Of Geeks, Nerds, And Dorks

Dune by Frank Herbert is Thing Two’s favorite book. And he has read a lot of books. He counts Don Quixote, all 800+ pages of it, another of his favorites. When he saw they were making another movie about Dune, he was excited. He has waited a long time for this. He was worried that the film maker wouldn’t do the book justice. But, he wanted to share his love of this story with us, so in preparation for watching the film he made us a four-page synopsis and outline about the novel, the characters, the major themes, and the family houses. We watched part of the film last night and then finished it tonight, so he had time to pause the movie and tell us what was important to note and to explain things we were confused about. He is a science-fiction geek, who is obsessed with world building, Star Wars, and Legos. He is also a science, history, reading nerd who loves ships.

Some people raise jocks. Some people parent musicians, dancers, and artists. Some people parent popular kids. We reared two sons who are nerdy, geeky, dorks. And we couldn’t be happier about it. They have expanded our world.

Chuck and Beans explain the difference between geeks, nerds, and dorks

Turns Out Dr. Spock Was Right

“Trust yourself. You know more than you think you do.” ~Dr. Benjamin Spock

Two little bears and one mama bear

Today I was thinking about the times in my twenty years as a parent when I was brave enough to follow my gut, to speak up for my children, to make the right choices for them in the face of opposition from medical professionals, family members, friends, and even random strangers who couldn’t keep from speaking up about something they knew nothing about and that was none of their business. Sometimes I made these bold moves with my voice shaking. Sometimes I made them unconsciously, simply changing a behavior without considering why I had. No matter how I managed to summon the courage in those situations, though, I trusted myself. And, as it turns out, I intuitively knew a lot more than I thought I did.

When most kids their age were starting first grade, I thought it wise to keep both our boys back a year and give them a second kindergarten experience. I simply didn’t feel they were ready. I just kept thinking that an extra year to be a child, to build basic skills, could never be a bad thing. It was odd watching boys they knew from playgroup jump ahead of them in school. It was odder still when boys who were younger than they were suddenly were in the same grade. In the end, both boys ended up being diagnosed with learning disabilities, and the extra year allowed them to fit in with their fellow students until we figured out what they needed. If they had gone to school “on time” with other children their age, they would not have been able to keep up. They weren’t ready then. Neither boy has suffered for the extra time we suggested they take to get to where they needed to be.

When Joe was 7 and finishing first grade, I remember him crying and telling me he didn’t want to go to second grade. He hated school. He actually said to me, “I’m the dumbest person in my class” (that story here). That broke my heart because 1) I knew he was not dumb at all and 2) how do you fix the shattered self-esteem of a 7 year old? So, I went out on a limb and took him to Children’s Hospital in Denver to be evaluated for ADD after Joe’s occupational therapist suggested it. It took less than an hour spent with two child psychologists and one child psychiatrist before they took me aside and told me they were positive Joe had ADHD. They suggested trying him on a low dosage of Concerta, the slow-release version of Ritalin. Joe and I agreed he should try it. Several friends thought I was crazy. How could I put my young son on a Schedule II drug? Three days after he started on it, Joe, then 8, told me he finally felt like himself. That medication changed the trajectory of his life. It allowed him to focus at school, to trust himself, to make good decisions, to grow his self-esteem. It allowed him to graduate high school with a 3.8 GPA and gave him the opportunity to be accepted at a well-respected, private liberal arts college. He and I have zero regrets about this decision.

When I told Joe’s pediatrician at his next appointment about his new prescription, he read me the riot act for not consulting him first. Didn’t I know that he could have evaluated Joe? Why wouldn’t I consult him first? He was his doctor, after all. I looked that doctor square in the face and, with a voice rising from somewhere in my gut I did not know I had, told him, “Yes. You are his doctor. You should have diagnosed this already based on all your visits with him and all the forms we filled out for you and the tests you yourself gave him in your office.” He huffed out of the room. Joe was horrified. I told him everything would be fine, and we would be finding another doctor. Ten minutes later, to his credit, the doctor returned with Joe’s chart and admitted he should have caught it. We found another pediatrician anyway.

