And They Said It Wouldn’t Last

On August 19, my husband and I will celebrate our 19th wedding anniversary. We were married in 2000, when we were both rapidly approaching our mid-thirties. We had known each other for three years, having met through a mutual friend with whom I worked.

I was 33, and he was 34, and when we got married, I was living in Mobile, Alabama, and he was living in Charlotte, North Carolina. We had met in Mobile in 1997, but he had moved to Charlotte soon thereafter, so we had a long-distance relationship, and I had no plans of moving unless I was married. I’m sure I could have found a job in Charlotte, but at 33, I wasn’t willing to make a partial commitment to a man; I needed a full-on commitment if I were going to move.

So we were married on August 19 in the historic First Presbyterian Church in Wetumpka, Alabama. When we returned from our two-week Hawaiian honeymoon, we went to Mobile and loaded a truck with all my belongings and moved them to Charlotte. I had lived in different places, so moving was not a challenge for me. In fact, the longest I had ever lived anywhere at that point in my life was nine years…moving wasn’t a problem. Of course, my family was in Alabama, but I could visit whenever I wanted, and we talked every day.

Not gonna lie. The first year was challenging. Remember, we were 33 and 34. We had both been living alone for years, and I loved living alone….eating cereal for dinner in front of the TV; staying up as late as I wanted; being in charge of the remote control; not answering to anyone…you get the picture. We were two (and still are) two very different people. He likes to be home. I like to be on the go. In fact, home, for me, is just a place to change clothes. And I’m always planning my next trip. He’s quiet. I’m not. Seriously, he is very quiet and reserved. But we were married. Suddenly, I had to be more grown up. I had to cook and eat real meals at the table instead of sitting cross-legged on the floor. My husband liked to go to bed earlier than I did, and he always held the remote control. Life was different, and when I was down, he didn’t understand. What did I not like about leaving a one-bedroom apartment? Well…that little one bedroom apartment was my space, and after getting married, it seemed I rarely had my space. I’m sure there were people who could sense the tension and thought, “They’ll never make it.”

But one year in, I was accustomed to married life. In fact, one year in, and I was flat out enjoying it. We got a dog…an Airedale Terrier I wanted to name Fannie after a college friend, but the husband wouldn’t go for “Fannie.” We opted for Annie instead. She has been gone for several years now, but I still wish we had named her Fannie.  And then, 2.5 years after we married, we were expecting a baby. We found out in May 2003 it was a girl, and we were thrilled. She was born in October of 2003, and no one ever loved a baby more than we love that girl. But again, there was added stress. We were sleep deprived. We were exhausted (mostly me). But after the first few months, we started to get more sleep. We started to have more fun, and the stress of having a baby in the house subsided. We were a happy little family of three.

It hasn’t been all fun and games. In 2005, my husband’s beloved grandmother passed away, and all of us were heartbroken. She was kind and caring, and she was a force of nature. At the same time, my mother was driving from Mobile to Birmingham (4-5 hours) all the time, trying to get my grandmother settled in to assisted living, and my daddy was having undiagnosed health issues. In February 2006, he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and he died that same year…eight months after his official diagnosis. My heart was broken. While I had lost grandparents, I had never experienced a loss as terrible as that one. It was the hardest time of my life, at that point. I was truly devastated. My heart ached in a way I didn’t know it could.

After that, my husband had not one, but two brain surgeries, and we survived that. I say “we,” because it was hard on both of us. Physically and mentally, it was difficult for him. It was emotionally and mentally hard on me. He came back from surgery a different person, but we got through that too. You can read about it here. And then, I lost my mother in December 2017. It took the wind out of my sails. I slept for a month afterward. I had learned some coping skills after the losing my daddy, but it didn’t matter. Nothing could have prepared me for the loss of my mother. I can still get upset at any moment, and it has been 20 months since she passed.

But my husband helped. He understood. He knew that when I stayed in bed in January of 2018, I needed to be there. He looked out for me. He supported me. And then, one of my dearest friends died in June 2018 after battling cancer for 30 years. My husband supported me through that too.

