She’s Returning to College

She’s returning to college.

Our daughter is returning to college for the second semester of her freshman year. In just 36 hours, our blissful month of having her under our roof will end. She and my husband will load up her car and start the 450 mile drive back to her university. She will drop him off at the airport before she goes to her dorm. He will fly home…without her.

And our house will be eerily quiet…again. It will be as quiet as it has been for the past few months, since we dropped her off in August. That dorm move-in is a distant memory now. Remember all the planning? Remember all the boxes of dorm supplies and decor stacked up in my foyer? I can hardly remember it now.

She survived first semester. With medical emergencies, the flu, late nights, lots of fun, lots of new friends…she survived. Not only did she survive, she thrived. Our girl was made for the big college atmosphere. It’s her happy place, for the most part. Don’t get me wrong; there were occasional tears. If you have a child leaving for college next fall, just know there will be tears. Sometimes they just have to get through the tears to get to the good stuff. I have told our daughter that in many late night phone conversations. If we didn’t have the bad, we wouldn’t appreciate the good. It’s absolutely true. The good seems so much better after you experience the bad. If your child calls you crying from college, remind them and yourself of that.

I will be having to remind myself of that over the next few weeks, as we adjust to a quiet house again.

Our house has felt like our house again for the past month, while our girl has been home. We had her friends in and out of the house at all hours. Many times, I was up at 2am, making grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup for a gaggle of friends. I’m not complaining; I loved every minute of it. Some nights, I was picking her up from a friend’s house or a party in the wee hours of the morning. After the murders at the University of Idaho, I wasn’t real keen on her taking an Uber. That horrible crime was a reminder that a background check is just a check of what someone hasn’t been caught doing or hasn’t done yet. It’s scary to think young girls all over the country hop into the car with strangers all the time, right? So while our daughter was in Charlotte, I was her personal Uber driver if she needed me. *Say a prayer for the families of those University of Idaho students.*

Did my husband love the late nights? No. It drives him crazy to have to stay up past midnight. He leads a very structured life, and if the timing gets messed up, he’s not happy. I’m a total vampire who flies by the seat of my pants, so in my world, I love the chaos. I love spontaneity. I love getting in the car at 1:30am to pick up our daughter and friends to bring them back to our house. I love standing in the kitchen, in my pajamas and robe, preparing food for them after they get here. And I’m going to miss it.

Will we get to bed at a reasonable hour every night? Yes. Will the amount of laundry I have to do decrease exponentially? Yes. But honestly, I will miss the extra laundry. I will miss watching the clock as we wait for her to come home. I will miss the late night talks in her room. I will miss watching football games with her.

I will miss her.

Thank God we have some vacations coming up soon, so we won’t be in this quiet house. Before we know it, she will come home for a visit. If she doesn’t, chances are I will hop on a plane and go see her one weekend soon…just because I miss her. She’ll need a Mama hug, and I’ll need to see her face to make sure she’s OK.

I keep reminding myself that in just four short months, she will be home for summer. We will take mother/daughter trips again. She will likely want to visit friends in different cities, and that’s OK too. We will just be happy to have her here when we can. Just having that to look forward to will keep us going. Well, that and some fun trips.

Meet us in the Bahamas, but bring your own snorkel gear!

We Miss the Elves

We miss the elves.

I know, I know. Every parent who is having to deal with The Elf on the Shelf right now is wondering why they ever bought into that commercialized bit of Christmas.

Seriously, how many times will you forget to move the damn elves during the season? I remember many times our daughter would come downstairs in the morning to find the elf in the same spot as the day before. She would ask if it had lost its magic. “Oh, no honey! It was just really foggy/stormy/cloudy out last night, and he couldn’t make the flight safely.” I had to think fast, and I couldn’t let the panic show on my face.

Other times, I would wake up in the middle of the night and remember I hadn’t moved the elf. I would get up, try to wake up enough to be creative with a “hiding place,” and stumble back to bed…cursing the elf the whole time.

And then, the elves multiplied at our house! She teceived them as gifts. Or she asked them to bring friends. When all was said and done, we had SIX elves visiting our home, and that meant I had to move all six of them every night. (I know…I know…I’m crazy to have allowed it.) Not only that, but I also had to get more creative after she heard about other friends’ elves that did more interesting things than just sit in the Christmas tree. Keeping up with the Joneses was real where the elf was concerned. She didn’t want to think Santa sent her a lame elf (or elves!).

