“Never say never.”

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Four years ago, I wrote this post.

I have lost people I loved, but, more often, I have watched other people lose loved ones.

When this particular lady’s husband died, I remember the visitation quite clearly. The look of defeat on her face. Her grief was evident for a very long time.

She and her husband were “#couplegoals”, as the kids say. I was so very touched by her loss.

This lady, and I say “lady” because she is one of the classiest, most professional women I’ve ever worked with, retired at the end of last year. I could tell how excited she was to start a new chapter in her life.

We had an event at our office yesterday that she attended. I haven’t seen her since her retirement. She stepped over to my office to speak, and there was pure joy radiating from her.

I asked her how she was enjoying retirement, and she proceeded to tell me all about her travels. Then she said, “And I’m getting married in December!”

It’s not unusual for a living spouse to remarry after their partner passes away. It happens all the time. But this time, with this woman, her very happiness about it was contagious.

She told me about how she and her fiancé’s engagement came about. How it was something she wasn’t looking for and something she never expected. “He says I make him very happy.” And he does the same for her.

This unexpected moment of shared excitement was as touching for me as the day I went to give her my condolences at the loss of her beloved husband. My assistant and I were in tears as we listened to her talk about the way her life had surprised her. She had learned, she said, to “never say never.”

I know this too. That just when you think life has kicked you as low as you can go, it can still surprise you. Still bring you back to a place of indescribable joy and restore a zest for living. I saw that in her as we spoke yesterday, and it was nothing short of inspiring.

I think, often, about the loved ones I have lost. My cousin, in particular, because he was so very young. In a couple of short months, the anniversary of his death will arrive, and bring with it, as it always does, those familiar feelings of sadness and loss.

This lady told me yesterday that she had recently visited her husbands grave. Alone. And the feelings and memories and grief washed over her again. Unexpectedly. She was in a new place of joy and hope in her life, but she realized, in that moment, that it would always exist alongside the loss of her husband.

And that was a poignant realization for me.

Grief is a strange thing. How it changes us. How it’s always lurking underneath the surface of our lives, even when we’re happy.

She told her fiancé about her experience at the graveside and he told her, “I would have gone with you.”

She said this surprised her. That he would walk in her grief with her, even as they shared a new beginning, together.

And I think that’s also an important truth, for those who have shouldered heavy grief. The knowing that there are those who will walk that road with us. Even after the loss has faded from the memories of others.

The truth that newfound happiness and joy doesn’t mean we’ve forgotten our loved ones, we’ve simply found new ways and new people to remember them.

People talk all the time about what our departed would have wanted for those who are still living. But for those that were kind, and selfless, I believe those people are right when they say, “They would have wanted you to be happy.”

We are all connected. And the joy we experience after grief, I believe, is shared with those who are no longer physically with us. In this great cosmic connection of love, I believe they can feel our joy. And I believe it must bring them joy also.

The light of their memory shines on the path before us, always. I believe those loved ones cheer us on from the great beyond. And smile.

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Sometimes

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Sometimes you need a two week vacation, free from the demands of a high stress work environment and the realities of adulting.

But when that isn’t happening, a night out with one of your dearest friends and two-for-one margaritas will suffice.

Calories and carbs be damned!

P.S. I slept like a baby.

Girl Trip: Day Two

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I let the girlchild sleep in a bit Saturday morning before we checked out of the hotel and continued on our travels.

Our first stop was Magnolia Hall.

I’ve never toured this particular home, located in the heart of downtown Natchez. We were the only two tourists for that hour, and thoroughly enjoyed having a much better tour guide than the previous day.

One of the reasons I selected Magnolia Hall was for the museum within it that holds clothing from the period itself, as well as costumes worn by previous kings and queens of the Natchez Pilgramage.

The house itself is definitely interesting, and one of the daughters of the original family was quite a revolutionary of her time: she was an author.

Suffering from what they now believe was M.S., and not wanting to be a burden to her family, this young woman penned many novels before her death at the age of 49. Earning her own illegal income (because she was a woman) she wrote under the pen name “Theta”, and was only posthumously recognized for her literary work.

From Magnolia Hall, we set off toward Vicksburg, and stopped first at Church Hill.

