Dear Lil’ TK by Tania Katan

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Tania Katan doesn’t take the stage. She becomes the stage. She also becomes the inspiration for those who have the privilege of watching her shine as they sit breathless wondering, what’s next? Few have such a gift.

I met Tania at Girls For Progress 2016, a conference for girls. It was created by the very talented 12 year old entrepreneur and philanthropist, Aleena Valdez. Aleena asked both Tania and I to speak and what came next was pure magic. Tania very quickly achieved rock star status for the 12-17 year old girls that lined up for an autograph and a selfie with the lady wearing a cape that gives them hope. She is the brains/soul behind the #itwasneveradress campaign. I now see signs of her influence wherever I go. I recently spoke at Kaia Fit’s Annual Konference, which was hosted at South Lake Tahoe High School, and stopped short on my way to the girl’s rest room. Even without the official #itwasneveradress swag, girls across the country are inspired by this amazing woman.

I asked her to write a love letter and send in a photo of her younger self. Of course she sent me a shot of her as SuperGirl at age 4.

We call this foreshadowing in the writer world.

 

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Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the very unreal Tania Katan – 

 

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Dear Lil’ TK,

You come from a long line of outsiders; people who didn’t, and would never, fit in. Suckiest DNA ever! Especially because, right now, the ONLY thing you want to do is fit in. I know. You want parents who pack snacks for you, who have ordinary jobs, who eat dinner at a certain time, who own a freaking dining room table! You want to live in a home, with married parents, not a shitty little apartment with one parent and the other parent on the lam. You want a mother who isn’t a French citizen, doesn’t make you look up words in the dictionary because she doesn’t know English. You want a father who went to school and knows the nuances of his native language, English. You want some other 8 year-old to learn phrases like “ends meet” and “Section 8 housing.” You want a mother who doesn’t throw parties with belly dancers and stinky French cheeses and artists and joy. You want a father who doesn’t have “BIG IDEAS” that compel him to bet on horses and get-rich-quick schemes. You want friends. You want normal. You want consistency and you want it NOW!

Well, I gotta tell you, Lil’ TK, it’s BECAUSE of your outsider birthright, not in spite of it, that you will do—and be—some amazing things!

All the times you eat lunch by yourself and wish you had friends so instead you write skits, plays, jokes, and funny operas in your notebook; all the ways you rewrite poverty, how you use humor to reframe a crappy-and-routinely-magical childhood. These practices will create a foundation for you to leap from.

Eventually, you’ll realize that the same parents who embarrassed you by being themselves are delightfully idiosyncratic, which in turn, inspires you to be delightfully yourself. You’ll realize that your single-mom worked two jobs and took care of three unruly kids (you, included), and yet somehow managed to take you to every arts festival, event, and space under the sun! And even though she had trouble making ends meet, Mom always found a little cash (usually stashed in her bra) to buy art supplies. Mom will show us that commerce can be a creative pursuit with the Barter System. To this day she still pays the guy who fixes broken stuff around her house with homemade quiche!

Dad also found creative ways to provide for us, namely, gambling. Once, Dad found himself down to his last 100 bucks. Instead of getting a job, Dad gambled his life savings on a craps table in Laughlin (couldn’t even afford the real Vegas). Within 20 minutes of rolling the dice, Dad turned his misfortune into a $500 jackpot. One could say that Dad was the outsider pioneer of the “work smarter, not harder” movement. Or one could not. It’s a fine line.

Our parents inadvertently taught us how to be creative, value creativity, gamble and have fun! Which are pretty much the hallmarks of arts, innovation, and everything else worth doing/being in this world!

You will go to university and study Theatre. You will meet other outsiders in Theatre, the freaks and geeks who compete in Speech and Debate, write plays and stand upstage left—which is really to the audiences’ right (still confusing). You will finally feel like you fit in, just in time to jump into the workforce. Don’t panic! You will have many jobs, most of which won’t make any sense to you or your employers; that’s ok, it’s part of what makes you awesome later in life.

