Monday, April 16, 2018

To The One Who is (Almost) Officially a Teenager

You were practically born a teenager. The sass. The attitude. The wardrobe requirements. Your age finally caught up to you...well, almost. Technically, you won't officially be a teenager until later this week. You're not 13. Yet.

It makes sense that this letter is've always been in a hurry to grow up.

I'm writing this today, in between responding to your emails. Mostly because most weekdays when you are at school, I am responding to your emails.

You figured out how to talk to me all the time, even at school. Mom. Mom. Mom. Mommmmm.

Your "can we get something to eat" face.
I don't even know where to start with this letter this time around. It has been such a wild year, with ups and downs and scary things.

You had your first broken heart this past year. It won't be the last one, it almost certainly won't be the worst one. I want you to always, always, always remember that you are never responsible for the behavior of other people, that no one who treats you badly is someone you should be in a relationship with, that "it is just a joke" is something that people use as an excuse to be cruel. I hope that you learn that friends will come and go too, and that sometimes friends leave with the people you were in relationships with, and that just blows. There's really no way around it. It sucks. But it's not about you. People do their own terrible selfish things for their own terrible selfish reasons. Doesn't mean it doesn't hurt...because it does.

Of course I put this picture in here.
As much as that hurt is real and tangible and significant, it won't last forever. Learning how to navigate friendships and relationships is hard. I remember. Hell, it's still hard now. You're going to screw up sometimes too, and you're going to hurt people. Just admit it when you do it. Apologize. Learn from the experience, then do better. Thing is though, no one owes anyone a second chance, and you don't owe anyone a damn thing.


You have spent a huge amount of time this year worrying about your siblings. You come by it honestly, this propensity to worry. I do it too. About all the things. All the time. There has been a lot to worry about too, and not just the little inconsequential stuff this year. Big stuff. Scary stuff. The kinds of things that shift priorities and make you forget about all your other responsibilities in a hurry. And we did. We all did that for a while. And yeah, your grades suffered a little bit as a result. And yeah, that blip on your GPA radar might mean that you don't get into NJHS next year. It might. And as much as that might suck, and as much as it isn't a fair reflection of what was going on in our lives at that time, it really doesn't matter. No one asks me as an adult whether I got into NJHS when I was 13. They care a whole hell of a lot more about the fact that I am someone they can rely on.

And so are you.

When everything fell apart this year, you were here.

You were here. 

You were here worrying and problem solving and getting things done. Hugging me. Offering to help. Not blinking an eye when things needed to be done. Checking in, asking how things were going. And you missed a lot of school. Life was more important just then. As a result, you got a B+ in math what? That grade should be an A anyway since the basic goddamn logic of mathematical rounding dictates that an 89.96 is an A, but that argument isn't worth having with that teacher and that hill isn't worth dying on. Honest.

Life is as much about figuring out which battles to fight as it is about fighting them. 

Your sister will always know you were there for her. That's a hell of a lot more important than 0.04% in a middle school math class, and it will always be more important. Remember that.

You finished another triathlon this year, already in training for the one coming up in June, hoping to talk some of your siblings into joining you in the competition.

You played volleyball and basketball and are running hurdles again this spring in track, spikes and all. I think you shocked yourself at that first track meet when you kicked in hard, came from behind, and won your 100m dash heat. I definitely wasn't screaming in the stands that day. Definitely not. Nope.

You signed up for even more events at the Science Olympiad this year. We spent hours finding and watching videos on tidal locking. I know something is up when you bring me blank calendars and a pen. If you aren't asking me to design a tri training schedule, it's a unit study schedule for Science Olympiad. All the calendars.

All the calendars, and all the food. SO MUCH FOOD. Where do you put it all? Your ability to cram that much food into that tiny body is an art form, really.

At the very beginning of the year, you came home with a question. Could you play tuba? There weren't any tubas in the band this year and the teacher asked if anyone would volunteer to take on this huge, unwieldy instrument. Without a moment of hesitation, you volunteered, knowing you'd be lugging this gigantic thing everywhere. It's almost as big as you are. Comically huge. And loud. AND YOU LOVE IT.

You've had some health stuff going on, and though none of that is fun to deal with, we'll deal with it...because that is what we do. We'll keep asking questions until we get all the answers, and then we will manage it however we have to. IT WILL BE OKAY. I promise.

At least you don't have to get your nose re-broken again! Whew!

(That was funny. Laugh...)

When I randomly decided to re-launch my photography business late last year, you were the first person to offer to help, even if it means hauling props and shades and reflectors and bags of lenses around. We've got a wedding coming up, so get ready.

When your little brother was cast in his first show, I think you might have been more excited than he was. You told everyone who would listen that he was playing Tiny Tim, though eventually his constant singing grew on your nerves. "Thank you very much...."

