Saying Goodbye to Your College Freshman Child

college-move-in-day1When both our daughters went off to college each for the first time, it was made easier because they were so excited and eager to launch from the nest.  They were making pretty good life decisions, as far as we knew.  🙂  We worked to give them lots of “opportunities to show trust and responsibility”.  You can ask them and they will tell you that I would say that I wanted “to give them enough rope to grow and learn but not so much that they could hang themselves”.

I’m not going to say their leaving wasn’t hard, because it was.   With both of them, the first few weeks after they left home were okay, it felt like they were just off to summer camp.  No big deal.  It was around that 6th week for both of them that I would find myself saying, “This isn’t fun anymore…This is starting to feel long….” and I’d go to their respective room, lay on their bed and let myself cry.

The best advice I ever received on saying that final goodbye, came from a gentleman that I used to go with to see Broadway shows in Dallas.  He was a choir director for our parish and Mark was all too happy for Kevin to be my date for the night for that type of entertainment.  One night, over dinner Kevin and I talked about my youngest daughter leaving soon for College.  He offered this: “Don’t say your goodbyes at the dorm.  And, if you can – try not to tear up too much.”  The reason he offered this was because of the trauma he had felt when his Mom and Aunt left him at college.  In the weeks leading up to the drop off they talked of how excited they were for him and how much fun he was going to have and it is going to all be amazing.  Only to find them, leaving him in the front yard of his dorm crying uncontrollably.  It totally caught him off guard and made him think “wait a minute!”.  Should I be worried or upset?  Where did this come from?  Is this going to be okay???

Mark and I planned a dinner out the night or so before we were to take Madison off to college.  We invited a couple of her close friends to come with us to her favorite Sushi restaurant, Ra.  During dinner,  Mark and I toasted her… told her how very proud we were for her… and admitted to her that our hearts were breaking a little at seeing her leave — I teared up, which gave us all the opportunity for well-meaning hugs all around…

The next day, we packed up 2 SUVs of college stuff and moved her into the dorm.  People were everywhere, moving in hectic and the day was sweltering.  In the end, we were all hot, sweaty and exhausted from all the back and forth to the cars and the dorm room set up.  I can still see her on that entry porch to the dorm looking through us as we gave her a last hug before leaving.  She was distracted, to say the least and had a sort of fish out of water, what now kind of look…

There was no way  on the steps of that dorm, that we could have said and she herself in-turn absorbed the really meaningful goodbyes, words of encouragement, love, and yes even the sadness if we hadn’t listened to Kevin’s advice…

A Polish Texan Explained…

Panna Maria, TexasWe Polish-Americans who are the very direct descendants of the First Polish Immigrants to come to the US are a proud bunch. People are surprised to hear that in 1854 the 1st Polish people to come to America to STAY came to Panna Maria, TEXAS and not Chicago or any other Yankee place…

Here is a short cheat sheet on us and our customs.

Follow me, if you can on this first and for most to help you distinguish — Texas Poles from Yankee Poles:
If you are a Texas Pole, when you first meet a Yankee Pole – they will try to impress you by saying that they just “loved the Pierogi’s that their Grandma used to make for them in Chicago”.   In response, you just nod and smile, because you have no idea WHAT that is…
You, in turn, will try to impress them by telling them that you used to date one of Bishop Yanta’s nephews – In response, they too just nod and smile, because they have no idea WHO that is…

Your knowledge of the Polish language is limited to
– One greeting – Jak się masz?
– Some Naughty words – ex. dupa, maupa dupa
– A Naughty phrase – Jak sie vieshe
– Counting up to 5: Yeddin, Vah, Shre, Steady, Pienche
– A Drinking toast – Nastrovia!

You know how to dance ALL of the following: the Two-Step, Waltz, Polka, Cotton Eyed Joe, and the Schottish.

