An Act of Kindness That Means So Much To Me…

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I am really excited to say I’ve been nominated for two blogging awards by “Mama Duck” whose awesome blog is http://5Power.org,  aka Family to the 5 Power!   Mama Duck’s writing has inspired me since I started blogging nearly a year ago.  Thank you very much, Mama Duck!

versatilebloggeraward                                                           sunshine award

 

As requested, I have answered the following questions about my “favorites” and nominated ten bloggers to accept these two awards as well.

Favorites:

1) What is my favorite food?  I have so many, but I really love salmon, chicken marsala, and steak tips.

2) Who is my favorite actor?   Meryl Streep

3) What is my favorite television show? I don’t watch much current TV but I do enjoy reruns of Seinfeld, What Not To Wear, and Friends.

4) What is my favorite “tear jerker”?  Father of the Bride

5) Tea or Coffee? Coffee!

6) What is my favorite sport? Hockey (Boston Bruins!)

7) What is my lucky number? 24

8) What is my favorite holiday? Thanksgiving

9) Twitter or Facebook?   Facebook… (I need to learn how to use Twitter).

10) What is my favorite Christmas movie?   Elf

I am nominating the following ten bloggers for the Sunshine Award and the Versatile Blogger award:

http://lifestoriesandbeyond.com/

http://virtuouswomanexposed.wordpress.com/

http://reesehendricks.org/

http://cynk.wordpress.com/

http://treasuringmoments.com/

http://decipheringteens.com/

http://5power.org/

http://luminousblue5.com/

http://www.itiswhatiteez.com/

http://francesanngreen.com/

I enjoy each of these blogs for their unique qualities.  Please check them out!

If you decide to accept these two awards, copy and paste the following 4 rules, your nominations, and the above 10 questions on your acceptance post.

The rules of acceptance for the Sunshine Award and Versatile Blogger award are:

1) Thank the person nominating you.

2) Place the award badges on your blog page.

3) Answer the ten questions listed above on your page.

4) Pay it forward! Nominate ten deserving bloggers for the same awards.

Who’s The Adult Here Anyways?

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My daughter didn’t sign us up for parent orientation at her college. It was happening simultaneously with freshman orientation. For a very small fee, parents could stay in dorms on campus, eat meals in the dining hall and attend informational sessions for a day and a half.

Maybe it was an oversight. Maybe my daughter decided optional meant my husband and I wouldn’t be interested. Most likely, she wanted to spread her wings and drive the 2-1/2 hours solo to freshman orientation. She has always been comfortable doing things that even now, I need reassurance doing. When I was 18, I remember heading to my own freshman orientation with a little knot in my stomach — and it wasn’t even an overnight event.

I’ve come a long way since my college days, but on certain occasions I’m hit with the realization that I truly am an introvert. I was determined to get a spot at this highly informative parent orientation even though I knew my husband couldn’t join me. But what I neglected to consider was that this experience might be a day and a half of feeling like my 18-year old Nervous Nelly self. 

The goal of arriving on campus and being separated immediately from your freshman was to give parents a taste of what it will be like, come August, when we say our good-byes. A session on letting go explained this: Give your child a kiss, say good-bye and be on your way. It helps your freshman get on with things.

It doesn’t necessarily help the solo mother who expected to meet up with her daughter at some point and is assigned to spend the night with two strangers. Thank goodness for upperclassman suites. Each of us could enjoy the privacy of our own bedrooms.

I arrived first, followed by my first roommate. Hi! I say with my warmest smile. Are you on your own, too? Yes, she says pleasantly, then drops her belongings in her room and heads out to meet up with other moms from her home town, I discover later.

Roommate #2 finally arrives while I’m unpacking my few belongings. She disappears into her room so I decide to wait for her in the living room, reading the only piece of literature I have – the parent orientation agenda — until I have it memorized. Is she taking a nap? She finally emerges from her room, cheerful and receptive to me. We chat about our kids and our families. I have a friend. Yes!

We join a large group of parents for a tour of the campus, but halfway through it my roommate tells me she has a raging headache and will return to the room. I follow along with the other parents, straining to listen to the various types of dorms. At the campus bookstore I purchase a college sweatshirt for myself. Another mom from our town calls to me in the crowd. We’re 2-1/2 hours away from home, not 2-1/2 states away, but I’m thrilled to see a familiar face. She’s alone too but spending the night at a local hotel. She’s my new buddy for the tour and for lunch in the cavernous dining hall.

In the late afternoon, my hometown friend says she’s had enough of the sessions and will head back to her hotel to read and maybe sit by the pool. I’m disappointed and tempted to blow off the day and go with her but I head back to my room with no pool and no TV. As I ponder why I am not thoroughly enjoying this peace and quiet that all busy moms dream about, my roommate pokes her head into my room. She’s feeling better. Would I like to join her for the session about academic advising? Absolutely!

