A Few Good Gems

Happy Friday! September weekends rank right up there with the best of them, I think. What's on the docket for you? G and I are in Utah right now so we'll be heading up to Logan for some family time, hikes, breakfast at Herm's, and maybe even a USU football game (go Aggies!).  Before we take off, I wanted to share a few good gems from around the internet:

  • Harvest season means awesome veg-and-flower centerpiece opportunities! I'm loving this one:
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  • I'm sorry I missed this Kennedy Center performance in January with Sara Bareilles and Ben Folds but, happily, they filmed it. I could listen to Sara hum all day long and this song is one of my faves of hers:
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  • I just noticed that all the haircut idea photos I've been gathering and pinning lately look something like this. Is it time to bring back the Princess Di cut? 

Happy weekending, friends! What gems have you found and enjoyed this week? We'd love to hear and share!

The College Mirage: Helping your freshman navigate the first year

Last year at about this time of year a student came to see me. She was a new freshman and, a week or two into her shiny, sparkly college life she was feeling neither shiny or sparkly. While she was loving college in general, in some ways things weren't working out the way she had expected--her roommate wasn't her soul sister, there weren't endless dates, her class load required a lot more work than she had needed to do in high school, and she was still figuring out how to find her way in this new place. In some ways, the shiny sparkly college life felt like a mirage--one that had been the promised land all through high school and one that all of her friends on social media seemed to inhabit.

 photo via

photo via

I've been thinking a lot about college transition and freshman loneliness ever since--as a professor who studies & teaches human development, as an advisor to freshmen students, and as a mom to three college-age students.

We tend to prepare our children for college like getting in is the hard part, the finish line. After lavishing all that energy and attention on those entrance exams, applications, GPA maintenance, extracurriculars, no wonder they internalize the message that once you receive that acceptance letter, you've made it! Everything else will fall into place! Books, tv, movies, social media all highlight and glorify the golden glow of the college years. But, like most things in life, the reality often doesn't live up to the hype. 

Meanwhile, if they want to, new freshmen can manage to keep up the image that the hype lives on, curating photos and posts and emoji-adorned texts to downplay the real emotions and loneliness (or even depression and anxiety) that might be happening beyond the tiny phone screen. 

Just at the point when parents begin to acclimate to their child's absence in the home, across the miles for many freshmen students, the orientation parties and excitement of meeting all these new people wears off. The reality of the academic workload sets in and some students manage this better than others. Some sail through pretty well but many don't want to disappoint their families that their grades are lower than they've grown used to getting in high school or that they still haven't found their tribe.  

Last year, Cornell freshman Emery Burgmann created this video about her college transition for a class assignment on transformation. It's a funny, poignant window into the freshman transition ("I feel like this friendship-hungry gremlin...") and the Youtube comments on this clip attest to how common these feelings are:

We parents are pretty good at prepping our kids' dorm rooms and outfitting them with the school supplies they'll need. Just as important (arguably more so), having family conversations leading up to the college launch can ease everyone's social/emotional acclimation to this huge milestone.  We can paint a realistic view of what this next level of study and life will look like rather than glorifying (or trying to live vicariously). In the months and years leading up to the transition to college, try to have open conversations that are sparked by questions like these:

  • What kind of living/dorm situation will open you up to connecting with others (single occupancy rooms might seem ideal but they can also lead to isolation)?
  • What will you/can you do when you're lonely (because everyone feels lonely sometimes, especially during transitions)?
  • What if you get overwhelmed with the workload?
  • What resources are available on campus for talking to a trustworthy, informed adult?
  • How will we stay connected so you can share your good times but also your struggles?
  • What are the signs you can watch for to check on your emotional wellbeing and mental health?
  • Did you know you can drop a class? Or withdraw from one, even, if things get overwhelming?
  • How will you let me know if you are really really struggling (some families even have a family signal word that means "help!")?
  • How will you navigate roommate differences and disagreements?
  • What activities can balance out your schedule or provide an outlet for stress, anxiety?

