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Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The Senior --- Take Two

Dear Darlings,

Mornings seem to come earlier and earlier at this point in my life. My brain comes to life, and my eyes pop open somewhere around 4 o'clock every morning. It's then that thoughts come pouring in, reducing the desire for more sleep to mere wishes. I want to turn off the wheels which keep chugging in my head, but I can't get them to stop. The thoughts keep coming, unbidden and unwanted...these thoughts of Lucas assuming the role as a senior in high school. Three years ago I wrote a blog called The Senior ... my reflections about Zach's last year in high school. While I wasn't ready for him to be there, I'm completely, totally under-prepared for Lucas to take this ginormous step into being the oldest class. I'm really not ready for The Senior --- Take Two. Mornings are coming too quickly, marching me to that day where I'll watch Lucas drive to his last first day of high school.

Yesterday made it official. We went and paid his senior fees. Time has flown by. It's been just a blur, exactly like I thought it would be when I snapped these two pictures of trepidatious Lucas walking into his high school for the first time.

Yesterday ... it was a milestone, to be sure. Luckily, I was able to snap one, quick picture of him walking out of the school he has called his own for the past four years. The nervous teen who entered those doors four years ago was gone. There was no trepidation, no hesitation, only a self-assured young man who seems to have outgrown the walls of his high school. 

So maybe he really is ready to assume his role as The Senior.  But I'm not. I'm not ready for Take Two. Because in my mind's eye, this is how I still see my sweet, blond boy.

Oh, for the love of my children....


Monday, August 29, 2016

An Invitation

Dear Darlings,

This morning I was sitting at our kitchen counter with my cup of tea steaming beside me, ready to close up my computer and focus on the newspaper when an email caught my eye. It was from Lucas and the title was Invitation to Edit. My breath caught in my throat as I realized what it was. My sweet blond boy sent me his college essay and invited me in to have a peek. My tea and the newspaper were soon forgotten.

Lucas invited me in. He actually wants me to read what he's written before it's polished and pretty. To this day I've never seen the personal statement Zach wrote when he was applying to college. He and his English teacher worked together on it. I don't think he kept it from me intentionally, but he definitely didn't want me meddling, or maybe he was trying to keep me from thinking about him packing up and leaving our nest. Whatever the reason, it doesn't change the fact that I've never seen what he wrote. Here Lucas is working with a fabulous essay tutor and yet, he still he wants my input. Maybe he never should have asked me, and he may rue the day he invited me in. But I couldn't me more proud to be here...invited in.

My kitchen became a little cozier, my tea a little steamier and my day a little brighter all because of an invitation. Oh, for the love of my children...


PS. I really wasn't supposed to read it before it was all shiny and purty...Lucas forgot his tutor's little nugget of a rule. Ooops!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

I Need a Fricking Chicken Brake

Dear Darlings,

I've done this twice before so it really shouldn't be that big of a deal, but it is! She's my sweet baby girl, and now she's learning to drive. I have to say, she's pretty good at it. She can drive in straight lines, change lanes, use her turn signals and can almost park...she needs to pull all the way through to get my boat into a spot properly, but she can do it without parking like a jerk. So you would think this would truly be no big deal for me, but ~ really it is.


The one thing she does that has me cringing in my seat, grabbing the overhead strap and white-knuckling my way through a trip with her is the fact that she goes waaaaaaay too fast. She has an overly-strong attachment to the gas pedal, and she downright hates the brakes. She has always loved the feel of wind blowing through her hair when we're screaming down the highway with the windows down and the music cranked. She's the only one who will indulge me in this little joy of mine. It messes up Lucas' hair, and it's too loud for both Stan and Zach. So she's used to going fast, wind rushing through the car and the tunes pumping, but that's with me behind the wheel. She doesn't have the skill set to be able to do any or all of that at the same time, but she thinks she the gas pedal downs down, the speed goes up and the brakes are rarely applied in a timely manner (but, thankfully, the music is off).

The mantra I have beating out through my heart and in to her head to her is "Gotta slow down, Claire Bear...Gotta slow down, Claire Bear...Gotta slow down, Claire Bear." But gawd, do I need a fricking chicken brake because my words are not really working, and so it has me wondering if my mantra has turned into a metaphor. Is it that she's really going too fast or is it that she's growing up too fast? Is her speed a factor, or is it that I'm afraid we're racing toward some hazy finish-line she sees, and I don't? The one where she's off on her own, traveling the highways of life with the windows down, the music cranked and me in another car trailing slowly behind her.

I always thought the last kiddo would be the easiest, but it's not ~ and it never has been. Sending her off to kindergarten, brought as many tears to my eyes as it did with the boys. She was the one who sobbed hysterically at the thought of leaving elementary school and going on to middle school, which was never the case with her brothers ~ they both did celebratory moving-on dances before the seats of their elementary school desks had a chance to cool. Taking her to high school orientation last year was harder than it was with the boys probably because I now know how quickly these years fly by and are an absolute blur. Sooooo...I most definitely need a fricking chicken brake, because I really need her to slow down!

