Monday, November 30, 2009

Puppy Love

I grew up without ever having a pet. We were a family of 5 children and looking back, I’m surprised the subject never came up. But, it didn’t.

By the time I was an adult I just wasn’t all that interested. I would watch people walk their dogs and stand and wait while the dog did his thing and then have to scoop the mess up in a little plastic bag and think “Who would want to do that day after day?”

Brittany’s friend recently bought a two-month-old Jack Russell Terrier. She went with him to pick up the dog from Georgia and emailed me about 20 pictures of Addison (Addie).

She did look tiny and cute.

A couple weeks later the friend was passing by close to Hickory and wanted to stop to introduce us to Addie “while she was still a puppy.”

There had never been a dog in our house before. I have white carpets and white sofas. But, he walked in carrying this tiny little thing that only weighed 2.7 lbs and had huge brown eyes and a tail that wagged a mile a minute and put her in my arms…and I was hooked!

I was surprised by how light she was. She immediately burrowed her long nose into the crook of my elbow and went to sleep. I figured that meant she trusted me. I carried her the whole visit except when I thought she might be thirsty and filled a small bowl of water and stood her on the floor next to it. She drank for several minutes and I found myself entranced watching her! On her 4 little feet she was even cuter than rolled up in a sleepy ball.

I hated to give her back at the end of the visit! The following week Brittany called and said they were going to her friend’s dad’s horse farm the next Saturday and could they spend Friday night with us on the way. I said of course and she warned, “We’ll have Addie.”

I said “Great!” I couldn’t wait to see her again. And when they left her with us to run some errands I got down on my hands and knees to play tug of war with her. Sometimes I just followed her around while she explored. (Even on the white carpets!)

It finally made sense to me why people treated their dogs like family.

I’m not sure if this has made me a dog lover or not, but I do know that this particular dog has totally won my heart!

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Friday, November 20, 2009

Money, Money, Money

The first morning Brittany was home for Christmas she had a dentist appointment. I gave her my credit card. When she got home she told me about a woman there who was getting all veneers and how perfect they looked. She said, “I’d like to do that!”

I said, “So would I.” And took my card back.

Later she asked if I minded if she would get her eyes checked, as they had been feeling kind of dry and tired lately. She was able to get an appointment that afternoon. I pulled my card out again. She called after her appointment to tell me the Dr. gave her a prescription for glasses to wear when she’s reading or on the computer and could she look at frames and lens?

She’d only been home a day and my bank account was at risk of a major dip!

I try not to think about 4 months from now when she’s out of school and on her own. I’m not sure it has sunk in yet that she’ll be paying her own rent, car insurance, doctor appointments, etc.

Her dad and I have been after her for a year to pay off her credit card and also pay us back all the money she’s borrowed for “emergencies”, so that she’ll start out with a clean slate in May. That hasn’t happened yet.

Part of me feels guilty whenever I think about it. After all, I have more money then she does and she is my one and only. Maybe it’s time for a Parental Bailout? Surely I love my kid more than the government loves Wall Street and the Automobile industry?

Or what about tithing? We give to our church; maybe we should give her 10%. She’s needy.

Parenting doesn’t get any easier as our children grow. I have conversations back and forth in my head about it: “So much of her money goes to gas for her car.” “Well, I paid for the car.” “She’s working 2 jobs.” “She’s working 2 jobs because she loves to spend money!”

It’s hard to watch and not just write her a check. I imagine God feels the same way, watching us make mistakes and knowing He could step in and fix them with no real effort. But, then what would we learn? What would she learn?

When will she learn?

She really doesn’t seem to expect us to just write her a check. And besides, having debt doesn’t even seem to bother her that much. Maybe she thinks that as an only child she’ll inherit everything when we die and she’s just waiting…

I wonder how long it will take her to spend it all?

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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Christmas Traditions

Brittany will be home for 5 days over Christmas and I’ve been planning how to make every minute perfect. (Christmas is all about faith, right?)

She has often let me know how important traditions are to her. Usually after I’ve forgotten one. I googled tradition for some help. An article in Christianity Today, said, “Big or small, traditions add richness to our lives. They give us common ground with others. They give us touch points, times and events to remember fondly. They help us feel secure when things around us aren't. Tradition is about creating a safe haven away from the world.”

I thought I’d better ask her which Christmas traditions were really important to her, so I didn’t mess up.

She emailed me back that she loves making rosettes, which I’ve done every year since before she was born. From the time she was about 10 until she graduated from high school she took over the frying part while I powdered them with sugar. Every time someone mentions rosettes it reminds her of the small burn scar on her wrist. In fact I’ll bet she just stopped reading this to look at it again. Right, Britt?

Anyway, we can’t do that together this year because I’ve already made them. I needed them to take to Christmas parties weeks ago.

