A Funny Thing Happened After My Son Left for College….

Last week, I’d written an entirely different blog for this week.  It was about the angst I was feeling as a Mom about whether or not I’d prepared my son enough for Life On His Own at college.  I was certain those feelings would follow me into this next chapter.

But after having dropped him off, I don’t feel that angst anymore.  I am angst-less.

How did that happen?

Well, Z did go off to three weeks of summer camp every year for 7 years — and they weren’t allowed to bring electronic devices, so the only way to keep in touch was by old-fashioned letter writing.  Maybe my brain just thinks we’ve dropped him off at camp…

Perhaps writing about the conflicting emotions here on the blog over the summer was a kind of journal-therapy…

Or maybe laying out what I was feeling and unflinchingly looking at the pesky tear-jerking thoughts helped me work through them by the time it came to say “good-bye”… Not to say there weren’t tears and lots of hugs and “I’ll miss yous,” there were, but not long and protracted.  Although part of that may have been due to pure exhaustion…

(I’m pretty sure I’m not a cold-hearted monster who is incapable of feeling, so we’re just tossing that idea out right now.)

Whatever the reason, I’m ok.  Ask me again next week and that answer may have changed, but for now, I’m good!

My kid was one of the first of my friends’ kids to head off to college this month.  And now those friends and friends of older kids keep asking how I’m doing.  Messages on Facebook encourage me to “hang in there,” texts reassure me “it gets better,” emails remind me to “keep breathing”… Normally, I’d be so grateful for commiseration and encouraging words, but I’m rather confused this time, because I don’t need them right now…

I know most all of us get excited for our kids’ new adventures.  Maybe the excitement I feel for Z starting this new chapter has overwritten the sad “empty nest” feelings for me.  Do I miss him?  Of course.  Is it disorienting not being a part of his everyday life?  You bet.  Do I wistfully walk by his bedroom on the way to my office?  Sure, sometimes (but it is all neat and tidy now with the bed actually made, and I do like that part).

Do I expect that feelings of missing him will ambush me in the coming weeks?  Probably.  I’m prepared with tissues at all times, just in case.

What I do know for sure is that I spent the last 18 years raising a kind, funny, smart, curious person.  He sprouted wings and wanted to use them sooner than a lot of his playmates, and I could either accept this as part of the person I was raising, or squelch the fire that fueled his curiosity.  Frankly, having been squelched a lot myself, I had no desire whatsoever to try and change the course of my son’s trajectory.  So maybe I’ve been preparing myself all along for this giant leap.

That little person turned out to be a pretty terrific young man.  Far from perfect, but pretty amazing all the same.  I trust in that.  I also know without a doubt that he will sometimes fall; he will at some point(s) fail; there is turbulence ahead, and he will need to learn to navigate all of that and more.  I trust I was able to teach him to find, and use, the tools he needs; but above all, I hope he learned to trust in himself, in his absolute capability to deal with what Life brings.  He is resilient, and now he needs to believe in that resiliency.

And here I am, cheering from the sidelines now.  Always.  Some days I feel like I’m flying blind — we’re in uncharted territory: Life After Kid.  I’m not abdicating as his Mom, but he is sovereign now.

Until next Friday, Friends!

