Category Archives: parenting

Six things I wish I’d known before sending my daughter to college

It’s hard to believe, but summer is basically over.    H starts her sophomore year of college on Tuesday after Labor Day, but is already on campus, welcoming incoming freshmen.  Last year she went backpacking for her freshman Orientation Adventure, and most of the kids in her group are still her closest friends.  This year she will help lead a backpacking/kayaking trip on Catalina Island.
I’ve been thinking about this time last year.  We spent two days helping her move in to the dorm (which involved carrying a lot of boxes and making multiple Target runs, but not much unpacking, because SHE wanted to do it herself).  That was the first surprise.  I had imagined helping her unpack, putting away her things in an organized manner, hanging pictures, making the bed, etc., but in reality, she had imagined finally being able to make her own decisions about all that.  She was patient with us at first, but when I kept pulling things out of the boxes and placing them where I thought they’d go,  she finally said, between her teeth, “MOM, I’ve GOT it!”
So after a couple of meals with her, where she was obviously biding her time until she could escape to go meet her new friends, we realized it was time to go.  So we kissed goodbye, took a couple of last photos together, and watched her walk away.  Second surprise…I didn’t cry!  I actually felt excited for her and honestly, a little relieved.  We had raised an incredible young woman who was ready to take on the world, (or college, at least), and I was proud and excited for her.
I know there are lots of parents out there who are dropping off their kids for their first year away.  Whether there are younger kids still at home, or if the nest is emptying, there are many changes in store.  As the parent of an only child, it was a tremendous change for me.  Here are some of the things I learned or observed after my only child left for college.


Some kids might welcome your help with unpacking and moving in.  Not ours.  She wanted us to carry the heavy stuff and that was about it.  We teetered on the edge…It was so hard for me to pull back and let her unpack on her own.  We also caught ourselves giving last minute “advice” which I’m sure sounded to her like Charlie Brown’s teacher, “Wah, wah wahhh wahhhwahhhh”.  But it was evident to us when it was time to leave, so our goodbyes were loving, genuine and quick.  H’s roommate’s mom ended up staying TEN DAYS after moving her daughter in, and not surprisingly, roommate’s transition to college was difficult, tearful, and she transferred away the following semester.  But DO turn around and catch a glimpse of her walking away…and remind yourself that this is what you’ve raised her to do…spread her wings.


Your communication with your child will definitely change.  They are navigating their new world filled with new responsibilities, new friends, and new distractions and most likely, telephone calls to mom and dad will not be on the priority list.  And when they do pick up the phone to actually make a call, it’s usually to vent or ask for specific help, like how to refill prescriptions or to please send them their favorite cowboy boots that they left at home.  When you’re aching to see her face, it’s easy to make a quick Skype call at night while she’s online, and you can get the visual fix of her smiling mug.


When they do call in a tizzy because they are having a seemingly horrible problem, whether it’s relationship, academic, friends, or some other meltdown, and you instantly put yourself in “Mommy Saves the Day Mode”, slow down, listen, ask questions, and let them get it off their chests.  Nine times out of ten, they’re venting, and as soon as they hang up the phone, go skipping off with their friends without a care in the world.  This was really difficult for me.  I was the problem-solver.  Anytime she had a problem, I wanted to figure it out, and show her the way.  The first couple of times I tried to do that over the phone, she became defensive and exasperated, and finally said, “Mom, I don’t need you to give me any advice, I just want to get it off my chest.”  Not that you will never get involved…when she had a nagging medical problem that she kept complaining about but wouldn’t actually make an appointment with a new doctor, I had to step in and convince her to take care of it.  But it’s actually very satisfying when you see your child navigate through a problem herself.  That’s when you realize you are not the Coach anymore, and gladly become the Cheerleader.


Your child is legally an adult, so the grades will not automatically come to you.  You also will not be able to call her doctor to find out about her health.  The grades thing was a pretty big adjustment to my husband; since he was the one paying the bills, he felt like he should be getting her “report cards”.   And speaking about paying the bills…the statements will come to your child.  So the communication between you and your child will be important in those aspects.  I would recommend having an understanding with your child before dropping them off at school about what your expectations are.


Flying home after leaving H in California my mind was jumbled with all kinds of memories, fears, hopes, and worries.  Watching her walk away from us to her French placement exam, I didn’t see a young woman going to college, I saw the 5-year-old I dropped off at Kindergarten, who told me that she was afraid but was going to “Face her fears”.  That became a mantra throughout her life, and I realized I needed to follow her lead.  I thought about my fears of losing control over her life, losing her in my life on a daily basis, and reminded myself that this is what we raised her for.  To be strong, independent, and her own person.  Then, miraculously,  I felt a huge relief.
Suddenly, I realized something that I hadn’t thought of amid all the planning, packing, and worrying.  I was going to have the freedom to do things in my life that I wanted to do…travel, take classes, read, and spend time with the wonderful guy I married.  We are living the life we dreamed of for the last few years, and even though I miss her,  it’s a pretty darn good life.