We’ve had our share of heartaches, but we are a team, and we deal with them together. We have had our share of disagreements, but we’ve moved past them. Sometimes he thinks I’m absolutely insane, and vice versa. I’m not going to lie and say it has been easy. It hasn’t always been easy. I don’t always understand him, and he doesn’t always understand me, but we try.

But married life hasn’t been all about loss. It hasn’t been all been difficult. We love raising our daughter together. We love sitting out on the patio together in the evening…sipping Prosecco and listening to jazz music. We have enjoyed going to lots of concerts together. At night, before we go to sleep, we watch an episode of Chrisley Knows Best, The Young and The Restless, or CSI: Miami. He helps me plant the garden every year, and I tend it. We both love to watch college and NFL football, so fall is a busy time for us. And we try to go to all our daughter’s field hockey and lacrosse games. He brings me coffee in bed every morning, because he learned that I’m a lot happier if I wake up with caffeine. I go to bed earlier, because he likes to get to bed earlier than I do. We laugh a lot…at each other and with each other. We have fun together. We are thankful we wake up every day. We appreciate the life we have together.

Our daughter is about to start her sophomore year of high school, and in three short years, she will be heading off to college somewhere. We will enter a new phase of life, God willing. And we will have to adapt to more changes. Right now, we aren’t always on the same page for our plans for the empty nest years. But I’m sure we will find ways to compromise. We will find ways to make sure we both get to “live the dream.” He wants the Gulf Coast, and I want to travel to different cities. We will find a way to make it all happen, and we will have fun along the way….God willing.

Happy 19th Anniversary, Cary! And they said it wouldn’t last…

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True Friends Are Like Warm Blankets

True friends are like warm blankets.

This weekend, I spent three days in central Florida with a dear friend from college. We have kept in touch since we were 19 years old and students at the University of Alabama. We’re both 52 now…do the math.

We have shared a lot over the years…secrets, tears, laughs, good times, sadness, hard times…heck, we even have the same wedding anniversary, but she married five years before I did. We are true friends…through thick and thin. Oh, the stories we could tell! Stories of fun nights, bad dates, good parties, bad boyfriends, great experiences, terrible breakups, exciting jobs, sad losses, new babies, teenagers, and some stories of things that could only happen to us…or at least it feels that way. And we have shared some of those stories with our kids. They didn’t really seem to care at the time, though. In fact, they likely rolled their eyes, but one day, they will remember the stories we have told them…and they’ll laugh about some of them, and likely cry about others.

As for this weekend, we didn’t talk about old times a lot. We have covered that many times over the years. Of course, we laughed about some of the funnier things that happened when we were together, but we didn’t rehash it all. We talked about life as we see it now…33 years after becoming friends. We’re middle-aged moms now. We have a different vantage point now than we did at 19. We talked about things we have been through…things we have survived…and we talked about happiness. We talked about how, at 52, we know happiness doesn’t come from having material things. We are very aware that not worrying about how the bills will be paid can contribute to a peaceful, happy existence, but all the extra stuff...not so much. You can have lots of jewelry and fancy cars, but do those material things make you happy? We discussed that what makes us happy is experiencing life with people we love.

We know that for a lot of reasons, but mostly, we know it, because we didn’t sit around talking about material things at all. We didn’t talk about cars, jewelry, handbags, or clothes. We enjoyed talking about interactions with people. We shared stories about life experiences. It wasn’t about bragging rights. It was about sharing life events and how we handled them. We discussed painful experiences and what we learned from them. I’ve lost both parents, and she has lost her dad…we talked and cried about that a lot. And we talked about joyful experiences…things we did together; things our kids have enjoyed; stories of our children’s childhoods and our own childhoods…and more.

Did I mention we laughed a lot?

And while no one can “relive” their youth, we found ourselves absolutely slack-jawed while we watched Endless Love (rent it on Amazon here), a movie we were too young to see when it was a released with an R rating in 1981, but we both watched later on HBO. In fact, it had been so long since either of us had seen it that we forgot Tom Cruise and Jami Gertz had bit parts in the movie. And we had never realized before that a then-unknown Ian Ziering (of Beverly Hills 90210 fame) was in the movie. We also watched Sixteen Candles and Pretty in Pink (you can rent both on Amazon.com) and reminisced about seeing those movies as teenagers. And before you even think it…I know Sixteen Candles could never be made today with its sexism, underage/nonconsensual sex, underage drinking, and more…but it’s comedy, people! It’s supposed to be funny. I thought it was funny in 1984, and I still think it’s funny now.