Seriously, it got out of hand. Those damn elves were leading better lives than I was: writing all over the vanity with toothpaste, bungee jumping from the stairs, bathing in Christmas M&Ms, coming in on a wrecking ball, drinking Karo Syrup, trapping each other in cake domes…oh, to be an elf! And the notes and “surprises”! They brought little trinkets. They wrote her notes in their special elf handwriting. My brain had not been that creative in years, but I made it happen. Honestly, I became an overachiever where the elves were concerned, and I’m sure all her friends’ parents hated me for it. I don’t blame them. I hated that I let myself fall into the trap of that level of insanity after seeing others post on social media, but I did it.

I thought about all this last night, because my daughter, who is now 19 and a freshman in college, was hanging out with friends and texted me, “Can you send me pictures of the crazy things my elves did?” I searched through years of pictures and found some to send her. She sent back lots of laughing faces, lots of “Lol” and lots of “wow.”

Then I went down the rabbit hole.

I started texting her elf stories. I told her about the time she came running into the kitchen just before Thanksgiving Day (when the elves are supposed to arrive) with an elf in her hand. I’m not sure how old she was…maybe six of seven? She had gone into my room to look for something in a drawer, and she had found an elf. “Mommy! Look what I found in your drawer!” I was standing at the stovetop preparing dinner but looked down to see her holding the elf up for me to see. Somehow, I thought fast and replied, “Wow! He must have known you would look in there today, and he was just waiting for you to find him!” Her eyes widened! She bought it hook, line, and sinker! She replied, “I guess so!” And the elves got an early start (ugh) that year…lucky me (insert eye roll here).

Another year, on Christmas Day, she seemed a little sad…unusual for Christmas Day. She was eight, and she should have been excited and happy the whole day. Finally, in the afternoon, I asked, “Honey, are you OK?” Immediately, the flood gates opened…her bottom lip rolled down as her chin quivered, and tears rolled down her cheeks. “I miss my elf!,” she exclaimed. My heart broke. My sweet little girl thad been holding in those emotions all day. I could have been stern. I could have followed the elf rules, but I didn’t. I hugged her. I comforted her. And then I said, “There might be a way to get him back.” Call me a sucker if you want, but personally, I love knowing my child is full of so much love. That year, her elf had taken on the task of replacing some of her “babies” (stuffed animals) that had been accidentally thrown out while we were having her room painted. She appreciated what that elf had done for her, and she loved her elf for it. Who was I to say the elf couldn’t come back? Surely, there was a way?!? I said, “Here’s a little secret: since it’s still Christmas Day, you can make a wish on a Christmas candle, and maybe the elf will come back.” I’m still patting myself on the back for this one. My husband brought us a Christmas candle, and I sat down on the sofa with her, telling her to close her eyes and make the wish before blowing out the candle. Then close her eyes again and slowly count to ten, just to help the wish. Whatever…I was winging it, OK?!? While she slowly counted to ten after making the wish, my husband scampered quietly into our room, got the elf out of a drawer and placed him on the dining room table. When she opened her eyes, I said, “Maybe the elf will return. He might show up in an unexpected place.” Of course, she couldn’t resist the urge to start searching. When she found him on the dining room table, it was sheer joy! Her Christmas wish had come true! Since the elf had returned on a Christmas wish, she was allowed to hold him (against the Elf on the Shelf rules), so she settled in on the sofa to watch a Christmas movie with him. I told her she had 30 more days with the elf, but he wouldn’t fly back and forth to the North Pole, and had to leave after those 30 days. She agreed 30 more days would be enough…and it was.

The elves were popular at our house for several years until one day, she simply said, “Mom, I know the elves aren’t real.” In some ways I was happy. I wouldn’t have to remember to move them! I wouldn’t have to find creative places to put them! I wouldn’t have to wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat when I realized I hadn’t done anything with them! I wouldn’t have to lie about the fog/storms/clouds. At the same time, my heart broke a little. Sure, my life would be a little easier because she didn’t believe in the elves anymore, but it would be a lot less fun.

Now that she’s 19, the elves no longer come around. One moved to a new home when a neighbor melted her daughter’s elf on a lamp and was in a desperate search for a new one. We had one that matched hers, so we let her have it. Our daughter didn’t believe anymore, so it was nice to know we were saving another parent from a meltdown. Now, we look back on the elves with fondness. And honestly, they make good stories.

We miss the elves…not enough to bring them back, but we miss them!

Last Minute Holiday Gifts

Last minute holiday gifts.

We are getting down to the wire. If you still have gifts to purchase but don’t know where to start (or finish), we have suggestions.

