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The mantra of my tribe is that Depression Lies. You may recall a post a few weeks ago about a young woman who committed suicide, a friend of my daughter. I have thought of her often, and of the culture in which our teenagers grow to adulthood (as if any of us every REALLY become adults – I still maintain that we’re all just playing at being grown-ups, and some of us are just better at it than others.) I would never blame a parent for a child’s suicide. I have nothing but the utmost, heartfelt compassion for what they must feel. Since I have personally contemplated suicide and self-harming behaviors since I was young, I feel I want to share my perspective on it now as the parent of a teenager.

It’s very difficult to judge your own capabilities as the parent of a teenager. You think you are encouraging your child to work harder, to achieve more in school, and somehow she interprets that message as “I am a disappointment to my parents,” even when you are conscious of telling your teenager how proud you are of her. And if a teenager is suffering from depression, that sense of being a disappointment becomes not just overwhelming, but seemingly unconquerable. Sharing those same feelings with their parents just makes teenagers think that they are even more of a failure, that their parents won’t believe them, or won’t understand, and their world starts to spiral out of control, through behaviors such as excessive drinking, cutting, or drugs, and sometimes with unthinkably horrible consequences – such as choosing to end their own lives.

I have consciously tried to not push my daughter too hard in school, and she has been an excellent student since kindergarten. And yet, in her eyes, I am constantly nagging her about her homework and her grades, despite the fact that she has proven to me that she’s got this – she’s proven it by her grades. These difficult few months, combined with the fact that she’s taking much harder courses in her senior year, two of her grades aren’t aligned with what her grades usually are.

One very cold night, as I was waiting for a ride at a bus stop, we talked about it on the phone, both of us in tears. I realized what she needed to hear – and what I told her – was that SHE was not the sum of her performance in school. That she is an amazing, intelligent, compassionate, talented, beautifully unique human being, and that’s what matters. Not – at this stage of the game, as she is trying to find her future – how well she did on a Calculus test. I told her I didn’t care about her grades anymore. And I meant it. It seemed to take some of the pressure off, and I am truthfully telling her now that I am proud of her when she is trying her best, and proud of her no matter what. I remember what it was like at her age, struggling with workloads, priorities, time management, work, socializing, and just trying to figure out my future. Remembering that is great help when your teenager is in the same place.

I have not chosen the “friend, not parent” role, though we are friends. I tell her when I need to say “mom stuff”, like having a conversation about the availability of drugs when she goes to college, and the dangers of drugs now versus what was out there when I was her age. I know she’s done things that I don’t want to know about, even though I thought she was telling me everything. She wasn’t. That happens when teenagers are trying to find their path to independence. We, as parents with seemingly open relationships with our children, need to prepare ourselves for the possibility that this will happen, and short of locking your teenager in her room for four years, the only thing you can do is be supportive, vigilant, protect your child-woman as best you can, arm them with as much information as you can, and hope that, if they do not feel they can share with you, that they can find someone trustworthy to share their feelings and confusion with.

My daughter was fortunate enough to have a counselor at school who, while she often gave her the same advice I did, was not me. She is a stronger and wiser soul for having had that counselor at her disposal, and having made that close connection. I was sad to see politics make her counselor leave the school just as so many students were recovering from their friend’s suicide. But that is the way of the world, and at this age, there is no sense in sheltering our soon-to-be-adults from it.

I’m probably rambling a little. I’m trying to help with my words. I’m hoping some parent will see themselves in my words, and think about what they are pushing their child to do, how they are pushing, why they are pushing, and have an awareness of how their child might be perceiving what the parent thinks of as gentle pushing. Let’s try to see our teenagers as more than just students or ultimate players, but who they are, which is so much more. We can offer guidance, but not make the horse drink. We can offer to listen, but cannot expect to be told the whole truth. We can be aware of signs of depression, but must understand that we may not see it.

These are the people we love more than anything else in the world. And as my mother always said, we are all doing the best we can with what we have at the time – both us as parents, and them as teenagers. Let’s just hope it’s enough to keep our children here in this world, instead of thinking that leaving it is the best or only choice they have.