If you aren’t looking for it, you’ll miss it as you round the curve. The old general store also still stands, looking as though it holds many a memory of cold soda pops and stories of local gossip undoubtedly told, now hidden somewhere within the weathered walls.

We headed on toward Rodney, and stopped for a moment at the Windsor Ruins. There is now a fence surrounding the site, as the Department of Archives and History work to preserve it before her spectacular columns collapse.

Once we arrived in Vicksburg, we collected our good friend, LaRue, and took a driving tour through the Vicksburg Military Park.

You could literally spend all day in the park, reading every plaque and monument. We chose to simply cruise slowly throughout the winding roads and rolling hills, making a few photo stops along the way.

The Civil War, to me, as a woman with southern roots, represents such a dark time in our history. As I drive through a park like Vicksburg’s, it’s easy to become overwhelmed with the sheer enormity of the conflict. The lives lost. The families forever changed. Northern and Southern. Black and white. Male and female.

On a hot August afternoon, the monuments with the likenesses of army generals and commanders begin to all look the same.

But they were all different.

Each man. Each with a family. Each with a story. And that begins to become overwhelming again when you reach the cemetery itself and see row after row of stone. It is even more somber when you realize that there are other battle sites like Vicksburg dotted across the nation.

For six long weeks, the city of Vicksburg lay under siege, eventually surrendering to the Union on July 4, 1863. It would be over 80 years before Vicksburg would celebrate Independence Day again.

When you view the terrain of the city, the idea that people retreated into caves and bunkers in the hills is entirely plausable. Along with the stories of the soldiers on the battlefield, men, women, and children became refugees in their own landscape. Hiding and, no doubt, praying for an end to the hell surrounding them. I should think that such a history would make us that much more sympathetic to those who seek asylum in our borders…..

The southern United States often stirs many negative connotations. Many of them true, some of them distorted, as is all history, in actuality. But I do not run from the history of my state, or her sister states. I simply try to learn what I can, remembering all the while that, despite the blots on her past, she has had many a triumph. Many progressions. And more on the horizon, I believe.

I try to learn the individual stories of those, not just with southern roots, who lived and died during this tumultuous time in history. Because each one is unique. And valuable. And I often wonder what those individuals, on both sides of the battle lines, would think now. Of the nation we’ve become. Was the conflict worth the terrible price? I suppose that would depend on who you asked.

What would they think about the lines that now divide us? What advice might they offer? Humbling questions, with unclear answers.

As we headed out of the park, we drove downtown and had a bite to eat, before returning our friend to her doorstep.

From there, Reagan and I made our way to a late, late showing of Ant Man and the Wasp, before finally crawling into our beds, shortly after 1 a.m.

Our trip was a quick one, but saturated with beautiful landscapes and fascinating history. And a few superheroes sprinkled on top, for good measure.

Traveling with a teenager is much different than it was making these types of trips when she was younger. It’s hard to tell sometimes if the time spent together still holds the same weight that it used to, when just the thought of staying in a hotel was all it took to excite her.

But she said she enjoyed it. I did. I don’t know that she’ll ever know how much taking these opportunities with her means to me. Stepping away from the norm, setting aside day-to-day routine and responsibilities, just to focus on us, and make a few memories.

I won’t have these opportunities forever, so I try to take them when I can. I hope they give her lots of happiness when she looks back on them. That one day she’ll see that they weren’t just road trips. These moments of time spent together were the reinforcement of the bonds of our relationship – preserving it, growing it, expanding it.

And one day, if she has children, I hope she’ll take the time to do the same.

Girl Trip: Day One

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Two posts in one day? What the what?

Reagan and I rolled out of town about 10:30 a.m. heading to one of our favorite spots in MS: Natchez. I first brought Reagan here when she was about 9 or 10, and we drove over for the day last summer also. But there is so much to see in Natchez. I’ve been here more times than I can count and I still haven’t scratched the surface of all the exploring I still want to do in this part of the state.

After a quick bite along the way, we arrived at the visitor’s center around 2:00, and purchased our tickets for the two homes we planned to tour while in town.

The first, Rosalie.

I’ve visited this particular home on several occasions, but it never disappoints. There aren’t many antebellum homes here that allow you to tour the house in its entirety. Rosalie is an exception. The 1st and 2nd floors of the home are chock full of interesting artifacts and have many of the original furnishings and accessories.

