Be Vulnerable: Is Friendship Worth It?

Life’s not easy. No one ever said it would be. It’s something we should know as adults, but we never learn.

Friendships aren’t always easy, either. Yes, there are times friendships are easy, but there are times they are difficult…hanging by a thread. Because I have a teenage daughter, I spend a lot of time discussing friendships, forgiveness, trust, and communication. But frankly, I’m still learning myself, so I don’t always give sound advice. We all make mistakes in friendships, even as adults, and we all have friends who make mistakes, even as adults.

We’ve all had times in relationships that we realized we needed to “fish or cut bait,” haven’t we? Aren’t there times you step back when a situation arises and think, “Maybe I don’t need to continue this friendship.” When I’ve felt that way, I try to take a deep breath and think logically…evaluate the situation without emotion.

But that’s easier said than done, because friendships are emotional connections. Just like marriage, friendship requires trust.. And just like marriages, friendships can fall apart. Unfortunately, just like marriages, going into them, we don’t know which ones will last and which ones won’t. A friend posted this on Instagram earlier this week:

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How true are those words of C.S. Lewis? We can’t be hurt emotionally by people to whom we don’t have an emotional connection. If you accidentally cut someone off in traffic, making them angry, do you worry about it for days to come? Likely not. But if you accidentally offend a longtime friend, do you worry about it for days to come? Probably. At least, you should, if you care about the person.

Likewise, if someone who is not your friend tells you a lie, do you care? Unless it’s going to affect something, probably not. If your friend tells you a lie, do you care? Yes. You do. And it’s all because you’ve made yourself vulnerable to that person by letting him/her into your life…trusting them. And that’s when you have to decide what to do. Do you confront them about it? Do you chalk it up to a mistake and let it go? Do you silently harbor ill feelings? Do you walk away from the friendship? It’s difficult. Because you’ve made yourself vulnerable, that hurt cuts a little deeper.

But, as C.S. Lewis says, if you want to keep your heart “intact,” you have to lock it up, don’t risk it by loving anyone. To have love of any kind is to have occasional pain, but the real friendships last…after forgiveness is sought. At the same time, we have to give those very friends the benefit of the doubt until we have reason to believe otherwise. Maybe your friend didn’t hurt you intentionally. Injury without malice, in friendships, should be forgiven. Injury with malice, in friendships, should be forgiven, as well…to free yourself from the burden of anger. I’ve written about forgiveness before. You can read it here.

I cannot imagine my own life without friendships. Sure, there have been friendships that have fallen by the wayside. It’s the way life is. Some of them fall away accidentally…you don’t know the last time you talked, and you didn’t realize at the time it would be the last time you would talk. Sometimes, there’s an argument or disagreement that ends a friendship. Other friendships, we choose to end, for one reason or another. Maybe you feel you’ve been taken for granted. Maybe the other person feels manipulated. Maybe you disagree all the time, and it has become tiresome. It happens, and when it has happened to me, I’ve chosen to believe I’ve learned from each instance.

But here’s one thing: if your heart gets broken, get up, and try again. Making yourself vulnerable is difficult and scary, but if you don’t, you won’t know what it’s like to have real friends. And remember, everyone isn’t going to like you. It’s a fact. And once you are OK with that, life gets a lot easier.

Is friendship worth the risk of heartache? You bet. For every disappointment, heartache, and sorrowful moment involved in friendship, there will be countless more good times.

To love is to be vulnerable. Be vulnerable.

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Hurricane Sanity Preparedness

This is not one of those standard posts about hurricane preparedness. You’re hearing plenty of that with 24-hour news, I hope. Between the hype and the doom, they throw in a little information about getting prepared for a disaster. This is about being prepared for the long hours of being stuck indoors…waiting. How will you stay sane?

Hurricanes are scary. No doubt about that. I “survived” four hurricanes and a tropical storm (at least one) when I lived on the Gulf Coast, so I know how scary they are. For one of them, I was 20 miles from the eye at landfall, so I know how long it can take for a hurricane to arrive and move out…making for some long hours.

