Thankful

I have seen an endless amount of posts on Facebook this month mentioning what people are thankful for. For every day of the month, people write one thing they are thankful for and although I long to have the discipline to try to do something everyday, I lack the ability to try to sum it all up in one statement a day, so with that being said, this is my month of thanks all rolled into one post.

I am incredibly thankful for the warm snuggly man sleeping upstairs hogging the entire bed in hopes that my side will be warm by the time I join him. When I say he is my best friend, I don’t say these words lightly. He brings out the best parts of myself, understands the worst, and supports me as I travel down the road of life. I have no idea what I would do without him by my side taunting me and helping me to become a better person. He’s exhausting, loving, affectionate, and so very hard on himself and I am so very thankful he is mine.

I am thankful for my son for he is why I am here today. I am so very proud of the sweet, intelligent, and talented man he has become. Every heartache he brings and every smile he inflicts is a testament to me doing something right. Becoming a mommy at the age of eighteen is never an easy thing and I would never recommend it to someone. However, because we grew up together, his opinion of me is just as important as my opinion of him and I have an incredible desire for him to be just as proud of the woman who loved him first. I am so glad his little soul found mine all those years ago.

I am thankful for my beautiful daughter with her wild, loving, and affectionate heart. I am so proud of how she grasps her own personality and struggles while she finds others who will accept it rather than changing for those who don’t. I love her giving nature and how she doesn’t understand how humans can be so mean to each other. I am thankful for her desire to still snuggle with her Mama before she starts her day at the tender age of eleven and I am so thankful for her ability to march to the beat of her own drum when so many others don’t have the courage.

I am thankful for my amazing father. He has truly become one of my best friends. He has picked me up at my weakest moments, praised me when I needed it most, given me words of advice, and hugged me when I just needed a daddy, very very badly. He was the first man I ever loved and the role model in which I have judged all others. We are too much a like and have moments in which we lash out, but I am the parent I am today because he showed me how it’s done.

I am thankful for my fabulous siblings. Not only because they are the link to my past and future, but because of the people they are today. I am thankful for every single phone call my sister makes to me, even when she makes claims of stalking. Her support of me is so very loved and needed. She is my personal cheerleader in life and I could never imagine a moment without her. I am thankful for the strength of her outstanding husband and her loving kids. My brother has become the man I always knew he would become. I am thankful for the strength he has within himself to have seen the light at the end of the tunnel. He is beautiful, proud, and softer than he appears. I am thankful for the lovely woman he has brought into our lives and his gorgeous daughter. I am thankful for my other brother in his ability to straddle the lines between two families with such grace. It is never easy being a child caught between a blended family. We claimed him as our own years ago and ours he continues to be.

I am thankful for the open arms of my fabulous in-laws. They accepted me and my son in a time when I was so unsure of myself. They showed me such love and I continue to be humbled and honored to not only have them as my own, but for their giving nature and ability to continue to inspire me to be better than I could ever hope to be. I am also thankful they have raised such an amazing son for without their guidance, I wouldn’t have the husband I have today.

I am thankful for my job. Yes, the one I gripe about on a regular basis. It has given me the opportunity to not only work full time, but be a Mommy. I have been able to go on field trips and participate in activities without having to always use vacation time. I have managers that although drive me batty, are willing to work around children sick days, me going back to school, family emergencies, and on some days just simply having the desire to leave early because everyone needs to play hooky every once in awhile.

I am thankful for quiet nights and moonlit skies. I am thankful for the guitar pic in my pocket and the dear friend I was with when I got it. I am thankful for wine and girl nights and my cats when they’re warming my lap when no amount of clothing will ease the chill. I am thankful for road trips and strangers who never need to know my name. I am thankful for my Mother and all the things she taught me in her short life. I am thankful for my pillow and coffee and old movies and Johnny Depp. I am thankful for my step-mother and her constant desire to be everyone’s something and yet never her own. I am thankful for her friendship although it’s not what it used to be. I am thankful for my Grandmother. For her years of insight, love, support, and honesty. I am thankful for my family and I’m thankful for my friends.

