Check Marks

I’ve been checking lots of things off my list.

M (as I will now refer to my daughter; don’t want to use her real name and decided I needed to stop calling her baby bird as she’s no baby) finished her course work mid-year, so she had her “last day of class” and “last exam” back in January. And that was pretty joyful. She was ready to be done and I’m so glad for her that she was done.

That said, she did continue to attend a before-school orchestra class to stay plugged into an ensemble group. She also had to finish up the second part of a group senior project. So, even though the official class work was finished, there were still some “last things” to finish. A couple of those took place in recent weeks.

Senior project community activity – check. So cool — they went to two local elementary schools with a group of musicians and shared information about all the different kinds of instruments and why learning to play music was important. M loved it. To be honest, she wasn’t overly excited about it; in fact, she was kind of dreading it. Afterwards, she was glowing and kept talking about how rewarding it was and how great the kids were.

Awards Day – check. Double check as it was also the last time I’ll ever go into a school as the parent of a current student. Whew. What a relief to have gotten through that with no major issues! I count it as a personal accomplishment and victory.

Graduation Practice – check.

Graduation – check. It was last Saturday and was a good experience for all. No tears shed, nothing but smiles and a sense of relief to have that chapter closed.

College Orientation – check. M spent two days and one night on her college campus, soaking in all that the university has to offer her. She registered for classes that she is excited to take. Her schedule doesn’t get her up too early and leaves some time for practicing, studying and having fun. She met her roommate, a nice girl who should be easy to live with. And all this, she did on her own. Lots of parents were there for parent orientation but we decided that 1) M could certainly handle it on her own and 2) M needed to know she could handle it on her own. Check. Check.

Confidence in College Readiness – check.

Accidents & Being OK

We were in a car accident last week. Nobody was injured. My daughter was driving and a car pulled out in front of her. There was no way she could have avoided hitting the other car. Luckily, the police and insurance companies agreed. Did I mention that nobody got hurt?

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It was as if we were in a movie and everything was in slow motion. We saw the car. She says “Oh no,” and slams on breaks. BAM! Our glasses fly off our faces. Seat belts dig into our chests. All I can think “Is she ok? Am I ok? Are the other people ok? And does she know everything is OK?”

Once I knew nobody had any injuries, or at least no obvious ones, my biggest concern was making sure my girl knew that everything was OK. I needed her to know we can handle whatever comes our way, that cars are just metal and gears. That even if it had been her fault, everything would be OK.

She was cool as a cucumber. I tried to all 911 on my iPhone. The screen was locked and I couldn’t understand why the call wouldn’t go through. She calmly said, “Mom, hand me your phone. What’s your lock code? I’ll dial and you can talk to them.” Just like that calm, collected.

When we got home she said, “I’ve been thinking about it and trying to figure out if there was anything I could have done differently? Could I have done anything to avoid hitting her?”

I told her nope, couldn’t have done anything different. Accidents will happen and it’s OK. And so was she.

Letting Go

Experiences this week have reminded me of an important lesson I keep learning throughout my life — letting go. This time, the recurring lesson has left me what an epiphany.

I’ll start with the more comfortable part of the lesson. I will first explain that until recently, my daughter has not been one who checks her email, ever. Colleges communicate primarily via email. So I’ve been obsessively regularly checking her personal account and her college account, just to make sure we aren’t missing anything we need to do. I also want to make sure we get information as soon as it becomes available. OK, I’m also a bit of a control freak.

The thing is, we have all that information now, so I’ve promised her I’ll stop checking now. And I will. So from here, I’m letting go until it comes time to move money into her account to pay for stuff, like tuition, etc. I’ll help her make sure that is taken care of appropriately.I’ve also stopped making lists and will wait until she’s ready to start buying things and help her as she asks for help. I am working on letting go of the fact that this isn’t my college experience, it’s hers.

I had my chance and it was great

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I don’t get to relive it with her, but I believe she’ll share a lot of it with me if I don’t obsessively intrude. So my task now is to pull back and be ready when she needs me.

Lists of Lists

I’ve been making lots of lists and gathering lots of information. First it was test dates, application deadlines, audition dates (baby bird is going to major in music), FAFSA (if you have a college age kid, you know what that is; if you don’t, you will). Lists of thank you messages following auditions and interviews were next. Then it was lists of pro’s and con’s for different colleges. That turned into lists of different notifications we were waiting on from different schools.

Let me stop here and share that I love making lists. I. Love. Lists. And in the past, I’ve had them in numerous places all over my house, in my purse, on my desk, in the car. You get the idea and if you are anything like me, you’re picturing your scraps of paper, backs of envelopes and the various notebooks you swore would be the only place you made your lists. I see you nodding your head. I discovered a new tool to help with my obsessive listing and now they are all in one place. WorkFlowy.

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It’s simple. It’s clean. It’s super easy to use. It gives you a big outline of all your lists and the best part: you get to cross off stuff when you do it. The other best part is that it works seamlessly with my iPhone, iPad and any desktop computer. Seriously, check it out at workflowy.com.

Once baby bird decided where she’d go, a whole new set of lists began. Decisions about orientation dates, housing options, activating school accounts … these things were pretty easy because they give you a check list. I copied it over to my WorkFlowy list anyway, and thoroughly enjoyed crossing them off.

Here is where it gets interesting. Stuff. There is going to be a dorm room to make comfortable and functional. There are personal care items that will be needed. Appropriate footwear and rain gear is required. My girl isn’t really into this kind of planning. Yet. But she will be. And when she’s ready, I’m armed with knowledge and lists.

