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.

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.

Now I’m Getting Nervous

Now I’m getting nervous…

It’s no secret that I have been looking forward to my daughter’s high school graduation. She has been at the same independent school since she was four years old, so she really thinks she is ready for graduation. Plus, she is an only child, so when she graduates and goes off to college, we become empty-nesters. We start a new phase of our lives. It’s a phase we are excited about.

And up until now, I’ve been nothing but excited. I have been looking forward to summer vacations. I have been excited about how much she is going to love college. I have been looking forward to the adventures my husband and I will have…traveling to different places…the possibility of living somewhere else (not right away, of course, because we know our daughter needs to be able to come back home during her freshman year). There’s a lot to look forward to.

But earlier today, I was talking with a friend whose only child, a daughter, is a sophomore in college, and she gave me a warning, “No matter what you think right now, you are going to miss that girl when she goes to college.” And it hit me. She’s right. I’m going to miss her. I’m going to miss her like crazy. We have been together almost every single day of her life. Soon, she will be leaving me behind. I’m happy for her, but now I’m nervous for me. It’s uncharted territory for me.

I wrote recently about how I have one job. I’m a mom. And that has been my one job for eighteen years. But now that’s about to change. I’m not officially being “fired” from that job, but the job description is going to change. She won’t need me daily; frankly, she probably hasn’t needed me daily for a long time. However, once she goes off to college several hundred miles away, I will likely go months without seeing her in person or giving her a hug! She will be fine. I’m worried about me.

God prepares us for this. As they grow up, kids gradually become more independent. Even in elementary school, they start going to friends houses without us. They go to sleepovers with friends. And then, before they can drive, we drop them off at places to meet friends regularly. Then, they learn to drive, and everything changes. As soon as our daughter turned 16, she was off to the races…we hardly saw her anymore, because she had the freedom to move around the city at will. Four months after she got her license, though, COVID hit. Because she couldn’t spend as much time with friends, she did a lot of driving around. She even invited me to go for drives with her. We looked for places to drive around…sometimes just driving around town, and other times driving into South Carolina to see what it looked like when states started to re-open during the pandemic. South Carolina opened way before North Carolina did, and we drove around looking at the lines outside restaurants!

Because teenagers are social creatures, we were not particularly strict about the COVID restrictions. She needed to see her friends. She needed to spend time socializing, so we let her. I joked that she spent the summer of 2020 trying to catch COVID but never caught it. I felt sure she would bring it home to me and my husband during those first few crucial months, but we never got it. Actually, I did have it in late January of this year, but I didn’t get it from my daughter.

Pandemic restrictions lifted, and school eventually went back to “normal.” She has been going to school dances and sporting events. Her social life has resumed in full force. She is hardly ever home, but we usually see her for at least a few minutes a day. Lots of times, I don’t even know when she will be home after lacrosse practice.

And now, she is taking another step toward independence…and so are we! We are going to have lots of free time on our hands. It’s going to be scary. It’s going to be fun. But even while we are having fun, I’m sure I will miss our little girl who’s not so little anymore. She is three inches taller than I am and ready to face the world. We just have to get ourselves ready to face the world in a different way…and really, that’s the scary part. I’m going to have to reinvent myself!

Yes, God prepares us by making their independence gradual…so gradual that we hardly notice till they’re ready to fly the coop! And now it’s almost here…

Once we get her to college, we plan to take a nice, relaxing vacation to “celebrate” our new status as empty nesters. Hopefully, we embrace the freedom…

The future is bright!

Down to the College Wire

Down to the college wire.

It’s April 1. College admissions decisions are out there for most schools, and now it’s time for lots of high school seniors to make their final choice. My daughter decided long ago, so we were happy to step off that hamster wheel, but she has friends who are still deciding. God bless them. Some of them are having a difficult time for lots of different reasons. Some didn’t get into their top choice. Some got into none of their top choices. Some got into every school they applied to and can’t decide which one is best. It’s just not easy. It’s an adult decision…the first adult decision lots of them have ever made. They feel alone. They know they are embarking on a new experience, but it can be scary, and they are afraid of making the wrong choice. You see that guy in the feature photo for this piece? He’s sitting there alone…that’s how lots of them feel right now… like they are alone. They need support from the folks who love them.

