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Elisabeth Eagan: Life Advice for My College-Bound Daughter

 

Elisabeth Egan is a novelist and essayist, and she writes about parenting.  Below is a brilliant letter she wrote to her daughter, when she headed off to college…

The time is fleeting with our little people, and I am sure many women have felt similarly, as described below.


I was 14 when my family moved my sister into her freshman dorm at the school where our parents met.  I don’t remember the official goodbye, but I do remember what happened when we got back into our mauve Mercury Sable with its suddenly huge backseat and opera blaring from the speakers.  My mom turned to my dad and said, “If she doesn’t wave one more time, I think I’m going to die.”

Despite her passion for ear-splitting arias, my mom doesn’t do emotional outbursts in real life.  Her response to any injury, from a paper cut to a fractured pelvis, is “You’ll live”; she tosses heartfelt cards in the garbage without a second thought (“What? I read it already”); and, on the morning of my dad’s funeral, she actually said, “No blubbering, girls.  We’re channeling our inner Jackie Kennedy.”

The day we dropped my sister off at college was the one time I’ve ever witnessed the faltering of my mom’s stiff upper lip.  I can still see her profile — hand clasped over mouth, eyes filled with tears — as she watched her firstborn walk across a courtyard to the high rise she’d call home for the next nine months.  Thankfully, at the last possible moment, my sister turned and shot us a dazzling smile.  Then she lifted both arms overhead, gave us a double wave and stepped through a door held open by someone else’s sweaty dad.

She was gone.  We drove away.

My mom cried for the next four hours, then sporadically for about a week.  I didn’t have much sympathy.  I was deep in the sneer and loathing phase of adolescence, and my sister had been so ready to go, she’d taken her shower caddy for a summer-long test run, leaving me without shampoo or saline solution in the bathroom we shared.  Plus, there were the clothing leftovers for me to feast on in her closet!  And the cassette tapes to steal!

Now that my oldest kid is graduating from high school and getting ready to leave for college, I see my sister’s leave-taking in a new light — the light of parenthood, which is one of the brightest bulbs there is.  In a funny, happy twist, our daughter is going to the school where my husband and I met 25 years ago.  She is as ready for the next phase as her aunt was, and as likely to make a beeline into it with arms open wide.  She may toss us a bonus wave at the last minute, but will not permit a love- and advice-fest in the parking lot.  And, unlike my mom, I’ll definitely want to host one.  So here, in no particular order, are the important things I’d say to my daughter if only she’d hang around long enough to listen.  The most important one is at the very end.

