Wednesday April 26, 2017

I listened to an interview this week with Sheryl Sandberg, the Facebook executive and author of "Lean In", who lost her husband suddenly two years ago. She and psychologist Adam Grant have written a book "Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience and Finding Joy" and her interview struck me to my core.

It reminded me of so many feelings from the early days and feelings I still have today. Guilt over feeling happy, anger that never goes away, the permanence of the loss. But good feelings, too - resilience, perspective, compassion and gratitude.

It reminded me to take stock of where we've been and where we've managed to go. Option B is a perfect title. We all have grand plans for our lives and we think we know what's ahead. Then the world turns upside down. When option A no longer exists, what do you do? How do you reset your vision?

We all face adversity and deal with grief in our lives. And when those we love are dealing with grief, often, we don't know how to help them. Sandberg and Grant share words of wisdom.

Take a listen:

Sunday April 23, 2017

Ahhh, the sunshine and some down time does wonders for the soul. We have had a weekend at home, time with friends, time on the golf course and a few home cooked meals. Good to slow things down every once in a while.

Erin, however, does not let any moss grow under her feet. She is back to full time driving, still in the Lincoln, but we are hopeful that the RAV will be done this week. She is driving herself to school, to golf practice, to volunteering, to friend's houses, and to half price apps at Applebees.

Yesterday, she went to the golf course to practice, then to the Mayo HS baseball game, then to see her volleyball teammate in the prom grand march at St. Charles, came home briefly and changed, then off to the Mayo lacrosse game and over to friends houses after that. In true teenage fashion, she arrives home just in time for her curfew. As it should be, I suppose.

We are in the push to the end of the school year now. Overlapping golf and volleyball seasons continue. This week will have two golf meets followed by three days of volleyball next weekend. I need to stay young and in shape to keep up with Erin. (Let's be honest, I am neither!)

This warm spring weather is one of my favorite times of year. The promise that it brings - new blooms, better days ahead - is a metaphor for life. You weather the rough stuff and keep the faith that the tide will turn.

Saturday April 15, 2017

The emotions of this week have just about done me in. Last weekend involved a 5am trip to LaGuardia airport. Waiting stand-by for a flight, and making it home just in time for Erin to play in her volleyball tournament. Uff da.

Monday was Erin's 16th birthday and the long awaited driver's test. Erin might be the last junior at Mayo High School who didn't have her license. I was about as nervous as I've ever been, wanting so badly for her to gain this right of freedom. She passed and we celebrated over bagels before she took me and Dan home and drove herself to school. Oh, the joy!

Dan's car - the Toyota RAV - was passed down to Erin with160,000 highway miles that Dan put on it in the last 5 years. Dan's company car is arriving soon. Perfect timing.

I was especially pleased when I didn't have to pick her up from volleyball on Monday night at 9:30! Or, pick her up from school in time for her golf meet on Tuesday. I wasn't worried a bit as I was confident in her skills. She is a good driver. All was right in the world.

Wednesday afternoon was an early release from school. Erin was headed out to lunch with her friends. On the busy road outside Mayo HS, Erin was waiting to make a left turn, with traffic backed up behind the turn lane. A teenage boy in a pickup truck with "redneck" written across the front (yes, I'm judging) was either distracted, going too fast or both. The front of his truck had a hitch on it for a snow plow and that hitch slammed not into Erin's bumper but into the back gate of the RAV, crumpling the door and shattering the windshield. Erin said "I could see him coming and knew he was going to hit me. I just braced for impact". In my 30 years of driving, I've never been in an accident that violent.

The call I got made my heart sink. I arrived on the scene and we called the cops. Luckily, everyone had insurance. Erin was OK, she was alone in the car and had her seatbelt on - a little whiplash, a sore shoulder from the seatbelt and a lot of fear.

Our insurance agent is confident that the boy's insurance will cover our deductible and repairs. In a rear end crash, it almost always works that way. Our insurance rates will not be affected. Erin was not at fault.

We drove her to and from school the next day, but by Friday she was ready to get behind the wheel again. Her car is now at the body shop and we have a rental, covered by insurance. Of course, a teenage girl can't drive the rental, so Erin is now driving the mom car, my Lincoln. She might be the youngest person in America driving a Lincoln MKX!

But now, I'm a nervous wreck when Erin's out there driving. I now imagine the Mayo HS parking lot and surrounding roads as a real live version of Mario Kart. The first two days I was fine, confident, happy for her to have her independence. Now I can't relax until she is home safe and sound. She had a midnight curfew last night. I was wide awake when she came in at 11:55.