Our tour guide today was, perhaps, one of the worst most awkward I’ve ever had. You don’t have to take my word for it. The couple from the UK that was on our tour also seemed unimpressed with him. Reagan certainly was. Still, Rosalie a beautiful home, and unique in both its story and location.

Rosalie served as a Union Army headquarters during the civil war and, despite what many folks in these parts believe about them damn yankees, the commanding officer kept Rosalie’s belongings protected in an attic under lock and key (and armed guard) during his stay. When the soldiers left, they brought down the original furnishings, and, it is said, that Officer Gresham and the lady of the house kept up written correspondence for many years following the war. Not surprising to me, if the story is true. When her yellabellied husband got wind that the Union Army was headed to Natchez, he tucked tail and headed over to Texas to wait out the worst. I probably would have befriended the Army officer too!

It was a rainy afternoon, so the tour today was a great way to spend our first few hours in town. Reagan got a great shot of the back of the house.

When we left Rosalie, we drove across the Mississippi River into Vidalia, LA. Just for kicks. Then drove back across and checked into our hotel.

This hotel has been somewhat recently remodeled and renamed, but, it needs a few more updates. Reagan and I are currently confused because our room is humid. Yet also cool. It’s cool moisture. Indoors. We are perplexed.

After enjoying our traditional Domino’s delivery (it’s our travel tradition) we walked to the bluff around the back of the hotel for some pictures of the Mississippi River Bridge.

There was a pretty sunset, albeit a partially obscured one.

After our stroll we returned to the room to wait out the crowd at the pool/hot tub. Our wait was rewarded about 9, when the majority of the people left and we were finally able to take a dip and a soak.

Back at the room, I feel certain we will now watch The Office and rest up for a day of sightseeing tomorrow. We have lots of stops on the agenda and miles to go before we’re back in our own beds and cool, dry house tomorrow night.

*the opening photo was taken from the second floor balcony at Rosalie, one of my favorite places in this lovely city to plant my feet.

Two reviews and one in the works

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I had so many plans to see different films and read different books this summer. Yet, here we are, in August, and I’ve barely scratched the surface of what I wanted to see and read in these past few months.

Still, it hasn’t been a total bust.

Last weekend, I watched Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind, a documentary by HBO on the life and career of one of the greatest entertainers of all time.

I have always been a fan, from watching Mork and Mindy when I was a small child, to appreciating his dramatic roles as I got older. It has always amazed me at the range of those actors we generally associate with comedic antics to delve into some truly heart-wrenching performances on the big screen.

For example, I saw a preview yesterday of a new drama with Steve Carell. He, too, has the range that Williams had in his capacity to completely transform from goofball to serious, dramatic actor, and make you believe it.

The documentary on Williams included many interviews from close friends, family, and costars, and gave an in-depth look into his brilliant mind.

I highly recommend it. It’s available for streaming on HBO until August 16th.

Yesterday, at my daughter’s prodding, we saw Eighth Grade, a painful, funny, and awkward look into the life of a teenager about to enter her high school years.

Bo Burnham’s directorial debut was surprisingly full of heart, and a lot of truth. Having seen some of his comedy, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. It was definitely a cringeworthy movie, but only because the subject matter is so. The performances are genuine, and smart, and resounded with both me and my daughter on many levels.

It’s definitely a great discussion film for parents and teens to view together, even if your child, as mine did, keeps their face hidden behind their hands in second-hand embarrassment throughout much of the film.

The social media storm that surrounds our offspring these days puts us, as parents, in a world unlike anything our own authority figures ever had to endure.

The thought of all the capabilities out there for photos, recordings, and words that cannot be unsaid, documented for all time on the world wide web is often an overwhelming challenge to help a young person navigate. But navigate it we must, because it is our reality.

In one scene, the main character burns a time capsule from the 6th grade, believing that nothing in it has value. It was a poignant moment for many reasons. For one, many of the things a kid in today’s world would like to burn and forget cannot be destroyed so easily. Even if the physical reminders can be burned away, the virtual and emotional scars can remain for a lifetime.

Secondly, her father’s desire for her to see herself as he sees her, and his monologue about it, is where my tear ducts gave out during the viewing.

