Bye, Bye, Pawnee, Indiana: Miss You in the Saddest Fashion

I know most people probably think I’m a melodramatic lunatic, carrying on so about the “loss” of my favorite television show this way.  I know most people don’t grow so attached to a fictional town and fictional characters that, when that town filled with characters is no longer generating new fiction, they suffer grief.  I also know that most people don’t understand my deep love for the people of Pawnee, Indiana, either.

Throughout my life, I’ve felt a deep attachment to a variety of television shows.  I have cried ugly tears since I was a child when I’ve watched final episodes of a tv series, even ones to which I wasn’t that deeply attached.  But it wasn’t until Seinfeld ended that I could honestly say the finale of a television series truly messed with me, rendering me nearly incapacitated from grief.

I was going through a really difficult time in my life (having just been dumped the day before my wedding) when Seinfeld ended and perhaps some of my devastation could be attributed to being a jilted bride rather than watching four nincompoops go to jail for being just generally bad people (something I honestly couldn’t see, cannot see, and I cringe when my daughter says she hates George Costanza because, for goodness sake, there used to be a framed poster of him in his underwear above my bed… the man is a sex GOD.)  In fact, that was such a trying time, losing Chris,  and then Jerry, Elaine, George, and Kramer, that I’ve written an essay about it and I read it, in public, this summer. I’d post a link to the podcast but it’s been disabled so maybe that means I need to publish my story.  But I digress.

Anyway, nearly two years ago, I had to say goodbye to my second favorite tv show of all time, The Office.  Two years before that, I wrote this essay when we bid a farewell to Michael Scott.  It was like a bandage that was being slowly pulled off, little by little, for two years.  Once the bandage was completely removed, I thought surely the wound would heal  eventually and not hurt so much.  But as ridiculous as it sounds, that hasn’t been the case.  It sucks.  It’s continued to hurt like hell.  And any time I need a good cry, I seek out the “Goodbye, Michael” episode and sob until my eyes are puffy because it never stops hurting.

I explained my attachment to Michael in this essay and my attached to The Office in general in this one.

Figured it was only fitting that I should try and do the same for Parks and Rec.

I wasn’t a fan from day one.  I Tivo’d the first season but felt like a lot of the critics did… that it was a rip off of The Office and I just kinda said, “Meh.” I had just had a baby (yes, Parks is the same age as my youngest child) and I could barely focus my eyes on the screen anyway so, no love lost.  I think it was about a year and a half later when I picked it up again. My son was going through a bone marrow transplant and our dear friend, Roy, who understands my taste and sense of humor said for me to do myself a favor and to just give it another try.  He was sure that season 2 would win me over and, boy, was he right.

Parks and Recreation has been there for me through some of the toughest years of my life.  When my son was ill, when my marriage was dunzo, when I was feeling lower than low, my friends in Pawnee were consistent.  Over the years, I have literally watched the seasons over and over again. Nothing else would soothe me.  I was so thankful for Netflix; could just pick any random episode, didn’t matter which one as there are no bad episodes, and suddenly I was transferred to a place where waffles were a delicacy, friends fought and made up, and where every single thing I’ve ever thought was funny was somehow incorporated into dialogue or a scene at least once.  It was a magical place, Pawnee, Indiana.

Today, the show has become a family affair.  We’ve all sat down to watch this season together.  We’ve never watched any other show together as a family of five.  My youngest has grown up with this series, these characters.  Recently he asked me to start season one with him because he’d just realized that Andy (the guy who falls down a lot) is the same guy in Guardians of the Galaxy and he really likes that guy (So do I, son.  So do I.).  My daughter has used “Leslie Knope” as an answer on school papers and named the character in my play based upon herself Leslie. My oldest got Parks and Rec trading cards (yes, that exists) in his stocking for Christmas one year.  And my hubby actually laughs out loud when we are watching together.  In fact, watching Parks and Rec has become one of the only things that my husband and I even do together anymore.

One of the most special things about Parks and Recreation, for me, is how much I truly like every single character.  I cannot think of another show where this has been the case.  Seinfeld? I despised Newman.  Several beloved characters from The Office rubbed me all kinds of wrong (Kelly Kapoor? NO thanks).  But even the “bad guys” on Parks and Rec crack me up and make me smile.  I can honestly say that there has not been a character on the show that didn’t delight me in some shape, form, or fashion.  They are just all so darned likable.

