Letting Go

On Wednesday, my daughter and I drove to Auburn for her session of Camp War Eagle, one of eight orientation and registration sessions that Auburn University offers its approximately 5000 incoming freshman. We arrived a day earlier for a couple hours of the Honors College orientation. My Southern Man drove down Wednesday night and we all crashed at our son’s place. Thursday morning, we dropped our daughter off on campus; she stayed in the dorm Thursday night with the other students in her session. Late Friday afternoon, after waiting out an impressive lightning, wind, and rain storm, we went home.

While at CWE, we parents got to attend many different meetings of our own, where we learned much about the university, student life, classes, and basically everything a parent may need or want to know about what the next few years, especially the freshman year, will entail. The parents, separated from their children most of the time we were all there, were fed several meals by Auburn catering service and also got a couple free lunch passes so we could try out a couple of the other dining options. The first day, we tried out Plains to Plate, the nation’s first certified gluten-free, on-campus university restaurant. I don’t necessarily need gluten-free, but was intrigued because as much of the food as possible is locally sourced and the menu was pretty healthy–and quite delicious!

Anyway, the time we spent there was nice, interesting, and while I did learn some things (my Southern Man had attended Camp War Eagle once before, when our son entered AU), much of it seemed to be done to assure (and reassure and re-reassure) the parents that their children are now adults and will be just fine. Which brings me to what I really want to talk about: helicopter parenting.

As a mother and a primarily stay-at-home one, I have had my struggles with various things over the years: occupation/income/money issues and parenting issues, primarily, and the guilt associated with them, wondering if I did enough or should have done something differently. When my two children were younger, my own mother encouraged me to let them do things for themselves that my generation seemed to just do as part of their job–making them breakfast and/or lunch, for example. Doing their laundry. Even playing with them. I remember Mom telling me that she rarely, if ever, played with us, that her schedule did not necessarily revolve around us all the time, and similar things. And I do, in fact, remember those things. When I was growing up, she didn’t wake me up for school or work, make me breakfast or lunch, tell me to do my homework or ask if I had, or constantly remind me of my chores and she didn’t have to; I just did it. She did do our laundry, but once washed, it was often my job to take over with getting the clothes out of the washer and, unless it was raining, hanging them out to dry. Yes, even in the frigid New England winters, I hung the clothes out to dry. They never dried completely, often froze, in fact, at which point I’d bring them in and wonder if they would crack as I stuffed them into the gas dryer in our cellar. (They never did, but I swear the jeans–dungarees, as we called them–came close!). So my parents, while as good a set of parents as any, were a bit more hands-off in their parenting style as were, I believe, most of their peers. Enter my generation….

After observing many of the AU students’ parents and hearing some of the stories that the AU faculty, administration, and counselors told, I had some thoughts. First off, while I enjoyed the session, I commented that it is SO different from when I went to college. Basically, one of my parents dropped me off and that was that. There were no cell phones, internet, social media, and so on. We were not in constant contact. My life was my business and they rarely asked about my grades, sleeping, eating, etc., and I even more rarely volunteered the information. Yes, the first two years they helped me get loans out and throughout college, Dad would occasionally call, ask what I was eating (usually spaghetti or some form of pasta), ask if I needed money (I usually said I was fine), and until I got my first boyfriend in my junior year, would send me flowers on Valentine’s Day (a sweet, sweet memory). When I moved to Alabama to go to graduate school, and quickly surmised that riding a bike in downtown Birmingham would probably cause my early death, Dad bought me a $1600 deathtrap of a cool car that I’d found. So there was some interaction and help from my parents. They did care. Perhaps if the technology we have now was available back then, there would have been more communication, but I kind of doubt it. My parents knew I had to grow up and I proudly and fiercely wanted to be independent and be able to take care of myself. Me asking my Dad for money to buy a car was an act of near-desperation and a major swallowing of pride situation. Asking for help is not and has never been easy for me and that’s not always a good way to be, I’ve learned.