That’s all we want, isn’t it? For our children to see all of the goodness within themselves, all of the potential and already existing positive attributes they possess?

It is definitely an emotional ride for parent and teen, and I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by the film’s ability to show both sides of the coin with equal heart.

Moving on….

Book club resumes the end of this month, and our selection for the summer break is A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini.

A New York Times best-seller, set in Afghanistan, this novel already has me hooked, and I just started it in the waiting room of an appointment I had yesterday.

I’m not going to write an official review yet. I might just share the one that I feel sure the book club member that selected it will write, as she has a blog of her own. I will just say, I love it when our club reads something as honestly different as Suns is turning out to be.

I think a great discussion will be had when we resume our meetings in a few weeks and I definitely look forward to hearing everyone’s perspectives on the story.

If you’ve seen any great movies or read any great books this summer, share them with me in the comments. I’m always looking for new ones!

Just us

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The moments of our lives make us, or we can make them. I prefer to be in charge as much as possible.

Some months ago, when my child was 4 states away visiting her dad, she sent me a text, asking if, when she got back, we could plan some time away. Just the two of us.

We used to make regular getaways for a night or two, every year before school resumed. The past few years, those have either not happened or turned into road trips with other people at different times of the year.

So, I set aside some funds, and tomorrow we are making a little overnight trip, just the two of us.

I’m off today and tomorrow, but today is booked with doctor’s appointments. Still, they’ll be over by early afternoon, so we’re taking the opportunity to have a dinner and movie date afterward.

In 10 short days, my daughter begins a new journey. 9th grade in an entirely different learning environment and a schedule that will allow us an opportunity to build a completely different pathway for her to higher education.

We’re excited about the changes.

Through this process of change, I’m hoping she sees that, when a situation isn’t working or benefitting you, and there’s another way, it’s okay to try that other way.

So many times we feel locked into our choices. And sometimes, we are. But not always. Not even often.

There are so many changes ahead of us. She’s quickly turning into a young adult. But not yet. Not yet. Although I’ll have a legally permitted driver in my household in a few months, and the textbooks are for high school, when I look at her, I still see my child. And, of course, she still is one. But now is when the preparations really start kicking in for her future. For college, career, and navigating life away from home.

These are the things I think about constantly. And don’t.

I was talking with a friend this week about what forward-thinking people we had always been. Always had some aspiration or goal we were setting. But, lately, both of us we realized, life had become very much a day-to-day process. And those thoughts of the future had begun to take a backseat to what is happening in the now.

Right now, I feel the need to shore up the relationship with my daughter. Be with her. In the present. Focus on what is right before us. Navigate these immediate changes. And simply enjoy some much-needed time together. Just us.

It used to be so hard for me to focus on the day I was in, and not the next. Maybe it’s age, maybe maturity, but that’s not the challenge it used to be.

I give so much of myself away, every day. My time, my energy, my focus. It’s a nice change to be able to shift that, for the next 72 hours, onto the person that I do all of that giving away for.

Time passes. And things change. But some things are preserved. Like the love I have for this incredible gift I was given almost 15 years ago.

As long as you’re beside me, it’s all the same when the daylight ends
I ain’t never gonna worry ‘bout nothin’ again
I ain’t never gonna worry ‘bout nothin’ again
Tryin’ to make the money but the money ain’t gonna make me
Do nothin’, I don’t really want to
Tryin’ to make the money but the money ain’t gonna make me
Do nothin’ but spend a little time on you

“Worry Bout Nothin'” Keith Urban

Just go with it

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Remember how I said I was going to take a mental health day and relax and watch Netflix and read and do a whole lotta nothin’?

Well, turns out mental health days can take all kinds of shapes. Once the familials left for their respective jobs this morning, I finished my coffee in leisure and then thought, “I could do a few things around the house before meeting my family for lunch.”

I do not consider myself a great housekeeper and I hate to clean. But, when I have the house to myself, it’s hard to resist the urge to make it something lovely for my family to come home to. I’m going to be gone a lot this week, and I like coming home and not feeling obligated to do anything but the daily stuff.

