By Becky Blades
No mother should be surprised to see very little of her grown children when they come home for summer college breaks and holidays. We learn this quickly the hard way. Our budding adults want to see friends and to try out their new independence on their old playgrounds. We get it, right? We’re ready.
I have been surprised to find it’s more than that. When my two daughters pop home from college for a few days or a few weeks, it is not as satisfying as I envision it to be. In fact, sometimes what I get is the opposite of what I want. I actually miss them MORE when they are here than when they are away.
No, I have never missed my girls so much as I do when they are adults under my roof. It’s because of what they remind me of:
They remind me how much I miss them.
When my daughters are off at school, I know I miss them, but I forget just what that means. I forget how their energy brings our quiet house to life. I forget how their voices calling to one another from their bedrooms is the sweetest sound God ever created, even when they’re arguing. I forget the girl-frenzy . . . the frantic rushing to get out the door, running to one another’s rooms for clothes and makeup, looking for misplaced car keys. I forget how they gang up on their father and me, and how their clothes take over the laundry room, even though curiously, no laundry is ever done.
When they are home for these brief stints, they remind me what I’ve missed and what I am soon to miss again.
They remind me of who they used to be.
When my girls are at home, the house they grew up in is a walk down memory lane.
It’s another curious sense of loss. When these independent women are living under my roof, I also miss my 3-year-old daughters, and my 10 year-olds and, to my surprise, my teenagers. When they are home, it all washes back over me: every summer vacation, every backyard play, every wretched piano recital. Whoosh. It’s all there again.
As I think about them leaving again in a few short days, I don’t see two grown women going in and out of my house, I see a ten-year-old who could never turn the lights out. I see an eight-year-old doing cartwheels at sunset, and a fifteen-year-old trying out for her first high school school play. Oh, how these women in my house make me miss all those little girls.
Yes, grown kids home for “vacation” can be rough new territory made of elastic boundries and worthless curfews, but they are also made of ghosts and glitter and fairy dust – illusions that trick us into thinking it’s not really over.
And finally . . .
They remind me who I was as a mom.
I liked the person I was when my children were my whole life. My focus was certain. I was led by my heart. I was patient. I was, at times, truly selfless. Sure, I made more than my share of missteps, but I was a pretty good at parenting, and I miss feeling so surefooted.
When they are off at college, my daughters’ absence makes me forget how it felt to be so clear about boundries and so unwavering in my compassion. I forget how kind and patient I can be when I am someone’s first love and last resort.
Cue the violins. I know how I sound.
So I work to remember I am still that person, and that my children’s little touchdowns are sweet reminders of that very best part of me.
Sometimes missing my children while they are still here may seem like backsliding in all the work I’ve done to deal with my empty nest transition. But, somehow, it is all as it should be. Maybe it just takes a few holiday visits to fully accept that this nest was merely their starting place . . . and that the next best parts of their lives, by design, will happen out of my sight.
Another version of this article was previously published on this blog in August, 2015.
If you have freshly launched young people, check out my book Do Your Laundry or You’ll Die Alone: Advice Your Mom Would Give if She Thought You Were Listening. It helps knowing they’ve heard all the important things. See it HERE.
by Becky Blades
My hometown baseball team, the Kansas City Royals, surprised everyone last year when after decades of disappointing seasons, they made it all the way to the 7th game of the World Series. It was the kind of Cinderella story we love talking about with our kids and neighbors. This year, the Royals came back to write the next chapter – to take their crown via hard work, not a fairy godmother.
Let’s face it, professional sports give mixed messages about competition and team play. Some of it is the stuff fairy tales are made of, and some of it is worse. That’s why you’ll love this story.
The Kansas City Royals are a lovable group of guys, respected by their fans and winning the hearts of the world. You will find references to “Royals brand baseball,” describing the scrappy, up-tempo, no-rock-stars way they play. Some say they are reinventing the game, some say they are taking it back to basics, everyone says they are easy to root for.
On the first Sunday night of November, the Royals won the fourth out of the first five games against the New York Mets to win the World Championship, a championship the team hasn’t won since 1985. The numbers of the game will have sports statisticians talking for years to come. But it is not the stats, but the messages of this baseball story that make it worth telling. Because they are precisely the messages that young people should be getting about sports.
1. Superstars don’t win games. But winning makes everyone a superstar. This year’s Royals are a team of hard-working baseball players who work as a complete unit. Many sports minds are predicting that this two-time World Series team will yield ZERO Hall-of-Famers, despite their dominance. The message is profound: what gets you a plaque might not get you a ring. And champion-caliber players don’t get to be champions all on their own.