The next pediatrician came recommended to us by a couple friends as well as Luke’s dyslexia tutor who knew him personally. The boys were at that office for six years. During that time, they became teenagers. When the doctor conducted his physical exams of the boys, I stayed in the room. I never allowed them to be alone with the doctor during the physical exam when they were undressed, even though they might have felt it invaded their privacy. To combat that, I would turn to face the wall when the doctor checked their genitalia. My main reason for remaining in the room was that the boys were not great at sharing information, and I didn’t want to miss out on what the doctor was saying or finding. My secondary reason was that when I would ask the boys on the way into the office if they wanted me to stay in the room, they always did. I knew it made me seem like a meddling, overprotective, helicopter parent. I did not care. As it turned out, that doctor was one day no longer at the practice. He was being investigated regarding claims made by other parents of inappropriate sexual touching during exams. We dodged a bullet because I stuck with my gut.

If you are a new parent, a soon-to-be parent, or a parent who is constantly questioning your decisions about your children in the present moment, I’m here to tell you that what Dr. Spock said is true. Trust yourself. Trust your intuition. No one knows your child as well as you do. Listen to them. Listen to your heart. Meet them where they are and not where you hoped or wanted them to be. And then do whatever the damn hell you want to raise your child(ren) the way that makes the most sense for your family. Ignore the naysayers, the comment makers, and the nosey Bakers. You know more than you think you do, even when you aren’t aware of it.

My pride and joy…both of them

When You Know You’re Gonna Have A Good Day

“I woke up this morning and I said, you know, instead of waiting on a good day, waiting around through ups and downs, waiting on something to happen, we’re gonna have a good day.” ~Nappy Roots

I love a fall Saturday filled with activities with my favorite people. To make the day even sunnier, we brought the puppers along for a full day of adventure and socialization. He loves the peoples, and the peoples love him.

Most photogenic member of our family…all six pounds of him

We started the day with a cross-country meet at 9 am. It was a perfect morning for a run. Well, it was a perfect morning for someone to run, just not me. I don’t do that yet. Still, it was just 60 degrees, so Luke knocked 1:16 off his previous race time. After the race we hurried home by 10, and were off again at 11 a.m. so Luke could go to his first college interview of the day downtown at noon.

Finding Luke is like playing Where’s Waldo

While he was interviewing with Whitman College, we got some tasty coffee at Blue Sparrow in the RiNo (River North) section of Denver.

Oat milk vanilla latte…yes, please

Joe, who was in town for just three days, got to spend some quality time with our new little friend. He is threatening to take him back to Washington. I think not. Still, it was a beautiful day for relaxing on a green space while waiting for Luke.

Loki is the most popular member of our family

When Luke finished, we ordered sandwiches from Snarf’s and headed towards his second college interview of the day in Englewood. Luke spent time chatting with a representative from St. Olaf while his immature mother snapped this photo because she is, in all actuality, a 12 year old boy.

I can be a little cheeky sometimes too

Loki got interested in a water feature, until he realized water is wet. He then moved on to being Chief Leaf Inspector, which he preferred greatly. He inspects them with his mouth because that is how puppies operate without the aid of opposable thumbs.

We finally headed for home around 3 p.m. We had invited some of our favorite people on earth to dinner (Joe’s best friend and his parents, who are some of our favorite friends as well), so we had to get cooking. Literally. I set a casual, fall-themed table for 8. It’s nice to be able to hang out with people indoors again.

While Steve and I finished preparing the brisket and baked potatoes, the boys played corn hole. This was quite generous of Luke because he does not like this as much as Joe does. But he acquiesced because he won’t see his sibling again until Thanksgiving.

Brother time

And so we had a pleasant meal with our friends, putting a perfect exclamation point at the end of a long, but fun day. The puppy was worn out, our older dog relished the attention of our guests, the boys cracked each other up, and dinner turned out great.

Sometimes, it’s worth getting up at 6:45 on a Saturday. Life’s what you make of it.

You’ve got only one life to live. You can either make it chickenshit or chicken salad.” ~Cousins (1989) 

The One Where You Realize Your Mom Is Darth Sidious

My son texted me from college today and told me he had gotten a couple oddly specific text messages from numbers he didn’t recognize. The messages both made reference to his location at college, as well as his first and last name. He was a little weirded out by them, which is understandable because this had never happened to him before. I told him they were likely from someone he knows who is messing with him. He doubted my assessment. I asked for both numbers and told him I would do some sleuthing.