During the day, we drove around the lovely town where she lives. We looked at historic homes, parks, flowers, and trees, and one day, we went tubing with her teenage son at Ichetucknee Springs State Park…quite the adventure! The water was refreshingly cold as we floated down the river…laughing and talking. She laughed at me when I would float off into the grasses on the edge of the river, and I laughed at her when she missed the entrance to the disembarkation ramp. We made new memories we will laugh about for years to come.

But what I enjoyed most was simply being with my friend. She knows who I really am and loves me anyway. Spending time with my friend was like being wrapped in a warm blanket. She’s comforting. She has been around for a long time. And she makes me feel secure. I came home feeling rejuvenated. I came home feeling content.

Sure, we are middle-aged moms now, and we have had a lot more life experience than when we became friends. We are, in fact, older than our parents were when we became friends. Wow…we really are middle aged.

She’s a keeper.

I Don’t Want Summer To End

There are lots of moms out there who can hardly wait for school to start. Maybe they want their house to stay clean. Maybe they need to get more done. Maybe they’re tired of dealing with childcare. Maybe they want the routine.

I’m not one of those moms. I love summer, and I love having my child home.

We love our daughter’s school. She will be a sophomore in high school this year, and she has been there since transitional kindergarten (pre-k). We wouldn’t have kept her there if we didn’t love it.

But I’m not ready for school to start.

Aside from the fact that I’m really not ready (I haven’t purchased her books or any other supplies), I’m not emotionally ready.

I won’t be one of those moms making dancing videos in the front yard on the first day of school. I won’t be jumping for joy.I’m more likely to be making crying, sad videos, because I’m sad summer is over. I will be sad school is back in session.

School starts for our daughter on August 21st, but she started field hockey practice last week, so she can’t go on any more trips this summer. She loves field hockey, so it’s fine with her, but it makes me sad. I love looking for trips for us to take, and now I will have to plan them for weekends. Add in the athletics schedule and school event schedule we have to plan around once school starts, and there’s very little opportunity for us to go anywhere.

There are so many reasons I love summer. I like not having a routine! I like flying by the seat of my pants. I like the spontaneity of summer. Some would say that’s exactly why I’m not a CEO…because I can’t (won’t) make a long-range, detailed plan for my life. And they’re exactly right. That sounds absolutely terrible to me! I like to take opportunities as they arise. If a friend or family member calls me and says he/she has an extra ticket to something, I’m in! A last minute trip? Call me! You won a cruise but have to leave tomorrow and need someone to go with you? My passport’s ready! Drinks on your patio one evening with no notice? I’m there! In fact, I’ll ask my husband to drive me over, so I don’t have to drive home. And if you’re my neighbor, it’s even easier!

And that’s the kind of spontaneity I love about summer. I love the possibility of a last-minute trip. I love when our daughter asks me on a Wednesday afternoon if she can have a few friends sleep over. I love staying up late talking with her and sleeping in the next morning. I love having a cocktail on the patio with my husband in the evenings, watching planes pass over and looking for satellites after dark. I love that our daughter has no homework in summer…her time is her own. I love that she’s relaxed in summer, which makes us all more relaxed. I love spending time outdoors, even if it’s hot. I love gardening. I love that we don’t have to rush home after a dinner out so our daughter can finish homework. I love having her home during the day, even though she is usually on the go.

I just love summer. And when school starts back on August 21, all the joy of summer will be gone. All the spontaneity will be replaced by routines. The relaxing evenings will be replaced by homework (for her) and volunteer meetings (for me).

And then I remember that in three short years, she will be heading off to college. That will be a whole new level of dread. I will be happy and excited for her, but wow…life will change. She will go off to college and will likely never live under our roof on a permanent basis again. I will really dread the end of summer in 2022. Even though I know college is one of the very best times of life, and I will be excited for her to experience it, I will dread it for me.