So for Hurricane Florence, do everything you can to be prepared…stock up on nonperishables (and favorite junk food snacks!) and bottled water, remove any possible projectiles from your yard (planters, patio furniture, etc), fill your tubs with water in case you need it to flush toilets later (this is rare), bring in pets, charge your cellphones and laptops, charge your portable chargers, put fresh batteries in your flashlights, and settle in for a long ride.

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What they won’t tell you on TV is how to stay sane during the storm. My disaster preparedness routine includes entertainment for sanity. I’m not making light of the storm, but if the power goes out, we will need entertainment. Otherwise, everybody just gets grumpy. We don’t need a situation like The Shining after everyone starts getting cabin fever.

So here is my list for hurricane entertainment in the event of a power outage:

  • Charades. I know. Sounds boring, but charades by flashlight is hilarious. I’ve done it. Heck, even if the power doesn’t go out, it’s fun to play Charades by flashlight!
  • Movies. Have movies pre-downloaded on your phone or iPad and watch an old favorite or one you haven’t seen before. Since Burt Reynolds just passed away, I will be downloading some of his movies. Or maybe watch movies about a storm…The Perfect Storm, Adrift, or even Sharknado! Or rewatch a favorite classic…maybe some Hitchcock: Vertigo, Rear Window (one of my all-time favorites), or The Birds. I was at my parents’ house one time during a storm, and since Daddy loved Lonesome Dove, we watched the whole series while we waited for the storm to pass. We were very close to where the storm made landfall (20 miles away on the bay, and my parents lived less than a 1/4 mile inland) and we never lost power.
  • Prompt stories. Have everyone in the family write single words on tiny pieces of paper. Put the papers into a bowl or hat and take turns pulling words from the hat. When you pick a word, you have to tell a story from your life using the word. Some good words to use: sunset, key, gate, walk, accomplishment, sport, etc. It’s a lot of fun, and it’s a good way to get people to talk.
  • Start a blog…or do lots of writing for a current blog. I’m always looking for subjects for my blog and making notes. I have a long list of topics, so what better time to sit down and write than in the middle of a hurricane? Aside from the storm itself, there won’t be many distractions or obligations.
  • Clean. I know…cleaning with no electricity sounds terrible, but you might not lose power, and if you do, there are some things you can clean by flashlight. My bathroom cabinets can always use a purge. Being trapped inside is the perfect opportunity to sit down and go through all the stuff to see what can go.
  • Read a book on your Kindle or Ipad. If you’re going to be stuck without TV or power for a few days, it creates the perfect opportunity to finally read that book you’ve been meaning to read. Daily life is so busy that it can be difficult to carve out time to sit down and read.
  • Play board games or cards. How often do you bring out those old board games? Well, this is your chance. I could spend hours playing Yahtzee and Scattergories. In fact, I could likely destroy my family’s sanity by forcing them to play.
  • Laugh. Find things to laugh about. Laughter will cure a lot of ills and get us through a lot of hard times. Laugh, laugh, laugh.
  • Watch sports. Download ESPN, CBS, and ABC, so you can watch all your favorite college teams Saturday and favorite NFL teams Sunday, even if the power goes out. You’ll need your login information for your provider. Again, make sure your electronics are charged in advance, and remember you can charge things in your car if you need to!

And if your grocery store was out of bread and water when you went, I hope you bought cake and champagne. This is a good time to enjoy that!

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In all seriousness, hurricanes are dangerous and frightening. It’s not a good time to be inebriated, because you need to be able to react in an emergency. Take care of yourselves and your family, and say a prayer that no one is injured or worse, but please don’t sit around worrying! If you’ve prepared, there is nothing else to do. Worrying won’t help. Try to relax and stay aware of what’s going on in your area.

Stay safe, friends.

