Friday, March 30, 2012

The Doors: Then and Now


This one's for Chris. He was that guy in high school that was consumed by music. He was the DJ for all the school dances and knew about concerts and new albums slated to debut before anyone else. More than that, though, he has a superhuman ability to listen to music with a critical ear and pull out the nuances of songs and melodies that the rest of us find "nice" or "pleasurable" or "awesome" and name them, describe them, flesh them out and give them life. Yup, Chris' superpower is music. I love reading his blog because even if I don't know many of the bands or songs he writes about, he gives them life in a way that nobody else can. And generally inspires me to stretch myself and my music habits. So, Chris, this one's for you.

“Show me the way to the next Whiskey Bar,” Jim Morrison croons in that playful, choppy, dancing cadence and I close my eyes and imagine his unruly head of curls bouncing as he prances across the stage. While I own this song, I haven’t chosen to play it in a long time; maybe 20 years, if I’m forced to calculate.
I love The Doors. There is something about their music that sets me down squarely in a beat-up cabin in Central Oregon, watching the melting snow drip from the eaves as I shiver beneath layers of musty old quilts, thick with the smell of cigarettes and marijuana and sweat. It was during one such weekend that I read the biography of Jim Morrison and was alternately enthralled and disgusted by his life of excesses and childishness, his absolute genius with lyrics and poetry and magnetic, mesmerizing charm.
During the week I was a college student, dutifully plugging away in biology and chemistry classes on a Presidential Scholarship, fulfilling my parents’ edict that I get a degree and Become A Success. By 3:00 on Friday afternoons, I was often headed out to the mountains with my high school boyfriend and a carload of his skateboarding rogues, not to return to my other universe until Sunday night. I stepped out of the predictable and planted my right foot smack in the middle of a soggy, muddy place driven by the most basic desires. Sleep when you want. Eat what you want. Say what you want.
I knew I couldn’t exist in both places for long and reading Jim’s biography was the beginning of the end for me. I simply couldn’t envision a life run by carnal needs. Perhaps because this life was perpetually dark, or at least dim. The lighting in the cabin was poor thanks to the monumental trees that surrounded it and the beating the place had taken over the years. Sleeping late meant we were up late, squinting at each other, the light from the fireplace and the cherries of our cigarettes the only illumination. The mood of the music, The Ramones, The Doors, Sid Vicious, was always dark and angry or melancholy and depressing - even when it pretended to be a rallying cry to action.
I gradually moved away, spending more weekends on campus. Pleading exams or papers due, I was able to extend my days bathed in the fluorescent lights of the dorms or the sun in the quad. My boyfriend and his cohorts mocked me and their words felt a lot like the way I envisioned the inside of that Whiskey Bar.
Today, as I sit in a dimly-lit coffee shop and hear that spark of brilliance coming from the speakers that is Jim Morrison, I am able to stop a moment and remember what it felt like to lie under the quilt and listen to an entire Doors CD. Unlike then, I don’t feel the seductive melancholy pulling me to abandon the outside world and exist solely in Jim’s world. I can recall with some fondness the group of kids that we were, seeking our own rebellion and hoping against hope that it had something to do with following a rock star in to a world of indulgence and camaraderie that never had to end.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

BlogHer: Life Well Lived Series

Once again, I have been asked by BlogHer staff to answer a couple of questions about finding balance and happiness in life. The inquiry this go-around was:

How do you put yourself first? How does taking time for yourself help make you happier?

Wow. Tough question. As a mother of small children whose husband traveled nearly every week, I didn't used to think putting myself first was even an option. It wasn't until I literally began losing my sense of self and hit a crisis point that I realized I hadn't even put myself on the list, much less anywhere near the top.

As girls and then women, so many of us were steeped in the tradition of caring for others above all else. We have a biological disadvantage that further complicates the matter, because our brains actually give us a shot of oxytocin (a hormone that reduces anxiety and promotes connection between us and others) when we empathize or take care of someone or something else. We literally feel better when we are nurturing something other than ourselves. Great for promoting motherly love and bonding. Not so much for promoting self-care.

