Posts Tagged ‘teenager’

A friend just shared a NY Times article about the people who lose weight on the television show “The Biggest Loser.”  Turns out their bodies fight like the dickens to get back to–or even above–their original weight.

Well color me shocked.

I am obese.

I was an unusually skinny child, a constant source of anxiety to my parents, who survived World War II in Europe.  My pediatrician tried to explain to my worried mother that I didn’t need to eat quite as much as she did, and she tried, but often failed, to serve me child-sized portions.  I remained thin, despite a steady diet of fried chicken and pork chops, potatoes mashed with whole milk and real butter, regular desserts, and gobs of sugar on my cereal.

In my late teens and early twenties, I began dieting because I was sure my hips and thighs were enormous.  From age twenty to age thirty, I gained 75 pounds.  I had two babies, and never lost any of the baby weight from either one. This despite walking so much that I shredded my Achilles tendons.

You read that right.  On fried eggs and bacon I was ridiculously skinny.  On Diet Coke and skim milk and high fiber, I got fat.

In my thirties, I read a weight loss article about some women who had lost weight by practicing prayer.  One woman profiled in the article said that prayer helped her give up her usual breakfast of six eggs, half a pound of bacon, and six slices of toast and allowed her to lose weight.  Would prayer, I wondered, help me give up my bowl of Cheerios with skim milk and banana? So I could eat what instead, exactly?

Today, my doctors think I make excuses.  When I describe my daily intake, they don’t believe me.  In the past ten years, I’ve given up sugar, sweetener, carbonated beverages, the whole concept of ‘dessert,’ bread, rice, pasta, and potatoes.  I eat grilled meat and lots of fresh vegetables and fruit. I remain fat.

Right now, I’m hopeful that my new mouth guard, intended to address my sleep apnea, will offer my metabolism a boost.  I’ll believe it when I see it.

The other culprit: I took lots of antibiotics in my early twenties.  I suspect that I killed off too many of the good bacteria.  I’ve been taking probiotics for ages, hoping to improve my balance of gut flora.

Neither remedy is likely to get me back into my 32W 32L Levis. But it would be nice to be able to burn off the extravagant apple I eat each day for lunch.


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The girls wanted to know what to look for in a boyfriend.  The boys wanted to know when the time is right to ask a girl out.  But one dad at my lunch table told us that the gender-specific classes weren’t reaching every attendee.  Because they weren’t reaching the gay kids.

I spent the Memorial Day weekend at Washington Family Ranch, a Young Life camp in central Oregon.  As an “adult guest,” I had no duties and treated the opportunity as a private getaway.  I attended a few of the scheduled sessions.  I listened to my daughter speak about repentance.  I attended worship.  I wish I’d gone to more.  Specifically, I wish I’d gone to the sessions for “girls” and “boys.”

Instead, I sat in the sunshine writing and reading.  I heard about the sessions later, at lunch with the other adult guests, and regretted missing it.  I could tell those girls a few things.  They had questions about topics other than dating and boys—you know they spent some time asking where a girl can find a prom dress that doesn’t reveal half an acre of breast flesh—but dating was definitely the main subject.

The words of that dad got my attention.

He knew something was different about his daughter.  But he didn’t know anything about homosexuality, and had no idea how to give her guidance.  Now that she’s out and in a long-term relationship, he knows that she got most of her advice and support during her teen years from a high school teacher who may or may not have also initiated his daughter’s first sexual relationship.

Half of the people at our lunch table fell silent and stared at their plates, suddenly fascinated with the appearance of their lunch.  Two of us engaged with him to ask about his daughter and her journey.  I knew I wouldn’t like it if one of my children got advice about dating and his or her innermost feelings from a teacher at school.

We asked him how he felt the camp could reach out to gay teens.  He didn’t have an answer for that.  We didn’t either.  But I can understand that a Christian parent would appreciate it if kids like his daughter had the opportunity to be able to ask their questions, too.  He’d like it if kids like his daughter were told they are God’s masterpiece, and that they deserve respect, affection, and care regardless of their sexuality.

This is a topic I explored when I wrote Steadfast.  What was it like for a young Catholic man to come out to his family?  How would they respond to the news?  What about the young man’s friends?  Would they stick around or abandon him?  And what if he was also dying of the AIDS virus?

At no time did this dad talk about whether he approved or didn’t approve of his daughter’s sexuality.  That wasn’t his point.  He just wanted kids like his daughter to have a place to ask those embarrassing questions, preferably in a setting that honored their faith in God.

It’s hard to argue with that.

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“A cure is something we can no longer write off as impossible.”  I found this quote at the end of an article in The Week magazine.

A baby has been cured of HIV.

So now a man–Timothy Brown–and this child have been completely cured of the disease that wiped out an entire generation of gay men.  Such great news, but…

It concerns me that young people continue to be the group most at risk for HIV.  Many young men are completely unaware that unprotected sex can expose a person to the virus.  Although people with HIV can now live to a ripe old age, this lack of awareness means that HIV will not be eradicated.

And that makes me sad.