 

 

 

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Nuclear War and Other Childhood Fears

Yesterday, while driving my 14-yr-old daughter to a friend’s house, she asked what I worried about when I was a child. We all worried about different things, and I had multiple fears, but at the top of my list, once I was aware it could happen, was nuclear war.

In the 1960s and 1970s, nuclear war was a looming possibility.

I was born in 1967, but I remember Daddy talking about the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. My parents were living in Florida at the time. They were in the panhandle, so at least they were in Northwest Florida, but they were on high alert. After all, Cuba is just 90 miles south of the southern tip of Florida, and the Soviets had placed missiles there, aiming them at Florida. Concern was warranted.

Back then, people were buying and building bomb/fallout shelters. If you’ve seen the movie, Grease 2, you probably remember the silly scene with the song, Let’s Do It For Our Country…some teenagers are messing around in a bomb shelter. (Here’s the scene.Grease 2 wasn’t reality, but bomb shelters were.

My parents had been married less than two years when the Cuban Missile Crisis occurred. They, with some friends, devised a plan they would execute in the event of a nuclear attack. They didn’t have bomb shelters, but there were some caves on a friend’s property. If the alarm sounded, they would all drive there immediately. Daddy used to talk about how they drove around with canned goods and other essential items in the trunks of their cars for months, in case something happened.

Of course, the Cuban Missile Crisis simmered down, but the threat of nuclear war loomed for years.

I wasn’t aware of the threat of nuclear war until about 1976…fourth grade. I’m not sure how it came up in class. My guess is we were talking about that year’s Summer Olympics Montreal and the perfect 10s earned by Romanian gymnast, Nadia Comaneci. The world became fascinated with the young gymnast from an Eastern Bloc Communist country.

I remember our fourth grade teacher talking about Communism, saying children in Romania were tested when they were young to see what gifts they had. Some might be gymnastically talented; some might be built for dancing, rowing, or anything else…or maybe have special science, math, or writing abilities. We were told their professions were picked early for them, and if they were gymnasts or gifted dancers, they were taken from their parents to live at a training facility, because that was what the government demanded.

Whether all that was factual, I don’t know. But in fourth grade, that was what I believed. We talked about Communist countries, the Soviet Union, and somehow, we talked about nuclear war. I don’t remember much about the discussion, but I remember the teacher saying, “It’s nothing to worry about. If they drop a nuclear bomb on us, things will happen so fast that you won’t even know it.” What?!?!?! Yes, that thought was terrifying to a nine-yr-old girl. I remember actually thinking, “Why did my parents have me if they knew this was a possibility?” I remember exactly where I was sitting in the classroom when I had that thought. Big thinking for a nine-yr-old.

When I told this to my 14-yr-old daughter on that car ride yesterday, she was wide-eyed. Then, I told her it wasn’t a concern for her generation, because the Soviet Union has fallen, and we made peace with Russia…even though things seem a little precarious sometimes, I think Russia doesn’t want nuclear war any more than we want it.

But she corrected me. “Doesn’t North Korea have nuclear bombs?” I told her they do, but they can’t reach the US mainland. She asked, “But what’s to stop them from using them when they can reach the mainland?” With my limited knowledge of international politics, the only thing I came up with was, “Well, they haven’t used them on South Korea, and they can definitely reach there.” She asked me if the U.S. has the capability to intercept nuclear missiles. I told her I’d heard we do, but I didn’t tell her it’s 50 percent (or less) accurate. I then told her I think the North Koreans are too smart to start an all-out nuclear war with us. I hope I’m right.

When we were discussing fears, it seemed there were a lot of parallels between kids’ worries in 1976 and 2018. I worried about my parents’ health, which is normal, I guess, since that’s who took care of me. She said that had crossed her mind before too. But now there is an added fear that I never considered as a child: school shootings. There were school shootings in 1976…in fact, seven people were killed when a man opened fire at California State University at Fullerton that year, but because we didn’t have a 24-hr news cycle, we didn’t hear about them constantly, so they were never a fear for us. Now, not only do we have a 24-hr news cycle feeding our brains bad news, but children prepare for active shooters. That’s something we never had to do. Living in Alabama, we had tornado and fire drills, but never lockdown drills.

