Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Surviving Thanksgiving Alone

My friend Sharon just called. It is so rare to have a phone conversation these days, the simple act of breathing and swallowing between sentences feels like a refresher course from 1989 scuba diving training.

We both confessed we often don't hear from each other for weeks sometimes, simply because we are too Debbie Downer to enter anyone's world. So we just shut up and shut down. Go off the radar.

For me, that pretty much describes the past 24 hours.

It started with a 3:30am airport run (did you read that, folks? 3:30 A.M.!) to send my husband and oldest son off to Maui. Luke and the Vanderbilt Commodores play in the prestigious Maui Invitational basketball tournament all week. I am happy for my whole family; sad for me. (We are in the last 3 days of a ratings period, so I have to stay in Nashville.)

I will confess, this text from my daughter almost made it ALL better.

I've felt anxious about this week alone for at least the last 3 months. It's likely why I have taken so many trips of late, hoping the binge travel would sustain me through these days flying solo.

To keep from tumbling into a dryer-load of despair, I checked out a fresh batch of books to keep my dopamine pumping. I learned last weekend at a local TedX event, where those 12-20 minute "ideas worth sharing" lectures come from, that learning something new "lights up" the brain and spikes dopamine production.

It's much like traveling, laughing, and deep talks with my family and friends do for me.

Which brings me back to being alone.

Why does it bother me so?

Perhaps it's due to growing up with a house full of siblings and a steady stream of people in the house...which then morphed into a full house with my own children.

My Wing Siblings & their kids

Perhaps it's what my brother and I call the "Wing Discontent" rearing its cruel and ugly head, our constant battle for stimulation, evolution, and purpose.

However, in just the last few hours while listening to one of my newly check-out books on tape, it occurred to me perhaps it's more deeply rooted.

Oprah writes in "What I Know for Sure" that each of us at our core longs to be valued:  "The yearning to be heard and loved is so strong, we seek it wherever we can get it."

Oprah admits she didn't feel loved -- and thought she'd make people approve of her by being an achiever. Until she learned the following:

"The love and approval I craved could not be found outside myself. A lack of intimacy is not distance from someone, it's disregard for yourself....You don't have to spend one more second deprived of the affirmation you should have gotten from your parents.  Look inward. The loving begins with you."

Whoa.  Is this my over-arching issue? If so, what do I do now?

This morning I took a step in the right direction. I scheduled an early shoot to get dressed, out of the house, and surrounded by PEOPLE, followed by a live radio interview to talk about the Nashville Rescue Mission and its upcoming Hearts for Hope luncheon on Valentines Day.

Post-interview fun on the Michael DiGiorno show
I also vowed to journal what I'm grateful for.

"Gratitude can transform any situation. It is the quickest, easiest, most powerful way to affect change in your life," the Queen of Talk insists.

Care to join me?

I Don't Want to be Alone on Thanksgiving

The Commodores are playing in the Championship game of the Maui Invitational, baby!

Even better? After seeing my son Luke on television last night, I heard from my very best childhood friend in the whole wide world.

It was 10:45pm her time. She was visiting her parents in Florida and sent me a short email saying hi.

I immediately called her back at her childhood home number--one of the few I can still remember!

I LOVE this woman.

Friends Forever, even if we only see each once per decade!
Stacie Beth lived right across the street from my Tampa home in Carrollwood Village.

My childhood home; Stacie lived right across the street
In the heart of summer, I would spend weeks at her house.

She always had chocolate in her pantry and perfectly organized, matching containers in her fridge. I wanted her dad to be my dad. The only photos of me in childhood dance recitals, came from him.

When he and her mom would go out to dinner, they would kiss me goodbye too.

She said when she turned on last night's game, she spotted Luke right away.

"He looks just like a Wing!"

"I am so happy for and proud of your kids, Tracy."

I feel the same way about hers. When I see pictures of Stacie's daughters today, I am taken right back to childhood. I instantly love them.

I feel this way about all of my friends' children.

Isn't this one of the blessings of age (and of Facebook)!

Who ever thought being alone this week, would bring such a Happy Thanksgiving.
Nashville Rescue Mission: What Thanksgiving's All About!

Post Script, Post-Thanksgiving:

If the following isn't proof that there IS light at the tunnel.
The sun will come up in the morning.
This too shall pass.

All is well with my soul!

Monday, November 9, 2015

Travel Binge

My precious Nicole
I was reading through scripts for Friday night's newscasts, when an epiphany started to wash over me. 

Weekend wine train plans with my Nashville girlfriend were unexpectedly cancelled, and I found myself free with no commitments. 

I jumped on and looked for frequent flier flights to California. 

My heart had been yearning to see my daughter. To check in on her new life in LA. To make sure she is as happy as she claims to be. 

There were seats available. I texted Nicole about the possibility. Since she can't travel with her team this year, I knew she'd be in town. 

