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Laundry Lessons and Midlife Losses: A Creative Journey

Editor’s note: A few months ago Becky Blades asked me to take a look at her book, Do Your Laundry or You’ll Die Alone. Just the title was enough to grab my interest, but once I started reading I was both laughing out loud and shedding a few tears. Becky shares hundreds of tidbits of wisdom that any girl heading off to college – or young woman starting her life upon graduation – would appreciate and enjoy. A big part of the charm of this book are the whimsical and charming illustrations created by Becky Blades. This is the perfect gift for those at the start of their lives and ready to live independently, but I bet just about any woman, young or old, would appreciate this treasure of a book.

The e-book will be available FREE  until April 6, on Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com, and the Apple iBookstore! It’s great to have the e-book on your iPad and phone (get the Kindle app!) to show its cheeky entries to friends, but that will make you want the book even more. You’ll  particularly want to customize its back pages with your own motherly wisdom before you give it as a gift.

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A few weeks ago, at coffee with a mother of a graduating high school senior, I was reminded how far I’ve come. I asked this new friend a benign question like “how long is the drive to the Oklahoma State, anyway?” Tears welled up in her eyes and she took a minute to compose herself. “I hate this time of life,” she whispered.

Her senior daughter is her firstborn. My senior, her daughter’s close friend, is my second and last born. So my new friend is where I was three years ago, contemplating her losses, before she really knows what they will feel like. She is fretting about losing her firstborn and coming to grips with the wretched truth: our dream-come-true mommy days have reached their expiration date.

When my oldest started her senior year of high school, this truth hit me gradually and differently. I approached it not so much with sadness, but with resolve and hyper control. I had a year left of this job, by God, and I was going to wring everything out of it I could.

I looked at my driven A student and decided my work was not done. She wasn’t ready, I thought. She was too intense. She didn’t know how to protect herself. Her manners were hit and miss. And she didn’t REALLY know how to do the laundry.

As long as there was still work to be done, I felt I could still be in the driver’s seat and maybe, if I was driving, no one could get out of the car.

This resolve went over as you can imagine it did. As I pushed counsel and lessons at my daughter, I pushed her away. The stress of her senior year was overwhelming enough without my checklist and laundry lessons. It didn’t take me long to realize I needed a more creative approach.

So instead of shoving last-minute life lessons down her throat – all really designed for my well-being, not hers – I went to my journal. This is the place where most of my creative processes begin. I got playful and truthful with topics that were irritating me – those things I was sure I told her.

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Things she needed to know to be safe, centered, happy and appropriate in public. I addressed her phone etiquette, her financial habits, and her household hygiene.

In the privacy of my journal, I could process my regrets. The things we had not really talked about and the things we talked about all the time. And Icould wax shamelessly about the hokey wishes I had for her and her sister.

Creativity, I believe, is almost always the way out of stuck, dark places. It is a way of taking control – a more attractive and victimless way than most of our hyper-control methods.

By the time my daughter packed her bags for college, I had turned all of my angst into material. I formatted it into a letter, and readied it to send to her new college e-mail address. After I tucked her into her dorm room, flew back home, half a continent away, and had a good cry, I pushed “SEND.”

SUBJECT LINE: Do Your Laundry or You’ll Die Alone

Dear Taylor,

Though you may think I’ve driven you half-crazy with reminders and lessons this past year, I’ve kept a lot of things to myself. Hush. I have.

Here are a few things that college will not teach you. Some are things I’ve told you a hundred times. Some are things that have never come up. Mostly, they are things that would make you roll your eyes if I said them in person.

So indulge me. I know you don’t need another lecture, honey. But I need to give you one. (There. Right there. I saw that eye roll!)

Love Always, Mom

Then, I listed 150 mini essays and points of advice, which my daughter promises she read completely.

Over the next two years, at my daughter’s suggestion, I added to her letter, making a list of 270 pieces of advice strategically paced and juxtaposed, then I folded in artwork I had done over the years. It has been a sweet, fun-filled project that has kept my heart wrapped around my little girls without suffocating them. Although they might tell you different.

do your laundry or you'll die alone, life lessons, advice for new graduates, becky blades, graduation gift

My coffee friend who is dealing with her first daughter’s senior year also threw herself into a creative project. She volunteered to head a massive school event with the word ‘auction’ in the title. Sadly, we all have to learn the hard lessons in our own way.

To celebrate the publication of Do Your Laundry or You’ll Die Alone, Becky Blades  and Midlife Boulevard are giving away 2 autographed copies. Enter to win – just leave a comment.

Becky Blades

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Pam Berkun

Saturday 29th of March 2014

I am trying to live in the moment with my sons". so there are no regrets about not enjoying them when they move on, but it's difficult.

Angela Beck

Thursday 27th of March 2014

My time is coming waaaaay too quickly. What a fabulous gift to your daughters- and the rest of us!

Becky Blades

Thursday 27th of March 2014

It DOES sneak up on us. Enjoy every moment while you have their attention.

Karen Wright

Wednesday 26th of March 2014

My daughter's only 5, so this book should give me lots of time to prepare.

Becky Blades

Thursday 27th of March 2014

Good for you! I wish I had started sooner thinking about these things. Sadly, God doesn't give us an alarm notice before they tune us out.

Phoebe Wulliman Graber

Wednesday 26th of March 2014

Today is my daughter's 20th birthday. I preordered this book to give to her knowing it would be a late arrival. Would love having my own copy!

Becky Blades

Thursday 27th of March 2014

I hope it leads to some great conversations between you two!

Becky Blades

Wednesday 26th of March 2014

I love seeing my words on Midlife Boulevard. Thanks for the opportunity!

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