Virtual coffee date…

For Writing 101, Day 10 (which was many days ago…), we were asked to update our readers in a post of a “virtual coffee date.” So here goes….

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If we were having coffee, I would tell you that the school year is getting off to a slow start. Every September, I marvel at how late the sun rises, and yet every September when I wake up at 5:30, it is dark. Just like last year. Getting up at 5:30 is not my favorite thing to do, and the weeks are already feeling long, while the weekend is a mere blink. This year, readjusting to the strict schedule has been taxing to my mind and body. Each day, it seems, I wake up with a new pain that I chalk up to aging for the time being. For now, I will leave those “aging” pieces where they lie.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you how much I love reading the essays of my college freshmen—the narrative essays on a place that shaped them. Through years of reading these essays, I have learned that students don’t choose to write about the elaborate vacations, and the events or places that represent the material parts of life. I have learned that an overwhelming number of students choose the places where they have been able to connect with their families, spend meaningful time together, and feel the love and support that surrounds them. These essays let me know that even though I am not able to take my children on long vacations far away—even though they haven’t had some of the amazing experiences that their peers have had—maybe, just maybe, what I am doing is not so bad.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you how often I hear the phrase “Welcome to my life,” and how very much I despise it. There are so many things people keep secret, not revealing their pain, their failures, and their worries. No one has a right to assume that their life is more difficult than that of another person. Their life is different. Period. Using this phrase only serves to diminish the road traveled by others.

If we were having coffee, I might tell you that I had a challenging summer. I took on a great deal of work—more than usual—because it was available, it was offered and the offer halfway felt like a promotion, and I need to support my family. The workload might not have been such a great idea. Other areas of my life suffered, and I felt as though I was unable to do anything well. I hate not doing things well.

If we were having coffee, I might tell you that I worry a lot about my children. I would tell you that I try my best to keep up with everything that needs to be done, but sometimes things slip. Letting things slip falls under the category of “not doing things well.” Did I mention I hate that? Being a single parent is the toughest thing I’ve ever done, and I need to learn to let go of some of the things that can slip and not be noticed.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that I am truly blessed to have three teenagers and a boyfriend who love me. I am sure that some days, they love me more than others, but they love me. And that’s what matters. Sometimes, when I am being honest with myself about my life, my past, and my future, I realize that I would not trade a thing. My road is difficult sometimes, but everyone’s is. Some days, I am stronger than I look, and those days are the ones that get me through.

Then again, if we were having coffee, I might have second thoughts about not trading any of it… I can think of one or two toxic people I would trade for something more positive….

 

 

 

 

A Letter on Navigating Adolescence…

Posted in response to Writing 101, Day 9: Reinvent the letter format.

Dear Teen,

I see you sitting quietly on the edge of the action, deciding whether you will jump in and get involved or not. You are observing the situation, sizing up the participants, and gauging whether or not you will take part. I see the uncertainty you are feeling as you approach new situations and new people, wondering what will happen if you insert yourself into this activity and this group. As you sit here, you are deciding the likelihood of your success, defining what that success might look like, and determining whether you will be rejected if you don’t succeed…and if it matters.

I see your struggle because I have been around teenagers for the vast majority of my life. I have been a teacher, coach, mentor, dorm parent. These days, I am even a parent to my own teenagers. Eons ago, before the Internet and cell phones and MP3 players, I was a teenager. And despite how old I may seem, from my perspective, it wasn’t that long ago.

Adolescence is a bumpy ride. You may hear that these are the best years of your life, but don’t believe it for a second; these years are tough! Some of your friendships may grow stronger, but some will dissolve. Through the conflicts you have with friends now, you will learn to recognize the people who will be there for you through thick and thin—the friends you will support and who will support you through even the toughest of times, the ones you will want to keep close by always. These years can have a huge impact on the person you will become and the sensitivities you will have. I see the tolerance you have developed when you accept the people around you, regardless of how they are different from yourself. You have watched how mean other people can be, and you have recognized that not everyone is thoughtful, considerate, and accepting of others.

You are caring and sensitive and polite, and you are stronger than you believe. These traits are important. They will help you to navigate life and make your mark. And you will leave a beautiful mark in the footprints you leave behind.

Consequently, I would urge you to make good decisions and live like you don’t care what other people think. In the grand scheme of things, the opinions of others don’t matter. What matters in your life are your own opinions and those of the people closest to you. Be nice, be creative, be loving, but most importantly, be brave enough to stand out. Remember… fitting in is over-rated.

So jump in there and be a participant. These people are having fun, and you are likely to have fun, as well. Perhaps you’ll make a new friend. Perhaps you’ll discover a new activity you love. You never know until you try! Life is short—get involved and live it to the fullest.

May you always know that any time you need it, you have support right here!

Love,

Mom

Past and Future

This post is in response to Writing 101, Day 7: Start with a quote.

“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”     –Dr. Seuss

Right now in my house, we are navigating senior year of high school. The first senior year. The oldest child. As we move through the daily life of classes and activities, we are also evaluating colleges, considering futures, contemplating resumes and jobs. We are looking outward and forward, to what lies ahead.

Each morning, my son walks out of the house, gets into the car, and drives off to school. As he walks away from me, I can clearly see his two year old self walking down the hall, his toddler feet struggling to hold onto my adult running shoes. The memory of the clop-clop of the shoes hitting the floor and his exaggerated walk as he tries not to trip on the massive shoes makes me chuckle.

I look out the window and see his face through the car windshield as he settles into the driver seat, puts the car in reverse, turns and backs out of the parking space. It is the same face I watched in my rear-view mirror on the boy strapped into the car seat, the five-point harness securely holding him just above the shoulders. Because he is the oldest, at this tender age, he still had the monopoly on my attention. In the mirror, I could see his curiosity and wonder; he would ask a million questions; and he expressed concern that the cars coming toward us might be just a bit too close for his comfort.