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My darling daughter starts her senior year in high school tomorrow. It’s a strange thing. I remember being her age so vividly, and now I am seeing it from my Mother’s perspective. Athough Kelsea is different than I was at 17. It is so hard to comprehend her leaving home in a year. Perhaps for me, since she has not been with me full-time since I left ex-Pat’s house, and since I have always worked so much, and therefore seen less of her than your average mom, it will be a little easier. But the closer we get to the day she leaves, the more that feels like an untruth. I am so grateful that I did not miss these last years with her – yes, that was an option when I was under the spell of deceit in my previous relationship. I would not trade where I am now in my life with her – and with MKL – for anything. Not for all the islands in the world.

As she looks to the West for her future, I see her future through the strands of my own memories. New friends, first loves, that sense of freedom and power that comes from being truly on your own for the first time. Philosophy discussions. Term papers. Dorm food. Calling Mom for instructions on laundry and cooking. Walking to class on cold wet mornings. Learning a new city. Finding your way.

And I see her past. Standing at the sliding glass doors with Tug, bobbing up and down as her Daddy came home. Feeding her in the bar sink at the beach house. Her wearing her little pumpkin suit on her first Halloween. Coaching her on her first word. Playing restaurant. Teaching her to ride a bike. White blonde hair in summer. Finger painting. Blowing bubbles. Bathtimes. Reading all the Harry Potter books together. Mother-Daughter trips. Cuddling in thunderstorms. Jumping waves. Hugging next to horizons of sunflowers and darkly phosphorescent seas.

A long time ago, there was a country song by Suzy Bogguss about a girl going off to college and how her mother felt. Even before I had a child, that song made me cry. When the time comes to pack up my girl and set her free for parts distant, I suspect I’ll be playing that song a lot. (And you may see a few more sentimental posts on this blog.)

I have always said that there is an invisible silken strand that connects a mother’s heart with her child’s – my heart with her heart. She spoke that back to me a few weeks ago, and I was surprised and moved that she had heard me say it, had remembered it, and felt it too. The first time I experienced the strength of the strand was when ex-Pat took her to a family reunion. She was five years old. I had to stay behind to work. I felt so strange the whole time they were gone. She and I missed each other, and the strand stretched all the way from her heart in California to mine in Colorado. Stretched fine and thin, but as strong as ever. Perhaps even stronger for the distance.

I will treasure the days until she leaves, rejoice with her when it’s time for her to go, and cherish the strength of the strand.

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Topsail Beach, North Carolina.

Quote of the day: “Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark in the hopeless swamps of the not-quite, the not-yet, and the not-at-all. Do not let the hero in your soul perish in lonely frustration for the life you deserved and have never been able to reach. The world you desire can be won. It exists.. it is real.. it is possible.. it’s yours.” — Ayn Rand

Daily Gratitudes:
That I was glowing today
AAA
Always carrying a book with me
MKL
Clawfoot bathtubs

Her Love

I watch your heart break from a distance
And there is nothing I can do.

Not.

One.

Thing.

When you were small,
I could cuddle you
And make you giggle
And kiss your tears away
And you would be all better.

Now, my touch at the sight of your tears
Makes you angry,
And the choices you never made
Are making you hurt.

It’s a pain we all go through.
You’ve seen it near break me.
And when it happens to you,
You think no one can know how you feel.

But we do.
We all do.

That doesn’t make it any easier.
I wish it did.

I so wish
I could.

Having a teenage daughter makes you walk back into your own past. You see the things that she is going through and, if you are open, you can remember how you felt at that age, what you were feeling, how you reacted.  I was going to say “if you are lucky”, but I must admit that revisiting my teenage years, even in my mind, is sometimes a painful thing. Adolescence isn’t something that most of us would want to go through twice, at least not without the benefit of the wisdom we gain in our futures – and now, I WILL say “if we are lucky”.