What my parents did not do and what I have not done and will not do are: fill out my children’s scholarship or college paperwork, even the dreaded FAFSA, book them for their Camp War Eagle session, make their college schedules or hover over them and question them while they do it, choose, decorate, or clean their dorm rooms or apartments, log onto their academic college account, unbeknownst to them and for whatever reason, mistakenly take a test (subsequently failing the test and the student was not allowed a retake–true story), call or text them on a daily basis, call their professors, the housing office, or administrators when they are having academic or social problems–do you get the picture? Now, are we available to call or help if our children need and request it? Absolutely, especially if it’s advice…actually, mostly if it’s advice and I often give that whether they want it or not, but they and I both know that they can choose to follow it or not. Yes, we help in other ways, too, but we have brought our children up to be independent and they are doing a pretty good job, so far. Our son has had some challenges along the way, usually financial, and I’m sure our daughter will have challenges, as well. However, while we do try to help out when asked, we are not going to come running to the rescue every time they make or are about to make a choice that may not turn out to be the wisest one they could have made. We are not going to hover over them whether in person or via phone, text, email, Skype, Facetime, Messenger, homing pigeons, or whatever other form of communication is available to try to run their lives.

Unfortunately, many in our generation do not seem to be of the same mindset and as a result, some messages that were repeated to the parents at CWE were that our children are adults. We are to drop them off and LEAVE. They will be FINE. They have plenty of resources to help them and guide them, that they will figure things out and will be OKAY. If they need us, they will call us. All they need to know is that we are there for them, if need be. Basically, the message was: it’s time for your children to grow up–LET THEM. LET GO.

Speaking from experience, I can tell you that I believe this part of parenting is the most difficult. When your children are born, people tell you that the colicky stage is difficult, then the walking stage, then the “terrible twos”, then it’s the tyrannical threes that no one warned you about, then they go to school and gain an attitude they never had before, then it’s the “tween” years, and everyone knows about teenagers! During most of that time, you are able to exert your influence and will on your child, if you so desire. No one really tells you that the hardest part of parenting is when the little birds leave the nest and you have to watch them learn to fly, unable to do much else but watch while they fall or fail, which they will do–many times. Giving them advice (that often goes unheeded) and praying for God to give them wisdom, discernment, and guidance is often all you can do–and it doesn’t require their permission or even their knowledge. What we as parents need to work on for ourselves and our sanity is having patience, understanding, forgiveness, and faith, all part of letting them go. It’s hard, very hard: an ongoing learning experience that has occasional backsliding. I still find myself starting to go into “Momma Bear” mode, sometimes, and I have to remind myself and force myself to step back and be the watcher and the prayer warrior. It hasn’t been easy, but it’s all part of life.

One thing I have been “warned” of: when this next stage of life is over, when our children have successfully gone from our dependents to independent, and have started the cycle with their own families, the letting go doesn’t end. My Mom has said on several occasions, that watching her children raise their own children, her grandchildren, isn’t always easy, either. Perhaps we’ve done things that she wouldn’t have agreed with or done, but it wasn’t her place to do anything more than maybe offer her opinion–and pray. Then, there’s the grandchildren: even more loved ones to watch and worry about. She said that the concern/worrying never ends, if anything, perhaps it multiplies, but that is life. That is the price of loving others and it’s well worth the cost.

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Lemonade…that cool, refreshing drink. Sometimes….