Galileo, Galileo

Originally published November 3, 2015, this is a look back at where we were… and how far we’ve come on this journey…

~~~~~~~~~~~~~peanuts

For Halloween, we flew out to Ithaca, New York for some grown-up trick or treating with my best girlfriend, E, and her husband, D.

Actually, we really flew out to visit Cornell University with Z; the trick or treating was a bonus. D had done his graduate work at Cornell, so they happily joined us out there (they are also Z’s godparents).

As I’ve said before, we are in the thick of college-shopping.  Although Z is only a junior, we all wanted a better idea of what was out there in the college world so we started earlier this year, and it’s been an adventure from start to almost-finish.  Z has an impressive line-up of colleges he’s narrowed his search down to: out of Big 10the five contenders, four are Big Ten schools here in the Midwest (Northwestern University, University of Michigan, University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Ivy league logoUniversity of Iowa), and an Ivy League in upstate New York (Cornell).  All have astounding physics departments, with equally impressive campuses, housing options, student activities, and research opportunities. They include state schools as well as private; large, small, and medium-sized student bodies.

After each visit, Z declares that university to be his new “favorite.”  We’ve heard that four times now, and I don’t doubt we’ll hear it later this month when we visit the last (for now), Iowa.  T and I are impressed with each of the schools for various reasons, and would be hard-pressed to rank our own favorites (ok, truth be told, T is a die-hard Michigan fan, having done his own graduate work there).  If Z is accepted at all five schools, I don’t envy his position to choose — but what a fantastic problem to have!  I really do feel that whatever decision he makes, it will be a winner for him.

Realistically, do I think he has a shot at the Ivy League?  After visiting, yes.  It’s a long shot, but after listening to the Dean of Admissions and two faculty advisers talk about what they look for in an applicant, I believe my child does, indeed, fit their bill.  Of course I’m biased.  But honestly, I can see where he would be a very good fit there.

What ultimately convinced me was serendipitous: while we were waiting for one of the tours to start on Friday, Z mentioned he wished he could see what a college physics class was like.  One of the student admissions guides overheard him, and said “let’s see what’s going on this afternoon.”  Lo and behold, an Intro to Physics class was scheduled later and Z was invited to show up and sit in!  We re-tooled our itinerary slightly for the rest of the day so he could take advantage of this awesomeness.  So, while T and I caught up on our email and people-watched for a while, Z walked into the giant lecture hall, and concluded he’d entered Heaven.

He LOVED the professor teaching — Z said he was animated, used props, humor, and he felt the prof was TEACHING, not lecturing.  Z caught on right away to the day’s lesson: it’s what he is studying in his AP Physics high school class right now.   He couldn’t stop talking about that visit for the rest of the weekend.

What this taught me wasn’t just about the University itself, but about the course my child has set for himself: it’s the right one.  He is, indeed, head over heels for physics.

CornellAnd it illuminated the truth that the best fit for him will be the university that sees his passion and excitement for the subject matter and research possibilities, realizes he would be a tremendous addition to their college, wants him to become their student on his journey, and will match his passion for learning with their own passion for teaching.

After all the spread sheets and pros and cons lists have been created, after all the hard admissions work has painstakingly been done, and the FAFSA filled out accordingly, what if he isn’t accepted to his first choice, whichever that turns out to be?  I will be disappointed for him and my heart will ache that this is something Mom can’t fix.  But I’ve also learned in the last several years that we all end up where we’re truly supposed to be if we trust in ourselves and take advantage of the choices before us.  If he learns that over the next several years instead of in his 40s and 50s, he’s going to be ahead in this game called Life.

During this process of “college shopping,” we’ve had a lot of fun, and I hope he looks back on these weekends we’ve taken to tour different communities in different states with fondness, if not downright laughter.  I joked at the beginning that we went to Cornell to go trick or treating…well, we made him a deal: we would take all the tours and go to all the meetings he wanted while we were there for the long weekend, and in return, he would be our Designated Driver for a few hours to tour the Finger Lakes wine region, just north of Cornell.  He happily agreed.

vineyardsSo this past weekend, we flew to upstate New York; had a great welcome dinner with E & D; participated in all the talks and tours Admissions offers; visited several Finger Lakes wineries (which is the best kind of grown-up trick or treating); discovered Uncle Joe’s Bar in Ithaca which turned out to be a designated University of Michigan saloon, complete with cowbell and lots of friendly people, and watched UoM win on a big screen on one side of the bar, with the Mets on another (home state crowd not happy with that loss, nor the eventual outcome; our condolences); and all with good friends who are really family.

QueenThe most fun, best moment for me, though, was all five of us in the car belting out the entirety of “Bohemian Rhapsody” at the top of our lungs as we barreled through the winding, rolling countryside at dusk on the way back from the wineries with my son driving, and me riding shotgun.  Pure happiness all around.

I don’t know how many more trips like this we’ll have, but I’ll happily take that seat whenever he’ll have me.

Until Friday, Friends.  Cheers!

 

Standing on this precipice

Dear Z,

Wasn’t I just writing about your 16th birthday?

Somehow, a whole year full of ups and downs and ins and outs and every-which-ways has passed, and I now find myself writing as you turn 17.

Seventeen, more than any age, looks like a precipice.  You have obtained that driving license; you’ve visited colleges; you’ve taken the ACT, the SAT, and you worked hard to bring up an already stellar GPA; you’ve traveled abroad; you are in the midst of your first “serious” relationship; and you’re about to be a high school senior.  All of these experiences, and more, have led you to this cliff’s edge.