For now, we have two more weeks before school starts back. I’m already watching Facebook for the videos of happy moms all over the country pushing their kids out the door on the first day of school. Not me. I’ll be the mom who looks down and out. I’ll be the mom who keeps reviewing the school calendar, double-checking for long weekends and days off. I’ll be sad. And on the last day of school in 2020 (May 29!), I’ll be more excited than the kids!

But there is a silver lining. The start of school means the start of football season!

Lessons From The Florida Panhandle

The Florida Panhandle. It’s a place I know well. It is a place that is near and dear to my heart.

My daddy, his siblings, and all my first cousins grew up there. I was born there. My grandparents lived there. My daddy is buried there, and my mother’s ashes are there.

When I was five months old, my family moved to Brewton, Alabama, and I never lived in the Panhandle again, but we visited family there regularly. We also vacationed at the beaches along the gulf coast in the Panhandle. I learned a lot in the Panhandle.

This past week, I took my teenage daughter on a road trip through the panhandle. Neither of us had been there since 2007, and she had no recollection of that visit. I also showed her some places she had never been. She didn’t act particularly interested in all my stories, but maybe she will remember some.

Maybe she will remember my telling her about doodlebugs in the Panhandle. Nope, I’m not talking about VWs. I’m talking about antlions, insects whose larvae dig pits to capture prey. If you’re not familiar with them, this will be as confusing to you as it was to my daughter. But doodlebug pits look like tiny holes in the ground with a small crater around them. When my cousins and I were little, our Granddaddy showed us how to get doodlebugs to come out of what we thought were their homes. He told us to put a tiny stick down into the hole and stir it while saying, “Doodlebug, doodlebug, come out and get a cup of coffee. Doodlebug, doodlebug, your house is on fire.” After a few stirs and a few chants, the doodlebug would emerge! We thought it was because of our chanting, but as an adult, I know it was because of the stirring. I think Granddaddy was just giving us something to do, so we wouldn’t bother people, but we spent hours bothering doodlebugs…and we had fun and made memories!

I also learned about biddies in the Panhandle. Nope…not gossiping old ladies or hot girls (urban slang). Biddies…young chickens. I must have been about six or seven the first time I heard young chickens called “biddies” by my cousin, Patti. I think we were visiting her house when she suggested we go see the biddies. I followed her to someone’s barn…I have no idea who it belonged to. I don’t remember much about the biddies, but I do remember there were cats there…and hay. I also know my mother must not have known where we were. She would have been worried about snakes. I don’t think we stayed long, but I learned that some folks call young chickens “biddies.”

When my Granddaddy died, a family friend took some of the cousins to get a milkshake at cousin Patti’s other grandparents’ store in Sneads while the grownups talked. They didn’t have a chocolate shake, so I ordered a strawberry shake. I feel sure the folks at Patti’s grandparents’ store knew how to make good milkshakes, but on that day, I learned I don’t like strawberry milkshakes.

On the beach in Panama City Beach one year, when I was a teenager, I learned that tar sometimes washes up with the tide. There had been an oil spill in the Caribbean, and the jetstream pushed a lot of the tar into the Gulf of Mexico. I knew nothing about it, until I was walking the beach near the Fontainebleau Terrace and got some tar on my white sneakers. Had to throw those away…tar doesn’t just wash out easily.

Also in Panama City Beach, at Miracle Strip Amusement Park, I learned a Scrambler amusement park ride is a lot more fun when it’s enclosed in a giant building shaped like an abominable snowman with loud music playing and mirrors on the walls…and bright lights flashing. I also saw a chicken play a piano at Miracle Strip and rode the Starliner roller coaster.

