Preparing for Launch to College

Preparing for launch to college.

Boxes are piling up in the foyer of our house…Amazon, Nordstrom, Bed Bath & Beyond, Neiman Marcus, Target, Walmart, Zappos, more Amazon…you name it, we have it. Seriously, the foyer is starting to look like a warehouse. And it’s all because we are preparing to send our only daughter off to college to start her freshman year.

She moves in the first week of August. Are we ready? Well, we don’t have everything she is going to need. But I guess we are as emotionally ready as we will ever be. Who knows? We likely won’t know until we drive away from her dorm. I’m sure there will be tears at some point. Will we cry in the dorm room? Will we cry over dinner after we get everything moved in? Will we cry in the car after we leave? Or will it be a delayed reaction? Maybe we will cry after we get home and see her empty room? I have no way of knowing, but I will gladly answer all those questions after the fact.

Freshman move-in day is a day she will remember for the rest of her life. She already knows her roommate, but she will make lots of new friends on the very first day of dorm life…just like I did back in 1985. I have written before about my first college friends. You can see that here.

My friend, Angela, whose daughter is a junior in college (fortunately, at the same college where our daughter is going), tells me she didn’t cry when she left her in the dorm the first time. However, she did cry after she got home, and she occasionally still cries.

This whole “preparing for launch” thing is real. It’s a lot these days. When I went to college as a freshman in 1985, I feel like I took the bare minimum…linens, towels, enough clothes to last me a couple of weeks, some shoes, toiletries, an alarm clock, photos and posters to hang on the bulletin board in the room…and that’s about it. I wasn’t abnormal for the time, I don’t think. But wow, times have changed.

Now, you can look online and find all kinds of dorm decorating ideas. Girls decorate their dorm rooms with lots of stuff: pillows, rugs, lamps, curtains, extra shelving, headboards…all kinds of stuff. Fortunately, my daughter’s roommate’s mom is an interior designer. Yay, me! When I first talked with her on the phone, she told me, “I can do this in my sleep.” Thank you, Lord! It wouldn’t be left up to me! No one wants me to decorate a room. I think there are two types of people: the ones who see surroundings, and the ones who see faces. I am the latter. You could ask me right now what color the walls are in different rooms of my house, and I wouldn’t be able to tell you. In fact, I am working in our guest room right now, and even though I have been in that bathroom numerous times over the last few days, I couldn’t tell you what the cabinetry in there looks like. Is it white? Is it black? I’m not sure.

But back to the dorm…

The roommate’s mom and I agree that the girls’ room should not be so stuffed with extra things that it feels claustrophobic. It’s a small dorm room for two girls…two XL twin beds, a desk, two wardrobes, a refrigerator/microwave combo, a vanity area, and a bathroom with a shower. Obviously, we need to outfit it with the basics. They’ll need a shower curtain, a bath mat/rug, linens/bedding, towels, hangers, clothes, and their personal belongings. We have added some bed pillows, headboards, two throws for the beds, a rug for the bedroom, curtains, a couple of lamps, a few wall hangings, laundry bags, under-the-bed shoe storage compartments, a stand-up steamer, a vacuum (for the rug), Clorox toilet wand, and a table to put between the beds for the lamps. We aren’t taking extra shelving. We just want them to be comfortable, and I think they will be.

But for now, I am feeling a little overwhelmed by the boxes in the foyer. I just walked into our daughter’s room and told her we need to go through the boxes to see what is “keep” and what is “return.” She just looked at me. I’m sure she feels overwhelmed by the boxes too. Looking at the ever-growing stack of boxes, it seems like a daunting task to open them and make decisions right now.

Last year, I purchased lots of big, blue IKEA moving/storage bags well in advance of this endeavor. A friend told me to purchase them early, because by the time I realized I needed them, they would be out of stock. So they’ve been in a closet just waiting to be used. And tonight, we will carry some of them downstairs to start sorting through the boxes. We will start packing the “keep” items in the moving bags, and we will start putting the returns in my car for me to transport to the store, UPS, or FedEx…wherever they need to go.

I need to get out my checklist and start checking things off. There are checklists all over the internet. I found a helpful one on the Colleges of Distinction website. You can see it here. Some of the items we definitely won’t need, so we will redline those items, but then we will finish collecting all the other items we need and getting them packed. We also have to remember we must be able to fit it all in the car when we go! Sure, we could ship things ahead to the university post office, but honestly, that just sounds like a bigger pain to me, because I’m sure parking would be difficult, and there will be lines to stand in. No thanks. We will simply have to figure this out with the space we have.

Am I dreading the process? In a word…yes. But I’m not dreading it because we will be leaving our daughter behind. I’m dreading it, because we actually have to get all the stuff there and into the room. Even though we are trying to take a somewhat minimalist approach, we will have lots of “stuff.” Once the stuff is in the room and put away, I’m sure I will dread the actual departure without our girl.

Preparing for launch to college is no joke.

Sunglasses at Night

Sunglasses at Night.

Last week, my husband and I were on vacation in the Bahamas, and when we weren’t snorkeling, we were hanging on the beach. No one loves 80s music more than he does, so it was playing the whole time we were on the beach. One afternoon, Sunglasses at Night came on, and I was transported in time…

The year was 1985. I was a wide-eyed, naïve college freshman. It was a good kind of naïvete. I thought I could do anything. I thought I was well-equipped. I was making new friends left and right at my new college and in my new sorority. It was a good time. And to add to the good time, my whole pledge class had a retreat to Six Flags Over Georgia. But wait…there’s more! If you know anything about 1985, you know Corey Hart was still red hot after his hit single, Sunglasses at Night was released in 1984. The album it was on, First Offense, went platinum in the US and quadruple platinum in Canada (Hart is Canadian).

