Sending our Kids to College: Part 2 of a 3-Part Series

By Lisa Sugarman

Welcome to Part 2 of my 3-part series chronicling the buildup to the college drop off and the aftershock of sending my first child off to school. Last week was The Freshman Shopping List and starting to acknowledge that big changes are coming. This week is packing up, trying to process, and anticipating saying goodbye. And next week will focus on The New Normal.

 

God, this is all so weird. Like really, really weird.

In my head, I know we’re dropping Riley off at school this weekend. I mean, it’s on my calendar with a sad face and everything. calendar_0

So it’s not that I’m in denial or anything, it’s all just very surreal.

I’ve watched all the Target bags accumulate into a little Devils Tower-like mound in the corner of the basement. I’ve seen her friends already start to leave, the goodbyes getting more and more frequent. I’ve even caught myself hugging her every time she walks by me in the house. And while I’m not too sure how she feels about that, I really don’t care. I’m not doing it for her; I’m doing it for me.

And this week, her college text books have started coming in the mail. And she and her roommate already have plans to go to their first college hockey game. And my eyes, they’re doing this bizarre thing where they focus immediately on her college ID card now whenever she opens her wallet. It’s like I can’t look away.

But one of the strangest things I did this week was add her dorm’s mailing address to her contact name in my phone. Because, after Saturday, she won’t be living here anymore. That one was a big, drippy slice of reality. Too big. The kind that dangles off the edge of the plate.

Yet, at the very same time all these things are happening, it’s still been business as usual around the house, so there’s this odd sensation that the whole thing could, actually, just be a dream. That maybe she’s not going off to college after all. That maybe, come Saturday morning, we’ll just get up and I’ll make pancakes and then the girls will fight about who gets the bathroom first. And nothing will change. Such a big part of me wants that.

Because every day I still get up and find Riley in the kitchen, earbuds in, head dangling over her Mrs. DiCaprio coffee mug, wet towel lying half in and half out of her bedroom. (I’m sure she’ll continue to work on that in the dorm.) And I’m still more or less cooking for four almost every night. And there’s been no notable reduction in laundry load size or grocery bags or stray flip flops lying under the coffee table. And while, emotionally, there’s been this very obvious buildup to The Big Day, there’s also been an eerie sort of calm everywhere else because our days are still relatively the same.

So what this all really boils down to is that I’m not at all sure how the whole drop-off thing is going to go in a couple of days. Not sure at all.

My friend Sue, whose son Jesse left last week, texted me to say it’s worse than any labor pains she ever felt when he was born. And the closer we get to Drop-off Day, the more I get why she said that.

See, I’m an emotional personality type to begin with, so right off the tee I have a super-high handicap going into all this. In basic terms, I’m screwed. And I know it.

It’s like Dave keeps reminding me… since Riley was born, her leaving for college is the single biggest change that our family has experienced. It’s a big one. Huge. (By the way, hon, you can quit reminding me. I get it.)

And I cry sometimes at Concord grape jelly commercials, with all those cute little kids. So you can only imagine what my own kid leaving for college is doing to my emotional infrastructure. You’ve seen those videos of controlled demolition blasts leveling the old casinos in Vegas, right? Well that’s how my mind is anticipating the goodbye will go. And my insides are the hotel.

Look, I went to college. I know how this works. I’ve already lived through it. But from the complete opposite side. And let me assure you, there’s absolutely no similarity between being the kid going off to school and watching your own kid go off to school. It’s apples and oranges. Because, as parents, even though many of us have lived through the experience of leaving home and starting our adult life and fending for ourselves, that does literally nothing to prepare us to be the ones left behind.waving-goodbye

Sure, I mean, I know what the shaky keg stand feels like and what it feels like to watch my mom get smaller and smaller in the rearview mirror as I left home, tears running down my cheeks. But I have no idea what it feels like to be that mom in the mirror.

For me, and all the other parents experiencing this insanely gut-wrenching milestone, this is completely uncharted, untraveled territory. We have no way of knowing what our parents really went through when they said goodbye to us. And we won’t until we’re the parents saying goodbye to our own kids. And I’m like seconds away from doing that and part of me is terrified.

Now, the over/under is pretty high in my family that the car won’t even be away from the curb after we drop her off before I’m sobbing like a baby. (I mean I can barely see the screen through my own tears right now as I’m typing, so I can only imagine what this weekend will be like.) But the one thing I keep reminding myself is that change is good. Change is good. In fact, it’s the only thing we can ever really count on as we move through our life.