  1. I love you.  I’ll miss you.  Thank you.
  2. Ignore the New Jersey jokes.  Not everyone can be from a state as great as ours.
  3. I hope you’ll consider a hiatus from social media for the first ten days.  Scrolling through other people’s pictures may give you the false impression that your friends have settled effortlessly into their new schools.  This is just a filter.  If things are so great, why are they on Snapchat?
  4. Give orientation activities a chance even if they’re weird, boring, too early, too late or too far away.  I met one of my best friends on the bus back to campus after a canoe-jousting competition.  Have you ever known me to canoe-joust? No.  But I gave it a whirl that day, and we all love the wise, sparkly woman I met as a result.
  5. Along those lines: you’ve grown up among my college friends, but that doesn’t mean it was love at first sight with all of them.  Some are people I discovered after graduation; others I never would have stuck with if I hadn’t peeled away a few layers.  My point is, give people a chance.  Give them five chances.  However:
  6. Trust your instincts.  If someone seems like a creep, they probably are.
  7. Take your work to the library even if you have everything you need to get it done in your room.  There’s no place cozier than a college library at night.
  8. If you’re lucky, you will have long, late-night, soul-searching conversations with new friends.  You’ll trade stories about your high school, your town and your family.  Please go easy on us; we did our best!  And I’m definitely not the only mom who gossips, uses foul language, gets tons of parking tickets, drinks Diet Coke and steals her kids’ Halloween candy.
  9. Do not, under any circumstances, drink from a cup you haven’t filled yourself.  You never know what someone has slipped in there.  And definitely avoid punch, which is a recipe for trouble.
  10. I’m sorry I complained so much about picking you up from swim practice.  I’ll miss your red cheeks, your chlorine perfume and the gravity-defying bun on top of your head.
  11. I’ll miss your half-finished friendship bracelets taped to the dining room table.
  12. I’ll miss your trail of Cheez-Its on the kitchen counter.
  13. I’ll miss the thud of your backpack in the hallway and the particular rhythm of your feet on the stairs.
  14. Thank you for loving the books I love, with the glaring exception of Anne of Green Gables.
  15. Thank you for being the best big sister.  I can’t say anymore on this topic without crying so, moving on…
  16. Your room is an appalling disaster.  Still, I understand why the pets flock to your bed.
  17. When someone invites you to do something you don’t want to do, you don’t owe an explanation for why you’re declining.  You might say, “Sorry, I’m not going to be able to make it,” or “I have other plans, but thank you for thinking of me!”  Or just plain, “No, thanks.”  Don’t wait until your forties to learn how to say these words.
  18. You’ve already had the experience of not being invited to do something you wanted to do.  Watching you make other plans reminds me why I picked Grace for your middle name.
  19. Complicated relationships aren’t more meaningful than easy ones, they’re just more work.  The best people are the ones who make you laugh.  This applies to friends and lovers. (Yes, I said lovers. I couldn’t think of a better word!)
  20. Have fun!  Ride a cafeteria tray down a snowy hill, jump in a pile of leaves, make mug cakes at midnight.  You’re there to learn, but your brain needs a break.  And I’m not talking about back-to-back Grey’s episodes on your laptop.
  21. Listen carefully — to classmates, professors and the sound of the wind.
  22. Ask questions, ask for directions, ask for help.  Even if you think you can find what you need on Google, ask a human being.  We still know more than our phones.
  23. You’ve come to me with problems I didn’t have solutions for.  This is a strange feeling for a parent, like being upside down on a rollercoaster.  The upside is, I’ve watched you make good decisions on your own — which is not to say all your decisions will be good, or have to be good.  Just that you have the tools to make a smart call.  I admire that.
  24. You don’t need an earth-shattering reason to go to your professors’ office hours.  Just show up; they’re waiting for you and sometimes they have snacks.
  25. There are free condoms in the health center.
  26. Get a job, and please don’t waste all your money on chai lattes.
  27. I’d aim to do laundry once a week, which is roughly three times more than you do it at home.
  28. Be brave.  Go rock-climbing (on actual rocks); take an engineering class; join a singing group; be the hallmate who organizes a trip to see a lecture you saw advertised on a flier in the student center.  (Do they still have fliers?)
  29. Failure is an option, although I prefer to call it redirection.  You are the daughter of a writer, so you know what it means to start a story that doesn’t go anywhere.  The point is to start something, have the guts to admit when it isn’t working, and the gumption to begin again.  The world has an infinite supply of stories, but courage is a diminishing resource as you get older.  Dive in now.
  30. Try to resist the urge to “brand” yourself, which is so much less rewarding than establishing a meaningful, nuanced identity.  For instance, Daddy went for Deep Philosopher during our first semester of college; I went for Cheerful Girl (I’m sure this is hard for you to imagine).  Twenty years into our marriage, we still bump up against these boxes, which are empty and take up more room than they deserve.  Worth noting: we didn’t find each other until we’d stepped out of them.
  31. You know how I told you I’m your mother, not your friend? I lied.  I’m both.
  32. When you were in fourth grade, going through normal friend gymnastics — high bar, low bar, balance beam, backbend — I gave you a locket that my mom gave me for my tenth birthday.  Inside, I slipped a little piece of paper that said, “Be you.”  The locket is long lost to the sands of Maine, but the message remains the same.  Be yourself, no contortions required.  And know, with each step you take away from our house, that you are the living, breathing, blue-eyed, big-hearted embodiment of the word engraved inside your parents’ wedding rings: Beloved.

Elisabeth Egan is the author of A Window Opens and the author of @100postcards.

What Does this Make Possible?

