Thursday, August 27, 2015

Letters from Camp, Part Two

Earlier this week, I complained about having never gone to sleepaway camp. (Complained? Exulted more like it.) But, my sister, brother and I did go to daycamp several summers in a row. 

The only one that really stays with me was the summer before I started sixth grade. Even though we were practically teenagers (no one had coined the word "tween" yet in 1973), they made us take a nap each afternoon. There were these scrawny little mats and after lunch the counselor would turn off the light so we could sleep. Of course, none of us did sleep. So, instead, she read aloud from Judy Blume's adolescent classic Are You There God? It's Me Margaret.

We were fascinated! 

The whole getting-your-period thing seemed incredibly mysterious and grownup. The counselor (who, at nineteen, was also incredibly mysterious and grownup) had fun with it, taking us to the pharmacy around the corner and showing us pads and belts. She also warned us never to use a tampon or we wouldn't be virgins anymore. One of my fellow campers (a girl far more informed and precocious than I) asked the counselor if she herself was indeed a virgin. I don't know whether the older girl was caught off guard or just eager to share, but nap time became a lot more interesting after that.

My own daughter went to a number of daycamps over the years. She started when she was three years old, attending camp at her preschool (which was pretty much exactly like preschool but over the summer). Then she moved on to gymnastics camp at the local YMCA.

Soon, of course, she wanted to attend horseback riding daycamp, and she did so for a number of years. This was considerably more expensive than any other option, so those first summers we switched off — a week with the horses a week at the gym. (You can probably guess which weeks were her favorites.) Right before she entered middle school, she and a BFF went to "Adventure Camp," where they hiked, canoed and rock-climbed. 

It was all very ... well, adventurous.

Our daycamp days are behind us. In fact, these days, my daughter helps run a camp. But, the past few weeks have been a trip down daycamp memory lane for me. Each day when I arrive at the Y for Zumba or Dance Mania or Yoga, I'm confronted by tiny armies of campers. 

And not just any campers.

There are kids dressed as Harry Potter with his signature round glasses, striped scarves and magic wands. There are girls in long gauzy dresses and sequined crowns. There are older kids in lab coats with bright red "blood" stains.

The Y has really taken the concept of camp to new and exciting places. Why just go to "camp," when you can attend "Princess Training," "Treasure Hunting," "Hogwarts 101," "Superheroes," or "CSI: Forensics." Of course, there are plenty of fitness programs represented as well: "Sportsmania," "Soccer," "Dance" and "Making Waves." But, I love it that the Y has created camps for kids who may be more bookish, imaginative or just plain nerdy.

After the most grueling classes, I emerge sweaty but smiling. A quick look around the Y and one might think the inmates were running the asylum (maybe next year, they'll add a "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" theme). The kids are having a blast and isn't that what summer should be about?

The counselors (gamely dressed as evil queens, mad scientists or the faculty from Hogwarts) seem to be having fun too. At least as much fun as my old counselor did.

And hopefully they're not sharing quite as much.

If you enjoyed this post, I invite you to order a copy of my book  Lovin' the Alien at

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Letters from Camp, Part One

I never went to sleepaway camp. 

Although I was desperate to be independent, the idea of all those bugs and sleeping bags and bugs and lousy food and bugs and outdoor showers and bugs and dirt roads and ... 

Oh, did I mention bugs? 

Not for me, really.

Boarding school, on the other hand, was my idea of a dream come true. I pictured a sprawling manor house (Pemberley or Hartfield or Manderley — before the fire, of course). Other bookish girls like myself. Kilts and jackets. Secret passages. A moor.

But, I digress.

When my now teenage daughter was twelve she went away to camp for the first time. Twenty-one days about two hours away, down in Connecticut. It was a riding camp, naturally. All horses, all the time. She wrote a handful of letters, but wasn't allowed to call us, and it may have been the longest three weeks of my life. Definitely tougher for me than for her.

When we finally arrived to pick her up, she had made fast friends, ridden at least twice every day, and she even won the blue ribbon (first place, baby!) at the final horse show. Of course, there were some things she hadn't done — like use sunscreen or shower. ("We swam in the lake, though," she assured me. "Once.") She was brown as a nut and smelled a little ... shall we say ... eau de horsey. I was too happy to see her to reprimand. But, I did make her shower before we all got into the car for lunch in Hartford with her grandmama.