Soon after we learned we were going to Six Flags, someone in our pledge class discovered Corey Hart would be performing there on the day we were there! MTV was alive and well in 1985…back when it actually played music videos…and we knew Corey Hart was easy on the eyes.

Early one September morning, we all boarded a bus at about 5am and sang along to the Violent Femmes on the way to the outskirts of Atlanta. I was well-versed with Six Flags, because I loved rollercoasters, and I had been riding the coasters at that particular theme park my whole life…starting with the Great American Scream Machine, which at the time was the world’s fastest wooden coaster, when I was nine years old. To read about my first rollercoaster experience, click here.

For two hours, we sang the Violent Femmes Blister in the Sun…”when I’m-a walkin’, I strut my stuff, and I’m all strung out…” all the way to Six Flags. I’m sure we sang other things and played trivia games on the bus, but the main thing I remember about the ride? The Violent Femmes.

When we arrived at Six Flags, somehow we divided into smaller groups. We were all pretty new to each other, so I’m not quite sure how the groups formed, but somehow, everyone ended up in a group of new friends. For the entire day, we rode rollercoasters, took a break by riding a boat through the Tales of the Okefenokee ride (later renamed/redesigned as Monster Plantation and now, Monster Mansion), ate lots of junk food, and just laughed and talked…getting to know each other better. It was a memorable day.

I think we were scheduled to board the bus at 8pm, but we had all learned Hart would start playing his concert at 7pm. Clearly, we wouldn’t get to be there for the whole thing, but we could be there for part of it. A little before 7pm, we all met up near the back stage of the park. Fortunately, it was near the parking lot, so we would be able to listen right up till time to board the bus.

Also, we were lucky he started playing on time, so we were able to hear a lot. By this time, he had released another album, titled Boy in the Box, so he had new music he wanted to share. I vividly remember he played Never Surrender, and every teenage girl in the crowd swooned. He played a few other songs from the new album, and we were afraid we would have to leave and miss Sunglasses at Night, but just in time, we heard the familiar opening notes. We were able to stay for the whole song before we ran to the bus, all laughing and talking about Corey Hart. We had bonded over rollercoasters and Corey Hart…and we all remember it to this day.

So yes, for a few minutes on the beach in the Bahamas last week, I was a naïve 18-year-old college freshman again. I told my husband about the Six Flags concert experience, and we both laughed. We then listened to Never Surrender, just so I could reminisce a little more.

Fortunately, I’m no longer so naïve…or maybe that’s not a good thing? There is something refreshing about being unjaded and ignorant about the real world. But there’s something soothing about having the knowledge one can only acquire over the course of 50+ years.

It’s nice to know we can be transported by music for a few minutes, though. And if you’re wondering, I was wearing my Rayban Wayfarers while I listened to those tunes on the beach…taking me back, not only to that day at Six Flags, but also to my memories of seeing Risky Business in the movie theater for the first time.

Great memories!

Reminds Me of My Mother

Reminds me of my mother.

I’m on vacation. When our daughter told us she was going to Nantucket for a few days in July, my husband and I looked at each other and said, “Let’s go somewhere!” We promptly booked a getaway to the Bahamas.

And here we are. We woke up at 3:45 this morning to make our way to Charlotte-Douglas International Airport to start a rare trip without our daughter. The last time we vacationed without her, she was hiking her way across Iceland with a teenage tour group. That time, we traveled to Miami for a few days.

We arrived on the island at about noon today. Because we are staying in a villa, we went straight to the grocery store to get the necessities and some snacks. And then…because it seemed like we had been awake forever, we took a quick nap before going for a three-mile walk along the beach and stopping for dinner at a beachside restaurant along the way. It was a great afternoon.

But that’s not what reminded me of my mother.

After we returned to the villa, my husband took a shower in one bathroom while I took one in the other bathroom. I think I might do this in the wrong order, but I always remove my makeup before getting in the shower. And when I get out, I repeat the makeup remover process again.

I don’t use some fancy makeup remover. All my adult life, I have used Pond’s Cold Cream to remove my makeup. I have tried lots of the fancier, more expensive products over the years, but I have never found anything that removes makeup more easily for me than Pond’s.

When I’m home, I don’t notice the scent of Pond’s Cold Cream, but tonight, for some reason, in a villa in the Bahamas, I noticed the scent. And it smelled like my mother. Where do you think I got the idea to use Cold Cream to remove makeup? Yep…from my mother. I remember, as a little girl, watching her slather cold cream on her face and thinking it was so funny to see her with her face caked in it. She would slowly wipe the cold cream from her face to reveal a makeup free look. And the scent of cold cream often lingered on her face.

Often, I will reapply a little cold cream and wipe down my face one more time before bed, just because it moisturizes my skin and smells clean to me. Tonight was one of those nights. I am sitting in bed listening to the talk show my husband has on his computer. I’m wearing my green and white striped pajamas from my favorite hotel. They feel crisp and clean, and my face feels smooth and clean…and smells like my mother. It’s a good memory for me.

If mother were still alive, she would laugh at the fact that the scent of Pond’s Cold Cream makes me think of her. But I like to think she would be flattered too. She would think it is sweet that I have childhood memories of watching her slathering her face with cold cream.