My love for the show and these characters has influenced many friends and acquaintances and I’ve converted a number of people to Pawnean citizenship.

I’m sure I’ll eventually find another show that will become my favorite “currently running” series.  A frontrunner is The Goldbergs.  Totally in love with it and it makes me cry in a similar way that episodes of Parks has made me cry over the years… from sheer joy.  But as I already know from past experience, there is no way to fill the hole that the characters on Seinfeld and The Office have left in my life.  Undoubtedly, the hole left by my friends in Pawnee will be even wider and deeper simply because there are just damned many of them.

Goodbye, friends.  Thank you for the laughter.  Thank you for the tears. And thank you for putting your heads down, continuing to do your thing, and never letting the network screw with this beautiful masterpiece.  You weren’t creating a ratings machine.  You were creating comedy.  The best comedy I’ve ever been witness to.  You guys crushed it.



Finding Ann Perkins

I almost didn’t get out of bed today.  The entire time my oldest child had cancer, I never did not get out of bed.  Not getting out of bed is a big deal for me.  I’ve been awake since 4 am but I stayed in bed, reading, groveling until 10 am.

It’s been a hard week.  First, the whole coming to terms with the idea that I may have two sons on the spectrum (which is only worrisome because the youngest seems to have some issues that make him… well… less than thrilled with me and I was kinda hoping that it was “just a phase” as so many of the “experts” have insisted).  Next came accepting that I would no longer have two days a week to focus on schooling the older two kids.  That break was always so appreciated.  And finally, right in time for my friendly monthly visitor, drama.  Drama drama drama.

I go to send a note to a person who I thought was a friend or at least a friendly acquaintance.  I’m going to invite her children over for our Halloween school day next week and since she works nights and is pregnant and her children seemed to enjoy doing school here about a month ago… well, it seemed natural to invite them again.  However, I discovered that she’d unfriended me on Facebook.  Giving her the benefit of the doubt and thinking that maybe she had done it by mistake, I checked instagram.  Sure enough, not only had she unfollowed me but she’d unfollowed my children as well.

Usually when this kind of thing happens to me (and it happens a lot more often that you’d think), I have some inkling of what has occurred to cause this person to cut me out of their life.  Maybe we had exchanged some words that seemed less than jovial.  Perhaps there had been tension the last few times we’d talked.  Or maybe they’d even sent me a note and said that they needed a break from me for a while (and then after that break, I guess they just didn’t want to be back in touch).  SOMETHING that might help me at least understand when the inevitable occurs.  That inevitable unfriending and dumping.  It’s one thing to clean out your friends list and unfriend people to whom you never talk.  But a person who you were just texting a few months earlier to tell they were the reason you were braving homeschool?  A person who had been reaching out and trying to be a good friend?  Well, it’s just not fair to do that sort of thing without an explanation.

So I asked for one.

I sent a note on FB and a text.  Did I do something?  I’m so sorry if I upset you somehow?  Can we talk about it?  My kid will be devastated because he loves your kid.

The only response I’ve gotten is that I can assure my son that he and her daughter are still friends, nothing between them has changed, and if they want to hang out to just send her a text.



So I deserve no explanation?  I receive no words to soothe over my wounded pride.  Nothing to solve this inexplicable mystery.  And now that we aren’t friends, who is supposed to host these get togethers with our children?  How awkward is that going to be?

This morning I was just done.  My husband returned from work to find me piled up in the bed on a church day, tears running down my face.

“I’m damned if I do, damned if I don’t, Michael.  I may as well quit trying.”

His words of assurance didn’t do much for me.  I had to get through the grief.  I had to get mad.

That’s when I knew I had to become my own big sister.  You see, I do this sometimes.  I have no actual big sister.  I have no one in my life who is ready to come kick my @ss when I’m being ridiculous.

So I imagine her.  A lot like Ann Perkins to my Leslie Knope.  Or maybe more like Jenna

Maroney to my Liz Lemon.  She blasts through the doorway.  She throws herself down on the edge of my bed.  She uses the F word a few times and calls the offender a few nasty names of which my Leslie Knope would never approve.  But I secretly love it because it means she’s on my side.  Then she tells me to get up.

