Fifty Two Life Lessons

My fifty second birthday is peeking over the horizon at me. Just a few more days and it’ll be on top of me. It’s truly amazing how quickly the years fly by. Especially once you have kids. There was a time when I thought being fifty was ancient. It was so far down the road and quite frankly I just never really envisioned myself being in my fifties. That was where my parents resided. Then one day I wake up and realize with a shock that I’m there. I’m officially middle-aged.

The interesting thing is – I don’t feel like a middle-aged person. I still feel and think like I did when I was younger. I still enjoy running and being active. I still find amusement in the stupidest, little things and delight in beauty around me. Somehow I always associated middle age with boring, dour looking folks who have long outgrown fanciful things like dreams and playing. At least that was how I always saw my parents and their friends, or maybe that was just how the younger generation sees things. But, being in my fifties really isn’t bad at all.  I’ve learned a lot of things along the way and actually look forward to learning more as I get older. Every stage in life has its own level of learning and it’s not about getting old, it’s about learning and growing mentally and emotionally.

Since I’ve been doing some reflecting on life, I thought I’d try to come up with 52 life lessons that have worked for me. In no particular order… I’m just typing them up as they come to mind.

1. Smile. Smiling does wonders to change a mood. People respond positively to a genuine smile, and that positive response goes a long way in boosting your own mental state. I don’t mean walk around grinning like an idiot every second of the day. It’s just that we all have a choice… we can choose to look at the good or bad aspect of situations. Those who choose to dwell on the good things tend to be much more approachable and easy to be around.

2. Don’t marry just for the sake of getting married. There are literally billions of people on this planet. Life is too special to be wasted being with someone that isn’t quite right for you. When you meet that perfect match, you’ll know it. If you haven’t, at least have fun meeting people along the way. There’s nothing wrong with being alone when you’re comfortable and at peace with yourself. Being married to the wrong person and trying to make it work, only adds stress and unhappiness along the way. Too many times I’ve seen (I was one…) where people meet and say that they can work around the differences and change the person. Trust me, it’s not easy to change the core of who someone is.

3. Exercise. Okay, I can hear the groans already. A lot of people think exercise is overrated. It’s not. It truly does create a more positive state of mind as well as better health. I’ve gone through periods of exercising and not. Whenever I went for a while without a regular workout regime, I started feeling bad both physically and mentally. My physical feeling would be aches, pains and a feeling of being too heavy. The discomfort that I felt with myself only brought my mental state down. Then I would get back into running and always, without fail, I’d feel that boost of confidence. That positive energy would start flowing through me again. Our bodies are just like any mechanical thing we may have such as cars. If you don’t take your car in for regular tune-ups and make sure the tires, oil and other things are changed or maintained on a regular basis – it’s going to break down on you and quit. Our bodies are basically the same way. They need to be maintained and treated well to carry us through our lifetime.

4. Play. Always make time for playing. We work and spend much of our time trying to save a little money, pay bills, maintain our homes, cars and take care of our families. It’s incredibly important to make time for fun. Otherwise your mind is going to get so bogged down with responsibilities. Make time to let loose, go somewhere new, experience something fun. Just get out and clear your head of problems and really enjoy yourself.

5. Choose your battles wisely. If you’re going to get into an argument with someone, at least make sure it’s a worthwhile battle. Otherwise it’s wasted energy. If it really isn’t important and about something that isn’t going to affect your life and surroundings, then just let it go.

6. Learn something new whenever possible. Take a class, read, explore…you’ll be a much more interesting person for it.

7. Make time for animals in your life. They can teach a lot about unconditional love.

8. Try new experiences. I went snow skiing for the first time in my life last winter and had a fantastic time. I don’t want to find myself sitting in a wheelchair at eighty wondering what it would have been like if….

9. If you have kids, give them the absolute best you can. Prepare them for life and give them the tools needed to succeed. And love them unconditionally.

10. Think before you speak. Who among us hasn’t been quick with our mouths only to regret the words coming out. Maybe this is something that has to be learned over time, but it’s very true that our words can sometimes cut deep.

