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Monthly Archives: April 2014

Pre-Party Angst

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imagesOur first year as empty-nesters is quickly coming to an end and, looking back, I thought my husband and I would have had more time to socialize, have friends and neighbors over, and, generally entertain others at our house. That was certainly our intent, but it just has not happened. Now that it’s spring, the weather is beautiful, and we have children returning in just two short weeks, I realized there were no more excuses! It was time to throw a party!

Three Weeks Before:

Me: I’ve decided to host a small gathering to celebrate Fiesta.

Husband: Ok.

Me: Just a few friends. We owe some people.

Husband: Ok.

Two & A Half Weeks Before:

Me: Oh no! The yard! I’ve forgotten about it since September. I haven’t even stepped foot out there. HELP!

Husband: Just call Luis.

Me: Really? Ok!

Two Weeks Before:

Me: Luis, please pull every weed you see, help me trim dead stuff, mulch, and plant some instant color!

Luis: Huh?

One Week Before:
Me: Oh my gosh; I’d better get invitations out. Too late for snail mail; thank goodness for email and texting!

Friends: Sure, we’d love to come!

Other Friends: We’ll try but …a) we’re working the Battle of Flowers Parade; b) it’s our child’s prom; c) something better might come up (this is unsaid, but implied.)

A Few Days Before:

Me: I have no idea how many people I’ve invited, or how many will show up. (Counting.) Could be 10; could be 25. I’d better get to the grocery store! How many avocados should I buy for guacamole to serve between 10 – 25 people??

The Day Of…

9 Hours Before:

Me: Hurry, hurry, hurry. People will be here in 9 short hours! Cut, slice, mix, toss, preheat oven. Why did I think this was a good idea?

8 Hours Before:

Friend via email: Can’t make it.

7 Hours Before:

Friend via voicemail: Can’t make it.

Me: Ok; now what’s the head count? Probably 10, but could be 20.

3 hours Before:

Doorbell rings. WHAT?  UPS man with an irrelevant delivery. No biggie.

2 Hours Before:

Grab tequila, Triple Sec, limeade, ice, blender. Whirrrrr! Taste. Ahh! All’s well with the world.

1.5 Hours Before:

Best friend: I’m here to help! Hello? Hello?

Me: I’m in the shower!

BFF: IN THE SHOWER? People will be here soon.

Me: ARGHHHH! I KNOW! Could you chop up some avocados?

30 Minutes Before:

Husband arrives home from work. Goes outside to admire the yard.


1 Minute Before:

First guests arrive. Drinks poured. Conversation flows.

30 Minutes Later:

More guests. More drinks. Appetizers served.

3 Hours Later:

A good time is being had by all.

5 Hours Later:

Hugs all around. “Good night!”

Morning After:

Me: Gosh, that was fun!

Husband: I know. We should do that more often.






Reading the Paper and Raising Teens

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IMG_0048I realize it’s a habit that’s a bit outdated, but I enjoy reading the newspaper everyday. Once, in an effort to be “green,” I discontinued my subscription and tried to read the online edition, but it just wasn’t the same as holding a real paper while drinking a cup of hot coffee first thing in the morning. It’s also more fun to actually clip articles out of the paper that you want to forward to someone than to try to forward a link to an online edition.  I always start by reading the front page news at breakfast, then peruse the t.v. schedule and advice columns over lunch. I love Dr. Oz’s tips for leading a healthy lifestyle, which, no matter the topic, usually end with the line, “…and this will probably help improve your sex life, too!” Another enjoyable column is “The People’s Pharmacy,” which includes helpful tips for using common materials found in everyone’s home to cure various ailments, like cornmeal for treatment of toe fungus. Last weekend an advice column penned by  the Rev. Billy Graham, “My Answer,”  caught my eye. I’m not sure who is actually writing this, as I’ve  heard that the good reverend is 94, frail, and in poor health. Perhaps they’re re-runs. I digress. The question posed to Rev. Graham was from a mother of two daughters who wrote that her teenage girls would be “happy and carefree” on one day and then “sullen and moody and will hardly speak to us” on the next. Her simply phrased question was, “What’s going on?” Oh boy, what a great question, I thought, smiling as I recognized her frustration. Two of my three girls are in their twenties and the youngest has just one more year of teenager-dom, but I clearly remember a time when I nervously awaited their return from school. Just like Forrest when faced with a box of chocolates, I was never sure what I’d get. Would there be a silent, surly girl or a smiling, silly one? Would she want to chat about her day, or stomp to her room, slam the door and stay there until supper? It was always impossible to predict. So, I know about the letter-writer’s confusion. The only answer I could come up with was, “I don’t know. PMS?”  How would Dr. Graham provide a definitive answer to this in just the few paragraphs allotted him by the San Antonio Express-News?

First, he reminded the reader that adolescence is a difficult time, and while teenagers long to be adults, they find adult responsibilities scary. In the meantime, he explained, they are trying to deal with peer pressure while feeling the need to be loved and accepted by all. Then he succinctly gave four bits of advice to the teenage girls’ mom: “Go out of your way to let them know you love them, no matter what’s going on in their lives. Learn to be a good listener and know when to give advice and when to keep silent. Learn from the experience of other parents. Most of all encourage your daughters to put their lives into Christ’s hands, and to seek his guidance for their futures.”  Hmm. Great advice, I thought. I wish I’d had this column taped to my makeup mirror when my girls were growing up. I read the answer again, carefully, and, initially, congratulated myself. I always let the girls know I loved them no matter what. I often sought advice from other parents, and sometimes professionals, while raising our children. As Catholics, my husband and I recognized our role as our girls’ first teachers, and took our responsibility  to raise them in the Catholic faith seriously, so I got that one. Then, slowly, I had to admit that I failed on a biggie; I simply could not recall a time when I ever listened and kept silent. EVER. Not when listening to my children, my husband, or my friends. I was always ready with advice. Then I realized I rarely even thought before I spoke. Actually, I have a hard time keeping quiet until anyone speaking to me finishes; I am always anxious to offer advice regarding how they should handle nearly every situation, usually my knee-jerk reaction, not one based upon thoughtful contemplation. Some find it endearing, most find it infuriating. (It’s a wonder I have any friends at all!)  My mother used to say that I always wanted to “fix” every problem and that I’d work until I came up with a solution. She meant it as a compliment, but now I see that when it came to raising my girls, there were many times that I should have let the girls figure out the fix by themselves. I should have kept my big mouth shut.

