New Realities of Motherhood

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Bundles and Party Lines

Today is finance day. I am spending the day with my least favorite companion....numbers. Factors, multipliers, denominators, percents all make me sweat. Somehow I know I am engaging myself in those processes while I pour over insurance renewal quotes, home warranties, my t-mobile plans, my cable bill, and new tires. I know that because when those darn math classes were required from First grade though college, my counselors assured me I would use these mathematical ingredients in life. Although, I have yet to get on a bus at one location and get off 5 times and have to calculate the distance between the stops and divide them by the change left in my pocket get back to start. Hello...... credit cards?

Addition and subtraction seem to still win out as the most utilized math processes in daily life. Robert Fulghum was right, all I really needed to learn, I learned in kindergarten. My daughter was mortified when she had to take her college math placement exam without a calculator! "Its stupid, we used calculators for the ACT test, why can't we use them for this test?" "Because they want to see if you can factor without a calculator, " I replied.
She placed in the lowest math class without a calculator. She got my genes.

I taped quarters to a greeting card today too. Its laundry money for my daughter. Primitive, I know , but the machines take 'em and I thought it would be cute and quaint  to get quarters from home.

Don't you remember the feeling of having to find and use quarters to do laundry?? I want her to be able to experience being on her own.

Yes,  I sent dollars too for other stuff.... I didn't want the whole thing to be kitschy. And yes, I could put cash on her Beak'em bucks card account, but that would be TOO easy!  You're missing the point over the quarters.... I used simple math to determine how many to send. Sharing simplicity to help my daughter survive.... or at least have clean jeans.

Detecting some testy tone? Its the cable company's fault. Well, first let me tell you about T-mobile.

I realize I seldom use the land line anymore. I even don't have a land line long distance plan. Since my daughter is in Kansas and the dorms there have no land lines either (hummm, they must know something.....) I noticed a peak in cell minutes and decided to evaluate my current plan. I could get a cheaper plan, no contract, triple the minutes with unlimited texting for what I am paying now??! What was the point of the contract? To keep me  inked at a higher rate while they created more options over the last year laughing at the dopes with contract plans? So I ask the guy what's the point of the contract if you lock me into a higher rate and give the the better rates to those without a contract? Phone purchase discounts. Oh... and did you know once you go to a non- contract plan, you can't go back on a contract? So if I find another better rate with another company, T-mobile would rather lose my business to a cheaper contract with another provider than take me back under contract later? The sales guy stammered and then said technically yes.

I am an hourly employee....not a high level executive... even I can see that makes ridiculous business sense. I have two phones still under the 'contract' even though I will be 'migrating' off the contract plan with one phone. Completely inane. I am not under contract for phone discounts now, but I can't shop around for another supplier until my other two phone's contract's expire next July.
I should have written something like that in the divorce decree.

I then bit the bullet and called the cable company to cancel the land line. Remember party-lines??? Economical and entertaining! I was in Kindergarten so I don't remember much besides what my mother told me about her experience with them. So simple then....

Sorry reminiscing....

Bundles. TV, Phone, Internet. Such a cute word should be banned in marketing. Its is not synonymous with free or buy-one-get-one. Its a way to make you pay for stuff you don't need... until you feel the stick of the economy... and relieve yourself of the get stabbed with 'the savings'. I dumped the phone and then the bundle terminated adding $10 to my bill. I know, inane again!

This is the funny part though.... I called on the land line to do the transaction, not realizing it would be effective immediately, so of course she told me to hold for 3-4 minutes and when she didn't come back after 5 minutes I realized the line was dead. Heck, when you sign up for service its not immediate!!

So I called back on the cell phone to finalize the transaction and clarify why I now increased my bill. "Oh," said the agent, "Let me put you in a bundle". Darn it, I thought, they are tucking me back in some crap marketing I thought I just got out of.

Wait hold the phone!

Her bundle is going to save me the $30 I thought I was supposed to save in canceling the land line in the first place. No add-ons you say? None.  I am now snuggling the bundle but with one eye open!

My other financial fun of insurance renewal  and home warranty comparisons....Please hold, my brain hurts over contracts and bundles so I will save that for another day. Good Bye.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Teen Beach Ball Effect

We survived our first week of college life!

