45.

Wow, 45 years on this planet. Incredible. I’m grateful for the time I’ve been allowed.

Facebook has this wonderful way of reminding you of what your recent years have brought with its “On This Day” memory feed. It brings me a lot of laughter and even a bit of sadness. It’s bittersweet to see past birthday wishes from friends who have moved on to whatever comes next for us. I am now older than some of them when I was born many years after they were…It’s a good reminder, though, to sit with gratitude for my extended time.

And I’m old enough now to sit with my memories without regret. I can think about the thousands of experiences I’ve had, the people that have come and gone, the dreams that never came true and the many that have. Hindsight and all that, right? I can fully appreciate it now.

Those old posts also remind me of goals I’ve had along the way. Where those unfinished plans once brought heightened anxiety, today I thought about the things that did get done, and I reflected on the obstacles that kept me from accomplishing the others. Instead of being upset that I still haven’t finished a novel, I cut myself some slack. I’ve written thousands of words through the years, after all. I’ve been published in magazines and newspapers. I have four novels fleshed-out and have been concentrating on one for the last few weeks. Tens of thousands of words. I know they’ll all get done.

I have time.

Besides, the kids are having their own pre-teen adventures, and they need their space, so I get a few extra minutes every day to write and create. The time they need from me is concentrated with the really good stuff, too, and I’m grateful they share what they do with me. One shares every detail; one tells me what he can. It’s not always easy. People never are. Luckily, I can read both of them without the words, even if some days it’s like picking apart a poem to get to the truth. They’re complex creatures, my kids. I love that most.

They’ve had their first heartaches (!). They have opinions separate from mine (we actually encourage it). They know how to do things that others can’t (Rhiannon’s starting her fourth year of piano and has written short songs! Sebastian creates board games to rival Parker Brothers!). They’re proud of those things. And they are becoming – every day – more solidly themselves. I know they’re both excited and scared about that. We’re closer and closer to adolescence…

Tony and I are at the point where we let them make decisions. We expect the truth from them, and – while we’re still guiding them – we’re evolving more and more into a support system instead of being the puppet masters. We have high expectations, but at the end of the day the most important thing is that they know they’re loved.

They are excellent huggers, too.

I love their friendship. They’ll talk, and I realize they have conversations we didn’t hear. They have inside jokes. They fight less and less, and we’re a talkative house, so arguments are inevitable. I know that they’ll always have each other, even once Tony and I are gone. I’m glad for that.

Rhiannon is my heart. She’s kind and smart and beautiful. She’s more than I ever expected. I look at her with awe that I ever had a life before she existed. It seems impossible that she’s so new to this world! I am truly privileged to be her mother. And she loves me more than I knew anyone ever could. Sometimes I cry thinking about how lucky I am.

Romance through the years? Ugh. I didn’t know what I was doing! I’m finally figuring it out. Tony is my best friend. God, can he infuriate me. He pushes, and I push back. Our past relationships have made it impossible for us to keep things bottled up, so everything bubbles over. All of that raw beauty. All of this intense beautiful love. I’ve never had a man love me like he does. He loves me, not some construct he created in his mind. He wants to know me. It’s such a gift.

He’s a great man. He works hard. He loves his son and wants to raise him to be a good man. He’s stepped up for my daughter and wants to raise her to trust that people keep promises. He loves her as his own. He is like a fierce warrior who would die protecting us.

It’s amazing.

So, yeah, 45.

There are some leftover goals to tackle, along with, you know, being a mom and wife, running a business, being a community leader, being on a theater board, and still being available to deal with my parents and brother. It’s busy.

And I love it. I’m grateful to be here.

 

interview with a 6th grade girl

Thought I’d get some insight on life straight from the source…

Q: Do you think it’s better to get the latest video game console/computer/phone or to have an honest relationship with your parents? (BTW, I’ve seen people have great relationships with their parents without the honesty.) Why?

