Category Archives: life

The End of Absence

I recently decided to add a new regular feature to WriteCreateClick by sharing  books that have positively impacted my life or motivated me to change some aspect of how I choose to live it. After all, if it helps me, why not share it with others?   As I type this, I realize I’m more than open to suggestions on books that help one deal with life with a neurotic rescue dog who is fearful of cats, squirrels, birds, rain, delivery men, wind & pumpkins. Yes, pumpkins. Today it happens to be the meter reader.  Life is indeed an adventure with Apollo!  Somedays it’s a bit more than I can handle:-)  I digress…

The first book I would like to highlight is The End of Absence by Michael Harris.

UnknownThis book caught my eye while I was waiting in line to check out at Barnes & Noble.  Having children who love computers, iPhones and iPads, I have developed a somewhat unrelenting concern with how these devices are affecting their world:  the relationship they have with me & their friends, their social skills, their manners, their education, their creativity, etc.  The opening sentences on the book jacket read:

“Soon enough, nobody will remember life before the Internet.  What does this unavoidable fact mean?”

My generation will remember life before.  We know what it was like to experience living without constantly being connected.  Some of us, and most certainly myself, still have that longing to unplug and seek solitude away from texts, e-mails, Facebook, Instagram, and even the ringing of the phone, which although not a new annoyance, is now an annoyance that follows you everywhere – the beach, the car, the beauty salon, the cruise ship, the dinner out – and isn’t just an issue in our home (where we no longer even have a land line).

I have attempted to discuss these issues and how we should deal with it on Facebook and like most attempts at Facebook discussions, I generally get self-righteous advice from people telling me that it’s in my control & not really an issue at all.  “Take their devices!”  “Make them go outside.”  “My son never has too much screen time because *I* limit it.”  But these people are missing the point.  No matter how perfectly they think they are parenting, the influences and pressures and risks our kids face being online and constantly connected are not going away just because you limit their time and {think you} are in control.  You cannot change the fact that they will never know life before these devices came along.

It has been a long time since I have read a book where I felt the need to grab a highlighter and highlight passages that inspire me and contain information that I find brilliant or important enough to want to refer back to often.  This book made me do that.  I will warn you that it’s a somewhat intellectual, scholarly-type text.  But it’s so thought-provoking that I fully intend to re-read it soon. Mr. Harris’ concern with future generations being able to experience lack, absence, & dropping out of the daily electronic grind, if only for a short while, is a key theme in the book.

Here are just a few of the passages I highlighted:

“Despite the universality of this change, which we’re all buffeted by, there is a single, seemingly small change that I’ll be most sorry about. It will sound meaningless, but:  One doesn’t see teenagers staring into space anymore. Gone is the idle mind of the adolescent.”

“This is the problem with losing lack:  It’s nearly impossible to recall its value once it is gone.”

“The smartphone itself is a far, far safer friend than a messy, unpredictable human.”

“If we maintain that cognizance of the difference between an online life and an offline life, we can choose to enjoy both worlds and move between them as we wish.”

In the end, Mr. Harris urges to to look away from our devices more often and experience absence and solitude.  I put down this book feeling very, very grateful that I am part of the generation that has the experience of living both pre and post-internet.  He most certainly wrote a book that needed to be written.  Although you may feel it’s slow in parts due to the fact that it sometimes reads like a college thesis, just persevere and in the end I think you will come away better educated and informed about the world we find ourselves living in.

 

 

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As The Sun Sets On Summer…..

photo-25I’ll be honest. I hate this time of year. Hate it. The pool is closed. The days get shorter. School is in session and homework abounds. I have to wake the kids up early. UGH. I try to look for bright spots, like almost daily stops at the donut shop, time to myself during the day & a daughter who is back at college where she is having fun & not whining that this is the most boring place on Earth. But the bottom line is that I just do not look forward to the school year and winter. This too shall pass. IN MAY.

Where have I been the last several months? Well, I had a simple surgery on March 5th and from there went right into a battle with a BEAST of a kidney stone on April 5th. Suffice it to say that I thought that was never going to end. It did and I’m well now. So what have I done since then?

*spent a weekend at the beautiful Roaring River State Park near Cassville, MO with my husband & his family

*spent a week in Watercolor, FL with my family &  few of my daughter’s friends who came & went throughout the week

*read so many books – Gone Girl, Summer House With Swimming Pool, Sharp Objects, Me Before You, Dad is Fat, All Fall Down, The Wives of Los Alamos, Insane City, Glitter & Glue, The Burgess Boys, Up At Butternut Lake, & The End of Absence 

*completed a few needlework projects

*spent spring break in New Orleans, LA with the boys & Chuck

*spent a day canoeing the Buffalo National River in the mountains of Arkansas with the boys and two of their friends (We live in Little Rock, so it was about a 4 hour drive to Steel’s Landing near Ponca, AR, where we put in.)

*moved my daughter, Ryder, home from Texas Christian University for the summer

*moved Ryder back to TCU for her sophomore year

*spent an awesome weekend in Dallas, TX with Ryder & attended George Strait’s last big tour concert at AT & T Stadium

*spent a lot of time at our neighborhood pool with friends & enjoyed a couple quiet days at our neighbor’s backyard pool while they were on vacation

And so much more that I’m sure I’m forgetting.  Perhaps now that the kids are in school I will have more time to update.  I have several ideas for projects to share on this little corner of the internet and I hope to start sharing some before & after projects as we slowly do a bit of cosmetic work on our 1950’s ranch home.  Thanks a million for bearing with me through the drought!

 

 

These three….

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These three are my world and I could not be prouder of them.  They are not perfect and I couldn’t be prouder of that either.  Not one of them fits a formula (Straight A-student, star athlete, Rhodes scholar….).  We get compliments all the time on how nice, funny & respectful they are and that is what makes me proud.  Their teachers, administrators and fellow peers seem to adore them and that’s important to me.  More important than perfect grades, scholarships and accolades.  I want them to grow up to be what they want to be.  We know more and more people lately who will only finance their kids’ college educations if they follow the plans they think will produce a lucrative job at the end of the line – medicine, law, nursing, accounting, engineering, physical therapy, teaching……..Wouldn’t the world be interesting if those were the only professions we had to choose from?  Next time you take in a movie, think of how exciting it would be if Brad Pitt, Steven Spielberg, Clint Eastwood and Martin Scorsese were all partners in a law firm.  The next time you get your hair done, think of how you’d look if your favorite stylist thought nursing was her only option.  Last year on our family vacation, while paddling in the middle of a lake, I thought, “Wow, thank God someone used their imagination and came up with the Yolo Board!”  It takes all kinds.  And it takes all sorts of interests and passions to make this wonderful thing we call a world go around.

