Cats and Cigarettes

My daughter, Pencil Princess, drew these. I love them.

She does not like them (hates them), but said I could post them on my blog.

She did these in art class. The little girl is watching big sister smoke. Then in the next panel, as an older kid, she’s now smoking. Their faces are scratched out, but I love that. So, the little girl is wearing a cat dress and then she’s wearing a cat shirt to show progression of time. I love the exaggerated clouds of smoke and how the smoke lines up almost perfectly from panel to panel.

I forget, did you do that on purpose, PenPrin? Nice job. Love it.

Check out her creations on her blog. She’s really developing her illustration skills.

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HMD

Last year, I took my mom to her hometown on the Saturday before Mother’s Day. That was probably the best day I’ve ever spent with her. (<<—Click the link to read more!) It was a relaxed sunny day. On the cool side. Not in a hurry. Able to talk and drive and eat and remember.

I took pictures. I listened to my mom’s stories. I asked questions.

I wish these country roads could take me home today. I wish I could fly home and see my mom, even for just a day. I miss you, Mom. I love you, Mom. Thank you for all the love that got me to here. Happy Mother’s Day.

 

Braggart

I just have to praise my daughter for one moment. She deserves some praise.

Lilli started her freshman year in a new school last fall. She was ambitious and hopeful. She took AP World History because her previous history teachers were awesome and she’s always taken advanced placement classes when possible. She got to pick her schedule for the first time without input from us. (Truly! We did not encourage her to take this, it was news to us!) She had no idea how tough it would be.

AP World History is a class usually reserved for sophomores and juniors. It’s a college-level course offering college credit with weighted grade points. She didn’t really understand how grueling it would become or that it was for college credit. She just assumed this is the class she should take. The other history course offered to freshman was just regular old History.

She quickly realized the amount of note-taking and homework was unusual. A Bible-sized amount of vocab note cards later, she was drowning in stress and anxiety. This wasn’t even like any college course I’d taken. No notes dictated by the professor. Just endless excavation of words from reading. This was difficult for a 14 yo who should actually still be in 8th grade (she skipped 4th grade). Hell, it would be difficult for anyone of any age.

But she just found out–she got a 95 (A) on her final exam for the class! Honestly, I was overjoyed, but not surprised. I knew she could do it. Of anyone I know, Lilli could do it.

Lilli is smart. So are many kids these days. But what Lilli has above most, even her parents, is an undying work ethic. I’m so proud of that. So thankful for her constant devotion, integrity and bottomless strength. She inspires me.

She’s had her low moments in this class. Feeling overwhelmed. Feeling inadequate. Feeling like she’s in over her head. But she always rallied. With encouragement from us, she didn’t linger long in her feelings of vulnerability and weakness.

After the first week, she was ready to transfer. Through tears and shaky voice cracks, she was serious about moving to a less-challenging class. I asked her to try. Try until the end of first semester. “And if you still want to transfer, let’s do it,” I told her.

She tried. She finished. She succeeded. And she stayed the whole year.

We’ve helped, but she’s done most of it on her own. Just being willing to try was her biggest accomplishment. Pushing past difficulty and pain. Tackling this class has been the hardest, most challenging job she’s had so far. And she aced it.

Big lessons other than history learned here. Way to go, Pencil Princess. I am so happy that you’re my girl. So happy you kept going. You’re getting a huge reward from us! AND you don’t have to take World History ever again! LOL You’re a genius!!


You can change the world. You just have to change your mind first.

Sister

I wish I had a sister.
I have two of my own.
But they were always busy.
I was growing up alone.

I wish I had a sister
Who took the time to teach
How to love myself,
How to aim beyond my reach.

Or even how to brush my hair,
Set makeup on my cheek.
I wish I had a sister
Not a rival, so to speak.

I wish I had a sister.
One that loved being my friend.
I wish I had a sister.
Someone to count on ’til the end.

Someone to value me.
Someone to hold me close.
Someone to pull me up and in.
Someone who let their feelings show.

A woman to show the way.
A friend to hold my hand.
A person who deeply cared.
Someone to understand.

I never had a sister
Until I finally went through birth.
My daughter is all I could ever want,
Best sister on this earth.

December 11th, 1992

The day I lost my dad. 25 years ago, yesterday.


