The Suitcase and the Teenage Girl

Want a little chuckle in your day? Tell a teenage girl that she can only take a single, small, carryon size suitcase on a trip. Sit back and watch as she tries to pack. It’s quite amusing.

We had the opportunity to travel to NYC a few weeks ago with a school group and we were told that in order to accommodate such a large group traveling together each and every one of us needed to take nothing larger than an airline carry-on size suitcase in order to try and avoid having to spend time checking and picking up luggage. A collective moan went up around the classroom when the announcement was made. We were going to be up there for a total of four days, of course that size would be just fine. The older women, men and guys in the group had no problems with that restriction. BUT the teenage girls, that statement hit them hard. Along with the size of the luggage was the fact everyone also had to abide with the airline requirement of 3 oz. containers of liquids all contained in a small plastic bag. One could see their brains clicking along thinking of all the things that they just absolutely need and how they could possibly survive for four whole days without some of these things.

I’ve tried to get my daughter to pack light before without much success. She would always overpack and we would end up in a skirmish over how she just couldn’t possibly do without all of these items. And since these were supposed to be vacation moments for me, times to get away from the stress of work, life, bills and such… I would give in and let her take a bigger size. Stressing and arguing over the size of a suitcase just didn’t seem worth it if I wanted to enjoy my brief vacation times. Well, this time the command down to everyone so she couldn’t wheedle and plead her way out of that one. I figured I’d sit back and enjoy the show.

First of all, we were going to New York City, a place where style is first and foremost. Additionally, it was quite cold the weekend that we were there (it was in the 30’s) and we are Floridians. At home, the weather was already in the 70’s and 80’s at this point. Also, it’s kind of hard to imagine cold when our winters only drop down to the 50’s for the most part. My daughter kept trying to pick out stylish clothes that she would wear in warmer weather. I had to keep reining her in to remind her that she needed to focus on warmer clothes, on layering and staying warm. Of course selecting bulkier, warmer clothes tend to take up more space in an already small suitcase leaving very little room for additional clothes. Then she needed to be sure there was room for shoes, toiletries, and certain essentials. It took a while, days actually, she packed, repacked, dumped everything out, and packed yet again. Her room looked like a tornado whipped through it. Every drawer was agape, clothes draped and strewn about. Vials of shampoos, conditioners and makeup littered the dresser counter spaces. Her room literally had a little path leading from the door to the bed where she was packing. My suitcase on the other hand had already been packed and ready to go a week earlier, so I was able to sit back and watch. I think every mother enjoyed watching their daughters struggle with this knowing how many times we’ve tried to convince them that they only needed the bare necessities for a certain event only to be met with extreme resistance.

She did it though. She learned a few tricks along the way such as rolling things vs. folding and tucking items into others. She learned how to maximize the use of every possible space in that small, rectangular box. We even ended up coming home with a few unworn pieces AND was even able to pack in souvenirs that we picked up along the way.

Now that she’s accomplished this, there’s no way I’m allowing her to take a bigger suitcase than the one she used to NYC on a beach vacation. Who knows – I just may limit her to a backpack. That’s not an unreasonable request, I mean, we’re talking about the beach here. All one needs is a bikini, shorts, tank tops, flip-flops and some sunscreen. Should be interesting to see how that one turns out.

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The Day Sex Became an Awkward Subject

As a teenager, sex was tempting – forbidden – enticing… The hormones start going wild in a teenager’s body causing them to make reckless choices. Throwing caution to the wind, we push the limits often crossing them. It’s usually a crazy times in our lives when we’re discovering certain erotic feelings and emotions all for the first time. It’s a rush. It’s crazy and breath-taking. Some of us resist while others let go of all caution and dive in body and soul.

Sex changes as we get older, wiser and often as part of a couple. While still exciting and fun, it also changes in a way. It becomes more stable and expected. It’s not “forbidden” anymore which added a huge element of excitement. In this stage, sometimes couples have to work at creating the excitement that they once had.

As a parent of a teenager…

All of a sudden SEX becomes a dreaded thing. Something to cringe from. A topic that most of us, as parents, want desperately to avoid.

Everywhere I turn I’m seeing teens the same age as my daughter having sex, talking about sex, switching sex partners casually, and getting pregnant.

