In 12 Months

From our first family trip to San Francisco in 2008

From our first family trip to San Francisco in 2008

I survived my son’s senior photo shoot this morning without crying or otherwise embarrassing him. I even managed to joke a little on the ride home, asking if the photographer had staged any cheesy glamour shot poses (he did). But a few hours later, when I heard him playing a song he wrote on the piano downstairs, the sobbing started. In 12 months, the senior picture will be hanging on the wall, but the piano will be silent. In 12 months, my son will be a legal adult and a college student. In 12 months, his life as an independent person will begin. And in 12 months, my role within it will change forever.

Over the past 17 years, I have watched him grow into an intelligent, talented, compassionate and thoughtful young man. I have seen him enjoy successes beyond anything I ever imagined for him. I have also seen him stumble, pick himself up and learn from his mistakes. And I have been there every step of the way, helping him when he wanted me to and watching from the sidelines when he needed that more. I have been unknowingly making the transition from active caregiver to impartial observer, loosening the reins gradually until he is ready to take them for good. In 12 months, that time will arrive, and there is nothing I can do to stop it.

Nor do I want to. I am excited about what the future holds for him. I can’t wait to see which colleges accept him and which one he chooses. Will it be his dream school, which is relatively close to home, or his second choice, which is 2,000 miles away? Will he follow through with his lifelong plan of becoming a surgeon, or will his career path change? Where will he decide to live after college? Will he marry? Will he have a family? In 12 months, I will know the answers to some of these questions as his adult life starts to unfold. The selfless mother in me will happily open her arms so he can spread his wings and fly, but the selfish mother in me secretly longs to cling to him tightly and never let go.

The selfless mother, of course, will prevail. As I jokingly said to my husband the other day, “It’s not as if I can lock him in the basement and make him stay at home.” It’s just that I didn’t realize how much it would hurt when the milestones turned from “firsts” to “lasts.” Today my son, whom I watched take his first steps and solo car ride, had his last school photograph taken. Tomorrow he will pick up his schedule and books for his last year of high school. A week from tomorrow, that school year will begin, and the lasts will just keep coming. In 12 months, a whole new series of firsts will begin, and none of them will involve me. In 12 months, I’ll be fired from the best job I’ll ever have – or at least demoted to a part-time position.

I’m not ready for that, but my son is. I tried to teach him how to sort laundry today (yes, I still do it for him), and he dismissed me with “I can just Google it, Mom.” He is smart. He is resourceful. He will figure it out – the laundry and everything else – on his own. And if Google somehow fails him, I will only be a phone call away. I may not play an active part in the many firsts that await him, but I will always be here to hear about them. In 12 months, I will still be his mom. Nothing can change that.

Radio Silence



I got a new computer for Christmas. Why, you may ask, is this relevant almost three months later? Because when I searched for my blog file in Microsoft Word yesterday, I realized I had never transferred it from the laptop I no longer use. This forced me to acknowledge that I haven’t written, aside from work-related stuff, in months. I’m not saying I’m some masterful writer or anything, but I do enjoy putting pen to paper — well, fingertips to keyboard anyway. Sometimes I’m compelled to write; I have the yellowed journal pages filled with teen angst to prove it. But that hasn’t happened for a while, a long while. I got a new computer for Christmas, but I don’t have anything to say.

It makes me sad to think I have neglected this blog — which turned three on March 16, by the way — for so long. I tell myself it’s a good thing because I typically write when I’m sad or having trouble coping: If I’m not blogging, it must mean things are going well for me personally and professionally. I make lots of other excuses too. I’m not writing because: a) I’m burned out from working so much, b) I’m too busy with my kids’ crazy schedules, c) My “me time” is training for my next marathon or d) All of the above. But there are always extra hours in the day if we truly want to find them.

I may not be blogging about my life, but that doesn’t mean I’m not struggling, as we all do. I’m trying to be a dedicated worker, a supportive mother, a loving wife, a sympathetic friend (I fail miserably in the last department, I know, because the other three roles take up so much time). The worries occupying my mind the most, as always, are of my children. But now that they are teenagers, I don’t feel comfortable writing about them. Their stories are theirs to tell; maybe they always were.