I was a late bloomer. I didn’t have my first date until I was almost 16, didn’t have my first kiss until I was actually 16. (You don’t get any more details past that point, sorry.)  I was a miserable 14- and 15-year-old. I didn’t know why no one was interested in me. I wanted to believe that I was so pretty that I scared boys off, but my Mother told me that was not the case – she did it gently, but I still remember that conversation – exactly where we were and everything.  My best friend Sarah and I felt like we were wearing some sort of sign that said “Never been kissed.” And just like a lot of other things in life, if you didn’t have experience, no one seemed to want to take a chance on you. Sounds like trying to find a job, doesn’t it? Of course, the corollary is rather true as well – if you had too much experience, people weren’t really interested in you either.  Strangely enough, also like it is in the business world.

Anyway, as I said, I was a grumpy, bad-tempered teenager (until I could drive and then the world literally opened up before me. I became much nicer once I found my wings.) I didn’t want to be seen with my parents. I stayed in my room almost all the time that I was home, entertaining romantic notions of escape, and what my life would be like. I spent a lot of time in a dreamworld. The scarring experience of my pre-teen years likely played a role in this confused isolationism, and while I remember that, I don’t add it into the equation when I think about my teenage years in the grand scope of things. I guess I remember being a typical teenager.

Well, bloom I did, robustly and delightfully. I think most of us do, even though we think it will never happen. And once I came into my power, I felt invincible.  Sometimes I still feel that way. Invincible, yes. Loveable is a little harder to believe, but I’m making good progress on it.

As I watch my girl and her friends go through their teenage years, I compare my own experience to theirs, and draw up from the depths of my soul the turbulent emotions surrounding change, acceptance, love, hormones, justice, freedom, adulthood, social quandaries, sexuality, school, frustrations, and delights. I don’t know if I’m right in applying my own perspective to their situations, now some 35 years later.

But on some level, I think that young women are young women (even if those of my daughter’s age are a bit more worldly than most girls of that age were in the late 1970s), and that the emotions that swirl around aging haven’t changed. In fact, as I find my half-century mark rushing up to meet me squarely in the chin, I realize that I am still experiencing a myriad of emotions around love, escape, freedom, satisfaction, work, frustrations, justice, time demands, acceptance, and delights.  I don’t think of myself as much older than Kelsea or her friends at heart. I still feel things just as fully, innocently, and honestly as they do, as I did back then.

I was a late bloomer back then. Perhaps I’m a late bloomer now. Perhaps I am just eternally in bloom. But I am reminded of those lovely roses that bloom until early in the fall, their petals full and lush, their fragrance sweet. And when it is time for them to go, those petals fall like velvet tears, their scent still lingers in the air.

Photo of the day for January 30, 2012: Late Bloomer

San Francisco, California.

Daily gratitudes:
A lovely weekend
MKL
The man who leaves walks down Wynkoop every day playing his mandolin at 5:00 pm
Cases of San Pellegrino
Silliness

Instead of a quote of the day, I have a request: Please send prayers to Sarah Bennett, one of Kelsea’s friends who was seriously injured in a car accident during the weekend.

Picking up en route from Mount Rushmore…

After a bunch more “Think or Die” signs, we reached Crazy Horse or, more properly, the Crazy Horse Memorial.  Our first experience at the monument was a faux pas in which we saw a white Suburban with 20 kid icons on the back windshield.

We exclaimed loudly that it must be the Duggars, then realized that the matriarch was sitting in the passenger seat with her window down, right next to our squawking selves. We hastily passed by, trying to deflect her icy stare, which we could feel even through her sunglasses.

Neither of us had much background information on the Memorial – Kelsea wasn’t even sure if Crazy Horse was a man, a place, or an event. So we watched the informative video, encouraged by the docents at the Center. The sculptor, Korczak Ziolkowski, was so cool, and his family carries on the legacy of being so cool. We love that they accept no government monies for the project, which explains why it is taking so long. Korczak started working on it in 1948 and it’s far from finished, whereas Mount Rushmore took 14 years to complete.  We’d like to donate dynamite to the cause. We like the idea of being part of blowing something up.  I know that sounds wrong.  But hey.