You will spend years selling crap, bagging groceries, serving pizzas, slinging coffee. You will wonder how you can be creative while working in non-creative fields. You will write plays and stories and even books that will be performed and read and published all while working day-jobs.

In your thirties you will realize that when you hate your job, it’s because you’re not doing your work. You will start doing your work, the work of a creative, even in places that aren’t designated CREATIVE. This shift in consciousness will lead you to your calling, your vocation, which is sneaking creativity into all the nooks and crannies of work and life, even when people and places say KEEP OUT or NO SOLICITING or NO TRESPASSING, you will go inside with all of your outsider skills. You will call this Creative Trespassing.

So, hang in there little tiger, keep writing, observing, and performing because you’re gonna win awards for your writing, travel across oceans to perform, and help create a campaign that millions of people around the world will embrace as an emblem that celebrates outsiders everywhere!

Love,

Me

Tania Katan is an award-winning author, keynote speaker and creative trespasser who believes in storytelling at all costs! Katan has performed her stories at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, NPR, Comedy Central Stage +. Her work has been written about in the New York Times, Huffington Post, BuzzFeed +. She has been a featured speaker at Business of Software, S.H.E. Summit, TEDx +. As Brand Evangelist for B2B SaaS company, Axosoft, she cut her teeth on Agile + Scrum methods. She holds a degree in Theatre, is a graduate of Creative Capital’s Professional Development Program and is certified as an Anti-Bias & Diversity Trainer. As a Speaking Coach, she works with best-selling authors, TED speakers and CEOs empowering them with the tools and techniques to engage and inspire audiences. Katan is a whiz in disruptive marketing strategies, audience engagement and radically activating spaces online and off.

You can find Tania at www.taniakatan.com or on Twitter @theunrealtaniakatan.

 

“We Will Lead You” by John Duran

I love you mommy

 

I am at a loss for words.

I cried as I tried to watch the coverage on Sunday. Yesterday I couldn’t make it through Anderson Cooper’s coverage of the shootings in Orlando, giving faces and names to the people murdered in a place of acceptance. As a mother the image above haunts me. To imagine a grown man reaching out to his mother to tell her he loves her, knowing so resolutely he will die, is unfathomable.

A friend text me last night, sharing that he was concerned this event was giving rise to more ignorance and hate. I sat in a brief moment of solace as I text him back, “The largest US hate crime was against the LGBT community. Things are going to change.”

I thought of my friends who have fought to marry one another and how proud I was as I stood as a witness of their love. I thought of the HRC events I’ve attended and the LGBT community that doesn’t consider me an outsider because I am a straight white woman. I have no other label than ally and I look like the allies next to me. We have no color or gender, no religion, no affiliations. We are thanked graciously because we simply love our friends and demand they be allowed to love one another. Our children sit side by side in classrooms. We are raising them together to see love is love.

I was blessed to receive another text a few hours ago, “A friend of mine sent this to me a couple hours ago. I thought you might be interested to read it….”

What followed gave me goosebumps and crystallized everything I have felt in my heart about the LGBT community that I now look to because I have seen their resilience. This email was sent from John Duran, West Hollywood City Councilmember, to our mutual friend. He has given me permission to post it in its entirety.

I don’t have the words.

He does.

My dear friends, please read this letter from West Hollywood City Councilmember John Duran – 

John Duran

My heart hurts. I have been going back and forth all day between wanting to cry. Wanting to scream. Questioning everything. It’s been a very painful 48 hours for our people.

My phone rang initially at 4:30 in the morning the morning of gay pride with a concerned phone call from the Sheriff’s Department about what had occurred in Orlando and the possibility of a copy cat crime in West Hollywood. 4 hours later another call that the Santa Monica Police Department had in fact arrested someone that was heading to Santa Monica Blvd with a car full of assault weapons and a pipe bomb.

Federal government officials suggested that maybe it was best we cancel the (Gay Pride) Parade and Festival this year. We sent a message back from West Hollywood.

Maybe you don’t understand who we are!