So I started cleaning out the refrigerator. Which meant I could go ahead and prepare my pork for dinner. And since I was cleaning out the fridge, I might as well sack up all of the garbage throughout the house. It is garbage day, after all. And once I carried it to the road and emptied the scraps of leftovers, I washed the dishes. And wiped down the counters and stove and appliances. And cabinets. And cleaned my kitchen table and chairs. And while I had them moved out, I could really give the kitchen a good sweeping. And since I had the duster out, I might as well wipe down my bedroom furniture. And lightly dust the den. And, oh, those makeup brushes need a good wash. Since everything had been dusted, I might as well fire up the vacuum, too, while the 3rd load of clothes is drying and the 4th is washing.

I looked up and had about 25 minutes to shower and leave to meet my folks for a back-to-school lunch. Since I ate no breakfast, and burned a gazillion calories, I ate my salad with no complaints. And topped it off with ice cream with zero guilt on the side.

From there, it was off to the grocery, then home to mop and put up that 4th load of laundry. And wash my bathroom rugs.

When I finally stretched out on my freshly laundered sheets, I found I didn’t have a nap in me. Supper is almost ready now anyway and I’m cruising the interwebs looking for low carb side dishes.

I guess it wasn’t a “restful” day. But it was hella productive. And that’s just as important for good mental health anyway.

A Monday to Look Forward To

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It’s August. And, by Friday, I will have 5, count ’em, FIVE vacation days left until the end of the year. Well, 4. Because I try to roll over one every year, if possible.

2 of them are spoken for. A girl’s brunch in September (to honor my grandmother’s natal day) for one, Black Friday for the other.

So, that leaves 2.

My employer, whenever we bitch about our paychecks, reminds us that we get hella good benefits. And we do. A 401K, any insurance (deducted from our payroll, of course) imaginable under the sun, holidays off, and an air-conditioned work environment with no need to ask our customers if they’d like fries with that.

It’s a good place to work. The best I’ve had, and I’ve been in the work force for 21 years.

But we all need a break. My first days off this year, while at the beach with my girlfamily, included being struck with what I’m pretty certain was the flu, and returning home with a child who was catching it.

My week in California back in June was on company time, for company purposes. While immensely enjoyable, it was not a “break”, just a hiatus from my norm.

So I haven’t had a lot of downtime this year. And I’m needing it. Desperately.

I had plans for tomorrow that would have ultimately left me rather drained, so I took a vacation day for Monday. My plans fell through for Sunday, however, but I left the day off on my calendar. It was just too good to pass up.

Everybody and their mama has my cell phone number, and I will be decidedly swiping the RED, hang-up, straight-to-voicemail button on Monday every time I hear my delightful Downton Abbey ringtone. Unless it’s my assistant. Because I ❤ her.

My brain needs a break. For weeks on end now I’ve been running at breakneck speed. It’s past time to take a breather. A “mental health day”, as I refer to them.

I will use a sick day for these occasionally, because I recognize when my brain is sick, even if my body appears functional. But I try to schedule them as vacation days instead, deliberately, and make plans to do as little as possible on those blessed days of reverie.

My brain isn’t sick at the moment, but I would call this day off a preventative health decision. I need some alone time. In my own house. Near my own bed, shower, and coffee pot. It’s taken me years to learn how to MAKE myself be still, and not only reserve those moments for when I’m physically sick or exhausted.

The nature of my job is that it has cycles of busyness out of my control, and well, all manner of shit is hitting the proverbial fan right now. It has therefore required my constant vigilance. But when I see a tiny window of opportunity for solace, I jump on it. Pouncing it like a jungle cat with grace and stealth. (Not really. I more or less collapse on and cling to it like my life depends on it. Because it does.)

I have a new book to start for book club that resumes meeting this month after summer hiatus. Maybe I’ll start it. Maybe I’ll play Einstein’s Riddle on my phone until my head explodes. Maybe I’ll binge something on Netflix and pass out in my unmade bed. The point is, Monday is MINE, dammit, and I’m going to spend it exactly the way I wish.

Because it’s not so much the work that I do that depletes my energy stores, it’s the engagement. The constant interaction I have to have with people that run the gamut from highly experienced attorneys to certifiably crazy individuals that may or may not be serious about their inquiries into purchasing the bank property that I manage. (And I thought my Psych degree might have been a waste of time!)

And the miles. Oh, the driving. I’ve been around the world since I returned from San Diego. Driving, while not a chore, does eventually take a toll. It makes me tired. Road weariness, it’s called.

