Parent Weekends, Here We Come!

Georgia Parent Weekend

Elon Parent Weekend

St. Mary’s Parent Weekend, the day after shoulder surgery – un…

Whew.

Julie and I have attended three Parent Weekends at three educational institutions in three different cities over the past three weekends.  I have slept in more beds this past month than Marco Polo did when he traveled through China.  I have met folks from all over the country and hung out in multiple dorm rooms.  I have eaten cafeteria food, attended ball games, partied in a Frat house and listened to seven acapella groups.  I have walked, Ubered, driven and ridden in a train.  I feel like a Fed Ex package.

Our first affair was in Athens, Georgia, at the University of Georgia, with Julie’s sophomore son.  This two day event was sponsored by his fraternity.  I know nothing about frat life so I have no idea which one he’s in.  Alpha Gamma Phi Epsilon Mu Pi Omega – or something like that.

This weekend was a bit different than the others.

On Friday night, after a nice dinner under a big white tent with a swanky port-o-potty, we went to a bar which the brothers had rented out for our pleasure.  When it was suggested that we hit another bar at around 10:30 PM, all the parents put on a smile (it was past our bedtimes) and began the trek down West Broad Street.  At our second stop, I received a high five from a tall young man when I walked out of the bathroom enthusiastically singing the DJ’s current tune, Remix to Ignition by R. Kelly.  It actually made me sort of proud although it’s a pretty old song so I’m not sure I should feel so hip.

I became quite uncomfortable when six young college ladies climbed up on a table in very short shorts and began twerking right before our eyes.  I gave them a disapproving look and then turned away.  It was like watching a train wreck – I could tell something bad was about to happen.  Fortunately we left so I didn’t have to see it.  If I’d had their parents phone numbers, I would have called.  Had it been my child on that table, I’d have snatched her down, put her in the car and sent her to a convent far, far away.

We ended the night at a dance club across the street from the Twerking Tavern.  This place had a movie screen larger than my house with videos that accompanied the 275 decibel music.  I was offended when I was walking in and two dudes yelled, “Daaaad,” as if I didn’t know I was too old to be there.  But when you have the moves, it don’t matter your age.  And I have the moves.

Our second weekend was with Stephanie, my freshman at Elon.  It was different from Georgia.  Her dorm room was immaculate.  The music was an acapella concert in a huge concert venue in the middle of campus.  We met several of her professors on Saturday, went to a ballgame where it was 106 degrees, and ate lunch with one of Steph’s best friends and her family from Texas.

Our final romp was at St. Mary’s, Michelle’s high school.  It was rather tame, and I’d had shoulder surgery the day before.  After walking to the science building a quarter mile from our previous destination, I nearly threw up.  I think it was the Oxycodone, but it may have just been the bad memories that overwhelmed me from my days in Mr. Boyd’s biology class in 1982.  I can still picture that enormous, gray worm he made us dissect.

But I did get to see my kid perform with her chorus in an incredible concert on the lawn.

Julie’s youngest doesn’t have a Parent Weekend, so we’ve only one left.  For DJ, the senior, we’re gonna skip the formalities and spend a casual weekend in DC next semester.  We had to have a breather – we are just so tired.

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Another One Bites The Dust

packing

Stephanie, my middle kid, is heading to college on Friday.

I’m not sure what else I can do to prepare her.  We’ve covered sex, drugs, alcohol, tobacco, credit card abuse, #metoo, diversity, opioids, hygiene, tattoos, the benefits of making your bed each day, getting involved and academics.

Our conversations go something like this:

Me:  “Opioids killed 2,500 people in North Carolina last year.”

Stephanie:  “I’m sorry to hear that.”

Me:  “Often folks get addicted after having surgery because they use them for pain.”

Stephanie:  “Then don’t use them for pain.”

Me:  “I won’t.  You don’t either.  They may be running rampant at Elon.  I’m just not sure.  Please don’t take them.”

Stephanie:  “I won’t.”

I’m not sure if these lessons are seeping in.

I have such hopes and dreams for this kid.  She’s like the best kid in the world, and I’m about to toss her into the ocean of life.