I think this is the last thing that really hit us.  And it didn’t really hit us until this summer.  During  spring final exams, when she was exhausted, stressed, and sleep deprived, we got a few more phone calls than usual.  She was SO excited to be coming home, to see “mommy and daddy”, and to sleep in her own bed.  Then she got home, and I think that lasted about 36 hours… during which she probably slept about 24.  She texted and skyped and spoke with her friends scattered all over the country, did the obligatory dinners with us, then, after three weeks of family togetherness, flew up to the Catskills for her summer job as a camp counselor.  After the job was completed, we had four days together before she happily left to go back to school.

She drove from Colorado to school in California with a friend…big step for Dad!

 J and I realized that even though “home” is with us, it’s not where she needs to be right now, and it’s a good thing.  She is discovering so many new things, about herself, about the world, about other people, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

This year, I have some of the same feelings.  I still miss her.  I still think about her and wish I could see her face more often.  But now that I know what to expect, I have no worries whatsoever about what the year will hold…for all of us.

Life Changes, and New Experiences

The last few months have been a time of introspection for me.  My days have changed so drastically and I am still trying to figure out what, exactly, I should be doing with my life.   J and I are spending much more time in our two favorite places (Colorado and North Carolina), now that H has graduated and flown the nest.  J works wherever we are, so we have a freedom that years ago, we only dreamed about.  Here in Colorado, I try to go to the gym as little as possible, getting my exercise in the great outdoors.  Snow skiing, snowshoeing, uphill hiking, running with ice cleats…it’s so exhilarating that the benefits go far beyond the physical.  It also gives me lots of time to think.

Spending time in Colorado is like a dream.  But it also removes me from the day to day activities that I always have in Nashville.  And now that H is not home, I also don’t have the school volunteer responsibilities that occupied my time for the last 13 years.  But starting all over in a new community, and one that has a large percentage of part-time residents, has a lot of challenges.  We’re meeting people…mostly people who work in the art galleries, restaurants, and other businesses that we frequent.  But to them, since we’re not full-time residents, it’s hard to make lasting connections.  I miss meeting other parents of kids H’s age…something that is more difficult than ever.

Being an empty-nester is definitely a paradigm shift for me.  If I am completely honest, I have good days and bad days.  I have shifted from full-time mom to part-time mom.  On one hand, J and I have the freedom to live our lives in a way we had only dreamed about for the last 19 1/2 years.  Going from micromanaging someone else’s life to watching from afar is kind of like a breath of fresh air.  Some days I can go all day without wondering if she has done her homework, gotten enough sleep, brushed her teeth, or made it home before 2 a.m.  Some days.  Other days, I see parents with their little ones on the mountain, or in a restaurant, or at church, and I ache inside for those days.  Those days when she couldn’t go to sleep without “cuddling” with me, when she wanted to ski with us, or when we sat at the dinner table and shared our “highs” and “lows” of the day.  Last night I watched “Les Miserables” and all I could think (as I cried my way through the entire thing) was how Cosette changed Jean ValJean’s life.  His quote “To love another person is to see the face of God” resonated throughout my body. 

SO…all that is to say that I have been thinking about this blog, and what it really is, now that my job description has changed.  Even though I’m not doing Mommy things full-time, I will always be her mom.  I will always worry about her, pray for her, think about her, try to guide her in little ways, and most of all, be here for her.  But in order not to wallow in the wistful, lonely moments that can creep up on me, I have to STAY BUSY.  I thank God every day for the life I am able to live.  J and I are closer than we’ve ever been.  To be married to my best friend, and share most of our hobbies, is amazing.  I don’t want to look back in four years and think I wasted an opportunity to grow, make new connections, and give back to my community.

So that’s my focus, in life and in my blog.  I haven’t written in awhile because I wasn’t sure exactly what to write, or if my life without H at home was worth writing about.  I started this as a journal of things I was going through as a parent.  That won’t change.  The things I do might, though.  Instead of living my life around H and her schedule, I have the freedom to do new things.  So I will write about them and share with you my journey as an empty nester, and hopefully you’ll stick with me.  Feel free to comment with your own experiences, questions,  worries, or success stories about kids who’ve flown the nest.

