Answer the Freaking Door! (Life with Teens)

The doorbell just rang. I knew my teenage daughter was expecting a friend. I’m in my room knitting, because I’m recovering from a stomach bug. I stopped and listened for movement upstairs. Nothing. I picked up my cellphone and called my daughter. No answer. Instead, I got a text from her saying, “Hey.” I responded, “GET THE DOOR.” I would say I was in disbelief, but I wasn’t. She’s a teenager, and somehow, they become more self-centered than they were at four. Hard to believe, I know, but if you’ve ever parented a teen, you know it’s the truth. And I remember 16. I know we are just entering the “I know everything, and Mom knows nothing” years. How long does that last? Till 25? Ugh.

I’m taking notes on all this teenage fun. I find that if I keep notes on it, it actually becomes humorous. I can laugh about it. Here are a few notes I’ve made:

  • No matter what I wear, it’s wrong, and she will wait till other people are around to tell me. Seriously? Seriously.
  • Occasionally, I feel like a walking wallet. No joke. We just got home from vacation, and I noticed during that week that she heard nothing I had to say unless she needed money to purchase something she wanted. I’m not kidding.
  • I sneeze wrong. And I breathe wrong. Oh, and I pronounce things incorrectly…usually, it’s the names of rappers that I pronounce incorrectly. First of all, I didn’t even know DJ Khaled and Khalid are two different people…and clearly, I pronounced one of them wrong.
  • My resting face, while not “resting b**ch face,” is apparently annoying to my daughter. She has asked, “Why are you making that face?” My response? “I’m not making a face. It’s just my face.” And of course, that gets an eye roll.
  • Which leads us to this: an eye roll is the response to just about everything.
  • If I linger in her room after we have talked about something, she will look at me for about five seconds before saying, “OK. You can go now.”
  • Apparently, everybody else gets to have more fun than our daughter does. Apparently, I’m the only mom who actually expects her to go to sports practice and do homework. We know that’s not true, but she sure makes it seem that way.

That’s not a complete list, of course, but it gets the point across. But here’s the thing: just like most teenagers, behind all that sarcasm and eye-rolling is a sweet girl who still loves her parents and wants to please us. I know that, because she also does this:

  • When she gets a good grade or a bad grade, she immediately calls me or texts me. If it’s good, we cheer together. But if it’s bad, she knows I will say all the right things to help her and encourage her…set her on the right track.
  • When I’m not feeling well, she calls me before she leaves sports practice and asks if she can bring anything home to me.
  • At the end of a recent vacation, when I asked her what her favorite thing about the trip was, it was the day we were together the whole day.
  • She actually uttered these words to me recently: “Mom, you do parenting right.” What?!?! A high compliment? She didn’t mean I’m a sucker. She meant we communicate really well with each other.

She’s figuring it all out…and I am too. Teenagers are an interesting bunch, and we all need to remember we used to be teenagers. I know she needs my help navigating these years, and so far, she’s doing pretty darn well. She’s not perfect, but then again, neither am I.

As a teenager, she is somewhere between a child and a full-fledged adult. These years are interesting, and they are fleeting. Before I know it, she will be off to college and thinking she is way smarter and way cooler than I am…even more than she does now! But she’ll still call me…and not just for money. She’ll call me to share accomplishments. She’ll call me when she doesn’t feel well or when she’s sad. I know, because I did the same thing. In fact, when I had a stomach bug two days ago, I wanted to call my mom.

Gotta go give my girl a hug.

A Picture Tells a Story

A picture tells a story.

At the end of every year since I got an Instagram account, I go back through all the photos I posted for that year. Recently I went back through my Instagram photos for 2019, and I truly realized that some of the pictures really tell stories.

My first post for 2019 was a photo at the Charlotte airport…not much of a story except that we were starting vacation…meeting friends from Ohio in LA. But the next picture, a photo of me and my friend from Ohio, Jenn, tells a real story.

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Sure, looking at the photo above, all you see is two friends on a chilly day with the Pacific Ocean in the background. But what I see is love. Having just survived the first anniversary of my mother’s death (she died December 30, 2017), I was still reeling. I was feeling lost. And then we arrived in Los Angeles, and Jenn and her daughter arrived. After telling her what a terrible day that first anniversary on December 30 had been (there were additional factors at play)…and crying…Jenn made me feel better. Jenn, the perpetual ray of sunshine, hugged me, listened to me, and made me feel loved. So every time I come across that one single photo that looks completely nondescript and meaningless to everyone else in the world, I remember how much better she made me feel. I can look at my face in that picture and see the pain melting away. I see the relief in my eyes and in my face. That picture reminds me that good friends are hard to find. And that picture reminds me that when we find good friends like Jenn, we need to keep them.

