He’s rotund. Pleasantly plump. Some might call him chubby or chunky. He’s got personality; you can tell that even without knowing what his face might look like. He’s in the center of the patch. You might miss him if you’re averse to the muck. He’s heavy but not so much it hurts your back. He’s not over ripened, but his shell isn’t impenetrable. You can slice in; it will take effort, but you won’t exhaust yourself trying to pry off his lid. His shell has one blemish that will make his face even better than you thought. His stem is sturdy and strong enough to hold his weight. His guts have been perfectly cooked by the sun. When you open him up it’s a glistening gooey, stringy, cavern of tangled mush and seeds, yet as you start to spoon out the mess, it comes up with ease, leaving his shell flawlessly hallowed out. Right in the center is a perfect space for you to set a light in. His face comes to life with the art of your hand and when you step back to see what he looks like when he glows, he’s better than what you imagined when you plucked him out of the patch. What a fine pumpkin he is.
Matt’s eating sugary cereal, because Jon stopped at the store and got Cookie Crisp after practice last night. Mae is working on spelling words. “E-X-P…does it have an A or and O?” she asks. “Sound it out” I tell her. “Sound it out. E x p l oooo de. Explode. Say it a few times before you write it down.” I’m feeding the dog. Not sure if he pooped. He can poop later. The coffee is done. Jon pours his cup and he’s out. I’m working from home today. We have four minutes to get out the door. I’m driving them to school. We made the bus on the first day of a school and it all went down from there. I have that meeting about that video. I’m not prepared. We have to go or I’m going to be dialing in late. We rush out to my Subaru that has zero gas left. The kids pile in. “Everybody got their stuff? You got what you need?” They assess their belongings and give a collective “Yep!” We’re off. For a moment it’s silent and then Mae asks, “Mom, we have that drill. What’s it called? When the guy comes in and you have to run, fight him, or hide?” I look in the rearview mirror and say, “A lockdown drill.” I know they have a drill planned because the Assistant Principal sent out a message. “Yeah, we have to practice trying to think of where we would run, and then if we can’t run we have to hide, and then if we can’t hide we have to fight.” I’m watching her in the rearview mirror. “When is the drill happening?” I ask. “Next week.” Matt says. “How do you guys feel about that?” I ask. They are silent, thinking. Mae leans forward to catch my eyes in the mirror at the stoplight. “It scares me,” she says quietly. My stomach drops. I’m angry and sad. I wish I could pull over. “Why?” I ask, even though I know why. “Because what if the guy shoots everybody, or we try to throw something at him and he shoots us?” As she speaks, I keep thinking she’s only eight. She’s only been in this world for eight years. “I would throw my trumpet at him and then all of us would tackle him and punch him in the balls.” Matt says with a cautious confidence as he leans in to catch my eyes. They’re both looking to me for an answer, gravitating towards me, catching my eyes in the mirror. They want me to help them understand. Our drive to school is only three minutes. How can I say all I want to say to them in three minutes? I can’t. “It’s OK to be scared. It’s scary to think of that happening. But it’s good to know that you can beat the bad guy and there will always be more of you good guys than bad guys.” I tell them this and for a moment, I imagine them trying to fight for their lives. I stop the thoughts. One more turn and we’re already in the drop off line. I keep thinking of how young they are and how unfair it is that they have to see and know so many awful things. I hate how fast they can get information and imagery that can stay with them forever. I think of my time in grade school. The drills we had were fire drills and tornado drills. Even though we had plenty of preparation, I still remember when the alarm went off for the drill adrenaline and fear would flood my body. The thought of what a fire or tornado could do was paralyzing. It was terrifying. I think of my children dealing with an actual monster. A real monster come to life opening fire on their friends and teachers. I think of their thoughts and it’s so sick, and sad, and scary, but it’s a reality. I have an eight year old who believes in unicorns and she has to practice running, hiding, or fighting monsters. All I could think of was that they are surrounded by good people. That everyone inside their little school was good. “You are surrounded by good people that love you. Everyone around you in your life loves you. They’ll always help you.” I tell them this and want to go on and on, but I don’t know what else to say and I don’t want to make it more scary. We pull around to the drop off area and Mae scans the line of cars. “Cecila’s mom is a good guy. Mrs. White is a good guy. Mrs. Yee is good. That guy over there is a good guy.” Matt chimes in. “Mr. Cohn is a good guy and he loves Star Wars, so he would be good at fighting bad guys.” Mae continues her survey of the schoolyard as we make our way around. “My friends are all good guys. Doctor Conway is a good guy, and the bus drivers are good guys. Mrs. Blake is good and Mrs. O’Donnell is good. The lunch people are good.” Matt adds on, “Mrs. Sheridan is good and Mr. Smith is good at music and he’s a good guy.” We’re out of time. They gather their things to exit the car. I turn back and tell them how much I love them and to keep counting all the good guys.