The next year, she went back to the same fragrant place, but after that she moved to a different camp in Vermont with even more horses and even less supervision. (Less supervision; more stress for mom. Can you say "Pinot grigio, take me away?") But seriously, each three-week separation was easier for me and I rationalized that it was good training because — sooner or later — she would be grown and off to college. Then we purchased a horse ("finally," my daughter would say). So, we stopped sending her to camp. We assumed that was a given. (Hello? A pony costs like way more, way way more, like ten times more than camp does, trust me.) She was surprised though. She had assumed she would continue going to camp and that we would ship the horse along as well.

Um ... that would be no.

These days, my daughter actually works at a horse camp, a daycamp at her stable. She coaches younger riders, supervises their "barn chores," horseshoe crafts, lunch, water balloon fights, and more.

She comes home exhausted, hot, tired and ... oh, there's that smell again. That distinctive perfume that barn mothers everywhere recognize. We have to. It's in our laundry and our cars, our daughters' bedrooms, and all over their expensive North Face jackets.

But, I'll take it. My daughter is here each evening (when she's not out with her friends, that is). She's not in Connecticut. She's not in Vermont. She's here.

And, after a nice — long — shower, she smells just fine.

If you enjoyed this post, I invite you to order a copy of my book  Lovin' the Alien at

Sunday, August 23, 2015

You've Got (Too Much) Mail

Our family vacation ended yesterday. 

As we've done for many years, we sailed on an antique windjammer up in Maine for four days. Three of the four, we were completely shrouded in fog. On the last morning, the fog finally broke ... and it rained. 

Not our best trip, weatherwise. 

But, we saw four bald eagles, three harbor seals, and a pod of porpoises. We ate way too much (definitely held our own at the "all-you-can-eat" lobster bake). We met such nice and interesting people. We played with the captain's adorable four-year-old son. I got through ten back issues of The New Yorker. And, my daughter made a dent (a small dent, but a dent nonetheless) in her summer homework.

Last night, we came home to a happy, if slightly chubby, puppy. (He seems to have finagled his way into some extra treats from our housesitter while we were sailing.) 

I also came home to 187 work emails. 

Not spam emails. Not notes from friends emails. Not opt-in subscription newsletter or retail coupon or airline update emails.

Work emails. 187 work emails. Each more urgent than the last.

"Ah ha," you may be thinking, "She forgot to tell her clients and colleagues that she was on vacation." No, they knew. In fact, most of the emails began with "I hope you're enjoying your time off."

(Um ... I might enjoy it more if you weren't sending me emails.)

It's frustrating. You look forward to a family vacation (well deserved and not nearly as long as it should be). You work twice as hard as usual so you can actually go. Then you come home to twice as much work as usual waiting. So basically, in addition to unpacking and laundry and grocery shopping, you spend your last day of freedom trying to catch up so your head doesn't explode on your first day back.

Of course, this dismal situation isn't unique to me. My husband is catching up on his emails even as I type. And, my daughter still has two and a half chapters of bio, six more chapters of civics, three papers and Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness. (In her defense, she tried reading that last one on the boat. She made it through page eight before she — literally — fell asleep.)

Back to my emails, though. I'm sorting through estimates from printers, feedback from clients, requests for proposals, background information to write copy, artwork to approve, minutes from board meetings, and an invitation to speak at a conference in October.

And I thought my head was in a fog on the boat!

Some of the emails are important. Some, not so much. Many could just as easily have waited until I got back officially. And, then there are the exponential emails on a single topic because everyone hits "Reply all." Too often, emails are sent after hours, even though nothing can really be done about them until the next business day. It feels like people are playing a game of electronic "hot potato." You see, once it's all in an email in my in-box, it's off their plate. Or their desk. Or maybe just their mind.

I'm glad someone can relax.

So, should we just forgo the family getaways? Give up on the mini breaks?

Is all the work and worry before, after and — in our almost always wired world — during a vacation really worth it?

You better believe it!

If you enjoyed this post, I invite you to order a copy of my book  Lovin' the Alien at


Thursday, August 20, 2015

Throwback Thursday; Come Sail Away

It's Thursday, and with any luck I'm cruising through Penobscott Bay even as you're reading. This year may mark the last with our beloved Captain (she is hoping to pass her magnificent windjammer on to a new owner in the coming year), so I'm filled with nostalgia.