I am kneeling beside my father. He’s dead.

I look at him for a long time. I’ve never seen a dead body before.

I want to memorize his face and hands before he is in the ground.

His mouth is open. His eyes are fixed and wide. He is frozen with a look of surprise. I reach out to touch the back of his neck. My fingers barely land when I feel the prickle of shorn hair and cold, firm flesh.

I immediately withdraw my hand.

I am devastated that he’s gone. I never thought I would feel bad on this day.

My face is numb and tight from the departed tears that I didn’t bother to stop, catch or dry.

His hair is stiff and sharp. It’s cut so close and damaged from the radiation. It’s seems almost burnt.

His nose is pronounced and pointed. When he was healthy, it was round and red, but he’s lost so much weight. It’s chiseled bare.

His cheeks are waxy, melting mounds. Smooth and brown.

His hands are large; dangerous. They are still, yet frightening. The monster strength is gone, but they summon the fear of what was possible, what was done.

He is a mechanic. But he has the cleanest, longest nails I’ve ever seen on a man. The palms are soft and tender, amazingly so.

My hands are close to his. The backs of my hands are rough, pale and dry. White with flakes. My nails are short and torn. Red and sore like my eyes.

I can sense that whatever lights the eye and warms the blood is gone from him. There is no recognition, not even a grimace.

His spirit has sighed away and what is left is just a heap of tumors, bones and bile. He will never talk, kiss, threaten, smoke, curse, drink, hit, hate, love, work, sacrifice, shame or wrestle on this earth again. He can’t hurt any more, but he also can’t fix a thing.

I have lost him. I. Am. Lost.


I love you. I forgive you. I miss you. Still.

Little Girl

I have a little girl
Who lets me braid her hair
14 (not so little)
But still needs special care

I’m here to show her
How to be Wife and Mom
Or a single, strong-willed Woman
Who can diffuse any bomb

I still have the privilege
Of being asked for my advice
But she makes her own decisions
And can calculate the price

Above all that is important
Teaching reason along with choice
Will allow your child
To strengthen their own voice

If you simply teach a child
To obey without question
You won’t teach them how
To exercise discretion

Most of all
Give them information!
If they don’t have all the numbers
They can’t solve any equation

It might be embarrassing
To talk to them about sex
But would you rather some other person
Tackle something so complex

If you allow children to make mistakes
They learn the art of restoration
Nothing else can give them
Such a firmly-formed foundation

You have to be an example
Be honest about your struggles
They’ll learn when they witness
You conquering your own troubles

We’re not perfect
And neither are they
We should embrace that more
In the message we convey

There might come a day
When she won’t need me any more
But isn’t that the point
Of what Parents are put here for?

To raise a human
To be fully independent
Choosing to, not needing to,
Love you without resentment

 

 

December 11th, 1992

The day I lost my dad.


I am kneeling beside my father. He’s dead.

I look at him for a long time. I’ve never seen a dead body before.

I want to memorize his face and hands before he is in the ground.

His mouth is open. His eyes are fixed and wide. He is frozen with a look of surprise. I reach out to touch the back of his neck. My fingers barely land when I feel the prickle of shorn hair and cold, firm flesh.

I immediately withdraw my hand.

I am devastated that he’s gone. I never thought I would feel bad on this day.

My face is numb and tight from the departed tears that I didn’t bother to stop, catch or dry.

His hair is stiff and sharp. It’s cut so close and damaged from the radiation. It’s seems almost burnt.

His nose is pronounced and pointed. When he was healthy, it was round and red, but he’s lost so much weight. It’s chiseled bare.

His cheeks are waxy melting mounds. Smooth and brown.

His hands are large; dangerous. They are still, yet frightening. The monster strength is gone, but they summon the fear of what was possible, what was done.

He is a mechanic. But he has the cleanest, longest nails I’ve ever seen on a man. The palms are soft and tender, amazingly so.

My hands are close to his. The backs of my hands are rough, pale and dry. White with flakes. My nails are short and torn. Red and sore like my eyes.

I can sense that whatever lights the eye and warms the blood is gone from him. There is no recognition, not even a grimace.

His spirit has sighed away and what is left is just a heap of tumors, bones and bile. He will never talk, kiss, threaten, smoke, curse, drink, hit, hate, love, work, sacrifice, shame or wrestle on this earth again. He can’t hurt any more, but he also can’t fix a thing.