“Hey.  You are better than this.  Don’t let this bleep bleep bleep steal your joy.  There are three kids and a husband in there who need you.  Your daughter just made Pop Tarts and sausage for everyone’s breakfast.  Pop Tarts two days in a row!  That is unacceptable.  Get up.  Get moving.  And don’t for one minute believe this idiot deserves your energy.”

And I know she’s right.  So I get up.  I sweep the kitchen.  I give my man a foot rub.  I break up a squabble and put all three kids to work cleaning the house.  And I make a kickin’ awesome juice to tend to my own personal health needs.

Then, I arrive at this conclusion.

I have too many real friends who would never in a million years treat me this way.  Who love me.  Who value me.  Who see me and still want to know me.  Who are almost the Ann Perkins to my Leslie Knope and, if I stick it out with them long enough, might just become the best friends/big sisters I’ve always dreamed of having.  This person doesn’t deserve my friendship.  And frankly, now that I see how she’s capable of treating someone, I don’t think I even care.

Thank you, Ann, you beautiful rule-breaking moth.

Blogtober Day 15: Ghosts of Halloweens Past


Spooked by Daddy’s coat hanging in the doorway of the dining room

Have to run quickly past on the way to the bathroom

At night, peeing during a commercial break

Dressed as a “ghost” in a Casper costume

Face smeared with black

Back when ghosts were friendly, not cobwebs left in my mind by horrors discovered in hospitals and “women’s health clinics”

Trick or treat, it’s mine and Daddy’s thing

Our only thing

Leaves crackle under feet as we visit with neighbors we rarely see

Mama stays home to hand out candy

She always buys the cheap kind

So Daddy begs chocolates off the neighbors who spring for the good stuff

Parties at the homes of classmates

We don’t trick or treat now

I miss the one thing I did with my Daddy

Rocky Horror

Costumes in high school

The one day you were allowed to be a freak

This holiday is evil

Its pagan roots, its satanic rituals

Wait, um, no.  Forget that.  Halloween is awesome.

Decorations, subtle and classy

Hand towels, breakfast plates, homeschool art projects

They make the day a little brighter

We may not trick or treat

I may do things a little differently with my own children

Passing the torch down to my little Hermione, Enderman and Creeper on my favorite day of the year

Blogtober Day 12: Reclaiming the Weekend

At one point in time, our lives were so chaotic and unstructured that the week days blended in with the weekends.  I wasn’t anxious for Friday evening to come along.  There was no break to anticipate.  It was just one long, tedious, exhausting day after another.

We don’t really live that way anymore.  Our weeks all look relatively the same.

And to be honest, I kinda like the way we are living now a little bit more.  Okay, a lot more.

There is something satisfying about making school plans, carrying out those plans for 4-6 hours per day, driving around to counseling appointments, field trips, classes, ball games, play rehearsal, cleaning a house, doing the laundry, making three healthy meals a day, and then collapsing, totally worn to a frazzle, in bed every night.

And when you are keeping that kind of schedule during the week, there is something sacred about the respite a weekEND can provide.

So here I am, announcing that I will be reclaiming our weekENDS.  There is no need to drive around to activities no one really cares about.  It’s senseless to bind ourselves to busy-ness just because there are “learning opportunities”.   There is simply no shame in saying, “Hey, I’m staying home.  I’m tired.  I want to sit around the house in my lounge clothing, drink my coffee, watch this week’s episode of Parenthood while I bawl my eyes out, and focus on stuff I want to do instead of stuff I have to do.”

This weekend I’ve caught up on my shows, caught up on my laundry, made some delicious food, baked celebratory muffins, bookmarked lessons, latch hooked, decided what my next needle felt project will be (Christmas cottage in case you care), taken a shower, washed my hair, watched Rosemary’s Baby because I could, and enjoyed nearly two hours worth of exercise.  I’m feeling refreshed and ready to tackle the upcoming crazy week.

I’m taking back my weekends, darn it.  And it feels so good!

Blogtober Day 11: Saying Goodbye to Uncle Robin

I don’t remember much about my childhood.  There is a bit from a trip to North Carolina to visit friends where I received a manila envelope containing a protractor, a ruler (which my parents took away from me because it was too sharp), paper, a pen (also taken away from me), pencil, and a big pink eraser.  You know, all the things that a three-year-old future writer would delight in being given as a gift.  We’d take after-dinner rides to TVA to look for deer in “Big Red”, an old pick-up that was so beloved, my mom and I cried when she finally had to be traded in for a newer, but never as lovable, truck.  Vividly, I recall seeing E.T. in the theater and Mom making fun of the lady in the bathroom who was sniffing and, rather loudly, complaining about how her sinuses were killing her.  I never could understand quite why someone would be ashamed to cry during a movie.