If you did not already know this, kids are remarkably resilient. (I was reminded of this fact during the college moving experience.) Even as early adults they still maintain that imaginary expansive and pliable substance that makes them respond to bumps in the road with remarkable rebound.

Cue the imagery..... I see my daughter as a colorful plastic KU beach ball bouncing along the curb, on and off as she proceeds through each day of campus discovery.

You probably noticed this in its early form, protecting your child as they were growing up. That invisible coating  that surrounded a her, that made you remark, "Geez, how did she miss cracking her head open on that fall!". Besides the invisible physical coating, our kids were graced with coping mechanisms. That mechanism was deployed this past week. Its the physical one we hope is still intact as we can no long precede our kids removing obstacles like boulders, flames, bodies of water, and things with points.

Our kids are also good subconscious emotional manipulators. Yikes, to paraphrase my daughter, in this sense I'm not pointing out a negativity here. Merely a fact that when you lose your heart to your child, you are susceptible to the expressions of the emotions they are slinging with dual meaning.  (We already know they are masters at the 'conscious' manipulators... but the subconscious ones they have not yet mastered, I am learning, require armor and an owners manual).

Fear can manifest as indignation toward anything within a 1 mile radius prior to departure toward a major change. Fear can also manifest as crying over all kinds of spilled milk, or worse crying that you don't know how to get on the bus to find some milk. Surprise can manifest as exasperated defiance in suggesting the smallest things like not hanging your towel on the only remaining lowest rack in the water closet next to the toilet - well, you all already know why... having clocked many years of bathroom cleaning behind your child.

However, thankfully by the second day in fact, the beach ball  gracefully deployed this week calmed everything. She has found the diet coke and coffee she needs to sustain her along her campus treks. She diligently rides the bus, opposing the time and energy she could burn walking (manually) to and from class. But I don't disparage over the choice of convenience as I am proud she has found ways to replace the comforts of home.

One of her suite-mates was bequeathed her sister's 'alumni beach ball' upon move in. She embraced the ball immediately and was excited at how high it bounced. I think my child found some comforting example in the use of that ball in the first few days. So I believe the two are bouncing along the sidewalks of KU in tandem on many occasions conquering the newness together. Or at least until one borrows a personal without asking or takes the last cold diet coke out of the fridge. I hope the resilience of those balls can withstand kicking by others and hitting a few walls. Beach balls can easily deflate. I hope they bounce with eyes open- safely.

I cry less in the past week. I am enjoying the calls after each class from her first two days. Its like the old days when I would pick her up from school and she would retort her day. God Bless cell phones and Skype. So even though I am missing her physical presence every day, its comforting I am still needed, even if it is not for laundry and sustenance. Its better..... she is keeping our school day habit of sharing alive and keeping me in her day. Its comforting she is still thinking of me.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

My Baby Bird Took Flight

I found the nest photo on the Internet. I saved it for the post I would write when I returned home. This is how it feels now.....

I am still missing- I am sure once the change settles in it will feel new and exciting to not have to complain about messy bedroom and bath and leaving lights on. But right now I miss the communication. I never realized how nagging fills time and quiet!

As soon as I came home yesterday (after greeting the boys...) I cleaned her room...... dusted, vacuumed, and removed socks from under the bed. I respected her space but I wanted it clean for those moments I would walk though and reminisce. I always kept the door closed because the boys would eat anything that was not nailed down (especially socks which is why  I was so anxious to rid the carpet of them). However, when I got ready for bed I really missed her.... so I put a nightlight in her room and shut the door.... the light under the door made me feel like she was home.

So how was the move? Emotional!! Its stressful because you are trying to shop for supplies and she is ranting about not wanting to 'do this'. You have to half block it out and focus and half encourage. You shop, you guide, you laugh, you make yourself very text accessible for the first night. (The texting was for me.... I still needed some connection.)

The "this"  she doesn't want to do -means going to college. "This" later translates to... "I am afraid to be left here, this is all different than what I am used to, I am pretty sure I don't like this, I have to do all of this myself, and seriously they don't even give you the toilet paper?"

We are now both alone.

