plates on his car, so I asked him how long he has lived in Charlotte. He told me less than a year, “but I come through that intersection all the time!” I said, “I understand, but I’ve lived here almost 20 years, and I’ve driven through this parking lot almost every day.” We ended up being very civil with each other, and frankly, the damage to my car was virtually nonexistent….a little brush mark that my husband was able to wipe away with some car wax when I got home. His bumper, however, was cracked.

The most amazing part of this episode? My teenage daughter, afterward, said to me as we walked into Target, “Imagine, Mom…you’re always right.” That was a compliment, but I’m not sure she realized she was throwing it out there. I wish I had recorded her saying that, but it was a missed opportunity. I then, of course, had to tell her I’m not always right. In fact, I might be wrong more than I’m right, but when I know I’m right, I know I’m right.

Of course, later that same day, we were shopping in a local boutique, and I held up a shirt that I thought was perfect for her. She looked at me like I had fourteen eyes and said, “Ewww!” I guess she knows I’m not always right.

***And just for the record, a lesson was learned…I should not have followed the driver of the other car, and I made sure my daughter understood that. I should have let him drive away after getting his license plate number.*** AND a friend who is a retired Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Officer later told me that if I had called the police, the offender, at the very least, would have received tickets for living in Charlotte for nine months and still carrying a driver’s license from another state…and not registering his car in NC. You need to do that within 30 days of moving here.

 

 

 

We Finally Made It

Has there ever been somewhere you wanted to go but just never made it happen? I don’t mean a big trip. I mean a little place somewhere you wanted to visit when you were in the area, but circumstances kept you from going?

A few years ago, I embarked on a road trip with my friend, Mary Ann, along with her three kids and my daughter. We started in Charlotte and drove al through Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania…and straight home from there. We saw most of the things we wanted to see, but we missed a couple.

The first one we missed was Mars Cheese Castle in Kenosha, Wisconsin. You can see the website here. It’s a giant cheese store about 45 minutes from Chicago. It’s actually more than a cheese store…it’s a gift shop, an ice cream parlor, a restaurant, and a big photo op! Of course, it’s shaped like a castle, but it’s not made of cheese. We found out about it when we were looking at information about something that might be fun to visit just over the Wisconsin border from Chicago…it would be a way to make a quick visit to Wisconsin so our kids could add it to their lists of states they had visited.

Alas, we didn’t get to go while we were on that trip. There was so much fun to be had in Chicago on that trip that we never made it to Mars Cheese Castle…never even crossed the border into Wisconsin. And I’ve always regretted it. I used to go to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, all the time, and I loved it. The people were always so nice, and well…the cheese! So I especially hated my daughter didn’t get to go. She, of course, didn’t care. She was 11 years old when we took that road trip, and Mars Cheese Castle just didn’t sound that interesting to her.

Yesterday, we flew into Chicago…me, my daughter, and her friend. The girls are going to a small concert early today, and then we are going to Lollapalooza in downtown Chicago. We are staying in Schaumburg, because the early event is near here. We will Uber into downtown later.

But when we landed yesterday and got our rental car, I told the girls I wanted to make a quick trip up to Mars Cheese Castle. They grimaced. They moaned. They complained. Actually, only my daughter complained, grimaced, and moaned. Her friend was very polite about it. My daughter asked if I could drop them at the hotel and go by myself? I almost agreed to it, but then I said, “Come on. You’ve never been to Wisconsin, and it won’t take long.” She rolled her eyes but gave in, asking only if I would stop and get them food on the way.

After a quick stop for food and a 45-minute drive north, we found Mars Cheese Castle! It was everything I had hoped and more! Seriously, I had wondered if we would get there and just see shelves of cheese curds, but whoever built it knew what they were doing. Of course, it looks like a castle on the exterior, and there is a big electric sign out front. I made the girls take pictures of me in front of the sign and the building when we got out of the car, and to my surprise, they wanted pics too! Winning!