A: Personally, I’d rather have the honest relationship, because it makes me feel better and less anxious. That way I can ask for help with something without having to share a bunch of things that have already happened and risk getting in trouble. Also, that feels kind of like lying.

Q: How would you create your perfect day?

A: Um, well, huh…That’s hard!

Q: Why?

A: Because it’s not really what you do in a day that makes it perfect. It’s who you do it with and why you’re doing it. It could be going to that cool hot springs place in Idaho City, or it could be picking up trash in the side of the highway. It just depends on the people you’re spending it with.

Q: Dogs or cats?

A: Cats! Definitely.

Q: Why?

A: Well, there are a lot of cats that play fetch! (Laughs) And cats are softer. Also, dogs I don’t know make me nervous.

Q: New or thrift store?

A: Mom!! What is it? Clothes…makeup…

Q: (Laughing)

A: Because if it’s makeup, I definitely want it new!

Q: I agree! Gross! What about clothes?

A: Thrift store, except underwear. (Giggles.)

Q: What’s cooler? Doctor Who or comic book superheroes?

A: Doctor Who! Definitely!

Q: How to you react when asked a hard question? Is it better to be honest, or is it better to be agreeable?

A: Well, if I have to say anything, then I’d better be honest, because I’d eventually have to spill the beans. Even if it’s something as stupid as, “What’s your favorite cheese?” Even if you want to make someone feel good, eventually you’d probably slip and say the truth. Better to just be upfront in the beginning.

Q: Are you looking forward to being a teen?

A: Yes and no. Yes, because there are a lot of cute clothes (laughing), and I get to pick fun classes. No, because of everything else. Puberty…that’s everything else.

Q: Do you want coffee?

A: Decaf. And I like cold drinks better.

Q: You’ve done private school, dual-language classes, and a gifted program, and you’ve always been able to be in tiny classes. Would you rather be in a big class and hide out, or would you rather be in a small class and always get attention?

A: Small class with lots of attention!

Q: How’s my breath? [I just had coffee AND sharp cheddar…and she’s inching closer to me, so I breathed on her.]

A: It’s like bacon and coffee. It could be worse.

Q: Gilmore Girls?

A: Yeah.

work with what you have

It’s no secret that I didn’t grow up with much money. I still don’t make a ton, which is my own fault, because all the decisions I’ve made over the last few decades have brought me to this point in time. And the choices my parents made formed my foundation, just as I’ve created Rhiannon’s.

All we can do is work with what we inherit and constantly work toward a better tomorrow, right?

I live a life that allows me to be right where I am at this moment – sitting on a red leather sofa next to a snoring dog while my daughter takes singing lessons. I even drove through a snowstorm to get her here. It’s what I do, making sure she knows how important she is. She knows I love her, and she knows what my expectations are. And I know she loves me and what her expectations are.

Yes; kids have expectations, too.

I’m still working out how to turn this life into one that makes a decent amount of money, so I can help her meet her own expectations. There are many options, and I’ve never been afraid to take risks, so I know it’ll happen. When you start out with very little, you’re less afraid. You know you’ll be okay, even if you have to drive $400 cars and eat a lot of beans (been there!).

In the meantime, I’m grateful that I own a business that allows me the time to be an actively involved mom, to volunteer, to work in the arts, to join committees that make a better community, to be the person others can call when they need help. To be free.

I’ve been able to braid all the many pieces into a beautiful life. I’m lucky.

As you think about 2016 and wonder what’s ahead, focus on how you can take this moment, this second, and expand it. Whether you’re the CEO or a new-hire, what can you do with what you already have so that you can sit at the end of 2017 and know you made the best of it?

becoming

My daughter did her fourth commercial yesterday. This was a significant one, because it was the first time she had to audition to get hired AND she spoke. She was the lead of her vignette.

Everyone was amazed at her composure and maturity. They were sincerely impressed with her consistency and ability to be directed. They were extremely happy when, after four takes, the director said, “We’re good.”

He looked at me, surprised, and said, “She’s good.”

And she was good.

