I began this blog as a way to redefine, or perhaps rediscover, the beauty of ME after losing all my hair to alopecia universalis over 5 years ago. Join me in the movement to see ourselves and our world through a lens not offered by our culture.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Playing the Game

I've never loved conflict. At least not outside the walls of my home. I tend to value keeping the peace over getting my own way when I'm out in public. Okay, let's be honest. It's not necessarily peace I'm after. It's my standing with others. I would rather know that others like me than assert my rights and get what I'm entitled to. At least, that's how I was until I lived in Chicago for a few years. I started getting a little more, shall we say, demanding. Come to think of it, maybe I changed after I became a mom. Or maybe it's because I married a lawyer. Whatever the reason, I learned to be quite assertive and use very gentle threats to accomplish what I needed if I found myself being given a runaround. You know, threats to get an employee's superiors involved or take legal action. Nothing criminal. I could do that because I knew my rights and I knew there were these publicly recognized standards for service that I could cite in any complaint I might have. And it worked for me in Chicago. I had many proud moments. As a foreigner in another country, I really have no ideas what my rights are. I don't know what the standards of service are. I have no idea what the rules are. All I know is that the language here reflects a culture of politeness and pandering. I've heard more instances of "sir" and "ma'am" in seven months in the Philippines than I did in thirty-three years living in the US. So in all the confusing public encounters I've been part of here, I've held my tongue. I don't want to assume a position of superiority and entitlement. But I do find myself getting a little comfortable here, comfortable enough to hint that my needs aren't being met. And it backfires. Case in point: last week I took my son to a playground inside a memorial garden, which is accessible through the campus of a private school near my house. My husband has been taking the kids on weekends, and the last time I had tried it was closed. So I was really happy when I approached the guardhouse of the private school and the guards told me the playground was open and waved me in. We played for about 45 minutes before I saw a guard come to the gate and close it. I almost called out to him, but it was pretty far from where we were playing, and I figured the guard would be there at the gate to let us out when it was time to go. I saw a car pull up to the gate, honk, and go through after the guard opened it. We played for another half hour or so, but we were absolutely melting in the intense, tropical summer heat. We got to the gate and it was locked. I knocked and called out, and no one answered. We were locked in. The only other way out was on the other side of the memorial garden, which would put us out so far down the road that we would no longer be within walking distance of our house. I had no money with me, because we had just popped over from right across the street. The memorial garden had a sign at the gate with phone numbers. The first one, of course, was not a working number. The second number put me in touch with an employee of the memorial garden who very politely informed me that they had no control of this particular gate. It was controlled by the school. And no, they didn't have a phone number for anyone at the school. So I looked online on my phone for ten minutes or so and finally found a phone number for the school. (My son is in the background, re-faced and thirsty, crying because we can't get out.) I told the man on the phone that we had come into the memorial garden to use the playground and now we were locked inside. Could he send someone to open the gate? "I'm sorry ma'am, we have a procedure for opening the gate." Okay...I understand that. But when I came in no one said there was a closing time. I was on foot with my son and I just needed someone to please let us out real quick. "I'm sorry ma'am, there is a procedure." Umm...what did he expect me to do? I got a little heated. Moms do when a problem involves their kids. I insisted that someone come and let me out. Sure enough, a guard came over on a scooter and let us out. It only took one minute. He was on a bike. It was really not a big deal. But I committed the ultimate social sin of interrupting the lunch break. I was very polite to the guard who came. I asked him politely about the garden's open hours, for future reference. Fine. We walked through the campus and got back to the main gate of the school, where we entered. The guard there stopped me and accused me of falsely identifying myself as an employee of the school, which I laughingly denied as ridiculous. He said this entrance that we have been using for weeks is only open to employees and I would no longer be permitted to pass. I gave him a snarky response and went on my way, disgusted with the whole experience. So because I got a little heated and insistent with the guy on the phone, I got banned from coming to this really nice park that we had been so elated to find so close to home. I called the memorial garden and they assured me I can come anytime if I use their main gate. I just can't use the school gate anymore. The point is, I guess I should have played the game. I should have been more apologetic that I was stupid enough to get myself locked inside the garden. I should have told the man on the phone that I would wait inside until after the lunch break. I should have been more profusely grateful for being let out. I've heard from locals and expats alike that this strategy is much more effective here, even when getting a traffic ticket. So now, after growing into a healthy assertiveness, I need to go back to my conflict-avoidance skills. Turn them on in the Philippines, put them aside in Chicago. Ah, the beauty of cross-cultural navigation.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Enough Already!