It took a lot of therapy and some really vocal people in my life to convince me that taking care of myself was actually a way to continue to take care of other people better. If I'm a broken-down shell of a human, I'm not much use to my kids or my husband or that cause I so fervently believe in. If I am so depressed I can't manage to get out of bed in the morning, I'm not doing anybody any good.

Ultimately, though, the most important, most penetrating message I received was from someone who pointed out that I am raising daughters. Daughters who are watching me wear myself out in the unending pursuit of caring for everyone else around me - anticipating and meeting their needs and smoothing out wrinkles wherever I go. Daughters who are learning by osmosis, like little tea bags absorbing all of my "I will take care of everyone else before myself" liquid, that this is the highest, best use of one's self. Especially if you are a mom. Is that what I want for my girls? To grow up and be of service to everyone else at their own expense?

HOLD
THE
PHONE

No, it's not what I want. And so when I put my own little girl self in their place and ask what I want for her, it is that she feel loved. Honored. Free to follow her dreams. Comfortable in her own skin.

It took months, but I made it a point to sit down for at least five minutes every day and ask myself what I wanted. What would make me happy? And what could I do toward that today? What small step could I take both for myself and in an effort to be an example for my girls that I am important, too? That my needs are just as vital as anyone else's.

Over the years I have gone back to writing, making sure to take time every day to ignore paperwork, housework, the whining of the dog, and just write. Because that is one thing that makes me happy. I have also made my health a priority, getting together with a friend at least once a week to walk or take a yoga class and taking cooking classes at the local organic food co-op. More than anything, though, I have given myself permission to have fun. No longer do I watch my children with envy as they scale the jungle gym or sprawl out in a fort they made and stocked with books and snacks. Just as I make sure they have time to play every day in addition to the practices and schoolwork and chores they do, I give myself the same consideration. Some days that means hiding in the corner with my iPad playing solitaire or reading. Other days I crank up the music and dance through the kitchen or get out the fingerpaints and make a mess.

What I have learned is that I am the only person who can choose to make me happy. And while nurturing my growing family and caring for others gives me a great deal of satisfaction, affirming that I am one of the most important people I know and nurturing myself is just as pleasurable. The more self-worth I have, the better others treat me and taking time out to honor myself and all my hard work lets my girls know they can do the same for themselves.

As before, you can click on this link to enter the sweepstakes and win a Kindle Fire.
You can also read BlogHer's expert's answer to the question.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Dreaming of Real Life


My sleep was interrupted by an epic dream last night. The kind that just keeps going no matter how many times you rouse and turn over and acknowledge that it is a dream. The kind that, while it isn't disturbing, it doesn't exactly please you to be having and you wish it would just stop.

I found myself annoyed that it just kept starting again, like some gremlin had stolen the remote control and was forever changing the channel back to that one I was trying to avoid.

Before opening my eyes to the sun this morning, I lie in bed pondering the dream itself. It isn't often that I can even remember my dreams, especially once I set out to pursue them, but this one was persistent. So persistent that I figured it was meaningful to try and figure it out. I used the Carrie Wilson Link method. She once taught me that our dreams are always about ourselves and are the path our subconscious uses to teach us. When we assume that each and every player and symbol in the dream represents some part of ourselves, we can begin to decipher the meaning of the dream.

I decided to dive in. This dream featured a book about cancer and some revolutionary treatment. I was to read and review the book, but for some reason I was actively resisting doing so. As I made my way through the dream, I began to realize that the reason I was avoiding the book was because I was afraid that by reading the book I would somehow not only realize that the cure was viable and revolutionary, but that I would then find myself in a position to need it. I was afraid that reading the book would give me cancer, or lead me to realize that I already had it, and that I would then need to embark on this treatment regimen. And if I didn't, even though I had now learned about the cure, I would be discovered. Everyone would know that I knew about my own illness and refused to treat it in a way that would surely cure me.