Of course, that is yet another excuse. If I’m not writing because I can’t share my kids’ stories, maybe I’ve lost myself in motherhood again. Maybe my life is out of balance. Maybe I’m not writing to avoid delving into my own thoughts and feelings. Maybe something is missing. Maybe the something is me. Maybe I am not making time to write because I am afraid of what I might say.

Anyway, I know I’m rambling here. My apologies, but I am more than a little out of practice. I guess what I am trying to say is that writing and I are on a break. I’m not ready to end our relationship, but I definitely need some space. It’s not you, dear old blog, it’s me. There will be other Christmases and birthdays. Maybe I will write about them. Maybe I won’t. Please stand by.

Surviving Milestones: Reflections on the First Day of School

Sam baby smiles

My little boy, age six months

It’s never easy, watching him walk out the door on the first day of school. Every first day takes him one step closer to adulthood and further away from me. He grew and changed so much during his freshman year of high school. I am so proud of the young man I see before me, but I ache for the little boy who wanted nothing more than to hold my hand.

That little boy is now several inches taller than me and wears the same size shoes as his father. This morning when I asked to take his photo, he politely indulged me. He let me give him a hug before he left, and I even managed to plant a good-bye kiss on his cheek. I teased him about how tough it must be to have a mom who loves him so much and makes a big deal out of everything. But even though I know it annoys him sometimes, I won’t stop. In just three years, he will start college. The time is going to zip by, and I plan to savor and make the most of it. I will grasp firmly to each of the little moments. I will photograph them and tuck them away in my mind. I can only imagine how much I am going to need them later.

No one tells you before you have children what it feels like to watch them grow up, how your heart aches with every milestone. Even if someone does try to prepare you, I don’t think it’s something you can understand until you experience it. The first day of preschool, when the teacher has to practically peel your child out of the back seat, wrecks you, but it could not possibly compare to putting him on the bus for kindergarten the first time. Eighth-grade graduation, when you see your kid in a cap and gown accepting a diploma, blows your mind a little, but it’s got nothing on the first day of high school. The big moments don’t get any easier because with each one you realize your child needs you a little less.

It’s never easy, watching him walk out the door on the first day of school. I cried a little this morning. I always do. I know that the biggest milestones, high school graduation and the first day of college, are right around the corner. I know he will be ready. He is a bright, confident young man, but I still see in him that little boy who wanted nothing more than to hold my hand. I’m not ready to let him go. I don’t know if I ever will be.

My sophomore

My sophomore, age 15


Goin’ Home

“Can’t Find My Way Home” by Blind Faith played in heavy rotation on my Ford Escort’s cassette deck during my twenties, when I lived in Michigan.

Come down off your throne and leave your body alone.
Somebody must change.
You are the reason I’ve been waiting so long.
Somebody holds the key.
But I’m near the end and I just ain’t got the time.
And I’m wasted and I can’t find my way home.

I was a different person back then, sad, lonely, disconnected. Instead of figuring out who I was and what would make me happy, I hid from my true self in a bad relationship, trying to fix someone who did not care enough about himself — or me — to let me. When he finally ended things, I was lost. I realized the person I needed to stop avoiding and fix was me, and I knew I couldn’t do it in Michigan, surrounded and haunted by the memories of my many mistakes. I moved to Chicago in search of the key, to find my way home.

These were my thoughts as I sat drinking a Centennial IPA at Founders Brewery in Grand Rapids, Michigan, two days ago. My husband and I stopped there for lunch on our way back to Chicago from a weekend of camping, hiking and canoeing with friends in Wellston, Michigan. When he left the table to use the restroom, I noticed the Rolling Stones song playing in the background.

Spending too much time away.
I can’t stand another day.
Maybe you think I’ve seen the world.
But I’d rather see my girl.
I’m goin’ home, I’m goin’ home, back home.