11. Be sensible about your finances. Money isn’t everything, but it’s nothing to brush aside either. Find a good balance where you have enough money so you don’t have to worry about your next meal or how you’ll pay your bills, but at the same time don’t let money run your life.

12. Leave a place better than when you arrived. Pick up after yourself, get rid of trash, etc. None of us want to live in a dumpster so why would we just leave trash laying around?

13. Make time for books and movies. They’re great for relaxation and entertainment, but don’t make them a focal point of your life.

14. Enjoy good food. Be open to trying different dishes and flavors.

15. When in love, love with all your heart. If the love fades then let it go and move on. Know that nothing is forever and sometimes the universe knows what we need at certain points in our lives.

16. Laugh often and laugh loud.

17. See the ocean at least once in your life.

18. Go to the mountains at least once in your life.

19. Possessions are there to enhance your life, not to encumber it. Be willing to give things away when they’ve outlived their purpose. Life is not about things, but about experiences.

20. Always treat others the way you would want to be treated.

21. Never underestimate the power of sleep. A good night sleep will do wonders to boost morale and lift spirits.

22. If you see something beautiful, stop and take it in. Don’t be in such a rush that you miss a great sunset or the glitter from the sun dancing across a lake. We’re not going to be here forever so don’t take beauty for granted.

23. Take care of the older generation. They’ve been around a long time, they deserve to be respected and cared for. These were people that were our age at one time. Always remember that we will all get to that point at one time or another and treat them how we would expect or wish to be treated ourselves.

24. When doing a job for someone, do it well. You wouldn’t appreciate paying someone to do something for you only to see that they’re putting in a half-assed attempt. Do your job well and to the best of your ability.

25. Get crazy once in a while. Let your hair down and don’t be afraid to look foolish. As long as no one gets hurt by your actions, it’s good to let loose.

26. Create something. A picture, poem, story, garden… anything. Just put something together and watch it grow.

27. Nothing’s perfect. We live in an imperfect world, with imperfect people. Accept these imperfections and learn to see beauty in them.

28. Cry. Don’t be afraid to cry and show your emotions.

29. Show appreciation whenever you can. People usually respond amazingly to a simple but genuine “thank you”.

30. Take vacations. Even if you don’t have the money to travel someplace exotic, a simple drive to the beach or countryside can rejuvenate ones soul.

31. Take time for inner reflection. The world we live in is so fast-paced and hectic that it’s easy to lose touch with yourself.  Step back once in a while to take a breather and meditate. Gather your thoughts and center yourself.

32. Nothing is permanent. Sometimes someone or something that was so good for us at one time can become a source of anxiety or frustration after time. If this happens, it may be time to step back and away from that source. We don’t all go down the same paths in life. Paths intersect for periods of times and then they may divide and you find yourselves going down different paths. It’s okay to move on. Don’t hold on so tightly and refuse to let things flow.

33. Enjoy a good glass of wine.

34. Accept change. It’s inevitable in this changing world we live in. Why fight it?

35. Dress up and wear something incredibly sexy once in a while.

36. Take lots of pictures. Going back and looking at them usually puts a smile on my face.

37. Don’t procrastinate. Easier said than done, I know. But taking care of things right then and there reduces stress in your life. You’re not constantly thinking of the things that need to be taken care of when they’re done on the spot.

38. Accept people for who they are. Too many times, especially in relationships, people will find something that they’re not 100% happy with and place their focus on “fixing” that imperfection. It doesn’t work. Determine if it’s an imperfection that you can live with and leave it alone. If not, move on.

39. Eat sensibly. What we put into our bodies does have an impact on how we feel. Maybe not immediately but over time…  You wouldn’t put dirt into your gas tank, would you? It would muck it all up. Our bodies are the same way.

40. Give what you would like to receive. I’m not talking about things. I’m talking about love, gratitude, respect…

41. Don’t follow the crowd. Too often the crowd is doing things only to be accepted or to be popular and often that entails things that we may not be in agreement with. Step back and be true to yourself.

42. If you see someone being bullied or pushed around, stick up for them. Let them know they’re not alone and let the aggressors know that what they’re doing isn’t cool.