There are other photos from 2019 that stand out for me. In fact, any photos I post on Instagram, I share for a reason…maybe I think they’re funny or cute…maybe I want to share something cool…or maybe there’s another meaning behind the picture. Of course, when I posted the picture of me and Jenn, I had no idea how powerful the picture was for me. It was only when I was looking through pictures a few months later that I saw it again, and the meaning behind it floored me. Instagram photos certainly tell stories…maybe not to the casual observer, but to the originator of the post. Most of my photos tell stories of family, friendship, and love. And then there are some that tell different stories…like this photo of me and my daughter in front of Mars Cheese Castle in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

The story? In 2015, I took a crazy road trip with my friend, Mary Ann, and our kids. We spent a few nights in Chicago, and while we were there, I had hoped to get the kids up to Wisconsin…just so they could add another state to their list of “states visited.” There was a Six Flags amusement park we could have visited just over the line, but that would have taken too much time, so instead, I suggested Mars Cheese Castle, a giant cheese store shaped like…you guessed it…a castle. We never made it in 2015, and I regretted it. So in 2019, when I was in Chicago with my daughter and one of her friends, we made a quick trip up to Kenosha to visit Mars Cheese Castle. You can see how happy I was!

Those are just a couple of examples of how pictures tell stories, but I can look at every picture on my Instagram account and remember stories and conversations behind them. Right now, though, I keep going back to that picture of me and Jenn. I need to call her and thank her for being a good friend.

 

The Sad Season

The holidays are winding down. Lots of folks get depressed after the holidays…Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) or just plain old sadness that the holidays are over. And then there are people like me who have experienced loss…and the unfortunate few of us who have actually experienced loss during the holidays.

Tomorrow is the second anniversary of my mother’s passing…two years without my mother. She fell ill on Christmas Eve 2017, and I received a phone call at 8:30 that night…she was in the hospital in Alabama. My little family rushed through opening gifts in Charlotte that night, and before the crack of dawn on Christmas Day, I left to go be with my mother. As I drove to Alabama, I was thinking of how I was going to tell my mother that she was coming back to Charlotte with me. I was thinking of how angry she would be that I wanted her to leave her house. But I never got to tell her she was coming home with me. The doctor made it clear to me on December 26 that she would not recover, and since both my grandmothers had died on December 26 in different years (eerie, right?) I needed Mother to make it past that day. I asked the doctor if she was likely to make it to the 27th, explaining why I was asking, and he assured me she would…but not much longer. I didn’t want her to die at all, but if she had died on the 26th, every year after that, I would have been waiting for something to happen to me on the 26th. We needed to break the cycle. She made it to the 30th.

Last year, the first anniversary, was a terrible day…terrible. I didn’t sleep at all the night before, and it was just a terrible day. But this year, I am bound and determined to make it a happier day. Of course, I’m still sad my mother isn’t here, but instead of crying all day, I hope to be celebrating her life…drinking a toast to her memory.

In fact, as I type, I’m on a plane to Los Angeles…a vacation with my daughter, her friend, and my nephew and his friend. Mother would have loved knowing my nephew is vacationing with us. We have a lunch reservation tomorrow at a fabulous restaurant, where we will remember Mother. We might even order a Bailey’s and coffee, her favorite, after lunch.

And as hard as I will try to be happy, positive, and upbeat, I know a little sadness will creep in. I know that, because I just tried to read a piece by Sean Dietrich (see Sean of the South on Facebook here), and I couldn’t get past the first couple paragraphs about his dad, who he lost years ago.

So right now, for this second anniversary, I’ll take “mostly happy with a little sadness creeping in.”

All this is my way of reminding everyone that some people are sad right now. Some are suffering. Some are just trying to push through the season. And then some will be even more sad at the thought of starting a new year without a loved one. I hope I will show mercy and offer courteous goodwill to those who need it. I hope I will try to help my friends and family into 2020…with some love, patience, hope, and clarity. And I hope they will do the same for me.

Let’s make 2020 a good year.

 

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…

Finish Well

It’s May…or what we call “Maycember,” because it’s as busy as the holidays. I’m taking a deep breath and thanking the Lord we made it through April before I dive in for the last five weeks of school. We need to finish well.

The last week of April was full of surprises at our house. Our checking account was hacked. My car was clipped in the Target parking lot by a man who was convinced he “had the right of way” until I proved him wrong. Not that it mattered if he had the right of way…he hit my car! And I had various meetings at school for projects there, and at home, for projects there.

So, I’m actually happy to see April in my rearview mirror. May is usually a happy month in our household. It is the month of Mother’s Day, my husband’s birthday, and my birthday! It’s also the last month of school for our daughter and her classmates. May 31st is their last official day of school, and mine is counting down. Because they have a few days off between now and then, I count only 17 more school day wake ups. As my daddy used to say, “You can make 17 days standing on your head!”

