Friday, January 16, 2015

An Open Letter To Taylor Swift Whom My Daughter Loves

Dear Taylor,

Thank you so much for being you.  Seriously.  I used to consider myself a super-fan.  But then I heard all these wonderful stories of your real super-fans and I think I may have been knocked down a few notches.  I still considered myself a very devout fan.  But then my daughter Caroline discovered you. And now, in Caroline's eyes, I'm not even worthy of singing along to your catchy lyrics.  
We actually had our picture made with you, Taylor, but I can no longer find it.  I could kick myself if I were still that flexible!  So this will have to do.
Taylor, I forgive you if you don't exactly remember me, but we met once.  It was on September 11, 2009 in Birmingham, AL during your Fearless tour.  Thanks to a great country radio station and some once-in-a-lifetime luck, I won VIP tickets with a backstage meet and greet.  Together with three other lucky friends this group of four lovely women (pictured above) patiently stood in line until you gave us your undivided attention and posed for a photo opp.  I shared with you how one of my favorite songs at the time was "Breathe" and that the baby growing in my big ol' belly would kick and move around while I sang the melody in my car.  We joked about how she was really trying to get me to just shut up already.  And for a brief moment you rubbed my round tummy.  That's right.  I met you backstage and then sat on the third row of your concert while 6-and-a-half months pregnant with my daughter Caroline.  
Over the next five years I have grown convinced that you infused tiny bits of yourself into my unborn daughter's spirit, and I cannot thank you enough.  She is such a challenging child to raise and I cannot thank you enough.  She makes me strive to be a better parent for her and I cannot thank you enough for so proudly and seemingly fearlessly being you.  
Concert photos (c) Laura sister-in-law who took these from our awesome seats!
Let's start with the handful of chart-topping, record-breaking albums you have penned and performed. More than once you have been criticized for only writing about one or two of the same subjects using different versions of the same story.  I don't see it that way.  Rather, I view you as someone who believes in herself so much that she is not afraid to tell the truth.  You seem to be someone who has nothing to hide and believes closeted skeletons serve no positive purpose.  Your five studio albums cover your coming of age.  You chose not to sing other people's stories; no, you strove to make your voice heard and get your emotions off your chest.  I see these qualities in my five-year-old daughter already.  When she is recapping her day; when she is listing the names of her friends, boyfriends, favorite toys; when she is rattling off her Christmas wishes, her eyes fill with delight.  She loves nothing more than to be heard.  As her mother, I want to make sure she values truth and honesty, but I would never, ever try to silence her.  
(c) Laura Chancellor
Taylor, your fashion choices, for the most part, have been spot on!  So many of your colleagues in this pop-country music industry have bought into the sex-sells notion of leaving very little to the imagination.  But not you.  You know how to dress yourself for your body style.  You always seem to look appropriate for the occasion whether it be the CMAs, Grammys, or a walk down a New York avenue.  In the past year or two, your hemlines have shortened but I fault you not. I thank you so much for showing her that too much skin is not always in.  A young woman can still feel sexy, gorgeous, desirable and modest all at once.  At five years old, my daughter has yet to succumb to peer pressure from her preschool friends regarding bows, shoes, etc.  She definitely already makes her own wardrobe choices (when I allow) and [It should be noted that five is generally on the young-end of peer pressure.]  Nevertheless, if she is going to imitate someone's outfit, I'd much rather it be yours than, say, foam fingers and nude leotards. So again I commend you for being an example my daughter can emulate.  
(c) Laura Chancellor
I would wager a bet that you are hounded by paparazzi.  If one had the means and motive, we could probably piece together entire weeks of your life caught on camera.  So where are the images of you stumbling home from a bar?  Where are your mug shots?  Where are the clips of you dog-cussing a photographer?  Do I think you drink alcohol?  Well you admitted to Barbara Walters that you do.  But in the public eye you conduct yourself like a polite young lady.  Does that make you a poser?  No way!  It makes me proud to point out your magazine images to my daughter who watches your every move.  Recently Caroline said in a sullen voice "Taylor Swift said a bad word, mommy," referring to the line in "Wildest Dreams" where you sing "He's so tall and handsome as Hell."  You know what?  I am glad that I am raising a daughter who is morally conscious enough to know that she's not allowed to say "Hell" in that context.  You're a 24-year-old woman; if you want to describe someone that way, go ahead.  I give you a pass.  After all, you're only human.  And recently you provided a great teachable moment for me to have in carpool line. 

