On the Brink

October 1st, 2012

Did you know, at age 18, what you wanted to be when you “grew up”?  And now that you are grown up, are you doing whatever it was you thought you wanted to do – you knew for dead certain you wanted to do — when you were 18?

I ask because Lizzie just started a two-year culinary program with a specialization in patisserie.  And I had this vision of her, in five years, making signature desserts for some amazing, serious-about-food-but-not-snotty, quirky-but-not-terminally-hip restaurant. In the Northwest, of course.  Maybe even in Eugene.  I’m thinking Whitaker district, right next to the Ninkasi Brewery.  (My visions are pretty specific.)

And then I had a vision of her behind the counter of her own bakery.  In these post-cupcake times, where you can get artisan bread at Safeway (sort of), I wonder what her specialty will be.  She’ll have one, I know.  She’ll have brought back ideas from her culinary tour of Europe.  (Alas, I will be impressed into service as companion and note-taker.  Such is the drudgery of being a trailing Mom.)  Whatever it is her bakery specializes in, it will be irresistible and addictive and eminently tweetable. Yelpers will be falling all over each other praising its deliciousness.  A charming, quirky video of her business, shot and produced by her brother Jackson with animation by her brother Zane will go viral, thus simultaneously catapulting her brand to national status and the boys’ careers to stardom.  I will be asked to head the bakery’s Mediterranean operation, establishing culinary partnerships in Italy, Spain, Greece and the south of France.  (Impressed into service once again.)

Or, on the other hand… five years from now she may be a firefighter or in the midst of veterinary school or coaching girls’ track or couch-surfing the globe.  Because who really knows, at 18, what she will be at 25 or 45 or 65?  Isn’t it wonderful that we get to grow and change and change again, invent and re-invent ourselves, have second and third acts, and even encores?  I watch Lizzie on the brink of it, and I’m so excited for her.  I can’t wait to see what happens.


My pearls of wisdom

September 18th, 2012

I’m trying to remember any advice my mother gave me when I was a teen.  And I can’t.  I can’t remember a single piece of advice.

It is inconceivable that she never offered any.  It must be that she offered quite a bit– all mothers do – and I chose not to hear it.  Or I heard it and so immediately and completely ignored it that it never got stored in my brain and thus, lo these many years later, cannot be retrieved and recalled.

So why am I surprised (miffed) (okay, hurt) when my own daughter neglects to listen to my counsel, fails to embrace the wisdom I attempt to bestow upon her, the quick and elegant solutions I propose to her problems, the thorny situations I so easily clarify by the blinding intelligence of my insights?

I’m not completely stupid.  I know enough not to offer advice about friends or love or fashion. (About the latter I am deeply ignorant anyway.)  But when I recently offered advice about something I know as a long-time insider – navigating the terrain of college – I was shut down.  Immediately.  It’s been a blessedly long while – months maybe – since I last felt the particular chill of that teenage stare, since someone did an about-face and left the room while I was talking.  But it all came back in a flash.

When is it that your kid thinks you’re smart again?  My girl thought I was a genius when she was three, six, ten.  I had the answer to everything.  Then, just about when she turned twelve, I got really really stupid all of a sudden.  When, exactly, do I get my old IQ back?  I’m waiting.

(Okay.  I do remember one piece of advice.  It was that old one about wearing clean underwear in case you’re in an accident and taken to the hospital.  Years ago I was riding my bike, got hit by a car and was on a stretcher in an ambulance on the way to a hospital when I started to laugh so hard that the EMT thought I was hysterical.  I had just remembered my mother’s advice.  And it was too late. )

Sweet sweet summer

September 11th, 2012

There can be magic times in a teen’s life, I think, and one of them is the long, lovely summer between high school and college.  It was that way for me, and these past two and a half months, it has been that way for Lizzie. Although I worked like a dog all that long-ago summer – I was a kitchen drudge in the White Mountains (three meals a day, seven days a week, one day off every two weeks) — it was also an expansive, wondrously thoughtless time, a time of no expectations, a time when everything seemed possible and there was no hurry to find out what might be next.

High school, which lasted for, I don’t know, something like twenty years, was finally over.  The “first day of the rest of my life” would not begin until mid-September at college orientation.  I remember a mesmerizing blankness, a kind of trance.  It may have been the last time I felt liberated from both past and future.

And now it’s been Lizzie’s turn.  This has been her summer. Her days are unplanned, some lazy, some full to the brim.  Everything is off the cuff; everything is an adventure. Her friend base has expanded — doubled, tripled – no longer constrained by who happens to be in her classes, no longer hampered by lack of transportation, no longer hemmed in by 10 pm curfews.  Her activities have expanded – serious girlfriend time (no high school angst/ mean girl cliques), night-sky gazing, trips to the beach, taco sleep-overs, uber-gaming…and lots and lots of time with the new guy.