Miracle_Strip_Amusement_Park

Miracle Strip Amusement Park in 60s or early 70s

And everywhere in the Panhandle, I learned that gnats will congregate around your eyes, your nose, and any cuts or scrapes you have. Natural springs are naturally cold (Blue Springs Recreational Area). And more info here. I learned that Spanish moss is beautiful, even though it’s not a moss at all…it’s a flowering plant. I learned about stalactites and stalagmites at Florida Caverns State Park in Marianna. In Quincy, I learned about a banker who loaned folks money to buy Coca Cola stock….eventually making them millionaires. Many years later, I became friends with that banker’s great granddaughters purely by accident, after meeting one of them at a party in Charlotte! From my daddy and his siblings, I learned what life was like in the rural Panhandle after the Great Depression. I learned about peach trees right outside the door whose limbs were used as switches. I learned about the one room schoolhouse in Bascom and Faye Dunaway’s being a student there. Yes, that Faye Dunaway…of Bonnie and Clyde fame. I listened to speculation about how a community called Two Egg got its name, and I ate as much pound cake as I could when I visited a great aunt in Two Egg. In my grandmother’s house, I learned what an antique sewing machine looked like, and I heard stories about my grandmother and aunt playing organ and piano at folks’ weddings and funerals…oh, one funeral story I’ll have to share another time. At the beaches in the panhandle, I learned how much fun it is to bunk with all your cousins in one house on vacation. And I used my first crosswalk button to cross the beach road in Mexico Beach when I was six…it was malfunctioning and shocked the stew out of me. On that same trip, I learned about wading out into a bay to catch scallops on the same trip. And I learned that fireworks are pretty on the beach.

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Blue Springs Recreational Area and Park, Marianna, Florida

The coastal Panhandle looks different now. There are planned communities and high rise condos where beach houses and roadside motels used to be. The original Miracle Strip Amusement Park is long gone from Panama City Beach, but there is a new Miracle Strip located near Pier Park on the beach road. Shipwreck Island waterpark and Capt. Anderson’s Restaurant are still there, and even the old Fontainebleau Terrace is still standing…it was a beauty in its heyday.

A little farther north, along Highway 90 in Jackson County, one big difference is that most motel/hotel accommodations either closed or moved over to I-10 after it was completed through the area. Well, that and the Hurricane Michael damage that is everywhere from Panama City to Jackson County…lots of devastation. In Marianna, lots of the downtown businesses were damaged and/or destroyed. I have lots of memories there…getting my first Florida State University sweatshirt at Daffin’s, seeing the RCA dog on top of one downtown business, and watching Mary Poppins in the old movie theatre there. The theatre has been gone for a long time, but I remember. Say a prayer for the folks who are still affected by that terrible storm. Lots of people are still suffering, including my aunt, whose house in Panama City was badly damaged by the storm.

The Panhandle taught me a lot. All this, and I didn’t even mention Tallahassee, Destin, and other places yet! Whew! I’ll share stuff about those places soon. Big lessons from all over the Panhandle. Mostly, it taught me my aunts, uncles, and cousins are keepers. Maybe we need to plan another beach vacation for the whole bunch!

I hope my daughter will remember some of it…

***Some friends asked me about the planned communities along the Gulf Coast. You can find lots of rental information here.

 

 

 

 

 

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I Ordered The Summer Reading Book

It’s almost August, so I finally broke down and ordered the book my daughter, who is a rising high school sophomore, has been assigned for her required summer reading. I didn’t assign it. Her school did, and I’m not gonna lie…I resent it.

First, summer is my time. I’m not complaining. I love our daughter’s school, but summer is my time. I don’t want to receive school emails. I don’t want reminders. I don’t want to see her schedule or her school supplies list. I don’t want any of it, because frankly, I don’t even want to think about school. This is summer. It should be free time… and I’d appreciate it if I could keep it that way.

Alas, I can’t. Every year, we have to do health forms. I took her for her physical early this year, in June, so I wouldn’t have to keep seeing the emails from school, requesting the information. I got her physical done, got the forms signed by the doctor, and sent them in early! Done! I eliminated those weekly “reminder” emails about the health forms. Don’t get me wrong. I’m thankful our school requires them. I’m grateful that they want all her health info, in case they can’t reach me when something happens. But I want to do it all while school is in session. I don’t want to ruin the peace of summer with health forms.

Recently, apparently, there was an email about high school students at our daughter’s school picking up their iPads before school starts. A mom came by my house today, and while she was here, she asked if my daughter is picking up her iPad tomorrow. I hadn’t seen the email, because it is summer, and I don’t check my email very regularly in summer….so ummm…no, she won’t be picking up her iPad tomorrow. It’s July 28th. School doesn’t start till August 21. She would likely misplace the damn thing before school starts if she picked it up now. Aside from that….I don’t want to think about the school iPad yet! Truth be told, I wish she didn’t even have a school iPad.

