Tuesday, January 31, 2012

A Hairy Situation

Yesterday, while I was trolling Pinterest, I came across an article about a kid who had been suspended from school because of his hair, rather the length of his hair. Turns out this kid, who wis a cancer survivor himself, was growing his hair out to donate to Locks of Love but his school has a policy in its dress code that requires all male students to keep their hair clean, tidy and above the collar.

I found this article interesting because we are knee deep in a similar situation. Well, about 9 inches deep. Dude has been growing his hair out for a little more than a year for the same purpose, only his school has been great about this.

Dude has never liked haircuts. He says he can hear the hairs being cut and he doesn't like how the hair dresser combs his hair opposite of how it naturally grows. For years we had a twice-a-year-no-fight, agreement with him; at the beginning of summer and just before Christmas he had to get his hair cut with no arguments, whining or fighting. The arrangement worked nicely for us for years, he went from shaggy to shaved twice a year and that was good enough for us.

In the fall of 2010, Mr. Awesome competed with his dragon boat team in support of cancer research. At the races we saw several teams of bald paddlers and the kids started asking questions. We explained that with cancer, sometimes the medicine they give you to get better causes you to lose your hair and that a popular fundraiser for this event is a sponsored head shave. We also talked about how people can grow their hair out pretty long and then cut it and donate it so wigs can be made for people who need them. That was the end of the conversation until December 2010.

Just before Christmas that year Dude told us he was willing to get his annual Christmas cut but that would be the last one for a while because he was planning on growing his hair out to donate. We said, "sure, sure," took him for his cut and went on with life. When June rolled around, we asked him how short he wanted to cut his hair for the summer and he reminded us of his plans; grow, cut and donate.

He has stuck to this plan for 14 months. He has tolerated teasing, ignorant comments and harassment from students at his school. There have been countless days when he has come home from school very upset because people have called him a girl, told him he's pretty or made other, harsher comments about his appearance. Each time we have asked him if he wanted to cut his hair. We've told him there are other ways to raise money and help out. Each time he told us he wanted to stick to his plan, despite everything that was happening at school.

Dude and his Locks
 October 2011
 His beautiful honey brown locks are nearly long enough now and he can't wait to get on with this. He's had a tough couple of weeks with some of the kids at school recently, tough enough where he was ready to throw in the towel last week but he's hanging on. I'm proud of him for his perseverance and his compassion. I am proud that he can see that a situation is bigger than himself and that his discomfort now will help relive the discomfort of a sick kid soon enough. I am proud of his dedication to do his part to help someone else out.

We are working on planning some kind of fundraiser for The Big Cut. During our research we discovered that it takes 10 -12 donations of hair and more than $1000 to make one wig. Dude hopes to inspire a few more people to donate their hair, maybe even enough to make one full wig, and to raise enough money to cover the cost of making the wig. Stay tuned for more details on the fundraiser!

One last thing, I do want to say that its not been all bad for Dude at school ... the long, rocker-locks are a big hit with the ladies and he's kind of digging that!

Long, beautiful, gleaming, steaming, flaxen, waxen... I adore hair!
~James Rado and Gerome Ragni, Hair

Monday, January 30, 2012

The Princess Effect

This past weekend was a big weekend in This Random House. After a four year hiatus we returned to the crazy, bedazzled world that is Disney on Ice. The last time we went Dude was 7, Crafty was 4 and we left Mischief with a sitter. The show was amazing but the crowds, pyrotechnics and flashing lights was way too much for Dude's Asperger brain; he spent most of the show hiding under his jacket. Now he's a little older and a lot more equipped to deal with everyday life, even everyday Disney life, so we went.

We arrived early and the kids spent their Christmas money on swords, stuffed animals and action figures then Mr. Awesome spent our retirement money on cotton candy and snow cones. Once everyone was sufficiently sugared up and Disney-ified we found our seats and waited for the show to start.

Mickey and his pals opened the show and then it was Aladdin and the Genie followed by Beauty and The Beast. Bizzy's eyes nearly popped out of her head when the music started and it didn't take long before she had her stuffed Belle and Beast dancing along to the music. I thought she was going to faint when the rest of the princesses and their princes joined Belle and Beast on the ice.

I watched Crafty and Bizzy take it all in; the lights, the sparkles and the music. They sang along to the medley of Princess tunes and sighed every time a Prince lifted his Princess into the air. They were thoroughly enchanted by the scene. It was sweet but a little concerning in light of something I had seen earlier in the week.

