Trying to get the perfect photo of your moody teens? Graduation? Christmas?

My twins who are the oldest of my three kids were entering the really annoying “teen stage” at about 13 years old. They were still very good kids, but one thing in particular became very difficult for about a year: taking family photos with happy faces!

It was November and I wanted to have the three of them in a decent photo for the annual Christmas card. Whenever I was behind the camera that year, trying to get them all to laugh together became a guaranteed upset and complete failure. So, I decided to have the photo taken somewhere else.

I made a few phone calls and found a place that fit my budget and time frame around sports. As I finalized the date, I casually asked, “Can you please arrange for us to have one of your most fun and friendly photographers? Preferably a female?”

Her stuttering response: “Why, ma’am? Are… your… kids… little ones?”

I can hear her shuffling papers through the phone line. “I thought you told me they were teenagers…?” Poor thing, she was confused.

I was embarrassed and felt compelled to explain that “little ones” behavior often accompanies teenage bodies. But, I didn’t waste her time or mine. The truth is, teens will usually (although not always) behave better for strangers (a.k.a. photographer) than family.

The point of the story? When raising teens, shamelessly ask for help when you need it. Yep, even if that includes the photographer at your local JCPenney studio.

Getting Ahead or Enjoying the Moment?

get-aheadThrowback Thursday 8/15/2013

Recently, my daughter had her very first job interview.  After we decided on her outfit and printed a copy of her resume, I wondered if they’d offer a 401K plan.  Although utterly absurd, the thought really did cross my mind.  While I should have been enjoying the moment, I zeroed in on getting her ahead.

I have fallen victim to society’s push that if you’re not ahead, you lose.  Worse yet, if I’m relaxing and enjoying an event, I have sometimes criticized myself for not using that time to “get ahead” on other things!

If you have teenagers in your house, perhaps you saw the Teen Choice Awards this week (8/11/13).  Ashton Kutcher gave an inspirational 4+minute acceptance speech, stating that “opportunity looks a lot like hard work”.  He talked about being a dish washer, a deli worker, and sweeping Cheerio dust off of a factory floor before making it big in acting.  I was inspired for my kids as they embark upon their first jobs.

The next day, inspiration waned as I read a profile in Fortune magazine of a CEO whose first job was interning at major corporation.  This was a chief factor attributed to ‘how she got ahead’.  Seriously, how many teenagers have access to corporate internships at 16?

This always-need-to-get-ahead syndrome is perpetuated by retailers.  On July 1st, I went into Joanne Fabrics to pick up a 4th of July decoration.  As the sliding glass doors closed behind me, I smelled October.  Cinnamon filled my senses, pumpkins greeted me, and my summer yellow shorts just felt wrong.  At 70% off, Independence Day décor was scarce.

Still in need of the decoration, I drove to Target where the BACK TO SCHOOL signs left my youngest squealing in the doorway, refusing to step any further into my normally-beloved Target (2016 update: Target is no longer my beloved store).

Hobby Lobby?  Christmas decorations!  I actually pondered if I should buy something!

This same mentality filters into politics. The GOP was campaigning for 2016 immediately after the re-election of Obama.  That was somewhat understandable, since they have work to do if they hope to regain the White House.  However, two weeks after his re-election, national news claimed that President Obama was “campaigning” on behalf of the Democratic Party to ensure in four years, the Democratic candidate would win.

At what point is there focused, meaningful work being accomplished?  Can it just be ok to actually enjoy SUMMER until August?  If my Christmas isn’t bought, wrapped and baked by Halloween, am I behind?

The economics are easy:  excessive early marketing sells more stuff and panics a 22-year old into hiring a financial planner when they haven’t even paid off student loans.  The psychological aspect however, is much more fascinating.  Why do some teens believe that cleaning the windows at Dunkin Donuts isn’t worth their best effort because they will eventually be “getting ahead” of that lowly job?  Why do we watch the political pundits evaluate for four years?  Why am I thinking about retirement funds for my 16 year old?!

