Teenager Thrill Rides

Teenagers get a bad rap. It’s for good reason. I know, I have two of them.

They live in a world of polar extremes. Their ever evolving brains make them predictably unpredictable. I’ll watch my teenage son and daughter, sitting shoulder to shoulder on the couch laughing together and this mama’s heart beams with joy. Then I’ll walk over and discover they are bonding over an inappropriate video they found on YouTube.
Raising teenagers means being amazed at their wit and charm, but also means I have to say things like “why would you put me on speaker phone if people were all around?” One minute, I pat myself on the back for raising responsible, honest kids then the next minute I’m exhibiting a prowess normally reserved for the FBI as I investigate and gather information by any means necessary to find out if one of them has lied to me.

Raising teenagers is a roller coaster ride all the time. It’s a ride full of excitement, wonderful highs, scary lows, lots of loopy loops and vomit.

It’s not all bad. Actually, being the mom of teenagers is pretty awesome and here are 6 reasons why:

1. Teens are fun on vacation.

They are finally old enough to do the fun stuff. They enjoy eating at places other than McDonalds. They are tall enough to ride everything. They can go to the public restrooms without holding an adult’s hand. I don’t have to keep my eye on them every second at the pool. They can take a walk along the beach while I stay back reading a magazine on my chair. The nights don’t end early because they don’t have to go to bed early, in fact, they prefer not to. The mornings are peaceful because they don’t wake up until 11am. It’s great.

2. We enjoy the same movies.

Finally, my movie choices at the theater aren’t limited to Disney and animated flicks. They understand and laugh at the humor in comedies. They get on the edge of their seats during suspense films. I don’t have to explain what’s going on to them. Actually, if anyone is explaining a movie plot to anyone it’s more likely that my son is explaining it to me, not the other way around. They understand that mommy’s purse full of candy and snacks purchased at the gas station on the way there is not something that needs to be announced to the girl at the ticket booth.

3. My teenagers gave me back my sex life.

I’m not sure of a more delicate way of saying this, but when my precious angels were born my sex life went to crap. We had to take what we could get during their nap times. Being spontaneous was something of the past. Then they became little kids. We had to lock doors because those suckers could get out of bed on their own and would try to make surprise visits. Then they became teenagers and it only takes a comment from their father about how good I look in a dress to make them cringe. The sight of a closed bedroom door sends them running for the hills. Oh, and they are gone from the house frequently. Score.

4. Teenagers are passionate.

Emotions run very high for teens. Once they get sold on an idea though, whether it be something as meaningful as serving a meal at the Salvation Army or something less big-ish like what theme the students have for how to dress for the home football game on Friday night, the passion is felt. Get them on board with a big idea and they will run with it. Encourage what interests them and they will make an impact on people around them. Their passion is contagious and will either excite you or drive you to drinking, but either way being around a teenager who is passionate about something will make you feel awake to the world around us.

5. Teenagers keep me young.

I’m living in the phase of life where I know current rap lyrics. I get a live-in fashion consultant via my daughter, who is now very invested in making sure I look presentable in public. I hear stories of what’s going on in high school and all the drama around it. I’ve picked up some of their lingo. My son teaches me all the short cuts and special features on my iPhone. They are nuts and hilarious. They keep me on my toes. I feel young (and tired) when I’m with them.

6. Teenagers have strong opinions and can have intelligent conversation.

They haven’t yet been on the earth long enough to have a bunch of life baggage that jades them into cynics. This generation is more open minded to the diversity all around them. They have valid opinions on important subjects. They bring fresh, new perspectives that can both surprise and impress. They are able to present new ideas and opinions that we haven’t yet considered. They are smart to the ways of this world and totally naïve all in one day. They are a bright bunch.

There are so often times when being a mom is not fun. Times when I feel like a huge failure and wonder if I got it all wrong. Chances are that I likely did do something to mess them up. I mean, on the scale of perfection I rank pretty low and I’m the one, along with their dad, with the most influence over them. God help ‘em. There will be things to blame me for I’m certain, but as long as they grow up to be kind, not incarcerated and gainfully employed then I’ll mark it a success.

Raising teenagers, just like with the roller coaster, includes times of nervous anxiety, times of unimaginable exhilaration, times were everything seems all downhill and times we vomit. Once you’re on there’s no getting off.

May as well hold up your hands, scream and enjoy it while it lasts.

Sorry For What I Said When It Was Humid

Last night, as I was preparing dinner, my 15-year-old daughter walked up to me and asked, “Mom, what is wrong with you? Don’t say “nothing”, just tell me what’s wrong.”

I had to stop and take a deep breath, feeling bad that I was so irritable that my daughter was doing an emotional check-in on me. I told her she was right, I was feeling angry.