Therefore, in honor of "Throwback Thursday" (and my much-needed vacation), I've dipped into the Alien archives. Enjoy!


Monday, September 2, 2013

Come Sail Away

When it comes to family vacations, I have a bit of a problem. I love to try new things. But, I also love to return to my favorite places. There's nothing wrong with either of these predilections ... or at least there wouldn't be anything wrong if I had (a) unlimited vacation time and (b) unlimited funds with which to plan said unlimited time.

Alas, I have neither.

Still, every year finds us spending New Year's in New York, skiing January weekends up at Sugarbush, and enjoying a summer swan song, sailing off the coast of Maine on the Isaac H. Evans.

This particular family tradition predates our actually being a family. My then-boyfriend, now-husband, first suggested a Maine windjammer cruise back in 1990. He had read in Yankee magazine about a fleet of antique schooners that took passengers for two-, three- and four-day excursions through Penboscot Bay.

Despite my being an urban-dwelling, matinee-going, indoor kind of gal (who, btw, had a long and colorful history of motion sickness), I said ... "Yes."

Let the record state that we were still in that early infatuation stage when his interests are yours and vice versa. (Believe you me, it works both ways. He once told me he "loved going dancing" — go figure.) 

At any rate, I agreed and off we went. As my husband loves to retell it, not only did I immediately fall in love with the experience, but I became the driving force behind a plan to make it an annual excursion. And for the past twenty-three years, we have missed very few opportunities to sail. I skipped the summer of '97 because I was great with child, but my husband took a buddy along instead. And, we missed one year when a hurricane forced the captain to cancel. 

While my daughter was a baby, a toddler and a very little girl, we enlisted doting relatives to stay with her while we escaped to the open seas. (One year, our trip coincided with her birthday. I decided to timeshift and celebrate when we returned without clueing her in to the fact that there was a delay. Since she was just turning four, I figured that what she didn't know wouldn't hurt her. Her loving grandmother, and temporary caregiver, tsk-tsked but went along with the plan.) 

As soon as my daughter was old enough, she insisted on coming too. Now it's very definitely a family affair.

Here's what we love about it:

• No email, no voicemail, no texts. Pull away from Rockland Harbor and we are out of reach. Sorry. Nobody's home. Leave a message at the beep, baby. 


• The scenery is breathtaking. Rocky beaches, towering trees, lighthouses, sprawling "summer cottages" along remote shores. And at night? Constellations, shooting stars, the Milky Way.

I repeat, "Heaven!"

• The best combination of wild creatures and creature comforts. What could be better than watching a family of adorable harbor seals cavorting? Watching them cavort, seated in a comfortable rocking chair with a glass of pinot grigio in your hand.

Have I used the word "Heaven" yet?

Most of all, I think I appreciate the time. Back home, between work and driving and the gym and high school and riding lessons and maintaining our antique house, we are always starving for time. On the schooner, time stands still. Breakfast is over (it was delicious, btw, homestyle, all-you-can-eat) and you have hours ahead of you to sail and talk and read and R-E-L-A-X. My "To Do" list typically includes watching for dolphins and catching up on back issues of The New Yorker.

"Sorry to interrupt, but the lobster bake is starting."

Our annual schooner trips are stress relief beyond compare, and always have been. At least for the grownups. For younger passengers, they're a chance to hoist sails, steer a boat, hang from a hammock over the stern, avoid a shower for multiple days in a row, and talk like a pirate. Add to this the fact that our captain is a wonderful example of a strong and independent woman (she was the first female captain in the fleet) and it's pretty much all you could ask for as a feminist mother looking to throw role models in your teenager's path.

This year, I was just a bit concerned though. As she's moved from her tweens to her teens, my daughter's reliance on electronica has grown exponentially. She's a little too old to climb the mast like a monkey. But was she old enough to see the value in unplugging? Could she live without Twitter and Tumblr, Facebook and Vine?

Turns out, she could! She worked on her summer reading, she slept in, she swam in the icy waters, she hiked on a deserted island. We talked and talked. And, something wonderful happened. She was willing to snuggle and hug. There was a sweet physicality to our mother-daughter relationship that has been sadly missing lately.

At times I thought, "Who are you? And what have you done with my daughter?" But, most of the time, I thought, "Thank you."