2. Stick to the basics. The Royals are winning by doing what kids are taught in Little League: Putting the ball in play, running the bases well and hustling on defense. The Royals’ favorite mantra: “keep the line moving.”
3. Money doesn’t buy chemistry. With a budget that is a fraction of other major league teams, Kansas City couldn’t buy high-priced stars and skills, they had to grow them. Easier said than done, I’ll bet. But sharing locker rooms, busses – and, lets be real, bars – for as many years as the Royals kept their prospects, builds a bond that no first-round draft pick signing bonus can buy. And sure, with the World Series within reach, the Royals were smart enough to buy some pitching insurance named Johnny Cueto, but that’s what money’s for.
4. Never give up. Young Kansas City fans are puzzled when they see stadiums empty out in late innings on televised away games. For our Royals, that’s when the “late magic” begins. Comebacks in the 7th, 8th or 9th innings are no longer surprises, and extra innings are harder on the fans than they seem to be on the Royals.
In the brief World Series, the Royals stunned Mets fans when they turned around game 4 to get the lead in the 8th inning. Three games earlier, the Royals won the longest World Series game in history in the 14th inning. In the final game of the World Series, the Royals were down two runs in the 9th inning, and did not have a lead until the 12th inning, which began at midnight. They won 7 to 2. The Royals are the first team in history to win three games in which they trailed in the eighth inning or later. If the games had lasted only seven innings, the Mets would have won four of the five games, instead of the other way around. Never give up.
5. If the odds are stacked against you, make new odds. If the Royals believed statistics, they would not be here. Google “Royals defy statistics,” and settle in for some good reading.
6. Great teammates trust out loud. It takes courage to go on the record. Especially when sports reporters ask questions designed to stir up drama and document doubt. The Royals will have none of it. I loved catcher Salvador Perez’ answer to a post-game question asking whether he was surprised the Royals survived an against-the-odds inning: “I trust Wade. Always. Always I trust him. Any count, I always trust him.”
7. Pros play through pain. This team makes toughness look human. Arguably the most banged up Royals player, catcher Salvador Perez, gets hit with balls, bats and stumbling ball players, and he gets back to work, usually with a smile. There is probably no day when Salvy doesn’t hurt. But this autumn, if you talk about pain to this team, no one thinks of injured thumbs and ankles. Three young men have buried their parents in the past two months, one during this World Series. Who can imagine anything more painful than trying to make your dream come true knowing your mom or dad was just weeks or days from getting to see it. As much as these guys care about one another, this pain is a shared one.
8. Guests should feel like family. Everybody knows dreadlocked pitcher Johnny Cueto is a guest in the house. He is a free-agent traded in to help the Royals in the post season, and to clinch the World Series. And all agree, there’s little chance he will be back next year. But you can’t tell that from looking. The teammates who have been with the Royals for a decade treat him, and other new players, like long-lost brothers.
9. Games should be fun. Sure, they looked intense during the last few World Series games, but watching the Royals during the season is like watching your kids play in the back yard. They tease. They goof off. They play catch with fans. They dump Gatorade. Manager Ned Yost says fun is part of the winning recipe. “I want them to play every day like they’re 12 years old.” It works. Watching these guys makes kids want a bat and ball for Christmas.
10. The scoreboard doesn’t say everything. Sure, fans cared whether the Royals won the series, but this team had so fully won the hearts and respect of its fans, that many were celebrating before the scoring began. This Facebook post by Royals fan George Weyrauch before game two reflects a common sentiment: “When the world watches the Kansas City Royals play the Mets tonight in game two, you won’t see individual stars, you will see a family of men of character and high integrity that believe in and love each other and would bust their asses to help each other. To me, the Royals are already champions.”
It’s true. They were already champions to those of us who knew them, to those who heard the story as it was unfolding. But the winning of the World Series championship turned the “comeback kids” into the “Comeback Kings.” It provided the dramatic happy ending that assures the story of the 2015 Kansas City Royals will get told and retold.
Is it only me, or is the reprise of Camelot playing somewhere?
This article was posted in October, 2015, and also appeared in Huffington Post Sports
Becky Blades is a Kansas City sports fan, business strategist, writer and artist. She is author and illustrator of Do Your Laundry or Die Alone: Advice Your Mom Would Give if She Thought You Were Listening. The first edition was named a Best Books of 2014, and the second edition will be released by Sourcebooks on April 5, 2016.
