Saturday, October 31, 2009

Upper Classman

Brittany’s back in school and since she’s got five 8:00a.m classes; the 7:30a.m calls have started again! On the first day of school she called me as she got on the campus shuttle bus and we talked until she got to her classroom door. As she was getting off the shuttle I heard her say to someone else, “Yes, that’s the library” – and then back to me – “Freshmen…they’re so precious! There’s a HUGE sign right out front that says “Library”.

At the end of that day I got another call from her: “Mom, I need you to say a prayer!”
“Oh, ok – what’s the matter?”
“I need you to pray that the school shuttle bus comes because I’ve been standing out here for 20 minutes and I’m HOT!”
Juniors…they’re so precious! They think everyone is just waiting around to jump at their commands.

One of the classes she’s taking for her hospitality minor is hotel front desk. Yes, I guess I’m paying for that. I’m not sure why, since she’s been working at a hotel’s front desk since last spring. I told her she’d better get an A.

That job has actually given us lots of opportunities to communicate all summer.
Sometimes by text like the one I got in the middle of the day: “Thank u for being wonderful! I luv u!” I called her to ask what the occasion was and she said she had just checked a family in and the dad was being mean to his daughter, which she said made her appreciate her parents.

Then I got a call one Sunday morning as I was headed out the door to church. She told me about a mom who was dropping her freshman daughter off at Western and was sobbing so hard as she checked out she tried to pay her hotel bill with her Home Depot card. That made Brittany miss her mom so she called me.

Another time she called to tell me about the men who were staying for a week in the hotel while they put security cameras up on campus. She said one guy would quietly walk up to the desk everyday, wait until she looked up and then he would put a fresh peach in front of her, smile and walk away.

A different experience was the woman who called down for a plunger. Brittany put one in a plastic bag and kept her fingers crossed the woman would take the plunger at the door. But no, she invited her in. The woman did use the plunger herself – still in it’s plastic bag. So Brittany had to put the whole wet mess into the trashcan to carry it back downstairs.

She’s kept me entertained with her stories, but the reason I share these is to remind people to be careful how they act in hotels. Front desk clerks have phones and some have moms on the other end of the line!

I don’t mind the calls; I just wish she wouldn’t be so perky at 7:30a.m!

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Friday, October 30, 2009

Summer's Over

The ads are up for back-to-school sales and many of our friends are counting down the days before sending their kids off to college. I’m not sure if it’s because Brittany stayed at school this summer or what, but the fact that summer’s almost over stuns me.

She’ll be starting her Junior year soon, which means her college experience is half over!

She’s come home a few times for a weekend or a night, and on one of those Saturday mornings John thought he would surprise her and wash her car before she got up. As he was washing it he noticed her inspection sticker had run out in December (!)

When he told her she would need to get it inspected as soon as she got back to school she reminded him that between her jobs she works from 9 a.m. until 11 p.m. everyday. “Impossible. No way.” So they decided that since she would be passing through Hickory two weeks later for a concert in Charlotte, they would trade cars until then. Oh and by the way since Dad was getting hers inspected would he also mind getting a short list of things done to it while it was still under warranty, which would run out in 300 miles…”Thank you, Daddy.”

Sunday night Brittany drove back to school in a little convertible with a full tank of gas. Monday morning John drove off in an SUV, on fumes, to get it inspected and worked on!

Two weeks later they were both happy to switch back to their own cars! In fact each looked like a rental car employee circling their car looking for dings or damage!

As Brittany drove off that weekend the on hold music she chose for my calls to her cell phone kept playing in my head. From the song "Red High Heels": “I bet you want me back now don’t you, don’t you? I’m about to show you just how missing me feels….” And I thought that even though she has become so independent it’s nice to be there to help her out when she does need it, but how much longer would that be?

A couple days later she called to tell us how she was changing her uniform at the Subway to go to her next job at the hotel and since the bathroom there was occupied she stepped into a closet to change and accidentally locked herself in. She used her cell to call 411 to get the phone number of the connecting gas station because she thought the boys she worked with at the Subway might just leave her in there if she called them. So the gas station owner rescued her.

And I realized - she may be resourceful, but like all of us she’ll always need help!

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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Brittany Meets Some Colorful Characters

Brittany sent her dad a picture from her phone of a bouquet of flowers a young man had sent her. She said his name is Sexy Steve.

John immediately texted her back that under no circumstances is she allowed to date anyone whose first name is Sexy!

And he meant it.

Yes she’s met some characters in western North Carolina this summer! Like the man she checked in to the hotel where she works who was flossing his teeth at the desk the entire time! Or another who demanded a refund for his room when a storm knocked out the satellite TV, but decided to stay when she told him she was baking cookies for the guests and he asked if he could get a glass of milk with his.

One nice couple checking in for Western’s student orientation was from Hickory. When she told them she was also from Hickory they looked at her nametag and the husband turned to his wife and said, “This is BRITTANY! The one we’ve been reading about in the paper for months! We know all about you!” And proceeded to have a long discussion like old friends.

Most of the really colorful folks are the ones she meets at her gas station/convenience store job though. There’s an old man who sells knives off the front of his red pickup truck in the parking lot everyday. He walks around with several thousand dollars in his shirt pocket and brings his little dog into the store setting him right up on the counter to show how he can play patty cake.

Brittany says she smiles the whole time and then when he leaves gets a spray bottle of bleach and cleans the counter because they also sell food from the same counter. And live bait. One person buys a dozen donuts, the next a dozen crickets. Real crickets! She won’t go near them. She and the girl she works with have a deal that Brittany catches the minnows (also bait) and the other girl handles the crickets. Even so, she says she is really going through a lot of antibacterial soap!

