Dear Middle Schooler,

Dearest, I know you’re under a lot of pressure right now. I know what they’re telling you to be. I hear you as you’re stressed out about trying to be pretty enough, trying to fit in, trying to find someone to love you, and trying to balance your friends, school, and your weird family. You’ve got pressures coming at you from all sides, and I know you’re struggling.

You’ve just hit “the awkward stage” so nothing seems to come out right or look right and you’re still trying to figure yourself out, but it’s hard because everything is changing so fast. Sometimes you think you’ve got it all together and figured out, but then you feel like everything is falling apart.

I hear you talking in the backseat of my car, “Oh my word, I am so dumb.” “I can’t believe I said that. I am so stupid.” “Will it make me prettier? I’m already ugly enough.” “I can’t have anymore. I am too fat.”

Darling, my heart is breaking for you. This is not who you are.

I’m going to tell you a secret – you will always struggle with these things.

Yes, you learn that maybe curls are not a good idea or that you really shouldn’t wear those pants. You learn how to hide the pimples and cover up the crooked tooth when you smile. You learn how to pretend like you’re balancing all the relationships in your life. You learn how to flirt without falling over (maybe). The mood swings get a little better. You learn to blame sadness on Dementors so you have an excuse to eat more chocolate. But unless you change the things you claim about yourself, you will always feel a little ugly, a little too fat, a little stupid, a little lonely.

Everything is awkward right now, but everything about you is also so very good. You, my darling, have bad moments, but that never takes away from the fact that, at the very core, you are made up entirely of good things. I was blessed with amazing parents who taught me these things, but I don’t see this in your life, so sit down and prepare for a lecture of the most loving sort. Because you, my sweet human, are worth this and so much more.

Ahem. Are you paying attention?

Write these words on your heart. Soak them in and let them change how you see yourself, how you talk about yourself, and how you see others.

You are good things. You have bad moments.

You are good things. You feel bad things.

You are smart, but sometimes you have dumb moments. And that’s okay. It’s okay to have dumb moments. You can’t always be the smartest person in the room or have all the answers. You’re not always going to be smart in the same way other people are. But that moment is temporary. When it comes back down to it, and you’re back in your element, at the core of who you are, you are smart.

You are beautiful, but sometimes you feel ugly. And that’s okay. It’s okay to feel ugly. Feeling is honest. You feel the way you do and there’s nothing wrong with that. But feelings are also temporary. When it comes back down to it, once the feeling is gone, at the core of who you are, you are beautiful.

You are a mountain of good things. You were created with loving care by a Creator who never makes mistakes. He formed your body, your heart, your brain, and He made every inch of you immensely precious and wonderful. You, precious one, are His loving creation. You are created by The Artist. You are covered in His fingerprints, surrounded by His love, and cherished beyond measure.

It’s okay to have bad moments and bad feelings, as long as that’s all the are. The way you feel is the way you feel. It’s honest. If you feel angry, feel angry. But don’t let it become who you are. If you feel fat, feel fat. But don’t buy into the lie that you are fat. If you feel ugly, feel ugly. But when the feeling passes, remember that you are a priceless, handmade, glorious piece of art.

It’s completely okay to feel things. It’s not okay to become them.

Next time you’re in the backseat of my car, I want to hear, “Oh my word, I feel so dumb.” “I can’t believe I said that. I feel so stupid.” “Will it make me prettier? I feel ugly right now.” “I can’t have anymore. I feel too fat.”

I’m okay with those things. My heart will still break for the frequency with which those words come out of your mouth, but I know that, as you grow more comfortable with yourself and who God made you, those feelings will be less prevalent.

Darling, at the end of the day, if you hear nothing else, know that you are loved beyond measure and you’re okay. Whatever you feel and whatever you struggle with and whatever you believe about yourself, you are okay. Hang in there. The awkward stage does end. Eventually.

Dearest middle schooler, you are good.

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Chevron and the Picnic Blanket Boy

He carefully slid his arm around her shoulder. She blushed and leaned slightly toward him.

He lowered his lips to her ear and, with a twinkle in his eye, whispered, “Do you think she thinks yelling at the kid is going to make him behave?”

She laughed softly and leaned into him, “Check out the shoes on that woman over there.”

He nodded, kissed her temple, and murmured, “I know. Check out the sweater two tables down.”

They continued like that for a good fifteen minutes, judging everyone in the restaurant under the guise of their flirting.

I lifted my coffee cup to my lips to hide my laughter.

They were being so clever, and it made me miss Princess Sweet Beans. He’s the one I do that sort of thing with.

Minus the flirting and cuddling and kissing.

Mostly, we just judge people.

The Twin glanced up from devouring her pancakes to see me sitting there with a sort of pained, constipated look on my face.

(That’s what happens when you have a mouth full of pancake, and you’re trying to keep from laughing and spraying it everywhere.)

“What?” she said.

“Shhhhhhh!” I hissed around my pancake, still hiding behind my cup.

Do you know how hard it is to hiss quietly when your teeth are being glued together with warm pancake syrup?

It’s super easy.

Do you know how hard it is to hiss quietly without spraying pancake everywhere when your teeth are being glued together with warm pancake syrup?

That’s a lot harder.

I, however, have never been never been one to back down from a challenge. I thought I had actually done it, and I was getting ready to celebrate.

But it was too loud.

Chevron and I made awkward eye contact, and she straightened from the close embrace of Picnic Blanket Boy.