I didn’t fall off the turnip truck yesterday. My plan after I earned my bachelor’s degree was to become a research librarian. And I might have gotten away with it too, if it hadn’t been for those meddling kids. Okay. Okay. You’re right, Scooby Doo. It wasn’t meddling kids that kept me from my research dream; it was the exorbitant cost of graduate school for a young woman who was already in debt after putting herself through college. But while my husband was in graduate school a few years later, I got a job at his school putting together information packets about the companies recruiting on campus. I knew my way around a library and around the burgeoning Internet. I love gathering information. I have all the necessary skills. With a BA in English Literature and an MS in Writing, I have spent an overabundance of time doing research for academic papers. Beyond that, I am deeply curious about all manner of subjects. And I am determined and undaunted like a border collie going after sheep. Just get out of my way and let me go to work.

So, I did. With the numbers he gave me, my first stop was a reverse phone look up on beenverified.com. The first number came right up. I took a screen shot and sent it to my son. It was someone he had traveled with in high school. The second number did not have immediate results, so it was likely unlisted. Knowing the result of the first search, however, I consulted the directory for his high school to see if there were any numbers listed from that area code. There weren’t. So, I did what I had to. I blocked my number and called the second number. A kid answered my blocked call, said “Hey, baby,” and then promptly hung up. Nothing to see here. Case closed. I told my son he should reply to the first message with the kid’s name and his home address (which I had gotten from the directory). He said I was evil. I sent him a GIF of Darth Sidious from Star Wars because, well, Sidious and I have some things in common beyond our wrinkles. He mentioned again that I’m terrifying and that he really doesn’t trust the Internet. I told him he shouldn’t, but the thing is it works both ways. Someone can dig around and find information about you, and you can often do the same about them. Everyone leaves a trail, some are just easier to follow.

My son has referred to me as a “stalker” because of my gift for unearthing information. He came to this conclusion earlier this summer. He had stayed with a friend outside of Seattle and wanted to send her a gift as a thank you, but didn’t know her address. She does not have the same last name as her mother or step father, so he couldn’t just look it up in a phone book. He also didn’t want to ask her for it because he was hoping to surprise her. I told him I could help him out if he told me what info he was starting with. He knew the street her mother lived on but not the house number. After a quick Facebook search, a Google Map view of the street for reference, and then an online phone book search later, I handed him the address. It put the fear of god into him. He knows he has no secret I could not unearth if I felt so compelled. Luckily for him, I respect his privacy. And, while I am a good detective, as a die-hard introvert, I am not nosey. I don’t care about most people enough for that.

Still, it’s important your children know your powers. You don’t want to mess with your mother when you know she and Darth Sidious share an evil genius and a penchant for getting what they want.

The Weekly Descent Into Zero F***s Given

It’s been a looooong week

I drive my son to and from school, thirty-five minutes one way. Yes. He is 18. He has had his learner’s permit for three years now, but hasn’t shown much interest in acquiring his driver’s license. I suspect this is mainly because the drivers in Denver are terrifying. We saw three near collisions this morning. People here speed and weave in and out of highway traffic like they’re Lightning McQueen. If you struggled with anxiety and saw multiple traffic accidents a day, you might prefer a chauffeur as well.

At any rate, I have noticed recently that as the week progresses, my preparedness for our morning commute diminishes. Allow me to elucidate:

Monday: After a weekend of rest and minimal driving, I am up and at ’em at 6:30. I will be dressed in actual clothes, have make up on, have prepared my own coffee and a smoothie, unloaded the dishwasher, and be ready to depart five minutes before our scheduled exit at 7:10. I rock!

Tuesday: I might have switched to casual jogger pants, rather than denim or decent shorts, but otherwise I am still fairly prepared for the day and presentable as a human being. We’ve got this.

Wednesday: I am moving a little more slowly. I am likely wearing sweatpants, a sweatshirt, and little, if any, make up. I will just put sunglasses over the bags under my eyes and use them to disguise the obvious lack of mascara on my sparse, blonde eyelashes. Hubby, noticing that the struggle is real, hands me a latte to which I have just enough time to add some creamer. I will get through today.