So, before this list of thankfulness gets any longer, take a moment and list the things you’re thankful for. List even the bad things that may have turned good in the end. List even the smallest thing. Be sappy about it, be brave, and then go out and spread it around. There are those out there who have so very little to be thankful for. Be the change.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

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My Jessie Bessie

I have a pretty amazing family. We have shared many ups and downs over the years and quite frankly, we are a bit codependent on each other. Today however, I really need to put some positive words out to my sister and lets face it, writing is how I do things best. I will be the first to admit that face to face confrontation often makes me stumble with my words. My tongue gets tied up, I may cry, or simply lose my thoughts and say things I didn’t intend to. This way, I can put it out there for her to see and read over and over when the mood takes her and maybe some of you can cheer her on too. Sometimes, even the best and strongest of us need words of encouragement. So with that being said, onward I go.

My sister is just as loud as me, funny as hell, giving, emotional, loving, and one of my biggest cheerleaders in life. We have fought like cats and dogs, said hurtful things to each other that no one should be able to recover from, and loved each other unconditionally because that is precisely what sisters do. They are often the first to hurt you and the first to pick you up when you fall on your ass. They know the part of you that you don’t quite understand yourself. My sister also suffers from the middle child syndrome. We may joke about this, but it is real. She has had to not only be my little sister, but the big sister to our brother. She also takes the mothering role to a whole new level and will be the first person to check up on both of us. She is the glue that is always there to keep us together. She has the tendency to be the voice of reason when no one else wants to listen. She became the woman of the house when our Mom died and at the young age of fourteen, she took this role seriously. I will never try to understand what that must have felt like for her. Especially when I moved back into the house for almost a year with a toddler in tow. Our twenties were spent in a rocky state and we didn’t really find the strength of our friendship until the last eight years or so. I think it took us that long to truly see each other. To see not only our weaknesses, but to help each other boost our strengths.

Today, she is successful at an incredibly stressful job, helps to run a household with my fabulous brother in-law and is the stepmother to two amazing kids. I admire her for her ability to take life on even when she doesn’t want to. I love that she can bust out into song in the middle of a crowded store and not seem to be embarrassed. I love that she doesn’t take herself too seriously and I love that she can admit when she needs help. Asking for help is never as easy as it sounds. I love that she can be a bitch, I love that she is a daddy’s girl, I love her bravery and her ability to be honest with herself when she realizes that she is human and not Wonder Woman. I love her hugs. They make me feel whole. I love that she still likes going through my make-up or my bathroom cupboards in general just to see what I have. I love that she talks to Dad about his diet and health concerns. I guess where I’m going with this is to tell her that she’s needed. She’s loved beyond measure. The Ford Family quite frankly wouldn’t work without her and I don’t think I tell her these things often enough. We all are so used to going on about how amazing our Dad is I think we forget about each other. I think I may even have to write a separate post about my brother just to make things even. You know siblings, I have to be fair. Oh, and if any of you are jealous, I don’t blame you. My Jessie is pretty fabulous. She’s mine and I don’t share very well with others. : )

The Beauty of Music in the Ear of the Beholder

I was a child of the 70’s and 80’s with a father who was a former DJ and an avid music enthusiast. There wasn’t a day that went by that I didn’t see four to six albums propped up next to the turntable stand ready to be listened to and carefully dissected. Before an album played, Dad allowed one of us kids to gently brush off the dust with a cleaner while he set the turntable in motion. Our household grooved to The Temptations, Marvin Gaye, and Sam Cooke on Saturday mornings as we went about our chores. We sang along with James Taylor, Carole King, Bruce Springsteen, and John Cougar Mellencamp while dinner was being made and I personally longed for the day I could belt out a song like Janis Joplin and Whitney Houston. I fell in love with The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Van Morrison, Joni Mitchell and Boz Scaggs while wearing headphones far too large for my head and at the age of two, I went running through a record shop yelling, “Elvis, Elvis, Elvis” when I heard the voices of adults mourning him in the August of 1977. As time progressed however, new records came into the house in the form of a cassette after Dad purchased our first JVC cassette deck in 1980. It allowed for us to make mixtapes for road trips and for passing along to friends. The Christmas of 1984, I received my first Panasonic boom box and spent hours recording songs from the radio. In 1988, Dad blew out his speakers while trying out our new CD player for the first time. He was unprepared for the level at which the CD’s had been recorded at and was forced to purchase new speakers. We still had a cassette deck in the car, but the days of having to use a pencil to rewind a tape when the deck went out were fading fast as new and improved technology came onto the scene.