So my plan, if it’s even reasonable to call it a plan, is to just roll with all of these exciting and scary and wondrous moments the best that I can because they’re coming whether I’m (we’re) ready for them or not. And it makes way more sense to me to embrace them than to reject them. After all, that’s what we taught our kids to do, isn’t it?

Look, I don’t claim to know a lot about anything, but what I do know with absolute certainty is that I can’t live in the past and I can’t live even a second ahead of where I am right now. None of us can. So I’m just going to do my best to be in the moment and to anticipate the future with the same kind of joy and enthusiasm and wonder that Riley is. She’s embracing what’s ahead of her in the fullest possible way and, ironically, her strength is motivating me to do the same.

Funny how we spend all these years as parents giving our children the skills and the knowledge to move bravely and courageously through their life and then, almost without warning, they turn right around and give it back to us exactly when we need it most.college-insurance

So I’m flying blind here. But that’s the only way we’re supposed to fly at this point. This is like our graduation from Top Gun. That’s why I’m going to close my eyes and believe, in my heart, that Dave and I have done our job well. Because the rest isn’t up to us. This is where we, as parents, gracefully step aside and move out of the way.

Deep breath. Here we go…

Lisa Sugarman lives just north of Boston, Massachusetts. Read and discuss all her columns at facebook.com/ItIsWhatItIsColumn. She is also the author of LIFE: It Is What It Is available on Amazon.com and at select Whole Foods Market stores.

An open letter to the Human Race about this Ashley Madison bulls**t.

Dear Human Race,

W! T! F?!

I’m sorry, but a pretty big segment of you have hit an all-time low.

For the last forty-seven years of my life, I’ve watched you get away with some pretty vile stuff. Stuff that’s made me disappointed and ashamed to be part of you–like war and poverty, crime and famine, terrorism and hate.

At the same time, though, you’ve also proven that you have such incredible beauty inside and out and the capacity to nurture and love and create joy. That’s what really gets me. It’s like you have a split personality and the insensitive, reckless side of you has become the dominant side.pi7Kp7ebT

But I’ve always given you the benefit of the doubt that one day, you’d quit being your own worst enemy and start getting it right for a change. That one day, you’d realize that all the bad choices you make and the negativity you project just doesn’t suit you.

Sadly, today was not that day.

When 30 million people get busted for cheating on their spouses on the same day, there are no words for the depth of disgust that I feel for those 30 million of my “sisters and brothers.”

I mean, 30 million people is like the size of a small planet, for Christ’s sake. That’s shameful.

I always thought you were smarter than that. Or at least my fingers were crossed that you were.

I mean, we don’t all learn how to ride a bike on the same day, right? So maybe we needed to travel this far through human evolution until we all developed the capacity to simultaneously wake the f**k up out of our little self-centered bubble and started regularly making good choices. I don’t know.

And I was really pulling for us, too. I mean, after all, I’ve got two kids moving  their way through The System, so I’ve got a real vested interest in humanity getting it right in the near term.

It’s beyond my capability as a soccer mom to understand how a company with a slogan like Life is short. Have an affair can exist and thrive. I don’t get it. I mean, I do get it, but that’s only because I’m used to watching so many people consistently doing stupid things on the news, over social media, and in my own tiny little community.ashley-madison

To be honest, knowing that a company like Ashley Madison is actually being run under the guise of a legitimate business really makes me feel like I might throw up in my mouth.

See, I’m literally days away from sending my daughter off to college. So how the hell can I possibly launch my kid out into a society where, on any given Wednesday, 30 million people get bagged for cheating? 

It’s madness.

I’m still an optimist, though, so I’m not giving up hope that we have the ability to evolve to a better place. A place where fidelity and truth and loyalty and some version of Ward and June Cleaver’s values matter more than dollars and cents or an orgasm or a tab of acid.june_and_ward_cleaver_edited

So I say this to the 7.3 billion people out there in the world who still own the majority on good values…we can’t allow ourselves to be overpowered or outnumbered by idiots.

There’s still time for us to get it right.

But that means that, as a culture, we can’t tolerate companies who mock things like fidelity and monogamy on such a gross and pathetic level.

Please help me cut the s**t. Thank you for your support.