Shop Local. It’s always important to shop local, and I did a lot of local shopping this year. Your local business owners always appreciate your business, but they especially appreciate it when inflation is crazy and prices are soaring. Don’t forget, they are having to pay more for the items from their suppliers too. If you don’t know about local boutiques in your area, ask around. Or if you live in Charlotte, you can check out the Charlotte’s Got A Lot website. They have compiled a lengthy list of local places to shop for everyone on your list. You can check it out here. I checked out their list and got a few ideas for my husband and daughter. Then, I passed along some ideas to friends…straight from the Charlotte’s Got a Lot list. If you don’t live in Charlotte, you might be able to find a similar list for your town. My personal favorite local shops are The Buttercup (great for women/young ladies/neighbors/friends), Paper Skyscraper for whimsical gifts (and stop in for lunch at Thai Taste next door when you go), Charlotte’s for women, Swoozie’s for fun gifts for friends and neighbors, and though it’s not really a shop/boutique, I love purchasing sports tickets or sports merchandise for local teams…the Carolina Panthers (available through Ticketmaster or at the Panthers store in the stadium), Charlotte Checkers hockey tickets/merchandise, and Charlotte Hornets tickets/merchandise.

USA Today List. USA Today published a list just yesterday of some last-minute gift ideas, and it includes gifts for everyone on your list. Prices range from below $100 to over $1000, but you’re likely to find something that will work. Get busy looking, though, because the longer you wait, the less likely it will get here in time. See the USA Today list here.

Amazon. No, it’s not shopping local, for sure, but sometimes you just need Amazon. My mother used Amazon for lots of her shopping when she was alive, because she just didn’t get around real well. Even if you can get around well, you might find that time is not your friend, and you just need to get something now. Amazon has a section on their website called Very Merry Deals, where you can find popular discounted items that can be shipped to your home or to the recipient’s home in time for Christmas. But do your Amazon shopping now! You can see their Very Merry Deals here.

Gift Cards. It sounds cliché, but if there are any college students in your life, they love gift cards. You can purchase gift cards to just about anywhere in Harris Teeter, Target, and CVS. My college-age daughter loves gift cards from Starbucks, Panera, ChickFilA, Netflix, and Amazon, but I’m sure there are others that are popular. As a freshman, our daughter has a dining plan through her university, but sometimes, she just wants to eat what she calls “real food.” That’s when gift cards come in handy.

Experiences. If you have an amusement park near you, it might be possible to purchase season passes or gift cards for someone on your list. Call ahead to find out. Movie passes make great gifts too. Maybe there is an attraction in your town that’s fun for someone in your family. We have the US National Whitewater Center in Charlotte, and it’s fun for the whole family! A gift card there can mean hours of fun! Or give the gift of travel! Charlotte is a hub airport for American Airlines, so a gift card on American Airlines could be a great gift for someone who could fly out of here or fly into Charlotte to visit! See their gift cards here. Delta offers them on their website too. You can see theirs by clicking here.

Car Trouble on the Way Home

Car trouble on the way home.

Tuesday was a long day for our family. I took my husband to the airport in the morning to catch an 11:00 flight to Birmingham. Our daughter had finished her first semester college finals and was ready to come home for the holidays, but since her school is 450 miles away, we didn’t want her to ride alone. Therefore, my husband was flying down to make the drive with her. I know some folks will think that’s crazy, but I don’t care. Even our daughter protested, “Really??? I can drive alone!” If purchasing an airline ticket for my husband would create a hardship for us, I might have considered letting her drive home alone, but it’s a long drive for anyone, and well, you never know when something will happen. Our daughter is a great driver with lots of driving experience, but because I have been stranded on the side of the highway before, I know how scary it can be as a woman…especially a young woman. Yes, she has a AAA Automobile Club membership, and she has roadside assistance for her car through the manufacturer, and all of that makes me feel better, but I just don’t feel good about the possibility of her being stranded on the interstate highway. My husband doesn’t either, so that’s why he flew down to drive back with her.

She picked him up at the Birmingham airport at about noon, and they started the 6-hour drive back to Charlotte. Over the past couple of years, we have decided that, because of the road construction and heavy truck traffic on I-85 between Charlotte and Greenville, South Carolina, it’s easier to travel on I-20 and I-77 between Birmingham and Charlotte. Its a slightly longer drive…20 minutes or so, but it’s just a more peaceful drive. Well…usually it is.

After they had passed through Atlanta, my husband noticed a vibration in the car that was just too much to continue. The tires were not inflated properly. They were showing various pressures, so when he called me, we decided that might be the issue. He decided to stop at a tire store in Conyers, Georgia, to try to get the issue resolved before continuing. Thank God they stopped when they did. It took a couple of hours to get the issue straightened out…rotation, weights, and alignment…but eventually, they were back on the road. I even suggested they might stop at a hotel and just come home in the morning, because in addition to the fact that it was getting late, there was also a heavy fog settled over the Carolinas. They would have none of that; they both wanted to get home.