We learn about tutoring as well as all about choosing a major for about 30 minutes when she whispers to me she feels sick to her stomach. (She has shingles and this is her medication’s side effect). Good-bye, roomie.

Dinner is next. At the dining hall I make my way to a table with a tray full of enticing ravioli, salad and garlic bread. I pretend not to care that I know no one sitting around me. I scan the room in a mild panic, convinced I am the only parent without a partner. I check my almost dead cell phone for messages from my daughter. Not one. Are people staring at me with pity or is it my imagination? I quickly shovel food in my mouth so I can get out of the place. I should have skipped orientation. People next to me are laughing about something, completely at ease.

My cell phone dies and the only charger is in my car. I drive to the little college town a few miles away to give my cell phone time to charge. I purchase a magazine to read in the suite. A special parent event is scheduled to take place in the gathering area. We are invited to make posters to cheer on (or perhaps embarrass) our kids the next day as they parade through the campus one last time, to the dining hall. Yes, this is silly, as is the DVD of Saturday Night Fever chosen for any interested parents to sit and watch on the comfortable lounge furniture. But I realize I’m not alone in feeling awkward. Others don’t know what to write on their posters. We end up chatting about the college and how much we miss our kids even though it hasn’t even been a full day since we separated from them. The day ends on a happy note.

After checking out the next morning, I head to breakfast and bump into some of the poster-making moms. I reach out to invite another mom from our floor to join us, and she is visibly relieved. My hometown friend finds us as well. Life is good. More sessions take place and then the parade. My daughter and I easily spot each other. She is smiling happily in the middle of the pack, then laughs out loud at my poster which sports one of her childhood nicknames in big bold colors.

On our ride home, she shares all the bonding activities of the past two days. She’s looking forward to August when she’ll see some of these people again. How was your time? she asks me. She’s loving everything about her new school, I can tell, and I don’t want to spoil it for her. I learned quite a bit, I say. My daughter may be an extrovert but she, too, will be wandering a campus full of strangers in September. It may be uncomfortable for her at times, at least initially. This is all part of life.  It continues for some of us, even in our forties.

At a recent graduation party, I spotted my daughter inviting a quieter, second cousin to join her at a table full of teenagers. (It’s what I needed in that dining hall).  I couldn’t be prouder of her.

De-Cluttering To Save Our Sanity

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gastonia-roll-off-dumpster-rentals

I never thought I’d be excited about a dumpster.

We were having some renovations done to the house recently, so it made sense to have one.  Rotting window frames went in.  Warped shingles went in. Then old, rusty lawn chairs and faded table umbrellas, followed by a recliner we’ve had for 20+ years, thank god. Suddenly, I didn’t recognize our basement because the majority of it was thrown into the dumpster.  In just a matter of days, the ugly metal monstrosity sitting in our driveway had restored some order to our home.

The dumpster is gone but now it’s time to tackle another form of excess – clothing.

I try to teach my kids the difference between wanting and needing things, but then I find myself meandering through the racks at Kohl’s, tempted to purchase a cute dress I don’t need.  Living simply, however admirable, is hard to do, and particularly hard for teenagers  who think that looking your best and following trends is a priority.  (I still don’t understand the boys wearing tall black socks).

I enjoy a bargain and I’m happy that I’ve passed this on to my girls.  But apparently I’ve passed it on too well.  We all have much more than we need.

You know you have a problem when your tween’s drawers and closet are bursting, yet she cannot put together a single outfit for an awards ceremony. Too much of anything is not good, even clothes.  Note to self:  Don’t offer to help a tween select an outfit one hour before an event – this is a battle a mother can’t win.  No matter what adorable getup I suggest, she will find it unacceptable:

tween:  That doesn’t fit any more.  Why is it in your drawer?

tween:  That has a stain on it.  It’s in your closet because?

tween:  I wear that too often.   Who is noticing how often you wear anything?

tween: That looks like something you would wear.   Excuse me?

tween:  That’s too hot/cold/itchy/ugly…  We need help.

It’s definitely time for my family to purge some clothing and to build up our shopping self-restraint muscles.  Here is some wisdom my family still needs to adopt:

Less is more.  Just as I felt sheer relief when I saw my basement cleared of  way too many objects, my daughter would be better off (or at least  not feel paralyzed) if she had a lot less of everything.   If we all had walk-in closets and could see every article of clothing we owned, it might be possible to wear a different outfit every day for a month or more.  There are no walk-ins here.  These days, if I look into my older daughter’s room and see laundry baskets, they could be filled with dirty clothes or they could be home to clean clothes that don’t fit in drawers and closets.  I  refuse to wash a basket full of laundry that smells like Tide detergent.  It’s time to weed out and make more space.