If you're the parent of a college student right now:

  • emphasize that friends are made gradually and it's completely normal to feel at sea during a big transition. It often takes years to find your "tribe."
  • just listen, hear, and validate the emotions. You don't need to solve the problems, just be a guide through them. Share your own hard experiences and how you navigated them (but first just listen listen listen).
  • make time to Skype/Facetime/Marco Polo and talk on the phone. Texts are marvelous for check-ins and logistics but can be misleading, minimize, or mask real emotions. If possible build in a set time each week to really connect.

Interested in reading more? Check out:

  • The Real Campus Scourge by Frank Bruni (New York Times). Emily references this article in the video above; it's the article her mom sent her.
  • What Made Maddy Run (by Kate Fagan), a heart breaking and eye opening book looking into the death by suicide of U Penn star athlete Maddy Halloran. For a shorter peek, try this NPR story and this podcast with author Kate Fagan's insights and takeaway messages.
  • Practicing mindfulness has been linked to healthy college transition. Another study here.  
  • Great tips here for college students, including keep your door open and spend as little time as possible in your room--hang out in common areas and study in the library.

What do you wish you knew when you started college? What helped with the transition? What didn't?

A few good gems

Hello and happy summer to you! I've been enjoying a verrrry gentle and restorative May and June after the mad dash to the end of the school year. We made it through another high-mileage semester, commuting back and forth between our respective jobs. The up side to all that intermittent separation is that we are delighted to be together full time now--well, as full time as we get, with G's work travel. 

He actually just returned from an overseas trip this morning so this weekend we're planning on some good long city walks, teaching Sunday School to our class of 17- and 18-year-olds, and checking out the Black Out: Silhouette exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery. I highly suspect it will further fuel my obsession with collecting little pieces of vintage silhouette art. Or, better yet, getting out some scissors and black paper myself...

First, a few good gems for your weekend:

  • Did you HEAR? There's a Freaks and Geeks documentary coming soon to a television near you!! Monday, July 16th on A & E.
 Photo: Chris Haston/Getty Images

Photo: Chris Haston/Getty Images

  • NY Times obituary writer Margalit Fox says goodbye today and I loved what she had to say about finding her path, writing about others' paths, and coming up with her own epitaph. (Thanks, Maddy, for sending me this)
  • I'm deskless here in our little one-bedroom condo in DC, which is fine, but this window-mounted standing desk has me rethinking the situation!
     
  • Recently I followed a delightful rabbit hole through the comments of this Cup of Jo post: What's the Most Beautiful Thing You've Read? The post itself is three years old and readers have come back and posted their favorite lines of poetry and literature. Clear your schedule if you click over and start to read! There are some beautiful gems there. 
     
  • Isn't this a gorgeous dress? I tracked it down to Johanna Ortiz in Russian Vogue.  Next step: either figure out how to purchase it or how to make one of my own--I'm not sure which one is more likely/possible, ha!
  • Do yourself a favor and go see the Mister Rogers documentary, Won't You Be My Neighbor, stat! It's no secret that I love Fred Rogers--and in large part my career was influenced by him. Even if you're not a certified Mr Rogers fan, it's a good, hope-filled film. Exhibit A: G and Maddy both liked it when I invited (dragged?) them with me.  And, listen: I like you just the way you are. 

Okay, friends. Happy weekending! It feels good to reconnect with you here after a bit of a break.  

A few good gems

Hello! I'm a little giddy today--my spring break starts at the end of the day and I'm looking forward to a week with family and friends. (Never mind that it will feel more like *winter* break--I'll take it!) What do you have brewing for the weekend?

Here are a few gems I've collected from the internet recently. Enjoy!

How great is this By The Sea painting by Lisa Congdon?!

Joanna Goddard recently featured a terrific selection of insights and epiphanies on parenting teens. Read the 286 (!) comments, too; there are some winners there! 

Why are more teens than ever suffering from severe anxiety?