At about 11:30pm, they turned into our driveway. I went out to greet them as soon as they parked. They were exhausted and hungry, since they hadn’t stopped for food anywhere along the way. We all came in, and I made grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup for them before we all turned in for the night.

I was just thankful they had arrived safely. Yes, it was a long trip for them and a long day of worry for me, but they made it. I also said prayers of thanks that my husband was there with our daughter, so she didn’t have to deal with all the issues alone. I would have been driving to meet her somewhere if he hadn’t flown down to ride back with her, and I would have been terrified for her. It’s a good lesson. If you ever question whether you should go help your child with something like a long drive, err on the side of caution. I’m not even a particularly cautious mom, but when it comes to long drives, I am.

Now, we are enjoying the holidays and preparing for another drive, as my daughter and I are traveling to Charleston with friends tomorrow morning. I’ll be riding with my friend, and our daughter will be driving herself and the daughter of said friend. We are meeting some friends who are flying in from Ohio, and we plan to enjoy as much shopping and dining as we possibly can over the course of a few days!

Stay safe out there!

Final Exam Nightmares

Final exam nightmares.

It’s the first week of December, which means college students everywhere are either preparing for or taking final exams. Our daughter is among those students preparing. Her first college final exam is Monday. Oh, how I remember the days leading up to those first college finals my freshman year.

I was a different person then. I carried more anxiety. I had not yet learned that worrying about something doesn’t change it. My parents used to tell me 98% of the things we worry about never happen. They also used to tell me that worrying won’t change things. Aside from that, they would tell me, if we prepare properly and turn the rest over to God, we are in good hands. Does it always mean we will succeed? No, but don’t we learn a lot more from our failures than from our successes?

It was after that first semester that I relaxed a little. I stopped worrying so much. Over time, I have become a non-worrier, except where our daughter’s safety is concerned. That’s a whole different level of worry that will likely never change.

Every now and then, though, my brain finds a way to remind me of the stress of college finals. I go to bed perfectly happy, but I wake up in a sweat, with an elevated pulse rate. No, it’s not about our daughter. It’s about me. I wake up in an absolute panic, because I am dreaming that I have just slept through a college final, or that I forgot to take one altogether. I think it’s a pretty common recurring nightmare for people who went to college, but 33 years after graduating? Doesn’t that seem like a long time to still be having that nightmare? No matter how much time passes, it’s still a painful nightmare.

Here’s the funny thing: when I was a junior in college, I actually did sleep through a final. It was my Spanish oral final. I had been up late studying the night before and knew I had the Spanish oral exam at 10:00am. Every student in the class had signed up for a 10-minute time slot, and that was mine. I feel sure I had set my clock, but I guess I set it wrong, or maybe I turned it off without really waking up. Whatever happened, I slept through the exam. I woke up at 10:30, when a friend came into my room, and I immediately realized what had happened. I had slept in a sweatshirt. I have no idea what kind of pants I slept in, but probably lightweight sweats. I jumped up, put on shoes as quickly as I could, and ran out the door without even brushing my teeth or my hair. I just ran.

Of course, the exam was about as far from my room as it could possibly be, but I ran. I ran as fast as I could and said a prayer that my teacher would still be in the room when I arrived. Additionally, the testing was taking place on the third floor of the building, so after running all the way to the building, I had to run up the stairs to the third floor…and all the way to the end of the hall. When I arrived, there were a couple of students sitting on the floor outside the classroom, waiting their turns, I suppose. I hardly noticed them as I pushed the door open and saw my professor sitting with another professor in front of the student who was testing at the time. Yes, it was rude for me to burst in, and frankly, I was out of breath…huffing and puffing…probably trying to hold back tears. Fortunately, I’d had both professors as teachers, one the first semester of junior year and one second semester, and I was on good terms with them. My professor paused the exam and said to me, “It’s OK. Go outside and catch your breath. We will call you in shortly.” Thank the Lord I had a forgiving professor. And thank the Lord I had developed good relationships with both the professors. I had been in their classes in back-to-back semesters. After waiting for a little while, they called me in, and I took my oral exam, passing it with an A. Afterward, hen I returned to my room, my friends who had witnessed my wild departure came in, wide-eyed, and asked how it had gone. I told them to let me brush my teeth and hair first, and I would be happy to give them the details!

Yes, I’m that person who actually slept through a final and lived to tell about it.

That’s not my only recurring nightmare about college, though. I also have a recurring nightmare in which it’s the end of the semester, and I have forgotten to attend a class for the whole semester! Again, I wake up in a sweat after this one too, but this one never actually happened in real life. Sure, I missed some classes here and there, but never a whole semester of class.

Sunday night, I will remind my daughter to set multiple alarms to wake up for her 8:30am exam. I don’t want her to live the nightmare of missing the exam.