“I haven’t been sleeping well this week. I just can’t shut my mind off, like always, but this week has been especially bad. The air conditioner won’t be fixed until the part on back-order gets here.  It’s  81 degrees in here and I’m over it.  (Cooking dinner in a hot house, while fatigued is not a good equation for happiness. I wouldn’t advise anyone try it.)  I also have agreed to more meetings than is reasonable over the next few days and I am already dreading most of them.”

She tilted her head as though she felt bad for me and said, “I knew something was up with you when I told you that my shirt made me hot today at school and you told me to just shut up.”

Nothing quite makes me feel more like a loser mom than when my kid articulates a very valid point to highlight why her mother is acting a fool.

“I’m so sorry. I shouldn’t have said that to you. I am really sorry” I said to her, to which she replied, “It’s ok,” then returned to the couch with a bag of chips and her phone, seemingly satisfied with how the conversation ended.

I stood in the kitchen alone, fanning myself with the utility bill while finishing our meal.  I was feeling bad about feeling bad.

Dr. Henry Cloud, a psychologist who writes some of my favorite self-help books, once said, “Keep this question in your pocket and pull it out often: “Why am I doing this?”

Why did I leave my paycheck producing career 2 years ago to become a volunteer moderator/teacher/nurse/slave/cook/maid to the hormonal little monsters who I created and grew inside me approximately 14 and 15 years ago? This change was one that my husband dreamed of for years before I finally had the nerve to pull the trigger on it. It was discussed endlessly for months and prayed about so many times before I finally had peace enough to make the leap. It was a well thought through decision, yet now, I’m sweaty, in a hot house, mad at the world today forgetting why.

I am a person of faith and for that reason my ongoing quest to find meaning is centered around my beliefs that God has created me uniquely and with a specific purpose. I’ve read books about this. I’ve also taken spiritual gift assessments, which revealed that I’m gifted in hospitality and the opposite of gifted in administration. So basically I excel in partying and suck with anything that requires the filling out or filing of any piece of paper. Still, at times my purpose in life gets out of focus and a little foggy.

There may be days when I’m not clear on what my purpose is, but I know when I’m not living it by the discomfort that it brings.

“Whenever you say yes to something, there is less of you for something else. Make sure your yes is worth the less.” Lysa TerKeurst

My purpose during this current season of life is to encourage, model, instruct and provide a full life for my kids so that when they graduate from high school in only 4 short years and move out for college (did I really just say those words?) they will be ready. I want to be the safe place for them to ask hard questions and get honest answers. I want to be available to them as they have to navigate the very confusing teenage waters.  My purpose is to do my best to make sure they have strong faith and character when it’s time for them to spread their wings. THAT is my purpose.  That’s my why.  Everything else is just noise.

As I’m hot gluing cotton balls on a t-shirt for a sheep costume that I’m making my daughter for her cotillion initiation, I’m living my purpose. I’m showing her she’s important and I care about the little things she cares about.

When I sit in my car for what seems like forever on a Saturday morning waiting for my son to finish his guitar lesson, I’m living my purpose. It’s important to him. It’s important to me.

When I run them all over town to be at various youth functions, it’s again my purpose. Growing them into adults I can be proud of.

When I can’t sleep from the disappointments and frustrations of life, when I worry about things out of my control and when I commit to volunteer roles, even worthy ones, that rob too much precious time from my family then I’ve lost focus and am doing something wrong. When saying yes to everything thus effectively saying no to doing most of it with a joyful heart causes discomfort to my purpose then  I’ve allowed what is expected of me to trump what God wants for me.

When I tell my girl to shut up over a shirt she’s wearing I am not living my purpose. Something is out of order.

And it’s uncomfortable.

So I logged into my email and declined a couple meeting invites. I set up a few lunches with my friends. The ones who recharge my soul while we refill our cups. A blandness in life becomes more pronounced when I go too long without having the balance they bring. I even said no to a couple people who I had originally planned to say yes to, but my yes was going to be out of pure obligation.

I prayed that the air conditioner part will get here quick before I lose my sh@t with this August heat inside my house.

And I made some brownies for my daughter as a gesture of peace for the jerk I was yesterday.

No grit, no pearl!

Little Boy, Big Ideas

A few nights ago I was on the couch channel surfing for something good to watch on TV. There really are only three channels I watch. From the stories my mom tells, three channels is all she ever had growing up. I don’t feel sorry for her. Three is all you need. I have close to one bazillion channels, but the only ones I ever use are Comedy Central, a local channel to watch The Bachelor and local news and then a channel to satisfy my addiction to documentaries.

On this particular evening I ran across a documentary about the many affairs of John F Kennedy. We have all seen the breathy birthday song Marilyn Monroe sang for him.  It’s kind of easy to guess that one, but I had no idea about how many others there were.  There were many, MANY others.  This dude was straight pimp. These weren’t just average, low profile interns in blue dresses under his desk either. His affairs were with people who not only could have caused catastrophic damage to his credibility as president, but also could have caused disaster in this country had any of the scorned women decided to share information they gained from their pillow talk.  They were women with mafia ties, German prostitutes, famous actresses, strippers and well-known socialites.  He was a busy man.

