There is a certain false sense of security that comes with having my daughters in an all-girls middle school. There is a modicum of relief that washes over me when I hear other parents talking about the flirtatious interactions and attractions, both clandestine and overt, that their children experience daily, hourly, continuously.  My girls get to go to school and not have to endure ‘accidental’ jostling or groping from the boy whose locker is adjacent to theirs. They are not awash in titillating situations between or during classes.

But, like I said, this is a false sense of security. Because the fact is, both of my girls identify as heterosexual at this point and both are attracted to boys – both the celebrity variety and those they know peripherally.  And while they may not see boys on a daily basis at school, they know boys and interact with boys over text and Skype and email and Facebook and I have recently begun wondering how these non-personal encounters will ultimately affect their comfort level with boys in the actual flesh.  This, of course, leads me to wonder how boys and girls learn to communicate with each other in general (and not on a sibling-level which is vastly different than both friend and partner interactions).  Should we be talking to our kids about how they present themselves, talk about themselves, assert themselves in person with someone they might be physically attracted to?  I think so.

Yesterday The Lancet published a study they conducted on the prevalence of rape, specifically, “Prevalence of and factors associated with non-partner rape perpetration: findings from the UN Multi-country Cross-sectional Study on Men and Violence in Asia and the Pacific.” (Yeah, I know – it’s a mouthful.)  I was blown away by what they found.  If you wish to examine the study and attendant findings, it is here. If not, I will attempt to accurately paraphrase the portions that shocked me to the core.

First of all, in surveying these men, ages 18-49, they did not use the word “rape.” Rather, they described circumstances that are most definitely qualified as rape and asked whether the men had engaged in any of these actions. One example was to ask whether the respondent had ever “forced a woman who was not your wife or girlfriend at the time to have sex” or “had sex with a woman who was too drunk or drugged to indicate whether she wanted it.” The numbers were staggeringly high.

In New Guinea, more than 26% of men self-reported having raped (by the above definitions) at least one woman. This ranged down to the lowest percentage of men (2.6%) in rural Bangladesh, but the numbers on repeated or multiple incidents was frightening as well.  There were no countries in this study where the sample did not contain at least one percent of respondents who had raped multiple women.  The table of results is here and includes data on men raping other men.

In nearly every country, 50% of the perpetrators committed their first rape prior to the age of 19, China being the exception.  My heart stopped when I saw that statistic.

This from the study itself: “All men who had raped were asked if they agreed or disagreed (on a four-point Likert scale) with a set of statements about why they did it. The statements expressed sexual entitlement (or the belief that if a man wants sex he has a right to have it, irrespective of the woman’s views: “I wanted her”, “I wanted to have sex”, or “I wanted to show I could do it”); entertainment seeking (“I wanted to have fun” or “I was bored”); anger or punishment (“I wanted to punish her” or “I was angry with her”); and drinking (“I had been drinking”).

And this, folks, is why I think it is vitally important that we talk to our children about the way they interact with the opposite sex. I will grant that this study did not take place in the United States and there were some correlations with violent conflicts (civil wars) and men’s attitudes towards women (a similar study in South Africa shows that nearly 28% of men admit to multiple rapes of non-partner women), but I wonder how much different the answers might be in our country.  When interactions of a personal nature are increasingly less personal (sexting, Skype ‘sex,’ etc.), how can we truly appreciate physical cues and tone of voice? When girls are objectified by the media (think: “Toddlers and Tiaras,” “Dance Moms,” any magazine advertisement for clothing or perfume or accessories in your local hair salon) and boys absorb those messages whether or not they mean to, how do we learn to talk to each other about ourselves in an authentic, meaningful way? How do we begin to have honest conversations about who we really are and how we deserve to be treated?

I don’t claim to have the answers, but I am certainly going to begin encouraging my girls to find ways to be in casual social situations with boys where they can practice simply being who they are. I imagine it will be an education for them as well as the boys they are around and I can only hope it will build their confidence to the point where they look beyond stereotypes of what a boy ‘ought’ to be like to the person inside as well as letting their true personalities emerge.

God help me.