And that’s how they start their day.
I drive away getting the sick feeling you get when you allow yourself to think the very worst; of something bad happening to them. Of anything bad ever happening to someone you love. I stop myself and think of all the good things in my life. Of all the good things my children have surrounding them. Of all the good things that are to come. Of all the joy and goodness they bring and that living has brought. I think of the good over and over and over again. Because let’s face it, if we all thought about all the bad things all the time, none of us would dare live.
You can always find the good, even in the darkest place the good guys are all around.
It took a while to become best friends with my sister. Our youth was filled with hair pulling, door slamming and many middle fingers. Granted, I was (and still am) an annoying little sister, but she was (and still is) a bitch. Don’t think she’s gonna read this and feel bad. She knows she’s a bitch, we talk about it a lot, because we talk at least four times a day. Plus she already read this.
Of all her traits, I think her bitch factor is the most endearing, important, and critical part of her fiber. It has saved my ass several times and has gotten me to the front of many lines.
I’ve always admired my sister. She has so many qualities I lack. She’s brave. She’s not emotional. She’s pragmatic. She’s unapologetic. She just does and doesn’t need to consult anyone or get opinions, because frankly, she doesn’t care what your opinion is. If she makes a bad decision, she always finds a way to fix it without anyone else’s help. I have to get a poll, call everyone in my phone, consult a therapist, and then get a test market together before I act, because I don’t ever want to hurt anyone’s feelings. Granted if you hurt me, or someone I love, you can guarantee I’ll send you a letter or write about it publically someday.
I forgive too easily. She never forgives. I am warm and friendly. I’ll let anyone in. She’s cold and standoffish. She only lets a few in.
My sister volunteers for everything and speaks so infrequently of herself that people around her don’t even know what she does for a living, or that she has a full-time job. She works her ass off. She runs marathons and races and has hundreds of medals, but only talks about it when she’s encouraging others to run. She’s humble, but she’s also annoyingly loud-like deafening. She steals microphones at weddings and will sing, even though she can’t carry a tune. I can sing. She can’t. She thinks that her loudness makes her funny. She’s not funny. Like maybe once in a while, she’ll say something funny, but most of her comedy is physical or a result of an embarrassing situation that I’m the star of. She thinks it’s hysterical that I get myself into humiliating situations. She’s always been a rebel, I’ve always been afraid to rebel, but want so badly to get into a bar fight.
Under all her toughness, there’s a soft vulnerable spot that only a few have seen.
We’ve come a long way together, and as I look back on all we’ve been through and all that is ahead, I can point to the things that made us grow closer, helped us understand and appreciate our differences and made us love each other deeper than can be explained. Some of these things have literally made us pee our pants too...
Kelly, since you can’t remember a damn thing, this list will be good for posterity and accuracy as we grow old and I become your caretaker. I’ve written it like I’m talking to you, so when I read aloud you’ll understand you were there as one of the main characters, but not the funny character, the bitch character.