The remarkable irony of this event is she is experiencing the reality of being alone in a dorm with 3 other girls on a campus 18 hours from home. She is on the road to adulthood. Alone for her means 'without my mom'.

I am experiencing the loss of the daughter I  have nurtured as an only child for 18 years and come home to her empty room. My mommyhood has a limited purpose now. My Labs are good companions, but 'without the verbal communication'- I still feel alone.

Many tears while we parted- many guarantees the 'newness' would feel better- she would have to reach out to meet people, a bit of uncomfortable waters for her. Constant reminders that she can do this.

Those same words are echoing in my head. I hope I heed them too.

I might leave a nightlight on a few more nights..... 18 years was a long time.

P.S. I called her tonight - 'things are getting better' she said. Is she eating? (OK, so I can't give up the job overnight!) Yes and she sounded happy. My heart felt better.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Vindication and Priority

Vindication today! Well, sort of- my, teen admitted to me when I arrived home from work today, that she has a lot to pack. In the scheme of things this does warrant heralding.

Yes, I did have to reply in the proverbial 'told you so' manner because I will soon graduate from the luxury of using the phrase. "That's why I was prodding you all last week to get going",  I retorted.  "I didn't realize I have sooo much stuff I needed to take", she replied. How do you explain the essence of priority? Oh, and the letting go philosophy.....happens after they are settled at college.....not when you are prodding for weeks to purge and pack. Still parental learning after 18 years. Who was in charge of the delivery of that precious memo?

The various "I'm going to take-isms...." she is spewing, are quickly sliced in mid-air as I grab her verbal list in arm waving response:  the photo frames, the Grey's Anatomy Calendar, and her NDP High School photo collage are whisked off the wall and dropped in a pile. "Planning was last week, packing is today." She knows me. I would apologize for responding to her abruptly, but she knows me. Really!! We have to organize her "daily space" into 4 suitcases before Friday!

Sunday I had taken all of her clothes from the laundry (we unpacked from the cruise) and her closet drawers, floors, and cubbies, and folded them in neat 'like' piles on a banquet table. So she could sort through them like Urban Outfitters. The instructions were to pick the clothes and other items she couldn't live without for the next several weeks to pack in 4 suitcases and put other items and clothes in a pile to be shipped later. Did I mention she is going to college 1200 miles away? Suddenly every outfit owned, cannot be lived without. We are talking  about outfits I haven't seen her wear in 3 years!!

Note: Provisions for storage, one unpleasant reminder of college days.... half a closet and 3 small dresser drawers with a roommate in a 11 X13 room. I insisted on vinyl under bed storage bins to unfolded and assemble upon arrival as a trade for the loft bed offered via mail for rental for the year. I might eat crow on this arrangement. Where is she going to put it all....doesn't matter as long as the security of having it all there prevails.

The immediate plan was to purchase accessories in Lawrence when we arrived there Saturday  so we wouldn't have to ship the entire kitchen sink....however, we had a successful shopping day purchasing elements of pink to decorate her room and outfit her bed. Comforts she is now looking forward to having. So we are now sans one suitcase... down to 3. (P.S. we are flying Southwest air.... God Bless them for two free bags per flier!). AND, so far,  three boxes to ship with pillows and lamp and other stuff to arrive Monday.

Crap! I forgot about the shoes......HONESTLY! Do you think it is too late to hire a truck?

Saturday, August 7, 2010

College Countdown

So the official countdown begins. One week from today my teen embarks on her new journey as a college student miles from home. Have I prepared her? I think she is wondering the same thing... I am a list maker- she is spontaneous. It seems like every time I ask her if she is packing, she tells me 'she's got it'. But there are no piles or boxes or suitcases filling. I don't feel like you can pack for this kind of transition in one week.

I worry about everything. She is not one to ask questions or get directions....I hope she can manage without a car, and ask where the eating halls are..she told me she could live on coffee and diet Coke... I asked her if she wanted me to write down the directions to cold medicines and stuff. She said, "Geez, mom, no, I'll just call you". Ok, I realize she is not going to Timbuktu but when you have wiped her nose for 18 years, college feels like Timbuktu!