Music technology has had to move and keep up with a generation of people who desire instant gratification. A generation who seems to have lost the desire to peruse a music bin for that gem, that CD that will become a part of their life’s soundtrack. Today, we have MP3 downloading straight to our cell phones, computers, and satellite radio. How far we have come from Thomas Edison’s phonograph. Though technology has certainly changed how we listen to music, is all of it good? Are we losing a battle to hold onto the past? Or, is there a way to hang onto some of our past technologies and move into the future at the same time? Can we have our cake and eat it too?

In the 1940’s Columbia introduced the 331/3 rpm long-playing record. (randomhistory.com)These LP’s were able to hold a total of sixty minutes of music which was unheard of. It’s predecessor, the 78 rpm album could only hold up to three minutes on each side and were more fragile. 45’s were single play records that held up to five minutes on each side and were popular in jukeboxes because they took up less space. (historyofrock.com) By the time cassettes came around we were blessed with up to ninety minutes of tunes, but anyone that ever made a mixtape on one of those, found out very quickly how easily the tape got tangled. CD’s allowed for entire live concerts to be listened to and they didn’t get tangled up like cassettes did. Today, an Apple iPod Classic holds up to 40,000 songs, 200 hours of video, or 25,000 photos all in a little device that fits in the pocket of a pair of skinny jeans. (Apple.com) Technology has progressed quickly and based upon the decline in the selection of CD’s when shopping a brick and mortar store, progress is waiting for no one to catch up. It is moving forward whether we like it or not.

In the video Capturing Sound: How Technology has Changed Music, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=18Wl6ws9Als Mark Katz, speaks of his study of the progression of how we listen to recorded music. In his presentation he speaks not only of his book by the same title, but of his findings while writing the book. He has developed what he calls the Phonograph Effect, which is “any change in musical behavior, whether listening, performing or composing, that has arisen in response to sound recording technology”. In a study done by Ipsos Reid, a Canadian company specializing in market research, Katz found that 29% of American respondents reported that their favorite genre of music changed after they started downloading music and 21% indicated that they developed new radio listening habits. The freedom of being able to explore new music became more accessible and people loved the control they gained over their musical listening experience. However, he also touches on the subject of nostalgia when he spoke to a young college woman about her excitement on her fifteenth birthday when she purchased a Flaming Lips CD, but with file sharing all she remembers is sitting in front of her computer. The video was recorded in 2009, so although most of what Katz says is quite relevant, we have already progressed further in our desire and capabilities to access new music. At the time of his findings, file sharing sites like Napster had already been under fire for copyright infringement.

In the article Survival of the Fittest in the New Music Industry, author David Browne covers some of the pros and cons of the direction in which the music industry is going. http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/survival-of-the-fittest-in-the-new-music-industry-20121108 Shirley Manson of the band Garbage mentions how after leaving their previous label Geffen, the band now has more creative freedom. Shirley had gone to the label with a solo album that she cut, only to be turned down because it didn’t have any pop songs on it. Browne also goes on to say that in the past, cash advances were given to the bands by the labels to cut the records and make videos and those days are gone. With more people downloading their music, CD sales have hit bottom and in order to make up for the loss, artists are touring longer and even asking fans to contribute to their recording costs through companies like Kickstarter, “a crowd-funding service that lets musicians pay for recording costs by way of contributions from fans”. Artists like Amanda Palmer of the Dresden Dolls were able to raise more than $1 million in contributions from fans, ranging from $25 to $10,000. When asked whether she felt guilty for asking fans for money, she responded that she’s just doing her job as a “working-class musician”. Browne gives a great perspective of what some of the artists think about where the industry is going. He wraps up the article by mentioning the benefits to bands and managers for becoming more savvy and open to working with social media. Not only to sell the music itself, but also sell the tickets to the shows.