Your Wedding had the following elements:

  • Your Wedding Mass had to be held on a Saturday after 3:00 or all your guests would be mad because it didn’t count for Sunday
  • You had to invite everyone within the entire county so as to not offend anyone.  Weddings are up upwards to 1000 people, but could be held at only $7 a person total.
  • You had your wedding reception in a Parish Dance Hall
  • Your Bridal Party sold shots to your guests to make money for you and kept count by passing out ribbons or stickers for guests to place on their lapel or dress. (sometimes while in full view of the sheriff dept. security)
  • You knew to stay away from the flirtier older guys if they had more than 3 ribbons/stickers on their clothes.
  • You sold shots as a wedding party person and you drank more shots that others paid for you to drink than you’ve ever drank in your life.
  • Your relatives extorted money from your guests for you by singing the folk song – ‘Dietche Dietche’  (Translated: “Diaper, Diaper” – A Polish Folk Song complete with metal aluminum stock pot and ceramic plate for lid to shake in all your guests ‘personal space’)
  • You served good BBQ Brisquette and Sausage with all the fixin’s buffet style
  • You knew the wedding dance was about to start because your male guests started moving tables out-of-the-way and started sweeping sawdust around the dance floor
  • You started your wedding dance with the ‘Grand March’
  • Your main beverage came in kegs and you floated several of them

Your Mom wants at least one of her kids to NOT get married but become a priest or nun.

Your Mom may have yelled at you for dressing rather immodestly by saying: “You are NOT dressed like the Blessed Virgin Mary!!!!”.  Hahahaha!  This rather catty Polish girl used to say behind her back: “Yea, but Mary wore a light blue burkah.  That doesn’t fit the times!”

When you told your Grandma that you were dating someone, the first two things she asked in this order were: “Is he Polish?” and “Is he Catholic?”

You own at least one shot-gun and it’s mainly for dove hunting and you fish in “Tanks”.  Ponds are in story books.

Your older relatives have a strong devotion to the Saints, the Blessed Virgin, the Pope (meaning the REAL one – John Paul II), and the Democratic Party.

Your Grandma has a shrine somewhere in her house complete with votive candles, Holy Water, a Rosary, Prayer Cards, Novenas, Scapula and at least one of the following forms of art- “The Sacred Heart of Jesus” picture with eyes that follow you around the room, “Our Lady of Czestochowa”, “Our Lady of Fatima” or the “Infant of Prague” .

Insight: My Mom used to bring the Infant of Prague home once a year to clean it.  She didn’t know this, but when she went to the grocery store, we’d feel the need to take its crown off, touch its embroidered coat and wish we could pick it up and play with it without going an extra few months into purgatory.  We never picked it up, at least I didn’t.

There is also a picture of the REAL Pope (JPII) – somewhere in the house.  *Bonus: I touched his grave in the Vatican crypt this last month.  Was wonderful.

You collect “prayer cards” from funerals and Priest ordinations and from a priest who goes the extra mile (like my BFF does) having them available at Reconciliation (aka Confession) Services.

Your parents have at least one Crucifix with the Corpus on it mounted on a wall in their house with palms tucked behind it.

Your church’s main fundraiser each year is a Parish Picnic or a Turkey Shoot.

The word kielbasa means something to you. And you’ve bought wedding ring kielbasa.

Buying store-bought generic sausage is beneath you. Your favorite brands are either Pollacks’s or Wiatrek’s.

The names Kosciusko, Moczygemba, Dworaczyk, Dzuik, et.al.- roll off your tongue quite easily. *You would NEVER pronounce Kusciusko -‘Kahs – E – ahs-kO” as Oprah calls it…

You aren’t fully sure of the entire story behind the founding of the U.S., but you know the WHOLE STORY of the very FAMOUS Polish migration to the U.S. on Dec. 24, 1854 and…

Fr. Leopold Moczygemba is your founding Father.  The Germans in New Braunsfels, TX were flourishing, so he hoped to do the same for his own kindred.

Your ancestors did not merely come to the US in a straight shot across the Atlantic to gain entry via Ellis Island in NY.