I’m no college counselor. I’m simply a parent of a high school senior, but there is one thing I wish all kids would consider: they need to find the best choice for themselves.

I hear lots of seniors saying their parents want them to go to one college, but they want to go somewhere else. I hear lots of them say they don’t want to disappoint their teachers/college counselors. I hear lots of them say they want to pick a school by how it’s ranked in US News and World Report. Who am I to say they’re wrong with their methods of decision-making? So no, I’m not going to say they are “wrong.”

I do, however, want to remind them they are the ones going to the school. Their parents won’t be attending. (If their parents are paying, affordability might come into play.) Their college counselors and classmates won’t be sitting in their desks in the classrooms, living in the dorm, or going to athletic events. Each senior needs to make his/her decision based on his/her preferences, because guess what? US News and World Report isn’t going to college either. What US News and World Report thinks is most important might not be what you think is most important. Different people like different things!

And as these kids (yes, they are still kids) make their final decisions, we need to offer them support instead of shaming them for their choices. I know lots of kids who get into “highly ranked institutions,” but they choose a school with a “lower ranking” because it offers other things they want. My own daughter would never get into an Ivy League school, but that’s OK, because that’s not where she wants to be anyway. And there are other kids who do get into Ivy League schools but opt for something else where they will have a different experience. Big sports are important to our daughter, and she would laugh at Ivy League football games. No offense to the Ivy League people of the world, of course, but she likes to watch more competitive football. I have lots of Ivy League friends I love, but even they admit SEC football is awesome.

Some kids want to go to schools that are more outdoorsy. In North Carolina, one school that is “outdoorsy” is Appalachian State University. I know lots of very successful people who went to school there and loved it. Is it a Top 50 school, according to US News and World Report? No. But it’s number one to those people who love it. All kinds of people go there, though…not just the “outdoorsy” people. I went to the University of Alabama. Again, not a Top 50 school by US News and World Report’s rankings, but I think it’s number one! It’s fun! It’s absolutely gorgeous…looks like a movie set. It has a wide array of majors and lots of opportunities in different areas. And it’s geographically diverse. I made some of my best life memories there and certainly made lifelong friends from all over the country. Over 65% of the student body is from out of state. The weather during tornado season is iffy, but most winters are pretty mild, and the sun shines a lot. Some people (like me and my daughter!) don’t want cold climates. And come on…football season is crazy fun there. Also, BarstoolU just ranked it as the number one party school in the country. Lots of people likely think that’s shallow. I think it’s important to have lots of options for fun, and so does my daughter.

Some of these kids might get into “highly ranked” big colleges/universities, but some of those same kids might think a smaller, liberal arts college would be a better fit for their personality. Don’t look down on them for choosing what is best for them. Applaud them for knowing themselves! You can’t put a square peg into a round hole. Or maybe you can, but the square peg likely won’t be happy there. And ultimately, don’t we want our kids to be happy in college? We want them to be happy there so they will stay there. We want them to be successful in college and beyond.

On the flip side, I was talking with a woman a few days ago who was in distress that her daughter wanted to go to a college far away. She wants her daughter to be happy, but said they don’t have any idea how they will pay for transportation costs. Yes, these kids are still kids, but they are pretty reasonable too, and they often understand that affordability counts too. Guess who is not paying your child’s college tuition? The college counselors at your school aren’t paying it. Their friends’ parents aren’t paying it. And their friends are not paying it. Some of them truly need to go to the “highest bidder,” meaning they need to go to the school that offers them the most money/financial aid.

And I recently spoke with another parent of a high school senior who was trying to make the decision for her daughter, saying, “She wants to go to XXXX University, but I just think she would love XXXXX University. I wanted to go there, but my parents wouldn’t pay the out of state tuition.” She’s trying to push her daughter into going where she wanted to go. Ick. We can’t live vicariously. We, the parents, aren’t going to college. We need to remember that too.

Here’s the skinny: each kid who is deciding on a college right now has different factors to consider. They have different priorities and different interests. Let’s applaud them for their decisions; this is one of the first tough decisions they will make in life.