I slept the entire night without ever lifting the book or peeking inside, so I don't know any of the details of the "cure." Turns out it doesn't really matter.

As soon as I began applying Carrie's wisdom to analyzing my dream, I was dismayed. There is something in my life that I know no longer serves me. A habit I have that I have resisted changing for so many reasons (none of them particularly important), and steadfastly ignored. It isn't one that is terribly harmful, but it's true that it doesn't really serve a purpose in the life I am trying to create for myself. A life where I treat my body well, with mindful eating and drinking, getting enough sleep and exercise, meditation and compassion. This is a holdover from the time in my life when I assumed by body would be served by good genes and youth and would withstand whatever I put it through as long as, every once in a while, I took a break to exercise and eat well and "catch up."

I know the problem.
I know the "cure."
I am not addressing either.

Perhaps it's time.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Gender-ation Gap


My girls are addicted to the show "Cupcake Wars." Bubba is not much of a fan. He claims to be disinterested, but I think it is just that every episode makes him crave cupcakes and, given that he lives with three gluten-intolerant women, he's not likely to get one anytime soon. Last night we all sat down to watch an episode I taped several weeks ago. Bubba only agreed to watch the show with us because it constituted 'family time.'

As the first four contestants were being introduced, Bubba was finishing up some work on his laptop and just listening to the commentary. When the final contestant began talking and it was clear he was a man, Bubba folded the top down on his computer to watch intently. The man was a very large, physically fit African American who looked as though he might be more comfortable wearing a Dallas Cowboys uniform than an apron. Big, thick neck, broad shoulders, deep voice. Formidable. Bubba turned to me.

"Not exactly what I expected."

Lola didn't take any notice. He pressed on.

"So, girls. What would you think if I spent my days baking cupcakes instead of running a consulting business? Would that make you feel differently about me?"

Lola barely twitched.

"That question doesn't even make sense, Dad. Is a boy butterfly any less male than a boy tiger?"

I haven't seen Bubba smile that big in a long time.

Photo courtesy of Cupcake Wars

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Not Exactly a Movie Review


Last Sunday I took Eve and one of her friends to see "A Thousand Words." They had seen the previews in the theater and thought it sounded really funny. The premise of the movie is that the main character, Eddie Murphy, has a tree growing in his backyard that drops a leaf for every word he utters. When the leaves all fall, the tree (and Murphy's character) will die.

The movie started out true to it's comedic preview but quickly morphed into a spiritual lesson of sorts, with Murphy's character befriending a guru who was trying to help him enjoy what was left of his life.

While it wasn't anywhere near the best movie I've ever seen, I appreciate the things it made me think about. Like the main character, the first thing my mind tried to do was find a workaround. Can't talk? Okay, I'll write everything down. No such luck. The tree still recognized those words for what they were and leaves came down in droves.

It comes as no surprise that communication is one of the most important parts of any relationship, and not being able to get your message across is frustrating for all parties involved. I found myself struggling to identify those words that are so packed with meaning that they don't need an entire sentence surrounding them. I was, like the main character, attempting to minimize the number of words used in order to lengthen the life of the tree. As a writer, finding ways to express myself that are concise and clear is important, but so is embellishment. Fleshing out the landscape. Adding detail.

Ultimately, though, the tree would run out of leaves and one thousand words is nowhere near enough for a lifetime. The character's relationships suffered and he was left frantically trying to find ways to heal the tree instead of accepting the inevitable.

Because this is Hollywood, there was of course a way to reverse the process, but I was struck by the message underneath. The guru was encouraging Murphy's character to sit quietly and spend time in solitude in an effort to find calm within. It became clear that his constant communication with others was a way to distract himself from the pain he held and the writers had a clever way of showing that he identified himself with some people in his past that he would rather not be like.

The tree had become an external representation of the need for him to heal that part of himself that was most damaged. An undeniable sign that the damaged part and the other parts of himself were forever linked and that without addressing the ugliest portions of his experience, he could never hope to live a full life.

