Saturday, December 12, 2009

A Delayed Christmas

I’m writing this on Christmas Day. Well, everybody else’s Christmas Day. John, Brittany and I have declared Sunday, December 27th to be Christmas this year. Brittany has to work Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and the day after. That’s what happens when you’re in the hospitality business.

She had a choice between working Thanksgiving Day or Christmas and chose going to Chicago with us to visit my family over Thanksgiving. Christmas was farther off and could be worried about later.

We told her we would wait until she got here to have our Christmas too. We wouldn’t even open our gifts to each other.

She celebrated early with her roommate and other friends. Before they all went home to their families a few days before Christmas. She worked Christmas Eve from 7 a.m. until 3 p.m. and I noticed on the phone she sounded a little down. It had hit her she’d be going home to an empty house both that night and Christmas night.

I tried to cheer her up, reminding her that after she got off work on the 26th, it would be our Christmas Eve and we still had all of that to look forward too.

Today was worse. In fact her Facebook status was “Worst Christmas Ever!” When she got off work at 3 she drove 30 minutes to a friend’s house to pick up their dog to bring home to “dog sit” overnight. They had just gone out of town that morning. When she got to the house she couldn’t find the dog. Then she noticed the open back door. They had forgotten to close it and the dog was outside in the rain, looking, she said, totally miserable.

She managed to get him in her car and then wrestled his crate in too. It was apparently large enough for 3 people to crawl inside. She finally got him home, cleaned up, dry and settled and then decided to go to one of those movies where you eat dinner while watching. She got there early; picked out a spot way in the back and spread her dinner out. A little while later a family came in; crawling over her and knocking her dinner to the floor. (I THINK this was when she texted her Facebook status in.)

I’m not worried about her having a better Christmas with us on Sunday. The bar is set pretty low and I’ve got lots planned. John and I have had a really nice Christmas while waiting for her too. Church and a friend’s annual Christmas Eve party last night and a neighbor’s brunch this morning where we all watched Santa Claus water ski on Lake Hickory.

He’s still in town because he’s delivering our gifts on the 27th. He doesn’t mind waiting and neither do we. She’s worth the wait!

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Friday, December 11, 2009

Being There

There are still some things you just can’t do over the phone or via the internet. Brittany needed her gallbladder out last month. She had made 3 trips to the emergency room with horrendous pain. Each time she had called me before deciding to go or not. Each time she went and they told her she really needed to have the surgery.

So she found a surgeon who was “precious” and set the date. John and I drove down on a Thursday night after work to be with her. She had to be at the hospital at 6 a.m. for a 7:30 operation. We all got up at 5:15 and I cheerfully chattered to her in the car thinking I would take her mind off of what was coming.

She mostly grunted her answers and when she walked up to the check-in desk the first thing she asked the lady was “How soon can they put me under?”

She is so cranky early in the morning.

The Dr. came out by 8 a.m. and told us she did great. Actually I think he meant HE did great because I’m pretty sure she was just lying there.

But, anyway, we had her home by 10:00 and she was up and around the next day as if nothing had happened. John and I left that afternoon because he had to go on a business trip. It was a short visit, but one we felt we had to make. Just to be there.

I thought about “being there” a few nights later when I was making Rosettes. A special cookie I’ve made every Christmas since we were married. John was out of town still and of course Brittany was in Charleston, so I was making them alone. The first time we made them after we got married John and I figured out the recipe together and he held the iron in the fryer for 45 seconds exactly for each cookie. (Because that’s what the recipe said.)

I remember the year I was expecting Brittany I started out helping, but the smell of the grease got to me and he had to finish alone. When Brittany was little she would be the one to sprinkle powdered sugar on each cookie. Then by the time she was in high school she was frying the cookies. (And not timing them. She’s more like her mom following orders than her dad.)

When she went away to college it was just John and I making them again. And this year just me. But, I made them, because it’s tradition. And I’ll take them everywhere I usually do and give Brittany some too.

I called her while I was making them trying to get a little holiday cheer mixed in. But this year they aren’t quite the same. This year they’re just…cookies.

Because there are some things you just can’t call in.