But the thing I remember most about being a child is television. My parents told me that when I was just an infant, I would be sleeping on a blanket in the middle of the floor, in front of the television, with my bottom in the air, and every time this one particular Kentucky Fried Chicken commercial would come on, I’d wake up, lift my head, watch the advertisement in its entirety, then instantly fall back to sleep.  Now, why my parents put me to sleep in front of the television rather than, say, in a crib is beyond me.  It might help explain, however, why I ended up sleeping between my mom and dad until I was nine years old.

Clearly, I was hooked on jingles from a very early age, but I developed a love of sitcoms early in life as well.  On November 26, 1977, I was born.  On September 14th of 1978, ABC aired Mork and Mindy for the first time.  From what I was led to believe, I was a fan as soon as it premiered.  Though I do not remember speaking my first words, “good” followed by “Na-nu Na-nu”, I do vividly remember feeling deeply connected to the character Mork.  Additionally, I recall a glorious day when my Aunt Linda had visited this faraway place called a “shopping mall” (something I would not see the likes of until I was a preteen because my parents did not drive out of our small town unless there was a funeral to attend).  Aunt Linda brought me a Mork poster.  My parents hung the poster on the door of my bedroom.  I was only two.

Watching Mork as a small child helped me feel less alone.  He was weird and was from another planet.  I was weird and felt like I was from another planet.  We had a

An original Mork portrait

An original Mork portrait

connection.  Of course, like the rest of America, when I fell in love with Mork, I fell in love with Robin Williams.  I loved and identified with Mork so much that when my mom tried to explain to me that the same man playing Mork was also playing Popeye, I struggled to understand that Mork was not a real person but only a fictional character being portrayed by an actor.

Eventually I would learn to obsess over other television programs (the next in line was Laverne and Shirley), but I would carry my love for Mork and the man who created him with me throughout my life.  In the late 1980s,  there was a music video, starring Robin Williams, for the hit song “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” by Bobby McFerrin.  Quickly, I grew tired of the song, however, the video has always stuck with me.  It is the reason, I believe, that I started to see Mr. Williams as more than just an actor I adored.  He became a member of my family.

I have an uncle David.  Or, I guess I should say, I had an Uncle David.  He actually passed away a few weeks ago.  Not long after Mr. Williams passed away.  I was never close to much of my family.  Today I can say that I am not close to any family members beyond my children and my husband.  Since my mom died, I barely keep in touch with anyone.  But at one point in time, I knew that my Uncle David adored me.  I’m not sure why.  I was a vegetarian and he’d cook green beans separately for me, without the ham.  Beyond that one small gesture, it was merely my aunt’s assurance that made me aware of his adoration.  From the time I saw the “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” music video, I associated it with my Uncle David.  Mr. Williams looked so much like my uncle in that video.  The facial hair.  The goofy little smile.  My uncle was always rather sour, gruff, and distant when we’d see him.  But the “uncle” in the video was dancing around like a fun-loving giant child.  The man in this video symbolized what I wish I had in my life… a male family member who openly loved me, cared about me, accepted me, and who enjoyed life.  Interestingly, that same uncle, along with my aunt, offered to take me to see Toys in the theater when I so desperately wanted to see it and my parents weren’t willing to take me.  His kindness further connects my uncle and Mr. Williams in my strange mind.

In high school, my relationship with Mr. Williams evolved.  My best friend was obsessed with him. We had two men in our lives who closely resembled Mr. Williams. One was her first love, the star of our drama department with whom I was lucky to have worked, and the second was our amazing Spanish teacher.  It was easy to love these guys because, yet again, I could just transfer my love for Robin Williams onto them.