Twin was very confused.

So, being the kind person I am, I quickly, quietly explained to her what was going on. That’s when we dubbed the girl “Chevron” and the boy “Picnic Blanket Boy”.

We’re actually very clever. The names have deep and intrinsic meanings that no one would be able to figure out at first glance. They very accurately describe everything we learned about the couple in the time we spent with them.

It’s what their shirts looked like.

We’re pretty much genius material here.

Take note.

Although Chevron and Picnic Blanket Boy weren’t outright judging everyone any more, they were still wonderful to watch.

I figured out that they were engaged. It took most of my sleuthing skills to find out. And a glimpse at the giant rock on her left hand.

Seriously. It was huge. She probably got in all of her cardio for the day just carrying that thing around.

Not only did I gather that they were engaged, I figured out that they had known each other for a long time and/or spent so much time together, they were extremely comfortable together.

Picnic Blanket Boy fancied himself a comedian. Chevron did not agree.

Picnic Blanket Boy would make absurd statements, and Chevron would completely ignore him.

Picnic Blanket Boy was not fazed.

He was really good at making ridiculous faces after his comments. He would make his faces really close to the side of her head, and a gleam of victory would enter his eyes if she turned her head toward him and was surprised by the near proximity of his face.

He also liked to eat all of her food when she wasn’t looking.

She handled it pretty well until he stole a piece of bacon. Then she very calmly slid her fork under the table with her and stabbed him in the thigh.

I was so proud of her.

He merely captured her hand, removed the fork, and refused to let go of her hand, all with a stupid, dorky grin on his face. She struggled for a moment, but quickly gave up.

It was disgustingly adorable.

Seriously.

I almost vomited my pancakes back up.

Thank goodness for warm pancake syrup/glue holding everything down in my stomach.

Right before Twin and I left, Chevron and I made awkward eye contact again. We shared a smile this time. It was one of those ones of mutual appreciation.

I appreciated her relationship with Picnic Blanket Boy who was still holding her hand.

She appreciated my ability to glue my teeth shut with warm pancake syrup.

Twin appreciated my ability to walk because she wanted to go home.

I don’t ever think I’ll see Chevron or Picnic Blanket Boy again, but I’ll always remember their antics. They were a lovely couple.

If I ever get famous and either of you read my blog, I’m really sorry for creeping on you. (And I’m only saying that because it’s the polite thing to say, not because I’m actually sorry.)

And it took my teeth about seventeen hours to come unglued.

Who knew that syrup stickiness is only intensified when the stuff cools off?

Yesterday Was My Birthday

I turned twenty yesterday. It doesn’t really seem like that big of a deal, but I like it. I know I’m awfully young and there’s quite a bit I don’t know, but I’m still growing and learning. I promise.

So, anyway, in honor of turning twenty, I’m giving you, faithful Creepers, a list of twenty mostly-random things about me.

Some of you already know a bunch of these things. Deal with it. This is the list you’re getting.

1. I sometimes forget how to use my words. As in, I cannot understand or speak English. It happens more frequently than I would really care to admit.

2. I judge people who don’t eat cupcakes correctly. There is a proper way to do it so that you optimize the cake-to-frosting ratio, and so many people just don’t get it.

3. I still believe in fairy tales. I still believe in princes and princess and dragons and happy endings. Nothing anyone ever does will ever change that.

4. It is impossible for me to make a decent cup of tea. See this post, and then this post, and then this one. Proof.

5. Considering the amount of time I spend staring at the sky, there is a shocking lack of shooting star sightings in my life.

6. I always over-knead bread dough. It’s just so therapeutic. I never want to stop.

7. If something looks like it feels interesting, I have a compulsive need to touch it. It gets awkward sometimes.

8. I may have a caffeine addiction. Maybe.

9. All of the plants in my house are very carefully selected because they can sustain long periods of vicious neglect.

10. I make the best meatloaf in the whole wide world. No joke. You can ask anyone who’s had it. Ask me and I might be convinced to make you some.

11. I firmly believe that every girl should wear a ball gown and go to a ball at least once in her life. I think that might go back to the fairy tale thing.

12. I’m willing to try anything once. As long as it won’t kill me. That’s gotten me some interesting places…

13. My favorite smell is “old, musty book”. Don’t judge when you see me with my face shoved in a book. If you don’t get it, just go away.

14. Cookies are my favorite. Like, seriously. I think they’re the best thing in the world. Whoever decided to create cookies is my hero.

15. The most beautiful color in the world is the deep blue on the opposite side of the horizon from a sunset.

16. I still wish on 11:11, birthday candles, shooting stars, the first star I see at night, dandelions, and when I pull a wishbone.

17. I have a magical power that makes babies go to sleep when I hold them. It also makes them cry an awful lot when they don’t want to go to sleep.

18. I have a really bad habit of attaching emotions and feelings to inanimate objects like trees, cars, and french fries.

19. I name everything. This may have something to do with the above thing about me, but it could also just be because I’m really good at naming things, and I like to show off.

20. I don’t get angry. I’ve been frustrated and annoyed, but it’s been an extremely long time since I’ve been angry. I don’t know why I don’t get angry. I just know it doesn’t happen. Ever. There may be something wrong with me. But I already knew that.

There. Things. Twenty of them. Creepers, I did this for you. Be happy and celebrate my birthday by eating cookies in my honor.