I’ve researched what you need to be sure to have and what you probably don’t need. I’ve watched YouTube videos of dorm room tours and tips from students. Lots of things are bookmarked on my iPad. I’ve also got a set of lists broken down into categories in my WorkFlowy.

Pinterest is a great tool too .I’ve got Pinterest boards of packing lists, decorating ideas, organization ideas and everything you could ever want to know about setting up a dorm room.

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My favorite board (& Workflowy list) is for care package ideas. I will be the best care packager of all time.

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Then there is the list of things I need to know that she knows:

  • Always wear flip flops in the shower.
  • Grammar matters.
  • The difference between there, they’re and their.
  • And it’s and its.
  • Its’ isn’t a word and it doesn’t even make sense to think it might be.
  • Your shit and you’re shit.
  • Don’t rely on spell check.
  • Save often.
  • Keep your phone charged.
  • Don’t ever take an open beverage from anyone at a party.
  • Never take acetaminophen when you’ve been drinking.
  • Drink a glass of water and take a couple ibuprofen before you go to bed if you’ve been drinking.
  • If you’re going to drink before you’re 21, don’t get caught.
  • Learn and know your limits.
  • Don’t drink and drive. Ever.
  • College isn’t about drinking.
  • Check the expiration date, especially on dairy products.
  • Breakfast is important.
  • Think carefully about the future before getting any tattoos.
  • Just don’t get any tattoos.
  • Go to class. It’s half the battle.
  • Don’t be too cool not to use an umbrella.
  • Pay attention if there are ever any campus alerts.
  • Eat fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • Drink lots of water.
  • Wear sunscreen.
  • Pay attention to the coolest video ever: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sTJ7AzBIJoI

I should have started this particular list in 1994. Maybe I did? Does she know that she can always come home, no matter what? That she doesn’t have to have it all figured out, ever? Does she know that people are more important than things? And that people are unkind to others because they feel bad about themselves. That she should always trust that little voice in her head and feeling in her gut. That it’s okay to fit in, or not. Going to keep working on this one.

Please, Just One More: Cancer Reflections

I’ve been reflecting on my cancer experience a lot lately. When I was first diagnosed, Miranda was only two years old. She was the apple of our eye — cuddly, sweet, funny, happy. She says she doesn’t remember much about that time. I’m glad for that. I would not want her to know the terror I felt at the prospect of not being around to watch her grow up and live her life. I’m glad she didn’t know the irrational guilt I felt that because of me, she would always have cancer in her life. It looked like we beat it that first time. It was just a season and we were able to move on with normal life.

But when the cancer came back almost exactly two years later, the terror and guilt came back with it. I was in treatment for most of the year before she started kindergarten. All I wanted was for her to have a mommy at parent teacher conferences and assemblies. For her, and for me. I went to every single one and hearing those sweet voices say the Pledge of Allegiance and sing the Elmhurst School song brought tears to my eyes every time. Each time, I’d quietly ask God for just one more time.

Dance recitals, swim meets, soccer games, violin performances — please, God, just one more. Just let me see her get through elementary school. I would lay in bed and listen as Dave read to her at bedtime or listen to them laugh while they watched a movie. I’d see them lounging on the hammock as he told her the names of the birds in our yard. I knew he would take great care of her without me. They would be fine, but maybe, God, maybe I could see her through middle school. It can be such an awkward time. If I could just be here for that and to make sure she got off to a good start with high school. Please just let me get that far.

Well, now, she’s all done with high school and is starting college in the fall. I’m still here and Dave and I are happy and healthy. We don’t talk about the cancer much anymore. We will get to see her in her cap and gown, walking across the stage with her big, bright proud smile. We will pack up her stuff and get her all settled in her dorm room. And she will be just fine. And we will get to hear all about her new adventures. It almost seems like too much to ask for.

So I’ve been reflecting on my good fortune to have had the last 13 years cancer-free. The treatments I received were no doubt discovered in part with funds raised by the American Cancer Society. The treatments of countless friends who have also survived to see one more baseball game or piano recital were quite possibility funded with ACS dollars. And for the friends and family I’ve lost to this disease, the ACS is working to find cures so that their deaths weren’t in vain.

In my role as an ACS volunteer, I’ve seen first hand the good that come from Relay For Life. It is an amazingly beautiful life-affirming event that touches your soul in a different way each year.

I’m asking you to contribute what you can so that we con continue to find out more and one day put and end to this disease. Until we get there, let’s all do what we can to help another young mother watch her child grow up, or a young boy watch his daddy get healthy, or a parent watch her son beat cancer and get back on the baseball field, or a grandmother get to to go to her granddaughter’s wedding. We can help make a difference. Please give generously.

You can use this secure link:  http://main.acsevents.org/goto/LindaJo

Note – I originally wrote this as part of my Relay For Life fundraising efforts. I debated whether or not to keep the “ask” in what I post here. I decided that I would. My primary intention in sharing this post, however, is to share my reflections on part of my experience as a cancer survivor and mother.

Let’s Start This

OK. So. Here I go. My daughter is going to college in August. She’s an only child. This is an adventure for all three of us — me, my husband/her dad (Dave). Miranda, Dave and I are a nice family unit. We get along. We enjoy each others’ company. We have fun together. We’re close. The last 18 years, with the exception of some bumps along the way (which I will share later) have been pretty awesome. Dave and I think Miranda is, well, pretty exceptional. We’re very excited for her and confident she will flourish in college.

I am excited for us too. Obviously, she will be making a huge transition. So will we. And that’s what this blog is going to be about … getting us all ready for the big changes that are coming our way. Sit back and relax with me while my family eases into our new normal.