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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Motherhood is Terminal

I just saw a magnet that said “Motherhood is Terminal.”

Terminal is not a good word. You certainly don’t want to hear it connected to your health. And I’m beginning to think painting the inside of our garage has turned in to a terminal project. It started 5 weekends ago. I just wanted to get rid of some black scuff marks on the moldings and patch up a couple places on the ceiling.

After two coats of custom-colored paint on the walls and trying to patch up the ceiling unsuccessfully; John went and bought a spray gun to paint the entire ceiling and a whole bunch of plastic, tape and who knows what else in the name of “doing the job right.” The second weekend he spray painted the ceiling (and his glasses and somehow the floor in spite of all the plastic.)

The 3rd weekend he tried cleaning the floor. After awhile I went out to the garage and found it empty and still with a spotted floor. John was on his computer ordering epoxy flooring to paint the garage floor. It took a week to get here.

The weekend in between found him cleaning it with some purple liquid, acid and then baking soda to get ready to paint. The next weekend he actually painted it. But after it was done some dark spots appeared where the paint hadn’t stuck. So the company is sending him a patch kit. After grinding and patching he will need to repaint the molding, which got marked up again working on the floor.

We have so far spent over $600.00 on painting our garage – and 5 plus weekends. When I first asked him to do it I pictured 2 cans of paint and a Saturday afternoon!

This SO reminds me of motherhood. Who knew what it would involve starting out! Brittany is 22 and out of college and I STILL turn around in a store when I hear someone call “Mom!” (And she even lives in another state!)

We also remain heavily involved in her life, which like the garage is still a work in progress. But, I can see the garage floor is going to look really cool when it’s done. And I’m not giving up on it in the meantime. Or on Brittany either! Because motherhood IS terminal – and I’m here for the duration!

If you want to buy a Motherhood is Terminal magnet, click here

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Tuesday, December 8, 2009

On-line Banking – The New Apron String

I heard a radio program about how kids getting out of college today expect to move right in to a house the size of their parents’, have a nice car and a great job. (Not realizing that it took their parents 20 or 30 years to work for those things.) The man on the program blamed the parents. He said in our quest to make things easy on our kids and take care of them we are doing them more harm then good. We’re too ready to give them handouts and jump in to save them from themselves.

The kids grew up watching their parents spending freely and then began doing so themselves; first with their parent’s money and then with credit cards.

Some friends and I got into a conversation about our kids’ spending habits recently. I was a little discouraged when one, who’s twin sons that are several years older than Brittany, told me he still follows their online bank accounts just in case he needs to throw some money in to prevent an overcharge.

Does it never end?

He said he noticed that one son had charged a movie at the $1.00 Red Box Movie Rentals. The charge was for $26.95, so he said his son must have failed to return the movie and therefore bought it. (At twice what he could have bought it for new from Target.)

It seemed like everyone in the group keeps up with their kids that way. One dad rolled his eyes and said “My son had a $59.00 charge at McDonalds! Is that even possible?”

Another watched daily while his son was in Europe. Charges were fairly normal until he got to Wimbledon when there was a several hundred dollar charge. The parents were a little steamed until their son got home and gave them each a Wimbledon logo shirt.

I don’t really want to know what Brittany spends each day. Honest! But she has had a lot of overdraft charges in the past. And she also has been known to play the game, “I’m going to go ahead and charge this because I know this gas station doesn’t post their sales till the next day.” (A game she’s lost more often than not!) And we also have a vested interest, since she’s borrowed a fair sum from us that she still owes. Therefore John watches too and when I hear she’s bought a Coach bag MY eyes roll!

Maybe because of us keeping an eye on her spending and occasionally questioning her about some of the charges; she’s taken a second job to try to pay us (and her credit card) back a little faster. I guess she thinks that the sooner she’s out of debt to us the sooner we get our noses out of her online account.

The second job is a good thing. Not only for the extra money, but every minute she’s working means one less minute shopping!

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Monday, December 7, 2009

Call Me

To all the people who told me not to worry about Brittany getting a job in Charleston – you were right. She arrived there on a Monday night, interviewed with a company that owns 5 hotels in the area on Tuesday afternoon and Thursday morning they offered her a job, starting as the front desk manager at one of the hotels; in training to be a hotel general manager.