I’m always proud of her, but yesterday I felt something different. I could see her becoming. She’s becoming a professional. She’s becoming someone that adults know they can rely on. She’s becoming this person that is beyond me. I thought about that as everyone high-fived her. She’s at that point in time where she is creating her future, and my job is to support and step back until she asks for me. I felt a mix of happiness and longing.

The longing was its own mix. Part wanting to hold on to my little girl; part wanting to be at that phase of becoming again – this time with a mother like me. That sounds arrogant, but let me explain. When I was in the becoming phase, my mother, a schizophrenic, would get jealous. While she was proud of me, she would rage about her own missed opportunities. I would buy myself the perfect jeans, my mom would hear people compliment me, and I would come home from cheer practice or dress rehearsal and find that she had cut them to fit her. Her response? “They look better on me.” She would show up to football games overdressed in hopes people would see her, the mother of one of the cheerleaders, and say, “You look young enough to be her sister.” And she did. And she acted like it. And I felt both protective and pissed.

Rhiannon is smart, talented, and beautiful. There hasn’t been a day when I have looked at her and been angry about it. Because of my own childhood, I even look for that anger, like yesterday. What am I feeling right now? I wanted to check in with myself and see if that weird, almost mythological, jealousy had arrived. Nope. I watched her and the crew and felt that all was right in the world. Somehow I helped create this fantastic creature. What I felt was closer to awe.

She’s becoming.

And I realized I am becoming, too. I am the master of re-creation, and I am becoming, too…Becoming a mother who can really relax, knowing that the only addiction Rhiannon has is the need to do more film. Becoming a different type of business-owner, a different type of wife, a different type of step-parent, a different type of artist.

What I am not becoming is a version of my own mom, who is/was not well, and couldn’t see her daughter with awe. And I can feel sad that my mom and I will never have that. Sadness is okay. Because of that, I am a damn good mother myself. When I talk with Rhiannon, I’m saying what I wished my mother could have said to me, and it makes me greater. Because of that, Rhiannon’s star can rise as high as she wants it to go. She’s amazing, and I’m in awe.

summer & education

I’ve been pretty lucky with Rhiannon. Because so many of my clients are high-level educators, I’ve always had plenty of guidance in what is best for her. Testing into GATE opened up so many doors – thank you, special education! – and we’re able to manipulate her schooling to match her needs. In a state like Idaho (we rank 50th in per-student spending), I’ll take all the help we can get!

This summer, her teachers supplied her with fractions and algebra workbooks to keep up her math, and she’s currently reading Watership Down (and a bunch of Doctor Who graphic novels!). She tested into high school math and college-level reading, so we’re trying to keep her interested. She’s still taking piano through the summer, amping up her art skills with the help of some fantastic YouTube channels and an art teacher who comes monthly for both kiddos (Thank you, Tanith Brown!), reviewing Spanish, and is about to force me back into running so she can train for next track season.

Before you start commenting that she needs a summer break, this is what she chooses for herself. She also spends most days at her school’s Boys and Girls Club, where she plays hard, teaches younger kids arts & crafts, and gets to go on amazing field trips. She and Sebastian (who is with us every other week) play plenty of video games and veg out (more than I’d like them to…) watching YouTube, but that’s important, too.

We’re letting them attempt more independence and are giving them plenty of free-range time this summer. They’ve already had multiple sleep-overs and the house sometimes bursts apart with their friends, but it makes Tony and me happy to be that house. Granted, it’s messier than we’d like, but we’re working on a chore list. Rhiannon is working on earning her own laptop and we’re trying to give her ample opportunities to get money.

She’s also auditioning for commercials and wants to send her resume out for more acting work. She’s begging for lessons, so we’re looking into different programs. Luckily, Boise is a creative city and we know a lot of performers, so it shouldn’t be hard.

So, yes, we’re still learning everyday, knowing that school will be popping up quickly. Yes, we’re trying to keep them busy and happy and still moving forward in their skills. Yes, we’re still more mellow than it reads in this post, but we have smart kids who need stimulation.