Your friend,

Lisa Sugarman

Sending our Kids to College: Part 1 of a 3-Part Series

By Lisa Sugarman

For the next three weeks, while I’m in the thick of helping my oldest daughter pack for college, my column will have a different format. Beginning today, I’ll be writing a three-part series on the packing up, the dropping off, and the adjusting to your first child going to college. I’ll be chronicling how every part of the process feels from inside the heart and the mind of The Mom—the good, the bad, and the hysterical. Consider it like a first-person-shooter video game, where you’re looking right through the crosshairs with me and feeling the recoil rip through your shoulder every time I fire a shot. But just so we’re clear, this series is way more for me than it is for you—it’s my way of processing how much life is about to change. So grab your Kleenex, cause I’ve got mine. We’re gonna need ‘em.azrkim28075bx (2)

Here we go.

The fact that Riley is going to college next week comes as no great surprise to me—I’ve been anticipating and preparing for it for a really, really long time. Pretty much since the day she was born.

Together with Dave, of course, I helped her research schools, went on all the campus tours, bought all the overpriced hoodies from all the schools we might be interested in, filled out all the applications, proofread her essay, waited by the mailbox, ran screaming around the house when the first acceptance letter came, cried when she got in to her dream school, mailed the deposit, threw up, went to Accepted Student’s Day, met her roommate, saw her fall semester course schedule, and did a drive-by of her dorm.

What I haven’t been able to anticipate, though, is the exact time when the uncontrollable swell of emotion that’s been coursing around inside me, just under the surface, will show itself. And that’s the thing I’m most afraid of, to be honest.

The rational, mature, grounded part of my brain has really been pretty good with everything up to now. I mean, in most cases, kids grow up, they graduate from high school, they go on to college, they find jobs and build careers, and then they start families of their own. Life comes full circle, exactly like it did in The Lion King. So theoretically, I’m totally fine with the whole cycle of life. Theoretically.

My unexpected downfall came very suddenly, a few days ago, and it started with an empty red shopping cart.targethandrail

We were at Target, of course, with Riley’s What Incoming Freshman Need to Bring list. It was long, but not overwhelming and she was so excited to rebrand herself as a college freshman, that her energy was contagious. And because of how enthusiastic she is to go off to school, the real magnitude of what we were doing hadn’t really clicked for me.

I was actually fine at first, almost whimsically grabbing cases of bottled water and laundry pods and extra-long sheet sets. She asked for my opinion on sizes and colors and brands and could already visualize the way her room was going to look—just like I did when I took the same shopping trip with my mom decades ago.

Then, without even realizing where we had wandered in the store, I looked up to find myself staring directly down the center aisle of the Toy Department. And that’s when the wheels started coming off the bus for me.

I just stood there, my eyes drifting from the Polly Pocket shopping mall to the Legos to the Elmo dolls, and then I lost it. My throat tightened up, my eyes started squirting out tears, and all I could see was four-year-old Riley wearing a Disney princess dress, lobbying for me to buy her a new stuffed dog.tickle-elmo

Lucky for me, the moment was brief—a lot like the daily storm cells that blow into, and out of, the Florida coast. So quick that I’m not sure Riley even noticed. And I’m glad for that. Because even though she knows her mother well enough to anticipate a full and total breakdown when I turn and walk away from her on drop-off day, I didn’t want all of our time getting ready to be eclipsed by snotty wads of Kleenex. There’ll be plenty of that to come, I’m sure.

That was my first authentic oh-my-God-my-daughter-is-going-to-college episode. And as momentarily gut-wrenching as it was, I survived. We all survive.

This experience of raising our kids, laboring over them, loving them, guiding and protecting them, and then letting them loose in the world is a super-weird sensation. We all know it’s time; we all know they’re ready; but we just don’t want to let go when the time finally comes. And it hits us all at different times and in very different ways.

Deepak Chopra says all great changes are preceded by chaos. So I’m gonna go with that for now. As for next week, though, when we’re loading up the car, all bets are off. Until next week…

Lisa Sugarman lives just north of Boston, Massachusetts. Read and discuss all her columns at facebook.com/ItIsWhatItIsColumn. She is also the author of LIFE: It Is What It Is available on Amazon.com and at select Whole Foods Market stores.

Naps, they’re not just for kids anymore


By Lisa Sugarman

I just did something I haven’t done since I was in pre-school, and lemme tell you, it felt just about as good doing it now as it did back then.

And were it not for the big, bold title of my column giving it away, you may’ve thought that what I did was walk out into waist-deep water at the beach and pee in the ocean because the bathrooms were just too far away. But obviously that’s not the case.