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I enjoy reading the blog of Rachel Held Evans, and particularly liked what she offered today in her post titled Do Christians idolize virginity?

The main characters in Forgiveness Fits decide to remain virgins until they are married.  I tried to keep it realistic, though.  They talk about sex, joke about sex, and acknowledge their sexual attraction.  More than one writer-friend has suggested that I’ve written a fantasy.  Maybe I have.

I read once about an area that had a fairly high teen-pregnancy rate.  Researchers (or psychologists or social workers, I don’t remember which) talked with the pregnant girls to learn why, after having had a thorough education in sexual prevention, they managed to get pregnant anyway.  The overwhelming response?  They didn’t know what to say when they were lost in the moment.

The researchers (or psychologists or social workers or whatever) used this information to work with the next group of young women.  They asked them to role-play the conversations they were getting into with their boyfriends, so that the others could talk about how to avoid giving in. It worked!

That’s why I wanted the kids in my book to be virgins.  I thought teenage girls–whether they are Christian or not–might appreciate reading about an authentic couple that faces this authentic and very common issue.

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Writing about bullying can be a frustrating experience.  Many of the reviews of my book, Forgiveness Fits, suggested that my main character was whiny, judgmental, and annoying, and because I based the book on my own experiences, I often found such feedback hard to swallow.

I focused on showing readers why she became whiny, judgmental, and annoying…and reviewers stopped mentioning it.

Dealing with teenagers who bully–which I do often in my role as a teacher–is also frustrating.  Most kids think bullying is when a big, unlikeable kid smashes a smaller unlikeable kid into a locker and steals his lunch money.  But it’s much more subtle than that.  When I see kids refuse to work with a classmate, or call someone annoying, I tell them their behavior is a form of bullying.  When kids shun or ignore a classmate, that’s a form of bullying.  Everyone deserves to be treated as a contributing member of the classroom.  Singling anyone out for different treatment is wrong.

Today’s Publishers Weekly describes how publishers are handling the issue of bullying.  Here’s a quote:  “Lecesne believes that an essential goal of bullying prevention is to “give kids the tools to make their lives better. Any book or film that gives young people those tools—‘here’s what I did to get through it’—is great.”  Click the link to read more.  There’s also a list of books that address bullying.

What ideas would you like to see teachers or publishers implement in the fight against bullying?

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A friend posted this story to Facebook, a story about high school students run amuck.  An unpopular girl named Whitney was named to the Homecoming Court–as some kind of a joke–and the greater community reacts with love and acceptance.

What’s galling about this particular form of bullying is that the students who counted the votes and turned in the results are monitored by adults.  Somewhere along the line, an adult–probably a teacher–saw this result and allowed it to go forward without a word to the students.

Yesterday I subbed in a local high school.  A girl sat alone at the end of the back row while her classmates worked in groups.  I knew the moment I saw her expression that she was new to the community.  I asked her to confirm.  She told me people behaved better in her other classes.  After class two boys remained behind so I asked them why they thought their class was comfortable ignoring the new girl.  One said, “But she’s been here all year.”  I reminded him she didn’t know anyone.  His reply surprised me.  “I’m in Link Crew,” he said.  “I’m on it.”  I was surprised because Link leaders shouldn’t have to have a random sub appear after four weeks to identify the new kids.

Whitney will see (or has seen–I’m not sure when Homecoming is!) half the town turn out for the Homecoming Game.  Alums who have never returned from a game will be there to cheer her on.  The number of likes on her Facebook support page outnumbers the number of people in her town.

It never hurts to be kind.

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Every now and then I have to remind myself that the purpose of this blog is to promote my writing.  I want to get myself a little supplemental income, pay off some nasty debts, and maybe go to Palm Desert more often.

With that in mind, I’ve been revising the first third of Forgiveness Fits.  Too many reviewers thought Caroline was whiny and annoying and several–men, especially–didn’t like reading a first person story about this whiny girl.  Reviews that identify problems are great, but the ones that suggest solutions are pure gold.  One reviewer suggested switching to third person, and I agree it solves many problems.

Below, you’ll find the new beginning.  The rest, as always, can be found at http://www.authonomy.com/books/36529/forgiveness-fits/


Caroline MacDougall eased the Monahan’s Suburban into a parking space near the Ferris High School gym and put it in park.  “Got everything?” she asked the eager football camper at her side.

“Duh, Caroline.  You sound like Mom when you do that.”

Caroline smiled.  John hated thinking of her as the family’s nanny.  He’d much rather think of Caroline as something else.

“I’ll be back at four,” she said, as she noticed the player coming toward the car from John’s side.

Caroline’s smile disappeared.  “You better go.”

John looked toward the player and made a disgusted noise.  “Chase Gillespie.  I forgot he’d be here.”  But he opened the door and hopped out.

While the door was open, Chase shouted.  “Monahan!  That your babysitter?”

John slammed the door.

