A Letter to My Teenage Daughter About Dating

To my daughter –

I feel like I am adding to your stress when I try to help you wade through the emotions surrounding your current relationship.  I love you very much and just want the best for you always. I want to share some thoughts on relationships.  Hopefully they will be helpful, maybe they won’t.  Just know that they and anything else I ever say or do, always come from the heart and with the best intentions.

The first thing I want to share with you has been said to me (and you) by a very wise woman in our lives, my mom. Your grandma’s analogy is one of the best I have ever heard! High School relationships are like trying on shoes. Right now you are in the store with a multitude of choices to try. This is your chance to try on the various styles to decide which ones you really want to put in your closet.

so many shoes

While we all want our high school romance to be the forever one that is not usually the case. What you value and want in a relationship as a teenager is not always what you value and want later in life. That is not because you do not value the right things, but more because you are still becoming the wonderful adult you will eventually be. Many people think that the younger years bring upon the most changes. I, however, feel that it is the teenage years on that truly bring on the most changes in who we are as a person. Does that mean this relationship is not important? Never. Does it mean it is not love? To an adult it probably is not, but to you… To you this is very much love as you know it. With that in mind, I want you to read what I have to say because they apply now and will apply later too.

 

holding handsNo relationship is ever perfect.  They are never like the movies.  They rarely go the way we want them too.  However, when you truly like/love the person…all of the struggles, missteps, disappointments and oops are worth it.  Why? Because when you get through those together (or even alone) you have found the strength to make it through adversity. I often tell you that nothing worth having is ever easy…  That is never truer than when you are in a relationship.

Does that mean you stay if the other person is being rude, mean, hurtful…  ABSOLUTELY NOT!  It does mean that you give the other person a break, time to make the changes you are asking for, accept their flaws when they are not harmful…  Sometimes the best relationships start off a little rocky.  It takes time to find the groove that works for the two of you.  You have to decide if the person is worth the time and the chances.  Only you can make that decision. It is not up to your friends, your parents, your siblings… It is up to you and how you feel about that person at this given moment.

friendsYou deserve to be with the great guy. The hot guy.  The “popular” guy.  You deserve to be happy with a guy.  If he chooses you over any one else, then it is you he wants.  Does that mean he will shower you with affection? Not always.  Does that mean he will declare his like/love all over social media?  Rarely.  If he is telling you he wants you.  Telling you he likes you.  If he is making contact at least once or twice a day (even if it is via text/phone) when you both lead busy lives, then let it be enough in the beginning.  Relationships grow over time, not over night.  Enjoy them for what they are at the given moment.  Do not put major expectations on where they should be within the first few months.  Do not compare them to your past relationships or his.  DO NOT let others in your head with their stories/gossip.  Listen to the 2-3 people you know you can trust and shut the others out.  Believe that you deserve him and happiness.  However, do not believe that you NEED him.  That is when it goes south.

Relationships require give and take, meeting half way and sometimes adjusting your expectations.  Relationships are two-sided.  Don’t always expect the other person to start the conversation each day, end it every night, come looking for you, go to your events, listen to your troubles/good things/stories and make the decisions if you are not willing to do them too.  In a true relationship you both do those things.  Often, even in the best relationships, one person does it more than the other.  If the balance is too far off…  That is up to you.  All I know is that my most successful relationships were the ones where I gave as much (sometimes more) than I took/expected.  If you expect it to all be about you and your expectations, it will never work.  Be flexible.  Be loving.  Be giving.  Be willing to take the first step often.  Be interested.  Be interesting.  Be strong.  Be honest.  Be accepting. Be you!

Charlie's AngelsYou are one of the best gifts I have ever been blessed with.  Your dad and I were so thrilled the night you came into our lives.  Out of our love came this beautiful baby girl.  Everything we prayed for and everything we hoped for.  You are so special.  Dad and I want you to see what we see and believe it.  We see a beautiful, smart, creative, talented, kind, loving & wonderful girl!  Please believe you are those things, because you are.  You are those things and so many more.  There is never a day that goes by that I don’t think how lucky I am to be your mom.  Even the days we are butting heads.  Whoever you are with at the moment, he should feel that you are one of the best things to happen to him as well.

So, I will back off and try to shut my mouth.  Will I be perfect at this? Probably not, but I will try very hard because I love you. I will listen when you want to share.  I will give advice when you ask.  I will be here when you need a hug, need to vent, need to cry or need to gush.  I will ALWAYS have your back.

I love you!