He made great strides for civil rights during his term as president, no doubt, but how did his scandals not over-shadow all of it?  Why? Because the general public had no idea.  Had they known then how carelessly he waved his freak flag things would have been different.  Camelot wouldn’t have had nearly the royal luster it did among doting Americans.

The difference is that good ole’ JFK was privileged to live in a time where people didn’t know every detail about him.  Most people decided to vote for him based on the information they gained from reading three-day-old newspaper articles.  They formed opinions from short reports  they watched on their little static television sets.  Paparazzi weren’t hiding in every corner with long range camera lenses snapping every sultry detail to share with the world.  Despite his overwhelming poor decisions and the risk he put our country in because of it, he was still America’s sweetheart. Still the popular vote.

Sometimes, ignorance is bliss.

During this time people only really knew about the bad stuff that happened in the town where they lived. They didn’t have to process every sordid detail of every politician or celebrity around the world.

We are not made to handle all the information…in the amount of detail we get…in the volume it’s given to us. We are constantly made aware of every scary story that unfolds around the world, yet we aren’t equipped nor do we have the ability to make most any of it better.  There must be some connection to this and the increasing number of people who suffer with depression and anxiety. We cannot mentally process every bad scenario from all over the globe without it impacting us.  We aren’t wired for it.

I still still think of JFK as a good president…sucky husband, but good president. He’s far from the only politician with a shady past.  He just happens to be the example that got me thinking, thanks to that documentary I watched.

I’m wondering if the world is really that much worse off now or if it’s that we just know more about it now.

I’d love for the media to band together, requesting each presidential candidate supply them with a document which includes 2 columns. In one column, the candidate would list what they are in favor of. On the other side they list what they oppose. Maybe the last page of the document could be a list of experience and references. That’s all voters really need to know.

We don’t need to know how much Hillary paid for her suit or if Donald’s wife graduated from college or not. It’s doesn’t matter.

Since the media will likely never do this we could at least help keep ourselves sane by turning off the TV more.  Life hack, the hide feature on Facebook is a gem of a tool for frequent political ranters, bless their hearts. This feature has helped me continue to like people with loud opinions. It’s not that I don’t love them, it that I’m tired of seeing them jump up and down while driving a real, live, living person’s name and character into the dirt. I’ve not spoken to anyone yet who has read any of those posts and changed their political opinions anyway.

A friend of mine has a 5-year-old son, Asher, who has it all figured out. It’s genius really. She recently asked him if he knew what it meant when she said she was going to vote. He replied, “Sort of.” She went on to explain it to him by comparing it to how they choose which restaurant to go eat. He is number 3 out of 4 children in the family so he is used to this form of voting. He said, “Ok, I vote for Mexican (raises his hand like he’s voting). My sister will vote Chick-Fil-A. Even if I do this (jumping up and down with his hand raised) and yell “Mexican! Mexican! Mexican!” she won’t change her mind. She’s still going to vote Chick-Fil-A. So you should just raise your hand, say “Mexican” and vote.”

Yes, Asher, EXACTLY!

We are in the homestretch of this election campaign season. There is light at the end of the tunnel, but as of today we still have to get through the avalanche of election talk everywhere we turn. I wish my friend’s smarter-than-the-average-bear-cub’s epiphany could be promoted alongside all of it to serve as a reminder to all of us that jumping up and down and screaming who we are going to vote for, doesn’t change anything and only makes the person jumping exhausted.

It’s only 3 months until it will all be finally decided on and done.  We will be able to unhide our loved ones who drove us crazy on Facebook. The era of bumper stickers that say “Don’t blame me, I voted Trump” and “Don’t blame me, I voted Clinton” is just around the corner. Persevere my friends. Stay strong, we’ve almost made it through.

Let’s take a lesson from my friend’s wise little boy and vote. Nicely. Quietly and with consideration of others.

Let’s feel happy for the mack daddy, Mr. John Fitzgerald Kennedy, that he was alive during a time before the world wide web.

Awkward Family Photos

I found this picture in a drawer this week. The other pictures from this vacation are all in a photo album. It was one of the last times I actually printed off pictures and put them in an album. Now most of my pictures live on jump drives and in folders on my computer. This picture didn’t get placed with the others in the album because it was a reject. Like in the olden days of the 1990s. When the photographer gave me my senior picture proofs in a leather tri-fold album for my parents to view. Behind the album in the box was an envelope of all the ones where my eyes were closed.

I remember this beach picture and the day, now more than 10 years ago, with crystal clarity. It was chilly, rainy and windy. We had exhausted all of our indoor options of shopping, watching a movie and getting lunch. The rain cleared for a few minutes so we hurriedly threw towels and toys in a beach bag, changed into swimsuits and darted out to the beach for the short time we had before more rain moved in.