We now have listening services like Pandora and Spotify, both of which have free options and if the short commercials drive you batty, for a small fee the listener can upgrade to a premium account. With these services, all you have to do is type in an artist that you like and they will give you multiple other artists that sound similar. On Spotify, you can customize your own playlists, listen to others, and share your findings. On Spotify Radio, the service will customize a “station” based upon a listener’s personal playlist. The possibilities for a music lover is endless. The question that I often battle with though is for every artist that a listener may like, there are fifty more artists that sound just like them. This may be great for an artist that in the past may never have received recognition, but at the same time, the industry has become so oversaturated that it’s difficult to remember particular artists. However, this does make the search for that “diamond in the rough” that much more enjoyable when you find them.

For all the advances that technology has made, there are things that were also taken away. The one on one commadre that could be established when speaking to another music fan. While working in a music department, I found the stories of how a person was moved by a particular song or album, fascinating. A song became a memory, a scent, an emotion. It had the power to bring a person back to the first time they heard it. My Dad has told me stories of how he and his buddies would spend hours in the local record shop pouring over the new releases. Devouring them, arguing over what each song meant, and gambling about the outcome of it’s success. New releases forced people to get out into their community and face one another. Gone are the days of having to get up early to be the first person to purchase the new David Bowie or Radiohead CD. Instead, with just one click you can have it downloaded to your favorite listening device. Although the new technologies are outstanding with what they’re are capable of, I can’t help but feel a bit of remorse for what we have lost.

For the girl that grew up in the 70’s and 80’s, no matter how much I love technology and how it spoils us, I’m still a huge fan of vinyl. With a record, the listener is forced to sit down and truly listen. You must have patience and the ability to slow down. Pushing a button to skip to the next song is not an option. The first time I heard Miles Davis’s Kind of Blue I was bewitched by the beauty of it and thrilled to hear the crackle of the vinyl as the needle hit the wax. It’s a comfort sound equal to the taste of a warm peanut butter and jelly sandwich after it’s been sitting in your lunch pail for hours. I was in a record shop in Ann Arbor, Michigan and the headphones tuned out all other sounds. I couldn’t believe that I had gone my whole life without hearing the magic of this man. Since that fateful day, I’ve listened to Kind of Blue on cassette, CD, and currently I’m listening to it through Spotify, but on a rainy day, I’ll take my vinyl copy off the shelf, turn on my refurbished 1968 Pioneer Pro turntable, let the needle down, close my eyes and let the magic of the man take me back in time where technology was built to last.

Dad

This is a journal entry that I wrote for class the other day. It’s not one of my best pieces of writing, but it expresses how I feel about one of the most influential men in my life. Oh, and he’s super groovy.

Today is Father’s Day. To many, it’s just another Hallmark Holiday. However, I can’t help but enjoy all of the well wishes, words of appreciation, gratitude, and love that I see while scrolling through Facebook updates.

My Mother was confined to a wheelchair due to Progressive Multiple Sclerosis. She was a woman who enjoyed her job as a mother and when the disease took away her ability to perform the job as she saw fit, my Dad had to step up to the plate and quite often performed the role of both mother and father. He was the breadwinner, carpooling master, hair styling king, homework helper aficionado. This was not something that he would have chosen to do, for it pained my Mother to not be able to take care of us kids. However, their marriage was one of balance that I came to respect and now share with my own husband. They were fantastic role models

Dad would work a sixty hour plus work week and somehow fit in soccer games, cheerleading practices, dance lessons, and homework help. It was not uncommon to find him asleep in his lazy boy after trying to read his newspaper each evening. He became friends with the parents of my friends and between them, shared carpooling responsibilities. I can look back on these things now and wonder, “How the hell did he conquer such feats?”. I’m currently part of a two income family with one vehicle and two kids. My family wouldn’t work if it was lacking either myself or my husband. I am in no way selling my Mother short by giving my Dad such praises. She was an amazing woman. She was blunt, sassy, and honest. She was easy to talk to and would invite you to “spill your heart out”. She was the kind of mother that the other kids envied because she was a good listener and no subject seemed to be too taboo. I cherish the memories I have, for it was too short a time I had with her. As for Dad though, he had to keep it together for all of us when Mom died.