But don’t be alarmed!  This cliff is offering you a unique perspective on where you’ve been and the infinite ways to go from here!  On this path you’ve seen the best and the worst of people.  Now you know what to look for.  On this path, you have seen beauty unparalleled, and ugliness you hope never to see again.  Now you know what to look for.  This path has been smooth and bumpy along the way (for both of us); and you’ve learned the smoothest path isn’t always the wisest; but sometimes it’s ok to “coast” and put down your burdens for a while, too.

You’ve seen first-hand what integrity really means, and I see you striving to live up to that idea.  I’ve seen you rage against injustice, and I pray it won’t harden you.  Watching your sense of humor develop has been a trip and a half, and I hope it serves you well in all your years ahead (it’s a super-power we share).  Your passion for learning inspires me every single day, and I’m so excited to see you spread those wings you’ve been testing…

…and jump.

Yes, jump.  Get a running start and leap off this cliff, spread those wings, and see where and how far they take you.

This time, unlike others, you’ll be doing it by yourself.

I’ll be watching from the cliff, always.  Sometimes holding my breath, other times cheering wildly.  I’ll desperately want to jump to follow you when I see an ill wind coming your way, but I won’t.  I will be here, when you need me to be.  I will be here to throw you a rope if you need one.  And my home will always be yours, even when you have a place of your own.  Anywhere my heart is, you are already there.

There are so many people in this world who love you ~ some you’ve never even met.  And there are even more who will grow to love you from this point on.  These are people I may never meet, but I hope you’ll tell me about them.  And I hope you cherish them.  Cherish the hell out of the people who cherish you, ok?  Keep your heart open, but guard it.  Because that, my child, is your greatest asset, your greatest gift.  It is what will keep you aloft.  Your very great big heart.

I have been so incredibly lucky to give you part of my heart, and be given a piece of yours in return ~ that is what has kept me on the wing all these years together.

Fly, be free to continue your journey to be anything and everything.  In the meantime, remember: I love you mostest.  You are my greatest treasure.    Always and forever.

~ Mamadrawn heart

 

Mom is on the edge

 

Originally published 7/24/15, this is kind of the flip side to my more recent column about teen drama…

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

This is an actual drawing by Z, during the preschool years.  That’s him imom is on the edge1n the middle of a boat.  And, as you can read from the caption, “on the eg is mom.” (He explained he left the space after “eg” because he “wanted to be sure he spelled it right”…if he checked, he obviously didn’t use the same dictionary as the rest of us.)  I promise his spelling has gotten better in the last dozen years.

The penmanship, not so much.

Lady Gaga says we’re “on the edge of glory.”   I’m not sure about that, but I’m certainly on the edge of something these days.

I turned 51 this past May.  Not really an issue — I’ve enjoyed getting older, and despite a nasty, contentious divorce in my mid-40s, I loved that decade.  I’m looking forward to this decade of my life, too.  I’m just not sure what to expect.

My son is going to be 16 in two weeks.  A junior in high school.  The age of driving, acne breakouts, an appreciation of high school girls (although he’s still figuring out the parts he appreciates), getting down to the nitty-gritty about college, “advanced” bathroom humor, learning the art of shaving regularly, and suddenly realizing “Holy crap: I’m outta here in 2 years!”

Holy crap:  He’s outta here in 2 years!

And that’s what I’m wondering about.

book to birdI’m not worried about him, not really.  I know Z, and he’ll be fine — a few bumps along the way, but nothing he can’t handle.  I’ve been where he is, and I’ve been to college, and I’ve been the recent graduate in the workforce, etc etc etc.

But I’ve never been here.

I’m looking at being without a full-time job of being cheerleader/medic/tutor/chauffeur/listener/lecturer/movie sharer/other-end-of-sofa-reading-companion/ Scotland-loving partner/introducer of great sci fi adventures/Mama Bear/ “I love you more” arguing opponent.

I don’t remember how to do what I used to do BC.  You know, Before Child.

We’re not just talking about empty-nesting.  That’s an adventure I’m secretly looking forward to, and that’s a different story.  I’m talking about who will I become in a few years?  While my son will be discovering who he is and where his passions lie, will I be doing the same thing, just Act 3?  Or would it be Act 4 or 5? I’ll have to think about that.  I’ve “reinvented” myself before.

Each decade has brought me new adventures, new challenges.  I appreciate both.

I recently came across this quote by Annie Reneau, the author of the blog Motherhood and More:

“Sometimes I cry because in the process of gaining you, I gave up a version of me, and though I wouldn’t change that even if I could, sometimes I miss me desperately.”

Wow.  That sums it up pretty well.

chrysalisChildren aren’t the only ones to grow and change; parents do, too.  And she’s right:  I wouldn’t change having Z.  Not one bit.  But when you become a parent, there are choices to be made, and things you give up — sometimes for good, sometimes just temporarily.

I’ve never stopped to think what my life would have been like if I hadn’t become a parent.  I haven’t had time.  Maybe I don’t care.  I have very few regrets in my life — I typically don’t believe in regrets, except for the things I HAVEN’T done.  And perhaps those aren’t even real “regrets” for me because the optimist in me feels I still have time to fix those.

Are there things I would have done differently AS a parent?  Absolutely.  What parent can honestly say there aren’t?  But becoming a parent…that is hands-down one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life.

Who will I be?  I know it’s not a change that happens overnight.  And I know Z still has two years before college, so he’s not gone yet.  It’s a question I’m curious to figure out (I like to plan ahead), but sometimes a little scared to ask.  Sometimes it seems like “I” just got here.  Now I have to pick up and change again?  I don’t want to become complacent, but can’t I have a breather?