I’m on the other side of the coin now. The side that my parents were on when I first discovered the awesome headiness of an intimate encounter with the opposite gender. I look at my teenager and I still see my baby, my little girl. Surely she can’t reach that same point that I remember way back when, but she is. Now SEX takes on a new meaning for me. I’m dealing with it though. Short of locking her up in a room and taking away all means of communication with the outside world, I just have to trust that I’ve taught her enough that she’ll make good choices.

Telling a teenager “NO,” really isn’t an option, it’ll only make them determined to prove you wrong. All I can do is try and keep the lines of communication open between us. Make sure that she always feels safe and comfortable coming to me about anything. So far it seems to have worked, she’s confided in me about things that have made both of us uncomfortable, some of it involving her friends and others involving herself, but we have been able to discuss the situation. It usually ends up with me shaking my head in disbelief or some awkward admission of fact. I’m a huge believer in being honest with answers when your teenager asks. My philosophy is that if they ask, they deserve the truth. If the truth is something that you regret then show that to them. Everyone makes mistakes and parents are no different.

We were having an uncomfortable (for me) question and answer session the other day. It started off with me finding out some things about her and her friends and segued into her asking me about my teen years.  She was asking me questions about when I first had sex, when I first experimented with pot, smoking, drinking, etc…  When she asked me about smoking, I hesitated but then I told her the truth. Thirteen.

“Wow, that’s really young.”

“Yea, I know. We didn’t have access to all the information that you guys have today.” I was trying hard to let her know that smoking really wasn’t a great idea. I’m not a smoker. I’ve smoked cigarettes at certain times in my life but they were brief and something always made me quit. To which I’m grateful for today.

“When did you first get drunk?”

Ugh. This isn’t getting any easier. “Um, probably about 15.”

“Hmm. I’m not going to drink.”

Wonderful, she’s showing her own mind here. We’ve had a lot of discussions regarding drinking, smoking and drugs. I’m really happy to hear her come to that kind of conclusion.

“When did you first have sex?”

Rolling my eyes to the heavens and heaving a huge sigh. Do I tell the truth or lie? Truth. “Sixteen.”

“With who?”

“Your dad, who else?”

She looked at me solemnly, “Thank you for telling me the truth, mom.”

The bad thing about these admissions was having to say I had my first with a lot of these things at a younger age than she is now. In my mind, she’s still a baby. In my teenage mind when I was 13, 15, 16… I was ready. I was old enough.

How screwed up is that??

I Hate Alarm Clocks!

I’ve never been a morning person. This morning the alarm woke me rudely as it always does. As I do every morning, I turn it off and roll out of bed and into the shower. I’ve learned years ago not to snooze for an extra five or ten minutes as it always leaves me feeling frustrated and wanting more sleep.

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Back to this morning – I wake up, reluctantly – shower, in sleep mode – get dressed – when I noticed that my daughter still wasn’t up yet. I knew that she should have already been up by the time I got dressed so I rushed in there where I found her still in deep sleep. Crap!

Rushing over to her side, I shook her shoulder, not that gently either. I needed to get through that deep coma she was in at the moment. After a few moments of shaking and calling her name, she finally rose up to the surface.

Squinting, since I turned the overhead light on, she threw her hands up in the air to try and block it out. “Whaa??” I could see her trying to orient herself.

“Honey, you need to get up. You’re going to be late for school.” I could see she was still struggling to shake off the fog she was in. I kept shaking her and trying to get her to focus.

“We need to be out of here by 7:00. Do you know what time it is?” I took her cell phone and waved it in front of her eyes. “Here take your phone and look at the time.”

With one eye, she peered at her cell and looked at me. She should have been jumping out of bed at this point.

“Do you see the time?? You only have fifteen minutes to get ready before we have  to leave.”

Slowly, she looked at me and at her phone then back to me. “Mom, I’m confused.  Why do we have to get up?”

OMG, she’s seriously out of it! “WAKE UP. It’s 6:45.”

Again she peered at her phone. “But it’s 5:45.”

My mouth, which was opening to tell her again to get her butt out of bed, snapped shut. No. That can’t be right… is it?

I backed out into the hallway to look down the hall into my bedroom and the clock that was glowing on my bedside and sure enough – 5;45.

Seriously??? How the hell did I miss that?

 

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.

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.

