Mr. Mom, Emeritus.

Dear friends,

sinkfix

I dare you to find a maintenance technician with better legs.

In my world, when a distinguished colleague retires, he or she is awarded the title of “Emeritus” if — in fact — the individual’s service and achievements have been exceptionally meritorious.

It’s an honorary title, bestowed infrequently, to only the best.

So imagine my great pride — and melancholy — in telling you Mr. Mom is becoming an Emeritus Caretaker.

In other words, he’s retiring. From Mr. Mom-hood.

Which, in a weird sort of way, really means he’s going back to work. Outside our home.

The transition, which begins today, is more than bittersweet. I’m happy for him because he’s happy for him. He’s been toiling as our caretaker for nearly a decade and with Parker off to college now, there’s only me to care for.

(Not to make light of this. Everyone knows I require a lot of care. And feeding.)

But the last three years in particular have been difficult for him with the Mountain, and he needs both a distraction and an intellectual challenge that doesn’t involve case law or laundry stains. And there’s no denying that with two kids in college, the extra money will be great.

But neither of us made this decision because of money. We made it because — like the last time we transitioned our roles and lifestyle — our careful consideration led us to a mutual conclusion.

We both agreed if we hate it, he’ll quit. I don’t expect him to hate it. I’m not sure about me.

We live in a small town with a first-rate university, a well-respected medical system, and our fair share of manufacturing and scientific industry. It’s a great place to get a job if you’re highly educated. Not so great if you’re a highly skilled tradesman with no desire to work for yourself anymore. So Mr. Mom will be joining the millions of Americans who commute far outside their community to serve as a maintenance technician with a food manufacturing company located an hour away. He’ll be working second shift with a good deal of overtime, which means our evenings watching re-runs of Gunsmoke while enjoying a cocktail are coming to an end. In fact, it means a lot of his free time is coming to an end.

And I’m no dummy, but I think it means some of my free time is coming to an end, too, as we figure out how to divide up responsibility for things like laundry and housekeeping and grocery shopping and all the things he used to handle solo.

It’s weird when I think back about how personally challenged I was by our transition to the lifestyle I now relish. I wrote about it in this essay and, at the time, I really was confronting an existential crisis. (Giving up control of the laundry was a big deal for me, which I’m not proud to admit.) Now — it’s not that I dread stepping back into the role of housekeeper/errand runner, it’s that I’d be lying if I didn’t admit my life is comfortable and I enjoy having Mr. Mom’s full attention and energy. I’m pretty sure evenings at home alone will be lonely until I adjust.

On the flip side, I’m so proud of my mate. Once we made up our minds, he embarked on a job hunt with great enthusiasm, careful research, and impressive results. After being unemployed for what feels like a lifetime in today’s fast-changing world, he found a good-paying job with solid benefits in less than a month. He impressed his new employer on day one, while touring the plant for an interview, when he made several suggestions to improve production efficiency based on just a few tweaks to the equipment.

So . . . that’s my big news. I don’t know what to think yet. Like everything else we’ve tackled, we’ll play it by ear and adjust as necessary. I have butterflies in my stomach, which after 23 years of marriage ain’t a bad thing.

Oh — but there’s this! What in the WORLD will I call Mr. Mom now that he’s not Mr. Mom?

Maintenance Man? Hunk o’ Husband? Hot Legs? I’m at a loss for worthy pseudonyms and welcome your suggestions.

One thing’s for sure. He’s more than deserving of the title Mr. Mom, Emeritus.

With gratitude {for a life that unfolds just as it needs to, just when it needs to},

Joan, who loves that man of hers more than you can imagine

Empty nesting.

Dear friends,

studiocollage

A few sneak peeks of my work-in-progress sewing studio.

I’ve been away from this space for a long time.

I didn’t plan to take a hiatus . . . I’ve just been savoring every moment of my last weeks with Parker at home and I guess I lost track of time.

But guess what? He’s already off at college. (His program in Heavy Equipment Operations at our state’s technical college started June 2.) And Kate flew the nest, too, and decided not to return home for the summer. Instead, she rented an off-campus apartment in Oklahoma in hopes of playing USTA tennis with her coach and landing a summer job that lasts longer than the summer.

It’s weird — having no chicks in the nest. Mr. Mom and I have experienced three whole days of It’s-Just-You-and-Me-Babe Freedom. We have no idea what to make of it yet, so I have no pronouncements to offer.