I want to share a story that my water delivery lady told me randomly the other day. She got stranded in the middle of the night one time, in a part of the city known for being "dangerous". She had to walk alone on the side of the road and hope to catch a taxi or a motorcycle (this is the Philippines; hopping on the back of a bike is like catching a cab). There was another couple walking at a distance behind her. Soon a bike came up the road. She was hopeful, since she was ahead of the couple, that the bike would stop for her first. But it didn't. The driver passed her and picked up the couple. Then it started to rain. Soon after, another bike came and stopped for her. She told the driver where she needed to go, and he took her right to the door instead of dropping her off at the corner, which was more convenient for bikes. And he didn't charge her a penny for the ride. Gave it to her totally free. She told me that the bikes represented opportunity. The first one passed her by, even though "by right" it should have been hers. But God had something better coming that was just for her. Something special. Little did she know when was telling me this that only a couple days earlier I had gotten a little backdated surprise. This is embarrassing to admit, but I just learned about a certain feature of Facebook Messenger called the "Other" inbox. Apparently, I have been receiving messages from non-friends for a couple years now, but I never got any notifications and never thought to check the tab labeled "Other". I never even noticed it. I unintentionally have been ignoring people for years. Among those shunned are some faces of the past who had attempted to reach out and connect with me, some random "Hey Baby" messages from names like Deezel or J Cool, and some encouraging messages about this very blog. One of those encouraging notes was from an editor at a well-known women's magazine asking if I wanted to talk with her about contributing something to the magazine. The message was dated last year. Oops. I'm sitting on the side of the road, watching that ride pass me by. Except it passed by last year and I didn't realize it until now. I'm not upset about it anymore. Clearly, my life was meant to move in another direction. At least for now. I'm okay with that. Still, it's hard not to feel a little envious when people I'm close to are doing things like recording albums, starting businesses, and publishing books. I know a lot of people look at my life and say "Come on--you have two great kids, you have a Masters degree, and you moved overseas!" I know I'm privileged and that my life is not dull. But lately it feels...insignificant. I came here attached to my husband. It's his dream that brought us here. He gets to live his dream. Other people I know are living their dreams. I...don't know what my dreams are yet. At 33, I still don't know. I go into places like bookstores and banks and I think "See, this is all I would need. A 9 to 5 job at a cute little desk, very clear expectations, a little world to organize and control, and once in awhile a fun or challenging interaction with a customer". For much of my youth I dreamt of being a librarian. Maybe I'm not living my dream right now because my dreams tend to be on the small side. But if I dare to dream a little bigger, like imagining myself as the director of a community ESL center or having a talk show on issues of beauty and confidence, I almost immediately write them off as impossibilities. "That's just not me", I say. I could never do those things because my past has been marked by disorganization, fatigue, and fear. So instead I try to find significance in other ways. Like being pretty. Since losing my hair, I really had to step up my game in terms of appearance. I started accessorizing. I put on make up. I matched. And I got noticed. A bald girl will always get noticed, but I didn't always feel like people were looking at me strange. I often felt like people, male people in particular, were noticing me with appreciation. It helped to live in a city where head scarves (and even baldness) could be as much fashion statements as indications of a health issue. And then I started getting a lot of comments. I was told outright that I was beautiful. I began to think that's what I am--a beautiful woman. And that's all I am. If I can get men to notice me, I have accomplished something significant. This was especially important to me after going through so many painful adolescent and teen years desperate to be noticed but too shy and awkward to make it happen. I hit those developmental markers really, really late. But I'm bored with it, quite frankly. I mean, I'm still way too gratified by looks and comments. But I'm tired of constantly wondering if people think I'm beautiful. There's got to be more to me. A few years ago at my church, a speaker was giving an encouraging message to our dwindling congregation and was giving shout outs to people who were really doing a lot to help our church be a vibrant, hospitable community. The speaker named folks who were giving their time and energy in all kinds of ways. When my name was called, I expected to hear that I had put a lot of time into the children's ministry, or that I was leading the music team with excellence. But the speaker said that I was "an elegant member of the community". Now, I know what this person meant. I know this person meant that I was living with a very visible health issue in a way that spoke truth about human dignity and finding good in challenging situations. I know the person meant that I carried myself in a way that gave God credit for his beautiful creation. But I only know that now. What I heard at the time was "Wendy is good at being pretty even though we all know she is bald." (Dear friend, if you are reading this, I hold no ill feelings. You know I leaned on you and your family and I love you!) Well I want to be good at other things. Remember the movie Clueless? For some reason, I chose that movie to be the movie I could quote from start to finish in high school. Now, I still love the novel it was adapted from (Jane Austen's Emma). Anyway, Cher, the main character in Clueless (played by Alicia Silverstone), decides at one point that she needs a makeover, but this time it would be a makeover of her soul. Very dramatic and inspiring. I want to be more than how I look. I want to start something and actually finish it. I want to be smart about things and hold intelligent conversation. And...still be pretty. Because let's face it, being a bald woman is tough. I still need the puffing up bit. I believe that God is trying to draw me out. The real me, the one behind all the fear and the victim complex and the anticipated failure. I believe God has me on a path that is just for me. And my ride is coming. Maybe I'm not ready yet. But good grief, what is it going to take? Something drastic, like a move overseas and a battle with intense anxiety and people staring at my bald head like they've never seen anything like it before. Hmmm. I'm journaling now, trying to discover patterns from my life to see where I've been and where I might be going. I'm trying to listen to God. I'm trying to believe that He really loves me no matter what. Sounds so simple, doesn't it? But it's not a truth that is embedded in my core yet, for some reason. I don't get it yet. I'm still looking for validation from men (this time I mean "humans"). But it's not enough anymore. And that has to be a good sign that I'm on the right road.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Circus lady