I wanted a picture of all of us on the beach. It’s obligatory. It doesn’t matter if none of us were in the mood or not. When the family is all on the beach and your daughter is in a cute ruffle bottom pink swimsuit you take a picture.

We were wet and cold. My daughter kept complaining that her hair was blowing in her mouth. My son had peanut butter with sand smashed in it stuck all over his little fingers. After repeated pleas to “just look at the camera and smile for one second” this was what we got.

The frustration is clear on all of our faces. It wasn’t what I wanted to remember from the trip as the other pictures were postcard worthy so this little gem got tossed in a drawer that housed other things I can’t throw away, but don’t really have uses for like participation ribbons and old report cards.

However, now when I see this picture I’m flooded with nostalgia that puts a smile on my face and lump in my throat. Now when I see it I think of what a precious time that was. A time when the kids were both smaller than me. When they could be bribed to do anything with a promise of getting some chicken nuggets and playing at McDonalds. A time when I packed Junie B Jones books in our luggage to read to them at bedtime. When I was able to dress them in coordinated monogrammed clothing without any resistance from anyone except their father.

There are times in life which can only be fully appreciated in hindsight.

I remember being exhausted and frustrated that day. I remember talking (daydreaming) on the way home with my husband about how in a few years they would travel better and be less work at restaurants. I’m not saying I ever drugged my kids back then when we were in the car traveling to our vacation spot, but I am saying that Dramamine is an over the counter drug and completely legal to administer.

I’m also not saying I ever want to go back to those days. Hell no. I quite like how my teenagers routinely abandon me for their friends these days. It gives me time to pour myself an adult beverage, go outside on my porch with my laptop and write. There are perks to not having to find a babysitter when I want to go to dinner alone with their dad. It ain’t all bad.

I’m just saying that when I look at this off-centered, grey, awkward family photo now I see a lot of beauty in it. I see a perfection in that photo that I didn’t see before. It reminds me of hard, but amazing times being their mom.

Sitting on the other side of it all, I see its gorgeous imperfection.

I lived it. I survived it. I enjoyed most of it.

I feel like maybe that should be my life mantra. Maybe at the end of each season of life, whether that season is a good season or a stormy one. No matter if I’m talking about the perils of raising kids, marriage, jobs, friendships, family or rainy beach vacations. Maybe the mark of success is having lived it, survived it and being able to say that I enjoyed most of it (or even a little of it).

When I’m sitting smack in the middle of a stressful time I need to remind myself this more often. I have a 100% success rate for surviving things thus far. It’s certain that I will grow and be stronger for it. I’m equally as certain that I’ll appreciate it and see the beauty in this part of life only after I’ve gotten on the other side of it.

Hindsight is 20/20. Whomever coined that phrase was wise and I’m guessing must have lived a little to have known that.

So my awkward family photo is coming out of this drawer and is going to join the other, more pristine looking beach photos. It’s not only coming out because I find it to be sweet now, but also to serve as a reminder to me that exhausting times, worrisome times…they are not only survivable, but will one day in the future be looked on as a time of beauty.

“Be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead.” 1 Peter 1:6

Simple Sisters

Last week I kept waking up feeling heavy.

I’m not referring to the heavy from the unreasonable amount of carbs I indulged in recently. And seriously, it was an unreasonable amount. I have no self-control around a basket of warm, buttery rolls sitting on the table. It’s a problem.

What I was feeling was the kind of heavy that I could literally feel in my chest. The kind that makes it hard to get a deep breath. The kind that kept waking me up from my sleep well before it was time for my alarm to sound for the day.

I laid in bed, in the dark and attempted to clear my mind. I tried to relax, but the heaviness in my chest was hard to ignore. I was dreading the day and consumed by it.

I went to plan B, prayer, which should have been my plan A, but I’m too difficult a person to do things the easy way first. Plan B didn’t really make me feel better either, to be honest.

I decided that there was no fix and that I would just do what I do best, ignore it and move on. So that’s what I did.

My saving grace is 3:00pm. It’s a time of stillness that comes after my day’s obligations are winding down and just before the kids get out of school and we hit the ground running. From 3:00-3:45 I get the luxury of doing what I want. I usually spend it writing or reading. Sometimes watching reality shows (Naked & Afraid is quality programming). 

On this particular day I picked up a book and read a few pages.

It was the story of Lazarus. He was a guy who lived near Jerusalem back in the bible days. His story was retold in the book of John. He and his two sisters, Mary and Martha, had seen Jesus perform miracles with their own eyes while he was in town. From their own eye witness accounts, they came to believe and have faith in everything Jesus said.

So as the story goes, Lazarus became very sick. His sisters watched him as he became sicker and sicker until he was so sick that he was knocking on death’s door.

The sisters had 2 choices.

They could go with the traditional medical practice of the day to cure their brother. That was a grim pick and probably included leeches or a homemade, bad-tasting herbal potion. People dropped like flies back in the bible days. It was before penicillin was invented so for all I know Lazarus may have been dying from an infected hair follicle or something of the nature.