We’re getting down to the college wire. Again, I’m not a college counselor, but I know it’s a tough time for lots of teens. Celebrate their decisions.

First College Friends

First college friends.

With my daughter preparing to graduate from high school, I’m looking back at my own college experience in anticipation of hers. One thing I often find myself telling people about? The first friends I made in college. The year was 1985…

I moved into my dorm at The University of Alabama on a hot August day. My parents took the trip with me. We took two cars, both loaded with my worldly…one for me to keep there, and one for my parents to return home in. I don’t remember the “check-in” process at the dorm. I feel sure I had to go in, get a key, and sign some forms before we could start hauling stuff up to the room.

I was one of the first ones on my floor that day. My room the first one on the left when we got off the elevator. My roommate, Fannie, had not arrived yet, so I walked into an empty room. We started unpacking things…compared to what girls take to college today, I took very little, so the unpacking didn’t take long. While we were unpacking, a cute, friendly blonde girl approached my doorway and introduced herself as Dianne from Delaware. She was absolutely adorable, and if I remember correctly, she had been attending summer classes before the start of her official freshman year.

Dianne was one of those people who made the college adjustment a lot easier for me, and she always knew how to pull an outfit together. I remember her tying a red sash on one of my dresses for a football game…and she did it perfectly. She was fun and outgoing…and still is. Back then, we liked to have dates for football games, and I remember one date of hers who drove up in front of the dorm and honked his horn for her. We were on the third floor, so we could hear the horn clearly. I can still hear Dianne screaming out her window for him to “get out of the car and come in to get me like a gentleman”!

The influx of girls started picking up throughout the day. Susan, a girl who lived down the street from me at home, was just down the hall…a nice, familiar face who became a closer friend in college! We had been friends in high school, but we became real friends in college.And Fannie arrived in the afternoon with her mother and her older sister there to help her move in. I was lucky. Fannie was outgoing and adorable. Thank the Lord!

We all rushed and pledged different places. Back then, Bid Day was on a Saturday, and Squeal Night was one big party. Fraternities had parties, and we all got “set up” on dates. Thankfully, it’s not done that way anymore…now Bid Day is on a Sunday, and the girls go on a “retreat” with their new pledge sisters immediately…undoubtedly a good thing. But back in 1985, a sophomore sorority member set me up with a pledge at her boyfriend’s (her boyfriend was a senior) fraternity house, and the fun began!

Here’s what we didn’t know when we started college: we didn’t know which friendships would last. There are some people I have been in constant contact with, and there are others I haven’t, but there are some who are never strangers. That sophomore girl’s senior boyfriend? His name is Richard, and he’s one of those people who, despite going years with no contact, has never been a stranger…we just pick right back up where we left off. Way back in 1985 and 1986, when he was a senior, and I was a lowly freshman, I thought of him as a father figure. Funny, I know. He was all of 22. But when you’re a naive freshman, it’s nice to have an older guy who has your back. And he did. I often referred to him as my campus “Dad” back then.

I’m still friends with Dianne, Susan, and Fannie. When Dianne is in Charlotte for work, we meet for dinner. I hear from Fannie and Susan occasionally. We don’t all see each other often or even talk often, but I definitely count them among my friends. And that “Dad”? Well, as luck would have it, he lives in Charlotte too! We reconnected through Facebook years ago, and in 2012, when we were both at the Alabama-Georgia SEC Championship Game in the old Georgia Dome (Alabama won the game!), we met up at halftime, and it was like time had never passed! We have gone to dinner with our spouses. We have met up at football games. My daughter has given his daughter some “hand-me-downs,” which means clothes she probably wore once. And just like my freshman year in college, I always know he’s there! I don’t know what I brought to the friendship, but I’m glad to know he has found me worthy of friendship for all these years. Does he know he was the first guy I met in college? I don’t know if he knew it before, but he knows it now! A treasured friendship, indeed.

I hope my daughter will find the same kind of friends I found in college. I was lucky to make these first college friends and lots of other great college friends in my four years there. College is an experience you can’t repeat, so I’m glad I got the friendships right the first time! Saying a prayer my daughter will have the same great luck I had!