We are already into the eighth week of being in quarantine.  This is a scary and uncertain time, and the whole world feels crazy and bizarre.  I understand how uncertain this time can feel, and I hope you are able to transform this storm into a season of growth. 

I know this pandemic is causing pain across the globe.

People are sick and scared; they are hungry and desperate.

Many small business owners scramble and wrestle with some big questions.

Those that work in the retail or the service industry jobs are feeling another layer of pain and fear through all of this.

Brave medical personnel and other front-line personnel around the world are literally putting themselves at risk for each of us.

I am also watching a shift occur.

We are home.

We are spending time with loved ones.

We have the space to try new things.

We have the space to explore nature.

We have the space for introspection.

So many of us are falling in love with a new kind of simplicity.

People around us are longing for clarity, peace, and hope.

Through this experience, thus far, I have learned that a simpler life is not a limited life.  When this quarantine is over, I have no idea how things will look; but, I know that I will likely treasure my days together with our little family, even with the difficult days, the uncertainty, and the juggle of it all.  It is a time I will never forget for so many reasons, and we all get a choice how we choose to show up during this time.

What does this time at home make possible?  How can you grow and evolve intentionally during this strange season?

Wishing you peace, health, and safety.

 

Happy Heart Day!

Happy Heart Day!

“Love recognizes no barriers.  It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.”  — Maya Angelou

 

Information: Adopting a Rescue Dog

This blog would never have existed if it has not been for our sweet dear Biscuit.  He changed our lives and he brought us our beloved Victory, who we absolutely adore, as well.  Doug and I cannot imagine our lives without a furry family member, and we will always choose to rescue a dog in honor of Biscuit and Victory.  However and importantly, we hope to not be in the position to rescue another dog for quite some time — we absolutely love our sweet Victory and we cannot ever imagine life without her.  Alex and Victory love each other, too, and I am so grateful that Alex gets to grow up with Victory!  Below are some ideas and considerations for those of you looking to possibly adopt a dog who truly needs a home.  I am also excited to share my long-term photography project, inspired by Biscuit, on the topic of dog rescue, hopefully in the near future.  The revisions are finally close to completion!

Start looking on Instagram or online: There are thousands of stray and abandoned dogs all over the country that need homes.  Looking at rescue organizations on Instagram or online will help provide a sense of the landscape of the rescue dogs available for adoption.  If you see some dogs you are interested in, you can usually meet them in person at regular adoption events.

Go straight to a shelter:  There are shelters all over the country where many dogs are available for adoption.  Shelters are usually the only open-admission facility, so space can be at a premium for these dogs.  As a result, some of these dogs are facing being euthanized, so remember that time is of the essence for these dogs.

Go straight to a rescue: There are also many dog rescue organizations all over the country.  There are breed specific dog rescues as well all over the country, especially if you have your heart set on a particular breed of dog.

Do not be swayed by the “cutest” dogs: Many times some of the more “sad” looking dogs just need to get cleaned up with a good bath and grooming along with receiving some much needed love.  Also, a lot of these dogs are in cages for the first time in their lives.  Thus, it is important to keep this in mind.  It also takes a while for these dogs to really come out of their shells.  This was the case for both Biscuit and Victory.  Once they knew they were in a safe environment, they both blossomed physically and emotionally.  Now, Victory and Alex literally run our household!  Doug and I are constantly providing ‘cherub care and support!’

Ask Questions:  When you are contemplating adopting a rescue dog, ask the shelter/rescue many questions.  For example, Are they good on a leash?  How do they respond to children?  How do they respond to strangers?  Do they enjoy being petted?  How do they react to other dogs?  Do they like to play?  Do they show any aggressive behavior(s)?  Do they respond differently to men versus women?  Ask anything that you believe is important for you to know.  Of course, after asking your questions, if you are interested, it is best to meet the potential rescue dog in person to see how you feel and connect with the dog.  Many times, people have told me that they just felt a connection with a particular rescue dog and knew that the particular rescue dog was meant to be adopted by them.  Or, alternatively, others have told me that a particular rescue dog  reminded them of another dog they lost.  It is all very interesting how animals come into our lives.