But sometimes… I get excited.  There’s a freedom to be had when children go out on their own, something I’ve had a taste of when Z goes off to camp for 3 weeks every summer.  Sure, I go out whenever I feel like it; tag along with T on a trip every so often; we’ve even gone on vacation while Z has been away.  But even just having the house to myself.  Not having to schedule around the teenager’s schedule.  Wow.  Heady stuff!

blue butterflyWill I miss him when he leaves for college?  Terribly.  I have no doubt.

But I know he’s prepared (or will be) for Life beyond Home.  And he will soak it up, and I will love watching him use those wings he’s been growing the last couple of years to fly higher and higher — and I’ll love watching him fly.

And then maybe I’ll spread my own wings, and see where they can take me.

Until Friday, Friends.  Cheers!

 

Free to a good home

An “oldie” but a goodie….

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I have a bone to pick with whomever designed human beings:  who believed having a menopausal woman and a teenager living in the same house at the same time was a good idea?

I had my child later than the norm: I was 35 when Z was born.  And that was a good thing because I would have been a terrible parent in my 20s.  I have always known that (although I do wish I had the energy I had back then).  But I’m certainly not the only one having children at 35 or beyond.  So what’s with the design flaw?

IMG_1168I love my child.  I do.  Really.  I’m pretty sure.  Let me check and get back to you on that.

This week has been one that makes me think an ad on Craig’s list to sell the 16-year-old doesn’t sound like a bad idea at all.  Hell, I’ll give him away.  For some reason, everything to him is magnified for the worst at least tenfold lately:

He’s going to perish from “all the homework.”  At most he’s spent 42 minutes a night on it so far.

I asked him to change the sheets on his bed.  It’s been a week since I asked.  You don’t want to know how long the current ones have been in residence.  Clean sheets are still sitting on his dresser.  According to him, I’m too controlling.  Yeah, kid: I also control your access to the Internet in this house.  Remember that.

IMG_1370I (gently) reminded him to practice piano after he promised he was going to take it more seriously this year.  He not-at-all-gently stomped up the stairs to his room.

He gets the privilege to drive to school on days we have a second car available, but suddenly he’s not happy about which car he gets to take.  I did offer a second choice, which was not driving at all.  He did not see the humor.

He just found out that the ACT is the morning after he wanted to go to a rock concert in the city and I said “School comes first.” He hasn’t spoken to me since, which actually isn’t a bad thing right now.

I don’t recognize this spoiled brat at all.  This is not how I raised him.

What happens to the teenage brain on hormonal overload?  Why do they think this kind of behavior is acceptable?  More importantly, when does it stop?

I have friends who say “Oh, the nice kid comes back eventually.  Usually around age 20.”  I know they’re trying to be supportive, but holy crap, I don’t know if I’ll last that long.  At least not without dealing with my kid in a manner in which society may decide it’s time for Dana to go away for a while.

IMG_1291Because I don’t look good in Jailhouse Orange or Asylum White, I decided to dig around to see what I could find to help me hold on.  In her article Are Teenage Brains Really Different From Adult Brains?, Molly Edmonds states, “In adults, various parts of the brain work together to evaluate choices, make decisions and act accordingly in each situation. The teenage brain doesn’t appear to work like this.”

Duh.

She goes on to say that “The brain’s remote control is the prefrontal cortex, a section of the brain that weighs outcomes, forms judgments and controls impulses and emotions. This section of the brain also helps people understand one another.”

I also found out it is also the absolute last section of the brain to develop.

That explains a lot.

Add to this the hormonal changes at work, and it’s a wonder any of us lived to see 20: the adolescent brain pours out adrenal stress hormones, sex hormones, and growth hormones, which in turn influence brain development, and not always for the better. Testosterone increases to 10 times the previous amounts in adolescent boys.

In other words, our kids’ brains are a hot mess.

Of course, I can’t say that mine is much better.

Being in menopause is an interesting experience (aside from the hot flashes, night sweats, and the mood swings).  According to neuropsychiatrist Louann Brizendine, MD, “Before menopause, a woman’s hormones encourage her to avoid conflict. Our estrogenized brain circuits cause us to respond to stress with nurturing activities that are intended to protect our relationships.”  In other words, from puberty to menopause, a woman walks a fine line between making sure relationships are steady, and tries to keep anger or aggression dialed down. And that urge doesn’t IMG_1383stop until the hormone supply that fuels it is cut off during menopause.  Brizendine continues, “As the ratio of testosterone to estrogen rises, the anger pathways in a woman’s brain become more like a man’s. Now she gets angry, whereas before she may have just bitten her tongue. At the very least, she’ll stand up for herself and say, “I’m not doing that anymore.”

Wow.  That explains why those little old ladies are so feisty.  They’re working out the lifetime of pent-up “niceness”!

So, in a nutshell:  here is my teenage son, feeling the surge of hormones flooding his brain and pretty much incapable of understanding adults; and here am I, experiencing the drain of hormones, leaving me less likely to put up with his crappy hormonal attitude.

Great combination.  Like bleach and vinegar.  Or drinking and driving.  Or Bonnie and Clyde.

These are the odds we face everyday.  I think I know what secret ingredient must be present in people: magic, pure and simple.  It’s the only explanation as to why we’ve survived this long.

Until Friday, Friends.  Cheers!

What’s the point of having kids?

no outletWhen I was in elementary school, we moved to a new neighborhood.  There was a cul-de-sac the next block over with one of those yellow signs that read “No Outlet.”  My little sister asked my Dad what that meant, and without missing a beat, he told her there was no electricity at that end of the block.  She believed him.