It’s times like this I wish the whole world could be more like the 1980s. When I was in high school, we had cheerleading practice all summer, but we didn’t talk about school stuff till school was about to start. Summer was for lounging by the pool; eating French fries in the clubhouse; going to the beach, where we walked to Dairy Queen every afternoon; family vacations; watching soap operas (Dr Noah Drake, anyone?); and just hanging with friends. And we never had summer reading!

It is a pain in my butt every…single…year. I know some people have kids who love to read. They love any book they can get their hands on, and I admire that. But mine isn’t that kid. She would rather be running around a field hockey or lacrosse field, hanging out with friends, going to the beach, eating French fries at the club…or other stuff I did in the 1980s. I ordered the book today, though, and it will arrive by the weekend, and she will read it when she reads it. And I will resent it.

I just want her to be a kid while she can be a kid! These kids have so much more pressure on them than we had as teens. As early as seventh grade, parents at her school, in meetings, were asking about curriculum paths for their kids to get into the “right colleges.” Honestly, I don’t give a crap where mine goes. She will go somewhere. But I don’t want her worrying about that, because guess what? She is in 10th grade. She doesn’t know squat. And do you know why she doesn’t know squat? Because she is a kid, and she shouldn’t be having to make life decisions at 15. She should be thinking about teenager stuff and enjoying the lazy days of summer.

Plus, I think kids learn a lot in summer, in a different way. I think they learn about scheduling. If they travel, they learn more about the world in which they live…even if they just travel to a neighboring town. They learn that the world is a big place. They meet new people and hang out with people with whom they don’t go to school. They grow. They play. They learn how to do things on their own. When our daughter was a toddler, any time we traveled…even just for a weekend…I noticed she was different when we got home. She had learned something that made her a little different. Has she ever been changed like that by a book? Maybe, but this was every time we went somewhere…she came home different. Being exposed to different places and people is a different kind of education.

So, am I going to badger her about her required summer reading? Nope. I’m not even going to “remind” her. She will get it done on her own terms, but mostly, I hope she enjoys the last few weeks of summer. I hope she hangs out at the pool with friends, goes to concerts, hangs out some with me, listens to music, eats as many French fries as she wants, floats around on a giant inflatable pink flamingo, and doesn’t even think about school.

Maybe I’m the slacker mom, but I know she is going to be OK. I know she would be OK without summer reading, and she will be OK with it too.

But most of all…I hope she enjoys the last few weeks of summer…like kids are supposed to do.

***If you’re wondering, the required summer reading book is called A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of A Boy Soldier, by Ishmael Beah. I’m ordering one for myself too, just so I can see what makes it special.***

woman lying on pink flamingo bouy on body of water

Photo by LRM Exterior on Pexels.com

College Orientation for Parents

I’m not poking fun. My child won’t be going off to college for three more years, so please don’t think I’m poking fun at students or parents, but I have a question:

When did colleges start having orientation for parents?

Like I said, I’m not poking fun, but when I went off to college orientation…way back in 1985…my parents didn’t go with me. In fact, I don’t recall seeing any parents there, and I certainly don’t recall any orientation sessions just for the parents. Of course, my memory could be failing. My parents felt college was my adventure.

I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with it. It just seems strange to me. Going off to college is a rite of passage for lots of new high school graduates, and to me, it was part of growing up. It was the beginning of more independence. It was something I did on my own. I don’t mean I paid for it. Nope…my parents paid…but they didn’t go to orientation with me.

They did go with me when I moved into the dorm my freshman year. They wouldn’t have missed that, and I wouldn’t have wanted them to miss it. But as soon as everything was moved in, we went to lunch, and they were on their way home. They didn’t want to stick around long enough for there to be any tears. Things have changed since 1985, and like I said, I’m not knocking it, but it seems like an interesting step… backward.