SWEARING ON A STUMP
We won’t name names, but remember when “what’s her face” was beating you up in the snow because she wanted your saucer? I felt helpless. I wish I would have been brave enough to tackle her in the snow, but instead I climbed up on a giant stump and shouted out every cuss word in the book until mom came and spanked the crap out of me. At least “what’s her face” stopped kicking the shit out of you. This is when I learned words could change the world, especially dirty words. I also learned that I have uncontrollable rage when it comes to someone hurting people I love; especially my fucking sister!
THE PENIS LIGHT SWITCH
There it was in Mrs. Kempf’s den- the penis light switch; an outline of a naked man, with the switch taking the place of his anatomy. We both saw it on the wall. We couldn’t believe it. How could this 178 year old woman we mooch stale cookies off of have a penis light switch?! Did she buy it? Was it a gift? Did her church friends think it was funny? Why did she put it in such a prevalent spot; such a high-traffic room? Whatever her reasons, we made more visits to Mrs. Kempf’s. This is when I learned, we have a sick sense of humor and I laugh with you like no one else on Earth, especially about penis stuff, and farts, and boogers, and periods, and boobs, and anything that twelve year olds think is funny.
THE ADDAMS FAMILY
You would hop the fence and run to Tammy Johnson’s with me trialing behind. It was 4 p.m., time to raid the jar of Hershey kisses in the kitchen, lick them, and smear chocolate all over our faces while the theme song for the Addams Family played. This is when I learned, we didn’t have to have a reason to do something insane together, and that no matter what, we’re up for anything that starts traditions.
R-E-A-D-Y (That spells READY!)
Our song: “R-E-A-D-Y, that spells READY! We’re ready.” Mom and dad said they would come tuck us in. We would lay for what seemed like hours and eventually developed the READY song to let those jerks know we were ready to get tucked in. I don’t recall them ever owning up to their end of the deal. I do however remember getting tired of singing the damn READY song and then you suggesting I tickle your arm while we wait. The deal was I would tickle your arm until mom and dad came to tuck us in, and then it would be my turn. The problem was they never came and I never got my arm tickled. The even bigger problem was this happened every night. This is when I learned, you are a crafty bitch and I am a sucker.
Why we watched Poltergeist at such a young age, I’ll never know. What I do know is that we had those horrifying life-size clowns, a closet right next to my bed, and a window above my head with a satanic possessed tree right outside. After begging, crying, and pleading with you to switch beds, you finally succumbed, with the condition that I tickle your arm every night. This is when I learned you really would do anything to make me shut up, but there would always be fine print applied.
KICK YOUR BUTT BECKY
Where is she?! For one summer, we shared a wonderful friend; Kick Your Butt Becky. She would run and her legs were so long, they would kick up and nearly hit her butt. We played spaceship rock. We stole neighbor’s flowers. We watched Mommy Dearest and you puked in the green bowl. We made maps and went on treasure hunts around the neighborhood and then she was gone. We’re still looking for her. This is when I learned, we could share friends; that you would have best friends and I would have best friends, but being sisters was God’s gift to us. Friends have come and gone as our friendship has grown stronger.
THE KAYAK RESCUE
What do you do when you’re in a raft with your sister and you get wedged perfectly between two boulders with raging rapids pouring in? If you’re me, you sit and cry and pray and hope someone comes to rescue you. If you’re you, you pin yourself up against the rock and the current, and bail the boat out. A kayaker eventually rescued us, but my participation is still shameful. This is when I learned you are the strongest person I know and that nothing happens in life if you sit on your ass and cry when the water starts to rise.
SLEEPING WITH A WEDDING DRESS
You broke my toasting glasses on the day of my wedding. I accidentally used your wedding dress as a comforter, after too many glasses of wine, on the night before yours. This is when I learned that no matter what, every single slip up makes for a good story; as long as we forgive each other.
Never have I seen you cry with as much joy and surprise as when Kate was born. This is when I learned that I’m right about how you feel, even when you’re too stubborn to admit or show it.