Mom

 

You’re not fat…

“You’re not fat!” I hear these words in my house a lot. They come from my mouth and are directed at my children. They come out of my son’s mouth in an innocent, almost pleading way directed at me and sometimes his sister. I even find myself having to direct them at my husband. Why do these words have such a hold over us? Our moods? Our outlooks? Why do we almost automatically find them necessary to say when someone is saying the opposite about themselves? Most importantly, why do I lie to myself when I let myself believe them for even the briefest moment?

Weight has always been an issue for me. I was always one of the tallest kids and for sure the tallest girl. Looking back at my family, I remember feeling bigger than the rest of them. At the time I remember realizing my dad was tall with broad shoulders and what I considered an athletic build. My mother was beautiful and about the same size as the day she met my dad at 16. Even my little brother, who would soon be taller than me, was thin. I never heard my family say anything about my weight when I was younger. However, in my mind I knew I was chubby, pudgy, pleasantly plump…

While I don’t remember other kids saying anything about my weight. I do remember other things they said that implied my weight was an issue. My Junior High years provide a perfect example of this. A group of friends turned enemies walked the hallways calling me Moose and making what they thought were appropriate moose noises. That didn’t do a lot for my self-esteem and also told me what others thought about my body. By High School I was 6′ tall and “big-boned.” I remember the embarrassment of buying dress shirts in the men’s department because the women’s didn’t fit my broad shoulders, arm length or weight. Thank goodness I grew up in the 80’s when it was all button down oxfords and polo shirts which were pretty androgynous. However, this was the time I realized my weight affected how the opposite sex viewed me. Let’s just say I had boyfriends, but they truly dated me for my pretty face and good personality. 😉

The funny thing is, I look back at pictures of myself and I don’t see a fat girl. I see a pudgy child, but healthy. I see an awkward pre-teen, but with somewhat of an athletic build. I see a teen with a pretty smile who is somewhat bigger than her friends. If present me could have only told past me that I was okay, maybe, just maybe… Honestly, I can’t even truly say that because I did get myself into better shape during college and great shape after college. In fact, there was a point I could honestly call myself slender, in shape or rockin’. Amazing how a secure relationship, motherhood, health issues and old demons can lead you back down a path and even further. Now, “You’re not fat.” is a lie I let myself believe because admitting I am fat means I lost the control, the will, the desire, the discipline… I don’t want to admit that. I also don’t want to admit that I have let myself become the very thing I always dreaded I would or that I have let myself and family down.

So, where does that leave me now? Now, I have a teenage daughter and a pre-teen son that lovingly whisper those words in my direction because they want me to be happy. They need me to be happy. However, what they really need is for me to pull up my big girl panties and admit that I lost control, the will, the desire, the disciple… That I got comfortable and let myself and everyone else down. I need help. I need to live the life I have been preaching to them so those words don’t have power over them. Admitting you have a problem is the first step, right? Well, I have a problem and have taken action. First up, a visit to a doctor and development of a plan. Next? I am taking the plan and implementing it into my life. Is it easy? Of course not! Am I perfect at it? Nope! However, each day I wake up and make a conscious decision to do as much of the plan as I can and promise myself not to listen to the demons as much as the day before. Will this be a fast process? Of course it isn’t. It took me a few years to truly get this bad. I am sure it will take at least a year plus to get better. Can I do this? Yes, I can. Will I keep it up? I need to. I only have this life, and I want to live it as long as possible so I can be with my kids and someday my grand kids. I am sure there will be bumps, detours and even potholes along the way. No matter what, I need to keep traveling this path to put some distance between me and the power of those words.

Her Boy, Cody

A few years ago my daughter met her first love, her best friend and one of the best teachers she would ever have.  She was in first grade and struggling.  At the time I was fighting for her to get some help academically and trying to help her through the beginnings of encounters with mean girls.  Yes, mean girls in first grade.  Rachel was dealing with a yet to be diagnosis of dyslexia and an undiagnosed case of anxiety.  She was one of those kids that was falling through the cracks because she was too smart for the help she really needed.  She was also dealing with girls calling her fat, slow and saying she could not be their friends because she was not popular.  Really?!

Enter horseback lessons.  My parents found a place and took her out for a visit.  She had always loved horses/ponies.  From the time she could walk, pony/horse rides were what she craved.  The wooden ones, the rocking ones, the carousel ones and the real ones!  Any time we were someplace that had live pony rides, Rachel went right to that.  She wanted to ride each and every one that was available.  She also always wanted to ride the biggest one.  (Someday this girl will own a Percheron or a Clydesdale.)  Of course she wanted to take lessons immediately.  We got her signed up and headed out to the barn in January.  What were we thinking?!