Consider a senior dog: Puppies, like babies, are a lot of work!  Older dogs have benefits because they are calmer and usually potty trained and socialized, depending upon the dog.  Many older dogs need homes and need people to take a chance on them.  Our beloved Biscuit was an older rescue dog, likely older than what we were told, but we had the best two-and-a-half years with him, and we would never trade our time with Biscuit for anything.

Prepare to sell yourself: Rescue organizations, in particular, will want to know your living situation: Who lives with you, and how old are they?  They will want to know your dog history, and if you have one, they may want to speak to your vet.  They will call references and ask if you have a plan to walk the dog while you work.  They are looking to see that you are not a fair-weather dog parent.  A good way to convey that you are not is to ask a lot questions.  Later there will likely be a home visit, at which point the rescue group will want to know how you will treat your new dog by asking you questions and providing possible scenarios to gauge your responses.

Prepare for your new rescue dog: It is important that you find a good vet that you like and trust; purchase a leash and the requisite dog gear for your new furry family member; consider pet insurance; register your new rescue dog with your local health department/government agency; and most of all, get ready for your life to change in a wonderful way!  You will save a dog’s life and in turn, your life will be equally enriched.

Most of all, I hope, that if you are interested in getting a dog, that you consider dog rescue!  Our sweet Victory and Alex are pictured together below!

 

Christmas Time: Visiting Santa

This past weekend we took Baby Alex and  Victory to visit Santa, an annual tradition!  The girls were both very good!  Of course, Santa and his helpers remembered our beloved little fur girl, as this is Victory’s fifth time visiting Santa!  Santa also welcomed Baby Alex with open arms, too, celebrating her very first visit to see Santa!  This is the only Santa in our area that welcomes both of our girls!  You can see Victory’s previous trips to visit Santa hereherehere, and here.  Victory wore her Holiday velvet ruff and Baby Alex wore a burgundy dress to coordinate for their visit with Santa!  All proceeds from visiting Santa are donated to a local dog rescue, a very good cause near and dear to our hearts as Biscuit and Victory are rescues.  If you are interested, be sure to check with and visit your local pet stores to see if there is a Santa in your area that specializes in furry family members!

A few images from Baby Alex’s and Victory’s first visit together with Santa are shown below along with images of Victory visiting Santa from the previous four years!  The time really does fly by too quickly!  We are so grateful for our fur girl, Victory!

Additionally, each year, I have a photo ornament made with Victory and Santa for our Christmas tree!  This year, I made an ornament of our Baby Alex and Victory together visiting Santa; and one of Victory visiting Santa!

Other images include our decorated little live Christmas tree from Maine that we order online each year, along with a few images of Baby Alex and Victory in their matching red outfits by our Christmas tree, including our personalized Christmas stockings!

We have so much to be grateful for this year!  We are looking forward to celebrating our first Christmas together with both of our girls!

We hope that you are enjoying the Holiday season!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ten Years In

10 years of marriage.  14 years together.  You are my favorite human being and soul mate.  You never let me walk through anything alone; and life without you would be totally unfathomable.  I admire your character, patience, sense of humor, and your kindness that you show to everyone.  Most of all, you are my very best friend.  You are the greatest gift of my life, and each day spent with you is truly a gift.  I look forward to many, many more years together, knowing that we can get through anything together.  Each year gets better with you always by my side through everything.  This has been an exceptional year filled with many changes with our expanding little family, a positively wonderful gift!  I have truly enjoyed seeing you become an incredible dad to our cherubs!  You are the best part of who I have become!  Happy tenth anniversary, my love!

 

Are You in the Photos?

Prior to having baby Alex, I was the person always taking the photos, and while I appeared in some images, I did not appear in too many overall.  Now, having a baby, I want to have some images where Doug and I are photographed with our baby girl!  A few times in the past two weeks, we took a look at the weather and then did some impromptu photo shoots together.  (I just made sure to dry my hair, which is a treat these days!)  It is easy and it does not require much time or planning!  We hope to take advantage of the weather through the fall and take some more photos together, as our baby Alex is not going to be small for too long, and we want to be able to capture this time with her in our arms, to hold onto forever!