Her next favorite tradition she said is the Dessert Open Houses I had. Note had. I haven’t done one in about 4 years. The baking consumed the entire month of December so now I am all about volunteering to host the potlucks for different groups I’m in!

The next tradition she mentioned was putting up the Christmas tree together the Sunday after Thanksgiving, having a holiday meal, movie and one gift to kick off the season.

She had to work over Thanksgiving, so John and I went to my relatives in Chicago.

So far I was striking out. I thought I might borrow a tradition from my family. One of the things I remember the most while growing up was my mom color coordinating my sisters (twins) and me (11 months younger). She never had to put a tag on a gift because Debbie’s gifts were always wrapped in red, Barb’s in blue and mine in green. Our pajamas were white with the appropriate color buttons; our bikes were white with the appropriate color handlebars. There was never a question about what belonged to whom!

The only problem with that was I got really sick of green. And Brittany’s an only child.

I got back online and finally found what I was looking for. On a site called a Mr. Mafioso wrote about holiday traditions: “Ultimately it’s about coming home.”

So maybe we’ll just make a really great cup of coffee on Christmas morning and open our stockings and gifts. We’ll all stuff the turkey and get it in the oven, go for a walk, call all of our relatives, have dinner and play a game.

Because that’s what we always do.

It’s our tradition.

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

College Kids Concerned Too

Brittany’s first experience voting in a Presidential election reminded me of my first time. We both voted for the loser. On election day she told me that Facebook had a running poll where the people who voted would say who they voted for and she said it was running neck and neck: about 1 million for each candidate. She laughed when she read me one boy’s away message on his profile page, “Gone to vote. Don’t forget those of you who are Obama supporters, your voting day is Wednesday the 5th”!

I don’t know why I was so surprised that the college kids were actually worrying about who would win. But, they seem to have grasped the fact that the outcome would really affect them. I got to thinking about different issues that concern adults and compared our reactions to college kids today.

The economy – It’s always been almost a cliché that college kids never have any money, but I don’t see that today. They may be broke, but they have credit cards and know how to use them. Actually, they don’t know how to use them, which is why I used Brittany’s credit card debt as an example when I explained America’s financial crisis to her. I must have done a good job because she asked me if she should apologize to America for causing the problem.

Having money coming in has never been a problem for Brittany; she’s always had 1 to 3 jobs at a time since she was 16. But, like the government, it’s the uncontrolled spending that’s the problem!

Gun control – Something I never think about, but I found out she’s pretty nonchalant in that area. The Secret Service was having a training seminar at the hotel she works in. While checking them in one of the men asked if there were security cameras where his car was parked. He leaned over the desk to whisper that he had $10,000 worth of ammunition in his car.

When she told me about it she said, “I don’t know why he thinks that’s such a big deal. Doesn’t he know he’s in Cullowhee? 80% of the people drive around with that much ammunition in their trucks!”

Social concerns - Brittany called one day and said “Thank you for being a good mom.” Knowing there must be a reason behind the statement I asked what was going on. Apparently the campus was having an awareness day for all kinds of abuse. She said there were clotheslines strung where students hung up pages they had written about some abuse they had suffered in their lives. She said for a relatively small school there were lots of papers. It made her sad. The group promoting the cause was collecting money and she gave them her last dollar.

Good thing they didn’t take credit cards.

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Only A Phone Call Away

When Brittany got around to using the blender we recently gave her and realized she had received our older one she called to ask why we hadn’t given her the new one?

John told her it’s called “hand me down” not “hand me up”!

She has become quite domesticated since she moved into her apartment. She calls often with questions about recipes and ingredients. She also delights in buying new kitchen items and calls to describe them to me as she unpacks them from her shopping bag: a pink skillet, 15 lemon scented trash bags, etc.

One day she offered to make dinner for a friend at his apartment. The idea was she would have it ready when he came home from work. All afternoon she called me with questions about the recipes and then I got this call:

Brittany: “I set fire to the stove!”

Nancy: “Is it still on fire?”

Brittany: “No, but it set the smoke alarm off and I didn’t know how to stop it so I ran next door to ask the guys there to come over and help. They did, but I’m afraid to use the stove again. He’s got tin foil on the burners and I think that’s what caught on fire.”

Nancy: “Um…take the tin foil off.”

Brittany: “But, doesn’t that keep the burners clean? He might get mad.”

Nancy: “Tell me again what I’m paying in college tuition?”

I never know what she’s going to talk about when she calls. One night she called me and asked what movies I want to see someday. As I mentioned titles she would tell me the whole plot. She’s really good at mimicking people and can completely recite entire scenes. Often I’m disappointed when I actually see the real movie.

Other times she calls just to vent about something. This usually ends up making her feel better, but then I’m the one who’s stressed when we hang up!

After she called for the 3rd time one day venting she said, “I’m so glad you only had one kid – I can’t imagine if I had brothers and sisters taking up all our time on the phone!”