Korczak’s attitude towards the government reminded me of Jim Bishop of Bishop’s Castle in Colorado, but it was clear that Korczak, unlike Bishop, did accumulate some wealth and possessions in the course of his project.  The part of his “house” that was open felt a lot like a European castle.

You can’t get close to Crazy Horse unless you pay extra to take a van tour, which we didn’t, but the renderings that are used for the actual sculpture are beautiful.

There’s a nice little museum in which I had a minor spiritual journey with a Native American dress.

We got to take home a rock that had been blasted out of the mountain to form the monument.

The spot has its own post office and zip code.

There were some random pieces that seemed unrelated – like Shaquille O’Neal’s shoe.

Korczak’s studio was really cool.  It had the feel of a place that would be ultra-creepy at night.

There was also a hall with Native Americans selling various wares.  Somehow, we both had a problem with that. It felt like we, as white folks, were saying, “Hey guys, let’s massacre you and steal your lands, but we’ll build a monument to you to say we’re sorry and throw in a couple of folding tables so you can eke out a living on our terms.” There is no possible reparation.

We didn’t stay here too long. The vibe felt kind of empty, hollow, not right. But at least they’re making an effort.

So we left and immersed ourselves in one of the most cluttered places ever – Doyle’s Antiques and Stuff, where we were greeted by a goiter-laden donkey.

This place had unbelievable amounts of Stuff (as advertised) crammed in every corner.

and another owner reminiscent of Jim Bishop, based on the random signage.

I barely resisted the giant rooster.  I would have loved to drive back to Colorado with that sitting in the back of the truck. In fact, I loved it so much, I may have to go back for it. Perfect for the front yard. Can’t you just see him peeking over the fence?

I also barely resisted the FREE stuffed pheasant whose head had been eaten by God knows what. We have Kelsea to thank for that tasteful veto, as she was thoroughly opposed to it continuing to molt in the truck for the remainder of the trip.

We did pick up an antique apothecary bottle (free) and a vintage first-aid kit for my not-soon-enough-to-be EMT.

Our last excursion on this busy day was Custer State Park. Even with all the literature, we never did figure out why the park was named after Custer, as it didn’t look like he had much of a positive influence in this area.  But then I suppose that’s a matter of perspective – he was clearly influential in some way, so maybe the positive doesn’t matter.

We took Needles Highway into the park. I couldn’t really figure out why it was called Needles Highway until we got to the tunnels. It’s called Needles Highway because going through some of those tunnels is like threading a needle. We shrieked the entire way through one – and we have it on video. I’m amazed that anything larger than my truck could make it.

Needles Highway is edged by the distinctive rock spires of the Black Hills.  It is also full of idiot drivers who park blocking the roadways so they can get out to see the spires from 20 feet closer, thus causing fuming road rage in certain other drivers who shall not be named publicly.

Craving calm (or tequila, but calm was my first choice), we pulled off the road at a LEGITIMATE parking spot a bit further along, and went for a climb. We each found our individual rocks for peace and sat separately for a while, doing some soul-level housecleaning. It was quiet and beautiful and I released some things into the ancient richness of the Black Hills. I hope they can float with more ease now, and find their perfect drift in the universe wherever the current leads.

Kelsea leapt from rock to rock like a winged mountain goat. I watched her silently, my stomach leaping into my mouth each time she went airborne. As we headed back to the truck, she found a boulder stack she wanted to free climb. She’s a good climber, having spent some time at the climbing gym, and so I didn’t stop her, but as a mother, all my thoughts were, ‘Oh God, what if she falls and breaks her head open like Piggy in Lord of the Flies?’ Of course, she didn’t.

Needles Highway runs into the Wildlife Loop Road, which (as you might imagine) loops around the Park. It’s a great road and took us through a variety of changing terrains of equally matched beauty.

We hadn’t been on the loop for five minutes before we saw a buffalo nomming grass on the side of the road. Then we encountered some anti-social antelope, and another small bison herd in the distance.

Kelsea can tend towards carsickness, so she distracted herself by taking pictures of her shoe.

I did the same, though I was stopped at the time.