In one of Natalie Merchant's deep cuts "Verdi Cries," she sings, "Holidays must end as you know" and too soon (despite the luxurious stretch of time aboard the schooner), we were back in port, loading up and heading back to civilization, clients and looming sophomore year. 

We'll sail again, I know. Until then, I'll hold onto these memories and this feeling. What a gift.

In case you were wondering, my daughter was on her iPhone the entire ride home.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Where in the World?

As parents, we often bemoan how much harder life was when we were growing up — and, even more often, how good kids have it today. Sometimes we take this even further, pointing out the discrepancies between our fairly pampered offspring and the countless children in other countries who live in poverty, fear and mortal danger.

But, do we really know what we're talking about? I mean, do we check objective research and statistics before we just assume these things? (If our own teens were making similar assertions in their AP World History papers, wouldn't their lackluster grades reflect a lack of thorough scholarship?)

Last year, the Global Youth Index was published by the combined efforts of the Center for Strategic & International Studies, the International Youth Foundation and Hilton Worldwide. It ranked 30 individual countries across six "domains" of youths' lives: education, health, citizen participation, economic opportunity, safety and security, and information and communications technology.

As we might hope, the United States was in the top quarter of some of these domains. But, interestingly not all. We were number one in economic opportunity and third in both education and information and communications technology. In safety and security, we were eighth. (Not too great, in my opinion.) We really fell short in citizen participation. In fact, we came in 20th of the 30. And, in another important category, health, we were number twelve. Both of these seem like domains that could — and should — be improved here. Sadly, too much of our public policy caters to the country's wealth rather than its youth.

Citizen participation was measured by indicators such as the existence of a youth policy, volunteer frequency, youth perception of value in society, and youth feeling served by the government.

Health was measured by a mix of indicators, for some of which the U.S. has an advantage. Like water sources and life expectancy. Where we probably fell short were in tobacco use among youth, self-harm among youth, and perceived stress levels.

Nevertheless, we were the only country in the Americas that earned a place in the top 10. We were 6th overall, managing to squeak our way into the top 20th percent. Barely. Ahead of us, in order, were Australia, Sweden, South Korea, United Kingdom, and Germany. 

As the sponsors of the index explain, "We have a genuine stake in the success of today’s young people ... (and) ... a shared belief that our future as a society is increasingly dependent on theirs." 

As parents (and, especially, mothers), we need to let all of our hopeful (some seemingly hopeless) presidential candidates know that youth policy is a critical issue.

We have work to do.

If you enjoyed this post, I invite you to order a copy of my book  Lovin' the Alien at

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Summer School

Lately, my teenage daughter has been complaining that she isn't having much of a summer. I have a mixed reaction to this.

On the one hand, I want to say "Welcome to my world, princess." My work doesn't stop over July and August. In fact, many of my ad agency's clients want their marketing campaigns out in September, so we are typically extra busy at this time. If there does happen to be a lull, I don't enjoy it because I'm too worried about grownup things like income and revenue, mortgage, retirement and college savings.

On the other hand, I have to concede that my daughter has a point. With what felt like countless snow days (six in reality), she was still in school, finishing classes and taking final exams, until the bitter end of June. She started one of her jobs, counseling at an equestrian camp, the very next day. She's had horse shows nearly every weekend, some of them out of state. These are all good things, but it's been too much.

And, speaking of too much, what a perfect segue to the point of this post.

My daughter, and every other high school student I know, has too much summer homework.

She has to read Heart of Darkness for Honors English. (Not too long but a guaranteed snore-fest.) She has to read A Brilliant Solution by Carol Berkin and write a paper on it, plus analyze two essays on Locke and Hobbes for Civics. And, finally, she has to read and take copious notes on chapters of her larger-than-life AP Bio textbook.
We weren't exactly blindsided by the assignments. And, this is nothing new for her; in fact, I've written about this before. But it still boggles my mind. I went to a super competitive high school and an elite university. I can only remember one summer assignment from either distinguished institution.

We were asked to read the novel 1984 prior to starting college. We would be the class of 1984, so someone thought it would be a good choice and would give us a shared literary experience to discuss during freshman orientation week. I had already read it in ninth grade, but I dutifully re-read it (Can you say "geek?"). Apparently, I was in a distinct minority. I think just two of the ten kids in my orientation group had bothered to read it at all.