Today I signed up for a photography class at Colorado Mountain college.  J and I signed up for a locals ski clinic on Saturday.  And yesterday I took my stairmaster workout outside!  It’s been so very cold here…about 5 days of negative double digit temperatures, and no sun.  It’s hard to explain just how cold -22 degrees is.  But yesterday, the highs reached almost 20 degrees on the mountain, and the sun was shining.  So I grabbed my Icetrekkers, a traction cleat that straps onto my hiking boots and hiking poles, and headed out to the mountain.  From our back door we can hop onto a groomed ski run and go multiple different directions.  I like to have a destination, (like LUNCH!) in mind, so I headed towards the Lower Alpine lift where I could take Coffee Pot up to Gwen’s High Alpine restaurant.

I turned around on my way up and this is what I saw!

Going down…this photo doesn’t do it justice.  I wanted to sing!

View from 11,775 feet!

It was amazing!  Sunny, not very crowded (thanks, January!), and STEEP!  I just put my head down and imagined I was on the stair machine.  I have to say, those hours I spent in Nashville, mindlessly climbing to nowhere must have helped me in some way, because before I knew it I was at the top of the lift!  It took me a little over an hour to go 2 1/2 miles, but the views every time I turned around were so mind boggling, that I didn’t want to stop.  I wasn’t hungry yet, because I didn’t know how long it would take me to get there, so I didn’t feel like eating lunch.  I started down Turkey Trot, a meandering blue/green trail that leads to the Elk Camp Restaurant on my way home.  But I looked up to the right at the High Alpine lift, and wondered how far up I could make it.  I didn’t want to go up Reidar, under the lift, so I headed to Cookies, a very steep groomed trail and started going up.  I gave myself a 15 minute goal.  It was so steep at times my cleats weren’t helping much and I was sliding halfway down for every step I took.  I leaned forward, and felt like I was going horizontal.  People looked at me like I was crazy.  After 15 minutes I tried for another 15.  By then I was within sight of the top so I couldn’t turn around.  I reached the top, took a few snapshots, ate a bite of my energy bar, and headed back down.

BAM!  When I turned around to go down, the views were almost heart stopping!  I had this unbelievable feeling of euphoria…The cool, crisp, clear sunny day, surrounded by wide open views of snow covered mountains, my health, my family, a great workout…I almost couldn’t contain myself.  Some places were so steep that I had to just let go, put my arms out, and run down the hill.  Needless to say, I had the best lunch of my life at Elk Camp that day.  Everything just seemed…great.

Views from Upper Alpine

I had tried not to text H all day…(I’m still working on giving her space), but before I went to bed I asked her how her day went.  Her reply to me, “Doing phenomenal!” was the icing on the cake.  I went to bed with a smile on my face.

Staying busy when the nest is empty!

Have you seen the Toyota Venga commercials?  The ones where the parents are out living an active life while their grown children are worrying about them as they age?  This one is my favorite…

Ever since we dropped H off in California for college,  I get the sympathetic head tilt, “So, how are you?” about once a day.  And you know what?  I really am doing OK.  Surprisingly, even to me.   I expected this was going to be much more difficult than it is proving to be.  Not that I don’t get sad.  I do have those moments…moments of missing her as a little girl, when she adored us, and never wanted to leave us, not even to go to sleep at night.  I also have lots of moments when we’re experiencing something that I think she would enjoy, and wish she were here with us.

But we raised her to be independent, and to go after her dreams. The fact that she is at a college she adores, taking classes that inspire and motivate her, meeting people she enjoys, and becoming the person we always knew she could be, is everything I could ask for.  Sure, I would like to be a fly on the wall and observe her every moment, but since I can’t, J and I are staying busy.  I discovered that when we’re doing new things, or experiencing things outside our comfort zone, I don’t think about her every minute.

Spending extended time in Colorado and North Carolina is something Jeff and I have dreamed about for many years.  It wasn’t until our nest emptied out that we were able to do it.   Well, that and the internet, fax machines, email, etc.  We started this summer trying to do all new hikes that we hadn’t done before.  As we became more acclimated to the altitude they became longer and more strenuous.  Last month I bought a book on 14ers around the same time my friends from Nashville did Mt. Elbert while here for a short visit.  I mentioned it to J, and he said, “Are you crazy??”  Every time we did another long hike, I’d mention it again.  J’s responses started becoming less negative.  Finally, when we finally made it to Buckskin pass (after two failed attempts), he checked the weather report and decided that if we were going to do it it would have to be Saturday.  We made a trip to Ute Mountaineer in Aspen to pick up the supplies we didn’t have (tarp in case of rain, water purification tablets, weatherproof matches), and Saturday morning we were up before dawn to make the hour and a half drive to Leadville.