I’m not sure why being in a different place brought out the scent, but I’m glad it did. I like thinking of my mother. And now I will pay more attention to the scent every time I use Pond’s Cold Cream.

It reminds me of my mother…

My College Advice to My Daughter

My college advice to my daughter.

It has been a long time since I was in college. In fact, I graduated with my bachelor’s degree 33 years ago…hard to believe! It’s especially hard to believe, because I have so many great memories from college, and when I see friends from college, we fall right in step…as if we have been hanging out together every day for the past 33 years. But I remember…I remember college. And because of that, I have some advice for my daughter, who is leaving for college in five weeks. Yes! Five weeks! My “wisdom” might not be wise…I’m the first to admit that, but I can only base my advice on my own experiences or things I witnessed in college. Here we go:

  • Make your college/university your home. Wait at least six weeks before going home. You might be homesick, but you want to become a part of your college/university community. That won’t happen if you’re running home every weekend. We are encouraging our daughter to stay at her university (450 miles away) until Thanksgiving week. Sure, we will attend some football games and see her then, but she needs to stay there. As long as she has one foot in her hometown, she’ll never become a part of the school community.
  • Butt in seat. First and foremost, go to class. If your butt is in the seat in classes, you are more likely to have success. You can’t succeed if you don’t go to class. It has been proven time and time again. I know I was most successful when I never missed classes.
  • Don’t put the key to your happiness in someone else’s pocket. This is something my husband shared with our daughter recently, and wow…it’s wise. Whether it’s a friend or a love interest, no matter what, do not let your happiness be dependent on another person. You need to make yourself happy. It’s a difficult lesson, but your happiness is your own responsibility. I have told friends and family for years, “You can’t make someone love you.” But you can create your own happiness.
  • Make as many friends as you possibly can. Become friends with people from all socioeconomic backgrounds, different geographic areas, and different ethnicities. College is the perfect time to make lifelong friendships. And it’s also important to make at least one friend in each class you take; you never know when y’all will need each other.
  • Attend sporting events, even if they don’t sound interesting at the time. I always went to football games in college, but I didn’t always go to other sporting events. In my junior year, I realized how much fun basketball games and baseball games were at my university. And track meets too! All those sporting events made for some fun memories, and they were great opportunities to make new friends!
  • Keep a planner. Keeping a planner is the easiest way to manage your time. This was something our school taught students starting in third grade. Each year, they learned more organizational skills. Because of all the newfound freedom, time management can be a big problem in college. It’s crucial that students find a way to keep time from getting away from them.
  • Get to know your teachers. I’ve told this story a million times: when I was a second semester freshman in college, I took a math class that was tough for me. I got to know my teacher and met with him two or three times a week to make it through the class. Going into the final, I had a high B or low A, but then I failed the final. The next day, I went to meet with my teacher to find out my grade, and after he told me what I had made on the final, he asked what grade I thought I deserved. I turned it to him and asked the same thing. That’s when he said, in broken English, “I give you B. You do good in long journey.” I was grateful. And this is a perfect example of how a teacher who knows you have worked hard might give you the benefit of the doubt.
  • Get involved. Find activities you love and try new things. Participate in some leadership opportunities. Enjoy some outdoor activities. Learn a new sport! It will enrich your college experience and your life.
  • Exercise. Always get plenty of exercise for your physical health and for your mental health. Exercise releases endorphins, the hormones that relieve stress and create a feeling of well-being. Work out regularly…whether it’s walking, running, playing tennis, rowing, hiking, racquetball…just exercise.
  • Don’t burn bridges. This is crucial life advice. I am a forgiver, so I know the importance of forgiveness. Why do I forgive? Because it’s easier than carrying the burden of a grudge or anger. Plus, it just feels better. My daughter has heard me say it her whole life…don’t burn bridges. You never know when a friendship can be mended, but it will never be mended if you burn the bridge behind you.
  • Do what you need to do so you can do what you want to do. Take care of business…or as I always say to my daughter, “TCB.” When I was in college, I saw lots of people having “too much” fun. Trust me, I liked to have as much fun as the next person, but I knew I had to make my grades to be able to stay there to have the fun. And I did. But I knew people who didn’t, and they failed out of college. Take care of business.
  • Have a budget (or at least be aware of your spending). This is a life skill. Know how much you can/can’t spend on different things. If you know you have $100 to spend on food but spend $120, you’ll need to take that $20 from another part of your budget. Truly…life lessons.
  • Keep the laundry under control. Whether you do your own laundry, have a service, or pay a friend to do it, keep it under control. You don’t want to run out of clean clothes. Make sure it gets done one way or another.
  • Change your sheets once a week. Just do it.
  • No friend left behind. This one is especially important for girls. Going out with friends? Do not let one friend linger alone somewhere (a bar, a party, anywhere) after everyone else leaves. And don’t let your friend leave with someone she doesn’t know. Be a good friend.
  • Be careful where you park. Girls generally know this, but it’s OK to remind them. I also tell my daughter not to use the parking deck alone. If she drives into the parking deck, and it appears there are no other people there, call a friend to meet you…safety in numbers.
  • If you think you need to call 911, you probably do. Dorm living means our kids might witness or have medical situations they have never encountered before…or never had to deal with on their own before: seizures, choking, injuries, illness, etc. It is important that they understand how crucial it is to get medical help. If you think you might need to call 911, go ahead and do it. You won’t regret calling, but you might regret not calling. On a side note, make sure they know not to mix alcohol and acetaminophen/Tylenol, as it can cause liver toxicity. Don’t even take Tylenol the day after drinking. If they’re hungover, the best thing to do is hydrate. Make sure they have plenty of Drip Drop or Liquid IV on hand in their room. You can purchase Drip Drop in your local Walgreen’s, or you can order it here. You can order Liquid IV here. Or you can order from Amazon.
  • Never leave your drink unattended. Why? Because people will drug your drink. They can even do it when you’re holding the drink; and bartenders have been known to do it when preparing drinks. Always watch your drink being prepared. Or better yet, just order beer. But always keep it with you, and don’t make it easily accessible to anyone.
  • Don’t abandon your friends for a boyfriend/girlfriend. I know falling in love is fun. I know people enjoy spending time with their significant others. But if you abandon your friends for a boy/girl, you will regret it, without a doubt. How do I know? Because I have seen it happen time and time again. You need friends. And college is when you want to make lifelong friends. Don’t let having a significant other mess that up for you.
  • Take some classes that will broaden your horizons. When I was in college, I took an art history class. I was majoring in journalism. I didn’t need art history. However, I learned a lot about 19th century art, and that knowledge has been useful for me in lots of conversations in different settings over the years since. I even surprise myself sometimes with my knowledge of 19th century art!
  • Call your parents! We are part of your support system. We always have your best interest at heart. You’re our favorite.