OPENING THE CURTAINS
IT’S NOT FARTS
So, it wasn’t farts, it was an appendicitis and maybe I didn’t wear underwear that day. Either way, you dropped everything and came to the ER (not with underwear). You are always the one that plans, prepares, shows up, and does the practical thing; so I STILL HAVE NO IDEA WHY YOU DIDN’T BRING ME SOME GOD DAMN UNDERWEAR?! This is when I learned, that it really IS important to wear underwear every day. I didn’t learn anything from you in this situation. Not. A. Thing.
There’s more, Kelly, but we’ll save that for the book…
I thank God for my sister. With one look we understand. We have a language of our own. We have busy lives, but we talk at least a few times a day. It usually starts with, "Whattaya got?" And then one of us says, "Nothing". Then there is big pause and someone chimes in with, "Well, I still have that zit on my nose." or "We finally got a goddamn Starbucks in this town." or "I can't stand stink bugs." or "Can anyone in your house pick up a damn thing?" or "I'll tell you right now, I'm done with work." or "You're not gonna believe this one..."
Whatever we talk about doesn't really matter. All I know is that God gave me a sister and I don't know what I'd do without her.
Love you Smelly Kelly.
I used to be fluffy. I was pure white. Now, I’m grey. My hair is matted. Look at the shape of me! I can’t hold my neck up from when the brother strangled me, and right in front of the kid too. Sick bastard. What’s with that kid? If I’m in the bed he’s pile driving me. On car rides, he’s gotta smash my face against the window. I think he wants his own unicorn, but he’s too cool to admit it. There was that one time when the kid was sick and he wrapped me up in that damn polka dot blanket she loves and brought me down to her. That was nice. Most days I just lay staring up wondering about the kid. She talks to me ya know. She tells me all her dreams. It’s hard, because I wish I was a real unicorn ya know? There’s this book “Uni the Unicorn” about a unicorn that believes in little girls. The unicorn gets made fun of and everyone thinks she’s nuts and then, whattadya know? Boom. She meets a little girl who believes in unicorns. They ride over a goddamn rainbow and their like best friends. It kills me inside. The kid must have read this book a thousand times to me. And I know it’s supposed to be happy but I can’t help but wonder or think that she’s disappointed in me. She won’t say it out loud to me, but I can feel her staring into my soul wishing I would flinch or move –something! I just wasn’t made that way, I wanna scream “I’m listenin to ya kid! I’m here!” Most days I’m thinking about her and hoping that I’ll become real, but it’s been years now, so I’ve moved on to smaller dreams. And don’t tell me blah, blah, blah the Velveteen Rabbit and Toy Story. Listen, it ain’t happenin’ for me and what I’m trying to say is I’m fine with it. If after all this time, this kid still wraps me up in that goddamn polka dot blanket and totes my ass to everything, that’s a pretty good life. We don’t need to talk or fly or do magical shit together. Her telling me her dreams every night is as real as it gets. That’s what I hold onto. That’s the magical unicorn shit. I know she’s gonna grow. I can already feel it. I haven’t been taken to one football game this fall. I know she’ll take me up north for Christmas, but someday, I might not get to see her on Christmas. We all know where this is headed, I’m not beatin’ around the bush, I’m just being real, no pun intended. This kid will grow up. Maybe she’ll have a kid of her own and try to pawn me off, but we all know what happens with shit like that. I’ll just be on a shelf somewhere. It won’t be the same. But I’m ok with that. As long as I can watch her dreams come true. As long as I get to be a part of her life and see that she’s happy and loved. I know she’ll always remember I was there. I know one day, when she’s all grown up, she’ll pull me down from some shelf and look into my eyes and without sayin’ a thing, we’ll both know what we’re talking about. That’s when she’ll know I was always there. That’s when she’ll know it was all real.