I laughed to myself, thinking that “goin’ home” for me used to mean returning to Michigan, but now I couldn’t wait to get back to “my girl” (and boy — i.e., our children) in Chicago. Two years had passed since our last visit to my home state, when we attended my aunt’s memorial. This time, our trip took us nowhere near the Detroit area where I used to live, but the drive Up North was a familiar one. I took it often as a child with my aunt and uncle who raised me and later as a young adult with friends. Driving those roads now, after 20 years have passed, made me remember the figurative journey I took, trying to escape my Michigan self and start a new life.

Change is never a quick, easy trip, even against a new backdrop. Your problems follow you until you acknowledge and resolve them. When I met my future husband a few months after moving to Chicago, I knew immediately that he was a good man, the kind you marry and raise children with. I had never felt more comfortable or at home with anyone in my life, and it terrified me. It took a long time for me to see myself as worthy and let go of my fears of abandonment. But no matter how many conscious or unconscious attempts I made to sabotage our relationship, he kept coming back. It’s almost funny to think about what we considered argument-worthy in the early days, compared with what we have experienced during almost 18 years of marriage. I guess learning to sort out the little problems in the beginning of a relationship helps prepare you to deal with the real ones later.

Watching my husband walk back to the table, I thought about the Blind Faith song again. During my younger days in Michigan, I didn’t realize I was the one holding the key. I kept searching for it in relationships, jobs and other experiences, always looking for the next best thing. The key, it seems, was inside me the whole time. Marriage and motherhood led me toward happiness, but only I could unlock the door and walk through it to find peace.

The photo below is of my husband and me enjoying a Michigan sunset long ago. I don’t think we were even married yet. It’s the only copy I have, and it’s covered in fingerprints. I think one of our kids ripped it at some point. It hangs on the bulletin board in my office, reminding me how far we have come, together, finding our way home. Cheers to the man who never gave up on me.


A Letter to My Soon-to-Be 15-Year-Old

Dear son,

In two days you will be 15, which is a pivotal age. You get your driver’s permit, which is huge. But what has me even more concerned is that you will find yourself in increasingly challenging social situations. Only you can determine how you behave in them. Will you be a leader or a follower? My guess is a leader. But I know that, as all kids your age do, you are struggling to figure out this whole life thing. I don’t expect you to be perfect. I just want you to consider the consequences of your actions. You, and only you, are responsible for every choice you make, good or bad.

One of the most difficult things about parenting is the knowledge that your children will make mistakes and that you have no choice but to let them and hold them accountable. It’s especially hard, kiddo, because I remember vividly some of the downright stupid decisions I made when I was 15. Unlike you, I was a clueless mess with zero self-awareness. I was unhappy at home, unpopular at school. I made some poor choices because I wanted more than anything to be noticed, to belong. The more mistakes I made, the emptier and lonelier I felt. Each wrong step I took made my inner voice harder to hear.

I like to think that at almost 15 you are already too wise to repeat my teenage mistakes, too confident, too responsible. Unlike me, you have always known who you are. You have never cared about fitting in or being cool. And, at least I hope, you feel loved and supported at home. These three factors, I pray, will help you stay on the right path and remain true to yourself. Listen to that inner voice, kid. It speaks the truth.

The problem is that peer pressure becomes more complicated in high school, where even smart kids (like your dear old mom) make dumb decisions. You’re a sophomore now, and a lot of your friends are older than you. You may see people you admire and respect do things you know are wrong, even dangerous. Not only will you have to choose whether to join them, you will also have to decide if maintaining relationships with them is worth jeopardizing your own future. You don’t have to be the one doing the bad thing to get busted. Being there is enough.

I could preach to you right now. I could say, “Don’t make the same mistakes I made, son.” But I won’t. Your mistakes are yours to make, just as mine were when I was your age. There is nothing I can do to stop you. I just hope you will tell me about them when they happen. I hope mine will be the number you call if you find yourself in a situation you don’t know how to navigate. I hope mine will be the door you knock on if you get into trouble and need help. I may not have all the answers, but I will always be there for you. I will always listen. And I promise never to judge. I can’t, kiddo. I was 15 once too.