I stand and watch as he drives away, and I am thinking about all of the times that he left me behind. When I took him to preschool for the very first time, I stayed with him until he was ready, his warm hand in mine for reassurance. And he finally let go and joined new friends in their play. At four, he rode in a red plastic wagon around the halls of the outpatient surgery center at the hospital before his tonsilectomy. But when they pulled him through the double doors, and I could not accompany him, his face reflected a fear and anxiety that reflected my own and planted a tight knot in my gut.

To him, his daily life is the same as all the other years. Nothing is unusual or different; this year in high school is simply his last year. His reminiscences are not as deep and far-reaching as mine. He is focused on the future. He is thinking about where he will go, what he will become, and when he will see the friends he leaves behind. I am thinking about the future and the man he is becoming, but I am also thinking about this boy as my baby, my toddler, the little boy who was constantly collecting “treasures” that I would have to empty out of his pockets before doing the laundry.

As his childhood transitions to young adulthood, I look back on the many years I have spent raising him—and all of my children. I know that I am blessed to have had this time, and the memories make me smile.

Life Lessons List

This post is in response to the Writing 101, Day 2 prompt to write a list. I currently have three teenagers, but I have spent my entire adult life working with teenagers. Hence, my list:

Things I’ve learned from teenagers…

  1. Don’t get bogged down in the present. Just keep pushing on.
  2. Have fun. Laughter and fun are important to fostering a healthy outlook.
  3. It’s okay to be silly sometimes.
  4. It’s okay to be sad sometimes.
  5. Always have food on hand. Good food will bring friends. And you never know when you might be hungry.
  6. Other people will have their opinions. You don’t have to agree with them.
  7. When your “friends” don’t treat you right, move on. It’s better to have a handful of good friends than a crowd of superficial ones.
  8. Being nice is an important skill in getting through life. You may want to say something mean, but sometimes it’s best not to.
  9. Look forward to the future. It is full of promise
  10. Young people have good ideas. Sometimes, they have great ideas. Listen to them. They are the future.

   10½. Did I mention food? It’s always about the food.

Writing

This post was written in response to the Writing 101, Day 1 prompt: I write because….

I write because I grew up in a small town where fitting in was not my forte. I was artistic and academic, borderline hyperactive (before that was a diagnosis) and just about the opposite of athletic. I created “treasures” from items that were tossed aside, and I was overflowing with sass. The combination was one that didn’t work well for a kid navigating the waters of small town school life. At first, the fact that I didn’t fit in mattered to me. But after a while—and too many reminders that my sharp edges and rounded corners didn’t match everyone else’s—I accepted my lot in life.

I write because in kindergarten, a light went on when I learned to squeeze meaning from the squiggly lines that formed words on a page. A door was opened to new adventures and new worlds where I could easily lose myself. The public library and local bookstore became my refuge, and I hid behind the mask of a voracious reader.

I write because sometimes, when I felt lost and alone, reading was not enough. I would take out a notebook, usually in the late hours of the day when dusk turned to darkness. At first, I wrote fiction and poetry, depending on my mood. I would craft stories, churning out page after page, simply to see how much I could write and to watch the page curl under the weight of my words.

I write because as I ventured from adolescence into adulthood, my ideas and my identity were fluid and changing. I wrote my feelings and my dreams into stories as I worked to make sense of the world and my place within it. I wrote stories of realistic fiction with characters who might have been my friends.

I write because when I divorced, I needed a way to pull myself out of the all-consuming black hole that is emotional abuse. Suddenly, I was the character, and the world was my own. There were many soul-searching journal entries. Many nights of listening to the rain outside my window while my thoughts and my words spilled onto the page.

I write because once I freed myself from the abuse and regained my confidence, not writing was no longer an option. Through my journey, I had evolved into a writer. I had discovered a home in creative non-fiction. I discovered that writing my story helps me to live a better life.

I write because I never did find the place where I fit in. But fitting in is over-rated. Writing is a journey that fits perfectly with who I am.

Food heist

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One day, out of the blue, my daughter said to me, “I am not going to be a good mother because I would never be able to give up a good sandwich for one of my kids.”

Well then.

Giving up food items started is something I have done on many occasions. I can very distinctly remember summer mornings ten or so years ago when I would get up early and enjoy a moment of quiet reflection with a cup of coffee. Then I would make myself breakfast.

In the summer, one of my favorite breakfasts consists of a bowl of fresh fruit with vanilla yogurt. Usually, I start with watermelon, add strawberries, blueberries, grapes, and sometimes raspberries or peaches, depending on what is in the fridge. When I am done washing and cutting the fruit, and my bowl is an array of bright and fresh color, I add a dollop of yogurt, usually vanilla.

When the children were little, inevitably, just as I sat at the table and pulled up an article on the computer, a little person would appear next to me, jammie-clad and rubbing sleep from its eyes. The child would ponder my breakfast briefly before stating, “That looks good,” or the tougher, “Can I have some?” And my bowl would be usurped, slid across the table to the spot in front of another seat, and the child in question would consume the entire bowl while I created a new breakfast for myself.

While this was a common scene at the breakfast table, over the years, it has not been limited to the morning meal. My children descended from a long line of hunter/gatherers, and they can sniff out a good sandwich from two floors away. Nowadays though, I am more likely to point the kids in the direction of the ingredients than to pass them my own food.

So when my daughter says she doesn’t want to give up a good sandwich, I know where her thought originated. Being on the receiving end of the process is great, but the other end… maybe not.

Even still, I’m pretty sure my daughter will make an excellent mother one day. The truth of the matter is that if the sandwich [fruit bowl, etc.] is good enough, I’m not giving it up, either!