"Sure, come on out," Nicole texted back.

Her follow-up texts were a great indication she is really just fine, mom.

"And can you bring a vacuum? I spilled makeup on my carpet." Followed by: "You're bringing a TV for my room. Right?"


I booked my ticket for 6am the next morning.

Late that night things got even more exciting. On my drive home after the late news, my oldest son John called. He sounded really bummed, looking forward to absolutely nothing that weekend in Little Rock. 

I asked if he'd like to join his sister and me in LA. 

After some cajoling and checking to see if I had enough miles for his flight too--and John deliberating if he dare do such a spontaneous, impractical thing--he said yes!

I booked his ticket. 
My boy & me

I have felt giddy ever since. 

I land in 4 hours. John will follow this afternoon. 

I have admittedly been on the move almost every weekend of late with college reunions, family visits, and birthday adventures.

Visiting pops & step-mom in Chicago with zany Uncle Ben & Sister Tiff
Best ever Vanderbilt Class of '90 Reunion!
My long-time, loyal, and fabulously tan KY friend, Cynthia

World's greatest high school hooligans, 2am at Waffle House

These trips have been a blast. 

Yes, Bon Jovi is this gray!

But nothing compares to the joy I am feeling right now, knowing I will share the weekend with two of my precious children. Knowing they will be reminded how they have each other, too. That they are part of a family who loves them. That they will never be alone in this sometimes lonely world.

Post-family nap on the beach, Santa Monica

Sure, my mom needs will be satiated. I will leave cashless and my credit card will get a major workout.  And my heart will be overflowing.

Thus it is, my latest epiphany: As I've gotten older, my motivations have evolved from climbing and achieving, especially during the work week, to living and loving once the weekend hits.

In fact, I'd better sign off now and seize the next three hours for a power nap, as I plan to make the most of this 36 hours with John and Nicole in sunny California.

Plus, I'll need the strength to haul this vacuum and TV through LAX.

Coast to coast, nothing beats a sunset

Friday, September 25, 2015

The Girl's Got Guts

My favorite Oklahoma picture of all time.

What my daughter Nicole did this summer took true courage.

On August 10, 2015 the 21-year-old college senior called her head coach at the University of Oklahoma and told her she just wasn't happy.

She explained to Coach Sherri Coale that she loves the people at Oklahoma-- her teammates, coaches, the fans. LOVES them.

But she was becoming increasingly afraid that she would forever regret not following her dreams. She had always longed to play on the West Coast, and this was her last shot.

The details will remain between them, but Nicole said it could not have been a kinder, more loving conversation. Coach Coale not only validated Nicole's feelings, but she offered to grant her a release.

Our family will forever be grateful to Sherri for this.

For the first few days life was a thrill. Filled with high expectations and unlimited possibilities. Some of the top basketball programs in the country who recruited Nicole in high school, still wanted her.

We have since learned the release process is not for the faint of heart!

We first explored transferring to the SEC, where we quickly learned a two-year transfer rule exists. (You must have two full years of undergraduate education left in order to transfer. So Nicole would have had to finish on-line, take the GRE, and transfer as a graduate student. No bueno!)

Nicole, on the other hand, was elated--as she was determined to play in the PAC 12.

So, this girl who loathed the recruiting process in high school, was getting a second chance. She actually appreciated the phone calls and texts this time around! I was counting my blessings.

As Nicole narrowed down her decision, I started feeling anxious, obsessed, and hyper-worried about what was next. I feared my daughter had taken a great risk with no guarantee she'll land in a better situation than where she was before. I feared I'd steered her wrong.

That's why what happened two weeks later, makes me fall to my knees and thank the dear Lord above.

UCLA called Nicole. Legendary UCLA. John Wooden UCLA. California. Nicole's dream school.

They talked off and on for several days. Nothing serious. No promises. A week or so later, they flew us all in for an official visit, which turned out to be an intense 12-hour interview--of the whole family! Nicole played one game of pick-up with all of the girls. I left to get back to work the very same night.

The head coach must have said half a dozen times that taking on a transfer she hadn't invested years in recruiting is something they just didn't do. They weren't comfortable. And yet they kept getting random phone calls from people they trusted about this Nicole Kornet--how she can really shoot the ball and is a hard worker and a great teammate. And they seemed to truly enjoy getting to know our family.

After an excruciating two days of wondering, praying, worrying, and worrying some more, Coach Cori Close called Nicole as I was heading out to work. The head coach of UCLA Women's Basketball said her players agreed it was unanimous: Nicole was a perfect fit.

My daughter's dream came true. UCLA offered her a scholarship. She said yes.

Signing her Letter of Intent in my work cubicle in Nashville
The following week I flew my daughter to L.A. and moved her in her dorm. Her dad drove her car across the country.
Just landed at LAX

That campus is heavenly. A slice of serenity in Los Angeles, surrounded by Westwood, Beverly Hills and Bel Air.