Your initial families came via a 60+ day sailboat ride in steerage to Galveston, TX.  Then rented carts and/or walked 158 miles to Indianola, TX. to gain entry into the US.  Then, embarked on another 108 MILES north to their new home in Panna Maria.

Our Moses…

You may have never been to Poland, but if you do decide to visit, you know to go with the great travel guide Fr. Frank Kurzaj to ensure the royal treatment while there.

Now with the Eagle Ford oil boom, Dads no longer dream for their daughters to marry Ivy-leaguers, they want them to marry Janyseks. 🙂

Book Review: “The Mysterious Painting”

A Book Review: “The Mysterious Painting” by both Author and Illustrator Molly X

I was recently honored by a young neighbor to read/review a book (or three) for her.    I put the books aside in a very special place to read when I was truly ready to give them the important and meaningful attention they deserved.  So, now with all the Holiday hoop-lah over, I’m better able to enjoy them and give my thorough review and recommendation.  *In the interest of child safety, I will not divulge her real name here in such a public forum.

Diamond

“The Mysterious Painting” is a first attempt at serious writing for our very young author.  It is in my opinion, an early example of a great American Literary Talent in the making.   With much insight and an apt ability to tell a story beyond her years, the author is shown to be a driven, good communicator and quite intelligent in her attempt.   The plot twists and emotional roller coaster ride taken by our heroine, Lilly kept me on the edge of my seat.  As Lilly suddenly finds herself thrown into having to navigate her way through a heist from an important art gallery, its most important piece of art and it’s surprise connection back to her – It is a story told in a masterfully woven plot that will leave the reader wanting more.

The “Note From Author” in itself, is inciteful and a very good thing for us all to reflect on as we enter the New Year.  So, I will end my review by giving it to you in its entirety:

“As a beginning writer I feel like I’m not   as talented as I could be when I’m older and I know more things.  I bet that who ever is reading this note will become a great author if they want to be.  I feel like anything or anybody in the world could be amazing at what there good at!  If It’s either Tennis, Football, Soccer, Cheerleading, Gymnastics, Basketball, Skiing, Baseball, Running, Biking, Swimming, or Golf you are still very talented!  No matter what you’re sport is don’t let anybody or anything push you away from it ever!”

Courtroom Hair: The #1 Reason Not to Commit a Crime Ladies!

I was reading the Dallas Morning News today and came across a story about a plea deal reached by Shannon Richardson.  She was a bit part actress tuRicin Letters-Texasrned lunatic.  She sent ricin laced letters to the President and others in an attempt to get back at her estranged husband for filing for divorce.   A case that shows that in-fact it is true — “Health hath no fury like a woman scorned (especially someone who is a bubble off)”…

Now, I’ve heard that capital punishment IS used to deter crime.  But, I have to say that what really caught my moral attention was not the crime and punishment but Richardson’s courtroom hair!  My knee-jerk reaction at seeing her current courtroom picture explaining was: “Oh my GOSH, now that is a good reason for me to not go to jail in its self!  Thank you very much.  And, if I did find myself in such a situation, I’d make a quick plea deal too do get out of the public eye ASAP!”

Before Ricin "Incident"Richardson’s beautiful red tresses at the beginning of the case had grown out maybe about 6 inches.  Apparently, they don’t allow you to color your hair in jail.  I mean, why would they?  But, this is just not a good look for me or anyone.  It got me to thinking about other cases I’ve read about in the past.  A big case that immediately came to mind was the Darla Routier case.  Darlie's Courtroom HAIR, I mean trial...No amount of argument could get me past the root issue going on there.  I’m sure I couldn’t even serve on the jury:

“Your honor.  I have to be completely honest with you.  I just can’t serve on this jury.  I’m sort of into hair.  I’m a girl like that.  I think that seeing the defendant’s roots day in and day out would be too big of a distraction for me to truly be able to listen to either side of the story in this case.  I hope you understand.” 