The second option was to notify the miracle man named Jesus, who they knew could heal their brother just by speaking it so.

They chose option 2, Jesus. Good move.

The thing was that Jesus had left town. This was also during a time scholars refer to as B.I. (before iPhone) so Jesus wasn’t exactly easy to reach. Still, Martha and Mary knew he was their best bet so they sent a message to him that simply said, “Lazarus is ill.” Then they waited for three days for Jesus to come back, which he eventually did. By the time he got there Lazarus was already dead. The sisters took Jesus to their brother’s tomb. Jesus, with a crowd watching, raised Lazarus from the dead and he walked out of the tomb.

Fortunately, there were tons of people there who witnessed this event.  Their stories all matched up and confirmed that what the bible says happened that day, must have really happened.  Thankful for all those eye witness accounts and fact checkers because this story would have been another one that would be hard to believe otherwise.

The thing that stood out to me most in this story this time, which I have heard retold many times over the years, was the letter that Mary and Martha sent to Jesus. It simply said, “Lazarus is ill.”

That’s it. Are you kidding me?

Here is the short version of what my note to Jesus would have looked like:

“Dear Jesus,

Lazarus, my brother as you may remember, is sick. I’m really worried if he doesn’t get better soon he may even die. I know you can perform miracles and healing the sick seems to be your favorite so can I ask you to consider coming back and helping him? I know you just left town and it’s so far out of your way, but please come back. I’ll come up with the money to pay for the expenses incurred from turning your donkey back around. Please come back quickly because he doesn’t have much time. He’s getting sicker by the minute. You can find him here at our house when you get back. I drew a map on the back of this note to help you find us easier. Can you give me a sign that you are coming back so I won’t worry? Please help Lazarus. My sister is freaking out too. Please, please hurry.

Love,
Amanda”

But all Mary and Martha’s note said was, “Lazarus is ill.”

It blows my mind.

Then to send that and wait 3 days without any word on if Jesus even got the message or not would have made me assume the worst. But Mary and Martha had faith that their “Lazarus is ill” message was sufficient.

Their short note implies that they must have trusted he knew better how to handle the situation than they did (gasp!). I wonder if they thought it was wasting sweet time writing more than necessary or maybe they thought it would just be overkill, but whatever the reason was their simple “Lazarus is ill” note had Jesus turning around and coming back to town to help them.

It makes me wonder if sometimes I feel like my prayers aren’t favorably answered because Jesus didn’t decide to answer them by following the instructions that I gave with my request.

Had Mary and Martha told Jesus following their request that they needed him to come back that very day because they needed his help before their brother died they would have been really disappointed. They would have been at Lazarus’ funeral feeling abandoned by Jesus when all the while he was on his way with full intention of healing their brother.

Their simple request/heart’s desire/prayer/message was heard loud and clear from Jesus. He knew exactly the perfect time and how to respond. I bet he even was proud of how much faith it took to write such a short simple message under such dire circumstances.

This story suddenly had new and profound meaning to me.

And it changed me.

I want to be like them. Trusting, confident, full of faith. Keeping things simple.

As 3:45pm approached and my quiet time was about to be shifted over to the chaos I call “my life after school lets out” I tried praying like the way Mary and Martha would have done it.

“God,

I’m worried and feel heavy.

Help me.

Thank you so much.

Amen”

And with that I was off to pick up kids from after school activities and to argue with them over the music volume in the car. I could sense that my Mary-N-Martha-Prayer had as much significance and was a lot less stressful than my typical pray-with-instructions prayer I usually did.

I may be way off base, and sometimes occasionally lots of times I am, but I found last week that I prayed more. It felt less heavy to pray this new way.

Did you hear that? It. Felt. Less. Heavy.

Which was my problem to begin with…heaviness.

So thanks girls (this is what I call Mary and Martha now…we are tight). Your faith changed me. Thanks for having it. Thanks for including what your message said as part of the story.

Congrats on your bro.

Bad Chapters

We all have one. I have a few.

It doesn’t leave me feeling very good when I decide to go back and reread those bad chapters again in my mind, yet on some days I’ll reread them over and over again. I’ll relive their shame and sadness for absolutely no logical reason.

And just in case I’m not alone with this, I want to share with you what gets me through. It’s what pushes me to focus on writing new, better chapters.

And that is to read this verse over and over and over. Because it’s a good chapter to read out loud.

Philippians 3:13-14 “…Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win…”

Targeted

Social media has been abuzz lately over the issue of whether or not to allow transgender people to choose which public restroom to use according to the gender they identify with rather than the gender listed on their birth certificate.

No surprise, people have very strong opinions on the matter and I can appreciate both sides. Yet, once again, I’m disappointed to see how most of the discussion I’ve seen is so mean and full of hurtful, hateful words. It’s as though being decent and cordial with each other while discussing our differences in opinion is a thing of times past.