Apparently everyone in town runs a tab at this place. The first day she worked there a little kid came in for some soda and said, “Put it on muh dad’s tab.” Not having been told anything about tabs she wrote down the name and amount and opened a drawer to put it in so she could ask her boss about it later – and saw about 300 other pieces of paper with people’s names and amounts written on them!

When we visited her a couple weeks ago we did stay in the hotel where she works, one eye out for flossers. We also went by the Subway, her third job, to meet her co-workers there, but passing by the convenience store on our way to a hike we didn’t stop. Not for donuts, not for bait. Too many stories, too much information. We did however leave her with two bottles of antibacterial soap we had been carrying around in the car. As her mother it was the least I could do.

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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Brittany is staying at school this summer

Brittany is staying at school this summer. The hotel she has been working at wanted her year round and since her sorority house stays open and charges for her room all summer it made sense.

After her overloaded schedule this past year I was afraid she would be bored during any downtime. Especially since there are only five girls staying in the house. I suggested she take a class to get a hard one out of the way, but she opted for taking on a second and third job instead.

People always ask me if she works so much because she pays for her schooling. She doesn’t, only her sorority costs and spending money. However she spends a lot of money!

She does get over a little bit though. We just got next fall’s tuition bill in the mail and I thought it had gone up again. Until I looked at the itemized list and saw that they had included her parking tickets!

Besides the hotel front desk position, she also works at Subway and a gas station convenience store. Several days a week she works nine to three at one place and three to eleven at another. Luckily they are two blocks apart and she has permission to clock out of the first a few minutes early to change and get to her next job.

John and I were laughing trying to remember the old TV show about a small town where the same person worked in every position. We think it was Petticoat Junction or Green Acres. We have visions of a tourist coming into Dillsboro: Brittany checks them in to the hotel their first night. The next day they decide to buy a sub for lunch and there’s Brittany again making their sandwich. Later they fill their car with gas and there she is again ringing them up!

I just read an article about the Millennials, the group of kids born after 1982 and how bosses need to re-think their job force because these kids refuse to “pay their dues” doing menial jobs. Brittany has never been like that, whether she is unloading a busload of suitcases for a group staying at the hotel or hosing down the floor and scrubbing bathrooms at Subway – she’s always done what needed to be done.

John and I will be visiting her for Father’s Day weekend. We decided if we stay at her hotel, let her feed us lunch and fill the car up with gas before coming home we’ll be able to share some quality time with her.

I also want to talk her into using a different name on each of her work nametags. It would be fun to mess with customers just a little. I was thinking maybe: Billie Jo, Bobbie Jo and Betty Jo.

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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Not a teen anymore!

On May 10th my baby will turn 20! I can hardly believe it! She called me a couple weeks ago because she had to do a timeline of significant moments in her life for one of her classes. Since I have all the photo albums at home she wanted me to look through them and remind her of some of the highlights.

Maybe it was looking at all the pictures of Brittany as a baby and little girl, or maybe it was remembering that John and I got engaged when we were 20, but I am really wondering how she grew up so fast!

I told her the first significant moment of her life was being born on Mother’s Day. The doctor had told me my baby should be born “around Mother’s Day” somewhere between the 7th and 14th of May. Well, I thought having a baby on Mother’s Day sounded pretty cool so I told everyone that was my due date.

I almost thought I would end up a liar when that Sunday progressed with no sign of anything happening. To cheer me up, John took me out for a Mother’s Day dinner and as we were finishing up I told him I thought we should go to the hospital.

36 minutes after we walked in the door Brittany was born. Not only do I have to thank her for not making a liar out of me, but a 36-minute labor was pretty nice too!

Of course I’ve never been able to say like some moms do during an argument, “How can you treat me that way when I was in labor with you for (fill in the blank) hours!” I tried that once and it sounded so ridiculous we both just ended up laughing. Which did end the argument, just not in the way I intended.

We had her baptized on Father’s Day to give John equal time and she’s had him wrapped around her little finger ever since. I remember when she was three I went on a cruise for my job. I was a travel agent, so it really was work. (Sort of.) Brittany wanted to cruise too so she talked John into sleeping on our boat one night. He said he was awake all night because he could hear all the fishermen who fish around our dock casting every few minutes. He was just sure he was going to get hooked!

Brittany of course slept through it all knowing she was safe with Daddy.

I flipped through the photo albums looking at all the places we had taken her these past 20 years. All the things we showed her. Celebrations we shared.

Last week we went to Western for her sorority’s Parent’s weekend. We have toured the campus several times in the past two years, but Brittany has added some activities to her schedule. She took us on a tour of the hotel where she works and introduced us to her boss and co-workers. She took us to a section of the Student Union that houses Greek Life and showed us the office she spends time in each week for one of her committees, and also the Women’s Resources office where she is on another committee. And she showed us where she sits in the boardroom when she leads the weekly Panhellenic meetings.

I love that she is so interested in everything. I love that she is making a contribution and chose all these things on her own.

I read somewhere that children are not blank pages to be written on, but books to read.
I have to say, I am always eager to turn the next page to see what will happen next!

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Monday, October 26, 2009

Brittany Learns to Clean

Apparently Brittany has started cleaning her room at school. I know this because several times when I’ve talked to her on the phone she’s mentioned the fact.