I even think when we are out and about, we will start asking people, even strangers, to take photos of us with Alex and Victory.  I want to have Doug and I represented more in our camera roll!

I still do impromptu photo shoot with Victory and baby Alex, a few of those recent images appear below, too!  I try to always keep my camera on hand, especially when I think, “I want to remember this moment!”  It is always fun to capture the everyday, the moments we are most likely to remember versus only capturing the “big” events and milestones.  Play time in the mornings is a favorite for baby Alex and Victory, who is now fully integrated with her sister!  Victory joins play time and story time each morning and Victory licks baby Alex literally from head to toe, including every fold and roll!  It is adorable and I think Victory knows that she is a ‘big sister’ or a ‘co-mamma!’  It has been really wonderful to witness Victory’s love for her sister!  Baby Alex is aware of Victory, but she has not yet fully ‘discovered’ Victory — we can’t wait until this happens!

Happy Tuesday!

 

 

 

 

 

Jones Soda: Please Vote for Biscuit!

I submitted this image, shown below, a few years ago, while our dear Biscuit was still alive, and I was notified recently that Biscuit is a ‘staff pick’ to possibly appear on the Jones Soda label again!

In the image, Biscuit is sitting with many bottles of Jones Soda with his image appearing on the Jones Soda label.

I would be most grateful if you vote today via the link below, which only takes a second and helps increase the chances of Biscuit getting on a Jones Soda label again!  (Also, please feel free to share — 1 vote per I.P. address is permitted!)

*Vote Here: http://gallery.jonessoda.com/gallery/view.php?ID=1322367&offset=1

 

Thank you!

Around Here: February 2017

Happy February!  Another month has just about flown by once again!  This has been a busy month for us.  Below are some items that have occurred around here in February!

-continuing to work steadily on my long-term photography project — an image at a time — I am getting so close to finally finishing, about 12 percent of the project remains to be completed and the project is taking shape!

-making homemade dinners with Doug, while trying new recipes and old favorite recipes, too.  Here is an old favorite recipe.  We make a really good homemade pizza, too!

-enjoying date nights together!

-enjoying time outside.  It has been unseasonably warm here for February, which has been really nice.  We have been able to open our windows and let in fresh air along with enjoying long walks around the neighborhood together!  Victory loves riding in her Hound About!  We hope spring will officially come soon!

-going to the dog park with our Victory!

-finished making all of our photo books from 2008 through the present via Artifact Uprising and we have ordered almost all of them!

-started getting fine art prints printed to frame and hang around the house.  This has been on my list for some time, which I hope to finish this year!

-we finished our taxes!

-we made some clothing donations in our attempt to adopt the Marie Kondo method!

-enjoying many snuggles with our fur girl, Victory!  She had her first dental this week and she is doing well, thankfully!

-started the second season of The Missing — it is very good and keeps you on the edge of your seat!

-started Big Little Lies — we are only one episode in, but it is pretty good.

-I was not able to get to any reading completed this month, unfortunately.

-listening to a myriad of podcasts, especially at the gym!

-achieveing 10,000 steps most days via my Fitbit!

-continuing to make incremental progress on our ever-growing to do list!

Happy Wednesday!

 

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Five Year Blogiversary!

Today is the five-year Blogiversary of www.biscuitsspace.com in conjunction with my photography website.  It is really difficult to believe that five years have already passed by so quickly!  Many things have changed over the past few years, but some things remain the same, fortunately.

If it were not for our beloved Biscuit, I am not sure I would have ever started blogging and I know that I would not have started my long-term photography project, which is so close to completion, for which Biscuit and Victory are my inspiration.  Biscuit was such a blessing and gift to us.  Biscuit permanently changed our lives in so many positive ways and Biscuit sent us our precious little rescue sheltie, Victory, who we adore and love, shown below!  And, coincidentally, Victory is as old as the blog!

Thank you for reading this blog for however long or short you have been visiting!  I truly enjoy creating content for the blog to share with all of you, and I hope that you continue to enjoy visiting and reading the blog!

Thank you so very much!  xoxo

 

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