And then we came upon the donkeys. I suspect that the park has planted the donkey herds to guarantee any passing tourist an up-close and personal wildlife experience.

Because there was no avoiding the donkeys.

Totally social, tame, hand-feedable, another visitor gave us peanuts to feed them.

The babies were adorable.

And each donkey dutifully checked out each car to see who had the best treats. I love donkeys and haven’t had such interactions with them in, well, ever.  But I han’t been around baby donkeys since Anegada. And a little further down the road was ANOTHER herd, with the littlest baby just getting his legs. They caused a donkey traffic jam.

And one decided to give me a close-in hello.

A few mule deer sightings, and we were back on the road to Rapid City, marvelling at the cool softness of the air and the diversity of the landscape we’d seen today.

We were both starving and went to Botticelli’s Restaurant, which smelled amazing, but was understaffed. Our wait was 45 minutes and I thought Kelsea was going to eat me. She did eat the paper from her straw before her food came. And the food was good, particularly the chicken piccata, but probably not worth the painful wait.

And so Day 3 came to a close.  We have a couple of stops on Day 4, and then we are homeward bound.

A recent Freshly Pressed post, http://cold-glass.com/2011/02/21/what-was-your-first-cocktail/, made me remember the story of MY first cocktail, and this being Sunday morning, and I being charmingly irreverent, thought I would share the tale today.

When E-Bro went to college, he moved about four blocks away to a dorm on Duke University’s East Campus.  I was still a refreshingly innocent 16 year-old.  Back then, while you couldn’t really buy beer and wine at 16 (you had to wait until you were 18), it seems we did, because I remember sharing bottles of Riunite Lambrusco with various friends from time to time, and a picnic Sarah and I had at Duke Gardens one summer in which we had little bottles of pink champagne. 

At any rate, one fine fall day, E-Bro invited me to his dorm room after I was out of school.  Let me preface this by saying that we did not come from a family of drinkers.  My Dad had bottles of unique liqueurs gathering dust in the basement, and there were bottles of Boone’s Farm and Manischewitz in the basement refrigerator that would show up empty by the back door from time to time.  (Sheltered by the washing machine, when I was very little, I would tipple the dribbles in the bottom of the bottle in secret when no one was looking – yes, a lush in the making – and I liked the blackberry wine the best.)  I never ever saw my parents drink at home.  Not once, until E-Bro and I were adults, and would bring home our own beers and wines.  Even then, my Dad would only have a few sips or a small glass, and my Mom none at all.  But the tales of drinking with my parents are best left for another post.

So on this fine fall day, as I say, I paid E-Bro a visit.  Hard alcohol was not quite as new to E-Bro as it was to me at the time, but that part of his shady past is something I know little about, so we’ll just leave it in the shade, shall we?  I’m sure Erik Le Rouge could supply some background, if I wheedled it out of him.  (Wow, I do seem to distract myself this morning, don’t I? It’s not like I have ADD or something….oh, look, a chicken!  Wait, what was I saying?)

We visited a while.  Even though he was close to home and brought occasional friends and laundry by, I missed him.  As much as we had fought during our childhood, it was really hard for me (and for my folks) when he went to college.  I remember they snipped at each other ALL the time after he left, to the extent that, one morning over breakfast, I basically yelled at them and told them that I didn’t care if they were suffering from the “empty nest syndrome” because I was still here, he was gone, that was a fact, and to stop picking at each other all the time, or I would be gone too.  That shut them up, made them think, and improved things.  You have to understand that I NEVER spoke to my parents like that.  Now see?  There I went again.  Distraction action.

Back to our story….  Somehow or other, as we were listening to some ELP, E-Bro’s and my conversations came around to partying.  He said – and mind you now, this is what older brothers do, as all you little sisters out there well know – “Hey, I want you to try something.”  Words every little sister dreads to hear, but accepts with a brave facade and a resigned internal sigh.  He got some juice glasses (no doubt “borrowed” from the Student Union – didn’t we all do that?) and poured me the following:  a glass of gin, a glass of vodka, a glass of whiskey, and a glass of rum.  We’re not talking a full glass, but we’re talking about two shots per glass.  “Okay,” he said, “see which one you like best.”