What I did was take a nap.  rsz_shutterstock_236083648-566x401

Right there in the middle of my day, I just stopped cold, laid down, and took a nap.

Now, the fact that I did this immediately after a ten-mile run is more or less irrelevant. I didn’t actually have to lie down. I could’ve slogged my way through the rest of the afternoon, but my body was begging and pleading with my brain to hit pause. So I did. And much to my surprise, it was incredibly revealing.

Did I actually fall asleep at two o’clock on a Sunday afternoon in August on the chaise on my deck? Of course not. Don’t be ridiculous. Who can do that?! But I think I came pretty close, and that’s epic for me.

Actually, just the simple fact that I laid down in a horizontal position, with both my feet off the floor, right smack in the middle of the afternoon, with my eyes more or less closed, was a major event for me. (If I’m remembering right, the last time it happened was in 2008 when I had knee surgery and took one too many Percocets. And that put me squarely into a state far beyond a quick nod-off. That knocked me straight into unconsciousness.)

See, like most people, more often than not I tend to muscle through my days. And because I’m a working mom, with a big fat list of stuff I have to do every day, there isn’t an awful lot of nap time built into my schedule. That’s just the reality. Not to mention the fact that even if I could carve out eleven minutes to sneak into a dark linen closet and spoon with some big, thirsty bath towels, I’d never be able to fall asleep.Tired woman barely keeps her eyes open in front of computer

That’s because my big problem, like a lot of other people I know, is that I’ve never found the off switch for my brain, so naps tend to be worthless for me.

I mean, where’s the value in lying there, wide awake but with your eyes closed, stressing over all the dress shirts you still need to iron and all the electronic bill payments that still need to be teed up?

Look, I know that naps are proven to have a pretty good list of benefits. Like if you ask the folks down at the National Sleep Foundation, they’ll tell you that naps are proven to restore alertness, enhance performance creativity, cognitive function and memory, and reduce mistakes and accidents. Not to mention, they’re a quick and easy way of getting some relaxation and rejuvenating yourself so you can forge on.

In my own life, though, I had more or less written naps off completely after the first grade, thinking that unless I could fall into some sort of significant REM-like state every time they were useless. And because of it, I’ve kept them off my lineup all this time. Because for me, being able to clear my mind on demand and drift off into a delicious little sleep cocoon has just never been possible.

But what I learned today was that I was wrong.

I don’t know, maybe the stars were all aligned perfectly to enable me to see the true benefits of just stopping and resting. Or maybe I was just paying attention at the right time and actually listening to my body, which I also seldom do. Whatever it was, my spontaneous little siesta made me realize that it’s just as important for us moms and dads and grownups to stop and recharge as it is for kids.

Just think of it like this…when your cell phone’s power is depleted, it goes into Battery Save Mode and loses most of its functionality until it’s charged again. Well, we’re the same way.

Most of us can usually get by on a partial charge. Usually. But even a little bit of juice (or, in this case, rest) gives us enough power to keep going. Even if we’re not at one hundred percent.

For me, the end result was that my little time-out refreshed me, even in spite of the fact that I never really fell asleep. And because of it, I’ve discovered is that there are rejuvenating properties hidden within the essence of a nap, even if you don’t actually nod off. The thing is, I let my body relax and even though my mind was still cranking away, the downtime was beneficial because it put my body at rest, if only for a short time.woman%20naps_jpg_jpg_653x0_q80_crop-smart

So while I absolutely still believe that naps are critical for the development of young kids—physically and cognitively—I’m now a believer that they’re not just for kids anymore.

The other thing I’ve realized is that maybe it’s a good thing after all that, as an adult, I can never seem to truly fall asleep when I nap. I mean, can you imagine one of my kids walking in the house and finding me curled up like a fetus on the couch with my thumb in my mouth, drool running down my cheek? I’d be all over Instagram in less than ninety seconds.

Lisa Sugarman lives just north of Boston, Massachusetts. Read and discuss all her columns at facebook.com/ItIsWhatItIsColumn. She is also the author of LIFE: It Is What It Is available on Amazon.com and at select Whole Foods Market stores.

 

Gamify Your Fitness, Up Your Game, And Get Off That Plateau!

By Lisa Sugarman

Tell me if this sounds at all familiar…

You’ve been exercising regularly for a really, really long time. You’ve put in your face time at the gym. You’ve logged your miles or your steps or your reps like it’s your religion. You’ve hiked and biked and paddled enough to get you to the west coast and back. And, yet, despite all the sweat, blood and in some cases tears, you haven’t lost a single bloody ounce.

