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.

Emergency Numbers for Dorm Rooms

Emergency numbers for dorm rooms.

Like so many other parents, I’m getting emotionally and mentally prepared to send my daughter off to college. She is going about 500 miles away, to a big university in another state, and I am excited for her. However, I also know she needs to be prepared…not just academically and emotionally…she needs to also be prepared for emergency situations. Sure, she’s not leaving for several months, but it makes me feel better to talk with her and get ready in advance. Because of that, I sat down with her and thought of different situations that could happen and reviewed how to handle them. We got some ideas from the parents’ Facebook page too. We are making a list of essential places along with phone numbers and websites. We will laminate it, so she can hang it in her room. To make life a little easier for other students who are going off to college far, far away, I’m sharing the info here:

  • Resident Advisor Contact. This should be at the top of the list. If anything happens in the dorm, and your student needs a housing contact, their Resident Advisor is the first person to contact. They are trained to create a welcoming environment and assist with any situations that arise pertaining to dorm life. Roommate smoking in the room? Talk to the RA. Someone making too much noise during quiet hours? Talk to the RA. It’s always good to have their phone number and email address handy.
  • Parents’ Contacts. Recently, my daughter received a call from a college roommate of a friend of hers. The roommate said, “XXXX has had too much to drink and needs to go to the hospital. I can’t get into her phone to get her mom’s number. Does your mom have her mom’s number?” Indeed, I did. I gave the number to the roommate, and she was able to contact the girl’s mom. Therefore, I cannot express strongly enough that roommates need to have phone numbers of each other’s parents in their own phones, and it’s a great idea to have parents’ numbers posted on a list of emergency numbers hanging in their dorm room.
  • Nearby adult family/friends. My brother lives two hours from the university my daughter will be attending. I have college friends who live in the same town as the university, and I have friends whose children are students at the university. I will add their names and numbers to the list, because you never know when your child will need some moral support, a health advocate, or help with something else. It’s always good to know there’s someone who has your back nearby.
  • Urgent Care/Doctor/Student Health Center. The names, addresses, and contact info for all of these need to be included on the list. If a student gets sick with the flu, they need to be able to see a doctor. Or maybe they have a stomach bug? Of course, with telemedicine, they can often “see” a doctor online, thank God. But if they need to actually see a doctor in person, you don’t want them to waste time trying to find them online. They can just look at the list, call the office, and go!
  • Emergency Room. Obviously, there are some situations that require a call to 911…broken leg, possible back or neck injuries, lots of blood, bad falls, etc. But sometimes, there are situations in which a roommate can get your child to the emergency room. Maybe it’s a kidney stone or a bad case of the flu. They need to know where several emergency rooms are, because the first one they go to could have a long wait. We found two nearby emergency rooms for our daughter’s list and one that’s a little farther away but usually less chaotic (according to the parents’ page).
  • Emergency Dentist. No one expects to fall and break a tooth, but it happens. You don’t want your child to waste time trying to find the info for an emergency dentist. Find one now. We found two near the university she will be attending, and we added them to the list.
  • Mechanic. If your child is taking a car to college, you should know things happen. I took a car to college, and during that time, I had two flat tires that had to be repaired. I also had an issue in which my brake lights were staying on. It was an easy fix (a button was sticking under the brake pedal), but I wouldn’t have known how to fix it on my own. Find a reliable auto service place to help your student. Add that information to the list. It’s also a good idea to have a AAA membership for your student, and they should have the emergency roadside service number if their car has it.
  • Pharmacy. It is essential to find a pharmacy near your child’s college or university. I have written about this before. We use a local CVS in Charlotte, so we will pick a CVS near her university. I’ve been in a jam in another city before, and I was thankful I could have a CVS in the area access my prescription and fill what I needed. To me, a good, reliable pharmacy is every bit as important as a good, reliable doctor or dentist. The phone number definitely needs to be on the list, but especially if you have a child who takes life/death medication.
  • Food Delivery. I know…you might not think it’s important, but I do. They will definitely figure this out on their own, but it’s cool for them to have a list of a few places on the front end, for those nights they just don’t want to eat in the dining hall. Don’t get me wrong. I hope my child will opt to eat on campus as often as possible, but I know what it’s like to want food from somewhere else. My friend, Angela, and I used to order from Wings & Things every Sunday night in college. At $7.49 for each of us in 1985 (about $17 in today’s money), it was too expensive to eat all the time, but we could order once a week!
  • Other not-so-urgent things to know: there are other places that can be essential for life in college. A lot depends on the type of person your child is and what they enjoy. I feel sure mine will need to know about all the local boutiques…not an emergency, but essential. She will need to know where a local laundry drop-off service is located. She’ll need to know where the safest gas stations are located.