And so I drank them all.  One by one.  And by the time I was done, I was pretty darn happy.  And pretty darned reeling.  And the whole world looked pretty darned good. 

I liked the gin the best. 

I was invited to several of his dorm parties while he was in college and I was still in Durham.  I drank a little (not too much), met some nice people, set some carpeting on fire, watched girls compare scars from their suicide attempts.  All fodder for other tales.  Sometime in E-Bro’s sophomore year, at one of his parties, I asked for my usual gin, and whoever was pouring said, “Whoa, don’t you want some tonic with that?”  I looked at him, most puzzled. “Tonic?” I asked, “What for?  What’s that?”

Yes, I had been drinking straight gin for over a year.  E-Bro neglected to tell me that there was such a thing as mixers.

I consider the whole experience early weight-training for my liver. 

I have since passed far away from gin, went through a whiskey phase, will turn to vodka as a coolant on occasion, and dearly love rum.  I’m pleased to say that, even with all the stress and sorrow of the last few months, I never drink alone, and I only drink once a week or so, in a social sort of way.  So the lush life has most fortunately passed me by.

But I still treasure the memory of my first cocktail – okay, as much of it as I can remember.

Bar at Neptune's Treasure

How many of you Moms out there struggle with having a child who refuses to dress appropriately for the weather?

Kelsea is 14.  This is the first year since she was able to talk that I have been able to get her to wear a winter coat.  In fact, this year, she has TWO!  One is an army surplus jacket we got at a vintage store in Cheyenne.  The other, which looks almost identical but is warmer, is one that Pat got her for her birthday.  He had suggested to me that I find her a winter coat.  And I respectfully told him to do it himself.  I tried to find a coat she liked last year and nearly had a meltdown after 10 stores and no nods of approval, and I refused to do it again.  To my way of thinking, I’d found her the army jacket.  If he wanted her to have something else, he could go and find her something else.  And damned if he didn’t find something she liked almost immediately.

I’m happy that she looks warm.  As she has always told me, she’s a Colorado girl and the cold doesn’t affect her like it does me with my thin Southern blood.  There may be some truth in what she says.  She gets much hotter than I do in the heat, and stays much warmer than I do in the cold.  It was always disturbing to see her going to school in a heavy sweatshirt and jeans and nothing else on a frigid day, but I had come to accept it.  Being in the cold doesn’t make you sick; germs make you sick.

Maybe I’m just more aware of it because of the whole Kelsea-coat thing, but it seems like more and more kids are running around in this -9 degree weather inadequately dressed.  I saw two boys in SHORTS and sleeveless T-Shirts the other day, and it was all I could do not to yell out the car window “Go put some clothes on!! What are you thinking??”  A girl walking to school this morning had on only skinny jeans, Uggs and a skin-tight zip-front hoodie, and the same cry once again nearly crossed my lips.  Kelsea’s best friend was supposed to walk to school yesterday, but called and asked me if I could pick her up because she “doesn’t really have any shoes”.  It’s true.  She only has what I consider slippers.

I want to say “where is the parenting”?  But on the flip side, I have fought the losing battle of trying to get my child to dress for the temperature.  I know what it’s like.  I know how hopeless and frustrating it can be.  At least Kelsea does not wear jeans with intentional holes all over them, or burnout T-shirts and push-up bras, so I have a lot to be thankful for on that score.  My Mother only used the phrase, “You are not going out of the house dressed like that” to me one time when I was 16.  (She was fortunate too.)

But now that I am a mother, I will never be able to see a kid running around in summer clothing in the deadest of winter without cringing and having to turn my edit function wayyy up high.  And keep my car windows locked.  Or maybe I should just wear a gag.

Since I am in the throes of depression today, I am not writing, but for these random thoughts. 

Blessings for today:

I tidied the pantry and it looks much nicer.
Kelsea’s best friend is spending the night.  I like her.  She’s like a second daughter.
Hydrocodone works well on bad menstrual cramps.