We walked in with a family who had visited many times before. They were practically giddy! They had lived nearby at one time but had moved away, so they were there for a visit…and they were stocking up on the cheese curds! Of course, I grabbed some cheese curds and put them in my cart too. The girls disappeared as soon as we walked in, but in a few minutes, they came back to me, eating ice cream cones and wearing paper crowns with the Mars Cheese Castle logo on the front. We shopped a little; I grabbed a hoodie for me and some t-shirts for all of us, and we took some photos inside the store. I also got myself a cup of Superman ice cream and a paper crown.

As we walked to the car, we were laughing and taking more pictures. As soon as we started to drive away, my daughter said, “That was a lot more fun than I thought it would be!” Whew! One day, they will learn that I do my research ahead of time.

So I was able to mark Mars Cheese Castle off my list of places to visit, and my daughter has now been to Wisconsin! She has the paper crown to prove it! But don’t get me wrong…given the opportunity to visit again, I will be going back to Mars Cheese Castle!

The other place we didn’t get to visit on that road trip in 2015 with Mary Ann? Oram’s Donuts in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania. See their website here. We made it to Beaver Falls, but we didn’t go to Oram’s because we had a car full of cranky kids that day…well, mine was cranky. It was the last leg of our big road trip of 2015, and we were all tired. But one thing I know for sure is that Mary Ann and I will get to Oram’s Donuts…without our kids.

So if you find yourself in Chicagoland or southern Wisconsin, visit Mars Cheese Castle. Think of me as you walk around eating your ice cream cone and squeaky cheese (cheese curds) while wearing your paper crown (they’re free at the ice cream counter).

Long Distance Friends

For Easter weekend, my daughter had a friend fly in from Ohio to spend a few days with us. The friend is the daughter of one of my friends.

The girls have been friends since they were about two. Their birthdays are one month apart. They are both only children. My friend, her husband, and her daughter moved to Ohio from Charlotte when our girls were four. We were brokenhearted when they moved, but we’ve made a point to vacation together every year since.

A few weeks before Easter, I texted my friend, Jennifer, and asked if her daughter might be able to come spend Easter with us. She promptly booked the flights, and on Good Friday, my daughter and I drove in the pouring rain to the airport to pick up her friend. We opted to park in short-term parking, so we could walk in and meet her. When we got inside the baggage claim area, we discovered the flight was more delayed than we thought. We waited. And we waited. And finally, we saw it had arrived.

We all hugged in the airport and headed home.

Here’s the point of this story: the two 15-yr-old girls acted like they had never been apart. They haven’t seen each other since January, but they picked up exactly where they had left off. When we got home, they went up to my daughter’s room and chatted and laughed. They made cookies. They ate late-night snacks. And they laughed.

The next night, another childhood friend slept over at our house. She is also a beloved friend…the daughter of another friend who lives local. The three of them laughed till their stomachs hurt…it was like music to my ears.

They woke up on Easter morning and came down to see if the Easter Bunny had visited, and indeed, he had. They rummaged through their baskets to find candy, soaps, lotions, a garden gnome, bunny slippers…and Kooky Klickers, a childhood toy they all hung on their book bags in elementary school. Everybody loves nostalgia. And after we had taken some photos, I was their short-order cook: pancakes, fried eggs, scrambled eggs, bacon, cheese grits…anything they wanted. I had all those “little girls” together again. Sure, they’re fifteen, but every time I looked at them, I saw the giggling four-year-olds. Happiness. Comfort. Love. That’s what I saw.

Fifteen is a tough age for girls. If you ever were a 15-yr-old girl, you remember it. They can’t drive, but they want to have social lives. They try to make plans, but their plans have to coincide with their parents’ plans. They are in high school and still figuring out who they are. We have to let them make decisions, and sometimes they make bad decisions, but they learn from them. As freshmen, they are the low people on the totem pole in high school…and they are very aware of it.

Last year, I went to hear a well-known psychologist (and author!)speak about teenagers. Her name is Lisa Damour, and she is full of all kinds of wisdom. She’s not bossy or judgy…she’s real. You can see her Facebook page here. (She writes a monthly column for The New York Times.)What I remember most is that she compared the world to a big swimming pool. Basically, she said we have to let our teenagers swim out into that pool (the world). Sometimes, they get too far from the side or they feel like they are going to drown, so they hurry back to the side. We, as parents, are the side of the pool.  After they hang on for a minute, they swim back to the center of the pool. And that’s how it goes with teenagers…they swim out and come back to us for a moment of support, and then they swim back out there.