I don’t remember her cleaning her room in the 18 years she lived with me. I thought the reasons she didn’t had to be one of two things: either kids just don’t do that nowadays, or she knew I was such a neat nick I’d pick up after her all the time, so why should she bother?

I got the first idea when we went to a Young Life fundraising dinner at the Country Club a few years ago. The title for the evening was “Welcome to My World” and guests had to make their way into the dining room stepping over teen’s clothes and shoes scattered on the floor. We all felt right at home.

I also thought it could be the second idea because, well, it’s true, I am a neat nick. I have a friend who has had what she calls a “Nancy” drawer for several years. She still only has one because apparently it’s just too much to keep up.

My neighbors will entertain you with stories (somewhat exaggerated) about the lengths I go to keep my yard groomed. And Brittany has her friends convinced I vacuum the roof. (I don’t.)

Last Christmas when I hosted our Sunday School Christmas party I bought a new red tablecloth big enough for our ping pong table, which gets more use as a buffet table then for its original purpose. John offered to iron the folds from the packaging out of it for me. Later I saw that being a master at elimination of extra efforts, he had ironed the cloth while it was still on the ping-pong table.

I was pretty sure that wasn’t a good idea.

After the party I saw that sure enough the table had whitish marks all over the surface. John promised to “do something about it.” Finally on New Year’s Day morning he told me that he had fixed it.

He had pledged it.

And it was very shiny.

That same day Brittany’s friend from college came to visit and they decided to play ping-pong. (Something she has maybe done once in her life, so why that day of all days?) Later she told me that after one serve her friend laid down his paddle and doubled over laughing, saying, “Brittany! Seriously! Your mom waxes the ping pong table?” (May I just insert here: no, No, NO! It wasn’t me! But, that’s the reputation she has given me with her friends!)

So why is she suddenly cleaning her room? Has she finally discovered I am someone to emulate? No. She’s “discovered” the Dollar Store and has had a great time buying all kinds of fun cleaning supplies. With Brittany it’s all about having the cool tools.

We plan on paying her a visit for her sorority’s Parent’s Weekend later this month, and I’ll be anxious to see if her investment in cleaning supplies has been worthwhile, or whether they have only added to the clutter of a college room. Somehow a mess 200 miles away doesn’t bother me near as much as one in my own home. (Who is making progress here?)

Oh, and before anyone asks, since one of my friends already has: no, the ping-pong ball doesn’t seem to bounce higher, faster or farther on a waxed table. And yes, the shininess does eventually wear off.

It takes about a month.

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Sunday, October 25, 2009

Parenting Takes on a Consulting Role

I’ve come to the realization that when kids go off to college the parental duties take on more of a consultant role.

When they are babies moms don’t call themselves “the chief cook and bottle washer” for nothing! We do everything for them, most of it not even noticed. As they grow, we take on the jobs of: babysitter, maid, nurse, Sunday school teacher, conscience, playmate and chauffer.

As Brittany entered high school my role shifted to Life Coach. When she would debate trying out for something I would tell her, “You’ll never know if you don’t try!” or “Go for it!” At other times, when she really just wanted to dump, I was the psychiatrist: “Well, how does that make you feel?”

Now in her sophomore year in college, she is staying at school this month for her spring break because she is changing jobs from Subway to working at a hotel in Sylva. She figured she could finish out her two-week notice at Subway and get trained at the hotel all at once if she didn’t have to work around classes. Between the two places she will have worked 85 hours in 8 days!

She is also staying with the hope that when she isn’t working she can catch up on her homework. (I’m not sure how she figured she would do that - in the car maybe driving from one job to the other?)

It would be nice if she could actually get ahead with her homework because she has also gotten herself involved on the Greek Leadership Advisory Council. She has to evaluate all the Greek organizations on their grades, housing, campus involvement, etc. during the month of March and fill out forms about each one.

AND, she is changing her major. She has wanted to be an elementary school teacher since she was 4 years old, but has been minoring in communications since freshman year and now realizes that’s the field she wants to work in. Luckily most of her electives have been in communications so this shouldn’t set her back, but there is a lot of paperwork involved and it does require getting a new advisor. So all in all she is trying to cram a lot into the week all of her friends are lying on a beach somewhere.

So how does this make me her consultant? Because she had pretty much decided this all for herself before she called me. She ran it by me to see if I could see any pros or cons she had missed and I asked some questions, which it turns out she had already thought of and had the answers to. She read me the drafts of the emails she had to send regarding her major change and I couldn’t even find any grammar to correct.

Before she hung up she read me one more thing. An invitation she received to a banquet where she will be honored as a nominee for the “Women who Inspire Hope and Possibility Award” at Western.

I have to admit, that in every one of my mom roles so far, she’s always inspired me!

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Friday, October 23, 2009

From Melting Smile to Rolling Eyes

I talked to Brittany even more often then usual this past month. The radio in her car was broken and she would call to have me entertain her whenever she drove somewhere. The first time she called me and said that I was a little worried. I thought she wanted me to sing and her favorite music is either country or rap!

I’ve recently been trying to remember when I switched from melting smile to rolling eyes when questioned about how she is doing. You know what I mean. When Brittany was two and someone asked me how she was I would smile and gush, “Oh, she’s just great!” At nineteen, given the same question, my usual comeback is rolling my eyes and saying, “You’ll never guess what she’s up to now!” I think it happened in Jr. High, but I’m not sure. I do know it was before she came home for fall break no longer a blonde, but a brunette and it was certainly before she downloaded $60.00 worth of Christmas ring tones on her phone this year.