I remember working so hard to impress him in my teen years, whether it be with my singing or a dance or cheer routine. He was a tougher audience than Mom. There was always a tightness in my chest and a smile plastered on my face when he simply said, “good job”. If I’m being honest, I still seek those small words of praise from him. I seem to inundate him on a regular basis with my writing, just to see if he likes it. I do however think he has become more free in his affections as he gets older. I can always depend on a song of some kind to let me know how he feels. It’s one of his signature traits. If he can’t find the words himself, to express how he feels, he finds a song to do it for him. These dedicated songs have become the soundtrack to my life.

My Dad is not perfect. I put him on a very high pedestal, but understand that he is human. Being an adult now, I can say how much I appreciate what he did to make our lives better and as normal as possible. I had friends with dad’s that beat them and dad’s that walked out. I was lucky to have two parents that not only loved me and my siblings, but loved and respected each other. My Dad became the model for which I judge all men. He is a tough act to follow. On a closing note, a few years ago, Dad made a small list of what he calls Life Lessons. It is here that I’ll share his list with you.

#1 A#@holes and idiots are born that way and they usually don’t change.
#2 You don’t want to go to jail.
#3 When you start to take life too seriously, you’re in trouble.
#4 It takes no more time to see the good side of life than it takes to see the bad.
#5 If you decide to run with the ball, just count on fumbling and getting the S#$t knocked out of you a lot, but never forget how much fun it is just to run with the ball.
#6 Remember, that green grass on the other side of the fence, a lot of the time turns brown and dies.
#7 Everything changes, nothing changes.
#8 Sometimes there just isn’t a right answer.
#9 Some people just are…..
#10 It takes less muscles to smile than to frown
#11 Always buy at least 2-ply toilet paper
#12 Remove toxic, negative people from your life
#13 Drama should be left in movie theaters and on stages
#14 Some people you can never make happy, maybe moments of happiness, but not for long.
#15 YOU are responsible for your own happiness!
#16 Never give your past more power than your present!

One Step at a Time

I am the Volunteer Coordinator for our bike team that rides in the West Michigan Breakaway Ride for Multiple Sclerosis. This is a title that took me several years to settle into. When my Mother passed away in 1993, I participated in one more local MS Walk before I made the choice to ignore the MS Society and any event it had to offer. I had no interest in being a part of something that would remind me on a regular basis that this was a disease that took Mom away from me. I was angry, furious actually. This was not supposed to happen to the lady that taught me how to swim and climb a tree. She had three kids and a husband who still needed her and this disease could go “suck it” for all I cared. I never had a chance to know her as an adult. I only had her through my teen years, riddled with angst. My brother was only ten when she passed and my sister only fourteen. I would often feel guilty for being the oldest and knowing her longer.

My husband spent another several years gently persuading me to join him at one of the rides. He completely understood my hesitation and never pushed too hard. In the Spring of 2001, I quit smoking and that summer, I climbed Sleeping Bear Dunes all the way to Lake Michigan. I felt amazing and was looking for another kind of physical challenge. The baby step I took that year was the first of a very large step taken later. I had my daughter in the Spring of 2002 and wanted to lose the baby weight that never wants to go away. My husband and I would often discuss the love I had for riding my bike everywhere in my youth and it was then that I made the choice to become active with the MS Society again. That Christmas, I received a stationary bike that I would use to train during the winter, along with a homemade certificate stating I would receive a new bike in the spring and the registration fee was taken care of for the MS150.