I'm about to make you jealous. Ready? Imagine this: a peaceful drive through beautiful green palm trees, the ocean at your side; sipping an iced latte poolside as you gaze out over a crystal clear ocean reef; the sun beaming down as you close your eyes and hear the sounds of kids laughing and splashing. Sound relaxing? It should have been. And I should be accustomed to people staring at my bald head by now. But I've never experienced the staring like I did this past weekend when I was on a mini-vacation. First, there was the drive. It's summer here in the Philippines, our car is black, I want absolutely nothing covering my head when I'm out. So there I am, sitting in the passenger seat, in the privacy of my own car, bald. We pull up behind a small pickup truck with half a dozen girls riding in the back. One is awake, the rest are sleeping. I already know she will see me and stare, but I'm not prepared for her to actually wake everyone else up by shaking them, just so they can all get a glimpse of me, the "freak". I ask my husband to pass the truck illegally just so I can get away from the gawking. Then we find ourselves at this great hotel with beautiful ocean views. I am ready to read a book, relax, and watch my kids have the time of their life on the water slide...but first I have to walk through the grounds and find a place by the pool. This is a picture of that day: I have never felt so conspicuous. People stopped what they were doing to stare at me. They were out swimming in the ocean and they grouped together, pointing and coming closer. And here, people don't look away if you catch them staring. They hold that gaze. I tried not to let it bother me, but I ended up hiding in my room more than I wanted to. My husband told me they were staring because I'm so beautiful. (Nice one, honey.) And that's what friends and family tell me. But there is this element of abnormality that people are taken by, and I can't pretend it isn't there. I myself have stared at people who have lost limbs or have skin conditions, not thinking they are "freaks" but just captivated by something so different than what I experience in my own body. And now I am one of those people. I can't hold it against anyone who stares. Of course they will stare. I am not normal. I know this will make many of you question "What is normal, anyway?" But we have to admit that there are norms when it comes to human appearance. There are healthy bodies, and there are bodies that have obviously gone awry. When we see something that testifies to un-health, we are bothered by that. It's a normal human reaction. Maybe with increased exposure we can come to a place of peace about the variations we see in bodies. But in a place where appearances really matter, like the place I find myself living in now, it really just stinks to be the freak. Again, my well-intentioned husband tells me to strut when I see people staring. But I want to crumple up and disappear. It's ironic, because in high school I felt so plain and unnoticed that I would sit at home and daydream for hours about being in the spotlight somehow. Well, I made it into the spotlight, like it or not. So I know I need to move from a place of wounded pride to a placed of weathered pride, the kind of pride that says "I have learned that I am beautiful because I was created and I am known by my Creator". But how to react to the stares? Sometimes I want to make a face at people who are staring. Sometimes I want to act more distraught than I am, just to shame them. These are honest, gut-level reactions I'm confessing. Usually, I pretend I don't see people staring. I just feel the heat rise in my face and quietly suffer from embarrassment. But maybe I should learn to smile graciously and welcome the stares. Maybe then people will see past the bald head to the character being formed. Maybe then the next time they see someone else with a stare-worthy feature they will be gentle, remembering that they once saw a bald woman whose "abnormality" made her tender, not bitter. This journey is a long one.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