I’ve been in a dark place the past few days thinking, praying and wondering about everyone affected by the atrocities in Las Vegas. Like anyone, I’m trying to figure it all out and make sense of something that will never make sense. I’ve read a lot. I’ve written a lot and deleted it, but tonight, I kept the words here…
I’ve never liked country music, it’s always been too basic for me. A few lyrics repeated. Someone is drinkin’. Someone is wonderin’. Someone is dyin’. It’s poetic in a way that’s always been too straightforward for me. It’s too easy to figure out. I like Poe, Sartre, Frost, or just a nice Shakespeare sonnet, which I liken to modern day Depeche Mode or The Cure.
But I’ve been thinking about the simplicity of country music. The poetry. The draw. Maybe after all these years, it’s me that’s not deep enough to really get country music. Maybe the point is the simplicity.
I thought of Sunday night. All those people. Excited, dressed up. Letting their worries fade. Making plans. Heading out. Getting together. Celebrating with complete strangers through music.
I thought of country music. I reflected on the idea of music and how it’s the one thing that brings people together. How it’s the superlative of all feelings. When speaking won’t do. When you need more than just words on paper, when you’ve exhausted all other ways of communicating, what can you do but sing? When your heart is breaking, when you’re overjoyed, when you need to break the tension- you turn up the music.
Music speaks so profoundly to all of us, no matter what we think. No matter what we believe. When we hear music, it goes right to our souls. As if it was meant to heal something inexplicable, that we don’t even know exists within us.
When it’s someone’s birthday, we all circle around them and sing. We stare at them, misty eyed, hoping, and wondering what they’re wising for as they blow out their candles. We remind them, “make a wish” and they never reveal what it is. Otherwise, it won’t come true, right? We circle around the people we love and wish them a healthy and happy year. We hope their dreams come true. We hope they stay safe.
Sunday the music was shattered and so many wishes won’t come true. The fear, the terror, the overwhelming chaos, and despair, it’s unimaginable.
I’ve been listening to country music the past few days and I’ve realized I was wrong. There is nothing simple about it. And while there are no words to express the sadness and emotions we feel about Sunday, there are beautiful songs that I imagine were dear to so many who lost their lives and those that love them.
Thank God for music and all its power. I hope those families can heal. I hope our country can heal. I hope we can stop fighting, arguing, screaming, and hating.
I hope we can be simple again, like country music.
I pray that we find a way to sing; or at least to stop for a moment of silence and let the music take over...
Always Be Humble and Kind
Don't take for granted the love this life gives you
When you get where you're goin'
Don't forget turn back around
Help the next one in line
Always stay humble and kind
I Hope You Dance
I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean,
Whenever one door closes I hope one more opens,
Promise me that you'll give faith a fighting chance,
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance.
I hope you dance....I hope you dance.
I Fall to Pieces
I fall to pieces
Each time someone speaks your name
I fall to pieces
Time only adds to the flame
Bless the Broken Road
I think about the years I spent just passing through
I'd like to have the time I lost and give it back to you
But you just smile and take my hand
You've been there you understand
It's all part of a grander plan that is coming true
Live Like You Were Dying
And I loved deeper
And I spoke sweeter
And I watched an eagle as it was flying
And he said
"Someday I hope you get the chance
To live like you were dying"
Always on My Mind
Tell me. Tell me that your sweet love hasn't died
And give me
Give me one more chance
To keep you satisfied
I'll keep you satisfied
Little things I should have said and done
I just never took the time
But you were always on my mind
You were always on my mind
You were always on my mind
He learned ponytails. He never had a sister. He has sleepovers in her room and they listen to music and talk about her day. He coaches her in floor hockey. He is always giving her pointers on softball and basketball in the yard. They have that song they dance to in the kitchen. It started when he told her they had to practice for the Daddy Daughter Dance-Marty Robbins, “El Paso”. They have a handshake. They do this exaggerated sigh thing too. He says, that I need to step in when all the “girl” stuff starts happening, but what he doesn’t realize is that he is the girl stuff. He’s making her love herself. He’s making her see how she should be loved. He asks her all the time, “Mae, who is the most beautiful girl in the whole entire city?” She pretends to get shy and then jumps up and points to herself. He brings home hair things and unicorn t-shirts and pink running shoes for her that he sees in stores. She loves them all. He thinks she is so funny and smart. He tells her all the time how creative she is. She adores him. He taught her to ride a bike, and how to tie her shoes. She makes “cozy spots” for him to snuggle on the floor with her and all of her stuffed animals and drawings. He can’t handle it if she gets hurt or injured. He can’t bear it. He doesn’t want her to grow up. He asked me the other day what we were going to do when the kids move away. I said, “Follow them.”