By the time I was in my twenties, thanks to things like being dumped the day before my wedding, I was basically a big mess.  I’d graduated top of my class, yet I had no direction. To say I was not well would be an understatement.  When I started seeing a psychiatrist, he diagnosed me with Bi-polar disorder and put me on a variety of psych meds.  My self-worth plummeted and my weigh skyrocketed. I began to look for meaning in my life.  And I started to read a great deal about my “condition”.  I use quotation marks because I am not convinced that the doctor’s expert opinion was entirely accurate and today I do not believe I am nor have ever been bi-polar.  At the time, I remember reading as much as I could get my hands on about Bi-polar disorder and learning that it was believed that Robin Williams shared my diagnosis.  I would think to myself that I was in good company. It felt like permission to keep being myself when I’d think about how we were both given the same label.

More recently, not only have I had to deal with my first-born’s mental health issues, but my own issues would pop back up every once in a while as well.  Nowadays, it’s believed that my son and I actually have Asperger’s and, sadly, I have learned that being diagnosed with bi-polar disorder when you are actually autistic is pretty common.  In researching this new diagnosis, Robin Williams’ name came up again.  It’s believed that he, too, could have been on the autism spectrum and,yet again, I am comforted to think that we might have shared this bit of life experience.

As I mourn his death, alongside the rest of his fans, I feel a deep connection to the man, both personally and to the characters he so skillfully created.  He was talented on a level that most will never be able to comprehend. He was also deeply afflicted in a way we will never comprehend.  Unfortunately, so often, the talent and the affliction go hand in hand.  Saying goodbye is so very hard.  But I am glad he was around for so many years, making me laugh, making me cry, and allowing me to feel like a little bit more like a person and less like a failure.  Thank you, Uncle Robin, for helping me feel less alone.

A 4 am visit with rejection and failure

Every once in a while, I go through this phase where I feel really terrible about myself.  It’s usually following one specific event but right now, I can’t exactly pinpoint one particular circumstance that has put me in this place.  I do know, however, one thing that’s been bothering me a lot lately is my lack of blogging.  So I figured I may as well satisfy my need to mark that item of my list of “Things I Should Be Doing but Haven’t Been” that stares me in the face, endlessly.  And here we are.

Perhaps it might be helpful for me to take stock of the many things that are affecting my poor self-esteem.

Rejection- As always, I’m facing the excruciating pain of rejection.  Let’s see, yet again, I believed I had found a new friend, hit it off with someone, only to have the conversation/contact dwindle away into near nothingness.  Offers to volunteer my services in a position as teacher that was originally handed to me and now, seemingly, taken from me, go ignored.  Translation:  we don’t want you as a teacher.  As a result of these two situations, I’m plagued with thoughts of being unworthy, a bad potential friend, and, worst of all, thoughts that I’m actually a terrible teacher and if that’s the case, am I totally screwing up this homeschool thing?

Which brings me to…

Failure- So many examples of failure in my life right now.  At least, they are examples of what I perceive as failure.  I fail as a mother when I can’t remember how to show sympathy over a boo boo (they are happening so often my head is spinning) and, instead, I say things like, “Hey, I thought I told you the injuries need to stop!”  I fail as a mother when a five-year-old has been SCREAMING in my face (literally) for a full ten minutes and I watch, in horror, as my hand pops his cheek, followed by an apology for my lack of self-control. I fail when I step on the scales and learn that I’ve gained back three of the twelve pounds I lost in the past ten months and I struggle to make the changes I need to make in order to drop the extra pounds again. I fail when I must convince the husband that we have to spend money we really don’t have in order to send the youngest to school one day a week so that I can even come close to homeschooling the older two, successfully.  Other mothers pull it off without ever sending the little ones away, why can’t I?  I fail as a wife in so many ways it’s pointless to try and list them. I failed as a leader when I couldn’t just get over the abuse I suffered and the carelessness and selfishness with which I had to deal when I was in charge of the homeschool co-op I started.  I fail as a friend when I am so tongue-tied and nervous while I’m visiting with people that I forget to ask them about what’s going on in their lives and, following said visit, I realize my mistake but figure it’s too late to call or text my questions of interest because if I did, I’d look ridiculous.  And then I worry that I’ll have to add that person to the list of people who dump me.  Which leads me to the thought that maybe it was my poor social skills that made the other people dump me in the first place.  I am a failure at web design because I can’t build the website that the church needs and even though web design is neither something I am interested in doing nor is it something I am trained in, I still feel like a failure simply because it was asked of me.

I should be able to do anything that is asked of me, right?