Crafty as Cinderlla

Last week I was watching a talk show (one of the hazards of recovering from surgery, I don't get out very much!) and the topic was how this generation of girls is being damaged by 'The Princess Effect' meaning that too much emphasis is being put on appearance and catching a 'prince' than independence and inner strength. At first I thought the whole argument was kind of mental but sitting under the Disney spell, watching my girls get drunk on the princess effect, I thought that maybe those experts had a point.

Until Mulan.

Mulan burst onto the ice, wielding a weapon and fighting with the big boys. She saved her father's honor and all of China in one heroic act. She was a Princess Warrior. That's when I realised that Disney don't make princesses like they used to.

Crafty as Belle
Gone are the days of Snow White cleaning house for a bunch of tiny slobs, Sleeping Beauty waiting for her prince so her life would begin and Cinderella being at the mercy of self centered bullies. In 1989 we saw the era of a new kind of princess begin with Ariel the Adventurer followed by Belle the Bookworm and Pocahontas the Spirited. 

Princesses are still beautiful, romantic and feminine but each one finds their inner strength and accepts their own unique awesomeness. The modern princesses are bold, courageous and independent. They role model humor, creativity and intelligence while singing catchy tunes. They dance through their troubles and find something good in every situation. They are resilient. They are clever. They are strong.

As we were walking to our car after the show I asked Crafty who her favourite princess was.

"From the show? I don't know, maybe Belle."

"Do you have a favourite who wasn't there?"

"I like The Paperbag Princess, Rapunzel but most of all probably Fiona."

"Why do you like Fiona?"

"She's a little bit gross but still all princess and she can fight like a ninja!"

"I'm a ninja."

"No ... you're not."

I watched my beautiful girl run ahead and join her brothers, laughing at her silly mom. My brave Pocahontas, my sensitive Belle, my curious Ariel, my fierce Rapunzel, my clever Tiana, my strong Mulan, my quirky Fiona ... my witty, silly, spectacular Crafty. My Princess Crafty.

Being a princess isn't all it's cracked up to be.

~Princess Diana

Thursday, January 26, 2012


I experienced a trauma the other day; as if I don't have enough going on in my life already!

Last week.

I found.

My first.

Grey hair!!!

I have friends who have been covering up their age for years while I have been blissfully dye free. I have joked with them about being SO much younger and youthful and I have pt a lot of stock in the fact that my mom went a long time before she spotted a grey (oops, I mean, she still has NO signs of grey hair whatsoever!). I felt that I would for sure make 40 before the grey caught up to me but no dice. I have one.

Last week, as I was drying my hair I thought I caught a glimmer of something that did not belong. Sure enough, upon closer examination I discovered The Intruder. One single grey hair, basking proudly among all the chestnut hairs that surrounded it. I studied it in my reflection and it stared back at me, confident, comfortable and smug in its new found home. It had staked its claim and made its home, right there, just behind my bangs. The nerve!

I was going to pull it out, I had the tweezers poised at the ready but then I stopped, looked at it again and thought about aging. When I was a kid I couldn't wait to get older. I wanted to experience life, find my independence and Become someone, Now I'm at the point where I wish time would slow down. I want more time, more years to figure stuff out, more moments to cuddle my kids, more chances to be dependant on others. I want to be young, to stay young.

At least I thought I did.

As I stood in the bathroom, facing off with That Grey Hair, I thought about my life, my journey and all that it meant. I thought about all the experiences I've had, people I've met and lessons I've learned. I thought about how all of these things have been gifts that have helped me to grow into the person I am. Because I was excluded from cliques in school I have learned the value of accepting others, just as they are. Because I have been judged by my appearance I know that true beauty and substance comes from the heart, not the waistline.

Because I have loved someone more than he loved me I have learned how much of a treasure that a partnership in love and respect can be. Because I have experienced the heart ache of losing a child I hold my kids a little tighter and love them intentionally. Because I have felt too scared, insecure and unworthy I have let opportunity pass me by; no more.

With age and time and experience I have become, and continue to become, a person I respect, like and am in awe of. I impress myself sometimes and I think I am awesome lots of the time. I love hearing that Some Random Mother of ten years ago gasp in shock and respect at the things that This Random Mother has the courage to say and do. I love who I am and the life that I have.

This one little grey hair is a symbol of that; a beacon of courage and maturity, and it can stay.

For now.

As long as it doesn't invite any friends over.

Grow old with me! The best is yet to be. ~Robert Browning

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Not from This. Not Now.

What if I die?

I'm not going to die.


Not going to happen.

