She’s Flying…Off to College!

 Dear Reader:

I nearly collided with a jubilant young girl yesterday upon my arrival in the lobby of a large hotel.  She was happily spinning about with her arms outstretched. “I’m flying Mom! I’m flying!” she exclaimed.

“Fabulous,” came her mother’s enthusiastic reply. “But, don’t fly too close to the stairs!”

I remembered my daughter at the same age.  She was energetic, determined and curious. I could imagine her dancing beside me. She is now in Southern California, a 20-year-old college sophomore, earning excellent grades while working part-time. Today she made a deposit on her first off-campus apartment for next year. She is flying!

IMG_3575
Shopping at T.J. Maxx for my daughter’s first apartment. Hmmm…maybe a knight for protection?!

She is also studying abroad this summer. She received the good news that she had been accepted into the international program on March 22, the day the terrorist attack took place in the vicinity of the Palace of Westminster in London. I was shopping for fun stuff for the girl’s apartment when I received a message from my husband about the Manchester attack two days ago.

Terrorist attacks are by nature appalling, but those that target children and young adults are the most heartbreaking. It’s hard to hold back tears when listening to a parent describe how they feel about their child’s death. This is not the way life should be. Parents should not have to face the death of their children. I wish there was something I could do to assuage the pain of those who have lost children and yet I imagine that there is nothing anyone can do. The pain will never leave.

Within hours of the attack at the concert, the Facebook page for college parents was filled with one simple question:  Is your daughter/son still planning on traveling to Europe this summer? Though our “children” are young adults, study abroad is made possible by parents. So the decision to go or not to go becomes a conversation that begins with:  “Do you still want to go?”

My daughter was upset by the news but does not want to “waste the opportunity.” My husband and I agree. As a young child we taught her to look both ways and to dial 911, and, most importantly, we tried to model responsible behavior. Thankfully, she was an inherently careful, thoughtful, observant girl and she did not cause us undue worry. Now that she is also an adult, we can discuss the fact that life is unpredictable which makes it that much more precious. One must fly despite the fact that the stairs can not always be seen.

Unless circumstances drastically change, my daughter will soon be on a plane heading toward a wonderful 7- week- long adventure…and my heart will be there, too!

Michele

Happy Mother’s Day!

IMG_3169

Flowers from my girl!

Dear Reader:

I am lucky enough to be spending Mother’s Day weekend with my daughter! One forgets how good food is in a college town: donuts, pizza, bagels and smoothies oh my!

Best wishes to my dear friend, Courtney,  mother of four girls all under the age of nine, and hugs to my mother-in-law, Mary , who gave me my wonderful husband!

Love,

Michele

How Old Do You Feel?

 

Dear Reader:

It was one of those moments that just sneaks up on you. It was 5 years ago, but it remains fixed in my memory. It was the day I realized that even though I was the one driving from point a to point b, my passengers were not far behind me. I was sitting in the car pool lane at school with my neighbor in the back seat awaiting the arrival of my daughter.  We had just finished an uninhibited, full-throttle, banging on the steering wheel and backpack sing-along with Adele. I was still “Rolling in the Deep” when my 15-year-old passenger asked. “How old do you feel?” I turned to face her and she continued. “Do you feel as old as you are?”

I was impressed with her question, and I wanted to know where it came from before I  answered. She said that it came from observing her mother closely. Fair enough. She deserved a thoughtful response.

At the time, I was a mere 52-year-old, so in some ways I was still getting used to the label:  “50-something.” I was then and still am in good health fortunately,  but I didn’t really think that was at the heart of her question. I had to tell her that, although I wasn’t really sure what “50” was supposed to feel like, it was very hard to believe that it had happened to me, even though I was along for the entire ride.

“So you are saying what everyone says:  time goes by quickly?” she asked. She’d heard it before and I could only confirm that it is one of those truths that can’t be known…until it is known.

She wanted more than a simple, trite, easy answer though, so I drew a comparison for her. I described “Imaginary 50-year-old Michele.” She’s a better driver. She’s very wise in a very casual way.  She’s less fearful. She’s more organized.

In contrast, “Real Michele” was still a lousy driver and a bit disorganized. She knew what she didn’t know and she did not hesitate to ask for help. She was not unafraid, but she had a greater sense of peace than she could have imagined.

I also confessed that the picture that I carried in my mind no longer closely matched what I saw when I looked at photographs of myself. Generally, I wasn’t bothered by that though. I estimated my imaginary mental picture age was about “35.”