Our community was born in the face of violence at the Stonewall Inn when angry drag queens fought back against the ritual violence inflicted upon them by the New York City Police Department. And the night that Harvey Milk was assassinated… I am wearing my Gay Men’s Chorus t-shirt like my choral brothers behind me because the night Harvey Milk was assassinated a group of men gathered at the steps of City Hall in San Francisco and began to sing songs they knew from their churches. And out of that was born the first chorus in this country and 146 LGBT choruses that would follow. And we were not afraid then.

And, maybe you don’t know that we’ve walked through plague. That when nobody else responded to HIV & AIDS as a people, we gathered together, we acted up and fought back, we created institutions. We walked in the face of death itself and we fought for our people!

Maybe you don’t know that over gays in the military – that we fought for our military service members…

When you told us we couldn’t serve as schoolteachers through the Briggs Initiative in 1978…

When you told us we couldn’t serve as clergy members and Rabbis…

We have fought back at every institution, in every church, in every part of this country!

We, the LGBT people, have shown courage in every single fight!

So, if you think we are going to be afraid of terrorism then you don’t understand that:

WE’VE BEEN TERRORIZED FROM THE SCHOOL GROUND PLAYGROUND FROM THE VERY BEGINNING OF OUR LIVES!

And we have fought back!

And we have loved one another!

And we have fought for marriage!

And we have fought for equality!

AND, EVERY STEP OF THE WAY WE HAVE BEEN AFRAID! AND we walked forward anyway!

If you look at the (Gay Men’s Chorus of LA) chorus and if you look at yourselves, we are united colors. We are what is the BEST of this country!

We are Black, White and Latino and Asian. We are Christian and Jew and Muslim and Atheist.

We are straight and gay and lesbian and bi and transgender men and transgender women.

We are all of America as one people!

And, we are at our best and our brightest when we have a common enemy.

So, America instead of shaming and denigrating us as a people, look to us as an example of what to do in the face of fear!

We are a people who know how to walk proudly and nobly in the face of fear itself! We will lead you America! We will show you how to be brave, and strong, and courageous – no matter what the consequence!

I love you all, my LGBT brothers and sisters. God Bless You.

My Mother’s Lover: Growing Up in the Shadow of Addiction

 

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I’ve heard my mom was beautiful. Intelligent too.

I don’t really remember.

She started drinking when I was in preschool. Over time it makes your hair coarse, your skin paper thin and when you are a mean drunk there is nothing beautiful about you. When you fill your body with alcohol, pills, cough syrup and cooking wine it also seems to slow down those shimmering, firing neurons that never seemed to spark around me. Maybe they did when I was a baby. I can only imagine that she must have loved me before she started a decades-long affair with her demons.

At some point she chose them.

I always wondered what day that was and if I was at school or cowering quietly away from her in the room I shared with my sister. I tried to stay as small and as quiet as possible. Until she came after us. Then I was bigger than a tiger, louder than a lion, puffed up and screaming so she couldn’t see my little sister behind me. If I wasn’t bigger than the house, a raging monster to contend with, then she took it out on others. My sister would crumble into herself as if her heart alone couldn’t withstand the hate and she had to cushion it with her body to deal with the blows. My dad would only listen to so much before he would leave for hours at a time, so it was best that I dig in and grow limbs with claws and breathe fire because I could take it. I could handle the mean words. I knew that I wasn’t the things she said I was and I knew that she was the bad one. I also knew that when she set her sights on me dad would eventually load my sister and I in the car to get us away from her for a while.

There were a lot of long country drives and silent meals at Dairy Queen with red rimmed eyes and unanswered questions about why we let her do this to us.

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My parents got married when they were 19. My dad always said it was her legs he noticed first. They were muscular, strong. I get that a lot too. My hands are the only other reminder that we share DNA. For a very long time I wouldn’t look at my own hands. They looked like hands that hit me. Hands that grabbed me, pinched me, hurt me. I thought that if I got them from her I could have other things too. I didn’t want the other things and promised myself that I would do everything I could to make sure my appendages were all we had in common.

So, I left as soon as I could and I forgot her.