Okay, maybe I have one: In times like these, it’s best to distract yourself.

To that end, I dove head-first into the deep waters of home improvement. You may recall that two years ago when I struggled with Kate leaving for college, I had no plan. The combination of idle time and her unoccupied bedroom haunted me for weeks and I vowed to avoid a repeat with Parker. It was a coincidence that we moved Kate to her Oklahoma apartment and Parker to his college dorm over the same weekend, but it was not a coincidence that I drove straight home and immediately embarked on two redecorating projects.

First, Kate’s former bedroom is being repurposed into my quilting studio. The to-do is long but the results are immensely gratifying. I mean, come on! I may have lost a daughter (and her assorted furnishings), but I gained a dedicated sewing space. I’m not suggesting it’s anything close to an even trade, but it sure takes the sting off. The recently painted black bookcase (to match my sewing table), the glass canisters filled with brightly colored fabric scraps, the celery green cutting table (a thrift store bargain), the Jadite bowl of fabric pears — it all delights me to no end. I’m quite a ways from finishing the entire space, but I can’t wait to give you a tour when it’s perfect.

Second, Parker’s former bedroom is being repurposed into a guest room. I know to some mothers’ ears this will sound harsh. “He leaves for college and you empty his bedroom?”

But here’s the deal. His academic program is only a year long, after which he will be employed and, if things go according to his 10-year plan, he’ll be traveling extensively. He told me he thinks it would be “cool” to operate a crane in New York City. The point is — the boy has dreams and plans and they don’t include living with me anymore. When he is at home, he’ll need a bed, not a bedroom. (And, let’s be honest, the presence of “his decor” in “his room” makes me miss him even more so I’m creating a room that doesn’t remind me he doesn’t live here anymore.) Plus, I have overnight guests coming later this summer and his boring white walls, oak furniture, and teenager bedding and posters simply won’t do.

Some people drink. I paint. To each his own method of coping, I say.

Anyway, I’m busy cleaning, painting, organizing, decorating, and generally pouring every ounce of my personal time into two big projects. I hope it will be Labor Day before I look up and notice my house is empty, by which time I’ll be used to it. (Makes sense to me!)

With gratitude {for interesting distractions and a partner-in-crime who seems willing to indulge my every DIY whim},

Joan, who has been remarkably composed during this difficult transition and still thinks she’d feel better if she’d just have a good cry

PS: I’ve been away so long, I can’t leave now without telling you about five, very important developments since you last heard from me.

ONE: Parker went to his first (and last) prom. To say he looked handsome in his tux is an understatement. Don’t believe me? Take a look at this boy!

parkprofile

TWO: Kate’s college tennis team once again qualified for nationals and competed in Orlando, FL. I didn’t get to attend this year due to work obligations but I’m bursting with pride for “my girls.” Their final ranking for the season is number #19. IN THE NATION.

NCAA

THREE: When Kate moved to Oklahoma, she took SweetPea with her. THINK ABOUT THIS! Both my kids and my dog left home at the same time. Okay, I know SweetPea is Kate’s dog. But she has lived with me for 8 years. It’s like a death in the family, I tell you.

sweetpea

FOUR: During the time I was gone from this space, Mr. Mom and I spent a week in Colorado for our mountain trial. I haven’t had time or inclination to write about it. Long-story short: It happened and we’re awaiting the judge’s verdict. There’s a lot of drama and twists and turns (including a near-death experience with a star witness and my verbal altercation with the Unfriendly’s attorney), but I’m saving it for later.

FIVE: I am married to the kindest, most considerate man in the world. If he wasn’t the foundation of my empty nest, I’m not sure what I would do. Just sayin’.

You can call it a mid-life crisis if you want. I prefer an empty nest embrace.

Dear friends,

I think I’ve told EVERYBODY but the readers of this blog that I bought a new car.

You already know about my tragic crash on the ice, wherein I totaled my beloved eight-year-old Honda Accord that was supposed to see me through Kate’s tuition bills.

And you know about the list Parker gave me for car shopping.

Turns out, I bought the third car on his list. And it wasn’t even a close decision.

Here’s why:

2013-Subaru-BRZ-Carscoop2_1

I’ll understand if you want to cry that you have car envy. My Saburu BRZ is a very sparkly charcoal grey (think “glittering slate”), but otherwise looks just like the one in the photo. I’d show you mine but it needs a good wash after picking up a few layers of winter road grime.