Remember the lay-away system.  If you were a kid in the ‘70s and ‘80s, your mom may have used the lay-away system of shopping.  If you didn’t have the funds to pay for items immediately, the lay-away system held the items so you could come back and purchase them when you had the cash.  It certainly was not fun to walk out of a store empty-handed but I now admire my mother’s determination to avoid debt.   The other perk to lay-away was that you thought more about your purchases. Today, with store credit perks, it’s so quick and easy to charge now and pay later.  But even if you pay off that credit card each month, there remains the issue of accumulating more clothes than are needed (and possibly ending up using laundry baskets for storage).

Donate clothes periodically to Good Will or to friends and family.  It feels good to recycle clothes.  It feels good to the giver and the receiver.  It frees up space.

Do what you love to do.   If you are totally engaged in what you’re doing – cooking, jogging, hanging out with friends, reading, cleaning – what you’re wearing matters less.  If you have the basics and a reasonable number of  fun items in your closet, why not save your money for really special purchases.  I try to remember this when a really good department store coupon arrives in the mail and my brain starts wondering how I can best use it.  What do I need?  Usually I need nothing — not even that cute little dress I had my eye on.

*  *  *

In a couple of months, my oldest child will leave for college where she will have very little space for her clothes. Right now is a perfect time for her to decide which clothes she truly needs and loves.  The rest can find a new home.  If  her little sister does the same, maybe she will get a few new (recycled) items from her sister.

 

 

 

 

 

* Photo:  gastonia-roll-off-dumpster-rentals.jpg

Put Down That Cell Phone and Find Your Passion

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When I was a teenager, I thought the happiest teens must be the ones who didn’t get acne.  Or the ones who got excellent grades.  Or perhaps the ones who had a lot of friends or a great wardrobe.  Now I’m convinced I had it all wrong.  Certainly clear skin, honor roll status and solid friendships help a kid feel better about himself in the roller-coaster teenage years.  But it seems that teens who are passionate about an activity (excluding texting and other forms of screen viewing) may be the ones who are the happiest of all – or at least the most resilient.

Recently at my son’s high school baseball game in a neighboring town, I was prepared to be impressed by the powerhouse opponent his team faced. And I was not disappointed (except for the fact that my son’s team lost).  Sitting in the bleachers, I wondered how this town always seemed to produce top notch sports teams… They did back when I was in high school and they continue to do so today.  They even have music blasting over loud speakers in between innings…. And an announcer who would sound great at Fenway Park.

That announcer, my daughter pointed out to me, is Johnny, a boy she went to preschool with, fourteen years ago, who she remembers, happens to share her September 11th birthday.  Now Johnny has a commanding voice and is doing what he loves: announcing at sports games.  He’s been doing it since fifth grade, when he happily volunteered to fill in for an announcer at a Mighty Mites football game.  Now a senior, he and his best friend Luke (who started up a sports advice site  http://www.streakadvice.com/) will attend college in Alabama in September.  They will take different routes to attain sports-related careers but they have already booked air time to host a sports radio show on campus this fall.   Now that’s passion.

Even if a teen happens to love the challenge of reading Shakespeare and doing complex math problems (and I’m sure there are some who do), having a passion outside of school hours could make some of the daily challenges of high school – the coursework, the teen drama, the acne, the moodiness – feel less burdensome.  Finding a passion could even lead to career ideas or opportunities.  I went to high school with a girl whose love of sewing beginning in seventh grade home economics class, eventually lead to a successful career in fashion design.

A friend of mine was uncertain about her son’s interest in auto mechanic work.  She and her husband earned advanced degrees and are now professionals working in medicine and law. When their son and a classmate from his vocational high school scored the highest in the state of Massachusetts in an automotive repair competition last year and qualified for a competition at the national level, she finally realized this type of hands-on work was his passion.

But what if a teen doesn’t seem to have a passion?

Not knowing what one’s passion is, is similar to not knowing what careers are out there.  There are probably many that are suitable for each individual but until they are discovered, they can’t be tried.**

At my kids’ high school, an Ultimate Frisbee club has formed because enough kids expressed an interest in it.  Where was this game when I was in high school?  It’s obvious to anyone driving by, that these kids love their game.

1999021Quidditch – the game played with broomsticks, made popular by Harry Potter — is gaining in popularity.  I know a 23 year old who plays regularly.  Really!