Of course, by this point in the school year, we’re all tired of school. We love our school, but, dang it…I’m ready for summer! It happens to me every single year. And I know our daughter is ready…pool time, social time, vacations, free time…she is soooo ready, but first, she has to finish her freshman year of high school.

While I have been telling her we just need to survive the last five weeks of school, she recently reminded me she needs to finish well. She’s right. I was so happy to hear her say that, because I’ve heard the head of her school say it many times. I’ve heard him tell us in Parents’ Council meetings that it’s not just about finishing…it’s about finishing well.

How do we encourage our kids to finish well? How do we, as parents, finish well?

With exams standing between our daughter and the lazy-is days of summer, we know we need to do everything we can to help her finish well. We will make sure she is well-fed and as well-rested as any teenager can be. On the advice of a friend, I will help her get her room clean before she starts studying for exams…just to get rid of clutter (and there is clutter). We will stock the pantry with all her favorite junk food snacks and some healthy options too. (See below for her list of favorites.) We will make her laugh. We will remind her to take breaks. We might suggest she watch some familiar, comforting TV shows like iCarly, Zoey 101, Henry Danger, and Drake and Josh during breaks. We will offer encouragement and be available. We encourage our daughter to look at things from a positive perspective, and I think that is crucial as the end of the school year approaches. And if she finds she needs extra help studying for exams, we will get her that too. Whatever it takes to finish well.

I’ve given it some thought, and for me, personally, finishing well means going into the final five weeks of school with a good attitude. It means putting a smile on my face, participating in end-of-year meetings, and circling back with friends before we get out for school. It means I need to appear calm throughout our daughter’s exams, so I can don’t stress her out. It means shoring up our plans for the summer, and making sure the whole family is on the same page…coordinating our calendars.

So here we go…the countdown is on. Only 17 more school day wake ups. Only 17 more times to get up early and get out the door. Let’s finish well!

And then we can enjoy the lazy, fun, crazy days of summer!

Bring on the vacations!

Finish well!

Our daughter’s favorite snacks, healthy and not-so-healthy:

  • Bananas
  • Yogurt
  • Berries
  • Cheerios
  • Sour Patch Kids
  • Pop Tarts
  • Cheez-Its
  • Cheetos
  • Oatmeal
  • Scrambled Eggs
  • Cinnamon Toast
  • Waffles
  • Granola/cereal bars
  • Ice cream

 

My Top Ten Reasons (Excuses) To Stay In Bed

I don’t consider myself a low energy person. I like to be busy. I like to have things to do. But sometimes, I like to have nothing to do. In fact, one of my hobbies is doing nothing, and sometimes, I look for any reason (excuse) to stay in bed.

How did I marry a man who hates to sleep in? I love sleeping in! I remember when “sleeping in” meant 10am or 11am, but now it means 8:30am, and it’s rare. My husband is a morning person. Every morning at 6:00, he jumps out of bed, opens all the drapes, and starts his day. He usually asks when I want to get up, and rarely I say, “Now.” And when I’m awake, he  brings me a cup of coffee in bed (yes, he does!). Lots of times, though, I say I’m not ready to get up yet, and I feel the need to give him a reason (excuse) for me to stay in bed. Some of my reasons (excuses) for staying in bed are good, and some are lame, but here they are:

  • “I was up late last night picking up teenagers from friends’ houses while you were sleeping.” I’m really a night owl, so I don’t mind driving kids around at night, but I use it to my advantage the next day, if I can. Sometimes it buys me an extra hour in bed.
  • “It’s raining.” Or snowing…either would apply. Yes, I’ve actually used this lots of times. Who wants to get out of bed when it’s rainy and gloomy outside?!? You can either let that rain ruin your weekend, or you can use it to your advantage…be happy you get to catch some extra  Zzzzzz’s.
  • “We’re out of coffee.” This one is pretty lame. I admit it. But it worked. When I told my husband I didn’t want to get out of bed one Saturday morning, because we were out of coffee, it bought me another 45 minutes of sleep. He actually went to the grocery store and bought more Keurig cups, and on the way home he stopped at Dunkin Donuts and picked up an Iced Coffee for me.
  • “We don’t have anywhere to be.” Fortunately, our daughter gave up club soccer a few years ago, so we don’t have to get up at 5:00am to drive three hours for a soccer game on weekends anymore. There have been lots of Saturdays my husband has jumped out of bed and started to open the drapes, but I’ve interrupted him by saying, “Don’t bring my coffee till 9:00, please. We don’t have anywhere to be.” He sighs, but he hears me.
  • “I’ve gotten up early five days in a row…no more.” Yes, there’s a limit on how many days in a row I’m willing to get out of bed early…five days. I do it because I have to, but don’t ask for more than five early mornings in a row. I might cut you.
  • “It’s cold out there, but it’s warm in bed.” I’ve honestly quoted Wham!’s song, Wake Me Up Before You GoGo, as my reason (excuse) to stay in bed. It’s my favorite line in the song: “It’s cold out there, but it’s warm in bed. They can dance; we’ll stay home instead!” I love sleep, but I don’t do it very well anymore…despite the fact that I used to be a professional sleeper. If it’s really cold outside, for some reason, it’s easier for me to sleep. Thus…the line from the song.
  • “I didn’t sleep well last night.” This one is a good one. Lots of times, it’s legit. I rarely sleep well, since I usually wake up at least three or four times a night. Most people would consider my average sleep night a terrible night’s sleep. For me, waking up several times is normal. A bad night is when I wake up and can’t go back to sleep, or when I am awake more than I’m asleep. A good night is when I wake up two times or fewer. So, I could use, “I didn’t sleep well last night,” as a reason to sleep in on almost any given day…legitimately.
  • “The Barometric pressure is off.” Lol! This means absolutely nothing to my husband, but it totally sounds good. In reality, barometric pressure changes can trigger migraines, but for me to use this line is a total ruse. Yet, I’ve used it on more than one occasion. Like I said, I enjoy a little extra sleep.
  • “I spent the whole weekend at our daughter’s sports tournament.” This one goes a long way, because there is no way he wants to be the parent who has to go to the out-of town sports tournament. He knows if he lets me stay in bed a little longer after a weekend in Rocky Mount, NC, for a lacrosse tournament, he won’t have to go to the next one either.