Unfortunately, the film was a very glossed-over, mass-produced one that touched on the issues in a way that would be easy to dismiss, especially in the face of the goofy Eddie Murphy-ness of it all. I appreciated being able to find something redeeming in it, however, that enabled me to start a conversation with Eve about what it is like to sit in silence with yourself and why it is often so uncomfortable.

I was able to dig into my own experiences with self-acceptance and appreciate a scene where Murphy's character embraces the tree quite literally in a moment of understanding, bridging the gap between the two pieces of himself that make up the whole.

I don't know that I'd recommend the movie, but I was certainly pleased with the message.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

"Because of Katie" Book Review


It took me a few beats to type the word 'review' in the title of this post. Mostly because I was searching for a more accurate word which I failed to come upon. This is not a book I am reviewing because it was assigned to me from some third party or chosen from an array offered to me by BookPleasures. I am not so much reviewing this book as singing its praises and encouraging you to go find it and read it. Every so often I come across a book that moves me profoundly. Even so, I can generally write a review of it and move on. "Because of Katie" went one step further and not only moved me but left me with a sense that this book exists for a much higher purpose than simple entertainment.

I know many books strive to do the same, especially nonfiction, especially memoir, and some do manage to leave the reader with that feeling of expansiveness that leads people to recommend them over and over again. "Because of Katie" is different in that it possesses that expansiveness as well as a solid groundedness. Karen Boren Gerstenberger wrote this book not because she was an aspiring writer who wished to share her story, but with an eye toward teaching, informing, deepening understanding of what a family is going through when they are dealing with a major crisis. Her gentle yet firm message comes through without judgment as she describes each step of their journey through diagnosis, aggressive treatment and hospice care for their daughter's terminal cancer. She is able to acknowledge both strengths and areas for improvement at each point along the way, with each person they encountered.

This book is an absolute gift from Gerstenberger to each and every person whose lives are touched by severe illness or injury. From relatives to hospital personnel, communities looking for ways to help and other support staff, every person who has occasion to be in contact with families struggling with uncertainty and discomfort will find lessons in here taught with concern and gentleness.

I am generally a very fast reader, often finishing a book every two to three days, especially if I am enjoying it. "Because of Katie" took me nearly two weeks to finish for several reasons. The story was compelling but painful and difficult to read as my daughter is the same age Katie was when she died. I found myself empathizing with Karen on many different levels, especially given the years of experience we had with Bubba's undiagnosed illness and our trips to and from the hospital. I also read slowly because this book is absolutely packed with information and I wanted to be sure I gave myself time between chapters to decompress and absorb it all.

The detail with which Karen writes about the hospital stays and the upheavals to their family's life brought me right in to the story. The tenderness evident in the way Katie's family responded to her needs and the acknowledgment of her desires (fairly typical for a 12-year-old girl, but not so easily met) is a testament to the high value this family placed on love and shared experience. While their experiences were most certainly unique, there are so many powerful messages about how to reach out and become more effective in our support of families in any kind of crisis that the book itself has the potential to become a teaching tool for multitudes.

I would like to thank Elizabeth for prompting me to read "Because of Katie," and Karen for sharing her wisdom with the world. I am honored to have been allowed this glimpse in to your family's life and feel the better for it.

You can get your own copy of "Because of Katie" here.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Funny Girl


Last week Lola was on edge off and on for a few days. She has trouble with transitions and the weather has been crazy around here - sunny one day and snowing the next - and basketball season ended on a Saturday with lacrosse starting a mere two days later. She expressed her discomfort with the upheavals in her routine by erupting in to hysterical outbursts of screaming about seemingly pathetically small upsets (like being told she had to put her laundry away before watching TV). She was unpredictable - teary one minute and her normal, smiley self the next.

Thursday morning she woke up slowly which is terribly unlike her. She normally bounces out of bed with enthusiasm and a rush to greet the new day. She balked at being asked to eat breakfast and gather her schoolwork up and just wanted to sit on the couch and watch television. She moped out to the car and when we arrived at school, burst into tears when she remembered that her least favorite teacher was teaching that day, substituting for her favorite teacher who would normally be there.