The drive over Independence Pass was magnificent, and our jeep was able to make it to the farthest point at the trail head so that we only had 8 1/2 miles to hike, instead of 12 1/2.  J was battling some lower back pain (we worked at a Habitat house the day before and he was doing a lot of bending over, sawing cement board), Rosie had been limping early in the week, but both of them were pumped up with anti-inflammatory and had rested the day before so we were all ready to go.  After about 1/2 mile of meandering through the trees, the incline started.  We were at about 10,300 feet at that point, and had 4100 feet to go over a period of 4 miles.  It didn’t seem like it would be that difficult, but I was wrong.  From the very beginning, I sounded like a freight train, sucking in air to get enough oxygen to take another step.  But I looked down and took small, slow steps behind J.  As the trees got thinner, the trail seemed to get steeper.  When we exited the trees, the mountain loomed ahead.  I must admit, it didn’t look that steep, or far, but each step we took the summit seemed to look farther away.  Little did I know, that when we reached that false summit, another one arose in the distance.

First False Summit 13,800 feet

We paused as we reached the first summit to put on more clothing.  The temperature drop was pretty severe and the wind started kicking in.  So we kept going…tiny steps forward and up.  When we reached the SECOND false summit, we still had another 100 yards of elevation to go, but it didn’t take that long.  Suddenly we were there…along with a pretty big crowd of people!  There were a couple of areas where there were rocks stacked up to create a really nice wind screen, but they were already taken, so J and I found a rock to sit on.  I pulled out my windbreaker because it was really cold!  J shared his trail mix with the puppies, who still seemed to have lots of energy left!

I looked around, and even though the haze in the valley from the Idaho fires kept the view a little less crisp, I was overcome with awe.  From the highest point in the Rockies, you can look down on Leadville to the Northeast, the Twin Lakes (which look like triplet lakes to me) to the East, 14,336 foot La Plata to the South East, and 14,421 foot Mt. Massive to the North.  It was spectacular!  With all the crowds I had no problem finding someone to take some pics of both J and I.

In front of Mt. Massive-14,421 feet

Twin Lakes

In front of La Plata -14,336 feet

We hung out for awhile, chatted with a few people, and decided to get started on the walk down. The doggies had fun playing in a little patch of snow as we started the descent.   I (wrongly) thought it was going to be a piece of cake, but descending 4100 feet over 4.25 miles was BRUTAL!  We were very glad when we finally reached the car.  When I pulled my phone out in the car there was a text from H, congratulating us!  I had sent her a text from the top.  I have to admit, I did think about her a few times on the walk up…mainly wishing she was with us.  I know she would have loved it, and since she had summitted Mt. Shasta a couple of years ago (but started at a much lower altitude so it was a much tougher climb), she would appreciate it. But…I wasn’t sitting at home, staring at Facebook, wishing she would post pictures, or call us, or skype.  We were out, living life, and hopefully, that’s exactly what she’s doing as well. 

The view on the way down!

Aaaaaand She’s Off!!

Last week we helped H move into her dorm room…in CALIFORNIA!  She picked a school the farthest away from home she could!  It’s a great fit, and she is thrilled to be there, so we’re truly happy for her.  But it’s such a strange feeling, to go from having her here to NOT having her here.   Buying her the one way ticket to California was the first time it really hit me…I’m not going to be in her daily life any more.

She is reveling in the independence of college.  I’ve talked to her a couple of times, mostly when she needed some kind of information, but once she called just to check in.  She sounds ecstatic.  Which makes this so much easier.  

But move-in day/parent orientation was hectic and emotional.  At least on my end.  She had just returned from a 3 day orientation adventure, backpacking at 11,000 feet.  There were 8 other freshmen, plus a couple of upperclass trip leaders, so she was able to get really close to a few like-minded kids right off the bat.  We missed all the planned parent activities because we were lugging boxes from the mailroom to her room, and making a few Target and Bed/Bath and Beyond trips.

I had forgotten how small college dorm rooms are!

 But surprisingly, she fit everything she needed into the space.  She was adament that I not organize her things, so I did the jobs she assigned me…connected her printer, hang bulleting boards, and unpack and throw away all the boxes.  We had dinner together the night we arrived, and the last night we were there, and met her for a quick breakfast the morning we left.  By that time we were extraneous.  Not needed.  She was being very sweet, but it was obvious she was ready to fly, and we needed to leave so she could get started.  I noticed that we were the only parents walking their kid back from the dining hall, and realized it was definitely time to go.  So we had our last hugs in front of her dorm, and watched her walk away to take her French placement exam. 