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The Sandy Hook shootings occurred when my daughter was in third grade, and I remember her asking me if it would happen at her school. I didn’t want to lie, but I didn’t want to scare her either. I explained that we never know what could happen, but that it wasn’t likely. That year, she had a male teacher, so I added, “Besides, you’ve seen your teacher’s muscles. Do you really think he’d let someone get into your classroom?” She relaxed. At age 9, all she needed was reassurance, and that did the trick.

So it seems everything old is new again, plus some. Kids still have the same worries. There’s the threat of nuclear war. Kids still worry about their parents’ health. Plus, the worries of school shootings. My daughter, thankfully, has somehow managed to stop being the worrier she used to be. She told me during our chat that she learned a long time ago that she shouldn’t worry about things over which she has no control. I’m proud of that. I didn’t learn to control those worries till I was in college.

So to help keep those worries to a minimum, I’ll keep the 24-hr news cycle out of our home.

 

 

 

Parents’ School Year Goals?

Looking through “the Facebook” today, I came across a friend’s post asking, “Parents, what are your goals for this school year?”

Am I supposed to have school year goals? I’d never considered it, but maybe I’ve been missing out on something. Maybe, while teachers and students are setting goals for the new school year, I should be setting some goals of my own. I’ve asked other friends, and they looked at me like I had fourteen eyes. One of them said she has one goal: drink more wine. Another one said her goal is to keep her children organized for the school year. I told her, “Good luck with that.” I’m not a terribly organized person, so personally, I’d probably hurt my daughter’s organizational skills rather than helping them.

So, after talking with friends, I decided to make my own list of goals for the school year, and they are goals for me, not my daughter:

  • Family time. My first goal is to make sure we carve out some family time. Between school sports, school, real life, and social lives, this can get neglected. This school year, I will make it a priority…to make sure we have time to just be together…maybe dinnertime, maybe watching sports together, maybe vacations…whatever…I will make it happen.
  • Have fun. This is always at the top of my list. No matter what we are doing, we can make it fun. That doesn’t mean we don’t take things seriously; it means we approach it with joy. I’ll use my library volunteer job as an example. I volunteer every other Tuesday, and the job entails checking out books for students, shelving, reloading paper in printers, etc. Sounds boring, right? And I’m sure it can be, but it has always been fun for me. I look forward to it every time, because I became friends with the people who work there, and it’s always fun to spend time with friends. There’s nothing wrong with sharing jokes or life stories while you work! I try to become friends with people in my volunteer positions, so it feels like I’m hanging out with friends while we’re working.
  • Enjoy lunch with friend(s) at least once a week, and once a month, I need to try a restaurant in town I’ve never visited. My friend, Linda, and I meet regularly, and we tend to meet at the same four or five places. Next time, we are going to a new place, and I’ve found the perfect place for us to try. It’s easy to keep going to the same places, and I won’t abandon those, but if I try a new restaurant once a month, that’s twelve new lunch places in a year!
  • Laugh a lot…a whole lot. At the risk of sounding like a song from Mary Poppins, I love to laugh! Really…it’s one of my favorite things to do. I grew up with a brother who loves to laugh and naturally makes people laugh, so I’ve had a lot of laughing practice. It cures a lot of ills. Therefore, I’m going to try to keep myself out of non-laughing situations.
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  • Spend time outdoors…all year. I love being outdoors. I love sunshine. I don’t love camping, so don’t get any ideas about that. In spring, summer, and fall, this doesn’t take much effort. But winter? That’s another story. It’s exactly when I need to get outdoors…to avoid SAD, Seasonal Affective Disorder…or what I call the wintertime blues. So this year, I am going to try to spend some time outdoors even when it’s cold. Brrrr.
  • Make some new friends. We have some new families coming to our school this year, and I plan to welcome them with open arms. You never know where you’ll find a friend…and I love fun, new friends…especially ones who like to try new restaurants and laugh a lot.
  • Travel when we can. High school means lots more time spent on homework, and it means lots more time dedicated to school sports. Whenever we can squeeze in some travel fun, we will do exactly that.
  • Exercise more. OK, I had to throw in one of those things that is a “must do.” I need to exercise more, so I added it to the list. If I can find people who want to laugh with me while exercising, that’s even better!
  • Watch more football. Yes, I’m putting it on the list. I watch a lot of football anyway, but I want to watch more. Don’t worry, Bama fans, because I am Schleprock, I will not watch Bama games in real time. I will record them and watch them after the fact. But I want to watch other games…a lot. Besides, this is a good way to fulfill the first goal I listed…spending time with family. How many more days till football season starts?