I wonder what the judge’s reply would be… Not to be sexist, but It may actually depend on if the judge were a man or a woman… The judge may find that she may have to recuse herself, as well…  Or him, if he’s dapper at all…

Each Year, We Empty Nester Moms Get Our Kids Off to College and Fly the Coop — This year to Central Europe

Several years ago, a long-time friend of mine, Kathleen and I decided to start taking Girls Trips together each September, after we drop our kids off at their cIMG_2451ollege(s).   We’ve been friends for 22+ years.  Our husbands worked together, we both had our last babies at the same time  – would sit on the phone for hours and talk about Oprah’s latest topics – our latest explorations into whatever fad/topic of the day from Andrew Weil’s holistic medicine approach to whatever Psychobabble Guru of the Day was selling and would delve into our wounded inner-child(ren) at length… We have one of those easy friendships that just picks up quite easily no matter how much time has passed.  A real gift and blessing.

2 years ago, another oil field wife and also a long-time friend, Stephanie joined us for a trip to England, as her baby girl went off to Baylor and the trip was a great distraction from her trepidation over the milestone.  We skipped last year for financial reasons on my part.  Mark and I had put in a pool, cabana and backyard flower beds in our blank canvass of a backyard and needless to say it dried up any available  funds for travel.

This year, we went on a Viking River Cruise through Central Europe – the name of the cruise was “Romantic Danube”.   It wouldn’t have been my first pick but my friend Kathleen, a gypsy-free-spirit has travelled the globe, and this area was new to her.

After it was all said and done, I highly suggest going on a Viking River Cruise.  You get spoiled, pampered and spoon-fed your vacation and the history of the places you visit.   It is intimate with 150 or so guests.  The food is great and when you aren’t touring a castle, church or hamlet, you enjoy literally watching the beautiful world go by as the boat putters to your next destination.    Viking plans to expand to even the Mississippi River and when they do, I’m going to book for sure.

Turns out, these river cruisDSC00073es started out just in the 1990s and one can tell that they have been a great boon for the local towns’ economies that they visit.  For example, I would have made plans to visit Vienna maybe, but never to visit small but richly important towns like Melk, Regensburg and the like.  I’m hoping the same for the US towns along the Mississippi if Viking pans out here in the US.  It will be interesting to see what happens…

We went through 42 locks going down the Danube.  According to Wikipedia, A lock is a device for raising and lowering boats between stretches of water of different levels on river and canal waterways.  Most of the locks we went through I slept right through, but passengers spoke of the loud noises they made.   Pretty extrodinary to experience, but I would maybe inquire how many locks you would have to endure for whatever cruise destination you are considering if they are a bother and keep you up.

Trip/Town Notes – I’ll start with this:Business Class Fun!

Our British Airways’ Luck

I was dreading the trip because I don’t like having to fly cooped up in a small space for so long.  I was miserable on our flight to England two years ago and had planned to knock myself out with sleep meds.  Kathleen reminded me that I’m in the car for hours when I drive home, what’s the difference.  She had a good point there, but…  Well, we got to the Houston airport early to see if we could upgrade to Business class at a discounted price.  It was still pricey, but so worth it!   We could get pampered even in the airline’s private Lounge at the airport and on the plane we were able to stretched out and just relax for the 10 hour flight.  In hindsight, I probably shouldn’t have upgraded, because I don’t ever want to fly economy again!

Our College Big-time Move-In Stress-Out!!!!! So thankful it happened…

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Taken on the Sunday that we moved Madison to her OU Sorority House.

Madison’s dream was to attend engineering school at Mark’s alma mater, Texas A&M. Alas, she was turned down because she was not in the top 10% of her rather large high school’s graduating class (she was at 13% with non-stop highly competitive soccer level 24/7) and the engineering school is the first to fill up. Very hard to get into. So, she opted to attend the same school her big sister attended and had a great experience while at the University of Oklahoma. OU is a Greek school, so Madison joined a sorority, something she would not typically do and decided to just try and reapply to A&M the next year.