No, really, what if I die?

I. Am. Not. Dying.


Nope. Not ever.

That's ridiculous, of course I am going to die.

Okay, eventually I'll die.

So I what if I die, from This.

This won't kill me.

But what if it does?

Ugh! Okay fine. If This kills me that would really suck.

Can't I be serious? This might kill me. People die from This everyday.

But not this people. This people is planning on living long enough to become a burden on my great grandchildren.

An estimated 14 women die from This every day in Canada.

I read that about 40 people die every day because of accidental falls.

In Canada?

I don't know where.

That seems like a lot.

It is ... I am almost three times more likely to die from tripping over my own feet than from This.

Is that supposed to make me feel better?

I'm not the one that started talking death stats, all I know is that I am not dying. Not from This. Not now.

How can I be so sure that This isn't it for me?

I'm sure because I'm not done yet.

Done what?

Done anything, everything. I have three partially grown kids who need me. I have Mr. Awesome who, clearly, can't be left to his own devices. I have commitments, people who love me, people I love. I have dreams and goals that I have yet to fulfill. I have scads of notes for books I haven't written yet, I have piles of books I have yet to read and endless places to see, explore and experience. I have things to do. I'm not done yet.

I seem pretty sure.

I am. This is not going to be the end of me.

So I said.

So its true.

So its true?


Well, I guess that's settled then. I'm not going to die.

Not from This. Not now.

Not from This. Not now.

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.
~Jeremiah 29:11

Friday, January 20, 2012

Check Yourself

There will be no cute stories, anecdotes or jokes today; today is all business. Today, I am passing on some vital information and asking for some help from you fine folks. Starting on February 1, I will be reminding all you gals to check yourself, meaning I will remind you to do a breast self exam on the first of each month. I want you to take a little time on the first to put yourself first.

Each month I plan to pass along some medical information, inspirational links and personal stories of Cancer Kickers ... this is where you come in. If you have a story to tell or a message to share please email me at somerandommother@gmail.com. I would love to interview you. Cancer has affected all of us in one way or another; I am not the only person to ever get this news, go through this treatment and decide to win.

Hearing stories of hope, triumph and determination builds me up, strengthens me and reminds me to fight on, especially when I'm having a rough day and I know I'm not unique in this either. Hope is contagious. Its the thing that keeps us moving forward, its the thing that binds us together. Hope is the thing.

So on the first of each month we will focus on hope, health and positivity. And we will focus on you. So stay tuned, stay connected and don't be shy ... share your stories.

Hope is knowing that people, like kites, are made to be lifted up.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

My Mom

Today is my mom's birthday. It's also Dolly Parton's birthday, too but since I don't know Dolly I'll stick to talking about my mom.

My mom is my mom. I've known her my whole life. She's the one who has always been there, in the back ground, keeping things moving. If my life was a movie, starring me, she'd be like a production assistant that had occasional walk on roles. Or at least, that's what I thought when I was a kid.

I thought that she was just some random mother making lunches, doing laundry and driving me places. I thought her life was all about me and my sister. I thought she was happy in her anonymous mom life, no longer a person of her own but A Mother. It wasn't until I became a mother that I realised she's been a real person the whole time.

My mom started her motherhood journey as a teen, still in high school, still sorting out what she wanted for her own life. I was born just six weeks after her 18th birthday and suddenly she wasn't thinking about exams, graduation and college. She was thinking about diapers, midnight feedings and oh my God, what am I going to do now?!

Miraculously, this situation that has taken out other teens hardly made my mom miss a beat. She still graduated from high school and she went on to business college and started her career. She worked hard, climbed the ladders she could and eventually decided to go back to school, to get a university degree.

I remember countless evening sitting at the dinner table with my mom, both of us scribbling away at assignments while Dad took care of my sister. All through my high school years my mom pulled double duty, triple duty really; she worked a full time job, went to university in the evenings and was still Mom. She juggled work expectations, university exams and was still very present in my day to day life.

I can only imagine how exhausted she must have been those late, late Friday nights when I would get home after being out with friends and crawl into her bed to talk about all the woes of Teenagerdom. She never once told me that she was too tired, too busy or just not interested in hearing about how That Girl made me look like a moron in front of That Boy or something like that.

Anyway, now that I am that Some Random Mother I can appreciate all that she was, all that she gave up and all that she worked for back then. I can see now how she postponed her dreams but never let go of them completely, that she put us first but never sold herself short, that she was always my mom but never just a mom. I respect her for all of her sacrifices and hard work. I treasure her for all of the moments she was my safe place, my counselor and my advocate. And I am in awe of her for the example of strength, perseverance and hope she lived every day ... still lives.