Love always,


My sweet boy on the morning of his baptism. I still remember the joy I felt seeing that smile on his face.

My sweet boy on the morning of his baptism. I still remember the joy I felt seeing that smile on his face.


The Martyr Mom

What's that you say? I can have a life of my own?

What’s that you say? I can have a life of my own?

She is so busy doing everything for everyone that she leaves no time for herself. Maybe she works. Maybe she doesn’t. Either way, she tells herself her schedule is far too full to allow an hour or so of “me time” here and there. Maybe her mama guilt convinces her it is selfish, or maybe she has lost sight of who she was before children and no longer knows what makes her happy. Either way, she has no life outside her family. She is secretly — sometimes openly — angry and resentful, and she is unwilling to acknowledge that she created her situation or at least enabled it to fester through inaction. She is the martyr mom, and I know her well. I used to be her.

When my children were 1 and 3, we moved from Chicago to the South Suburbs, where we knew only a handful of people. My husband traveled constantly for work, and I stayed home to care for the kids. Despite his packed schedule, he still found time to form a band with his buddies, to practice with them once a week and to book gigs in the city. While he played music, I played the martyr at home. I resented the time he spent away from the family, leaving me to deal with the kids on my own in the evening after an already long day with them. I was envious. Not because of the hours he spent with his friends, but because he entitled himself to pursue something he loved.

What about my “me time”? Well, I worked out regularly, but only at home and while the kids were napping. To me, that didn’t count. I was managing my health, not following a passion. I didn’t even know what my personal interests were anymore because I had immersed myself so fully in motherhood. Instead of trying to rediscover them, I obsessively micromanaged my kids’ activities and daily lives so I wouldn’t have to think about my own lack thereof. I begrudged my husband for having a life of his own, but I was too afraid and complacent to create one for myself. It was easier to hide behind my role as caregiver than to confront my personal dissatisfaction.

I don’t blame my husband for that period of our life together. He hated the stress of long hours at work and constant travel, and finding time to pursue his hobbies and interests brought him a sense of peace and balance. He didn’t ask me to wait at home while he was out having fun. He encouraged me to come along to the band’s gigs, which I gladly did. He also pushed me to get out and do things for myself, which I did not. At least not at first.

I’m not going to manufacture a quick and easy happy ending here. It took time for me to emerge from my mommy martyrdom. When my son started preschool shortly after we moved, I made some mom friends. I began picking up freelance writing assignments. I went out with other moms. I planned dates with my husband and dinners with other couples. The busier I became socially and professionally, the happier I grew and the more I realized what a disservice I had been doing to myself, my husband and our kids by putting my own life on a shelf to accommodate theirs.

What martyr moms can’t or won’t see is that the hobbies, classes and other activities we think we can’t possibly squeeze into our crazy schedules actually make us better mothers and role models for our children. Not only do they help relieve our stress and bring us joy, but they also show our kids that it is normal and healthy for moms (and dads too) to be something other than parents. I don’t want my daughter (or son) to grow up sacrificing her interests because she thinks all her time should be devoted to her family. I want her to be a happy, well-rounded woman who knows how to tell her mama guilt to shut the hell up once in a while.

Now that my kids are teenagers, it’s much easier for me to carve out a few hours here and there to do the things I love. The irony is that as my “me time” grows, what I want more than anything is time with them. The older they get, the more important every little thing seems, every school band concert, every track meet. I don’t want to miss any of the moments with them because soon enough I will have nothing but time to myself. What then? Maybe I can convince my husband to book a world tour for his band or, better yet, a summer in Europe for the two of us. Martyr mom would definitely not approve. It’s a good thing she doesn’t live here anymore.