And yes, those friends are some of my favorite things. I need to schedule a dinner with Richard and his wife…texting him now.

Senior Spring Break 2022

Senior Spring Break 2022.

This morning, in my Facebook memories, my post from this date in 2020 said we were getting prepared for a fun spring break trip to Miami. And yes, on this date in 2020, we were, indeed, getting prepared, but it ended up being “the spring break that wasn’t.” Because of the pandemic, we ended up canceling that vacation the day before we were scheduled to leave. My daughter was a sophomore in high school, and we were supposed to be meeting our friends from Ohio…and then we had to cancel. It was heartbreaking, but at that point, we were all terrified of the virus. We spent that spring break on our back patio. Thanks to unseasonably warm weather, we were able to swim and catch some rays right here in our Charlotte back yard. We felt fortunate to have our own little oasis and good weather, so at least we weren’t stuck inside.

Fast forward two years, and here we are…ready to go on our daughter’s senior spring break trip to Jamaica. This is one of those “lasts” we all talk about as our children enter their senior year of high school. The last high school spring break is here. Over 60 students from her graduating class are going with a parent or parents to an all-inclusive resort in Montego Bay. Would I pick an all-inclusive normally? No, but I have heard it is the perfect place for a bunch of high school seniors to gather. Am I looking forward to it? Yes. If all goes as planned, it should be a great opportunity for these kids to have some fun together before they graduate in May. Hopefully, they will make lasting memories…good memories…with people they have known for years. Some of these kids have known each other since they started Transitional Kindergarten together. My daughter was four years old for the first six weeks of Transitional Kindergarten, and several of those same classmates/friends are going on this trip.

Every student who is going has to have a parent there who is willing to take responsibility for them. I told my daughter early on that I would not take an extra child on this trip. Normally, we take one or two of her friends on vacation with us, but for several reasons, I said “no” to extra kids. The main reason is that I don’t want to get stuck in Jamaica for an extra two weeks because another kid tests positive for the virus and can’t come home. It’s one thing if my own child tests positive, but I don’t want to be stuck with someone else’s child. Another reason? I don’t want to be responsible for another person’s child in this setting. Most of them are 18 years old, so they’re of legal drinking age in Jamaica. I’m fine with that, but I don’t want to have to monitor a child besides my own. Teenagers can be difficult to track. I only want to track one. She knows my rules. Does that mean she won’t break them? There are no guarantees, but she knows the ground rules going in.

Tomorrow, I’ll start packing for the trip. We are only going for four nights, so packing should be pretty easy…beach clothes, swimsuits, coverups, and a couple of cuter things for dinner. I’ll also take a couple of books and a giant beach hat. Makeup? Minimal. I don’t check bags. I have the perfect carry-on bag and a backpack. If it doesn’t fit in there, it won’t go with me. Therefore, I will purchase sunscreen after we arrive. I don’t want to be slowed down in airport security by having liquids in my bags.

So here we go. Like I said…one of the “lasts.” It’s the last spring break trip we will have together before she goes off to college. We have enjoyed lots of spring breaks over the years. A few times, we went to the Nickelodeon Kids Choice Awards in Los Angeles. We went to Miami last year. Other times, we went to Cancun or the Bahamas…all good times. It is possible (and very likely) it will be the last spring break trip we ever have together. I remember my own college experience. Spring break is for trips with friends in college. So I plan to enjoy this one. No, I won’t likely have a lot of time with our daughter, but I will be able to have some time with her, and I will enjoy watching her with her friends.

Senior Spring Break 2022. Let’s get this party started!

Forever Friends

Forever friends.

We never really know who will be our forever friends, do we? I have had friends in my life I thought would be forever friends, but for different reasons (sometimes my fault, sometimes theirs, sometimes no one’s fault), it didn’t work out that way. For the most part, we just never knew the last phone call would be the last phone call. Or the last lunch would be the last lunch. We just drifted apart for whatever reason…moving, new responsibilities, life. No matter what, they all had some effect on my life. I have learned something from every friend in my life.