Let's talk about Mr. Handsome.  No, I don't think you go on to many dates or stay out too late.  How else are you going to find Romeo?  How else are he and you going to have "Our (Your) Song"?  When it is convenient for you - and you have mentioned right now is not the time - I am glad that you continue to take risks and allow yourself to fall in love.  Loving a person and being loved in return is a beautiful thing.  Heartbreak, too, teaches a person a lot about herself.  
(c) Laura Chancellor
You strike me as someone who knows herself very well.  You come across as very comfortable in your own skin.  Thank you for being true to yourself and encouraging the same of your fans.  Thank you for being vigilant in your pursuit of best friends, best years, best love.  Thank you for showing your legions of fans that creativity does not equate to oddness.  That you can think outside the box all the while staying in line.  That nice girls don't always finish last.  
My ticket is signed "Emily, good luck with the baby! Taylor Swift" - I keep it in Caroline's baby book.
And finally, thank you, Taylor, for rubbing my belly five years ago and making me believe that some of your uniqueness was infused into my daughter.  While my logical self knows that Caroline's spirit was God-given, not Swift-given, thank you for turning out (so far) the way you did.  You inspire me as a mother to not give up. She's hard-headed.  She's loud.  She walks to her own beat.  She's fierce.  She's funny.  She's imaginative.  She's brave.  She's fearless.  I would believe a young Pennsylvanian Taylor to be described the same way.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

I Work From Home And...


For the past five years I have been a work from home mom, and it's damaging my relationship with my kids. 

Pay close attention to the word "from" if you will.  I am not a work-at-home mom, I am a work-from-home mom. Work-at-home moms prevent the laundry from ever piling up, make three-course dinners, do Pinterest-worthy arts and crafts with their Laura-Ashley-clad children, and take day trips to the local zoo. Or at least that's what I imagine they do. 

-from-home moms are trying to earn a paycheck. We often are required to turn in spreadsheets, activity reports, sales quotas, and/or participate in conference calls all the while Mickey Mouse Clubhouse is playing a little too loudly in the background.  Seriously, why does Mickey and the gang rely so heavily on Tootles? Can't they ever be prepared to face the task at hand? See what I did there? I even resent my children's cartoons because they play on the television all day long. While I'm trying to work!

Usually I can find around three uninterrupted, child-free hours to power through and be productive. My oldest son is in elementary school, my daughter is in preschool and the baby son goes to an at home (not my home) daycare.  But anytime an extraneous circumstance puts one or more of the kids with me all day, all Hell tends to break loose.  Like bleach drizzled into a laundry load of darks, this frustration is surely to leave a permanent scar on my kids' memories.  I fear the worst, people.

Let's talk damage, shall we? First and foremost I tend to resent my kids. I'm so envious of people who get to leave the house and go to work. People like, say, my husband.  For eight hours nobody wants to be held.  For eight hours nobody needs a diaper change.  When my kids are hungry, I don't care...didn't we just eat breakfast?  I promise not to let you starve to death, sweet child, but if you use the word "snack" one more time I'm going to lose it!  Oh, and it never fails...I will get everyone still and occupied, sit down at the desk, and then hear the tell-tale grunts from the little guy filling up his diaper. He's just gonna have to sit in it.  Oh, he stinks and he's sitting right at my feet.  Might as well change him because I'm sure as heck not going to be able to concentrate.  

Now, if there is a school production, special parent's lunch, class party, etc. I am always expected to be there.  It's not like I have to ask off work, right? But you can bet I have only halfway dressed, no makeup, and if you ask me to bring something it's going to be store bought, got it?  I don't want to be that mom.  It goes against who I am inside.  I love to bake, get dressed up, and smell good.  Call me vain; I can take it.  I like pleasing people with my domestic skills.  It's just that I had two precious quiet hours on said morning and I'm sure as heck not going to spend them at the oven.  Or the makeup mirror.  This is as good as it gets.  

I have lost the concept of quality time.  My kids deserve a mom who will sit on the floor and play with them.  Build wooden block towers with them.  Dress their Barbies.  But my first, damaging, instinct is to believe "I've been around you all day.  Isn't that enough?" 

Did I mention that my mother and I work together? In fact most days we work from her home.  This means that when my children are with me, but allowing me to get some work done it's usually because they're requiring that my coworker/supervising manager a.k.a. their grandmother play with them. So being a work-from-home grandmother is damaging my mom's relationship with her grand kids as well. But that's her rant that she can choose to share with you another day.

Please don't misunderstand my true self. I am so cognitively blessed that I can work from home.  I get to attend the parties, school plays, lunch dates, etc.  I get to cuddle my children when they are sick and not worry about how many sick days I'm burning.  I get to wear my PJ's to work when some child had a terror-filled night of bad dreams and it meant no sleep for me either. And somehow I still draw a paycheck.  

I just fear that I'm doing it all wrong. The right-side of my brain ponders how much bigger that paycheck could be if I worked this job from rented office space.  Or from behind a closed door.  The left-side of my brain fears that my employing company would rather have a non-mommy represent their goods. Which translates to I'll be fired in 18-months and then I'll be a work-at-home mommy and my kids' scars will be erased.  Then there's the unidentified part of me who loves what I do.  The only change I want to see is an internal improvement on the age-old-struggle: how do we as moms and women breaking the glass ceiling manage to "have it all"?

