It’s such a pain finding a new dentist, isn’t it? But I really liked this one. My brother-in-law recommended him and I was pleasantly surprised by the office’s organization, professionalism and friendliness.
“Thanks for letting me have friends over. I always feel happy after spending time with them,” Hannah said as we drove away from her friends’ house. We had just wrapped up a sleepover with Hannah’s silly twin sister friends, Trista and Jenna*.
“I’m glad you had fun,” I said.
“Kids at school are always trying to act older than they are. They’re afraid of not looking cool,” she told me. “But with Trista and Jenna, we don’t care if we look silly, we just have fun and act our age without worrying what we look like. I just want to be a kid while I’m a kid.”
Impressive observations for a 13-year-old.
I told her that it was good that she realized that and was making a conscious decision to let herself be vulnerable. “Lots of people have fear of being judged so they spend a lot of time editing themselves. Brené Brown calls ‘cool’ an emotional straightjacket. You care less what people think as you get older, but some adults still wear the straightjacket.“
“Yeah,” she agreed. “It’s a bummer.”
And it is a bummer. Because cool is overrated. And pretending to be someone else is exhausting. Ain’t nobody got time for that.
*Not their real names
To all the moms who:
listen to the stories
dry the tears
bake the cakes
agonize over decisions
drive the carpools
pull together the costumes
lose the sleep
fix the boo boos
brave the unpopularity
guide the projects
throw the parties
pass on the wisdom
cheer the victories
empathize with the losses
sit through the shows
clean up the messes
nurse the sickness
muster infinite energy
steer the ship with unrelenting determination
And to all the mothers who have passed on, we thank you and love you for showing us how to do all of these things. ❤️
“I decided this is going to be the year of risk,” Hannah told me as she briefed me on her first day of school. “I’m not going to be afraid to talk to people or answer questions in class or try out for things,” she continued.
I smiled to myself. “You’re going to do like Brené says and dare greatly!” I cheered.
“Yeah!” she confirmed.
Man, I am so lucky I got a kid who is open to all the Growing Towards the Sun talk. A kid who really takes our conversations and runs with them. I often think about how I could have gotten a kid who kinda glazed over when I spoke about intention …or who complained about having to go to Oprah’s Best Life Weekend …or who just got sick of me talking about being vulnerable and daring greatly. But I didn’t! I got Hannah.
Over the next several days, she would tell me about what “risky” thing she did that day. One day it was reading a passage in class when the teacher asked and no one else would raise their hand. Another time it was starting a conversation with a girl in her science class she’d never spoken to before.
Then it was time to try out for the Fall musical. Ugh. Am I allowed to say I hate auditions? Because I’m saying it. I hate auditions. They’re such a roller coaster. Hannah told me (SHE felt) hers didn’t go well and lamented the fact that she never gets the parts she wants and will probably never get the part she wants. <Insert quick pep talk here>. Then she told me about a girl a grade below her who was at auditions and sitting alone.
“She seemed sad so I went over and asked her how her audition went,” Hannah explained. “She said she didn’t think she did very well. I told her a lot of 6th graders don’t even try out and that, when I was in 6th grade, I was too scared to. I said she should feel proud of herself for that. That really seemed to lift her spirits!”
Wow. Proud. “Hannah even if you never, ever get on that stage again, it is these things that make me the most proud of you,” I told her. The next day I put this Theodore Roosevelt quote in her lunch box. She got a kick out of it. And now she knows she’s in the arena.
You’ve been gone 5 years now. Sometimes it feels like 500 years. Sometimes it feels like 5 minutes. I still think about you all the time and am amazed that life is still happening without you. Because I used to wonder how it would.
I would love to know if you can see us where you are. Did you see we met Oprah? Can you see how grown up Hannah is? Were you cheering when I got my job? Do you laugh when I say things you used to say? I think so.
I still want to talk to you about things all the time.
I still want to come to your house to hide out and bury myself in quilts on your couch.
I still want to hear your voice telling me I’m doing the right thing and that I will figure it out.