Brittany just went through her sorority’s initiation week for their new pledges. My sorority called this White Rose Week. (Fraternities call it Hell Week, but sororities tend to be more optimistic).

It was her job to get all the initiation robes dry cleaned before the ceremony. She got them to the cleaners, but unfortunately assumed all cleaners are open on Saturdays because the one we always go to in Hickory is. Saturday morning she drove to the cleaners and it was closed. The initiation ceremony was Sunday.

She tried to find out who owned the cleaners, hoping she could call them at home to help her out, but had no luck. Then she remembered one of her best friends just pledged her same sorority at the University of Georgia in Athens.

The two of them were able to arrange for Brittany to drive the two hours to Athens, pick up enough robes for the ceremony and drive two hours back to school.

Brittany wasn’t going to tell me any of this (to avoid the whole rolling of the eye thing I’m sure), but she was so taken with her quick tour of UGA she had to call me to tell me about the campus and that sorority house.

And then since I knew and she had me on the phone anyway she figured she might as well have the entertainment for the return trip.

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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Growing up?

I’ve noticed some changes in Brittany this year. She has always been pretty independent, mature and self-sufficient. Being an only child she’s been comfortable around adults since she was a little girl. Sometimes I even felt like she was the parent and I was the kid when she would blow me away with her insightfulness about some situation.

But, then she’d do something childish and I would relax realizing I still had some mothering to do.

This year she has been showing a lot more responsibility. I think part of it is she’s gotten so involved at school. She’s really made a place for herself. I love that while she’s on the phone with me she gets interrupted a dozen times by friends saying hi. I love that she’s so excited to tell me all about the girls her sorority just pledged, or the event she was just at or some plans she has coming up.

I even love when she complains that her roommate keeps trying to talk to her when she has a paper to write! It means she’s actually studying!

She’s also in a bit of a sink or swim situation this semester. She is taking 19 credit hours, working 25 hours a week at Subway and is active in both her sorority and Sophomore Leadership Institute. On top of that she was just elected Panhellenic president, (the council overseeing all the sororities on campus) which is pretty impressive for a sophomore. With all of this she’s really had to focus and work hard.

And it doesn’t leave her much time for mistakes.

However she’s made a few and that’s where I’ve seen not only her growth in maturity, but also the “little girl” still inside.

On the one hand she’s still not very good at managing her money. (OK, she’s not good at it at all.) When she was home over break and working at Jersey Mike’s three people from her bank came in one day for lunch. She told me later that when she recognized them coming in the door her heart stopped for a second because she thought they had come to arrest her!

I told her I didn’t think people get thrown in jail for overdrawing their account, even if they do do it three times. Besides, she paid the bank a total of $102.00 in overdraft charges for it. Punishment enough if you ask me!

Where I have seen her growth in the money area though is when she signed up for a credit card she actually read the terms and conditions! I know this because she called to ask me what I thought one of the statements meant.

I told her it would be better to call the credit card company, unwilling to admit my eyes glaze over when someone hands me a contract of any kind. (I don’t even read recipes! I just look at the ingredients, most of which I substitute for something else!)

She also showed responsibility when her cell phone broke. She didn’t ask us what to do about it. She just ordered a new one. Of course she got a pink razr and put it on her new credit card because she was broke. But, hey, just a semester ago she would have put it on her bank debit card and overdrawn her account. Again.

After asking us if we were proud of her being elected Panhellenic President she told us she needs a Vera Bradley bag for the position because she has so many notebooks to take to the meetings. I reminded her she has a Vera Bradley tote. (Or four or five) She said that none of them are big enough. I asked her what about her Alpha Gam tote? She said she didn’t feel right carrying her sorority letters to a mixed group of Greek women. John suggested she use some of the Wal-Mart bags from her many shopping trips there.

She didn’t even bother to answer that one. But, she did say she would save up for a tote and buy it herself.

Save up? Hey! Maybe we are making progress!

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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Thanksgiving Togetherness

Brittany, John and I had a good chance to bond over Thanksgiving weekend. We drove to my family’s in Chicago. This is the first time we’ve ever made the drive. In the past we’ve always flown, but we thought it made sense to pick Brittany up at school on the way and drop her off on the way back. And since friends who had made the trip before had told us it was only a 12-hour drive we thought it would be a great chance for uninterrupted family time.

12 hours is a long time! Especially since it didn’t include the side trip we made from I-40 to Cullowhee, which added another hour and a half to the trip. And our family time didn’t end up being uninterrupted.

Our bonding took place between Brittany’s phone calls with friends. After a while we joked that she sounded like a switchboard operator: “Hold please, I have another call coming in.” It was sort of fun to listen in. Two of her friends would call every 10 to 15 minutes, so we had a running commentary of how their day was going. But, the conversation between the 3 of us in between calls was pretty much Brittany repeating the conversations with her friends, which we had pretty much heard all of anyway.

The drive still didn’t go fast and we were sort of dreading the return trip. Especially since we were staying in Chicago long enough Sunday for a baby shower for my niece and wouldn’t leave there until 2 p.m. (You do the math!)

We were really surprised to get a call from a friend of Brittany’s that Saturday offering to pick her up at exit 31 off of I-40 Sunday night so John and I could save that extra hour and a half! (Actually the call didn’t surprise us – he was one who had been calling her every 15 minutes all weekend long, but the offer and just the fact that he thought of it was a surprise! A pleasant surprise!) We were really appreciative, especially as it got later and later Sunday. First we were delayed getting out of Illinois because of two tollbooths that had traffic backed up and then slowed down again in Kentucky by seven speed traps!