The first day of school can’t come soon enough.
There isn’t enough time to get everything done before I leave for a long weekend.
I didn’t get enough sleep last night.
I don’t have enough clarity about CB’s cancer diagnosis.

These are the thoughts that run through my head and body like cars on the expressway, zipping and zooming past each other, weaving in and out, their red lights illuminating the night as I watch them retreat.  These are the thoughts that create a tightness in my jaw and shrink the spaces between my vertebrae as I wilt beneath their weight.

These are the thoughts of scarcity.
These are complete bullshit.

As I sit here with the dog’s warm chin straddling my feet, I sit up a little taller.  There is more than enough. It took me a long time (40 years or so) to recognize the fallacy of ‘not enough,’ and my own tendency to see things through that lens, but I’m working on it.  Truthfully, when it comes to the things that really matter, there is plenty.

There is so much love that surrounds me if I just choose to stop and see it.
There is as much time as there ever has been and if I am deliberate and thoughtful about how I spend it, I have more than enough to accomplish the things I truly care about.
There is creativity and cleverness in my children, my husband, the laborers working on my house to help us realize the vision of a relaxed gathering place for friends and family.
There are so many avenues open to me at any given moment and when I shift my gaze from scarcity to possibility, I am overwhelmed.

My spine lengthens. My lungs fill up a bit more. I can bask in the warmth of enough. Scarcity is a trap, a construction of my own mind. It is borne of comparison, a thing I already know is toxic, and the most insidious part of it is the assumption that chasing more and living in dissatisfaction will eventually get me to enough, or to the enemy of happiness – perfect.

The truth is, I am already there, so long as I choose a place of acknowledgment and gratitude. When I opt to look at how full my life is, brimming with love and connection and opportunities to learn and grow, I feel an embarrassment of riches.

I sit in the front seat of the car outside the vet clinic where I just dropped my baby boy off for xrays to rule out metastatic melanoma.
I feel the prickling behind my eyes and recognize it as fear. One step farther down the path from pain.
And I wonder, what if I stop at honoring the feeling and don’t go so far as to name it?
What if I sit with this ache behind my eyes,
the heaviness in my chest?
Just sit.
How do I arrive at this point and not give in to the inertia that pushes me forward to the next?
The questions.
What if…?
How do I…?
I recognize my own tendency toward forward motion. Moving always. Through,
or past.
Even if it means moving into fear, panic, anxiety.
What will I do without this lovely boy?
The question flits into being.
I let it go.
Don’t move past,
Sit with this moment in honor of my boy. This moment is all there is. It won’t last forever but the least I can do is feel it while it’s here and give it space.
And as I sit and breathe, floating in this moment, I discover a place of okay has opened up to me, offered itself, and I sit.

Photo from AP Wire

Somehow, the topic of Miley Cyrus came up in our house a few weeks ago. Yes, before the MTV Video Music Awards and Miley’s latest public appearance.

My girls are just old enough that they used to really enjoy watching “Hannah Montana” and Bubba and I used to be forced to listen to them sing her songs over and over again.  It has been a few years since that show has appeared on our television – Lola prefers ‘Seinfeld’ and ‘The Simpsons’ and Eve is a total ‘Pretty Little Liars’ fan – and neither of the girls owns any of Cyrus’ new music that I know of.  It is, however, nearly impossible to miss the tabloid headlines and magazine photos of her with her partially-shaved, blond-dyed hair and new, much edgier look.

When we started the conversation, I encouraged the girls to say what they thought about her and both gave me some version of the statement “she isn’t classy.”  I have to say that I agreed, but I did manage to paraphrase this quote from her that I admired:

“People think that I was made in Burbank in the Disney building.”

When Kelly Osbourne asked her about her transition from childhood to adulthood as a celebrity, she answered,

“It’s called puberty….Everyone’s done it from the beginning of time. I’m just doing it, so you’re zooming in on it and you’re fascinated by it.” 