Yes, there is a boyfriend.  I do not yet have permission to talk about him, so I will just say that he texts her compliments when they are apart, tells her how great she is, how beautiful she is, how smart she is.  I had a boyfriend that endless summer too, one – like Lizzie’s new guy — who didn’t know the high school me.  And everything seemed possible, and there was no hurry to find out what would be next.

First day of school…sucks

August 25th, 2012

Dispatches from the frontiers of middle school.  My 14-year-old guest blogger recounts her first day back.


Dearest Diary,

The first day of eighth grade.  I thought it would be magical.  I would be gorgeous, all my friends would praise me, I would be adored by all. To say the least,  it sucked. I have only ONE class with my best friend. I wish I could say that I’m so smart, beautiful and could just run off with another friend and be just as happy. Not happening. I’m shy and shielded without her. I hide under my books and slouch in my seat. So smart can be counted out of the equation, so can being popular.

Well I spent weeks upon weeks picking my outfit out for the first day of school. However, since there are so many perverted guys in my grade, I decided to change my clothes this morning. My hair didn’t turn out the way I needed it too, and I was too stressed. After being tortured through class, I went home. I was complaining to my mother in the car about how sitting in one of my classes was like watching a turtle move. When she turned to me and yelled, “YOU JUST HAVE TO LOOK AT THE BRIGHT SIDE!”

That was problem, I had been looking at the bright side and I was pulling out only negatives.   And I already have homework.  They give me homework on the first day of school, when I don’t even know anything yet.  While I complain about that, my mom says, “The teachers are just keeping your brain working.” So now I’m googling math problems and seeing how to work them, so I can learn something. I know my mom would be angry, but she doesn’t get it — and neither do I.  My homework that is. So I must go diary, because I have plenty more work to do, and my partial social life to keep up.

Much love and yours truly, Breanna

Breanna “loves writing, reading, animals, helping others, and singing.”  She says “Thank you for taking time to read this.”


August 14th, 2012

This is the first of what I hope will be many posts by guest bloggers.  Want to join the conversation about teens, mothering and the whole wonderful mess?  Contact me here. 

What is it about the word “whatever” that gets people so worked up? In 2009, 2010 and 2011, it was judged the most annoying conversational word or phrase in the English language by the Marist Poll.  Nearly four in ten adults in the United States found this word obnoxious.

Whenever someone doesn’t want to commit to a particular opinion, choice or course of action this word gets trotted out.   The excessive use of the word, however, is only part of the problem.  It is the attitude that accompanies the word that really gets people hot under the collar.  Think about it.  Whenever someone (as in your teen) says the word “whatever” she generally rolls her eyes, curls her lip and apathetically shrugs her shoulders.   These gestures convey an air of contempt along with a “count me out” stance.

The subtext to “whatever” is:  “I don’t care, and I’m not prepared to take any responsibility.”  No one with integrity would adopt such an attitude.   No one who wants to take action, to inspire others, to do good, would adopt such an attitude.

Most people associate “whatever” with teenagers.  The media feed this perception, but the all too frequent use of the word by teenagers doesn’t help the situation.  Words matter. “Whatever” is rarely a good answer to any question.  It is simply a contract  one forges with disempowerment.

Guest blogger Shale Preston, Ph.D., is the author of Getting Beyond “Whatever”:  The Guide to Teen Self-Esteem and Happiness. (http://gettingbeyondwhatever.authorsxpress.com/)


Now it’s YOUR turn

August 10th, 2012

I still have MUCH to say about the ups, downs, ins and outs of mothering a teen girl, but right now I’d like to open up the blog — experimentally — to you.  Maybe you’re the mother of a teen, a soon-to-be-teen or an erstwhile teen.  I’d like hear about your trials and tribulations, what you’ve had to face and how you faced it, lessons learned (or still being learned).  Maybe you have not parented a teenage werewolf but YOU were  a teenage werewolf back in the day.  Let’s hear about it.  Or perhaps you’re a teen yourself.  What would you like to tell mothers of teens (besides “butt out,” that is). What do you wish they knew about your life?  You’ve got a forum if you want one.

If you’ve got an idea, a little story to tell, a pet peeve, hard-earned wisdom, a list of ten whatevers…email me a two-sentence “pitch” through my author website contact page, and I’ll get right back to you.  I’d love to expand this conversation with new voices and different points of view.

24/7 with my teen

July 16th, 2012

Those of you who’ve read My Teenage Werewolf may remember a particularly grueling and tear-filled (but ultimately okay) trip I took with my daughter to celebrate the end of 7th grade.  Moods (hers and, in tandem, mine) changed moment to moment.  The emotional rollercoaster ride was wild, sometimes disorienting and occasionally nauseating.  We had some lovely moments, yes.  But boy, did I ever have to work hard for them.  Maybe my daughter did too, in a different way.