Thankfully she will only be an hour away.  I can get to her quickly if I need her.  I guess I could just drive over there each morning to make her bed – just to ensure it gets done.  I’m sure she’ll be up early.

No, that’s ridiculous.  I wouldn’t really do that!  I’ll just see her on Sundays when she comes home to go to church with me.

OK – I’m going to be brave.  I’m going to unpack her stuff, drop her off and drive away without tears or a scene.  And I’m not going to drive to Elon to see her – until the second week when I’m “passing” through to go to Charlotte.  I mean seriously, I’m gonna drive RIGHT by the Elon exit on I-40, what do you expect me to do?

You-Haul

Last time I rented a U-Haul was around 1999.  Actually, my dad rented it to close down my grandparent’s house. My father, my brother and I drove the truck the two hours from Fayetteville, NC, where my parents live, to Florence, SC, where my grand folks lived.

Grand mama and Granddaddy Tanner lived in this house for a very long time and had accumulated A LOT of stuff.  I used to wonder how that could happen, how you could end up with so much junk.  Now, I know.  I have cans of green beans that are older than DJ not to mention rugs, tables, lamps and my dad’s Army uniform that I couldn’t button around my waist if I spent six years in abdominal cool sculpting.

We rented the largest vehicle in the U-Haul fleet knowing there would be a great deal of wares to disseminated between the three of us.  It was sort of like driving a wide YMCA bus sans the windows and sweaty kids.

If I recall, we had a refrigerator, washer and dryer, dressers, queen mattress sets, a china cabinet, tables… I wonder why we didn’t take table cloths and candle holders.  Nah.  We went BIG.  If you made a list of the heaviest items in your house, they were the ones we choose to hang onto.

The three of us packed all day and strategically placed the items in the truck based on delivery location.  We’d leave Florence late afternoon and hit my brother’s house two hours away, unload then repeat at my parent’s house that night.  The next day we would drive to Raleigh to unload my booty and return the truck.

Because my arms are the size of cooking skewers, I was tired by the time we finished packing the truck.  I mean I lift weights at the Y, but I seldom lift dishwashers.  And my brother… weakling (I really hope he read this.)  My dad, however, used to be quite a task master.  Once he started a job, he plowed through.  It didn’t matter how late it was, how tired you were or if you had a wedding to attend that night.  The job would be done in the time frame set in his head.  I’m sort of surprised he didn’t make us repaint the house before we left that day.

About an hour into our return trip headed north toward home, the U-Haul engine began to sputter.  We made it off the main highway before it completely died.  There we sat in the gravel parking lot of Ennis’ Auto Sales.  Thankfully we had all the necessary items to cook, clean and sleep as needed.

U-Haul was great.  They brought us a new truck within a couple of hours so that we could unload the one we had and reload the new one.  Yes, we pulled EVERY SINGLE item out into Ennis’ parking lot and strategically put it all back in the truck.

I’m not sure how old my dad was when he directed, yes he was in charge, my six house moves and the closure of two grandparent houses, but if he was over 52, it was too old.  I recently moved DJ into her first apartment in DC.  She moved into a brownstone on a very skinny street a couple of blocks over from Trump’s place.  I was confident we could get her bed up the two flights of stairs to her bedroom but the dresser and the couch were another story.

You know what’s great about daughters?  They often have guy friends.  A little after we arrived, DJ made a plea for help via social media and two ROTC hunks were at our door within minutes.  Like these dudes are going to flight school next fall.  A couch was child’s play to them.

As I was pondering how to begin navigating the skinny stairway up to the den with couch in tow, Biff and Rocky picked up the couch, passed me in the hallway and carried it to it’s final destination – all within about 10 seconds.  They then asked if there was anything else I needed help with.  I felt so old, so useless.  Was I now solely the truck driver?  Was my toolkit not needed?  Was I not going to have the opportunity to put to use the years and years of dumbbell work I’d stored at the Y?

I am thankful for Biff and Rocky.  Taking a large couch up a small flight of stairs would have been a beast on my own, although I’m sure I could have done it.  But I will say those dudes stripped away a little bit of my manhood that day.