Me either!

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Monday, November 16, 2009

Senior Year!

Brittany has started her senior year and she says she “should” graduate on time. There was a point a couple years ago where she said she might do a “victory lap”. That’s what the kids call a 5th year.

Everyone is a spin-doctor nowadays!

She moved into an apartment 2 weeks before school started. Right before the move she called to ask when we were coming to visit. She had been wanting to get us out there to see the resort she was working at all summer.

I said, again, we would, but this time she pinned me down. “When? You’ve got the fundraiser coming up that you’re chairing and then I start school. It needs to be this weekend!”

So it was.

After she knew we were coming, the calls changed. “Do you have any extra silverware?”

“How about some extra dishes? Pots and pans?” “The apartment has a full size bed and all my sheets are twins. And do you have any extra comforters?” “You have 2 blenders, could I have one of them?”

Actually I kind of like having a blender both in the kitchen and the wet bar.

The problem is I’m a bit of a minimalist and the minute I decide I have something I’m not using I take it to the Salvation Army. So I don’t have a lot of “extra” stuff.

But, my mom had done the same thing for John and I when we got married. We had gotten a lot of really beautiful, but useless, wedding presents so she loaded us up with all the items Brittany was now looking for. My mom set a pretty high standard to follow. When we were building the house we are in now she would fly out to take care of then two-year-old Brittany while we picked out ceramic tiles and carpet. And as an expert seamstress she did all my window treatments.

Could I not, at the very least, give my child one of my blenders?

So I started looking around the house and began to pack boxes with things I thought Brittany could use. It immediately became fun and I was surprised how much I found.

When I was talking to John about it, he too remembered my mom’s constant help. He said the neatest thing he remembered was the time during our first six months of marriage when she drove from Chicago to Ft. Sill, Oklahoma with a pot roast for us!

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Sunday, November 15, 2009

Show and Tell

Brittany called the house phone the other day and since I had been talking to her on my cell phone just a few minutes earlier I asked if she was trying to reach her dad.

She said, “No, I was just playing Parental Lottery!” As usual she was walking between classes. And also as usual she was holding multiple conversations and getting me in the middle of them. I think half the kids at Western have said “Hi Mom” to me!

Brittany has always been using me for show and tell. Maybe that’s why I like writing about her – pay back!

I remember one time when she was 10 we were in Jamaica and toward the end of our week’s vacation I badly sunburned my lips. I actually didn’t know I had done it until I woke up the next morning and they looked like Goldie Hawn’s lips in the movie ‘The First Wives Club’!

And this was before women started paying big bucks for that look!

I was sitting out by the pool reading later that morning with a big hat on, keeping my face down and out of the sun, when I saw four little pairs of feet stop by my lounge chair. I heard Brittany’s unmistakable voice say, “She just woke up that way this morning!”

Then Brittany’s face appeared under the brim of my hat. “Mom, can my friends see your lips?”

Some of her friends text John and I now. I find this rather painful because it takes me forever to type out a simple reply. I would much rather email and am always grateful when our text conversation comes to an end. One day Brittany called John to scold him for not answering several texts from one of her friends. She informed him that proper etiquette for text messaging is to never ignore, but always answer them.

Who knew?

I guess, when I really think about it, I like that she wants to share us with her friends. It must mean she’s not ashamed of us at least. But, I asked her once, what did I ever do to deserve such a pedestal.

She had to think a minute, but then replied, “Well, you married really well and you birthed really well!

Can’t argue with that. When she’s right, she’s right!

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Saturday, November 14, 2009

Look at Me!

I was recently listening to Greg Laurie on the radio and he mentioned a USA Today poll of Millennials, young Americans born after 1982, who said what they wished for most in life, is to be rich and famous. We certainly see this with You Tube and some of the crazy things that go on. But, I thought it was interesting that he related it to the fact that this generation of kids grew up with a camera in their face every time they did anything. First smile, first tooth, first haircut, first day of school, first job…

They were also rewarded for everything they participated in. Many groups created special awards so that everyone in the group got one for something and no one felt left out.

This has added to an “everybody look at me” mentality.

The daughter of a friend of mine went on a trip to Europe this summer with a high school group and my friend told me she had to sit and look at the 350 pictures her daughter took when she got home.

I had a similar experience when Brittany got back from the Alpha Gamma Delta International Convention in San Antonio a couple weeks ago. Except ours was done long distance. Brittany uploaded around a hundred pictures to her Facebook profile and then connected by phone and the internet, we went through each picture as she told me who was in it, what they were doing at the time, what they had ever done in their past and on and on.

I was not allowed to look ahead and she would quiz me on what I was looking at just to make sure I hadn’t.