It takes self-control to have a respectful debate with someone while not demeaning them as they discuss their opposing ideas. The meanness and rudeness is a mark of narrow minded, self-centered people who don’t know a more intelligent way to converse.

This week Target announced that they will be allowing transgender individuals to use the bathroom aligned with their gender identity in all of their stores across the country. Since then, as I scroll through social media, I’ve seen incredibly mean opinions coming from both sides of the camp. Rude, dehumanizing words coming from the mouths of people I’ve always considered nice folks.

And it baffles me.

Here are my 2 cents:

First, I try at all costs to avoid public restrooms. Because they are nasty. When I do use one there is very little contact with my skin. I hover, then wash my hands, use my elbow to get the paper towel to dispense then use my back to push open the door walking out with my hands up in the air like you see a surgeon do as they enter the operating room. As far as I’m concerned Gay/Straight/Transgender germs are all the same…nasty.

Secondly, being a transgender does not equate to being a menace to society any more than a straight person can be a menace. A creep is a creep, no matter their identified gender. When I think of a scary man dressed as a woman so that he can get into the bathroom and see women adjust their bra straps in the mirrors it does freak me out. Actually, it scares me to death. However, thinking of a scary lesbian, bi-sexual or straight woman in the bathroom doing something that felt suspicious also, and equally, freaks me out. I will agree that I don’t want to share, nor do I want my kids to share a bathroom with a creeper. Sex offenders who lurk in the bathrooms scare the crap out of me for obvious reasons. This is the reason I’ve only recently began allowing my kids to go to public bathrooms without being accompanied by myself or another adult. People are crazy and rooms that include unzipping ones pants is a dreamland for people with bad intensions. When someone is being a weirdo and waving red flags it seems to matter very little to me if they have boy or girl parts in their pants.

Thirdly, the world’s view is shifting and changing. It is often challenging for Christians to live “in the world but not be of it.” Change is uncomfortable. Recent changes seem to test my faith and force me to do some soul searching to determine what is right according to my morals and beliefs. Sometimes, quite honestly, I disagree with a new law or idea that’s being circulated, but just like the mantra I use to parent my teenagers, I try to choose my battles. The main question I ask myself as a gage to a new idea is its fairness to people. I ask myself this: If this were my son or daughter being affected by this law would I think it’s fair? In this case I’d ask: If my son or daughter was a transgender person, would I agree with this new rule on bathrooms? The answer this time would be: My son and daughter are not dangerous people. They are kind and deserve to be treated kindly by others. Therefore, I’m forced to conclude that transgender people, and any human for that matter, deserve the same respect as I’d expect for my own kids.

Lastly, where would they go? A man who is transgender and dressed as a woman would likely not always be welcomed in a men’s bathroom. A man who is transgender and dressed as a woman would likely also not be welcomed in a women’s bathroom either. What are they supposed to do? My heart bleeds for them as it must be really difficult to be transgender, as evidenced by their high suicide rates.

What is the answer?

Kindness. Love. Grace. Mercy. That’s the answer.

It’s not my job to judge someone, it’s my job to love them.

We are all children of God. I will always remain cautious and observant, and mostly disgusted, when unable to avoid using a public restroom. That includes being cautious of a transgender I see in the bathroom at Target……as well as the straight person I see in there as they, as strangers to me, pose equal threats. And I’ll choose to be kind to everyone, because that’s how I’d want my kids to be treated.

As a last resort. After jumping up and down until I can’t hold it another second. I’ll continue to go in quickly, do my business, sanitize every visible piece of exposed skin then make a quick exit out of there hoping I didn’t pick up any bacteria from the door handle.

And I’ll continue to behave like I do when I see anyone in a public bathroom…..like I didn’t see them at all. Because we are in a public bathroom.

Let’s not make things weird.

Cloudy Confidence

I had one of those days where the big gray clouds of doubt started creeping in.

I confided in a friend how inadequate I was feeling. I told her that I have a business degree, not an English degree. I have only ever worked in advertising not writing. I’m under-qualified. I’ve just had a good streak of luck with my blog and luck doesn’t last long term. What the heck am I even doing?

Her response, “You are a complete idiot.”

She was right. I needed someone who loves me to slap me around and shake some sense back into me. She suggested that it was a sign that I needed to call my counselor back up and set an appointment. Then she said, “I need an appointment with him too. Let’s set them back to back. We can get lunch and shop afterwards.” Yeah, she gets me.

Then a couple days later a sweet young lady, who was home visiting her family from college, called out my name as I walked by her at church. She gave me a bracelet she made for me with the name of my website on it. She told me she loves reading my blog. I hugged her neck and told her how much I loved it. As I walked to my seat in the congregation I couldn’t help but think how God had used her, without her even being aware of my struggle, to encourage me when I needed it.

We need each other to survive this being a grown-up thing. Guys, we NEED our friends….people who can lovingly call us idiots and those who smile and give us bracelets.