I have a theory that there would be many more creative people if not for the expectations of their parents and grandparents.  We are experiencing this in our own life right now, both good and bad.  My dad loves my kids completely unconditionally.  He loves that they are caring, unique individuals with diverse interests in life. Sometimes I wish he would teach a course on how to love unconditionally.  It’s not all about having an arsenal of brag fodder. Some say,  “How are their grades?  What?  Not straight A’s??”  “He wants to be a director? Good luck with that.”  “He’ll never be an athlete if he doesn’t eat better or practice more!”  And to this I simply say, “Are you serious???”

I look at my three children and I see bravery in my girl,  the one that broke from the pack and went off to a university where she had no close friends.  She sought out and got a job without being told to when we told her we couldn’t squeeze any more out of our budget to help her with expenses.  She works hard and she makes us proud.  She has always chosen good friends who help round out her life.  She has endured people erronously thinking she has an illness, for God’s sake, with grace and dignity.  She travels the world with little or no fear, once with two broken toes, and drinks in life fully with every breath.  I have no doubt she will succeed in life.

I look at my middle child, the free spirit, the one people find hilariously funny…..and I see great things in his future.  At his old school, he was routinely dismissed as not paying attention, not giving it his all, sometimes being a pain…..  At his new school, he is embraced.  They find him hilarious and go out of their way to find things that will interest him and use his abilities for a greater good.  He has found a sweet spot in drama and improv and he has developed a heart that makes me proud.  On a recent trip to New Orleans, his dad had given both he and his brother $20 to spend.  Over dinner, Wyatt asked if it would be ok if he gave his $20 to the struggling musician with the loyal dog curled up beside him.  I’ll take that over “straight A’s” any day.  I love that at his new school, on many occasions, teachers and administrators have told me, “We don’t know what he’s going to do with his life but we know it will be something successful that we will all remember.”  I believe that too.

I look at my youngest.  My shy one, my introvert.  He’s talented at many things, including baseball and cooking.  He’s got an eagerness to learn that is admirable and an eagerness to make his money grow that I still do not have 🙂 His attention to detail on projects can be both impressive and frustrating!  In many ways, parenting him  is my biggest challenge because I take for granted that he’s fairly outgoing like me when he’s actually much shyer and more withdrawn that even HE projects to others.   He played basketball for his school this year and gave it his all.  No matter what the sport, he’s so fun to watch.  I admire that he is generally over a loss by the time he’s off the court or in the car.  He likes to have fun and he is good with kids younger than he is.  He is funny too.  All three seem to have that gene.

What’s not to be proud of?  Why would I need straight-A’s?  Have I told you all how much I hate that phrase?  I’ll say it again.  I hate hearing how your kid has straight-A’s.  Would you like to know why?  I’ll tell you anyway.  In many instances, those straight-A’s result from pressure from parents and the fear of failure they’ve instilled, whether conscious or not.  I hate that phrase the way I hate “gifted and talented” programs, though all my kids took part in them at some time or another, with very little benefit.  Take a kid who is naturally gifted at playing concert violin but has a 2.9 GPA.  Is he not gifted and talented?  Or is he talented but not gifted?  WTF does that phrase even MEAN?  What about a child who starts a charity to collect shoes for the needy and helps more people than many adults his age but struggled terribly in history and science and only graduated with a 2.5?  Does he have nothing to offer this world?  People, we are setting kids up for failure when we make them believe they are only worthy if they get into the best schools, have a high starting salary upon graduation and have to reward their parents & grandparents with a long string of successes to brag about.  It’s ridiculous.  It’s no mystery to me that there is a rash of suicides today among teens and young adults.

I feel qualified to speak on this issue because for a long time I was one of those kids.  No, I wasn’t suicidal, but I was a high school kid who had a grandparent who talked about me like I was perfect.  I did make good grades.  I excelled in music.  At one point I was the top student in my class, and then the 2nd and then the 3rd and by graduation, the 6th.  Why?  Because I grew weary of having to keep up the facade of being perfect.  I really didn’t think it would affect my lot in life and it hasn’t.  I do what I love now.  I am a mom, a wife and a photographer, who takes images that hopefully have a positive effect on my subjects, whether I’m photographing a new baby, an engaged couple, a senior in high school or a beautiful woman.  I don’t make a fortune.  I don’t even promote myself much, if truth be known, because I’m lucky enough to be in a situation where I can pick and choose my work.  I’m not a perfect wife or mother by any means, but I think I’m happy.  I have my days, don’t get me wrong, when I consider hanging it up and fleeing for the nearest secluded beach.  But overall, I’ve got it good.  Would I be happier as a hotshot LA attorney with a degree from Stanford?  I doubt it.  Actually I can pretty much guarantee it.

What I do know for sure is that the person who affected my life the most was the one who supported me no matter what I chose or how I failed and not the one who expected me to be perfect.  Which one are you?

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On beaches and beach towns……

IMG_1113The idea of doing a series of posts on Florida’s gulf beaches and beach towns has been in the back of my mind for some time.  Each year, especially around this time, I get numerous requests from people asking me to recommend restaurants, resorts, beach houses, etc. for spring break and summer vacations, mostly along Hwy 30- A in Walton County, FL.  We’ve been vacationing at the beach since 1997, at various locations from Ft. Morgan, AL to Seacrest Beach, FL.  Our tastes & needs have changed and we have become much more knowledgeable about the area.  I’m happy to share what I know.  I base my opinions on years of traveling to and studying the areas mentioned.  For the first installment, let’s get to know the most popular beach communities from MS to FL.

IMG_1776cpyMISSISSIPPI:

BILOXI—I am often asked if Biloxi is good for a spring break trip or a short summer trip for those who are on a limited budget or have very little time to travel.  I like Biloxi, and it’s always a wonderful part of the trip when we reach the Gulfport/Biloxi area, because I swear the air changes and you start to feel those wonderful gulf breezes. I adore the people of this area — genuine, good-hearted, resilient — & I loved spending a week helping rebuild after Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005.  However, as beach vacations go, it’s not the best.  Being so close to the mouth of the mighty Mississippi, the water tends toward brown more than blue and the beaches are far from white sand.  Biloxi is where our daughter first put her toes in the sand and we had to be careful to avoid litter & sharp objects in the process.  Its beaches just aren’t too conducive to sand castles & bare feet.  However, I do like Biloxi and you won’t get a better meal than you will find at Mary Mahoney’s Restaurant.  The building the restaurant resides in was built as a private home in 1737 and became Mary’s restaurant in 1962.  It has survived many a storm and hurricane and has a HUGE live oak tree on the property.  It’s worth a stop, even if you’re just passing through.  For a short stay or quick get-a-way spring break trip, I can recommend the Hard Rock Hotel and the Beau Rivage Resort and Casino.  Both have wonderful pool areas and ocean views.  They’re a bit on the upscale side but you will appreciate the amenities they have to offer compared to other resorts.  If you’re wanting to spend days lying on the beach, skimming waves and swimming in clear blue waters, you might want to move on down the coast.

