A Thank You to My Daughter the Week She Turns 13

Dear Sweetpea, 

You’re a teenager now! We’re entering into some uncharted territory for both of us, but I have high hopes it’s going to be mostly wonderful. Everything up to this point, plus my eternal optimism, makes me believe this.  

Photo cred: Desiree Swanson. Cheek cred: 100% Cassidy.

Photo cred: Desiree Swanson. Cheek cred: 100% Cassidy.

Before we jump headfirst into this teen hood thing, though, I just want to thank you for being all the things you are that give me such joy. You may not realize how important your you-ness is to my confidence about your future, and how much I appreciate who you are. So here’s a shot at telling you.

Thank you for making me a mom. For coming into this world a very fashionable week late and impressing the doctors and nurses with your robust size and prompt entry, once you decided it was time to meet the world. At a solid 9 pounds 7 ounces of perfect, round sweetness, you laughed in the face of newborn clothes. And I suddenly felt what it was like to hold the entirety of my heart in my own two hands. And on my forearms. Like I said, you were a hefty chunk of baby.   

Thank you for being patient as we both figured out breast feeding. Those were hard days. You were adamant that the milk that was sustaining your monument to baby cheeks should simply flow into your mouth without any work on your part. Occasionally you bit me. I get it, you were hungry. You cried a lot. I cried more. Daddy ran out to get every possible chair/cushion/music/blanket/ancient talisman possible to make breastfeeding easier for us. He felt helpless and tried so hard. Luckily, we figured it out. And the whole time, you never dropped below the size of most babies at three months old.   

Thank you for being an excellent sleeper, an excellent eater, and endless source of drool. Until the age of three, you had the ability to soak through a waterproof bib, which you wore pretty much round-the-clock to protect your clothes from the geyser of spit inside your mouth. It was adorable.  

When you turned about 18 months old,  you started to cry.  A lot. When you were tired, hungry, frustrated, overwhelmed, surprised, scared, impatient, irritated, or any other emotion beyond pure happiness. Again, that taught me patience. And that I had a long way to go to becoming Mother of the Year when I said things like “I love you all the time, but I love you more when you’re not crying.” 

Thank you for your incredible imagination. Daisy, your imaginary friend who lived in a purple house/sometimes castle, was a constant source of stories and entertainment. She liked purple cake, she wore purple clothes, and had several pet yaks. I don’t believe they were purple. When you were seven, we saw an actual purple house driving in the city one day, and sadly, you rarely talked about the house again. The one in your imagination must have been so much better. Daisy hung around for about a year more, but disappeared too, when Carson was born.  

Thank you for loving horses as much as I always hoped you would. I tried not to push it when you were really little, for fear you’d reject the opportunity that was right in front of you and announce one day that you really just wanted to play basketball. But no, you toddled along to all my riding lessons, petted all the horses on the nose, went for rides with the stirrups taken all the way up to the top, and carried your faithful tiny stuffed horse, Little Sandwich, everywhere with you.  When you got your first pony, I saw that same giddiness, that same connection I’ve always felt with my horses, and I know you’ll have it for the rest of your life. Of all the things I’ve been able to give you, beside my love, that is probably my most precious gift. Because when your life is going crappy, or even when it’s going great, you know that a few, silent moments in the barn and some hot horse breath on your shoulder can make everything right with the world.    

Thank you for your sensitivity. From a very young age you were aware of other kids and their feelings, making sure others always felt included. Your empathy has always been on high alert, which has sometimes been exhausting for you. I’ll admit there was a little girl named Kathy at daycare who made you cry every day for about a month, and when I passed her mom on the sidewalk I really wanted to punch her in the face. So thank you also for giving me the opportunity to practice restraint. And forgiveness, because something was causing Kathy to be mean to you, and maybe her mom wasn’t nice to her, who knows. We’re all the result of something innocent that came before us.  

Thank you for being so loyal. I see the friendships you’ve formed and the kids in your circles who are lucky to know you. With your sweet best friends, the feeling is mutual. Your choice in companions reflects your own kindness and respect for others. I feel so lucky you’ve chosen to surround yourself with such kind, funny, well-intentioned kids.    

Thank you for your courage. I’ve watched you literally get back up on the horse. Specifically, a pony name Biscuit, the little shit, who bucked you off in the warm-up arena and then in the show arena, right in front of the judge. You got back on. You finished the class. You came out with a smile. Your Daddy cried a little, but we were all better for it. You are so brave – don’t ever forget that.  

Thank you for your sense of humor. For making me laugh unintentionally when you were really little, and now, on purpose. Thank you for drawing a face on a plastic lemon, naming it Skippy Dinglechalk and carrying it in your backpack for no other reason than it is ridiculous. You understand at such a young age that different is wonderful and you embrace that in yourself and your friends.

Thank you for your maturity. As much as you love to be silly, you have an innate sense for when to be strong. Or calm. Or a cheerleader. You are sometimes wise beyond your years. When you eat salad with your fingers is not one of those times, but I’ll let that slide.

Thank you for your sense of self. You have embraced being a tween, and now a teen, with the joyful abandon of a bunch of baby goats wearing pajamas, running through a barn. Which you know, of course, is about the best way to approach anything.   

You make me laugh. You make me think. You straighten me out occasionally. You are everything I didn’t know I’d hope you’d be, and every day you surprise me with something that makes me prouder to be your mom. I love spending time with you. I love hearing about how you’ve spent your time when we’re apart. I love who you are now and who you’re becoming.   

Thank you for being you.