But my 18-yr-old daughter is visiting a friend in Pensacola, Florida, this weekend, and I think they are going to be forever friends. I can’t explain why I think it, but I do. Something about these two…a bond formed outside of other friendships, maybe? They support each other all the time. They have each other’s backs all the time. And they have similar interests (they’re both athletic, fun, and funny). They talk, I think, almost every single night via Facetime. So many nights I have walked into my daughter’s room to wish her good night, and she is talking with this friend. It makes me happy.

In 2014, when my daughter was 10 years old, we had a place on the Alabama Gulf Coast. That summer, because we knew she wouldn’t be willing to do it later, we decided to spend most of our time there…at the beach. Our daughter was playing club soccer, and at that point, she was very into it. Her club soccer coach, upon hearing we would be at the beach for the summer, suggested she find someone to practice with there…or even attend a camp there. So I did what moms do; I enrolled her in a camp and also enrolled her in some regular training sessions.

The camp I signed her up for turned out to be on the Naval Base in Pensacola. That Monday morning, bright and early, when we arrived, she looked out at the field from the car and said to me, “Mom, it’s all little kids.” She was right. It looked like a lot of six and seven year old kids. We had arrived early, so we had time to sit in the car and talk while we scanned the field. After a few minutes, I spotted a blonde girl who appeared to be about my daughter’s age, and I said, “There’s a girl your age!” She didn’t waste any time; she jumped out of the car and ran straight to the girl on the field. I stayed for the session but didn’t watch all the training. I walked around the area for exercise while she played, but I noticed when they had a break and walked back over to the sideline. My daughter came running over, her new friend in tow and introduced me to Lindsey. Even after knowing each other for an hour, they were already acting like best friends!

The camp was a one-week camp. Our daughter wasn’t feeling well one of the days, so she missed. Another day, it stormed, as it does on the Gulf Coast. But when she was there, she played soccer with her new friend at the camp. The last day was cut short by another storm, and soon after starting, the skies opened with torrential rains. We all ran to our cars to escape the downpour, and the rest of the last day of the camp was canceled. We left without getting contact information for Lindsey, because everything had ended so abruptly. It was fun while it lasted.

The next week, I took our daughter to the first of the weekly soccer training sessions. It was just going to be two hours a week on Wednesday mornings. So that Wednesday morning, I drove her to the field. And when we arrived, she looked out at the field and said, “Mom, it’s all big kids.” I couldn’t believe it. She was right. They all appeared to be over 13, and she was just 10. We sat in the car and talked about whether she wanted to do the training or not, and after a few minutes, I saw a minivan pull up behind me, and three kids tumbled out…two older kids and a girl who appeared to be our daughter’s age. I said, “Look! That girl is about your age!” She looked back and excitedly said, “It’s Lindsey!” And she couldn’t get out of the car fast enough! She jumped out with her soccer bag, and the girls embraced happily before going out onto the field.

After that, Lindsey visited us at our place on the beach, and the girls bonded. Whenever we visited the beach after that, they hung out. Two girls who lived 500 miles apart became best friends…having been brought together by soccer…with a little nudge from God, I think. Eventually, Lindsey visited us in Charlotte a couple of times, and last year, she vacationed with us in California. I’m not sure if her parents know it yet, but the girls are planning for her to vacation with us again this summer…maybe more than once!

Their meeting and formation of a friendship is one of my favorite friendship stories. In the fall, they are both off to college. No, they aren’t going to the same school. Mine is going to the University of Alabama, and Lindsey is off to Ole Miss. They’ll be just three hours apart, so I see lots of road trips in their future.

They’ll likely still Facetime regularly, though not every night, but I feel pretty sure these two will be forever friends. God put them in each other’s path for a reason.

A Conversation

A conversation.

I checked my Facebook memories this morning, and found a memory from this day in 2015. It started with my post that said, “Hoping all my friends in the northeast are staying warm and are ready for the big storm! Wendy, what say you? Are you wishing you lived in Charlotte right now?” (My friend, Wendy, lived in Boston at the time.) And then, Wendy, to my surprise, responded! (She wasn’t always the best about responding, but I didn’t hold it against her!)