And so I stop. I will inhale and exhale, deeply, and rise early so as to enjoy the cool breeze before Mother Nature kicks us in the teeth with her steel-toed boot of heat and humidity.

I will rest my brain. I will rest my body. I will rest the parts of me the have to be “on” 99% of the time.

And I will cherish every second.

I Made Brownies

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This week has shot my stress level through the roof. My anxiety has been ramped up via an excessive crescendo and I’ve been on the verge of having a well-timed outburst for several days.

But it’s Wednesday now, and I think if I can cruise through tomorrow without incident, I’ll be home free.

I’m taking a mental health day on Monday, and I plan to do nothing. Binge watch Netflix and take a nap. Have a pot of coffee instead of my regular 2 cups. And just sit in silence for a while. Maybe write something profound. (Ha!)

In the meantime, however, I have a busy work week to survive. So, last night, upon the onset of an intense craving for chocolate, I found this recipe. (Yummly is my life-saving, low-carb, go-to app.)

The result was a very fragile, cake-like consistency. And I’d probably use 1 less egg next time to see if I could get it to form into a more fudgey/chewy dessert. But still, I wasn’t disappointed. I put them in the fridge, and when I had my treat later this morning, it was just what the psychiatrist ordered. Chocolate that I don’t have to feel guilty about.

I dont write about my struggles with weight or my subsequent challenges to lose it, because I always end up regretting acting like I have this part of my life under control. Because I don’t. I never will. I have to make sensible choices, every day, meal by meal. And low carb eating is now my lifestyle. Because it has to be. I feel so much better when it is, so for the sake of my own mental and physical health, I am owning it. And putting a lot of time into meal planning and making sure I have what I need on hand to make a healthy version of dessert when my stress hormones have me jonesing for an entire sheetcake of buttercream frosting.

My husband has lost a good bit of weight this year and is supportive beyond measure with this endeavor of eating better. His health is much improved by the changes to our diets and he, unlike me, has been able to stick with it. I bounce on and off that train like a hobo.

But I’m getting better at staying on it, because I just FEEL better by doing so.

I look better too, with less puffiness and a clearer complexion, which is always nice to see in the mirror’s reflection.

I have travel plans for next year, and I plan on also being in the best shape of my damn life. So that starts now and with each teeny, tiny decision about what I put into my body.

I’m really glad I don’t have to give up brownies to achieve it.

Unconventional

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If there’s ever been a challenge for me, it’s parenting.

This little human is placed in your arms when they are completely helpless, and the challenge, sometimes, especially as they get older, is to remember that they are not.

With each passing year, they become more independent. Less in need. They become much less desiring of boundaries, and can be outright resentful of authority.

It’s a fine line to walk with them. In this day, this era of ever-changing technology, those of us raised with “conventional” parenting philosophies struggle to implement what was good about our upbringing and bestow it on our young ones while often trying to incorporate the changes that the world demands of us in order to raise an adult than can thrive.

It’s especially hard when our children are not like us. Or when they are VERY MUCH like us.

My mantra, since my daughter was old enough to walk, talk, and use her own fork, has been, “Choose your battles.”

Her stepdad and I choose different battles all the time. This, among all the things that can cause marital strife, would probably top my list.

My husband is an old-fashioned parent and I am not. Not because I don’t see the value in some of his ideals, but because I know my child. I like to think we’re finally learning, after 12 years together and working through all of the blended family hurdles, how to be parents together. But it’s still a challenge.

She’s headstrong, stubborn – not unlike another teenager that I remember well. And, rather than butt heads with her, I feel like my best solution is to navigate the challenges alongside her, rather than drawing lines in the sand. Using my life experience to teach and guide her, but, on a lot of things, let her make up her own mind.

Because I’ve been her age. And I know what would have most benefitted me then. I’m trying to carefully exhibit the signs of an adult that only wants to help her, not stand in her way.

And the key to that, I think, is the word “carefully”. Because even though she shows signs of adulthood, she is still fragile in my eyes. She’s moved into physical independence, and the mental is definitely emerging, more and more. Soon she’ll be able to legally drive. She has an opinion on everything.

No, it’s more of an emotional standpoint from which I constantly see flashing caution lights.

Because the emotional is where things get dicey.