So the struggle is real and there is only one thing I know as an absolute: this year will be the year that I take it one day at a time.  I will try to be more present in my children's lives.  I will try to have unplugged moments outside of "working hours".  I will work harder when I work and play harder when I play.  The Mr. and I have already talked about how much we love being together, yet we really need to start including the kids in our time more often. They deserve to grow up in a family setting; i.e. they need to feel included and valued and heard.  
In the meantime, if you have any advice or anecdotes of what works for you and what doesn't work for you, hit me up in the comments.  

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Dear Emily: A Letter To Myself For The New Year

I was in Miami, Florida on New Year's Eve 1999 (partying to Prince's song, too) with a college roommate named Chrissy.  At midnight, she and I were actually slightly disappointed that the world's clocks, VCRs (remember those?), and ATMs didn't come to a complete stop at 1/1/00!  The next day we were also disappointed in Alabama's 35-34 loss to Michigan at the Fed Ex Orange Bowl.  

Fast forward 15 years and I hardly recognize the girl from that weekend.  She was young, careless, and fancy free.  (She also had an awful bob and shimmery crop tops.)  Today I have three children, crow's feet and bills to pay.  But all is not lost; just like that not-so-fateful night at the turn of the century, a new dawn arose and a new year presented endless possibilities.  In honor of this new year, I decided to follow the inspiration from one of the newest blogs I enjoy and write myself a letter to be reviewed 12 months from now.  

Dear Emily,  

Last year was a great year to be a Morris!  As a family we enjoyed vacations at the beach and Disney World.  We spend a weekend in Atlanta and Houma, LA. Bobby and you traveled with the Tide to the first and the last football game of the season, as well as a few in between. This coming year, too, we should travel as a family.  The memories we make will be ones to cherish forever.  But "as a family" are the key words.  These children are young for such a brief moment in time.  A resolution, of sorts, is to include the kids in many, many family events - dinners, shows, vacations, etc.  They need to always feel like integral parts of a whole set, rather than be "burdensome little people".

Emily, you have a great husband in Bobby.  Why do you need to be reminded? You cannot even put a name to all the ways he helps you with child raising, household chores, entertaining, etc.  Those times that you doubt he is still in love with you?  It could be that you don't love yourself like you should.  

On that note, you have a lot going for you.  You are compassionate, funny, empathetic, generous, and delightful...when you want to be.  You have to be a friend to have a friend.  You have to be a lover to have a lover.  You know the times when you feel doubtful, disappointed, scared, or simply unsure?  Gather yourself together and move forward.  Use your best qualities to lure out the goodness in others, including your husband and your children.  Model for them the kind of relationship you wish to have.

Emily, you were meant to be a mother.  You have the children you always dreamed you would have.  Perhaps life didn't exactly imitate art, but God makes no mistakes.  He didn't give you a strong-willed daughter by accident; He gave you the kind of offspring that requires patience, understanding, and creative discipline techniques.  He gave you sons with energy and imagination.  He gave you the family He designed for you.  This past year there were extreme highs and extreme lows in parenting.  The kids are at their best when they feel included, heard, seen, and loved.  The kids are at their worst when they are made to feel as if they are in the way.  Take the time to truly see life through their innocent eyes.  Again, model for them the best qualities you wish them to possess.  And always, always offer them the respect, grace, and mercy you long for in return.

Professionally it has been five years since you and your mom partnered up and formed this powerful micro-company that is SEE Jones, LLC.  Five years!  Like everything else there were good times and tough times in 2014.  Remember that just because you and your mom approach daily tasks from different perspectives doesn't make one version right and another wrong.  As a team, Emily and Carole can truly bring out the best in each other.  Her strengths are your shortcomings.  Together this coming year can be the biggest yet.  Who needs that silly gold rectangle?  Heinemann and HMH are where all the cool kids like to play!

Remember when you used to rock a bikini like no one's business?  36 is not too late to look your best.  So on a closing note, jump on the bandwagon and make the most popular of resolutions actually stick:  get healthy.  You have an arsenal of powerful weapons in the war against cellulite.  The best thing you can do is love yourself in a selfless way.  Take care of your body, mind, and spirit.  The insides will radiate outward and create happiness you can share.  In the words of Elle Woods: Exercise gives you endorphins.  Endorphins make you happy.  Happy people just don't shoot their husbands.  They just don't.  

In summary, 2014's best moments included the following:

  • Working hard and seeing the tangible (sales) results.
  • Exercising, running, and taking care of your body really worked when you worked at it.
  • Your family like is most pleasant when you are an active, conscientious, Christian matriarch.

2014's worst moments which should be eradicated asap go a little like this:

  • Yearning for the past only makes you regret things you cannot change.  Forgive yourself.  Forgive others.  Look forward.
  • Don't yell and curse so much.  It takes away from your ability to listen and respond.
  • Sugar, sweets, and Diet Pepsi are not your friend.  Do not believe their pleasantries.

With all my love for you, hopes and dreams for a great new year,