 

 

A Day in the Life of A Teenager

We all know Teens are difficult for the most part, but I promise you this…you will never know just HOW difficult until you actually get into the thick of those teen years. Emotions are all over the place, everything is to the extreme – “I’m having the worst day of my life!!!” to “He is just the most amazing, perfect, cutest guy I’ve ever met!!”. Nothing is ever – “Okay, so today isn’t so great, tomorrow will be better. Or at least I’ll try a different approach.” None of that. It’s the worst or the best, it’s the most perfect or the crappiest.  Always extremes. It wears me down. Every day it seems I come home or wake up to some catastrophic event or the biggest miracle ever. Teen years are honestly a ride on a roller coaster, a very loopy, fast one too. So many times, I’ve wanted off just to have a little normalcy and quiet in my life. Was I ever like that? That bad??? Man, if I was then I owe my mother a huge apology.

Watching teens deal with life as it is today, I’m so very glad to be at my age. Teen years are difficult but then throw in all the technology we have today and they’re running on overload constantly. They have their computers, tablets, videos, smartphones, etc. So many ways of keeping connected that they don’t know what it is or how much of a relief it can be to disconnect. To actually go for a walk without their phones, having some quiet time and actually not know what the other person is doing for a period of time. As far as I’m concerned, disconnecting from all that technology to give yourself a chance to recharge and really get with your inner spirit is an absolute necessity. But I can’t seem to tell her that. I’ve tried showing her by example and so far that’s not doing squat. I’m just really hoping that she’ll wake up one day and realize that the world and her friends aren’t going to disappear just because she turns off once in a while.

On the flip side, being a parent dealing with a teen today is no walk in the park. As I said, earlier, it’s a damn roller coaster ride. Everything changes so fast. One day, she’ll have a specific problem and we’ll discuss it…the next day, I’ll probably still dwell on it and try to come up with ideas or possibilities to deal with that problem. Then I’ll bring up my ideas or thoughts only to find that it’s old, old news. “Oh mom, that was yesterday. It”s nothing now.” O K   why am I stressing then? Oh and when I give advice or suggestions – it’s resoundingly rejected for the most part. There’s just no way, I, could possibly understand what she’s going through. Right, I suppose I popped onto this earth just as I am without ever going through the growing process and maybe learning a thing or two along the way??

Teens have it rough, I won’t deny them that. But, as parents of these teens, we also have it rougher than our parents did just by going along with them on this ride.

Losing Ground

I’m back.

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted anything. It’s amazing how little life events have the ability to wipe out any momentum you’ve built up in your daily routine. I was doing good for a while there… had a regular running schedule, eating healthy and I felt good. Then just one thing happens and everything snowballs and here I am starting over again. So aggravating.

My mother became ill to the point where I needed to go over and check on her daily. I was driving her to her appointments and doing all the shopping for her. Plus trying to take care of her place. Don’t forget I’m also a single mom to a teenager. Teens require attention – lots of it. Did I mention I’m also an only child? Everything pretty much fell on my shoulders these past couple of months and I had to put myself on a back burner. I tried to keep up with the running, but I was so tired and stressed that most evenings I’d just come home and vegetate for the little time I had before crashing.

I’ve had a chance to really see how stress can have a huge impact on your life. It really does put on weight, cause depression and illness. Too much of it and I can see people giving up. Not that I’m anywhere close to that, it’s just been an eye-opener for me to see just exactly how much of an impact an illness within the family can have.

Things are looking up now, mom is recovering nicely. It’s Summer which means “no school, no homework”, which translates to less stress (temporarily) for me as a parent. I’m working on getting my momentum back. There’s this app called “Map My Run” that I’ve downloaded to help me track my running progress. I can see where I’ve lost a lot of my stamina from before, but I’m building back up to it. The app is actually kind of cool if anyone wants to check it out.

The one thing I’m really taking away from this whole experience is to maybe try and reach out to anyone who is stuck in a much more serious situation with ill family members or a struggling single parent trying to juggle several things, and offer help in any way possible. It seems too many people have isolated themselves from one another, leaving some individuals who may not have a large support group to fall back on, to flounder about on their own. It’s really difficult for those people who find themselves in a situation where they’re taking care of an older and younger generation while still struggling to hold down a job and pay their own bills. Not to mention the stress that can get overwhelming at times.

I hope this blog wasn’t a downer for some of you. My intent wasn’t to moan and groan about my plight but rather to show how stress can really drag a person down if they don’t have other people to reach out and assist. If this blog has convinced just one other person to reach out and offer help to someone they see struggling, then I’ll feel like I’ve made a difference.

Meanwhile, I’m back out there again…running.