Her friend remained chipper with every call that moved our 12:15 ETA back until eventually it ended up at 1:45 a.m. After a while he began watching our progress on the internet letting us know where we were as Brittany called out exit numbers and mile markers. He told her when we got to Gatlinburg he would leave to meet us. I don’t know how he figured it out so well, but it was perfect: he arrived at our meeting spot just minutes before us!

As it got later and later we had joked about just doing a rolling stop and tossing Brittany and her stuff out the window, but she had so much stuff we figured it would take several passes-by to get it all out.

So we stopped, lightened our load, thanked our white knight profusely and drove the last 2 hours in comfortable silence back to our little empty nest; grateful that we had had time together and grateful that she loves school and her friends.

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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Helicopter Parents

There’s a new title for those baby boomers that are parents of college kids – Helicopter Parents. Apparently we “hover.”

“Colleges complain that the millennials (kids born after 1982), as a group, lack problem-solving and decision making skills, have an inability to speak for themselves, little common sense, and feelings of being overly pressured to succeed. And they blame it all on “hovering” parents.” Said Sherry Anderson, editor of Kappa Delta Sorority’s Angelos magazine.

What I find so funny about this is that from the day these kids started kindergarten, parents have been encouraged (begged!) to be involved. We were guilty if we weren’t room mothers, proctors, chaperones, tutors, helped out in the school store or sold concessions at the football games.

We left work in the middle of the day to attend their talent shows, bring them a change of clothes or take them home if their temperature rose above the norm. We bought boxes of Kleenex and supplies for the classrooms and Christmas presents for the teachers.

Suddenly our kids go off to college and we no longer exist!

John and I went to Brittany’s parent’s weekend recently at Western Carolina and there weren’t very many parents there. In fact before we arrived she called to tell us we were being shared by a group of her friends.

I’m pretty sure the reason for the lack of parental presence was that the invitation came to the house addressed to Brittany Geiger. Not even “To the parents of Brittany Geiger”!

Apparently they thought helicopter parents read their kids mail.

I can understand why professors with 500 kids in their lectures wouldn’t want every student’s parent calling, emailing and texting their questions about Johnny’s test grade or Susan’s homework.

When I was in college it would have had to be pretty serious for my mom to make a long distant phone call to one of my teachers. Today there are dozens of cheap fast ways to make contact about every little thing.

But, still, it’s an odd feeling after managing your kid’s life for 18 years to be cut off. We can’t even see her grades without her password and permission. For a while I didn’t think they even had grades in college anymore! Even the financial information goes to her – which is kind of a joke, since we are writing the checks!

The only group at the school who has somehow tracked us down is the group that sells the baskets of goodies to be delivered to “your student” at exams. They write that they want 100% participation.

I always throw those letters away. If the school is sending something with my name on it, it can’t be important.

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Monday, October 19, 2009

Snail Mail for College Kids a Thing of the Past

Just a couple hours before heading back to college for her sophomore year, Brittany met up with a few friends for lunch downtown. She came back with a $20.00 parking ticket.

I thought that was really steep and felt sorry for her as she pulled out her brand new checkbook and wrote her very first check ever. To the police department. She said it would be adding insult to injury if she had to go to the station to pay it on her way out of town, so she left the check with us.

I ran into the mayor at a party a week or so later and told him I thought that was an awful lot for just a parking ticket. He said, “If it makes you feel any better I got a $20.00 ticket too that I had to pay.”

It didn’t make me feel any better and I’m not sure why he thought it would.

Oh, well, it did give me an excuse to actually send Brittany some mail: the receipt from paying the ticket.

When I was in college I wrote letters to everyone and therefore got a lot back. My freshman roommate never wrote letters, so her mailbox was always empty. One day we went to the mailroom together and I had a stack and she as usual had none.

Feeling sorry for her, I pulled the letter off the top of my pile, which happened to be from my Grandparents, and said, “Here, you can have this one.” She opened it and it had a $5.00 bill inside! Rats!

The college kids today rarely get any mail unless you count the credit card pitches, which I don’t. Questioning a gentleman who works in the local college mailroom, he told me that the drop in mail over the years has been significant. No one feels they need it as long as they have email, IM, text messaging and unlimited cell phone minutes.

I think it’s kind of sad though. I kept all the letters my husband sent me in college and he has all that I sent him. Just for the record I sent him a lot more then he sent me! I also sent him lots of cards, letters cut up into puzzles, decorated envelopes, cartoons and newspaper articles. A friend of mine who’s son is at West Point told me that if a cadet has anything on the envelope of a letter he receives except for the address, return address and a flag stamp, (yes, it has to be a flag stamp!) he has to do pushups!

John would have had to do a lot of pushups if that rule had been in place when he was a cadet! Come to think of it, my letters may have caused the rule!

It’s still fun to stumble upon the box of letters every couple years and re-read them. I wonder what these kids will keep for memories? Won’t they eventually have to erase their text messages and delete their emails?

Hopefully they’ll at least save their love emails (see? That doesn’t even sound as good as love letters!) Maybe they can put them on a disc and put that in a decorated envelope and stick it in a box…..

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Friday, October 16, 2009

Back to School The Start of Sophomore Year

I’m slipping. Not only did John and I not drive Brittany back to school for her sophomore year last week, but I allowed her to leave in an incredibly disorganized fashion. I’ve decided sophomore year is kind of like the second child. You know you don’t need to do certain things and you don’t take as many pictures.