I asked her to climb in to the front seat of the car and close her eyes. I turned on the seat warmer, told her to place her feet on the floor of the car and take a few deep breaths. I guided her through a simple chakra-energizing routine (she loves visualizing the colors of her chakras and sending energy from one to the next) and then asked her to sit quietly and think of a few things that make her unique and special. Is she generous? Funny? Loving? Clever? Artistic? Musical? When she had a short list in her head (I didn't ask her to share them with me or justify them in any way), I asked her to choose one of her favorites and hold it in her mind, surrounded by a color of her own choosing. I asked her to think of a few examples or ways she exhibits this trait in her daily life and sit with those for a moment. When she was done, I had her breathe deeply one more time and open her eyes. The whole thing took about five minutes.

She seemed much more calm and relaxed when I walked her into the classroom and said goodbye.

At the end of the day when I came to get her, she bounced into the car with her normal mile-wide grin, clamoring for a snack as she rattled off details from her day. Mid-sentence, she stopped and said,

"Hey, Mom! You know that meditation we did this morning? You know what I chose? Funny. I'm funny. And I swear that I was the funniest today I've ever been. Just congratulating myself this morning for being funny in my head made me more likely to be funny all day long. I swear I cracked everyone up all day long. It was awesome!"

We agreed that this was a cool new meditation to keep in our bag of tricks and I tried it myself the following morning. The trait I chose was generosity and you know what? Lola was right. I found myself being more generous than normal all day long. Simply because I had recognized that generosity was one of the things about myself I like the best.

What trait would you choose?

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

How Many Sex Offenders Live in Your Neighborhood?


"Tell her I said this isn't a fun game." Bubba's face was dead serious as his fingers swiped across the screen of my iPad. It was 10:15 at night and we were supposed to be playing a rousing game of Scrabble (which he usually wins, by the way). Instead, we had our county's sex offender location website pulled up and there were thirteen little flags planted within a five mile radius of the house we had just put an offer in on.

Our real estate agent had sent me a text message fifteen minutes before to ask me to call her. She couldn't say exactly why, but something had made her pull up the list of sex offenders living in the neighborhood of the house we fell in love with. She wanted us to look up the site.

We did.

Bubba was not amused.

Thirteen flags. One with a notation that said "multiple offenders" instead of offering the name and photo of one man (they were all men, in this case) and the subsequent description of his offense(s) and likelihood to offend again.

I wasn't sure what to think and our agent wasn't, either. For comparison purposes, we pulled up the list of those who live near the house we've lived in for the last ten years. Seven.

I had to go through each and every one of the individual profiles, reading about their crimes:
sex with a minor
indecent liberties (what does that even mean? Could be sexual harassment, even)
statutory rape
rape of a child

Ugh.

Oddly, the ones that were noted as "noncompliant" didn't bother me in the least. That means they haven't checked in with their probation officer and there's no way to verify they actually still live there (or ever did). That gave me hope that they had moved on.

The one that bothered me the most was the house with two offenders in it that was less than a block from a daycare center held in someone's home. Home-based daycare less than a block away from two known sexual offenders. I wonder how often that happens. I suspect more than we think.

Within this five mile radius, there are four home-based daycare centers, four schools, three parks and hundreds of homes.

I went to bed not knowing what to think.

I woke up and searched the directory of families at Eve's school and learned that also within this five mile radius there are seven families whose children attend the same school as Eve.

I looked at Bubba and said, "I don't want to be ruled by fear."

We knew that moving from the 'burbs to the city was going to prompt different kinds of discussions with the girls. We knew that it would require some adjustment on our part - smaller lawns, closer neighbors, more noise - but were focused on the benefits to this point. Benefits like driving ten minutes to school instead of 45. Benefits like being able to walk the dog without having to put him in the car and driving to a park or trail. Benefits like being part of a more diverse community.

Methinks we got diverse.