I know I’m leaving out some things, so this piece will likely be fluid and ever-growing. Let’s equip our college students with knowledge and wisdom they need…and send up lots of prayers.

The Food Tour…er, Vacation

The food your…er, vacation.

I don’t know what it is about me, but the older I get, the more food-centric my vacations become.

We just returned home from a week-long trip to Southern California. Starting a month before we went, I was making phone calls to make sure we secured reservations at our favorite restaurants. It’s a familiar refrain. We travel to SoCal a few times a year, and there are several “must do” restaurants, so I have it all down to a science…starting 30 days in advance.

This trip we managed to hit all our favorites and even added a new favorite or two. We know which restaurant we like for Asian fusion. We know which restaurant we prefer for steak. We know which one we prefer for seafood. We know which one we like for comfort food. We know where our favorite desserts are. And now we have a new “boujie” favorite.

Interestingly, we are pretty low-maintenance most of the time. In “real life,” I’m happy to have a simple salad or sandwich most days. I meet friends for lunch a couple of times a week, but we don’t always do the “boujie” lunch…occasionally, but certainly not always. In fact, tomorrow, I’m meeting a friend at Arthur’s, a restaurant on the bottom floor of our local Belk store. It is a locally-owned restaurant that has been open for 40 years, and everyone I know who grew up in Charlotte has a story about Arthur’s to tell from their high school days. It’s not fancy. It’s certainly not boujie, but it’s good comfort food. Personally, I love their French fries. My friend, Jennifer, who grew up here, loves their Turkey Grinder. I have to admit it’s pretty good. Their burgers are fantastic, and I have another friend, a native Charlottean, who swears by their cheesesteak sandwich.

I even go on vacations to more laid-back places (small islands in the Bahamas or beach towns along the Gulf of Mexico) where I know the local dives serve the best food.

But in SoCal? It’s all about the food…and the people-watching…because really, who doesn’t love to see a celebrity or two? I will admit, I am a stargazer. I’m not a rabid fan. In fact, I have seen lots of celebrities and even met lots of them, but I rarely “fangirl.” I have gone a little “fangirl” a couple of times, but seriously…only a couple. My daughter loves that I can spot a celeb; it takes a special eye. I just happen to be a face person. Lots of people in the world are “surroundings” people, but I’m not one of them. You might remember what color the walls are in a room, but I’m going to remember the faces of the people I see there. And that’s why I’m a good star-spotter…because I look at faces. In fact, on this most recent trip, I spotted a celeb from a favorite teen movie from the 1980s, a very famous rapper, an Academy Award winner, and a recently reunited celebrity couple. And every time, I had to point them out to my daughter and her friend. They wouldn’t have even seen them if I hadn’t made them aware.

But back to the food. We had reservations every night of our stay. A couple of nights I skipped out so the girls (they’re 18) didn’t have to be accompanied by a parent while they dined. I remember 18, and I know how important it is to feel independent. One night I had a migraine anyway. But there were certain restaurants I was not going to miss. One favorite is on the beach in Malibu…incredible food and exciting atmosphere. Another favorite is in the hotel where we stay…nice people in a beautiful setting, and the best dessert in town. We added a new “boujie” lunch option this time after seeing it on a friend’s Instagram. My daughter and her friend had “order envy” when my lunch arrived. They ordered burgers but I ordered “Risotto disguised as a pizza.” And it was fantastic. We have reasons beyond food for dining at certain restaurants, but even with good atmosphere, the food has to be acceptable. Also, because I have gallbladder issues (having surgery for that on July 14…it has been delayed several times), I rarely eat red meat. I try to eat fish and chicken for protein, so I love places that have great fish and chicken dishes. And Southern California has lots of great options.

We flew home late Tuesday night…fat and happy. I probably shouldn’t eat anything for two weeks. I likely need to go running every day for two weeks…or more. And I have taken it easy on the eating. I will say this: it was worth it. We simply can’t get the same kind of food in North Carolina. We live in a lovely city in a great state, but “nothing comes close to the Golden Coast” where food is concerned.

So yes, we enjoyed our vacation…also known as “the food tour.”