ALABAMA:

DAPHNE/FAIRHOPE—First, let me clarify that these are not beach towns.  They sit on the eastern shore of Mobile Bay.  I’m going to include them because if you split your trip down to the Florida coast into two days, this is an excellent place to stop.  There are many wonderful accommodations.  I highly recommend the Homewood Suites in Daphne.  It’s very clean and has a nice outdoor pool for the kids to work off the pent-up energy from your car ride.  Daphne is located right on I-10 and there are many chain and local restaurants where you can grab an evening meal.  We usually try to eat at Guido’s/My Cousin Vinny’s for Italian or El Rancho for Mexican.  We miss the Nautilus, a wonderful seafood restaurant that had beautiful bay views and we wish someone would resurrect it!  Fairhope is further off the interstate but the quaint little town will reward you with a wonderful independent bookstore, galleries, a toy shop and numerous boutiques for shopping.  A trip down to the Fairhope Pier is a must.  If you have a nice budget to work with, spring for a night (or two!) at Marriott’s Grand Hotel, next to Fairhope in Point Clear, AL.  It’s located right on the bay and is a wonderful family resort with so many activities for the kids including swimming, tennis and even jet-skiing on the bay.

GULF SHORES/ORANGE BEACH/FT. MORGAN—We began our beach vacations by going to Seaside, FL in 1997.  We just had Ryder, who was a wonderful traveler and we took our time, meandering across the gulf on backroads and eating in local cafes and restaurants.  Along came the boys in 1999 and after taking a break from any vacations at all for a couple years, we were looking for somewhere that wasn’t quite so far.  For two years, we rented homes in Ft. Morgan & had a wonderful time.  Ft. Morgan sits out on the end of a peninsula and is quiet, non-commercial and just a peaceful place to spend a week with your family.  We always stayed in a neighborhood called The Dunes and rented through Meyer Real Estate, who I can wholeheartedly recommend.  We loved these vacations.  Being in the middle of the restaurants and stores was never a big deal for us so Ft. Morgan was perfect.  If you like to be near things, go out to dinner nightly and have a bit more of a party atmosphere on the beach, you might be happier in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach.  The Beach Club and Martinique  are excellent places to stay when in this region of the gulf coast.  As for things to do in this area, you will find water sports, dolphin cruises, a water park, a large outlet mall in nearby Foley, and restaurants galore.  There are also charters that will take you for sunset sails or deep sea fishing.  The water here is bluer than MS but still far from the blue of the Emerald Coast of FL.  If you don’t like to be in a land of high-rise condo units & hotel chains, this might not be for you.

IMG_1816cpyFLORIDA:

PERDIDO KEY—I’ll make a confession right now:  I get very tired of people telling me I don’t need to go all the way to 30-A when there is Perdido Key.  Perdido Key is nice.  It’s located between Orange Beach, AL and Pensacola, FL.  Don’t get me wrong, it is nice, but it’s not 30-A.  It’s beaches are roughly 60% federal and state park land, which allows for a lot of unspoiled beauty.  It’s less crowded than it’s neighbors and the water is perhaps a tiny bit more blue here than it is to the west. But here’s the thing.  For me, it’s still a land of mainly condos and high rise condominium resorts and I’m just not into people stacked on top of people on my beach vacation.  If condos are your thing at the beach and you don’t want to go all the way to the Destin region of FL, this may be your pick.  It is a nice getaway and by going just a bit further east than the trio of beach towns discussed above, you will step it up a bit in terms of privacy and fewer tourist traps.  I miss all the fine dining and unique shopping on 30-A.

PENSACOLA—I have not spent much time here.  When we made our first trip with Ryder, in 1997, we stayed in a very old, retro hotel that was right on the beach.  It was destroyed in one of the hurricanes that tore through Pensacola since we made that journey.  The beaches are beautiful and something about the ocean currents makes the water so much nicer than the previous places mentioned. (Are you sensing a trend?  Travel east and the water gets bluer?)  Jimmy Buffett opened one of his Margaritaville Hotel and Resort complexes here and I kinda want to try it out just to see what it’s like but I have not done that yet.  I do know, from my visits, that you can find anything to rent in this area from a beach shack to a luxury home or condominium.  It’s a huge mish-mash of high rises, homes and commercial stuff and has just never really appealed to me.  If you do book in this area, be sure you know whether you are renting in Pensacola or Pensacola Beach because there is a difference.  Pensacola Beach is where the nice, blue water is.

NAVARRE BEACH—I’ve driven through Navarre Beach two times & it was so pretty we stopped to walk on the beach.  We have never stayed here.  It’s a gorgeous area with very little commercial development.  It’s further east than Pensacola Beach.  If you want to go somewhere with very little restaurant/tourism development around, go here.  It’s so quiet.   It’s perfect for families who are truly going to hang out at the beach day after day and like to cook meals in their condo.  It’s NOT for the family who needs to be entertained and fed by others, with the exception of a Stinky’s Fish Camp.  There you will find some good food!  The water is gorgeous, the people are friendly.  If you MUST seek out something commercial, there’s a bridge that will connect you to the mainland.  This beach is about as close to unspoiled as you will get.  Or it was the last time I was there.  It’s amazing the change that can happen in one season along the gulf.

FT. WALTON BEACH—I’m being honest here so Ft. Walton Beach is just not my thing.  I don’t really agree with the info in the link I posted.  I find it very congested and low on higher-end accommodations.  There is a Gulfarium Marine Park here that our kids enjoyed when they were wee ones.  Other than that, I don’t have much to say about it.IMG_1451

DESTIN– Destin has high rises for miles, but more of an upscale feel than Panama City.  This is a great place to stay if you don’t mind insanely tall high-rise condos and you want to be entertained almost 24/7.  There are tons of restaurants, both local and commercial, a huge water park, watersports galore, giant outlet mall, huge non-outlet outdoor mall, nightclubs, seafood shacks, boat charters, dolphin cruises, etc.  We used to make the trip back to Destin a couple of times a week when we would stay on 30-A.  Now we rarely go.  I think the kids have gotten older and require less to stay entertained.  I like to think they just enjoy simply hanging out more but probably not!  The traffic.  Ugh, the traffic.  We even bypass it on I-10 on our way now and avoid it altogether.  Sandestin is a resort within the town of Destin & is a little more private/exclusive.  I have eaten there and shopped there but never stayed overnight in Sandestin.