The reason I held that up for my girls to think about is because I think she has a valid point.  Some teens go through a period of major rebellion and others stay pretty much the same as they always were. Some manage to hide their testing behaviors pretty well from their parents and others don’t.  Miley Cyrus ought not to be expected to stay the same innocent (if she really was that innocent – hard to know since I don’t know her personally) young girl she portrayed on television any more than anyone else.  She is growing up. She is allowed to get a tattoo or shave her head or sleep with whomever she pleases, whether or not we like it.  Whether or not we find it uncomfortable to look at.

I think it is patently unfair to so closely scrutinize Miley Cyrus for daring to take some chances with her physical appearance as a young twenty-something.  She is playing with her own boundaries, something she is absolutely entitled to do so long as she isn’t hurting anyone else or endangering herself in any way.  If she were anorexic or playing fast and loose with drugs and alcohol, that might be another situation, but still not one that’s any of my business and I would hope that her family and close friends would step in and try to help.

Of course, when the VMAs rolled around, I was shocked at the amount of disgust and disdain shown for her performance. Granted, I didn’t watch the entire thing (too busy catching up on ‘Breaking Bad’), but from the description of her stripping down to flesh-colored bikini and bra and incredibly suggestive dancing with Robin Thicke, I didn’t see anything that was much different than past performances from Madonna or Katy Perry or Britney Spears or even Lady Gaga.  Why the backlash against Cyrus? Is it because we all still want to see her as Hannah Montana? Are we uncomfortable with her growing up before our very eyes?  Frankly, I am far more disgusted by the lyrics to Thicke’s song “Blurred Lines” and its nod to the idea that women don’t actually know what they want when it comes to sex and they need men to give them guidance than I am by the idea that Miley gyrated her hips against his crotch on stage.  I’ve seen far worse. She was called out for grabbing her own crotch. Huh. How many male pop and hip hop stars do that almost constantly? When was the last time they were admonished for that kind of behavior?

So when the conversation came up again today and the girls had heard much of the discussion of her performance (neither of them has seen the broadcast of the VMAs), I was careful to ask for their perceptions first again.  They both felt like she was still “not very classy,” but Lola pointed out that she really felt a little sad.

“She has such a good voice and it’s too bad that these kinds of things take away from the attention on that.”

I think she’s right.  I say that, if Miley isn’t hurting anyone or exploiting anyone with her behaviors, we ought to leave her alone.  She may be making some decisions that will come back to haunt her in the future, given that these photos and recordings will likely never go away, but their her choices to make and unless her actions or words are harmful to anyone else, she has every right to do what she thinks is right.  I have seen some essays discussing her ‘appropriation’ and ‘exploitation’ of black culture and I honestly don’t feel like I can speak to that with any authority at all, so I’ll leave that to others.  Ultimately, I wonder if a lot of the public outcry over her VMA performance has more to do with the fact that Hannah Montana isn’t growing up to be the young woman many people expected her to be.  I don’t think we have any right to impose our society’s ideas on her simply because she was famous as a child.

I cry differently as an adult. I mostly cry about the same kinds of things, but there seems to be an odd threshold for actual tears falling now that there wasn’t when I was younger.

I have always been fairly emotionally sensitive, crying when I perceive that someone I love is hurting or finding myself so deeply embedded in a book or movie that a fictional tragedy sends me reeling.  I have also always been a frustrated-crier. That is to say, if I ever feel completely misunderstood or disregarded or unfairly shut-down, the anger that rises in me does so in a liquid form rather than a vaporous trail of words I probably ought not to utter.  I am one of those women who cries when her boss yells at her or when anyone in authority calls me out, especially if it is unjustified.  I have hated that quality for most of my life, all the while knowing that it has special powers over some males of the species (in my younger years, I was pulled over for speeding/taillights out/changing lanes without signaling a few times and always, the tears tumbled over each other to cascade down my cheeks — I have never ever had a ticket, only warnings).

As an adult, though, it seems that something has changed. Either my older-woman body is producing less liquid or my eyes have sunk deeper into my lower lids. Despite continuing to have very strong feelings about a variety of things, I seem less able to cry actual tears than I used to be.