Her first lesson was on this scraggly, old horse named Cody.  It was love at first site.  She was over the moon when she found out that he was for sale.  She begged grandpa for Cody.  My mom was shocked that this was the horse she wanted.  He looked so ragged.  None of this mattered to Rachel.  To her he was the best horse ever, and she loved him.  So just a few weeks after she started lessons, we became horse owners. leadingLooking back at this picture, I still smile at the pure joy of a girl and her first horse.  This picture shows him with his winter coat.  He was 25 years old, sweet and well loved by all at the barn.

Cody became the blessing that Rachel so needed.  He was patient with this little first grader that led him around, bought wildly colored halters and even a blinged out bridle for him to wear.  He guided her as she learned to take care of him by picking up each foot she needed to clean out in the order they needed to be done, lowering his head for her to put his bridle on and even positioning himself in front of the mounting block so she could climb onto his back.  When her trainer would ask her to walk or trot, I am pretty sure he responded to the verbal command so she felt confident.  When she accidentally led him towards a jump, he jumped.  Not bad for an old boy.  When she fell off he stopped, stepped over to the side and waited for her.  He never got upset when she was too loud, pulled a little too hard or moved a little too quickly.  He just stood and waited for this little girl that adored him.  Through Cody, I saw Rachel becoming confident and learning responsibility (she had to do all tasks related to caring for him).  She even started attending and competing in some shows with him.  Together they got her first blue ribbon.                                                                                                                                      megan & rachel (1)  western pleasure (6)

Cody became Rachel’s world.  Often we would be at the barn and I would overhear her telling him stories, talking to him or singing to him.  He would sit there looking at her with what I swear was love and understanding.  She loved him more than anything else in the world.  Eventually he needed to be retired from showing, and we had to purchase another horse.  We did not get rid of her boy.  We promised her she could keep him.  She promised him she was his last owner and that she would be with him until the end.  I am sure he believed her and felt content.  Even when her other boys (4 and 2 legged) came into her life, Cody was her #1 boy.  Every time we went to the barn she started with him and then moved on to the other two.  He always got love, treats, brushing…first.  Up until about a year ago, she would still get him out and ride once in awhile.  I think he was her confidence booster, and she wanted him to know she hadn’t forgotten him.  I smile at the fact that he always stuck his head out of his stall the minute he heard her voice.  He nickered for her when she talked to the others.  He always wanted the first and last love on her visit.

Cody turned 34 this year.  That is quite an accomplishment for a horse.  Just a few weeks ago she was out to visit him and they had quite the conversation.  Even as a teenager, she knew he had her back and would keep her secrets.  She video tapped him answering one of the questions:

a Question for Cody video  

Three days ago, Rachel had to make one of the toughest decisions of her young life.  We got a call that Cody was not doing well.  The vet was called and we headed out to the barn.  Cody was showing signs of colic.  After treatment and a long night, we found out he was not better.  The vet was sure there was twisting of the gut/colon.  At his age surgery would not have been good.  We had long ago told our vet to let us know when it was time, because we would not be able to make that call on our own.  It was time.  Rachel wanted to be with him.  I was worried about her seeing him go down and watching him take his last breath, but she was adamant.  Bless her boy’s heart, he laid down for her so she did not have to see him fall.  She sat by his head and confided her final secrets and her everlasting love for him.  She was there until he took his last breath, reassuring him the whole time that he was her boy.

Rachel and Cody    IMG_7310

I have never been prouder of my girl.  She handled this all with maturity, grace and love.  As we were driving home she commented that she had kept her promise to him, she was his last owner and she was loving him until the end.  She also shared that she asked him to watch over her other boys, Texas and Shadow and her.  We are having him cremated, and she decided to have the plaque say:  My boy, Cody.  She is also going to have his registered name, birthdate and passing date added.  She has also informed me that she knows he is her guardian angel now and he will take care of her always.

 

Reflection (from my daughter)

Today I set out on a choir/orchestra school trip with my high schooler. Many asked me why in the world I would voluntarily sign up and pay to do this?! Why? Because my teenage daughter asked me to. Who knows how much longer she will want me to join her on these journeys… In reality, I only have a limited amount of time that she will be in my house fulltime, and I plan to make the most of it.

Luckily one of my friends is also on this trip. She came along for many of the same reasons. Like any good school trip participants, we immediately planned on being travel buddies. For us it is not only time with our girls (who are friends), but also time for us as friends. We enjoyed talking to each other and many of the other chaperones that were near. We watched the movies with the kids… Goonies, Lilo & Stitch and Newsies. We laughed and joked along the way.

I assume my daughter was doing many of the same things. However, she was also sharing with her friends that I had decided to try my hand at blogging. Through that conversation came a text saying,

I was talking about your blog because i just realized this, and i thought you could post it. It’s an optimistic way of looking at life.