Over Easter weekend, I think my daughter felt like she was back in the kiddie pool with her childhood friends. She didn’t feel like she had to be out in the big pool. She was happy to be right there with them, and she never needed to swim to the side.

Her friends had to go home after a fun weekend, but my daughter had gained comfort and new confidence from swimming in the kiddie pool for a few days. She was ready to go back to school and tackle the rest of the school year.

And now, she just has to make it through five more weeks of school to make it to the freedom of summer. We will vacation with our Ohio friends this summer. We don’t know what we’ll do, but we will definitely spend some time with them, because the best friends to have are those who want nothing from you but your company…and they are those, indeed.

 

Let’s Talk Curfews

My 15-year-old daughter went to a Travis Scott concert called Astroworld with some friends last weekend. An adult who had been to a previous show assured me it would be pretty tame. My daughter doesn’t have a driver’s license, and almost all her friends can’t drive yet either, so I dropped off four of them at the concert with the understanding they would be sleeping over at one house.

A few hours before the concert, the mother with whom they would be staying texted the rest of the moms, telling us, “I told my daughter they had to be home by midnight. She acted like I’m the mean mom. What do you think?”

I assured her that I agreed with her, and the other moms did too.

Before we picked up all the others on the way to the concert, my daughter and I had this exchange:

  • Me: You understand that you have to be in by midnight, right?”
  • Daughter: Yes ma’am.
  • Me: Even if the concert isn’t over, you have to be back to your friend’s house by midnight. Understand?
  • Daughter: Yes ma’am.
  • Me: That doesn’t mean you can wander around uptown after the concert if it ends at 10:30.
  • Daughter: What?!? Why would we wander around uptown?!?

Whew! She does have sense! Sometimes, when you’re the parent of a teenager, you wonder if they have sense, and sometimes, you wonder if you’ve lost your mind.

So all that curfew talk led to more questions from her. She is rapidly approaching driving age. She asked what would happen to her if she misses curfew when she can drive.

I explained to her that I would rather have her get home a couple of minutes late than drive too fast trying to get home. She has been in the car with me three times when a teenager in our neighborhood nearly ran us off the road trying to make it home in time for her curfew. (For the record, if you’re reading this, the teenager is not yours.) I told her that the best case scenario would be for her to call me if she is going to be late, and of course, she asked, “What if I’m driving?” I told her she should know before she leaves somewhere if she is going to be late, but if she finds herself stuck in traffic, it’s OK to use voice text and let me know, but do not pick up the phone.

We discussed the fact that curfew isn’t just to make her come home; it’s also a way for me to know she is safe. If she doesn’t make curfew, I will start worrying, and we might need to start looking for her…not because we don’t trust her, but because something might have happened.

In addition, I explained to her that if she frivolously or repeatedly misses curfew or breaks other rules along the way, the gravy train stops. She will stop getting to do things she wants. She will stop getting things she wants. She will stop having so much freedom. We don’t reward bad behavior. As long as she follows our rules, she will continue to have “privileges.”

Oh my gosh…I am my mother.

It made me think of when I was a teenager back in the 80s. Good times. Back then, we didn’t have cell phones, so our parents didn’t always know where we were, and they couldn’t always get in touch with us. Back then, if I were going to be late, I had to call my parents from a pay phone and let them know. I’d be hard pressed to find a pay phone now!

My little exchange with my daughter about curfew didn’t turn into a lecture or argument. It was simply a conversation outlining expectations. It is a conversation we will have many times before she goes off to college, and frankly, I’m glad we’re talking about it now.

Maybe that Travis Scott Astroworld concert was a good thing…a good opportunity for the two of us to talk about expectations. And she even texted me from the concert, sending me video clips and saying how much I would have enjoyed it. Seriously, it looked pretty tame. And for the record, they were home a little after 11:00.

Thanks, Travis Scott. Who thought I’d ever say that?!?

 

 

 

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