On Mother’s Day, something inside my washing machine burst open, releasing at least thirty gallons of water into my laundry room, kitchen, and pantry.  Six weeks later, when the repairs were finally begun, I was told, last minute, that my children and I’d be moving into a hotel room.  There we stayed for ten full days.  I was off my diet, off my routine, and I wasn’t able to do the things I normally do in order to relax, center myself, and feel… normal.  Additionally, I was battling a pretty terrible case of poison ivy.

Ever since that ten day forced vacation from routine and normalcy, I’ve been off.  I’ve felt discombobulated.  And it’s been hard for me to return to something resembling how things were before we moved out, temporarily.  The experience has illustrated what I’ve always said… the slightest disruption can totally throw me off. Vacations to destinations have this same effect, but those are planned well in advance and I’m able to make sure that I have things like my regular food, exercise, and sleep schedules maintained.  So in that regard, this situation was very different, and much harder, than a regular vacation.  Even though I was only ten minutes from my house.

Months ago I started another one of Julia Cameron’s artist recovery books.  I got a couple of weeks into it, was so overwhelmed with ideas for writing that I put the book away, stopped my morning pages, and accepted that if I wanted to exercise, I’d have to sacrifice daily writing.  Because, as a homeschool mom of three kids who are always on the go, I didn’t have time for both morning pages and a daily workout.  Now, the writing has stopped.  Sure, I’ve spit out a few short pieces which I’ve taken to my writer’s group over the past few months.  I’ve even received some very positive feedback about my writing and read two of the pieces at a local storytelling event.  I submitted two of the pieces for an anthology my writer’s group is publishing this fall.  But that ongoing, constant, daily practice of writing and having to wade through many ideas… that’s gone again.

And when that goes, I start to panic.

It’s the beginning of the school year.  So much (all) of my free time has been devoted to gathering supplies, creating lesson plans, purchasing new lunch boxes.  I have three registered students for the first time.  And this means doubling my work load.  I look around at my homeschooling peers.  I would never blame any of them if they weren’t spitting out well-composed essays and hilarious chapters every few weeks.  Yet somehow, I am expected to get this homeschool thing right while also publishing my first book.

Frequently I tell myself that there will be plenty of time for writing when this chapter of my life is over.  But there is that part of me that says, “You don’t know that for sure.”

As if my need to be writing wasn’t bad enough, I’ve added even more art forms to my never-ending list of “Things I Should Be Doing but Haven’t Been”.  That’s right.  I like to needle felt now.  And I’ve taken up drawing.  I have a sketch book.  And micron pens.  One piece I did was so well received on Facebook that someone said they’d like to buy a print of it.  What is that?  When did I become an artist?  And how on earth am I supposed to fit that in around everything else I’m either doing or want to do?

Being an artist can be overwhelming.  And time consuming. 

Most people take up art because they are bored and looking for a new hobby.  PLEASE, brain, enough already.  I don’t have time for you and your silly notions right now.

Well. I feel as if I’ve gotten out all of the thoughts that have been collecting in my brain.  Technically this should have been my morning pages.  But I figured what the heck?  I’ve not been blogging and, as always, I’m happy to share my crazy ideas if there is a chance that they might help someone else.

But rest assured, there is a follow-up to this post coming soon.  One where I write about the Acceptance and the Successes in my life… to kinda balance out the sludge in this post.

If you made it this far, I’d like to say thank you.  But instead I’ll just say, “Hey!  Stop reading this crap and go do something constructive.  Like watch an episode of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.”  Which is what I’m about to do.




Letting Miley Cyrus Off the Hook

Unless you are living under a rock, even if you haven’t actually seen it yet, you know that Miley Cyrus, pop star, tv star, child star, has a lot of people talking about her performance on the VMAs earlier this week.  Mom bloggers are coming out of the wood work to write letters pleading with Miss Cyrus to come to her senses.  Conservatives are updating their Facebook statuses with words of concern about this young woman’s influence over the small girls who once watched “Hannah Montana” and sported t-shirts with her face on them.  Mothers are declaring to keep Miley Cyrus, her music, her face, as far away from their little girls as possible.

But, as usual, I’m here with a very different perspective.  You aren’t going to have read yet another public letter telling Miley Cyrus just how offensive was her performance.  I’m not here to declare how I’m never letting my daughter listen to her or watch her ever again.