Today, as we headed to the mall to shop for back-to-school clothes (admittedly one of the activities I despise the most, so I may have been a tad bit predisposed to negative energy), Eve said something mean to Lola. Instantly, I felt my chin begin to dimple and my eyes moisten behind my driving glasses.  I quietly pointed out that Lola’s feelings were quite likely to be very bruised by that comment and asked Eve to consider her sister’s reaction before opening her mouth. In the uncomfortable silence that followed, my emotions continued to build as Eve’s words echoed in my head and I imagined just how painful and shocking it must have been for Lola to hear them.  I half-wanted Eve to glance over and see a tear rolling down my cheek, if only because it may have made my point for me, but not one drop crested the edge. I blinked. My eyelashes glistened, but still no tears fell.

When my cat, Marley, died I was heartbroken. She was my first real pet as an adult.  This tiny, charcoal grey bundle of silky, purring fur that slept on my lap, shared my pillow with me, and loved everyone she met.  She lived for 13 years and when the Emergency Vet called to tell me she died peacefully in her sleep I was stunned.  I couldn’t cry for the longest time. A lump inhabited my throat, my face screwed up in that hideous way that prompts you to cover it with both hands, and my chin quivered, but no tears fell.  I alternately held my breath and gasped and buried my head in Bubba’s shoulder in true, physical grief, but it took forever for the tears to form and release.  Once they did, it was a torrent of warm, salty emotional relief, but it took forever.

I never did cry actual tears today, although my eyes did well up for a bit. Eve didn’t notice, or if she did hear my occasional sniffles and put two and two together, she didn’t let on.  The emotion passed and we ended up having an okay time shopping together, the three of us. In retrospect, I’m glad I didn’t start crying and risk sparking a “whole thing” as Eve says, but it does make me wonder just when I stopped being able to create a flood of tears so that my ‘crying’ has morphed into more of a sad-face-making endeavor than a sloppy mess.

My mother’s side of the family has a very distinctive “look.” All but one of her siblings is female, and they all fit a similar profile, not very tall, olive-colored Ukrainian skin, round faces and their father’s freckles. Lots of freckles.

My father and his sisters all have very similar faces (do I say ‘have’ even though Dad is dead now? It seems strange to write ‘had’ given that his sisters are all still alive). Three of them have thick auburn hair with a slight wave to it and the youngest, Martha, looks somewhat different from the other kids, but she and my Dad had nearly identical mouths.  They also all have freckles.

I am covered in freckles, more as I age, but few on my face. Like my parents, they mostly dot my arms and chest with a few on my legs.  Growing up, I always assumed that I would eventually look like my mother, given that I was female.  Of course, this notion was ghastly as soon as I reached adolescence and I denied any suggestion that I would ever look like her – not because she looks awful, but simply because it was important to me to look like me and only me.

Last year I agreed to be interviewed for a video presentation that would appear at the fundraising luncheon for Eve and Lola’s school.  I went in looking like me, in my favorite grey top and freshwater pearl necklace my Aunt Barb gave me for high school graduation. No makeup to speak of, hair styled like I do it every day (which is to say, washed and combed and largely ignored).  A month or so later when the video aired on an enormous screen in a hotel ballroom in front of 700 people, I was shocked to see myself.  I looked like Dad.

There have been times in my life where I knew I resembled my father, or at least his side of the family, and probably equally as many when I was struck by my resemblance to Mom’s side.

This morning I began wondering whether those shifts come with age or demeanor or situation.  Do I look like Mom when I am doing things I associate with her?  The video was certainly something Dad would have done (and reveled in, frankly), and I can’t imagine my mother in that situation. Is that why I  looked like him there?  We have photos of me with the girls as toddlers where I have such a maternal, doting look on my face and I see Mom in there so deeply.

I don’t recall a time when I was able to look at my face and see both of my parents simultaneously, melded together as one. Honestly, my freckles are the only thing I consider to have come equally from both bloodlines, but how much of that has to do with the fact that I don’t really remember my parents together at all? For the vast majority of my life, I see-sawed between parents’ houses and affections so maybe it is a bigger challenge for me to consider them as two halves of a whole versus opposite ends of a swinging pendulum when it comes to my physical appearance.  Do other people see themselves this way?