And even though I don’t consider myself a worrier anymore, I’m sure I will go to bed Sunday night worried that she will sleep through her exam.

Because I’ll go to bed worried, chances are, I will have my exam nightmare again.

Thanksgiving 2022

Thanksgiving 2022

It’s our first Thanksgiving as empty nesters! We made it to Thanksgiving! Actually, we have thoroughly enjoyed our empty nester status, but you know we were thrilled our baby girl could come home for a whole week! We are counting down to her Christmas break (starts December 9), when she will be out of school for a whole month! I don’t dare say we will see her for a whole month, because I’m sure she will want to visit with friends…and we are cool with that!

But here we are, having survived most of the first semester. After Thanksgiving, she just goes back to school for “dead week” and finals week before returning for the next break. Here’s where I should tell you, contrary to what some some moms say on the Facebook college parent pages, “dead week” does not mean they walk around looking like “the walking dead” or “zombies.” Well, at her university that’s not what it means; I can’t speak for others. Some parents have said on the parents page, “They study so hard that they look like zombies.” For 95% of the students, I’m saying that is not true. What it actually means…and share this with your friends…is that professors cannot issue new assignments during the “dead week” before finals, and they cannot have tests during that week either. Some professors might opt to have class, and some might not. Some have review sessions, and some do not. Some give extra credit for attending that week, and others do not. The week is meant to be a study week.

I can assure you that when I was at the same university as my daughter in the 1980s, I did not walk around looking like a zombie during dead week. No way. Did I use my time wisely and study all week? I’d like to say I did. Oh, who am I kidding?!?! No way! I had lots of fun during dead week and started studying for finals at the end of the week. I was even known to go out during finals week. [Gasp!] If I looked like the walking dead during dead week, it had nothing to do with studying too hard. If I looked like a zombie that week, it was because I had too much fun the night before. Not gonna lie. Don’t get me wrong. I studied. I just studied efficiently. I kept up in my classes. I met with professors when I didn’t understand a concept. I was a good student. OK, I was a pretty good student. But I got the job done, and I had a great work/life balance. I didn’t work all the time, and I didn’t play all the time. Fortunately, I had parents who understood the importance of enjoying college life, and as long as I “took care of business,” I could play all I wanted. And I did.

Now our daughter is trying to have a work/life balance her freshman year of college, and at Thanksgiving 2022, we are thankful she seems to be thriving. It’s hard to believe just six months ago, she was feeling a little unsure about her decision. She was thinking of another school she had considered. She was thinking she had made a mistake in choosing her university. She had just graduated and was entering the summer before college. It was a painful time in our household…lots of tears. I took her to orientation in June, and she was a mess. We got through it when I promised her she could transfer at any time if she didn’t like the university. However, I had no doubt in my mind that she would like it. I think she just needed to know she had options. Soon after school started, I received numerous texts saying, “I love it here!” Transferring is never discussed. We survived the summer of ambivalence, and here we are now…almost through the first semester!

And that, my friends, is what I’m celebrating this Thanksgiving! I’m thankful for my daughter’s happiness at her college home. We relax a little knowing she is happy. Is every day perfect? No. Does she have some stress with studies? Some. But is she making memories that will last as lifetime, just like I did? You bet! This year, we will have or own little Thanksgiving celebration at home. We had considered going out but decided to stay in and enjoy the food that is stacked in our refrigerator. I’m hoping friends and neighbors will stop by later in the day, when we are enjoying cocktails on the patio by the fire!

Happy Thanksgiving! And if, like me, you’d like to relive the WKRP in Cincinnati Turkey Drop, click here. It’s an all-time favorite that I must watch at least once every Thanksgiving season. “As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly!”

This,Too, Shall Pass

This, too, shall pass.

It is a reminder that we are likely to move beyond problems or things that bother us…that the only constant is change. It was a phrase my mother lived by. Since her passing, one of her dear friends (who is also my friend) has offered up this gentle reminder to me on a regular basis, always adding my mother’s initials behind it or saying “a wise person once told me…”

It is meaningful throughout life, but I find it is especially meaningful in dealing with my college-age daughter and her friends. Sometimes, things that happen in their lives seem like a big deal to them, but we, as older, more experienced adults, know things will get better, and the current situation will be long forgotten.

Those four words, “This, too, shall pass,” can be applied in lots of different instances…especially short-term annoyances…most illnesses, most disagreements, homesickness, heartbreak, or an unexpected difficult setback…and many more.