Until I received calls that she’d had another DUI, another accident, been arrested and forced into rehab, as if I would have the answers that would unlock the problem that was her lover. I would find myself feeling for the families that had to post crosses and Mothers Against Drunk Drivers signs on the side of the highway and wonder when it was that I’d have to face one.

My mother was the drunk driver.

Her BAC’s never came in below .18, but thankfully she was always the only person hurt. The highest, .32, was pulled from her veins after she fell down a set of stairs while watching my niece and nephew while my sister was at dinner with her husband. Mom was in the first ever two year stretch of sobriety and had passed my sister’s hurdles only to dig through her cabinets, likely drinking cooking wine and cough syrup while “connecting” with her grandchildren. That is when we, as sisters and mothers, made a decision on behalf of our children, born and unborn.

No more mom.

Calls still came and I shook my head when my sister finally summed up our unspoken family consensus, “Is she dead? Call me when she’s dead. Then I’ll know what to do with her.”

I never told my sister about recurring dreams I’d had where I’d be called home. I would face the family of the person she killed, I would identify her body and then handle the clean up. I would tell my dad and sister after it was taken care of. The last gift I could offer them when it came to the woman we survived together.

Several years ago another call came. A judge had sentenced her to a rehab facility and as she’d been shipped to another coast and hadn’t paid her rent her landlord had to discard of all of her belongings. This included our baby books and boxes full of our childhood that she guarded with her life. It also included a little wooden stool my dad had made for me with a puzzle on top, my initials carved into it. When I was a toddler I would sit on it and eat waffles. I had asked for the stool so many times, been turned down, and now it was gone.

I grieved a nonsensical little wooden stool and for the first time in a very long time I was angry with her for canceling out my childhood. First with her refusal to choose me, to force me into the role of parent for her and for myself, and then for losing every momento that proved that I once looked much smaller, much more innocent.

So, I forgot her again.

When I found out I was having a little girl fear set in. I worried that I wouldn’t know how to be a good mother. I found myself sad at times that I didn’t have a mother figure in my life to experience my pregnancy with me or give me advice. I knew that when my daughter had babies I would fold my wrinkled knees onto the floor and help her set up her nursery, answering any questions, quieting any fears.

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The night Olivia was born I held her in my arms and I looked into her searching eyes and promised her, “I will always choose you.”

I didn’t realize that in choosing my daughter I would be forced to face anger I had held within me so tightly. So, I stopped forgetting my mom and finally allowed myself to remember. I recognized that no able-bodied woman would ever look upon a child and choose to hurt them if they are strong enough. Looking into my daughter’s face I knew without a doubt that my mother loved me. I’m sure she still does in her own way. But, I cannot fight against addiction and she wasn’t strong enough to do it either. It was a blackness, a murkiness that settled into her bones, into her skin, into those places in her brain and in her heart and snuffed out the pieces of her that a child longs for.

She never had a choice. She never made a choice. It was made for her a million times over in a million different ways throughout her life.

So, I forgave. Over and over and over again. With that forgiveness comes very strong boundaries and an understanding that finally feels calming. I’m certain it is because I have my daughter. I have the mother/daughter relationship I so desperately wanted and had I not experienced darkness I don’t know that the light would be as bright.

I don’t even notice my hands look like hers anymore. I’ve repurposed them to care, nurture and mother in the way my daughter asks when she crawls into my lap for a hug or nighttime cuddles.

These hands have never hit my child. They’ve only known love.

Olivia has recently become curious about my childhood and my mother. She asks her name and asks me what I looked like, who I was when I was five. I pull together the handful of photos that my father’s side of the family squirrels away for me from their own photo albums and piece together a story that sits well with Olivia’s understanding today. She has asked why we don’t see my mother and I’ve shared that my mom has some grown up problems and she’s not like her father’s mother. She very intuitively asked one day, “Mom, was your mom mean to you?”

“Yes, baby. My mom isn’t a very nice person.”

“Will I ever meet her?”

I paused, thinking of all of the things I want to protect my child from, all of the bad that she doesn’t need to see or experience, “Maybe one day. I’m not sure yet.”