My daughter did not do her laundry or help much around the house her senior year of high school, but I have to say, she aced the college application process. She enjoyed it, and she got into her dream schools. Then as a college student, she worked in the college admissions office and got more insights into the application process. Though I would not enlist her to iron a blouse, there’s no one I trust more on the topic of applying to college. Here’s her advice for high school seniors.
By Taylor Kay Phillips
College application season is upon us, and students across the country are listing their extracurricular activities, trying to show ‘demonstrated interest,’ studying like crazy for standardized tests, and trying to get a handle on the dreaded application essay. It’s a balancing act for both parents and students as they try to navigate the thin line between what they have to show, and what the colleges want to see. Here are three things to remember:
1. Know YOUR answer to the questions the application is asking. This may seem simple and unnecessary, but how many times through this process have you already changed or constructed a response because of what you think the college wants to hear? If they ask your favorite extra-curricular activity, tell them the truth, whether it’s serving on the Student Council or eating donuts at Youth Group – the more specific you get, the more accurate picture you’ll paint of who you are as a person. They don’t want the right answer, they want YOUR answer. Give it to them.
2. The people reading your applications are humans. Yes. It’s true. It may seem like they’re looming, all-powerful, ethereal beings who know all of your secrets and will dictate your future with a swipe of a hand and the swirl of a cape, but they’re not. They’re just people. Admissions officers know that some people find certain subjects easier than others – so it’s okay to say that writing is tough for you but you are the bomb at math. Humans know that people like some parts of things and don’t like other parts – so it’s okay to say that you loved playing basketball but you HATED Saturday morning practices. Colleges know that they’re selecting human beings to attend them, so don’t be afraid to let your personhood show in your application.
Also, being people themselves, admissions officers also need sleep and food and other fun things in their lives – so make your application fun, honest, and straightforward. The quicker they can understand you, the quicker they can give themselves a human break to grab a latte and watch the latest episode of Game of Thrones.
3. Have fun. Yes, you read that right, and no, I have not gone crazy. College applications get a bad rap because of the anxiety that the whole higher education process causes, but at the end of the day, it can all be a cool opportunity for reflection and storytelling. For the next 3 months, you get to think and talk about yourself almost 24/7! Enjoy asking yourself what your philosophy on life is, enjoy reliving that weird story about family game night, enjoy reflecting on the past 17 years of your life and the person you have become – you may never get to do it again.
I think these tips go for all college applications, but if there’s one thing I learned in college, it’s that I don’t know everything. I recommend two books to accompany you through this senior year process, the first: College Admissions, From Application to Acceptance, Step by Step. It’s practical, up to date, and covers the nuances of all the types of colleges. And, I recommend Do Your Laundry or You’ll Die Alone, to help you lighten up, and to assure your mom that when you leave home so very soon (REALLY, GUYS, THIS YEAR WILL FLY BY) you will know all the things she’s been telling you – while you’ve been pretending to listen but actually waiting for friends to respond to your Snapchats.
Even though they are now 20 and 22, I encourage my little girls to believe in the Tooth Fairy, and anything else that makes their lives more magical. I’m not worried about it messing with their grasp on reality. Life will dish out enough reality. But life, particularly in the launching years, can be woefully short on affirming reminders. That’s why, I believe, we all have to work hard to remind ourselves what we believe. We have to sneak reminders to ourselves every chance we get. From the book Do Your Laundry or You’ll Die Alone:
My own mom preached the power of positive affirmations. I thought it was woo woo voo doo growing up, but now I get it. (Sorry, Mom. It took me awhile.)
If you’re a follower of this book blog, you know what a big fan I am of Notes to Self socks. What could be better than wrapping your feet in affirmations each morning, and looking down to be reminded each night that “I am STRONG,” “I am HAPPY,” “I am BRAVE,” I am BEAUTIFUL,” or “I BELIEVE.” It’s proven: the subconscious mind is most receptive in the morning and at night, so socks are the perfect affirmation delivery system.
And clean socks with empowering messages are a no-brainer for great college CARE packages.
My daughter, Tess, discovered Notes to Self socks in high school during basketball season when someone gave her a pair of “I am AWESOME” socks as a gift. She testified to me passionately that “They really WORK, Mom!” I guess that means when your socks tell you you’re AWESOME, the basketball agrees. She refused to play a game without them.