Thursday: I am so dog tired. My attention to self-care has eroded to meh at best. I maybe put a bra on under my pajama top, throw on some leggings, pull my dirty hair into a disheveled ponytail, and call it good. I drag my sorry butt out to my car three minutes later than usual, but at least I have the latte hubby made me. I just have to make it home.

Friday: I am still in bed whining about having to get up twenty minutes after the alarm I set for ten minutes later than the day before has gone off. My audible Friday lament rings through the house: “I’m not getting up. You can’t make me.” I eventually drag myself out of bed with five minutes to go. I have just enough time for the bare minimum. I am wearing my pajama top with flannel pants on my bottom half, hard-soled slippers on my feet, and a baseball hat on my head. As I brush my teeth, I’ve got black silicone pads under my eyes working to reduce the 50-pound baggage there. I rip those off at 7:10, grab the coffee my husband long-since left on the counter for me before heading to his downstairs (no longer downtown) office. I stagger out to the car, back out of the garage, and then realize I’ve left my phone somewhere inside. I trudge back inside and look around until I find it under the covers on the bed, and we depart after 7:15 and pray there will not be much traffic. On the way there, I realize with chagrin I forgot to sweeten my coffee. Jesus help us all.

My prayer each week is that if one of the Richard Petty wannabes in Denver hits me on I-25, they will do so on Monday or Tuesday. If it’s on Wednesday, that will be okay too. But, I pity the fool who hits me on Thursday or Friday and has to deal with the exhausted, only semi-functioning swamp thing into which I have devolved.

This morning, however, as I slogged through traffic yawning the whole way, I had a glorious thought. This is my last year as chauffeur. Next year at this time, both sons will be off at college, and I will be free to start my day whenever it suits me. Preferably after a long shower and a leisurely, perfectly sweetened latte.

Get Out Of Their Way And Oh The Places They’ll Go

“You’re off to great places, today is your day, your mountain is waiting, so get on your way!” ~Dr. Seuss

KWCW 90.5 Walla Walla

Yesterday I wrote about how freeing it is to let your adult children find themselves. It’s not easy to step back and get out of their way, especially if they have been your full-time job for twenty years, but it is a game changer for them and for you. After finishing my post last night, the universe provided proof of this to me.

On September 30th, the day I left Joe at Whitman College to begin his second semester, he attended the Student Activities Fair. When I asked him what activities or clubs he approached at the fair, I was a little taken aback when he told me he was submitting an application to be a DJ at the campus radio station. I probably shouldn’t have been surprised. Joe has long been aware of and interested in music. In May 2005 when he was not yet four, I put on some classical music for him to listen to and he listened for a few seconds and then said, “I don’t like that song. I just like to listen to Green Day in the car.” Since the day we brought them home from the hospital, our children have been exposed to alternative and indie rock, with the occasional 80s or 90s song thrown in for good measure, because that is what we listen to on satellite radio. Joe’s interest in Green Day grew into interest in The Killers. In his early teens, he acquired a side affinity for Asian pop music due to his love of anime, but ultimately he landed back in the alt rock genre around his sophomore year of high school.

Joe asked me to look over his application. He was putting in for a slot for a program he was calling Breaking Down Alternative. He was planning to go by JC (his first and middle initials) on the air and his show would go behind the music and delve into the artists’ influences and their personal stories. I told him it all looked good and took a “we’ll see” approach because I had no idea what kind of competition there might be for DJ slots. Lo and behold, a couple weeks later he casually texted it was official. He was going to be a DJ on Wednesday nights at 11 pm.

So last night, Steve and I stayed up from midnight until 1 am to listen to our son the DJ through a link he had provided to us. After a little fumbling at the beginning of his time slot, where two other DJs could be heard helping Joe get set up before realizing with a laugh that they were live, Joe finally came online. We heard him introduce himself and his show and then play his first song. With each passing song, the seamlessness with which he spoke and then started the music increased. It was amazing to be part of his first on-air experience. We could hear his smile through the radio, and it made us smile. We texted with him throughout the program. He was relaxed and happy and stunned by the quality of the music through the radio headphones. Our son blew us away, not because we thought he wouldn’t rise to the occasion but because he was out there, pursuing something that he loved and taking risks to put himself there. And this is why I said yesterday that he is a joy. He continually surprises us with his adulting, his knowledge of himself, and his choices. Like any college student, sometimes he misses the mark and stumbles, but he has proven that he learns from his missteps and then improves with the freshly acquired knowledge. Isn’t that exactly what a parent hopes for when they launch their child into the big, wide world?