And those, my friends, are my back-to-school goals…nothing education-related at all. Sure, I could make my goals all about my child, who is now a high school student, but guess what…school is her job. Yes, if she asks me for help or I think she’s having issues, I will help her, of course. She knows that. But she also knows it is her responsibility to take care of school work. After all, I’ve already done 9th grade. It’s a lot more difficult than when I was in school, but she knows I will help her if she needs it, and she knows if I can’t help her, I will help her find someone who can. The one school-related thing I will do is continue to encourage her to establish relationships with her teachers…they can definitely help her if she needs help.

Let’s get this party started!

My Teen, How Have I Embarrassed Thee? Let Me Count The Ways…

If you’re a parent of a teenager, you know the struggle is real. Everything we do embarrasses them. Really…everything.

My daughter and I recently made a quick weekend trip by plane, which means we encountered a lot of people along the way…plenty of opportunity for her to be embarrassed by the way I sneeze, the way I talk, the way I breathe. Ahhh…the joys of motherhood.

In everyday life, I embarrass my 14-yr-old daughter on a regular basis. I’m a talker. I talk to everyone around me all the time, and often, I make new friends along the way. There is nothing I love more than meeting new people and learning their stories. It’s amazing what we can learn about the world when we meet people from other places…and I don’t just mean other countries. I mean it’s fun to meet people from all over the United States. We all have different traditions and cultures, and I love learning all about new people.

Everything about that last paragraph embarrasses my daughter. For example, if I’m standing in the security line at the airport, and the lady in front of me has on a sweater that looks like she might have knitted it, I ask her about it. “I love your sweater! Did you make it?” And the conversation goes from there. I can almost feel my daughter’s embarrassment as soon as I ask the question. Yes, this actually has happened. Or this: I met someone who told me she lives in Revere, Massachusetts. I knew right away that I had been through Revere, and here’s what I remembered about it: the Necco Candy factory. My daughter rolled her eyes.

Generally speaking, I’m a happy person. I like to greet people warmly when I arrive somewhere. And this is painful to my daughter.

As we started to board the flight, the gate agent scanned my boarding pass. I said, “Thank you! Have a great day!” I got the eye roll from my daughter in the jetway. As we boarded the plane, I greeted the flight attendants with a happy, “Good morning!” I heard my daughter audibly sigh. Maybe it was a groan…either way, I heard her expression of displeasure. We got to our seats, and I asked her, “What’s wrong with being nice to people?” “Nothing, but you don’t have to speak to EVERYbody!” And I don’t, but if I have a face-to-face encounter, I try to be polite.

After landing, we went to the rental car counter. When we got there, the agent was friendly. We chatted about the city we were visiting. My daughter walked away. It wasn’t a long conversation. He asked me if I had ever visited before, and we talked about some of our favorite restaurants there. The daughter didn’t like it.

Next, we got to the row of rental cars, and it was time to pick one. I had rented a midsize SUV, and I wanted to take a look at various ones to see which would be best for us. I put down my bag at the end of the row and asked her to stand with it while I looked. It embarrassed her. “Mom, other people just get in a car.” I know that isn’t true, but I didn’t argue. I just gave her “the look” and walked down the row looking at cars. I picked one, and she couldn’t get in fast enough. No 14-yr-old wants to be seen with her mother in public.