Nothing is going to be the same.   I’m excited for her, but it’s hard to stop the worrying…I think about her constantly.  Where is she now?  Does she like her professors?  Is she getting enough sleep?  Did she lock her bike?  Is she meeting lots of nice people?  Is her bed comfortable?  After almost 19 years of living and breathing her every single day it’s hard to stop.   But we’ve raised a smart, kind, resourceful, outgoing young lady, and I do know in my heart that she will be OK.  That doesn’t make it feel any less weird, or hurt any less.  I miss going into her room at night just to watch her sleep.  I miss making her weird vegetarian/tofu meals.  I miss dragging her out of bed on the mornings she slept late (which was any day she didn’t have school!).  I even miss her rolling her eyes at me when I did something she thought was goofy.

I miss this…

But I’m staying very busy.  Going on long hikes with J and the dogs, volunteering at Habitat for Humanity, trying new recipes, and buying new art supplies so I’ll hopefully start painting again.  Maybe I’ll even start blogging more often than once a quarter!  This whole experience is kicking my butt, but every day gets a little bit easier.  Slowly, but surely, I’m quitting the helicopter mom business.  But it sure would be nice if I had a closed circuit camera there to keep an eye on her!

Another lesson from my daughter

My daughter continues to amaze me with her insight and maturity.

She has been disappointed lately with a couple of friends that she thought were true friends, but according to her, they have “ditched” her. She doesn’t have any idea why. It happened suddenly, without an obvious cause. No fights, no disagreements or anything she can put her finger on. She thinks they’ve just moved on.

For awhile, she just kept thinking that maybe she was overreacting. But they’ve just stopped calling. At school, in their regular circle of friends, they’re polite and cordial, but it goes no further. H asked them both, separately, if she had done anything to piss them off, and they both told her “No, everything’s fine. I love you to death”…blah blah blah. But nothing changed.

Today a couple of things happened at school that made her tell me that she just needs to admit it to herself that they’ve moved on.

I asked her if she still had plans to meet one of them for breakfast (Plans that were made long ago). She said, “Yes.”

I said, “Well, maybe you need to tell her you’re busy. Give her a taste of her own medicine.”

H looked at me and said, “Why would I do that? I know how much it hurts.”

Oops. Once again she’s more mature than I am.

Here’s to letting go of the Routine!

It’s 3:20 on a Wednesday and I haven’t worked out yet.  I have no idea what’s for dinner and I just had lunch.  I slept in until 8 a.m….something I haven’t done in ages.  I’m starting to get glimpses of what it will be like when H leaves for college.   For the last 18 years, my life has been defined by the routines and schedules that come with being a mom.  My schedule was her schedule.  Bedtime, awake time, meal time, study time,  cuddle time, worry time.  Ah yes, the worry.  Worrying about whether she was hungry, tired, warm, healthy, safe, happy…that is a constant, but the worries have progressed over the years to worrying about whether she was doing enough, doing too much, getting where she needed to be on time, doing her assignments on time, driving safely, making smart choices, not texting while driving-it never stops.  It became so entrenched that I don’t really remember what I did or even worried about before she was born. 

H is in France.  Her school has a Winterim program every January, where the 9th and 10th graders take special interest classes instead of their regular classes (Women and Finance, Music of the 60’s, sewing, The Beatles, The Kennedys, etc.), and the 11th and 12th graders go off campus-to internships or travel programs either in town or out of town.  H is in France doing a combination tour and home stay.  She will live with a French family for 9 days in southern France, learn about their food, schools, routines, and hopefully, polish her French.  It’s an incredible opportunity for her, and I am thrilled she gets to do it.

She has traveled a lot in the last couple of years without us; Colorado, California, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, Pennsylvania, Baltimore, Washington and China.  Each time was a little less worrisome.  At this age she is like a sponge, learning what to do and not to do when traveling (make sure her phone is charged, don’t leave her computer on the plane), and at this point it has become much easier.  As her parent, I always worry (probably always will), but I know she has the maturity and wisdom to take care of herself.  It’s also made it easier for me each time to let her go.  When she was a little girl I spent the entire time she was gone writing her letters, checking the camp website for photos, worrying and thinking about her almost constantly.  But the last couple of years I’ve begun to appreciate the unscheduled days.  The time with my dear husband for late, long, leisurely meals or hiking with the dogs, sleeping in, staying out late, eating popcorn for lunch, and even increasing the times I can volunteer is growing on me.

I could write a million pages about how difficult it’s been for me to “let go” (and I actually have!)…I know that part of parenting is to let her make her own decisions and mistakes…but knowing and doing are two completely different things.  J tells me I “micromanage”.  So lately, when I think I need to stay up late to pack HER suitcase, or make sure she submits HER college applications, I have to literally make myself STOP.   I didn’t pack her suitcase for France.  I didn’t go to Walgreens to buy the toiletries and things we didn’t already have.  As difficult as it was,  I didn’t stay up late to look over her shoulder while she wrote her college essays.   And you know what?  It all got done.  SHE packed, SHE shopped, SHE stayed up late and got the apps in on time.  It’s very liberating.  Not easy, but it’s a good feeling.