Olivia nodded, seeming to understand something she shouldn’t and very resolutely ended the conversation, “Let’s talk about it when I’m 7. That seems like a good age to meet a grandmother.”

Indeed.

Its in these conversations with my trusting, kind-hearted daughter that I recognize my strength and conscientiousness as a woman and a mother is because of the fight, the boundaries, the determination, the heart that refused to be shadowed and the grit that has become encased in my cells.

I’ve become the mother I always wanted and the woman I hoped to have in my life.

I guess you could say, in a strange and unexpected way – I got it from my mama.

www.honeytreegallerie.com
http://www.honeytreegallerie.com

Dear Younger Camille by Camille Di Maio

 
Camille at St. Therese

When we first introduced Love Letters I was concerned that I wouldn’t have enough content. I wanted to post a letter every week. Just like having a child, your babies have a way of telling you how to raise them. I’ve learned to let the letters come when the writers are ready and the result? Stunning.

Each writer has dug in and I’m so humbled that LORE is entrusted with such heartfelt missives. It is as powerful for the writer as it is for the reader.

Big, beautiful thanks to the gracious Camille Di Maio.

She dug in.

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Dear Younger Camille,

It will take you months to write this letter. Not the actual words. You will type those out in minutes. But, it will take longer to commit to them, curate them, share them.

Because it’s not a simple thing to bleed on to paper.

I will tell you the end first, or at least the end as it sits here at forty years of age, which once seemed like an unimaginable ancientness to you. The end is good. Very good. And, you’ve only found two gray hairs, so four decades really isn’t as decrepit as you think.

But, if there were more, you would have earned them.

You won’t have a friend until you’re fourteen. You will have vampire-like teeth and Coke-bottle glasses and be picked last in gym class. The girls in seventh grade will write a public declaration of dislike. You’ll become the reclusive kid who spends all the time in the library. Your friends will all be fictional and their names will be Nancy Drew and Anne Shirley and Jane Eyre and Christine Daae. You will live in their worlds, pouring over their words.

You will fall in love with a guy who tells you that he slept with someone behind your back because he “couldn’t wait for you any longer.” You will spend years convinced that you are only worth the sum of your female parts.

You will love the theater, but you will be cast as a chorus girl time after time. You will accept that you are not the one with the most talent, and enthusiastically support the show with your bit part contribution. Until one day, you will audition for a lead role, and your performance with your partner will be so moving that the other people auditioning will give you both a standing ovation. And yet, neither of you will get even a small role in the production because of the director’s personal friendship with the eventual leading lady. (Who, by the way, grimaces when she has to kiss the leading man.)

You will be assaulted by someone you tried to be nice to when no one else was. He will wait until you are alone and he will press you against a wall and try to force something on you that you don’t want, even rubbing hundreds of dollars in cash against your cheek as an offering. You will get away, physically in tact, but emotionally scarred. You will tell the police, who will say that they can’t do anything since there is no evidence. It will be more than a decade before you can hear the words “Dominican Republic” without shuttering because that’s where he was from.

You will move across the country after a devastating unemployment. You will be hospitalized with a serious illness in which you almost lose your unborn baby. You will be threatened by someone who tells you that he is going to kill your children. You will mourn the suicide of someone in your family. You will have a chronic health issue that often makes your days painful.

You will emerge so very strong.

The bullying will teach you to be kind. The cheating will teach you to be loyal. The loss of the lead role will teach you to never give up. The attack will teach you to know how to defend yourself. All of it – every moment that seemed bad at the time – will be a lesson that will build character, fortitude, and faith.

And, there will be good moments. Oh, will there ever be. You will ride on a camel in front of a pyramid. You will meet Mother Teresa and a pope and a Beatle. You will eat oranges under the Eiffel Tower and step on the cobblestones of Pompeii and swim under a waterfall in Hawai’i and straddle two continents while sailing in Istanbul. You will co-found a very successful business. You will sign book contracts for the novels you will write.