I Just Wanted You to Know

Dear Mom,

I have been thinking of you a lot this week, I guess because Mother’s Day is tomorrow. I even got out that photo album you made. Do you remember the one I mean? It’s filled with shots of you and Dad from before you got married, on your wedding day and during your honeymoon. There are lots of photos of friends I never met and family members I barely remember. There are pictures from when you modeled in New York and when you worked at Michigan Bell. What was your job there again? Dad told me once, but I can’t remember. I love all the photos of you and him goofing around on your honeymoon. Where did you go on that trip? I think Dad said it was Niagara Falls, although I can’t tell from the pictures. It’s fun to see that you had a silly side. You both look so happy and in love.

I left the album on the couch the other day, and Isabel found it. She said I look like you, but I think she resembles you more. It is strange, but somehow comforting, to see myself and my daughter in photos of someone I don’t remember and she never knew. I wonder if she thought the same thing. I was overwhelmed with emotion looking at the album with her, knowing that you had thoughtfully placed all the photographs on the pages, adding funny captions, telling your life’s story. It was as if you were there beside us. I felt you, Mom.

Afterward, I hugged Isabel and told her how proud you would have been of her. I told her what a sweet, loving person she is. I told her how happy she makes people. I try to say things like that to her whenever I think of them, Mom. I say them because they are true, but also because you never had the chance to say them to me. I know you would have.

I just wanted you to know, Mom, that even though I was too young when you died to have any real memories of you, you have always been a presence in my life. I have the photographs of you and, even better, I have the stories Dad and others told me. I share them with Isabel and Sam from time to time because I don’t want you to be just a picture on the wall to them. I want them to know what a strong and talented woman their Grandmother Jeanne was. That is so important to me.

Aunt Thelma, my undeniably amazing second mother, used to say “life is for the living,” and I think that is true. We should focus on the loved ones who are still with us. But I also believe we should never forget those whom we have lost.

I just wanted you to know I am thinking of you, Mom, as I often do. And I wanted to tell you how much I love being a mother. It brings me peace, Mom, to be able to give my children the love, the comfort, the support you weren’t able to give me. It makes me happier than I ever imagined I could be.

I just wanted you to know.



 she never knew.

God Save the Queen

I decided to go with a shot of Sid Vicious in the forefront because he will always be my favorite Sex Pistol.

A shot with Sid Vicious in the forefront because he is, after all, my favorite Sex Pistol — especially since I witnessed Johnny Rotten spitting on the crowd at a P.I.L. show. 

Yesterday, after my first girls night out in what seemed like about 150 years, I heard “God Save the Queen” on the ride home. So I did what felt natural: I cranked up the radio, rolled down the window and sang along with the Sex Pistols to one of many anthems from my teenage years, when rebellion reigned supreme. All that was missing was the cigarette dangling from my lip.

Not much compares to the release you get from belting out song lyrics at the top of your lungs while driving alone. No one can hear you or judge your singing ability, so you can be as loud and as passionate as you want. It’s like singing in the shower but with backing vocals. With enough creativity and determination, you can find personal meaning in any song, even when you are a middle-aged mother singing along with punks fed up about England’s fascist regime.

God save the queen…

A mother is a queen of sorts, right? She is the queen of her family, its sun, the center of its universe. She is everything to her children. But by being all to them, does she become nothing to herself? Is it possible to emerge from motherhood without winding up a soulless figurehead?

She ain’t no human being…

In exactly two weeks, my youngest child will be 13. In five years she will graduate from high school and head off to college. I can see that portion of the future clearly and will do everything I possibly can to ensure it happens. But what about the mother she leaves behind? Obviously, there is no turning back once our children are grown, but what propels us forward after they are gone? How do we find new roles for ourselves after nearly 20 years of doing the toughest job imaginable?

There’s no future, no future, no future for you…

I can’t attest to their logic, but somehow these were the questions I found myself pondering while singing along to “God Save the Queen” after a visit to my favorite local tavern with an old friend. Maybe the craft beer I drank was stronger than I realized. Or maybe the existential angst I thought I left behind in my teenage years — along with the Aqua Net and black eyeliner — is resurfacing and I’m having the female version of a midlife crisis. I don’t want a sports car or a trophy husband, however. I want a life of my own, plans and goals that are mine, all mine. I want a redefined sense of purpose. And the only person who can provide those things is me. I’m working on it. But I’m thankful I still have five years to figure it out.