My mom is a mom, a wife, a grandmother, a daughter, a sister, a friend, a cancer survivor, a university graduate, a volunteer and a corporate executive. She is wise, silly, compassionate, friendly, meticulous, loving, confident, funny, creative, independent and intelligent. She is filled with joy, lives with hope and walks in grace. She cherishes her family, treasures her friends and loves my dad madly, deeply, endlessly. My mom is precious, beautiful and wonderful. She's my mom.

Happy birthday, Ma!

The real religion of the world comes from women much more than from men - from mothers most of all, who carry the key of our souls in their bosoms. ~Oliver Wendell Holmes

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Christine's Code

I intentionally did not write about New Year's resolutions at the beginning of the month. Its easy to be full of optimism and dedication on January 1 but by the middle of the month focus wanes and will power fades and whatever well intentioned resolutions were made have now gone the way of the dinosaur. I think this happens because a lot of people make surface commitments like to lose weight, quit smoking or live healthier without looking deeper. Why are you unhealthy, unfit and discontent?

I have a pal who has sorted some of this out. Her name is Christine Son and she is a talented writer, a witty word smith and all around stellar person. Here are some of her thoughts for the new year ...

 This year, I decided to craft resolutions which weren’t so much resolutions, but a code of standards by which I want to live my life. Because I may not be able to control the economy, or the job market, or the sometimes inexplicable behavior of those around me, but I can control how I think, what I believe, how I will comport myself in the face of ever-changing circumstances. Most of these resolutions are not new. They’re just so blindingly obvious that we tend to overlook them entirely.

Resolution #1: I will remember always that I am an exquisite creature, fearfully and wonderfully and perfectly made. I will remind myself of this when life would make me feel less than. And especially when people would.

Resolution #2: I will live boldly. Without fear of failure or discouragement from a bunch of “no”s. Because all “no”s eventually become “yes” if we dare to dream, work and believe.

Resolution #3: I will love boldly. Because life is too short, and too very precious, to squander on trepidation.

Resolution #4: I will live fully in the present. For the past was meant to bless and teach and be left behind. And the future is a treasure still percolating. But the present is a perfect gift if we should open our eyes to see, and open our hearts to feel.

Resolution #5: I will rejoice and be glad and give thanks always.

Resolution #6: I will hug those I love a beat longer. And I won’t think twice on walking out on those who suck.

Resolution #7: I will never apologize for, nor downplay, my intelligence. It is my very best feature, after all.

Resolution #8: I will not apologize for, nor seek to diminish, my huge heart. Because I can’t remember the last time I thought, “Man, you know what the world needs more of? Heartless bitches.”

Resolution #9: I will not dim my light so that others can shine brighter, nor will I lower my standards so that more can meet them. But if there are those who would like to be where I am, I will do everything I can to help them get there.

Resolution #10: I will listen closely to my massive brain. But I will ultimately go where my heart leads. Because I have never been concussed, but I have not always liked my decisions. And my heart has known brokenness, but I have never regretted following it.

That's ten of the twelve resolutions. I encourage you to check out Christine's original post on her blog Christine's Thinkings, where she goes into more detail about what has motivated her and inspired her to live these twelve truths.

Hope this little post gives you the mid-month boost you need to keep living the life you were meant to be and to keep growing into the person you know you are.

If God had wanted me otherwise, He would have created me otherwise. ~Johann von Goethe

Friday, January 13, 2012


We have another Star of the Week in our house. This time its Crafty's turn. She spent a couple of days working on a poster and filling out a worksheet all about herself. Her answers made me laugh, "I like pizza because its delicious," "My favourite book is Ivy & Bean because those girls are something else," "My favourite movie is Soul Surfer because it has a good message and her bathing suits were cute." Priceless!

I giggled through the whole thing, especially once Crafty sat down with me and added her two cents about every question. I laughed right up to the last question. The last one stopped me cold and my laughter almost turned to tears; not sad tears but the proud mama tears.

Question: What do you want people to know about you? Answer: I want to be known for respecting people. I've seen other kids' posters and the usual answers to this question have something to do with a sport they play or a favourite toy but my girl wants people to know that she is trying to be a good person. Seriously!

Once I got over my mama moment I began to think about the question; What do you want to be known for? I remember being asked that question when I was a teen. Our youth pastor's wife was leading a Bible study on Proverbs 31 and she asked us to pick a trait that we would like to be known for and work towards becoming that. I chose 'delightful'. Completely unattainable. I have come to realise that I am far too sarcastic and quick witted to be delightful but I've got other things going for me.