This is why giving them a strong foundation and then letting them go to see what they will accomplish while they climb their own mountain is rewarding. The things we want or choose for them might pale in comparison to what they choose for themselves. What do we know, after all? As much as we tend to see our children as extensions of ourselves, they aren’t. They are completely different animals with their own ideas and talents. If we get out of their way, they might teach us something.

Joe introducing his second song on air last night

Kids Are Only Exhausting Until They Become Adults

The dog on her daily W

While taking the dog for her nightly “W” (that should be read as the sound of the letter W), I wandered by a house where a toddler was whining heavily in a garage. I heard a parent sighing and trying to coax them into the house. It took me back to the days when my sons were young and when I was that exhausted. It feels like a lifetime ago, and it kind of was. I realize now that what was so exhausting back then was the being fully responsible for someone else. The kid is covered in dirt and is also somehow sticky and he needs a bath, and he’s never going to stop playing long enough to use soap on his filth. That, unfortunately, is my problem. It makes me tired thinking about it. I felt for that neighbor with the whiny toddler. As I passed by, I sent him some silent encouragement. “Don’t worry, buddy. You’ll get through this.”

Tonight, my oldest son called from college. We don’t talk often on the phone. When he started school in Washington, I told myself I would let him have his space. He was free to call me when he wanted to, but I would only reach out via text. It was both a good way for him to start his own life without parental interference and a good way for me to accept that his life was his alone now. Putting some distance between us was difficult at first, but it was crucial. How could I expect him to adult if I was checking in, making him feel he had to worry about what his mom thought of his choices? Plus, it has given me space to consider what’s next for me in my life. And it’s always a fun surprise when he calls.

As Joe was updating me quickly on his life, talking about feeling overwhelmed with papers coming due simultaneously, I gently reminded him about the syllabi and how he can figure out ahead of time when these things might happen. Then I told him that I know he will get it worked out and next time he will probably manage his time better. College is about learning, and that learning isn’t only done in classes. It’s done in figuring out how to manage your workload, how to balance friendships and extracurricular activities with obligations, and how to step out of your comfort zone to find out who you are and who you might want to be in the future without anyone else telling you what that should look like for you. Once he had chatted with me long enough to realize that it’s his problem how he chooses to complete the four papers he has due this week while not falling behind with his assigned readings, he said he was going to go for a bike ride to clear his head so he could get down to it. “My work here is done,” I thought.

The thing about letting your kids go is that it is hard. You cry. You miss them. You slowly come to understand that your life with them will never be the same. They are no longer yours. They are free and they are their own people. And that can be hard to wrap your loving-parent brain around. Where once you really were the boss of them, now you are merely an advisor, and that is only if they award you that position. What I’ve come to embrace about this new dynamic is that giving my sons their freedom also gives me mine. So, yeah. I miss the hell out of Joe. Ninety-five percent of the time, that grown kid is a goddam joy. I don’t, however, miss being his keeper. I don’t miss cleaning up after him or keeping him on track with deadlines or making sure he has everything he needs for school. Those are his issues now. And my issues now are making sure I have ordered my favorite espresso beans, taken time to give the dog her W on a gorgeous fall day, and gotten tickets to that comedy show I wanted to see. My new responsibilities are a lot more fun than bathing a whiny child at the end of a long day and then falling into bed exhausted so I can wake up and do it all over again.

If you keep moving forward, you eventually come out on the other side. It’s not so bad here.

Back when our kids wiped us (and themselves) out

The Transition Trip

I love seeing my sons together, even if it is via a Snap map

As a parent of a high school senior, the college search is often on my radar. After successfully launching Joe in person at his college of choice in January, I began to work with Luke on his search. To that end, back in March, I took Luke to get a feel for a Reed College in Portland, which at the time was his number one choice. Then, in June, we flew to the northeast because he wanted to visit Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York. After that, I decided he needed to see some schools in the middle of the country, a little closer to home, so we visited three colleges in Minnesota. The schools on Luke’s list have largely stayed the same, but the order he has them ranked in has evolved several times. It’s been kind of exciting to see his process at work.