I’m sure I have forgotten some, so feel free to send me additions, and I will edit/add. All these numbers also need to be in your child’s phone. I will have mine add them as EMERGENCY DENTIST (name). If I know she is prepared for unexpected situations, I can rest more easily.

“I Can Handle This”

“I can handle this.”

As we prepare for our 18-yr-old daughter to go off to college in August, we often laugh and talk about those “what would you do?” situations. You know…what to do if your child calls you from the hospital. What to do if your child calls you with car trouble. And yesterday, even before she has left for college, I received one of those “what would you do?” phone calls from her.

Yesterday morning, my daughter was scheduled to fly back to Charlotte from Pensacola on a 9:30 flight. About 90 minutes before her scheduled flight time, our home phone rang. I’m going to be honest. Because I had gone to bed super late the night before, I was sleeping in, and the phone jarred me awake.

When I saw my daughter’s name and number on the caller ID, my blood pressure shot up and my pulse rate quickened immediately, knowing there had to be something wrong. I answered, and she said, “I don’t have my ID.” Like any mother would do, I asked, “What?!?! Why are you walking around without your ID?!? Are you at the airport?” My pulse rate and blood pressure were climbing as I went deeper into panic mode. She needed to get home for lacrosse practice. It was the whole reason we picked that flight for her return, so she would make it in plenty of time for the 4:00 practice. She said she was not at the airport and didn’t know what to do. I said, “Let me see if I can get through to American Airlines. Get to the airport.”

I called American and got the standard “we are experiencing high call volume” message, so I hung up and called my daughter back. I told her to get to the airport as quickly as she could and ask what to do there. I was in panic mode and followed up with, “If you miss your flight, you have to call your lacrosse coach and tell her why you won’t be at practice today.”

And that’s when she said, “It’s OK, Mom. Don’t panic. What’s the worst that could happen?” My mind started racing. The worst that could happen if she didn’t get on that flight? Well, she would miss lacrosse practice and possibly miss school the next day. Sure, we don’t want those things to happen, but in the overall scheme of things, it’s not a disaster. She then told me, “I Googled it, and I think TSA will work with me. I can handle this.” As soon as she said it, I Googled “TSA, lost ID.” She was right. Right there on my screen, it said TSA will “interview” the passenger in the event of a lost ID. But I was still in a panic. I said, “I’m going to text you a photo of your passport, just in case. Just get there and let me know if you make it through security. Make sure you don’t have any liquids in your bag to slow you down.” “OK, Mom. I can handle this.”

I was upset with her for being irresponsible with her ID. I was confused about what had happened to it. I was not happy about the situation, but I was glad she was facing it calmly. She texted me when she arrived at the airport, and eight minutes later…literally, eight minutes later…she texted, “I’m through security.” Yippee! I texted back, “Call me when you get to the gate area.”

A few minutes later, the phone rang, and I asked what had happened. She said there was no line at security when she got there, so she got in the PreCheck line and went straight up to the agent and explained she had lost her ID. He called his supervisor, who came over and asked if she had any form of ID. She showed her a credit card, a debit card, her insurance card, her vaccination card, and the photo of her passport on her phone. She has TSA PreCheck, but they made her go to the regular TSA line, where they swabbed each of her bags thoroughly and checked them thoroughly…and then, after clearing everything, she was on her way. I said, “I hope you thanked them.” She assured me she did. “It was no big deal, Mom.”

And you know what? She was right. It was no big deal. My dismay (and momentary panic) turned to relief and pride…I was proud of her for handling it without panic. I was proud of her for handling the situation like an adult. She, in fact, handled it way better than I did.

I think I was projecting my own experience on her. When I was a teenager and visited Mexico with some high school friends and our Spanish teacher, the wallet of one of my friends was stolen. On our way home, she was not able to return with the rest of us, because when we got to the Mexico City Airport to leave, the person who needed to sign off on her affidavit for departure was at lunch! I guess our own experiences shape us, but sometimes, we need to remember every case is unique…and what happened in 1982 might be different than what happens in 2022.

Our daughter handled the situation in a way that gave me faith that, despite the fact that she couldn’t find her ID, she used the resources at her fingertips (Google) and made things happen. She approached the TSA agent with confidence, like the adult she is, and she made it home safely. There was never panic in her voice. She has been traveling her whole life; she knows “how to do.” I guess she knew she would handle it.

And she handled it like a boss! And now I feel even more confident about sending her off to college in August. We have to let them handle these little “emergencies” so they will know how to handle them. She’s got this!