At our destination, we checked into our hotel and went out to dinner at a local restaurant. While we waited for a table, I was seated next to a gentleman who told me he had worked there as a teenager. He also had two handsome teenage sons, so while it was embarrassing to my daughter that I was having a conversation with a stranger, she didn’t mind chatting with his sons.

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The next day, we attended a luncheon. We knew some of the people, but not many. I never want to be a burden on my hosts, and I’m not a person who needs to be babysat, so I approached a couple of different people and struck up a conversation. This embarrassed her, of course. I explained to her that we could sit huddled in a corner together, or we could meet some new people. Eye roll. She finally saw some teens she knew and ditched me. Whew! I was free to talk without ridicule.

We made it back to the airport after the luncheon, and I managed to refrain from embarrassing her at that point.

She’s a good sport, though. It’s not the kind of embarrassment that makes her angry. Truth be told, she usually looks back on it and laughs. She has a good sense of humor. She often tells me I’m like the mom on Good Luck, Charlie, a former Disney Channel show on which the mom, Amy Duncan, is a little bit crazy (hmmm), kind of a mess (hmmm), and accidentally embarrasses her children…except when she intentionally embarrasses them as a creative form of punishment. In one episode, the teenage daughter, Teddy, tricks her mom into letting her go to a midnight movie with her friend, Ivy, who also tricks her mom. When the moms find out they’ve been had, they go to the  theatre and get revenge by embarrassing their daughters in front of the crowd waiting to get in. They dress like crazy teenagers and talk on the bullhorn about their girls while calling themselves the “cool moms,” and they dance…yes, dance. I’m so glad my daughter has seen this episode, because it…could…happen.

Honestly, though, embarrassing my daughter is not my goal. I do what I can, within reason, NOT to embarrass her. She knows as long as she behaves nicely and doesn’t betray my trust, I won’t TRY to embarrass her. I think moms are naturally embarrassing to teens, though. We just aren’t cool. And if we try to be cool, we’re even less cool and more embarrassing. I’m not cool, and I’m over 50, so I just act the way I act. But I remember 14. It’s a difficult age. I remember when my parents embarrassed me just by dropping me off somewhere. It’s a natural part of growing up. I’d be more concerned if she wanted to be with me all the time. This whole embarrassment thing is about becoming more independent…growing up.

On the other hand, sometimes it’s a good thing I embarrass her…like when we’re waiting for a table at a restaurant and I start talking to the parents of a couple of cute teenage boys, who in turn start talking to her.

THEN it’s good to have an embarrassing mother!

If Only I Could Call Them

When Daddy was dying, it seemed the thing he hated most about dying was thinking about what he was going to miss. He said he wasn’t afraid of what would happen to him, but he was sad he would miss his family, and he would miss some of the big moments.

I think, we, the ones left behind, often feel the same thing. There are lots of times I think, “I wish Daddy were here to see this.” And since December, I often think, “I wish I could call Mother and tell her about this.”

In the last few weeks, I’ve found myself wishing they were here more than usual. I always miss them, but situations arise that I would love to share with them, and that’s when I really wish they were here.

In May, I wrote a piece titled Behind That White Picket Fence (click here to see it) about how we never know what’s going on in someone’s private life. A friend from college commented on my post, making me think of Mother and something that happened twenty years ago.

When I was about 30, a friend was diagnosed with colon cancer. Her name is Susan, and I think she was 28 or 29 at the time. She was/is married (in fact, I introduced her to her husband) and while her husband was supportive, her parents jumped right in to help. Her husband needed to work and couldn’t be there all the time, so her parents took turns spending the night at the hospital with her and stayed during the day, as well. She had  complications after surgery, but they were there to advocate for her. If I remember correctly, she was in the hospital for months.