Oh, for the love of my children...


Friday, August 19, 2016

Two Years Ago

Dear Rat Mamas and Dads,

Two years ago I stood in your shoes. My son was about to become part of something much bigger and far harder than I ever envisioned for him. Two years ago right now, my oldest child was going off to a school where he was going to be shaped and recreated in ways I never imagined...I don't think he even really understood the magnitude of what he was about to undergo. Two years ago I wrote a blog entitled What I Gained. I added it below for the sake of ease. I hope it gives you some measure of peace as you think about tomorrow, the matriculation book and the intensity of what your sons and daughters will be enduring as they Meet Their Cadre and begin their adventure as rats at VMI.
This is a picture Zach's rat class which was in last year's calendar. He's the fourth one on the right.

Two years ago we left our son, Zach, with his company as he marched toward Barracks. We didn't stick around to hear the clanging of the gates as they locked the rats inside, nor did we stick around to hear the yelling of the cadre. We just had to trust in Zach and the system at VMI. 

What I Gained

It seems this year has been a year of losses for me. It seems I've been writing about heart wrenching/heart breaking bits and pieces of my life for the past eight months. From my dad's heart attacks, to his strokes and his death, to watching Zach graduate from high school and get ready to leave our nest, this year has proven to be a year of losses and "losses," but today I want to tell you about what I gained.

Today, we dropped Zach off at Virginia Military Institute. 

Last night was a night of revelry and tears. We spent the night with one of Zach's best friends and his parents at their house in Lexington, Virginia, who graciously invited us to stay so we could all have a relaxed morning getting our incoming cadets matriculated. As we celebrated them and shed our tears, Zach asked me to promise not to cry in front of him today. I told him I'd try my hardest.

Today, I kept my word. I didn't shed one tear he could see. And today I was rewarded for my strength. Today, I got to see Zach do exactly what he wanted to do with smile on his face (albeit with nerves jangling and a pit in the bottom of his stomach). He joined the corps of cadets at VMI as a rat.

Today, I was rewarded with a big hug and a photo op as Zach prepared to sign the matriculation book.

I was rewarded with his smiles, hugs and sweetness. And I was rewarded well for keeping my emotions in check. But today wasn't about being rewarded. Today was really about what I gained.

Today, I gained a son who is turning into a man. My man-child faded from view a little, which made  me a little sad, but the man I know he will become came bursting forth and made me smile with unbridled pride. 

Today I gained a little insight into what life is going to be like for Zach in the future. As we sat and listened to the speakers before all of the Rats were called to their companies, the President of the Class of 2015 said something to this effect, "You are now entering the toughest university in the nation." (Zach shuddered and leaned over to me saying, "I really have to pee now."God love him for his sense of humor.) He went on to say, "You all will rise to the challenges ahead of you and you will succeed. You are a reflection of your parents, and they have set you on a good path. When they see you next they will see changes in you. You will not have changed as a person. The person you were will still be there but your sterling qualities will become more apparent." I took those words to heart. I know Zach took them to heart too. Today I gained the knowledge that Zach will rise to the challenge and he will succeed. Today I also gained the insight that I'll rise to this challenge of letting our kids go, and I will succeed.

I've been rewarded a lot and gained even more, but there is one thing I gained today which is beyond priceless. As Zach marched off with his Brother Rats in Company H we stood on the sidelines and watched. He made sure to catch my eye and give me a wink and a smile. 

Today, I gained a son who understands what it means to not only be taken care of by your parents, but to take care of them as well. 

Oh, for the love of my children...

I do hope this has given you some comfort as you celebrate your last night together. And I promise when you see them at New Market they will be changed, and you will be proud. 

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

One Thing

Dear Darlings,

Have you ever had one of those moments when you knew, just knew, that the decision you were about to make was the absolute wrong one?

It was a hot summer night, and all I wanted to do was relax, have a glass of wine and watch some seriously mindless TV (the kids are re-watching The Office from start to finish and I got sucked into their binge, so it's completely, utterly mindless). The problem with my plan was that Claire needed to be picked up from volleyball tryouts at school. Zach offered to go in my place, and I was only too happy to accept.  All was well. I poured myself a glass of wine and prepared to sit back and relax. 


I couldn't relax. I knew she would be finding out if she made the team or not. I started pacing, second guessing my decision to have Zach pick her up. The mama needed to be there, of that I was absolutely certain. Either way...make the team or not. I needed to be the one to pick her up. I thanked Zach for his offer, and asked if he wanted to ride along. He deferred, but Lucas jumped at the chance to ride with me to their high school.

