One Year

Today marks the one-year anniversary of my mother’s passing. One year. And I have felt it at all the times I would expect to feel it, and I have felt it when I least expected it.

I didn’t sleep at all last night, staring at the clock, thinking of Mother.

I lost my daddy 12 years ago, so I gained some coping skills from that, but grief is grief. It’s going to happen, one way or another. I have been able to keep moving forward more than I did when Daddy died, but I’ve had moments.

I miss her all the time. She gave good advice. She had a calming demeanor. She wasn’t perfect, and she would be the first to admit that, but she was the perfect mama for me and my brother. I never knew exactly how much she loved me till I had my own child.

When do I miss her most?

I stayed in bed most of January. Friends brought meals, and I gave myself permission to give in to the grief for one month. After that, I rejoined the living. Here’s when I’ve missed her most:

  • Every time I’ve gotten in the car. I used to call her and talk (Bluetooth) every time I drove somewhere. Living 400 miles away, I didn’t get to see her all the time, but I called her all the time. I’ve almost called her a thousand times since.
  • When the Alabama Crimson Tide won the National Championship in January, she would have been thrilled. I missed her then…even cried that she missed it.
  • In February, my parents’ wedding anniversary rolled around on the 18th. They married in 1961 on my maternal grandfather’s birthday. Every year, on their anniversary, we would talk about their small wedding and how her Aunt Ola came through to pull it all together. And we talked about her daddy…truly one of the most patient, God-loving men who ever lived.
  • I missed her when my cousin, Patti, was searching for the perfect home for Mother’s dog. In the end, everything worked out, and Sam, the dog, went back home. It worked out the way it was supposed to, but I missed Mother, because I knew she loved Sam, and Sam loved her. I’m sure Sam still wonders about Mother, but she is living a happy life with my nephew in Mother’s home.
  • In March, we vacationed with my brother and his family.  Mother would have loved how much we laughed. She loved when we were all together. We missed her.
  • During our daughter’s eighth grade basketball and lacrosse seasons in winter and spring, she would have wanted regular updates. When something exciting happened, I always wanted to call her.
  • My birthday is in May. She always laughed at how excited I get about my birthday. Nobody loves a birthday like I do, and she would start singing to me days in advance. Missed out on that this year.
  • In the summer, our daughter traveled to Iceland for two weeks. It was not easy for me, but she needed to do it. Mother would have suffered along with me during those two weeks. She would have called me every day, asking about updates from the trip leaders. She also would have been happy my husband and I took our own vacation during that time…visiting South Florida with my brother and sister-in-law. And Mother would have been as excited as I was when our daughter was back on US soil.
  • I also had an eclectic garden in the summer…growing tomatoes, corn, and sunflowers, all favorites of my parents. She would have been amazed at the success I had. I wanted to call her daily and tell her about it.
  • As summer came to an end and school sports teams tryouts came around, she would have suffered through that with me too. Our daughter, a freshman in high school, tried out for varsity field hockey on August 1. I sat in my car, waiting for my daughter to come out after the tryout… to find out if she made the team or not. I wanted to call Mother, but since I couldn’t, I called my friend, Jane, who said all the things she knew my mother would have said. Our daughter made the team, and they won the state championship! I wish Mother could have seen her play.
  • When one of my brother’s sons visited us in Charlotte, I would have loved to share photos with Mother. And when the other one started a new job, a job that can lead to something real for his future, I know she would have been thrilled.
  • When I met Dominique Wilkins, former NBA superstar, in a restaurant several weeks ago, I got in the car and dialed Mother’s number before I realized it. She loved sports and would have loved my photo with Dominique.
  • Any time anyone in the family has gotten sick, I’ve missed Mother, a nurse. Two weeks ago, after an allergic reaction to a manicure (who knew?!?!), my hands broke out, and I sneezed for two days. A couple of days later, I woke up to find an enlarged lymph node in my neck. Fortunately, my pharmacist sister-in-law calmed me down. The next day, I went to the doctor, just like Mother would have advised. She would have called checked on me a few times a day. The node was enlarged because of an infection…viral or bacterial…and yes, it went back to normal after a few days.
  • And the holidays. She would have loved our family gathering at my brother and sis-in-law’s lake house. We all laughed, played games, told funny stories, and ate too much. Mother would have loved it.

I miss that tiny little firecracker of a woman. Occasionally, people who knew her will tell me something I said or did brought back memories of her. If only I had her gift of calm listening.