She was doing well at OU, so well that a prof told her she didn’t make sense, as she was: Blonde, In a Sorority, Had Social skills and Charm – yet she rocked Physics like nobody’s business. I congratulated her but also cautiously advised her not to go to his office if he asks her to come over because he wants to “discuss a paper”. LOL!

As soon as she could, at the beginning of her Freshmen Spring semester, she applied to Texas A&M……………………………CRICKETS……………………….Not a word or letter for weeks………………………she made multiple phone calls and got lost in the maze of “call centers” over and over again………………..Not even a rejection letter…………………….. She was clearly heart broken, but resigned to stay at OU.

In mid August, we moved her into her Sorority House on a Saturday so she could work to get ready for Rush as all Sophomore sorority students are required to do (to help recruit freshman candidates for the new year). Now, we received not one negative word from her, her entire Freshman year at OU, but within 1 or 2 days of working Rush – I received several whiney phone calls from her at her sorority house:

“MOM! They are making me bounce and clap!!!!!!”

“MOM! They are making me smile all the time and practice engaging in conversation with strangers!!!!!”

and the ultimate desperation call:

“MOM!!!! THEY ARE MAKING ME DO CHEERS AND SING!!!!!!!!!!” Hahahaha!!

Needless to say, Madison is not “that girl” which isn’t surprising, she is more of a pragmatic person. Not one to giggle, gossip, preen and pose. My heart broke for her. I told her she could certainly quit, but she said she would get through that one week of Rush as best she could and try to get the back kitchen assignments that most girls would hate. 🙂

That Monday, I was doing bills and a “Texas A&M Engineering School” magazine came in for my husband Mark, a Petroleum Engineer. It broke my heart to see the magazine come in and brag about how great Texas A&M’s Engineering schools were – blah, blah, blah…. Whatever. 😦

I found the editor’s name of the Engineering magazine and while I was at it, the editor of alumni magazine, as well. I told them about the situation and ask that they take us off their mailing list until further notice because right now it just hurt to much to see it all… I did tell them about Madison’s situation in a straightforward, proactive way and basically said: “You have a rare ‘FEMALE’ Mechanical Engineering Major who has a high GPA, is already at a Junior level because of all her hard work and is already on the radar for an internship with a major coorporation yet NOT ONE WORD – NOT EVEN A REJECTION LETTER from you. It’s your loss, you clearly don’t deserve her.”

Within in 24 hours, Madison received a phone call from Texas A&M apologizing for the mix up and asking if would she mind attending Texas A&M after all. They even humbly talked to me and admitted that their was a disconnect on their side (at the time) to work in transfer students. A sign for any good person or organization I think, to admit when they make mistakes and work to improve.

So, we went back 3 days after moving her into OU and moved her out! The sorority sisters were all so sweet to her and even helped her move out. They were probably secretly glad that the “SORORITY GLEE BUZZ KILLER” was going away before Rush hit. Hahaha! I can’t help but get this image of Wednesday Addams from the Addam’s Farmily working Rush – which Madison is clearly not like, but you get my drift. Gotta laugh looking back on it all!

Ok Timeline – Review:

Sunday – Move in to OU – (5 hours round trip)

Monday/Tuesday early – Whiney Phone Calls regarding bouncing and cheering

Tuesday Afternoon – A&M calls Madison on her Cell Phone

Wednesday – Move out of OU – (5 hours round trip)

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Taken 7 days later on move-in day at Texas A&M

Thursday – Travel (3 1/3 hours one-way) to Texas A&M to: Meet with the registrars office —– Find an apartment that needed a roomate—– Get her a schedule worked out even though the classes were all full (they just worked her as best they could) —– Get her Books and supplies —– all in 1 to 2 days time Because school starts THE FOLLOWING MONDAY!!

The Next Weekend – 2 SUVS packed yet again to the max to re-boot the move-in (6 hours round trip)

What did I learn from this? Needless to say it was rather stressful, but it was a positive stressor. I was so happy for her that she was getting her dream. So thankful I wasn’t working a full-time job anymore and could help her navigate through it all as calmly as we could. Yes, this may all be last minute and messy, but it will all get done. It always does.