Nicole is joyful, excited, and slightly intoxicated by the fact she is living in California.

Nicole's act of courage--to take a major risk, live boldly, and create her own happiness--has made her ultimate dream come true.

Living life with no regrets as a UCLA Bruin.

the women's basketball locker room

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Honey, I Shrunk the World

I remember not so many years ago feeling so trapped and strapped for cash that I believed I would never get to travel to Europe. It would be forever out of the question, forever out of reach. My husband would never let me spend that much. I would feel too guilty leaving the kids.

For a travel and adrenaline junkie like me, these thoughts were death to my spirit. They sucked out any joy and hope. My world felt so small and boring.

If this at all sounds familiar, I am here to say what you're living through right now is NOT forever.

I recently returned from my 3rd trip to Europe in 14 months. I was hesitant to share this splurge with others, embarrassed to tell people at work or on social media. I didn't want to make anyone feel crappy seeing pictures.

But after reading a former colleague's inspiring blog about her path to her dream job, I feel compelled to share my story--about how I shrunk the world.

Comedienne Amy Poehler calls it "time travel." Her book was one of four I finished on this latest journey to Ireland and France. She and Norah Ephron kept me chuckling all the way to the Dublin Hilton, where I arrived after driving on the wrong side of the road in my stick shifted rental car with the steering wheel on the right side. I am woman!

There is little more empowering than traveling alone to a foreign country and renting a car. (Just follow the car in front of you at intersections and FOCUS.)

I was there to meet my daughter after her inaugural, college study abroad experience. Nicole was there for only 2 weeks, and I'm so proud of her for seizing the opportunity between non-stop workouts as a student-athlete at the University of Oklahoma. Most girls just want to go home and veg on their rare breaks. Nicole chose to take a class in Ireland. (Okay, I did add some serious mom pressure.)

Once we finally connected without the luxury of cell phones, we explored the city and countryside, toured the Guinness factory and a museum or two, and 24 hours later took off for Paris.
Sky Lounge at Guinness. Nicole traded hers for Coke.
Fat Bike Tours are the bomb

Spending four straight days with my little girl was a long time coming. I felt close to her again. As a mother. As a woman. We explored. Rode bikes. Met people. We did all of the things we used to do on our annual trips to NYC and the multiple basketball recruiting adventures we took during her super-exciting high school summers.

When I look at old Facebook pix, those times feel like forever ago.
UNC Chapel Hill
The UCONN girls. Yes, that's Maya Moore!
Forever love Coach Adrian. Duke.
Every bball trip always included adventure.
Our fav NYC. Balto.
Coach Gino

Our first & only B & B. "Misery" reenactment.
Sara Beth's at Central Park

Coach Haskell (and her cute son!) And the magnificent Coach Charlotte.

Those years flew by. I'm so happy we seized every single moment.

This girl has always been my favorite travel buddy. (and I have some great travel girlfriends!) I think the combination of protecting one's child while exposing her to world-expanding sights, sounds, people and conversations is an extraordinary experience. It even surpasses the free trip to Singapore some strangers gave me and my friend Leslie, a.k.a. Alice in Wonderland, when we were poolside in Bangkok, Thailand at age 19. It's a story I just divulged to Nicole about my Tokyo Disneyland days.

I'll be posting a full mother-daughter travel blog if you'd like to read the details of our European adventure. The bike tour to Monet's Garden in Giverny was a highlight!

But the main goal of this post to is to simply tell you to GO FOR IT. Plan that trip. Save that money. Create a travel fund and make regular direct deposits.

Fight for it.

It is so easy to fall into the dark spiral of "I'll never get to go to..."  "I'll never be able to afford to..."  Listen, I have counted on my American Airlines credit card for my foreign adventures. Paid less than $100 round-trip this last time.

You can do this.

You, too, can shrink the world.

Picnic in Giverny, France. Claude Monet's home.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

3 a.m.. Really?

I've been waking up at 3 a.m. again. 

This morning it was because I fell asleep with my makeup on. 

I proceeded to feel anxious about everything. 

The good news this time, as opposed to years past, is that I quickly realized there were some things I was NOT feeling anxious about. 

So naturally I HAD to wake up Frank an hour or so later and force him to celebrate the list with me!

These are the things about which I am currently no longer anxious:

1. Paying for the kids' college (this deserves a hallelujah)
2. Texas' crazy-high property taxes
3. My relationship with my dad
4. Living in limbo and away from all 3 kids
5. The kids' future careers (okay, this one is partially true. I'm still a bit concerned about Nicole's!)
6. Making choices that lead me away from a strong family foundation in the future

I'm sure there are more, but those are the biggies. The things that would not only wake me at 3am but would sometimes put me in a catatonic state, especially during contract renewal time. 