I still want to call and ask what you’re doing …and if you want to go to Target.
I still want to see Hannah sitting next to you while you read her a book.
I still want to lie in bed with you while we laugh our heads off about a thing we think is hilarious.
I still want to go on walks with you and ponder why people don’t see things like we do.
I still want my very-best-always-in-my-corner-and-knew-what-I-was-talking-about-friend.
Hannah tells me from time to time, “Grandma was such a sweet grandma.” And you were a sweet mom, too. We were so lucky to have you. I hope you know that. I think you do.
Happy Birthday Mom!
Lalalala…let me mosey on over to my computer and see what’s new on the job sites today. Click click click. Scroll scroll scroll.
Graphic Designer wanted. Oh goody, I AM a graphic designer! Alrighty, let me just shoot my 57th resume out into the Job Seeking Black Hole….aaaaaand done.
Now I just wait for a reply. Again.
I sit and ponder why the hiring peeps are never in a hurry. I’m sure they all have their reasons, but those reasons are always a mystery to the applying peeps. It stands to reason that if you place an ad asking for applicants, you must be in need of employees. So what’s with all the foot dragging!
A few months ago I interviewed at a great company. The position seemed tailor made for me. The money was there, the work was stuff I was made to do, they chatted with me for an hour and forty five minutes. Clearly, I had this in one the bag.
Fast forward Slow motion ahead four weeks where the hiring peeps tell me they are too busy to hire at the moment and will get back to me when things slow down. They still have not filled the position.
A few weeks ago I interviewed for a position at a great company. The position seemed tailor made for me. The money was there, the work was stuff I was made to do, the lady complimented my dress. Clearly, I had this in one the bag.
Fast forward Slow motion ahead three weeks to a random Friday afternoon. The company decided it only wanted to pay half the original salary and that I wasn’t one of their top picks because I had too much experience. They still have not filled the position.
All the waiting! All the dashed hopes! All of the nonsense! I wanted to flip out. I went to my sister’s and had chicken pot pies and cherry vodka instead.
That’s it. I’m done wrestling with the hiring peeps.
“We are going to see the manatees!” I announced. So the next day, we did. I had always thought of going, but never had. It occurred to me to stop waiting on a job (hiring peeps) and just start doing things that would make me feel good. Right now.
That day, it was seeing the damn manatees. Now it’s focusing on 5K training with my sister. Holding my nephew. Cooking yummy recipes. Taking hot baths. Watching Friday Night Lights. Photography with Hannah.
Dory says “Just keep swimming, just keep swimming…” but I think she meant with the current and not against. Duh. I can try to control this situation as much as I want, but it’s like being caught in a rip tide. You struggle, you drown. You relax and let it carry you, you’ll eventually make it out just fine. I’m ready to surrender and go with the flow.
I’m obviously still job seeking, but also thinking about what else there is. Right now. What do Oprah & Co. say about things like this? “What is yours will not pass you by”
Well there you have it.
For as long as I can remember, my mom and I had always wanted to attend an Oprah show taping. So this summer when I saw tickets to her “Live Your Best Life Weekend” go on sale, I had to snag some. Sure they were expensive. Sure it was a 6 hour drive to Atlanta. Sure we’d miss work and school. But hey. It’s Oprah. I booked the adventure.
After we arrived and checked into our fancy Oprah weekend hotel, Hannah and I headed over to O-Town. O-Town was a little neighborhood of tents and booths filled with all things Oprah. Everything from her OWN network to O Magazine to activities promoting all of the Oprah teachings was showcased. We saw a very long line to register for a Wells Fargo VIP package to the show.
Hannah said, “Let’s register”. I replied, “It’s toooooo hot and the line is toooooo long and the chances of us winning are one in a million.” We declined to enter.
That night Oprah spoke of trials and tribulations she’s experienced in her life. It was so exciting to watch Hannah as Oprah spoke about intention, gratitude, surrender and the golden rule because I could see it all clicking with her. She was the only kid I saw in the entire stadium.