I have lost him. I. Am. Lost.

My Daughter is…

My daughter is taking a college-level history course. It is a course designed for students to take while still in high school, before college, and they receive college credit. It is tough. Even for this ol’ bird.

Her dad and I are helping her through this very difficult class. I have to admit, even as a two-year college graduate, this mofo is HARD! And my daughter is just a freshman. Most of her peers in class are sophomores. In HIGH SCHOOL! (FYI: She’s supposed to be an 8th grader this year as well. Ack!)

I just want to say, I did not encourage her to take it. She picked it. We were all unaware of how challenging this class would be.

She thought about dropping the first week. But we encouraged her to keep going. I told her if it got worse, I would request a transfer.

“Please, though, just try to stick it out for a semester. Don’t give up just yet. You’re capable of doing the work, but how willing are you to try?”

Gosh. How many times do I need to ask myself that question? A lot. And I’m 44.

This is her hardest class. Truth of the matter, Lilli has never been challenged like this. School comes easy.

My daughter is a genius. I say that with a lump in my throat for many reasons. It’s hard to say out loud because people either think you’re bragging or lying. But she is, in fact, a genius. And I’m so thankful and proud. And so undeserving of such a gracious, talented, intelligent young lady.


This is definitely not a brag and I’ll tell you why. I am not a genius. Her father is not a genius. We are just as surprised as anyone! This has very little to do with us. This is not a reflection of our achievement. I deserve and take no credit for her accomplishments. I’m just so thankful.

We are reasonably intelligent people in some areas, but we have very little to do IMO with whether or not her brain has the capacity to house such complex thinking. Genetics may play some factor. Environment, okay. Good parenting (most of the time), good teachers (all of the time!), good school districts (thank God). But I truly believe that God has blessed her with this magnificent brain. It’s beyond what I’ve seen in most other human beings. Maturity is one big asset she has. Caring is another.

I’m just freaking lucky to be here on the sidelines. Cheering her on.


She was identified in Kindergarten as gifted after only one month of school. Her teachers in preschool had their suspicions, but after attending a pre-K summer program at public school, administrators told us the teacher would identify her. So we waited. Said no more about it. And her teacher was blown away.

She was tested and accepted for the SAGE program. Unusual to be identified and recommended in Kindergarten, administrators said. She attended the 1-day a week gifted program through her school.

Then, in 3rd grade, her gifted teacher recommended excelling. It was an exhilarating surprise. We learned early on in this school district, let the teachers recommend what’s best for your child. And they did. By the end of 3rd-grade year, we were approved to move forward. (They have to meet the requirements of Missouri state to excel.) We all wanted Lilli to skip, but it was ultimately up to her. She took the challenge knowing she’d have our support.

We spent that summer between 3rd and 5th preparing to supplement her 4th grade loss (recommended by her teachers, lots of recommendations! lol). It was an exciting summer filled with Mark Twain, Missouri history, short and long division! I’ll never forget spending warm afternoons on the bed reading Tom Sawyer with her. I was lucky enough to be her teacher for just a short while.

So, we skip 4th grade altogether and landed in 5th. She had so much fun; met a new best friend, met a very special boy, and enjoyed her final year of elementary school–one year early. She joined National Elementary Honor Society. She came in second in the spelling bee against children a year older than her. 5th grade was a challenge, but something she willingly embraced and handled with grace. Pretty smooth sailing.

But this? This history class. Sigh. This is the first time Lilli has had her feet held over the fire. She was/is struggling. But this morning?

She had a very difficult assignment this Labor Day weekend. She had 4 pages of notes to take, 5 pages of notes to rewrite by hand because the teacher won’t accept typed notes (Lil prefers typing to forcible penmanship lol), ~10-question quiz from the book, and ~30 vocabulary flashcards to make. And this is just for history. And the questions from the book would make any college freshman quiver in their penny loafers, let alone a high school freshman, OK? I even struggled with the questions.

She was struggling to finish her homework yesterday. The kid was not slacking. Granted she could have worked over several days to make sure she was finished, but what kid does that? For that matter, what adult does that?? LOL She worked from after lunch until sundown. We took a short break for outdoor beach time (best homework break ever, for anyone!), but that did her a world of good.