  • Wendy: Um, that would be a hell yes!
  • Me: Ahhh…you thawed out enough to comment, Wendy! As soon as I saw how bad it was going to be, I immediately thought of how much you would like to be here [Charlotte] right now! We miss you!
  • Wendy: And actually, I’ve been thinking about how much you would love to be here too! I keep telling our Charlotte snow stories and laughing in comparison. Thinking about how much our kids would’ve loved to enjoy the blizzard together…who would’ve thought I’d see a blizzard again in my lifetime…Miss you too Laverne!

Seeing that exchange made me so happy. I can’t wipe the smile off my face! Sadly, Wendy passed away 3 1/2 years ago after a 30-year battle with various cancers. I miss her, but that little Facebook exchange brought me some joy! I could almost hear her talking. I feel like it’s a transcript of a conversation! It’s different than finding a card from someone, which is one-sided. This is an actual exchange! And it’s a gift. I think of Wendy all the time, but she has really been on my mind for the past few days for some reason. I dreamed of her two nights ago. I wish I had written the dream down, because I can’t remember details of it. I just know that we were going somewhere together in the dream…and it went on and on. I even woke up wishing I’d stayed asleep, so I could keep visiting with her.

I’m sure we were calling each other Laverne and Shirley in my dream. I became Laverne after we took our kids to bike the Virginia Creeper Trail years ago. If you’re not familiar with it, the Virginia Creeper Trail is a 17-mile bike trail down a mountain. (For info on the Virginia Creeper Trail, click here.) The whole trip was a comedy of errors…to the point that we were convinced we were being featured on some sort of secret survival TV show. Early in the bike ride, Wendy had declared herself as Laverne. But after a mile or two on the trail, the chain came off her bike, and she didn’t know what to do. I stopped and said, “Get off the bike. I got this.” I put the chain back on the bike, and then I stood up, and while I wiped my hands, I looked at Wendy and asked, “Now…who’s Laverne?” She laughed and said, “You are!” I said, “Of course I am. Thanks, Shirley!” (Neither of us wanted to be the prudish Shirley from Laverne and Shirley. Everyone knows Laverne was the cool one.)

We both proved to be pretty tough that day, though. We had made a bad decision when we decided to ride the trail in February. It was still too early in the year; in fact, the bike shop owner said it was the first time he had taken anyone up the mountain that year. (There are bike rental shops at the bottom of the mountain that take you to the top with the bikes.) We should have known then. The chain coming off the bike was minor compared to what we endured later. Once we got a few miles down the mountain, out of cell phone coverage, we encountered snow…probably a mile of it. We weren’t dressed for snow. We had three kids with us… and bikes! We would carry the kids a few hundred yards ahead, and then one of us would go back and get the bikes while one of us stayed with the kids. We repeated that till we got to the end of the snow, but our clothes were soaked through and cold! Our kids’ were freezing, so Wendy and I took off our socks and put them on our kids. In fact, I feel pretty sure we gave them our jackets, hats, and gloves too….doubling their coverage…and leaving us with one layer of clothing. Fortunately, through the misery, we were able to laugh about it a few times, asking each other, “Where are the cameras?!?! There must be cameras filming this fiasco! Are we being Punk’d?!?!” (Punk’d was a TV show featuring Ashton Kutcher playing pranks on celebrities.) But there were no cameras. We did make it to the end of the trail safely, and we enjoyed some hot coffee and hot cocoa and some lunch at a restaurant nearby before making our way home to Charlotte.

I sure wish she were here to laugh over a hot cup of coffee now. I’d even be willing to ride the Virginia Creeper Trail in the snow again if she could come back to go with me.

Ten-Year Challenge

Ten-year challenge.

Anyone who is on Facebook has seen the posts over the last few days with this hashtag: #tenyearchallenge. I don’t know where it started, but I’ve seen a lot of posts. If you’re not familiar with it, the “challenge” is to post a photo of yourself from 10 years ago next to a current photo. Yes, I finally gave in and did it too…posting a photo of me and my friend, Angela, from 10 years ago (at a New Orleans Saints/Detroit Lions playoff game) and a current photo of us at a Bama/New Mexico State game in November.