I want to be known for being compassionate, accepting and respectful. I want to be known for my kindness, for being helpful and a team player. I want to be known for thinking of others before myself, being truthful and trustworthy. I want to be known for being a person of faith, not religious. I want to be known for being genuine, hopeful and encouraging. I want to be known for living every day the best way possible and never wasting a moment or an opportunity to experience life. I want to be known for making a moment, a party, the world better just because I was there.

I want to be known for really living ... what about you?

When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, "I used everything you gave me." ~Erma Bombeck

Thursday, January 12, 2012

How 'bout that?

WARNING: This blog post may turn into the rantings of a crazy woman ... ack, who am I kidding ... that's all this thing is on a good day, anyway!

So, yesterday I made the trek into the city to have a follow up appointment with the doctor who did the relocation/rebuild portion of my surgery. It was his first day back after his holidays so I was warned that his day was jammed and that he would, more than likely, be running behind schedule. And he was ... more than an hour behind schedule.

Mr. Awesome and I settled in to watch ELLEN with the other half dozen or so people in the waiting room. It didn't take long before Ellen's monologue was overshadowed by murmuring and grumbling. One by one the other patients were losing their patience.

The complaining started out pretty benign but quickly crossed over to snarky and kept on going right to the point of rudeness. People complained about how long they were waiting, that The Doctor must be having a coffee break or that he's taking his time because he doesn't want to wrinkle his suit. Most of these comments were greeted by chuckles and grunts of agreement from the other patients.

After about an hour there was only two other patients in the waiting room with us and the complaining seemed to have run its course until a patient re-entered the waiting room. He had already seen the doctor but he felt the need to return to complain some more.

He spent 15 minutes complaining about the wait time, the lack of care the staff gave to him and how his sister got much better medical attention from a different doctor. Then he began bragging about how he told The Doctor off for the shoddy care he received. Of the two other patients in the room, one woman really got in to the Whine Fest. She chimed in with her tale of woe, recounting all the ways that the hospital staff and Doctor failed to meet her expectations.

I was so irritated that I could hardly sit still and I wanted nothing more than to tell These Two Whiners to "Shut up and be thankful that this 'sub-standard' doctor was able to save your whiny-assed lives" ... but I didn't. I found my Zen and reminded myself that everyone, especially those facing serious injury or illness, is entitled to their own experience and emotions. Pretty grown-up, eh? I thought so.

The thing is, I have discovered that this whole journey is less scary, traumatic and exhausting if I look at it from the perspective of thankfulness. I seriously didn't want to spend two hours waiting in a stuffy hospital waiting room but the truth is, without this doctor and his skill I wouldn't have lived a year. He (and his team) took the first step in saving my life.

And if you can't wrap your head around that, how about realising that doctors and nurses are people; people with families and lives and plans outside of the hospital. I'm sure they'd love to work 9 to 5 so they could be home for supper every night, attend all of their kids' events and have a social life (I'm sure their spouses and kids would love that even more!) but that's not the nature of The Job; especially with This Doctor and his team.

They arrive early, stay late, continually study to improve their skills and techniques. They are in awe of science and medicine and the miracle of the human body. They strive for perfection and connection. They give their all and care about the patient as an individual, as a human being. They respect life and work hard to not only repair the body but to keep hope and dignity in tact. And for all their skill, God given abilities and fancy degrees they are still caring, compassionate human beings.

And don't even get me started about how blessed we are to be Canadians, to have access to all of this medical treatment without having to pay a dime for it!

That's my rant. People are people and instead of complaining about the faults and focusing on the short comings how about celebrating the goodness, compassion and generosity of others.

How 'bout that?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Walmart Rule

For Christmas Mr. Awesome received a BBQ apron that says "The views expressed by this husband are not necessarily those of the management." I'm thinking of making him wear this apron all the time.

For as generous, loving, funny, compassionate and kind as Mr. Awesome is he has one flaw that continually lands him in hot water; he has no filter. If he sees something, anything or anyone, he is compelled to comment. Often these comments are blurted out long before his brain has a chance to catch them, edit them and weigh the impact of them and some of his guffaws are legendary. Especially the ones directed to me.

When I was about 7 months pregnant with Dude, Mr. Awesome mentioned to our pastor that I was pretty top-heavy. The experienced husband and father of five just shook his head and backed away slowly. Then when I was pregnant with Crafty I told Mr. Awesome that I was craving rice to which he replied, "You're just like a sumo wrestler!"