***The featured photo is from the Pensacola airport in January 2007, when our daughter was just three years old. We’ve come a long way!***

A Holiday Village

A holiday village.

Today started as a a standard Saturday morning. I got up at about 8:30 and prepared breakfast. OK, so I don’t do that every Saturday, but I should. Our daughter had a 10am lacrosse game, so I wanted to make sure she had plenty of energy…scrambled eggs, bacon, grits, and “special” toast. (I’ll post info about that later.)

After breakfast, she got dressed quickly and left for the field. After loading the dishwasher, I slapped on a little makeup and threw on some comfy yoga pants and a sweatshirt before going to the field with my husband. The girls won their game, and we all headed home.

As soon as our daughter got home at about 11:25, she told me she needed to get cleaned up before going to a Secret Santa party, but she had to stop and purchase a gift on the way. I felt my pulse quicken and my blood pressure rising, because I knew she would have to drive 20 minutes to the party. There was no way she could pull it all off.

I asked her, “Do you want me to run to a boutique and get a gift? You could stop by there on your way to the party and get it from me.” She agreed that was a good plan, and I was off to the boutique…showerless and in the same yoga pants/hoodie I had worn to the lacrosse game…clothes I shouldn’t have even worn to a Saturday morning sporting event, and I definitely shouldn’t have worn them to a boutique. But there was no time to change. I had planned to take a shower after the game, but that could wait.

I arrived at the boutique and immediately found a gift. Just as I was taking it up to pay for it and get it wrapped, a friend of my daughter’s walked in. I knew she was shopping for the same party, and she knew why I was there. She then very graciously offered to take the gift to the party so my daughter wouldn’t have to make an extra stop. Wow! Things were coming together!

When I got back to my car, I called my daughter and told her she could go straight to the party, because her friend was taking her gift.

My morning had not gone as planned, but disaster had been averted! It had taken a village, but it had all worked out. Of course, as a mom, I was the only one who still needed a shower.

I posted about it on Facebook, and one friend said, “Kinda makes you worry that she’ll be fine on her own at college next year, doesn’t it?” Indeed, it does. But I can’t get too crazy about it, because I was the same person at 18. And I went off to college, and somehow, things worked out.

I was lucky I found a supportive village in college pretty quickly. I made great lifelong friends, and I’m sure they can all tell stories of rescuing me in different situations, just like I can tell stories of rescuing them in different situations. That’s how bonds form, right? And it’s how memories are made in college. Every time I spend time with friends from colleges, we talk about shared experiences…and often the stories involve disasters we averted!

It made me realize that next year at this time, our daughter will be having Secret Santa parties at her university. And I find myself hoping she finds a good village there…a holiday village that helps her…and a village in which she will help others. When she needs that last-minute gift and can’t get it, I hope someone will jump into action for her. And when a member of her village needs help carrying lots of boxes from the parking lot to her dorm room, my daughter will help her. It’s what makes friendships.

We all need villages to help us raise our kids. I thank the Lord every day for the village that helped me get our daughter to 18. I talk often about how I don’t know how I would have survived without my friends in our toddler playgroup. They have been a part of my village for a long time. We all need villages to help us with those last-minute items. We need villages when we’re sick. And yes, we especially need villages during the holidays…like the one my daughter had today.

I hope when she gets to college hundreds of miles away from me, she finds her village.

A Visit.

A Visit.

This past weekend, I took a whirlwind trip to a college football game. When I say whirlwind trip, I mean I barely felt like my feet were on the ground between flights. But we crammed a lot of fun into a short stay. And yes, my team won.

On the return flight, I was the first to board. I always like to board as early as possible. I don’t know why…it’s just who I am. As the plane filled up, I noticed a gentleman boarding who reminded me of my daddy. He was tall with white hair…much like my daddy. I lost my daddy 15 years ago to pancreatic cancer, and on very rare occasions, I “see” him somewhere…I see someone who looks like him walking across a parking lot or in the background of photos. This particular gentleman ended up sitting in the row in front of me on the flight; it’s the first time I’ve been seated behind someone who reminds me of Daddy. If you’ve lost a loved one, you might know it’s interesting to see someone who resembles the person you’ve lost. I found myself looking at the back of his head a lot during the flight. It didn’t make me sad. Quite the opposite…it made me happy…made me feel a little comforted. It made me think Daddy was saying “hi” to me.