Welcome to The Plateau, my friend. That flat, stagnant, frustrating place where no change occurs.Scale

We’ve all been there at one point, for varying amounts of time and for any number of different reasons. It’s that discouraging, depressing stage between progress and regression where pounds and inches and personal bests are frozen in time. I guess you could say it’s a lot like the Bermuda Triangle of fitness, that mysterious place where all signs of progress disappear, potentially never to be seen again.

And for those of us who are constantly trying to maintain things like endurance and muscle mass and metabolism, The Plateau is a place we desperately try to avoid.

But we’re lucky; we live in a world where we can more or less carry a personal trainer in our back pocket 24/7. Whether it’s a GPS watch or fitness apps like RunKeeper or Fitbit or Nike + Running or Strava or My Fitness Pal or Lark, wearable devices and apps have enabled us to take control of our fitness in ways that ensure that we never plateau ever again.

I mean, take my own adorable 77-year-old mother who’s dropped fifty-plus pounds over the last few years using nothing more than an old-school pedometer to track her progress. Although, over the last year she’s evolved to using apps like Lark, the mobile weight loss and nutrition coach, that tracks almost every aspect of her physical wellbeing from the second she wakes up to the minute she falls asleep.maxresdefault

Not only does it keep accurate track of her steps, her daily nutrition, and calories burned, but it’s constantly talking to her (in an adorable and incredibly encouraging way), motivating her to make good choices. It reminds her to get up and move around, to eat clean, and to keep her eye on the prize. Honestly, the thing does everything but slap her on the ass when she finishes a walk. (If they ever add that as an update, though, I think my dad’s outta here.)

If you wanna get technical, what I’m talking about is called gamification.

In simple terms, it means using game-like technology in a non-gaming context to reinforce positive behavior. In even simpler terms, it means making a game out of your health and fitness.

And as someone who’s always excited to mix it up and keep my muscles confused, I think gamification is the greatest advance in the fitness revolution since Richard Simmons and spandex. Because with all the exercise and fitness apps that are floating around out there now, we have the ability to do something different every day of the week and keep our bodies in constant chaos. It’s beautiful!

Whether it’s a smart watch or an iPhone or a device like a Fitbit, we now have the ability to carry a personal coach, exercise log, fitness journal, and cheerleader with us around the clock.

The reality is, we’re living in a gadget and app-driven society that’s offering us almost unlimited creative and engaging ways to get and stay challenged. And because of it, fitness as we know it will never be the same. To be honest, with all the resources that are available to us now, there are really no more excuses for being unhealthy.73e2a6db-92fd-45a3-9d00-9a607197dfdb-460x276

And the best part of all is that most of these apps and gadgets are totally customizable to suit our own personal goals. So whether you’re training for an Iron Man or you’re in your seventies and just trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle, we’re really only competing against ourselves. Unless, of course, you’re someone who feeds off competition and want to virtually compete against other runners or swimmers or walkers or bikers. Then there’s a whole network of people working out “together.” And for some people, that extra support is a real motivator.

It all boils down to making fitness fun and accessible and attainable. It’s about positive reinforcement and encouragement and, if you’re my mom, having some cute-sounding younger guy congratulate you when you hit your ten-thousand-step mark during the day. She lives for that. (And he does sound dreamy.)

Look, I don’t know about you, but I love some good old-fashioned positive reinforcement, and that’s exactly what these devices and apps and programs offer us. They cheer us on (preferably in an English accent), motivate us, and fit very neatly and compactly into our lives. And when we’re bored or not seeing progress with one program, we have thousands more to choose from that keep us from getting stale.running-stretching-runner-wearing-smartwatch-closeup-shoes-woman-leg-as-warm-up-run-sport-54817824

So if you’re looking for a way to raise your bar and amp things up, gamifying your fitness may just be the answer.

Uh oh, sorry, gotta go. My watch, Monty, just told me it’s time to go run ten miles. I’m just praying that after I’m done he tells me it’s ok to lie on the couch and watch a little Food Network.

Lisa Sugarman lives in Marblehead, Massachusetts. Read and discuss all her columns at facebook.com/ItIsWhatItIsColumn. She is also the author of LIFE: It Is What It Is available on Amazon.com and select Whole Foods Market stores.