Some of my friends and former neighbors may remember, I know my kids do, when we lived on South Main Street in a little NH town, and I would set them up with a stand so they could sell lemonade on Friday afternoons and evenings to all the passing drivers that were on their way home from work. We had a split beverage cooler that had spouts at the bottom and I would make homemade lemonade (cheating using lemon juice) and also brewed “Southern Peach Iced Tea”. (Remember, this was New Hampshire, so it’s “iced tea”, not “sweet tea”.) Because the beverages were a delicious hit, the kids were cute (of course!), and I set them up on a regular basis, including when we had a yard sale, they actually made some really good money for two little kids, that summer! I had them charge $1 for tea and fifty cents for lemonade, I believe. Granted, I didn’t deduct the cost of everything from their profits, but still, the profits were pretty good. 😉

I was reminded of those times a few days ago, when my daughter and I were on our way back from a really nice afternoon spent at some Alabama shopping outlets with a friend. As I drove around a corner a couple streets away from our house, we noticed about 10 or so little Hispanic children, waving us down. Sure enough, they had a small table set up on the side of the road and were selling lemonade for fifty cents or water for twenty-five. Of course, I had to stop and order two lemonades, and paid a little extra as a tip. Well…you have to give them an “A” for their effort, entrepreneurial spirit–and cuteness. But, boy, that was some of the weakest, lukewarm lemonade I think I’ve ever had. If I personally knew them, I’d show them (or the parent) how it’s properly done. But you know what? Regardless of how, as I said, “somewhat horrible” their product may be, at this stage of the game, when their parents are trying to instill in these young children a good work ethic, in spite of the hot, ninety-degree weather, I will always stop and buy their beverages. How can one not, right? 🙂

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Busy, busy, busy!

Since our younger daughter is graduating from high school soon, we’ve been busy winding things down. Add a friend’s son’s wedding and we are going to be running around a bit, but it should be a gorgeous wedding, weather included! Graduation evening, however, isn’t looking so good, which means the ceremony will be moved indoors, the class divided in half for two ceremonies (our daughter, as a top-ten student, has to attend both), and space will be limited. We’re praying the rain holds off!

Between the various ceremonies, my daughter also had an scholarship interview. While she was at it, I went to a favorite place of mine called Calhoun Pickers. It’s a huge warehouse full of partitioned booths that different people rent to sell…stuff. Some of it is really cool, some of it is probably rare, some of it is definitely old, and some of it is just pure junk. For example, one time I went, someone was selling a large empty pickle jar. Seriously. Nothing special about that thing. I wonder, though, if anyone bought it; you know what they say about one person’s junk being another one’s treasure or something like that.

Anyway, while my daughter was at her interview, I went the few blocks to the Pickers place and browsed. Many things caught my eye and I snapped a few pictures of some of them. Before I knew it, her interview was over and I had to go pick her up. I will post them at a later time, but for now, I will leave you with this one.

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See you later, alligator!

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Life with Jules, Season 24, Episode ??

So I decided to wash our pillows, this afternoon. I put 2 of them in the front-loader washing machine and after the cycle was done, went to get them out to put in the dryer. Mine was pretty wet, but my Southern Man’s was…soaked! I could wring it out, there was so much water!

So I put them both back in on just a drain and spin cycle which, in spite of supposedly being just “drain and spin”, also puts a little water in there. Why? I don’t know. After it was done, I went to get them out and my pillow was better, but his was still SOAKED! I could wring it out, there was so much water!

So I put mine in the dryer and his on a second “drain and spin” with a little water cycle. After it was done, I went to get it out…but his was STILL SOAKED!!! I could wring it out, there was so much water! This after THREE spin cycles, if you include the original one.

So I grabbed the huge stainless steel bowl I got from my grandmother that I use for things like washing gallons of strawberries, tossing popcorn, and carrying dripping-wet pillows in, and went out the back door to wring it out as best I could, so I could then put it in the dryer. Unfortunately, it was very bulky and awkward to wring out, plus the case material was obviously partially waterproof because it was NOT cooperating in letting the water out.

So I decided to let it air-dry on top of our clothes drying rack. Since I had no shoes on and our landlord had removed the gutters, which had been full of soggy dirt, decaying leaves and probably lots of bugs, I hadn’t swept, yet, and I was barefoot, I figured it was close enough to the deck that I could just gently toss it onto the top of the lines and leave it to dry, overnight.

So I gently tossed it onto the top of the clotheslines, which apparently had more slack than I was aware and the pillow snuck through the lines and fell onto the dirty, grassy area underneath the clothesline.