The Reluctant Expat

Tomorrow marks six months. I have been in the Philippines for half a year. In some ways, it feels longer. I feel so far away from everyone I know and love. I feel like I've been away from my Chicago home for a long, long time. Then in other ways, of course, I can't believe how fast this experience is going. I still feel so green. I still feel like the bumbling new student and every week is the first week of school.

All the expats I know tell me that the first six months are the uphill battle, and once you get past that marker you start coasting a little bit and your experience moves toward "I got this". But at six months I'm more homesick than ever. I feel like I've had this "adventure" and now it's time to go back home.

But recently I've had to reflect on the kind of expat I've been. Is one way of living overseas better than another? Would the six-month mark feel differently if I had been living in a different manner?

I always thought that if I moved overseas I would really try to live life as a local. I would dive into the experience and all the newness around me. But here, I've simply tried to export my life in Chicago to the Philippines. Instead of taking local transportation like Jeepneys and motorbikes and tricycles, I drive my own car. My windows are up, my a/c is on, and I'm protected from the life happening around me. Instead of eating street food, I eat at nice restaurants and coffee shops. Instead of learning the language, I rely on English-speakers to help me out.

Now, there are reasons for all of this. I drive a car because A) it's safer for my kids and for my belongings, B) it saves me from spending so much time out in the polluted air, and C) it allows my kids to feel at home while we're stuck in traffic. I don't eat street food often because A) there are no guarantees that what you're getting is fresh and fully cooked, and B) much of the street food here is not gluten-free. I have had minor stomach issues fairly consistently since moving here as it is; I'm not looking to turn them into major ones. And I haven't learned the language because I can't find a good teacher--and because English is the preferred language when shopping, dining, travelling, etc.

So I haven't exactly been living like the average Filipino here. But I haven't been living like the wealthy ones, either. I don't have a nice car with a personal driver, I don't have a nanny and live-in household help to do all the hard daily work or deal with car issues, and I don't live in the nicest neighborhood with the best plumbing. I'm living in this weird state of tension, right in between "things aren't so different here" and "Help!!!"

Then last week my car died. Since then, I've had a harder time buying groceries and doing school drop-offs and pick-ups. I've mostly been using taxis, for the above-mentioned reason that I don't relish the idea of riding in the back of a Jeepney, breathing in deathly black belch. And I will not put my squirmy kids and their fifty bags on the back of a motorcycle. But I did ride my first tricycle the other day! The equivalent of 36 cents got me to the nearest grocery store and back. Pretty anti-climactic, really, but I did feel like I finally experienced a little bit of reality. And when I was walking down to the main road to wait for a trike, I had my umbrella out. Here, women walk under umbrellas on sunny days. Again, I felt like a true resident of the area.

But these and other little "real life in the Philippines" experiences haven't made me feel like a better expat, or that I'm really diving in and making the most of my time here. I think I build things up in my head as being more romantic than they are, and then once I experience them I just think "Okay, check that off the list" and get back to life the way I want it: convenient, cool, and easy. If at all possible.

One other thing about expat life--there's this expectation to travel around and see as much of this part of the world as possible while we're here. People are always telling us which dive resorts to go to or which islands to boat to, which places let you hold pythons and swim with whale sharks and which places have the best food and massages. We've been to a couple of other places in the Philippines other than the city of Cebu, but I'm already weary of the travel. I never was one for traveling much. I'm a homebody at heart. And I'm definitely not a beach-lover. I have no interest in learning to scuba dive and I can barely snorkel without having a panic attack. I would rather climb a mountain and save my fish-watching for the city aquarium. But around here, you're crazy if you don't swim with sardines or go island-hopping. I'm just a bit tired of the scene. Or, more accurately, I'm tired of hearing of the scene.

And my kids are already getting spoiled with the idea that we should go spend money doing something fun every weekend. Both days. Every Friday evening they ask "What are we doing tomorrow? Can we go to a beach resort/water park/mall arcade/bounce house?" What?! When we lived in Chicago we didn't go do something big and fun every weekend. (Maybe that's because we had parks and friends.) But we certainly didn't travel all the time. (Maybe that's because the only place within driving distance was Iowa.)

I have been calling myself the reluctant expat lately. I want to experience life in the Philippines while I'm here so that I leave with no regrets, but I desperately long for my old life with all its comforts and conveniences. I do the things my husband and kids want to do here, but I honestly feel like I'm just putting up with it all--and I feel like I might soon explode.

Luckily, I do have little outlets. I have been doing Zumba in my living room with a DVD. I get out and have coffee occasionally with women I met here. I am cataloguing all the things that I need in life to keep me sane and relatively happy. And once in awhile something forces me out of my bubble and into real life here. Maybe, at six months, that's exactly where I should be.

Sunday, March 8, 2015


You have to take what you can get sometimes.

I love to recreate past moments. I was once told that I was refreshingly sentimental--but my sentimentality usually feels like a burden that costs me the gift of enjoying "today".

Moving to the Philippines has been hard, no joke. I no longer have seasons that I recognize. I don't have the crisp breezes and earthy smells of fall bringing back memories of school and cozy home days and holiday preparations. I don't have snow that blinds in the sunlight, forcing to mind memories of past storms and comforts.

I do have summer. I live in a forever summer. Most of my friends, stuck in snowdrifts in the Midwest, think I'm so lucky to be missing winter. But they don't really get how much I am missing it. Being a "homebody", fall and winter were always my favorite seasons. No pressure to be "outdoorsy", and it's always a good day to bake.

Still, I have a lot of good summer memories. I just hadn't expected to be reconnected to any of them here in the Philippines, because I figured I'd be too preoccupied with missing fall and winter. And summer in Cebu City is not like summer in the places I call home. Here, there are no parks. There are no decent beaches anywhere near my house. The sun goes down at 5:30 every evening, so there are no long summer evenings. I could go on and on about how the conditions and the sights, sounds, and smells around here fall short of really making me feel at home.

But then, there's this:

The sky. That glimpse of a summer sunset in the middle of city traffic was enough for me the other night. It carried me back to summers past in my hometown in Colorado, free from the stress of schoolwork and alarm clocks; the giddy freedom of being a new driver and cruising with the windows down; outdoor concerts and late frozen yogurt runs.
And then this:

Fall leaves! Totally out of season and without the accompaniment of the aforementioned breezes and wafts of cinnamon, but there they were--crunching under my feet. And I instantly traveled back a few years to a Chicago park with my kids, throwing leaves at each other for what seemed like hours. And then there's the "memory within a memory"--remembering that day in the park so well because it had brought back memories of my parents raking up piles of leaves for me and my sister in the backyard.
So there are little brushstrokes of familiarity here that I'm learning to spot. And now that I'm in my sixth month here, I think I'm ready to let them be enough for me. 

Friday, March 6, 2015

Next time, stay for the whole thing...

I need to give you an embarrassing but important update on my last post. My daughter performed a song with her Chinese class at a school assembly, and I was a little annoyed to find that all the girls in her grade level except her were performing a dance in costume in front of the singing group. I wanted her to have her chance to shine, too. Well, I had to leave the assembly early to take my son to his school, and I missed the part where they give out awards. They do it every week, apparently.

And this particular week my daughter won an award! "For being a risk-taker by having the courage in trying new things and singing an entire song with confidence", it says. Almost two weeks after receiving this, I found the certificate in her backpack and had to ask her about it before she would tell me that yes, they called her up to the front and presented her with the award, etc.

So...the teacher did, in fact, have her eye on Esther. And she had her moment to shine. And wouldn't I rather she get recognition for the hard thing she accomplished instead of being chosen for a dance just because she looked cute in the costume? I'm satisfied (for now) and I think I need to take a step back, take a deep breath, and let my daughter make her own way. With mom close behind if needed.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

When's It Her Turn?

My daughter is an amazing girl. She is a voracious reader, she has a higher emotional IQ than a lot of adults, she knows how to make me laugh, she loves adventure, she tries new things even if she's scared. She's got a great ear for languages; she's studying Mandarin in school, and she's getting high praise from her teacher for her ability to memorize songs in Chinese. In fact, last week her Chinese class performed two songs at a school assembly in honor of Chinese New Year.  I was so excited to watcher her perform because I saw how proud she was when she memorized the songs, ahead of most of her classmates.

I was also pumped that it was finally going to be her turn to "shine" for a few moments in front of her other classmates. See, there is this culture of achievement at her school that she hasn't figured out how to fit into yet. Most of her classmates either play an instrument, have a sport they're good at, love drama, star in cheerleading routines at school assemblies, or any combination of those. My daughter sees her classmates performing and asks me when it's her turn. It's that heartbreaking tension between wanting to be recognized but being too shy to put yourself out there. I know it well.

So last Friday I was so excited for her to be part of the Chinese New Year performance. Out she came with her class. I got my video camera ready. Then...a blaring music video was projected on a screen behind the kids and drowned out any chance of hearing their voices. And a group of four girls came out front dressed in cheongsam (Chinese traditional dress), dancing and singing into microphones. Camera shot of my daughter was blocked.

Now, I'm not the parent who insists on her kid getting the starring role. I'm not the parent who pushes my kid out front. But I was pretty disappointed that my kid didn't get her chance to be in front. The girls in front are the same girls in the cheerleading and dance performances. Surely they have plenty of opportunity to dance then. Why do they also get to be the main performers in the Chinese class event?! Why does every event have to be fronted by a stage show, anyway? Can't a class perform a song without having to idolize those in the class who want to dance?

I know I sound really judgmental. And I need to be very careful, because I have a lot of envy and resentment from my own school days. As I mentioned before, I always wanted to be the performer, but I was too shy to step up and try out for the parts. I asked my daughter how those girls were chosen. She said her teacher asked them to perform the dance. Now, my daughter was the only third grade girl not dancing in front. Part of me wonders if it's because she didn't look the part--perfect hair, bubbly personality, cute little dancing body.

Maybe that's unfair of me. You might be reading this thinking "Hey, I was the kid who performed. I was a dancer. I was the soloist. I resent the insinuation that I have no talent but won my way on stage by looks." You should resent that. That would be really petty of me. I am all for people getting to showcase their talent.

But here it's often misplaced. Like the other day when I was at the mall and there was an academic pop quiz event happening.  Every time I passed the floor there was another stage act going on. I kept thinking "When do these students get to actually do the quiz?" First someone had to sing "You Raise Me Up", then a boy group had to dance, then a couple did a pop duet, and on and on it went. Kids were missing school for this.

My daughter is having a hard enough time fitting in at school with ADHD. I wish she could be recognized for the things she is able to contribute. But she's not gifted at those "main event" talents that everyone sees and recognizes and thinks are cool.

After a third or fourth meeting with her teachers and counselors about this and other issues, I was gently told that maybe I need to back off and let my daughter find her own way. But I'm afraid she will be pushed aside and swallowed up in the shadow of the performers. But I did ask if she had wanted to be part of the Chinese dance, and she said no because the dances looked too complicated. And honestly, she felt proud of herself for being part of the performance at all. So I will bite my tongue and build her up, and do my best to give her opportunities to prove that she can shine like the best of 'em.

A couple days ago she went to a birthday party at a Laser Tag place. I was so nervous for her; I could just see her doing poorly at laser tag and feeling bad about herself, getting laughed at by the other little commando kids. But I didn't say anything. I described what laser tag is like, and she wanted to give it a try. I took her, dropped her off, and came back three hours later....and was greeted by her beaming face. She had a blast! She was so proud of her score, which was not last place but was certainly down towards the bottom.

I realized then that my eight-year-old daughter is my greatest teacher right now. The challenge for me is to appreciate what I can do and what I enjoy doing without comparing myself to others or measuring the applause I get (or not).

But then we have a morning like this one, where she is crying that she doesn't have any friends at school, that no one lets her play with them, and she doesn't want to go to school. What do I do with that?! I want nothing more than to help her fit in and have friends. But I don't want to her change who she is. Or do I? Is the whole reason she felt bad about herself this morning that I was hard on her for losing focus and not getting ready on time?

Teaching her not to care what others think of her needs to start with getting plenty of affirmation at home. Let this be my wake-up call.

So I apologize--I'm tired this morning, and hungry, dealing with technical difficulties, reeling from a tough morning, and dealing with issues from my childhood that I thought were dead and buried. But there's nothing like raising a child to make you face your past. So if this post turns you off in any way, take it with a grain of salt and show grace. I'm a work in progress. Thankfully, so is my daughter. Her future is not written yet. There may be a place on stage for her yet. And if not, she will light up the shadows. The eyes that matter will see her. As they do each of us.