But much more importantly, you will find genuine love with a man who treasures you. You will delight in four children who bring immeasurable fulfillment. You will have friends that outnumber the stars. And you will discover that every sorrow and every joy is part of a plan for your life by a power higher than yourself. A plan that has meaning and purpose shaped by its highs and lows if you only keep faith as everything unfolds.

You will be given a platform to encourage and inspire others to overcome their difficulties.

Because that’s what it’s all for. None of it is about you. You are an instrument. You can choose to play the sour notes of negativity and self-pity that will compose a cacophonous dirge. Or, you can play the sweet notes of love and the robust notes of determination that draw people to something good, something eternal. And, in that eternity, there will be a joy beyond your comprehension and an absence of all pain.

Until then, chin up, shoulders back, use sunscreen, lay off the Diet Pepsi addiction, and wash your face every night. Forty is closer than you think, and it will thank you.

Camille Di Maio lives in San Antonio with her husband and four children. She’s traveled to four continents and most of the states, and is always planning her next trip. By day, she is an award-winning real estate agent, and by night, she is an author. She does pretty well with little sleep.

Camille loves belting out Broadway tunes at a moment’s notice, shopping at farmer’s markets, and will try anything that doesn’t involve heights or roller skates. Her debut novel, The Memory of Us, is available on Amazon.

Her second novel, Before the Rain Falls, will be released in spring 2017.

Find Camille on Twitter @camilledimaio, Facebook and Instagram or at her website, www.CamilleDiMaio.com.

Five Facts About Your “Bad Boy” Boyfriend by Randy Susan Meyers

I had the distinct privilege of meeting Randy Susan Meyers several years ago in New York. I loved her Bostonian vibe, quick wit and literary prowess and then, when her first book THE MURDERERS DAUGHTERS was released, I fell in love with her brain.

I reached out to Randy to ask if she’d share something based on her experience working with batterers, what would you want women or girls to know? She recently sent this gem and I hope that it resonates with the those who need this kind of insight.

Please welcome the lovely Randy Susan Meyers –

Randy Susan Meyers

Perhaps the lure of the bad boy is similar to the lure of climbing Mt. Everest. It feels so good to conquer it and get to the top—despite all the pain you felt on the ascent. Unfortunately, you have to climb down and start all over again to get back up to that thrilling peak.

And that trip down is filled with pain and ugliness.

Working with batterers for ten years afforded me plenty of material and plenty of insight. The clearest and most useful lesson I learned was this: a ‘bad boy’ isn’t edgy, exciting, and a bag of fun, he’s mean and selfish and looking out for number one—himself—all the time.

Many of the batterers were classic bad boys; they could charm like no one else. They gave me smoldering glances so I’d know that I was the only one in the entire world who they’d let inside their soul. When they didn’t have money to pay for classes, or had been picked up on a new charge, or failed a drug test, they’d look at me with their carefully tortured eyes and tell me how sorry they were.

They really were sorry. Sorry they’d been caught and sorry they had to spend another night pretending to pay attention to this crap we were teaching.

At their core, these guys weren’t very different from the bad boys I’d once been drawn to. But never again, not after working that job. I wish I could share with every woman the experience of sitting in a circle with 15 court-ordered-to-be-there bad boys, because at some point during the 42 weeks they occupied that chair in the church basement, they let loose with some truth that revealed the dime a dozen ordinariness of bad boy behavior.

So, while I can’t put you in that room, I can try to share with you what I learned there:

1) When you and your bad boy get in that insane fight, and you don’t know how it began, why it happened, or why he stormed out the door . . . when you’re ready to follow him so you can beg his forgiveness—but you don’t have any idea what to apologize for—here’s what’s really going on:

He wanted to get out of the house. So he caused the fight. The men I worked with (ages seventeen to seventy-something) admitted it. This sleazy little tactic is dime-a-dozen common.

2) Which leads to this: What did most men admit they wanted to get out of the truly awful battles that you cried through? You know, the ones where he yelled so loud you finally backed down? The ones where you felt as though you’d die of hurt?

If Jeopardy could have more realistic categories, the response to “most common thing men want women to do during a fight?” would be “Alex, what is “shut the f*** up.

