We Listen to Music

One of the Princess’ friends made a comment to her that we always have the music on – at home, in the car, everywhere we go. And we do – we always have music on (unless we have the news, sports, or our favorite shows on tv going).  We listen to all kinds of music. If you put my iPod on total shuffle, you’ll hear everything from video game music to movie soundtracks, classical to hip hop,  Broadway to ballet music,  country to Christian,  gangsta rap to the Brat Pack, and Pop to hard/hair band rock.

I learned an appreciation for music basically from birth. My family always had music on, as well as my godmother/babysitter/second mom. I grew up to a varied soundtrack. We knew when the music turned on every Saturday morning. that was our cue to start our chores. We heard Neil Diamond and Elvis mostly, but also my mom’s favorite old-school, twangy country music, and the old standards for my dad – Frank Sinatra, Johnny Mathis, and Nat King Cole. In the car, out by the pool, camping trips, on the boat – music was always on. From my godmother – a bit younger than my parents – I gained an introduction to the Beatles, Peter, Paul & Mary, and whatever was contemporary at the time. My godmother also took us to church every Sunday. I sang in the youth choir, learned all those good Lutheran hymns, and all our VBS/Sunday School songs, which we loved (at that young age) to belt out in the car, and around her house. My brother, four years older than I, started listening to his own music in middle school, and we’re talking late 70’s/early 80’s, so disco, Journey, KISS, Styx, Queen, Abba, Boston, Kansas, and the Eagles were added to my life soundtrack. I think I got my first PlaySchool plastic record player when I was about four. My first album was Peaches & Herb (that’s a little terrifying), followed by the Grease soundtrack, Andy Gibb, Sean Cassidy, and Donny Osmond (no jokes regarding my age, please!).

High School brought a new soundtrack, but the music definitely continued to play, all the time. INXS, Prince, Janet Jackson, Michael Jackson, Bon Jovi, Def Leppard, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, and The Time take me back to dances in the cafeteria after football games. I can almost feel the cool fall night air, remember clearly sitting on the benches outside the cafeteria where we talked with our friends and waited to be asked to dance by that certain someone who’d caught our eye that week/month. Chicago always reminds me of hanging out by the pool of my best friend’s neighbor, or sitting in her room doing homework. Janet Jackson’s Control and Run DMC’s You Be Illin have me dancing cheer routines from Homecoming and Hoopla. Beastie Boys takes me back to being on the bus to basketball games – Funny how you can remember the lyrics to every song on one particular album, including the order the songs were in, 30 years later, but can’t remember what you ate for lunch three hours ago. Paul Revere anyone? Fight for Your Right? Girls? Oh  yeah…..And don’t even get me started on the soundtracks to Sixteen Candles, Pretty in Pink, and Breakfast Club. Sigh…Jake Ryan and Blane….mmmmmmmm…..

My college soundtrack covered the end of the 80’s and the beginning of the 90’s. I went from the scene in Santa Barbara – Oingo Boingo, UB40, the Cure, and U2 – to the Central Valley of CA and hip hop/dance music including MC Hammer, Vanilla Ice, Kriss Kross, and Color Me Badd. I spent hours driving to and from Santa Barbara listening to Kylie Minogue, Amy Grant, Michael  W Smith, and Debby Gibson.

Nearly every relationship has a playlist. Every single time I hear The Outfield, I’m once again riding in my first boyfriend’s truck (or his daddy’s Porsche, but that’s another story for another day). Garth Brook’s Friends in Low Places comes on and I’m at one of many college parties, with some awful memories attached to that particular disastrous relationship – but I still love that song. LL Cool J and Jodeci play, and I’m in J’s truck driving to our first vacation together in Tahoe. (It seems I dated a few boys who drove trucks) Color Me Badd songs remind me of following my end-of-and-just-out-of-college boyfriend to Chico for the baseball team’s games, and some of the ball players doing a crazy-good job of lip-syncing and dancing in some bar there.

Everyone who’s had someone has also lost someone. I have my sad break-up songs, my angry break-up songs, my revenge music.

Then there’s Spouse. We have our own soundtrack, and it’s pretty long. We met in a country bar, so that genre has always been part of us. Garth Brooks played at our wedding, as did Clay Walker, and Shania Twain. We also both love to dance, so any pop/dance music from the last twenty years goes on our soundtrack too. Loving, and actually being able to dance was one of my top requirements for the man I would spend my  life with. Spouse qualifies.