Even better, my uncle convinced my young cousin that there was no such thing as Santa Claus, but it was really the ‘Christmas Turkey’ that brought gifts.  My aunt only found out about this when the kindergarten teacher called in a flustered fit because at recess, my cousin held court on the playground and informed the entire class that there was no Santa, just the ‘Christmas Turkey’ and now she had 25 crying kids, and one very-pleased-with-himself, if not slightly confused, five-year-old (why wouldn’t these children be pleased to learn the truth about who brought gifts for under the tree?), and would my aunt and uncle please come to the school principal’s office immediately.

I have no idea how long it took my aunt to re-convince my cousin that it was Santa…and what exactly the repercussions were when he was older and learned there were NO fabled characters, feathered or otherwise, who put gifts under the tree.

But really: what good is having kids if you can’t mess with them?

I like to think I’m a pretty good sport when it comes to my kid.  I’ve gone on every roller coaster; watched every goofy video; listened to the same song over and over and over, read the same book at bedtime over and over and over; I listened to so many non-sensical jokes I don’t have ringing in my ears, I hear knock knock.  Bathroom humor, double entendre; eye-rolling, stomping out of rooms; dating woes, skin break outs, body issues, boy body odor (that latter seemingly only bothersome to me and the rest of the world so “why is it such a big deal, mom?”).  I have rarely been rendered speechless by his words or deeds, but it’s been close a few times.

Sometimes I think it would just be a nice change of pace to mess with his head every once in a while.  Not “send him to therapy” kind of messing; you know, “just for fun” messing.

For instance:for sale

I’d like to put a “For Sale” sign in our yard.  When my child asks why we’re moving, I’ll say it’s part of the Witness Protection plan.  And I won’t answer any more questions about it.

I’ll place a helium balloon in the toilet with the seat down.brown e's

I’ll tell him I baked brownies and tell him to help himself.

I’ll cover the TV remote sensor with a piece of tape and see how many times he points and clicks before he realizes it just isn’t going to work.  Any bets on whether he just turns it off, or calls for me “Moooooom: the TV is broken!”

If he’s spending too much time on the computer, I’ll get in and switch the cursor settings to move in the opposite directions.

googly eyesI’d like to stick googly eyes on the food in the fridge.  When he opens it and freaks, I’ll tell him since he’s not watching what he’s eating, the food is watching him.

 

 

 

 

I’ll find a wig in the ’80s style — different color than my current hair, too.  When he sees me, I’ll say I was missing my high school days and thought this was always a good look for me.  Then I’ll see how long it takes before he asks “how long it will take to grow out?” (or something less tactful)

I’ll change his phone settings so that every time he types “PIR”* it gets replaced with “I’m doing what Mom says.”

Really, if you can’t mess with your kids after all they’ve put you through, what’s the point in keeping them?emoji

Until Friday, Friends.  Cheers!

 

*Text speak for “parent in room.”  It took me months to figure that one out.  I’m still trying to figure out what he can’t type on a tiny device when I am, indeed, in the room: there’s no way I can see what is on that screen unless I take the phone in hand.  Which I did once.  And saw “PIR”….

 

 

 

Boys of summer

Dear Chicago White Sox,

I want to tell you a tale about a renewed love story.

I grew up in mid-Michigan, with both sets of grandparents and spans of aunts, uncles, and cousins nearby.  I remember a lot of family gatherings on a lot of different holidays and now-forgotten occasions.  One set of memories that will forever stay with me, though, is going to my Dad’s parents’ on Sunday afternoons tigersand hearing the Tigers’ game on the radio.  My grandpa was a die-hard Tigers fan, and I don’t think he ever missed a radio-cast game during his adult years.

(Yes, the Detroit Tigers.  Stay with me here…)

I don’t think my grandpa had any idea how to connect with me.  He had one daughter out of four kids himself, and I was one of just four granddaughters, and #7 out of 10 grandkids.  But the summer I discovered baseball as a 9-year-old, I would sit with him at the dining room table, listening to WJR with Ernie Harwell providing the play-by-play, visualizing the whole diamond in my head, and the chasm between us got a little smaller.  It didn’t matter so much to me as to which Ernie harwellteam won, but how exciting the game was (It’s a good thing, too, since that era of the club was in a slow decline and wins were far and few between).  Ernie Harwell, though, boy he could make ANYTHING sound exciting!  Nonetheless, they were OUR Tigers and OUR team.  Even through all his swearing during the game (and grandma shouting from the kitchen to ‘watch your language the kids are here’), grandpa showed me what team loyalty was, and how to be a real fan.

But after several years, high school was on the horizon and baseball faded from my view.  My grandpa died when I was 16, and after that, listening to baseball on the radio just wasn’t fun anymore.

Fifteen years later, I re-discovered how much I enjoyed the game when I lived out east and was invited to a Mets game.  Holy cow!  What a blast!  I could finally SEE what was actually happening on that diamond — for all the years of listening to baseball, I’d never been to a live game.  I managed to get to a few more games, and certainly had fun at each one; but I have to say, no team captured my heart like the Tigers had.

A few more years passed, and I gave birth to my son, Z.  A whirling dervish to be sure, he lived to be in perpetual motion.  He loved to watch anything full of motion.  Anything with a ball was a good game.

When we moved to Chicagoland 13 years ago when Z was 3, I decided it was time: I wanted to take him to his first major league ballgame.

I’ll be honest, I first looked up the Cubs because, at the time, they were doing really well, even making a drive for the playoffs.  But not knowing if my 3-year-old would want to leave after the bottom of the 1st or fall asleep during the 7th inning stretch, I didn’t want to pay the exorbitant prices I saw listed for Cubs tickets.  So, I checked out the White Sox website and ended up buying relatively cheap tickets for a Saturday afternoon game.