During this time, my maternal grandmother and a friend of hers were breezing through Mobile on a trip and stopped in to visit Mother. We will call the friend Gladys. Mother had never met Gladys and frankly, found her to be rather harsh. They were there for a few hours, so Mother didn’t jump to that conclusion quickly.

While they were there, insurance became the topic of conversation. Gladys, at some point, complained about her insurance agent, saying he had not been responsive over recent months. When she mentioned his name, Mother knew she had to say something. She responded, “Well, I’m sure you don’t know, but his young daughter has colon cancer. She’s had surgery and complications, and he has been spending days and nights at the hospital with her. If he hasn’t been responsive, that’s a good reason. God bless him.”

That evening, Mother called me to tell me what had happened, and she was a little hot under the collar. Of course, I reminded her Gladys probably had no idea, and while Mother realized that, she was miffed Gladys wasn’t giving Susan’s dad, her insurance agent for 30 years, the benefit of the doubt.

So, after Susan commented on Behind That Picket Fence, I sent her a message telling her about the exchange. She responded by telling me she was happy to hear my mother had interceded. She reminded me her daddy had stayed with her in the hospital and had even devised a way to wash her hair, simply because he knew it was something he could do that would make her feel a little better. He made some sort of “contraption” that made it possible for him to wash her hair while she was lying in bed. The nurses didn’t want him to do it, but he did, and Susan immediately felt better. Afterward, the nurses started started using the same contraption and method to wash the hair of other patients.

That exchange with my friend was one of those moments I wish Mother were here. I wanted to call and tell her I had shared the story with Susan, and in response, she told me what great things her daddy did for her. In fact, Susan told me her daddy was retired by the time she was diagnosed, so no wonder he wasn’t responsive! He was no longer the agent!

But I couldn’t call Mother. She would have loved that story.

There are also things I’d love to share with my daddy. Just this week, I had lunch with my cousin, Ardrue, who lives in Cherryville, North Carolina, about an hour away. Ardrue and I started getting together over the past couple of years. We had never met until early 2016, but I had heard about Ardrue my entire life. She is my daddy’s first cousin. Their mothers were sisters.

When I say I’d heard about Ardrue my entire life, I mean it. I remember, as a little girl, hearing Daddy and Aunt Katie talk about Ardrue. I don’t remember the stories, but who can forget a name like Ardrue? I’ve told her this, so it’s OK…I remember asking daddy, “What kind of name is Ardrue?” I remember seeing pictures of a little girl/teenage Ardrue when I would go through old pictures. Her name appeared on the backs of several pictures.  In fact, I can hardly wait to get back to Alabama to go through pictures and find some to bring back to show her.

Ardrue has told me stories about my daddy as a young man, and she has shared stories about the family, as well. When we are talking, I love when she mentions a familiar name in one of her stories. Sometimes she is even surprised I recognize a name. Most of the times, I recognize the names from stories Daddy used to tell…he was a good storyteller. She is a charming lady with a great sense of humor. I’ll have to ask her if a sense of humor runs in the family. It’s hard to tell, because in all the old pictures of my grandparents and great-grandparents, they all look so serious.

And this is one of those times I wish Daddy were here. He would be thrilled Ardrue and I  get together. Not only that, but we enjoy each other’s company! He would want to sit right there with us, laughing and talking. The two of them would be able to reminisce and remind each other of things that happened when they were children.

But I can’t call Daddy. He can’t join us for lunch. He would have loved spending time with Ardrue.

And recently, when our daughter was away for two weeks on a group trip to Iceland and not allowed to use her phone to call home, Mother and Daddy would have commiserated with me. They likely would have been calling me three times a day to ask if there had been any email updates from the group leaders.

While it’s painful immediately following the loss of a parent, there are other times that are difficult too. Interestingly, for me, it’s usually the happy times that I miss them. I wish they could see my daughter play lacrosse and field hockey. Daddy would have loved watching her play basketball too. I used to always call Mother from my car after I dropped off my daughter somewhere, and I would call her after any of my daughter’s games and give her the post-game wrap-up. That was a habit that was hard to break after Mother passed.  I wish I could just pick up the phone and call both of them to tell them funny stories, talk about trivial stuff, and brag about my daughter. They would love knowing my brother and I talk almost every day, and we still call each other to get answers to trivial questions. And they would be so happy to know we have been vacationing together.