The flight was uneventful, and then we landed in Charlotte. As soon as we landed, the gentleman made a phone call. I don’t know if it was his wife or his daughter. I preferred to think it was his daughter, but it was probably his wife. I don’t know what had occurred, but he listened for a minute and then calmly responded with, “OK. You’re fine. Stop worrying about it. It’s over.” He had a calming voice, much like my daddy’s, and his southern accent sounded like Daddy’s too. He responded that way several times, “Let it go. It’s over.” I remember hearing my own dad say those very words to me many times in my life. When I was in college and I finished an exam that I thought didn’t go well, I would call him, and tell him. And he would always respond, very calmly, “Stop worrying about it. It’s over.” Or he might say, “Stop worrying about something you can’t change. It’s over now. You’re wasting your energy.” Even after a car accident, when I was trying to replay the events that led up to it, he would say, “Let it go. It’s over.” Seriously, hearing the gentleman on the phone last night really made me think of Daddy. If I had been worried about something at the time, I’d have thought Daddy was trying to send me a message. Maybe he was sending me a message about a future worry?

The gentleman ended his call with an “I love you,” and soon thereafter, we arrived at our gate. We all stood up to retrieve our carry-on bags from the overhead bins, and I found myself standing directly behind him while we waited to deplane. He and another gentleman started talking, and “the” gentleman revealed that he was traveling to Minneapolis. He said he had started his day in 87-degree weather, and when he arrived in Minneapolis, it would be 27 degrees. He also revealed that he enjoys traveling to Minneapolis and started talking about the food there. I don’t remember the particulars of everything he was saying about the food. I just remember that it reminded me of Daddy. When he traveled, he talked to people and learned about the city he visited. This gentleman was sharing little facts about the Swedish influence in Minneapolis, and he also revealed that everything he eats in Minneapolis is served with wild rice. Apparently, lots of wild rice is grown in the state of Minnesota…something I didn’t know before…and one of those facts Daddy would have picked up in his travels.

As weird as it sounds, I enjoyed the little bit of time that I felt like I was in the presence of my dad. I know it wasn’t Daddy. I’m not crazy. There’s just something a little reassuring about hearing a similar voice saying something Daddy would have said.

November is Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month. If you’re familiar with pancreatic cancer because a family member or friend has it or had it, I’m sorry. It’s a terrible, deadly disease that gets very little research funding. If you’d like to make a donation to an organization that works to support those who have pancreatic cancer and their families, please consider donating to Pancreatic Cancer Action Network. Thursday, November 18, is World Pancreatic Cancer Day, and the organization will be hosting an online event, sharing the latest information on advances in research and treatment. You can see the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network website here. Please consider donating to this worthy cause.

And on November 18, please consider wearing purple in support of Pancreatic Cancer Awareness. I will wear purple in memory of my Daddy.

Tasty Junk Food Finds

Tasty junk food finds.

I’m not normally a Walmart shopper. I don’t handle crowded stores well. I’m more of a Publix kind of girl.

However, today my daughter texted me from school that she needs something in particular for her school spirit week wear tomorrow. I’m all about spirit week, because I remember how much fun it was when I was in school. It’s especially fun for the students at her school, because they have a stricter dress code than we had in school. When they have an opportunity to dress for comfort, they do it. In fact, today is pajama day, and you can bet your sweet bippy she took full advantage of that. In fact, I surprised her by taking her a smoothie for lunch, and when she met me to get it, she said, “It’s amazing how much better I can concentrate in school when I’m comfortable in my clothes.” I get it, but you can’t wear pajamas to school every day.

So after I dropped off the smoothie, I went to Walmart…just for her.

I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m one of those people who can’t just walk in and buy one thing. I guess it’s my attention deficit disorder, but things catch my eye, and I have to investigate…and well, one thing leads to another.

Today, after I had the item I needed, I walked past the frozen foods and saw the ice cream aisle. Because Walmart is known for having “exclusive” ice cream treats, I decided to check out the offerings. And I was so glad I did! Or maybe I shouldn’t have been so glad, because I found something yummy: Blue Bell Bride’s Cake Ice Cream. It’s almond flavored ice cream with cake pieces and amaretto flavored cream cheese icing swirl. I wasn’t sure about the “amaretto flavored cream cheese icing,” but I should have just trusted Blue Bell. I bought it, of course, and opened it as soon as I got home…heavenly. What I really love is that the flavors aren’t too strong, but it’s delicious. If you like ice cream and wedding cake, try it…you won’t regret it. Seriously…run, don’t walk.

Blue Bell Bride’s Cake Ice Cream

Because I was near the refrigerated area, I decided to walk over and get some pimiento cheese. I’ve written before about Palmetto Cheese, a brand of pimiento cheese spread made in Pawley’s Island, South Carolina. I prefer the jalapeño flavor for a little extra kick. But that was not a new find.