Some of it was quite interesting. They took 17 charter buses of sorority girls from the Marriott River Walk to a ranch for an evening of BBQ, hayrides and games. One of the games was an armadillo race and she had lots of pictures of the contestants. I had never seen a live armadillo before! Who knew they were so round? John and I lived in Oklahoma for a short time and the joke was that armadillos traveled north from Texas to commit suicide on Oklahoma highways. They certainly were never round when I saw them!

Brittany also pointed out a picture of 5 of the girls standing by a long horn steer. She said right before the picture was taken, one of the girls said, “This isn’t a good angle for me.” To which Brittany replied, “Your standing next to a cow! You look good!”

I saw the close ups of the martinis from the Martini bar, a picture of an 85 year old woman who had been an Alpha Gam for 67 years and one of the tour guide on the river cruise who told the girls that if they got a little crazy that night and fell in the river, they should “Just stand up. The river’s only 3 feet deep.”

But, better then all that I also saw in my daughter someone who isn’t a “look at me” person, but a person who is genuinely more interested in other people. And I liked that.

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Friday, November 13, 2009

Staying in Touch

A story in the paper recently caught my eye. In 2006 a law was enacted in North Carolina, which made it illegal for kids under 18 to use their cell phones while driving. The Insurance Institute ran a very low tech study, where they basically watched teens leaving the school parking lot and came to the conclusion that most kids still talk on their phones while driving.

It doesn’t surprise me. Brittany can’t stand being without her phone. When she was in Mobile, Alabama earlier this summer she didn’t have her laptop and cell service was spotty, plus she was tied up with seminars most of the time. On her breaks if she was lucky enough to stand in the right spot and get a signal she would call us to check her Facebook profile to make sure she wasn’t missing any of her friend’s birthdays or they hadn’t left her any messages.

Some people think that technology has made the kids less social, but I think the opposite is true. Between the internet, texting and cell phones, Brittany is in contact with her circle of friends all the time and can tell you exactly where they are, what they are doing and most likely even what they are thinking!

She was glad to get back to school and start her two summer jobs. Until she found out the one where she would be spending the most time, a lake resort, has no cell service. But, except for being out of touch with her world during those hours, she’s having a ball. She’s the activity manager and she drives people around the lake on pontoon boats, rides a sea do or a golf cart on errands, heads up bingo by the pool, makes popcorn and s’mores for the younger guests, leads hikes, sets up picnics and was even told by her boss that if a guest wanted to sit by the pool for an hour talking to her, that was part of her job description! Brittany has found her dream job! She’s getting paid to talk!

She even carries a walkie-talkie to communicate with other employees. She can’t call us on it of course, but there are lots of hours she works her other job or is on the road in between and she usually calls as soon as she drives into an area with service.

One day John poked his head into my office and said, “You are home! I was just talking to Brittany on the phone and she asked me to tell you something. I said you weren’t home, but she insisted you were, because she had just gotten an email from you. I can’t believe she’s two hours away and had to tell me you’re in the next room!”

What did we ever do before all this technology?

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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Parents aren’t done when their kids turn 21

New parents are often told that this little baby, this precious gift from God, is theirs to nurture for 18 years.

It’s a lie.

Even 21 years isn’t exactly the truth, because the statement leads unsuspecting parents to believe that in 18 or 21 years their job is done. All those years parents are headed to the light at the end of the tunnel and when the 18th birthday comes they find that the tunnel is a little longer then they expected. Then the 21st birthday comes and that light just keeps getting farther and farther away.

Brittany turned 21 Mother’s Day weekend. The weekend before that she went to a wedding in Charlotte and drove through Hickory on the way to trade cars with her dad so he could take hers in for some work.

This was ok, because she wasn’t 21 yet. It was still our job to take care of her, and John had been taking care of her car since she got it. The problem was he only had Saturday and Sunday and the list was long and the service places weren’t open long enough, so her car didn’t get fixed.

Sunday when she returned to trade back, she had another project for him. She had left her cell phone sitting next to a glass of ice water overnight and the condensation from the glass created a pool of water that her phone sat in long enough to destroy it. Luckily John had just replaced his own cell phone and we hadn’t donated it to charity yet so he gave it to her. This involved an hour at the cell phone store getting help transferring the information and registration from her phone to his.

But, that’s ok. She was only 20. Not an adult yet. Our job was to take care of her.

The next weekend she arrived home late on her birthday. 21! The light!! She would only be home for a day because her sorority was sending her to a Leadership Institute in Alabama on Monday morning for a week where according to the brochure she would “develop her personal skills and explore what it means to lead with integrity. Assess her strengths as a leader, learn the value of feedback and reflection, and understand the dynamics of power, communication, and teamwork. Most importantly, she would develop a bold and challenging vision for herself and for a group or cause that she cared about. She would practice communicating her vision and learn how to bring that vision into reality.”

And “Bill Gates is a graduate of the course”!