I have my own playlists for each of them. For Big Man, there are the songs that remind me of driving to and from the NICU – He’s My Son, and Creed’s Arms Wide Open. Wake Me Up When September Ends will always, always make me cry,  because it takes me back to that month – the month he was born, the month I lost everything I dreamed of when I got pregnant with him, and gained a tiny, two-pound, fragile, miracle of a child. For P, our only girl, My Little Girl, I Loved Her First, and Slipping Through My Fingers will remind us how quickly she’s growing up, that someday she’ll belong to someone else. I hear Nutcracker music, or any of the songs she’s danced solos to, and I can see her dancing in my head. Taylor Swift reminds me of the concerts we’ve gone to, For Good from Wicked reminds me of singing in the car with her (which we do a lot). I’m watching my kids develop their personal life-soundtracks now too. P is already planning the playlist for her Sweet Sixteen party, and I’m sure she will carry those songs with her for the rest of her life, as a captured memory of that night.

One of my FB memories the other day was when Little Man was little, and was singing Sexy Back loudly from his carseat in the second row of my SUV. Not embarrassing at all to pull up at a light, windows open, and your toddler is singing about bringing sexy back. Mother of the Year.

We do listen to music, all the time. It can reflect a mood, improve a mood, or set a mood. Music is part of our family fabric. What’s on your life soundtrack?

Before you find him

My dear P –

You are just making your first forays into the land of boys. Tuck it in, sister, you’re in for a ride.  You  have (hopefully) a long way between now and when you find HIM (capitals intended).  You’ll likely have many crushes, many attractions, break some hearts, and have yours busted/cracked/shattered at least once.  Here’s what you might go through before you find HIM:

  1. The Unrequited Crush – This is that one boy you crush hard for, for a long time. He may be a bestie or good friend, or you may just have some classes together and nothing more than that.  He sets up some ideals for the rest of your life. It’ll be so completely bittersweet…exciting and heartbreaking at the same time…exciting because every day brings the chance he’ll notice you, heartbreaking because that’s what unrequited crushes are.  He may or may not know how you feel.
  2. The Reverse Unrequited Crush – Some boy is going to crush hard for you, but you won’t like him, or won’t like him that way at least. Be kind. Be gentle. Be respectful, but don’t give encouragement that anything more is possible. That’ll just make it worse for both of you. Never play with someone’s feelings. That just sucks.
  3. The One That Got Away –  Ohhhh…..sometimes, timing is everything. Right boy, right girl, wrong time. You’re not ready, or  he’s not ready. You both know you like each other, but for some reason, it just doesn’t happen all the way. He moves away, you leave for college, one of you graduates, life pulls you in different directions. For a long time, you’ll wonder, “What if?”. Eventually, that fades, but he will likely always be in the corner of your heart as the one that got away.
  4. The Boy Who Wants You….Someday…But For Now, He Just Wants to Make Sure No One Else Has You – Oh yeah, that. One guy told me, and I kid you not, that I was the girl he would marry, but he wasn’t ready for that, and he wanted to put me on a shelf until he was ready so no one else could have me in the meantime. Seriously. It was flattering in one way, and completely pissed me off in every other way.
  5. The One Who Makes You Question Everything About Yourself –  Ugh. I hope you miss out on this one. This is the boy who makes you feel less, who treats you horribly, who maybe cheats on you or abuses you in any way. Be strong, dear girl. Knowing who you are, your worth, your value, will help keep this boy away, will keep you from falling for his charming words.
  6. The One You Break – This is almost as bad as being the one getting broken. Realize when you are the one treating the other person in the relationship badly.  Walk away before you do much damage. Recognize when you’re in a bad place, and stay away from dating anyone until you’ve reached a better place. It’s difficult to treat anyone well when you don’t like yourself much.
  7. The One Who Breaks You – This is one that you really care for, but he walks away. You will feel like you can literally feel your heart breaking in your chest. This is the one you will cry for  months over, the one you will never forget, and will take a long time to forgive. This is the one you will write so many letters, sing so many sad songs over. It sounds awful, and this one has every chance of breaking your courage, self-esteem, confidence, trust. It’s so humbling (and somewhat humiliating) for someone to love you, take your heart, and then tell you he doesn’t want you anymore.