Ultimately, we didn't change our minds about the house. We still love it and feel like it is a good neighborhood. We may have to have some challenging conversations with the girls about freedom and independence earlier than we anticipated, but it is situations like this that force us to find clarity around our family's values and principles.

Perhaps the most uncomfortable part of this entire exercise was when I began asking myself deeper questions about where convicted sex offenders ought to be allowed to live. I am a bleeding heart liberal who knows that people are products of their environment. That said, while I can have compassion for someone who has lived a life that led them to sexual violence, I wonder whether it is possible to be rehabilitated from that and I am not willing to put myself or my children in harm's way to find out. I do believe that housing two convicted sex offenders four doors down from a daycare provider is a bad idea. I also can't imagine how difficult it must be to find a place to live if you carry that past on your back. But the consequences are so enormous that I find myself wondering if stopping the cycle of sexual violence might require some ideas that I find uncomfortable.

I suspect that my abuser was himself sexually abused and that led him to an understanding that, for him, power could be gained by abusing others. In my case, the abuser actually lived in the home where the daycare was being provided, harming untold numbers of vulnerable children whose parents trusted his mother to care for them. Because of the shame and stigma associated with being a survivor of sexual abuse, and the resulting low percentage of cases actually reported, I wonder whether, once someone has shown that they are capable of that sort of violence, it ought to be shouted from the rooftops for all to hear. I know that is cruel and perhaps overzealous, and I truly do not want to be ruled by fear, but as I imagine my girls asking to walk to the corner store on a sunny summer day, I want to be able to tell them which people to avoid at all costs. And the truth is, short of memorizing the faces of each of the offenders living in the neighborhood, I can't.


Friday, March 02, 2012

Books and Reading, Reading and Books


My latest book review for Book Pleasures was posted here last week. It is a fun read and, at less than five bucks for the digital edition, it's totally worth the money.

I also had a new essay published in the online magazine Buddha Chick yesterday that you can check out here. It's a free magazine and has some really great writers. If you like to read about women's spirituality, you may enjoy it. And if you like to write about it, read an issue and submit some of your work. It's unpaid, but a great community to belong to.

I realized I'm also woefully behind on updating the sidebar of the blog that lists the books I'm currently reading. The truth is, I read two or more books a week, on average, and I'm not very good at messing with the format of the blog, so I rarely change it. Here are a few of the titles I've read recently, with a decided bent toward nonfiction.

1. "Girlchild" by Tupelo Hassman. The lone fictional work on this list, I highly recommend this book. What an amazing work by this new author! The book is written from the point of view of a child and her voice is spot-on. I think many of us can identify with the desire to grow up and get the heck out of our hometown, but this little girl has more incentive than anyone I know. Despite that, she is as tough as they come and has a unique way of looking at the world.

2. "Unbroken" by Laura Hillenbrand. This is the author who wrote "Seabiscuit" and, while I'm not generally drawn to biographies (I prefer memoir), this was an epic ride and a history lesson all in one. I prefer to learn history by way of personal stories, anyway, so for that reason, this story reminded me a bit of another book I loved, "The Zookeeper's Wife" by Diane Ackerman. This is the heartbreaking story of a soldier who became a POW during World War II and his astonishing survival.

3. "Moonface: A True Romance" by Angela Balcita. I love me a memoir, especially with dark humor and medical interest. This has all of that and more. I actually read this one quite a while ago, but highly recommend it.

4. "fathermothergod: My Journey out of Christian Science" by Lucia Greenhouse. Another memoir that educated me immensely. I know of Christian Science only what the media tells me about parents who refuse medical treatment for their terminally ill children or Tom Cruise and the way he slammed Brooke Shields for taking antidepressants. It was very eye-opening to read this account of a young woman growing up steeped in this way of life and coming face-to-face with its limitations when a loved one falls ill.

What have you read lately that you can wholeheartedly recommend?

Thursday, March 01, 2012

I am Afraid of my Twelve-Year-Old Daughter


There, I said it. It occurred to me yesterday that this is what that feeling is, but it took a while to say it. I tried to couch it in different terms like "intimidated" or "nervous," but it turns out I'm afraid of her.