I went online to do a little research on the saying and found that Abraham Lincoln used a longer version of it in a speech at the Wisconsin State Fair in Milwaukee before he was elected President of the United States. According to abrahamlincolnonline.org, he recounted a tale of an Eastern monarch:

It is said an Eastern monarch once charged his wise men to invent him a sentence, to be ever in view, and which should be true and appropriate in all times and situations. They presented him the words: “And this, too, shall pass away.” How much it expresses! How chastening in the hour of pride! How consoling in the depths of affliction!

I especially love Lincoln’s observation…”How much it expresses! How chastening in the hour of pride! How consoling in the depths of affliction.”

Somewhere along the way, it became, “This, too, shall pass.” Words to live by, I suppose. Throughout my own life, because I heard it from my mother, and because I have the good fortune of still hearing it from her friend, I have found comfort in those four words. Or sometimes, I have been reminded to check myself! When my daughter was an infant and would not nap, I was exhausted all the time. Many times, I had to remind myself, “This, too, shall pass.” But even in good times, when she was snuggled up to me as an infant, I also had to remind myself that she wouldn’t want to do that forever. It helped me live in the moment.

Even as we enjoyed the glow of our home after our daughter arrived home for the Thanksgiving break yesterday, I had to remind myself that the moment would pass. She was excited to be home. She was excited to eat her favorite foods. She was excited to talk with us. We are still enjoying every moment, but tomorrow, she is going to visit a friend at another university for a couple of days before coming home for a few days and then, returning to her own university. This great joy we are experiencing is short-lived. It is a reminder to live in the moment!

The sadness we will experience after she leaves? Well, that will pass too, as soon as she calls us to share a funny story from school. We will still miss her, of course, but we will rejoice in her happiness, just as we suffer in her pain…like all good parents. Our daughter is a piece of our hearts living outside our bodies…we tend to feel what she feels. Its true empathy. I truly believe my own empathy grew after having my daughter…not just for her, but for others. But that’s a discussion for another day.

Now, I find myself sharing those words of wisdom with my daughter on a regular basis. Spending extra time studying for a difficult class? This, too, shall pass. Homesickness? This, too, shall pass. Freshman joy? This, too, shall pass. (Live in the moment.) Heartbreak? This, too, shall pass. Extreme sadness or happiness? This, too, shall pass. Even confusion about her own emotions…this, too, shall pass.

The only constant is change.

Personally, I tell myself “this, too, shall pass” on a regular basis. Even after each of my parents died, I knew the grief would never go away, but the immediate feelings of hopelessness would pass. The loneliness would pass. Eventually, good memories would take over. And I was right.

As the holidays approach, I find it especially meaningful. There are lots of emotions that accompany this time of year, not just for me, but for lots of people. I feel a sense of loss, because my parents are no longer here, and I lost my mother during the holidays. I also feel a sense of joy, knowing we will have our daughter under our roof for a while. Enjoy the good times as much as possible, because the high is temporary. Weather the bad ones…hang in there long enough, they will pass too.

Both emotions are temporary…

Even though she has been gone for five years, my mother’s four words still resonate in my mind, “This, too, shall pass.” They even helped me when I was deep in grief after she passed. Thankful for a sweet mom who shared her wisdom with me.

*

Holiday Decorating for Our College Student

Holiday decorating for our college student.

She’s coming home Thursday…a whole week before Thanksgiving.

Sunday afternoon, I was texting with a friend in Mobile who sent me pictures of her wrapped Christmas gifts! Yes, I said wrapped Christmas gifts...lots of them! She is even in the process of decorating her tree! She has two sons in their early 20s, and she is way ahead of the holiday game! I am impressed, especially because I have done very little to prepare for the holidays. Don’t get me wrong. I’m shopping. I have purchased a few items…a couple of gifts and some stocking stuffers. I have a little bit of holiday travel planned. I’m trying to figure out everything else. But decorating? It’s mid-November! My holiday game just isn’t there yet.

But then I realized…our daughter is coming home from college later this week, and it might be fun for her to come home and find a festive atmosphere.

I’m not ready to start wrapping gifts. I’m not ready to put up the tree. But I started thinking about what I can do now to make it feel festive when she arrives home this week, and it occurred to me that I can, at the very least, get the dining room table set and decorated for the holidays. Sorry…I’m skipping right over Thanksgiving table decor and moving on into Christmas decor. It’s not like I have ever decorated for Thanksgiving before anyway. I’m a bit of a holiday decor minimalist…especially for anything besides Christmas, but by most standards, I’m pretty minimal at Christmas too.

So yesterday afternoon, I went up to the attic and brought down some of the decor…not much, but some. And I got busy removing the regular china from the dining room table and replacing it with Christmas china. Some of the silver needed polishing, so I did that too. I didn’t go so far as to start playing Christmas music while I worked, but I might have been singing my own version of some Christmas carols. The dogs didn’t howl as I sang, but they did run to the other room. My husband came home in the middle of my chaos. I felt sure he would ask why I was decorating before Thanksgiving, but nope…he just kept his head down and kept walking. He probably was afraid I would ask him to help! (I didn’t.)