Now…if you still have your Mother, call her or give her a big hug right now.

 

 

 

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She’s Home

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My 14-yr-old daughter is home from her two-week adventure in Iceland. She doesn’t even seem tired after hiking, backpacking, rafting, sleeping outside, and all the other stuff she did.

I admire her and all the kids who did this challenging trip. I couldn’t do it. Well, I suppose I could, but I wouldn’t want to…tent sleeping = deal breaker. She said Iceland is a beautiful country, and she had a great time, but she did miss talking with us.

I totally get that. First, I missed her more than I knew I could miss someone. My husband and I said it to each other several times a day, “I miss our girl.” We could hardly wait for her to return, especially as I stood at the airport waiting for her plane to land. It seemed like forever. I was excited at that point, but time moved slowly, like waiting for Santa. Another reason I understand is that I visited Mexico with school friends and a teacher when I was fourteen, and we all experienced some homesickness. The difference? I could call home. Back in the 1980s, calling the US from Mexico was expensive, but my parents were OK with it. I didn’t call every day, but I did call a couple times…especially when I was homesick.

So, yesterday, I stood outside customs/immigration with my big sign, “Welcome Back!” I listed the girls’ names at the bottom. Waiting. The lady next to me was waiting for her grandson to come in from Iceland too, so we distracted each other.

After clearing customs/immigration yesterday, my daughter and her friends looked happy and relaxed. We did not cry (whew!), but she jumped into my arms. We did a group hug with her friends whose moms weren’t there. I was elated to see all of them! I asked them if they’d like to get something to eat before we got on the flight back to Charlotte. They opted for chicken nuggets, fries, and a Frosty from the airport Wendy’s.

On the plane, she asked me if I had missed her, and that’s when I cried. l told her she has no idea how much I missed her…and she doesn’t know, because until she has her own child who goes off on a two week trip with no communication, she will not be able to understand what it feels like to send your precious child 2,500 miles away. Think about that…I wouldn’t put my dog on a plane with someone to go 2,500 miles away. I wouldn’t send any prized possession on a plane with someone to go that far away.  Yet, we had to let her do this trip. And there will be more trips. There will be more experiences.

After we got home yesterday, a friend came over, and as we were talking, I told her how desperately I missed my daughter while she was gone and how it gave me a new appreciation for my parents’ experience. They must have missed me like crazy when I was gone too. At least when she goes off to college, she’ll be able to pick up the phone and call. As for this trip…I’m thrilled she had the experience. I know she learned a lot about Iceland but even more about herself and her ability to persevere. But honestly, I don’t want to be anywhere that I can’t call home for two weeks. In fact, I don’t think I even want to be at a posh resort in a beautiful setting with fun things to do and fabulous food if I can’t call home whenever I want! We are a talking family.

We want her to be independent, and that’s why we let her go. We’re already planning next summer. Will she do another one of these trips? I don’t know. If she wants to do another one, of course she can.

We are thrilled to have her home. She’s my favorite child.

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Missing My Girl

It hasn’t even been a week since my 14-yr-old daughter left for Iceland, and I’m already missing her. I know…that’s pathetic. We received our first “email update” a couple of days ago, and it sounds like they are having a fabulous time, but it might have made me miss her more, if that is even possible. I know I’m not the only crazy parent missing a child right now, though. I’ve talked to several friends whose children are on these trips, and we all feel the same way. We miss our children! However, I feel pretty sure she isn’t thinking of us…I hope she’s not. I hope she is enjoying everything Iceland has to offer and then some!

She is traveling in a group of twelve teenagers, with two young adult leaders…a girl from North Carolina, and a guy from Louisiana. The group leaders write the updates, and they say something about each traveler. According to that first update, while they were visiting The Blue Lagoon, a well-known geothermal spa, my daughter “led the group to the smoothie bar and then to the mud mask station.” I actually laughed out loud when I read that, because my daughter loves smoothies, and she loves masks. At least I know she isn’t starving, and her skin should be glowing when she comes home!