She’s Home

Ten Ways You Know Your College Student Has Returned:

10.  La Croix in da house! (the diet Coke of Millennials)

La Croix

9.  Tennis shoes in da house!  (the kitchen floor to be exact)

sneakers

8.  Dirty dishes in da house!

Dad:  “DJ, could you PLEASE clean up the dishes you use while I am at work?”

DJ:  “I clean up some of them.  Just not the hard ones.”

dirty dishes

7.  The stained shirt returns.

Phone call September 2017:

DJ:  “Dad, I got a stain on that white blouse.  Do you think you can get it out?”

Dad:  “Probably.  Just bring it home.”

May 2018:  It returns.

blouse

6.  A lone sweet potato, just hanging around.

sweet potato

5.  Tupperware filled with unidentifiable things.

tupperware

4.  Plugs, plugs, all kinds of plugs –

plugs

3.  Empty drawers.

Drawer

2.  Cluttered floors.

floors

1. The annual bathing suit blowout.

bathing suit

It’s so fun to have them back.  Right??

 

 

Ye Old College Tour Guide

elonfurman-university-belltower

This past weekend, Stephanie, Julie and I took our final, I think, university visit before decision day 2018.  We have it narrowed down to two:  Furman University in Greenville, SC, and Elon in Burlington, NC.

It is interesting that your college decision, a big one I might add, often relies upon two factors:

  • the weather
  • the tour guide

Both are a crap shoot.

Our primary guide this week was a freshman from Lenoir, NC, named Rupert.  He was enthusiastic and had his full head of black hair moosed up.  His bangs pointed toward heaven like a duck’s beak.  Although, from my estimation, he’d only been at Elon for seven months, he said he’d changed his major three times.  Reassuring to those who have yet to determine their lifelong goals.

Our tour group was small, only four.  Rupert was able to give us plenty of attention.

Rupert walked backwards the majority of the hike across campus.  Although it was evident he was walking backwards, he specifically pointed it out to us.  I think that was what he was primarily excited about – he was very proud of this skill.

I feel sort of sorry for Rupert and his colleagues across America.  These pour souls work so hard to be engaging, and yet, the high school senior demographic is not too keen on participation.  When your guide asks, “Does anyone have any questions,” so hopeful to fill the silence void, they often get nada.  The kids are too cool to ask; the parents have been threatened.  Julie’s kids told her she could not ask questions which is really, really hard for her.  I was warned too not to go overboard.  But when the dude says, “If you ask questions it makes my job easier,” I just feel compelled to speak.

I want to ask things like:

“Do the college students here drink, smoke pot and have sex?  And if so, what percentage of the student population do those things and how often?”  Or, “Do you have friends?  How did you make them?  I don’t want my baby to be lonely.”

I refrain, often asking what I already know:

“Does this school have study abroad?”

“Is the food good?”

“Are there clubs you can join?”

Anything to keep us from standing there in uncomfortable silence.

In one of the dorms, the guide opened a dorm room door and Julie and Stephanie walked in.  The stunned student, sprawled out on his futon was quite surprised, “This is not the room you’re supposed to visit!” he snarled at the guide.

Ooops.  Thankfully he was just reading.  It could have been much, much worse.

I feel really good about Stephanie’s options for college.  She wants a small liberal arts school and both of these fit that bill.  And perhaps this time next year she can don a purple or burgundy polo shirt and walk backwards through campus herself.  That might give her a little more patience with the adults in her life!

Applying for Financial Aid…oh my lord

kitchen

I thought, what the heck?  I have two girls going to, likely, private universities next year and one in a private high school, so why not respond to the University of Richmond’s prompt to complete financial aid information for the 18-19 school year?  What could it hurt?  I may not qualify – perhaps you’re supposed to spend 67% of your income on education.  My choice, I realize, but why not apply?

I started this process at 2 PM.  It is now 8:40, and the cuss words that have come out of my mouth have ensured I will not go to heaven.  There is no possible way at this point.  I crossed the line.