This weekend Luke is in Walla Walla, Washington, visiting Joe at Whitman College. Today he toured the campus and sat in on an information session. Initially, Luke had no desire to attend his brother’s school of choice because he was intent on finally setting himself apart from Joe. The boys have attended the same schools together since Luke started kindergarten, so I didn’t blame him for wanting to step out of his older brother’s shadow. Still, I couldn’t help but selfishly want them to end up at the same place again. They would still be a thousand miles from home, but they would be there together, at least for part of the time until Joe graduated. They could share a car and have family there for emotional support. It made sense to me, but it was never my choice to make so I decided to let it go and let the chips fall where they may.

Luke told me recently that Whitman had moved into the top spot for him. I think after doing a cost/benefit analysis of his situation, he realized that he would have time to make his own way as an upperclassman after his brother had graduated and gone on. And, in the meantime, he would have a support system at school, someone who could give him advice on professors and activities and dorms. He could start down his own path, make his own friends, but not be taking such a huge leap on living across the country alone. Joe could be a safety net for him as he branched out for the first time as an adult. Luke, for all his ideas and occasionally stubborn views about his future, usually lands squarely on the wisest choice.

Nothing is definite until the five schools Luke will apply to make their decisions, but I am solidly behind his selections and don’t think he could go wrong with any of them. Would I like it if he ended up with his brother in small town Walla Walla with its charming downtown, 140 local wineries, beautiful scenery, and pleasant weather? No. I would love it. I fell in love with Walla Walla two years ago when I toured Whitman with Joe the first time. But I will have to pull back my enthusiasm until the dust settles. It’s hard to be a parent as your kids transition into adulthood. What was once settled and routine and in your control gets upended. It’s your turn to go along for the ride. I keep wondering where we will end up.

For now, I will just be grateful that the two are together again tonight. All is right in my world. And probably in theirs too.

I’ll Carry My Own Wine, Thanks

Something occurred to me this morning. The purpose of this trek was to deliver Thing One to Washington to begin his first full year of college. Everything I’ve done the past twenty years led to these moments. And as much as I’ve enjoyed bringing Joe here and helping him get set up, one thing has finally sunk in. My work here is finished. Maybe not completely, as I’m sure soon enough he will be asking me to edit a paper or send him something he forgot. But I can’t pretend any longer that life as I have known it is the same. It’s not. I’ve spent the past twenty years laser focused on my children. Now it’s time to shift my focus. I imagine it’s like the day after the retirement party. You wake up and think to yourself, “Well, now what?”

The beauty of eastern Washington with her eye on the Blues

Joe and I had tentative plans to have dinner together today, but I woke up this morning with not one other thing on my agenda. I sat in my hotel room and took a deep breath. What the hell do I want to do? Not what do I have to do, but what do I want to do? I haven’t had many occasions to ask myself that for a long time. I decided that rather than sit in bed and feel sad and lonely, I had best get showered, do something with myself, and get some coffee. Seeking something new but still in my heart needing something that felt like the life I have known, I decided to drive out to Target in Richland because Richland is new to me but Target is my normal.

At Target, I wandered aimlessly to kill time. I knew Joe needed hangers and a small fan and I needed some water, so I took care of those things. I would pick an item up, thinking Joe could use it in his dorm room, and then I would remember that it’s not my job to decorate his room anymore and move on. I quickly realized that, although on most days Target can cheer me up, today was not going to be that kind of day.

I decided I needed to regroup. I bought myself a green tea from Starbucks and sat in my car thinking about what else I could do. I began researching a winery I had driven by on my way out to Richland. Going to a wine tasting solo sounded awkward, but I needed to get comfortable being uncomfortable. I’m starting over. Everything is going to feel weird for a while until it doesn’t anymore. Be brave. Be bold. Go big or go home. I booked a 2:15 tasting and went to grab some food. I ate lunch at a picnic table near the Columbia River and enjoyed the shade before heading back towards Walla Walla.