While I do save for retirement and have been known to buy Christmas gifts throughout the year, I have to stop robbing myself of the delight that’s meant for the moment. If I’m worried about my daughter’s financial future, I won’t enjoy the pride on her face.  If I make celebrating Christmas a 4-month long event, it will no longer possess its excitement and specialness.

With more focused intention, I believe we can “get ahead” on critical things without sacrificing “the moment”.  Thus living a much more joyful life!


The world tells me to just be me

But then it says my shirt isn’t tight enough

My skirt isn’t short enough

My waist isn’t tiny enough.


Politicians tell me to vote with my head and my heart

Then they claim I’m not pro-murder enough

I’m not woman-enough

Not tolerant enough; while they are utterly intolerant of me.


Public education claims it offers more than enough

While U.S. students rank lower than other developed nations.

We haven’t taught them to think independently or problem solve enough

How much mindless testing is going to satisfy the administrative fools enough?


Enough with being able to name every Kardashian

but not one Chief Justice in the Supreme Court.


Enough with being able to name 7 reality shows,

but not the 7 natural wonders of our beautiful world.


Enough selecting friends and presidents because they are our same color or gender.

Enough accepting and promoting liars, cheaters and those who simply don’t believe the rules apply to them – all the while you are forced to follow them.

Enough television, more books.

Is It Fair That We are Judged by How We Look?

GothThis is a question that I have asked my college students over the years.  Inevitably, they will argue that it is absolutely “not fair!” and without my intervention, end up sharing countless examples of when they, themselves immediately judged by physical appearance.  Therefore, determining that while “unfair”, it is unequivocally, indisputably, inevitable.

Recently, my 16 year old daughter and I were swimsuit shopping for spring break.  She is a small, petite, clean cut girl with long strawberry blonde hair and a spunky spirit.  When we approached the fitting room desk, my daughter asked the 50-something female attendant how many items my daughter could bring into the room.  She cheerfully glanced at our mini mountain, totaling about 15 items, smiled, and said, “Go ahead, just bring everything out when you are done.”  My daughter entered the room, and I sat down waiting for the fashion show to begin.

Four minutes later, a youthful looking grandma along with her granddaughter, surely my daughter’s age, and also quite petite, approached the same fitting room attendant with her pile of items and held it up to the woman.  The woman curtly sniped, “you can only take in 6 at a time. How many do you have?” The young girl answered, “7”. The woman took the pile out of her hands, counted the clothes one by one out loud for all to hear, until reaching the number 8 with a huff.  Handing her back only six of the items and practically tossing the girl a fitting room tag, she announced that the rest would be held at the desk.

The woman clearly showed preferential treatment to my daughter.  Why?  Not because I was with my daughter, as the other teenager had her grandma with her.  My guess is the teen’s outer appearance.  Multiple nose and earrings, jet black dyed hair, with wide sections dyed platinum, black nail polish, a sour frown, and Goth clothing greeted the fitting room lady.

I’m honest enough to tell you that I certainly judge on one’s exterior, most often when my children are involved.  Evaluation in this depraved society is essential for our safety.  By external appearance, we can draw countless conclusions about someone.  Many will be accurate, and a few utterly wrong.  Either way, the pre-vacation shopping experience left me humbled. 

As a woman who has judged wrongfully and endured judgment, I’m still training myself to be cautious before labeling and stereotyping.  That doesn’t stop me from staring (hopefully, inconspicuously!) if someone has decided to cover themselves in ink, piercings, and adorn their clothing with a variety of clinking, shiny chains – like a toddler, I’m mesmerized.  Regardless, giving someone a chance to reveal who they really are through conversation is always my goal.

The dark-dressed girl slinked away into a fitting room, without a smile, and I couldn’t help but think that I wouldn’t want to be yet another person contributing to her already sad expression. Insecurities exist in all of us, whether or not they are concealed in neat, well-groomed packages.  If teens experience enough unfair treatment, they have a natural tendency to believe they’re not worthy of good treatment.


Throwback Thursday article from 5/6/2013