It was a little daunting to consider taking the “challenge.” Just recently, I was talking with some friends about how we feel like time is catching up with us in the last five or ten years. I can certainly look in the mirror and see more lines on my face and more lumps on my body. I got a good laugh out of it with my friends, but come on…we’re 54. It’s OK to start feeling some aging when we’re 54! My gosh! I’ve earned these wrinkles and lumps! I’ve especially earned every laugh line on my face…and that’s mostly what they are…laugh lines, because I spend a lot of time laughing. If I’m not laughing, I’m not doing something right.

But as we discussed our “aging,” I reminded my friends and myself of some things. First, there’s the obvious: wrinkles and lumps are better than “the alternative.” After all, we are still here, and we have some friends who are not. I know my friend, Wendy, who died before her 47th birthday and should have turned 50 this year, would love to be here laughing with me. Every time someone complains about turning 50, I remind them that my Wendy would have loved to make it to 50. And every single day, I find something we would have laughed about, or there’s something I would have liked to share with her. That puts things in perspective. She left behind two kids who were 14 and 12 at the time she passed away in 2018. They would have loved to have her for another 10 years.

And secondly: we’re supposed to age. We are not supposed to look the same at 54 as we did at 44 or 34 or 24. My daughter is 18, and she is living proof of the difference ten years can make. Just think about how much she has grown between the ages of eight and eighteen! Why do we think time should stand still for us, as adults, when we can look at what time does for the growth of kids? And why can’t we look at our “aging” as continued “growth”? At what point do we stop looking at it as growth? If I know one thing, I know I’m still growing. Yes, I’m growing a little older, but I’m also growing in wisdom…and I know that to be true. I know that, at 54, I understand some things I used to think were so important just aren’t that important in the overall scheme of things. In fact, I feel like I learn something new every day. In my opinion, if I’m still learning, I’m still growing.

Too bad the #tenyearchallenge can’t show the compilation of memories we have from the last ten years. It can’t show the skills we have picked up along the way. Those photos don’t show the experience that I can bring to different situations. And it can’t show how much more wisdom we have than we had ten years ago. Ten years ago, our daughter was in second grade, and I thought everything about second grade was important. It wasn’t. I’m here to tell you…it wasn’t. If you have a second grader, take note: lots of what you think is important just isn’t. The most important part of second grade? Social learning. If I had known what I know now, I wouldn’t have cared about her “reading record.” I wouldn’t have tortured her by forcing her to do her “required summer reading” in elementary school. Because that’s what it was…torture. I’d have sent her off to the first day of school with that brand new, unread book in her backpack, and I wouldn’t have given it a second thought. Instead, I let the “required summer reading” ruin the last few days of summer…time we should have been enjoying together. I also wouldn’t have made her go on field trips she didn’t want to go on…even in middle school. And you know why? Because I’m wise enough to know now that none of that really matters. At 54, I also have the wisdom to know I should be doing the things I want to do instead of what other people want me to do. I should be planning vacations to Panama, Costa Rica, and Mexico City. I should be planning a road trip on Route 66. I should be visiting airplane graveyards in the desert. And I plan to take some of those trips this year, providing COVID doesn’t mess everything up. At 54, I know life is short…live it.

Sure, I likely had some of that knowledge ten years ago, but I know I didn’t have all that knowledge. I’m much wiser at 54 than I was at 44. Just ask me.

Some folks call it aging. I call it growth.

What Other People Think of Me…

What other people think of me is none of my business.

I can’t take credit for that. In fact, I have no idea who the originator of that quote was, but I like it. And you know why? Because really…what other people is think of me is none of my business. Isn’t it completely and utterly liberating to know that?

I’m what lots of people would refer to as an “over-sharer” on social media. I like to post all kinds of stuff…funny stuff, pretty scenes, and yes, lots of pictures of my family having fun. Just like everybody else in the world, my life isn’t perfect. I’ve had my share of tough times in life…losing loved ones being at the top of the list. And I have had my share of embarrassing moments. I tell people all the time that I have fallen down in all 50 states; well, not quite, but I do think I have probably fallen down in 35 or so. In February of 2021, I fell down the stairs of Galatoire’s in New Orleans! My teenage daughter was mortified, of course, but lucky me…no broken bones. Just a bruised ego. However, since I’m over 50, I know when to be really embarrassed, and since I knew I’d never see most of those people ever again, I wasn’t terribly embarrassed. Fortunately, as far as I know, there were no photos of the incident and no video. It would have been pretty funny, though…even I can admit that.