Today, most high schools assign work in an attempt to reverse what's referred to as the "summer brain drain." Teachers will tell you (and research and test scores support it) that students lose as much as six weeks of learning when they shut down for the year. So, much of every fall semester is taken up with re-teaching what was taught the previous spring. There is definitely a strong case for continued learning.

But, and I really want to type BUT here, just because something makes sense in theory doesn't mean it will play out in reality. Since when do teenagers automatically buy-in to what's good for them? Here are just some of the issues as I see them ...

Teenagers are excellent at procrastination. I think it's the very odd over-achiever who actually starts a summer assignment at the start of summer.

The assignments are long and dull and dry. My daughter and her peers would be far happier to pick up a book if it was actually interesting or entertaining.

There's virtually no support from the teachers. Don't get me wrong, each of my daughter's instructors has posted his or her email address and invited questions and comments from the students. But I'm guessing that very few (or none) of said students are taking them up on it.

Summer homework takes teens away from other important activities. A lot of teenagers, including my daughter, work or volunteer. With better weather and more discretionary time, the summer months should also be used for socializing and physical activity.

And, perhaps, most importantly ...
Year-round schoolwork means year-round stress. Even though my daughter still hasn't started her assignments, they've been on her mind. And, not in a good way. Junior year was stressful enough, believe me. 

A break would have been welcomed and deserved. By me, as well as by my daughter.

If you enjoyed this post, I invite you to order a copy of my book  Lovin' the Alien at

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Left of Center

Today's my daughter's day. 

Wait, what am I saying? 

Every day is my daughter's day. She's an upper middle class teenager in America. Whether she knows it or not — and often that would be not — she has it pretty good. Food, shelter, clothing, the latest Apple electronics. Check, check, check and CHECK.

No, today is her day for a different and special reason. Today is International Lefthanders Day. And, my daughter is a lefty.

I remember when we first noticed. She was a toddler when she started favoring her portside, picking up crayons and spoons with her left hand as often as her right. I held my breath, understanding that being a lefty in a righty world was inconvenient, but kind of hoping she would turn out to be one of that marvelous minority. My father was left-handed, and I'd lost him six months into my pregnancy. (He never met his first grandchild, but he knew she was on the way.) It became more and more clear that his granddaughter would follow in his footsteps.

Or should I say "Handprints?"

Over the years, being left-handed hasn't affected her life that much. She never did become an expert at scissors (I'm sorry but lefty scissors are a myth, people!), but her handwriting is absolutely acceptable. 

So, in her honor on this leftist holiday, here are some facts that about my daughter and her fellow southpaws:

1. Only 10% of the general population are lefties. (See? She's special.)

2. BUT, 20% of people with mental disorders and a full 40% of those with psychoses tend to be left-handed. (Crap! We don't want her to be that special!)

3. AND, lefties are less likely to have arthritis or ulcers. (Yes! Some good news.)

4. According to anthropologists, most Neanderthals were righties. (Um. Not really sure how that applies.)

5. Left-handed people are more creative, artistic and are better problem-solvers. (Duh. I once supervised an ad agency art department and 9 out of my 10 designers were ... you guessed it ... not righties.)

6. Lefties are leaders. Including the current POTUS, 4 out of the last 7 presidents were left-handed. (Sigh. If only my daughter had shown the slightest interest in student government.)

7. Lefties also have an advantage in several sports, including baseball, tennis and boxing. (But not, sadly, equestrian eventing. Sorry, honey.)

And, finally ...

8. Left-handers tend to be more dramatic and emotional. Although not part of the same study, one would have to assume that left-handed teens are exponentially more so.

(Puh-lease! Tell me something I didn't know.)

If you enjoyed this post, I invite you to order a copy of my book  Lovin' the Alien at

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Liar Pants

Don't worry. I'm not about to brag about my daughter's astronomical GPA. Or her supermodel good looks. Her hall of fame athleticism. Or her selfless devotion to those less fortunate. 

Sure, she's bright and pretty, sporty and kind. And, I do post as many proud moments on Facebook as the next mom. (Maybe more. Okay, more.) But, I'm not blind to my offspring's shortcomings.

For example, she is an utterly terrible liar.

I mean it, she's really really bad at it. Really bad.

And that's a really (really really) good thing.

When she was very little, I was traveling with colleagues to see some clients. One was the father of two girls slightly older than mine. The other didn't have any children. He listened to some of our stories (it was a long business trip) and shuddered. "I can't imagine having kids," he said. "It sounds so hard." Then, after a moment he shrugged and said, "I guess the main thing is never to lie to them."