A great Traders Joe's breakfast hack for your Saturday morning enjoyment (yum!)

Are you watching the Netflix series of David Letterman interviews, My Next Guest Needs No Introduction? I've missed him! I loved the ones so far: Obama and George Clooney. Next up: Malala! 

I love this idea of Overlooked, "a history project recalling the lives of those who, for whatever reason, were left out of The Times’s obit pages." Like Charlotte Bronte! Ida B Wells! Read about it here and watch for more great updates/entries here and nominate someone to be included here. (Thanks to my friend Deirdre for sending this along.) 

One of my favorite magazines in Australia was Dumbo Feather, with its wonderfully thoughtful conversations with doers, thinkers, and creatives: June Factor on the importance of play, Brene Brown on vulnerability and being brave, Parker Palmer on living the questions, Krista Tippett on belief, the list goes on and on. 

This week's BYU devotional by Mechanical Engineering professor Julie Crockett was delightful

The Mothers Before instagram account collects photos and shares the stories of mothers before they became mothers, submitted by their children. Charming and surprisingly moving. 

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Have a great weekend! 

Friendship down through the years

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Back somewhere around 1999 or 2000 (give or take), I spent my days caring for my three little girls (my only son to be born in 2001). What did I do then? How did I spend my days? When I think back, I mostly picture a whirlwind. There was so much going on, and I was sort of a clueless traveler lost in that raging storm. Without an umbrella. Or proper footwear.

Maybe because my life was flying around me so helter skelter, I find it difficult now to line it up in a neat narrative titled, The Days When My Kids Were Young -- And How I Survived. I just recall pieces and snippets and middle of the night awakenings. I remember lining my three girls up on kitchen bar stools to do their hair each morning. I remember drives to preschool and unruly cardboard projects leaking glitter in their wake. I remember rounds of sickness moving through my family in waves, barely getting one kid well before the next succumbed. I remember family dinners, Saturday sports, birthday parties, spelling homework, reading logs, bedtime avoidance. In the between times of parenting, I sandwiched in conversations with friends, book clubs, dinner clubs, late night Sonic runs. My friends and I showed up en masse to McDonald's, talking for hours while our kids took over the playplace, a tiny gang of tyrants ruling over their plastic kingdom. 

Lucky for me, by some stroke of good luck or maternal magic, I have a portal to that past world (and a wise bridge into my current life). Each year, I gather with four women who were witnesses to my years with littles. We catch up on what our kids are doing. We bemoan our issues and rejoice in our triumphs. We've talked through junior high and teenage years and college and missions and even weddings. We've solved the world's troubles several times over. And slowly, over twenty years, we've amassed an amazing friendship that is interwoven with our collective histories. Each year we tell new stories. And sometimes we revisit the old ones. All of it feels intensely therapeutic.

 The Utah kids (plus one husband and one boyfriend). Between the four of us there are 24 kids total!

The Utah kids (plus one husband and one boyfriend). Between the four of us there are 24 kids total!

My point is not SCHEDULE A GIRLS' TRIP RIGHT NOW. Although, it's not such a bad idea. My point is that all is not lost. Even as those babies march out the door and into their own lives, even when it feels like your old life is slipping through your fingers, there are things to be gained, to be remembered, to be shared.

I haven't quite wrapped my arms around the big idea of a collective history just yet. I've only recently been old enough to watch entire childhoods unfold. But I think there is something powerful in longevity and steadfastness and in a conscientious tradition of caring. So, maybe call up your old friends. Create a group text. Remind your people of your stories. Read someone's blog for years on end. Let's mark time with each other.

 

 

 

 

A few good gems

Happy, happy Friday! I'm in Utah this weekend on an annual friends' trip with some lovely ladies I met long ago when our children were very small. I think this is our eighth year to meet up (maybe ninth?), and it's always a restorative (if not entirely restful) time to connect with great women and hear about their lives. We mostly talk and eat the entire time. It's heavenly.

But while I'm friending, I wanted you to have a few good gems for your weekend reading . . .