When our family discovered Notes to Self socks, I had no idea that the company and its delightful founder lived right here in my hometown, Kansas City. By happenstance I met owner Laura Schmidt a little over a year ago and became an even bigger believer.
Her company’s backstory is great, but it’s nothing compared to the stories that have been written by the people who wear her amazing socks. Take for example, the Kansas City Royals.
Baseball fans know the magical story of the 2014 Kansas City Royals. Last year the team made the playoffs for the first time in decades by winning a wildcard game. Then, this scrappy club with one of the smallest budgets in the major leagues went all the way to the World Series. After a crushing loss in game 5, Laura sent “I BELIEVE” socks to every member of the Royals team and all the coaches. And game 6? A 10-0 Royals win!
Last year, Laura of Notes to Self Socks doubled down on affirmation for our Royals. She sent them each ‘I BELIEVE’ socks AND, get this – also ‘I BELIEVE’ pillowcases.
When I heard this, I immediately popped some of the pillowcases into CARE packages for my daughters, who are rooting for their Royals from Chicago and New York.)
The socks, pillowcases and baseball skills worked! The Royals won the 2015 World Series!!!
I know people will read this and think I’m on the payroll of Notes to Self socks. But, no, I’m just a raving fan. The way I look at it, affirmations are the voice of belief, the greatest power in the universe. I love that all this power is doing its magic on mere socks and pillowcases.
Laundry. I told you it was important.
My kids hate talking about money. Or maybe they just hate talking about it with me.
And I hate talking with them when money is a problem. (And isn’t it always with young people?)
Mostly, I hate any conversation that has actual numbers in it.
But I love my kids, and I know that life is SO MUCH EASIER when money is well managed and in perspective. So here are a few of the things I tell my kids without really talking about dollars and cents.
1. Little habits can cost you big.
Let’s say, just hypothetically, that you are in the grips of an expensive beverage addiction. You line up, day after day, to pay for a pricey coffee, rather than serving yourself for pennies at home.
The $4 a day you spend on fancy coffee adds up to $1,460 a year, which would be enough to put you in a decent used car. But you won’t buy it. The car, that is. Because you bought the coffee.
So, think hard before you start smoking or hoarding cats.
2. Have a list of things you like to do that don’t cost money.
3. Everything’s negotiable. This may not be entirely true, but the people who believe it seem to save a lot of money.
4. Baking soda is cheap and does 52 amazing things.
5. Don’t marry for money. But keep in mind that people who are good with money are usually good at a lot of things.
6. Money is the easiest thing to replace. You can always make more money. Time, relationships, dignity, trust, and reputation, on the other hand, are hard to come by. They are hard to create the first time and virtually impossible to replace. Don’t sell them short; don’t sell them out for one another; and whatever you do, don’t sell them for mere money.
By Becky Blades
Portions of this article are excerpted from Do Your Laundry or You’ll Die Alone: Advice Your Mom Would Give if She Thought You Were Listening, written and illustrated by yours truly. It makes a great grad gift or college CARE package!
It’s happening. All over the country, families are moving young people to college. Tens of thousands of bright-eyed 18-year-olds are leaving homes where loving eyes were upon them daily, and where people express that love in the most important ways – by telling them when they smell, and by occasionally doing their laundry for them.
They are moving to places where standards of hygiene will be looser – defined most days by the last guy to breakfast in the morning and his cleanest dirty jeans. They are moving on to new “families” where love is best expressed by holding a friend’s hair as she hurls, and hiding the clean-up towels to protect her dignity.
I don’t want to worry you about one more thing, you heartsick, starry-eyed mom of a fresh-faced freshman . . . but I have seen the future, and it is terrifying.
No matter how many laundry baskets and quarters you send them off with, the clean clothes you helped pack may never look or smell as good as they do right now. Sadly, you can lead a co-ed to a washing machine, but you cannot make her sort or check her pockets.
I have two beautiful, laundry-challenged daughters, and I know of what I speak. And I am here to help.
I have searched the internet and found the best help its moms and soap companies have to offer. I have reviewed dozens of ‘How to Do Laundry’ articles to find those that just might penetrate the attention spans of your newly launched loved one.
Each has its own unique tips, which is why I say SEND THEM ALL. But not all at once. One strategy: send one each week of the first semester. That way, you are sure to hit your loved one’s mailbox within days of him/her running out of clean underwear. This, according to CollegeConfidential.com, is the most common determinant of when Freshmen decide to do their laundry. Like I said, it’s terrifying.