PANAMA CITY/PANAMA CITY BEACH—Aaaah, the original redneck Riviera.  Visit and you’ll see why!  I really wish I could be more positive about Panama City Beach/Panama City.  There are some places we go when we are staying in Seacrest that are in PCB – Thomas’ Donuts, Goofy Golf, Funland and sometimes, the new Pier Park, which was a huge attempt to salvage PCB’s redneck reputation and is a nice shopping/entertainment complex.  The problem with Pier Park is that it’s surrounded by a mix of new condo units,  dilapidated condo complexes and old, old hotels.  It’s quickly losing it’s appeal for me, plus I’m not too into shopping at mall stores on my beach vacation.  Tattoo parlors ABOUND in Panama City, along with the occasional sex shop.  More than one fugitive has been found hiding in the dilapidated infrastructure of Panama City Beach.  And yet, parts of it are charming.  In all honesty, I wish I could have visited in it’s heyday.  That would have been much cooler than visiting now.  We sometimes drive over to play miniature golf at Goofy Golf, the longest-running business on “the strip”.  (The fact that it has a “strip” will tell you it’s touristy!) Goofy Golf is a quirky, retro place to spend a couple hours after having dinner at Captain Anderson’s Restaurant, which, also rather retro in style, is a fine dining establishment that sits right on a harbor.  Glorious water views and good food.  It’s worth wading through the madness.  Funland is an old-fashioned dairy bar & arcade that has been in continuous operation since 1953.  Our daughter Ryder will no longer go there with us but the boys, Chuck, my dad and I love to go get some good dairy bar food and play a few games.  Thomas’ Donuts, on the western end of the PCB strip serves up wonderful breakfast food and donuts and has also been around for many, many years.  Get there early unless you want to stand in a long line.  Save for a few condo complexes off the beaten path, I don’t even want to discuss accommodations here.  HOWEVER, if a town being ultra clean & neat is not important to you, crowded beaches are ok and you want to be in the midst of constant activity, this might be your place.  You can always take a jaunt over to Shell Island, a pristine island with perfect sand, crystal-clear water and not one business, home or hotel.  Not one.  Unfortunately there is also no bathroom either,  so you’ll want to time your trip just right.  I highly recommend renting a pontoon and getting yourself there as opposed to going on the shuttle.  HIGHLY.  Unless you love to study tattoo art.IMG_1837cpy

SEASIDE/GRAYTON/WATERCOLOR/ROSEMARY BEACH/ALYS BEACH/WATERSOUND/SEACREST BEACH (ALSO KNOWN AS HWY. 30-A) —- You had to know I would save what I consider to be the best for last.  I will be the first to admit that if you are looking for a budget vacation, this might not be your best bet.  I’m sure there are ways to save like going in on accommodations and cooking all of your meals in but to really get a feel of this area, I don’t recommend that.  Highway 30-A is a county road in Walton County, FL that forms a 28.5 mile loop off of Florida Highway 98 dipping down several miles east of Destin and coming back up to Hwy. 98 just west of Panama City Beach, FL.  Seagrove Beach and Grayton Beach were the original beach communities on this stretch of highway and it was mostly an isolated stretch of beach until Robert Davis developed his vision of a perfect beach town, known famously now as Seaside, FL.  When we first began visiting 30-A, Seaside was just coming into it’s own & was nothing like it is now.  I remember after we visited we got constant information on the NEW communities of Watercolor and Rosemary Beach that were barely even under construction.  (Oh, how I wish we could have bought a home there in the early stages of development!  Hindsight’s 20/20!)  Long story short, since 1997, this area has exploded and I’ve heard naysayers condemn all the development.  I disagree, because it still provides a beach experience far above what I’ve had elsewhere.  There is only one tall high-rise on the beach and one semi-tall condo unit.  I think I speak for all 30-A fans when I say I wish they could be torn down and replaced with homes but what’s done is done.  Regulations stopped future high-rise development and so though you will find some condo complexes that have been around since the early days, it’s mainly a 28.5 mile stretch of beach homes ranging from 2-bedroom to 8-bedroom.  Although there is a Tom Thumb convenience store and a Publix supermarket along this road, the rest of the businesses are private establishments, mostly owned by people local to the area or those who have visited and been inspired to stay.  You’ll find an eclectic mix of restaurants, shops, small businesses ranging from spas to a doctor’s office or two, bike rental facilities, etc.  You can seek out watersports such a parasailing, windsurfing and paddle boarding but they aren’t in-your-face as in most beach communities.  Everything is low-key here.  Bike riding is the favorite pastime.  Many of the towns have village squares where they host movie nights, farmer’s markets and mini-festivals.  As I said earlier, we used to go into Destin a couple times but now we rarely leave the community we are staying in.  We have personally stayed in Seaside, Watercolor, Seagrove and Seacrest Beach.  I’ll go more in-depth about these communities in a future post.  It’s insanely clean, very little need for police presence and the beaches are absolutely fantastic.  There’s a feeling about 30-A that you just can’t describe to someone who hasn’t been.  You’d have to be an awfully uptight person not to enjoy a vacation here.

I hope you found this helpful & I really hope you’ll plan a trip to the gulf coast.  It’s my happy place and I constantly encourage others to experience it.  In future entries, I hope to address restaurants, finding a perfect beach home, day trips, ways to save $ on your beach vacation, etc.  If you have any questions or topics you would like me to post on, feel free to leave a comment below.

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Happy New Year…..and farewell to the holidays of 2013!

photo-21Well….I’m a bit relieved that it’s over and I’m ready to begin the new year.

I thought I would appreciate being home this Christmas after traveling to Colorado for a ski vacation last year during the holidays.  I was wrong.  I missed the mountains.  Don’t get me wrong — I loved decorating our tree and waking up in our house to open gifts on Christmas morning but I have to say, getting away from all the madness and holiday stresses (relatives) is a good thing! I really missed waking up each morning to the sound of ski boots crunching on the ground as people headed to the lifts.  Sigh….