After gathering everything, I realized I was missing several items…a couple of my red champagne flutes (broken last year) and some of the pieces for my “tablescape.” So I placed a couple of online orders for the things I need. I still improvised with what I have, replacing the red champagne flutes with regular crystal ones until I have all the red ones, and putting out as much of my “tablescape” as possible. Yes, I put “tablescape” in quotation marks, because I’m not much of a scaper. However, even with the minimal table decor I have now, the dining room will feel festive when our daughter walks in. ***For tablescape ideas, see links at the bottom of page***

I stopped short of dragging out any other Christmas decor.

My husband grows weary of holiday decor, so I don’t want to send his brain into Christmas overload too early in the season…or before the season even gets started! I did not put up the tree. I didn’t go out and put lights on the trees in the front yard. I didn’t put the garland on the stairs. I didn’t start baking cookies for Santa. However, I am still considering putting the bows on the front porch lanterns before our daughter arrives Thursday. I know she would love to see those when she arrives, but I’m feeling a little like I need to save that until after Thanksgiving. Otherwise, even I will be tired of looking at all of it before Christmas even gets here. Plus, I don’t want to send the neighbors into complete shock by decorating too early.

For now, I’m relatively happy with my dining room table. When I’m finished, will it look like I hired Martha Stewart? Nope. Not at all. Maybe it will look like I hired Martha’s friend, Snoop Dogg. I’m not knocking Snoop; I love him! Frankly, I’d love to have him decorate my house for the holidays! In fact, I think I’d prefer his decor over Martha’s.

And we will all feel festive as soon as our daughter walks through the door for her weeklong Thanksgiving break! Maybe she will want to help me with some holiday decor after she gets here!

Fo shizzle!

****Here are some websites for table decorating ideas:

Town and Country Magazine

Country Living

Jane at Home

And some fun ideas from Country Living

*Also, follow Shayla Copas on Instagram here for great ideas! Or order her book, Four Seasons of Entertaining, here.*

A Whole Week Home From College

A whole week home from college.

In less than a week, our college student daughter is coming home…for a whole week! We haven’t seen her for seven days in a row since she left for college in August! We have seen her for a couple of days here and there…two football weekends, one day when my husband visited when he passed through town, and she has been home for two quick visits. But soon, she will be here for a whole week! In fact, she will be home for a little more than a week! And we can hardly wait.

Back in September, I booked her ticket on American Airlines to come home Saturday. But then, two days ago, she called me and said she wants to come home earlier. My first question? “Don’t you have class Friday?” She told me her Friday class has been canceled. I kept her on the phone while I looked at the American Airlines website. We discussed flight times and finally decided she could come home on an afternoon flight Thursday for only $99 more than we paid for the original ticket. Sold!

Seriously, y’all, I was so flattered that she wanted to spend more time with us. Anyone who has college-age kids will tell you it’s fun when they’re around again. I told her I was excited we are going to get to spend some extra time with her. And that’s when she said, “Oh, well, yes…but I’m going down to Columbia, South Carolina, with friends Saturday morning for the South Carolina game.”And that’s when I realized she isn’t coming home early to spend more time with us. She is coming home early to go to the University of South Carolina! I laughed out loud, because of course that’s what she wants to do!

I remember what it’s like to be 19, so I’m happy she gets to go visit friends in South Carolina with friends from home! I loved going to football games at different schools with friends when I was in college, so I get it. Will we, her parents, be offended when she wants to spend every evening with her friends? Nope, not one bit. In fact, I hope she will bring them here to gather at least once or twice. We love the energy they bring into our home, and I love preparing food for them…grilled cheese sandwiches, avocado toast, or even a late night breakfast.

But I also realize that, because she wants to go to South Carolina for a day or two, she is still coming home earlier than she originally was, and that’s a bonus for me and my husband! We are so excited! Of course, at the end of her stay, I’m sure I will be writing about how little time we actually got to spend with her! And that’s OK too, because we just want her to be happy and healthy. Spending time with her friends in Charlotte will be good for her. When she returns to Charlotte from South Carolina Saturday night, I will be here, ready to feed her (and friends) when she gets home.