43. Spend time with a baby who is discovering the world for the first time. Seeing things through their eyes really puts things in perspective.

44. Dream. The day you stop dreaming is the day you stop living and start just existing.

45. Enjoy getting older. It may not be so much fun to see the wrinkles on the face, but really, they’re an indicator of what a person has been through. The wisdom and knowledge gained from all those years should be embraced and revered.

46. Think about the choices you make. Your kid wants to go out and play with you but the house needs cleaning….  choose the playtime with the kid over cleaning. Cleaning can be done anytime, but the playing with the kid will be gone over time.

47. Treasure the people in your life. You never know how long they will be there so enjoy every moment you can with them.

48. Bullying, stalking, threatening actions are not cool.

49. Splurge once in a while on yourself. I have a hard time with this one. I tend to want to save my money and time for my mother and daughter that I tend to forget about myself. But when I do something for myself, it’s a great morale boost.

50. Don’t be self-centered. People who are able to forget about themselves to focus on other people or tasks tend to reap more than those who spend all their time thinking of their own desires.

51. What?? We’re not done yet????

52. Live, love, laugh and just enjoy the hell out of this life. Be kind, have fun, get crazy. We only get one shot at this, why not have fun while we’re here.

Happy birthday to me!!!!  Cheers!

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Nothing like a good run

After weeks, months of getting sidetracked from my running schedule, I went for a long one today and it felt great. Granted, it was more of a walk peppered with short running bursts, but the main thing is getting out there. The release of endorphins in my brain always makes me feel more positive and energetic. There are several different routes that I like to take when I get out there to run. They’re based on the time I have for running and my mood. This one is one of the longer ones that I like to take on the weekends if I don’t have other pressing things to do. It takes me out for a good hour and by the time I get home, I’m tired, sore and exhausted but I always feel great mentally. It’s a beautiful route. almost zen-like if you can just lose yourself in the surroundings.

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Quiet, lots of shade and just beautiful.

When I don’t run or do some type of exercise, I usually start feeling frustrated and negative about things. That’s probably why I keep going back to running. It just takes away the negative energy and clears my head. If any of you read my last post, you’ll see that I was really at a point where little things were bothering me. I know so many negative people. All they see around them is the negative aspects of things. In reality everything has negative and positive aspects to them. It’s all in what or how you choose to look at them. When I’m not feeling good about myself, not making time for exercise then I can easily fall into that trap also. Without preaching, I’ve tried to share my feelings about exercising on a regular basis and typically the response I get is that they don’t like to get sweaty and dirty. Okay, that’s their choice and I respect that. For me, an hour of sweating in the heat and pushing through discomfort really pays off in feeling good the rest of the day.

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How can one not enjoy being out in this beauty?

Some people are able to set up a schedule for themselves and adhere to it. I find it impossible with an elderly parent and a teenage daughter. Too many unexpected things come up. That’s why I really need to push through being too tired on some days and take full advantage of every day that I can possibly get running in. The other stuff I can’t help.

I’d join a running club if I could. It would probably give me that extra motivation to be around others who enjoy the same thing. And to have a running partner who is counting on me to show up at a certain time for our run. Maybe someday when life settles down a bit more for me.

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To all you runners out there – see you tomorrow out on the trails…

One of THOSE Days…

I try to stay positive. Think good thoughts and embrace things as they come….. (blowing raspberry)

Today, I’m just not feeling it at all. I’m not getting the validation from my bosses that I’m doing a good job, I’m not feeling appreciated, my running is falling steadily by the wayside because I keep getting pulled in so many directions. My daughter has decided to become a gourmet cook overnight and I’m eating way too much food and way too late at night because for some reason she always starts her cooking late. I get home and there’s vacuuming. laundry and cleaning to be done. And I’m watching one of those bridal reality shows where the bride is pitching a fit because daddy won’t fork over more money for her wedding. (blowing more raspberries).

I wish I had a daddy to hand over money or a husband who wanted to provide and take care of his wife instead of the man I married who voiced his resentment many times over the years we were married how he thought it was totally unfair that women have a choice whether to work or not. Funny, because the way I remember it, I didn’t have a choice. If I really wanted to nit-pick;  he actually didn’t work for over a year and worked part-time for another 3 years during that time while I worked two jobs. So, who was it that really had a choice??