Reflection:
Have you ever seen your reflection in the window pane of a car? How your reflection seems to fade at some points depending on the color of your surroundings and how at points when your surroundings change your reflection becomes much clearer. To me it appears that life is a lot like that. At points your life is so clear and then it fades. Yet there always seems to (be a point it) becomes clear again at some point.

Wow! She never ceases to amaze me with her introspection, viewpoint or thoughts. She of course is right, I do want to share this with you. Not only because I am one very proud mom, but because it is true. Next time you are a passenger in a car take time to watch your reflection.

Hello, my name is Jennifer, and I am addicted to Social Media.

Am I really addicted to social media? Probably not in the true sense of the definition of addiction:

the state of being enslaved to a habit or practice or to something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming, as narcotics, to such an extent that its cessation causes severe trauma.

Courtesy of dictionary.com

I will however admit that checking the various social media outlets I have subscribed to, joined or became a member of is somewhat of a daily habit. It has become a joke between my husband and I that I cannot go to bed without browsing the various sites. For the record, I can. I just usually choose not to. There are so many reasons to check them. At least this is what I tell myself. What if I miss the latest/important status update on Facebook? There could be the cutest picture of my friend’s kids on Instagram. One of my favorite celebs/news outlets may have tweeted a meaningful tidbit. I might miss that pin for the perfect roasted chicken. On and on I could go for the different sites. Is this really the case? Probably not. In fact, I am sure not.

So why do I feel compelled to check them each day? I am sure there are many different arguments as to why. I know why… Because for me it is a sense of connection. Most of the people I follow are truly friends and family. I love knowing what is going on in their lives. Some live far away from me, some I have reconnected with because we wander in different directions, some are right next door and some are the friends of my kids. I love being in the know. Yes, that is part of my Type A personality. In turn, I have been able to allow my friends and family a glimpse into what it is like to be Just Jennifer. 😉

I became active on many of these sites because I had a soon to be teenager venturing on to them. How was I going to guide her if I didn’t understand them myself? Also, it was a way to keep an eye on her. By friending, following or subscribing to each others’ sites it kept both of us honest and aware of our postings. Through my engagement in these sites I learned a lot about my daughter, her friends, their likes/dislikes and what their thought processes were really like. I have also found that these sites have allowed for many conversations to be started that I may not have known needed to be had. Other sites have even led to great gifts for my kids, nieces, nephews, parents… A funny outcome of joining many of the sites has been the reactions of my kids’ friends. According to my kids their friends think it is “cool” and ask for my user name so they can follow me too. Honestly, I don’t see the cool part. I do see me being me and they all seem to appreciate it. These are some of the best things to come from my “addiction”

So… I may have a slight addiction to social media. You know what? I don’t care. Everyone at my house still has clean underwear, food to eat and my attention (at least when I am not scanning my sites). Life is short, and I plan to keep enjoying it. Time to start scanning!

Somehow, Our Kids Learn What They Need From Us.

I made the following post on Facebook today:

I just overheard the best thing… S and J were down in the kitchen getting ready to leave for the day. They were discussing the upcoming day off. S said, “I am just glad that we can celebrate Veteran’s Day for Grandpa and not Memorial Day. I am glad he is still alive.” Love my boy and his kind heart!

Shortly after making this post I was driving my oldest child to the eye doctor for an appointment.  (Yes, it did mean glasses.)  As we were driving, I shared the above story with my daughter and commented that not many boys her brother’s age would be that insightful.  She looked at me, and then commented that she wouldn’t have known or thought of the difference when she was his age.  That comment made me stop and think…  What have I taught one that I didn’t teach the other?  What have I shared with one that I haven’t shared with the other?  How many times has one received my wise words in a teachable moment that the other has not?  (I say wise words, but I am sure that is not how they view them.)  All of this introspection was not meant as a reproach of myself or even as a judgement of myself as a parent.  It was, however food for thought.  I pride myself on being open with my kids, answering their questions, sharing my wisdom with them and guiding them on the path of learning to make their own decisions.  It just struck me that often as a parent we do not impart the same sage advice, nuggets of personal experiences or even life lessons to our children.  Yet, somehow they learn what they need from us and go on to walk their own path.

So you think you can blog?!

Can I blog? Do I really want to put my thoughts out there? Should I be doing this? These are just a few of the many thoughts that have been in and out of my head for many months now. I honestly cannot even say what makes me think I can blog or why anyone would even care what I blog… I just know that I really want to try it. Maybe apart of me needs the journaling aspect of it, maybe a part of me needs to know I am not the only one with a certain viewpoint or what the other viewpoint is, maybe, maybe, maybe… The one thing I do know is I love to try new things.