By bedtime, she was exhausted (and happy) and we agreed, best to hit the hay and wake up early to finish. It was a risk, but we helped her square away the meat of her answers before creeping to the sheets. In the morning, she would be able to flesh those answers out. And boy did she!

The answers she gave blew me away. I was gobsmacked at her very fleshy answers. If I were her teacher, my mouth would be agape. I never gave an answer that good in any of my classes, high school or college.

I knew she was capable of doing the work. And she did it. We have encouraged her like never before. We have held her up, held those feet over the fire (even when it hurt) and expressed our frustration and disappointment in her lack of motivation (even when it hurt all of us). But she has triumphed in this. In this little (huge) weekend assignment, she has dazzled me, Dad and hopefully her teacher.

Way to go, Lil. So proud. Your answers were thoughtful, intelligent, amazing. You will go far in whatever you choose.

I like you. Even if you weren’t my daughter, I would want to know you. It’s just less creepy this way, getting to be your mom, when I want to give you a hug! LOL Thanks for trying! That’s your success, not giving up even when you wanted to.

My daughter is…truly awesome.
Gifted writer (already). Beautiful dreamer. Great, big, sensitive heart-listener. Risk taker. Feelings feeler. Brave, courageous, gorgeous.


It is a blessing to like and respect your children.
It is more likely that you will like and respect your children
when you like and respect your children. 😉
Right??

Tough Love

I hate being the Mom. Being the Mom sucks sometimes.

I love being the Friend. The Goof. The Lollipop Fairy. The Boo-boo Kisser. The Cheerleader. The Philosophy Teacher. But I hate being the Mom.

The Mom–defined as the Law Giver. The Layer Down of the Law. The Disciplinarian. The New Sheriff In Town. The Obliterator of Fun. The Queen of Rules.

When my child comes to me and has a problem, my first inclination is to care for her emotions. Natch. But when the behavior continues without benefit from a pep talk or correction, I have to buckle up and hunker down.

My child is an easy one. She’s open to correction, soft-hearted, fair-minded, vulnerable, caring and intentional. Except when she’s not.

And when she’s not? I’m at a loss.

Lately, she’s been resisting change and challenge. This is a normal sign of teenage growing pains. Right? The urge to resemble a couch. I should know, I was a teenager and very much resembled our living room sofa.

She’s almost 14 and showing all the signs of impending, hard-core teen-tric lethargy. It’s concerning. I’m worried about her slipping off into depression if we don’t combat her lack of motivation.

That was my problem. That is a problem of teens, IMO. My freshman year was my most vulnerable. I tried to commit suicide my freshman year because I felt so isolated. Living by rules, wanting independence. On the cusp of adulthood, but still a child. Wanting total acceptance from EVERYONE, including your parents, NO MATTER WHAT!

These unrealistic desires could make any person frustrated, confused and DEPRESSED! Not to mention dealing with complex societal and peer group issues with a not-fully-matured frontal lobe. Suffering from inexperience, lack of impulse and emotional control, and hormonal imbalance.

With my mental illness history, I feel justified in being, at the very least, concerned. And she herself said, without prompt from me, “I’m unmotivated.” That’s awesome self-reflection and honesty. Great sign for us as we tackle her dissatisfaction.

Honestly, she has no reason to be dissatisfied. She has a nice, cozy home. Food to eat. Clothes (nice clothes) on her back and a good school. She has all the conveniences of modern society. I take her to school and pick her up. I am here for her in the morning and when she gets home. She is emotionally supported. And by Dad as well. But dissatisfaction is lying just under the covers of her more-than-adequate, queen-sized, Princess-and-the-Pea mattress.

Why?

It also doesn’t seem to matter that I remind her of her blessings. Put her life into perspective, in sharp contrast to those who have very little and have no opportunity to receive an education or are shot trying to get one. That has no lasting effect. I realize in my attempt to give her the finer things, I have denied her appreciation and gratitude.

We as a society are suffering from the same plight. Teenage apathy. Things are so nice that we forget how lucky we are. We are so dissatisfied after achieving some degree of success that we have to buy a therapist to figure out why. I’ve realized this, but my daughter hasn’t achieved any level of enlightenment in regard to privilege. And even so, do we act any differently? Or do we still chase those materialistic dreams of apparent success?