But, Brittany hadn’t taken the course yet and arrived home without her camera (she borrowed mine for the trip) or her suitcase. All her clothes were clean and folded in a laundry basket. I asked her how she could forget a suitcase when she was flying to Alabama? She said she didn’t forget, but hers was full of stuff and under her bed at school. So my suitcase went along too.

Then as we were getting ready for church Sunday morning she came in my room to ask if she could borrow my black cardigan. I told her she had already borrowed it and took it back to school with her the last fall. She said, “Darn!” Which was exactly what I said a month before when I wanted to wear it and realized where it was.

The next day, after being 21 for an entire day, she drove to the Charlotte airport in my car so her dad could have a whole week to work on her car.

In a strange way I was actually kind of happy about it all. 21 years has gone by too quickly and I’m thinking that light can stay out in the distance a little bit longer after all. No matter what they say, it’s nice to know she will always be our baby.

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Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Brittany’s fish died. I knew when she told me she got them; they wouldn’t be long for this world. My mom never let us have pets when I was growing up. Now I’m convinced it’s because she knew about the family gene.

We can’t keep houseplants or pets alive. Most of my houseplants have slowly been replaced by artificial. I have a few live ones left and I try to leave them alone. The really sad thing is; some of my artificial plants are even losing leaves!

So even though I read a study that said interaction with pets can positively influence
children's health, emotional development and schooling and that; 40% of kids with pets sought out their pet if they were upset, 40% looked for their pet if they were bored and 85% regard their pets as a playmate, I was always the one Brittany came to when she was upset or bored and I was her playmate. Who needed a dead pet?

A couple times as an adult I did buy fish. I think they are pretty. But, the last time I came home with 2 gold fish I named one Friday and one June and both were gone by Sunday.

Brittany got hers as a door prize at a party her sorority had. She called me all excited about how cute they were and all the little things she had bought for their fish bowl home. When she told me she named them I knew it wouldn’t end well. She named them Pi and Chi because they were from a Greek party. (Get it?)

A few weeks later she texted me that they were floating upside down.

When I called her she was guilt ridden. She said the water had gotten dirty and she thought maybe they ran head first into each other and died from a concussion. I told her I didn’t think so.

I tried to tell her that fish just don’t live very long, without telling her our family has a bad gene. When she finally said, “Well, maybe I won’t get anymore fish.” I thought we were home free. But, then she said, “Really I’d like a dog. I think as soon as I graduate, that’s what I’ll do.”

I have a year to talk her out of that. In the meantime her 21st birthday is coming up Mother’s Day weekend and she’s coming home for it. I haven’t decided exactly what I’m getting her yet, but I know it won’t be alive!

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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Spending and the Stuff of Scholars

Brittany can spend money faster then anyone I know. It’s a good thing she enjoys working so much because she’s not a saver and supporting her life style will be an on-going thing. (Unless of course her parents die early and leave her everything. She might be able to take a little break then.)

She skipped spring break this year to work everyday at the hotel, hoping to pay off a couple bills. We decided since she wasn’t coming home we’d get the ceilings redone in our kitchen and family room. The night before the painters arrived we had everything cleared out of both rooms and John couldn’t resist having a little fun with her. He took a picture across the empty space and sent it to her with the text: “We’ll leave a forwarding address.”

The phone rang within seconds. She didn’t think it was funny.

After we admitted we weren’t moving Brittany scolded us for adding to her stress, which was already high because the hotel was scheduled for its annual inspection the next day. She told us about all the activity going on to prepare for the inspector’s arrival. Every housekeeper was on duty deep cleaning the rooms and they had even given Brittany a walkie-talkie to let them know if the man showed up early. Brittany was studying the front desk handbook so she could answer any questions he might ask her, like how many frequent flyer points she should be giving to someone when they checked in. She said she had post-it notes hidden everywhere.

We asked her the next day how it went and she said the front desk got a 1000 out of 1000 and that the inspector had told her boss that Brittany could be a Rhode Scholar. Brittany asked, “What does that mean?” and her boss replied, “It means, if you have to ask, he’s wrong!”

After our painters left, Brittany’s story of the housekeepers working so hard inspired me to do some spring cleaning, especially in her room, which I’ve only been giving a lick and a promise the past 2 and a half years. The first thing I threw out was a cactus I’d bought and put on her window seat when she went away to school. I bought it because I didn’t think they needed water and I knew I wouldn’t be upstairs much with Brittany gone. I guess they needed some water though!

Then I started going through some of the stuff she left behind: lots of tanning oils. SPF 4? Why even bother? And tons of nail polish! Every color of the rainbow. I remembered the time she talked me in to painting my toenails blue. I hated it! She said, “It makes you look so with it!” I said, “It makes me look like I have no circulation in my feet!”

Looking over her collection of stuff I had to smile. Brittany buys the way she lives: she has to try everything!