Palmetto Cheese

The new find in the same aisle? Texas Pete’s Blazin’ Buffalo-Style Chicken Dip. Holy smokes! I have always loved Bufflo-style chicken dip, but I had no idea Texas Pete’s made their own! I’ve loved Texas Pete’s products for a long time, but I really started loving them in 2002 for an odd reason: I read the obituary of Mildred Garner, the widow of Thad Garner, the founder of T. W. Garner Foods in Winston-Salem, the parent company of Texas Pete’s. See the obituary here. I know, an obituary is a weird reason to like food products, but read it…Mrs. Garner was my kind of people! I especially loved the part about people recalling “the sight of Mildred driving the family’s red Austin-Healy, holding an umbrella against the rain, smoking a RJR cigarette, and changing gears successfully.” I can’t help it. I love a good obituary. And yes, it made me love Texas Pete’s. But until today, I had never had the Blazin’ Buffalo-Style Chicken Dip. I didn’t even know it existed! So I purchased it, brought it home, and enjoyed it with some Tostitos chips. I only ate a few bites, but suffice it to say…it’s good stuff!

Texas Pete Blazin’ Buffalo-Style Chicken Dip

After picking that up, I found myself back in the frozen foods, and I spied something I used to buy all the time: De Waffelbakker’s Frozen Pancakes. Call me lazy, but it’s a lot easier for me to make frozen pancakes in the microwave than it is for me to make them on the stovetop. When our daughter was little, she loved them, so we kept them on hand all the time. In fact, my late friend, Wendy, thought I was crazy when I offered them to her son one time, saying, “I make homemade pancakes for him. He won’t eat those microwave ones.” We had a good laugh when he proved her wrong and announced that “Miss Kelly makes the best pancakes ever!” Wendy just rolled her eyes. I can hardly wait for my daughter to come home from school, so I can offer her some pancakes!

De Waffelbakkers Buttermilk Pancakes

I also purchased some cookies that weren’t so great. I had high hopes for them, because they had a giant picture of the Pillsbury Dough Boy on the package. When I was a little girl, I thought the Pillsbury Dough Boy was the cutest little character. Too bad the soft-baked cookies didn’t live up to the packaging.

Yes, I brought all those things home and tried a little of each. Fortunately, I had a spinach salad for lunch, so I didn’t feel terrible about the fact that I had tried all that junk.

I guess it was one-stop shopping for me today…something for our daughter to wear for Safari day tomorrow, and a whole bunch of junk food for us to share.

Moms Stick Together

Moms stick together.

My daughter, a senior in high school, was just accepted to my alma mater, and we have paid the enrollment deposit. Next fall, she will be attending a university that is 450 miles away from home…450 miles away from us! But thinking about it doesn’t cause me great stress, for a number of reasons. One reason is that we live in Charlotte, a hub city for American Airlines. We can hop on one of five or six daily flights and be by her side pretty quickly. Another reason? I’m familiar with the surroundings there; there is some comfort in familiarity. The main reason? I know lots of people who live pretty close to the university who can act quickly to help her if needed. There is a lot of comfort in that.

Last Friday, at a high school football game, I was chatting with the mother of another senior, and she told me her son is interested in the same school, but they are hesitant for him to go there, because it’s so far away! A six or seven hour drive! I reminded her that we can be there quickly on American Airlines. And then I told her what every mom really wants to hear: I have lots of friends in the area who can be there to help with just one phone call, and I’m happy to make introductions. Moms like to know their college-age kids have someone to help them if they need it. Sure, they’ll be eighteen years old, but people need support systems…even at my age, I need a support system. When I told my friend that I know other moms and dads there who will be happy to help, I could see her relax. “Really? That makes me feel so much better,” she said.

One thing I’ve learned from being a mother for the last almost-18-years is that moms have to support each other. We have to stick together. We have to help each other.

Three years ago, my friend, Wendy, passed away after a long battle with various forms of cancer. I had met Wendy through a toddler playgroup right after my daughter turned one. Today is her 50th birthday, so I’ve had her on my mind. I posted something on Instagram and on Facebook about her birthday, and all our playgroup moms commented. One of them sent a text saying, “Thinking of Wendy today and that always makes me think of you all and the playgroup that saved my life and enriched my girls’ childhood. Love you all.” And she wasn’t exaggerating. We were all first-time moms when we met, and we truly saved each other. We started as a weekly playgroup but went on to become best friends, support systems, confidantes…we saved each other, for sure. With toddlers, life can be lonely, but our weekly playgroup turned into friendship so strong that we gathered almost daily. It saved our sanity and gave our kids a support group too!