We had decided we didn’t need to take her this year for a lot of reasons: she already had her room in the sorority house from last spring, everything she needed to take fit in her car, if we went we would be in a separate car for the two hour drive so not spending quality time with her anyway and we knew she would want to run off with her friends the minute we got there.

I did, however plan on helping her pack.

Somehow that never really happened.

She had gone to Charleston with some friends the weekend before and worked Monday and Tuesday. We decided we would do all of her laundry Monday night, move everything going out of her room Tuesday night and pack her car Wednesday morning. At least that was the plan.

Due to a last minute babysitting job and several “farewells” for other friends she said she would do her own laundry around 2 a.m. Monday night and everything else Wednesday morning. I said fine and asked her to wash some of my whites with hers.

She said she wasn’t going to do a white load. She was going to cram everything she had into one big load.

I told her my whites could wait.

Wednesday morning I finally heard her rummaging around upstairs about 10 a.m. An hour later she headed out to meet some friends downtown for a lunch break. Assuming that “break,” meant she had actually done something, I thought “ok”. After she left I went up to her room and saw how wrong I was. The closet and drawers did seem empty because the room was strewn with clothes, but nothing was folded or even looked clean. I was pretty sure she had spent the morning on the computer and phone.

Gritting my teeth I began pulling out suitcases and folding clothes. By the time she returned I had made a dent and she and her dad began carrying things to her car. I had pictured a box of school supplies, a box of shoes, clean folded clothes packed neatly into suitcases, and bath and cosmetic products in little plastic matching containers.

Instead I watched an armload of dirty clothes (which had been hidden under the bed) get tossed into a box of room decorations, shampoo bottles and 4 single shoes get thrown on top of the clothes I had managed to fold, papers gathered up without even looking to see if they were something she needed and stuffed into an empty purse. And it all got carted down to the car where it was pretty much tossed inside.

After waving her off I headed up to clean what was left of her room and the first thing I found when I opened her bathroom cabinet were the other 4 single shoes.

I suppose it could be worse. A friend of mine said his son forgot his alarm clock and called his mom to ask her to call back and wake him up at 8 a.m. so he wouldn’t miss his class! Brittany at least has figured out she can use her cell phone as an alarm.

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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Do College Kids Still Need Their Parents?

Aside from putting a roof over their heads and paying the tuition, do college kids still need their parents?

Earning their own money will make kids independent faster then anything else.

This summer Brittany has had so many jobs I’ve barely seen her. She worked weekdays for the Jackson Group downtown and loved getting dressed up and working in an office. She worked evenings and weekends at Jersey Mikes and she has had back to back house sitting and dog sitting weeks. She has watered plants, taken in mail and newspapers, walked dogs and babysat.

Because of her constant motion, which often included spending up to two weeks away from our house (although she always came home to use her own shower - only a pile of wet towels on the floor let us know anyone had been there) I’ve had very little say in her life this summer.

She’s done really well with everything. At least as far as I know she didn’t get mixed up and make sandwiches for the Jackson Group, or water any dogs. She did however water the outdoor plants at 6 a.m. one morning for people who didn’t go on vacation until the following day, but, hey, they got a bonus!

I got so used to her never asking me for help anymore I was surprised one Saturday afternoon when John and I were having lunch in Blowing Rock. He answered his cell phone and it was Brittany who had taken a weekend off to visit friends in Charlotte for the Brad Paisley concert.

I saw John’s brow furrow and immediately thought, “Oh, no, she’s had an accident.” Then I heard him say, “Well, you’d better ask mom about that.” And I thought, “She wants to go somewhere or do something he knows I won’t like.”

What happened though was she and her friend had bought facemasks and when they took them off their faces were bright red! She asked me what to do. (I admit I did raise her to believe moms knew everything.) She sent me a picture over the phone of the two girls in their facemasks. It looked like something out of Silence of the Lambs. Really creepy! Then a picture of their faces without the masks. They were red.

It’s nice to feel needed. But, I realized that at this point in life it was more important to show her where to get the answers herself. I told her to look on the box for the 800 number and call customer service and ask what to do.

But, still, it is nice to know she thought of me first.

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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Empty Nest Fills Back Up Again, or How Long is Summer?

Brittany came home in May for her summer break. I had braced myself because I remembered my first night home from Freshman year when my mom told me not to stay up too late because I had to work the next day, and how I thought, “great, summer is going to be all rules and restrictions after a year of freedom!”

I don’t remember what I actually said to my mom, but Brittany told me she stays up until all hours at school and why was it more important for her to be well rested for a summer job then for her classes?

I was warned that when college kids come home they invariably think their parents aren’t quite as intelligent as they once believed. Sure enough, within the first 24 hours Brittany said something along the lines of she knew better because she was in college.

Her dad squelched that pretty fast by telling her he has an MBA, her mom has a BS and she, Brittany has one year of college.

The first night she got home I stayed up helping her unpack. I knew if I didn’t she would live out of a suitcase all summer.

I was in her closet folding all her t-shirts: making a stack of white ones, a stack of pink ones, a stack of black ones, etc. when out of the corner of my eye I saw her carry a suitcase to her underwear drawer, turn it upside down, dump the whole thing in and close it with her knee.

She caught me watching her and said, “You can do what you want in my closet, but this is the way I like this drawer. I decided at school it’s less stressful.”