Don’t let fear of what the future may or may not hold, your fear of getting hurt, your fear of hurting someone else stop you from experiencing life. We aren’t promised tomorrow, much less next month, next year. So jump in….crush, like, love, hurt. It’s all part of life, of learning.

I’ve told you before, kiss a lot of boys (that doesn’t have to be literal). Learn from each friendship, relationship, love.  Take those lessons into your heart.  Learn who you are, and learn to love yourself, learn to be okay with being alone and on your own. You can’t Love anyone fully,  nor be fully loved until you love and accept yourself. HE will not complete you, he will just complement who you are.Don’t rely upon any guy for happiness. Be happy yourself.

I will tell you something my mom told me (I think she got it from some advice column or something, but I did it, and it really did work) – from every boy you like/date/love/are friends with, write down the one trait/characteristic you like the most about him. When you find HIM, if it’s the right him, he will have all of those traits/characteristics, or at least most of them. You’ll have a good idea he’s HIM if he measures up to those standards.


What do I tell her?

The Princess will be 15 in a few months, starting high school just before. We are entering the world of boys, dating, parties…..high school social life. I’m a bit terrified. Such a minefield. So here’s my question – how much of your life experience do you share with your teens? Does it make a difference or change their behavior? Do they even listen, or just nod their heads while rolling their eyes?

Do I tell her my mistakes? Do I tell her about the time I cheated on my boyfriend because the guy I’d had a crush on years before finally took a moment to notice me? Do I tell her the potentially really bad situations I put myself in? Do I tell her about the relationships I sabotaged or ended before the guy could have a chance to leave me, or prove himself? Do I tell her about the boys I treated badly, using the excuse of recovering from how the last boy treated me? Do I warn her off controlling boyfriends? Do I tell her the things I really regret doing or not doing?

I went from not being noticed at all, to getting a decent amount attention from boys. It was pretty heady, and overwhelming. It took me years to figure out how to handle myself, handle them. I needed, oh how I needed. I made so many mistakes, so many errors in judgement. Sometimes I just shake my head, realizing how lucky I am to be where I am. On the flip side, I had some amazingly wonderful experiences, met some incredible people, and grew because of choices, right and wrong.

I try to think back to when I was her age. Did my mom try to talk to me? Did I just tune her out, unable to imagine her as a teenager facing what I did each day? Would it have made any difference if she did tell me, and I did listen? Do we all just have to walk that path on our own?

We were driving home from the studio last night, and I felt this driving need to tell her everything, really talk to her about boys, dating, sex, relationships. But I didn’t know where to start, what to tell her, what to hold back. So I didn’t say anything. It haunted me through the night – memories dredged up, old hurts revisited, heartbreaks re-lived, some of my darker, most regretful moments brought back to life.

I wasn’t promiscuous, nor considered a “bad girl” by any means, and yet there are still many things I would have changed, avoided. But what, really, does she need to know, if anything at all, of my past? All I’ve told her to date is that I kissed my share of boys, and dated/hung out with more.

What do you tell your kids when you reach this stage?

Control, or rather, the giving up of it

When your daughter becomes a teenager – or likely even before – you, as a mom, tend to look back on your own life, on those early relationships. If you’re like me, you hope and pray she avoids most, if not all, the disasters and pitfalls you seemed to find yourself in. As the Princess has been asking about dating, boys, and relationships, I’ve been revisiting all those old crushes, heartbreaks, train wrecks. I was a very insecure, very needy, very unsure girl. She is none of those, but still I worry.

In college, I dated two boys (in my mind, they don’t qualify as men at that stage of life for the most part, especially these boys) who managed to jack my life pretty severely. The first nearly destroyed every last shred of self-esteem. I don’t know who the girl was who let him in so completely, who let him take so much from her. I’m not the person anymore. While I’m not sure I would be who I am had I not lived that particular episode, I could live without the damage he wrought. It took me years to recover. When boy #2 came along, he seemed to be exactly what I needed, and I would have done anything to keep him. I’m not sure he knew that fact, but I know he liked passive, submissive, spineless, subservient me.