I do love the fresh feeling of a new year beginning…an imaginary clean slate on which we write our good intentions.  I kinda like that. I know it’s hard to believe but I really do try to improve myself!   This year I’m doing two projects that are year-long and will require me to “attend” – to pay attention and be present, even if being present means I’m on my computer in the comfort of my own home, participating.  I have ALWAYS loved to read.  As a child, nothing excited me more than my dad announcing that we were making the 40-mile trip to the nearest bookstore, Readmore Books.  I realize now how small it was but when I walked in the door I was transported to a whole new world.  It’s odd that I’ve never taken part in a book club but I have not & this morning, the girls on one of my favorite blogs, A Beautiful Mess, announced an online book club.  The first selection is The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer.  I already had the book so that’s one reason I jumped right in.  I mentioned that I was taking part in this on Facebook and before I knew it several friends were searching for copies and committing to the book club as well.  I suggested we get together at a restaurant and discuss the monthly selections & that was well-received.  This takes the stress of having to host the club & clean and cook & find a place for your kids to go on the evening we meet, completely away.  I AM toying with the idea of hosting a final holiday get-together and using that as an impetus to actually complete the home improvement projects that I have on our agenda this year.  Sometimes I have to have things to hold me accountable, don’t you?

Jumping into something like the book club is very, very out of character for me, which brings me to the second project I am taking part in. I LOVE  Ali Edwards.  For a few years, I worked in the scrapbook industry and although I never met her, she quickly became one of my favorite designers and I love & admire the brilliance with which she built her brand.  She blogs about, well, LIFE.  And she makes you realize that documenting your life while you are here is not only a responsibility but a fun thing to do and with Ali at the helm, it can become a way of life if you follow her principles.  Obviously I find her very inspiring!  Every year since 2007, she has done a “One Little Word” online workshop.  You can read more about it by clicking the link but you just choose one word and in, Ali’s words, “You live with it. You invite it into your life. You let it speak to you. You might even follow where it leads. There are so many possibilities.”  Ali gives you monthly video and PDF prompts and at the end of the year you should have a journal that has helped you gain insight into how this word can work for you and change you for the better.  My word for 2014 is “TRY”.  In so many areas of my life, I could try harder – that’s one way I need to have this word in my life!  I’m also hesitant to try new things.  New foods, new hobbies, new ways to promote my business, new styles of photography, new ways of dealing with kid issues, etc.  I’m reluctant to TRY.  So that’s sorta what my journey is going to be about this year.  Not being lazy or reluctant and giving things my all.  I think it’s going to be so much fun & perhaps a little enlightening.

As far as resolutions, I prefer to do a bucket list for the year.  I’m still working on it.  I’ll share it as soon as I finish.

Many of my friends have started this new year by saying final goodbyes to the people they love the most, so as 2014 begins, I wish you good luck, much faith and happiness & someone to lean on when things get tough.

xoxoxo

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Prayers…and Thanksgiving!

When I talk about my life, people often say, “You should write a book!”  My usual response is, “I’m waiting until some people (99% of our relatives) have passed so I don’t make them angry.”  I care less and less about that as I age because life is what it is.  When I have no family left that speak to me, you, my fair readers, can feed me on holidays.  I’ll be right at home in your laundry room, using the washer as a table.  Just save me some rolls & slip me a glass or two of wine. White, please.  A nice Pinot Grigio.  Speaking of holidays, this Thanksgiving provided me with a classic “relative” moment to share & brought similar holiday moments of the past to mind.

Chuck invited me to move in with him after I graduated from college in May of 1992, one semester behind him.  It was TOTALLY his idea, regardless of what you might have heard when his mother stood up in front of her Baptist church congregation and asked that we be prayed for because we were “living in sin.”  I appreciated those prayers, and felt them working deeply as I was swinging naked from our cheap brass light fixture, but NOT as much as I appreciated the calls from friends saying, “Holy SHIT, Chuck’s mom told the entire church congregation you were living together!”  Those, I appreciated.  So……I took him up on his offer & my dad helped me move from Springfield to Kansas City. I had a lot of t-shirts, a cheap O’Sullivan coffee table & an end table that was made to look like a dalmatian.  It was an easy move.

My dad is the sort of man whose train of thought goes something like this:  “She’s moving IN with him?  Before marriage?  Well, at least she’s not pregnant and I didn’t have to pay for a dime of her college expenses and she’s never given me an ounce of trouble and HOT DAMN!  That boy is willing to take this hot mess on? Where do I sign?”  That’s my dad.  He wasn’t overly upset and as my former college roommate likes to point out, my grandma was likely sure I was sleeping on the sofa because I was such a good girl.  God LOVE that woman – I do miss her.

Our apartment was in a really nice, new complex in Overland Park, KS, the most vanilla, suburban city in which one could lay down roots.  I longed to live near downtown Kansas City, which was undergoing extensive urban renewal at the time but Chuck liked to be literally five minutes or less from his office.  The apartment was 762 square feet and had one bedroom, one bath, a living/dining area and a small kitchen.  It sat right next to a major four-lane highway.  I loved the traffic noise & Chuck hated it.  Furnishings were sparse. Our used microwave oven was so old and heavy that when it quit, we had to disassemble it and carry it to the dumpster in pieces. Amana Radarange, baby!  We were living the life!  Remember those old sofas from the 60’s and 70’s that were made of a knotty, plaid fabric woven in a lovely array of fall colors?  Had one!  Chuck’s grandparents had donated it to him for his first apartment.  We were very happy and really proud of our first home, despite it’s shortcomings.

We hadn’t made a lot of friends yet and didn’t entertain much (or at all), but Chuck had relatives who also lived in Overland Park and once when several members of his extended family were in town, he invited everyone over.  If I remember correctly, in that tiny apartment were Chuck, two aunts, two uncles, a cousin or two and his grandparents, who (bonus!) got to reminisce about their old sofa!  Chuck decided it would be nice to give everyone a tour of our place, which, had he thought, could have been accomplished by letting people stand beside the kitchen (card) table and spin in a circle while he yelled out the room names. Now remember, these people are all very, very uncomfortable with the idea of us living together because history will tell you that living with your future mate is bad.  Charles Manson and all of his followers?  Lived with their mates before marriage.  John Wilkes Booth?  Assassin and co-habitator.  Healthcare.gov website developers?  ALL CO-HABITATORS.  So you can see why the worrying was rampant.  Chuck wanted his relatives to really experience our place and file through all four rooms.  He led them just like a realtor needing one more sale to wrap up a good month and when he got to our bedroom, they would not go in.  WOULD.NOT.GO.IN.  A team of sled dogs couldn’t have pulled them across that threshold.  Poor Chuck was all the way in the room pointing out the lovely features (“This is where Noelle was stricken with her first kidney stone!”) and some of them didn’t even go near the open door while others peeked in like one might peek into a room fully expecting to see a dead body but hoping like hell not to.  I hurried to look in there thinking, “Have I left a teddy on the bedpost? Panties on the ceiling fan?  K-Y Jelly on the dresser?  IS THERE A LARGE SPIDER?”  Nope. Nothing.  I  sat back down, as did Chuck, eventually, and the circle of visitors had taken on the look of a gathering of relatives waiting for the doctor to come out and tell them if their loved one survived a harrowing surgical procedure.  Apparently just thinking about the sex that went on in that 9×9 room had them all entirely discombobulated.  After a few attempts at conversation – “How ’bout a game of Monopoly?” “How ’bout those Chiefs?”  “Isn’t that George Brett somethin’?” – the party was clearly over and everyone left.  Chuck walked them out and came back inside.  He looked at me with an odd expression and said, “Did they think a giant condom was going to attack them if they went in our room?”  We still laugh about it today because it was just so…….INANE!