This bride show – she’s fussing now because her daddy has vetoed some of her expensive choices for the wedding and she’s being a baby about it. My sixteen year old has more sense than that! The girl is in her early twenties and she’s going in for Botox??!? Either I’m really living out of the loop or I wasn’t smart enough to manipulate people around me to my advantage.

I know I’m rambling on here. It’s just been one of those frustrating days that’s been piling up on a series of similar other days.  So, I’m going to vent, get it out of my system then get up tomorrow and take one of my long hike/runs and it’ll clear my head. I’ll be back to my normal positive self in no time. For right now though I think I’m entitled to blow off steam.

Have a great Friday night everyone. Tomorrow is always a new, promising day.

The New Meaning of Driving One Crazy

For all you parents out there who have kids under fifteen, just wait. Just wait till they get their learner’s permit. Then you will truly understand how nerve-wracking it is for the parent.

My daughter could not wait for the day she turned fifteen for that meant she could get her driving permit. I was okay with it. I know she has to learn sometime and after all I got mine when I turned fifteen also. In fact, I had been driving way before that on a property that my dad owned. Anytime he would go out there to work, I’d tag along at age twelve or thirteen and take the car around on the property while he worked. No biggie.

So the magical birthday rolls around and soon after we were at the DMV getting her permit. I was still feeling comfortable about the whole driving idea. That afternoon I took her to a huge parking lot where I knew there would not be anyone around. It was one of those places that had gone out of business. Took her there and explained what she needed to be watching for on the dashboard gauges. We went over the positioning of the seat and mirrors. Finally, she was ready. I settled down on the passenger side and we were ready to go. She took it nice and easy. I had her driving as if she were on the road, staying in the proper lanes, stopping for imaginary lights and signs. All in all it was a good driving experience.

THEN she was ready to drive on the road. My gut clenched, the nerves started firing and I found myself making excuses on why today wasn’t the right day. A few days passed and she kept after me to let her drive on the road. We live in a busy city and there are no light days to take her out for a practice drive. It’s jump in traffic and go. I ran out of excuses and so we finally got ready for her first drive on the road.

I handed her the keys. She had to tug on them a bit because my fingers just didn’t want to unhook from the key ring. Getting in the car, she began adjusting the seat and mirrors while I was still lecturing her from outside the car. I reminded her of the blind spots and how she would have to get familiar with the blind spots of different vehicles. I walked around the car and had her look in the mirrors for when I disappeared from sight so that she would get a good feel of where she could easily miss something. As I lectured on and on about the blind spots and all the different possible scenarios where she could run into trouble while driving, she finally looked at me and said, “Mom, you’re stalling. Let’s go.”

Agh, she was so right. I was stalling. The realization that I was about to hand over the controls to the car to my fifteen year old daughter was finally hitting me full force in the face, FIFTEEN! That age all of a sudden seemed way too young to me. Reluctantly, I got into the car and prepared myself.

Buckling in, I kept an eagle eye on everything she touched. Made sure she put it in reverse and not drive. I’m sure my eyes were rolling about wildly as she started moving out of the drive. My foot was already pressing down on the floorboard on my side, wishing madly I had a set of brakes over there. If there had been, we would not have moved one inch.

As she moved out into the road, my poor heart started doing palpitations,  I was trying so hard to be calm and collected so that she would be relaxed and focused on her driving. However, my hands would fly up to hold the dashboard or the handle above the seat. My foot automatically slammed onto the floor looking for the brakes. She’d come up behind a car or to a stop light and I would press back in the seat with both hands clutching the door and console on either side of me.

“You’re coming up too fast. Start braking please.” I’d say.

“Mom, relax. I’m stopping already.”

“You need to give yourself more time to brake.”

“I know, mom. I’m fine. See, I can do this.”

“Don’t get cocky. Cocky drivers always get into trouble.”

“Sheesh, mom. Relax already would you?”