After figuring out how to log in – to let you know my level of frustration, the final password I used in FAFSA was HolYsHit123%.  After six other attempts, I was DONE.

When my inappropriate password would not work to “electronically sign” the document after hours of entering my deepest darkest financial secrets, I called Brenda who works for our US Government.  “Mr. Tanner, I cannot talk with you.  This is your daughter’s account.  I must talk with her.”

“Listen Brenda, who in the hell do you think sired this child???  Me.  And furthermore, I AM FULLY FUNDING HER COLLEGE EXPERIENCE!  You gonna talk to me!”

“No Mr. Tanner.  I CANNOT talk to YOU.”

“Did Donald Trump tell you not to talk to me?”

“No.  He did not.”

Hypothetically, if my college bound child was not at home, I would call her little sister into the kitchen to talk to Brenda.  But that is probably illegal, and I would never break the law.

When my daughter came downstairs, I put Brenda on the speakerphone.  She was slurring like a drunk sailor, which I could understand because I’d been arguing to her for 30 minutes at this point, so I was coaching Stephanie as Brenda gave her instructions.

“Mr. Tanner.  You cannot speak.  This call is between your daughter and me!”

“SHE COULD NOT UNDERSTAND YOU.  I WAS INTERPRETING.”

“You were talking to me,” Brenda snarled.

“I was not, you…”

Michelle, I mean Stephanie, put her hand on my shoulder.  “Dad, I’ve got this.”

After checking our emails for the fourteen messages Ms. Brenda had to send us to reclaim our just formed usernames and passwords, we finally got the frickin’ document signed.

Then… as if FAFSA wasn’t enough punishment for not being wealthy, I had to sign into the College Board website, required by three of our prospective universities, to regurgitate the EXACT same information to them.  LITERALLY – THE EXACT INFORMATION ENTERED ON THE FAFSA form.  And… one of the universities also wants a copy of my tax return and my W-2 sent to them, because uploading them for FAFSA and the College Board web site isn’t enough.  That ain’t nothing but lazy.

They also sent a nurse over to get a stool sample and asked for the receipt from the hamburger I ate at Hardees on Raeford Road in Fayetteville, NC, on July 16, 1974.

My daughters can’t balance a checkbook.  Can they really be expected to complete an in-depth form about their father’s financial status?

If I was a kid without significant parental support having to complete this process alone, I would say: Screw college!  It is simply not worth it.  

Which is very sad to me.

P.S.  I am very thankful and appreciative that there is financial assistance for those who need it.  But dang people, we gotta do better than this.

 

Packing Up

Full of shoes… FULL!

In May, I drove to Washington to pick up my eldest daughter from college.  DJ lives in a sorority house.  Go Alpha Delta Pi.  I’ve been trying to figure out their secret handshake, ‘cause I’m sure they have one, but she is mums on the sorority rituals.  I think they sacrifice chickens at night in their basement – but I’m not exactly sure.  Anyway, as I entered her room, I was simply amazed at how she packs, or doesn’t.

Well, she sort of does.  Like stuff is shoved in various toting devices, but when I arrived, there seemed to be very little rhyme or reason to the organization of her belongings.

A laundry bag might contain some laundry (perhaps clean, perhaps dirty – only a sniff could tell), a can of beans, shampoo, a desk lamp and a broom.  Her comforter ripped off her unkempt bed and carried by hand.  She did put her shoes in a 3’ x 3’ x 4’ plastic container.  There were thirty five pair, and it weighed 700 pounds.

I pulled my back out trying to get her suitcase upstairs when we returned to Raleigh.  It was crammed to the brim.

I am amazed at the amount of stuff that two girls can fit into a 10’ x 10’ room.  I’ll have to say they utilized their space very, very well.  Under the bed, check.  Over the closet, check.  Hanging from the rafters, check.  And amazingly, DJ knew where each item lived.

If on display, you could fill a Walmart Superstore with items from their shared space.  It took two medium sized SUVs to get my child’s possessions back to North Carolina.  It actually expanded over an eight month period of time because when we dropped off in August, it took but one vehicle.