My car is a two-seater with a six-speed manual transmission. With a top speed of 140 miles per hour, incredible handling, and enough bells and whistles like XM radio, bluetooth, and navigation to dazzle me, it’s the car of my dreams.

Darn that boy knows his mother.

You know what I love as much as anything? That Mr. Mom loves this car. I think he loves it as much as me and it’s the first time in our lives I’ve seen him like this.

The thing is, Mr. Mom used to design, build and race drag cars. He’s worn a Nomex fire suit and a five-point harness and driven the quarter mile in so few seconds it would make most people scream. In his early 20s, he built the engine and transmission for a 1968 GTO, which for some folks is the holy grail of muscle cars, and he still likes to talk about the charms of that pretty little ride.

At the time, I had recently purchased a used 1982 Nissan Pulsar and I was crushed when he suggested it was a POS. I, of course, thought it was the cutest little sports car ever, but I think he had a better sense of its many design and mechanical failures after replacing the car’s ball joint and brake rotors in the parking lot of my apartment complex on a bitterly cold day in January 1986.

Is it any wonder I fell in love with the man? I mean come on. He did a $300 repair job (in 1986 dollars!) for free after meeting me only 10 days earlier, all because he felt sorry for the college girl working three jobs who couldn’t afford to fix her car or even to tow it to his shop.

Anyway, the man just doesn’t get excited about production vehicles, so when he said he liked this one, a LOT, after I already knew I was smitten, my heart went pitter-pat.

Since I drove it home on December 12th, I’ve taken way too many photos of my BRZ and posted several on social media in ways that would suggest I’m a newly licensed 16-year-old male, not a 50+ female. And I’ve showed it off in person to anyone who will give me a minute.

I don’t even care. I.Love.This.Car.

And I’m shouting it for all the world to hear.

With gratitude {for the car of my dreams that is also loved by the man of my dreams},

Joan, who knows how to get on it, and isn’t afraid to, so drivers in Missouri watch out

PS: Check out this smokin’ cockpit

2013-Subaru-BRZ-interior

Putting on your big-girl panties.

Dear friends,

This is a photo my CupKate posted on Twitter Friday night of her tennis team.

I wish I could tell you they were dressed up for a happy occasion, but that’s not the case. Instead, they were going out to dinner with their coach to tell him goodbye.

Not long after Kate arrived in August for the start of her freshman year, it became clear there were issues with the tennis program. I’m not going to air dirty laundry that’s not mine to air. (In fact, I know very little. One thing you learn quickly after your child goes to college is that parents have little-to-no rights to information.) I’ll simply say the fall season was cancelled and the coach is leaving following an NCAA investigation.

It was a shocking development to say the least. Kate and I spent all of last year touring eight different colleges. I had pinned my hopes on a private Jesuit university several hours away, but Kate chose her current location — a small public university in our home state — because she instantly bonded with the coach and with these girls. I adjusted, and to say we both set sail with high hopes is an understatement.

But you know what? The universe immediately handed Kate a difficult but valuable lesson, chiefly that life doesn’t always work out like you planned. Two weeks into what Kate imagined would be an idyllic college tennis career, life smacked her upside the head with a big dose of adult reality: humans makes mistakes, institutions are fallible, and life goes on. I’m proud to say Kate put on her big-girl panties immediately and has been dealing with it in the most admirable way.

Kate is the only American player on her team. The other seven girls hail from Morocco (the girl in purple to the right of Kate, who is Kate’s roommate), France, Russia, Slovakia and the Czech Republic. I don’t know if cultural differences have played a role, or if it’s a matter of youth, but I can tell you Kate’s teammates were having difficulty navigating the complexities and uncertainties of this very difficult situation.

So I sprang into action. If there’s one thing I know how to do and do well, it’s how to navigate administrative and organizational hurdles. Some would say I’ve made a career out of  making bureaucracy work to my advantage. I became the team’s ombudsman, advising them, scripting them, helping them prepare and organize their inquiries and responses and, hopefully, calming their nerves. The girl nicknamed “Frenchy” started calling me “the Tiger” (la tigre).

When Kate told me this, I laughed out loud. If you’ve followed the controversy over author Amy Chua’s Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, you know I’m more of a laissez-faire kitten-mother than a tiger. Still, I knew the name was offered with affection and gratitude and I pledged to wear it as a badge of honor (despite the Asian stereotype). And I couldn’t help but think of the seven other mothers, thousands of miles and four languages removed from their daughters’ situations, and hope it would give them comfort knowing one of us is well positioned to help.