While she was waiting for the call back; she unpacked, joined a gym and set up two more interviews, which she ended up cancelling because this was the job she wanted.

So have I stopped worrying about her?

Please! Has my mother stopped worrying about me? I doubt it!

Although Brittany still tells me most things, it seems to be getting harder to get answers to what I want to know.

I recently read an excerpt from a book called How Not To Act Old by Pamela Redmond Satran. It was a fun read and one piece of advice really jumped out at me because it was so true. “Don’t leave a message.”

She wrote that only old people leave voice mails. Young people just figure that the other person will see their number in “missed calls” and call back if they want or need to talk. She said if it’s urgent young people leave a text.

Brittany almost never answers an email from me unless I put in the subject line, “Please answer.” Then I will get an answer something like 1. yes 2. did 3. ok

I rarely hear back if I leave a voice mail and to save face (before reading the book) would end my message with “You don’t have to call me back, I just wanted to tell you this.”

The advice in the book was to say nothing. Just hang up. When your kid doesn’t answer their cell it’s either because they didn’t hear it, didn’t charge it, or saw your name and didn’t want to talk to you. If you leave a long message they’ll get annoyed and won’t listen nor call you back. But, if you say nothing you are speaking their language. Plus, they’ll think your news is so bad (or good) you couldn’t leave a voice mail. So they get curious – and call you back.

The first time I sort of tried this with Brittany it sort of worked. I didn’t want to just hang up, so I briefly said, “Call me.”

She immediately called her dad and asked, “Am I in trouble?”

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Sunday, December 6, 2009


Brittany is moving to Charleston, SC in a couple days. No, she doesn’t have a job down there, thank you for asking. And yes, she has a perfectly good one in North Carolina. (One that I wouldn’t mind having!) OK, it didn’t have health benefits and the pay wasn’t that great. But it used every bit of both her major AND her minor and it was fun!

Her apartment lease was up August 1st and to stay she would have to commit to another year. She said on her Facebook page (my not so secret source of information) she was ready for a change. Change. I used to like change…until this last election…

I thought her generation lived in a constant state of change. She and a friend were here last weekend delivering all of her “stuff” for me to store until she’s settled and he wanted to get his tires rotated at Sears. She suggested he call to see if there was a wait. He said he didn’t know their number. I handed him the phone book and HE LOOKED BLANK! Brittany said, “We usually just google numbers on our phones, but our phones are in the car.”

As she went out to get hers, he was flipping through the yellow pages muttering, “What do I look up; cars, autos, Sears?” I showed him the grey edged pages and said, “A little secret. With businesses, just go here and look up their name!”

While they were out they bought Brittany a GPS system for her car so she “wouldn’t get lost driving around Charleston for job interviews.” I told her I use Google Maps and it works perfectly fine. And it’s free! We did have fun while they were programming it though. I thought it should be my voice saying, “Don’t forget! Don’t forget! Turn now!” John thought it should have a male British accent. It took awhile for the system to acclimate itself and we joked that when it came out of the box and thought it would be working in Hickory it went into shock. It had hoped it would have an easy life in some town where the roads made sense.

So people have change every day. It doesn’t take a move anymore to have something different. Congressman Patrick McHenry sent me an email with a link to a You Tube video of a speech he made. USA Today just reported that Jewish people are now “tweeting” their prayers via Twitter to the Western Wall in Jerusalem! Everyone has to change all the time to keep up.

I read a movie review about a romantic comedy, which said, ‘In spite of the predictable ending it was a pleasant movie.” Why is predictable bad? I like happy endings! I like knowing there will be a happy ending. And I predict Brittany’s move will have one.

I’ll let you know!