SOXWith fingers crossed that he could sit still long enough to actually watch the game, and the tote bag stocked with anything I could think of to make it a pleasant day out, we entered Comiskey Park*

And Z was TOTALLY entranced!

This is the kid who would normally be running from Point A to Point Z, zigzagging all around, pointing and asking questions — who was now wide-eyed, mouth hanging open in a perfect little “O”, and walking through the halls in awe, his little hand staying put in mine, not saying a word; just looking up and around at all there was to take in.

We stopped at a vendor and bought him a jersey:  Frank Thomas’.  Z liked the number “35”.  I helped him put it on, and then we walked hand in hand out into the gorgeous Chicago sun-filled stadium.

He thought he had died and gone to DisneyWorld.

NOW the talking began: he wanted to know what everything was, the scoreboard was of special interest and he remained skeptical when I told him there would be fireworks if the Sox hit a home run.  But oh my, nothing compared to when “the guys” came out onto the field.  You’d have thought he was an old pro to hear him cheer for the team.  And when Frank Thomas came out, Z almost exploded, frank in actionscreaming as if he’d won the lottery: “That’s MY guy!  I have 35!”  The next couple of hours tested my memory for how the game worked as I struggled to give him an age-appropriate explanation, and he listened carefully and watched intently to everything going on down on the field.

Not only did he want to stay for all 9 innings, but wanted to know when HE got to go down to the field and play with “the guys on his team”!

We’ve been proud fans ever since. Thank you, Chicago White Sox, for 13 years and counting of great baseball and great family time.  Z has grown up with the same admiration for the game — and I hope, good memories — that I have.  In this world today, it’s a beautiful thing to know that some things never change. 

Except now it is the Chicago White Sox who have my heart.

So dearest Sox, I remain,

Still in love with the game

 

Until Tuesday, Friends.  Cheers!

 

*Yes, I know the name has been changed.  But no, I won’t call it anything but Comiskey.  That’s how I heard it growing up listening to Ernie, and that’s how I know the Home of the White Sox.

 

 

For my son on his 16th birthday

Dear Z-Bear,

Here we are.

16th birthdayI’ll bet you thought you’d never get here — the big ONE SIX.  DRIVER’S LICENSE AGE!!!  Woohoo!!!  (that’s me — you go ahead and make whatever sound you want).  A junior in high school.  Looking seriously at colleges, trying to imagine yourself living somewhere else, on your own.  Pretty heady stuff, isn’t it?

It is for me, too.

In just a while, we’ll pick you up from camp.  I will be jaw-droppingly shocked at how much you’ve grown — not just in inches, but in self-confidence and how comfortable you are in your own skin.  It happens every year.  Besides your kindness, I am most proud of how you are able to fit in to almost any situation and still maintain your sense of You-ness.

And You are pretty remarkable.  Really!  You’re one of the most interesting people I know.  I love You.  I admire You.  I like You.  And I am really, really proud of You.

Those wings you’ve been practicing with over the last couple of years are growing strong, and soon they’ll take you where you need to be for the next chapter of your life.  Don’t worry: they WILL be strong enough.  I know sometimes it might not feel like it, but they will be.  There might be some crash landings in your near future, but nothing that will stop you from picking yourself up, dusting off, and launching again.  You are resilient.  It’s not only because that’s how I’ve raised you, but because that’s who you are.

Some of the things you’ve had to endure so young aren’t fair.  Frankly, they sucked.  You were hurt and let down more often than a lot of adults ever are in their whole lives.  And it hurt me to know I wasn’t able to protect you from it all.

But you did something remarkable for someone so young: you prevailed through it all, and tried to protect me.

You are amazing.

tribeAnd guess what?  You’ll find others like you, others you never knew existed.  And you’ll form your own tribe.  And you’ll learn from each other, and try new things, and find comfort in the “me too” that you’ll hear from each other.  Your tribe will be the people your turn to in need, in happiness, in commiseration, and when you just need to hang out.  These are the people you’ll miss most when it’s time for you all to fly on to the next thing.

You’ll find injustices that make you scream and shout, that will make you cry, because your heart is that tender and that caring.  Not only because that’s how I’ve raised you, but because that’s who you are.

You’ll find your passion in your studies, and in your life.  Whether it’s exactly what you think that will be today, or whether you come upon it by accident in your first years away from home.  You’ll find it.  And I want you to hold on to it and remember the feeling you have as you discover more about it — how exciting and remarkable it is.  Carry that with you, because there will be days when something will cause your day to be boring or repetitive or very, very hard.  Bad things will happen.  Things that will make your heart hurt. But there will be so many more good and wonderful things that will make your heart so happy, I promise!

Then, when something has you down, remember how lovely and exciting it CAN be and WILL be again.  Life really is too short to be stuck doing something you don’t like when you have the opportunity to change it.  Promise me you won’t be afraid to make a change if it’s needed.  Don’t be afraid to stand up and say “this isn’t for me” if you’ve truly tried to make it work.  Take responsibility for your actions.  Not just because that’s how I’ve raised you, but because that’s who you are.

Love.  As a verb.  Go ahead — love your heart out.  Love people, love pets, love books, love music, love tennis, love what you do, love the sunrise and sunset, love the stars, love your family — all of it.  Will your heart get broken at some point?  Yes (if it doesn’t, I don’t think you’re doing it right).  But it is so very true that loving and losing is better than never having loved at all.  Trust me.  Really.  I promise.