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Blue Lagoon Geothermal Spa, Iceland

I’ve worried about her “starving,” because my daughter is a picky eater. I tried to expose her to lots of different flavors when she was a toddler, but she’s like her daddy…she likes bland food. She eats a lot of grilled chicken, pizza, yogurt, broccoli, fruit, potatoes, grilled cheese sandwiches, and rice. Oh, and peanut butter. I told her before she left that she will have to eat whatever they give her. According to one of her leaders, on the last trip, they had a lot of lamb and salmon, two delicious foods I’ve never been able to get my daughter to eat. My fingers are crossed that she will expand her palate on this trip. I did stick a few snacks in her bag, but she likely has gone through them by now. She doesn’t get that picky-eating gene from me. I will eat just about anything, except organ meat…nope, not gonna do it. My husband, on the other hand, eats nothing spicy. There are things he has declared “spicy,” and then I take a bite and laugh at him.

My sister-in-law has a 15-yr-old son on another trip offered by the same tour company. He is touring Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands. We shared our updates with each other earlier today, and his trip sounds exciting too! According to his update, he “nearly had a nose to nose interaction with a baby sea lion who was looking for a buddy to swim alongside him!” Sounds like so much fun! He will get home two days before my daughter, so I will get to talk with him and hear all about his trip first. I can hardly wait, but I’ll have to wait another week.

I’m flying up to New York to meet my daughter and a couple of her friends when they arrive from Iceland. I’m thinking I need to make a gigantic WELCOME BACK sign for them. Think they’d be embarrassed? I don’t really care…I’m doing it. The only people they will know in the JFK Airport will be the people from their trip. I’m flying up a day early and staying at a hotel near the airport, and I will be so excited that I won’t sleep a wink that night. Pray for a safe return for them, and pray they are on time, so I don’t have to wait any longer than necessary.

My husband and I are meeting my brother and sister-in-law on vacation later this week. Our favorite dogsitter/housesitter arrives tomorrow night. I’m hoping the vacation will be a distraction from how much I’m missing my girl. We’ll laugh a lot, get some exercise, and lounge on the beach for a few days. I’m hoping my brother will cook dinner for us every night…he’s a great cook.

A friend’s daughter arrived home earlier this week from her tour of the Pacific Northwest. She was gone for three weeks. I called my friend, the mom, the morning the daughter was coming home and asked if she was excited that her baby girl would be coming home tonight. Of course she was! She sent me a cute picture they took of her two daughters right after the younger one arrived home safely. You can see it below. So sweet. You can tell they are so excited to see each other. I asked my friend if she cried, and she said, “We all did!”

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My friend’s daughters. The one on the right just arrived home safely from her tour of the Pacific Northwest.

I guess I need to wear waterproof mascara next week when I go to meet my daughter at the airport in New York.

I Just Sent My Daughter To Iceland

My 14-yr-old daughter just got on a flight to go to Iceland with a teen travel group. We have been looking forward to this for months. I say “we,” because I am so excited for her. Really, I wish I could go, but her group is just for teens. Plus, they will be staying in tents and hostels…no thanks. I’m too old for that. I want to go and stay in hotels, but my adventure will have to wait. This is her turn.

This trip came about because she wanted to travel to Costa Rica and Belize. The same company offers a trip to those countries for students her age, but space is limited. As it turns out, I signed her up a day too late. They called me and said the Costa Rica/Belize trip was full and offered trips to Colorado, Utah, Oregon…no offense to those lovely states…and they ARE lovely…but I knew she didn’t want to go back to school in the fall and tell her friends who had been to Costa Rica that she went to Oregon.

When they called, she was in school, so I needed to make a decision for her. While I was talking with the representative, I had my laptop open. I started scrolling through the trips they offer, and I said, “What about Iceland?” I had never spoken with my daughter about Iceland before, but it looked pretty, and the trip description sounded great too. I think the rep was surprised, because Iceland and Costa Rica are two very different destinations. She said there was space available on the Iceland trip, and she also told me it was an awesome trip.

That afternoon, my daughter went home after school with a friend. She called me and asked, “Well, am I on the Costa Rica/Belize trip?” I told her, “No, I’m sorry, but you’re on a better trip. I signed you up for the Iceland trip.”

Oh, you’d have thought I was telling her she was going to be locked in the basement for the summer. The crying…the anger…the disappointment!  After we hung up, I started sending her texts with pictures and videos I found online of Iceland. In a little while, she called me back, saying, “Iceland looks awesome!” I didn’t say, “I told you so.” But, well…I told her so.

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All this happened way back in September. Since then, we’ve watched every video, read every article, and looked at any pictures we could find of Iceland. I have friends who have traveled there in the past year and posted photos and videos on Facebook and Instagram, and every time I see one, I call my daughter into the room, and we check them out together.

