Archive for September, 2010

No Man is an Island

Sunday, September 26th, 2010

Sometimes something unplanned gives you a new perspective”¦and renewed appreciation for life, the people around you who care about you, and your community.

I hadn’t planned to go to Rich Poremba’s memorial service but when another commitment got cancelled, I decided I would go with Steve. Steve had gotten to know Rich initially when they were both in Rotary. My only interaction with Rich was that every April for the past four years, he stopped by our house to drop off a rough draft of the “Petaluma’s Salute to American Graffiti” program so that Steve could layout the program and get the file ready to be printed.

During his brief visits, I was always impressed that Rich never seemed stressed by the long list of tasks he had to complete before the event. In fact, dropping off the program almost seemed incidental to giving our dog, a German Shepherd named Xena, a big dose of affection.

I had never seen anyone who loved being nose-to-nose with a dog as much as Rich did. It always made me a little nervous that her big, wolf-y teeth were millimeters from his nose but she obviously knew that Rich was no threat to her territory. She loved giving him big wet kisses.

So although I didn’t know Rich well, after attending the service, I came away with a deep appreciation of him, the many people whose lives he touched, and deeply moved by the people who were grieving his passing.

Many people who spoke at the service talked about how that although Rich was not a blood relation, he became like family to them. And their tears at the loss of a beloved family member struck a chord in me in a way that I had not expected.

I thought I would sit through the service for an hour and then go on with business as usual. But instead I found myself grieving for someone I hardly knew. So much so, that I was drained for the rest of the day and taking care of the usual chores was a challenge.

It was wonderful to hear that love of animals was a theme throughout Rich’s life and a legacy he passed onto his children and grandchildren. I certainly never would have guessed that he loved astronomy. And although he was hugely devoted to the American Graffiti car event, he didn’t actually become a “car guy” until quite recently when he purchased a classic car for himself.

Attending the service reminded me how me grateful I am that there are people like Rich who work tirelessly for our community. In addition to the Salute to American Graffiti, Rich served on the board of the Boys & Girls Club of Petaluma for many years and was recognized at the national level with one of the highest awards that a volunteer can receive.

And I was certainly reminded of my own humanity; although Rich had some health issues, everyone in the room certainly expected someone with as much energy as he had to continue in the same way for many, many more years. Yet within a span of five days, his life passed.

Bottom line: never take life and those around you for granted.

Memories in Store

Sunday, September 19th, 2010

Last week, I got a postcard from Nordstrom Rack announcing that a new shipment of shoes would be arriving in the stores. I got a pang in my stomach when I read it”¦and not because I need another pair of black pumps.

The reason an ad from Nordstrom Rack was painful is because it reminded me how much I miss Valerie. Shopping trips to Nordstrom Racks in San Francisco, San Leandro, and even Sacramento and San Jose were bonding experiences for us. And now that she is away at college, those shopping trips are going to happen a lot less frequently.

I don’t think it’s unusual for a mom and daughter to bond over shopping; even though I didn’t have a close relationship with my mother, shopping with her was the one time that I really felt like I had all her attention and that her ability to buy clothes for me gave her real enjoyment.

Valerie and I have had plenty of nice times shopping together at a variety of stores, but Nordstrom Rack is a place for which we have a special reverence.

Part of that is because we discovered the store together. Valerie and I happened upon it while we were in Southern California for one of her gymnastics meets. We had an afternoon with time to kill so we decided to check out the mall that was close to the hotel we were staying in and there it was”¦a store that we had only heard about but never experienced.

It wasn’t just any old Macy’s or Gap. Nordstrom Rack was the holy grail of shopping; Nordstrom’s merchandise at bargain basement prices.

But we discovered that it takes work to forage through the racks and find the treasures.  Four hours could easily go by when we were shopping. So when our persistence was rewarded and I scored $15 BCBG shoes and Valerie found $29 Lucky Brand jeans, we shared in the feeling of victory that we had battled our way through a sea of circular racks and come out victorious.