Yes, I hope you dance.  And sing.  And study hard.  And play hard.  I hope you are HAPPY in whatever you do.  I hope you find exactly what it is you will be looking for, at every step of the way.  Mostly I hope you enjoy the search — wherever it takes you, whether it’s right around the corner or halfway across the world.  Enjoy the ride.  Take lots of pictures, but don’t forget to put down the camera and be a PART of the scene.  You’ll remember the trip, I promise.  But you can’t remember what you don’t do.

Life is made of moments, big and small.  The small ones are just as important as the big ones — sometimes more so.  I know right now the big ones — like turning 16 — are at the top of your mind.  They are, after all, the “big” markers along the journey to let you know you’ve arrived at a ‘next’ point along the way.

gratefulI have to be honest:  you’re not what I expected — because I wasn’t sure what to expect.  Being your Mom is so much better than I ever dreamed!  I love being your Mom.  There is NEVER a dull moment with you in my life — not because it’s all craziness, but because you are so interesting!  Have there been moments in our lives together that I’ve thought “Oh my gosh, ANYwhere but here!”?  Of course.  Any parent would be lying if they said every moment was great.  But I am truly grateful for you, and so happy you are my child.

word cloudBe grateful.  Be gracious.  Be smart.  Be healthy.  Be kind.  Be You.  The best You possible, all along the way.  Not just because that’s the way I’ve tried so hard to raise you, but because I know that’s who you are.

Always and forever.

Mama Bear

 

Until Tuesday, Friends.  Cheers!

 

 

 

 

Here we go

Oh boy.

We’re smack dab in the midst of college hunting.

imageZ has a long list of colleges he wanted to look into. He’s been collecting names for about 9 months. This past weekend he began researching in earnest, and managed to scale it down to seven. Of those, we have visited two in the Midwest already – complete with the admissions intro and campus tour. Another is a “maybe,” with more research needed having come to the party late in the game. Another two are here in the Chicagoland area, so easy enough to schedule a visit any weekend this fall. That leaves two, and they aren’t nearby.

These final colleges are farther east: one in upstate New York, and the other is in Ontario. Yeah, Canada. Wow. That’s going away to college. Equidistant from home, and actually, the Canadian school is easier to fly to. But something about out of the country kind of blew my mind.

It also opens up a whole new ballgame in terms of the application process and searching out college financial aid: if he goes outside of the U.S., federal grants and scholarships don’t apply. As if the FAFSA wasn’t enough of a challenge.

imageDon’t get me wrong, I’m thrilled Z is looking “beyond” his comfort zone and wanting to stretch himself. It’s very exciting for all of us! Somehow, though, coming down to the short list has made it very real…and very close. And I’m not ready.

Trust me when I tell you I’m not a helicopter parent. And although Z and I are close, he’s certainly not a “mama’s boy” (I’ve got that in our cat, Murphy). Z knows knows how to do his laundry, knows basic cooking and finance, and how to care for an auto. Z is a very good, very well-rounded student with damn good grades.  He has a good head on his shoulders, can read music and play a tough game of tennis, knows how to be a good friend, and is interested in enough of the world that I think he’s going to make the most out of his time at college and make it a positive experience all around (as long as his roommates don’t kill him first).  He’s been away on his own every summer for 3 weeks at a time at camp, a seven hours’ drive away, since he was 8. I don’t doubt he’ll be just fine.

It’s me.

From the time he was born, I knew all about his days. Who he saw, what he did, where he went, when he did it, and how he felt and fared.

imageEven once he entered preschool, the two and a half hours each morning had a uniformity, as well as notes and newsletters every week! Not to mention my volunteering every other week or so. And kindergarten was much the same. As elementary school progressed, every day reports became a thing of the past, but his excitement to tell me about who/what/where/when and how only grew.

Then came middle school.

Between hormones (his) and the school district weaning us parents off weekly communiques, it was harder to get the scoop on his days.

And then there’s high school.
Let me tell you, I’m really good at 20 Questions now as he heads into his junior year.

imageGoing from knowing everything about someone’s day to being the last to know is very, VERY hard, and I admit I’m not very good at it. I’ve said it before: he’s my first, last, and only. I’m experiencing it all, all at once!

I really am looking forward to a little more freedom to go about my business without needing to take the teen’s schedule into account every day. I can certainly do without the annoying spats we get into at least once a week (T is looking forward to that, too). And only having one set of hormones raging in the house will be like a vacation every day (at least for me; T still has to put up with mine).

But not hearing about SOME aspect of his day, the good or the bad, is something with which I’m struggling. Knowing I’ll only get a very broad picture once he leaves, for months at a time, is hard to imagine. I know my son, probably better than he knows himself at times. But all that is going to change: the person I love most in this world is going to move away. And I suddenly feel like I did when I was 9 and my parents announced we were moving. It didn’t matter that it was just across town, because I still had to accept that my friends, whom I saw EVERY DAY, weren’t going to be a part of my everyday life anymore. It didn’t matter if we could phone each other as much as we wanted, because we all know it’s not the same as being together in person whether it’s at age 9, 10, 15, 20, 40, or 51.

imageIt’s going to be time to share my son (the good, the bad, and the ugly) with the rest of the world. And I’m having a hard time preparing myself to share my greatest treasure. You see, I genuinely like Z. Faults, foibles, hormones, and all. And I miss having the people I love, AND like, nearby.

I’m not afraid of the Empty Nest – I have enough writing to do, places to explore, and worlds to examine to fill another lifetime. But I am feeling sad that the wings I’ve gladly helped him grow will take him away from our knowing and sharing our everyday stuff with each other. Our talking will naturally turn to bigger life events, simply because it’s the day-to-day things that get forgotten first. Texts are nice for quick contact. But even I can’t put everything I want to say into a text (ask T and my best girlfriend E about the novels I try sending…). And again, it’s different than being right next to someone.