You're still basically the baby's spare mom, and he still asks for you nearly as much as he asks for me. You've got a special bond, you two. When you're at school, he tends to walk around asking where you are more than anyone else.

You're the one always cheering in the audience, in the theater, at the soccer field, at the drumline show. You adore your siblings in a way that I'm not sure they understand or appreciate. I hope that someday they all realize that you're always the one there rooting for them, pushing them to do better, holding your breath while waiting for scores. Wherever they are, chances are you're there too.

You wait around too, at least a little, because you've been eager for your sister to finally part with this R2D2 dress. I can't say I blame you. Honestly.

You're an old soul in this tiny body. You are kind and thoughtful and wise. You're constantly worrying about everyone else so much that I have to remind you at least once a day to focus on yourself. Worry about you. Take care of you.

And you're going to need to remember that, because you are so much more like me in that department than I wish you were. You'll sacrifice yourself for the benefit of other people. Try to be better about following my advice about that than I am. Try. I know you probably won't be great at it. We just aren't programmed that way...but know that when you need a break, it is more than okay to take one. When you need to focus on yourself, do it. The rest of the world will be waiting, I promise.

Stay grumpy and spicy and crotchety. Love your creature comforts without regard for how many times we pick on you about your blankets and your slippers and your hot tea and your general granny-ness. Never let anyone tease your quirks out of you. Stay weird. Stay funny. Keep on laughing at those memes that feel like personal attacks until you snort out loud. Just don't do it while trying to hold that fart in. For real.

You know it's not going to work anyway.

I love you, baby girl.

I'm proud of you.

Happy birthday.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Hey, look at me trying to write at least once a month over here...

To be honest, I have been wanting to write a lot lately. Craving it, really. The thing is though...I haven't had any opportunities. People in my house have been sick for what seems like 743 months consecutively. I have been voiceless myself for the past week, even needing to call in sub for work because there is no way the hint of a voice I currently have is going to do battle with a room full of drunk people and bad acoustics.

What I have been doing a lot of, though, is reading. Reading. Reading. Reading.

Partially because of the book club I started, trying to pre-screen books for that group, see if they will be a good fit. I feel extraordinarily responsible for what I am asking people to spend their time on, so I want to make sure that I make good picks. The reality of that means that for every one book that makes the list, I am probably reading at least 6.

It's a good thing I am a fast reader, I suppose.

The main reason that I am reading, aside from the fact that I can do it with an ornery sick three year old, is that I need the escape. I've been spending more and more time in other people's worlds because of reading, and right now, that's got some therapeutic value in my life.

There have been so many shitty things this year, you guys. I wouldn't even know where to begin, not that I am beginning to tell you anything about them because I am not, but still, if I was, I wouldn't know where to start. It is literally one thing after another, and nearly none of them are small inconsequential things. When the least of my worries is the fact that my oldest kid just took the SAT for college yesterday and will be applying in a few months, it's reached epic levels.

But hey, the three year old just got his full-leg cast off today, so baby steps. Awkward, tense, weird baby steps.

One of the books that I just read this week was about death. Well, two of them actually were, but one was fictional and one was a non-fiction memoir-ish style, akin to the the book that I will eventually actually publish of my own. Except mine won't just be about death...but I know now that it will have a whole lot more death in it than I was planning to include for a few reasons, not the least of which is the fact that both of my parents are dead and when both of your parents are dead, it tends to dictate how you walk through the rest of your life.

Like, I have friends who are still hanging on to grandparents....

What the?

I got ripped off.

Anyway. I will be including more death, and more about death and taking care of sick parents and mental illness and weird anecdotes and warnings and advice because the thing about the death book that I read this week is that a lot of the stuff in there, and a lot of the stuff I learned along the way would have been REALLY FUCKING USEFUL to know back when I was in it. Except that our society doesn't talk much about getting old or sick or dead, and so then you don't really have any idea what you are in for until your parents are there and you're trying to take care of them and by then none of the books would have helped you anyway because you didn't read them yet.

And they're not going to do much good after the fact.

So, yeah, I'm going to talk about death more, but in a sneaky way so that people don't realize they are reading about what it is like to deal with privacy rights in a mentally ill aging parent when they really think they are reading a story about my dog.


One of these days, I will get back to writing the actual content of the book instead of just adding more and more and more chapters to the list. I have a few written, but I just keep coming up with more stuff to write about. And then I go to the library and check out 14 more books and don't actually write anything.

I need to just start leaving my notebook in the car again. That actually worked.

Anyhow, I hope that my two readers are doing well. I think about you all the time. And I promise I am working on big gigantic things, and I promise that they're going to be amazing when I actually finish them. But until then, you'll have to accept this pathetic gesture of a blog post. xo

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