Nice day on the Columbia

I had driven past the L’Ecole No. 41 winery a few times on previous trips. I found my way up the stairs and into the main sales area and told them I had a reservation. I was seated on the back deck at a table with just one chair, which immediately made me feel at ease. Nothing can make you feel more obviously alone than being a single at a table meant for two. I made small talk with the server as he poured my wine. And then I was there alone, sipping delicious wine, enjoying the sunny day in eastern Washington, the wasps swirling around a tree and some children playing on an old seesaw on the grassy yard below. As each pour came and went, I started to relax a tiny bit more. I allowed myself to envision a life where I have fewer demands on my time and greater freedom to be conscious about how I choose to spend that time. Maybe this wouldn’t be so bad after all?

I did eventually meet up with Joe to give him the last few items he needed, to see the finished dorm room, and to grab a bite to eat. We enjoyed Indian food from the same restaurant we ate takeout from when we arrived in Walla Walla in January. Joe told me about his past, solo 24 hours. He told me he nearly had trouble assembling the storage unit we bought for his room until he remembered his bike tool had a screwdriver he could use. He told me his new section mates seemed like a quiet group and he was glad. He thanked me for bringing the final items. I told him about my trip to Richland and the winery. I told him how an older gentleman (yes…older than me) asked if I needed help carrying my wine to my car. I complimented him on his dorm room. Before I knew it, we were discussing when to meet up in the morning for my departure.

Lovely downtown Walla Walla urging me Forward

I know this is going to be a process. I’m creating a new normal, but I can do it. It was a new normal when Joe came into the world weeks early and weighing only 5 pounds. I survived that and then doubled down and spent years doing a pretty good job at Mom. I bet if you give me a few years, I’ll be doing a pretty good job at Justine too.

Do I need help carrying my wine? Jesus, man. I raised two kickass sons and dropped one off at college yesterday. Can’t you see how goddamn strong I am? I’ll carry my own wine, thanks.

I bet this dog carries his own wine too

And In My Next Life…

I am going to take a break from my melancholy to say that, in my next life, I would like to come back as my son. This is not some sort of weird, Freaky Friday swap idea. I’m just saying that my son is currently living his best life. He would agree with me. Ask him. After a summer break when he flew out of town three times, climbed multiple 14ers, spent time with friends, logged hundreds of miles on his bike, and played a thousand games of corn hole, the kid moves to college where he his dorm room is a single with a full-size bed in a residence hall opened in 2018. His room also has a decent sized closet with an actual door and full-length mirror, a built-in desk/reading light on the wall, and a floor-to-ceiling window. And did I mention there is a small wall with built-in shelves too? My college dorm had none of this.

Basic sophomore digs at Whitman College

I knew the dorm was posh. It is directly across a lawn from the dorm Joe was in over the spring semester and right next to the dining hall, which was also built in 2018 and deserves its own post with its coffee house, sushi chefs, and wood-fired pizza oven. Joe had us watch a YouTube video about his hall before he headed back to school, so I was well aware what would await us when we walked in the doors with Joe’s belongings. Still, it was something else stepping inside the building.

Main floor hang out space complete with fireplace and grand piano

After this welcome, we ascended two flights of wooden stairs to reach the common area, which they call the “section lounge.” It has a full kitchen, a long table for sharing communal meals, and another seating area for casual meetings. Everyone has to to pass through the section lounge area before reaching their rooms, which facilitates conversation.

There are nine of these separate sections in this building, each with its own kitchen and lounge area. I look at this and I can imagine my son stumbling out of his room, pouring himself some cereal, and sitting down on one of the sofas and spilling Cinnamon Toast Crunch. It’s going to happen.

Oh…and the bathrooms. The bathrooms are behind the kitchen further down the center of the hall. There are four showers with changing area, shower stall, and locking door.

I think the look says, “Really, Mom?”

After we had moved everything out of the car, set up the bed and mini-fridge, and made a trip to Walmart for a couple last-minute items to spruce up his space, I took my leave so he could finish up himself. He likes setting up rooms and making them his own. I’m looking forward to the reveal tomorrow.

I am enjoying living vicariously through him. I’d like to come back as my son not just because he’s got cool dorm digs for this year. I’d like to come back as my son because he’s in a lot better place at 20 than I was, literally and figuratively. If I can’t come back as him, though, I hope he’ll keep living his best life because that is really all that matters to me.