If you’re like me, and you consider sleep a hobby, you might want to keep this list next to your bed. Or maybe you have your own reasons (excuses) to stay in bed?

Happy sleeping!

Decide To Be Happy

Sometimes, life hands us lemons. We’ve all heard it…we need to make lemonade. My mother used to always say, “You have to decide to be happy.”

Every single day since I lost my mother in December of 2017, I remind myself that I have to decide to be happy. It’s not that I haven’t experienced any happiness, but sometimes, when I get sad about having lost her, it’s hard to bring myself out of it. And every time, I hear her say, “You have to decide to be happy.”

I try not to write about death and loss very often, because I know people don’t want to hear about it. I know it’s a downer. I know that sometimes, I feel better if I think of something happy. But right now, it’s OK if no one wants to hear about it. It’s OK if everybody skips over this, because right now, I need to write about it.

I’m in the process of closing out Mother’s estate. No, there were no loose ends to tie up. She made it as easy as possible. She had a will. She listed survivors on bank accounts. She didn’t have any debt. She made it easy. Maybe if she had made it complicated, I could have gotten angry with her and been in a bigger hurry to close everything, but nope…she made the division of assets easy. Yet, I still haven’t closed out the estate, and it’s time for me to do it. I should have done it six months ago, but it’s downright depressing.

In fact, I feel more sad now than I did immediately after her passing. Weird, I know, but I guess I feel like closing out the estate is like closing the final chapter on her life. There have been days that I knew would be difficult…my parents’ anniversary, Mother’s Day, her birthday, Christmas Eve (the anniversary of her hospitalization), Christmas Day, the anniversary of her death (December 30)…but I never expected this part to be so difficult. I thought it was completely transactional, and being a tough chick, I thought I’d be able to treat this as a transaction. But I can’t. I realize that now, because I’ve been delaying it…and I’ve been sad.

And I’ve been off my game. Sure, I’ve gone through the motions of regular life, but deep inside, I’ve been off my game since she took her last breath.

And now I’m faced with closing the book on the estate.

But something occurred to me today: Maybe…just maybe…it will be freeing. That’s all I can hope. Maybe I will feel a little sense of freedom, like a weight has been lifted, when I sign all the papers. Maybe closing the estate will actually make me feel better. We’ve all had times like that. We put something off because it’s scary, but once it happens, we feel a sense of relief or freedom. I have friends who put off signing divorce papers, because it was depressing, but once they did it, they felt like the albatross had been removed from their necks. Maybe the estate is my albatross? That sounds terrible. My mother would not like it that I referred to it that way, but she doesn’t get a vote in this.

After my daddy died, mother was talking with her doctor about anti-depressants, and she said, “My husband wouldn’t like it.” The doctor, very calmly, said, “Your husband’s not here anymore. He doesn’t get a vote in this.” And he was right! She knew it, and she actually laughed! For the record, she started taking the anti-depressant, and it made a big difference in her approach to life. Sure, she was still grieving Daddy, but the anti-depressant helped her decide to be happy.

As soon as I receive all the paperwork, I’ll sign off on closing the estate. In fact, I’m going to invite friends to a brunch at my house for that very day, so they can come over and drink some champagne with me to celebrate the closure…the freedom.

Mother would laugh about that, and she would be happy to know that it’s done.

I will decide to be happy…just in time for spring!