When I got her room done, it looked great. But, empty. I miss my little Rhode Scholar!

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Monday, November 9, 2009

The Fan Belt

I thought fan belts only made noise when they were wearing out or broken. Brittany never thought about them at all. The last time she was home she went out with a friend the night before going back to school. They were just going to drive around for a quiet talk.

She called her dad from the road, “My car is making a really weird noise.” They went back and forth with Brittany doing her best to describe it, but they couldn’t figure it out. They finally agreed that John would take her car to church in the morning since he had to be there early and she would ride over with me and leave for school from church because she had to be at work by 3pm.

Neither of them thought about the stacks of nicely organized items in the laundry room ready to be packed neatly into her car for the trip back to Western.

And it was pouring rain on Sunday morning.

Brittany had brought home even more laundry then usual this time. While she always says she’ll do it, and I know she means it, I’ve ended up sorting and folding it every visit all by myself. I usually wash it right away because she comes in the door saying she has nothing clean to wear, and then I end up having even more loads to do before she leaves.

By that Sunday morning I had done all the laundry (twice) and had it and all the things she needed to take back to school neatly stacked in the laundry room ready to go.

John left before we got up, without any of her stuff and didn’t hear anything unusual while driving her car. I carried her stuff to the garage and carefully loaded it into the trunk of my car hoping it would stop raining by the end of church. It didn’t. We made dozens of soggy trips between my car and hers transferring everything. I was still trying to keep it all in some kind of order, while Brittany was gathering up armloads and throwing!

As she slammed the hatchback door down, gave me a bear hug and drove away I shook my head. Brittany had been born on her due date and that was pretty much the last time I had control of the situation!

Oh, the fan belt? She took it in to the dealer near her school and he asked her if she ever drove without the radio blaring. She had to think hard and said “maybe once” (the night she was with her friend and heard the strange noise.) He told her the noise she heard was just a normal whirring of the fan belts.

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Sunday, November 8, 2009


Brittany spent the first two weeks of this semester living out of her suitcase. Western Carolina has Rush right after Christmas break and she was a one of the girls who removed themselves from their sororities to work with the girls going through Rush.

They couldn’t have anything on their person or car that showed which sorority they belonged to and couldn’t live in their sorority house or have contact with their sisters during that time so they wouldn’t sway the voting for or against the Rushees.

So Brittany spent a couple nights with a friend in an apartment, another with a friend in a dorm, a few with some friends who have a house and even one night with a couple of the other helpers on sofas in the Commons building.

I didn’t like it much. And I thought the timing, at the beginning of a semester when they should have been focusing on really getting in to new classes, was a poor choice. But, no one really asked me what I thought about it. My job as mom was to listen to Brittany vent day after day: share how one place didn’t have wireless so she was at the library at 7:30 a.m. checking her emails, how another only had 1 key so she could only be there when the other girl was and she had to “hang out” on campus most of the time. Even the struggle it was to get a shower! And of course all the rush activities.

I looked forward to the final night of Rush as much as she did! Would Saturday night ever come? But then she called to tell me how excited the Rushees were when they found out which sorority they got and how excited she was when she pulled off her t-shirt at what they call the “revealing” and she had her Alpha Gam t-shirt on for the first time since before Christmas. And how her sorority sisters were so glad to have her back they painted her car with “Alpha Gamma Delta” and messages and hearts.

And I remembered the week before my Freshman year at Iowa State, going through rush. On the last day when I found out I got my first choice, Kappa Delta, they put me in a group to walk over to the KD house. As we came around the corner toward sorority circle, there were all the KD’s standing on the porch singing and when they saw their new pledges they started jumping up and down and screaming before running over to surround us.

And I knew that the two uncomfortable weeks Brittany had been through didn’t really matter. This was worth it. And decades later it would be times like this she remembers about college. Not sitting in class.

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Saturday, November 7, 2009

A Short Christmas Visit

Brittany had a month off over Christmas, but because she works at the hotel in Dillsboro, she was only home for 6 days. Both John and I were ordered to take the 6 days off to play with her and give her undivided attention the whole time.

2 nights before she came home she called us from work to share that the hotel lobby was overrun with little kids in pajamas and robes who were going on the Polar Express. (The train that runs between Dillsboro and Bryson City was having a Christmas theme ride.) John and I picked up the phone at the same time, which of course delighted Brittany. Two parents for the price of one!

After she had chattered on for about 20 minutes, she interrupted herself and said, “Where did Dad go?”

“I’m here.” He said.

“Then why did you just text me?” She asked.

“Because I couldn’t get a word in edgewise.”

It is a little hard to compete with 2 Geiger women in the talking department!