Halfway across the world, in a tunnel under the street in Paris, she ran into our neighbor and childhood friend!

Last night we went to sleep while she was still in the air on a flight to Paris (something I wouldn’t have been able to do a couple of years ago).  The world didn’t cave in.  I woke up this morning with a really good night’s sleep and had a text from her that she was there.  I know the day that I take her to college, move her into her dorm room, and drive away will probably be the hardest thing I ever do.    But I know she will be OK.  Even more, I know that I will be OK.   Eventually.

Focusing on “Firsts”, not “Lasts”

Last week we spent fall break in California, looking at colleges.  At this point in H’s college search, we’re narrowing the list down, instead of adding to it.  There were six colleges she was strongly interested in before the trip, and afterwards, there were only two.   

One thing I learned about California…specifically the Los Angeles and San Francisco areas.  They don’t have enough roads for all the cars.  Seriously.  Driving  the 45 miles from Santa Clara to San Francisco took almost three hours.  The last 90 minutes were spent crawling the last 10 miles.  Luckily, we finished up our marathon driving with a day and a half to relax (aka:  shop) in San Francisco, and fit in a couple of nice meals. 

Since we realized the last three times we were in San Francisco we ate at the same places (Boulevard, Slanted Door, Bix), we tried a couple of new places.  Chaya, a French-Japanese brasserie at the Embarkadero, that we loved.  Warm and intimate, with amazing sushi and a nice wine list.  It was a really nice evening. The fact that we were able to stay awake throughout a leisurely dinner made it even better, since that morning we started in Los Angeles, then toured U.C.  Davis, Santa Clara University, and survived the marathon drive to San Francisco, so we were exhausted.

Crunchy Tuna at Chaya… bad photo, incredible dish!

 The next night we walked around the block to Fish and Farm, which although it didn’t have the ambiance we felt at Chaya, had unbelievable food.  Even the salted butter for the warm rolls was superb!  Fish and Farm serves locally sourced Seafood, Meat and Produce, sourcing most from within a 100 mile radius.

Pan Seared halibut with heirloom tomatoes at Fish and Farm

 Even though neither of these places were on the “top 100” list of San Francisco restaurants, they would have topped most restaurants in Nashville.  The Nashville restaurant scene is getting better, don’t get me wrong, but I think there are only a small handful here that serve consistently good, unique, and local or organic food. 

But back to the college search process.  It’s all very exciting, looking at great schools, in great cities, with great academics…but it’s a nerve-wracking process for all of us.  With the common app, it’s a little bit easier to apply to multiple schools, but when the pool of possible colleges and universities gets so big, it gets overwhelming.  H really wants a school with smaller class sizes.  She loves being able to get to know her teachers, and doesn’t relish the thought of being in a class with 150-400 students.  But on the other hand, the small schools often don’t have the breadth of opportunities, and since she changes her mind about what she wants to study about once a month, she would like to have multiple choices, in case her first choice doesn’t end up being her passion.

I’ve been impressed with how thoroughly she has researched her possibilites, and her enthusiasm for exploring all aspects of the decision.  She has narrowed her list from 14-15 to 7 schools.  From Washington, DC to California, she has pretty much covered the United States with choices.  Anything but in the south, or close to home, which I’m O.K. with.  I don’t know if it’s because she’s an only child, or because she has traveled extensively, and lived in the same city her whole life, but she is ready to fly.  When the applications finally get sent, and the acceptance/rejection letters arrive, it will definitely get interesting.  Right now, even though I am trying not to be a helicopter mom and let her drive through the application process, I know I will be relieved when the last “submit” button is pushed. 

But I am trying to relish these days.  Everything is the “last time”.  Her last “first day of school”, her last Friday night football game, her last ACT test, her last homecoming, etc.  She’s decided to do senior spring break with her friends this year, so for the first time, we’ll do spring break separately.  That means we had our last “family spring break” last year without even knowing it!  When J and I hiked Little Green Mountain in North Carolina this morning, we realized the next time we hike and play the alphabet game (a tradition we had with H for years) will probably be with our grandchildren.  But instead of focusing on “last”, I’m trying to focus on “firsts”.  The first time we let her stay home overnight alone, the first time she makes her own meals,  the first time she moves away, the first time she comes home for the holidays.  We will have many “firsts” ahead.  The first time she brings a boy home will be exciting (hopefully!), the first time we drive away and leave her in her dorm room will be…I don’t know?  Sad? Exciting? Both?