So after maybe saying a few not-so-nice words, I went inside, put on my shoes, went back outside, picked up the soaked, freshly-laundered, dirty pillow and placed it gently on top of the clothes drying rack. It’s still there.

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All by its lonesome. In the dark. Soaked. It looks so pitiful, I almost feel guilty.
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Meanwhile, back inside, I found an old spare pillow and, unbeknownst to himself, my Southern Man is using that until I can buy him a new one. Mischievous person that I am (you may decide on a different adjective), I did not tell him about the pillow mishap. I want to see if he notices. If I tell him, he will notice, even if it’s not noticeable. If he comments or seems uncomfortable, I will confess. Maybe. If he doesn’t, I will say nothing and we’ll see if he still reads my blog posts.

Stay tuned for the next episode. Always an adventure with me, no matter how trifling. 🙂

Addendum: He’s already in bed and I asked if he was comfy. He said he was. So all is well until he gets a new pillow. Or reads this….

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And so it begins…the end….

This evening I will be attending the first of several events leading up to our daughter’s graduation, in this case, an awards ceremony. As I was driving to pick her up from school, today, I remembered that she only has nine days of actual school left. I was thinking I should say to her, “Only NINE days left!” when she got in the car. Then my mind went to her going to college and my vivid imagination showed a lovely scene of leaving her there at the dorm and driving off and, yes, the tears kicked in. Boy, am I in trouble when that day finally arrives!

It was hard when our son went to college, too, but it’s different with our daughter. First, she’s a girl and I just think that’s harder, especially with all the scary things out there in the world that one sees and reads about. Second, she’s the last one! No more kids in the house. Plus, she’s my buddy. Yes, I’m a Mom, first, and sometimes things are not always pleasant when I’m being “the MOM” or as my daughter will address me when she’s annoyed, “MOTHER” (to which I often reply, “DAUGHTER”), but we’re also pretty close. She even wrote a college essay about me being the most influential person in her life and told me that through all of our moves and different schools, I have always been the constant and am her best friend. Wow. Yes, I cried at these things, too. Not bawling, just tears, you know. Probably hormonally-driven or so I like to say. Perhaps not.

Anyway, I knew this year was going to be a challenging one with many changes that we knew were coming (and a couple that we didn’t), and I knew I was going to have a harder time than I’d like to admit, tears and all, but I wasn’t expecting it to start so soon! Maybe by the time we drop her off at her college dorm in August, I will have met my “tear quota” and there won’t be any left. Hmmm…it doesn’t work that way, does it?

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Lipoma surgery follow-up

Today, I went back to see my surgeon, Dr. L, for a follow-up appointment relating to a surgery I had almost two weeks ago to remove a lipoma, a usually-benign, fatty tumor. Thankfully, mine also were benign. I say “were” rather than “was” because there turned out to be two of them. I asked Dr.L about the lipomas he removed from my lower back and he described the shape and size of the first one, then told me how in the lower back there’s the skin, then a layer of (subcutaneous) fat, then a thick layer of (thoracolumbar) fascia, then the muscle. I already knew all this because I’ve got an educational background in human anatomy and physiology, however, I just sit there and listen when medical people tell me these things. Sometimes, through the course of the conversation, they figure it out and have even asked me about my background. Anyway, the first lipoma was between the fascia and the muscle. Then–surprise!–there was a second, smaller one that was actually IN the muscle of the lower back, itself. I asked him if my case was typical and he said, “No.” Figures. There are already a few things about me that aren’t “typical”, so I wasn’t really surprised to hear of one more thing.

I’ll be curious to see how my lower back feels in terms of tightness and soreness once all the swelling goes down. I asked him how long that will take and he told me 2-3 months. Wow, I wasn’t expecting months, but the fluid takes a while to be absorbed by the body, apparently. Plus, I suppose with the infiltration of the muscle, it was a little bit messier than it would have been, otherwise. Regardless, all looks good, according to Dr. L, and continued happy healing to me. Meanwhile, I think I have another lipoma in my thigh. Right now, it’s only about the size of a pea and is not noticeable. Hopefully, it will stay that way, otherwise I may be seeing Dr. L again, in a few years.