There have been countless other foot-in-mouth moments with Mr. Awesome, some directed at me, some to my mother and some to just random people we encounter. He honestly doesn't mean to be rude or to hurt anyone, he just is lacking a proper verbal filter. And there is no place on earth where this is more evident than at Walmart.

Maybe its the diverse crowd of folks that frequent Walmart or maybe its just the time and location we tend to go to Walmart but something about that giant, brightly lit, mega store strips away any shred of social sense Mr. Awesome has. He gawks and comments on everything and everyone we see, so much so that I have made a rule; The Walmart Rule.

The rule is that when we go to Walmart after 10pm on any given night he is not allowed to talk with the exception of answering yes and no questions. He is not allowed to look at, pull faces or otherwise gesture to anything or anyone he finds interesting or unusual. If he finds that he just cannot contain himself he must look at the floor or wait in the van until I am done shopping. This rule is for his own personal safety ... and it works pretty well.

It works so well, in fact, that it is now a universal rule that I invoke quite frequently ... and not just for Mr. Awesome. I have come to learn that a quick wit and a sharp tongue are less of a gift when they are left to their own devices; that there is value and kindness in words unsaid and that I seem far wiser when I am silent than when I speak. I also have realised that I cannot remember a single time when I have regretted not saying something in haste.

The Walmart Rule ... try it.

Every speaker has a mouth; An arrangement rather neat. Sometimes it's filled with wisdom. Sometimes it's filled with feet.
Robert Orben

Monday, January 9, 2012

True Confessions of an Underage Drinker

I've decided its time to confess. Its time you know the truth about me. Behind all this sensible, 'life-as-I-see-it' writing there lies a deep, dark secret. I have skeletons in my closet, secrets that have been long disguised but never forgotten and its time to let them out; its time to confront my wild day of underage drinking. Its time.

I say 'day of drinking' because it only happened once. At school. And I got suspended.

I went to a private Christian school for most of elementary and all of junior high. I hung out mostly with church kids and I was very naive about The Things of The World. I also desperately wanted to fit in but I just didn't.

At my school there were two groups of girls in my grade 7/8 class; there was the uber church clique-y group and the wanna-be rebel group. I just didn't really fit with either; my quick temper and sarcastic wit kept me from being holy enough for the church girls and I wasn't that interested in rebelling so I spent most of my time on the football field with the boys and few other tomboys in our small school. Until the day I tried rebelling ... accidentally.

One day, while sitting on the floor and taking notes during Bible class, one of the grade seven girls offered me a sip of her drink. I accepted. She started to laugh and asked if I liked it. I said it was okay and asked what it was. She told me it was Swamp Water.

At the end of class her friend showed me a little bottle, confessing that that's what was put into the soda. I laughed along with the girls, pretending to 'get it' but really having no clue. One of the Church Girls saw us laughing and looked into the bag. She was immediately appalled and headed straight for the Principal's office.

Long story short, I was suspended for drinking alcohol on school property. It turns out the little bottle held Creme de Menthe and the Swamp Water soda was spiked. Before I was sent home the principal sat me down in her office and had a little chat with me.

I expected her to be furious but she wasn't. If anything she was sad. She said that she knew that I didn't realise what was in that bottle but that I was being suspended along with the other girls who knowingly brought and consumed alcohol at school.

When I began to protest about how unfair the punishment was, especially because she knew I didn't know what was in the drink to begin with she stopped me cold with these five words, "But you did know ... enough." I immediately got her point.

I knew the girls to be mischievous at best, manipulative and deceptive at worst. I knew that I was following blindly in an effort to fit in and I knew that I was not One of Those Girls, I was Me; independent, intelligent, thoughtful me. I knew that I was more than that moment ... and so did my principal.

When I came back from my suspension I sat down for another chat with my principal. We talked about the person I wanted to be, the things that interested me and the talents that I had and how I was going to use them to be the best Me possible. She helped a 13 year old me discover the truth of who I was and who I was becoming.

Now, more than 20 years later, I think about that conversation and all the ones that followed often. I think about how this busy, no-nonsense, by-the-book teacher took the time to notice and know me. I remember her words of encouragement and guidance whenever I feel like I am losing my way and every time I try something, achieve something I wonder if she knows. And I hope that I am making her proud, that she knows her time and effort wasn't wasted. I hope she knows that she made a difference, that she is still making a difference.

To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting. ~e.e. cummings, 1955