In my own life, I have accepted the ups and downs of luxury and deprivation. Some days you will suffer and at other times you will have plenty. Days with money aren’t stress free. You have to manage that money. No one has a money tree in their backyard. Any amount of money requires management. It helps when there’s enough to manage. I will say that’s less stressful. But having enough is only slightly less nerve-racking.

I try to be thankful for whatever situation I find myself in and remind myself, no matter what, you’re still breathing. It helps when you’ve been near death to frame life in this way. But I don’t want my daughter to experience what I have to know her place and value and blessing. I want to spare her that. But am I denying her an education in the lesson of life if I try to shield her from any pain or suffering? I’m not sure.

Last night, I showed her frustration on my part. I tried to be soft and kind, but I also let her know how frustrated I was. We try to be honest about our feelings. I let her know, “I’m trying here.” This was in response to her growing dissatisfaction with home, school, life in general. I could tell she was checking out. I could tell she was uncomfortable and uneasy. And she was. We are pretty in tune. Our whole family tends to wear our hearts..well, all over the outside, not just on the sleeve! LOL

I let her know, I’m trying to encourage. Prepare. Provide help-physical and mental. Shop for school supplies. Walk her into the office to learn about lockers. Pick up and drop off. Attend back-to-school nights. Be here physically while she’s adjusting. Help with homework. Communicate. Ask questions. Love. Listen. Linger. Snuggle up at night and let our hair down. Let go of the reins, at times. But doing all the right things doesn’t always leave her happy, well-adjusted or satisfied. That’s tough.

My happy, joyful, outgoing daughter has turned into the occasional emotional lump of tears. That makes me anxious, nervous, concerned. Frustrated.

I don’t want to guilt her. But I’m beginning to understand the power of wielding this device judiciously. Ugh. I hate that. But. A little frustration and letting her know how exasperated I might be? May be the only medicine. And it’s a jagged pill for her to swallow. But it’s also a tough pill to administer. You know the old saying, “This hurts me more than it hurts you.” Now I understand. Except my parents said that about spanking, not tough emotional love. LOL

Sometimes you wanna scoop your kids up. But sometimes scooping doesn’t work. Sometimes you have to be tough and show them, you got it pretty good, Kid. Appreciate it.

*Old man voice* “Back in my day, we rode a cow to school! And we liked it! Thankful to have a cow! And a school! And a butt made for cow-riding!”


NOTE: I did not ride a cow to school. But my mom did. LOL 🙂


What I really want for her is to know God deeply. To rely on him. What I really want is to see her help and work hard and get dirty in the business of God service. I’m hoping after graduation, she and I could find an outreach to really help people. Maybe even overseas. But that scares me. Mission work. Would I be endangering her life with illness or violence?

The Bible says:
Romans 14:8
“for if we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.”

I have to trust that God will protect us if we are about his business. He has plans to prosper, not hurt. But she has to decide what’s right for her. I trust her in that. That is a good feeling! And I know, I never want to be separate from her. That much I know.

And I want her to decide what’s best. Not become what Mom wants, not just do what Mom says. I just want to be a good mom and support her in whatever she does, wherever she goes, whatever decisions she makes. She may want to be a full-blown NYC artist or LA Nintendo character designer or international aid worker. Or Floridian housewife. 🙂 Whatever she does, she will change the world, offer kindness and show God through her spirit. That much I know.

I’m waiting patiently for her to make a decision about where she wants to go after school. It’s still 4 years away. Who knows where life will take us. Who knows what she will want in 4 years or what opportunities she will have. We have to be stable for the next 4 years to get to where God will have us. I think she deserves a 4-year period of stability to get through high school. To prepare her. To ride out this rough patch of frontal lobe and heart development! LOL

I’m ready for anything though. So is she. She has such a willing heart at times. She’s up for adventure, as I am, when we have each other to be brave. She’s my best friend. It took courage to get to Florida. Who knows what God wants for your life until you’re knee-deep in it, right?

After our come-to-Jesus moment last night, she had a pretty good morning. Praying that she has a great day. I pray that every day. But this morning I cringed at the thought of tough love after I dropped her off. But sometimes, it’s required.