If there had been photographic evidence of it, I likely would have shared it on social media. Nobody loves seeing a good fall more than I do. I think I’ve written about it before. As long as no one is hurt, a good fall is downright hilarious.

Lately, with the ringing in of the new year, I’ve been getting lots of ads from PastBook on Facebook. PastBook prints all the photos you post on Facebook in a calendar year in book form. I ordered one last year, just to see what it was like, and I really liked it! I keep that 2020 PastBook on the coffee table in my livingroom for all the world to see. I don’t know that anyone has looked at it besides me, because even though I “over-share,” I know everyone in the whole world is not interested in my posts. I started over-sharing when my mother was still alive, because she lived hundreds of miles away, and she liked seeing pictures of her granddaughter. It was an easy way to share. And then, I guess I became addicted, because I realized Facebook is a good place to store memories! And Pastbook puts them all in print form!

Looking through my PastBook from 2020, I can see that, despite the pandemic hiccup in all our lives, I managed to have some fun that year. My husband and I spent a lot of time outdoors, and I had the most beautiful garden I have ever had in the history of my gardening! Even without air travel most of that year, we managed to go some fun places and make some new memories. Looking at the book, though, I can see clearly that by September of 2020, I needed to get on a plane…and I did. I threw up some prayers and flew to California…and then I did it again that November…unvaccinated! And then everything surged again.

But in 2021, I started throwing caution to the wind, so I think my PastBook will be better for 2021. We met friends in New Orleans, LA, and the Bahamas…just like old times! I can hardly wait to order the Pastbook and see all the memories in print.

And y’all can make fun of me for over-sharing all you want. When our daughter was a little girl, I took pictures of every move we made…actually, I still do that. As much as it can be an annoyance, she appreciates it later. I’m the one my friends come to if they need pictures from the past, because I was always ready with a camera…till smartphones came along…so now I just use that. But my over-sharing is not for the rest of the world. It’s for me. And it’s for my daughter.

One day, many years from now, our daughter will be thrilled to have all the photos I have taken over the years. Just like I loved going through the pictures my nephew brought me from my mother’s house last weekend, she will likely enjoy going through all the photos I have taken and stored in books, on social media, and in Rubbermaid bins in our attic. She will be able to look through the photos and try to remember who the people are. She’ll likely have lots of stories to tell about the photos too. I made my nephew and his girlfriend sit through a lot of my stories last weekend!

I finally went through the second bin my nephew brought, and near the bottom, stuck in a Bible, was the black and white photo of my kindergarten graduation in 1973…something I thought was long gone. It’s the photo I used in the header for this post…just like the graduation caps worn by all those six-yr-olds, the photo is a little askew. My family had moved several times, and I hadn’t seen that photo in years, but there it was…at the bottom of a Rubbermaid bin. And I was thrilled to have it! In fact, I have now framed it and put it on a shelf in my livingroom, so I always know where it is. But I also shared it on Facebook. And lots of those kindergarten classmates chimed in, helping identify the kids in the picture! I remembered lots of them, but since I moved away in February of 1975, less than two years after the photo was taken, my memory was a little fuzzy on some of the faces. That’s OK, because after a little time, one classmate found a newspaper article that listed all the names and shared it in the comments of the photo. It made for some fun exchanges on Facebook…all of which will show up in my PastBook for 2022, I’m sure.

So yes, I over-share, and I’m glad I do, because I’ll have a record of so many different things in my life, and my daughter will have that record too. I might not ever write a bestselling novel or biography, but there will be proof of my life in pictures. And if my over-sharing is annoying, well, keep scrolling. Whatever you do, don’t tell me, because “what other people think of me is none of my business.”

***If you’d like to check out PastBook and possibly make your own, click here.***