Trust me…when my daughter goes to college, I’ll be one of the parents participating in the parent orientation sessions, because I will feel like a terrible parent if I don’t. I don’t want to be the only one who doesn’t go; I don’t need to get those dirty looks and whispers…I get enough of those now, and she’s not even in college yet! But why did colleges feel like they needed to start having parent orientation sessions?

I don’t have an answer. I don’t even know when it started.

When we were kids, we ran all over the neighborhood all summer. We were outside from the moment we got up till the neighborhood street lights came on…and sometimes later, if we got permission to play Kick the Can at a friend’s house. We loved playing Kick the Can in the dark…hiding behind trees, dashing about and trying not to giggle. We rode our bikes for miles a day. We went to different friends’ houses. And guess what? We didn’t even have cell phones! Not even a bag phone! Those things weren’t around yet. To find us, our parents had to go outside and call our names, or they had to call around to various friends’ houses, or they had to drive around the neighborhood.

It’s not that way anymore. We’ve all been told our kids will be kidnapped if they play outside. We think they’ll end up in the emergency room if they are left unsupervised.

Is the cell phone to blame?

Starting in the late 80s, people really starting getting cell phones, and the cell phone became more and more popular and sophisticated as time went on. Unlike any time before, we could all call each other anywhere, anytime. And with smart phones, we can now see where people are at any time. I have the Life 360 app, and I can see where my daughter’s phone is all the time. Does that mean she is with the phone? Probably…teenagers these days go nowhere without their phones. But don’t be fooled…there are ways to get around Life 360.

I know one teen who downloaded Life 360 to his iPad and removed it from his smartphone.  While he was out and about with his cellphone, his iPad was safely tucked away anywhere he wanted it to be, so it looked like he was where he was supposed to be. It’s true. If you want to keep tabs on your child’s whereabouts and you pay for the cellphone, you might want to check that.

Parents know the whereabouts of their children…even college students…all the time. I thank my lucky stars every single day that my parents couldn’t always see where I was! Yet, I want my daughter to have the Life 360 app on her phone. Even when she goes to college, I will likely want her to have the app, and I will likely check it from time to time.

But will I want to go to parent orientation sessions at her college? I doubt it. I hate “mandatory” meetings…always have. If you want me to come to a meeting, invite me like it’s a party…and maybe give away prizes…and I’ll be all in. I especially hate meetings that are a waste of my time. Why do I need to know about her college or university? As far as I’m concerned, I’m supposed to move her in, pay for it all, visit occasionally, and talk with her regularly. I’m not calling for everyone to boycott parent orientation sessions. Some folks probably love the idea. I just think it’s strange that it wasn’t considered necessary for so long, and now, college has become a family affair.

By the time our daughter does off to college, if things keep “progressing” the way they have been, parents will have to go to class with their college freshmen for the first week of school.

Good luck to all of you who are attending parent orientation sessions this summer. God willing, I will be doing it too one day…but I don’t think I will like it.

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I Visited A Cult

Oh, yes, I did.

I visited the international training center of a cult, and on the surface, everything looked great.

But I’m going to try to refer to it as a “community” instead of a “cult.” I won’t say which “community” it was, but my 21-year-old nephew came into town with a friend over the weekend, and on Friday night, he announced to me that they wanted to visit a cult (he used the word “cult”) on Saturday…and he wanted me to go with them. I had questions, of course. “You don’t want to join the cult, right?” “Why do you want to go?” “How far away is it?” “Is it scary?”

He showed me the group’s website. It looked pretty benign, And it said they welcome visitors, so I agreed to go, and we made plans to leave the next day. I should mention my husband thinks we are all nuts.

Early Saturday afternoon, we got into the SUV and drove over an hour to the address listed on the website. We were excited to see what we would find! Upon arrival, we drove into the parking lot at the front of the group of houses and got out. We walked around looking for people, but all we saw were sheep out front eating hay. One of the sheep had a penchant for magnolia leaves, so we watched them for a while and discussed what we should do.

Ultimately, we decided to go to another road and approach from the back. When we drove into a back parking lot, we saw a woman stick her head around a fence. I asked my nephew’s friend to put down her passenger-side window, and in my best sweet southern voice, I said, “Hey! We read on your website that y’all welcome visitors! We’re just curious and would like to find out what y’all are all about!” Once she decided we were friendly, she offered to show us around. She explained we weren’t seeing many people because Saturday is the Sabbath, and most people were resting.