The other parent and I almost choked on our airport coffee.

"Oh nooooooo," I exaggerated laughing, "We neverrrrrr lie to them."

"Never never," laughed my colleague.

"Never never never," I agreed, "Except ... like, always."

There are the standard, society-supported fictions. You know, Santa Claus, Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy. Then there are the situational ones: "I'm sorry, honey, Ben and Jerry's ran out of chocolate ice cream." Or, "Boo Boo Kitty went away to cat sleepover camp." 

Or, "It isn't whether you win or lose, it's how you play the game." 

Hmmmm. Yeah, that rings true in the adult world, doesn't it? 


Anyway, children grow up surrounded by lies — well-meaning lies mainly, but lies nonetheless. Then they start telling them. Some at a younger age than others. I was at a board meeting yesterday and heard about someone's daughter who, at a mere two-and-a-half, has already effectively pulled the wool over her daycare teacher's eyes. "Why is she wet?" her mother asked when she picked her up. "Oh," she was assured, "She sat in a puddle. She told me so." 

You can probably fill in the rest of the blanks.

Did I mention the little tale-teller is two-and-a-half? Oh boy!

Meanwhile, my daughter, at seventeen, is still a fairly flimsy fabricator. Her powers of deception are not as keen as they might be.

And I am glad on't.

Just last week, I sent her off to her job at the stable with a container of yogurt and a plastic spoon. It was a rather desperate attempt to get her to eat something, anything, in the morning other than a chocolate chip muffin. She returned home with a tragic tale of grief and loss. The yogurt, alas, did not fare well on the journey. By the time she got to work, it was melted and warm and not good. She sighed with resignation. The performance was, shall we say, a bit overwrought.

The next day, I found the spoon. Still in the car. Not a molecule of yogurt on it. When confronted, my daughter tried to continue the subterfuge but folded pretty quickly. She admitted that she had indeed fabricated the melty, warm, not good story. 

"But," she insisted, "That's what it would have been."

Well, then. Alrighty.

I had to laugh. If my daughter is going to lead a secret life, to dissemble, to feign, to ... well ... lie, it's absolutely better that she do so in regard to breakfast than where any more serious subjects are concerned. Like sex. Or drugs. Or alcohol. Right? Of course right.

Why do teens lie? According to Psychology Today, there are three main reasons. To gain freedom, to escape punishment, or to attain something forbidden. I guess, those are pretty important reasons.

Almost as important as avoiding yogurt.
If you enjoyed this post, I invite you to order a copy of my book  Lovin' the Alien at

Friday, August 7, 2015


"The days go by slowly, but the years go by fast."

This came from a lovely woman who helped me negotiate my daughter's stroller up the gangway of the ferry from Martha's Vineyard to Cape Cod. We had visited my best friend and her family. Her children, at 12-, 10- and 7-years old, seemed impossibly grownup.

"The days go by slowly, but the years go by fast."

This simple observation on motherhood was probably the keenest one I ever heard. Well, this and "From now on, every trip to CVS will cost you $50."

Mothering a toddler encompasses countless milestones and moments of great joy. But, there are also long stretches of tedium. I mean how many times (really) do you want to read Goodnight Moon? Then one day you realize that you haven't in weeks. Or months. Or years. 

Twelve of them to be exact.

It's all too tempting to mourn those long gone days, whether they went by slowly or not. I remember my own mother wistfully saying "I wish you were still little" when I was being a particularly petulant teenager. These days, with a petulant teen of my own, I spend a lot of time looking at photo albums (I'm a fairly meticulous — and analog — archivist, despite this digital world). I do miss that adorable little smile. Her party dresses. Her bangs. The way she jumped for joy or her signature move, "the elbow dance."

But, I don't want to go back because then I would miss my bigger little girl. The one who was undeniably happy when I pulled up to the Vermont equestrian center where she's been training all week. She has her annual "rider's tan" (deep dark forearms, face and neck, but white upper arms and hands from the polo shirts and gloves she wears). She was pretty much caked in barn ... um ... whatever. 

I don't ask. 

After a sweaty hug, she gave me a quick tour and came back to my hotel room for a "real" shower. In the car, she filled me in on all the drama, of which there was an abundance, trust me. She cleaned up happily, but declined my invitation to dinner or to stay over. She was eager to get back to her teammates and coaches.