Real Life Can Be Stressful

Real life can be stressful. The transition from high school to college can be tricky.

I haven’t posted anything since May 9. Why? Because my brain has been scrambled…that’s why.

If you have never had a child graduate from high school, but you have kids who eventually will graduate, hold onto your hat. What I thought should not be stressful or a big deal of any kind has turned my world upside down.

OK, maybe that’s being extreme. But during the weeks leading up to our daughter’s high school graduation on May 21, there were so many events and activities. I don’t consider myself low energy, but man! They wore me out! Parent meetings, Baccalaureate, Senior Supper, sports awards…and so much more! And those are just the things parents attended…the seniors did all that and more! I know the school was trying to cram lots of “memories” into a few weeks, but I’m not kidding when I say it was overwhelming. Back in 1985, when I graduated from a public high school, we had graduation rehearsal and graduation. I don’t remember any extra things we had to do, and I was cool with that, because honestly…graduating from high school is something we are supposed to do.

Soon after our daughter’s graduation at the end of May, she and I flew down to attend her college orientation. The event itself wasn’t stressful, but it was a lot of information at one time. Y’all know I didn’t even know want to go. I don’t think parents should have to go to orientation. In this case, nothing ever said it was mandatory, but as I talked to other parents leading up to it, I was afraid my daughter would look like an orphan if I didn’t go with her. So I went. But again, I don’t think there should even be sessions for parents. Back in the 1980s, my parents didn’t go. I drove myself there without GPS or a cellphone, and everything was just fine. I think they started doing parent sessions to give the parents something to do. You know, in 2022, we can’t just let our kids do things on their own. {Insert eye roll here.} So that one day I spent in the parent session is one day of my life I will never get back. Nope, I didn’t attend the second day. The second day, I just dropped her off with her roommate for the sessions, and I went back to the hotel for a leisurely cup of coffee…just as it should be.

But things went awry in our household after that. It actually started at orientation. Without getting into too much detail, I will say it has been a tough couple of weeks emotionally. Graduation actually hits these kids harder than we realize. Internally, they know they are feeling something stressful, but they don’t know why! Here’s why: they are leaving their family and friends to go to college soon. Everything they have ever known is about to change, and I don’t care how “ready” your kid is, it’s a scary time for them. I honestly believe it’s why we see so many friendships change in the summer after graduation. We see romances end. And seriously…I have seen my daughter trying to disconnect from me. It’s OK. I knew it would happen. I know she will need to disconnect emotionally for the college transition. It doesn’t necessarily make it easier, but I know it’s part of the process. She is moving 450 miles away to experience a new life. She won’t be coming back to Charlotte on the regular. It doesn’t make it any less sad, though. But that’s what stress does…we react to it in weird ways…and our daughter has certainly reacted. Wow.

We were fortunate to be able to slip away last week for some mother/daughter time at our favorite hotel in California. No, we didn’t just stay in the hotel the whole time, but frankly, I would have been OK with that. It’s a place of great comfort for me. It’s a place we feel at home. It’s a place we see friends. There is a reason it’s our favorite. We were able to relax, shop, eat great food, and relax some more in a beautiful environment. Did it help? Yes, it did. It helped us feel better, but it also forced us to have a conversation about the pressure we are feeling. She and I had a few heart-to-heart conversations. I told her everything she is feeling is normal. It’s OK to feel stress. It’s OK to feel pressure. It’s even OK to feel the need to disconnect. But it’s also important to try to handle things respectfully and compassionately. She is a sweet girl who is simply experiencing something new. And I’m a mom experiencing something new. As we barrel toward becoming empty-nesters, I’m feeling weird emotions too. I’ll likely sleep with one of her dirty sweatshirts after she leaves, just so I can have her scent nearby.

So, she moves into her dorm in six weeks. Of those six weeks, we will be on vacation again for two of them. I will have gallbladder surgery in July (ugh), so that will be two weeks of nothing. And then, we will move her in. Of course, I won’t be able to carry anything heavy for six weeks after the surgery, so it will be up to my husband to do all the heavy lifting. I’m not sure he knows that yet. We will move her in, and when we drive away, I feel sure I will shed a tear or a thousand. They will be sad tears for me, but they will be happy tears for her, because I know college is going to be a great experience.

And once she gets all moved in and starts classes, there will be more stress. College life is an adjustment, but she will figure it all out.

College is a good way to learn to deal with the stress of life, because real life can be stressful.

Happy Mom

Happy Mom.

Call me crazy (you wouldn’t be the first). When our daughter was a toddler, a local amusement park made me a happy mom during the spring, summer, and early fall months.

Carowinds is a Cedar Fair amusement park in Charlotte known for its gigantic rollercoasters. Most moms roll their eyes at the thought of going to Carowinds, but not me. Carowinds saved me.

My husband and I first took our then 2-yr-old daughter to Carowinds on his 40th birthday. I had driven past the park many times and seen the rollercoasters. I will readily admit that I love rollercoasters, so Carowinds looked like a fun way to turn 40. I love a song by David Wilcox called Top of the Rollercoaster that was a metaphor for turning 30. Personally, I think it can be a metaphor for any of the big birthdays. You can hear it on Apple Music or listen to it here. My husband didn’t think Carowinds sounded like fun, but I talked him into it, and afterward, he was glad I did. No, we didn’t get to ride any rollercoasters that day…we had a toddler with us…but we had a great time! He rode the little boats with our daughter. I rode the little cars with her and the helicopter ride. We rode the Dora Train and yelled “Swiper, no swiping!” at the appropriate time. And our daughter laughed and laughed. And we all went to what we referred to as the “Dora Show.” It was a live show in the kiddie section of the park…based on the Dora the Explorer cartoon show. At the end, we all did the chicken dance with the rest of the crowd, and we laughed! It was a great day, and even though my husband thought he didn’t want to turn 40 there, he has great memories from that day.