We followed her into the dining hall/meeting room, which was lovely…clean and nicely decorated. We ran into a couple more friendly people inside who readily introduced themselves. From there, she showed us the barn area, where they had goats and cows. And after that, we walked over to one of the community’s houses, where members of the “community” had gathered outside for music. We were offered tea, and we all took a cup. I thought it was delicious, and my nephew did too, but I noticed his friend was holding hers…not drinking it. I knew she was thinking about Jonestown, so I took the tea off her hands and drank it myself.

We were welcomed with open arms by everyone gathered outside, and we asked any questions we could think of. Are people free to come and go as they please? Yes. If someone leaves the community, are they shunned? No. Do y’all drink alcohol? No. What are your beliefs? How do you support yourselves? I wanted my nephew to ask if they used cannabis, but none of us had the nerve to ask that. I thought I smelled it wafting out of a house at one point, but I couldn’t be sure. And this group believes everyone should work together for the greater good of the community. Every person contributes by working…like bees in a hive. Children are educated onsite. We weren’t bashful…we asked questions. We didn’t ask in a threatening way…we asked in a curious way, which is exactly what we were…curious.

We left after a couple of hours thinking, “This isn’t a cult at all! They’re just a religious commune!” Everyone was so friendly. They were very reserved, but they were friendly. We had no reason to believe they were anything but good folks.

And then, after we got home, we googled the name of their “community,” and that’s when things got weird!

Unbeknownst to us, just last week, the FBI had released from their vault information from a 2013 investigation into this particular group. At the top of the report, it says, “Open investigation based on allegations that children are being sexually exploited.” And somehow, we decided to visit right after the report was released from the vault? We had no idea! In the report, there is testimony from former members of the community with allegations of child labor, sexual abuse, sexual orgies, and drug use. That led us to look at other websites, where we found allegations of community members being held against their will…and more. And honestly, it frightened us. Is any of the “testimony” true? I don’t know, but it was enough to make my hair stand on end.

And it made me a little sad. I thought of the sweet people we had met. Most of them were friendly, but some of them were looking at us wide-eyed, and one of them appeared a little unstable, but we chalked it up to dementia. But after reading everything, I couldn’t help but wonder if some of the wide-eyed ones were desperate to leave. Were they unhappy? Were they being abused? Did they want us to take them with us? Did they want to pass us notes asking us to send help? Of course, that’s all my imagination. No one, at any time, indicated they were unhappy. In fact, most of them appeared very happy.

In hindsight, I’m glad we didn’t google the community before we went, because we never would have gone. I believe there are some good people in that group. Are there bad folks? I don’t know. But I’m guessing that will be my only visit to their commune. We went unannounced, but didn’t see anything suspicious. Of course, my nephew’s friend pointed out that we were really only shown the animals and the interior of one building, which was almost unoccupied at the time, so there wasn’t much opportunity for us to see anything nefarious.

Giving them the benefit of the doubt, they seemed like nice people. Of course, someone else pointed out to me that “of course they were nice! They wanted y’all to join!” Yeah…they probably didn’t want me. I’m way beyond child-bearing years, and I’m sure they could take one look at me and tell I’m way too high maintenance. My nephew, on the other hand, is low maintenance, strong, hardworking, good-looking, musically talented, and artistic. Any cult would love to have him. His friend is pretty and outgoing…they’d love to have a young lady join up, I’m sure. But I would have been a total drain on their system.

And in their defense, the FBI closed the 2013 investigation. Since I never read anything about any arrests, and they didn’t invade the place like they did with David Koresh and the Branch Davidians, I’m guessing they didn’t uncover enough evidence to support the allegations.

Either way, we got out unscathed. If anyone ever tries to hold me at a commune, they will run me off as soon as they figure out I don’t even know how to mop very well!

On our way home, I thought of how happy my parents would be that my nephew was hanging out with me in North Carolina. And I wished I could call them to tell them about the experience…they would have loved hearing about it.