I know she's apprehensive too. I know it wont be easy to share a room with a stranger when you have been an only child. I am sure her spontaneity is really the byproduct of her procrastination of the change. So we are shopping today for suitcase sized things she can bring to decorate her new space. I think making things feel like your own, helps create a possession of the newness. Having moved 11 times in 24 years, you would think I am tenured in managing transition. But hiding Beanie Babies in a new home we are moving to in efforts to encourage whimsy in the newness and distraction at leaving the past, is not as simple to construct for a teen.

Any advice? For two transitioning beings? One to part from her mom to a strange land and strange peoples to fend for herself on a meager budget. One to be left behind adapting to reduced job capacity as a mother. I just realized in the divorce I was 'downsized' and now my current mommy job is going through a 'restructuring'. I loved being a stay-at-home- mom. I lived vicariously through my kid sometimes. She was my roommate-my movie buddy-...(Kleenex break)

Situation wanted: Downsized, restructured single mom seeks social and work life to distract her from the past and rev up her future. Willing to relocate. Quick and eager learner. All offers considered. Especially the fun kind.

Back to review the packing list....

Single Life

I have never been content with social limitations. I better clarify- I like to talk. Its great to be in groups of people where you can enjoy their opinions and banter witlessly. Yes, I was one of those kids who always got letters sent home from school about paying better attention in class and less to my 'neighbors'. My neighbors were interesting and fun though! I could read at home- but there was too much positive distraction in socializing that words on a page or academic rhetoric could not match.

I like to be around people. My mom used to say I was known as the smiling baby in the neighborhood. I would sit in the floor of our tri-level home in suburban Chicago, perched at the base of a large picture window smiling and waving at neighbors walking by. Socializing. Interacting. Performing.

There is limited fun in solidarity. There is no volley of banter. Well, on some occasions I will serve a comment into mid-air and it resonates long enough to impart reflection, but no wise reply comes back. No sport in solidarity either.

There is no emotional embrace in solidarity. I think this one speaks for itself.

So being a single takes some getting used to. I'm not a natural at it.

Ideas in the Shower

I love to think about stuff in the shower; I do my best thinking in there. Don't know if it is the water, or the steam or the sound of the splashing, the feeling that you are consumed in privacy. I get so many random thoughts in the shower. Like this morning, I was thinking about my blog. I feel like I my brain is a colander of thoughts pouring out. This blog is like a bowl to catch all those random thoughts. I was literally making bullet points of my topics. Colander, shower, I wouldn't forget what I wanted to write about.

Then the moment I towel off and step out- my bullet points have left me.

Do you think if I turned on the water and got back in, the thoughts would take up where they left off? Like the way you can pause a DVD....

Geez, the words were so much more fluid in the shower- fluid? Maybe toweling off dried up my thoughts. I will have to try air drying next time I get a shower of random thoughts. Maybe while I evaporate I can still catch those random thoughts as they leave me, instead of brushing them off with a towel.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Inside Passage

Just came back from a remarkable vacation, the last with my daughter. It was a splurge we wont see the likes of for many years, if ever again. We took a cruise to Alaska. I am so glad I got to share this adventure with my best friend.

This trip should be on your list. And be sure to take a helicopter to a glacier field. I cannot even come up with the words to describe this experience. I had never been in a helicopter so that alone in and of itself was an adrenaline rush. Your visual area is open from peripheral edge to edge with windows and the pilot maneuvers in the air so that you can come very close to your scenic target. I kept leaning forward to get closer. This felt like flying. It felt like a bee must feel as he hovers over those landscape details, moving in and out in graceful drives until he lightly rests on the perch of choice.

The topography is flat to mountain to smooth and crevasse peaked to green to black to blue to white. There is so much to see from up there; you cant take it all in on one flight. And I kept saying I wished I had a video camera in my head recording what I saw. None of the photos came close to capturing the color or awesomeness of the scenery.

How fitting that we would mark the nearing of my teen's departure to college with a memorable adventure. The implied incentive, you see, is for her to relish future trips- only to be taken via the salary of success. Study well, focus on a plan, and then put the diploma to task and your earnings will give you lift again.
Taku Ice Fields- Juneau Alaska