How can a mess not be stressful? But, I let it go. Until a few days later when I was carrying up a load of perfectly folded clean laundry. I put everything away, but the underwear. I opened the drawer and looked from my neat stack to her heap. I wasn’t sure what to do. I knew if I just laid it on her bed, she would sleep in the bed and make it in the morning and the laundry would still be there. Should I just toss the nicely folded stuff into the drawer in a jumble? Should I fold the rest of the clothes in her drawer after all and risk stressing her?

All of a sudden I caught sight of a picture on her dresser of me holding her when she was a baby. I thought about how fast time goes by and how short the summer will end up being.

I set my pile neatly down in the middle of her heap and closed the drawer.

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Sunday, October 11, 2009

Text or Talk?

Some people seem to think that with all the text messaging and Instant Messaging (IMing) teens do, they are losing their ability to talk!

I recently read that Virgin Mobile is coming out with something called “Switch Back”, kind of a Blackberry with AOL IM. The company’s owner was quoted as saying “We really think that text is the new talk.” Apparently 25% of their teen customers text more than talk on their phones.

Not only that; but the author of Parenting the Millennial Generation wrote that teens have the ability to have multiple conversations through multiple technologies.

He said,"This generation uses technology to facilitate relationships and interactions in a way other generations never have. They are talking on a cell phone, IMing somebody, playing Xbox and having three or four parallel conversations, while maybe ignoring someone else sitting in the same room.”

Brittany definitely “texts” a lot. In fact she’s gotten her dad into it too. Every night this past school year which ever of the two went to bed first would text the other “I Love U more than anything” …and John saves them all!

One morning this summer I was reading the paper and Brittany picked up John’s phone and started going through the saved messages. At one point she held up a picture of the odometer of her car and said, “I sent dad this when my car hit 15,000 miles!”

She also told me that roommates at school often text each other – while in the same dorm room! Recently I walked in to see Brittany and two girls on the couch watching a movie, all holding their laptops. They were IMing each other – I asked her later why? She said they didn’t want to talk out loud and interrupt the movie.

But, she is after all a girl. And it is well known that women are relational creatures, happiest sharing with others, and this can’t always be by text messages because some of their friends and relatives (me) don’t text message. So Brittany talks…and talks.

Two of my best friends also have only children, but they each have a boy and they are fascinated by how much Brittany talks. They tell me they get more information out of her in 10 minutes then they get out of their sons in a month. One day she went out the door on her way to work talking on her phone to a friend in Charlotte and 8 hours later walked back in talking to the same person. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the phone had never been hung up in between.

When Brittany was in 4th grade her class was learning about adjectives. The teacher would call out a student’s name and the others were supposed to raise their hands and give an adjective that described that person. When Brittany’s name was called out, every hand went up. The teacher called on one boy who said, “Talkative.”

Every other hand went down. He had taken their word.

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Saturday, October 10, 2009

Sorority Girl

Brittany pledged a sorority right after Christmas break and moved into the Alpha Gamma Delta (AGD) house. I wish she could have been a Kappa Delta like I was so I could have passed my pin down to her. They don’t have KDs at Western Carolina, so she settled for taking my pearls. (The AGD “jewel”)

After she joined I dug out my diaries from college. Yes, I had diaries from about first grade until my senior year in college! Mostly I wanted to see how much of Greek life is the same as when I was in school and how much is different.

A lot is the same. For instance Brittany participated in Sigma Chi’s Derby Days. (The fraternity schedules all kinds of crazy daily events that the sororities take part in to get points and at the end of the week the sorority with the most points wins.) And there I was each year in the pages of my diaries going to jump on trampolines, help build beds on wheels to push around sorority circle and participate in field events for points.

And there are the same bonfires, parties, IHop runs in the middle of the night, mom’s weekends, song practices, (although they have a CD of their songs to learn from) long chapter meeting – which seems to be universally on Monday nights. In fact every Monday in my diary I would write, “Chapter lasted until 8:30 tonight – ugh!” or “We had elections tonight and chapter lasted until 11:00, I thought I was going to die.”

Also all the time spent sitting outside or in each other’s rooms talking, laughing, eating popcorn…

John and I went out for her initiation dinner in March. The girls were all in white dresses just like I was years ago for my initiation. She’s buying AGD t-shirts for every special event just like I did, (although hers cost about five times more then mine did!)

One major difference is we used to have house phone duty. The house had phones on every floor and one girl was assigned each night to take calls. Each member had her own buzz code and if it was long distance; that buzz was followed by a solid stream of buzzes. I’m not even sure Brittany’s sorority has a house phone since they all have cell phones.

I don’t know what she would do without her cell. Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 7:40 a.m. I get her first call of the day. It is my job at that time to keep her company as she walks to her 8:00 class. Then I get another one at 9:00 to accompany her to next class! I like that she multi tasks, but she won’t let me do the same. If I start moving around while we’re talking; making the bed or whatever and have to hold the phone under my chin, she can tell and says, “Nancy, pay attention to me!” (Yes, she calls me Nancy. I would say it’s an only child thing, but really it’s a Brittany thing.)

One byproduct of reading my diaries; I realized I needed to stop giving her such a hard time about some things. Staying up ‘til all hours, skipping a class here and there or even about grades. I found I had her beat in all areas! When I first started reading my diaries I thought I would let Brittany read them this summer. By the time I got to my sophomore year though I thought I should probably bury them in the backyard!

Once I started reading I couldn’t put them down. Every night I would be reading way past midnight. One night John woke up, looked at the clock and said, “You’re still up?” I said, “I have to see what happens!”

He patted me on the shoulder as he rolled over and said, “Don’t worry too much, I happen to know it has a happy ending.”