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A sea of Catholic schoolboys surrounding the sandpit on field day anxiously awaiting your long jump performance; not because you’re the next Jackie Joyner, but because your boobs are enormous, and when you run they put on a performance of their own.
My boobs showed up when I was 11. Right when the uniform changed at St. Peter’s from a plaid skirt with bib and white shirt, to just the plaid skirt and white shirt. Every girl had to get a bra, because if you didn’t, your dark circles would be poking through your translucent white top. Well my bra was the size of a tablecloth. A four-clip grandma bra that nearly took over my entire backside. And, of course, I was seated directly in front of Jeff Woods, who was the cutest boy ever created. I don’t remember much from sixth grade, just sweating and perpetually having a painful inner monologue with myself as I imagined Jeff staring at the girth of my Olga bra.
From a young age, I’ve tried everything to hold these beasts back from stealing the focus of my show. I was a three-sport athlete in high school. I taped them down. I wore two sports bras. I put on giant shirts. I’m just not a person who should have gotten big boobs. I’m more of a tom boy than a sex kitten. I like to fish, not shop. When I was little, I used to see how many bullfrogs I could catch in a day. I would create maps of different locations where bullfrogs could be found and hide the maps under my bed (now that I’m reading that last sentence, I see how weird I am).
So…back to boobs. They’re supposed to be these alluring monuments to femininity. People want to see them all the time. People want to get flashed and crowd a cubicle to sneak peeks, like they’ve never seen a pair before. I think boobs are awesome too, when you really think of their purpose. But they suck when they pop your shirt open in the middle of a speech.
My boobs have always been something I’ve tried to run from (well, walk away from). They just interrupt my sense of humor. And, as is with most comedy, I’ve turned my boobs into the butt of my jokes over the years to make it seem like I don’t care, but I do.
Now that I’m a full-blown woman, I’m better with these things, but when you’re just fumbling along like a fresh gosling, it’s an absolute nightmare. I have pages and pages of diaries filled with boobie disasters from the 80’s and 90’s. And don’t even get me started on the boys, the comments, even the fathers of the boys commenting. I won’t name names, but when I was 15 I had a grown man tell me; “Geeze! Those things keep getting bigger every year.” That’s a moment that helped build my character, I think.
The bad eye contact, the comments, the embarrassing moments, the fitting room breakdowns; it’s all part of the package deal. So, to all the fresh goslings out there taping your boobs down, wearing your dad’s shirt, and skipping the long jump on field day; here’s a few character building moments and bits of wisdom having big boobs has brought me. Embrace the cups...
YOU’LL ALWAYS HAVE A PART IN THE PLAY
Most every grade school or high-school play has some kind of wise old lady or mother figure. Go out for the school play, it’s a shoe-in that you’ll get to play the Old Beggar Woman, Grandma, or some sort of middle-aged lady that gets at least one funny line. Just be ready for your breasts to look like two smashed balloons in the 1950’s housedress you get stuffed into. You won’t look great, but you’ll have a line, which is better than being a tree. While we’re talking about trees, you know not to try to hide behind one, right?
ONLY TRUST TENTS
If you don’t have a friend with you DO NOT attempt to squeeze a dress over your gals. You will get stuck. I’m telling you-stop looking at my breasts and look me in the eyes right now-you WILL get stuck and put yourself into a claustrophobic, panic-attack frenzy.