Considering how much better I feel after reconnecting with my friend last night — and doing karaoke on the ride home — I guess I need to get out and spend time with other queens, I mean moms, on a more regular basis. I need to be reminded that I’m not alone, that others share my doubts and fears. Who doesn’t need that once in a while?

Motherhood becomes increasingly lonely as our children get older — or at least it can if we let it. The friendships that form effortlessly during play groups and other activities when our kids are young become harder to find as they grow up and spend more time living their lives without us. But we have to keep looking. We have to keep trying to make new connections, while also nurturing the ones we have and rekindling those we miss. I have let a lot of relationships lapse during my motherhood reign, and it makes me sad. I guess I need to work on the whole being a good friend thing too. Those five years will be gone before I know it.

In any case, Mr. Johnny Rotten, John Lydon, John Rotten Lydon or whatever you are calling yourself these days, I just wanted to let you know that despite what my teenage self may have said, middle-aged me knows there is indeed a future. And while I am far from being a queen in need of saving, I guess what I realized last night is that I could use a little company as I figure mine out — and a lot more singing in the car with the windows down.

Guardian Angel

 Jeanne Marie, RIP (3/26/27 - 4/28/70)

Jeanne Marie, our mother and guardian angel, RIP (3/26/27 – 4/28/70)

The rusted remnants of my brother’s car sat in our uncle’s barnyard like a mangled shrine to the recklessness of youth. I don’t remember the make or model of the vehicle, only the crushed roof and the weeds growing around and through its crumbling orange shell. He didn’t die or suffer even a minor injury in the accident, his second rollover, or any of his other many crashes. Our father bought him car after car and found him job after job during his teens and early twenties, but nothing lasted for my brother. Nothing fit. Not after our mother died.

Today would have been our mom’s 87th birthday, and I have no idea where my brother is. I wonder if he realizes it is her birthday. He was 12 when she died; I was 2½. I don’t know what he was thinking or feeling because I was too young to remember anything from that time in our lives. But I know from the stories my family tells that he was her golden child, and he adored her as much as she doted on him.

Today I am a 46-year-old mother, three years older than our mom was when she was diagnosed with leukemia and died six weeks later. I have two teenagers who need and love me, who want and deserve everything from me. I know, or can at least imagine, how my brother felt by picturing my children’s lives without a mother or an emotionally involved father. My brother acted out to get our dad’s attention before our mom died, but it was typical young boy shenanigans. After her death, the trouble he managed to find intensified. He skipped school. He partied too much and started using drugs. Eventually he dropped out of high school. My father insisted that he work, but he could not hold a job. With every disappointment, my father’s detachment from and animosity toward my brother grew. My brother wound up marrying a girl he barely knew and moved to Texas to work for her family. He left Michigan, just as I would eventually, to escape the sadness, to find peace.

Something broke inside my brother after that. I’m not sure when it happened, since he estranged himself from us almost completely. But at some point, his drug use turned into the darkness and desperation of full-blown addiction. My devastated father said he was always broken, but I don’t believe that. I still care about the brother I once knew, who teased me relentlessly and loved me fiercely, even if I cannot welcome the man he has become into my family’s life.

This April will mark 44 years since our mother’s death. She will have been gone one year longer than she lived, and that is a strange and unsettling realization. I wonder if I should try to contact my brother, if he is thinking about her too. It has been almost eight years since I last saw him, at our father’s funeral. Although in my own grief-stricken state I refused to acknowledge it, it was obvious to my husband and others that my brother was still wrestling with the same demons that caused him to wreck cars and lose jobs in the early days. We made the difficult decision to keep our distance after the funeral. But when I heard last year that his second ex-wife had taken him back, I tracked down her address in Arkansas. I thought of sending a Christmas card, but I never did. She is a devoted, kind-hearted woman who always saw the good in my brother, and, as much as I would like to believe otherwise, he is a master manipulator.