When I look back, I don’t blame him for who I became with him. I did it. I let it  happen. I gave up all control. I gave up myself. I spent all my time and energy trying to make and keep him happy. When I knew things weren’t going to be to his exact liking, I found myself forming pre-emptive arguments and apologies in my mind. I was terrified of failing, terrified he would see the worthless me behind it all, and leave. I lived and breathed to be the perfect girlfriend for him. For awhile, I was exactly that. He proposed. I was ecstatic. All my dreams realized, right? Not so much. The more control I gave, the more he took. I realized I hadn’t seen much of my family for months. We were too busy with his family. I didn’t have any real friends. He didn’t like me to hang out with anyone but him, or so he said. We ate where he wanted, saw the movies he preferred. My world grew smaller and smaller. Old friends tried talking to me about it. I shut them down. They didn’t understand how much he loved me. They were just  jealous of what we had. Why couldn’t they just support me in my happiness?

One day, I started talking with a boy who had been a good friend for a couple years. The boy had asked me point blank if I were happy. I looked at him incredulously, and flashed my ring in his face. He said to me, “You look happy, and you’re acting happy, but you don’t feel happy.” At that moment, my boy walked up. It wasn’t pretty from there. But the boy’s words stuck with me. They haunted me. I started listening to myself. I started listening to my boy. I didn’t like what I heard. I didn’t like what I saw in myself. I started pushing back, finding freedom from his control. He didn’t like it. We argued, fought, stewed. And on one tearful, fearful night a few months later, I told him it was over. It was scary to take that step, to veer from the path of a planned life especially with college graduation just a few short months away. But I felt I could breath when I told him to go.

I know why I had let myself become that person who gave all control of her life to another person. Looking back, I completely understand it. But I m thankful someone had the courage to wake me up and help me pull myself out of that place. I wasn’t immediately strong. It took time, and it took practice. When you are used to asking someone permission for everything you do, everywhere you go and when you go there, when you are used to someone telling you how to dress, who to talk to, who to be friends with, you are lost when it’s gone. But day by day, I slowly took back control of my life, and I grew stronger.

I have talked with Princess about this relationship. I hope it stays somewhere in the back of her mind. She’s a strong girl who knows her mind. I know how easy it is to lose that, or give it up for someone. It worries me what may come into her life as she continues to evolve and grow into a woman. I don’t see her going down this road, but then if you had shown me the person I would become during the time when I was thirteen, I never would have believed it either.

Thinking of Alice

One of my book clubs just finished reading and discussing What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty (highly recommend the book, by the way). I had actually read the book last Fall and was so happy when it was selected by book club. If you haven’t read it, the gist of the story is this: Alice falls off her exercise bike and smacks her head. When she wakes up, she believes it is ten years earlier, she is a relative newlywed, and pregnant with her first child. She has no memory of the ten years, doesn’t know she actually has three children and is involved in a contentious divorce from her husband. Wowza, right? Read it.

As I read the book, I saw and felt myself in Alice. Time flies by so quickly, especially once you have children. I know that I’ve had a few times when I seemed to come out of a cloud to look around and wonder where I was, who I was, and who this man beside me really is anymore. I can honestly say that I’m so not the person I expected myself to be way back when. That’s not to say I’m a failure or a horrible person. I’m just not where or what I expected I would be.  Life happens. We become. We are becoming. Sometimes that process can pull us away from our loved ones, spouses and family members. We lose sight of why we love them. We forget what we saw in that person in the beginning. We forget how they made us feel and how that pulled us to them. I know that has happened with me and M. This book made me wake up and look at him now, appreciate who we both are now, and it made me look back to where we started, why we started.

I had a few serious relationships in my life prior to meeting M.  I’m so glad I did. They helped prepare me. They showed me what I wanted and needed, and what I really did not need or want.  M is certainly not perfect. But he’s good. He puts up with my crazy. He’s a fabulous Daddy to our three babies. He was a complete rock when we faced first infertility, then miscarriage, and then Ryley’s premature birth and NICU stay.  He’s been the voice of sanity and reason when I feel like I’m losing it. I don’t always like him a lot, but I do always love him. And I am so completely grateful for him.

He makes me laugh. He makes me smile. He makes me feel confident and beautiful, even in my least-beautiful moments. He helps me laugh at myself. He cooks dinner almost every Sunday night. He grills like a king. He is one of those get-down-on-the-floor-and-play kind of dads, which I adore (even when it gets totally loud and obnoxious right before bedtime). He supports my causes. He supports me.

The boyfriends I had before M never would have made it through all we’ve made it through together. We’ve had our moments….boy howdy. We argue and fight. But I would never quit. And I think I’ll read What Alice Forgot once every year or two just so I’m reminded to remember.