Saturday, August 24, 2013

Leaving Home

  The day had arrived and it was time to travel north to carry my son off to college.  We had prepared for months and loaded the back of my husband's truck with boxes and bins full of things from home that I was certain my child would need.  We passed cars on the highway that were obviously carrying their children to college and I feared we may have actually overpacked as we passed a Prius with a student, her suitcase and a laundry basket.  We had a small refrigerator, half of the Apple store, clothing for every type of weather event, pictures, whoozits and whatnots.  As we approached the college with our bed of goods, I prepared myself to announce proudly that I was checking two students into school.  It was the only explanation I could come up with.  It was about that time when the giant Penske truck rolled in and quickly diverted attention away from us and we were no longer "that family" who overpacked.  There are people, out there, far worse than I.  By the time the evening was over, I witnessed tired dads carrying in appliances, tables, chairs, and dressers to try to create that homelike atmosphere for their children.   I love those people as they validate my own need to sometimes go a bit over the top.  They let me know I'm not alone in my craziness.

   In a moment that came much too soon, however, I left my son at school and made the six hour drive home in a state of pride, shock, and sadness.  When they hand you that baby in the hospital, it should come with a warning label that says your heart will never be the same.  It will swell with pride. It will race with excitement as each new chapter of life brings new wonder and it will break when that day comes that you must let go and allow that child to make their own life.  

  I understand the natural order of things, but that doesn't mean I have to embrace it all at once.  My friends have frowned on my decision to drive my son's car around and promise an intervention if I don't return to my own vehicle within a few weeks.  I'm not worried, though.  I know I'm okay, for the joy comes when you know that your child is happy and is well prepared for what comes next. How could he not be with 37 shirts, a single cup coffee maker, instructions on how to wash clothes cleverly pasted on his screen saver and enough Ramen noodles to last the winter.  While we may have overpacked, we carried with us additional things that weren't in those bins and suitcases.... years of training.  It is that exact training that gives me comfort knowing my son understands the importance of honor, the need for compassion, the strength of family roots, the power of vision and the faith to approach it without fear.  It is his time now and what a blessing that is!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Smiley Face Button for New Drivers

  My daughter has earned her driver's permit which means we must spend every waking moment driving the streets of town together.  She fully understands that any use of her phone while driving will result in loss of driving privileges and long lectures from both parents.  Our real concern is not texting and driving but is more a fear of gregarious driving.  My child believes it is important to wave at everyone she knows and make sure that she is seen behind the wheel of the car.  This is a highly coveted place of honor only held by those who have already had their 14th birthday and passed the State Police Driver's test, so it's important to let the world see you.

  Just last weekend, as we turned off the highway onto a side street, we passed an SUV full of her friends.  She immediately began waving with uncontrollable excitement.  As her hand stretched to the left, the car veered to the right and we were headed straight for the ditch.  I grabbed the wheel and snatched her attention as she guided us back onto the asphalt path.  After I explained why you must keep your eyes on the road and your hands out of other people's vehicles, she sat there for a second taking it all in.  "You know.... Cars need a smiley button on the dash," she said.  Intrigued with this line of thinking, I had to ask why.  She explained that it would be handy to have a button to push that would take over driving the car when you need to divert your attention for greetings, salutations, and down the road hellos.

  I thought about this for a bit and realized it was not a bad idea.  In fact, there should be a button next to it with a picture of a screaming, panicked passenger that will take over operation of the car when the driver fails to push the smiley face button when executing a perfect homecoming queen wave out the driver's window.  An additional button could be placed in the back seat for those who believe the entire driving process has been compromised and they can then take over operation of the vehicle.  It didn't take long to figure out that the more buttons we added, the less any of us needed to be driving.    While a smiley button could be a handy optional feature, "Hands on the Wheel" is a much better decision.

  So for now, phones are placed in the back seat, to include mine, so that I can pay close attention to her paying close attention.  I figure the world is much safer this way.  Upon safe arrival to any destination, she can celebrate it with all the smiley face emoticons she wants, because like all kids her age, her first stop is to grab that phone and connect with the world she just drove past and was unable to communicate with.  Such is the sacrifice for the privilege of sitting behind the wheel. 

Early Retirement and the Great Resignation

        At the age of 57, I stared at my 35 year career, whispered a polite thank you to the heavens and hit the send button on my retiremen...