I don’t go to church or pray, at least not to a god of any sort, but I do consider myself spiritual. I believe our mother watches over us and keeps us from harm. I made my own share of wrong choices and wound up in some potentially dangerous situations in my younger days, but I always found my way home safely. I don’t know where my brother is, but I think he is all right. Maybe that is just me putting a happy ending on something over which I have no control, or maybe our mother really is our guardian angel. Either way, I want to believe that something lasted for my brother, that something finally fit. I have to.

Let It Go

My new hero: Queen Elsa from "Frozen"

My new hero: Queen Elsa from “Frozen”

I saw “Frozen” last night for the first time with my husband and children. I realize this is not a particularly earth-shattering event since it is a movie with more than $1 billion in worldwide box office sales, but my kids are long past the ages when they would normally deem an animated Disney film worth their time or attention. As our family’s resident sucker for happily ever afters, I was more than a little shocked and beyond pleased when they agreed to hit the couch and watch it with me.

Unfortunately, “Frozen” did not receive quite the acclaim in our household that it has from film critics and our friends with young children. My 12-year-old daughter and husband fell asleep halfway through it, and my 14-year-old son said it was “pretty good,” although he did not understand why it was “all over the Internet.” I, meanwhile, loved it and woke up this morning with “Let It Go” as my earworm.

Being rather pop music illiterate, I had never heard the song until Idina Menzel performed it at the Oscars (yes, I just Googled the spelling of her name; no, I do not remember or care what the Travoltified bungling of it was). It did not resonate with me at all then, although I thought the version she did later with Jimmy Fallon and The Roots on toy instruments was charming. When I heard it in the context of the movie, however, it had me in tears. In fact, I cried through a lot of “Frozen.”

If you know me or have at least read this blog before, you are probably not surprised. I tend toward sappiness and sentimentality at times. OK, most of the time. But lately, I have been struggling with some negative, albeit quite human, feelings, and the movie’s story and that song really got to me. I am not sure if this is the beginning of a midlife crisis (I am pushing 47, after all) or just the residual effects of an unbearably long winter, but either way, I have been a little lost, less than happy and not quite myself lately. Let’s just say that if my life were the movie “Cinderella,” I would undoubtedly be Drizella, the ugly, older stepsister, and my enormous foot would be busting out of that glass slipper despite my best efforts to make it fit.

Unlike “Cinderella,” in “Frozen” I found a main character with whom I could actually identify. If you are one of the maybe five people in the entire world who still have not seen the movie, Queen Elsa is plagued with powers she does not understand that arouse fear in those around her and drive her away from the people she loves. OK, so I am not a queen with magical powers, and no one fears me (except my kids when I give them The Mom Look). But I have always felt different. Not exceptional in any way, but not normal either. As a child and teenager, I was sensitive and serious, while others teased and joked. I shared my thoughts and feelings, while others made small talk. I preferred the company of a few friends at a time, while others thrived in large groups. I did not realize that these were positive qualities when I was young. But as I got older, and found like-minded people who preferred to delve beneath the surface and form true connections, I became more confident about who I was because I knew I was not alone.

And that is why I loved “Frozen”: It shows little girls that happily ever after is about being true to yourself. It is not about snagging Prince Charming. Queen Elsa is on a journey of self-discovery, not a man hunt. Her sister, Princess Anna, finds what she naively believes to be true love but then leaves her prince behind, bravely venturing into the storm to save Elsa. That Anna finds love in the end is more of a side bar; the real story is Elsa accepting and taking pride in her differences, finding happiness within herself, and realizing others will love her for who she really is. What little girl doesn’t need to know she is in charge of her own happiness? And what grown woman doesn’t need a reminder once in a while?

I know I do. So, thanks to my hero Elsa, I’m going to try to let it go — the “it” being all this self-doubt, insecurity and fear that has been festering in my middle-aged head lately. The glass slipper is never going to fit, and I know better than to force it. I have always been happier in my Converse anyway.