A few weeks later we were (surprisingly) invited over to his aunt and uncle’s house for Sunday dinner and his uncle’s sweet, elderly mother, who is no relation to Chuck, was there for a visit.  We were all sitting at the nicely appointed dining room table eating dinner when the woman blurted out, in the clueless manner of Aunt Clara on Bewitched,  “DO THEY PAY RENT???” You can’t buy these moments, people.   We still laugh about it because our assumption is that she was so absent-minded she thought we lived in the basement or another part of the house & had just come up to dinner.  I wanted to yell back, “NO! We live in sin over on 103rd!”

By now, my hope is that you’re getting an idea of why I cringe when holidays roll-around.  One year, I walked into Chuck’s grandmother’s house and she greeted me with, “Wow, you’ve really been a-putting it on ain’tcha?  You used to not be that big!”  I wanted to say, “Yes, Chuck looked into moving me up the Mississippi on a barge but in the long run it was cheaper to just rub Crisco all over me and shove me in the car.”  Instead, I turned to Chuck and said, “WHAT THE HELL?” At a previous holiday dinner, she had accused me of not eating enough.  I was pregnant and she said, “You’re gonna kill that baby!”  I walked out that time and drove to my own grandma’s house.  THIS IS WHAT I ENDURE.  All out of respect for Chuck.  Well, this grandmother is 89 now and still going strong.

Last week, on the day after Thanksgiving, we had dinner with some extended relatives on Chuck’s mother’s side and you guessed it, she was there (although she’s on his dad’s side).  Being the nice person that I am, I walked into the living room where she was sitting with Chuck and sat down on the couch.  Wyatt was in the recliner across from us, watching TV.  The woman looked at me, flung her hand toward Wyatt and said, and I am not EVEN kidding, “That one there, he goes to a school for special kids, don’t he?”

Who SAYS that??  “Special needs or not!  Who SAYS that?? A special school?  NO. No, he doesn’t.  He’s been in the family for 14 freaking years.  He’s perfectly normal, if not extremely intelligent and how many……I literally have no words, except NO, he does not go to a “special” school! Now before you sensitive readers freak, I have nothing against children with special needs, obviously, but if your child does NOT have special needs, you don’t want people to say that they do and you certainly don’t want a grandparent who has known the child for over a decade to be telling people that your child has special needs when they don’t!  I took a deep breath, counted to 10 and said, “He and his brother go to a private school.  His sister went to a public school.  They’re both great schools.”  How do you even answer that? Thankfully, we don’t think HE heard her asinine question.  We’re trying to laugh about it now but I have to tell you that one has just left me shaking my head.

All I know, is at this point in my life, all bets are off as to how I respond. To any relative.  About anything.  And all of this is happening to me because I CO-HABITATED, right?

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Quiet

I recently purchased Quiet:  The Power of Introverts In A World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain.  I know. I know.  You’re thinking “HER??? QUIET???”  And for the most part you would be right.  I wasn’t always as bold and talkative as I am now.  As a child I was, for the most part, shy, quiet, unassuming & perfectly content to be alone reading, drawing or watching tv.  Then, and very much now, I found myself in situations where I was surrounded by people and noise & just wanted so desperately to find a pathway out that no one noticed so that I could be back in my little world of solitude and quiet.

Right now, I’m sitting alone in my home & although I do love the times when I’m surrounded by my family, I am, in this moment, incredibly happy and content.  In the seventies and eighties, when you were asked to do things that made you feel uncomfortable by teachers, parents or even friends, there was much more of a sense that you should do it because it was the appropriate and mannerly thing to do.  I regularly found myself suspending the “introverted Noelle” and trying out for plays, being in school programs where I was required to SING, which mortified (& still mortifies) me & raising my hand in class to participate.  I have vivid memories of being scared that I would be called on.  Anyone but me, anyone!  Outward appearances clearly showed that I wanted to be a part of things.  I went to school dances and danced.  Dancing is as bad as singing for me.  It requires some liquid courage.  Chuck gets frustrated that I let people take advantage of me in my business because often this closet shyness prevents me from standing up for myself.  Self-promotion?  Horrifying to me.  I have always been overly concerned with what people think of me, though as I age that seems to be rapidly dissipating.  If you’ve seen me at Kroger, I’m sure you’re nodding your head.

The challenge I face now is having a child who is even MORE introverted than I ever was.  And I don’t think that’s a bad thing, yet I don’t want him to miss out on life.  Looking back, I’m glad there was that sense of unintentional pressure to participate.  I have lots of happy and funny memories I wouldn’t otherwise have. I want him to have them too.  He seems to share the mechanism of lifting his introverted ways to do things he REALLY wants to do like pitch a baseball game.  I’ve asked a million times if he’s doing it for him or for us.  He loves the game so he does what it takes.  He is very, very comfortable around his best friend’s family & isn’t at all shy around them.  It’s a comfort zone for him.  A safe place. Kids like that need those.

Today, I’m picking the kids up early for doctor appointments & they’ll miss math.  I e-mailed the teachers and made them aware so that they could be sure & let the boys know what they’re missing.  One teacher responded that she would love for Brooks to come to her room at noon so she can keep him up to speed on the lesson.  Of course, my introvert.  He was mortified.  He said he wasn’t going.  I let it go, mainly because I was not with him when he got the news that she wanted him to come.  His dad was. His dad who isn’t shy, who teaches classes to rooms full of consultants and law students, who speaks publicly OFTEN and manages an entire region of the US for his company.  If his dad is shy, he suspends it ALOT.  He emails the teacher and tells her Brooks might not show.  The teacher asks the assistant principal to page him to her classroom at lunchtime.  He’s going to be appalled.  It’s a small thing, really, but not to him.  Should we be doing things like this more?  I don’t know.  Maybe the book will help.  I’ve always been a parent who just made their kid do what *I* thought he/she should do, with the exception of sports. (In this house, you only play if you want to play. That’s another entry in itself!)  I truly believe that one of the best qualities anyone can have is the ability to be alone & be content. I like to think that right now we are giving him opportunities to do just that, yet encouraging him to branch out in some social arenas so he won’t be branded a loner or rude or anti-social.  None of those accurately describe him.