And teenagers are emotional beings.

So am I.

I do my best to remember that the offspring I want so badly to raise into a healthy, functioning adult has already experienced many an emotional rollercoaster, and has dealt with things I have never, and could never, understand. So I try to remain emotionally steady for her and gently guide her.

Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. But I do opt for this approach above others, because it keeps me, well, approachable.

I have no interest in being a cool parent. Or a teen’s friend. But the last thing I want is for her her to ever feel that I’m not in her corner. Fear of a parent has no place with kids prone to anxiety. Disagree if you want, but it is this author’s opinion that respect can be gained without fear of authority. It’s the consequence that should persuade or dissuade. Not the parent themselves.

Whenever I punished Reagan when she was younger, I’d ask her if she understood why. Her first answer was always, “Because you’re mad at me.” And kids continue to feel that way until they begin to understand that it’s their behavior that is punished. And while the behavior may make us parents angry, our anger isn’t directed toward them, as a person.

I learned long ago that I cannot control my child, much as I would like to sometimes. The part of me most heavily influenced by my own authority figures can’t help but lecture her at times. But I want her to make decisions. Hard ones. And I want her to make mistakes in that decision-making process while she’s still young enough that she can fall back on me. Because that won’t always be the case.

It’s part of the learning curve, for both parent and child. And it’s never easy for either one.

She is not me. And I have to let her be herself, even if I don’t always think the decisions she makes are right. It’s a constant weighing of what is harmful with what is just part of a learning process. God knows I made my own share of adolescent missteps.

And I still screw up. I always will. I’m human. But I trust the child that is growing up before me. I trust in what I’ve taught her, even when she ignores it sometimes.

Maybe I’m an unconventional parent in that way. But I remember what it was like to be her age. I remember the emotion of it. And, like any parent, I’m just doing the best I can.

A week ago, my daughter approached me about wanting to attend a concert. It was in a not-safe place and I gave a resounding “no”, and, understanding how much she wanted to do it anyway, offered a compromise. “Somewhere else. Somewhere safe.”

So we found one.

I didn’t relent out of fear or frustration, but because I viewed it as a teachable moment. When one thing doesn’t work, you don’t have to give up. You can find something that will.

She then decided that, due to the distance we’d have to travel and the high probability that she wouldn’t attend another until she was old enough to attend alone, that she wanted to be up close and personal with the experience. She wanted a ticket on the floor of the arena.

Knowing that I wouldn’t pay for the hefty expense, she hired herself out to my dad and has been wrangling cattle and washing cow shit out of trailers to earn the money herself.

Once my dad heard how she planned to spend her hard-earned money, Reagan proceeded to hear his thoughts on it. And, like she does, she listened. But it didn’t change how she felt on the matter of getting the most out of the experience.

At the end of the day, the money she earns is hers. And she can spend it how she chooses with the exceptions of illegal purchases.

Fiscal responsibility is a lesson that many, many adults never learn. I am well aware of it in my job, because I have repossessed many a car that a debtor couldn’t afford and foreclosed on many a house that became too much for their pocketbook. I was raised with a heavy emphasis on living within my means, living below my means, and I still did stupid things with my money.

But my child has no debts, and her money is only obligated to her choices. It won’t always be that way. Which is the position I decided to take in this situation. Because I could use the opportunity to drive home a point that feels hundreds of years away for her, or I could choose to not take this battle on today.

In the midst of raising a teenager, I am constantly reminded how quickly she is growing up. And my fervent desire is for that grown-up to become a responsible and mature one.

But I also want her to experience her youth. Because, life can be so short. And youth, even more fleeting.

So I didn’t choose this battle. I kept my opinion on the matter to myself, mostly. I will offer my protection at the concert, and safety to and from. The rest is up to her. She’s having to work for her heart’s desire. And she stepped up to do it with no prompting from me.

I have no way of knowing whether or not she will need me to help her out of a financial bind one day. I hope not, but if she does, I seriously doubt that this experience will be the rock that caused the ripple of self-indulgence. Whatever happens, she knows that she has to work for money, that it doesn’t come without sacrifice and time and labor.

And, at this point in my parenting experience, watching her understand that is enough.

I’ll be here when the lessons stick, and more importantly, when they didn’t. And she knows that. Which was the point of it all.