All our kids went on to different preschools, kindergartens, elementary schools, middle schools, and high schools. They’ll probably all go to different colleges. But along the way, they’ve always known that core playgroup was rooting for them. They might not get together regularly, but they’re still friends. They know who they really are. They know their childhood would not have been the same without each other. And along the way, the playgroup moms have added other support systems, but we still know we have each other…no matter what.

I know our kids have learned a lot from us (and vice versa), but I hope that, along the way, they learned the importance of finding and maintaining a good support system. They saw their moms supporting each other, propping each other up when it was needed. I like to think they know that, no matter where they are in college, if they need someone to call, they can always call one of the playgroup moms. They can even call one of the playgroup kids…the ones who are almost adults now. And I hope they share that support system with other people who need it.

Don’t we all feel like that mom who is concerned about her son being 450 miles away without a support system? Don’t we all like to know there is someone we can call or someone our children can call in an emergency, or if they just need to talk with someone?

Two weeks ago, a college friend I haven’t seen in years texted me, telling me she was afraid her teenage son might be stranded in the Charlotte Airport and asking me about hotels near the airport. There is no way I would have let her teenage son go to a hotel, and I’m sure she knew that, but she didn’t want to impose. I texted her back, saying, “I don’t live too far from the airport. If he is stranded, call me, and I will bring him to our house for the night.” Another friend in Ohio had called me two weeks before that, asking if I could pick up an Ohio friend’s daughter at the airport and keep her for the night if she missed her connection. Of course I could! I was flattered to be asked! And you know why?!?! Because I want to be part of someone’s support system. I certainly would have called on those friends to help my daughter if needed!

So yes, we moms have to stick together…especially the moms of high school seniors who are preparing to go off to college. I’m putting it out there now: if your child is going to college in or near Charlotte, put me on your list of people to call in an emergency. I’ll always help.

Time for a New Passport

Time for a new passport…

Our daughter’s last passport was issued when she was under 16. Because of that, it was only valid for five years and couldn’t be renewed in the regular mail-in way. We had to get a new one by applying in person at a post office, and a parent had to accompany her.

We aren’t planning to travel out of the country till March of 2022, but because I’ve known so many people who had nightmare issues with passports, I decided we needed to get this taken care of well in advance. So we went to the passport office at a US Post Office today. Getting the appointment was the first hurdle. Appointments are not plentiful, and you’re taking a big chance if you go as a walk-up customer. According to the sign on the door of the office we visited, walk-ins are taken on a first-come, first-served basis…and only if there is enough personnel there to handle it. Wow. To me, that sounds like you could wait all day and still walk away empty-handed. I was so glad we had an appointment. If you’re considering applying for a new passport or getting a new one before your minor child’s passport expires, you can search for appointments in your area here. None of the offices near our house had availability, so I ended up making the appointment at an office about 30 miles away, in Harrisburg, North Carolina.

We arrived, and my daughter groaned when she saw the crowd waiting outside. I said, “Don’t get all worked up. I think a lot of these people probably don’t have appointments, but we do.” As it turns out, I was correct. Most of them didn’t have appointments. We waited outside for the employees to come outside and call the names of people who had appointments. Our appointment was at 11:30, and we arrived at about 11:20. The first employee came out at about 11:40, and she informed us that she was calling people’s names who had 11:15 appointments. Several of them weren’t there. At about 11:55, she came out and started calling the names of people with 11:30 appointments. We were the second ones called.

Luckily, my daughter had filled out everything before we arrived. We had all the appropriate documentation: her current passport, a birth certificate and a photocopy of it, her driver’s license and a photocopy, her social security card and a photocopy of it, checks to pay for everything, and my passport and driver’s license to show as identification to prove I’m her mother (she’s not quite 18). Oh, and passport photos…we had those too. Our daughter went yesterday to CVS and got those done there.

Here’s some info for those who don’t know it: If the applicant is under 16, they receive a passport that is valid for only five years. Both parents must go to the passport office with the child to submit the application. Applicants aged 16 and 17 receive passports that are valid for ten years, but they need to show “parental awareness.” It was easy for me to go with our daughter, so I showed “awareness” in person. To see information about 16 and 17-year-olds and application requirements, click here.

When we got inside, we were seated, and the agent took all our documents. About five minutes later, she came over and asked us to come to her desk. Once there, we signed some paperwork, wrote checks, and answered some questions before we were on our merry way. It didn’t take long at all. In fact, since we were prepared, I would go so far as to say it was easy! The agent helping us was super nice, and it was a pleasant experience.