1. 5 steps from Tide. Includes “pop in a Pod.” (No, I am not getting paid by Tide, but I’m all for simplicity, and Pods do take out the guesswork.)
2. 6 steps from Instructables.com Includes directions on “how to find the laundry room.”
3. 7.5 Steps from University Language.com All the basics, plus laundry room etiquette!
4. Wikihow’s 8 idiot-proof steps Complete with pictures.
5. A loving 9-step process from TheLaundryMoms.com To be fair, two of the steps are “Do homework.” (This is all I’m saying, kids.)
6. 10 Easy Steps from About.com Smart like they are, they include “push START.”
BONUS: If reading is too much to expect of your coed, try this:
Finally, if you are one of the skilled or lucky parents who created a laundry-capable adult, reward them with this:
Advanced laundry moves from LifeHacker
So may the force and the Clorox be with you, moms, dads, and roommates with highly developed olifactory glands. Stay strong, and keep up the fight with information and repetition.
I was so worried about this topic when I wrote a book of off-to-life advice for my daughters, that I titled it as a laundry threat. It’s more about happiness than hygiene, but as every mom knows, in so many ways, one can jeopardize the other.
If you want to sneak in laundry lessons disguised as winks and hugs, may I recommend Do Your Laundry or You’ll Die Alone: Advice Your Mom Would Give if She Thought You Were Listening.
It makes a perfect first college CARE package.
Summers turn on us. Over twenty years of raising children, the waning days of summer have come to create in me an irritating state of mind, a free-floating anxiety and guilt. That back-to-school, so-much-to-do, what-am-I-forgetting switch flips on in August. It was about this time every summer when my daughters were in grade school that I started feeling nervous about what was coming up, but also guilty about wasting the summer . . . about not making my children cook more or do their own laundry.
At the end of the summer before my firstborn daughter’s senior year of high school, it struck me especially hard, knowing that she would soon be leaving for college. I fretted on a grander scale. Clearly, she wasn’t ready. I had not prepared her. I had forgotten things. Big things and little things – like how to save the world with kindness . . . and how to check her pockets before shoving things in the washer.
I know now that this was my pre-empty-nest grief talking; but it was motivating. With only a few months left of having her home, I resolved to collect the things my 18-year-old needed to know, and to find teachable moments to deliver the messages.
I started with the laundry:
1. Do your laundry or you’ll die alone. Yes, we’re starting here. Do your laundry regularly. Try every week. Do it before you run out of clean underwear and before you need your favorite jeans. Because when you want your favorite jeans, and only your favorite jeans will do, you will want them clean. You will not want to have the dilemma of choosing between dirty, stinky favorite jeans and jeans that make your butt look (choose one: wide, low, flat, etc.) Either of these less-than-perfect options will undermine your self-confidence, and you will not have the courage to talk to that cute guy. And then you may never get another chance, and… then comes the dying alone part.
I covered some critical, basic etiquette.
2. Pocket your cell phone during meals. If you’re eating alone, it’s your call. But if you are dining with others, your call is a slap in their face. Even looking at your phone is rude. Turn it off. Don’t answer, if it rings. Put it away.
3. Put your napkin in your lap. And don’t blow your nose with it. And don’t hide your phone there. No one is falling for it.
4. Look people in the eye. (You’ll discover this is hard to do while looking at your phone.)
5. Offer your seat to anyone older or less healthy than you. And occasionally to someone who made an inappropriate shoe choice.
I debunked some myths that the world is serving up…
6. Profanity doesn’t make you sound more dramatic or serious. It just makes you sound #!%*ing profane.
7. The Tooth Fairy may still come. Even though you think you have a lot of things figured out, don’t give up on magic. If you lose a tooth late in life, for whatever reason, put it under your pillow.
8. Multi-tasking doesn’t always save you time.
I was not afraid to talk about the scary things:
9. Never put anything on the Internet that you would not want to discuss
• in a job interview
• on a first date
• with your mother
10. A friend who is mad at you for taking her car keys is better than a dead friend.
11. Birth control doesn’t work 100 percent of the time.
On the way to teaching my daughters what to fear, I also tried to assure them that it’s all really okay.
12. Everyone feels like a fake. Except the real fakes.
13. Don’t worry about mastering parallel parking. They are designing cars that will do it for you.
14. It’s OK to outgrow your dreams. The dream house of your childhood would not hold your wardrobe today. And the dream job of today may come to feel like a prison sentence tomorrow. What you hope and work for will change as you do, so don’t hold too tight to resolutions you may have outgrown. The true longings of your heart — to flourish, to love, to explore, to create — will always be part of you. Grip them loosely, and they will float along beside you, just far enough out of reach to keep you interested.