Whoops! It’s summertime and I have summer brain which, for me, means a lot less writing and a lot more hanging out with Eve and Lola. I like to say that I work on writing about 2/3 time during the school year and 1/4 of the time in the summer. This summer in Seattle has been particularly lovely weather-wise, and the girls and I have had a ball taking advantage of the city’s attractive parks and water everywhere.

I realized, though, that my last post was fairly gloomy and I thought I’d better update my status lest you think I’m moping over here.  Au contraire – Eve went off to a week long sleepaway camp last weekend and Bubba left for a conference on the East Coast on Monday (yup, sucks to be him), so it’s just been Lola and me this week and it has rocked. Monday we decided to blow out of town, hopped a ferry with the dog and took off to wherever we wanted.  At one point, after the biggest damn ice cream I’d ever seen, we veered off the road and found a mostly deserted beach full of driftwood and a clean public restroom.  We walked the shoreline finding dead jellyfish that Lola picked up with sticks and flung back out into the sea, discovering enormous clam shells full of barnacles and throwing sticks for the dog to fetch in the surf. When we finally settled down on some driftwood and Lola started creating art out of sticks and stones and sand, she looked up,

“Mom? When do we have to leave the beach?”

“Whenever we want. We have no agenda, love. Eat when we’re hungry. Drive when we want to find a new place to hang out, sleep when we’re tired. That’s all. Just us and whatever we want to do whenever we want to do it.”

Oh, the look on her face.
Simply glorious.

We stayed for three hours, soaking up the sunshine, playing with the dog and only leaving when our stomachs started to rumble.  About ten miles down the road we found a hotel with a pool that accepted dogs, checked in and had a lovely dinner looking out at a marina full of great blue herons and beautiful sailboats.  Lola swam to her heart’s content at 9:30 that night and we woke up the next morning happy and rested.  We rented a kayak, paddled through glass-smooth waters with seals poking their heads up to greet us every few feet, spied bright orange and purple sea stars just beneath us and watched herons dive for their breakfast.  When we got hot and tired, we headed back to hang out with the dog some more.

I could bore you with the rest of the details, but let’s just say that even though we’re home now, we are still taking advantage of our ‘us’ time by doing whatever we want whenever we want to.

It rocks.

I wasn’t aware that it was possible to feel weary and frantic at the same time. Like a bowl full of eggs that has been whisked and poured into a skillet to become an omelette – resigned to that fate – and then suddenly a spatula pokes in and folds and turns and scrambles.

I am weary of the continued news of Anthony Weiner’s sexting antics and his wife’s attempts to rescue his public image. I don’t care. I get frantic when I read about corporate interests taking over politics, conservatives using their angry voices to manipulate voting districts and women’s rights, all the while touting their own gun rights and rights to free speech as gospel.  I am weary of news items that tout the FDA’s new plan to define ‘gluten free’ for food labels because I don’t trust that agency as far as I could throw them. This is the agency that recently increased “acceptable” levels of poisonous pesticides in our foods at the behest of Ag-giant Monsanto.  This is the agency that refuses to address the levels of arsenic in chicken feed or antibiotics given to farm animals when they aren’t sick.  This is the agency that moves at the speed of snail when it comes to responding to anything in the public interest, and at the speed of light when money is involved.

More than anything, I am sad. I have, in my Facebook feed, several organizations that I have ‘liked’ because I think their values align with mine*.  And then I read solicitations for comments like this on one (shall remain unnamed) organization’s page:

“Once the stuff of tabloid headlines (there was general “tsking” when paparazzi captured Suri Cruise in silver peep-toe heels), wedges and heels for tots and tweens have gone mainstream, turning up in schoolyards and on playgrounds far from Hollywood or Madison Avenue. Industry observers say the trend is part of a bigger, so-called “mini-me” craze in the children’s wear market, linking fashions for children’s clothing and accessories with the latest from mom and dad’s runway, no matter how impractical it may be for a child’s rough-and-tumble lifestyle.” – The New York Times

What are your thoughts on children wearing heels?