I remember my mom and dad coming to pack me up after one particularly rancid set of roommates.  We were living in an apartment, and they drew the short stick with the other parents.

My dad spent the day in the bathtub trying to Clorox the black ring my roommate and I had created over an eight month period of time.  It’s amazing what comes off your body.  It’s amazing what happens when you don’t clean something for two-thirds of the year.

My mother found a Tupperware container as she worked on cleaning our fridge.  She recognized it – it was red with a white lid.  However, the contents were unrecognizable due to the thick layer of green mold encasing the months old tuna salad she’d sent back with me at Christmastime.  Close to penicillin.  YUCK.  What were my roommates and I thinking?  And yet, I turned out alright in the areas of cleanliness and tidiness.  In fact, I’m quite a stickler when it comes to my house.

Perhaps there is hope too for my daughters.  I think that there is a household organizational gene that does not quite fully develop until after graduation from college.  At least that is my hope.

Stephanie, the Pickle Farmer

college visit photo

Another junior, another week of college tours!  Whoa baby.

What a great way to spend one-on-one time with your kid.  A car, a dad, a daughter and 947 miles of walking around college campuses.

The first one was interesting.  It declined from there.

Things I rediscovered about universities and making that all important, life-changing decision:

  • Every school has a blue light emergency system. This is pointed out at all of the schools for parents who are scared to death that their kid is going to be attacked walking across campus at 2 AM.  I am one of those parents.  I like the blue light stations.
  • For a high school junior female on tour, the cuter the male guide, the higher the satisfaction with the college. At Furman, half of the tour was given on long purple golf carts.  Stephanie and I had been near the back of the walking portion of the tour led by a cute, peppy female co-ed.  When the staff member pointed us toward the golf carts for the remainder of our visit, a blonde stud muffin with a million dollar smile stepped out of the driver’s side inviting us to embark.  Stephanie knocked over two other girls, three moms and a grandmother to sit on the row behind Sven.  I glared at her.  “I’m really interested in this college” she defended.  I should arrange for the cuter guides to meet us at the cheaper schools.  Seriously?  We can’t make a decision on where to attend college based on the hotness factor of the dude leading the tour!  That is NOT a good measuring stick.
  • At each school, the first question prospective students are asked is “What are you considering for your major?” Stephanie is undecided although she has some interest in psychology.  I suggested she share her potential major.  She did not.  She didn’t want to commit.  I told her it didn’t matter what she said on tour, that it was not binding – that they would not force her to become a child psychologist simply because she mentioned it in April of her junior year in high school.  As we drove down the highway, we saw a sign for Mt. Olive College (we did not tour there).  But since Mt. Olive is famous for pickles, I suggested when asked about her future vocation at the next stop she say, “I am considering becoming a pickle farmer.”  We wondered how that would go over at Wake Forest.
  • I was aware that most higher learning establishments housed a Starbucks. I was unaware that the most frequently asked question by students on a college tour was, “Do you have a Chic Fil A?”  I do not know why that surprised me.  When DJ went to college in Washington, DC, she picked up jogging as a hobby.  That was shocking since she absolutely HATES to run.  But then, I realized, she was not running for exercise or endorphin pleasure.  She was running to catch the Chic Fil A food truck.  There are no stores near campus so she had an ap on her phone that tracked the vehicle’s whereabouts.  If within three miles of her dorm, she would don the running gear and high tail it to chicken.  By the way, all but one of the universities we visited had a Chic Fil A.  So don’t panic.  One is near.

This is not my last child nor my last week of tours.  Although a bit boring and repetitive, I would not trade this time with my kids for anything.  What an incredible way to get uninterrupted time with someone you love.

UBER

uber

When DJ went to college, I told her I would pay for four things:

  1. Her tuition, room and board
  2. Her books
  3. Her transportation
  4. A set amount of spending money each semester

Numbers 1, 2 and 4 have worked out well.  Perhaps I should gave given a bit more clarity around number 3.