I was a rider for three years before I found out that Wisconsin was having their inaugural fifty mile Challenge Walk in October of 2008. I  made the walk my new physical challenge and decided to head up our volunteer team for the Bike MS event. I don’t think that anyone ever truly realizes how far fifty miles is until they walk it. It was one of the most difficult and rewarding challenges I’ve ever faced and I’ve gone back to do it every autumn. This September will be my sixth year.

There is nothing in this world that will bring my Mom back. However, she continues to fuel me. She was a tough cookie. Faithful and stubborn. She was always looking for the next big thing that was going to cure her of the disease, some of which my Dad had to talk her out of because he knew they were gimmicks. With the memory of her battle, I have been given the opportunity to meet and become friends with some of the most amazing people a girl could ever find. Others with MS and those that support them, walk for them, ride for them, run for them, and fight for them. The same disease that surrounded my childhood in such a negative way has helped me through my adulthood in a very positive way. It has cut me open, torn out my heart only to help me heal all over again. I have watched so many people struggle with this disease. I have seen the heartache it causes and the triumph on the faces of those that have just concurred their greatest fear. Whether that be to get on a bike, climb a hill, or simply stand up out of their wheelchair. I have seen the look on a persons face when their legs begin to give out and the stubbornness that gives them the strength to continue or to listen to their body as they decide to sit down. I have allowed tears to stream down my cheeks at candlelight vigils during the Challenge Walks, yelled at the sky, run arm in arm across finish lines, and felt the pain of walking in bad shoes for twenty plus miles. I realize that not everything in life has to be a cause. I also know that some of us have it better than others. I have an outstanding family, terrific kids, a loving husband, and fabulous friends. I believe in spreading the wealth. My wealth happens to be love, a lot of sweat, a loud voice to cheer people on, and two legs that still work. I have been told time and time again how my Mother would be so proud. The truth is I don’t see it that way, for I am the one who is proud to be her daughter.

The Wonder Years

Summer Vacation is going to start at the end of this week.  It’s that time of year that an adult longs to be young again. It’s the moment when we look at those kids and think, “Man, they have it made. No worries. No alarm clocks.”. It’s the memory of being a child. So many people forget that they were once young and carefree. They allow themselves to get so wrapped up in the seriousness of having to make money and keep a roof over their heads that they forget to take a step back every once in awhile to simply enjoy life.  I have done this myself from time to time. I don’t necessarily forget, for remembering is how I’ve been able to have such a close relationship with my teen son. I’m blunt and direct and always honest about the stupid things I did as a teen. But Summer Vacation has a different feel to it when you’re under the age of twelve. It’s the last time in a humans life where the fear of being oneself doesn’t exist yet, because running around and playing is all that matters.

I remember that last week of school as a child, with its excitement. It meant no more homework and staying up late, swimming all day, living in my swim suit, riding my bike to Burlingame Dairy Dip, playing kickball at the school, and having to trim off at least two inches of my blonde hair in August, because the chlorine in the pool had turned it green.  I would wake up between eight and nine in the morning, eat a bowl of cereal, put on a swimsuit with shorts over it, and be out the door by no later than ten. I would be outside with my friend Brian until lunchtime, which we usually ate outside and didn’t stop playing until dinner time. My Mom never had to tell us to go outside. The TV wasn’t usually turned on until the sun started going down and we had come in because the streetlights were on.

My Mom would always make us kids wash our feet before going to bed. We didn’t have to take a bath or shower every day, but those feet had to be clean. She didn’t want dirty toes on our sheets I guess. My sister and I shared a bedroom and I slept on the top bunk of our bunk bed. It was perfectly lined up with the windows that overlooked our street. I would press my nose to the screen and glance down the street to see if anyone else was still out and about. I also loved the sound of the crickets and cicadas and the buzzing of the electrical lines on humid nights. Sleep came easily due to the daily activity. We hadn’t been introduced to the concept of insomnia. The next day would bring brand new adventures.