The next morning we dined on fancy Oprah weekend french toast room service and headed off for day two. In a stadium that seats 18,000 people, our seats weren’t the worst and they weren’t the best, but they were ours and we were excited. Suddenly a woman’s voice over the loud speaker.
“And the winner of the Wells Fargo VIP package is Jennifer ***** and guest!”
Huh? A light shined on us and people around us were shouting “Congratulations!” as one of Oprah’s producers whisked us away. We walked the long walk down to the floor and were stopped in front of two seats that said “RESERVED”. They were reserved for us! Necklaces with “VIP” on them were put around our necks. We kept looking at eachother in disbelief. It was like we had won the lottery.
When Oprah came out on stage, we could just about touch her. I could not believe that we had won this contest (we’d somehow entered unbeknownst to me) and were sitting in front of someone I had watched on my TV screen for over 20 years.
When we broke for lunch, the loud speaker lady came on again instructing those with VIP Saturday tags to stay put. Oprah’s producer appeared again and asked us how we were enjoying the seats. I took that opportunity to ask him what we were waiting on. He pointed us in the direction of a small group of people who were heading upstairs and told us to follow. By the time we caught up with them, the group of people were standing at the elevators waiting for the next one to arrive.
Everyone was quiet as I asked the lady next to us, “Where we were going?”
She replied, “To meet Oprah!”
“Get out!” I exclaimed not fully believing her.
The elevator transported us upstairs and behind a velvet curtain was a beautiful world of yummy buffet food, free drinks and beautiful centerpieces on white linen table cloths. After we ate and took many pictures of ourselves, it was time to get pictures with Oprah.
As our turn came up, one of the producers asked me if we were the mom and daughter who won the VIP package. I said yes as she relayed the info to Oprah. Hannah walked up to her first and said, “Thank you for inspiring me” to which Oprah replied, “Awwwww thank for inspiring me” and gave her a big hug. They let us each have a photo alone and then one with the three of us. I couldn’t even think of a single thing to say.
As we walked around the stadium, it was like we were famous. Everywhere we went people were congratulating us. On the way to the car, a lady yelled across the parking lot, “Are you the mom and daughter who won the VIP tickets?” Yep, that’s us. And life is amazing.
So Hannah has this “friend”, Sonya*. I knew the Sonya was bad news from the very beginning of this dreaded friendship. I’m 40. I’m an expert troublemaker spotter by now. But it took Hannah time—and many discussions about how this girl was definitely not growing toward the sun—for her to figure this out.
It was confirmed when Sonya educated Hannah waaaaaay too much about the birds and the bees (covered in one of my previous posts). Finally I told Hannah she’s not to hang around with Sonya anymore. She was fine with it.
Fast forward several months and one grade. Sonya has changed, Hannah informed me. “Can I pleeeeease be friends with her again? Really, she apologized and she has really, really changed. For real.” Ohhh, well shoot, if it’s FOR REAL then suuuuuure.
Truth is, Hannah’s school is very small and Sonya will be around most likely through high school graduation. Lucky us. So I told Hannah she was old enough to make her own decisions about the types of friends she wants to have and so it was up to her. I set aside my feelings…my KNOWING….that Sonya was Sonya and she gots issues that would reveal themselves once more. Hannah would have to learn again.
Sonya was on good behavior for a few weeks. Then Hannah started not wanting to go to school. I finally got it out of her that Sonya was up to her old tricks which included, but are not limited to, manipulation, undermining and planting seeds of self doubt and inferiority. Hannah could see it much quicker this time. I listened as she told me story after story about Sonya’s latest betrayals.
It was hard for me to convince Hannah that Sonya acted out of fear and insecurity until I stated a quote I heard on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday:
“People act on the outside how they feel on the inside.”
Hannah gasped. “Wowww, that is really good.” I watched as it sunk in. I threw in “When someone shows you who they are, believe them!” to close out the lesson.
We agreed that we would not give Sonya any more power over her. Like Glinda the good witch told the Wicked With of the West, ““Oh, rubbish! You have no power here. Be gone, before somebody drops a house on you, too.”