For all of school & life’s lessons – not one prepares you for saying “arrivederci” when your child leaves home.imageI guess I need to go back to preschool and pay better attention to the sharing part. Do you think that would help?

Until Tuesday, Friends. Cheers!

Dear Amy Poehler

Dear Amy,

May I call you Amy?  I know we’ve never met, but after reading your book, Yes Please, I feel like we just had a 2-week slumber party*.  And after you’ve seen someone in their hypothetical pajamas, it seems we should be on a first-name basis.

I must admit something to you first:  before reading your book, I was never a “fan.”  It’s not that I didn’t like you!  No, no!  I just didn’t know you.  Your movies tended to reach toward a different demographic than the one I fall into: overworked, overstressed, 40-50 something-or-other-mom-of-teenager-people.  And although I enjoyed your tenure on Saturday Night Live, that was when I was lucky to make it to Saturday nights, period. And forget about Tivo/DVR: I have shows from the early 2000s still waiting in the queue.  So, please forgive me for not knowing your most memorable sketches and movie titles.

IMG_3883Another admission:  I’m not really sure what drew me to your book on the shelf at Barnes & Noble.  Maybe because I was so desperate for a “yes” in my life at the time, and there is that big, pink neon, capital YES on the cover.  Actually, your entire attitude comes through on that cover:  “HELLO – YES, ME, OVER HERE, I’D LIKE SOME OF THIS, TOO!”  Me too!  Me too!  And as the front dust cover says, “In a perfect world… We’d get to hang out with Amy Poehler…”  And maybe all I needed for a perfect world right then was hanging out with you (and, because the self-help section was no help at all).

But truly, after reading (and re-reading certain pages), I want to have coffee with you.  I know at first reading that doesn’t sound like much.  But you need to understand that I HATE coffee.  I mean, gag me with a spoon hate.  I try it every few years in case my taste buds have suddenly gone AWOL, but the result is always the same: I take a sip and immediately wish I had soap nearby to wash out my mouth.  I look like a dog trying to get peanut butter off the roof of my mouth, but much more worried because I’m absolutely convinced that the taste won’t ever go away.

Anyway, for you, Amy, I would drink the coffee if it meant sitting and chatting with you about life, love, being the mom to sons (even though I have just one — which is enough for me), writing, divorce, finding the courage to say whatever you want, the energy to do whatever you like, and the wisdom to be whoever you are.

(I hope the coffee analogy was strong enough to show you how much I am willing to risk to spend a day with you.)

I must have missed you in New York.  I lived out east for seven years, although I discovered I wasn’t cut out to work in Manhattan: I was a lousy commuter.  Afterall, if you miss the train by 1 second, you’ve still missed the train.

I, too, moved to Chicagoland (still here).

See?  We already have so much in common!  I, too, love performing (I grew up in the theater and it wasn’t until high school that I realized not everyone had the opportunity to be involved in theater.  I just thought the ones who didn’t were fun-challenged); however, my days on the community theater stage ended when I left Michigan in my late 20s — something I do miss.  The theater, I mean (although, I did have an awful lot of fun in my late 20s, too…).  I am ‘Mom’ to a wildly charming, incredibly intelligent, amazingly talented son (at least for today — check back with me tomorrow: that kid may have snuck away looking for an equally charming, intelligent, talented mother, and left the little monster behind).

And I am looking for the same answers as everyone else.

Well, not that we’re all looking for EXACTLY the same answers: I’ve never thought of Life like algebra where there’s one answer for each problem; but more like an interpretive dance, maybe.  You know, it means whatever the hell each person thinks it means, and some of us are lost and STILL wondering.

But more importantly, I want the chance to tell you that your idea of “good for you, not for me” is as close to The Answer to Life as anything I’ve ever heard!  I mean, it is THE BOMB!  The ABSOLUTE TRUTH!  EXACTLY what I needed to hear (other than there really is a miracle pill for weight loss that won’t ultimately kill me)!  I know it doesn’t answer what IS right for me or anyone else, but it allows some breathing room to figure it out.  For instance, I am 100% behind all of my fellow Earthsters — I just don’t happen to share all of their beliefs: They are Good for You, Not for Me.  To All the Moms of the world, I support you!  Your decisions about what is best for your families are Good for You, Not for Me.

Hillary-AmyI personally feel that this mantra would solve all the world problems by simply getting people to mind their own damn business, and I will be first in line to vote for you when you run for President.  By the way, your impersonation of Hillary is AMAZING!  I wonder if she can do an impersonation of you?

Before I go any further, I feel I should tell you there is someone else I worship admire in my  life: Carly Simon.

I wonder if you’ve ever heard her song “Don’t Wrap it Up”?

“I’ll take some of this, I’ll have some of that
And several more of these.
Now that I see it, I know what I like
So I’d like it if you please.
I ain’t nobody’s princess, stuck in Sunday School!
So I’ll help myself to love,
And have the whole career!
Don’t wrap it up, I’ll eat it here…

…I’ve stood there patiently waiting in line
A take-out man’s an O.K. plan
If you’ve got lots of time
(Especially if he is biodegradable)

I ain’t nobody’s little princess, stuck in some Sunday School —
I ain’t nobody’s fool!
So I’ll help myself to love,
There’s nothing at all to fear (woo hoo!)!
Don’t wrap it up, I’ll eat it here…”

From the first time I heard it years ago, I adopted it as kind of my anthem.  She sang, and I heard her.

You wrote, and I heard you.

Thank you.

cup of coffeeSo call me next time you’re in Chicagoland and we’ll meet up.  For you, Amy, even for coffee.

Very sincerely,

Dana

 

Until Tuesday, Friends.  Cheers!

*Yes, admission #146:  it took me two weeks to read the book.  The only time I had at that point was just before going to bed, and I was lucky I could keep my eyes open long enough to turn a page.  Give me a break.