None of us have any idea what the future will bring. A new coach, certainly. How that will affect these girls, their tennis careers, their college experiences and, ultimately, their adult lives is anybody’s guess. I advised Kate to ride out the year and see what unfolds — and she’s doing that with her famously mature approach.

The truth is — she had a drawer full of big-girl panties before she went to college so I had nothing to worry about.

With gratitude {for a girl who can roll with the punches with the best of them},

Joan, aka la tigre du tennis meres

The happy thing. Part 1.

Dear friends,

Remember yesterday when I said I had a million-bazillion things running through my head — some happy, some tearful, some funny, and so on? Well, here’s one of the happy things:

Bloggers Karen and Wendy over at After the Kids Leave gave me a big ol’ shout-out on their blog. They think I’m awesome (awesome?) and said I remind them “of the importance of being happy for what life has given us.”

Here’s the deal. They are way cooler than me and THEY HAVE 507 FOLLOWERS. (I have 41.) So I’m, like, wow. Thank you, Karen and Wendy. It’s pretty neato-bandito to know somebody besides my family and hometown friends are reading.

Their recognition involves paying it forward, which I’m happy to do. But first, I’m supposed to tell you 7 things about myself. The way I blather on and on  — well, I just can’t imagine there’s anything you don’t already know about me (especially any reader who followed me over from my old blog). But I’ll jump in because lord knows I can talk about myself.

  1. I used to be a clown. Really.  The kind with a painted face, funny wig and costume who performed with other clowns doing things like tumbling, pantomime, and silly skits. Say what you want, but I contend that juggling and entertaining finicky audiences of all ages was the best training ever for a working mother, wife and executive.
  2. The best decision I ever made was marrying Mr. Mom. If I would have turned left instead of right back in 1988, my life would be totally different. I’m grateful every single day for our abiding partnership.
  3. The best compliment I ever got (Carole are you reading?) is that I’m always game. Carole is a dear friend who once told me the thing she likes most about me is that I’m always up for whatever wacky adventure she wants to pursue. Need a partner in crime? Need a Mikey to take the first bite? Call Joan. (Also, see point number 1.)
  4. Mr. Mom would tell you the thing he was attracted to most when we were dating is that I can keep a confidence. I know. That’s an unexpected thing to hear about a woman who now blogs (blabs) to the world, but back then, I was as tight-lipped as a Soviet spy. Case in point: (PSSSST — I’M REVEALING STATE SECRETS NOW) When Mr. Mom met me, I was going to college and living with my father, who was a bookie. Much later when Mr. Mom put two-and-two together and realized I hadn’t said a word to him about my father and none of my friends knew either, he decided I was a woman he could trust.
  5. Ready for a bombshell? I used to belong to a religious cult. At least that’s what some people called it. To me, it was a post-college phase that didn’t last long but scared the bejesus out of my family. I wrote an essay about it. Maybe I’ll share it someday. (This revelation is further evidence of point number 3.)
  6. If I could remake my life and be anybody or anything, I envision myself as a revolutionary, a la Emma Goldman or Margaret Sanger or Noam Chomsky or Che Guevara or Cesar Chavez or Ralph Nadar or Crystal Lee Sutton (“Norma Rae”). I once said my epitaph would be “She was a free spirit struggling to transcend the constraints of a conventional life,” but maybe that’s just the romantic in me.
  7. Maybe the thing I like most about myself is my determination. “The Mountain” notwithstanding, I’ve got the fortitude of a marathoner. I’ve never thought I had enough intellect or talent to win anything, but play the perseverance game and I’ll come out on top every time. I watched a mother with no education, scarce resources and three alcoholic husbands set her jaw and endure hardship every day of her life, so I’ve never doubted for one second I could outlast the SOBs. (Holy cow, I might just have drummed up the mustard to beat those Unfriendlys!)

So that’s it. Tomorrow, I’ll spread the love to blogs I adore. Please come back. Learning about those folks is far more entertaining than hearing about me.

With gratitude {for two new readers who inspired me to contemplate my life, which is always a welcome exercise in thanksgiving},

Joan, who never really aspired to be a clown, per se, but joined the troupe her freshman year of high school to be near a senior boy she was sweet on and ended up performing for four years straight

So long sweet summer.