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Saturday, December 5, 2009

The New Job

Brittany’s job is in full swing with no time for a learning curve! She managed her first wedding the last weekend in May. It was held outside by the lake and was beautiful. (I know because she sent me pictures.) Everything went according to plan except that earlier in the day the bride had gone to her house to get dressed and locked her keys in her car with the wedding dress inside. Bear Lake Reserve has no cell coverage so she couldn’t call her car’s emergency assistance to open her door. Her house was quite a distance from the Lake Club where everyone else was setting up the wedding so she decided to sit down and wait until someone came looking for her. An hour later they did and had to break the car window of her brand new BMW to get her dress out. Other then that; a perfect day!

When I talked to Brittany today she was buying 10 picnic tables for an old-fashion 4th of July BBQ. On her shopping list were also garbage can lids. Just the lids. Her boss thought it would look neat to pile the corn on the cob in them. She was also working on a Family Olympics Day for the weekend before and busy Googling ideas for games.

Every job she’s ever had has prepared her well in customer service, so she was the calm one; not at all surprised, when on Father’s Day 3 times as many people who signed up for the golf tournament and dinner just showed up. “No problem!”

While she can handle all of this with style and grace there are still things she leaves to her parents to take care of. Like finding her health insurance. The one negative about her new job is it doesn’t offer any. So John started doing the research; reviewing 16 policies. I was so glad I’m not a single parent! I can not make myself read terms and conditions! After a couple weeks and a lot of hours he found her one that wasn’t too expensive and got that checked off her list.

So I thought the least she could do was help me with something I was having a problem with. I wanted to get one of those Andy Warhol type pictures where you send in your photo and they make it into Pop Art. I had sent in headshots of each of the 3 of us. Hers came back saying it was too small, so I looked through all the pictures I have of her and they were too small too.

I called her and asked if she could get a friend to take a picture in the right size and email it to me. I could almost see her eyes roll and clearly heard the sigh. But, she sent it. And it was still too small. I called her again. Eyes rolled. Sighed. Sent another one. This one was taken outside and her face was in the shadow. A couple days went by before the third picture arrived with a message. “If you don’t like this one the next one’s going to be of another part of my body!”

Luckily this one was just fine because I knew she meant it and I sure don’t want her on the wall ‘cheek to cheek’ that way between John and me!

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Thursday, December 3, 2009

Her Future is Bright!

Well, it’s over! She’s graduated!

I found the ceremony quite interesting. Lots of the kids decorated the tops of their hats. Hers said “THX RENTS”, which is the same thing her car license plate has said for years. (Short for Thanks, Parents.)

Students and parents alike were all texting each other. This sounds kind of rude, but it helped us find each other and take pictures. One of us would text her, “Wave and smile.” She would and we’d take a picture. It sure beat the old “scream at the top of your lungs until she hears you” routine. After about an hour of hundreds of names being read and listening to (thankfully) short speeches, it was over!

The 3 of us went on vacation a couple days later for a week and had time to talk about the future. Her future of course. Like, “You do know car insurance, rent and doctor bills are your responsibility from now on, right?” The one thing we still have, although she’s paying for it, is her cell phone bill because it’s less expensive for hers to be part of a family plan. Even then it’s not cheap because she has a Blackberry.

I don’t have a Blackberry.

I should insert here that I don’t want a Blackberry either. John will read this, think I want one and buy it for me for Christmas. He does stuff like that. That’s how I ended up with that weird upside down tomato garden!

Anyway. Brittany is ready to be independent. Her future is bright. She’s got a job at Bear Lake Reserve near Cashiers as their Events and Communications Manager: writing their newsletter and blog and planning all their events and weddings. For the time being she’s staying in her same apartment. In looking back at my “Brittany stories” from her Junior and Senior years, one thing that really struck me was her staying at school the summer between sophomore and junior year. From then on school became a little more home than home was.

I didn’t know how to refer to it while we were on vacation though. “When you get back… to school? (It’s not school anymore, but I wasn’t ready to call it “home” yet). I kind of settled on, “When you get back to work” or “back to your apartment.”

Because this will always be her home.

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Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Best of Brittany

On May 9th Brittany will graduate from Western Carolina University with a BS in Communications; a concentration in Public Relations and a Minor in Hospitality and Tourism. The next day, Mother’s Day, she will turn 22.