It prompted a storm of mother-shaming from readers who lambasted Katie Holmes for dressing her daughter in heels and all I could think was, ‘Aren’t we supposed to be building community? Helping each other stand taller? Why are we picking on each other like this?’

In my circle of friends and acquaintances, there are many people who I believe are motivated by love and compassion for others.  I hold on to that like a lifeline. And I am shocked and saddened when I hear others say precisely the opposite.  On the radio today were two guests talking about the ‘sharing economy’ (things like Air BnB and Lyft car where strangers rent out things they own to perfect strangers). One guest was thrilled with the advent of these organizations and talked about how they are creating efficiencies in creative ways. The other guest said he thought it was crazy – that “people can’t be trusted to act in their own best interest, much less the best interest of others, and these kinds of things need to be heavily regulated.” When pressed, he admitted that he believed that people are basically bad unless motivated by some outside influence (including religion and/or punishment) to do good. The other guest had to respectfully disagree.  I was astonished. Are there people, well-respected, published author, NPR guest-like people out there who honestly believe this? That people are bad unless bribed?

I can only hope there are more of the other kind of guests out there.

*If you want to go deeper down the cynicism rabbit hole, check out this article in the Guardian.

The distractions of summer are more welcome than ever. While I publicly lament the loss of productivity thanks to shuttling girls to and from camps and friends’ houses, I am secretly glad of the lack of time to sit and write. The truth is, I am stuck, and the questions themselves are a painful thicket of barbs and dry stems through which I am loathe to travel just yet.

A few months ago, I had renewed interest in my manuscript from a publicist/agent. We spent several glorious hours on the phone discussing the nature of the project and its importance to me as well as, we agreed, the importance to everyone interested in women’s rights and reproductive issues.  She promised to review the most current draft and we scheduled a series of phone interviews between the two of us to solidify the content for the introduction to the book.  She has contacts at several publishing houses as well as a knowledge of self-publishing and I felt my excitement rise, envisioning a book in my hand as soon as winter. Finally.

The interviews were postponed. Changed at the last minute. Eventually, cancelled altogether. She cited serious health issues and I agreed to give her space to work them out and wait for her return.  But without her interest in the project, her enthusiasm and gentle guidance, I am floundering.  I have retreated to that place I have been in so many times before: me and the work.  I no longer have any rational perspective. At this point, I have been working on this book in some form or another for nine years, interviewing, writing, researching, re-writing, editing, submitting.  I know the subject is relevant, but I no longer have any sense of direction or understanding where I am in the scope of the Universe. I am sitting in the middle of a kayak in the ocean with no land in sight and no clue which way to go. I have an oar, but I am probably just setting out in ever-widening circles without some frame of reference.

Several times over the past month I have set out to re-write the introduction myself, send copies of the manuscript to fellow writers for their ‘blurb’ and attempt to re-submit to publishers. I have convinced myself that, if this agent was interested, others will find the redeeming qualities in it, too. It is just a matter of finding the right fit.  But the notion is truly exhausting. I have been down this road before and what I was looking for was a partner who knew the path to walk beside me.  Instead, she pulled me down the road with her in her enthusiasm and then left me, saying she would be back soon.  I would like to muster up the energy to continue on without her but, honestly, without another person who is as excited about this body of work as me, it’s tough.

So much has changed since I started writing that book.  I am still as passionate, if not more, about women being able to tell their stories without shame. I still believe that we need to have open, honest discussions about the ways in which women and girls are subjected to an entirely different standard than men and boys are and how that affects us all.  What has changed is my writing, my confidence in telling my own stories, and my willingness to subject myself to the social media publicity machine.  I created a website for the book and started a Facebook page, but I am woefully unable to keep up the schedule of harnessing interesting news items and resources to populate them with. I am simply not interested in continually updating, reTweeting, and refreshing pages with information. I want to go back to the days where a writer wrote diligently and purposefully, threw his or her work out into the world, and then went back to write some more.  The idea that I could publish this book and then be sucked in to promoting it over and over again, going on a speaking circuit or showing up at virtual locations where the topic is salient, Tweeting and writing pithy Facebook blurbs that are related, and become branded the writer who writes about reproductive rights gives me hives.  I love this subject. I am invested in it. But I love to write about other things, too. I love to write.

