The Yellow Puff -Ball -Thing-Game Saved Me Today

Recently, things haven’t really been going my way. I have been a bit down because I have been unable to have closure to my school year and the beginning of my summer. I had figured my house would sell quickly and it hasn’t. Dropped prices. Nothing. I thought I’d have a job back in Virginia, and I’m still waiting on that to finalize. I feel guardedly optimistic on the job. I took up a couple weeks off from teaching yoga because my cup was empty and I needed to spend Lauren’s graduation week compartmentalizing the things that are out of my control until it was time to pick them up again.

I’ve picked all the stress back up again this week with a new listing and so far only a couple showings. I was cleaning today and feeling the anxiety of “What am I going to do?” creep back in my mind, when I heard Lauren start laughing. “Aaron said he put the yellow puff ball somewhere obvious before he left and here it is.”

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The yellow puff ball game started after Aaron’s high school graduation. His choir teacher gave it to the seniors. He promptly handed it to Lauren. “What do I want with this?” she said. “I don’t know what to do with it,” he said. And so the game began. They would hide the yellow puff ball thing in each other’s rooms. Lauren found it in her retainer kit once. I diverted Aaron’s attention on first year UVA move-in day so that Lauren could hide it discretely in his desk drawer. He told her he threw it away, and she was heartbroken that the game had supposedly ended until it showed up in her things after Thanksgiving. And so it goes on and on with the yellow puff ball game. I love that I had nothing to do with this game between brother and sister. It is their little way of keeping connected when they are so far apart. The yellow puff ball game made me not sweat the small stuff today.

How will this game ever end? Perhaps one day when I’m long gone, and they are both in their 90’s, one of them will have long forgotten about the yellow puff ball. But then it will suddenly appear, maybe in a denture cup or by a picture of the sibling who planted it.. its rolly eyes stirring a memory, bringing a smile and a much needed laugh to save the day.

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Permission granted

I am decompressing this morning from an amazing trip with the kids to Duke University.  First, I’ve decided that I would like to go back to college and this time to a smaller setting than Virginia Tech.  After hearing about opportunities to live in student learning groups (you can form your own group based upon your interest in anything), focused studies with professors, choosing not only a minor but also a “certificate,”  it’s easy to see why the students at Duke don’t want to graduate.  They take advantage of every opportunity that comes their way.  Although Lauren and I decided we are not nerdy enough when the engineer tour guide talked about taking a class in the Future of Drones,  Aaron was so excited.  At one point, he said, “I really regret not applying for early decision.  I will be disappointed if I don’t get accepted.”  Hmm.  It was time for our talk.  It has been on my mind for a month or so.  First, you have to know my son. This is the kid who was curious from the time he could talk.  He collected anything and everything from bird feathers (no one got lice), marbles, buttons, fossils, Pokemon cards, rocks, dead bugs (or that is what happened to them when they were placed in what Tony called “The Death Chamber”).  Not only would he collect them but then we would have to get books from the library to identify them.   This  all started before the age of 5.  The only way I got him to jump off the board was to promise him not ice cream, not a toy, but more books.  I know.  Weird.  For two average intelligence parents, Tony and I marveled at the sperm and egg that created him.   My father used to say, “I hope I live long enough to see what Aaron grows up to become.”  Unfortunately, he didn’t and neither did Tony but everyone has had high expectations of Aaron’s future, including himself.   Last month, as part of professional development, I had to watch a 3 hour webinar from the Jason Foundation, established by a father whose son committed suicide.   One part really stuck out at me.  It was the story that a father told of his son.  From the time the boy was small, he would say, “I’m going to go to Princeton just like you and Grandpa.”  The father encouraged him by buying him t shirts, keeping up with the school’s teams and even making visits to the campus.  When he became a senior, he applied because it was the only place he had ever dreamed of going.  He was not accepted.  He left a suicide note to his father saying “I’m sorry I disappointed you.”  As the father said, “I didn’t really care if he went to Princeton, but I never told him”  Ugh.  This is why I needed to have the talk with Aaron.  So the moment was right as the three of us had dinner together back at the hotel.  I told him the story of this boy.  I could tell from the look in his eyes that this story was hitting home for him.  I told him that even if he didn’t get accepted to Duke, that it was ok.  He had some amazing options available to him and for the first time in our lives, we needed to give “fate” a chance.   He looked relieved. I then told him that if he got into biomedical engineering and it was impossibly difficult or stressful, that it was ok to switch majors.   He could still do cancer research as a biochemistry major.   And as much as I love the ideology of youth, I gave him permission to not drive himself into the ground to find a cure for cancer.  If it were  easy, someone would have already done it.   I saw a sense of relief in his eyes.   I know he won’t take advantage of this talk to drop out of school, live in my basement and play video games because he is a very driven kid.  I just wanted to give him permission to remove some pressure from the years of expectations we have placed upon him.  We all want our kids to be successful and happy, but I haven’t always been successful or happy so why place this burden on my kids?  We want our kids to have a better life than we did, to take advantage of the opportunities we missed, but part of this  journey of life involves missteps, heartache, disappointments, and unfulfilled dreams.  These are the things that make us stronger, more resilient, and more appreciative of the love and joy we find.  I can’t rob my kids of this  by smoothing out their paths.   He may get accepted to Duke and he might not, but no matter what, Aaron will be ok.  Permission granted.