I pulled into the parking lot, with all of the other parents who were in the same boat as I was. Lucas' company was a welcome relief to the drudgery of waiting. We chatted, talking about school and how much he would miss it next year once he's outta there. And as our conversation progressed, I saw one mom and then another and another and another get out of their cars and head into the school. I knew we were all there for the same reason, picking up our girls from tryouts. I looked at Lucas and said, "Did I miss something? I don't think parents are supposed to go in. I didn't see anything about it. Claire didn't say anything. I'm pretty sure we're not supposed to go in. Should I go in? I really don't think I should! I think this is just for the girls. I think we're supposed to stay here and wait for them." Lucas assured me it was just for the girls. That parents aren't supposed to go in. Their daughters would be out soon enough. In my mind, I knew that was the case, but was glad to have Lucas back me up. So we sat.

And I said, "I may not have done everything perfectly, but I think that is one thing I've done right for you guys. I haven't been a helicopter. I've stood back and let you take control of what you've needed to." This was Claire's tryout. Not mine. I didn't need to insert myself into a situation that was hers to own. Lucas and I went on to talk about how many parents do such a disservice to their kids by trying to control, manage, shelter and thrust themselves into situations where they really don't belong. In my mind, and how Stan and I choose to parent, our kiddos have to take ownership of their lives. We are here to guide, advise, support, hug, love and propel them into a successful life. They can't do that if we are their constant crutch. 

It's one thing I think I've done right in parenting my three young adults. And I'm pretty dang proud of it. I have to say, I think my kiddos are pretty doggone happy with my hands' off approach as well. This, as always, I do for the love of my children...


Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Just Do It!

Dear Darlings,

The sun beat down on us causing heat waves to appear like a mirage in the clay in front of me. I was standing in a puddle of sweat, with rivers running down the insides of my elbows. But my attention wasn't focused on how hot I was, nor the temperatures surrounding me. It was focused on the bright, fuzzy, yellow ball being hit back and forth. My racquet stood ready to take the next shot and the next and the next. Then all hell broke loose. Instead of my racquet taking the brunt of the impact from the ball, my face, or more specifically my eye, took the full force of my opponent's shot. It was a rocket, and all I remember is trying (unsuccessfully) out of duck out of the way. My visor flew back. My  sunglasses fell off, and I doubled over in excruciating pain. I was hit. Hard.

I've never been punched in the face, so I have no frame of reference for a direct hit with a fist. But I can imagine it felt a lot like what I just experienced. And it hurt. Like a mother effer. As I stood, doubled over in pain, my first thoughts began to form. First, I knew I was going to be sporting a major shiner. It was going to be epic (in my mind anyway), and I was going to wear it like a badge of honor. I took a direct shot to the face in the middle of a tennis match. I lived to tell about it and I continued to play. But then my thoughts shifted. And I was worried. Or maybe sad. Maybe concerned. But definitely very upset. And then I got mad, because my next thought was, "Shit! I'm going to have a black eye, and people, albeit strangers, are going to wonder if I'm an abused wife." (Okay, maybe the word "albeit" didn't enter my head, but that's basically what I was thinking.) My partner, my opponents and the ladies on the court beside us all rushed to get ice for my eye, knowing a big, ginormous, massive black eye was in my future.

As I iced my face, my thoughts kept going back to the fact that people who don't know me were going to be questioning why my eye was black. And yes, I know they shouldn't matter. They're strangers, and I know the truth. But I was pissed thinking that anyone would ever think anything less than good thoughts about Stan. He's the most stand up guy I've ever met. He knows that I've survived many forms of abuse in my life. He knows they were all things I had no control over....they were instances that truly turned me into a survivor rather than a victim, and he stood next to me so many times holding my hand as I recounted the pain and sorrow. He was the one to comfort me and lift me up when my spirits were low. He was, and is, my rock. So I was pissed, thinking that anyone would have the opportunity to think anything but good thoughts about him. Because, while I may have suffered at the hands of others when I had no control, I can guarantee you that I would never, ever let myself be a victim of domestic violence. The first time an old boyfriend showed signs of being an abuser I left faster than you could say, "Bob's your uncle." I had control over that situation, and I had no intention of being abused by someone who claimed to love me, but really just wanted to control me. I had no intention of letting someone abuse me when I had control over the situation.

So, yes, I'm pissed. I'm furious thinking the door has been cracked open for others to think I'm an abused wife. My stress level has been at an all time high when I run my errands. I wish I had a head band with a big, bold sign saying, "I was hit by a tennis ball. HARD!" My eye is that bad.

But as I look at it a little more. I'm beginning to see more than just a black eye. I'm beginning to see a Nike Swoosh. And I realize I should be wearing it like a badge of honor. I shouldn't have to feel shame or anger. I know the dang truth. I was hit by a tennis ball. And I played right through the pain. I may not have won the match, but I earned my Nike Swoosh! I just DID IT!

So, my darlings, don't let what other people think of you get you down. Don't hang your head lower than a swamp monster when you know the truth of a story. Stand tall and proud, and just do it!