Dilemma Of The Day:  My landlord sent me an email a few months ago, and mentioned in passing that his 15-year old daughter was not allowed to be alone in the house with her boyfriend.  No particular instructions to me, just FYI.  Well, yesterday I came into the big house to put my laundry in the dryer.  To do so, I have to pass through said daughter’s room.  As I opened the door, there was a rustling, and I hestitated and called out “Hello?” (She hadn’t been home when I’d put the laundry in the washer.)  She was in bed, covers up to her neck, and said very loudly, “Oh, hi!  I was just taking a nap!”  She certainly didn’t sound sleepy and the bed looked as if someone had just gotten out of it.  I apologized profusely for disturbing her, she said it was fine and she would go back to sleep now.  As I left, I noticed her boyfriend’s car out front.  Hmmm, I thought.  Well, when I went back to get the laundry out of the dryer, I opened the door, and I heard them in the shower.  I mean I HEARD them in the shower.  Sex in the shower sounds the same if you’re 48 or 15.  Unmistakeable moans and groans.  I backed out most hastily, and they never knew I was there.  But what do I do?  Do I tell her dad?  Do I talk to her?  I don’t even know her.  Do I tell my landlady (who’s her dad’s boyfriend)?  Eww.  Awkward.  I don’t like ratting out young love, but I don’t want to contribute to a 15-year old’s unwise choices.  Any advice would be much appreciated.

Thanks to the Idiot (http://redriverpak.wordpress.com/)  for introducing me to some wonderful new blogs.  I feel like I’m making new friends, and will be updating the blogroll very soon.  Thanks to AnotherOtherWoman (http://anotherother1.wordpress.com/) for the reminder to look for blessings each day.  And thanks to The Unabridged Girl (http://theunabridgedgirl.wordpress.com/) for the concept of Project Happiness – it sounds like a fantastic idea and one in which I want to participate.

I have left the two main characters of my novel lying exhausted on a beach in the Caribbean.  I think they will be sufficiently recovered next week so the tale can continue.

As for me, I am lonely and confused and sad.  Love is the greatest blessing in the world and the biggest pain in the ass.

As a society, we seem to be schizophrenic – or at least inconsistent – about our attitudes around touching each other these days.  

Teachers are not permitted to hug students – even a comforting hug for a crying kindergartener can be misconstrued, turned into something suspect.  Elementary school kids are not allowed to touch each other at all.  No poking, tickling, shoving, hitting, patting – nothing.  That’s actually a good thing, I think, on the whole. 

In the workplace, any physical contact is either unprofessional or risks a sexual harassment charge.  You make friends with the people with whom you work (if you’re lucky), so I don’t agree with that hardline stance.

But then, there’s the other side.  Take pregnant women, for example.  The fact that you have a baby in your belly seems to say to everyone that your stomach is now public property.  I was always amazed at how total strangers would pat my belly when I was pregnant.  It’s the same amount of me, the same belly (well, less of it), that I have now.  Can you imagine coming up and patting my belly NOW?  Now that it’s just a normal, run-of-the-mill, doing-nothing-but-digesting belly?  Hell, no!  If you tried it, you’d find yourself short a hand.

The same public property principle seems to apply with Kelsea’s hair.  It’s at least two feet long when it’s in its daily braid, and that braid seems to have an irresistable appeal to her fellow students.  Everyone touches it, plays with it, pulls it, flaps it.  It makes her INSANE.  She absolutely hates it.  She’s told them in no uncertain terms to STOP.  And she’s entirely within her rights.  It’s part of her body.  Again, if it were another part of her body that was different from everyone else’s – say a deformed arm – it would be completely unacceptable for everyone to be touching and poking it.  But because it’s pretty and because it’s hair, it’s fair game.  That’s wrong.  The day after school ends, she’s donating 10-inches to Locks of Love – that way, her hair will be easier to care for over the summer, she’ll be doing something to help others, and it will grow back enough by the time that school starts that everyone won’t make a fuss about her cutting her hair.  If the hair-harassment (hairassment?) continues next year though, I may say something to the school-folk about it.  (After she punches someone in the face.)  It’s the principle of the thing.