I drank my weight in Kool-aide and the only way to have iced tea was to let the sun do the brewing. You could only get Blue Moon ice cream from the Dairy Dip and my Dad’s homemade root beer floats were the best thing ever created. If we wanted to blow bubbles, Mom mixed up a bucket with Joy dish soap and sidewalk chalk was in the form of a rock that was found in someones yard. On Friday and Saturday nights, popcorn was made in a pot on the stove and thrown into a paper grocery sack, applied liberally with butter and salt then placed in the center of the living room with Tupperware bowls and a stack of paper towels. Then on really hot nights, Mom and Dad would let us take a night swim to cool off just before going to bed. On rainy days, Mom would drag out a blanket and we would have a carpet picnic in the living room and if there was no lightning, she would often find us along with the rest of the neighborhood kids splashing in the water at the end of the driveway.

These are the memories of my childhood. They outweigh the bad ones. I think I become locked in these from time to time because they were so happy. I didn’t know how tired my Dad was from working long days and I didn’t know about my Mother’s worries. These are the same kind of memories that I want my own children to have. One of my favorite quotes is the last line of the show called The Wonder Years. It says everything that I want to convey to my kids, for Summer Vacation will create memories that you will visit time and time again as you grow older. “Growing up happens in a heartbeat. One day you’re in diapers, the next day you’re gone. But the memories of childhood stay with you for the long haul. I remember a place, a town, a house like a lot of other houses, a yard like a lot of other yards, on a street like a lot of other streets. And the thing is, after all these years, I still look back, with wonder.”

 

My Blueberry Girl

My daughter is going to be eleven at the end of the month. She’s going through the phase that every child goes through. The excitement of growing up, yet still have the desire to hold onto childhood.  She has experienced shopping for her first bra, has been introduced to deodorant and the need to put on extra for game days, and the benefit of daily showers. She has developed her first crush and the bitter reality of “mean girls”.  She is discovering her own style, how to fix her hair, and the loveliness of going to bed with a clean face.  Through all of this, she is still just a little girl and although I’m blunt and honest with her about body changes, boys, and sex, I can not protect her from all the dangers and heartbreaks that come from simply being a girl. I believe my fear to be no different than any other parent. With the amazing gain in technology, we have also left plenty of room for negativity. The increase of bullying and teen suicide is something that greatly worries me. It’s difficult enough to go through the awkward years of braces, gangly limbs, and increased appetite as your body tries to accommodate the speed in which it’s growing, without having to deal with the worry of who is saying what on social media.  Teens now grow up in a world where a whispered secret in a so called friends ear can spread through text messaging or Youtube before the bell rings for the next class.  Kids can be cruel and often don’t think of the long term consequences of their actions.

 

There is a poem written by Neil Gaiman that was turned into a beautiful picture book illustrated by Charles Vess. The poem was written for Tori Amos and her daughter Tash while Tash was still sleeping sweetly in the womb. It tells the short tale of The Blueberry Girl with Gaiman’s prayer for her to stay waking and wise and let her have brave days and truth. Her joys must be high as her sorrows are deep. He pleads to help her to stand and to lose and to find. He ends it with this. “Truth is a thing she must find for herself, precious, and rare as a pearl; Give her all these, and a little bit more, Gifts for a Blueberry Girl.” His words are so perfect a lesson for parents.

 

Girls have so much of the world on their shoulders. We are in a constant state of contradiction. Be strong, but not stronger than a man. Suck up those tears for they’re a sign of weakness. If we’re too masculine, we must be a lesbian and if we’re too feminine, we’re considered old fashioned and bashed by the feminists. We have to work harder to make the same money as men do and as Ginger Rogers would say, we do it backwards in heels. We have so much more to prove in this world of ours. I feel like I’m preparing my girl for battle. Where is her invincible suit of armor? Can she be taught how to use a bow and arrow like the elves in Lord of the Rings, a sword like Joan of Arc, and could she please have Wonder Woman’s golden lasso?  Believe me, if this is what it takes, I’ll do it.  Despite the humor and bluntness I use when speaking with her, I am still fearful. I am fearful for her tender heart and her beautiful sensitivity to others. People take advantage of souls like her. Maybe I’m selling her short. She is sassy and can usually hold her own, but it’s when she lets down the blinds that shield her emotions that I come undone and I can only hope that I will continue to give her the tools to be able to stand on her own.