So while I sit and puzzle this all out – wondering whether or not I have the wherewithal to push yet again to complete another draft of this manuscript and go through the motions of marketing it – there are days where I find myself sitting quietly at the computer wishing that Eve and Lola would come beg me to go for a walk or a picnic with them.  I am dreading the start of school because it will force me to sit down and write, or decide to finally let this project sit where it is forever.  I can’t imagine doing either of those things, frankly, but I’m not sure where the middle road is.

I lived in Wyoming for a year when I was a kid. The stories I’ve always told about that time come with a whiff of distaste, a prolonged eye-roll, and a disgusted shake of the head.  I talk about the dusty dryness, the near-constant 40mph winds that drove any plant over six inches tall right out of the ground and into the neighbors’ yard, and the ugliness of it all.  I know, somewhere back in the recesses of my mind, that much of my disdain had to do with the fact that I was twelve or thirteen when I moved there, the emotional turmoil I felt related to my parents’ divorce and my father’s remarriage, the guilt I had about actually liking my stepmother, but somehow the story stuck over time.
It was punctuated with examples of how out-of-place I felt moving from southern Oregon to Wyoming, making the transition from ballerina of five or six years to…nothing. There was no ballet studio in Green River, Wyoming in 1983. From the Levi’s 501 button-fly jeans that fit me perfectly to a town where Wranglers were the only option, and they were preferably worn with cowboy boots.  From my mom’s homemade lasagne to chicken-fried steak and cow tongue sandwiches. I was in an alien land and I tell people that I hated every second of it.  
But last week when Bubba and I took the kids to Jackson Hole (admittedly a great deal different than Green River) for a vacation, as soon as I stepped off of the rolling staircase from the plane, I was reminded of other things about Wyoming.  
I remembered the smell of sagebrush after a rainstorm.
I recalled chasing (and sometimes catching) horny toads on the hill at the top of our street in the blazing sunshine with the neighbor kids.
I was transported back to the clear, warm nights sleeping in the backyard under the stars – millions of stars – listening to the dry schuck-schuck of the tumbleweeds as they rolled past the fence in the empty lot behind our house.  
I spent last week doing new things like paragliding off the top of Rendezvous Mountain with Lola (abso-freaking-lutely the coolest thing I’ve ever done, hands down) and paddleboarding around String Lake, but I also spent a significant amount of time reminiscing about the things I loved about Wyoming.  
I remember the epic thunderstorms we would get in the summertime when the sky would turn absolutely black in one spot and you could smell the electricity in the air mere seconds before the lightning struck the low hills around town.  The sky would unzip and water would gush from the clouds for five or ten minutes, and sometimes hailstones the size of shooter marbles would rain down, too.  When it was over, the sun would appear hot and unperturbed and the wet streets would steam as we all wheeled our bikes out of whoever’s garage we had taken quick refuge in to chase each other through the puddles while they lasted.  
I remember the freedom of getting to reinvent myself in the sixth grade. Always before, I had been a shy, girly-girl who was not very adventurous, but when I arrived in this new town with a new family I was free to be whomever I chose – not tethered by my past and the people who had known me since Kindergarten.  I rode my bike down steep streets, a squirt bottle in one hand, weaving and cutting in the thick of a water fight among all of the kids on our block.  I went out for basketball and spoke my mind more than ever before.  I sliced my ring finger open from the nail to the first knuckle and didn’t realize it until the cute neighbor-boy pointed it out, marveling at how “tough” I was that I didn’t pass out at the sight of so much blood or scream that it hurt or shed even one tear. Never before had I been called “tough.”  
As Lola and Eve discovered the wonders of Wyoming (even getting so lucky as to witness a “gullywasher” of a rain/hail storm), I found myself doing a little more reinvention, or perhaps revision.  From now on, I will tell a different story of my time in Green River, this time complete with all of the things I had forgotten.  I feel as though I have gained an entirely new chapter of my childhood by revisiting this place and being open to the memories that were triggered by the unique smells and characteristics of this place.