Because life gets cloudy sometimes

Dear 29 Year Old Me

Dear 29 year old me,

You’re here! You didn’t think you’d live long enough to see 40, but unless something unforeseeable happens in the next few months you will be celebrating the big 4-0 this summer. You aren’t even bothered by it that much like you think you will be now. You are counting down the days until your girl’s trip to the beach to celebrate with other friends who are also celebrating milestone birthdays this year.

You aren’t white haired and on a cane. It makes me laugh to think how old 40 seems to you at 29, but now that you are 39 and knocking on the 40 year old door you’ll discover that you don’t feel as old as you thought you would at this age.

That time you were adding up how old the kids would be when you turned 40 and you couldn’t visualize them being teenagers. Well, they are teenagering quite well so don’t worry.

Your daughter who is in preschool now is almost 15. She finally outgrew that embarrassing thing where she thinks she’s a cat and meows all the time. You will even look back on how she use to meow in response to the waiter at a restaurant asking for her drink order and laugh instead of being worried that she would meow like a cat forever. She also doesn’t demand that a high chair be brought to our table to put her baby doll in anymore either. In fact, I’m not even sure where that baby doll is now. I think it’s packed away in a plastic tub with her huge collection of zoo animals and Polly Pockets.

Oh, and your 3 year old son is 13 now and did finally start sleeping in his own bed, but not until he was about 10 years old. Sorry to disappoint. Just try not to overthink it too much for now. I know it’s annoying to always be cramped and not get a good night’s sleep unless you can con his sister into letting him sleep with her every now and then. But trust me, you will look back at all the cute things he said during those quiet nights he was wrapped in your arms and you wouldn’t change anything. Also, at 13 he will still gladly sleep with you in your bed when his dad is out of town on business so don’t listen to what people tell you about how boys close off emotionally as teenagers. It doesn’t happen to your baby, or at least not yet. But the bad news is that he didn’t outgrow being a messy eater. We are still working on that one.

I’m mostly writing to let you know that you are doing a good job. You should let up on yourself some.

All the PTA meetings you’re about to be knee deep in and Saturday birthday parties at the inflatable jump house places are exhausting and not how you want to spend your time exactly, but you did a fine job juggling all that while also working full time. Stop being so hard on yourself when you forget a dentist appointment. Don’t get so stressed out when you have to reschedule a meeting because the kid who was perfectly fine when you left them an hour ago is now vomiting and running a fever. You won’t even remember what meeting you had to reschedule or how frazzled you seemed doing an ill prepared presentation because of it the next week. You will, however, remember sitting in the rocking chair with your sick little girl who wouldn’t allow anyone but you to tend to her and didn’t want you to leave her side because she feels like she “has to fro up”.

In the words of a future Disney movie that will make you thankful you don’t have toddlers anymore, just “Let it go.”

As frustrating as family can be, make more time to be with them. You won’t have everyone that you love right now with you when you get here at 39. By the time you get here you won’t have any grandparents. Make sure to visit them and tell them you love them often. Make sure to write down your Mamaw’s recipe for fried cornbread because she’s the only one who knows it. It hurts me to tell you this, but you won’t have 2 parents with you anymore once you get here. You will be missing one and it will leave a giant hole in your heart. It’s hard to fathom that right now and actually I’d rather you not try to. I’m only telling you because I want you to use this time wisely and soak up all the time you get to spend with those you love. It will be the memories from those days that will carry you through the bad times once their gone.

Take lots of pictures. Record lots of video.

Oh, and just to prepare you, there is going to be a birthday in your son’s life that’s coming up soon where you will go all out and hire a magician to do magic tricks and make the party as perfect as you possibly can. You will give your husband one job. One. Job. His only responsibility that day will be to record the magical birthday party on a ridiculously large camcorder. He will give the illusion he is doing this, but after the party you will discover that he never pushed the record button and so there is no video documentation of the event whatsoever. I only have three words of advice for you. Let. It. Go.

I’d also like to take a moment to tell you to stop worrying about the ending of your 20s. You think that the 20s are the peak of your life, but sitting here on the back side of the third decade I can tell you that you are about to start your peak time. So stop spending so much time worrying about getting old. Take this new decade you are about to enter and hold your head high. Stop worrying about every detail of your appearance. You will look back at pictures of yourself at work parties, at holidays and on vacations and think “damn, I looked good.” As you turn 30 know that you will reflect back on this decade and be proud of your accomplishments. Stop being so hard on yourself and just enjoy. You’re winning!

I hope this was helpful to you. I’d send you a picture of 39 year old you, but I don’t want to give you more to think about….and try to prevent.

So congratulations. You survived your 20s. You navigated through getting married, moving away, coming back home, having kids, messing up and making up. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that any day now a letter from the future 49 year old me will show up and give me some pearls of wisdom.

This decade is about to be a crazy ride and I’m excited for you.

See ya in 10 years. Good Luck!

Sincerely,

39 Year Old Me

Tiny Purple Bikini

Sports Illustrated came in the mail at my house this week like always.