Yes, another thing these men admitted to me when I worked with them. They knew that with enough fighting and yelling they could wear you down and get you to shut up and back down.

3) Remember this when he tells you “you’re the only one I’ve ever been able to talk to.” Yeah, right. Think those words with a real sarcastic tone because first of all he’s probably said the same thing to 100 other women before you. Because he knows those words work like catnip and honey.  The men I worked with were very clear that they used this line only to manipulate. Every man I worked with admitted to saying the same.

4) When he says, “I can’t live without you,” here’s a news flash. He can. And he will. Quite well. The question is, can you live with him? Do you want to? Do you like being kept off balance? Do you treasure being used like medicine for someone’s lack of self-confidence or need to control?

5) You want to believe it will change and that things will get better. That if you explain it once more, write one more email, one more letter, one more pleading text, and cry one more time, then finally he will understand! And once he understands, those moments of incredible tenderness and bliss —when he gives you that crooked smile and takes you in his arms and then gently helps you onto his exciting motorcycle—will last forever.

I promise you, things will not change. He will not get better. There’s nothing you can do unless he wants to change. Nothing. The cycle will continue as long as you let it.

So here’s my advice, as a mother, a sister, a friend and most of all, from a woman who worked with those bad boys:

Choose kind over thrilling. It wears much better.

Choose responsible over devil-may-care. It will keep you and your children warm and safe at night.

Choose a man who wants to be your friend, not one who will be your life-long home improvement project.

Randy Susan Meyers’ novels are informed by her work with criminal offenders and families impacted by emotional and family violence. Her most recent novel, Accidents of Marriage, was chosen by the Massachusetts Center for the Book as “2015 Must Read Fiction” and by Kirkus Reviews as on of their “Top Ten Popular Fiction” choices. Both the hardcover and paperback placed on the Independent Bookstores IndieNext List in 2014 and 2015.

Choosing Accidents of Marriage as a People “Pick of The Week,” the magazine wrote, “This novel’s unsparing look at emotional abuse and its devastating consequences gives it gravity and bite, while a glimpse into a physically damaged mind both surprises and fascinates.
”

The Boston Globe called her second novel, The Comfort of Lies, “Sharp and biting, and sometimes wickedly funny when the author skewers Boston’s class and neighborhood dividing lines, but it has a lot of heart, too.”

Meyers debut novel, also picked by the Massachusetts Center for The Book as a “Must Read” book, The Murderer’s Daughters was called a “Knock-out Debut” by the LA Times and was a nationwide Target Book Club pick.

Meyers teaches writing at Grub Street Writers Center. She is the mother of two grown daughters and lives in Boston with her husband. Her books have been translated into twenty-two languages.

You can find Randy at www.randysusanmeyers.com.

 

 

Parenting Today’s Teen

I received an email last week from my lovely writer friend, Kim Derting. She asked if I’d be interested in publishing the below article on raising teens on LORE. I emailed her back immediately, “I want it!”

I wanted it for a lot of reasons, but one of them has to do with a woman that lives across the country from Kim. While Kim is thoughtfully answering questions from her teen daughter regarding her relationships with her gay friends, my childhood friend raised a gay teen as an incredibly conscientious and thoughtful parent. Our notions of sexuality and parenting and our own experiences as teens are no longer enough to guide a child who is being raised in a generation where sexuality is much more openly expressed and teens are gender fluid.

While many parents of gay teen girls allow them to spend time together alone since teen pregnancy is out, my childhood friend staunchly refused to allow her daughter alone time or sleepovers with other gay or bi girls, “Straight, gay or still figuring it out, children don’t have the emotional strength needed to deal with sexual relationships.”

Conversely, I asked if her daughter was allowed to be alone with boys and she shared something I never expected, “Unfortunately, a lot of teenage boys view teenage lesbians as girls who just ‘haven’t had the right boyfriend yet.’ She had some scary encounters with high school boys.”

The one thing both moms have in common and in spades?

The trust of their daughters and their mama lion like protective instincts.