My husband’s birthday is in May, and after we went on his birthday, I realized Carowinds would be a fun place to visit regularly. I just didn’t realize how regularly we would go.

We got season passes for all of us, and one morning in June, I got up and took our 2 1/2 year old daughter to Carowinds by myself. After we entered the front gate, I rented a stroller. The park’s strollers had steering wheels, and even though the steering wheels controlled absolutely nothing, our daughter enjoyed thinking she was in charge while I was pushing her around the park. And after that visit, I realized we were both happy there. No, I didn’t get to ride rollercoasters, but back then, the park was owned by Paramount, so some of our daughter’s favorite cartoon characters were roaming the park. She loved seeing Dora the Explorer, the Fairly Oddparents, Little Bill, and the characters from Spongebob Squarepants! Oh, we have so many pictures of her with them! She also loved riding the little rides in what we referred to as the “kiddie” section of the park…swings, a little rollercoaster, the boats, the cars, and the Dora Train. And she loved seeing the Dora the Explorer show at least once on every visit.

As for me, I loved being outside with a happy child for a few hours every day. Yes, I said every day, because after that, we visited every day that we were in town and weather permitted. With the season pass, it was a cheap way to spend a day. Sure, the food was pretty expensive, but we often had lunch right there in the park…always having French fries. She had at least one Icee on every visit, and sometimes, she enjoyed a frozen lemonade. I walked miles on every visit, pushing the stroller and chasing a toddler.

We went so often that Mr. Bob, the usher for the Dora the Explorer show, knew us. Seriously, we would walk in, and he would greet us like old friends. In fact, after we had seen the show 20 or 30 times, Mr. Bob would tell her, “If anyone doesn’t show up for the show today, we can let you stand in for them, because you know the whole show.”

Sometimes, our friends from our toddler playgroup would go with us, adding another element of fun.

We were, quite possibly, the best customers at Carowinds for several summers (yes, several summers, because we were regulars for several years), and I was a happy mom. I got out in the sunshine without worrying about my child in a pool! I got exercise with my happy toddler accompanying me! We played games (one summer, sometime between age four and six, she climbed the wiggly rope ladder to win a gigantic, stuffed purple dog!).

As she got taller, she could ride bigger rides…eventually the giant rollercoasters…new adventures for us to enjoy together!

And we made great memories. Seriously, I would not trade those summers for anything. They were some of my happiest times. I love being a stay-at-home-mom, but I didn’t enjoy being stuck at home all the time. I loved getting out with her on a regular basis, and Carowinds was an easy way to keep both of us happy.

Yes, Carowinds made me a happy mom.

To see more about Carowinds, click here.

Honeysuckle

Honeysuckle.

I just returned from running some errands, and as I approached the back entrance of our neighborhood, I saw the perfectly ripened yellow and white blooms! Honeysuckle! Big bushes of it!

Back when our daughter was a little girl, she and I would watch that area every year, waiting for the honeysuckle to appear. But we didn’t dare approach it too early. From my childhood, I knew we needed to wait until it was just right…wait until it’s bursting with nectar and the fragrance is overwhelming. A few years ago, though, someone mowed down all the honeysuckle, and I haven’t seen it since…until recently. A few weeks ago, I noticed the first sign of it…the yellow buds…and I thought, “Is the honeysuckle really coming back? Just before our daughter goes off to college?” Since then, every time I drive past, I open the car window to look and sniff…and today, after an afternoon shower, it smelled perfect.

I had never really thought to investigate the honeysuckle habitat before today. For some reason, I always thought it was a southern thing, but after a little research, I learned it is definitely not just a southern thing. People all over the world use it for its medicinal purpose, and lots of people make simple syrup from it. I have never done that, but I’m up for the challenge!

When I was growing up in Alabama in the 1970s, we watched for three things as summer approached: lightning bugs (fireflies), backyard or roadside blackberries, and honeysuckle.

We knew summer was almost here when we saw our first lightning bug of the season. To this day, at the ripe age of 54, I still look out into the trees around our house as summer is approaching…watching for the first flash of a lightning bug. I haven’t seen one yet this year, but I’m watching. When I was a little girl, we would catch them and put them in Mason jars…poking holes in the top of the jar so they could get oxygen. We never kept them for longer than an hour or so, and we always released them. It was just fun to see how much they would glow in a jar.

As for the blackberries, at one of our houses, we had a big blackberry bush in the back corner of the yard. We would watch for the blooms and then wait for them to ripen before picking, but I only picked right on the leading edge of the bush. They were full of “stickers” (briars), and there was no way I was inviting that pain…not even for blackberries. I was also under the impression that snakes liked blackberries, so I was afraid of that too. I guess I thought the snakes wouldn’t hang out on the leading edge of the bush. If there were more ripened blackberries on the interior limbs of the bush, they went untouched by me…they likely rotted if no one else picked them, because I wasn’t sticking my arm in there to get them.