The registrars were so nice and apologetic on the phone with us that we brought them a “Calming Care Package” with soothing lotions, candles, etc. and acknowledged to them that we realize that they really have a lot on their plates. One of the ladies even offered to be Madison’s Mom Mentor at Texas A&M should she need any help or advice. 🙂

Taken during the great Let's Get This All Done Day!

Taken on the Hectic – Let’s go get this all done day!

Now her 5th year Senior year, the rest is history. Madison ’til this day says she is so glad I was a Momma Bear on this one and butted in.

And, I did email the editors. I thanked them for helping out even though that was not my intention and asked them to put us back on their mailing lists.

Two Easy Financial Tips to Help You and Your College Child Budget Day-to-Day Expenses

college moneyLooking back on that Freshman year in College of our two daughters, there are 2 things that I’m really glad we did:

1st – Get them a Personal Checking Account when they turn 16 and are still in High School:

College kids already have so much to transition into besides having to learn a crash course in money management. I witnessed this first hand with a sister struggling to learn how to budget her money in the first few months of college and the un-needed and added stress it brought on her and my parents. Also, I offer this as food for thought: Imagine the stress if you never knew what your paycheck was going or wasn’t going to be each month…. the added stress on what decision to make or not make not knowing what would or would not come in — Add onto that —- Stressful last-minute phone/email/text conversations asking for money — and you as a parent having to make an unexpected, surprise quick run to the bank or computer transfer…

We sat down with each of our daughters when they turned 16 during their Sophomore year of high school. We had a calm discussion about what they felt they spent on average throughout an entire year (holidays included) going out with friends to movies, gas, clothes, you name it. We’d come up with an amount and then we placed a set amount in their checking account on auto-pay on the 1st and 15th of each month. The amount was not generous, but it was adequate. During this time, we taught them how a debit card works, how to balance a checkbook, etc.

doc martenOur oldest daughter (now age 29) ended up buying a pair of Doc Martens with her very first allowance when she was 16 and found herself asking me for money to go to the movies the following weekend. Saying sorry and not giving her more money was hard to do, but it was important that she learn. Needless to say, she never did that again.

As time and grades would allow, the girls both started working a fun job that they liked to earn extra money. Over time, they became proud to say that they actually paid for Mom/Dad’s gift themselves or were able to buy a few more of those designer jeans or whatever because they contributed to the ability to do so and the satisfaction that comes with it.

2nd – Get them a Personal Savings Account at age 16 and in High School:

With our youngest daughter, we immediately also set up for her to transfer $25 from her own checking into her own regular savings account on the 1st and the 15th of each month via auto-transfer. It may not seem like much but, $650 a year add ups for anyone much less a teenage. We told her not to spend it as if you dip into savings too much, the bank will make you pay a penalty. She didn’t touch it until late in her Freshman year of college when she need a deposit ASAP for her new apartment that she was moving into and she needed use it to bridge until our transfer to her checking account came through. She did put the money back into the account after we reimbursed her.

The summer before her Freshman year, and subsequent summers after, she worked at the Buckle and would put extra money away in her savings. During the Holidays, Buckle would call her to ask if she could help out again and textover time, she just automatically, on her own would put money away for Spring Break fun, etc.

The Fall of her Sophomore year in College, she proudly told us not to worry about buying her college books and supplies anymore, as she was able to do that herself. She has paid for her books for all of her Sophomore, Junior, Senior and now Super Senior year.

This summer as a 5th year Senior she got a summer internship in her industry. She found herself earning $32 an hour in her full-time job, summer internship as a Mechanical Engineer. She was astounded at how much money she was bringing in on her own and approached us to just stop her allowance completely, as she had this easily on her own for the rest of the entire Sept. to May school year.

I’m not saying that they were perfect angels at money management, but I feel that doing this did help alleviate some of the stress of what we needed to put aside each month for them to handle the day to days of school and what they needed to work within as best they can…

Hope this helps.