Plus, I’m sure she will sleep a lot. Our daughter who has never been much of a sleeper will need to make up for lots of lost sleep while she is here. Sleeping in a twin bed in a dorm just isn’t the same as sleeping in a queen bed at home. I remember that too. There’s nothing quite like sleeping under your parents’ roof, with your dog in the bed like old times. She will sleep soundly knowing her daddy will bring her coffee in bed in the morning, and I will call her down for a hot breakfast shortly thereafter. Just like her last visit, we will have all her favorites at breakfast: scrambled eggs, grits, hashbrown casserole, bacon, biscuits, and Conecuh Sausage (again, if you’re not familiar with this, you want to try it. It’s from Alabama, but they carry the original sausage at most Publix stores. See the Conecuh Sausage website here). Some mornings, she might want avocado toast too. And she will get it if she wants it.

We are excited for her to arrive Thursday. My husband can hardly wait to go pick her up at the airport…a job he has already volunteered to do. I will ask her what she wants as her “welcome home” meal, and I will have that ready when she arrives. Of course, she’s likely to eat and run…or as my late friend, Wendy, would say, “chew and screw,” which means the same as eat and run. She was from Boston, and I don’t know if that’s what other people say there, but I think it sounds funny, so I say it occasionally.

Now, we just play the waiting game. My husband started his countdown today, telling me she will be home in just five days!

We are excited!

***Feature photo from Charlotte Business Journal***

I’m Happy to Be 55

I’m happy to be 55.

I have been 55 since May, so no, I’m not celebrating a birthday. Well, maybe I am…I try to celebrate every day, to some extent. I’m having a glass of bubbly as I type…in the middle of the day, with lunch…that counts as a celebration, right?

And as I sit in a restaurant in Charlotte, awaiting the arrival of my friend, I eavesdrop and type. Yes, I will admit I’m eavesdropping. It was totally accidental at first, but then I realized I am likely hearing what I sounded like 16 or 17 years ago.

At the next table are three lovely women, all of whom clearly have young children at home. I know this, because they are talking about breastfeeding, playgroups, diapers, and toddlers. Seriously, listening to them, I’m thinking of what I would have sounded like at lunch or playgroup with my friends, Wendy, Jenn, Lauren, Neill, Suzanne, Kris, Myndi, and Jennifer back in the day. Same stuff, different moms. Time marches on.

And as I listen to them, I remember what fun times we had as moms of young children. Sure, we were exhausted most of the time. We dealt with various kids’ illnesses…stomach bugs, colds, flu, other viruses and bacterial infections, like strep throat on my daughter’s 4th birthday. But we, the moms, helped each other. We had great fun at each other’s homes, swimming pools, parties, playgrounds. We had lots of fun every time we gathered.

These days, our group of moms is older and fewer in number. Wendy passed away 4 1/2 years ago, breaking all our hearts. Lauren, Suzanne. Myndi, and Jennifer moved away but still stay in touch. The rest of us…me, Jenn, Kris, and Neill…well, we get together for dinner sans kids now! We always gather on Wendy’s birthday and the anniversary of her passing…we want to keep her memory alive. Sometimes, we plan a dinner for ourselves for no reason. And earlier this year, when Wendy’s kids were in town, we even managed to get a bunch of the kids together. But usually, it’s just the four moms gathering for dinner…and drinks! Because we can drink now without worrying that it will affect breast milk! We don’t have to worry that we will have to pick up kids somewhere, because most of them have gone off to college!

When we had little kids, we loved life. As I mentioned, we were exhausted. Oh, we were tired. But we were happy. We made great memories for our kids and ourselves, and we made some fantastic, lifelong friends. It was a great time of life.

But as I listen to the sweet moms at the table next to me, I am especially thankful that I am 55. I am thankful that my daughter and the children of my friends are adults…well, they’re adults living on our dime, but they can vote! I am thankful for all those years of fun with them at playgrounds, amusement parks, Wiggles shows, and more. I am thankful for the times my daughter thought I was the smartest, most beautiful mom on the planet.

Unfortunately, she no longer thinks I am the smartest, most beautiful mom on the planet. But she does think I’m reasonable. She knows I’m seasoned. She knows I give good advice. And she knows, most of all, that I love her dearly.

I’m 55, and our daughter is 19. It seems that I’ve always thought that, no matter what age we are, we think we are the perfect ages. So yes, I am smiling as I eavesdrop on the table next to me, but mostly I’m smiling that we have made it this far. I am thankful for every single day and every lesson we have learned along the way. I’m thankful for my “empty nester” status. I’m thankful to have a daughter who is happy in college. I’m happy I don’t have to wait for school holidays to go on vacation. Im thankful for all the knowledge I have acquired along the way. And I’m happy my daughter is coming home in a week for Thanksgiving break! And I hope we, meaning all the ladies like me who are 55, have lots more days, more fun, and more lessons ahead of us.

I’m thankful for those ladies at the next table, for making me realize how grateful I am for this stage of life.

Thank God I’m 55!