And then there was the honeysuckle…a sweet little treat that packed a lot of happiness and sunshine. We would go to the honeysuckle bushes/vines in our neighborhood and search for the ripest blooms. We knew the really ripe ones had the sweetest nectar. We would find the perfect flower and pick it whole…making sure to get the calyx (the little green bud that connects it to the stem). With the flower in one hand, we would pinch just above the calyx…not all the way through…just enough to break the edges. We’d then slowly slide the “style” (female part of the plant) out of the flower by gently pulling. As the end of the style approached, we could see the glorious nectar, or “honey.” Once we saw that little drop, we’d stick it to our tongues and taste the sweetness of summer! And that is the glory of honeysuckle! It’s a childhood treat.

As I mentioned before, when our daughter was a little girl…probably about four years old…I showed her how to get the honey from the honeysuckle, just as I had learned as a little girl. After that, she and I would invite neighborhood friends to walk up to the back entrance with us, sharing the glory of the honeysuckle with those who had never had it before. Hopefully, some of them remember how to do it.

Our daughter is not home tonight, but you can bet tomorrow, after brunch, we will be walking up to the honeysuckle at the back entrance of our neighborhood. It’s Mother’s Day, after all, and I can’t think of a better gift than spending time harvesting honeysuckle with my 18-year-old daughter who is headed off to college 450 miles away in August. I think Mother’s Day is the perfect day to revisit the honeysuckle. For a little while, we will relive some precious moments from her childhood.

Happy Mother’s Day!

I’ve Already Graduated from College

I’ve already graduated from college.

When our daughter was in third grade, she came home one afternoon and asked me to help her with a math problem. She didn’t ask for help often, and I was happy to oblige. I sat down and worked with her, showing her how to do a problem. When I finished, she just looked at me and said, “That’s not how my teacher does it.” I said, “Well, that’s how I do it. I won the math award in high school…I know what I’m doing.” Again…”that’s not how my teacher does it.” My response? “Then ask your teacher in the morning. I have already passed third grade math.” And honestly, that was the best response for lots of reasons, the main one being that I don’t know how to do “new math.”

It reminded me of my mother when I was in school. I remember asking her for help with geometry, and her response was, “Honey. I don’t remember. That was 30 years ago. I’ve already passed geometry.” And with that, she turned back to continue watching Dynasty, because what Krystle Carrington was wearing was important. At that point in my life, I guess I thought moms retained every bit of math knowledge they had acquired in school. I guess I expected her to be able to recall the Pythagorean theorem on demand…30 years after passing her geometry class. My daughter has not asked me for math help (or any other kind of help in school) since. I guess, if she needed help along the way, she asked a classmate or a teacher.

And now, she is finishing high school in the next few weeks and preparing to leave for college! Exciting times at our house! She is enrolled, but she has lots of things to do before she can go off to college.

Back in the 80s, when I was applying to college and preparing to leave, I did it all. I don’t remember my parents helping me at all. Sure, they paid for everything, but I did all the legwork. I remember brochures and packets coming in the mail from different colleges and universities. My mother put a bag in my room to deal with that. Every day, after the mail arrived, she would bring all the brochures and packets up to my room and drop them into the bag. Every now and then, I would weed through the information and throw away the information from the schools I wasn’t interested in. When I applied to colleges, I simply asked her for checks to mail with the applications. I wrote the checks, and she signed them. I’m not even sure if she knew which schools the checks were going to. And that was OK, because I was the one going to college. She had already graduated from college.

Now, as my daughter is preparing to leave for college, I have joined some Facebook parent pages for her university, which is also my alma mater. I have written about the parent pages before. They are annoying, to say the least. Moms asking how to send baked potatoes to their kids’ dorms. (Not kidding.) Moms asking where their kids should park. (Not kidding.) Moms asking about tutors for their kids. (Not kidding.) Moms asking how to do their kids’ schedules. (Not kidding.) Moms asking how to drop/add classes. (Not kidding.) Rarely, there is someone who asks a question or shares information that is useful.

Why did I put “not kidding” behind each of those items I listed? I will tell you why: because those are all things the kids should be handling themselves. And do you know why? Because they are the ones going to college. Fortunately, my daughter hasn’t asked me to handle anything for her (I don’t have any login information for her student account). She likely knows I would say, “That’s something you need to figure out like I had to do when I went to college. I’m not going to college; you are. I’ve already graduated from college.” Does it mean I don’t care? No, it means the opposite. It means I care enough to let her do it herself. She needs to learn to solve her own problems. She needs to know how to get her own questions answered. She needs to be responsible for herself. I have full confidence in her, because I have let her figure things out for herself for a long time. Heck, it’s easier for them now than it was when we were in college! Now, all the information they need is on the website!

Back in the good ol’ 1980s, if we had questions about college stuff, we had to search through the university catalog. Or get the university phone book and make some calls to get answers. If we were wondering about where to order a baked potato to have delivered to our dorm, we had to find the yellow pages and look it up. Only, we couldn’t look up “baked potato delivery.” We had to look up restaurants and search for one with an ad for delivery. We also had to have some idea of which ones offered baked potatoes. Or we could walk down the dorm hall asking people if they knew where we could order a baked potato…that often worked. But back in the 80s, our moms were not ordering food to have delivered to us. No way. Honestly, I’m not even sure my mother knew the name of the dorm I lived in freshman year! No joke.