She arrived home in the middle of the night Christmas Eve. I knew she was here when I got up because when I went out to get the newspaper I tripped over 6 pairs of shoes. (One for each day of her stay?) It’s interesting to me that the only time John leaves his shoes at the door is when Brittany’s home. All week long I was climbing over shoes! After she went back I had to retrain him again.

One time I walked by the kitchen counter and Brittany had her cell phone and her ipod charging. Later I went by and there were two cell phones and 2 ipods charging.

I couldn’t resist. I added a 3rd set. Mine didn’t even need charging, it just looked like fun.

We had a great week and luckily she made it back to school before it snowed there. Since she was scheduled to work at 7am both of the days they had snow the manager of the hotel insisted she stay there so she wouldn’t have to drive. He even let her bring one of her sorority sisters who was back and they had a great time with the indoor pool, hot tubs and watching movies.

Unfortunately one of the mornings as she was turning things on she set off the fire alarm at 6:55 a.m. Why she had to wake us up to tell us about it after waking up an entire hotel I don’t know. But, while she had us she did share how great it was to just walk downstairs to work.

We told her we’ve been doing that for 5 years and didn’t even have to get dressed!

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Friday, November 6, 2009

Learning Life’s Lessons in College

Brittany has learned an amazing amount of things at college so far. And most were outside the classroom. I think school in general is designed to be this way. I remember once in about 6th grade Brittany had to do a science project and decided she would test whether plants grew better using Miracle-Gro or not. So she bought two identical plants and over a period of eight weeks she fed one Miracle-Gro and the other just water.

At the end of eight weeks, both were dead.

In writing up the report about the project she answered the teacher’s final question: “What did you learn from this?”

She wrote, “I learned that Lowes will take back dead plants within a year if you have your receipt.”

In just the past few weeks I’ve seen how she has made huge strides in organizational skills, accountability and leadership. Brittany was in charge of planning a “Something of Value” risk management weekend for all the sororities. She set up all the International representatives coming in; where they would stay, what they would eat, did all the publicity and led a session during the weekend; all while managing to work her shifts at the hotel and hopefully getting her homework done. She learned how much she can accomplish by planning ahead.

That Sunday night was the last meeting of her year as president of the Panhellenic Council. All the girls in all the sororities are required to come to one meeting per semester or they get fined $30.00. They have 16 meetings per semester to choose from. Brittany sent a message out to all the houses that because of fire code, the room only held 45 people, and if they were planning on coming they should get there early. When the room was full they would lock the doors and start on time.

The room did fill up and they did lock the doors and start the meeting. Unfortunately the doors were glass and every few minutes another cluster of girls would try to open the door and shout in frustration when they realized they were locked out. Brittany said she felt her neck break out in hives, but went on with the meeting, because, “people have to learn to plan ahead and follow the rules.” She learned that leaders aren’t always popular all the time.

Last Friday night she called me as she got off work at 11:00 pm. She wanted to tell me about a wedding party that arrived at 7:30 for their reception and there was no food there. The caterers had apparently set up the party at the wrong hotel across town. By the time that was all straightened out and the party was going along on its own, she said 2 buses from Cherokee arrived to check in, closely followed by a church bus. For the next several hours she was kept busy checking people in and delivering pillows and cribs to various rooms. Now she was on her way to the store to buy baking supplies to make cookies for her sorority’s formal the next night. She was planning on baking them still that night because she had to be back at work Saturday morning at 7:00 am and she would only have time to get herself ready for the dance when she got home. She’s learned to take things in stride, keep her sense of humor and keep plugging away.

I love watching the evolution, but sometimes it makes me feel a little slow. I’m still trying to learn not to immediately say yes when she calls and asks, “Will you do me a favor?”

Because it always costs me money.

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Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Fundraising Never Ends

A friend sent me one of those pass along emails recently. It was called ‘Parenting Description’ and set up like a classified ad for a job. It was pretty funny; listing things like, “Some overnight travel required, including trips to primitive camping sites on rainy weekends and endless sports tournaments in far away cities! Travel expenses not reimbursed.” and “Must be willing to be indispensable one minute, an embarrassment the next” and “Must always hope for the best but be prepared for the worst.”

I was surprised they left out “Parents must buy not only from every fundraiser that their child participates in, but from all the children of every friend and neighbor who buys from your child!”

Recently Brittany called, asking if she could have my Christmas card list. Doubting that she was going to surprise me with writing all my cards this year, I asked her what she planned to do with it. She said she needed to send out fifty letters asking people to donate to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, which is her sorority’s philanthropy.

I told her I thought that it was a good cause, but I didn’t really like the idea of her using my list of friends to ask money from. She told me all about the St. Jude video she saw: how they never charge people who can’t afford care, how they take the little bald children with cancer from one appointment to another in little wagons and have toys everywhere to get the kids’ minds off being so sick. How it made her cry.

So I scanned two random pages from our church directory and emailed it to her saying, “Here’s 110 names, have at it.”