If I were asked the same question today, I’d probably reply in the same manner. I’m now closer to “60” than “50” and I’m sure when that happens it will feel sudden, and I’ll bet I won’t feel like a 60-year-old.  I’m guessing I’ll still be a poor driver and a bit disorganized, but, in my mind’s eye, I will have aged some; I’ll probably look about “45.”

I’ve decided a bit of denial is just fine. I know how old I am, but there’s no reason to dwell on how many years I’ve lived except to marvel at my incredible good fortune. When I want to feel really young,  these things always take me back:

  • Listening to the Bee Gees
  • Driving a fast car…fast
  • Flirting with my husband
  • Swinging, you know, in a swing in the park
  • Eating a doughnut or hot fudge sundae or a piece of cake with special candles

My daughter baked me a cake!

This year I visited my daughter at college the week before my 57th birthday and she and her roommates helped me celebrate. They baked me a cake and used the only candles they had in their apartment, as they had all turned “20” this year!

Michele

Guest Post: Inner Space by Laurie Seidler

Dear Reader:

I’m packing for Mars.

Yeah. I’m an astronaut. Self-trained. Rigorously self-trained. I’ve been running stairs. Well, not so much running stairs as using them on an as-needed basis. You know, when I’m downstairs and I have to get upstairs. And I squeeze a tennis ball. A lot. Preparing for space travel is an arduous and exacting science. You have to mix anaerobic and aerobic activity.

What drives me? What drives any explorer? Curiosity. A thirst for adventure. The need to test myself. Mars is there and I’m here. Enough said.

Also, I have an empty nest now, and a bit of free time. A fair amount of free time, truth be told, and I don’t do well with free time. I need structure and goals. So I’m planning and executing a 270-day trip to Mars, during which I’ll be following the kind of regimented program of exercise and intellectual stimulation that keeps astronauts sane as they hurtle through the vacuum of space.

You know how people say, “I’ve always wanted to do X. I’ve always wanted to [learn to surf, play the cello, read Proust and not just say that I’ve read Proust]”? Well, I may actually read Proust. And learn to surf. I’m not sure yet. The trip is still in the planning stages. But it’s a go, as we like to say in the space business. It’s on. I’m in the process of establishing the mission parameters that I’ll be following for the 270 days that I’m “away,” and I’m chronicling the journey in a mission log.

We’re happiest when we’re absorbed, when we’re rising to a challenge. Well, everything I know about astrophysics I learned from Star Trek and I get dizzy shaking my head, but I’m going to Mars, if only metaphorically. That’s my challenge. We’re all travelers, I’m just steering my ship in a new direction.

Call it a trip to inner space.

Laurie Seidler

My friend Laurie has a BA in history from Yale and an MFA in writing from the California College of the Arts. Formerly a reporter and editor for Dow Jones & Co., she teaches in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her book, 22 Shelters:   Lessons From Letters , is an inspiring read.

In addition to those amazing credentials, Laurie was the first mom to be-friend me when my daughter switched schools in the second grade. So, yes, she has a permanent place in my heart. Her only “child” is a sophomore in college.

Dr. Buff and the Older Woman

Dear Reader:

My daughter got stuck taking me to a medical appointment in one of those lovely role reversals that happen once your child is grown.  I was required to have a designated driver after a pain specialist gave me a couple of cortisone shots in my back. Before transporting me home, my daughter was called into the recovery room where the doctor gave her a few instructions.

As she ever so gently helped me into the car, I asked her how she liked my doctor.  “Your doctor. That was your doctor?!”  Apparently, she had assumed she was receiving post-procedure instructions from a medical assistant of some sort.

“You didn’t tell me your new doctor was buff,” she retorted.  ” Young. You mean young,” I responded. Nope, she meant buff as defined in the Urban Dictionary:  very strong or having defined muscles, hot.

I was given the chance to re-evaluate my assessment of my doctor a couple of weeks later, and I found him to be both young and buff!  Wow, how did I miss that? Well, I’ll tell you how…during my initial consultation with him all I could focus on was his bright shining youth. Wow, I wondered as I left his office, are the doctors getting younger or am I getting older? Think I answered my own question!

Other clues that you are getting older:

  • You have to ask: it’s hot in here, right?! Isn’t it? Anybody else feel warm?
  • You can’t remember why you walked into a room.
  • You’ve fallen in love with tennis shoes. Your heels are collecting dust…literally.
  • You can’t seem to call your daughter’s five roommates by their respective names.
  • You don’t recognize your hands.
  • You are super excited that Saturday Night Live will soon begin broadcasting live across all time zones!