What do you have to offer?  Do you have an introvert?

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My Heart….

“Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” Elizabeth Stone

I never remember a time in my pre-adult life when I saw myself without children.  I loved playing house.  I loved being nurturing to my baby Mary and my Baby That-A-Way.  I had names for my future offspring.  At various stages in my childhood,  I couldn’t wait to birth Marcia (Brady Bunch, anyone?), Samantha and Tabitha (Bewitched?), Kelly and Sabrina (Hello…..Charlie’s Angels!).  In the latter years of elementary school, my best friend, Lana, and I cut a jillion people out of magazines and pasted them in giant sketchbooks, making our imaginary families.  Then we would include blueprints of their home, which we drew ourselves, often drawing inspiration from blueprint magazines that we would walk four blocks to our local grocer’s and buy, along with Lay’s Chips, Pepsi and Spree.  Those were the days.  Families with characteristics, careers and personality traits we assigned. We even cut out cars and matched them to our families.  Little did we know, at that time, we didn’t know jack about parenting & families.  Boy, have we since learned!  (I didn’t come away from those experiences empty-handed though.  I still don’t like to see a house plan where a hallway ends abruptly with a wall…..)

Lana was a year older than I was and started her family much earlier than I did.  I remember her saying, when we were forming our imaginary families, that she just didn’t want kids with red hair.  I thought she was crazy for even thinking that might happen.  She was blond and her boyfriend (who later became her husband) had a thick mane of dark brown hair.  Lana had a maternal drive and instinct like no one I knew.  She ached to have kids someday.  And she did.  Two beautiful carrot-top redheads that she loves with all her heart, hair and all.  God does have a sense of humor.  That should have been our first clue that no book, television show or doctor could even come close to telling you what to expect once you’re a parent.

I took a longer route to having kids and Lana was one of the first people I called when we got the unexpected but thrilling news, in autumn of 1994, that we were having a baby.  Chuck, my husband, and I had talked about getting pregnant and figured that it would take a while and we would be announcing our pregnancy in autumn of 1995.  Needless to say, fertility is my strong suit.  I got pregnant immediately and we set about making plans to welcome our first child into our Colorado home, which we purchased in the spring of 1995.  It was a girl, which thrilled me & we named her Ryder.  Wyatt followed four years later in 1999 and Brooks, our third and final, came along in 2001.  Having been around the block now as parents, I still bang my head against the wall wondering WHY no one warns you how hard it is.  Maybe it wouldn’t have made a difference in my ability to handle the difficult times and it certainly would not have deterred me from becoming a parent.  The good outweighs the bad on most days.  A warning would have been nice, simply from the point of knowing that you were not the first parent to find it extremely difficult.  I might have liked to know that going through hell on some days is perfectly and painfully normal.

I had an unusual childhood, especially in the 70’s and 80’s, because I was raised by my dad and that wasn’t nearly as common as it is now.  We were close.  He loved me unconditionally but I think that unconditional love came easy because I never defied him or spoke out in disrespect.  I was shy, not at all rebellious and an only child, which is simply not as difficult as having more than one kid to parent.  You don’t have the competition between children for attention, the multiple activities to cover and in my case, I was just content to be by myself & generally occupied with some book, tv show or art project.  My dad didn’t have to mediate fighting,  dole out multiple allowances, choose which activities to attend, etc.  It was just me & him against the world.  And I had all the respect a child can muster for him.  I still do.  I always thought I’d be a great parent like him and although I go through stages of feeling like a total failure at that, I now realize comparing my parenting to his is not at all fair.  Different situation, different time in history, different personalities in my own children.

I put the quote by Elizabeth Stone at the top of this entry because although I realize what Ms. Stone meant, I think there’s more to our hearts than this quote reveals.  Our children are a part of us, yes.  They have our DNA.  We feel linked to them even when they are across town, or in the case of my oldest, in another state.  But what the quote fails to convey is that our hearts are very much still within our own bodies and subject to intense heartache and pain when our children defy us, disrespect us & lash out. Patience is not one of my strongest personality traits.  My clients say I’m insanely patient when photographing their kids and I honestly don’t know where that comes from except that under those circumstances,  I’m being paid to produce and in many cases I just can’t unless I wait patiently for the children to co-operate.  I wish I had this patience at home and I try so hard but I expect so much from my kids & I react, often negatively, when they fail to produce.

My daughter is sick this week. She lives in Texas so I can’t be there.  One of her traits is to always have an ache or pain so I’ve gotten to the point that quite honestly I tune her out.  I’ve explained to her that it’s kinda like the “boy who cried wolf” parable.  I fear one day it will be something really serious and I’ll blow her off.  Today she texted from the doctor and to spare you the details and respect her privacy, things went downhill fast.  Apparently she has severe bronchitis & I tried very hard to be sympathetic at first.  I do feel bad that she is sick so far from home but there’s honestly little I can do.  I can never do anything right in most cases anyway, so I ended up losing it after she disrespected me by calling me a name.  After dealing with the boys not turning in homework this week and fighting like a couple of wild dogs, I had nothing left in me. Nothing.  I’m spent.  I’m not a perfect parent and I never will be. But lately I’ve gotten tougher.  I’m stronger about imposing sanctions and implementing discipline.   They may hate me now but I have to believe when they’re older they’ll look back and realize we did them a favor.  I love them more than they will understand (until they have their own children) but when I ask them to do something because it’s important to me, I expect that it will happen.  And it will happen with a smile on their faces, even if it’s fake. I certainly do enough for them that they should return that favor.  So, back to that quote.  My heart is still inside me and it’s very vulnerable.  Parenting is not always the bastion of unbridled joy that our culture tends to make it out to be.  It can be ugly, tear-jerking, and brutal at times.  We will survive.  Most parents do.  We’re in this battle together and sometimes it makes all the difference in the world to hear that someone else is deep in the trenches of combat as well.  They will love us & look to us for help and advice someday.  I just hope I’m one of the survivors.

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This Too Shall Pass…

About a week ago, I was telling someone my current situation and they said, “Wow, you’ve had quite the crappy year!”  It kind of stunned me because when I think of this past year, I think that we got to go skiing for a week, my daughter and I went to Charleston, S.C., we had wonderful trips to FL for Spring Break and summer vacation, Ryder got accepted to TCU and became a Kappa there, we had a great trip to St. Louis, Chuck and I celebrated 20 years of marriage, etc.  I could seriously go on and on with the good things in our life.  What my friend was referring to, however, was my knee injury I sustained in Colorado on our ski trip, my mother’s house fire & my latest problem — I was recently diagnosed with SI (sacroiliac) Joint Syndrome.  Here’s the scoop if you want to read up on it.  But this is what’s been going on with me for, well,  a month this past week.