I know Valerie also thinks fondly about the many outings we made to Nordstrom Rack stores. She half-jokingly says that discovering Nordstrom Rack made six years of gymnastics meets all worth it. And one of the first things she did when she knew she was going to Chapman was go online to find out where the closest Nordstrom Rack is.

While I will miss going to Nordstrom Rack regularly with Valerie, I also have an opportunity. Jennifer, whose four years younger, was a real trooper on marathon shopping trips with Valerie. So now that Valerie is gone, Jennifer and I have a chance to find a different place that is a bonding experience for us. I’m looking forward to it.

Away at College: Week 3

Sunday, September 12th, 2010

This is Valerie’s third weekend away at college; it may be to soon to know for sure, but it sounds to us like the worst of her homesickness is behind her and she has turned the corner on adjusting to her new world without a room of her own, a stocked refrigerator and her favorite orange cat.

The reason we think her attitude is improving is because her text messages have gone from “Independence is over-rated,” and a panicked, “OMG, this is my life for the next four years!” to “It still feels like summer camp, but it’s getting better.”

As her parents, living through this sometimes painful adjustment has caused me to wonder, are kids really prepared to leave home at 18?

After talking to other parents and young adults who have gone through this more recently, the answer to that question is a lot like the answer you get when you ask, “Are five-year-olds ready for kindergarten?”

Based on my very small research sample, some are and some aren’t.

There are some kids, particularly boys, who are so ready to leave mom and dad and jump into the college experience that they are out of the car before it comes to a complete stop. The prospect of freedom”¦and cute girls”¦far outweighs any discomfort they may have in rooming with people don’t share the same DNA.

On the other end of the spectrum, are the stories about girls who are so miserable living in the dorms that the parents won’t even answer the phone when caller ID shows that it is their daughter calling. It’s too hard for them to stay objective that going away to college is a positive experience when that much weeping is coming at you from the other end of the phone.

I have even heard that there are kids who are so overwhelmed by the adjustment that they beg their parents to rescue them after being at college for just one week ““ and their parents oblige. All I can say is that I hope they have tuition insurance. If Valerie were truly miserable after being at Chapman for one year, we would talk about it.  But unless she wants to walk home from Orange County, in our minds, she is committed for the year.

So where do we think Valerie fits in this range of being ready to go away to school? We definitely believe that she is ready to develop into her own person away from mom and dad and that she is just going through some growing pains.

Rush Hour

Sunday, September 5th, 2010

Valerie is now in her second week away at college and still wondering, “When will college start being fun?” She has been meeting people, but she hasn’t bonded with anyone who she thinks will be a BFF. Again, we remind her that she has only been there two weeks.

She definitely needs to have more opportunities to meet kids and get to know them, so the subject has come up about whether she should go through rush and join a sorority.

This is a tough one to advise her about; there are pros and cons to both sides.

I was in a sorority in college, so I know for certain that it does give you a ready-made group of girls to socialize with. And although I had friends who weren’t Greek, the ones who I am still in touch with today are all sorority sisters. Was being in a sorority important enough to me that I would be an alumnae advisor or do I care whether my daughters join the same sorority as me? No.

However, Valerie very much sees herself as an artist. She doesn’t understand kids who she thinks aren’t serious students. She is concerned that if she pledges that she won’t fit in. And that can give her another reason to feel miserable at being away from home.

The Greek application that she has to fill out online didn’t do much to reassure Valerie that sorority girls are deep thinkers. There were instructions about what to wear each day of Rush: “On Tuesday, wear a flirty summer dress.”

Although the percentage of kids who are “Greek” is only 25% according to the school, her perception is that there is a much larger number who join. Is that because they proudly show off their affiliation or she is just feeling left out?

We have been suggesting that she talk to as many students as she can, especially in the graphic design department to see if she can get a sense of whether joining a sorority would add to her college experience.

But even more importantly, as parents our job is to remind her that even if joining a sorority isn’t her cup of tea”¦or keg of beer”¦that she should be understanding of those who do. They are not better or worse than her, just different personalities.

And no, I won’t show you the Kappa Kappa Gamma secret handshake.