If you get stuck there are options…
OPTION 1: Rage like the Incredible Hulk and rip yourself out of the garment. Put the shredded mess of a former dress on the hanger, and when you return it to the person who counted your items don’t flinch; you will be sweating-but don’t you flinch. Walk away. Walk away…
OPTION 2: Call for help, if you are confident with people seeing you full naked in fluorescent lights. Scream out for the attendant to come help with a co-worker. You will need two people to grab hold of each side of the dress and pull up with the might of the Lord. Your bra be pulled above your head, and your underwear will be crammed up your ass, so be ready to flash whoever comes to your rescue. Just thank the poor souls and release them. Sit for a moment. Just sit and calm down. Maybe wait a few hours until the people that just saw all your private bits are done with their shift. Maybe skip wearing a dress to whatever occasion you’re shopping for and just stick to your usual wardrobe of a tent, this is what you can trust.
Listen, it’s perfectly fine to try to wear a button down shirt. Just make sure you have an XXL sweater, a few safety pins, a needle and thread, and some sort of prop like a clipboard, poster board, or billboard to hide the front of your body when your shirt surrenders midday and all the buttons pop off like fireworks. Maybe just bring a suitcase full of clothes and tape if you plan to wear a button down shirt. Come to think of it, unless you’re a police officer, or a pilot, there’s no reason to try to stuff those bowling balls into a button down. Stick to what works; tents.
EMBRACE THE BRUSH UP
You are going to accidentally brush your boobs up, against, on, at, and toward every living and non-living entity on the planet. Don’t go leaning in to look at someone’s work or take a glance at something without knowing full well that your gals will brush across your co-worker’s head, or gently graze your neighbor's face. The bagger at the grocery store, will get a brush up. Anyone around you in a crowded space will get a brush up and smash. You will accidentally rest your boobs on everything without knowing it; deli counters, the pew in church, small children. You may even knock things over. That’s why boobs are called knockers (I think). Just embrace the brush up. It's part of the charm.
Just get out there. Wear what makes you feel beautiful. Run as fast as you can and go around anyone who tries to get in your way. I wish I could go back to the sandpit and tell the beanpole, big-boobed kid to do the long jump. To run with all her might and let her body just be; but I find that I'm still so critical and harsh on my body. I take it as fallout from never being good at the long jump. I also wish I could go back and smack that dad across the face, but when you’re little it’s hard to be brave. It's hard to accept your body for what it is, and nearly impossible to wash away the comments from those who surround the sandpit.
There is no perfect size. There is no perfect. There is only you and all your perfect imperfections. Some will gawk, some will joke, some will tease, some will comment- but some will love you just the way you are; and the person on the top of that list should be you.
Listen to me-I want you to jump. Look straight ahead, run with all your might- and jump.
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Dear [INSERT NAME],
You’re the strongest person I know; because you’re a girl and you’re my daughter.
You might be told you are the tallest, the shortest, the prettiest, the ugliest, the weirdest, the fattest, the skinniest, the quietest- whatever you’re told you can hear or ignore. It can either break or build you, but it’s your choice, not someone else’s.
Please hear the good things, and tell other girls around you all the good things about them. Don’t talk behind backs. Say what you mean, but don’t be mean.
You didn’t come with directions or a definition. Define yourself and then go in the direction of your greatest ambitions. You might take a long road to get where you’re headed. You might turn back, or get lost. Wherever you head, your plans will change, either because you wanted them to, or the universe decided to throw a wrench your way. No matter what, at some point you’ll be stranded. You could be lucky enough to have someone come pick you up, but most of the time you’ll have to find your way back through the dark-alone.
Learn to be alone. Learn to quiet negative voices. Learn to change a tire.
Don’t compare yourself to anyone. No one is thinking of you more than you are thinking of them thinking of you. Just be you, because everyone else is already taken.
You’re not perfect. You’re good enough. Love your body.
