A Phoenix Rising

Raising Teenagers


We have a Guest Blogger today…my teenaged daughter. Two weeks ago she took a trip that will live in her memory forever, and I wanted her to capture it in words while it was still fresh. She wrote this the day after she came back, and I am finally getting to post it with her photos here. In her own words:

On Saturday my fellow drama clan and I went to see the 9/11 Memorial. When 9/11 had actually happened I was only 4 years old and all I remember is seeing a reporter running away from a cloud of dust swallowing everything in it’s path. I also remember Dad coming home early plus family and friends coming over. What I hadn’t realized was how lucky that I was that everyone I knew personally was safe. Unfortunately that was not the case for everyone.

Well once we arrived at the Memorial Museum a man welcomed us and told his story. He was a survivor from the North Tower. His whole story was very touching but I’ll never be able to retell it and do it justice. After that we had started the audio tour where I heard many more stories. One was from a local school in the area and each kid had gotten called to the office to be brought home except this one kid. He was called last, and the person there to pick him up was his grandfather. That’s when he knew that his parents hadn’t made it. For one woman the real day of tragedy for her was the 12th. Her husband was a firefighter and she said that at least on the 11th she still had some hope that he’d be ok. That ended up not being the case.

After that we headed back and we preformed a song called “Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning?’ by Alan Jackson. The co-founder of the Memorial, Mary was very pleased with the performance, even called us heroes. I didn’t feel like a hero–all I did was sing a chorus to a song. I hadn’t saved anyone. The real heroes were the firefighters and coworkers who helped other coworkers get out. We also donated money that will help fund the memorial and keep people remembering. It felt good knowing we were helping a bit.

Anyway when that was over we all, went into the Museum. The emotion it brought me was overwhelming. Though I wasn’t directly affected by losing anyone I knew, it hit me hard. A little story that I had come across was about a mother asking her son if dad was ok. The boy said that he was fine but in reality the dad hadn’t made it. The son was protecting his mother’s feelings. Further in was a wall of missing people signs. It showed the hope the families had for finding their loved ones. Then even further were pictures. All were the faces of the victims; two walls filled from floor to ceiling. I just sat there examining the faces with blurry eyes. I hadn’t cried that hard in ages.


On a wall next to the faces were all of the names, 3,497 of them. To the right above the stairwell were origami swans. They were absolutely beautiful. I didn’t get the full story on them so you’re welcome to look it up.

More info here, here, and here.


Next we went to the Memorial site. It was gorgeous. All the names carved around the huge pools, both the actual size of the two buildings, located on the two towers’ footprints. It felt nice and peaceful there. I didn’t want to lean on any of the names since it felt disrespectful. I did trace my finger around the letters but didn’t lean over them. One of my friends said, “Why else would the names be engraved in?” and it hit me that they’re carved in so that they’re permanent, they can’t ever be lost. When I saw the names it kinda bugged me. I wanted to know the actual individuals not just they’re names, like what they liked, what they were like, how their families are, but I possibly will never know. Next to the pools was a tree which survived the attack. It was burned to a stump, transferred, and now it still grows. It has cables around it to help it stay up. It still has some scars but yet it still lives.


This experience I will remember forever. I highly recommend visiting it and learning more about this day that changed the future. Everything is more highly protected, and America is stronger now. Having more insight on 9/11 has helped explain some things. I can’t ever even imagine what these families, heroes, victims, or survivors have and had gone through. Yet I just hope this never happens again and I know many people are working on that now.

~Ella :)




The Dawning of Perspective

Something happens when you cross that line that takes you past your fortieth year. Wisdom begins to seep into your bones, and all the lessons of life begin to mesh together giving you a completely different perspective than you had in your pre-forty days. All that was black and white when you were younger melts and becomes infinite shades of gray. There is still right and wrong, good and evil, but these things are deeper somehow, a bit less…………….superficial? Perhaps.

As a parent, things you thought you would never allow before you entered that magical mystery tour, evolve to less importance as you grow and guide and nourish a Soul.

Example: Never would MY child dye her hair purple or pink or green or blue or any other unnatural color.

Lesson: Never say never.


This child wants a blue streak in her hair. She has an appointment today to get one. Yes, I am allowing something that my younger, less evolved self would never have dreamed of allowing. In the past that blue streak would have represented rebellion to me, an unnecessary need to shock an elder….a strangeness, a weirdness, a foolhardy youth.

Today, knowing the soul I am nurturing, it represents something completely different. My girl, who has never wanted to stand out, who has never felt confident, who has never recognized the beauty that she has, or the sweetness that she is, is willing to stand up and do something small that marks her as an individual. She doesn’t care that her friends have said, “Don’t do it!” She doesn’t care that she might be teased a bit. She doesn’t care that no one else in her school has blue hair. She is doing something small and harmless that will make her happy. A superficial thing, yes, but one that represents so much more…a Soul finally making peace with who it is and willing to show a bit of uniqueness to the world. It says, “Notice me, because I am worth noticing.” I can’t help but be proud of her daring, pleased with her growing confidence, and so so glad that she is mine, blue streak and all. :)

In Which She Discovers 74 Explicit Songs on Her Daughter’s iPod

WARNING: This post contains graphic language.

I thought I knew.