It’s going to be the trip of a lifetime, no doubt. She will see all the beauty Iceland has to offer, which is plentiful. I’ve been checking the recent temperatures there, and they appear to be hovering between 42 and 51…a little colder than it usually is this time of year. Interestingly, she’ll also get to experience midnight sun. They’ll have full sunlight for 21 hours of the day and only three hours of civil twilight, which is much like dawn or dusk. I’ve told her she’ll need to take a sleep mask…especially for those nights they’re sleeping in tents.

Months after I signed her up for Iceland, we received a call from the tour company telling me some space had opened up on a Costa Rica trip, and they asked if she might like to do that instead. It was during school hours, so I couldn’t talk with her. I told them I’d talk with her about it, but I doubted she’d want to switch, because she was pretty psyched up about Iceland. And I was right. When she got into the car that afternoon, I asked her, and her immediate response was, “No way!”

Score one for Mom!

As we purchased and gathered all her gear…and it’s a lot of gear…we packed it into her carry-on duffel bag. Fortunately, the tour company told us exactly what she would need. There was no guesswork…just get what they said. She got some of the gear for Christmas, and then we purchased more as we got closer to time for the trip. And we got more and more excited.

Earlier this week, we hopped on a flight from Charlotte to New York, so we could spend a little time in the city before she went to Iceland. A friend from Charlotte and her daughter, who is also going to Iceland, joined us, and we had some fun in the city. The girls enjoyed our dinner their last night in NY at Sugar Factory. The food was basic bar food, but the drinks and desserts were great fun! It’s a fun experience, so if you find yourself in New York, we recommend a stop at Sugar Factory. See the website here.

So, my friend and I dropped off our daughters at JFK Airport today and put them on the flight to Iceland. It was fun to see the excitement on their faces. I did the “drop and run” tactic at the gate from which the flight was leaving. I didn’t want to linger, because I know that is more difficult for us. It’s easier for us to just say our goodbyes and part. My friend and her daughter sat down and had a talk for a little while. Different people do different things, but I could tell mine wanted me to vamoose, and I get it. After I left them at the gate, I walked to an eatery way down the concourse, sat down, and had a couple of glasses of Prosecco, partly to celebrate the fun they’re going to have and partly because I just needed a glass of Prosecco. My friend joined me in a little while, and then we, the moms, returned on a flight to Charlotte without them, still talking about how excited we are about our girls’ upcoming experience.

They’ll go rafting in cold water, kayaking through fjords, see wild horses, see puffins, climb waterfalls, go ice climbing, hike a glacier, see lots of geysers, and they’ll visit the Blue Lagoon geothermal spa…and more.

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While I can hardly wait for her to experience Iceland, I’ll be even more excited about her return. She will have done lots of things I’ve never done, and she will have lots of stories to tell. In fact, I feel pretty sure she will learn a lot and even change some while she’s gone. She’ll learn about a different culture and landscape, and she’ll learn a lot about herself. After all, this is a teenager who has never slept outside. She’ll be sleeping in hostels and tents, a whole new world.

As we enjoyed our last night in New York, I asked if her she was nervous, and she said, “No, I’m just mad that I’m not already there.” I guess I’m the only one who’s nervous. Well, my husband’s nervous too.

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While she’s gone, we will go on a little vacation of our own, and she won’t think about us one bit. I know my husband and I will turn to each other every day and ask, “What do you think she’s doing now?” If I’m nervous about this two week adventure to Iceland, I can only imagine how nervous I’ll be when she goes off to college. My friend, Linda, whose son is halfway through his college career, told me at lunch last week to get ready…time flies, and our daughter will be going off to college before we know it.

Bon Voyage!

***If your family or child is embarking on an outdoor adventure, here are some ideas on things to purchase and where to get them:

GoPro Hero5 Camera…we needed it in a hurry, so I purchased it online at Target and selected “store pickup.” A few hours later, my item was at the guest services desk of my favorite Target.

Patagonia Black Hole Duffel Bag…we purchased the 60 liter bag, and it holds way more than I thought it would. Plus, it’s waterproof. We purchased this directly through the tour company, but you can find them at REI for $129.00 in store or online here.

For most other items, we shopped at Jesse Brown’s in Sharon Corners in Charlotte and REI at Carolina Place Mall, and I highly recommend both laces. 

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