Preschool graduation

senior photo

Last night we met a few new couples whose children are out of college: working, volunteering, or attending graduate school.  Listening to the pride they had in what their children are doing made me realize that we are not going to be finished parenting our daughter when she goes to college.  Her choices and her possibilites are endless, and it will be so much fun to experience all her “firsts”, even if from afar.  There is no way to explain how fast the years feel like they’ve gone, and I’m sure one day when she has her own family she’ll understand why I am so melancholy these days, but I feel so blessed and fortunate to be experiencing it all. 

On the Brink

Somewhere in the last two or three years, my 17 year old daughter has become her own person.  I can’t pinpoint when it happened.  It had to be more gradual than overnight, but at some point she stopped loving all the same things that we did.  Sure, we still like to do some of the same things, like hiking and snow skiing, but doing it with her parents just doesn’t hold the same excitement it used to.

Gone are the family trips where she was ecstatic to be with us, basking in the undivided attention of an only child:  the times where shopping with Mom, going to the movies with both parents, or escaping to the mountains with “just the three of us” were good things.

She’s on the brink…almost 18, aching for the independence to do her own thing, explore the world, or just hang out with her friends, but still anchored by the fraying ties of financial and emotional need. We’re very fortunate.  She’s a good kid.  When I do a Google search on “18 year old daughter” the first sites to pop up are dealing with ungratefulness, dabbling in porn, “out of control”, and runaways.  I’m actually excited for her, for the adventures she will undertake, for the opportunities she will have, and even for the hard lessons she will learn.

It’s still hard.  But instead of focusing on how much I miss our constantly being together and sharing, I am treasuring the rare moments when she opens up.  I try not to think of how few times like this we will have in the future, but appreciate what we have.  I pray that we will always be close (in spirit, if not in distance), and that she will always know how much we treasure her.

In the meantime, I am marveling at her enthusiasm and willingness to jump in and try new things.

Here are a couple of photos of her trip to Alaska this summer…we’ve spoken to her three times in 29 days (probably the number of times she has been able to shower) and she is in heaven.  Something tells me her re-entry into Mom and Dad 24/7 is going to be difficult!

Happy 75th Birthday, Daddy!

We celebrated my dad’s 75th birthday last night with almost all his siblings and spouses, which is all he wanted to do.  It was such a nice evening, and reminded me of how much my family means to me. 
When I was growing up, my dad was my touchstone.  He was the one I measured everything and everyone against.  He was the smartest dad I knew.  Anytime I had a question about anything, he ALWAYS knew the answer.  Either he was the best bluffer in the world or he knew a little bit about a whole lot of things.  Either way, I loved the conversations we had about so many things-maybe not so much the informational tours of sewage treatment plants (he was a civil engineer and many family vacations revolved around wherever his jobs were)-but almost everything else.  Now my husband calls him the “Shell Answer Man”.  His love of learning inspired me to never stop reading, listening and opening my mind to learn new things.
He worked very hard when my brother and I were little-traveling quite a bit-but when he was in town he never missed a ballgame, dance recital, school or church function.  Now that he’s retired, he is the best cheerleader for his grandchildren’s events, sometimes going from one to another to another-all in the same day!  I thank God every day for parents whose love of family permeates everything they do.
Daddy didn’t cry much when I was little.  In fact, I remember vividly the first time I saw him cry.  He came to school when I was in third grade to pick me up and tell me that my grandfather had passed away.  It was such an anomaly…he was the strong, stoic one in the family…that it left an indelible impression on me.  Who knew that he must have saved up all those tears, because now his love for his family makes it difficult for him to get through a family prayer without waterworks!  I always thought I was a crybaby.  It’s good to know I came by it naturally.
My father’s life and the way he’s lived it has taught me by example what it means to have a family-strong leadership and unconditional love for God and each other.  I once read an essay about how life is made up of the in-between moments.  Not just the posed, photo-op BIG EVENTS in life, but the moments in between.  I remember so many in-between moments with my dad…sitting beside him in church, listening to his big BOOMING bass voice belting out hymns, going to Shoney’s every Sunday after church, fishing in the creek at Grandma’s house, marathon sing-alongs on our many road trips…the list goes on and on.  I’m so thankful for the moments, and for my Dad, for teaching me what life’s really all about.