During the process of moving Ryder into her dorm at Texas Christian, I somehow injured, or re-injured, my back.  I am lucky to have a wonderful orthopedic doctor who saw me right away (Dr. Kenneth Rosenzweig) and even luckier that his years of experience led him to diagnose me with SI joint problems immediately.  It’s a condition that is often overlooked or misdiagnosed, sometimes for YEARS.  I cannot imagine.  It’s painful. Terribly.  For me, sitting upright is just downright agonizing.  Standing hurts too, but sometimes it’s a great alternative to sitting.  My doctor did my first round of steroid injections two weeks ago and the pain block worked for a few days, which in the case of this disorder, tells us that the source of the pain IS indeed the SI joints.  However, with this condition, the pain is not usually eradicated until after the second round of injections and sometimes the third.  My doctor has only had to resort to surgery for this once in the last 30 years.  We are on the right track.  Unfortunately he says this is one of the more severe cases he has seen.  Of course.  I excel at everything 🙂

I have had to stop training temporarily, have cancelled things that were going to require me to ride in a car more than across town, have become what I feel like is a huge burden to Chuck, & have had to ask people for help, which is WAY outside my comfort zone.  But it’s going to get better and thankfully one aspect of my job (photography, for those of you who don’t know me personally!) can be done flat on my back with my laptop.  I’m not someone who just enjoys doing nothing so thankfully I can still do needlework.

Saturday, I decided to get out and run to Michael’s and Wal-Mart.  Not a good idea.  I came home and collapsed on the couch for the remainder of the day.  Sunday was a bad day.  I went to the ER for the second time since this began.  The pain gets really bad, to the point that I’m nauseous.  Electrical-like pains shoot down my legs and up my back sometimes, I have hot and cold sensations that are just freaky for lack of a better word.  Sometimes the pain medicine affects every other part of my body EXCEPT the part of my back that is hurting.  That’s always fun.  Other times, like last night, it works so well I’m actually able to move around & accomplish things.  Having been down for six weeks already in early 2013 when I tore my MCL skiing, the mental frustration with having my activity limited again is high.  I have a giant list of things to do to our house and of course, they have been put on the back burner AGAIN.

So wish me luck with Thursday’s injections.  Pray I plug along until Chuck gets home on Thursday night.  Did I mention he is out of town until then?  Fun times.  There are so many people dealing with much worse than this so I will get through.  But I’m living for the day that I am able to work out, drive where I want and sit without agony!

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Letting Go

Packing UpThere were so many things to think about this summer before THIS  ^  occurred.  “THIS” being the life-altering event of moving my first-born child and only daughter, Ryder,  out of our home and into her dorm room.  Out-of-state.  Six hours away.  In a much bigger city.  Where she only knows a few other students, and none of them particularly well.  I told myself it was exciting, which it is, and that she was ready, which I truly think she is.  But I might not have been as prepared as I thought I was.

I found plenty of distractions.  In June I had to take Ryder to orientation at TCU.  There was no reason to think about her leaving until she had been oriented, right?  And then not long after that she left for a 10-day trip to Italy.  No reason to stress while she’s relaxing in the Mediterranean.  I could do that when she gets back….might as well relax too!  Four days after her return from Italy was our family vacation to Florida, and we took two of her closest friends with us.  It seemed only logical to enjoy them & not fret about how much I was going to miss them.  But then DANG!  It seemed we had barely UNpacked our suitcases and we were busy packing big Sterilite containers and making sure we had duvets and pillows and necessities purchased.  It sneaks up faster than a tornado on a trailer park.  Now that I’ve been through it, I don’t think there’s any way to really prepare for the myriad emotions that you’re going to feel.

Ever the planner, I had assumed that with a move-in date of August 10th, we would leave on the 9th.  Well, be warned that those childhood friendships grow stronger in the months leading up to college, when the notion of existing without each other becomes real & they become very, very hard for your child to leave.  I got that because I, too, chose a university away from all of my high school friends and I set off on my own, not knowing a soul in the town that would be my college home for four years of my life.  If your child has friendships that move them this much emotionally, thank God for that.  I missed my friends terribly and when my daughter said, “I don’t want to go until the day I’m supposed to move in,” I understood.  I also thought it would be a chance to go on ahead & spend a night alone with Chuck to sort of decompress from the stress & drama of packing and getting ready to leave.  And be warned, with girls, there is drama in getting ready to leave!  Chuck & I loaded the Suburban to maximum capacity and headed for Ft. Worth on Friday.  Ryder spent her last night at home, surrounded by her friends, who made sure she was up at dawn and stood in our driveway as she pulled away.  I will be forever grateful to them for this & I think it was the perfect end to her summer because we, her family, will be in her life on a consistent basis for the rest of her life and those friends will head off in separate directions, making it harder to see each other as often.  I love them all as my own & I cried myself to sleep those last two (or three) nights, thinking that late-night pow-wows on my bed and girls strewn all over my living room on Saturday and Sunday mornings would be coming to an end, or at least be less frequent.  I was able to spend a wonderful spring break with Ryder and her friends and enjoy a vacation to Dallas with them this summer and I will always cherish those trips.TCU/Texas

The tension of move-in day was eased by the fact that TCU is a small campus with a very organized and dedicated group of people who made the transition from home to college life as easy as possible.  A friend of Ryder’s who was already at TCU had introduced her to her roommate and they had been communicating via social media since March.  There was absolutely no tension when we met – both of our families seemed to mesh immediately & getting their room set up was so enjoyable.  I think she’s off to a great start.  We took her to dinner that first night and she fell asleep in the booth at Macaroni Grill.  Afterward, we went on a whirlwind shopping trip to Target & back to the room.  She bid us goodbye without a tear and we headed back to our hotel, leaving her to sleep in her new digs.

Dorm room!We walked into our hotel that night & got on the elevator with a family who appeared to be leaving a wedding in one of the ballrooms.  There was Grandpa, Grandma, Mom, Dad & a little girl about three with short bobbed brown hair and blue eyes, eerily reminiscent of Ryder at the same age.  She was twirling in her fancy dress and ballet flats and expressing joy at getting to ride on the elevator to the 4th floor.  We were admiring her cuteness & sharing that we had just dropped our daughter off for her first night at college.  As we got off the elevator the little girl got off and skipped ahead of us all, soaking in the wonders of a nice hotel as if it were her castle and she the princess who lived there.  As she got smaller and further away, we approached our room and I slid the key in the slot, took a deep breath & accepted the fact that I would end my night with yet more tears, this time a mix of sadness for what I was going to miss & joy for what wonderful things I know are ahead.

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