I feel very fortunate, though, for many reasons. As I wrote in an earlier post on aging, my health concerns are relatively minimal for a middle-aged woman. I can’t believe that’s what I am. When did that happen? Anyway, after some of the stories I was told about lipomas, how common they are in the middle-aged, and how some people are covered with them (I looked up pictures on the interweb–it can be very deforming), I am happy that I only had this one big lump to be removed versus what some people go through, sometimes repeatedly, and am also thankful it was benign. Because of where the second one was located, I will have to put off doing dead-lifts in my weight-training routine and probably go easy on the stretching of my lower back for a little while. However, I will start walking again, and doing my other weight-training exercises. I haven’t worked out since before the surgery, but have tweaked my diet because of my cholesterol levels, and according to that horrible doctor’s scale, have lost about 6 pounds, already! That was a nice piece of good news!

From what I’ve been told and have seen, it’s a fairly downhill trip, this aging thing. However, I’m a fighter and while I plan to age somewhat gracefully, I’m going to try to keep this body and my health in the best shape I can and hopefully avoid some of the problems–and medications–that aging brings with it. I see so many people my age and even younger that have so many health issues, whether because of genetics, their health habits, or just some horrible disease. It really makes you take notice of mortality, whether your own or just in general, when you see all the illness and death that goes on. All we can do is try to take care of ourselves, help others do the same, and pray and hope for the best health and life possible.

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Newton

When you read the name “Newton”, you probably think of Sir Isaac Newton and the laws of physics he formulated that we have all learned either in school, perhaps unwillingly, or in life, unknowingly. My favorite demonstration of his 3rd law is below:

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Garfield was one of my favorite cartoon characters; I have a stuffed Garfield that I bought from a little shop in western Massachusetts back in the late 1980s, when I was in college. I saw him and thought it was hilarious. If you know Garfield, you’ll understand the pasta bowl.

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He’s in pretty good shape for an old tomcat! My other favorite cartoons, Looney Tunes and Calvin and Hobbes, also had many demonstrations of the laws of physics, as well as of breaking of the laws of physics. Anyway, the Newton I am about to discuss is not Sir Isaac.

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It’s Fig Newtons, one of my favorite cookies since childhood. I loved them so much, that I even gave them up for Lent one year when I was a kid. At the end of Lent and as a reward, I was given a box of them by my Sunday school class teacher. I was so happy!  I brought them home and put them in the kitchen cupboard. However, as it turned out, I did not get even one. Not. One. Nope, I didn’t. You wanna know why? It’s called “older brother”. Yeah. He ate them all. ALL. Jerk. That’s how I felt at the time, anyway. I got over it; it was about 40  years ago, after all.

Since those days, Fig Newtons, which were named after the town of Newton, Massachusetts (click on the Fig Newton box for more info), have dropped the fig and now are just called Newtons, because they added a bunch of different fruit flavors to their line-up. I’m old-school and like the original fig ones, myself. Not that I ever get them, much. Maybe once every few years, when they go on sale and toDAY was that day!

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As you can see, the packaging has changed quite a bit, including the “easy peel” tab that I didn’t notice until after I’d ripped open the end so I could eat a couple of these cute, little mini-pastries. (Easy-open anything is pretty much wasted on me.)

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Don’t they look yummy? I love fig filled cookies and pastries. Just figs, in general, I guess. Perhaps it has to do with my Armenian ancestry, since the fig is entwined with our history. Maybe one of these days, I will get my hands on some Alabama-grown figs and be able to make some goodies with them. In the meantime, I will just buy my occasional pastry or box of newtons, knowing that I don’t have to worry about my brother stealing them all since he lives all the way up in New England. 😉

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