I covered some sorting and settings and such. Because growing up is all about knowing the difference.
15. Know who your friends are.
16. Know who your friends AREN’T.
17. Know the difference between collecting and hoarding.
18. Honor your fear. It may be trying to tell you something.
19. Don’t be paranoid.
20. If you’re flirting with everyone, you’re flirting with no one. And you’re probably embarrassing yourself.
21. Don’t joke in the security line at the airport.
22. But try to find humor everywhere else.
Because the things that go without saying… well, they really don’t.
23. Don’t wad up your clothes. Some morning, today’s dirty shirt or sweater will be your cleanest option, and you’ll want to tell yourself that you can wear it and no one will be the wiser. You might get away with it, if it has not been smashed under a wet towel for two days.
24. Lint is never in style.
25. Even sloppy people like neat roommates. Sad, but true. Pick up your stuff.
These lessons were the beginning of a list in my journal that became an an obsession, and then an off-to-college goodbye letter, which then became a book, Do Your Laundry or You’ll Die Alone: Advice Your Mom Would Give If She Thought You Were Listening.
I chose laundry as the starting place because it is an easy metaphor.
The laundry never ends, but summer does.
Portions of this article are excerpted from Do Your Laundry or You’ll Die Alone: Advice Your Mom Would Give if She Thought You Were Listening, written and illustrated by Becky Blades.
Your daughter may not be ready to say this, but we found one who is. Enjoy these sweet words from a smart college senior. And easy with the ‘I told you so’s.’ You’re still a role model.
By Maria Davison
For the last few years, my sisters and I have found ourselves spread out across the country. My older sister just recently started her first job in a new city. My younger sister is about to head off to college. And I’m about to begin my senior year of college. But this summer, before the last of us girls heads off to college, we got to be together for a few weeks on our family vacations. Our trips usually involve plenty of time cooped up in the car. So this summer, to keep busy, my sisters and I all read a little book called Do Your Laundry or You’ll Die Alone.
In the book, author Becky Blades collected 269 succinct, witty pieces of advice to give her daughters as they left for college. Blades’ oldest daughter just graduated from a little university called Harvard. So yeah, we can probably all benefit from a few of these things.
My sisters and I heard our own mother’s voice echoing many of the sentiments in Do Your Laundry. As we sat together in planes, trains and cars, we wrote our own list—an addendum from our mother’s wisdom. She thinks my sisters and I don’t listen, but we caught a few things here and there. These are 10 things she was absolutely right about.
1. Never leave your wet towels on the floor.
They start to mold. And it starts to smell, especially if it’s carpet. And it’s always worth the time to just hang it up. Basically, clean laundry makes for a nice-smelling home. Dirty laundry makes for a foul-scented one.
2. Never consume anything the color of Windex.
It’s not a color found in nature. And if it can’t be found in nature, you probably shouldn’t eat it. I’ve never missed out on anything truly delicious and I’ve avoided many embarrassing blue tongues.
3. Dress professionally and others will treat you like a professional.
I had a teacher in high school who assumed my mom was a lawyer because she always came to school functions dressed in business attire. My mom isn’t an attorney, and if she had to check a box on an employment form, it would be “stay-at-home mom.” (To be fair, she spends much of her time out of the home volunteering at school and serving on non-profit boards). On Blades’ list, the 92nd item is “Not everyone judges you by your appearance, but some do.” Dressing like you mean business makes you seem more credible.
4. Ask questions.
Ask a lot of questions. Ask good questions. Ask questions even if you think you know the answers. The answers might surprise you. Basically, be curious and your world will be more interesting, (Blades, No. 184).
5. Don’t wait until the night before to start a big project.
Even if you’re positive you can finish it in a night, and even if you can, it won’t be nearly as good as it would be if you started earlier.
6. Buy an iron. And use it.
Your mother will be delighted if you ask for an iron as a birthday/Christmas/Hanukkah/graduation gift. Wrinkled clothes aren’t cute. If you want to look snappy, iron that skirt and blouse before you leave.