Dear friends,

This is how I spent my last weekend of summer –

Cooking (grilled salmon, pasta, assorted salads, barbequed chicken, baked french toast, biscuits and gravy, green chili enchiladas and more) . . .

baking (apple pie, apple-pineapple crostini) . . .

decorating (tablescapes, new arrangements for the mantle and buffet, flower arranging) . . .

and mothering (big hello and goodbye hugs,  staying up late for long talks, relaxing on the sofa with every person and critter in our household piled on with me, watching movies, passing out money and, of course, all that cooking).

It was three days of bliss I won’t soon forget. I even worked in a couple of naps, some leisurely reading, and lots of the US Open. It was the perfect end to summer, a much-needed respite before the busy fall, a luxury for a homebody who’s called away all too often.

With gratitude {for 72 hours of full-nesting},

Joan, who feels a new sense of energy and says bring on the fall

Home sweet home.

Dear friends,

I got the best surprise ever last night. Kate called after dinner to say her tennis coach cancelled their practice scheduled for Sunday and gave her a free pass for Monday — so she’s home for the long weekend!

I ‘m absolutely giddy about having my CupKate home for an unplanned visit. I made Pioneer Woman’s Baked French Toast this morning and I’m just waiting for the aroma to wake the kids.

By the way, it’s still raining slow and steady  in our neck of the woods. I feel blessed beyond measure — Mother Nature is smiling upon us and we’re all together under one roof. I’m one Mamma who couldn’t be happier.

With gratitude {for three days with the three people I love most},

Joan, who’s not leaving the kitchen this weekend and whose holiday culinary line-up includes barbecued chicken and baked beans, grilled salmon and Midnight Pasta, and green chili chicken enchiladas

Two years.

Dear friends,

Nineteen years ago, our first child was born. I can remember with vivid clarity the concentrated emotion surrounding that event. For the first two years of Kate’s life, her father and I had a laser focus on her every need, emotion, and developmental milestone. Any new parent knows the feeling I’m talking about. It was frightening in some ways, but magical in so many more. We were a family of three — perfectly contained, thoroughly in love, completely content.

Then Parker came along and the whole dynamic changed. A family of four is entirely different than a family of three. And when the siblings are born 2-3 years apart, as ours were, the children can become their own self-contained unit, far more content to entertain each other and less needy of their parents’ attention. We were blessed that Kate and Parker developed a close relationship and enjoyed each other’s company right up until the moment Kate went to college.  We’ve been the four amigos for a very long time. (Well, 16 years to be exact.)

So it occurs to me now that — just as we enjoyed two years alone with Kate when she was a baby — we will now have two years alone with Parker. We’re a family of three again — two parents with a laser focus on one child.

I know. Kate will be home for holidays and such . . . and we’ll always really be a family of four, Lord willing, but it feels once again like we’re a family of three.

For example, there’s only three voices in the dinner conversation now. And only one of them is our child, so we’re naturally more attentive. It’s interesting, lisenting to this solo son’s voice without an echo or an interruption or an aside from his sister. In some ways, he’s on his own two feet for the first time since he was born. I wonder what he makes of it. I hope he’s enjoying our  undivided attention.

I’m certainly enjoying giving it to him. I’m enjoying listening to his voice with a new ear, one not distracted by another child’s concerns. I’m enjoying his company in a way completely different but just as satisfying as that of his sister so many years ago. When Kate was an only child, I read Dr. Seuss to her. I played with her. I cuddled her. Now that Parker is an “only” child, I watch reality television with him. I discuss social media with him. I seek his opinion on politics, community events, and family priorities.

Two wildly different stages of parenting, but still one deeply satisfied and appreciative mother.

With gratitude {for two years — then and now — as well as all the years before and after},

Joan, who just discussed with her son his essay comparing the sociological imaginations of Socrates and Forrest Gump and thinks adult conversations with your children are awfully cool

Some unrelated thoughts indicative of my state of mind.

Dear friends,

So I’ve got about a thousand things running through my mind this week, none of which add up to anything meaningful but all of which are eminently fascinating to me.