And I kind of feel like summer is the perfect time to get in the fun learning. Which is why I’m studying Rhiannon’s Spanish books and playing her piano when no one else is home. 😉

image

on being mom

Tonight I cuddled with two sad kids in different bedrooms, going back and forth to assuage their worries. Every good parent has been there, at that point in which he or she hopes to say just the right thing to make things better. You choose your words carefully on nights like tonight.

For my daughter, who is sensitive and a worrier, emphasizing that some things are out of our control – especially the behavior of others – might seem counterintuitive, but I think she’s a little relieved to have been reminded. She’s happy to take that burden off of her giant heart. No 11-year-old girl should carry that.

For my son, who experienced his first real panic attack complete with shortness of breath, a rapid heartbeat, and uncontrollable gulping tears, it was trying to convince him that he is powerful and capable.

“My brain is making me feel weird, though.”

“It’s when your worries turn sad. It’s not a bad thing. It just means you’re not hiding from your feelings. You’re brave.”

Power has been his topic of choice a lot lately. Power is his biggest wish. He feels hopeless and helpless at times, as we all do, but this particular 11-year-old is feeling it a lot lately.

For both these kids, who are learning to navigate a world that holds them accountable when they feel so little (and, yet, at the same time so old…), it’s reminding them that they are loved by me right now and forever, no matter what else is happening. It’s backrubs and hand massages for my girl, and it’s big, tight hugs for my boy. It’s telling them over and over that the one thing I know for sure is that I will love them forever and protect them when they can’t protect themselves. It’s reminding them that I always want them to do their best, but that I understand that on some days their best is fantastic and on other days it’s the ability to breathe without crying. It’s reminding them of how special they are and that the world needs them…

eleven

pooka11

My Baby Girl is eleven.

Eleven.

It’s that odd age that isn’t quite a teenager, but definitely isn’t a child. Throw in her much-higher-than-average intelligence and her love of playing dress-up, and we’ve got the epitome of eleven: A little bit of everything tossed into a blender.

When I was eleven, I was obsessed with clothes, boys, and autobiographies (Helen Keller and Anne Frank were favorites – girls who had it worse than I did, but kept a positive attitude). I collected pictures and posters of The Karate Kid actor Ralph Macchio. I had my best friends, wrote a lot, and practiced the saxophone every day.

Rhiannon also loves clothes, boys, and books, although she tends to place graphic novels higher on her list than I did. (She is, however, currently reading I Am Malala, you know, that autobiography about a girl who had it worse than Rhiannon, but still keeps a positive attitude…). Luckily, she has much better taste than I and only collects pictures and posters of Doctor Who. She has a great set of friends, writes a lot, and practices piano nearly every day.

I’m glad that I had the experiences I did so that I can help her on this wacky preteen journey, because it isn’t easy. Frankly, I found it to be much worse than high school, which was not so bad because I was determined to be accepted for being myself, even if I wasn’t exactly sure who she was. That determination made me bolder and able to speak my mind. I might have been better at being a teen than I am at being an adult, come to think of it…I hope I can pass that odd teenage (outward) confidence down to her as well. Fake it ’til you make it actually works.

I love that she’s sensitive and thoughtful and kind of a nerd. I’m glad that, like I was at eleven, she isn’t in a hurry to grow up. She wants to take that slowly. She still plays with dolls occasionally, has way too many stuffed animals in her room, and doesn’t care if her socks match or not. She slouches unless she’s playing piano, she talks too quickly (and sometimes too loudly), gets too much electronics time, and is nervous about things like driving, even though it’s years away. I’m okay with her wanting to hold off, even though I’m a little sad that she inherited my anxiety about things that aren’t even real.

When I checked in with her tonight and looked at her sleeping face, I could still see the baby there. I know that’s slipping away and eventually that face might disappear, but for now I can still visit it.

And she’ll always be my Baby Girl. My Pooka.