Thank God for Ski Patrol

Final Curves at the bottom of “Longshot”

We spent our spring break snow skiing in Snowmass, Colorado, a tradition in our family for the last ten years. Even though my daughter, H, is 17 and most of her friends are at the beach, she still prefers skiing with her parents (horror!) because she loves it so much. In my opinion, Snowmass is the absolute best skiing in Colorado…maybe even best in the country. With over 3000 acres of terrain, 91 trails (I looked it up), mostly high speed chairlifts and access to your choice of cruisers, glades, steeps, and my favorite, bumps, it never gets boring. I love that going to different areas of the mountain usually only involves one lift or short run, and I love that even during spring break it never seems crowded, and yesterday I found out one more reason to love it here. The emergency response teams, from the 911 operators to the ski patrol, were absolutely top notch.

It was the last run of the day, a typical spring day of skiing, where the conditions up top were great, but getting down to the base involved a lot of slushy, messy, slow snow, so we usually try to get some momentum on the last part of the run so we can make it to the bottom without having to pole as much. My husband, J, was in front and we were actually moving at a pretty good pace for the bottom part of longshot, when he suddenly did a quick hockey stop and jumped out of his skis. I stopped, too, and then saw what he had seen. A teenage boy was on his hands and knees, at the edge of a ravine, vomiting up a lot of blood. Our initial thoughts were that he was just losing his lunch, but then we saw a ski at the bottom of the ravine, and one set of tracks leading up to where he was.  He had his cell phone in his hand and handed it to J, who was able to tell the 911 operator where we were.  The operator was absolutely amazing.  She told J what to say:  ask questions, comfort him, tell him he was going to be o.k., and generally just keep him calm.  The boy was obviously in an incredible amount of pain.  At first he was hanging over the edge, but was able to climb up to the level part of the hill and roll over onto his back.  I took off my coat and put it under his head, rubbed his forehead and held his hand.  He was able to tell us his name, age (16), and that he was staying with friends who owned a home in Aspen.  We couldn’t find any blood on the outside of his body, but he was moaning and in tremendous pain.  J took his coat off, we covered him up, and about 10 minutes after we found him the ski patrol was there. 

They were incredible.  The first two that arrived promptly started talking to him, assessing the situation, and very soon some more came with the transport vehicle.  They were in communication with the patrol main office the entire time, and by the time they’d assessed the situation and loaded him onto the snowmobile stretcher, we heard the ambulance in the background to take him to the hospital.  After they left we stayed with the accident investigators while they tried to piece together what had happened.  The most likely scenario is that something happened at the top of the ravine (out of control jump, skis crossed, or any number of things) and he lost one ski there, then was airborne for 20-25 feet and “superman” landed on rocks at the bottom.  It’s unclear whether he lost consciousness there, but he somehow made it to the top before vomiting. 

J and I were so lucky to have been there when we were.  I’m so glad we could do something to help, however little it was.  But as I was holding his hand and rubbing his head, all I could think of was that he was some mom’s little boy, and this could have been my daughter.  I was wiped out when I got home and couldn’t concentrate on anything.  I kept bursting into tears, imagining the worst.  I wanted to know how he was.  I remembered his name because we had asked him that at the very beginning, but I didn’t want to bother his family at the hospital.  So I called Ski Patrol at Snowmass and was able to talk to the director, who had been the one on the phone with J while the rescue was taking place.  He told me because of the HIPAA laws he couldn’t give me any information, but was very kind and thankful for our help, even though I couldn’t even finish a sentence without crying.  I tried to suck it up, and know that we had done what we could, but I couldn’t think of anything else.  I was emotionally drained and slept very little last night.   I had received an email from the Ski Patrol director, Mr. Chalmers,  after our phone call, thanking me again, and giving me his contact information.  I emailed him back, apologizing for my emotional phone call, and gave him my contact info in case the family wanted to get in contact with me.  This morning I was trying not to think about it, but not succeeding, and then I received a phone call from Mr. Chalmers to tell me that the boy was stable, didn’t have to have surgery, but had very severe internal injuries and would recover although it would take a long time.  I can’t describe how much that meant to me, to receive that phone call.  Even though I am still concerned and hope he will be okay, the fact that I know what happened will help me to move on.

J and I want to take some kind of emergency response course for civilians, so that we will know more of what to do when something like that happens.  But I know that I am going to need to be able to do my best and then leave it.  I don’t know how paramedics and medical professionals do it…how do they avoid getting personally involved?  The fact that this boy was close to H’s age might have had something to do with my response, but I can’t imagine doing things like that every day, and either not knowing what happened, or knowing if the worst thing happens.

I have so much more respect for the ski patrol after seeing them in action.  They were fast, professional, organized and efficient…as well as comforting to the victim.   I’m sure ski patrols at other mountains are great, too, but this is one more reason why I love Snowmass.  I hope no one in my family ever has cause to use them, but knowing they are there gives me a great sense of comfort.