Needless to say, this has made me a little nostalgic. I’ve been sitting here re-reading the 45 articles I’ve written about her since she left for college almost four years ago and I thought it would be fun to share some reflections from her freshman and sophomore years this month, and next month; from her Junior and senior years.

We can see how far she (and her mom) have come!

The first article I wrote featured thoughts about when baby boomer parents become empty nesters. What is so different about it happening to this generation is the Boomers and Millenniums are tight. We doted on our kids, who grew up feeling wanted and valued by us and we were heavily involved in their lives. In fact the boomer parents of college kids have been given a nickname: Helicopter Parents. Because we “hover.”

So naturally, when they went off to college, we would do everything we could to remain a part of their lives. We learned to send text messages; we joined Facebook and maybe even My Space. We chatted on our cell phones multiple times a day. And we were also a competitive bunch: my second article was about Parent’s Weekend at Western and how the parents arrived with armloads of gifts and took their student out for a nice meal and an afternoon of shopping. A pretty expensive visit, but worth it to us to hear our kid say, “Today was great! You guys should come up more often.”

By the end of Freshman year, just when we were getting used to a house that stays clean and a laundry basket that was never really overflowing. They came home for summer. With all of their laundry and all of their new-found independence.

It takes some adjusting, but we begin to realize how fast it all goes and start letting things go a bit.

Some things haven’t changed since I first wrote about them. But, some others maybe have gotten worse. Like the government, Brittany’s debt is border line out of control. But, on the bright side, she still hasn’t gotten that tattoo she threatened me with sophomore year. She still loves her sorority and her many “sisters.” In fact she told me they just had a ceremony where all the graduating sisters became alums. My sorority didn’t do this, so I asked her what that meant to her. She said that now, the rest of the girls have to stand up when she enters a room.

Just like the Queen! She’ll like that!

Her sophomore year also inspired an article I called “Do College Kids Still Need Their Parents?” Well, that’s one of the things that hasn’t changed. I’m happy to report, as we proof read job resumes, discuss graduation plans and look forward to a family trip to Mexico the week after she graduates - they most certainly do!

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Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Communicating with Kids Their Way

I’m on Facebook because of Brittany.

She stores all of her photos on her Facebook profile and walks me through them on the phone. For this to happen I would have to sign in under her user id and look at one, which would kick her off the site, then she would sign in again to see what I was looking at, which kicked me off.

Needless to say this took a long time.

So I joined Facebook to get my own login. I didn’t create much of a profile except a picture and a little blurb about where I had gone to college and where I live now, but it allowed us to both see her pictures at the same time.

Then Brittany started sending me “bumper stickers” and “writing on my wall”.

The last time she wrote on my wall she was 3 years old and she got a spanking!

Before I knew it friends of hers started asking me to be friends. Then they started writing on my wall!

Somehow classmates from college and even high school started finding my profile and I decided to make it a little nicer. I called Brittany to help. She began by adding my maiden name for those people who knew me the first 21 years of my life and wouldn’t have a clue who Nancy Geiger is.

Then she discovered messages I didn’t know I had in sections of the profile I didn’t know existed. She cleaned that all up for me. At one point while working on it she said, “Only one of your friends is online right now – I guess it’s kind of late for them.” (It was 11:00 pm. She meant my friends are old.)

Then out of the blue she said, “Dad says hi”. I knew he wouldn’t be caught dead with a Facebook account so I thought maybe he was texting her. He was out of town on a business trip and always texts her goodnight before turning his phone off.

Turns out she was chatting with him online while working on my site and talking to me, apparently keeping it all straight. So the 3 of us “talked” awhile.

USA Today had an article not too long ago about the latest Facebook fad, the pass-it-forward viral game "25 Random Things About Me." 25 Things arrives as a Facebook note from a friend. That friend posts 25 facts about himself and "tags" 25 people and asks them to do the same thing.

I was already spending more time on Facebook then I wanted and this reminded me of a chain letter so I wasn’t interested. Until Brittany sent me hers and I read #22.

“My parents are two of my favorite people in the whole world-- I'm so lucky to have them.”

Who says kids don’t know how to communicate anymore just because their way of “reaching out and touching” is different from our way? Works for me!

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