Just a few reasons you don’t mind:

  • You can be absolutely sure that you’ll never be perfect, so no pressure.
  • Tennis shoes are inexpensive and being shown on the runway this year!
  • It’s nice to be chauffeured around by your daughter.
  • You realize that most of the things you spent your life worrying about didn’t matter or didn’t happen.
  • Aging is a gift…it’s called life.

Enjoy your day,

Michele

 

S’mores Please!

 Dear Reader: 

My lovely daughter and two of her lovely college roommates paid me a visit! Ours is a small home, you may remember, so Dad packed up and spent the weekend with his mom.

IMG_0226

Girl’s weekend! I’m sure, you won’t be surprised to hear that we spent the evenings consuming large amounts of rich desserts and sappy romantic comedies.

I simply must share my favorite recipe with you:

Super Simple S’mores

Ingredients:

8 La Petit `Ecolier cookies

4 regular sized marshmallows

Place four cookies, chocolate side up, on a plate. Top two of the cookies with a marshmallow. Microwave on high for 10 seconds. Combine the cookies to make a sandwich. Mmmmm…enjoy!

IMG_2739

At a mere 150 calories or so, you can afford to enjoy one…or two. Recommended accompaniment: coffee or milk and any movie featuring Chris Pine. We watched Princess Diaries 2.

Michele

No Regrets

Natalie LaFollette Creative Portrait_00

Dear Reader:

The woman at the Clinique counter turned out to be right. The day I visited her, I was 7 months pregnant…feeling a bit fat and looking for a “feel good” purchase. Lipstick is always fun! She rather ceremoniously uncapped a long, thin silver tube and twisted the base so that I might see the color. “Perfect,” she effused. I was not initially impressed, but, at her urging, I applied it and checked myself out in the mirror. Fabulous! Almost Lipstick in Black Honey has been a staple in my cosmetic bag ever since.

“So, are you going back to work after the baby?” she asked. I replied affirmatively to which she responded, “Ah, too bad.”

When I left her counter, I’m sure my lovely, shimmery lips were parted in an “um, what?!” expression.  That was some opinionated salesperson. I was working in high-tech marketing and had received a promotion and stock options the year before. Not to mention the fact that I was, and remain,  a staunch feminist. Of course,  I was going back.

I did return from maternity leave, but lasted only six months… and that was a stretch! Everything had changed. The 30-50 minute drive to and from work was never enjoyable, but now it was a lost hour that could have been shared with my daughter.  The early morning calls with the European sales force that I had once so enthusiastically anticipated created a logistical nightmare. The high level meetings that I had felt proud to attend seemed unimportant; I was no longer impressed with myself or anyone else in attendance. I  did not feel the zeal for advancement or the thrill of competition that was fostered in the company.  I found myself wondering who would be there to see my daughter’s first steps: me or the day care workers.

Home life was difficult, too. It was a mad dash every evening to retrieve my daughter within the approved pick-up time.  My husband’s work in high-tech finance was demanding and he usually arrived a couple of hours later than us between 7 and 8 p.m. When he got home, he needed the same things that our baby and I needed: rest, relaxation, dinner, understanding, attention. We were all simultaneously extremely needy! And, very tired. We had only each other. There was no household help or familial assistance. It was just the three of us.

My husband supported my decision to quit working.  We took a leap of faith together knowing that the budget was going to be extremely tight. And, it worked out just fine! Our daughter is a 20-year-old college student today and the three of us are very close.

In the two decades since I made my decision, technology has changed things so much. I see so many women who successfully combine work and family life. Neither my husband nor I had any flexibility in our jobs. It seems ironic that we were both working in the high-tech industry that has revolutionized life for so many, and yet our employers offered no allowances to accommodate family life.

Today, I have an empty nest and time to pursue my interests,  but I don’t think I could fully enjoy myself if I didn’t feel that I’d completely embraced my role as a mother. I feel grateful that I had a choice; I know many women don’t. I have never regretted my decision to be a stay at home mom.

Sincerely,

Michele

P.S. I wouldn’t recommend seeking life advice at the Clinique counter, but that saleswoman was wise!  I recently read that the lipstick she sold me more than 20 years ago has become a cult-classic.  Clinique now ships one Black Honey lipstick every two  minutes.

http://www.glamour.com/story/most-popular-lipstick-colors-review