When she makes time for me, I enjoy her company. Her intelligence, her insights. Some, like her feminism, I recognize as the fruits of seeds I planted long ago in the Goodnight Moon days. Others are uniquely her own.

I'm not at the top of her dance card anymore, but I shouldn't be. When she's at work during the day, I miss her and look forward to her homecoming. Maybe we'll watch one of the movies I've recorded for her. Maybe we'll have dinner together. But, I know that if she gets a better offer (Panera or Bertucci's with her friends, laser tag, a bonfire at the beach or a late night swim off the town dock), our evening will be quite happily time-shifted. There's a new sense of urgency gaining momentum. Although they still have to get through senior year together, they know there's a clock ticking.

I hear it too. Every minute of every day.

If only they'd go by a little slower.

If you enjoyed this post, I invite you to order a copy of my book  Lovin' the Alien at


Monday, August 3, 2015

In A State

I've said it before. My teenage daughter is a groupie. It's official.

Actually, it's been official for quite some time.

She started going to concerts a couple of years ago. Mostly, she goes to hear bands that I've never heard of at venues I've never been to. In fact, when one of her bands makes it big (like Imagine Dragons did after they were covered on Glee — oh, and won a Grammy — or like Walk the Moon has with "Shut Up and Dance With Me"), it irritates her to no end. Suddenly ticket prices soar; suddenly it's harder to get autographs, drumsticks, playlists and selfies; suddenly her bands play at 21 and up clubs where she can't go.

The horror!

Recently, the concerts have become bigger — I'm sure she would argue "better" — experiences. For example, we had the all-day vigil outside the House of Blues; and our mother-daughter evening in Boston. Now, she's crossing state lines.

This past weekend, my daughter and a bestie went down to Providence, Rhode Island to see a band at some waterfront venue somewhere. This concerned me. I've pretty much, almost, sort of gotten over my fear of her driving. But, going to and from her stable is one thing. Driving on highways to another state is ... well ... another.

Luckily, my husband pointed out that driving to Providence on a Friday in the summer would not be a very good idea. You see, in between Boston and Providence is this peninsula called Cape Cod (you may have heard of it). The highway I was so afraid of would be a parking lot, and they would get there at about half past never. 

Hooray for public transportation!

The girls left our town later than they had planned (but earlier than they would have if I had insisted that my daughter go change into a different tank top that didn't showcase her bra quite so much). They drove to the nearest T station, got on a train to Boston, and then took the commuter rail down to Providence. By now, my daughter knows that frequent texts and a selfie or two go a long way toward calming my nerves. She sent a picture of the two of them enjoying a particularly nutritious South Station breakfast: pretzel bites.

By all accounts (and a handful of text messages), their day in Providence was great fun. They found "the cool neighborhood" with its own Urban Outfitters. They got elaborate henna tattoos on their hands. And they arrived at the concert venue two hours early so they could snag and save front row seats. The last train back to Boston was at 10:40 pm and they were to be on it. No excuses, no kidding. They had to catch that train on pain of death. (Really. If my husband or I had to drive two hours to rescue them, heads were definitely going to roll.)

Despite the looming curfew, they had a wonderful time. They met the band and got autographed CDs. And, they made the train. They were home by about 1:00 am. I was already asleep upstairs. My husband was asleep with the puppy on the couch.

As is my way these days, I reminded myself that I was fairly autonomous at my daughter's age. In fact, I was younger than she is when I went to visit colleges. A high school classmate and I took Amtrak from New York to Boston, and stayed with an older girl from our school in Harvard Square. I took the bus to Tufts, and toured the campus by myself, hitting all the important things — the arena theatre, a dining hall, a dorm, the library — then took the bus back. On the next and last day of my visit, I went into Boston, where I fell in love with Beacon Hill and Faneuil Hall and the Charles River and the North End. I applied to Tufts early decision and didn't look back.

I realized a while ago that my daughter's life is more exciting than mine these days. While she was in a state of bliss in, oddly enough, the state of Rhode Island, I realized that I might also be in a state. 

A state of agitation. 

A state of anxiety. 

A state of emergency.

Then I decided that it would be better for all involved if I took a little trip to the state of acceptance. It was a much better place to be.

I just wish they had henna tattoos there.

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