All this also makes me think about something that happened when our daughter was about six years old. My friend, Wendy, and I had taken my 6-yr-old daughter, Wendy’s 6-yr-old son, and my twin 6-yr-old nephews to Great Wolf Lodge one weekend. When we took them to dinner, my daughter was holding her own plate, but standing next to me at the buffet. Wendy’s son was holding his own plate but standing next to her at the buffet. I looked around for my nephews and saw one at the prime rib station, asking the server for a slice of prime rib. The other one was navigating the salad bar on his own. When we sat back down, Wendy and I talked about how awesome it was that they handled it all on their own! I called the nephews’ mom the next day and said, “Wow! They handled the buffet like champs!” And I still remember her response. She said, “That’s what happens when parents ignore their kids. They become self-sufficient.” I laughed, because I knew she didn’t really ignore them, but she didn’t baby them. They handled things for themselves at six! And I learned a valuable lesson. l didn’t ignore my daughter, for sure, but I let her handle things on her own. Those same nephews are off to college this fall too, and I feel sure they can handle anything that comes their way.

When we get my daughter moved into the dorm in August, I will feel pretty sure she can figure things out. She can handle it. She has always been a decision-maker. She is like me; she can make a decision…it might not always be the best one, but she can make a decision, and that is a life skill. Why can she make decisions? Because I have always stepped back to let her make her own decisions. I might present the facts before she makes it, but she makes her own decisions. I’m proud of that, because “the road of life is paved with flat squirrels who couldn’t make a decision.” If your kid is about to leave for college, and you haven’t let them make life decisions, you have a few more months to let them practice, so they don’t become a flat squirrel.

I’ve already graduated from college.

Finding a College Roommate

Finding a college roommate.

It’s that time of year…the time when lots of high school seniors who are going to college are searching for roommates. My own daughter, fortunately, found a roommate from another Charlotte school soon after they both decided to go to the same college, so we don’t have that stress. But there are still lots of people looking. How do I know this? {Deep breath} I know this, because {another deep breath} their parents are posting their photos and bios on college parent pages, trying to find roommates for them. {And another deep breath) I’m not judging, but my daughter would definitely stop talking to me for a while if I did that.

There are tried and true methods for high school seniors to find roommates, and those methods do not include their parents posting photos and bios on parent pages. They also don’t include the moms doing it for them. Seriously, I’m not judging. I just think it’s something the students need to do. If your soon-to-be college freshman needs a roommate, here are some ways for your child to find one:

  • Ask friends if they know anyone. You might be surprised at how small the world is. Several people have asked my daughter if she knows someone going to a particular college, and she has been able to make some connections. If your child knows someone who is already a student at the university he/she plans to attend, that person might have friends who have younger siblings who will be freshmen next year. If your child is going to college in a different state, he/she might reach out to people he/she knows who live in that state. For example, if your child is going to college in Florida and knows three people who live in that state (cousins, family friends, etc), they can ask them for suggestions. It’s even OK for moms to ask other moms if they know anyone…it’s OK to help them get started, but the kids need to carry this. They need to do the reaching out.
  • Post your declaration on your college’s Instagram for incoming freshmen. This one is easy for most soon-to-be graduates. Most of them are accustomed to navigating social media, and if they’re not social-media-savvy, they need to be. Lots of communication in college is done via social media. Get with the program. Most colleges/universities have public Instagram accounts where incoming freshmen can post their photo/bio. Many of them are called State University Class of 2026. I know lots of people who have found roommates using Instagram.
  • College-sponsored roommate selection services. Lots of colleges and universities have a selection service that helps students find roommates. At my daughter’s university, it’s called My College Roomie. The process starts with creating a profile. Next the incoming freshman completes a questionnaire. Based on his/her answers, matches will be generated, and they can reach out to their matches by sending messages through the service. I have heard of other college having the same type of program. Your student should look at his/her school’s housing website to see if a similar service is offered.
  • Facebook groups. Facebook is another great social media resource for finding a roommate. Again…your child needs to do this…not the parent! If you aren’t the person who actually needs the roommate, you don’t need to do the search. If your child doesn’t have a Facebook profile, he/she will need to create one before joining Facebook groups. I have seen at least three Facebook groups for roommate searches at my daughter’s university. In the search bar, your child can enter “university name, roommate,” and specify that he/she is searching for a group. Some possibilities for groups will likely appear.
  • Roommate Search Apps. And lastly, there are roommate search apps. Two that I have heard of are RoomSync and Roomsurf. I think they work a lot like online dating sites…create a profile…maybe complete a questionnaire. Matches are made.

Worst case scenario, your child doesn’t find a roommate before school starts, and he/she gets assigned a random roommate. That is not a disaster. It often works out great. If your child ends up having a random roommate, it could be a new, forever friendship. You never know where a new friendship will blossom.

Sure, mom and dad can help a little along the way by asking people they know, but personally, I don’t recommend posting your child’s photo/bio on a parent page. Personally, I think that shouldn’t even be allowed on parent pages, but since I’m not the administrator on those pages (thank you, Lord), I don’t have any say-so. I’m not judging. This is one of those things that falls under “things your college student needs to do on his/her own.” That’s just my opinion, and it’s worth what you pay for it.

And very important: tell your kids to be themselves when searching. Do not misrepresent yourself. If you don’t drink, say you don’t drink. If you go to bed early, say you go to bed early. If you prefer quiet space, tell potential roommates that. If a potential roommate says he/she likes to get up and run several miles every day, it’s OK to admit you can’t even run to the mailbox. Be who you really are.

Good luck to everyone looking for college roommates for Fall 2022. It’s an exciting time! These students will remember their freshman-year roommates for the rest of their lives…good or bad…but hopefully good.