I love that I somehow bridged a subject that is on the minds of two moms I adore who are both approaching the subject from a different vantage point, across the country from one another, with open hearts.

I’m so excited to introduce my friend, Kim Derting, and thank her again for sharing her writerly gifts, thoughtful insights and opening up dialogue between moms.

Read on…

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The other day my daughter asked if her gay-friend-Rob (so totally not his real name) could stay the night.

My answer: No.

To be fair, no is my kneejerk response to just about everything.

Can I have twenty bucks? No.

Can you drive my friends and me to the city tomorrow? No.

Can I get a pony? No.

Usually, after my initial no, I take a second to think about it. Sometimes I stick to that no and sometimes I don’t…you know, because that whole kneejerk thing. (She got the pony, in case you were wondering.)

So after she asked about her gay friend staying the night and got my kneejerk response, she came back with her standard, “Why not?” To which I (maturely) responded, “Because I said so.”

I could have ended the whole conversation there. “Because I said so” is an answer. I’m the grown up and she’s the kid. End of story.

Except, for some reason that answer didn’t sit right with me. Why had I said so, I mean, really? We’d had a similar conversation a few months back, not about a boy, but when we’d talked about another friend of hers, a girl who’d recently come out. We talked then, about how if she were a lesbian I probably wouldn’t want her girlfriend staying the night, and she looked at me in a puzzled way and asked her typical, “Why not?”

“You know…” I answered.

When she gave me a look that made it clear I was going to have to spell it out for her, I finally admitted, “Be-cause. I wouldn’t want the two of you messing around.”

She made a face at me…because I’m her mom and all. And then she considered what I was saying and said, “Yeah. I guess so. But we can still have sleepovers, right?”

“Of course. Right up until I find out the two of you are dating.”

That’s when I got the eye roll. She was fourteen at the time, and fourteen-year-olds excel at eye rolls.

But, here’s the thing, when I was growing up I didn’t have any gay friends…at least none that I knew of, so these conversations didn’t happen in my house. I’m more than happy to have them now though. I’m Glad my daughter lives in a different world, comfortable with peoples’ sexual identities and able to ask me whether her gay friend can stay the night.

My answer is still no…for the time being.

But, she deserved an explanation beyond just “because I said so.” It has nothing at all to do with Rob’s (still not his real name) sexuality, or even that I think there’s anything wrong with letting him sleepover. It’s simply because he’s a boy and she’s a girl and I’m just not ready for that.

I’m not ready for my daughter to be in the world of coed locker rooms or restrooms either. In light of the North Carolina debacle, I should elaborate: I’m not talking about gender neutral accommodations, or that I don’t want trans or gender fluid individuals permitted to share facilities with my kid. What I mean is, is I’m not comfortable with her showering with the football team or having to pee with the rest of the boys at her high school. Not yet, and probably not ever. It’s as simple as that.

In a year or two, my whole sleepover answer might be different, but now she has me thinking. If her friend were trans, would my answer have been different?

Probably. I think so.

Then, at least, the matter would have gone to a vote, because as much as I’d like to think I’m running a dictatorship here, my husband still has some say. I hope he would be as thoughtful as I’ve tried to be, and not give a knee-jerk, back-in-my-day kind of response.

I’m pretty sure he would.

Regardless of the answer I gave my daughter, I’m glad she brought this up. I’m crazy proud of her for her open-mindedness and her huge heart. This world we’re living in is evolving. It’s better because our kids are better. And whether you agree with my decision or not, I hope it at least has you thinking about your answer, your thoughtfulness, your heart.

I hope you’re talking. I hope your kids are talking.

I hope we can all evolve together.

Kimberly Derting is the author of the award-winning THE BODY FINDER series, THE PLEDGE trilogy, and THE TAKING and THE REPLACED (the first two books in THE TAKING trilogy).

Her books have been translated into 15 languages, and both THE BODY FINDER and THE PLEDGE were YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults selections.

She lives in the Pacific Northwest, where the gloomy weather is ideal for writing anything dark and creepy. You can find her online at www.kimberlyderting.com.