7. Everyone needs a copy editor.
Our parents both received journalism degrees and have keen eyes for catching grammar mistakes. Parental revisions on grade school assignments were torturous. As we got older (and stated applying for internships and jobs), we realized how impossible it is to catch our own mistakes. Let someone else take a look at anything you write before you send it in. Also, as point No. 154 in the book says, don’t correct another person’s grammar, unless she asks you to.
8. If you’re feeling sick, drink more water.
Many ailments are caused by dehydration. Try a big glass of water before panicking that you’re sick.
9. Buy clothing in neutral tones.
Black, beige, gray or navy will probably never be Pantone’s color of the year. But they never go out of style. Black is the new black (Blades’ point No. 91). Buy colorful accessories and layering pieces so you can make many distinct outfits from a few nice skirts, dresses and sweaters. And don’t forget Blades’ fifth piece of advice: separate your colors when doing laundry.
10. Don’t burn bridges.
Think about that one irksome (choose one: professor, classmate, co-worker, sorority sister) who causes you to vent for 20 minutes about how she IS. SO. ANNOYING. That person could reappear later in life as your (choose again: neighbor, boss, sister-in-law, child’s friend’s parent).
It’s not easy to admit these things. I can already imagine what my mom will say when she shares this on Facebook with her friends and random high school classmates. But I’m sure in a year, when we have another year of life experience, my sisters and I will sit around and add a few more things our mom was right about all along.
You’ll find more memorable mom-was-right counsel in the book DO YOUR LAUNDRY OR YOU’LL DIE ALONE: Advice Your Mom Would Give if She Thought You Were Listening, written and illustrated by Becky Blades. Preview the book HERE.
Maria Davison (left) is a senior studying convergence journalism and art history at the University of Missouri. She is pictured here with her wise, amazing mother, Patricia, her older sister, Laura, and her younger sister, Clara.
Nothing has filled me with dread and heart-clutching fear like my children making bad choices in playmates. I have glowed to see them love struck and starry eyed in the throes of budding friendships from pre-school to high school, and I have cried myself to sleep when their hearts have been broken and tossed aside. I have cringed as they got bullied, and worse, as they did the bullying. No part of early parenting is more uncomfortable.
On the other hand, as my children have stepped into adulthood, nothing has been more of a comfort than seeing them build true, cherished friendships.
The childhood lessons of sharing and fair play endure, but mature relationships call for more. As children begin to spread their wings and think of their futures, relationships have new nuances and pressure points.
Like so much we teach our kids, knowing they know the way allows us to sleep better at night. Here are some things I hope my children have heard me say a hundred times.
1. The quality of your friends can define the quality of your life. Choose well.
It has been said that difference between the person you are today and the person you will be years from now will be determined by the people you spend your time with. It’s irrefutable. Friends matter. They can take you places you would never find on your own, or they can hold you back from the life you deserve.
2. Take your turn being a good influence.
Choose friends that lift you up, but don’t make one person do all the heavy lifting. In a true friendship, each person looks for ways to be the inspiration, encouragement and the designated driver.
3. Learn to apologize.
Relationships don’t come with erasers, but you have something close: apologies. Few things honor and heal a relationship like a genuine, “I’m sorry.”
4. Forgive quickly.
Time lost holding grudges is time truly lost. But that’s not the worst part. Storing or feeding a grievance too long makes it feel at home. Once it unpacks, a grievance morphs into resentment, grows extra arms, eats all your favorite cereal, and never cuts its fingernails. Before you know it, you’re housing a forgiveness-resistant gobble monster that is almost impossible to throw out.
Make sure you mean it. A true apology expresses responsibility, regret, and an interest in making things better. With practice, you will learn how to erase hurt and bad feelings quickly, and how to go back for a second pass, if you need to – without rubbing an ugly hole in the page.
5. Live. And let live.
Live well. Live large. Live out loud. Live each challenge as if it is a way to prove that you are alive. Live each moment as if there are no do-overs. And then, if you want to, do them over. Some days, it will seem like God gave you so much energy and ability, that one mere body cannot do them justice in a 24-hour day. Some days, it will take all you have, just to sit in a chair and exist. Some days, sitting in a chair will be all you need to feel true joy.
And some days, the fullness of your own life will not be enough. And you will want to help someone else live hers. Don’t.
6. That said, friends don’t let friends:
• drive drunk
• text while driving
• get discount body art
7. A friend who is mad at you for taking her car keys is better than a dead friend.
8. Don’t wait to be invited.
Look back at the times you’ve gone out to the movies, to coffee or a night on the town. Who did the asking? At least half the time, it should be you.