Now, we wait for the new passport. I paid for super-duper expedited service, because I wanted to decrease the odds of our having a problem. I don’t want to be worrying about our daughter’s passport when it comes time to travel in March. That actually happened to a friend of mine this summer. She was supposed to travel to the Bahamas with us, but her passport didn’t arrive in time. She missed the trip, and we missed her while we were there!

If you know you’re going to need a new passport or need a new one for your child, go ahead and do it. According to the website, the US Passport Agency is still playing catch up after closing for COVID, and it can take up to 18 weeks to get your passport. That’s 4 1/2 months! Also, remember that many destinations require you to have at least six months validity on your passport when you arrive. The country we are visiting in March doesn’t require that, according to their website, but I didn’t want to run the risk of the airline refusing to board us. It’s not worth the worry.

All this is my way of reminding you to check the expiration date on your passport, so you can get busy trying to renew it…or in the case of minors, get a new one.

And don’t dread the process, because we have had some great experiences with agents in the Charlotte area. The first time we got our daughter’s passport, we went to the Post Office in Matthews, NC, and the lady there was amazing. This time, we went to the Post Office in Harrisburg, and the lady who helped us there was amazing as well! I know it’s an intimidating process, but get it done and stop worrying about it!

Be a Good Memory

Be a good memory.

Our daughter had her junior prom last weekend. Yep, even in the pandemic, her school found a way to pull it off. It was outside on one of the athletic fields, but in the pictures, it appears to have been beautiful. Lights were strung tent-style across the field, and a live band played in an area overlooking the field. The prom-goers all wore sneakers, and from what I’ve heard, everyone was pretty happy to be together at a real event.

If you have a teenager, you know they do things a little differently than we did back in the 1980s. Now, the girls gather at one place to get dressed together. And then they gather with their dates at a photo location…sometimes a park, country club, or someone’s really beautiful yard. Parents gather to take photos, and then the prom-goers go to dinner somewhere before going to the actual prom. In truth, the actual prom seems to be the least exciting part of the evening. That’s not a slam on our school. I hear it from kids everywhere…all over the country. They say the prom is the reason for getting dressed up, but the fun part is the before and after.

Because, yes…there’s an “after.”

This year, some of our daughter’s friends and their dates came to our house after prom to hang out in the game room together. When I told my husband we would be hosting, he was not a happy man. He is a man who likes his routine, and that includes going to bed before midnight. He actually said to me, “They’ll be gone before midnight, right?” Ummm…no. I had to explain to him that, no, on prom night, all bets are off on curfew. Again, he was not happy. Clearly, he doesn’t remember his youth as well as I remember mine. I suggested he go to a hotel, and he looked at me like I had fourteen eyes.

Lucky for me, later that day, we saw one of our neighbors, a mother of four. She has three grown children (all out of college, and two of them are married) and a fourteen-yr-old. She has seen it all. And for years, teenagers were in and out of her house at all hours of the day and night. My husband was standing there when I told the neighbor about his apprehension about the party, and she had the perfect response. She said, “We used to host those parties when our kids were in high school, and now I love it when I’m at weddings and baby showers for their friends, and the friends say to me, ‘My best memories from high school were at your house.'” I turned to my husband and said, “See? We want to be a good memory for these kids!”

What could he say to that? It was at that moment that he agreed it was OK to have them over after prom. After some prodding by me, he also decided it would be a good idea for him to check into a local hotel for the night. If he had stayed home, he would have been “in my ear” the whole time, trying to get me to go check on the kids every half hour. I was not going to do that…no way, no how.

Prom night came, and our daughter went over to a friend’s house to get dressed with friends. Later, I rode to the friend’s house with another mom to take pictures of all the prom couples. After getting some pics, we all left, and they had dinner before going to prom. By the time they arrived at our house after prom at around 11pm, I had pizzas, cheesy bread sticks, and desserts waiting for them in the game room. All went well. I cooked breakfast for them in the wee hours of the morning, and I finally got to bed around 4am…but I was happy.

The next day, after everyone left, my husband returned home from the hotel, asking how the night had gone. I told him all about it, and I thanked him for letting the kids come to our house. I thanked him for letting our house “be a good memory” for these kids.

I hope that one day, when I’m attending the weddings and baby showers of these same kids, they will turn to me and say, “Some of our best memories from high school are from your house.”

The New BC

The new BC.

We all know BC, in historic terms, means before Christ, right? In modern terms, though, it means before COVID.