Do my kids have passions?  My tween enjoys soccer, lacrosse and cooking (breakfast food, that is).  My son plays baseball, hockey and golf.   And my soon-to-be college student enjoys singing and lately, scrapbooking.  Will they make careers out of these passions?  Maybe indirectly.  Maybe not at all.  Their passions may even change.  But they may add some much-needed relief when life gets bumpy.

 

** Check out this site for hobbies you and your teen may not know about:

http://www.notsoboringlife.com/list-of-hobbies/ .

 

photo:  youthultimateproject.org

 

Learning To Let Go

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This week my second child got his license.  I was at work, staring nervously at the clock when his road test was scheduled to take place.  I prayed that if Warren, the intimidating registry inspector was assigned to give him his road test, he would remain focused on the task of driving safely and using the proper signals.

Moments later, a text came to me. I GOT MY LICENSE!  This was followed by a picture of him behind the wheel, ready to take his first solo ride back to school. Fantastic.

How did this happen?  How is he old enough to drive away alone?  I distinctly remember standing in our driveway (the one he just backed out of alone), watching the kindergarten bus take him away for his first day of school.  He was smiling happily.  I, on the other hand, couldn’t talk to the grandparents and neighbors standing with me. The lump in my throat prevented any sound from escaping.

Why is it so hard for me to let go?

As a parent, I’m fully aware that letting go is necessary if my kids are to become independent.  Letting go means letting them make some decisions on their own and letting them be responsible for their own actions.  This is not easy.  It’s hard for me to refrain from reminding, warning and advising my children — about everything that they should do, everything that could happen — even though I know it’s more helpful to trust that they are making good decisions and choices.  It’s perfectly normal for teenagers to not want to hear the reminders, warnings and advice because they want to be trusted. In fact, it is the occasional eye rolling that reminds me I may need to back off and let go.

Letting go and accepting that some mistakes will be made is an essential part of raising teenagers who will be able to function on their own.  I am still in the process of learning this.  I was recently upset, then pleased when a heavy package containing a high school text book arrived to our house via UPS.  Frankly, I couldn’t understand how a big textbook could be misplaced somewhere between school and home but my daughter took the initiative and ordered another, gently used one, and paid to have it delivered to our home.  I was not involved in any part of the process, yet the problem was solved. (She would not be allowed to graduate, I realize now, if she did not produce a textbook).

My son learned a valuable lesson when he showed up to play a high school baseball game and his uniform pants were caked with dirt from the previous game.  His coach was disappointed in his appearance and voiced his feelings in front of the team.  Since then, making sure his uniform gets into the laundry has become one of my son’s priorities, even if that means moving wet clothes from the washing machine to a temporary basket to make room for his uniform.  I can accept that.

Bigger mistakes, I realize, will result in bigger lessons.  A friend recently told me she wishes all new drivers could experience a minor car accident so they could learn how it feels and how easily it can happen to even the most attentive drivers.  How will my young drivers react to being pulled over by a police officer?  How will they deal with running out of gas when they are far from a gas station?

Years ago, before they had their own cell phones, my kids would occasionally call from the school office.  I forgot my trumpet.  Or, You forgot to sign my reading log. Or, I owe money for lunch.  Unshowered, I would jump in the car and drive up to the school to make everything right. I wanted them to receive credit for homework they had completed.  I didn’t want them to owe money for lunch or to have to sit and watch during band practice or gym class while everyone else participated.

At the time, the simple act of driving less than two miles to help my child, felt right.  What I didn’t fully realize then, as some wise parents did, was that letting my kids face the consequences of their mistakes or absent-mindedness, is often wiser than rushing in to rescue them.  Kids learn from their mistakes, even if the same mistakes are repeated over and over again.  If the lessons don’t sink in right away, they will eventually.

By the time they are in high school, teenagers have been told over and over again to do their best.  They know that hard work and perseverance in any activity is the key to success and that beginning in high school, grades really do count (on transcripts).   It is up to them to show up, do their best, and ask for help if they need it.  When they learn this most valuable lesson, the possibilities for them are endless.

 

 

What Students Really Need to Hear

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What Students Really Need to Hear

I am sharing this with anyone who cares deeply about teenagers. Please share it with the teens in your life!

AFFECTIVE LIVING

It’s 4 a.m.  I’ve struggled for the last hour to go to sleep.  But, I can’t.  Yet again, I am tossing and turning, unable to shut down my brain.  Why?  Because I am stressed about my students.  Really stressed.  I’m so stressed that I can only think to write down what I really want to say — the real truth I’ve been needing to say — and vow to myself that I will let my students hear what I really think tomorrow.

This is what students really need to hear:

First, you need to know right now that I care about you. In fact, I care about you more than you may care about yourself.  And I care not just about your grades or your test scores, but about you as a person. And, because I care, I need to be honest with you. Do I have permission to be…

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