Okay…flash forward.  We just returned from TWO WEEKS together.  And by together I mean we slept in the same room, used the same bathroom, hiked every day together, swam together, ate every meal together.  And I don’t even have ONE war wound (just a minor scratch, already healing).  Were there some ups and downs?  Of course.  But the terrain is less precipitous these days.  And, although I’m not good at this all the time, I am learning to …watch for the metaphor change…ride out the squalls rather than jump into heart of the storm. I am learning how wide a berth she needs.  I am learning that what’s important to me is not necessarily what’s important to her, and explaining, emphasizing and reiterating the importance I perceive has the opposite effect. I am learning how she can be right and not agree with me.

I am marveling that we made it through the toughest teen (and parenting) years.  There were long moments when I doubted we would.  I am marveling at this young woman, newly graduated from high school, newly turned eighteen.  About to launch. (Watch out, world.)



The Graduate

June 14th, 2012

Here she is: 

Master of the Culinary Arts

Queen of the Discus Ring

…and a force to be reckoned with

Who Knows Where the Time Goes

June 2nd, 2012

Today is my daughter’s birthday.  Her 18th birthday.

My journalistic and anthropological forays into her world, into the world of 21st century teens, began when she was 12.  This marked the beginning of the Teenage Werewolf years, the rollercoaster years, the years of mood swings and eye rolling and deep sighing and door slamming and back-talking, of fierce combat and icy silences.

And that was just me.

No, I’m kidding.

That was my tween/teen .  And me.  Except for the door slamming and back-talking.  I don’t do that.  But let’s just say I made up for it in other ways.

Are those years over?  Mostly, I think.

While I was living through the most intense of those werewolf years from 12 to say, 16 1/2 or 17, it felt like it a lifetime.  Endless.  Boundless.  Tearful.  Now her middle and high school years (she graduates a week from today) seem like a blur to me.  As my husband and I sat in the audience a few nights ago and watched Lizzie be awarded a certificate of mastery in the culinary arts, I thought about how it was just a blink-of-an-eye ago that I bought her an EasyBake oven, and she made a batch of rock-hard cookies.  As we sat through an assembly honoring varsity athletes, I remembered standing behind the cage watching Lizzie’s first throw at her first track meet in sixth grade.  She was awesome even then.  And “then” was, like, five minutes ago.  Or so it seems.

Time is so damn weird.  Clocks and calendars fool us into thinking it is progressive and logical and unvarying (except on Leap Year).  But it is none of that.  It is fast and slow.  It stops.  It accelerates.  It goes backward.  It jumps. I remember thinking I would never ever get out of high school.  I would be there, stuck, forever.  And then, miraculously, I wasn’t.  I remember thinking I would never ever survive the werewolf years.  And now, miraculous I have.  We have.

Happy Birthday, Lizz.

Let the Sun Shine In

May 29th, 2012

More dispatches from the land of Got to admit, it’s getting better/ getting better all the time:

Item 1: Lizzie redid her facebook page with the Timeline design.  For the banner she chose a lovely black and white photograph of the two of us.   It’s an older one, taken during the thick of My Teenage Werewolf research.  Our heads are almost touching, both of us half-smiling.  She is looking at the camera with that unaffected openness that is possible only when you are a kid.  I am in profile, my gaze focused on her.  I love this picture for what it says, and for what it doesn’t, about this moment in our lives.  But how startling is it that my girl used a mother-daughter photo for her facebook page. I remember when Lizzie would walk either in front or behind me in a parking lot, the grocery store, anywhere and everywhere, creating just enough space between us so that no one would suspect we were together.

Item 2: One day last week I was cooking dinner, and Lizzie asked if she could help.  Asked.  Didn’t consent grudgingly after being nagged,  Asked.  So that was surprising enough, but what followed was even more startling.  She asked me to teach her how to do what I was doing (filleting chicken breasts).  Lizzie is good in the kitchen.  She’s taken three years of culinary arts classes in high school and knows her way around.  She often bakes.  She frequently makes her own breakfasts and lunches.  But she has never ever asked me to show her anything.  In the past, on those few occasions that I have (unasked) offered instruction while she’s in the kitchen, she has given me the die now stare and stormed out of the room.

One final item:  This past weekend Lizzie was away at an overnight camping trip with her culinary class. We often text during the day.  Just a howzit goin or x’s & o’s thing we started when we did away with our land line last year.  Yesterday morning she texted me: doin fine can I call u? Thirty seconds later, she called.  Just to say hello.

I rest my case.