No, because Miley Cyrus doesn’t have that kind of power over me, my children, and not even over my

We’ve watched the entire series of “Hannah Montana”.  We’ve sung along to her songs.  My daughter has worn “Hannah Montana” shirts, has a “Hannah Montana” pillow on her bed, and her walls have been decorated with “Hannah Montana” posters.  She just simply liked “Hannah Montana”.  So did my son and I for that matter. This summer when Miley’s new hit single hit the airwaves, instead of turning the station, I sang along.  My daughter sang along.  “We Can’t Stop” is actually quite an awesome song.

It’s a sad song.  It’s a song with meaning.  It’s a song that discusses adult topics.  I didn’t turn off the station, though.  I did, however, talk to my daughter about the lyrics.  What did it mean to be “doing a line” in the bathroom?  What did it mean to be getting “torn up”?  What did it mean to be dancing with Molly?  Now she knows that the song is about drugs.  Now she knows that Miley is singing about doing drugs.  And she’s possibly doing drugs herself (one would assume) in real life.  Now she knows that Miley is… human… and flawed.  But wait, she never believed anything to the contrary.  She never had some crazy whacked out idea that Miley Cyrus was some kind of role model or some kind of person to look up to.  She was just the star of a tv show that she liked to watch.  My daughter has no desire to be a star.  She’s a talented actor herself but has decided, for now, to stop doing theater because she just doesn’t like it.  She has other goals.  Her goals have never included being anything like Miley Cyrus.

Miley Cyrus has no power over her.  No influence.

I grew up loving certain celebrities.  Heck, I still love certain celebrities. I admire Amy Poehler and Tina Fey and many other funny ladies in television.  I grew up loving pop stars.  Did they have influence over me?  Power over me?  Absolutely.  But only the ones to whom I could relate.  In my case, it was the B-52s, because they let themselves be weird.  They influenced me to be a vegetarian.  To dress creatively.  To let my freak flag fly.  But in all honesty, those are things that I would have done anyway.  The B-52s just happened to be the driving force behind my finding those authentic pieces of who I would eventually become.

They are not the reason that I went to college or that I got married and had kids or that I have brown hair and brown eyes.

And despite their work for HIV awareness, I still had sex before marriage.

And despite the awful images in my mind of abortion from “Dirty Dancing”, “Last American Virgin”, and this really horrifying poem written on the topic by actress Ally Sheedy, I am still post-abortive.

And despite the “Just Say No” campaign so many pop stars and tv stars of my day participated in, I still smoked weed and allowed myself to be “prescribed” every psych med on the market.

You see, I didn’t make the bad decisions that I made because of pop stars and television stars and movies and I also didn’t NOT make those decisions because of pop stars and television stars and movies.

I made those decisions because the people in my life, at the time, with the most influence over me said those decisions were okay.  Or made those decisions for me.

I wasn’t the biggest influence in my own life.  Because I didn’t have a definitive idea about where I stood on these issues.  I was just sent into my teen years without having any clue where I stood on abortion, drugs, and sex.  I had to make the decision about my stance when I was faced with tough choices and when I was faced with myself.  I had no spiritual or even practical guidance.  I just WAS.

So it was up to those closest to me to help me decide where I stood or in some cases, all that mattered was where they stood.  I didn’t get a say.

I want to thank Miley Cyrus.  Her performance and the reaction to her performance this week has given me an opportunity to reflect upon what kind of influence popular culture truly did have on my painful past.  And it has helped me to set very specific goals as a parent.

Those goals are:

To take advantage of the years that I have with my daughter when I am her best friend and biggest influence.  I may always be her best friend and biggest influence but just in case I am not, it is my intention to talk with her about everything. on. earth. and help her determine where she stands on big issues before she faces difficult decisions.

To do everything I possibly can to help my daughter learn to trust herself and to show her that respecting herself is absolutely mandatory in order for her to succeed in life.

And of course to continue praying for her, her husband, and her future.

So you see, I’m not concerned about the influence that Miley Cyrus’s VMAs performance might have on my daughter.  In fact, I officially declare Miss Cyrus “off the hook”.  Because Miley Cyrus has no power over my daughter.  But thankfully, for now, I have plenty.  And I plan to use that power to my full advantage.

And Miley, even if your next single is also about the scandalous life of clubbing and drugging that you are leading, we’ll keep singing along.  And I’ll continue to use your material to teach my children about how they don’t want to live.