*not her real name
“Look. I have to wear these tomorrow,” Hannah told me as she stood there at 7am clutching a dirty, crumpled up uniform. She was going to her dad’s that night, but her grandad had plans with her after school. They would not show up at her dad’s until at least 10pm. I knew immediately that I’d have to ask her stepmom to wash it or, at the very least, throw it in the dryer.
“Why in the world did you not put those in the wash for me this weekend? And why did you not get this stuff ready last night?!” I demanded. “It’s not my fault!” she answered, flouncing away. I read straight from the mom script and called after her, “Well if it’s not your fault, whose is it?”
We had to leave for school that minute. We both grumbled to the car. As we drove, we continued pointing the finger back and forth. I got more worked up, she got more worked up.
Then we were quiet.
I started to ask myself what I was afraid of. Some kind of fear had to be fueling this anger. And Hannah and I had discussed before how every negative emotion comes from fear. So I decided to try something.
I said to her, “Ok so what are we afraid of?” Why are we so upset?” Hannah answered, “I’m upset because you’re getting mad at me.” Mmmmk. Not what I was looking for.
“Well, I think I am afraid of being judged by <stepmom>. I am afraid of being seen as the mom who doesn’t do her job,” I offered. Even though her stepmom has never given me a reason to think she feels that way, it was my insecurity creeping in and making me terrified of judgment. And I felt like Hannah put me in that situation. A situation where I would not look perfect. So I blamed her.
Hannah was quiet for several minutes and then she said, “I guess I was afraid of a lot of things. Not getting my homework done tonight. You getting upset with me…” I said, “Do you think you were afraid of being blamed?” She nodded her head. I told her it was ok. We were just both afraid. But the uniform was not a big deal.
So by the time we pulled up to the school, both of us were calm. There was no exiting the car in tears and slamming the door while I berated myself for being so critical.
We smiled. I kissed her goodbye. That was awesome.
I hate being the mom that complains. I really do try to wait and see if the situation will work itself out before I intervene. This situation was not working itself out. I was growing tired of the whole “I don’t want to go to school!” spiel each Sunday night.
Hannah has 3 fifth grade teachers—but only cried every other day about one of them. Mrs. X has a tough outer shell and a soft center that no one had really ever verified existed. She’s the type who will make a federal case out of any mistake students make and humiliate them sometimes to tears.
Hannah already has a big fear of messing up and it was exacerbated by this teacher who couldn’t let anything go. Each day I heard about conversations and incidents between Mrs. X and students (sometimes Hannah). Mrs. X seemed to have an attitude that let you know your lack of common sense grossly inconvenienced her. I had witnessed this in the couple of times I dealt with her.
It also really bothered me that Mrs. X referred to students as “special” when she felt they were being especially dim. I asked Hannah, “What does she mean ‘special’?” and Hannah said, “You know, mentally challenged.” Is it just me or does that seem inappropriate and offensive? I know kids are annoying, that’s why I don’t teach. But if you do teach, I feel like you have to be able to deal with kids being kids.
Aaaaaanyway, last year, parents of a friend of Hannah’s moved their daughter out of Mrs. X’s class because she had upset her so much. I seriously contemplated doing the same thing. But then I thought, what about the other students? Removing Hannah took care of my kid, but what about the others? What did it teach Hannah about dealing with difficult people and circumstances?
I felt pretty confident Mrs. X would not be receptive to my concerns, so I contacted the principal. The next day Mrs. X called Hannah into her room for a talk. She apologized for being scary and making Hannah not want to come to school. I forget the rest of the conversation, but I do recall that Hannah felt her apology was genuine and she felt a million times better about dealing with Mrs. X.
It’s been 2 weeks since the talk and Hannah says Mrs. X is still a changed woman. Hannah says she feels like now she can “talk to her like a normal person”. I realized that there was a pretty big chance that Mrs. X didn’t realize how she was coming across or understand how it affected students. I appreciate that she has worked to create a different environment.
She might not be too crazy about me now, but at least I don’t have to see that stressed out look on my kid’s face everyday.