Now for the list of things that ARE waking me up at 3 a.m.:

1. Screwing up my children by putting unbeknownst pressure, guilt, or anxiety on them because we left Texas and their childhood friends.

2. Not having enough fun at work

3. Not having a circle of couples friends or couples' activities or couples' volunteer/charity work--and therefore not having enough fun with my husband

My husband, Frank. Isn't he cute?!
Again, there are others, but I must keep some fears private.

Those are the biggies. 

I know I'm not alone in these worries, considering our sitcom BFF's on King of Queens, have entire episodes devoted to two of these three issues.

Our closest "couple friends" these days, Doug & Carrie

So here is what I will embrace today, or at least for the next 11 minutes while I finish my Stairmaster routine:

If love is a series of choices--and if I can just make my next choice out of love for my family, God, and therefore myself--I know I am walking in the Light. 

And I know that Light will keep shining on me and every anxiety lurking in the darkness, pointing the way to a bright and beautiful future.

And you must know, too, that joy will come in the morning.

No matter what time you wake up.

Friday, May 8, 2015

You did NOT Just Call Me That!

A few years ago the beloved captain of my daughter's basketball team called me a cool mom.

Ugh! Cool mom?

All I could picture was her.

Who can forget Amy Poehler's character passing out alcohol and condoms to her teen daughter's girlfriends, desperate to be liked.

I was mortified and offended.

My daughter thought it was hilarious.

It didn't spark a whole lot of soul-searching on my part, primarily because the thought has NEVER been on my radar. If anything, my family scoffs at my UNcoolness!

But in a quest for self-awareness, I had to at least think things through.

Yes, I am on the younger side when it comes to moms with kids in college.
I do love to laugh, go to concerts, and dance and sing like a fool when I get there.
And I do like my pop music loud.
Chicago airport antics

Dang. Does that make me a cool mom?

And why does it bother me so in the first place?

I guess I simply loathe how that label insinuates one is *trying* to be cool.  As though she could care less how her kids turn out, as long as they're all BFF's.

Listen, I may love hanging out with John, Nicole, and Luke, but I can be one tough cookie when it comes to things that REALLY matter, like working hard, being kind, having a positive attitude, believing in God who deeply loves us and commands us to love others. They still verbally flog me for making them take music lessons. And I'm a grammar nazi to boot!

John's high school graduation. Best speech ever!

I prefer to think I'm just a grown-up girl who has been INTENTIONAL about having a better mother-child relationship than the one I had.

My sweet mother's already passed away, but I think she'd be okay if I told you she was quite shy and that we didn't have too much in common when I was in high school.

I preferred to spend every spare second with my crazy friends and THEIR families.

So does it make me a cool mom to crave the opposite?

I don't think so.

I do know this: my number one goal is to raise caring human beings who know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, they are deeply loved.

I think that makes me a GOOD mom.

And you know what?

I think that's pretty cool.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

The Extraordinary Ordinary

We converged in Little Rock at my oldest son John's apartment. (Mind you, it's a one bedroom loft with a queen bed and a sectional couch.)
"You guys staying in a hotel, Nicole?"

"Heck no," she replied to her coaches & friends. "That's part of the fun!"

Limbs were everywhere. Copper came too.

Two days with these characters was as fun as some fancy schmancy European vacation, with John as the consummate tour guide and host. I am so proud of him. He was offered a gig with the top team in his firm on Friday. Way to go, Johnny!!! He broke the news during a 1 a.m. laundry folding session.

On Saturday morning John got us donuts--so we went straight to LA fitness to burn them off and lift.

This is how they have fun. Love how Nicole's always been a tomboy.

Everywhere we go people stare at our traveling forest.
We walked the world's largest pedestrian bridge together on an absolutely glorious day. We finally got some sun on our albino-white skin, stocked John's fridge and pantry, then proceeded it to eat it all while watching the Derby and Clippers-Spurs game.

Little Rock, Arkansas
Sunday we went to mass, followed by a Marshall's shopping spree, topped off by a good ole fashioned Texas Roadhouse last supper. 
And yes, a couple of us cried when it was time to say to say goodbye.
(Dad made sure of it by making us all watch "The Goldbergs." He swears I am just like the overly encouraging Beverly. I consider it a compliment.)

Luke and Nicole took off for Dallas during a RARE few weeks off of basketball. Dad, Copper, and I are now heading back to Nashville.

I appreciate this family time more than most people who read this will ever know. When you have kids young, your children become more than precious little people to care for; if you're lucky, they become some of your best friends. And they are each other's best friends too--positive influences on one other, playmates, and each other's biggest cheerleaders (although they would never say it that way).

So on this weekend before Mother's Day, I am reminded why some sacrifices are totally worth it.

And I can't wait till our next completely ordinary, extraordinary adventure together.

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