  • I found this article on how to achieve more with less super interesting. Plus, the author is faculty at my new workplace. Perhaps I'll stalk him. (Note to human resources: just kidding!)
  • My next Smitten Kitchen cooking adventure: Broken Pasta with Pork Ragu.
 image via  smittenkitchen

image via smittenkitchen

  • And while I'm Smitten Kitchening, I made these Bake Sale Winning-est Gooey Oat Bars last weekend. They are fab. The recipe is actually in her new cookbook, but it's also at the end of this post (for your baking pleasure).
  • I'm ready to buy a smart speaker. This article makes me think the Apple HomePod isn't the way to go. Any advice?
  • I love pegboards. Once upon a time I tried to talk Sterling into a pegboard business. That was a no-go. But look what's on Etsy
 image via  littleanana

image via littleanana

Okay folks! Here's to stretching out the weekend and bulking up on carbs!! See you next week!

Should you find yourself in Charleston

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Driving down to Charleston from Virginia last weekend we laughed about our "getaway." I mean...getaway from what, exactly? It was the first anniversary weekend away in 24 years when we weren't getting away from the demands of parenting, busy Saturday mornings filled with birthday parties, sports practices and games, youth activities and the like. This time we weren't escaping those things. We were getting away from one place where we could spend all our time together to pay to go to another place to spend all our time together, ha! But no matter what your circumstances, a change of scenery, a road trip, a break from the chores and responsibilities of home is a good thing for a marriage.

Charleston was a dream. We stayed in a delightful VRBO spot (linked below) right downtown on North Market Street across from the famous Charleston Market. (Fun fact: it was an apartment directly above the Ben & Jerry's!) If I summed up our few days there it would be this: walk, walk, eat, walk, walk, eat, read, walk, eat, sleep. Repeat three days. Charleston's the perfect walkaround town--every street is charming and there are so many cafes, museums, shops to pop into when the mood strikes. 

On Sunday (at our friendly waiter's suggestion) we drove over to Sullivans Island--historic for both Fort Moultrie, which guarded the harbor from 1776-1945 in the Revolution, Civil, and World Wars. It was also, soberingly, the site of slavery's version of Ellis Island.  According to National Parks Traveler "About 40 percent of African-Americans alive today can trace their ancestral roots to West Africa through the Sullivan’s Island/Charleston gateway. This is, oddly enough, about the same percentage of white Americans whose ancestors were processed through Ellis Island."  

After taking in the history of Fort Moultrie we walked along the Sullivan Island beach and spent the afternoon sitting in the warm sun, talking and enjoying the ocean breeze and view. Two dolphins came close to the shore and cavorted for a good 20 minutes or so in front of us. We decided it was an anniversary blessing from them--hey isn't 28 years the dolphin anniversary?


Stay:

  • We loved the location and amenities in our VRBO rental apartment. (And the sheets were to die for!) Terri and Carl were welcoming and fantastic to work with. Honestly there are many great listings through VRBO and small boutique hotels that looked divine, too. The main suggestion we would make is that you book something near all the charm of Old Charleston: French Quarter, South of Broad, neighborhoods near Meeting Street and Market Streets.

Eat:

  • Magnolias: the book of Pat Conroy essays I was reading mentioned that Magnolias was his favorite Charleston restaurant. The guest book in our apartment also raved about it so we booked a reservation (even though the only one we could get was at 4:45!). It definitely lived up to its reputation: exceptionally delicious Southern fare and great service. We caved in to the swan song of the pecan pie to cap off the meal and did not regret it a bit.
  • Henriettas at the Dewberry; we had our official "anniversary dinner" here and it was very good. 
  • 1 Broad: we went here twice! Really great breakfast fare and bakery items. Plus live music.
  • Another Broken Egg Cafe: Good, filling Southern breakfast. I had the lobster omelet, G had shrimp and grits. Both were rich and satisfying--and we didn't want to eat again for 8 hours!

See/Do: