Tuesday, April 12, 2016

On Wanting It All

Have  you ever wanted to clone yourself just so you could do everything you want to do?

To be able to live without sleep so you don't have to waste hours accomplishing nothing?

To stay young for a hundred years in order to experience all the things on your bucket list?

To don the cape of a super-hero and overcome all fear?

I've often daydreamed of having the ability to do it all, to be everything to everyone, to accomplish all of the things on my life-goals list, and still have time to do more.  With words like "smart", "hard-working", and "gifted" tacked onto my name from the time I was very young, how could I not succeed, right?  Besides, Wonder Woman was my role model growing up: if she could do it, so could I (sans magic lasso and bullet-stopping bracelets).

There have been times when I switched between four or five hats on any given day - from mom and wife, business owner, writer, PTA President, sports and dance parent (and fundraiser), community advocate, Scout leader, religious leader, and family bookkeeper, to chauffeur, counselor, and chief cook and bottle washer!!  I've taken great big bites of life, and swallowed them whole.  I've aimed for the moon, and worked to climb as high as I could. And (sadly) I've let a few important things fall by the wayside in the process.

But lately I've come to realize there's a real danger in my innate desire to be larger than life and capable of anything.  (Yes, it's taken me a lot of years to get to this point.) Too many times, when I'm dreaming of all the things I want(ed) to do, I start to feel bad about the things I have and haven't done. The things on my list that I may never do. The sacrifices made to accomplish the things I have done.  Of letting down all those people who identified me as ultra-capable.  

When I start down that road of self-doubt, I devalue the things that I have accomplished, and I start to second-guess the things I'm doing now.

But if the world has taught me anything recently, it's that life is too precious to allow myself to fall into that rut. And let's be honest, some of the things I think I want/need to accomplish aren't really all that important in the grand scheme of things.

So, you ask, what meteor streaked through the heavens and hit my thick noggin hard enough to knock a little sense into me?  

Well, watching people I love as they deal with the reality of losing a loved one to cancer has been an eye-opener.  Getting a peek at what it's like to know your days are numbered is a stunning wake-up call.  They say things come in threes, and they aren't kidding.  Three people in my life, in different situations, with different types of cancer. Three families coping with the word "terminal".  Three people who won't have the chance to worry about checking off all of the items on their list of goals.

Two families for whom tomorrow is a blessing and waking up to another day is a triumph, and one already dealing with the pain of loss at the end of a valiant battle.   

It really puts things in perspective when you realize what being human can entail, and that none of us are promised the time to do it all.

The result?

I'm not becoming fatalistic or giving up on the dreams I still want to make reality. I'm not slowing down (much).  I'm not even reducing my list of life-goals or bucket list items.

But I am taking more time to enjoy the little things. I'm soaking in the moments with my family, cherishing the time with my kids and my husband. I'm allowing myself to really feel my accomplishments as they occur, rather than immediately jumping to the next item on the list. I'm evaluating (and reevaluating) what matters most on my list, and setting better priorities. I'm celebrating the good things in my life more. I'm setting a goal to express gratitude more often. And I allow myself to fail (truth = usually it's the failure to work out).

Of course, I still work full-time (getting paid to do a lot of writing and revising!!) and I'm still going to school full-time.  I help with home improvements, housework, and yard work.  And I'm determined to edit my latest novel in the next month (or so).

The biggest thing I've learned through this time of self-evaluation is that although I haven't finished everything on my lifelong to-do list, I haven't seen everything I want to see or experienced everything I want to experience, I have no regrets.  I truly like the adults my children are becoming. I still love my big bear of a husband. Every choice I've made, every experience I've had, has led me to the place I'm at today.

And it's a pretty good place to be.   

Embrace Every New Day

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Lessons Learned at #tenqueries

Over the past four years, I've found a healthy, thriving community of writers on Twitter. In fact, it's a great place to find other authors - published or not - to share ideas with (and maybe some frustrations).  There are also a lot of contests and writing challenges. And to make Twitter even more appealing, there are agents, editors, and publishers tweeting advice, helps, and tips. You might even trip over the wish list of an agent or twenty at #mswl (manuscript wish list).

One of my favorite places to play is #tenqueries (followed closely by #askagent).

So, what is #tenqueries?

It's a peek inside the brain of an agent as they go through their inbox. It's an opportunity to see what agents are looking for, to learn the things that are likely to earn your query a 'no', and to see that moment when everything clicks for a 'request'.

But lately I've seen a negative response by writers to the #tenqueries hashtag.  While I understand that there is a lot of rejection in the timeline, I don't necessarily view that as a bad thing. This, my friends, is the reality of trying to be published.  Although we may be burning with a deep need to write, the publishing world is a business, and we need to understand the business.

#tenqueries has taught me a lot. Instead of seeing a pattern of rejection, I see a pattern of mistakes that writers (myself included) make.

I'd like to share some important truths I've learned by watching the #tenqueries feed.

  • Research agents before you query. There are countless passes in the feed with the explanation of 'I don't rep that genre'. That is an immediate 'no'. And really, do you want an agent who doesn't have a passion for the genre you write? I want an agent who gets it, who loves the genre, and who will be a fantastic representative of my work.
  • Personalize your query based on your research.  I can't tell you how many times I've seen the 'dear agent' get a pass.  Studying an agent's website will give you a feel for their personality and likes. Choose agents who will represent your work well, and let them know you would like to work with them specifically.  This means spending time on each and every query, but it's time well spent.
  • Follow the submission guidelines.  Every agent has them on their website. Most agents won't open attachments (can't blame them). Some want a synopsis, some don't. Some ask for one chapter, others want five pages.  Give 'em what they ask for - usually pasted into the body of an email.  Your words won't make it past the 'no' filter if you don't follow the guidelines.
  • Study the publishing world. It's important that you have a good idea of how long a manuscript should be. This varies depending on the genre - for example, adult novels will typically be longer than young adult novels. It won't hurt if you have read a lot of books in the genre you write, either.
  • Edit, edit, edit, edit.  Messy grammar, punctuation, etc. usually results in a quick trip to the pass lane.  Your writing can't shine if the agent is distracted by mistakes. Who knows, you might be lucky enough to spark interest regardless, but do you want to chance it?
  • Find critique partners you can trust to be honest.  This means sharing your work with another person, and a yes-man isn't going to benefit you. Agents can't be worried about hurting your feelings - they are in this business to publish books.  If your crit partner can't constructively criticize your words to help you improve, they aren't helping you.  
  • Don't give up. If this means reworking a novel, starting a new novel, or researching other agents to query, do it! Learn from your mistakes and move forward. You will never succeed if you quit.
And now that I've made my list (OCD person here), I can get back to writing. I've shelved my last project and moved on to something new and better.  I'm excited to apply this knowledge to the query process.

My goal? To find an agent who is a great fit, and who will have deep belief in my project.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Lessons of Comic Con

I think it's pretty obvious from my blog that I write, and that one day I hope to be a published author.

What many - okay most - of you don't know is that before I got serious about writing for a broad audience, I wrote a bit of fanfiction. (I won't divulge my penname here - it's not important, and outing myself as a fanfic author should suffice. Although, it IS important to state that I will never take the stories I wrote as fic and try to pass them off as 'original' fiction. It would be a disservice to myself and to my readers - giving them shallow, underdeveloped characters - and would feel unethical.) The reason I mention this here is because the fact that I'd written fic gave me an interesting opportunity this month. I was invited to sit on a panel at the Salt Lake Comic Con FanXperience to discuss the impact of fanfiction on the publishing world.

At first, the idea of sitting at a table to discuss fanfiction was a little...unnerving. But it was an excellent opportunity to be a part of Comic Con, so I decided to do it. What I didn't realize at the time was that there were a lot of writing panels at Comic Con. A LOT! I was excited to attend as many as I could - and none of them were disappointing.

I learned some pretty important truths during those three days, and I'd like to share them.

1.  There is nothing shameful about having written fanfiction. It was a great way to exercise writing muscles that I'd forgotten existed, provided an incredible kinship that resulted in talented crit partners, and offered a ready-made audience for someone who wanted to know if they could affect a reader with their words. (I could, and I did. It's an awesome feeling.)

2.  In meeting many other authors, some who were there to present their craft during panels or on the main vendor floor, I came to the conclusion that I AM an author. I CAN be published if I keep working, keep writing, keep the faith.  Save me a spot at a future Comic Con, I'll be joining you. 

3.  Commitment to my passion is key. I need to set aside time every day to write, to research, and to read. A completed, edited, query ready novel is my goal. I'm getting close with my latest manuscript, and I have two others on the shelf to query later.

4.  My excitement about writing is powerful, and when I share it with people I meet, it connects us. My quest is to turn that in-person excitement and energy into a query that exudes the same passion.  There's an agent out there waiting for my story, I just need to find him/her and knock their socks off with my pitch.

5.  I have an amazing support system. My husband (who prefers sports to books) attended my panel, and is behind me 100%. He tells me, "You can do anything." A couple of my kids were there, too. They feel my distraction when I'm writing, and yet, they support me.  The resolve that grows from their support is intense. I want to succeed for them, for the sacrifices they've made to allow me to chase my dream.

6.  If I quit, I'll never be published.

7.  Fans/geeks/nerds are the best kind of people. Creativity thrives in their midst.

8.  I want to sit on a panel for my own book one day. 

And on that note, I'm heading back to my writing cave. I have a chapter to finish.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Thoughts on a Cold Day

I encountered a homeless man on a cold, grey day in January, sitting by the window of a convenience store.

His clothing was worn and dirty, his old yellow coat pulled up against his neck, zipped to the top, a knitted red scarf tucked in around the edges. His hands, in torn and ragged gloves, were wrapped around a cup of coffee. Probably the warmest thing he would experience all day.

The small shopping cart that held his meager belongings was pushed against the wall, a copy of a free local paper spread over the top.  He smiled as he turned the page, moving to the next story.

Long white hair flowed down his back, a little greasy, but combed. It was the same color as the beard and mustache that covered most of his face.

He looked up as I passed.

I smiled and said hello.
His weathered face crinkled into a large, friendly smile. Deep blue eyes, surrounded by wrinkles of age and time, sparkled as he told me good morning.

He went back to reading, and I went inside for my morning soda and a muffin.

Walking through the store, I couldn’t get his face out of my mind. His serene nature, as he sat in the cold with a simple cup of coffee and a newspaper, haunted me.

I couldn’t help but wonder when he’d last had warm food in his belly, when he’d last slept somewhere heated.

It wasn’t in my power to provide him with shelter, but I knew I could at the very least provide him with a little sustenance.  So I picked up a breakfast sandwich and made my way to the register.
I’ll never forget the feeling of handing the man a warm sandwich.  I’ll never forget the surprise that colored his expression, the smile that spread across his worn features.  I’ll never forget the kindness in his eyes or his words of thanks.

Most importantly, I’ll never forget the feeling of rightness from doing something small for another human being.

Are you wondering why I would share this experience?

I’m not looking for an ‘atta girl’, or even expecting you to understand. But I haven’t been able to get his face, his smile, his kind expression, out of my thoughts.

You see, when I pass homeless people on the street – and I pass quite a few every day as I drive to and from my office downtown – there is a deeply ingrained sense of ‘me’ and ‘them’.

Society has trained me to see them as different, as slackers, as lazy, as people who made bad choices and ended up in a bad situation – their travails their own fault - and I am blameless when I pass them with nary a thought.

But on that cold January morning, I saw past the dirty, ragged clothing. I saw past the misfortune and the lowly circumstances.

That day, I saw gratitude and kindness in the eyes of another human being. I saw a fellow child of God.

Yes, he’s a man whose path is different than my own, at least at this point. His story is unknown to me. His joys, his pains, his successes, his failures: a mystery.  I wonder if he was a soldier whose benefits have run out. Was he married for fifty years, and upon the death of his spouse, lost all? Did a medical emergency drain his resources? What happened to lead him to this place?

I fail to truly understand his life, because I’ve never walked in his shoes.

And yet, the truth is that we are more alike than different.

The more I ponder on the situation, the more I’m inundated with memes on Facebook and other social media that scream about ‘the takers’, the more political propaganda I see, the deeper my feelings over this occasion go. 

Reality for so many in our country is that we’re one payday, one month, one medical crisis, from where this man sits. As we pass them on the street we have no way of knowing their stories, no way of comprehending what brought them to this place – and we can’t envision our lives turning to this particular path.

We are ‘us’. He’s a ‘them’, receiving not our compassion, but our scorn.

As a society we do this a lot.

Our religious sect vs. theirs.

Christians vs. Muslims.

Rich vs. poor vs. middle class.

Citizen vs. immigrant.

Heterosexual vs. homosexual.

Republicans vs. Democrats vs. Independents vs. Libertarians.

Our country vs. the world.



We look for and cherish the differences instead of the similarities, nurturing the distrust of those who aren't like us.

What it boils down to (in my eyes), is that the substance which makes us human and decides who we are is mostly the same – whether we have brown eyes or blue, brown skin or white, worship God or not, feel attraction to the opposite sex or the same, have a lot of money or none, or live in this country or another.

If you change that substance too much, life won’t happen. It can’t happen.

And that is only the stuff of our physical nature.
So, we are all born, our lives are lived in various places and manners, but we all end up in the same place at the end of our journey, as we breathe our last.

I believe the value of the time we spend on this Earth is measured in the compassion we have for others, the love we have for our fellow beings, the actions of our daily lives.

And I hope and pray that if I make an error in judgment in my life, it is an error on the side of humanity, of compassion.

Because “There but for the Grace of God, go I” is more than a saying.

Monday, February 3, 2014

It's Gonna Be O.K.

Last week I had one of those 'oh crap' moments, you know, the ones that drop a rock in the pit of your stomach and leave you feeling a little off-center.

See, I had a mammogram the week before. My first. One that I procrastinated for months, then years. On Monday of last week I received the letter every woman dreads - and a phone message to follow up  - "There are areas of your scan that need further evaluation."

I told myself not to worry. This test was a baseline. This was my first. I'm healthy. My doctor didn't find anything suspicious at my checkup.

But try as I might, I couldn't block the doubts and fears, the worries and the 'what if's'. It was a long week, waiting to do a follow-up visit.

Finally, this morning I got up early and headed to the Breast Care Center for more scans.

I entered the building with a smile on my face, masking the trepidation I was feeling. My chest felt heavy and my stomach twisted - I was thankful I hadn't eaten. The receptionist seemed to recognize me, and quickly handed me off to the other receptionist, the one who checks in follow-up visitors. And this time, I wasn't taken into the part of the building where they do yearly check-ups. This time I was taken to the other side. The side for returners.

Sitting in the waiting room, legs crossed, foot bouncing, watching the women around me, all of them there for further evaluation or follow-up, like me, I started to think again of the 'what if' scenarios, each more worrisome than the last. My eyes wandered around the room, taking it all in, and I noticed a sign on the wall.

My throat closed slightly, and I could feel myself tearing up. Because I wanted to hear that it would be okay, to KNOW that it would be okay.

And I knew that for some of the women sitting near me in this room, things hadn't been okay previously. See, this is the room where women who were following up after surgery, who were getting their 6 month check-ups, who had been down a very difficult road, went - not just those of us who needed 'further evaluation'.

Minutes felt like hours as I waited, even knowing that I would, at the very least, know what they had found before I left the building.

The tech who came to get me was kind, cheerful, and helpful. We chatted as she adjusted my breasts and the machine, taking more pictures. Her attitude and her knowledge put me at ease. I knew I was in the right place, and in good hands. And when I was told I needed to undergo an ultrasound as well, I felt confident that things really would be okay.

And they were.

For me.

I am lucky. The follow-up was necessary to see some areas that were difficult to scan - nothing more. My scans were clear, and there was nothing else I needed to worry about. I go back in a year.

Huge sigh of relief.

Now, you may be asking why I would write about this experience on my writing blog. I have two reasons.

First, I was writing this blog in my head as I waited. It was a great distraction from the 'what if' scenarios I'd started to spin. (Being imaginative can be awfully scary at times). I knew that, whatever the outcome of my scans, I needed to put my feelings down on paper. I needed to let go of the worry, the anxiety, the stress of the prior week, and there is no better way to do that, for me, than words.

More importantly, I wanted to be an example - to my daughters, my friends, to any other women who have procrastinated their care.

Yes, there is a measure of discomfort in a mammogram. Yes, you may feel slightly awkward as a tech handles your breasts, moving and compressing them. Yes, you might just get a call or letter telling you to come back for more scans.

But this can literally be a life or death situation.

A little discomfort can be the difference between finding an anomaly early, when it's highly treatable, and finding out that you are in a critical situation that will require surgery, medications, and radiation.

Please ladies, for the sake of yourself and your families, get a mammogram. Schedule it now.

Then we can celebrate our good outcomes together.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Why Do It?

Do you ever sit down and analyze yourself?

I do.

Maybe not as frequently or as deeply as I should, but I do.

Usually it takes a 'life event' to make me look more closely at my motives for doing things. But lately, I'm asking myself if the thing I like to do in my spare time - my hobby, my pasttime, my passion - is worth the time I spend. And I wonder if there is value in hiding away, typing like my life depends on it. Some days I struggle to get words on the page, mostly on the days when I feel less than positive or feel a great deal of stress from the other aspects of my life. I mean, let's be realistic here, I'm married, I have four kids - three of whom still live at home, I have a fairly demanding full-time job, kids' activities, a home to take care of, and on and on and on.

And I end up asking myself, is it worth it? Am I any good at this? Am I neglecting other things in order to do it?

Why am I doing this?

So here's where I'm at right now.

My life is 'safe'. I have a good job. I'm still head-over-heals for my husband of 25 years. My kids are becoming young adults, and are doing pretty well so far. There are daily struggles, sure, but overall, things are good. In fact, if you ask my mother, I'm 'the stable one' of her five children (a topic for which many blog posts could be written).

My life is all earthtones. Like my living room.

Don't get me wrong. I love earth tones. I'm comfortable in earth tones. In some ways, I AM earth tones. (Terms like solid, dependable, detail-oriented come to mind - but I call myself OCD).

I like to be safe. I like to feel secure. And I want my kids to feel safe and secure, something I lacked at times growing up.

But there is a streak of bright crimson that runs through me, and I NEED to allow myself to let it out of my carefully protected self. I CRAVE the catharsis of writing words on a page, of telling a story, expressing my inner being in a way that I usually don't. I WANT other people to feel deep emotions when they read something I've written. I DESIRE a way to move others' souls.

Truth is, I want to create an impact like those I experience when I watch a deeply meaningful dance routine, listen to a beautifully phrased song, or look at a painting that touches a chord in my heart.

Singing is out of the question, and I gave up dancing a while back (other than for my own, or my family's amusement). John is the more artistic of the two of us, though he doesn't draw often.

Words are my creative outlet.

Writing is my release, my deep breath, if you will.

And I'm at the point where I realize that I will continue to write, whether I'm writing for myself, for my family, or for a broader audience some day.

I can't promise that I'll spend as much time each day as I have been. I've realized that in a few years my kids will be grown, they'll leave my carefully constructed nest. John and I will have much more time to ourselves, and I'm sure that I'll be able to write while he watches his favorite sports (which means I'll have a lot of time).

I'll never stop putting pen to paper - or more accurately, fingers to keyboard.

My season to pursue writing more furiously will come. In the meantime, I'll continue doing what I do - all of it, shifting focus to the adult  market, rather than YA. It's more fitting for my voice, I know. (Teens aren't earth tones.)

Because it's impossible for me to give up the feeling of visualizing something and striving to translate it into words.

It would be folly to think I wouldn't burst if I never put another thought down on paper.

Writing is a part of me. A part I'm unwilling to give up.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Is It Okay To Be Pretty When I Grow Up?

I read a blog a couple of weeks ago that was linked to my friend's Facebook account, and I've been stewing ever since.

See, in this blog a woman talked about how she helped her sons cull their Facebook friends - a process that was based on the 'seductive bra-less pajama pictures' young women posted (the harlots! - gasp).

I won't even start to talk about the fact that her rather judgmental post was littered with pictures of her teenage sons, shirtless. I doubt she saw the hypocrisy of adding those 'family fun' pictures to this particular post.

What I really want to address is the fact that she is extremely biased against young women, something that she learned from the culture around her.

Let me back up for a minute here and tell you what I mean.

My 17-year-old daughter dances on her high school drill team. They dress in costumes that, well, aren't always extremely modest. There are people who judge her for that - but that isn't where I'm going with this. Thankfully, she knows who she is, and their judgment, though unwarranted, will not harm her self-esteem (I hope).

So last week the Excaliburs (her drill team) had a Mini-Excalibur Camp. They taught nearly 70 younger girls a dance over three days, which was performed at the halftime of the high school football game. And it was so much fun to watch.

Baelee is a senior, and in the previous two years, she has worked with the youngest group of girls, three to six. This year, however, Baelee worked with the oldest group, those who were twelve to sixteen.

She complained to me that it wasn't as much fun as the last two years.

"Why?" I asked.

"Because the little girls are just there to have fun. They dance. They laugh. They don't care if they make a mistake. Every minute is joyful for them. The older girls are so worried about how they look, how other people will judge them, that they aren't enjoying themselves as much."

And then she added, "Why can't we just be happy and enjoy what we do? Why does society take that away from us as we grow up?"

What followed was a wonderful conversation with my daughter about how the way people treat us can lead to insecurities and fears, and the fact that self-esteem is too linked to what other people think. I'm glad she talked to me about this. And I truly wish every girl could talk to a parent about things like this.

See moms and dads, our daughters are growing up in a culture that sends mixed messages at them. Constantly.

You're lazy if you weigh too much.
You're a diva if you're proud of your body.

It's a bad thing to have acne or a uni-brow.
You'll look easy if you wear too much make-up to cover up flaws or pluck too much.

You're likely to 'get in trouble' if you date just one boy.
You'll be considered a 'slut' if you date too many boys.

You're an outcast if you wear the wrong type of clothing.
You'll be raped (and deserve it) if you wear popular clothing that's more revealing.

You're smart, you should be in college.
You're supposed to be a mom, not a productive worker in society, so don't expect to make as much as your male counterparts.
And if you're a mom and a worker outside the home, you can't do it well enough. Your kids will suffer.

You're too fat. You're too thin. You're too young. You're too old. You're too smart. You aren't smart enough. You don't wear the right clothes. You don't hang with the right crowd. That color looks bad on you. Your hair isn't cut right. Your hair would look better straight/curly/short/long - whatever it isn't. How horrible that you're pierced or tattooed, or both. Get a life, you're a goody-two shoes.

And I'll promise you that our girls HEAR these things. They REMEMBER these things.

 Negative, packed on negative, packed on negative. You just can't win.

The compliments they get won't undo the sharp jabs that come at them from every side. (And we've trained them to shrug off compliments, anyway.)

And then maybe, just maybe, your daughter goes to school one day and a friend approaches her.

"Hey, didn't that Hall boy unfriend you on Facebook?"

"Yeah. Why?"

"Well, his mom wrote a blog about how she makes her boys unfollow trampy girls."


Some girls might spill an expletive. Some girls might cry. Some girls might not say anything, but will internalize the insult. Some might even ask themselves if they've ever acted in an inappropriate way around the Hall boy.

Way to go Hall mom.

You've just knocked a teenage girl's self-esteem down. You win.

Or how about the girl who hits the 'like' button on a Facebook post. Something simple like 'hey, can't you respect your friend's house?', only to be attacked by a group of other girls on Twitter.

"Who do you think you are?"
 "Why do you think you're better than us?"
"You're just a (fill in the blank with the meanest word you can think of)."

It's really easy to say hurtful things when you don't have to see the reaction. And we wonder why bullying is such a problem.

Or worse, how about a young girl who makes a bad decision to drink at a party and is raped by the boys in attendance, only to be told by many people that she 'deserved it'? And to add insult to injury, people post pictures of the assault on social media?

She ends up moving because the people in town are upset the football players got in trouble. After all, she's the 'sleazy' girl who got drunk and was wearing seductive clothing. The boys had absolutely no control over their own behavior, right?

And if you don't think all the previous negatives and a post by a kinda well-meaning mom contribute to the problem of rape culture that we're facing, well, you need to think again.

We are constantly telling girls that their bodies are sexual things, that boys will be boys - and if they aren't careful, boys will assault them. Then we tell them that sex is bad. That good girls wait. Good girls don't have feelings of sexual attraction. And all the while they are hitting puberty, hormones raging.

And their self-esteem takes another hit.

'I must be a bad person because I feel sexually attracted to someone.'
'I'm bad because I'm curious about sex.'
'I'm not a good girl because I like to see boys without their shirts on.'

Is there some unwritten rule that says we can't teach our girls that attraction is normal and natural? Can't we teach them (and their male counterparts) that they have the ability to choose a course that is right and healthy for themselves? That no boy has the right to choose for them? That waiting is healthy? That choosing not to wait is a decision best made when taking responsibility for safety? (Yes, I know that parents want their children to choose based on their moral guidelines, but shouldn't they be prepared for any situation?)

Why do we do this to our girls? Our children?

Why do grown women set an example of gossip and judgment for their kids?

Why do we tell our daughters that whatever it is they are is not right?

What do we have against being happy with ourselves?

To my daughters and sons, I say, "You are amazing people. I love who you are becoming. Keep your chins up. You have great worth, no matter what you hear from the world."

To the world I say,  "To hell with 'dancing like noone can see you. Dance like the world is watching, and you're proud to be yourself."