If there is one thing I dislike, it’s regrets.  However, reading Dr. Graham’s column made me regret that I had not simply listened to my daughters and acted like the grown-up, listening quietly, nodding patiently, appearing knowledgeable, calm and wise. Rather, when my girls entered the house feeling gloomy, I suddenly was, too. If they were angry and snapped at me, I angrily snapped right back. If they were happy, I was over the moon! They must have felt so confused; if Mom thinks it’s a big deal, it must be a BIG DEAL! Why couldn’t I have been the picture of serene stability? Instead, they’d recount some perceived injustice and rather than minimizing or ignoring it, I’d suggest three or four steps they should take to deal with it. “She said what? Well, then, tomorrow I’d go up to her and say….” Or, “No way! I can’t believe she did that to you. That is unacceptable. Tomorrow, as soon as you see her, you need to….” And, “The teacher misplaced your homework? I’m going to call her right now and give her a piece of my mind.” Oh gosh, girls, I’M SORRY! Yes, girls can be mean, teachers can be scattered, and sometimes life can give you lemons instead of lemonade. But, as the parent, I should have been the steady (soft) rock upon which you could lean, not the slightly agitated smart aleck offering knee-jerk solutions to relatively minor rough patches upon the sea of life.

Thankfully, all three of my daughters seem pretty happy at the moment. So, I guess I didn’t cause any permanent damage. And, after reading this column, I owe Dr. Graham a debt of gratitude. I’ve engaged in a good deal of self-reflection and introspection and will hopefully be a better person for it. Who knew that reading the newspaper could be so beneficial?



A Collective Sigh of Relief

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IMG_1329There were ten of us seated at a restaurant table last Saturday night, brought together by our college freshmen, most of whom had known each other only since pledging a sorority in January. The girls were nearing the end of their 3-month pledgeship and we were on campus as the sorority’s honored guests for “Moms’ Weekend.” Our ten daughters, now close friends, perhaps a bit amazed by the miracle of these quick friendships, wanted to see what would happen if they gathered their mothers at the same table for an hour or two. We politely complied and showed up for dinner, a little nervous about the evening. We’d all just met the night before and were attempting to remember names and hometowns. Our girls were scattered among us, but kept getting up to whisper in another’s ear, or kneel beside another to listen in to an already-begun conversation. We watched longingly, trying to listen in, as they chattered and, inevitably, broke into hilarious laughter toward the end of each shared story. As overhearing proved too difficult for our 50-something year old ears, we began to converse amongst ourselves. At first, we each laughed a little too loudly at the other’s story, and tried a little too hard to make a good impression. But, as the wine flowed around our end of the table, things became easier. It was interesting hearing about life in such Southern cities as Charleston, Atlanta, Raleigh, Richmond, and another’s in New Jersey. (She no longer trusts Governor Christie, by the way.) As we loosened up, we discovered that most of us are empty nesters, and most of the girls seated with us are the babies of their families. We recalled that Sunday afternoon, just eight months ago, when the university’s administrators forced us to deposit our girls with them and drive down the mountain. “Two O’clock,” said one, “I remember that was the deadline they gave us.” “Me, too,” said another, “And I dreaded every second up to that moment.” One mom had a special separation story that transformed us all from mere acquaintances into friends. She began by explaining that she and her husband brought their daughter to college from New Jersey and after leaving her, their baby, they  decided to explore the South and their newfound freedom for a few days. They lolled on the beach in Florida, then headed for New Orleans. One night, while enjoying some excellent Creole fare at a romantic Quarter restaurant, their daughter called, sobbing and blubbering, “Mom, I hate it here. I’ve made a terrible mistake. This is not the right college for me.” Mom kept a stiff upper lip and told her she was sorry, but classes hadn’t even started yet and she just needed to hang on, things would assuredly get better. When she hung up, she noticed a tired young couple trying to eat their meal while keeping their toddler amused. Soon, the couple packed up the toddler with his books, toys and tub of Cheerios, preparing to leave. As they passed by the empty-nesters’ table, Mom grabbed the young mother’s arm. “Treasure these moments,” she nearly yelled, “they’ll go by so fast.” Then she burst into tears. The young father grabbed his toddler in his arms and ran from the restaurant, while Mom’s husband tried to pry her fingers from the younger woman’s sleeve. A waiter soon appeared inquiring if she was alright. “No,” my new friend cried. “I just dropped my baby off at college,” and she wailed even louder. We were all laughing so hard, yet scrounging the bottom of our purses for kleenexes to dry tears brought on by the recollections of that anxious time we shared a few months ago. The rest of us each had a story to tell of a tearful phone call and a declaration of wrong-decision-making early that first semester. We smiled wistfully and dropped into easy conversation, bonded by our maternal instincts of initial fear and longing, and eventual joy and relief that our daughters had chosen just the right college, and just the right group of friends. And, over dinner, we came to realize that we now had each other, new friends with whom to explore empty-nestedness over many more gatherings like this one, assuming our daughters invite us. IMG_1327