Sorry guys.

When Brittany first started selling Girl Scout cookies I had no idea that selling would be so much a part of her life. And buying so much a part of mine. After the cookies came; cookie dough, fruit, magazines, wrapping paper, car washes and raffle tickets.

As they get older it just got more expensive. Letters started coming from kids going on mission trips, internships and studying in other states and countries and they needed funding.

I really thought that we would be done with that in college, but apparently not. In fact I’ve seen the writing on the wall that it may never be over. One of her friends graduated this summer and is now selling BMWs in Raleigh.

He’s already called.

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Tuesday, November 3, 2009

It’s For You

Frequently phoning home from college, most of the time it doesn’t seem Brittany cares which of her parents she talks to. Either one will do. Many times we have sat at the dinner table and the kitchen house phone will ring. During dinner we usually screen calls, but often Brittany won’t leave a message because it’s not like she has any real message. A second later we will hear John’s office phone ring. Then my cell (usually in the kitchen drawer.) And then John’s pocket will ring.

We usually answer at that point. In fact one time we put her on speaker phone, pulled out another placemat, set the phone on the placemat, made her say grace and just talked with her through dinner.

There are times when she only wants (needs) her dad and times when she (needs) wants her mom. Twice lately I’ve answered John’s cell when he’s left it lying around:

“Where’s dad? My car won’t start!”

“Quick, get dad! I just dropped my phone into a glass of soda!”

When she specifically calls me it’s usually, “He hasn’t called me in 12 hours! Should I call him?”


Or recently, “This 80 year old lady staying at the hotel called the front desk to say there was no Kleenex in her room. I looked everywhere and we were out, so I offered to bring her a roll of toilette paper. (Since it was 10pm at night and I was working alone and couldn’t go to the store.) The lady actually said, “What the ‘blank’ do I need a roll of toilette paper for?” Mom, what kind of 80 year old lady talks like that?”

None that I know.

She once called to complain about a friend who only talks about himself and never asks her how she’s doing. I said, “Really, people are like that?” She caught my meaning and said, “I always start by saying, “What are you doing?””

So I quizzed her. “What was I doing when you called?” Silence.

A friend of mine whose son is a freshman in college this year got a “need” call from him. He told her he had done laundry for the first time. (I think this was about a month after he left home.) He said he forgot to put detergent in and asked her if his clothes would stink? She told him that she didn’t know, because believe it or not she had always used detergent. She did solve his problem by signing him up for laundry service.

Brittany doesn’t call for laundry advice, but she often calls while she’s waiting on it to finish washing or drying. This is a great time for her to catch me up on who said what to who and why. And I usually give in to the inevitable and mop the floor or clean out a drawer while remembering to say, “Really?” or “Huh!” at appropriate times.

John just snickers because his calls are usually short and to the point. Fix and move on. But, you know what they say…a mother’s work is never done!

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Monday, November 2, 2009

The Send Off

A couple weeks ago USA Today ran a story about how long freshman parents are staying at the colleges when they drop their kids off. It used to be parents would drive up for a day; help them move in, set up their room, maybe run out to buy a couple things they hadn’t realized they needed, take the kid to dinner and leave. Now apparently some are coming the night before and staying! One college president said they have started holding “final” question and answer periods for parents the day before classes started and a “farewell reception” as hints to get the parents to leave!

It was suggested that parents nowadays feel the need to make every milestone in their kids’ lives a huge event. Everything is bigger and more elaborate. Look at proms. And remember when grooms had their bachelor parties in a local bar or a friend’s house? Today we hear of them flying off to Las Vegas for the party.

It was also suggested that in some cases the parents were trying to make up for not being there very much the first 18 years of the kid’s life and felt that the college send off, if big and emotional enough, could make up for that.

And then there are just the parents who can’t let go. Of course there have always been parents who can’t let go. John graduated from West Point and it was a well- known fact that when General McArthur was a cadet his mother moved to West Point for four years to be near him.

The whole thing cracks me up.

I could tell you my belief that parents are like this because people live through other people’s lives too much instead of their own. Whether it’s reality TV, their fascination with celebrities or living vicariously through their children. But this isn’t that kind of column, so I won’t.

Even though I think it’s true.

We love Brittany, but after 12 years of making sure homework got done, “sleeping” with one eye open until she came in at night and falling over her shoes every time we came in the door, John and I were ready for the next stage and when we took her to school as a freshmen we related more to the ad we’ve seen in magazines where a teen-ager is standing on a street corner surrounded by luggage and a car is driving away.

The text says, “5:00 pm. Drop kid off at college. 5:05 pm…what kid?”

Oh… you mean the kid whose number is first on my speed dial? The kid whose picture is in every room in my house? The kid, who even two years later, John and I still ask about first after we’ve been apart? “Did Britt call?” That kid?

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