But I can’t call them.

If only I could call them…

Back to Reality

Ahhhh…vacation. If only we could feel as relaxed in daily life as we do on vacation.

We returned last night from what is likely the last big vacation of the summer for us. I love vacation. I love vacations of all kinds…active, outdoors (but not camping), water, city, lazy, big, small…just vacations in general. I love visiting new places and familiar places.

This most recent trip was to a familiar place, Los Angeles, but we had people with us who had never been, so everything old was new again. We had a great time…three moms with three teenagers. One mom was my awesome sister-in-law, whom I adore, and the other was my college friend, Angela…also adored. As we all started to depart the hotel yesterday, I could feel “reality” hanging over our heads like a fog.

I always get a little sad when I know the final big trip of summer is over. This year, because of high school sports, the final big trip of summer had to be a little earlier. (Note that I keep saying our final big trip, because I keep hoping for a couple of small adventures.) Our daughter is starting 9th grade and trying out for high school teams this year. Those tryouts start in early August, so no more vacations…back to reality.

Reality means it’s time to start getting prepared for the next school year. I get queasy just thinking about it. I don’t know if my daughter is nervous at all, but I am. It happens every year, but this year, more so, because she is going to high school. I’ve never had a child in high school, so this is a new experience for us. Deep down, though, I know she will settle in just fine, and eventually, I will settle down.

The most immediate thing on the horizon is the “assigned summer reading.” That is reality at our house right now, and that is the part I do not like. It’s not really my reality; it’s my daughter’s reality, but I will have to listen to her complain about it. I’m not the mom who helps with homework or nags about assignments. Most of the time, I don’t even know what the assignments are…and that’s how I’d like to keep it. I’ve talked with my friend, Maureen Paschal, about assigned summer reading on Been There Moms. You can see the video here. I simply do not like assigned summer reading. I feel like it is encroaching on my family time, and it’s like a cloud hanging over summer for us. I love to read, and I hope my daughter will eventually love it too, but even as a reader, “assigned” reading was tough for me as a student. At some point in the next couple weeks, she will take a couple days to sit down and read that book. She will complain about it, but she will get it done.

Personally, I think, if the school is going to require summer reading, I think they should also require outdoor exercise. There are some students who love reading all summer, and there are some who enjoy being outdoors all summer. Sure, there are some who fall between the two, but my daughter loves moving around and being outdoors. Sitting still? Nah. There’s no fun in that. But I really believe that if the school is going to have assigned summer reading, they should also have required outdoor exercise hours. If we are trying to enrich the whole student, let’s build their minds and their bodies.

Another reality is getting prepared for my daughter’s freshman year, meaning I need to make sure she has everything she is going to need. Right now, though, we are one month out from the first day of school, so seeing school supplies in the stores just makes me nauseous. I will get everything in advance with time to spare, but I don’t look forward to it.

And then there’s this reality: a month of back to back trips means things in my closet (and my home) are in disarray. I came home from the beach in June, and I’ve had several back-to-back trips since. I won’t get into listing all the places we visited, but it has been a lot of packing, unpacking, and packing again. And in some cases, I didn’t even unpack and repack…there wasn’t time. I just packed other stuff in a different suitcase. I need to take the time to straighten out all that, and it is one of my least favorite things to do. It means pulling out everything from closets around my house and purging. I’ve found some good “purging” advice in an article from the Huffington Post here. I dread it. But I will do it…maybe while my daughter is doing her assigned reading!

Today, though, I choose to ignore those realities. I want to enjoy the last fun, lazy days of summer…hanging out in the pool, spending time with family, harvesting tomatoes, spending time outdoors, and possibly, taking a little road trip or two. I’m on my way out to the pool now…