9. When your best friend’s boyfriend breaks up with her, resist the urge to comfort her by cursing him. They will probably get back together tomorrow.
10. Choose your battles.
The fewer the better. Life is not war.
11. If you want to shorten an argument, break into a FRENCH accent. Or a bad British accent. Or any accent, for that matter.
12. Look people in the eye.
You’ll discover that this is hard to do while looking at your phone.
No, but really. LISTEN.
14. If your friend can’t tell you’re listening, you’re probably not.
15. Pick up the tab sometimes.
Starting out is a unique time in life. Money is tight, and that won’t change for a while. But don’t be that person who always shows up for the free tickets and never reciprocates. Every once in a while, pick up the tab for coffee or snacks.
16. Keep tabs on your favorite things.
Be generous. Share your new shoes with your sister. Loan those perfect earrings to your best friend for her job interview. Offer your favorite Spanx to your roommate, as she heads out the door for her Match.com date.
But remember to remember who has what. And gently secure its return before too much time goes by. It would be sad to lose a perfectly good friendship over a missing pair of yoga pants.
17. Absence doesn’t make the heart grow fonder.
Maybe for a little while, absence helps you forget the irritating annoyances of a person. Loneliness might allow you to romanticize the way things were or might be again. And a little absence can be a nice break, which we all need – even from wonderful things like chocolate, coffee, and good friends. But don’t be fooled into thinking that being apart brings people closer together. Being apart puts people apart.
Some of this article is excerpted from the book DO YOUR LAUNDRY OR YOU’LL DIE ALONE: Advice Your Mom Would Give if She Thought You Were Listening, written and illustrated by Becky Blades. It’s a sweet, sassy training manual for our favorite adults and the friends who love them. Preview the book HERE.
My newly graduated daughter is starting a new job soon, and I’m trying to learn the protocol. What, I wonder, is MY ROLE in this exciting milestone? It didn’t come in the rule book, and the mommy bloggers are unusually silent on the topic.
Evidently, there is no “take your mom to work day” in America. (Who do I talk to about this?) It’s almost as if someone thinks our work is done and we should let our young adults be in control of their own lives when they’re able to support themselves. Crazy talk, I tell you.
Anyone who knows me knows I have a hard time zipping my lip as people walk out my door. I feel compelled to give send-off instructions. Going away gifts, I prefer to call them.
It’s a reflex, you know. I want to make sure my children show up to their jobs with everything they need: the right look, the right attitude and the right just-in-case supplies. But most important, I want them to go armed with wisdom that helps them make the most of every situation.
Here are 13 tips to start with.
1. Choose your outlook.
Just like you select what you’ll wear, you can decide to be eager, upbeat, open and humble. You can opt for optimism, patience and trust.
2. Learn to delegate.
This is tricky when you’re the new kid, but the time will come soon when you must find how to get things done without doing them yourself.
3. Make your boss look good, as long as it doesn’t make you look bad.
4. Choose your words carefully.
Especially on the Internet.
5. Proofread, spellcheck, and double check the autocorrect. Preferably before you hit ‘send.’
6. When you don’t know what a word means, look it up.
Preferably, before you use it in a presentation.
7. When you don’t know how to pronounce a word, look it up.
(No, not on your phone in the middle of a meeting.)
8. If you know how to sell, you’ll always have a job.
Persuading others to go your way and buy your ideas is the way to add value to any enterprise.
9. Don’t sell yourself short.
Try the things you don’t think you can do. Just because you’ve never done something doesn’t mean you aren’t the best person to lead it. The work world rewards those who step up and believe in themselves.
10. The best way to glow is to throw the spotlight on someone else.
You’ll see people all around you jockeying to get credit for work and ideas. But the magic is in the opposite approach. Giving others recognition not only makes you a person people want to work with, it makes you feel warm and lit up inside.
11. The best way to get something done is to DO IT.
Sure, plan it, talk about it, schedule it, committee it. But maybe it’s better to just get started.
12. Check your paycheck.
Make sure you know what you are being paid and what is being taken out.
13. Managing yourself is the first management job you will have. Do it well, and life will be filled with promotions.
And that’s all we’re going for, isn’t it? We just want the people we love to have futures filled with opportunity, happiness and success. (And we also kind of want to be along for the ride.)
Excerpted from the book Do Your Laundry or You’ll Die Alone: Advice Your Mom Would Give if She Thought You Were Listening by Becky Blades. For 260 more pieces of motherly advice buy the book here.