What I meant by “I will cover your transportation” was that I would get her back and forth from school.  It’s a 4.5 hour drive one way.  Sometimes I drop her off or pick her up.  Sometimes she flies.  And sometimes she takes the train.  Yes.  I cover those expenses.  I want her to come home – often.  So I’ll pay.

I also figured, up in DC, that she might buy a Metro card to ride the train to Target or to, I don’t know, Mount Vernon.  I am happy to cover that OCCASIONAL expense.

She took our initial conversation in a different direction…

The UBER direction.

Apparently my credit card is attached to her Uber account, and I just received the bill.

In one month, she charged 18 Uber rides.  She also charged seven “car shares” and one $14 Metro ride.  I don’t even know what a “car share” is.  What I do know is that one shared a car to Maryland on November 17 for $35.75 and another shared a ride back on November 18 for $28.88.  Who in the heck was she spending the night with in a different state?  She says it was a Camp Seafarer reunion.  Yada, yada, yada.  I don’t care if she was spending the night with the Pope… he needs to pick her up from campus in his large white window filled bus.

I asked her, “Are you taking Uber across campus to class?  You can’t do that!  You must walk!  That’s part of the college experience.”

She told me she once went to the zoo, and it was educational.

“Well what about the other 17 rides?”

“Dad, there are two charges for every one destination.  You ride there AND back.”

She did have a point.

She then explained that it could have been worse.  She has often been using UberPOOL which sticks you in a car with complete strangers allowing you to split the cost.  In fact, she forwarded me an email she received from email@uber.com.  It said, and I quote,

WOW!  You’re pretty savvy.  By choosing to ride UberPOOL, you saved $95.55 in 2016.  

She should have forwarded that to me because she didn’t save anything by using UberPOOL.  Cause she didn’t pay for Uber.  I DID!!  We had over $180 worth of transportation charges in the month of November.  AHHHH.

I didn’t know I was going to have to include Uber in my monthly expenditures.  Jimini Christmas!  These girls are slowly breaking me into little, bitty pieces.  I’m a shell of the man I used to be.

 

Home Again, Home Again Zip-pa-di-da

ddd40767-abff-4d02-8968-f33d79215e0b

She came in on a train direct from Union Station.  It was Friday night, the week before Christmas.  I was so joyful.  DJ, my college sophomore, was returning for an entire month!

I was committed to our performance in the Christmas Carol play so her grandmother picked her up.  DJ was in a hurry because she had agreed to bar tend at a neighbor’s Christmas party for cash.  I’m so proud – my daughter, a barmaid.

I was amazed that she got her suitcase into the house.  It was the size of a pirate chest, but heavier.  She dropped it in the kitchen, its innards spilled out under the bar – she apparently had a quick change.

I called my buddy Jack to see if he could help me get the Samsonite up to her bedroom.  He couldn’t come over until the next day.  So when she got home, we broke the contents up into four laundry baskets and then carried the almost empty case up on its own.  My grandmother always said, “You can eat an elephant in small pieces.”

I do love my girl.

She had plans on Saturday night and spent Sunday night with high school friends.

Tuesday she went to the beach with the same high school friends.  She returned Wednesday night.  We ate dessert together.  Quality time.

On Thursday she returned to the coast to meet a dude from college for dinner, the one she just spent an entire semester with.

“Honey, do you think you’ll be able to stop by the house to receive your gifts on Christmas day?”  I was just wondering if I should perhaps mail them to a friend’s house.  She assured me she was free for the entire day.

I love that child.

I enjoy the memories of times gone by when she visits:

  • her bedroom floor unfindable due to the mound of clothes
  • arguments over earrings borrowed from siblings
  • bras and socks on the kitchen counter

Memories – beautiful memories.

Oh, and when she’s here, three drivers get to share two cars!  I love sharing.  She loves getting up in the morning to drop me off in the work carpool line.  She even packs my lunch (just kidding).

“I’ll pick you up at 5:30 dad.  Be waiting for me in the lobby of your building because I have dinner plans at 6.”

Before break she called home and said, “Dad, I’m a little worried about being home for a full month for Christmas.”

Worried?  What’s there to worry about?  This is heaven on earth.