Such as:

  • Parker got a job. At his parents’ urging. He’s busing tables and mopping floors at a steakhouse conveniently located one mile from our house. He’s making minimum wage. He’s busting his butt and coming home tired. His parents can’t stop smiling. Especially his mother. Especially in response to the statement “It was mayhem Mom! I mean, I worked non-stop for FOUR hours.”
  • I decided that with all my newfound spare time — what with a daughter away at college and a son at work — that I would read. Read books. Books I’ve had on my list for a while but never gotten around to. Right now, I can’t put down Gun Fight: The Battle Over the Right to Bear Arms in America. I was looking for an objective treatment of the subject and I’m not sure I found it, but I’m tripping over all sorts of interesting facts I didn’t know. Warning: I’m neither a “gun nut” (read: NRA fanatic) nor a “gun grabber” (read: raging liberal who wants to disarm America) that the author uses as his archetypes, but I am interested in the debate, I’m married to a man with a different perspective on the topic than mine, and I want to be more informed on the facts and not the rhetoric. I’ll let you know if I think the book ultimately has anything to add to the dialogue.  Next up: Fraud and Half Empty, both by the brilliant David Rackoff.
  • My dear sweet Kate is doing just fine.
  • My minimalist phase continues (new books notwithstanding). I spent the last couple of days de-cluttering my master bedroom. There’s now a three-tiered television stand with nothing on it but a television. It’s weirdly . . . vacant looking. But in a really calming way.
  • Does it count if I took some of the clutter to my office? I know. It probably doesn’t, but, among other things, I couldn’t bear to discard my “Tulsa” snowglobe. And yet it was imperative that I get it out of my home. Is this kind of emotional oxymoron (I must get rid of it! I must keep it!) the sign of a breakdown? Or is it merely phased detachment? If “phased detachment” (a term I totally just made up) sounds better, I’m going with that one.
  • When Kate left home, I stopped running. Remember that interval training we were doing? Yeah. I fell off the wagon without the incentive of early morning mother-daughter bonding.
  • I have bitten off every last one of my nails. I do that when I get anxious. I’ve been a nail-biter for as long as I can remember. It drives Mr. Mom crazy. I don’t care because his jittery leg syndrome drives me crazy. It’s an even trade, I figure.
  • Now that I have a daughter at college and a son at work, I joked to a friend yesterday that I would soon have to send Mr. Mom back to work. She looked at me with a furrowed brow and said “Well, you won’t get dinner served at 5:30 pm anymore.” I realized that’s no joke and I zipped my lip.

With gratitude {for my clean house, warm dinner, industrious children and long reading list},

Joan, who hasn’t cried in 48 hours and thinks that must be a good sign

Good morning, Sarah!

Dear friends,

I have a friend from back home named Sarah. She’s one of the most adorable 20-something girls you’d ever want to meet and she tweeted this yesterday:

Sarah is the daughter of a woman I went to high school with named Shelli. Shelli’s adorable, too, so it runs in the family. (In fact, back in high school another friend of mine used to say about Shelli: “Isn’t she the most adorable girl ever?”)  Anyway, Sarah has told me before that she likes to start her morning with Debt of Gratitude, and that thought alone makes me happier than you can imagine. Probably happier than Dr. Pepper, m&m’s and my blog make Sarah.

I was not having a stellar day yesterday. It was my first day back at work after returning from Oklahoma and it was jam packed with meetings and other obligations in which I had little interest. Everybody knew I had just returned from taking Kate to college and everybody kept asking me how I was doing.

I smiled. And I said fine. But really . . . I wanted to burst into tears. So when I saw Sarah’s Tweet mid-day, it sure perked up my melancholy little heart.

“I can’t be sad and mopey,” I thought to myself. “I have to go home and write something for Sarah!” I wish I had something more creative, something more profound, something more substantive than “thank you” to offer her (to offer all of you, really), but I don’t.

Still, since this is a blog devoted to gratitude, I can’t exactly argue with an expression of appreciation, no matter how modest.

So thank you, Sarah, from the bottom of my heart for evicting me from Mopeland and back to real life where I count my blessings every day.

With gratitude {for Sarah and all my readers whose daily visits enrich my life},

Joan, who also wants to give a shout-out to Debbie, her first college roomie who made her home-to-college transition so much more bearable all those years ago

PS: While I’m counting my blessings, will you indulge me just a moment? I want to show you some photos I took of Kate at college. She’s in a lovely environment and it gives me comfort to know her world is a pretty, happy place.

Kate outside her new apartment. She’s on the 2nd floor. Hooray for the built-in Stairmaster!

Kate’s bedroom. We both were pleased with the pink-and-black decor and the $20 craigslist desk. Hooray for cheap chic!

Kate and her roommate, Houda. Houda from Casablanca. I love saying that! You know what else I love? Houda is Muslim and speaks Arabic. Hooray for cultural diversity in Kate’s life!

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