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I knew she was doing fine. She was being responsible and careful. She listened to me and did what I asked of her. It’s just the feeling of being out of control and having a fifteen year old manipulating so many thousand pounds of steel.

This went on for a long while, every time we’d go out and she asked to drive, my mind and body would automatically go into that fight or flight mode. The adrenaline would start pumping and my nerves started jangling. I never realized how much I liked to be in control of a vehicle and just how helpless I could feel sitting over there with a newbie driver.

She’s actually a good driver. It wasn’t that she gave me reason to be so panicky every time we went out. It was simply my own response to teaching or being responsible for a young, new driver. I know now that I could never be a driving instructor. I wouldn’t be able to handle the stress. Today, she does a lot of the driving and I’ve actually gotten to the point where I can check my phone and send text messages without feeling I have to have eyes on the road and her every second. I still press down on the floorboard trying to brake when we come up behind cars or to a light, and she knows it. I think she takes some small delight in the fact that I get so jittery over this. That’s okay… one day, she will be in my shoes and I’ll be in the back seat laughing at her. No, let’s correct that – I’ll be at HOME laughing at her. I don’t think I want to go through this again with a grandchild. I’ll just let her handle it while I’m in a safe, comfortable place.

Life is Beautiful…

I’m around some people who don’t see beauty around them. It makes me sad when I hear them talk about suicide or being depressed. I’m not bipolar but I have had very close experiences with people who are and it’s really tough to see them go through these extreme lows.

Please, if anyone out there is interested. It’s such a precious place we live in. There’s so much beauty surrounding us. It may not be right next door but it’s definitely on our planet. Use your imagination…dream… let your mind go places that you may not be able to go physically at this moment.

I believe in the power of positive thinking. I think that when you feel that things are possible. They really can be. There’s no limitations except what you place on yourself.

I, myself, plan on traveling. I just have to wait a couple of years for my daughter to graduate school. Then I can just pick up and go. Possessions are nothing. Life, love and experiences are everything.

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A perfect rose…

 

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Skiing at midnight…

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Kayaking through the mangroves…

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A beautiful Autumn sky…

I don’t even have money to travel but yet, I can have these experiences. So if I can convince anyone that life is beautiful around the corner….I’ll be happy.

 

 

Mental Images

Everyone has a mental image of themselves. I think we see who we really are in our twenties and that image gets burned into our brains. Twenty years down the road, we look in the mirror and see this older version of our mental image and wonder who it is.

My mother and I were talking on FaceTime the other day and she made a comment that she didn’t like the way she looked in her little box. She said that she looked so wrinkly and old. Then went on to tell me that she went down to the local  drug store the next day to look for some wrinkle cream. I tried to tell her that she was beautiful for an 83 year old woman, but then realized that I too have looked at myself in the mirror and wondered where that middle aged woman came from? I remember myself as a young, smooth-skinned with a slim and taut body so who is this person looking back at me now? I mean, realistically I probably look pretty good for 51, but my mental image is one of when I was much, much younger.

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My mom and I.

Thinking of my own experience in the mirror, I guess I’m not surprised that my mother felt that way. If our mental image of ourselves gets burned into our brains when we are in our twenties, then imagine how it must feel to look back at an eighty something year old in the mirror. She’s a beautiful woman. Not beautiful in the  conventional  sense that society adheres to, but beautiful for a woman of her age. Everyone who meets her are amazed that she is in her eighties. Doctors who check her out tell her that they hope to be like she is when they get up there. But despite all this, she still feels that she looks awful when she actually sees herself on camera.

It doesn’t help that our society is so youth oriented. Older people get pushed aside by the younger generation who think they just have it all and it really does make us feel worthless and old when we really should be celebrating the wisdom that we’ve gained over the years, the experiences that have shaped us into who we are today….

I choose to feel good about myself. I was young once and remember the feeling of invincibility. Of being young and strong with the whole future staring me in the face. Now that I’m here facing the latter half of my lifetime, I realize that youth is fleeting. Being young and on top of the world only lasts so long before the next generation comes along and shoves you out.