She isn't violent or mean, physically abusive or bullying in any way. And even if she were, she's petite, so I could totally take her.

She is ... well, certain.
Determined.
Fiercely independent.

This child taught herself to walk. Bit by bit, methodically and with a decided refusal of assistance from any other human being, she pulled herself to standing, shimmied along the couch on her own, practiced standing in the middle of the room to catch her balance. For days she seemed on the verge of walking, but made certain she could do it without incident by standing and clapping one day, standing and waving her arms another. It is the same when I'm in a yoga class working on eagle pose, starting with the arms and then lifting one leg to wrap around the other. Once I've got that steady, I center myself and lift my gaze molecule by molecule to ensure I won't fall. Eve did that with walking. Two weeks after she had begun standing and perfecting her balance, she took a few steps. She practiced sitting down slowly so she wouldn't topple over. She never fell. She was not one of those toddlers you see with bruises on her face and arms because she was overconfident. She didn't have that drunken gait most eighteen-month-olds do. She took it slowly, step by step on her own and worked it out.

She also potty-trained herself and refused all offers of help. When she was learning to read, she was adamant about not letting me look at the book with her. We had to sit cross-legged on the floor, facing each other so that I could only see the cover of the book and she read out loud to me if I was lucky.

The day she noticed that the neighbor kids all rode their bikes without training wheels, she banished me to the house after asking me to remove hers. She put her helmet on, pushed her bike out to the cul-de-sac, and fought that thing for 30 minutes. I know because I was hiding under the living room window stealing glances every once in a while. She fell, got up and tried again. I knew enough to not go outside and offer assistance. Even then I was afraid. Not that she would get hurt, but that she would be angry with me. From the day she was born, Eve has known somewhere deep in her soul that asking for help means she can't do something herself. That she isn't capable. God I hope I didn't somehow instill that in to her DNA. That's what I was taught by my parents. Asking for help is a sign of weakness.

She did it. And the entire neighborhood heard about it when she began whooping with joy as she rode that tiny bicycle back and forth like it was Seabiscuit in the Kentucky Derby. The smile on her face was absolutely the best thing I have ever seen in my entire life. Pure pride. Joy of accomplishment. Triumph.

And so we come to middle school. Where she struggles to convince Bubba and me that she is an adult. She can handle it. She understands more sophisticated inside jokes now and reads more adult books and is certain she knows how to deal with anything that comes her way. But she isn't. She's twelve. And offering to help her with anything is throwing down the gauntlet. It infuriates her despite the fact that I spend hours crafting my speeches to her in order to not make her feel 'stupid' or 'juvenile.' Trying to tell her that I am here to support her in any way she deems fit, not show her how superior my intellect or experience is. It doesn't matter. She's not buying it.

I have set up a cozy place in the kitchen for her to do homework while I cook dinner. Bought scented candles to light while she does it. Offered to put on any music she likes and ban Lola and her boundless energy from the room so we can have a peaceful place to work together. None of it works. She prefers to head straight up to her room and blast Taylor Swift and reappear fifteen minutes later to announce, "I'm done. Can I play on the computer now?" Occasionally, she will admit she is struggling with a particular assignment and, in the same breath, say that she'll save it and ask the teacher the following day at lunch. Rather than have me sit with her for five minutes to figure it out.

And therein lies the rub. I want her to feel successful. I want her to know that there are many people in her life that she can reach out to. But I want one of them to be me. And it isn't. And that hurts. And I wish I could say that this is a tween-girl phase, but it isn't. Eve has always been fiercely independent and stubbornly refused my assistance. I have been rebuffed so many times I am afraid to offer, but I know that this isn't about me and my feelings. There are times when I am the only person available to her and she is only twelve. We have to find a way to work together without anger or resentment, but I'll be darned if I know how to do that.

I suppose if I'm being 'enlightened' about all of this, the first step is admitting that I'm afraid of her. Okay, did that. Now what?
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