Caroline contemplated Chase from behind her sunglasses, grateful for the tinted windows and air conditioning, as John jogged to the back of the Suburban and jerked out his equipment bag.  Tall and slender, Chase appeared better suited for basketball than football, but she knew him enough to know he probably liked the contact.  That, and trash talking his opponents.  John turned and waved as he trotted past Chase without another look.  Atta boy, thought Caroline.

She pulled in to the lot again just before four, and waited along with the moms there to retrieve their sons.  Michael gurgled in his safety seat and Aiden escaped from his seat to stand at the window, watching for John.  Just as she’d expected, they erupted with joy at the sight of their oldest brother, filthy from sweating all day on the football field in the sun.  Michael kicked his fat legs and Aiden jumped up and down on his seat, pudgy hands pressed on the window.

“How was it?” she asked, as she handed him a cold bottle of Gatorade.

“Good.”  He tilted his head back and swallowed half the bottle in one gulp.  “Thanks.”

“Chase give you a hard time?”

John shot her a curious look.  “You know him?”

“I know of him.  I know he’s not very nice.”  Caroline knew more than that, but wasn’t about to unload her sob stories on an eighth-grader.

“Well, then, you know him.”  John shrugged.  “He’s a creep.”

Caroline smiled to herself.  She’d been worried John would spend a day with the football players and come home indoctrinated with their beliefs about Caroline MacDougall.  She should have known better.  John adored her.

A loud “ga” from the back seat drew John’s attention.  “Hey, Mikey.”  He reached back to grab Michael’s toes.  “Didja go for a ride with Caroline?”

He smiled and repeated his catch-phrase.  “Ga!”

Aiden still stood on the seat next to Michael, sucking his thumb.  He opened his mouth enough to say, “Ca-ine said.”

“I know Caroline invited you,” John reassured him.  “Hey!” he added.  “When you come to this camp, you’ll have Matt and Mark as coaches!”  Matt and Mark were the seven-year-old twins.  “You’re so lucky.”

“ManMark!” agreed Aiden, nodding.  “ManMark,” he said once more before returning his attention to his thumb.

When they arrived back at the Monahan’s house, just across the street from Caroline’s, John carried Michael in and deposited him in his playpen before returning to the car for his bag.  He disappeared down the hall to shower while Caroline added Aidan to the playpen and helped Barb get ready for dinner.

While Caroline extracted loaves of French bread from the oven, she watched in wonder as the kids tended to their assigned chores.  Frankie, age nine, sprayed the picnic table with cleaner and wiped it down before his siblings prepared it for the meal.  Next, Reagan, the only girl, set out the eight placemats and pointed out any the spots Frankie had missed.  The twins were allowed to set out the silverware and napkins, though seldom did Barb allow them to touch the knives.  John and the next oldest brother, Chris, brought out the glasses, filled with ice and homebrewed iced tea.  John and Chris then carried the two high chairs outside, one for Michael and one for Aidan, setting them both across from the chair Caroline would perch on while feeding them.  Once everyone was served and seated, Bill said grace and when he finished, asked John about camp.

John sat up straighter when his father addressed him.  “I liked it.  They worked us hard.”

“I hope so,” mused Bill.  “What did you learn today?”

“We did some handoffs and agility drills.  We ran a lot.  They timed us.  I’m faster than some of the sophomores.”  John waited for his dad’s reply.

“Don’t brag, son.”  Bill peered over his glasses at John.  “Did you talk with the coach?”

“No, sir.  He sort of had the Varsity players doing everything.”

“Hmpf,” said Bill.

John’s face signaled his disappointment.  Then he brightened.  “Paul Corbin was there.”

“Was he?” asked Barb, suddenly interested in the conversation.

John nodded, glad to have said something at least one of his parents liked.  “He said to tell you hello.”

“We’ll have to have them over,” Barb said to Bill.  She leaned closer to Caroline in her seat at the end of the table.  “Have you met our friends Greg and Nancy?”  As Caroline shook her head, Barb continued.  “You’ll love Paul.  Everyone loves Paul.”

Caroline wanted to answer but knew her remarks would sound like self-pity.  She liked many of her classmates.  But they didn’t much like her.

After she’d spooned the entire jar of baby spaghetti and half a jar of apricots into Michael’s mouth, Caroline excused herself to take him inside and clean him up.  Wiping his face and hands, she repeated her mantra about starting school in three weeks.

Smile, she instructed herself.  Say hello more often.  Reach out in kindness and friendship.  No sarcasm, no matter how funny you think you are.  You’re good at this, Caroline MacDougall.  You can do it.

Caroline knew life in the military.  She knew a dozen schools, people of all races and backgrounds, and cities across the country.  She recognized change, disruption, and friendships based on little more than a momentary need.  Hey, let’s go play on the swings!  Because they giggled together as they pumped their legs and swung high enough for the chains to go slack, they became inseparable.  Wanna come over and watch television?  They stayed up until after midnight watching an old movie and quoted the lines the following week at school, best friends.  You!  Over there!  We need someone to play outfield.  Caroline missed every ball hit in her direction but made five new friends that one afternoon.

And then her dad retired from the Air Force, and the family moved to Spokane to be near her mom’s sister.  Caroline recognized nothing.

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