Now that we are approaching the one year mark on the COVID shutdowns, I look at my daily Facebook memories from 2020 and think, “Wow. How little we knew then.” I look at pictures of myself laughing with friends or my daughter playing sports, and I think, “We had no idea how our lives were about to change.” In fact, on this day one year ago, my post was about a friend telling me that when she was a kid, her school bus driver would stop at railroad tracks and let acid off the bus to run across the tracks…to wave the bus across. That was my big concern of this day in 2020. I had never heard of such a thing, but apparently, it was happening in lots of places. What I didn’t know was that life as I knew it was about to stop, and I wouldn’t be worried about how people waved buses across railroad tracks back in the day.

This morning, my daughter’s school lacrosse team had a game, and it was the first time students have been allowed to attend sporting events as spectators since this time last year. March 12 was the last day our kids went to school last year, and that anniversary is rapidly approaching. There were no spring sports after that date. Our little independent school opened in August, with a hybrid plan of alternating days for students, so at least they are in school half the time, and we had fall sports, but we had them without spectators. Same with winter sports…our school found a way for parents to attend (only two adults per player), but students were still not allowed to attend as spectators…till today.

Last night, my daughter and her friends were reminding friends that they should come watch the game and cheer them on this morning. And not surprisingly, lots of them showed up…even for a Saturday morning game! Girls sports, for whatever reason, don’t usually have a whole lot of spectators besides parents, but today? The turnout was fantastic! Maybe since they haven’t been able to gather in stadiums and sports arenas for so long, these students will support all their teams. I think they will be thrilled to have an excuse to commune…even while social distancing. At least, after a whole year of shutdowns and disappointments, these kids are getting an opportunity to have a little bit of normalcy.

Heck, our school has even announced the juniors and seniors will have a prom! That was quite a shocker, but it truly gave the students something to look forward to!

Hopefully, things will continue to move in a positive direction. Last year, we canceled our spring break trip at the last minute, but this year, we are going. In fact, we are going on the trip we paid for last year, so this year it seems like a free trip!

The past year has been tough on all of us…some more so than others. It was tough mentally for me and lots of my friends. It was tough financially for lots of people. Physically…lots of people got COVID and recovered, but lots of people died or lost loved ones. Our kids lost the experiences they are supposed to have as kids and teenagers. College students stayed home and learned online or sat in dorms and learned. They lost a year of “college experience.” People lost jobs and livelihoods…some of them lost everything they had. It was a tough year. We were told that we could “flatten the curve” of COVID by staying home for two weeks back in March 2020. Then that two weeks stretched to four weeks…six weeks…six months…and here we are at a year. I was about to lose my mind every time a vacation canceled last summer, but I knew missing vacations was minor compared to what some folks were experiencing. It didn’t make it any easier for me, and when I’d had enough (September), I got on a plane anyway. I needed it.

One thing I know is that starting on March 12, my Facebook memories are going to get more interesting. They will move from BC (before COVID) to photos and posts from the first year of the COVID era. While I have hated the shutdowns, and I have hated watching people get sick and some die, I think the posts that start popping up in my memories will be interesting. They will tell a story of the first year of COVID. I will see posts from last spring, when we were stuck home, and I was spending as much time as possible outdoors, because I couldn’t look at the four walls of my house anymore. They will also tell the story of a year unlike any other. Before it happened, staying home all the time sounded like Hell to me. And for the first few weeks and even months, it was especially tough. Then I found ways to make it more tolerable…gardening, taking road trips, mailing postcards, mailing letters, sitting by the pool, talking on the phone…anything to make it better.

My daddy used to tell me that once you start staying home all the time it becomes too easy to stay home all the time. If you stop driving on the interstate highway, you forget how to drive on the interstate highway. Stop going to the grocery store? You forget how. You have to take on the “use it or lose it” mentality, and thankfully, I remembered that throughout the last year. I would get into my car and just drive sometimes. But yes, I did notice as stores started opening that I was a little awkward when shopping. How does one forget how to shop? I even went into a new sandwich shop one time early in the shutdowns, and wearing a mask made it seem almost unnavigable to me. I couldn’t learn a new system while wearing a mask! So I left and went to my old trusted sandwich shop, where the ordering system was familiar.

Since then, I’ve traveled more and moved around more…sometimes by car and sometimes by plane…all while wearing a mask. I’m wondering if life will ever be what it was BC, or will we always wear masks? Will we always be afraid to hug or shake hands? That’s the part I really hate. I like hugging. I like shaking hands.

But right now, I’m just thankful. I’m thankful to have survived the first year of the COVID era relatively intact. I’m grateful to have great friends and family I love. I hope we move into the post-COVID era sooner rather than later.

As we start to move beyond the first year of COVID, I hope we will all remember how fortunate we are to have “normal” again. I hope we will all be grateful for “normal.” I hope those who have experienced hardship or loss can find a way to move forward. I hope we find ways to be joyful. I hope…I just hope we have hope.