This issue was the swimsuit issue.

My husband says if there was a way he could opt out of that particular issue he would, but it comes with the subscription. He said it’s awful because he just hates sexy women with perfect bodies wearing bikinis on the beach.  Gross.

Ashley Graham is on the cover this year. I don’t know her, but she did catch my eye. What caught my attention wasn’t her skimpy bikini and sultry look.

What caught my eye was her size.

She isn’t rail thin. I can’t count her ribs. I’ve never seen anything like her in Sports Illustrated much less on the cover.

(Cue the heavenly choir of angels singing.)

Did you hear me?  A size 14-16 model is on the cover of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition. She’s not in one of those plus size fashion swimsuits that cover more than a regular swimsuit would and normally comes in mostly black either.

She’s in a sexy little purple bikini and isn’t trying to cover anything up.

She is stunning.

It makes me feel like taking a victory lap for women.

Hooray, now girls of a more average size can also be exploited on magazine covers just like the little tiny skinny girls do!

While equality among swimsuit models may not be the final goal, it certainly is a good sign of the shift in culture that strong confident women are demanding.

It’s not that I don’t think the traditional slim model is beautiful. I have a nearly 6 foot tall teenage girl who can give them a run for their money in those swimsuits. It’s that I’m happy to see women of other sizes be celebrated as well. Finally.

I fall into that category of always trying to change myself to fit into the standard mold of what beauty is according to pop culture. When I was in middle school I thought I was too skinny. As a teenager and young adult I always felt too fat. I constantly chased the idea of how I needed to look, as it was fed to me by what I saw on the covers of magazines, if I wanted to be beautiful.

Now, at 39 years old, I still struggle with that, although with age comes wisdom and so I do care less than I did as a teenager about these things.  Even so, I still look in the mirror and say words to myself that I would never say to anyone else.

Mean things.

I say things in my head like, “That stretch mark above your bellybutton is disgusting, don’t ever think of wearing a bikini. Maybe you should consider some Botox. And for God’s sake do a few pushups before you wear that strapless dress.”

I’m so rude to me. I’m such a bully.

I would never talk to another woman like that yet I don’t hold anything back when talking to myself.

Despite how I tend to chew myself out in my head while standing in front of a mirror I still manage to wake up in the morning feeling pretty cheerful on most days. Fortunately my husband is also a cheerful waker-upper. However, we managed to produce two children who are anything but morning people. They start their day each morning feeling annoyed and moody.

This really brings me down. Normally about the time we are almost to school on the morning drive I usually begin my sermon on positive thinking.

And let me tell you, there is nothing a cranky non-morning person likes more than sermons preached by their mom on the benefits of positive thinking at 7:30am.

My Daughter: “Today is going to suck because I have (insert any activity) to do today at school.”

Me: “Well if you think that it will suck then it probably will. You are going to believe whatever you tell yourself about today. Why don’t you tell yourself how great it will be instead? You need to focus on what you love about this day instead of what you hate about it. I bet it will cause you to have a better day.”

Her: “Please don’t.”

My son: (he’s not saying anything because he has completely tuned me out and began listening to music through his headset…he’s not as wordy as his sister)

Today, as I was giving myself the less-than-encouraging pep talk in my head as I was deciding on what to wear it occurred to me how hypocritical I am. If my kids could hear the convo going on in my head they would jump at the opportunity to use my own words against me by saying, “Why don’t you think about how great you look today? Think about how you are healthy and happy. Focus on how inner beauty is more important than outer beauty. Think about how lucky you are to be standing in a closet with so many options. Try to focus on what you love instead of what you hate and maybe you will feel better about yourself.”

I get the feeling by looking at the lovely Ashley Graham on the cover of SI that she feels pretty good about herself. One has to feel somewhat comfortable in her own skin to be cool with being half nude on the cover of a national publication.

I know that the idea to begin showcasing a wider range of what is considered beautiful didn’t come from a bunch of women sitting around criticizing themselves. Beauty starts with the heart and then oozes out to the face. This shift in how we as Americans are trying to reshape the idea on what beauty is came from people who were beautiful on the inside. People who believed in themselves. People who saw beauty in others. That inside beauty oozed out and covered them making their outside beautiful as well.

Ever notice how someone can get prettier after you get to know them? That’s inner beauty that has oozed out. I also know people who have looked uglier after I got to know them, but that’s a topic for another time.

So as I sit here and feel excited about the subtle shift I’m seeing I understand that in order to be part of that movement of celebrating women of any size I have to begin with me.

Spring is around the corner and I can promise I’ll be in a swimsuit at the pool. I can’t promise that I’ll be as confident as Ashley Graham quite yet, but that’s my goal. I think the key to making this happen for all of us who share in this struggle is making the focus be on beautifying our inside so that our outside will show it, but remembering that Rome wasn’t built in a day.

“Ecclesiastes 3:11 He has made everything beautiful in its time.”