And what’s more, the school seems to turn a blind eye to middle-school bullying, which includes punching, throwing things, and shoving.  I can only imagine the challenge of trying to administer appropriate protocols in a large middle-school, but the offenses which are noted and punished seem to be minor – and seem to be identified haphazardly.  Again, where’s the consistency?

Is there a solution to this quandary?  I’m not sure.  Maybe we all just need to relax?  Or maybe we’re all too far down some self-destructive pattern of evolution for us not to be paranoid about appropriate touching being misconstrued?

Unfortunately, I don’t have the answers.  I’m just here to ask the questions.

When we were coming in the house last night, we were talking about someone she knew, and Kelsea said, “You know, X seems older than us.”  And then she realized what she had just said.  And I realized what she had just said.  And we laughed.  It’s an interesting mix of flattering and worrisome when your 13-year old thinks of you as being her age. 

It’s true, right now, we are close — more sister-like in many ways.  Now before you think what I always think about parents who want to be their kids’ friends, stop right there.  I never set out wanting to be Kelsea’s friend.  That was never a goal.  I’ve always been proud and happy to be her mom.  But somehow, the friend thing has just happened. I still do all the mom-things, like making her do her homework, take a shower, clean up (as best as can be expected), etc.  We still have the required talks about boys, sex, drugs, personal hygiene and just about anything else you can think of.  But at this point, she’s pretty self-disciplined.  She’s got a pretty good moral compass going (she even brought up the concept of the moral compass herself a few weeks ago).

As I rediscover myself as a single person, I am rediscovering a lot of buried treasure – otherwise known as fun.  And Kelsea is fun.  So when you put the two of us together, we have…fun.  It’s just not always the typical mother-daughter fun (whatever that is). 

Last night, for example, we settled in to watch a little TV.  Normal, right?  But what we wound up watching was “RuPaul’s Drag Race”.  Suddenly, the mother-daughter TV time travelled into another dimension. 

As with most kids her age, Kelsea knows a lot more worldly things than I give her credit for.  I have basically given up trying to “shield” her from topics that are overtly sexual or violent or evil.  Between friends, the internet, and her Dad not doing that sort of editing, she seems to know a little about just about everything.  In watching drag queens compete for the ultimate drag queen title, I actually found the opportunity to discuss a variety of topics that don’t come up in ordinary conversation: transvestism, transgender tendencies, make-up, cattiness, fashion.  I had the chance to clarify certain questions that she hadn’t had anyone to ask.  So it wound up being a good thing.

It also wound up being a politically incorrect hoot.  We were calling each other the choice names we learned from JuJuBee, Raven and the new Tyra for the rest of the night.  I was compelled to remind her this morning not to use those terms during her visit to the Alzheimer’s Memory Center today.  But I found it as funny as she did.  As always when we went to bed, even though we were both tired, we spent half an hour talking between our rooms about dreams, boys, travel.  It reminds me of how my Dad used to lay at the foot of my bed, talking with me about anything, as I was going to sleep when I was littler than Kelsea.

This morning, we sat on the kitchen floor eating breakfast and composing new LOLs with the LOL magnets on the refrigerator door, and speculated on how many other mother/daughters eat breakfast on the floor.  Not many, we concluded.

I’ve written recently about how I’ve been warned by almost everybody (except a very kind blog friend) how Kelsea will turn into the seven-headed unrecognizable demon from the black lagoon at any moment, so I should cherish these times.  Well, guess what?  I do cherish these times.  I would cherish these times even if the transformation was not a possiblity in the offing.  (And don’t worry, I’m waiting for that first shoe to drop.)

So maybe I’m not instilling in her the finest table manners, how to fold a hospital corner (okay, I have tried that) or how not to slurp her soup.  But I hope I’m strengthening her base of knowledge.  I hope I’m increasing her trust in her mother as someone she can talk to about absolutely anything, someone who won’t judge her regardless of the topic, her opnions or her actions.  Someone to whom she can reach out if she needs help or feels troubled or confused.

I’d rather be doing that.  And laughing with her.  And just loving her.

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