I thought I was aware.

I knew rap music as a whole was inundated with bad language, violent messages, and sexual overtones.

I knew nothing.  I was ignorant.

“Was” is the operative because I am ignorant no more.

I spent an afternoon last week, and another afternoon yesterday, reading rap lyrics.  Have you ever wished you could pour Clorox through your ears to disinfect your brain???  Well, spend a day reading lyrics by Eminem, Dr. Dre, Lil Jon, and Lil Wayne, and you will.

You see, I happened to note the word “Explicit” on my darling, sweet, used-to-be innocent Big Girl’s iPod music list.  I am not a prude by any means.  I do not believe in sheltering my children from all the evil things Out There.  I believe they need to be exposed to it to be prepared to deal with it.  So at first I wasn’t alarmed.

“Didn’t your father and I tell you we need to approve any download with the “explicit” tag before you buy it?”

“Oh, yeah…I forgot.”

So I pulled up her playlist to find not a few explicit tags…but 74.    Shamefacedly, we parents admit to an “Epic Fail” on our part.  However, to say that it has been an educational experience is an understatement.  I printed the list, and decided to go through every single song, word for word.

I was left utterly horrified and speechless.  Not only is the language damned filthy, the recurrent themes are enough to make you want to vomit.  The glorification of drug use, alcohol consumption, and promiscuous violent sex is just the tip of the iceberg.  Abusive, addictive relationships, worship of material status symbols, packing guns, anti-government,  and “shooting up the club” is a continuous thread throughout the genre.  Not a single song I came across could say what needed to be said without the word F**k thrown in..and several times in the majority of cases.  The women are referred to solely as bitches and hoes and they are only good for two things…beating and f***ing. (Their terminology, not mine.)  Words like c**t, a**, t*t, p***y, motherf***er, are thrown around like “and”, “the”, and “at.”

I did not come across a single solitary positive message in any of the “songs” (I use that term loosely.)  Not one.  Not even a “this WAS my life, but I’m changing” message…not ONE.

I do not believe in censorship.  I do believe in parents needing to parent.  I don’t believe that rap music is the root of all evil, or that Eminem is the Devil as some believe.  I am not about to withdraw my kids from school to limit their outside  exposure to this garbage.  However, I am shaken by the proliferation and glorification of Godless behavior.  There is no shred of ethical awareness, no value placed on the human experience of love, and no care in the world for living a life that will benefit the greater good.  These writers seek to undermine and undervalue authority at every level, and that is what troubles me the most.  Life is simply one big pissing match to see who can win the Alpha male title…and the Alpha is the one with the biggest car, the most bling, the sluttiest women (preferable in pairs) with the biggest breasts, the highest quality and the biggest quantity of drugs, the most powerful weapon, the highest paying record deal, and the honorable title of living through the most drive by shootings.

And the teenagers love this stuff.

My daughter says, “I just love the beats and the music.”

I tend to believe she loves it because her friends love it…it is what is “cool.”  Up here, if you don’t love Country music, then you must love rap.  One or the other.

She’s heard it all in my house.  We love music.  All types.  Hit Shuffle on my iPod…First ten songs right now:

Rehab (Glee Cast Version)

Touch (Seal)

Nearer to Thee (Sam Cooke)

Piano Concerto No. 26 in D major, Larghetto (Maria-Joao Pires_

Seven Mile Breakdown (Taylor Hicks)

Crazy (Gnarls Barkley)

Me and a Gun (Tori Amos)

Hallelujah (John Cale)

Hope and Memory (Howard Shore)

Life on the Moon (David Cook)

If I were to go to Zan’s you would see an even greater arc across genres, including some of the dancy rappy stuff that I don’t care for.

So, the girl has been exposed to everything, from Classical to Classic Rock to all the new stuff.  And yet, this is the bulk of her most recent downloads?

What is a parent to do?  I’ll tell you what we chose to do.

We cleaned up the iPod.  I deleted nearly all the explicit stuff.  She will be allowed to buy back the “clean” versions of some of her songs.  (We know she knows the words, but she has a 9 year old sister and a 4 year old brother who don’t need to hear the explicit versions.)  About twenty five of the songs are off for good.  (For example, “Get Low” by Lil Jon et.al.  and “I Just Had Sex” by The Lonely Island and “Superman” by Eminem.  Google them if you’re curious, but be prepared…you’ll need a shower, a gallon of Clorox, and a Priest when you’re finished.)

And we talked to her, and talked and talked about what is wrong with the themes laid out in these songs.  I will admit she spoke quite intelligently with us, and agrees that the messages are not in keeping with our family values.  (“Mom, I know this isn’t how I should live…just because it’s in the music I listen to doesn’t mean I’m going to go do it!”)

Of that I am certain, but I also believe that it is my job to draw a line in the sand.  This is okay, this is not okay.  She will pass by us any explicit song before downloading it.  If I find she does not follow through with the rule, the iPod will be taken away.  Period.

And here we go again…blurring right and wrong…a world that wants to turn everything that should be black and white into shades of gray.  Twisting our God given gift of Free Will and our Forefathers’ gift of freedom into a free ticket to do whatever we damn well please, without consequence, without conscience.

I’m drawing a line in the sand and saying this is not okay.

Pray God that I’m right.


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