Love, Mama  

He Could Not Tell A Lie

Today would have been my Dad’s, aka Neil’s, 82nd birthday. But before I go any further, I should explain why I (and everyone else) called Neil by his first name. See, when he married my mom, my sisters were 11 and 15, so they naturally called him Neil as their stepdad. Then when I came along, like with many other things, I followed their lead.

An equally big reason for Universal Neil was that he was not into pet names. Period. My mom, his mom, neighbor kids, dogs, cats horses and grandchildren all called him Neil. Apparently, I tried calling him “Daddy Boy” for a short stint when I was two, but that didn’t take.

Neil and I before the short lived “Daddy Boy” phase.

Neil and I before the short lived “Daddy Boy” phase.

So, Neil it was. For everyone. Forever.

Neil passed away about ten months ago, and was honestly gone several years before, lost in the crazy haze of Alzheimer’s. Mostly, I find joy in his memory instead of sadness because he was such a kind, quietly funny, honest man.

Actually, honest is an understatement. If there was a rule, Neil followed it. If there wasn’t, he made one. His moral compass was so strong, it reset other moral compasses in his general area. So in honor of his birthday, here is my favorite story of the man who once built a perfect, small scale replica of a spiral staircase before he actually constructed the real thing.

But that’s another story, maybe for next year’s birthday. This one is about hay.

When we had horses on our property, Neil would drive over Snoqualmie Pass to Cle Elum, a farming town, to get hay. He went to get it himself for two reasons – Neil knew the guy who sold the hay, and most importantly, Neil was frugal and it saved money over having it delivered.

So about every six months, Neil woud make the trip over. He’d leave first thing in the morning, drive the 1 ½ hours to Cle Elum with the Ford F-250 pickup truck and an empty 2-horse trailer In tow, load up the truck bed and the trailer to full capacity, and then drive back home. The elaborate system of tarps and bungie cords to secure the hay was always strong enough to keep those bales in place through gale force winds or an invasion of alien hay snatchers, and he never lost a single one. He also usually unloaded the whole two-ish tons of hay in the same day. One of the many reasons why the man still had six pack abs into his late 70’s.

On one of these trips, Neil really loaded up- probably more than he should have, but he wanted to make that tank of gas earn its keep! Driving back home, about a mile from our exit, Neil saw the weigh station coming up alongside I-90. The weigh station, I should add, where commercial long-haul truckers are required to pull off and weigh their loads.

So, little old Neil, in his Ford F-250 and 2-horse trailer loaded down with fresh timothy hay, puts on his blinker and pulls off at the weigh station, coasting his truck and trailer right onto the scales. Of course, the weight of the hay far exceeded the gross vehicle weight allowed on the truck and trailer. So the state patrolman came out of his shack, surveyed the situation and happily wrote Neil a hefty ticket.

I have to believe that story is told at State Patrol gatherings and Elks lodges around the greater Seattle area to this day.

Neil got home, madder than hell that he had gotten a fine. My mom pointed out that those scales aren’t even intended for personal vehicles, but Neil would have none of it. 

“IT SAID WEIGH STATION OPEN!” he argued with his signature flared nostrils and emphatic hand gestures.

 “WHAT WAS I SUPPOSED TO DO?!? JUST DRIVE RIGHT BY?”

That was my dad. Hard working, exacting, generous of his time. And so damn honest, he pulled himself over and gave himself a ticket.

I love you Neil. Happy Birthday.

Update Your Bio, Change the World. (At least a little.)

Wanna give yourself a kick in the butt? Update your bio.

Not because you have to for a pitch or your website or to impress the people you’re going to see at your high school reunion who still remember you primarily for the Skirt Tucked Into Your Underwear Incident from freshman year.

Nope, you should update your bio for yourself. For the simple reason that it forces you to take stock of what you’ve accomplished so far (insert back pat) and what would make you proud to be able say you’ve done in the future (insert butt-kick.)

Bios are notoriously hard to write. Even for writers. It’s like crafting an elevator pitch about yourself combined with your own, brief eulogy to date. It’s an Elevator Eulogy! Only not sad.

Going up? Why yes, I am.

Going up? Why yes, I am.

When writing your Unsad Elevator Eulogy, it’s important to capture your biggest relevant accomplishments. This is not a time to be humble. (Modest, mostly women friends, I’m talking to you.) This is also not a time to list every honorable mention you’ve ever received or claim you invented #throwbackthursday or micheladas (People who lie in their bios, I’m talking to you.)

You want to seem focused, yet well-rounded. Impressive without seeming blow hardy. You want to gather your accomplishments together with a nod towards something bigger. And that’s where (at least for me) it got profound. It’s easy to list the accounts you’ve worked on, the companies you’ve worked for, the things you’ve contributed to. But what can you claim that’s truly impactful? What have you done to make a difference?

And by “you” I mean “me”.

Revising my bio made my consider - what have I done that’s beyond the normal industry successes of awards and years under my belt and account experience? What have I made my mission? And under that mission, what have I truly led? What do I want to be known for, aside from writing well and having a positive attitude and being a working mom/grown-ass woman who still considers horseback riding a legitimate hobby?

Maybe I’m alone in having a miniature mid-life crisis/epiphany over updating three lines in my bio. But I doubt it. Because it feels like a lot of us are searching for a way to do what we love in a way that’s inspiring and contagious and legacy-making. To have a bigger positive impact on the world. Cause the world really needs it right now.

So, I updated my bio. And then I wrote another version - the bio I want to want to have a year from now. It’s not drastically different. It doesn’t contain any fancy titles, global accounts or appearances on Shark Tank. But it’s different enough that it makes me excited to meet the person I’m going to have to become to get there.

I’m hoping to bump into her on an elevator.