And that’s fine… I know what they’re feeling, I know how fleeting that feeling is so they deserve to feel good and strong for however long they can. The true test of how one handles it comes later when the realization sets in that they’re no longer on top of the world but perhaps sliding down the other side of the mountain. I’m okay with it. I enjoy the experiences and wisdom that I’ve gained over the years. I’m not so overly concerned with how I look, how I appear to others, and whether or not I’m sexy enough, smart enough or even fun enough. I’m really okay with who I am. I just want to experience things before this last half of my life goes by. I want to travel, have fun and learn new things. How I look….eh… I want to look good, who doesn’t? But, I want to look good for myself. That’s the biggest difference. Looking good and feeling good for myself rather than for others.

It’s the image that I have in my head that needs to be replaced so that when I look in the mirror there isn’t a little voice saying ” What? Who’s this? The person I know, doesn’t have lines, droopy eyelids, or gray hair.” Well, I do and little by little, I’m learning to accept and love that person that I see in the mirror today.

Food, food and more food!

I have never had so much food in my kitchen for an extended period of time as I have these past couple of weeks. I’m no cook and I’m not ashamed to say so. In my opinion the microwave was one of the greatest inventions of all time. I can’t imagine life without that one minute wonder. I’m divorced, I work, and I’ve been raising a kid who for a long time was involved with dance. Life was running from one thing to another. So, food was anything I can stick in a microwave with minimal clean up afterward.

So, what happened??? My teenage daughter discovered cooking! She’s been watching the Food Network channel over the summer and started discovering recipes on the website. A little over a week ago, I came home to find a white board that we have hung up in the kitchen for reminders, appointments, etc…, filled with ingredients for various recipes. She informs me that we have to go grocery shopping because she’s going to start cooking. There was a long list of ingredients that she needed. I had to remind her that groceries cost money and for her to be a little budget conscious when selecting some of these recipes but otherwise, I was happy to indulge in her latest interest.  I’d rather see her interested in cooking than running around getting in trouble like so many of the other teens I see these days.

This is the girl that I could not convince to go into the kitchen for something as simple as boiling pasta. She always shied away from cooking and I figured that it was probably something that I was passing on to her with my own aversion to getting in the kitchen. I knew she needed to at least have the basics down, but wasn’t having any luck getting her to learn. Suddenly, she just up and went from being totally anti-cooking to preparing elaborate recipes. It required a bit of adjusting on my part. I went from having minimal basics in the kitchen to a whole spice rack along with a gazillion different cooking ingredients. Not to mention kitchen tools. Today she tells me that she needs one of those things to hammer out meat, a decent cheese grater, and some better kitchen knives. I have to keep pulling her back and say, hey… these things cost money. One thing at a time. Right now, my grocery bill is doubling.

I’ll have to say I”m enjoying her cooking. She’s been very successful in preparing the dishes she’s selected.

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Spaghetti and meatballs made from scratch. None of the frozen meatballs thrown into sauce like I would do.

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Leftover meatballs sliced and made into a sandwich with slivers of peppers on it. Delicious!

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Chicken Parm. This one was ambitious, but she pulled it off. The taste was amazing.

One of the things that always kept me from really getting into cooking was the time. Time it took to prepare and cook the food plus the time it would take to clean up afterward. Believe me, there’s been more dishes these past couple of weeks than I’ve probably done in months. Counter and stove clean up is happening on a daily basis whereas before I could give everything a quick wipe down and be done with it. But that’s okay. I can see where the cooking is giving her a lot of confidence and pleasure. She’s seeing results and finding that they’re quite delicious. I’m getting some amazing food. We’re working together in the kitchen (I do the clean up, can’t stand a dirty kitchen so I go behind her and put things away and clean).

This whole cooking experience has brought us closer together. I would highly recommend getting into the kitchen with your teen if you can. We’ve had a lot of laughter, experimentation, researching, etc…  She’s even getting involved with the cleaning afterward now while before she started cooking, she’d whine, fuss and moan anytime I asked her to please help with the dishes, or fixing anything. She seems to understand now why it’s so much easier to have a clean kitchen.

Meanwhile, I’m going to enjoy the good food and the new maturity in my teen. It’s been so nice not to spend all my time nagging and fussing with her.