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Monday, October 5, 2009

The College Boyfriend

Brittany went to her first fraternity formal last December. That really brought back memories for me and it was fun to see how they haven’t really changed. I wanted all the details, which Brittany, as usual, was more then happy to share.

Her dad, however, didn’t quite get it. He went to West Point and the dances there were very different. Fraternities often hold their formals in another town at a hotel. West Pointers have theirs on post at Ike Hall and there are student “guards” who walk around to make sure the couples aren’t dancing too close!

So, after each thing Brittany would tell us, I had to tell John, “It’s ok, we used to do that too.”

We started almost immediately after that to hear about the guy who took her to the dance. I’ll be like the people who write into Dear Abby here when they say, “my husband…let’s call him…Stanley” and I’ll just call the college boyfriend CB from now on. Brittany would call us after almost every time she talked to him. Her favorite word to describe people is precious, so that became our vision of him. We knew beyond a shadow of a doubt he was precious! She also said he was “frat chic”. (Don’t ask.)

Over the Christmas break she sat down at the kitchen table with me, looked me in the eye and said, “You know how you always hear that when a girl is really close to her dad she looks for a guy just like him?” I was thinking, “Oh, John is going to love this!” Then she went on, “Well, CB and dad have exactly the same cell phone!” (Yea! She’s ready for a serious relationship!)

They went shopping in Asheville for new clothes for him right before spring break. She sent a picture on her camera phone of the still folded shirt and tie to her dad’s phone. He sent one back of the inside of our empty refrigerator and said “buy food before you come home!”

Over break she and CB probably averaged a couple hundred text messages a day. When they weren’t doing that they were on the phone or sending messages through the computer. She spent the last weekend visiting his family in Charlotte and then they came here that Sunday for lunch before driving back to school.

It was fun to meet him and cute to watch them. In high school when she was on a date we wouldn’t see much of them. They sort of went through our house on their way somewhere else. But, this time they came to visit us! For the first time, my daughter felt like a guest in our house! But, it was fun and just like spending time with another adult set of friends.

The next weekend they went back to his house in Charlotte to take something to his parent’s house and left there around 10:30 p.m. Saturday night to drive back to school.

As they got in the car CB said to Brittany, “Do you want to stop by your parents to say hi?” (A positive sign I guess. I think he likes us too!) So they arrived at 11:30 and stayed until a little after 1 a.m. I tried to get them to spend the night, but they assured me they would much rather stay up late to drive back then get up early to do it! It felt just a tiny bit funny to have him say as they left, “We’ll come back soon for a weekend.” Almost like our lives had changed overnight.

But, I think I’m liking this…

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Friday, October 2, 2009

Invading Their Space

Within minutes of walking through the door when Brittany comes home on a college break or for a weekend, her laptop gets turned on, set up and logged on to Facebook. I always ask her why she came home when all she did was “talk” to her friends back at school. (To her benefit she doesn’t say laundry.)

Facebook is a popular website, which until recently was only open to college students and alumni with a school email address, Brittany has 901 friends scattered all over the country. (I know this because every time we get together she shows them to me – after all they have put new pictures on and added funny new quotes since the last time she showed me!)

She told me once that it was hard to leave the site and said “I know what every one of my friends is doing this minute by their away messages!” The kids work hard at leaving interesting away messages!

My Space is probably the better-known site though. NPR reported on a program about that online communities are replacing malls where kids hang out. USA Today reported that My Space has become the dominant force in the social networking sphere. They have over 200 million members. In fact, one of the two founders, Tom, had 230,004,827 friends the last time I looked. (He comes with every person’s My Space page when they join). Do you suppose he makes his mom scroll through all his friends? His personal page has 793605 comments. Things like “You are my hero!”

I’ve seen all this because I joined too. Yep. Adults are members too. In fact it is well known that it’s a great place for people with online stores to advertise. (Which is why I’m there.) It takes awhile to figure it out. And there is a lot you just have to ignore. The site itself is kind of junky and at times incredibly slow, but you can post free classified ads, join groups (everything from fitness enthusiasts, vegetarians, sororities, fraternities, schools, “over 40s”, shopping addicts and a lot I wouldn’t want my mother to catch me looking at! (And I don’t!) You can also listen to new bands, download music, add music to your homepage, play games, rank friends from pictures they submit and blog.

Any adult who thinks there is something wrong with this hasn’t been on too many online forums. I read several different business related ones regularly and all of them have the ability for their members to join groups, private message other members, put people on their buddy list, add a picture and even a profile about themselves which include hobbies and interests. We seem to be a world of people looking for connection.

I wasn’t really thinking about Brittany when I was surfing around I was pretty sure she was a member, but knew she spent most of her time and energy on keeping Facebook up to date. But, one day I typed her name into the “search for friends” bar and there she was in her low cut red formal. I typed a message to her: “Hi, I’m here to promote my site – what are you promoting? Mom”

I’m not on the site very much at all and really haven’t done much to my page. The only reason I put my picture on it was because the default picture was one of those head silhouettes like the police shoot at for target practice. Brittany’s page (besides the picture in that dress) has music and pink and brown polka dots!

She doesn’t mind me being there. She even asked to be on my “friend” list. (one of my 8…the rest are some of her sorority sisters and of course Tom.) In fact she also asked that I send her messages through rather then her regular email. She says they are easier and faster to get and respond to.

She has changed her picture though to one where she’s wearing an aqua sweater!

If you'd like to buy my book; 'In These Days of Cell Phones, Texting & Social Media ... Can the Nest Ever be Truly Empty?' visit:

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