Remember that you are in charge of what you believe. Believe in yourself. No one is going to make something happen for you; you have to make things happen for you. Be self-reliant and self-sufficient. Don’t depend on anyone else to support you. Speaking of support, invest in a good bra and great girlfriends. A great girlfriend doesn’t need to put a bra on when you stop by and they also tell you when you need to wax your mustache.
Do a lot, but not so much you can’t have lunch with people you love. Be nice, but not so nice people walk all over you.
Be concerned for others, more than you’re concerned for the way you look, or what you wear. Looks fade and fashion folds, but how you treat those around you stays with them and you forever.
Don’t read magazines. Read books. Keep your head high. Keep tampons everywhere.
You will be afraid of a lot of things. It means you care. Don't get frozen by fear, let it fuel you.
Don’t blame anything you do, don’t do, fail to do, or tried to do, on being a girl. Just get in the game and play your heart out. Nothing is fair. Nothing is just. Work your whole life to make it not be so; especially for those who need it most. If you see someone has less opportunity, pull them up alongside you and keep on marching forward.
Be gracious. Be humble. Be a tornado on the dance floor.
Be my daughter when you’re young. Be my friend when we’re older. And be the one that pulls the stray hairs out of my mustache when I can’t anymore.
Go get it you beautiful thing.
You can follow Courtney's blog KEEP YOUR SOUL on Facebook
Oh, Adult Acne, without you, where would I be?
You’re always there for the most important things; weddings, reunions, and any time I have a speech.
Bulging, nearly bursting, yet slightly underground. I’m 41 and after all these years you still come around.
I know I shouldn’t try to cover you up, after poking and pinching and prodding you to pop.
No cover up, powder, or sandblaster can make you go away. No, no, no. If there’s a special occasion, you’ve got a prime spot on my face.
It’s always a surprise to see where you’ll settle in, but I can trust it will be my forehead, nose, or chin.
Oh, Adult Acne, you’re just so god damn stealth! What a clever, ironic, puss-filled pal.
Follow Courtney's blog: KEEP YOUR SOUL on Facebook
Follow Gnat & Corky on Facebook. Universal stories about real kids, 16 books coming soon. Gnat paints it. Corky writes it.
I have a loud Irish family. There are six of us (originals); Tom, Kathy, Bryan, Kelly, Courtney and Danny.
We’re a lot to take in. Most can’t get a word in.
We’re loud, opinionated, and sternly loyal to each other, while also being incredibly critical and hard on each other.
We add a lot of fluff to our stories, but it makes them worth a listen.
We solve things with cocktails, carbohydrates and Google. We survive on a good sense of humor and inside jokes. We pray a lot for each other and those around us. We’re oversensitive…well a few of us.
We fight-and I mean, we get in each other’s faces. We stick our noses in each other’s business. If you’re doing something stupid, if you’re acting like a jerk, if you’re screwing something up, the family will let you know over and over again until you stop it or fix it.
We yell. We cry, and at times explode.
On the other hand, if one of us is in pain, we’ll circle the wagons.
You don’t get to judge or insult us-that’s our job. And if you hurt someone in the family, we have a hard time forgiving. We will, but we won’t forget. We never forget.
We tell it like it is, probably a little too much.
We all do different things for a living, but try fiercely to make a life before a living.
We all moved away and then came back to where we grew up. We’re in a three mile circle of each other. Some think it’s crazy. Some like to judge. We like it, and that’s what matters.
Within moments, one of us can come. Within moments, we’re there for each other-no matter what. We check in. Drop by. Open the fridge and eat condiments. We text and talk and show up for each other.
We laugh at ourselves- hard. We tell the same stories over and over again, and they slay us every time.
We’re very far from perfect; like miles. We’re dysfunctional in so many ways.
We have our own pain and problems, but there is so much love.
There is so much love.
Above all things, there is a love so fierce it can’t be explained. It can only be expressed by holding on to each other for as long as we can, with all our faults and all our imperfections forgiven along the way.
I have a loud Irish family and I’m lucky.