Sunday, August 24, 2014

Don't Be a Cliche

It's difficult as a parent to not want to offer up a million pieces of last-ditch-effort advice as our kids go off to college, at least it was for me.  Here is a portion of the letter that I wrote to Jacob as he left for State today:

Okay, so here goes, my attempt to cram useful advice in one last time – are you ready?  Here goes.  Don’t be a cliché.  What do I mean by that?  I mean, a penny saved is not enough.  Save some dimes and quarters and a few bills, too.  Always be saving and working toward a goal.  Love is near-sighted.  Keep your loved ones close – not only physically, but emotionally.  Don’t build walls out of fear.  Silence is fool’s gold if it means you left heartfelt things unsaid.  Never pass up an opportunity to say, “I love you,” or “I’m sorry.”  You only live for a really long time so make decisions you’ll be proud of.  Money can’t buy anything that truly matters in this world.  The early bird might have gotten a big fat crunchy grasshopper if he had been more patient and not so impulsive.  Sometimes it pays to wait.  If at first you don’t succeed, get more people involved.  Success isn’t achieved in isolation.  Keep your friends close and buy your enemies a cup of coffee. We can learn a lot from people we disagree with.  Take the road not travelled by.  Forge a path that leads where you want it to go.  Don’t rock the boat unless you know everyone in it can swim.  Sometimes we need to stop playing it safe and just get wet.  Don’t judge a book (or people) unless you’ve read it and thought about it and considered its purpose.  If the shoe fits, it still might be ugly.  Find your own style.  The glass is rarely only half filled anyway.  Life is overflowing with blessings if you take time to look.  Stop to smell the roses and the fresh cut lawn, the ocean, the mountain air – be present in the moment and savor where you are. A picture is worth a thousand words, but that doesn’t mean they are complimentary ones (read that: be careful what you post on the internet!)  A bird in the hand should be released.  Don’t cage anything that is meant to be free.  And we are all meant to be free.  An apple a day gets old even to doctors.  Don’t get stuck in a rut – be adventurous!!  Absence makes you jobless.  Show up every day, even when you don’t feel like it.  Hell hath no fury like a grandmother who didn’t get a thank-you note.  Express your gratitude for all things to all people.  The grass is always greener when you pay a lot for fertilizer and lawn care, but it’s still just grass.  Spend your money on things that are truly worthwhile.  Make hay if you’re a farmer, make music if you play an instrument, make pasta if you’re a chef.  Figure out what your talents and passions are and do that for a living.  Don’t put off to tomorrow anything you can afford to do today.  You might never get the chance again.  If you love something, don’t let it go.  Fight for it – every day.  When the cat’s away, the dog will nap.  Take a break every now and then.  Rejuvenate!  A man is only as good as his effort.  People will forget what you said, but they won’t forget how you made them feel.  Diamonds should come from a girl’s best friend.  To be a great husband, you have to be a great friend.  The best things in life are different for everyone.   Don’t let others tell you what should be important to you.  When life hands you lemons – learn to juggle.  Do unexpected things just to make people smile.  Don’t count your chickens, or your awards, or your degrees or your belongings or money.  It doesn’t matter how much you have, it matters how much you do with what you have.  Failure is not only an option it’s an opportunity to learn.  Allow mistakes to shape and refine your choices and actions – they will bring you closer to success.  If something’s too good to be true, don’t be the one selling it. Insist on quality – in what you buy and what you make and do. A watched pot never overflows or scalds or curdles.  Focus your attention on the task at hand.  It’s always darkest in the woods at night without a flashlight.  Be prepared.  Laughter is the best medicine unless you broke a rib.  Be appropriate for the situation.  There’s no place like Rome.  Or Paris.  Or Japan, or Montana or Dubuque.  Travel every chance you get.  Finally, it isn’t about the destination, nor is it about the journey.  It’s about how you react to the puke in the backseat.  Life is what you make of it and how you react to the things that happen to you.  React with kindness, a generous spirit and a heart full of gratitude.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Getting Ready

We went shopping last weekend.  One more time in eighteen years that I have been ever so grateful to have a boy.  "Do you need hangers?"  He threw a pack in the cart.  "Do you think you might need more than a dozen?"  He threw another pack in the cart.  "Do you need a laundry bag?"  He grabbed the nearest one and put it in the cart.  The Mister pointed out that maybe Flash would rather have a bag than a plastic hamper that may or may not fit in his closet.  Flash put the plastic hamper back and we found a bag.  He threw it in the cart. 

And so the day went.  We bought clothes, shoes, dorm supplies, laundry supplies and lunch - with Flash and his new girlfriend (also off to State).  We made lists and we crossed things off and we added more and we grabbed things on the fly we hadn't even thought of.

Isn't that how it is, this parenting thing?  We prepare and we think and we parent with a certain integrity and set of morals but then we cross off what doesn't work and we add in new things that do make a difference and we add a whole lot of things on the fly. 

And we wonder, as we look at it all, packed up and ready to walk out the door, is it enough?  Is it all the right things?  Is this all unnecessary?  Is the balance between necessities and fun things in check?  Does he have what he needs to be successful or will he be scrounging to catch up when he's on his own? 


In a week, we will finish packing it all up, and we will drive him to his dorm and help him arrange and unpack (I suspect it will be much like shopping - toss this here, toss that there, call it good!) and we will leave him to fend for himself and to forge his life down his own path.

The Mister and I have big plans when he is gone.  Much-needed repairs and rennovations to the downstairs bathroom, reorganizing of the bedrooms, cleaning out cabinets and making the space our own again.  I'm doubled up on grad classes in September and the start of a new school year is always a busy time.  The Mister has a couple projects he's gearing up for and has been looking into maybe taking a cooking class to fuel his passion.

I wonder if I am ready!?  Do I have all the right things to handle life without the teenager?  Do I have enough of the necessities and enough of the fun things to keep a good balance?    Are we prepared for this next chapter in our life? 


I suspect, just like Flash, we will be making up new lists of things to do and try, and crossing off things that don't work or we don't like along the way.  And there will probably be a whole lot of things we add on the fly.  Sometimes, those are the best kinds of things.