I know it's almost a rite of passage to have your first accident when you are a new driver. Usually it's a bump on the fender, not whiplash and a shattered windshield. Damn.

Dan and I were talking this morning about the highs and lows of life. Parenting is hard, and I wonder if we want so badly to have the highs after experiencing the lows. Are we searching too hard for those feel good moments?

Today is a reminder of what we have endured as parents. Today is diagnosis day, April 15.

6 years ago, we were told that Shannon had a brain tumor and that there was little we could do about it. We did what we could, but still lost her. The rest of our parenting moments are framed by that event. This life had a random element to it and some things are out of our control.

Our kid getting in a car crash but not getting hurt? That's nothing in the grand scheme of things, right? But that's not fair to Erin. The car crash this week was traumatic, and Erin shouldn't have to live under the shadow of "there are worse things in life." Erin's allowed to have her own tragedies.

But, we are thinking of Shannon on this day. Remembering how she handled her diagnosis with grace and determination. When life throws me a curveball, I can only hope to do the same.

Friday April 7, 2017

I had hoped to be writing you from our flight home today, but, the best laid plans sometimes go awry. Delta has cancelled hundreds of flights up and down the east coast and we are caught in the backlog. Our  10 am flight is cancelled and they haven't found a flight with room for us yet. So, it looks like another day in NYC. There are worse places in the world to be stuck - like the Atlanta airport. That's where Dan spent the night last night trying to get home from Jacksonville. He has arrived back in Minneapolis now, 24 hours late.

Erin thinks this is a good test of my ability to go with the flow. Ha, I'll show her! Actually, I have been good on this trip - even spontaneous by my standards :)

We arrived Tuesday (almost 90 minutes late) so didn't have time to go to our hotel prior to our first college tour. No worries, we just took our luggage in a taxi right to Wagner College on Staten Island and did our first ever college tour. After the tour, we hauled our luggage on the Staten Island Ferry, transferred to the 1 Subway line, got off at 50th street and walked - luggage and all - 4 blocks to our hotel. How's that for flexibility?!?!

Day two involved a trip out to Long Island to visit Hofstra University. Getting there involved walking to the Times Square station, taking the Subway to Penn Station, then taking the Long Island Railroad to Hempstead, NY, and jumping on the shuttle for the mile trip to the school. Then plan was to do the same on the way back, but when we arrived at Penn Station, we decided to stop for burgers and shakes at Shake Shack. While standing in a packed restaurant to eat, the guy next to us asked "Do you know what time the doors open for the concert?" Erin asked "What concert?" "John Mayer is here at Madison Square Garden tonight". MSG is located right above Penn Station.

So, Erin talked the new and improved spontaneous Jen into trying to get tickets. 15 minutes later we were through security and at the box office finding out that there were a handful of tickets remaining.

It was a great show in one of the greatest arenas in the world. Check that off my bucket list. 

Yesterday's adventure involved walking 4 blocks to the F train, riding it for 30 minutes out to Queens, getting off at 169th Street, then taking the Q-30 city bus to St. John's University. We toured on a rainy day but still got to see the campus and get a feel for the school.

On our way back to the hotel yesterday, we decided we'd grab a pizza and take it to the room to eat and watch the Masters for a little down time. Angelo's Pizza, located right next to the Late Show with Stephen Colbert was the closest pizzeria to our hotel. We sidled up to the bar and ordered a pizza to go. Just minutes later, a crew guy comes in and says "We'll be in for the photo shoot in just a minute". Next thing you know, I'm shaking Stephen Colbert's hand and photo bombing his shoot.

Last night - which we thought would be our last night - we had tickets to see Waitress on Broadway. The musical was written by Sara Bareilles and just last week, she started a turn starring in the show. Erin is a big fan and we both loved the show.

This trip has solidified Erin's wanderlust. She can see herself here, potentially at the schools we visited. We're not done looking by any means, and NYC isn't the only potential choice, but it is on the top of her list. I am coming to grips with the idea that she's going to have more of her own life soon that doesn't involve me on a day to day basis. I know it's still a year and a half away, but I'll need all that time to prepare.

I know it's as it should be. This is normal for kids to grow up, start expanding their horizons, go to college, make their own life. Normal doesn't mean easy, though.

Today we will work on getting back to MN. Erin is suppose to be playing in a volleyball tournament tomorrow at 2:30pm in the Twin Cities... The adventure continues...