On Leaving for College


August 1994

Last week, I went out for dessert with six of former students who are about to leave for college. Over cheesecake and ice cream sundaes, we talked about this moment in life, straddling childhood and adulthood, those weeks before you leave home for the first time, those weeks you say goodbye to old friends, wondering if you will ever see them again (hoping you do, but you’re just not quite sure what’s about to happen because everything feels like it’s about to change forever).

It’s an amazing time in a young person’s life: leaving for college. Independence. Discovery. Experimentation. Everything — from this moment forward — will feel different.

I remember the weeks before I left for the University of Iowa, how scared I was, how excited, how I wasn’t sure what would happen or how I would feel, but I sensed a change coming on, even though I didn’t understand the extent of it yet.

I wrote in my journal at the time:

Tonight, I sit at my desk and wonder what will happen to me and my friends in the next year. Life is really amazing. I just don’t want goodbye to mean goodbye with a lot of people. I guess only time will tel. I’m going to miss a lot of people, probably more than I realize now. And I’m sure that one rainy night in Iowa, I’ll remember something from my past and it will hit me — hard — and I will cry and yearn for a piece of my past. We will all grow and change … I just hope we still cling to the memories and stay friends for a long time to come.

I still keep in touch with most of these friends; in fact, this weekend I had a girls’ weekend with my four best friends from high school — and we graduated almost 20 years ago.

But, I’ve lost touched with others. Some other friends have pushed me away, for unknown reasons. I only see my best friends a few times a year, because we live in different cities and it’s so difficult to schedule the time with families and kids and careers and everyday life. This saddens me, but I’m happy to still have these close friends in my life. I’m lucky, but you truly have to work at it, or the friendships will fade. It’s too easy for them to.

When my mother (and best friend Becky) pulled away in our family Suburban from the curb in front of Daum Residence Hall where I would live during my freshman year, I waved and walked inside, feeling alive and ready to start my new life.

My mom, on the other hand, cried the entire four-hour drive back to Milwaukee. As a mother now I completely understand those tears — your baby is leaving you, and you have to let her go. She must have known that even though I would come home again, things would be different.

She wrote me this letter before she left Iowa City:


The note goes on:

This experience which I am certain you can handle will be as rewarding as so many of your past experiences have been and I will benefit from this experience as well. I’m allowing myself plenty of time to adjust and I hope you’ll do the same! So far the “chapters” of your life have been well worth reading — can’t wait for your new “chapter” … make it interesting

stay happy

stay healthy

stay close to the heart

love Mom

I cry reading her words now; I understand a mother’s love.

The moment her car pulled away from the curb, life became mine instead of hers. I was in complete control of it — for better or worse.

Life is yours now. Make it interesting.


Welcome to First Page Last

My First Journal

My First Journal


I just moved all my posts over here to try to connect to other bloggers more. I’m blogging 30 years of journal writing as I work on a memoir about love, loss, and letting go. If that sounds interesting to you, follow me because I’d love to follow you.

Here is my first post (originally published 2/27/83):

On February 27, 1983 — a week shy of my seventh birthday — I started my first journal, a lock-and-key diary of the Little Twin Stars from the Hello Kitty series. Even with the lock, my younger sister still found her way into its pages, but her snooping never stopped my writing.

Now – five days shy of my 37th birthday — I begin my 18th journal.

Here’s the catch: Instead of revealing my entries chronologically from 1983 to now, I’m telling my story in reverse order, beginning today as an almost 37-year-old teacher/writer with a husband and two sons. Each day, I will release a new (old) journal entry until I get to that memorable day on Feb. 27 in 1983 when something significant happened in my seven-year-old world — something diary-worthy.

So began my journey as a writer. How did I get here? Read my journals — backward — and find out!

NOTE: I am now on 2007, so there is plenty of back material to read. Hope you stay awhile!

To read more about me.

To read more about this project.

My top-five most popular posts

  1. “On Turning 25”
  2. “Life in Your 20s vs. Your 30s”
  3. “Life in Your 20s vs. Your 30s Redux”
  4. “Why I Cut My Hair Short”
  5. “On Having Boys When I Wanted Girls”

Why I’m Writing a Memoir

photo-24So, I’m working on a memoir, a memoir about relationships and sex and love, a memoir about letting people go to let other people in.

Last night, listening to Pete Yorn’s “On Your Side,” I wrote chapter 16, set in November-December 2004.

This morning while making AJ breakfast, I played the same song via YouTube because it was stuck in my head. I picked up AJ and danced with him — as I often do — cheek to cheek to this song that I used to listen to on dark nights when I was in dark places, all alone.

Continue reading

Reflection: Why I Cut My Hair (Super) Short

photo-23Since I chopped all off my long curls in February, a week before I turned 37, so many of my female friends have asked, WHY?

So, why did you cut your hair? What made you cut your hair? Is something going on? they asked.

Even my own sister asked if I was going through a mid-life crisis.

When a woman cuts her hair super short, there must be a reason, so it seems. It’s a defining moment. One that people asked me about more than I imagined.

Continue reading

Reflection: Traveling to Dún Aengus

It’s easy to think of death when you’re so close to the edge already. On the cliffs at Dún Aengus (or Dún Aonghasa in Gaelic), only inches separate life from death. There are no warning signs here—no railings, no fences, no American watchdogs telling you to stand back. Visitors sit as close to the brink as they want, and those who are not afraid of heights—or falls—take advantage of the near-death-like experience of being so-close. (If you want proof, check out #aranislands on Instagram.)

Continue reading

Swimming in Shit

IMG_1397You never truly know a place until you swim in its body of water.

When I was 31, I traveled to Cork, Ireland to study Irish Literature and Travel Writing, as part of a study abroad program through my graduate school program at Texas State University. While I was there, my friend David urged me to sign up for a 2,000-meter swimming race in the River Lee, the body of water that runs through Cork.

Since I’ve been a swimmer most of my life and since I had swam open water races before, including a 5K race in Lake Michigan and a 1.2 mile swim in the Atlantic, I knew it was possible — the distance, the crowd of other swimmers, the movement of the water, how it controls you and not the other way around.

Continue reading

5 Reasons to Study Abroad

053I never did the study abroad thing when I was in college. The opportunity never presented itself, and I was more concerned with establishing a career as a journalist in America, hoping to land a key internship. One of my best friends from high school, Flo, went to Oxford, England to study her junior year, and I remember when she came home she seemed like a new person — new clothes, new experiences, new friends. She even kept her watch on London-time for months, swearing it was the time of her life and she wanted to remember it.

Continue reading